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

and said she would hold on for five points more if she died for it.

It was a fatal resolve. The very next day came the historic crash,

the record crash, the devastating crash, when the bottom fell out

of Wall Street, and the whole body of gilt-edged stocks dropped

ninety-five points in five hours, and the multimillionaire was seen

begging his bread in the Bowery. Aleck sternly held her grip

and “put up” ass long as she could, but at last there came a call

which she was powerless to meet, and her imaginary brokers sold

her out. Then, and not till then, the man in her was vanished,

and the woman in her resumed sway. She put her arms about her

husband’s neck and wept, saying:

“I am to blame, do not forgive me, I cannot bear it. We are paupers!

Paupers, and I am so miserable. The weddings will never come off;

all that is past; we could not even buy the dentist, now.”

A bitter reproach was on Sally’s tongue: “I BEGGED you to sell,

but you–” He did not say it; he had not the heart to add a hurt

to that broken and repentant spirit. A nobler thought came to him

and he said:

“Bear up, my Aleck, all is not lost! You really never invested

a penny of my uncle’s bequest, but only its unmaterialized future;

what we have lost was only the incremented harvest from that future

by your incomparable financial judgment and sagacity. Cheer up,

banish these griefs; we still have the thirty thousand untouched;

and with the experience which you have acquired, think what you will

be able to do with it in a couple years! The marriages are not off,

they are only postponed.”

These are blessed words. Aleck saw how true they were, and their

influence was electric; her tears ceased to flow, and her great spirit

rose to its full stature again. With flashing eye and grateful heart,

and with hand uplifted in pledge and prophecy, she said:

“Now and here I proclaim–”

But she was interrupted by a visitor. It was the editor and proprietor

of the SAGAMORE. He had happened into Lakeside to pay a duty-call upon

an obscure grandmother of his who was nearing the end of her pilgrimage,

and with the idea of combining business with grief he had looked up

the Fosters, who had been so absorbed in other things for the past

four years that they neglected to pay up their subscription.

Six dollars due. No visitor could have been more welcome. He would

know all about Uncle Tilbury and what his chances might be getting

to be, cemeterywards. They could, of course, ask no questions,

for that would squelch the bequest, but they could nibble around on

the edge of the subject and hope for results. The scheme did not work.

The obtuse editor did not know he was being nibbled at; but at last,

chance accomplished what art had failed in. In illustration of something

under discussion which required the help of metaphor, the editor said:

“Land, it’s a tough as Tilbury Foster!–as WE say.”

It was sudden, and it made the Fosters jump. The editor noticed,

and said, apologetically:

“No harm intended, I assure you. It’s just a saying; just a joke,

you know–nothing of it. Relation of yours?”

Sally crowded his burning eagerness down, and answered with all

the indifference he could assume:

“I–well, not that I know of, but we’ve heard of him.” The editor

was thankful, and resumed his composure. Sally added: “Is he–

is he–well?”

“Is he WELL? Why, bless you he’s in Sheol these five years!”

The Fosters were trembling with grief, though it felt like joy.

Sally said, non-committally–and tentatively:

“Ah, well, such is life, and none can escape–not even the rich

are spared.”

The editor laughed.

“If you are including Tilbury,” said he, “it don’t apply.

HE hadn’t a cent; the town had to bury him.”

The Fosters sat petrified for two minutes; petrified and cold.

Then, white-faced and weak-voiced, Sally asked:

“Is it true? Do you KNOW it to be true?”

“Well, I should say! I was one of the executors. He hadn’t

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Categories: Twain, Mark