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

A great many good people strove with George–they were always at it,

in fact–but he calmly took such efforts as his due and their duty,

and did not mend his ways. He added a vice, presently–that of

secret gambling. He got deeply in debt; he borrowed money on the

firm’s credit, as quietly as he could, and carried this system so far

and so successfully that one morning the sheriff took possession of

the establishment, and the two cousins found themselves penniless.

Times were hard, now, and they grew worse. Edward moved his family

into a garret, and walked the streets day and night, seeking work.

He begged for it, but in was really not to be had. He was astonished

to see how soon his face became unwelcome; he was astonished

and hurt to see how quickly the ancient interest which people had

had in him faded out and disappeared. Still, he MUST get work;

so he swallowed his chagrin, and toiled on in search of it.

At last he got a job of carrying bricks up a ladder in a hod,

and was a grateful man in consequence; but after that NOBODY knew

him or cared anything about him. He was not able to keep up

his dues in the various moral organizations to which he belonged,

and had to endure the sharp pain of seeing himself brought under

the disgrace of suspension.

But the faster Edward died out of public knowledge and interest,

the faster George rose in them. He was found lying, ragged and drunk,

in the gutter one morning. A member of the Ladies’ Temperance Refuge

fished him out, took him in hand, got up a subscription for him,

kept him sober a whole week, then got a situation for him.

An account of it was published.

General attention was thus drawn to the poor fellow, and a great

many people came forward and helped him toward reform with their

countenance and encouragement. He did not drink a drop for two months,

and meantime was the pet of the good. Then he fell–in the gutter;

and there was general sorrow and lamentation. But the noble

sisterhood rescued him again. They cleaned him up, they fed him,

they listened to the mournful music of his repentances, they got

him his situation again. An account of this, also, was published,

and the town was drowned in happy tears over the re-restoration

of the poor beast and struggling victim of the fatal bowl.

A grand temperance revival was got up, and after some rousing

speeches had been made the chairman said, impressively: “We are

not about to call for signers; and I think there is a spectacle

in store for you which not many in this house will be able to view

with dry eyes.” There was an eloquent pause, and then George Benton,

escorted by a red-sashed detachment of the Ladies of the Refuge,

stepped forward upon the platform and signed the pledge. The air

was rent with applause, and everybody cried for joy. Everybody wrung

the hand of the new convert when the meeting was over; his salary

was enlarged next day; he was the talk of the town, and its hero.

An account of it was published.

George Benton fell, regularly, every three months, but was faithfully

rescued and wrought with, every time, and good situations were

found for him. Finally, he was taken around the country lecturing,

as a reformed drunkard, and he had great houses and did an immense

amount of good.

He was so popular at home, and so trusted–during his sober intervals–

that he was enabled to use the name of a principal citizen, and get

a large sum of money at the bank. A mighty pressure was brought

to bear to save him from the consequences of his forgery, and it

was partially successful–he was “sent up” for only two years.

When, at the end of a year, the tireless efforts of the benevolent

were crowned with success, and he emerged from the penitentiary

with a pardon in his pocket, the Prisoner’s Friend Society met him

at the door with a situation and a comfortable salary, and all

the other benevolent people came forward and gave him advice,

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Categories: Twain, Mark