I'm trying to find a short story about two painters. They realize that nobody ever becomes famous or earns any money from their work until after they die. So they decide to fake one of them being terminally ill, while really he is busy painting a bunch of paintings. Meanwhile, the other one is on the road selling the paintings for a decent value because eventually the guy is going to die. Eventually, they fake the death of the sick one, and sell the paintings for even more, since he's now dead.

I also recall, that at the end of the story, it's heavily hinted that the storyteller is the "dead" guy. I think he was telling it to another traveler, and I want to say they were in a hotel lobby, but it may have been a restaurant, or some other public place.

Note that this was a short story, not a play.

1 Answer 1


This looks like "Is He Living or Is He Dead?", a short story by Mark Twain (which he had later developed into a play called "Is He Dead?", a separate piece of work)

  • It's set in a hotel in the French Riviera
  • A stranger tells the narrator the story of the French painter Francois Millet faking his illness and death in order to capitalize on it
  • There were four painters involved in the conspiracy, the stranger being one of them (not Millet)
  • Millet is staying in the same hotel as Theofile Magnan, a retired old businessman. The stranger reveals his real identity to the narrator, asking him to keep the secret.

The story ends this way:

'Do you remember the man I called your attention to in the dining room to-day? That was Francois Millet.'


'Scott! Yes. For once they didn't starve a genius to death and then put into other pockets the rewards he should have had himself. This song-bird was not allowed to pipe out its heart unheard and then be paid with the cold pomp of a big funeral. We looked out for that.'


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