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

up a social bar between their daughters and the young mechanics.

The daughters could now look higher–and must. Yes, must. They need

marry nothing below the grade of lawyer or merchant; poppa and momma

would take care of this; there must be no m’esalliances.

However, these thinkings and projects of their were private,

and did not show on the surface, and therefore threw no shadow

upon the celebration. What showed upon the surface was a serene

and lofty contentment and a dignity of carriage and gravity of

deportment which compelled the admiration and likewise the wonder

of the company. All noticed it and all commented upon it, but none

was able to divine the secret of it. It was a marvel and a mystery.

Three several persons remarked, without suspecting what clever

shots they were making:

“It’s as if they’d come into property.”

That was just it, indeed.

Most mothers would have taken hold of the matrimonial matter in the

old regulation way; they would have given the girls a talking to,

of a solemn sort and untactful–a lecture calculated to defeat its

own purpose, by producing tears and secret rebellion; and the said

mothers would have further damaged the business by requesting

the young mechanics to discontinue their attentions. But this

mother was different. She was practical. She said nothing to any

of the young people concerned, nor to any one else except Sally.

He listened to her and understood; understood and admired.

He said:

“I get the idea. Instead of finding fault with the samples on view,

thus hurting feelings and obstructing trade without occasion,

you merely offer a higher class of goods for the money, and leave

nature to take her course. It’s wisdom, Aleck, solid wisdom,

and sound as a nut. Who’s your fish? Have you nominated him yet?”

No, she hadn’t. They must look the market over–which they did.

To start with, they considered and discussed Brandish, rising young

lawyer, and Fulton, rising young dentist. Sally must invite them

to dinner. But not right away; there was no hurry, Aleck said.

Keep an eye on the pair, and wait; nothing would be lost by going

slowly in so important a matter.

It turned out that this was wisdom, too; for inside of three

weeks Aleck made a wonderful strike which swelled her imaginary

hundred thousand to four hundred thousand of the same quality.

She and Sally were in the clouds that evening. For the first

time they introduced champagne at dinner. Not real champagne,

but plenty real enough for the amount of imagination expended on it.

It was Sally that did it, and Aleck weakly submitted. At bottom both

were troubled and ashamed, for he was a high-up Son of Temperance,

and at funerals wore an apron which no dog could look upon and retain

his reason and his opinion; and she was a W. C. T. U., with all that

that implies of boiler-iron virtue and unendurable holiness. But there

is was; the pride of riches was beginning its disintegrating work.

They had lived to prove, once more, a sad truth which had been proven

many times before in the world: that whereas principle is a great

and noble protection against showy and degrading vanities and vices,

poverty is worth six of it. More than four hundred thousand

dollars to the good. They took up the matrimonial matter again.

Neither the dentist nor the lawyer was mentioned; there was no occasion,

they were out of the running. Disqualified. They discussed the son

of the pork-packer and the son of the village banker. But finally,

as in the previous case, they concluded to wait and think, and go

cautiously and sure.

Luck came their way again. Aleck, ever watchful saw a great

and risky chance, and took a daring flyer. A time of trembling,

of doubt, of awful uneasiness followed, for non-success meant absolute

ruin and nothing short of it. Then came the result, and Aleck,

faint with joy, could hardly control her voice when she said:

“The suspense is over, Sally–and we are worth a cold million!”

Sally wept for gratitude, and said:

“Oh, Electra, jewel of women, darling of my heart, we are free

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Categories: Twain, Mark