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

under his breath:

“Drop that! Take the other.”

Which I did. Henry was served last. He had hardly swallowed his

drink when the clock began to strike. He listened till it finished,

his face growing pale and paler; then he said:

“Boys, I’m sick with fear. Help me–I want to lie down!”

They helped him to the sofa. He began to nestle and drowse,

but presently spoke like one talking in his sleep, and said:

“Did I hear horses’ feet? Have they come?”

One of the veterans answered, close to his ear: “It was Jimmy

Parish come to say the party got delayed, but they’re right up

the road a piece, and coming along. Her horse is lame, but she’ll

be here in half an hour.”

“Oh, I’m SO thankful nothing has happened!”

He was asleep almost before the words were out of his mouth.

In a moment those handy men had his clothes off, and had tucked

him into his bed in the chamber where I had washed my hands.

They closed the door and came back. Then they seemed preparing to leave;

but I said: “Please don’t go, gentlemen. She won’t know me; I am

a stranger.”

They glanced at each other. Then Joe said:

“She? Poor thing, she’s been dead nineteen years!”


“That or worse. She went to see her folks half a year after she

was married, and on her way back, on a Saturday evening, the Indians

captured her within five miles of this place, and she’s never been

heard of since.”

“And he lost his mind in consequence?”

“Never has been sane an hour since. But he only gets bad when

that time of year comes round. Then we begin to drop in here,

three days before she’s due, to encourage him up, and ask if he’s heard

from her, and Saturday we all come and fix up the house with flowers,

and get everything ready for a dance. We’ve done it every year

for nineteen years. The first Saturday there was twenty-seven

of us, without counting the girls; there’s only three of us now,

and the girls are gone. We drug him to sleep, or he would go wild;

then he’s all right for another year–thinks she’s with him till the

last three or four days come round; then he begins to look for her,

and gets out his poor old letter, and we come and ask him to read it

to us. Lord, she was a darling!”



Once or twice a year I get a letter of a certain pattern,

a pattern that never materially changes, in form and substance,

yet I cannot get used to that letter–it always astonishes me.

It affects me as the locomotive always affects me: I saw to myself,

“I have seen you a thousand times, you always look the same way,

yet you are always a wonder, and you are always impossible; to contrive

you is clearly beyond human genius–you can’t exist, you don’t exist,

yet here you are!”

I have a letter of that kind by me, a very old one. I yearn to print it,

and where is the harm? The writer of it is dead years ago, no doubt,

and if I conceal her name and address–her this-world address–

I am sure her shade will not mind. And with it I wish to print

the answer which I wrote at the time but probably did not send.

If it went–which is not likely–it went in the form of a copy,

for I find the original still here, pigeonholed with the said letter.

To that kind of letters we all write answers which we do not send,

fearing to hurt where we have no desire to hurt; I have done it many

a time, and this is doubtless a case of the sort.


X——, California, JUNE 3, 1879.

Mr. S. L. Clemens, HARTFORD, CONN.:

Dear Sir,–You will doubtless be surprised to know who has presumed

to write and ask a favor of you. let your memory go back to your days

in the Humboldt mines–’62-’63. You will remember, you and Clagett

and Oliver and the old blacksmith Tillou lived in a lean-to which was

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Categories: Twain, Mark