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

his weakness, and confessed it to himself with sorrow–he could

not keep the promise. Something surer and better must be devised;

and he devised it. At cost of precious money which he had long

been saving up, shilling by shilling, he put a lightning-rod on

the house.

At a subsequent time he relapsed.

What miracles habit can do! and how quickly and how easily habits

are acquired–both trifling habits and habits which profoundly change us.

If by accident we wake at two in the morning a couple of nights

in succession, we have need to be uneasy, for another repetition can

turn the accident into a habit; and a month’s dallying with whiskey–

but we all know these commonplace facts.

The castle-building habit, the day-dreaming habit–how it grows!

what a luxury it becomes; how we fly to its enchantments at every

idle moment, how we revel in them, steep our souls in them,

intoxicate ourselves with their beguiling fantasies–oh yes,

and how soon and how easily our dram life and our material life

become so intermingled and so fused together that we can’t quite

tell which is which, any more.

By and by Aleck subscribed to a Chicago daily and for the WALL

STREET POINTER. With an eye single to finance she studied these

as diligently all the week as she studied her Bible Sundays.

Sally was lost in admiration, to note with what swift and sure strides

her genius and judgment developed and expanded in the forecasting and

handling of the securities of both the material and spiritual markets.

He was proud of her nerve and daring in exploiting worldly stocks,

and just as proud of her conservative caution in working her

spiritual deals. He noted that she never lost her head in either case;

that with a splendid courage she often went short on worldly futures,

but heedfully drew the line there–she was always long on the others.

Her policy was quite sane and simple, as she explained it to him:

what she put into earthly futures was for speculation, what she put

into spiritual futures was for investment; she was willing to go into

the one on a margin, and take chances, but in the case of the other,

“margin her no margins”–she wanted to cash in a hundred cents per

dollar’s worth, and have the stock transferred on the books.

It took but a very few months to educate Aleck’s imagination

and Sally’s. Each day’s training added something to the spread

and effectiveness of the two machines. As a consequence, Aleck made

imaginary money much faster than at first she had dreamed of making it,

and Sally’s competency in spending the overflow of it kept pace with

the strain put upon it, right along. In the beginning, Aleck had

given the coal speculation a twelvemonth in which to materialize,

and had been loath to grant that this term might possibly be shortened

by nine months. But that was the feeble work, the nursery work,

of a financial fancy that had had no teaching, no experience,

no practice. These aids soon came, then that nine months vanished,

and the imaginary ten-thousand-dollar investment came marching

home with three hundred per cent. profit on its back!

It was a great day for the pair of Fosters. They were speechless

for joy. Also speechless for another reason: after much watching

of the market, Aleck had lately, with fear and trembling, made her

first flyer on a “margin,” using the remaining twenty thousand of

the bequest in this risk. In her mind’s eye she had seen it climb,

point by point–always with a chance that the market would break–

until at last her anxieties were too great for further endurance–

she being new to the margin business and unhardened, as yet–and she

gave her imaginary broker an imaginary order by imaginary telegraph

to sell. She said forty thousand dollars’ profit was enough.

The sale was made on the very day that the coal venture had returned

with its rich freight. As I have said, the couple were speechless.

they sat dazed and blissful that night, trying to realize that they were

actually worth a hundred thousand dollars in clean, imaginary cash.

Yet so it was.

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Categories: Twain, Mark