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

the people are tired of it; let it cease. This well-meaning

but misguided negro has not put six different communities to the

expense of burying him in state, and has swindled tens of thousands

of people into following him to the grave under the delusion that

a select and peculiar distinction was being conferred upon them.

Let him stay buried for good now; and let that newspaper suffer

the severest censure that shall ever, in all the future time,

publish to the world that General Washington’s favorite colored

body-servant has died again.



All infants appear to have an impertinent and disagreeable fashion

nowadays of saying “smart” things on most occasions that offer,

and especially on occasions when they ought not to be saying anything

at all. Judging by the average published specimens of smart sayings,

the rising generation of children are little better than idiots.

And the parents must surely be but little better than the children,

for in most cases they are the publishers of the sunbursts of infantile

imbecility which dazzle us from the pages of our periodicals.

I may seem to speak with some heat, not to say a suspicion of

personal spite; and I do admit that it nettles me to hear about so

many gifted infants in these days, and remember that I seldom said

anything smart when I was a child. I tried it once or twice, but it

was not popular. The family were not expecting brilliant remarks

from me, and so they snubbed me sometimes and spanked me the rest.

But it makes my flesh creep and my blood run cold to think what might

have happened to me if I had dared to utter some of the smart things

of this generation’s “four-year-olds” where my father could hear me.

To have simply skinned me alive and considered his duty at an end

would have seemed to him criminal leniency toward one so sinning.

He was a stern, unsmiling man, and hated all forms of precocity.

If I had said some of the things I have referred to, and said them in

his hearing, he would have destroyed me. He would, indeed. He would,

provided the opportunity remained with him. But it would not,

for I would have had judgment enough to take some strychnine first

and say my smart thing afterward. The fair record of my life has

been tarnished by just one pun. My father overheard that, and he

hunted me over four or five townships seeking to take my life.

If I had been full-grown, of course he would have been right;

but, child as I was, I could not know how wicked a thing I

had done.

I made one of those remarks ordinarily called “smart things”

before that, but it was not a pun. Still, it came near causing a

serious rupture between my father and myself. My father and mother,

my uncle Ephraim and his wife, and one or two others were present,

and the conversation turned on a name for me. I was lying there

trying some India-rubber rings of various patterns, and endeavoring

to make a selection, for I was tired of trying to cut my teeth on

people’s fingers, and wanted to get hold of something that would

enable me to hurry the thing through and get something else.

Did you ever notice what a nuisance it was cutting your teeth on

your nurse’s finger, or how back-breaking and tiresome it was trying

to cut them on your big toe? And did you never get out of patience

and wish your teeth were in Jerico long before you got them half cut?

To me it seems as if these things happened yesterday. And they did,

to some children. But I digress. I was lying there trying the

India-rubber rings. I remember looking at the clock and noticing

that in an hour and twenty-five minutes I would be two weeks old,

and thinking how little I had done to merit the blessings that were so

unsparingly lavished upon me. My father said:

“Abraham is a good name. My grandfather was named Abraham.”

My mother said:

“Abraham is a good name. Very well. Let us have Abraham for one

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Categories: Twain, Mark