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

encouragement and help. Edward Mills had once applied to the Prisoner’s

Friend Society for a situation, when in dire need, but the question,

“Have you been a prisoner?” made brief work of his case.

While all these things were going on, Edward Mills had been

quietly making head against adversity. He was still poor, but was

in receipt of a steady and sufficient salary, as the respected

and trusted cashier of a bank. George Benton never came near him,

and was never heard to inquire about him. George got to indulging

in long absences from the town; there were ill reports about him,

but nothing definite.

One winter’s night some masked burglars forced their way into the bank,

and found Edward Mills there alone. They commanded him to reveal

the “combination,” so that they could get into the safe. He refused.

They threatened his life. He said his employers trusted him,

and he could not be traitor to that trust. He could die, if he must,

but while he lived he would be faithful; he would not yield up

the “combination.” The burglars killed him.

The detectives hunted down the criminals; the chief one proved

to be George Benton. A wide sympathy was felt for the widow and

orphans of the dead man, and all the newspapers in the land begged

that all the banks in the land would testify their appreciation

of the fidelity and heroism of the murdered cashier by coming

forward with a generous contribution of money in aid of his family,

now bereft of support. The result was a mass of solid cash amounting

to upward of five hundred dollars–an average of nearly three-eights

of a cent for each bank in the Union. The cashier’s own bank

testified its gratitude by endeavoring to show (but humiliatingly

failed in it) that the peerless servant’s accounts were not square,

and that he himself had knocked his brains out with a bludgeon

to escape detection and punishment.

George Benton was arraigned for trial. Then everybody seemed to

forget the widow and orphans in their solicitude for poor George.

Everything that money and influence could do was done to save him,

but it all failed; he was sentenced to death. Straightway the

Governor was besieged with petitions for commutation or pardon;

they were brought by tearful young girls; by sorrowful old maids;

by deputations of pathetic widows; by shoals of impressive orphans.

But no, the Governor–for once–would not yield.

Now George Benton experienced religion. The glad news flew all around.

From that time forth his cell was always full of girls and women and

fresh flowers; all the day long there was prayer, and hymn-singing,

and thanksgiving, and homilies, and tears, with never an interruption,

except an occasional five-minute intermission for refreshments.

This sort of thing continued up to the very gallows, and George

Benton went proudly home, in the black cap, before a wailing

audience of the sweetest and best that the region could produce.

His grave had fresh flowers on it every day, for a while,

and the head-stone bore these words, under a hand pointing aloft:

“He has fought the good fight.”

The brave cashier’s head-stone has this inscription: “Be pure,

honest, sober, industrious, considerate, and you will never–”

Nobody knows who gave the order to leave it that way, but it was

so given.

The cashier’s family are in stringent circumstances, now, it is said;

but no matter; a lot of appreciative people, who were not willing

that an act so brave and true as his should go unrewarded,

have collected forty-two thousand dollars–and built a Memorial

Church with it.



Chapter I

In the morning of life came a good fairy with her basket, and said:

“Here are gifts. Take one, leave the others. And be wary,

chose wisely; oh, choose wisely! for only one of them is valuable.”

The gifts were five: Fame, Love, Riches, Pleasure, Death.

The youth said, eagerly:

“There is no need to consider”; and he chose Pleasure.

He went out into the world and sought out the pleasures that youth

delights in. But each in its turn was short-lived and disappointing,

vain and empty; and each, departing, mocked him. In the end he said:

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Categories: Twain, Mark