The Million Pound Bank Note

by Mark Twain

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Chapter IV

"They are gone." This in the lofty, cold way of that fellow's tribe.
"Gone? Gone where?"
"On a journey."
"But whereabouts?"
"To the Continent, I think."
"The Continent?"
"Yes, sir."
"Which way - by what route?"
"I can't say, sir."
"When will they be back?"
"In a month, they said."
"A month! Oh, this is awful! Give me some sort of idea of how to get a word to them. It's of the last importance."
"I can't, indeed. I've no idea where they've gone, sir."
"Then I must see some member of the family."
"Family's away, too; been abroad months - in Egypt and India, I think."
"Man, there's been an immense mistake made. They'll be back before night. Will you tell them I've been here, and that I will keep coming till it's all made right, and they needn't be afraid?"
"I'll tell them, if they come back, but I am not expecting them. They said you would be here in an hour to make inquiries, but I must tell you it's all right, they'll be here on time and expect you."
So I had to give it up and go away. What a riddle it all was! I was like to lose my mind. They would be here "on time." What could that mean? Oh, the letter would explain, maybe. I had forgotten the letter; I got it out and read it. This is what it said:
"You are an intelligent and honest man, as one may see by your face. We conceive you to be poor and a stranger. Enclosed you will find a sum of money. It is lent to you for thirty days, without interest. Report at this house at the end of that time. I have a bet on you. If I win it you shall have any situation that is in my gift - any, that is, that you shall be able to prove yourself familiar with and competent to fill."
No signature, no address, no date.
Well, here was a coil to be in! You are posted on what had preceded all this, but I was not. It was just a deep, dark puzzle to me. I hadn't the least idea what the game was, nor whether harm was meant me or a kindness. I went into a park, and sat down to try to think it out, and to consider what I had best do.


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