The 30,000 Dollar Bequest and Other Stories

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2010

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179

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2010

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08 décembre 2010

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English

Project Gutenberg's The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories, by Mark Twain This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories Author: Mark Twain Release Date: May 12, 2009 [EBook #142] Language: English Character set encoding: ASCII *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK $30,000 BEQUEST AND OTHERS *** Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer, and David Widger THE $30,000 BEQUEST and Other Stories by Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) Contents THE $30,000 BEQUEST CHAPTER I CHAPTER II CHAPTER III CHAPTER IV CHAPTER V CHAPTER VI CHAPTER VII CHAPTER VIII A DOG'S TALE CHAPTER I CHAPTER II CHAPTER III WAS IT HEAVEN? OR HELL? CHAPTER I CHAPTER II CHAPTER III CHAPTER IV CHAPTER V CHAPTER VI CHAPTER VII CHAPTER VIII CHAPTER IX CHAPTER X A CURE FOR THE BLUES THE CURIOUS BOOK THE CALIFORNIAN'S TALE A HELPLESS SITUATION A TELEPHONIC CONVERSATION EDWARD MILLS AND GEORGE BENTON: A TALE THE FIVE BOONS OF LIFE Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV Chapter V THE FIRST WRITING-MACHINES ITALIAN WITHOUT A MASTER ITALIAN WITH GRAMMAR A BURLESQUE BIOGRAPHY HOW TO TELL A STORY GENERAL WASHINGTON'S NEGRO BODY-SERVANT WIT INSPIRATIONS OF THE "TWO-YEAROLDS" AN ENTERTAINING ARTICLE A LETTER TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY AMENDED OBITUARIES A MONUMENT TO ADAM A HUMANE WORD FROM SATAN INTRODUCTION TO "THE NEW GUIDE OF THE CONVERSATION IN PORTUGUESE AND ENGLISH" ADVICE TO LITTLE GIRLS POST-MORTEM POETRY (1) THE DANGER OF LYING IN BED PORTRAIT OF KING WILLIAM III DOES THE RACE OF MAN LOVE A LORD? EXTRACTS FROM ADAM'S DIARY EVE'S DIARY EXTRACT FROM ADAM'S DIARY THE $30,000 BEQUEST CHAPTER I Lakeside was a pleasant little town of five or six thousand inhabitants, and a rather pretty one, too, as towns go in the Far West. It had church accommodations for thirty-five thousand, which is the way of the Far West and the South, where everybody is religious, and where each of the Protestant sects is represented and has a plant of its own. Rank was unknown in Lakeside —unconfessed, anyway; everybody knew everybody and his dog, and a sociable friendliness was the prevailing atmosphere. Saladin Foster was book-keeper in the principal store, and the only high-salaried man of his profession in Lakeside. He was thirty-five years old, now; he had served that store for fourteen years; he had begun in his marriage-week at four hundred dollars a year, and had climbed steadily up, a hundred dollars a year, for four years; from that time forth his wage had remained eight hundred—a handsome figure indeed, and everybody conceded that he was worth it. His wife, Electra, was a capable helpmeet, although—like himself —a dreamer of dreams and a private dabbler in romance. The first thing she did, after her marriage—child as she was, aged only nineteen—was to buy an acre of ground on the edge of the town, and pay down the cash for it—twenty-five dollars, all her fortune. Saladin had less, by fifteen. She instituted a vegetable garden there, got it farmed on shares by the nearest neighbor, and made it pay her a hundred per cent. a year. Out of Saladin's first year's wage she put thirty dollars in the savings-bank, sixty out of his second, a hundred out of his third, a hundred and fifty out of his fourth. His wage went to eight hundred a year, then, and meantime two children had arrived and increased the expenses, but she banked two hundred a year from the salary, nevertheless, thenceforth. When she had been married seven years she built and furnished a pretty and comfortable two-thousand-dollar house in the midst of her garden-acre, paid half of the money down and moved her family in. Seven years later she was out of debt and had several hundred dollars out earning its living. Earning it by the rise in landed estate; for she had long ago bought another acre or two and sold the most of it at a profit to pleasant people who were willing to build, and would be good neighbors and furnish a general comradeship for herself and her growing family. She had an independent income from safe investments of about a hundred dollars a year; her children were growing in years and grace; and she was a pleased and happy woman. Happy in her husband, happy in her children, and the husband and the children were happy in her. It is at this point that this history begins. The youngest girl, Clytemnestra—called Clytie for short—was eleven; her sister, Gwendolen—called Gwen for short—was thirteen; nice girls, and comely. The names betray the latent romance-tinge in the parental blood, the parents' names indicate that the tinge was an inheritance. It was an affectionate family, hence all four of its members had pet names, Saladin's was a curious and