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English Short Stories - Cuentos en inglés
Luck - Part 2
Written by Mark Twain. Transcript of radio broadcast. Source: VOA

 

"I took him aside and found he knew a little about Julius Caesar's history. But he did not know anything else. So I went to work and tested him and worked him like a slave. I made him work, over and over again, on a few questions about Caesar which I knew he would be asked.

"If you will believe me, he came through very well on the day of the examination. He got high praise, too, while others who knew a thousand times more than he were sharply criticized. By some strange, lucky accident, he was asked no questions but those I made him study. Such an accident does not happen more than once in a hundred years.

"Well, all through his studies, I stood by him, with the feeling a mother has for a disabled child. And he always saved himself, by some miracle.

"I thought that what in the end would destroy him would be the mathematics examination. I decided to make his end as painless as possible. So, I pushed facts into his stupid head for hours. Finally, I let him go to the examination to experience what I was sure would be his dismissal from school. Well, sir, try to imagine the result. I was shocked out of my mind. He took first prize! And he got the highest praise.

"I felt guilty day and night – what I was doing was not right. But I only wanted to make his dismissal a little less painful for him. I never dreamed it would lead to such strange, laughable results.

"I thought that sooner or later one thing was sure to happen: The first real test once he was through school would ruin him.

"Then, the Crimean War broke out. I felt that sad for him that there had to be a war. Peace would have given this donkey a chance to escape from ever being found out as being so stupid. Nervously, I waited for the worst to happen. It did. He was appointed an officer. A captain, of all things! Who could have dreamed that they would place such a responsibility on such weak shoulders as his.

"I said to myself that I was responsible to the country for this. I must go with him and protect the nation against him as far as I could. So, I joined up with him. And away we went to the field.

"And there – oh, dear, it was terrible. Mistakes, fearful mistakes – why, he never did anything that was right – nothing but mistakes. But, you see, nobody knew the secret of how stupid he really was. Everybody misunderstood his actions. They saw his stupid mistakes as works of great intelligence. They did, honestly! His smallest mistakes made a man in his right mind cry – and shout and scream, too – to himself, of course. And what kept me in a continual fear was the fact that every mistake he made increased his glory and fame.

"I kept saying to myself that when at last they find out about him, it will be like the sun falling out of the sky.

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