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

It was the last time that ever Aleck was afraid of a margin;

at least afraid enough to let it break her sleep and pale her cheek

to the extent that this first experience in that line had done.

Indeed it was a memorable night. Gradually the realization that they

were rich sank securely home into the souls of the pair, then they

began to place the money. If we could have looked out through

the eyes of these dreamers, we should have seen their tidy little

wooden house disappear, and two-story brick with a cast-iron fence

in front of it take its place; we should have seen a three-globed

gas-chandelier grow down from the parlor ceiling; we should have seen

the homely rag carpet turn to noble Brussels, a dollar and a half

a yard; we should have seen the plebeian fireplace vanish away and

a recherch’e, big base-burner with isinglass windows take position

and spread awe around. And we should have seen other things,

too; among them the buggy, the lap-robe, the stove-pipe hat, and so on.

From that time forth, although the daughters and the neighbors

saw only the same old wooden house there, it was a two-story

brick to Aleck and Sally and not a night went by that Aleck did

not worry about the imaginary gas-bills, and get for all comfort

Sally’s reckless retort: “What of it? We can afford it.”

Before the couple went to bed, that first night that they were rich,

they had decided that they must celebrate. They must give a party–

that was the idea. But how to explain it–to the daughters and

the neighbors? They could not expose the fact that they were rich.

Sally was willing, even anxious, to do it; but Aleck kept her head

and would not allow it. She said that although the money was as

good as in, it would be as well to wait until it was actually in.

On that policy she took her stand, and would not budge.

The great secret must be kept, she said–kept from the daughters and

everybody else.

The pair were puzzled. They must celebrate, they were determined

to celebrate, but since the secret must be kept, what could

they celebrate? No birthdays were due for three months.

Tilbury wasn’t available, evidently he was going to live forever;

what the nation COULD they celebrate? That was Sally’s way

of putting it; and he was getting impatient, too, and harassed.

But at last he hit it–just by sheer inspiration, as it seemed to him–

and all their troubles were gone in a moment; they would celebrate

the Discovery of America. A splendid idea!

Aleck was almost too proud of Sally for words–she said SHE never would

have thought of it. But Sally, although he was bursting with delight

in the compliment and with wonder at himself, tried not to let on,

and said it wasn’t really anything, anybody could have done it.

Whereat Aleck, with a prideful toss of her happy head, said:

“Oh, certainly! Anybody could–oh, anybody! Hosannah Dilkins,

for instance! Or maybe Adelbert Peanut–oh, DEAR–yes! Well, I’d like

to see them try it, that’s all. Dear-me-suz, if they could think

of the discovery of a forty-acre island it’s more than _I_ believe

they could; and as for the whole continent, why, Sally Foster,

you know perfectly well it would strain the livers and lights

out of them and THEN they couldn’t!”

The dear woman, she knew he had talent; and if affection made

her over-estimate the size of it a little, surely it was a sweet

and gentle crime, and forgivable for its source’s sake.


The celebration went off well. The friends were all present,

both the young and the old. Among the young were Flossie and

Gracie Peanut and their brother Adelbert, who was a rising young

journeyman tinner, also Hosannah Dilkins, Jr., journeyman plasterer,

just out of his apprenticeship. For many months Adelbert and Hosannah

had been showing interest in Gwendolen and Clytemnestra Foster,

and the parents of the girls had noticed this with private satisfaction.

But they suddenly realized now that that feeling had passed.

They recognized that the changed financial conditions had raised

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Categories: Twain, Mark