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

fortune in a purchase of all the railway systems and coal and steel

companies in the country on a margin, and she was now trembling,

every Sabbath hour, lest through some chance word of hers he find

it out. In her misery and remorse for this treachery she could

not keep her heart from going out to him in pity; she was filled

with compunctions to see him lying there, drunk and contented,

and ever suspecting. Never suspecting–trusting her with a perfect

and pathetic trust, and she holding over him by a thread a possible

calamity of so devastating a–


The interrupting words brought her suddenly to herself. She was

grateful to have that persecuting subject from her thoughts,

and she answered, with much of the old-time tenderness in her tone:

“Yes, dear.”

“Do you know, Aleck, I think we are making a mistake–that is,

you are. I mean about the marriage business.” He sat up, fat and

froggy and benevolent, like a bronze Buddha, and grew earnest.

“Consider–it’s more than five years. You’ve continued the same

policy from the start: with every rise, always holding on for five

points higher. Always when I think we are going to have some weddings,

you see a bigger thing ahead, and I undergo another disappointment.

_I_ think you are too hard to please. Some day we’ll get left.

First, we turned down the dentist and the lawyer. That was all right–

it was sound. Next, we turned down the banker’s son and the

pork-butcher’s heir–right again, and sound. Next, we turned

down the Congressman’s son and the Governor’s–right as a trivet,

I confess it. Next the Senator’s son and the son of the Vice-President

of the United States–perfectly right, there’s no permanency about

those little distinctions. Then you went for the aristocracy;

and I thought we had struck oil at last–yes. We would make

a plunge at the Four Hundred, and pull in some ancient lineage,

venerable, holy, ineffable, mellow with the antiquity of a hundred

and fifty years, disinfected of the ancestral odors of salt-cod

and pelts all of a century ago, and unsmirched by a day’s work since,

and then! why, then the marriages, of course. But no, along comes

a pair a real aristocrats from Europe, and straightway you throw over

the half-breeds. It was awfully discouraging, Aleck! Since then,

what a procession! You turned down the baronets for a pair

of barons; you turned down the barons for a pair of viscounts;

the viscounts for a pair of earls; the earls for a pair of marquises;

the marquises for a brace of dukes. NOW, Aleck, cash in!–

you’ve played the limit. You’ve got a job lot of four dukes

under the hammer; of four nationalities; all sound in the wind

and limb and pedigree, all bankrupt and in debt up to the ears.

They come high, but we can afford it. Come, Aleck, don’t delay

any longer, don’t keep up the suspense: take the whole lay-out,

and leave the girls to choose!”

Aleck had been smiling blandly and contentedly all through this

arraignment of her marriage policy, a pleasant light, as of triumph

with perhaps a nice surprise peeping out through it, rose in her eyes,

and she said, as calmly as she could:

“Sally, what would you say to–ROYALTY?”

Prodigious! Poor man, it knocked him silly, and he fell over the

garboard-strake and barked his shin on the cat-heads. He was dizzy

for a moment, then he gathered himself up and limped over and sat

down by his wife and beamed his old-time admiration and affection

upon her in floods, out of his bleary eyes.

“By George!” he said, fervently, “Aleck, you ARE great–the greatest

woman in the whole earth! I can’t ever learn the whole size of you.

I can’t ever learn the immeasurable deeps of you. Here I’ve been

considering myself qualified to criticize your game. _I!_ Why,

if I had stopped to think, I’d have known you had a lone hand up

your sleeve. Now, dear heart, I’m all red-hot impatience–tell me

about it!”

The flattered and happy woman put her lips to his ear and whispered

a princely name. It made him catch his breath, it lit his face

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Categories: Twain, Mark