The Grateful Husband by Mark Twain
One day a lady was driving through the principal street of a great
city with her little boy, when the horses took fright and dashed madly
away, hurling the coachman from his box and leaving the occupants of
the carnage paralyzed with terror. But a brave youth who was driving
a grocery-wagon threw himself before the plunging animals, and
succeeded in arresting their flight at the peril of his own. --[This
is probably a misprint.-M. T.]-- The grateful lady took his number,
and upon arriving at her home she related the heroic act to her
husband (who had read the books), who listened with streaming eyes to
the moving recital, and who, after returning thanks, in conjunction
with his restored loved ones, to Him who suffereth not even a sparrow
to fall to the ground unnoticed, sent for the brave young person, and,
placing a check for five hundred dollars in his hand, said, "Take this
as a reward for your noble act, William Ferguson, and if ever you
shall need a, friend, remember that Thompson McSpadden has a grateful
heart." Let us learn from this that a good deed cannot fail to
benefit the doer, however humble he may be.
William Ferguson called the next week and asked Mr. McSpadden to
use his influence to get him a higher employment, he feeling capable
of better things than driving a grocer's wagon. Mr. McSpadden got him
an underclerkship at a good salary.
Presently William Ferguson's mother fell sick, and William-- Well,
to cut the story short, Mr. McSpadden consented to take her into his
house. Before long she yearned for the society of her younger
children; so Mary and Julia were admitted also, and little Jimmy,
their brother. Jimmy had a pocket knife, and he wandered into the
drawing-room with it one day, alone, and reduced ten thousand dollars'
worth of furniture to an indeterminable value in rather less than
three-quarters of an hour. A day or two later he fell down-stairs and
broke his neck, and seventeen of his family's relatives came to the
house to attend the funeral. This made them acquainted, and they kept
the kitchen occupied after that, and likewise kept the McSpaddens busy
hunting-up situations of various sorts for them, and hunting up more
when they wore these out. The old woman drank a good deal and swore a
good deal; but the grateful McSpaddens knew it was their duty to
reform her, considering what her son had done for them, so they clave
nobly to their generous task. William came often and got decreasing
sums of money, and asked for higher and more lucrative
employments--which the grateful McSpadden more or less promptly
procured for him. McSpadden consented also, after some demur, to fit
William for college; but when the first vacation came and the hero
requested to be sent to Europe for his health, the persecuted
McSpadden rose against the tyrant and revolted. He plainly and
squarely refused. William Ferguson's mother was so astounded that she
let her gin-bottle drop, and her profane lips refused to do their
office. When she recovered she said in a half-gasp, "Is this your
gratitude? Where would your wife and boy be now, but for my son?"
William said, "Is this your gratitude? Did I save your wife's life
or not? Tell me that!"
Seven relations swarmed in from the kitchen and each said, "And
this is his gratitude!"
William's sisters stared, bewildered, and said, "And this is his
grat--" but were interrupted by their mother, who burst into tears and
"To think that my sainted little Jimmy threw away his life in the
service of such a reptile!"
Then the pluck of the revolutionary McSpadden rose to the occasion,
and he replied with fervor, "Out of my house, the whole beggarly tribe
of you! I was beguiled by the books, but shall never be beguiled
again --once is sufficient for me." And turning to William he
shouted, "Yes, you did save my, wife's life, and the next man that
does it shall die in his tracks!"
Not being a clergyman, I place my text at the end of my sermon
instead of at the beginning. Here it is, from Mr. Noah Brooks's
Recollections of President Lincoln in Scribners Monthly:
J. H. Hackett, in his part of Falstaff, was an actor who gave Mr.
Lincoln great delight. With his usual desire to signify to others
his sense of obligation, Mr. Lincoln wrote a genial little note to
the actor expressing his pleasure at witnessing his performance.
Mr. Hackett, in reply, sent a book of some sort; perhaps it was one
of his own authorship. He also wrote several notes to the
President. One night, quite late, when the episode had passed out
of my mind, I went to the white House in answer to a message.
Passing into the President's office, I noticed, to my surprise,
Hackett sitting in the anteroom as if waiting for an audience. The
President asked me if any one was outside. On being told, he said,
half sadly, "Oh, I can't see him, I can't see him; I was in hopes he
had gone away." Then he added, "Now this just illustrates the
difficulty of having pleasant friends and acquaintances in this
place. You know how I liked Hackett as an actor, and how I wrote to
tell him so. He sent me that book, and there I thought the matter
would end. He is a master of his place in the profession, I
suppose, and well fixed in it; but just because we had a little
friendly correspondence, such as any two men might have, he wants
something. What do you suppose he wants?" I could not guess, and
Mr. Lincoln added, "well, he wants to be consul to London. Oh,
I will observe, in conclusion, that the William Ferguson incident
occurred, and within my personal knowledge--though I have changed the
nature of the details, to keep William from recognizing himself in it.
All the readers of this article have in some sweet and gushing hour
of their lives played the role of Magnanimous-Incident hero. I wish I
knew how many there are among them who are willing to talk about that
episode and like to be reminded of the consequences that flowed from