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拿破仑的三个问题

2010-10-12  读天下书...

A story is told about a Swede who wanted to join Napoleon’s Grand Army. One evening some of Napoleon’s soldiers were drinking together when a young Frenchman brought friend to their table. He explained that his friend was a Swede and knew no French, but this Swede admired Napoleon so much that he wanted to join the French army and fight for him.

 

  The soldiers looked up and saw a tall young man with blue eyes, a friendly face, strong arms and broad shoulders. They liked  him at once.

 

  The officers saw that he was just the right sort of man, so they accepted him and he became one of Napoleons soldiers. His new friends smoothed away the difficulties. He fought bravely in many battles and gained their respect. However, his knowledge of French remained very weak, because he was not good at learning languages, but this did not prevent him from fighting hard.

 

  Several years later, word came that Napoleon himself was coming to inspect them, and the Swede was warned that the great man would probably ask him some question. There was some difficulty in explaining this to the Swede, but when at last he understood he became very anxious.

 

  “The Swede won’t understand the questions.” One of the Frenchmen said, “What can he do?”

 

  It was well known that Napoleon always asked the same three questions, and usually in the same order. The first question was, “How old are you?” The second was, “how long have you been in my army?” And the third was, “Did you serve in either of my last two campaigns?”

 

  The Swede could not possibly remember all these words and so his friends decided to teach him only the answers in their proper order. They gave him a lot of practice. Whenever possible, one of them would stop him, make him stand at attention, and ask him the three questions. “How old are you?” he would demand, and the Swede would answer, “Twenty-three, sir.” Then his friend would ask, “How long have you been in my army?” and the Swede would answer, “Three years, sir.” To the third question, “Did you serve in either of my last two campaigns?” the Swede would answer with pride, “Both, sir!”

 

  For many days this practice continued. The Swede would walk about, saying to himself, “Twenty-three, sir. Three years, sir. Both, sir!” Before the day of the inspection, his friends were satisfied. He knew his answer. There ought to be no trouble.

 

  Napoléon arrived. Standing in front of the straight lines of soldiers, he looked at them with great satisfaction. Then he began to walk along the lines, smiling sometimes, and saying a few words here and there. The Swede stood quite still, except that his lips moved slightly. He was still practicing.

 

  Napoleon suddenly caught sight of the tall soldier and realized at once that he had never seen him before. He stopped in front of the Swede. For some reason, this time the great man began with the second question.

 

  “How many years have you been in my army?” he demanded.

 

  “Twenty-Three, sir,” said the Swede clearly and well.

 

  Napoleon was surprised. He look at the tall man and asked, “How old are you then?”

 

  “Three years, sir,” replied the Swede quickly.

 

  Napoleon was astonished. “Either you are mad, or I am,” he declared.

 

  “Both, sir!” cried the Swede proudly.

 

 

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