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

and not you don’t know whether you did or not.

C. Oh yes, I know him; anyway, I think I thought I did; I’m perfectly

certain of it.

H. What makes you think you thought you knew him?

C. Why, she says I did, herself.

H. SHE says so!

C. Yes, she does, and I DID know him, too, though I don’t remember

it now.

H. Come–how can you know it when you don’t remember it.

C. _I_ don’t know. That is, I don’t know the process, but I DO know

lots of things that I don’t remember, and remember lots of things

that I don’t know. It’s so with every educated person.

H. (AFTER A PAUSE). Is your time valuable?

C. No–well, not very.

H. Mine is.

So I came away then, because he was looking tired. Overwork, I reckon;

I never do that; I have seen the evil effects of it. My mother

was always afraid I work overwork myself, but I never did.

Dear madam, you see how it would happen if I went there. He would

ask me those questions, and I would try to answer them to suit him,

and he would hunt me here and there and yonder and get me embarrassed

more and more all the time, and at last he would look tired on

account of overwork, and there it would end and nothing done.

I wish I could be useful to you, but, you see, they do not

care for uncles or any of those things; it doesn’t move them,

it doesn’t have the least effect, they don’t care for anything

but the literature itself, and they as good as despise influence.

But they do care for books, and are eager to get them and examine them,

no matter whence they come, nor from whose pen. If you will send

yours to a publisher–any publisher–he will certainly examine it,

I can assure you of that.



Consider that a conversation by telephone–when you are simply siting

by and not taking any part in that conversation–is one of the solemnest

curiosities of modern life. Yesterday I was writing a deep article

on a sublime philosophical subject while such a conversation was

going on in the room. I notice that one can always write best when

somebody is talking through a telephone close by. Well, the thing

began in this way. A member of our household came in and asked me

to have our house put into communication with Mr. Bagley’s downtown.

I have observed, in many cities, that the sex always shrink from

calling up the central office themselves. I don’t know why,

but they do. So I touched the bell, and this talk ensued:


I. Is it the Central Office?

C. O. Of course it is. What do you want?

I. Will you switch me on to the Bagleys, please?

C. O. All right. Just keep your ear to the telephone.


a horrible “gritting” of teeth, and finally a piping female voice:

Y-e-s? (RISING INFLECTION.) Did you wish to speak to me?

Without answering, I handed the telephone to the applicant, and sat down.

Then followed that queerest of all the queer things in this world–

a conversation with only one end of it. You hear questions asked;

you don’t hear the answer. You hear invitations given; you hear

no thanks in return. You have listening pauses of dead silence,

followed by apparently irrelevant and unjustifiable exclamations

of glad surprise or sorrow or dismay. You can’t make head or tail

of the talk, because you never hear anything that the person at the

other end of the wire says. Well, I heard the following remarkable

series of observations, all from the one tongue, and all shouted–

for you can’t ever persuade the sex to speak gently into a telephone:

Yes? Why, how did THAT happen?


What did you say?


Oh no, I don’t think it was.


NO! Oh no, I didn’t mean THAT. I meant, put it in while it

is still boiling–or just before it COMES to a boil.




I turned it over with a backstitch on the selvage edge.

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Categories: Twain, Mark