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What is a summary of "The Californian's Tale" by Mark Twain?

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Quick Answer

"The Californian's Tale" by Mark Twain is a short story about a man, Henry, waiting for his wife to come home. What the narrator and reader do not know until the end of the story is that Henry's wife has been dead for 19 years.

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Full Answer

The narrator of the story is a stranger to a town where he meets Henry who talks incessantly about his wife. The narrator goes to a party at Henry's house with other friends to welcome Henry's wife home. Right before she is due back, Henry is drugged by his friends and falls asleep. Later the friends tell the narrator that Henry's wife disappeared 19 years ago on the way back from visiting her mother. She was kidnapped by Native Americans and never heard from again. As a result, Henry went mad. He lives each year waiting for his wife to come home. It is only during the week of her disappearance that he gets truly anxious. This is where the friends come in. They check up on Henry, talk to him about his wife, let Henry read them an old letter and finally throw a party. At the exact moment that his wife should arrive home, they drug Henry so that he can sleep peacefully through the night.

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