The Million Pound Note

by Ben Ayuko

{image by MGM}


This is one of Mark Twain’s classic stories

Henry Adams is an American Sailor who finds himself stranded in the middle of England without a penny to his name. He struggles to find work because of his disheveled appearance. Nobody thinks of him as anything more than a crook. A hustler. A fiend waiting to take advantage of them the moment they show him a hair’s breadth of trust. This is unfortunate for him, but incredibly fortunate for Roderick and Oliver Montpellier.

Roderick and Oliver are 2 billionaire brothers who are having a heated debate. Roderick figures, if you give a poor man a million-pound note, he would have found trouble spending the money as nobody would be able to break it down. Oliver, on the other hand, believes the mere existence of the note would be enough to change the poor man’s life and he wouldn’t need to spend a penny to get anything he wanted. Roderick and Oliver can’t seem to agree with each other’s point of view. But they have no way to test their hypotheses. That is, until Henry Adams walks into their lives.

They commissioned a million-pound note from the bank and gave it to Henry. The only rule they gave him was that he had avoid spending any money in the next 30 days. Succeed, and they would give him anything he wanted (a job). Fail, and they’d take whatever remained and throw him back out on the street. Now, why did they do this? Why give a desperate man a million pounds and dare him not to spend it? Well, what else is there to do when you have everything you could possibly want for and still are a billionaire?

So, Henry goes out into the world. The first thing he does is satiate his stomach. He’s famished. Immediately there’s a problem. the meal costs approximately £10. He only has a million-pound note. The moment he shows it to them, these men who once threw him out for being too poor to eat at their restaurant suddenly changed face and became the most benevolent of creatures that ever-walked the earth. His entire bill for the meal was ripped up as a man of his standing would surely sort them out in the long run.

This was the case everywhere he went. He got clean clothes, a room at the most expensive Hotel. A rental car with a driver, etc., because of the reputation he now commanded. He became the most popular man in town. He could alter the value in the stock market with an accidental slip of the tongue. And this is where his problems began.

It is a very sombre satire on the line that divides the lives of those with and those without. On the power of perception.

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