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

never have a rival until somebody should set up a monument to the

Milky Way.

People would come from every corner of the globe and stop off

to look at it, no tour of the world would be complete that left out

Adam’s monument. Elmira would be a Mecca; there would be pilgrim

ships at pilgrim rates, pilgrim specials on the continent’s railways;

libraries would be written about the monument, every tourist would

kodak it, models of it would be for sale everywhere in the earth,

its form would become as familiar as the figure of Napoleon.

One of the bankers subscribed five thousand dollars, and I think

the other one subscribed half as much, but I do not remember with

certainty now whether that was the figure or not. We got designs made–

some of them came from Paris.

In the beginning–as a detail of the project when it was yet a joke–

I had framed a humble and beseeching and perfervid petition to

Congress begging the government to built the monument, as a testimony

of the Great Republic’s gratitude to the Father of the Human Race

and as a token of her loyalty to him in this dark day of humiliation

when his older children were doubting and deserting him. It seemed

to me that this petition ought to be presented, now–it would be

widely and feelingly abused and ridiculed and cursed, and would

advertise our scheme and make our ground-floor stock go off briskly.

So I sent it to General Joseph R. Hawley, who was then in the House,

and he said he would present it. But he did not do it. I think

he explained that when he came to read it he was afraid of it:

it was too serious, to gushy, too sentimental–the House might take it

for earnest.

We ought to have carried out our monument scheme; we could

have managed it without any great difficulty, and Elmira would

now be the most celebrated town in the universe.

Very recently I began to build a book in which one of the minor

characters touches incidentally upon a project for a monument to Adam,

and now the TRIBUNE has come upon a trace of the forgotten jest of

thirty years ago. Apparently mental telegraphy is still in business.

It is odd; but the freaks of mental telegraphy are usually odd.



[The following letter, signed by Satan and purporting to come from him,

we have reason to believe was not written by him, but by Mark Twain.–



Dear Sir and Kinsman,–Let us have done with this frivolous talk.

The American Board accepts contributions from me every year:

then why shouldn’t it from Mr. Rockefeller? In all the ages,

three-fourths of the support of the great charities has been

conscience-money, as my books will show: then what becomes of

the sting when that term is applied to Mr. Rockefeller’s gift?

The American Board’s trade is financed mainly from the graveyards.

Bequests, you understand. Conscience-money. Confession of an old

crime and deliberate perpetration of a new one; for deceased’s

contribution is a robbery of his heirs. Shall the Board decline

bequests because they stand for one of these offenses every time and

generally for both?

Allow me to continue. The charge must persistently and resentfully

and remorselessly dwelt upon is that Mr. Rockefeller’s contribution is

incurably tainted by perjury–perjury proved against him in the courts.

IT MAKES US SMILE–down in my place! Because there isn’t a rich

man in your vast city who doesn’t perjure himself every year before

the tax board. They are all caked with perjury, many layers thick.

Iron-clad, so to speak. If there is one that isn’t, I desire

to acquire him for my museum, and will pay Dinosaur rates.

Will you say it isn’t infraction of the law, but only annual evasion

of it? Comfort yourselves with that nice distinction if you like–

FOR THE PRESENT. But by and by, when you arrive, I will show you

something interesting: a whole hell-full of evaders! Sometimes a

frank law-breaker turns up elsewhere, but I get those others every time.

To return to my muttons. I wish you to remember that my rich

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Categories: Twain, Mark