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所属教程:书虫二级 五镇故事





The Silent Brothers

John and Robert Hessian, brothers and bachelors, sat together after supper in their house in Oldcastle Street, Bursley. Both brothers were wearing black, because of the death of their older sister three months ago.


Maggie, the servant, came in to take the supper things off the table.


Leave the coffee, Maggie,' said John, the elder brother, 'Mr Liversage is coming to visit.'


Yes, Mr John,' said Maggie.


Slate, Maggie,' said Robert.


Yes, Mr Robert,' said Maggie.


The slate was on a table near the fire. Maggie gave it, and its pencil, to Robert.


Robert wrote: Why is Liversage coming?


And he pushed the slate across the table to John.


John wrote on the slate: I don't know. He telephoned. He said he wanted to see us tonight.


And he pushed the slate back to Robert.


John was forty-two years old, and Robert thirty-nine. They were tall, dark men, and both were well and strong. And there was nothing wrong with their hearing.


Ten years before, the brothers had a quarrel. The quarrel was a stupid one, like many quarrels. The morning after, Robert did not answer when John said something to him. 'Well,' said John to himself. 'If he doesn't speak, I won't speak.' And then Robert thought the same thing.


Maggie was the first to see that the brothers were not speaking. Then it was their best friend, Mr Liversage, the solicitor, and some of their other friends. But nobody said anything to them. The people of Bursley thought it was funny, and wanted to know which brother would win the quarrel. So Bursley watched the two men carefully, waiting for one of them to speak. But for ten years the brothers went on living together in the same house, and neither man spoke a single word to the other.


Life without words was very difficult for the brothers, but it was also difficult for their servant. Maggie gave them the slate, because it was easier for her when the brothers wrote things down. It was difficult for their friends too. They began to be a little bored when, at parties, each Hessian talked to everybody in the room — but not to his brother.


There was just one thing wrong with this beautiful quarrel. The brothers worked together in the same pottery factory, and sometimes they needed to speak on business. But they spoke very coldly, and only inside the factory walls. And every evening Bursley watched the two brothers while they walked home, one man five metres behind the other. How stupid it was! But Bursley said nothing.


The conversation by slate that evening was just finishing, when there was a knock at the door, and Mr Powell Liversage came in. He was an old friend of the two from their schooldays. He was also a bachelor, so his evenings were free. He came to see the Hessians every Saturday night, and usually John or Robert went to see him on Wednesdays. But today was Thursday.


How are you?' asked John, lighting a cigarette.


Well,' replied Liversage.


How are you, Powell?' asked Robert.


Not too bad. And you?'


He sat down and Robert gave him a cup of coffee.


Well,' said Liversage, after a minute. He sounded a little uncomfortable. 'We've found your sister's will at last.'


You haven't! When?' asked John.


This afternoon. It was with some old papers in the bank. Did you know that she had more than twelve thousand pounds?'


No!' said Robert.


The brothers knew that their sister, Mrs Mary Bott, was rich. They knew that she had no children, and they knew, of course, that they were her only brothers. When she died three months ago, nobody could find her will. And now here it was! Twelve thousand pounds between two people was a lot of money for each of them. But what did the will say?


The two men wanted to know very much, but did they ask the question? Oh no! Neither man wanted to be the first to speak. And so they sat in silence.


Do you want me to read the will to you?' asked Liversage at last.


Yes,' they both answered.


Liversage took the will out of his pocket. 'Now, I didn't make this will,' he said, 'so please don't get angry with me.' This is what he read.


You are both very stupid, John and Robert, and I've often said so. Nobody understands why you quarrelled like that about Annie Emery. Your life is difficult, but you've also been very unkind to Annie. She's waited ten years already. So, John, if you marry Annie Emery, I shall give all my money to you. And Robert, if you marry her, I shall give it all to you. And you must be married in twelve months' time. And if neither of you marry her, then I give all my money to Miss Annie Emery, businesswoman, of Duck Bank, Bursley.


Mary Ann Bott, widow


There. That's all,' Liversage finished.


Let me see,' said John. Liversage gave him the will and he looked at it carefully.


Robert walked around the table and looked at the paper in his brother's hand.


All three men were silent for a few minutes. Each was afraid to speak, and even afraid to look at the others.


Well, I must go,' said Liversage, standing up.


I say,' said Robert. 'You won't say anything about this to Annie, will you?'


I will say nothing,' agreed Liversage. (But it was wrong of him to say this, because Annie already knew.)


The two brothers sat and thought for a long time. Ten years before, when Annie was a woman of twenty-three, without family, she started a business for herself, which was a bookshop. John was in love with her, but so was Robert. And the two men quarrelled. They said very unkind, very unbrotherly things, and they were both very angry. Because of this (and because they were stupid), they each decided not to marry Annie. Each man wanted to show the other that he was the better, kinder, nicer brother. And so they did not speak for ten years. And poor Annie Emery, who wanted to marry one of the two (but could not decide which), did not marry anyone.


At two o'clock in the morning, John took a penny out of his pocket.


Who shall go first?' he asked.


Robert felt very strange. His elder brother was speaking to him for the first time for ten years. For a minute he couldn't speak. John tossed the penny and put his hand over it.


Heads or tails?' he asked.


Tails,' said Robert.


But it was heads.


On Friday evening John knocked on the side door of Annie Emery's shop. While he stood there, he began to feel afraid. He still wanted to marry Annie, that was true. But how could he explain the last ten years? He began to hope that Annie was not there.


