Клуб самоубийц. Уровень 2 / The Suicide Club. Роберт Льюис Стивенсон
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СКАЧАТЬ Master of the Horse was a young officer of a brave and even hot temper. He was glad to take a walk and hastened to make ready. Long practice and a varied experience of life gave him an ability to disguise. He could adapt, not only his face and manners, but his voice and almost his thoughts, to those of any rank, character, or nation. In this way he distracted attention from the Prince, and sometimes used it in order to make their way into strange societies. Of course, they never told of these secrets to the civil authorities. The strong courage of the one and the ready invention and devotion of the other brought them through many dangerous adventures. They grew in confidence as time went on.

      One evening in March hard rain drove them into an Oyster Bar in the neighbourhood of Leicester Square. Colonel Geraldine was dressed and painted to represent a person connected with the Press. The Prince, as usual, changed his appearance by the addition of false whiskers and a pair of large eyebrows. These lent him a shaggy and weather-beaten air, which formed the strongest disguise. So the commander and his companion sipped their brandy and soda in security.

      The bar was full of guests, male and female; but none of them wanted to talk with our adventurers. None of them was interested in a nearer acquaintance. Nothing happened, and the Prince was yawning, and was beginning tired of the whole walk. Suddenly the doors were pushed violently open. A young man, followed by a couple of commissionaires, entered the bar. Each of the commissionaires carried a large dish of cream tarts under a cover, which they at once removed. Then the young man made the round of the company, and offered these tarts to everyone with an exaggerated courtesy.[4] Sometimes the offer was laughingly accepted; sometimes it was firmly, or even harshly, rejected. In these latter cases the man always ate the tart himself, with some more or less humorous commentary.

      At last he approached Prince Florizel.

      “Sir,” said he and bowed. Holding the tart between his thumb and forefinger, he said, “will you honour a stranger? I can answer for the quality of the pastry. I have eaten two dozen and three of them myself since five o'clock.”

      “I prefer,” replied the Prince, “to look not so much at the nature of a gift as to the spirit in which it is offered.”

      “The spirit, sir,” returned the young man, with another bow, “is one of mockery.”

      “Mockery!” repeated Florizel. “And whom do you propose to mock?”

      “I am not here to explain my philosophy,” replied the other, “but to give away these cream tarts. If I mention that I heartily mock myself here, I hope you will consider honour satisfied. If not, you will make me to eat my twenty-eighth tart, and I am tired of the exercise.”

      “I am sorry for you,” said the Prince, “and I want to rescue you from this dilemma, but upon one condition. If my friend and I eat your cakes-for which we have neither of us any natural love – we shall expect you to join us at supper. The recompense, you know.”

      The young man seemed to reflect.

      “I have still several dozen upon hand,” he said at last; “and that means I have to visit several more bars before my great affair is finished. This will take some time; and if you are hungry…”

      The Prince interrupted him with a polite gesture.

      “My friend and I will accompany you,” he said; “for we have already a deep interest in your mode of passing an evening. And now allow me to sign the treaty for both.”

      And the Prince swallowed the tart with the best grace imaginable.

      “It is delicious,” said he.

      “I see you are a connoisseur[5],” replied the young man.

      Colonel Geraldine likewise did honour[6] to the pastry. Everyone in that bar either accepted or refused his delicacies, and the young man with the cream tarts led the way to another and similar place. The two commissionaires followed immediately after. The Prince and the Colonel, arm-in-arm, and smiling to each other, went behind. In this order the company visited two other taverns, where some were refusing, some were accepting the favours of this bum hospitality. The young man himself ate each rejected tart.

      After the third saloon the young man counted his store. There were nine tarts, three in one tray and six in the other.

      “Gentlemen,” said he, addressing himself to his two new followers, “I don't want to delay your supper. I am sure you must be hungry. I feel that I owe you something special. And on this great day for me, when I am closing a career of folly by my silly action, I wish to behave handsomely to all who supported me. Gentlemen, you will not wait long. Although my health is ruined by previous excesses, at the risk of my life, I am ready to act.”

      With these words he crushed the nine remaining tarts into his mouth, and swallowed them at a single movement each. Then, turning to the commissionaires, he gave them a couple of coins.

      “Thank you,” said he, “for your extraordinary patience.”

      And he let them go with a bow apiece. For some seconds he stood looking at the purse, then, with a laugh, he tossed it into the middle of the street, and said that he was ready for supper.

      In a small French restaurant in Soho, which had a bad reputation, in a private room up stairs, the three companions made a very elegant supper. They drank three or four bottles of champagne. First we were talking. The young man was fluent and full of life, but he laughed louder than was natural in a well-mannered person. His hands trembled violently, and his voice took sudden and surprising tones, which were independent of his will. The dessert was cleared away, and all three lighted their cigars. Then the Prince addressed the man in these words:

      “You will, I am sure, pardon my curiosity. What I have seen of you has greatly pleased but even more puzzled me. And though it might sound immodest, I must tell you that my friend and I are persons very well worthy to be entrusted with a secret. We have many of our own, which we are continually revealing to strangers. And if, as I suppose, your story is a silly one, you need have no delicacy with us. We are two of the silliest men in England. My name is Godall, Theophilus Godall. My friend is Major Alfred Hammersmith. We pass our lives entirely in the search for extravagant adventures.”

      “I like you, Mr. Godall,” returned the young man; “you inspire me with a natural confidence. I have not the slightest objection to your friend the Major, who, I think, is a nobleman in masquerade. At least, I am sure he is no soldier.”

      The Colonel smiled at this compliment to the perfection of his art. The young man went on.

      “There are many reasons why I must not tell you my story. Perhaps that is just the reason why I am going to do so. At least, you seem so well prepared to hear a tale of silliness. In spite of your example, I shall keep my name to myself. My age is not essential to the narrative. I come from ancestors by ordinary generation, and they left me the descent apartment house. I still occupy it and have a fortune of three hundred pounds a year. I suppose they also handed on to me a strange sense of humour. I received a good education, too. I can play the violin well enough to earn money in the orchestra. The same remark applies to the flute and the French horn. I learned whist – to lose about a hundred a year at that scientific game. My French was enough to enable me to squander money in Paris with almost with the same ease as in London. In short, I am a person full of manly accomplishments. I have had every sort of adventure, including a duel about nothing. Only two months ago I met a young lady exactly suited to my taste in mind and body. My heart was melting. I saw that I came upon my fate at last. I fell in love. But when I reckoned up what remained to me of my capital, I found something less than four hundred pounds! I ask you fairly-can a man who respects himself fall in love on СКАЧАТЬ


 with an exaggerated courtesy – с преувеличенной вежливостью


 Connoisseur – знаток


 did honour – отдал должное