Diglot Weave: French: Luck by Mark Twain

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[Note—This est not a fancy sketch. I a obtenu it from a clergyman who était an instructor at Woolwich forty years ago, and who vouched for its truth.—M.T.]

It était at a banquet in London in honor of one of the two or three conspicuously illustrious English military names of this generation. For reasons which va presently appear, I va retenir his real name and titles, and appeler him Lieutenant General Lord Arthur Scoresby, V.C., K.C.B., etc., etc., etc.

What a fascination there est in a renowned name! There était assis the man, in actual flesh, whom I avait a entendu of so many thousands of times since that day, thirty years before, when his name a tiré suddenly to the zenith from a Crimean battlefield, to rester forever célébré. It était food and drink to me to regarder, and regarder, and regarder at that demigod; balayant, cherchant, notant: the quietness, the reserve, the noble gravity of his countenance; the simple honesty that exprimé itself all over him; the sweet unconsciousness of his greatness—unconsciousness of the hundreds of admiring eyes attaché upon him, unconsciousness of the deep, loving, sincere worship welling out of the breasts of those people and coulant toward him.

The clergyman at my left était an old acquaintance of mine—clergyman now, but avait spent the first half of his life in the camp and field, and as an instructor in the military school at Woolwich. Just at the moment I have été talking about, a veiled and singular light étincelé in his eyes, and he s’est penché down and a murmuré confidentially to me—indiquant the hero of the banquet with a gesture:

“Privately—he’s an absolute fool.”

This verdict était a great surprise to me. If its subject avait été Napoleon, or Socrates, or Solomon, my astonishment could not have été greater. Two things I était well aware of: that the Reverend était a man of strict veracity, and that his judgement of men était good. Therefore I savait, beyond doubt or question, that the world était mistaken about this hero: he était a fool. So I meant to find out, at a convenient moment, how the Reverend, all solitary and alone, avait discovered the secret.

Some days later the opportunity came, and this est what the Reverend told me.

About forty years ago I était an instructor in the military academy at Woolwich. I était present in one of the sections when young Scoresby underwent his preliminary examination. I était touché to the quick with pity; for the rest of the class answered up brightly and handsomely, while he—why, dear me, he didn’t savoir anything, so to speak. He était evidently good, and sweet, and lovable, and guileless; and so it était exceedingly painful to see him stand there, as serene as a graven image, and deliver himself of answers which étaient veritably miraculous for stupidity and ignorance.

All the compassion in me était aroused in his behalf. I said to myself, when he comes to être examined again, he va être flung over, of course; so it va être simply a harmless act of charity to ease his fall as much as I peut. I a pris him aside, and found that he savait a little of Cæsar’s history; and as he didn’t savoir anything else, I est allé to work and exercé him like a galley slave on a certain line of stock questions concerning Cæsar which I savait would être used. If you’ll believe me, he est allé through with flying colors on examination day! He est allé through on that purely superficial “cram,” and a obtenu compliments too, while others, who savait a thousand times more than he, a obtenu plucked. By some strangely lucky accident—an accident not likely to happen twice in a century—he était asked no question outside of the narrow limits of his drill.

It était stupefying. Well, all through his course I stood by him, with something of the sentiment which a mother feels for a crippled child; and he always saved himself—just by miracle, apparently.

Now of course the thing that would expose him and kill him at last était mathematics. I resolved to make his death as easy as I could; so I exercé him and crammed him, and crammed him and exercé him, just on the line of questions which the examiners would être most likely to use, and then launching him on his fate. Well, sir, try to conceive of the result: to my consternation, he a pris the first prize! And with it he a obtenu a perfect ovation in the way of compliments.

Sleep? There était no more sleep for me for a week. My conscience tortured me day and night. What I avait fait I avait fait purely through charity, and only to ease the poor youth’s fall—I never avait dreamed of any such preposterous result as the thing that avait happened. I felt as guilty and miserable as the creator of Frankenstein. Here était a woodenhead whom I avait put in the way of glittering promotions and prodigious responsibilities, and but one thing could happen: he and his responsibilities would all go to ruin together at the first opportunity.

