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

he was trying to help me by furtive indications with his eye, so I

tried hard to get on the right track, being eager to gratify him.

I failed several times, as I could see out of the corner of my eye

without being told; but at last I knew I must be looking straight

at the thing–knew it from the pleasure issuing in invisible waves

from him. He broke into a happy laugh, and rubbed his hands together,

and cried out:

“That’s it! You’ve found it. I knew you would. It’s her picture.”

I went to the little black-walnut bracket on the farther wall,

and did find there what I had not yet noticed–a daguerreotype-case.

It contained the sweetest girlish face, and the most beautiful,

as it seemed to me, that I had ever seen. The man drank the admiration

from my face, and was fully satisfied.

“Nineteen her last birthday,” he said, as he put the picture back;

“and that was the day we were married. When you see her–ah, just wait

till you see her!”

“Where is she? When will she be in?”

“Oh, she’s away now. She’s gone to see her people. They live

forty or fifty miles from here. She’s been gone two weeks today.”

“When do you expect her back?”

“This is Wednesday. She’ll be back Saturday, in the evening–

about nine o’clock, likely.”

I felt a sharp sense of disappointment.

“I’m sorry, because I’ll be gone then,” I said, regretfully.

“Gone? No–why should you go? Don’t go. She’ll be disappointed.”

She would be disappointed–that beautiful creature! If she had said

the words herself they could hardly have blessed me more. I was

feeling a deep, strong longing to see her–a longing so supplicating,

so insistent, that it made me afraid. I said to myself: “I will

go straight away from this place, for my peace of mind’s sake.”

“You see, she likes to have people come and stop with us–

people who know things, and can talk–people like you. She delights

in it; for she knows–oh, she knows nearly everything herself,

and can talk, oh, like a bird–and the books she reads, why, you would

be astonished. Don’t go; it’s only a little while, you know,

and she’ll be so disappointed.”

I heard the words, but hardly noticed them, I was so deep in my

thinkings and strugglings. He left me, but I didn’t know.

Presently he was back, with the picture case in his hand, and he

held it open before me and said:

“There, now, tell her to her face you could have stayed to see her,

and you wouldn’t.”

That second glimpse broke down my good resolution. I would stay

and take the risk. That night we smoked the tranquil pipe,

and talked till late about various things, but mainly about her;

and certainly I had had no such pleasant and restful time for many

a day. The Thursday followed and slipped comfortably away.

Toward twilight a big miner from three miles away came–one of

the grizzled, stranded pioneers–and gave us warm salutation,

clothed in grave and sober speech. Then he said:

“I only just dropped over to ask about the little madam, and when

is she coming home. Any news from her?”

“Oh, yes, a letter. Would you like to hear it, Tom?”

“Well, I should think I would, if you don’t mind, Henry!”

Henry got the letter out of his wallet, and said he would skip

some of the private phrases, if we were willing; then he went

on and read the bulk of it–a loving, sedate, and altogether

charming and gracious piece of handiwork, with a postscript full

of affectionate regards and messages to Tom, and Joe, and Charley,

and other close friends and neighbors.

As the reader finished, he glanced at Tom, and cried out:

“Oho, you’re at it again! Take your hands away, and let me see

your eyes. You always do that when I read a letter from her.

I will write and tell her.”

“Oh no, you mustn’t, Henry. I’m getting old, you know, and any

little disappointment makes me want to cry. I thought she’d

be here herself, and now you’ve got only a letter.”

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Categories: Twain, Mark