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After Twenty Years (O·Henry)  

2011-06-19 08:45:45|  分类: English |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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After Twenty Years (O·Henry)

___________________________________________

The policeman on the beat moved up the avenue impressively. The impressiveness was habitual and not for show, for spectators were few. The time was barely 10 o'clock at night, but chilly gusts of wind with a taste of rain in them had well nigh depeopled the streets.

Trying doors as he went, twirling his club with many intricate and artful movements, turning now and then to cast his watchful eye adown the pacific thoroughfare, the officer, with his stalwart form and slight swagger, made a fine picture of a guardian of the peace. The vicinity was one that kept early hours. Now and then you might see the lights of a cigar store or of an all-night lunch counter; but the majority of the doors belonged to business places that had long since been closed.

When about midway of a certain block the policeman suddenly slowed his walk. In the doorway of a darkened hardware store a man leaned, with an unlighted cigar in his mouth. As the policeman walked up to him the man spoke up quickly.

"It's all right, officer," he said, reassuringly. "I'm just waiting for a friend. It's an appointment made twenty years ago. Sounds a little funny to you, doesn't it? Well, I'll explain if you'd like to make certain it's all straight. About that long ago there used to be a restaurant where this store stands--'Big Joe' Brady's restaurant."

"Until five years ago," said the policeman. "It was torn down then."

The man in the doorway struck a match and lit his cigar. The light showed a pale, square-jawed face with keen eyes, and a little white scar near his right eyebrow. His scarfpin was a large diamond, oddly set.

"Twenty years ago to-night," said the man, "I dined here at 'Big Joe' Brady's with Jimmy Wells, my best chum, and the finest chap in the world. He and I were raised here in New York, just like two brothers, together. I was eighteen and Jimmy was twenty. The next morning I was to start for the West to make my fortune. You couldn't have dragged Jimmy out of New York; he thought it was the only place on earth. Well, we agreed that night that we would meet here again exactly twenty years from that date and time, no matter what our conditions might be or from what distance we might have to come. We figured that in twenty years each of us ought to have our destiny worked out and our fortunes made, whatever they were going to be."

"It sounds pretty interesting," said the policeman. "Rather a long time between meets, though, it seems to me. Haven't you heard from your friend since you left?"

"Well, yes, for a time we corresponded," said the other. "But after a year or two we lost track of each other. You see, the West is a pretty big proposition, and I kept hustling around over it pretty lively. But I know Jimmy will meet me here if he's alive, for he always was the truest, stanchest old chap in the world. He'll never forget. I came a thousand miles to stand in this door to-night, and it's worth it if my old partner turns up."

The waiting man pulled out a handsome watch, the lids of it set with small diamonds.

"Three minutes to ten," he announced. "It was exactly ten o'clock when we parted here at the restaurant door."

"Did pretty well out West, didn't you?" asked the policeman.

"You bet! I hope Jimmy has done half as well. He was a kind of plodder, though, good fellow as he was. I've had to compete with some of the sharpest wits going to get my pile. A man gets in a groove in New York. It takes the West to put a razor-edge on him."

The policeman twirled his club and took a step or two.

"I'll be on my way. Hope your friend comes around all right. Going to call time on him sharp?"

"I should say not!" said the other. "I'll give him half an hour at least. If Jimmy is alive on earth he'll be here by that time. So long, officer."

"Good-night, sir," said the policeman, passing on along his beat, trying doors as he went.

There was now a fine, cold drizzle falling, and the wind had risen from its uncertain puffs into a steady blow. The few foot passengers astir in that quarter hurried dismally and silently along with coat collars turned high and pocketed hands. And in the door of the hardware store the man who had come a thousand miles to fill an appointment, uncertain almost to absurdity, with the friend of his youth, smoked his cigar and waited.

About twenty minutes he waited, and then a tall man in a long overcoat, with collar turned up to his ears, hurried across from the opposite side of the street. He went directly to the waiting man.

"Is that you, Bob?" he asked, doubtfully.

"Is that you, Jimmy Wells?" cried the man in the door.

"Bless my heart!" exclaimed the new arrival, grasping both the other's hands with his own. "It's Bob, sure as fate. I was certain I'd find you here if you were still in existence. Well, well, well! --twenty years is a long time. The old gone, Bob; I wish it had lasted, so we could have had another dinner there. How has the West treated you, old man?"

"Bully; it has given me everything I asked it for. You've changed lots, Jimmy. I never thought you were so tall by two or three inches."

"Oh, I grew a bit after I was twenty."

"Doing well in New York, Jimmy?"

"Moderately. I have a position in one of the city departments. Come on, Bob; we'll go around to a place I know of, and have a good long talk about old times."

The two men started up the street, arm in arm. The man from the West, his egotism enlarged by success, was beginning to outline the history of his career. The other, submerged in his overcoat, listened with interest.

At the corner stood a drug store, brilliant with electric lights. When they came into this glare each of them turned simultaneously to gaze upon the other's face.

The man from the West stopped suddenly and released his arm.

"You're not Jimmy Wells," he snapped. "Twenty years is a long time, but not long enough to change a man's nose from a Roman to a pug."

"It sometimes changes a good man into a bad one, said the tall man. "You've been under arrest for ten minutes, 'Silky' Bob. Chicago thinks you may have dropped over our way and wires us she wants to have a chat with you. Going quietly, are you? That's sensible. Now, before we go on to the station here's a note I was asked to hand you. You may read it here at the window. It's from Patrolman Wells."