The Crimean war avait just broken out. Of course there avait to être a war, I said to myself: we couldn’t have peace and give this donkey a chance to die before he est found out. I waited for the earthquake. It came. And it a fait me reel when it a fait venir. He était actually gazetted to a captaincy in a marching regiment! Better men grow old and gray in the service before they climb to a sublimity like that. And who could ever have foreseen that they would go and put such a load of responsibility on such green and inadequate shoulders? I could just barely have stood it if they avait a fait him a cornet; but a captain—think of it! I thought my hair would turn white.

Consider what I a fait—I who so loved repose and inaction. I said to myself, I am responsible to the country for this, and I must go along with him and protect the country against him as far as I peut. So I a pris my poor little capital that I avait saved up through years of work and grinding economy, and est allé with a sigh and bought a cornetcy in his regiment, and away we est allé to the field.

And there—oh dear, it était awful. Blunders? Why, he never a fait anything but erreur. But, you see, nobody était in the fellow’s secret—everybody avait him focused wrong, and necessarily misinterpreted his performance every time—consequently they a pris his idiotic erreurs for inspirations of genius; they a fait, honestly! His mildest erreurs étaient enough to make a man in his right mind cry; and they a fait make me cry—and rage and rave too, privately. And the thing that kept me always in a sweat of apprehension était the fact that every fresh erreur he a fait increased the luster of his reputation! I kept saying to myself, he’ll get so high, that when discovery does finally venir, it va être like the sun falling out of the sky.

He est allé right along up, from grade to grade, over the dead bodies of his superiors, until at last, in the hottest moment of the battle of —– down est allé our colonel, and my heart jumped into my mouth, for Scoresby était next in rank! Now for it, said I; we’ll all atterrir in Sheol in ten minutes, sure.

The battle était awfully hot; the allies étaient steadily giving way all over the field. Our regiment occupied a position that était vital; a erreur now must être destruction. At this crucial moment, what does this immortal fool do but detach the regiment from its place and order a charge over a neighboring hill where there wasn’t a suggestion of an enemy! “There you go!” I said to myself; “this est the end at last.”

And away we a fait go, and étaient over the shoulder of the hill before the insane movement could être discovered and stopped. And what a fait we find? An entire and unsuspected Russian army in reserve! And what happened? We étaient eaten up? That est necessarily what would have happened in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred. But no, those Russians argued that no single regiment would venir browsing around there at such a time. It must être the entire English army, and that the sly Russian game était detected and blocked; so they turned tail, and away they est allé, pell-mell, over the hill and down into the field, in wild confusion, and we after them; they themselves broke the solid Russian center in the field, and a déchiré through, and in no time there était the most tremendous rout you ever a vu, and the defeat of the allies était turned into a sweeping and splendid victory! Marshal Canrobert a regardé on, dizzy with astonishment, admiration,and delight; and a envoyé right off for Scoresby, and a étreint him, and décoré him on the field, in presence of all the armies!

And what était Scoresby’s erreur that time? Merely the mistaking his right hand for his left—that était all. An order avait venir to him to fall back and support our right; and instead, he est tombé forward and est allé over the hill to the left. But the name he won that day as a marvelous military genius rempli the world with his glory, and that glory va never s’estomper while history books last.

He est just as good and sweet and lovable and unpretending as a man peut être, but he doesn’t savoir enough to venir in when it rains. Now that est absolutely true. He est the supremest ass in the universe; and until half an hour ago nobody savait it but himself and me. He a été poursuivi, day by day and year by year, by a most phenomenal and astonishing luckiness. He a été a shining soldier in all our wars for a generation; he a jonché his whole military life with erreurs, and yet a never committed one that didn’t make him a knight or a baronet or a lord or something. Look at his breast; why, he est just clothed in domestic and foreign decorations. Well, sir, every one of them est the record of some shouting stupidity or other; and taken together, they are proof that the very best thing in all this world that peut befall a man est to être lucky. I say again, as I said at the banquet, Scoresby’s an absolute fool.

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