unsexing one—Sally; and so was Electra's—Aleck. All day long Sally was a good and diligent book-keeper and salesman; all day long Aleck was a good and faithful mother and housewife, and thoughtful and calculating business woman; but in the cozy living-room at night they put the plodding world away, and lived in another and a fairer, reading romances to each other, dreaming dreams, comrading with kings and princes and stately lords and ladies in the flash and stir and splendor of noble palaces and grim and ancient castles. CHAPTER II Now came great news! Stunning news—joyous news, in fact. It came from a neighboring state, where the family's only surviving relative lived. It was Sally's relative—a sort of vague and indefinite uncle or second or third cousin by the name of Tilbury Foster, seventy and a bachelor, reputed well off and corresponding sour and crusty. Sally had tried to make up to him once, by letter, in a bygone time, and had not made that mistake again. Tilbury now wrote to Sally, saying he should shortly die, and should leave him thirty thousand dollars, cash; not for love, but because money had given him most of his troubles and exasperations, and he wished to place it where there was good hope that it would continue its malignant work. The bequest would be found in his will, and would be paid over. PROVIDED, that Sally should be able to prove to the executors that he had TAKEN NO NOTICE OF THE GIFT BY SPOKEN WORD OR BY LETTER, HAD MADE NO INQUIRIES CONCERNING THE MORIBUND'S PROGRESS TOWARD THE EVERLASTING TROPICS, AND HAD NOT ATTENDED THE FUNERAL. As soon as Aleck had partially recovered from the tremendous emotions created by the letter, she sent to the relative's habitat and subscribed for the local paper. Man and wife entered into a solemn compact, now, to never mention the great news to any one while the relative lived, lest some ignorant person carry the fact to the death-bed and distort it and make it appear that they were disobediently thankful for the bequest, and just the same as confessing it and publishing it, right in the face of the prohibition. For the rest of the day Sally made havoc and confusion with his books, and Aleck could not keep her mind on her affairs, not even take up a flower-pot or book or a stick of wood without forgetting what she had intended to do with it. For both were dreaming. "Thir-ty thousand dollars!" All day long the music of those inspiring words sang through those people's heads. From his marriage-day forth, Aleck's grip had been upon the purse, and Sally had seldom known what it was to be privileged to squander a dime on non-necessities. "Thir-ty thousand dollars!" the song went on and on. A vast sum, an unthinkable sum! All day long Aleck was absorbed in planning how to invest it, Sally in planning how to spend it. There was no romance-reading that night. The children took themselves away early, for their parents were silent, distraught, and strangely unentertaining. The good-night kisses might as well have been impressed upon vacancy, for all the response they got; the parents were not aware of the kisses, and the children had been gone an hour before their absence was noticed. Two pencils had been busy during that hour—note-making; in the way of plans. It was Sally who broke the stillness at last. He said, with exultation: "Ah, it'll be grand, Aleck! Out of the first thousand we'll have a horse and a buggy for summer, and a cutter and a skin lap-robe for winter." Aleck responded with decision and composure— "Out of the CAPITAL? Nothing of the kind. Not if it was a million!" Sally was deeply disappointed; the glow went out of his face. "Oh, Aleck!" he said, reproachfully. "We've always worked so hard and been so scrimped: and now that we are rich, it does seem—" He did not finish, for he saw her eye soften; his supplication had touched her. She said, with gentle persuasiveness: "We must not spend the capital, dear, it would not be wise. Out of the income from it—" "That will answer, that will answer, Aleck! How dear and good you are! There will be a noble income and if we can spend that—" "Not ALL of it, dear, not all of it, but you can spend a part of it. That is, a reasonable part. But the whole of the capital—every penny of it —must be put right to work, and kept at it. You see the reasonableness of that, don't you?" "Why, ye-s. Yes, of course. But we'll have to wait so long. Six months before the first interest falls due." "Yes—maybe longer." "Longer, Aleck? Why? Don't they pay half-yearly?" "THAT kind of an investment—yes; but I sha'n't invest in that way." "What way, then?" "For big returns." "Big. That's good. Go on, Aleck. What is it?" "Coal. The new mines. Cannel. I mean to put in ten thousand. Ground floor. When we organize, we'll get three shares for one." "By George, but it sounds good, Aleck! Then the shares will be worth—how much? And when?" "About a year. They'll pay ten per cent. half yearly, and be worth thirty thousand. I know all about it; the advertisement is in the Cincinnati paper here." "Land, thirty thousand
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