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

lost sharpness of outline, and eventually faded into “sundries,”

thus becoming entirely–but safely–undescriptive. For Sally

was crumbling. The placing of these millions added seriously

and most uncomfortably to the family expenses–in tallow candles.

For a while Aleck was worried. Then, after a little, she ceased

to worry, for the occasion of it was gone. She was pained,

she was grieved, she was ashamed; but she said nothing, and so became

an accessory. Sally was taking candles; he was robbing the store.

It is ever thus. Vast wealth, to the person unaccustomed to it,

is a bane; it eats into the flesh and bone of his morals.

When the Fosters were poor, they could have been trusted with

untold candles. But now they–but let us not dwell upon it.

From candles to apples is but a step: Sally got to taking apples;

then soap; then maple-sugar; then canned goods; then crockery.

How easy it is to go from bad to worse, when once we have started upon a

downward course!

Meantime, other effects had been milestoning the course of the Fosters’

splendid financial march. The fictitious brick dwelling had

given place to an imaginary granite one with a checker-board

mansard roof; in time this one disappeared and gave place to a

still grander home–and so on and so on. Mansion after mansion,

made of air, rose, higher, broader, finer, and each in its turn

vanished away; until now in these latter great days, our dreamers

were in fancy housed, in a distant region, in a sumptuous vast

palace which looked out from a leafy summit upon a noble prospect

of vale and river and receding hills steeped in tinted mists–

and all private, all the property of the dreamers; a palace swarming

with liveried servants, and populous with guests of fame and power,

hailing from all the world’s capitals, foreign and domestic.

This palace was far, far away toward the rising sun, immeasurably remote,

astronomically remote, in Newport, Rhode Island, Holy Land

of High Society, ineffable Domain of the American Aristocracy.

As a rule they spent a part of every Sabbath–after morning service–

in this sumptuous home, the rest of it they spent in Europe,

or in dawdling around in their private yacht. Six days of sordid

and plodding fact life at home on the ragged edge of Lakeside

and straitened means, the seventh in Fairlyand–such had been

their program and their habit.

In their sternly restricted fact life they remained as of old–

plodding, diligent, careful, practical, economical. They stuck

loyally to the little Presbyterian Church, and labored faithfully

in its interests and stood by its high and tough doctrines with all

their mental and spiritual energies. But in their dream life they

obeyed the invitations of their fancies, whatever they might be,

and howsoever the fancies might change. Aleck’s fancies were not

very capricious, and not frequent, but Sally’s scattered a good deal.

Aleck, in her dream life, went over to the Episcopal camp, on account

of its large official titles; next she became High-church on account

of the candles and shows; and next she naturally changed to Rome,

where there were cardinals and more candles. But these excursions

were a nothing to Sally’s. His dream life was a glowing and continuous

and persistent excitement, and he kept every part of it fresh and

sparkling by frequent changes, the religious part along with the rest.

He worked his religions hard, and changed them with his shirt.

The liberal spendings of the Fosters upon their fancies began

early in their prosperities, and grew in prodigality step by step

with their advancing fortunes. In time they became truly enormous.

Aleck built a university or two per Sunday; also a hospital or two;

also a Rowton hotel or so; also a batch of churches; now and then

a cathedral; and once, with untimely and ill-chosen playfulness,

Sally said, “It was a cold day when she didn’t ship a cargo of

missionaries to persuade unreflecting Chinamen to trade off twenty-four

carat Confucianism for counterfeit Christianity.”

This rude and unfeeling language hurt Aleck to the heart, and she

went from the presence crying. That spectacle went to his own heart,

and in his pain and shame he would have given worlds to have

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135

Categories: Twain, Mark