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

long Sally was a good and diligent book-keeper and salesman;

all day long Aleck was a good and faithful mother and housewife,

and thoughtful and calculating business woman; but in the cozy

living-room at night they put the plodding world away, and lived in

another and a fairer, reading romances to each other, dreaming dreams,

comrading with kings and princes and stately lords and ladies in the

flash and stir and splendor of noble palaces and grim and ancient castles.


Now came great news! Stunning news–joyous news, in fact.

It came from a neighboring state, where the family’s only surviving

relative lived. It was Sally’s relative–a sort of vague and indefinite

uncle or second or third cousin by the name of Tilbury Foster,

seventy and a bachelor, reputed well off and corresponding sour

and crusty. Sally had tried to make up to him once, by letter,

in a bygone time, and had not made that mistake again. Tilbury now

wrote to Sally, saying he should shortly die, and should leave him

thirty thousand dollars, cash; not for love, but because money

had given him most of his troubles and exasperations, and he wished

to place it where there was good hope that it would continue its

malignant work. The bequest would be found in his will, and would

be paid over. PROVIDED, that Sally should be able to prove to the




As soon as Aleck had partially recovered from the tremendous

emotions created by the letter, she sent to the relative’s habitat

and subscribed for the local paper.

Man and wife entered into a solemn compact, now, to never mention

the great news to any one while the relative lived, lest some

ignorant person carry the fact to the death-bed and distort it

and make it appear that they were disobediently thankful for

the bequest, and just the same as confessing it and publishing it,

right in the face of the prohibition.

For the rest of the day Sally made havoc and confusion with his books,

and Aleck could not keep her mind on her affairs, not even take up

a flower-pot or book or a stick of wood without forgetting what she

had intended to do with it. For both were dreaming.

“Thir-ty thousand dollars!”

All day long the music of those inspiring words sang through

those people’s heads.

From his marriage-day forth, Aleck’s grip had been upon the purse,

and Sally had seldom known what it was to be privileged to squander

a dime on non-necessities.

“Thir-ty thousand dollars!” the song went on and on. A vast sum,

an unthinkable sum!

All day long Aleck was absorbed in planning how to invest it,

Sally in planning how to spend it.

There was no romance-reading that night. The children took

themselves away early, for their parents were silent, distraught,

and strangely unentertaining. The good-night kisses might as well

have been impressed upon vacancy, for all the response they got;

the parents were not aware of the kisses, and the children had

been gone an hour before their absence was noticed. Two pencils

had been busy during that hour–note-making; in the way of plans.

It was Sally who broke the stillness at last. He said, with exultation:

“Ah, it’ll be grand, Aleck! Out of the first thousand we’ll have

a horse and a buggy for summer, and a cutter and a skin lap-robe

for winter.”

Aleck responded with decision and composure–

“Out of the CAPITAL? Nothing of the kind. Not if it was a million!”

Sally was deeply disappointed; the glow went out of his face.

“Oh, Aleck!” he said, reproachfully. “We’ve always worked so hard

and been so scrimped: and now that we are rich, it does seem–”

He did not finish, for he saw her eye soften; his supplication

had touched her. She said, with gentle persuasiveness:

“We must not spend the capital, dear, it would not be wise.

Out of the income from it–”

“That will answer, that will answer, Aleck! How dear and good you are!

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Categories: Twain, Mark