You remember Lord Carlsbad? Lonely old bugger.
Lots of money. No children. Well, I'd spoken kindly to him on occasioneven
took him out to dinner once or twice. He was so grateful that one day, quite
out of the blue, he promised to make me his sole heir. His sole heir! He's
worth millions, you understand! I couldn't believe my luck. I hadn't asked
for itnever thought of it, reallybut from that day forward,
in order to show my appreciation, you know, I began to spend practically
every waking moment in his company. I'd drop by first thing in the morning.
We'd play checkers. Shuffleboard. At first, it wasn't so badnot terribly
exciting, but I'd just think of the money, and that would keep me going.
After a few weeks, though, I began to run out of steam. He liked to tell
war storiesnever actually fought in the war, mind youspent most
of the war typing in some office in Liverpool. Try to imagine, if you will,
war stories that involve mostly typingan occasional flirtation with
the frumpy secretary or a heated debate over the proper use of the semicolon.
It was interminable! I knew I couldn't keep it up much longer. Still, the
inheritance! I couldn't stop thinking about it! I'd already spent most of
it in my head! I began thinking up ways to hurry him along, if you know
what I mean. Little things, at first. I convinced him to take up cricketthought
the exertion might be too much for his heart. But it only made him healthier!
Suddenly he looked ten years younger! I took him boatingthought he
might fall in and drownI even went so far as to rock the boat a little.
But the old bugger had impeccable balance, and, worse luck, he always wore
a lifejacket. I began to get desperate. Finally, I decided to approach the
butler. He was an unhappy little manbitter that he had himself been
overlooked for the inheritance. Together, we concocted a plan. Are you familiar
with ricin? No? It's a powerful poisonextracted from castor beans,
of all thingstwice as deadly as cobra venom! The butler agreed to
administer the poison the next time his master called for winewhich
he did constantly. He was a drunken sot. In return, I promised to reward
the poor fellow for all his years of loyal servicesomething his master
had never done. The next evening, after our usual activities, the servant
brought two cupsthe poisoned one for Carlsbadand the other for
me. Unfortunately, the incompetent oaf got nervous, switched the cups somehowgave
me the poisoned cup, and a few minutes later, much to my surprise, there
I wasdead on the floor and cheated out of my inheritance. [LORD
MARLBOROUGH laughs.] I suppose you think it's very funny. So did the
old man. After he got over the initial shock, he put it all together, I
guess, and laughed hysterically at his butler's mistake.
Adapted by Baudelaire Jones
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