THE $30,000 BEQUEST and Other Stories by Mark Twain

at last, we roll in wealth, we need never scrimp again. it’s a

case for Veuve Cliquot!” and he got out a pint of spruce-beer

and made sacrifice, he saying “Damn the expense,” and she rebuking

him gently with reproachful but humid and happy eyes.

They shelved the pork-packer’s son and the banker’s son, and sat

down to consider the Governor’s son and the son of the Congressman.


It were a weariness to follow in detail the leaps and bounds the Foster

fictitious finances took from this time forth. It was marvelous,

it was dizzying, it was dazzling. Everything Aleck touched turned

to fairy gold, and heaped itself glittering toward the firmament.

Millions upon millions poured in, and still the mighty stream flowed

thundering along, still its vast volume increased. Five millions–

ten millions–twenty–thirty–was there never to be an end?

Two years swept by in a splendid delirium, the intoxicated Fosters

scarcely noticing the flight of time. They were now worth three hundred

million dollars; they were in every board of directors of every

prodigious combine in the country; and still as time drifted along,

the millions went on piling up, five at a time, ten at a time,

as fast as they could tally them off, almost. The three hundred

double itself–then doubled again–and yet again–and yet once more.

Twenty-four hundred millions!

The business was getting a little confused. It was necessary

to take an account of stock, and straighten it out. The Fosters

knew it, they felt it, they realized that it was imperative;

but they also knew that to do it properly and perfectly the task

must be carried to a finish without a break when once it was begun.

A ten-hours’ job; and where could THEY find ten leisure hours

in a bunch? Sally was selling pins and sugar and calico all day

and every day; Aleck was cooking and washing dishes and sweeping

and making beds all day and every day, with none to help,

for the daughters were being saved up for high society. The Fosters

knew there was one way to get the ten hours, and only one.

Both were ashamed to name it; each waited for the other to do it.

Finally Sally said:

“Somebody’s got to give in. It’s up to me. Consider that I’ve

named it–never mind pronouncing it out aloud.”

Aleck colored, but was grateful. Without further remark, they fell.

Fell, and–broke the Sabbath. For that was their only free

ten-hour stretch. It was but another step in the downward path.

Others would follow. Vast wealth has temptations which fatally

and surely undermine the moral structure of persons not habituated

to its possession.

They pulled down the shades and broke the Sabbath. With hard

and patient labor they overhauled their holdings and listed them.

And a long-drawn procession of formidable names it was!

Starting with the Railway Systems, Steamer Lines, Standard Oil,

Ocean Cables, Diluted Telegraph, and all the rest, and winding

up with Klondike, De Beers, Tammany Graft, and Shady Privileges

in the Post-office Department.

Twenty-four hundred millions, and all safely planted in Good Things,

gilt-edged and interest-bearing. Income, $120,000,000 a year.

Aleck fetched a long purr of soft delight, and said:

“Is it enough?”

“It is, Aleck.”

“What shall we do?”

“Stand pat.”

“Retire from business?”

“That’s it.”

“I am agreed. The good work is finished; we will take a long rest

and enjoy the money.”

“Good! Aleck!”

“Yes, dear?”

“How much of the income can we spend?”

“The whole of it.”

It seemed to her husband that a ton of chains fell from his limbs.

He did not say a word; he was happy beyond the power of speech.

After that, they broke the Sabbaths right along as fast as they

turned up. It is the first wrong step that counts. Every Sunday

they put in the whole day, after morning service, on inventions–

inventions of ways to spend the money. They got to continuing this

delicious dissipation until past midnight; and at every s’eance Aleck

lavished millions upon great charities and religious enterprises,

and Sally lavished like sums upon matters to which (at first)

he gave definite names. Only at first. Later the names gradually

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Categories: Twain, Mark