The $30,000 Bequest, and Other Stories eBook: Page2

Mark Twain (2009)


  Now came great news! Stunning news--joyous news, in fact. It came from aneighboring state, where the family's only surviving relative lived. Itwas Sally's relative--a sort of vague and indefinite uncle or secondor third cousin by the name of Tilbury Foster, seventy and a bachelor,reputed well off and corresponding sour and crusty. Sally had tried tomake up to him once, by letter, in a bygone time, and had not made thatmistake again. Tilbury now wrote to Sally, saying he should shortly die,and should leave him thirty thousand dollars, cash; not for love, butbecause money had given him most of his troubles and exasperations, andhe wished to place it where there was good hope that it would continueits malignant work. The bequest would be found in his will, and would bepaid over. PROVIDED, that Sally should be able to prove to the executorsthat he had _Taken no notice of the gift by spoken word or by letter,had made no inquiries concerning the moribund's progress toward theeverlasting tropics, and had not attended the funeral._

  As soon as Aleck had partially recovered from the tremendous emotionscreated by the letter, she sent to the relative's habitat and subscribedfor the local paper.

  Man and wife entered into a solemn compact, now, to never mention thegreat news to any one while the relative lived, lest some ignorantperson carry the fact to the death-bed and distort it and make it appearthat they were disobediently thankful for the bequest, and just thesame as confessing it and publishing it, right in the face of theprohibition.

  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 aflower-pot or book or a stick of wood without forgetting what she hadintended to do with it. For both were dreaming.

  "Thir-ty thousand dollars!"

  All day long the music of those inspiring words sang through thosepeople's heads.

  From his marriage-day forth, Aleck's grip had been upon the purse, andSally had seldom known what it was to be privileged to squander a dimeon non-necessities.

  "Thir-ty thousand dollars!" the song went on and on. A vast sum, anunthinkable sum!

  All day long Aleck was absorbed in planning how to invest it, Sally inplanning how to spend it.

  There was no romance-reading that night. The children took themselvesaway early, for their parents were silent, distraught, and strangelyunentertaining. The good-night kisses might as well have been impressedupon vacancy, for all the response they got; the parents were not awareof the kisses, and the children had been gone an hour beforetheir absence was noticed. Two pencils had been busy during thathour--note-making; in the way of plans. It was Sally who broke thestillness at last. He said, with exultation:

  "Ah, it'll be grand, Aleck! Out of the first thousand we'll have a horseand 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 andbeen so scrimped: and now that we are rich, it does seem--"

  He did not finish, for he saw her eye soften; his supplication hadtouched her. She said, with gentle persuasiveness:

  "We must not spend the capital, dear, it would not be wise. Out of theincome 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 pennyof it--must be put right to work, and kept at it. You see thereasonableness of that, don't you?"

  "Why, ye-s. Yes, of course. But we'll have to wait so long. Six monthsbefore 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. Groundfloor. When we organize, we'll get three shares for one."

  "By George, but it sounds good, Aleck! Then the shares will beworth--how much? And when?"

  "About a year. They'll pay ten per cent. half yearly, and be worththirty thousand. I know all about it; the advertisement is in theCincinnati paper here."

  "Land, thirty thousand for ten--in a year! Let's jam in thewhole capital and pull out ninety! I'll write and subscribe rightnow--tomorrow it maybe too late."

  He was flying to the writing-desk, but Aleck stopped him and put himback in his chair. She said:

  "Don't lose your head so. _We_ mustn't subscribe till we've got themoney; don't you know that?"

  Sally's excitement went down a degree or two, but he was not whollyappeased.

  "Why, Aleck, we'll _have _it, you know--and so soon, too. He's probablyout of his troubles before this; it's a hundred to nothing he'sselecting his brimstone-shovel this very minute. Now, I think--"

  Aleck shuddered, and said:

  "How _can _you, Sally! Don't talk in that way, it is perfectlyscandalous."

  "Oh, well, make it a halo, if you like, _I_ don't care for his outfit, Iwas only just talking. Can't you let a person talk?"

  "But why should you _want _to talk in that dreadful way? How would youlike to have people talk so about _you_, and you not cold yet?"

  "Not likely to be, for _one _while, I reckon, if my last act was givingaway money for the sake of doing somebody a harm with it. But never mindabout Tilbury, Aleck, let's talk about something worldly. It does seemto me that that mine is the place for the whole thirty. What's theobjection?"

  "All the eggs in one basket--that's the objection."

  "All right, if you say so. What about the other twenty? What do you meanto do with that?"

  "There is no hurry; I am going to look around before I do anything withit."

  "All right, if your mind's made up," sighed Sally. He was deep inthought awhile, then he said:

  "There'll be twenty thousand profit coming from the ten a year from now.We can spend that, can't we, Aleck?"

  Aleck shook her head.

  "No, dear," she said, "it won't sell high till we've had the firstsemi-annual dividend. You can spend part of that."

  "Shucks, only _that_--and a whole year to wait! Confound it, I--"

  "Oh, do be patient! It might even be declared in three months--it'squite within the possibilities."

  "Oh, jolly! oh, thanks!" and Sally jumped up and kissed his wife ingratitude. "It'll be three thousand--three whole thousand! how muchof it can we spend, Aleck? Make it liberal!--do, dear, that's a goodfellow."

  Aleck was pleased; so pleased that she yielded to the pressure andconceded a sum which her judgment told her was a foolish extravagance--athousand dollars. Sally kissed her half a dozen times and even in thatway could not express all his joy and thankfulness. This new accessof gratitude and affection carried Aleck quite beyond the bounds ofprudence, and before she could restrain herself she had made her darlinganother grant--a couple of thousand out of the fifty or sixty which shemeant to clear within a year of the twenty which still remained of thebequest. The happy tears sprang to Sally's eyes, and he said:

  "Oh, I want to hug you!" And he did it. Then he got his notes and satdown and began to check off, for first purchase, the luxuries whichhe should earliest wish to secure."Horse--buggy--cutter--lap-robe--patent-leathers--dog--plug-hat--church-pew--stem-winder--new teeth--_say_, Aleck!"


  "Ciphering away, aren't you? That's right. Have you got the twentythousand invested yet?"

  "No, there's no hurry about that; I must look around first, and think."

  "But you are ciphering; what's it about?"

  "Why, I have to find work for the thirty thousand that comes out of thecoal, hav
en't I?"

  "Scott, what a head! I never thought of that. How are you getting along?Where have you arrived?"

  "Not very far--two years or three. I've turned it over twice; once inoil and once in wheat."

  "Why, Aleck, it's splendid! How does it aggregate?"

  "I think--well, to be on the safe side, about a hundred and eightythousand clear, though it will probably be more."

  "My! isn't it wonderful? By gracious! luck has come our way at last,after all the hard sledding. Aleck!"


  "I'm going to cash in a whole three hundred on the missionaries--whatreal right have we care for expenses!"

  "You couldn't do a nobler thing, dear; and it's just like your generousnature, you unselfish boy."

  The praise made Sally poignantly happy, but he was fair and just enoughto say it was rightfully due to Aleck rather than to himself, since butfor her he should never have had the money.

  Then they went up to bed, and in their delirium of bliss they forgot andleft the candle burning in the parlor. They did not remember until theywere undressed; then Sally was for letting it burn; he said they couldafford it, if it was a thousand. But Aleck went down and put it out.

  A good job, too; for on her way back she hit on a scheme that would turnthe hundred and eighty thousand into half a million before it had hadtime to get cold.