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

of the sort already referred to. However, this one hadn’t

a deserted look; it had the look of being lived in and petted

and cared for and looked after; and so had its front yard,

which was a garden of flowers, abundant, gay, and flourishing.

I was invited in, of course, and required to make myself at home–

it was the custom of the country..

It was delightful to be in such a place, after long weeks of daily

and nightly familiarity with miners’ cabins–with all which this

implies of dirt floor, never-made beds, tin plates and cups,

bacon and beans and black coffee, and nothing of ornament but war

pictures from the Eastern illustrated papers tacked to the log walls.

That was all hard, cheerless, materialistic desolation, but here was a

nest which had aspects to rest the tired eye and refresh that something

in one’s nature which, after long fasting, recognizes, when confronted

by the belongings of art, howsoever cheap and modest they may be,

that it has unconsciously been famishing and now has found nourishment.

I could not have believed that a rag carpet could feast me so,

and so content me; or that there could be such solace to the soul

in wall-paper and framed lithographs, and bright-colored tidies

and lamp-mats, and Windsor chairs, and varnished what-nots, with

sea-shells and books and china vases on them, and the score of little

unclassifiable tricks and touches that a woman’s hand distributes

about a home, which one sees without knowing he sees them, yet would

miss in a moment if they were taken away. The delight that was

in my heart showed in my face, and the man saw it and was pleased;

saw it so plainly that he answered it as if it had been spoken.

“All her work,” he said, caressingly; “she did it all herself–

every bit,” and he took the room in with a glance which was full

of affectionate worship. One of those soft Japanese fabrics

with which women drape with careful negligence the upper part of a

picture-frame was out of adjustment. He noticed it, and rearranged

it with cautious pains, stepping back several times to gauge

the effect before he got it to suit him. Then he gave it a light

finishing pat or two with his hand, and said: “She always does that.

You can’t tell just what it lacks, but it does lack something

until you’ve done that–you can see it yourself after it’s done,

but that is all you know; you can’t find out the law of it.

It’s like the finishing pats a mother gives the child’s hair

after she’s got it combed and brushed, I reckon. I’ve seen her

fix all these things so much that I can do them all just her way,

though I don’t know the law of any of them. But she knows the law.

She knows the why and the how both; but I don’t know the why;

I only know the how.”

He took me into a bedroom so that I might wash my hands; such a bedroom

as I had not seen for years: white counterpane, white pillows,

carpeted floor, papered walls, pictures, dressing-table, with mirror

and pin-cushion and dainty toilet things; and in the corner a wash-stand,

with real china-ware bowl and pitcher, and with soap in a china dish,

and on a rack more than a dozen towels–towels too clean and white

for one out of practice to use without some vague sense of profanation.

So my face spoke again, and he answered with gratified words:

“All her work; she did it all herself–every bit. Nothing here

that hasn’t felt the touch of her hand. Now you would think–

But I mustn’t talk so much.”

By this time I was wiping my hands and glancing from detail to detail

of the room’s belongings, as one is apt to do when he is in a new place,

where everything he sees is a comfort to his eye and his spirit;

and I became conscious, in one of those unaccountable ways,

you know, that there was something there somewhere that the man

wanted me to discover for myself. I knew it perfectly, and I knew

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Categories: Twain, Mark