‘The $30,000 Bequest’ by Mark Twain

The $30,000 Bequest by Mark Twain, 1904

The magic trick:

A comedy that ends with sincerity

There is cynicism, and then there is Mark Twain. You’d be hard pressed to find a lightness in this story. Our happy couple is promised $30,000 from a dead relative. But we’re told, as an aside, that the relative only left this money in hopes that it would ruin their lives the same way it ruined his. So I guess that’s funny? I found it dull and dour, personally. But I will admit that the conclusion swayed my negative opinion a bit. It’s not ironic. It’s not funny. There’s no big punchline. It’s actually fairly sincere.

And that’s quite a trick on Twain’s part.

The selection:

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

Then they went up to bed, and in their delirium of bliss they forgot and left the candle burning in the parlor. They did not remember until they were undressed; then Sally was for letting it burn; he said they could afford 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 turn the hundred and eighty thousand into half a million before it had time to get cold.

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