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所属教程:书虫二级 五镇故事





The Burglary

Lady Dain said: 'Jee, if that portrait stays there much longer, I shall go mad. I can't eat any more with it up there!' She looked up at the big portrait on the wall opposite the breakfast table.


Sir Jehoshaphat said nothing.


Lady Dain did not like the portrait. Nobody in the Five Towns liked the portrait. But the portrait was by Cressage, the finest portrait painter in England, and a portrait by Cressage cost a thousand pounds or more.


Sir Jehoshaphat Dain was perhaps the cleverest and most successful businessman in the Five Towns. His business, called Dain Brothers, had one of the biggest pottery factories in England, and their cups and plates went all over the world. Sir Jehoshaphat was rich, because he sold his pottery very cheaply, and paid his workers very little. But Sir Jee liked to be important, so he used some of his money to pay for schools and hospitals for the people of the Five Towns.


The people of the Five Towns often laughed at Sir Jee, but they also wanted to say thank you for the schools and hospitals. They decided to give him a portrait for a present. So Cressage painted the portrait and many people in London thought it was very good. 'A wonderfully clever portrait of a successful businessman from a small town; a little man who has made a lot of money and who thinks he is very important,' said one newspaper.


It was not a kind portrait and many of the people of the Five Towns laughed when they saw it. But Sir Jehoshaphat had to take his present, and to say thank you for it. Now it was on his wall in his home, Sneyd Castle, and after sixteen months Lady Dain was tired of looking at it.


Don't be stupid, wife,' said Sir Jee. 'I'm not taking that portrait down, or selling it — not even for ten thousand pounds. I want to keep it.'


But that wasn't true. Sir Jee hated the portrait more than his wife did. And he was thinking of a secret plan to get rid of it.


Are you going into town this morning?' asked his wife.


Yes,' he answered. 'I'm in court today.'


He was one of the town magistrates. While he travelled into town, he thought about his plan for the portrait. It was a wild and dangerous plan, but he thought it was just possible.


*   *   *

*   *   *

That morning, the police were very angry with Sir Jee. A man was in court, and the police said he was a burglar. They wanted him to go to prison for five years or more. But Sir Jee did not agree. He said there was no proof that William Smith was a burglar. The other magistrate was very surprised at this and the police were very cross, but William Smith left the court a free man. Before he left, Sir Jee asked to see him in his office.


Smith,' said Sir Jee, looking at him carefully, 'you were a lucky man this morning, you know.'


Smith was a small, thin man, with untidy hair and dirty clothes.


Yes, I was lucky,' he answered. 'And what do you want from me?'


I hope I can help you,' said Sir Jee.


I don't know if I want help, but I never say no to money.'


Sit down,' said Sir Jee.


William Smith sat down at Sir Jee's desk. 'Well?' he asked.


I want you to steal something from my house. But it won't be a crime.'


What?' Smith was very surprised.


In my house, Sneyd Castle, there is a portrait of myself. I want someone to steal it.'


Steal it?'




How much will you pay me for doing it?'


Pay you?' said Sir Jee. 'It's a Cressage! You'll get two thousand pounds for it in America.'


And Sir Jee told Smith the story of the portrait and why he wanted to get rid of it. Smith thought for a minute and then said:


All right, I'll do it, just to help you.'


When can you do it? Tonight?'


No,' said Smith. 'I'm busy tonight.'


Well, tomorrow night.'


I'm busy tomorrow, too.'


You're a busy man,' said Sir Jee.


Well, business is business, you know,' said Smith. 'I can do it the day after tomorrow.'


But that's Christmas Eve.'


Well, it's either that or Christmas Day. I'm busy again after that.'


Not in the Five Towns, I hope,' said Sir Jee.


No. There's nothing left in the Five Towns.'


So they agreed on Christmas Eve.


Now,' said Sir Jee, 'I'll describe the rooms in Sneyd Castle to you. Then you'll know where —'


William Smith looked at him and laughed loudly. 'Describe the rooms to me? Do you think I'm stupid? I'm a businessman — I know Sneyd Castle better than you do.'


*   *   *

*   *   *

On the afternoon of 24th December, when Sir Jehoshaphat came home to Sneyd Castle, his wife was packing suitcases. The Dains were going to their son's house for Christmas. Their son John had a new wife and a new baby, and he wanted to spend Christmas in his new home with all the family.


Sir Jee said nothing to his wife immediately. He watched her for a while and then later, during tea, he said suddenly: 'I can't come to John's house this afternoon.'


Oh, Jee!' she cried. 'You are difficult. Why didn't you tell me before?'


He didn't answer the question. 'I'll come over tomorrow morning — perhaps in time for church.'


There's no food in the house. And the servants are all going away on holiday. There's nobody to cook for you. I'll stay with you if you like.'


No, I'll be all right.'


Lady Dain went to her son's, leaving some cold food for Sir Jee.


Sir Jee had a cold, silent meal, in front of his portrait. He was alone in the castle and that was a good thing, he decided. There were no servants to wake up and hear William Smith at work. Sir Jee was a little afraid; perhaps it was dangerous to bring a burglar into the house. He looked again at the portrait in its big gold frame. 'Will he take the frame?' he asked himself. 'I hope he doesn't. It's very heavy. I don't think one man could carry that.' But perhaps Smith had someone to help him.


Goodbye!' he said to his portrait, opened one of the windows for William Smith, and went to bed.


He did not sleep. He listened. At about two o'clock there were a few noises. They stopped, then started again. Smith was at work. Sir Jee got out of bed quietly, went to the window and looked out carefully. Two men were carrying something large and square across the garden. So Smith had a friend, and he was taking the portrait and the frame.


Sir Jee went back to bed. He slept for a few hours and then went downstairs.


The portrait was on the floor with some writing across it in big white letters: 'This is no good to me.' It was the big gold frame that was missing.


And that wasn't all. Plates, knives, forks, spoons, cups — everything made of silver was also missing. There was not a single silver spoon left in the castle.


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