But the door opened, and there she was.


Mr Hessian!' she cried, with a bright smile.


I was just walking down Duck Bank,' he said. 'And I thought...'


And in fifteen seconds he was inside the house, sitting down.


But you're in the middle of eating your supper,' he said. He could see the food ready on the table.


I haven't started,' she replied. 'Have you had your supper?'


No,' he said.


It will be nice of you to help me eat my supper, then,' said she.


Oh! No...'


But she got plates and glasses out of the cupboard — and there he was, sitting at her table! He could not say no. It was wonderful.


I'm doing well,' he thought. 'Poor Robert!'


He watched her while she moved about the room. He still did not know how to explain the ten silent years, but perhaps he didn't have to say anything. She was friendly, smiling, and pleased to see him, wasn't she? And she was still a beautiful woman — and also a good businesswoman.


He stayed, and they talked. He decided to ask her to marry him in a few days. Fifteen minutes later he thought about asking her the next day. And in another five minutes he was asking her to marry him, then and there.


She moved away from him quickly.


It's very sudden. I must think about it,' she answered.


How happy he was! Her answer would soon be yes, he was sure.


Will you be at church on Sunday?' she asked.




If my answer is yes, I shall wear white flowers in my hat. I prefer to give you my answer like that, without words. And if I am not at church next week, I will be the week after.'


I understand,' he said. 'And if I do see those flowers, perhaps I can come to tea?'


Yes. But you mustn't speak to me when I come out of church.'


He walked home down Oldcastle Street. He was a happy man — and he felt much younger than his forty-two years.


*   *   *

*   *   *

She was not at church on Sunday. Robert was away on business most of the week, and John was alone in the house. For many hours he sat at home, thinking about the next Sunday. Robert returned home on Friday.


On Sunday morning, John was up early. He put on his new shirt, which came from the best shop in Hanbridge. Robert was also out of bed early, and he was wearing a new shirt and a new suit. They had a silent breakfast.


I'm going to church this morning, Maggie,' said Robert, finishing his breakfast. 'Where are my new shoes?'


This was a surprise. Robert did not usually go to church.


They walked to church, with John fifty metres in front of his brother. When he came into the church, Miss Emery was not there. The service was beginning when she walked in. She was wearing white flowers on her hat! There were about a hundred and fifty-five white flowers—her hat was like a garden.


How excited John was! He had Annie, and he had his sister's money. He felt very happy, and he decided to give five thousand pounds to Robert. Perhaps even a little more.


After the service John did not speak to Annie, but hurried home. Robert also went home, and then the two had their lunch. They didn't speak, of course; they read their newspapers.


After lunch they went out for a walk; not together, of course. John walked because he had to do something until his tea with Annie at half past four. And at half past four he turned the corner into Duck Bank — and saw Robert, who was coming round the corner at the other end of Duck Bank. They met outside Annie's door.


What are you doing here?' asked Robert angrily.


I'm coming to see Annie,' replied John, also very angry.


So am I!'


Well, you're too late,' said John. 'I've asked her to marry me. And she has said yes.'


Don't be stupid,' replied Robert. 'She's marrying me!'


When did you ask her?' asked John.


On Friday.'


And did she say yes?'


Not on Friday. But her answer was to wear white flowers at church this morning.'


That was for me!' said John.


The quarrel went on for some time.


Come on,' said John. 'Let's go home. We can't talk in the street. Annie will see us from her window.'


They walked home quickly. And the quarrel went on at home all afternoon. It got noisier and angrier, and at six o'clock Maggie came into the room. She told the brothers that they must stop fighting at once. She then told them that she was leaving their house for ever.


*   *   *

*   *   *

Why did you do it, my pet?' asked Powell Liversage.


He and Annie Emery were sitting in the garden of his house in Trafalgar Road.


Why did I do it?' asked Annie. 'Oh, they were so stupid, Powell. I know they're your friends, but really! For ten years they said nothing to me, and then, because of their sister's money, they come to see me. And Powell, they were so stupid. They really thought that I liked them. I wanted them to meet at my house because I wanted to tell them what I thought of them. But I was watching from my bedroom window when they met in the street. They started to quarrel again, and then they went away.'


They'll be angry with me, I'm afraid,' said Powell. 'When they find out that we're going to get married. They'll say I want to marry you for the...'


I don't want the money, dear,' said Annie. 'They can keep their twelve thousand pounds.'


Powell was a little sorry to hear this, but he said, 'Yes, of course, dearest,' and took Annie's hand.


Just then Powell's mother, who lived with him, came down the garden.


Powell,' she said. 'John Hessian's here. He wants to see you.'


I must go,' said Annie. 'I'll go across the fields. Good night, Mrs Liversage. Good night, Powell.'


Liversage went into the house and found John.


Powell,' he said. 'I've quarrelled with Robert. I can't stay at home. Can I sleep in your spare room?'


Of course, John, of course.'


I think I'll go to bed now, if that's all right.'


An hour later there was another knock at the door, and Liversage opened the door to Robert Hessian.


Hallo, Powell,' said Robert. 'Can I sleep here tonight? I've had a terrible quarrel with John, and Maggie's gone, and I can't stay in the same house as John.'


But what —'


Look, I can't talk. I'll go up to your spare room.'


All right,' said Liversage.


He took Robert up the stairs, opened the door to the spare room, pushed him in, and closed the door.


What a night!


内容来自 听力课堂网:http://www.yfnvo.live/show-10227-451108-1.html

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