The man from the West unfolded the little piece of paper handed him. His hand was steady when he began to read, but it trembled a little by the time he had finished. The note was rather short.

"Bob: I was at the appointed place on time. When you struck the match to light your cigar I saw it was the face of the man wanted in Chicago. Somehow I couldn't do it myself, so I went around and got a plain clothes man to do the job. JIMMY."

 

二十年以后 (欧·亨利)

___________________________________________

    纽约的一条大街上,一位值勤的警察正沿街走着。一阵冷飕飕的风向他迎面吹来。已近夜间10点,街上的行人寥寥无几了。

    在一家小店铺的门口,昏暗的灯光下站着一个男子。他的嘴里叼着一支没有点燃的雪茄烟。警察放慢了脚步,认真地看了他一眼,然后,向那个男子走了过去。

    “这儿没有出什么事,警官先生。”看见警察向自己走来,那个男子很快地说,“我只是在这儿等一位朋友罢了。这是20年前定下的一个约会。你听了觉得稀奇,是吗?好吧,如果有兴致听的话,我来给你讲讲。大约20年前,这儿,这个店铺现在所占的地方,原来是一家餐馆……”

    “那餐馆5年前就被拆除了。”警察接上去说。

    男子划了根火柴,点燃了叼在嘴上的雪茄。借着火柴的亮光,警察发现这个男子脸色苍白,右眼角附近有一块小小的白色的伤疤。

    “20年前的今天晚上,”男子继续说,“我和吉米·维尔斯在这儿的餐馆共进晚餐。哦,吉米是我最要好的朋友。我们俩都是在纽约这个城市里长大的。从孩提时候起,我们就亲密无间,情同手足。当时,我正准备第二天早上就动身到西部去谋生。那天夜晚临分手的时候,我们俩约定:20年后的同一日期、同一时间,我们俩将来到这里再次相会。”

    “这听起来倒挺有意思的。”警察说,“你们分手以后,你就没有收到过你那位朋友的信吗?”

    “哦,收到过他的信。有一段时间我们曾相互通信。”那男子 说,“可是一两年之后,我们就失去了联系。你知道,西部是个很大的地方。而我呢,又总是不断地东奔西跑。可我相信,吉米只要还活着,就一定会来这儿和我相会的。他是我最信得过的朋友啦。”

    说完,男子从口袋里掏出一块小巧玲球的金表。表上的宝石在黑暗中闪闪发光。“九点五十七分了。”

    他说,“我们上一次是十点整在这儿的餐馆分手的。”

    “你在西部混得不错吧?”警察问道。

    “当然罗!吉米的光景要是能赶上我的一半就好了。啊,实在不容易啊!这些年来,我一直不得不东奔西跑……”

    又是一阵冷赠飕的风穿街而过。接着,一片沉寂。他们俩谁也没有说话。过了一会儿,警察准备离开这里。

    “我得走了,”他对那个男子说,“我希望你的朋友很快就会到来。假如他不准时赶来,你会离开这儿吗?”

    “不会的。我起码要再等他半个小时。如果吉米他还活在人间,他到时候一定会来到这儿的。就说这些吧,再见,警官先生。”

    “再见,先生。”警察一边说着,一边沿街走去,街上已经没有行人了,空荡荡的。

    男子又在这店铺的门前等了大约二十分钟的光景,这时候,一 个身材高大的人急匆匆地径直走来。他穿着一件黑色的大衣,衣领向上翻着,盖住了耳朵。

    “你是鲍勃吗?’来人问道。

    “你是吉米·维尔斯?”站在门口的男子大声地说,显然,他很激动。

    来人握住了男子的双手。“不错,你是鲍勃。我早就确信我会在这儿见到你的。啧,啧,啧!20年是个不短的时间啊!你看,鲍勃!原来的那个饭馆已经不在啦!要是它没有被拆除,我们再一块儿在这里面共进晚餐该多好啊!鲍勃,你在西部的情况怎么样?”

    “幄,我已经设法获得了我所需要的一切东西。你的变化不小啊,吉米。我原来根本没有想到你会长这么高的个子。”

    “哦,你走了以后,我是长高了一点儿。”

    “吉米,你在纽约混得不错吧?”

    “一般,一般。我在市政府的一个部门里上班,坐办公室。来,鲍勃,咱们去转转,找个地方好好叙叙往事。”

    这条街的街角处有一家大商店。尽管时间已经不早了,商店里的灯还在亮着。来到亮处以后,这两个人都不约而同地转过身来看了看对方的脸。

    突然间,那个从西部来的男子停住了脚步。

    “你不是吉米·维尔斯。”他说,“2O年的时间虽然不短,但它不足以使一个人变得容貌全非。”从他说话的声调中可以听出,他在怀疑对方。

    “然而,20年的时间却有可能使一个好人变成坏人。”高个子 说,“你被捕了,鲍勃。芝加哥的警方猜到你会到这个城市来的,于是他们通知我们说,他们想跟你‘聊聊’。好吧,在我们还没有去警察局之前,先给你看一张条子,是你的朋友写给你的。”

    鲍勃接过便条。读着读着,他微微地颤抖起来。便条上写着:

    鲍勃:刚才我准时赶到了我们的约会地点。当你划着火柴点烟时,我发现你正是那个芝加哥警方所通缉的人。不知怎么的,我不忍自己亲自逮捕你,只得找了个便衣警察来做这件事。

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