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

contentedly, happily, unquestionably. To do this was become

second nature to them. And so in this peaceful heaven there

were no clashings, no irritations, no fault-finding, no heart-burnings.

In it a lie had no place. In it a lie was unthinkable.

In it speech was restricted to absolute truth, iron-bound truth,

implacable and uncompromising truth, let the resulting consequences

be what they might. At last, one day, under stress of circumstances,

the darling of the house sullied her lips with a lie–and confessed it,

with tears and self-upbraidings. There are not any words that can paint

the consternation of the aunts. It was as if the sky had crumpled

up and collapsed and the earth had tumbled to ruin with a crash.

They sat side by side, white and stern, gazing speechless upon

the culprit, who was on her knees before them with her face

buried first in one lap and then the other, moaning and sobbing,

and appealing for sympathy and forgiveness and getting no response,

humbly kissing the hand of the one, then of the other, only to see

it withdrawn as suffering defilement by those soiled lips.

Twice, at intervals, Aunt Hester said, in frozen amazement:

“You told a LIE?”

Twice, at intervals, Aunt Hannah followed with the muttered

and amazed ejaculation:

“You confess it–you actually confess it–you told a lie!”

It was all they could say. The situation was new, unheard of,

incredible; they could not understand it, they did not know

how to take hold of it, it approximately paralyzed speech.

At length it was decided that the erring child must be taken to

her mother, who was ill, and who ought to know what had happened.

Helen begged, besought, implored that she might be spared this

further disgrace, and that her mother might be spared the grief

and pain of it; but this could not be: duty required this sacrifice,

duty takes precedence of all things, nothing can absolve one from

a duty, with a duty no compromise is possible.

Helen still begged, and said the sin was her own, her mother had

had no hand in it–why must she be made to suffer for it?

But the aunts were obdurate in their righteousness, and said the

law that visited the sins of the parent upon the child was by all

right and reason reversible; and therefore it was but just that the

innocent mother of a sinning child should suffer her rightful share

of the grief and pain and shame which were the allotted wages of the sin.

The three moved toward the sick-room.

At this time the doctor was approaching the house. He was still

a good distance away, however. He was a good doctor and a good man,

and he had a good heart, but one had to know him a year to get

over hating him, two years to learn to endure him, three to learn

to like him, and four and five to learn to live him. It was a slow

and trying education, but it paid. He was of great stature; he had

a leonine head, a leonine face, a rough voice, and an eye which was

sometimes a pirate’s and sometimes a woman’s, according to the mood.

He knew nothing about etiquette, and cared nothing about it; in speech,

manner, carriage, and conduct he was the reverse of conventional.

He was frank, to the limit; he had opinions on all subjects; they were

always on tap and ready for delivery, and he cared not a farthing

whether his listener liked them or didn’t. Whom he loved he loved,

and manifested it; whom he didn’t live he hated, and published

it from the housetops. In his young days he had been a sailor,

and the salt-airs of all the seas blew from him yet. He was a sturdy

and loyal Christian, and believed he was the best one in the land,

and the only one whose Christianity was perfectly sound, healthy,

full-charged with common sense, and had no decayed places in it.

People who had an ax to grind, or people who for any reason wanted

wanted to get on the soft side of him, called him The Christian–

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Categories: Twain, Mark