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Mark Twain > Those Extraordinary Twins > Chapter I

Those Extraordinary Twins

Chapter I



THE TWINS AS THEY REALLY WERE

The conglomerate twins were brought on the the stage in Chapter I of the
original extravaganza. Aunt Patsy Cooper has received their letter
applying for board and lodging, and Rowena, her daughter, insane with
joy, is begging for a hearing of it:

"Well, set down then, and be quiet a minute and don't fly around so; it
fairly makes me tired to see you. It starts off so: 'HONORED MADAM'--"

"I like that, ma, don't you? It shows they're high-bred."

"Yes, I noticed that when I first read it. 'My brother and I have seen
your advertisement, by chance, in a copy of your local journal--'

"It's so beautiful and smooth, ma-don't you think so?"

"Yes, seems so to me--'and beg leave to take the room you offer. We are
twenty-four years of age, and twins--'"

"Twins! How sweet! I do hope they are handsome, and I just know they
are! Don't you hope they are, ma?"

"Land, I ain't particular. 'We are Italians by birth--'"

"It's so romantic! Just think there's never been one in this town, and
everybody will want to see them, and they're all ours! Think of that!"

"--'but have lived long in the various countries of Europe, and several
years in the United States.'"

"Oh, just think what wonders they've seen, ma! Won't it be good to hear
them talk?"

"I reckon so; yes, I reckon so. 'Our names are Luigi and Angelo Capello-
-'"

"Beautiful, perfectly beautiful! Not like Jones and Robinson and those
horrible names."

"'You desire but one guest, but dear madam, if you will allow us to pay
for two we will not discommode you. We will sleep together in the same
bed. We have always been used to this, and prefer it. And then he goes
on to say they will be down Thursday."

"And this is Tuesday--I don't know how I'm ever going to wait, ma! The
time does drag along so, and I'm so dying to see them! Which of them do
you reckon is the tallest, ma?"

"How do you s'pose I can tell, child? Mostly they are the same
size-twins are."

"'Well then, which do you reckon is the best looking?"

"Goodness knows--I don't."

"I think Angelo is; it's the prettiest name, anyway. Don't you think
it's a sweet name, ma?"

"Yes, it's well enough. I'd like both of them better if I knew the way
to pronounce them--the Eyetalian way, I mean. The Missouri way and the
Eyetalian way is different, I judge."

"Maybe--yes. It's Luigi that writes the letter. What do you reckon is
the reason Angelo didn't write it?"

"Why, how can I tell? What's the difference who writes it, so long as
it's done?"

"Oh, I hope it wasn't because he is sick! You don't think he is sick, do
you, ma?"

"Sick your granny; what's to make him sick?"

"Oh, there's never any telling. These foreigners with that kind of names
are so delicate, and of course that kind of names are not suited to our
climate--you wouldn't expect it."


[And so-on and so-on, no end. The time drags along; Thursday comes: the
boat arrives in a pouring storm toward midnight.]


At last there was a knock at the door and the anxious family jumped to
open it. Two negro men entered, each carrying a trunk, and proceeded
upstairs toward the guest-room. Then followed a stupefying apparition--
a double-headed human creature with four arms, one body, and a single
pair of legs! It--or they, as you please--bowed with elaborate foreign
formality, but the Coopers could not respond immediately; they were
paralyzed. At this moment there came from the rear of the group a
fervent ejaculation--"My lan'!"--followed by a crash of crockery, and the
slave-wench Nancy stood petrified and staring, with a tray of wrecked
tea-things at her feet. The incident broke the spell, and brought the
family to consciousness. The beautiful heads of the new-comer bowed
again, and one of them said with easy grace and dignity:

"I crave the honor, madam and miss, to introduce to you my brother, Count
Luigi Capello," (the other head bowed) "and myself--Count Angelo; and at
the same time offer sincere apologies for the lateness of our coming,
which was unavoidable," and both heads bowed again.

The poor old lady was in a whirl of amazement and confusion, but she
managed to stammer out:

"I'm sure I'm glad to make your acquaintance, sir--I mean, gentlemen.
As for the delay, it is nothing, don't mention it. This is my daughter
Rowena, sir--gentlemen. Please step into the parlor and sit down and
have a bite and sup; you are dreadful wet and must be uncomfortable--
both of you, I mean."

But to the old lady's relief they courteously excused themselves, saying
it would be wrong to keep the family out of their beds longer; then each
head bowed in turn and uttered a friendly good night, and the singular
figure moved away in the wake of Rowena's small brothers, who bore
candles, and disappeared up the stairs.

The widow tottered into the parlor and sank into a chair with a gasp,
and Rowena followed, tongue-tied and dazed. The two sat silent in the
throbbing summer heat unconscious of the million-voiced music of the
mosquitoes, unconscious of the roaring gale, the lashing and thrashing of
the rain along the windows and the roof, the white glare of the
lightning, the tumultuous booming and bellowing of the thunder; conscious
of nothing but that prodigy, that uncanny apparition that had come and
gone so suddenly--that weird strange thing that was so soft-spoken and so
gentle of manner and yet had shaken them up like an earthquake with the
shock of its gruesome aspect. At last a cold little shudder quivered
along down the widow's meager frame and she said in a weak voice:

"Ugh, it was awful just the mere look of that phillipene!"

Rowena did not answer. Her faculties were still caked; she had not yet
found her voice. Presently the widow said, a little resentfully:

"Always been used to sleeping together--in-fact, prefer it. And I was
thinking it was to accommodate me. I thought it was very good of them,
whereas a person situated as that young man is--"

"Ma, you oughtn't to begin by getting up a prejudice against him.
I'm sure he is good-hearted and means well. Both of his faces show it."

"I'm not so certain about that. The one on the left--I mean the one on
it's left--hasn't near as good a face, in my opinion, as its brother."

"That's Luigi."

"Yes, Luigi; anyway it's the dark-skinned one; the one that was west of
his brother when they stood in the door. Up to all kinds of mischief and
disobedience when he was a boy, I'll be bound. I lay his mother had
trouble to lay her hand on him when she wanted him. But the one on the
right is as good as gold, I can see that."

"That's Angelo."

"Yes, Angelo, I reckon, though I can't tell t'other from which by their
names, yet awhile. But it's the right-hand one--the blond one. He has
such kind blue eyes, and curly copper hair and fresh complexion--"

"And such a noble face!--oh, it is a noble face, ma, just royal, you may
say! And beautiful deary me, how beautiful! But both are that; the dark
one's as beautiful as--a picture. There's no such wonderful faces and
handsome heads in this town none that even begin. And such hands,
especially Angelo's--so shapely and--"

"Stuff, how could you tell which they belonged to?--they had gloves on."

"Why, didn't I see them take off their hats?"

"That don't signify. They might have taken off each other's hats.
Nobody could tell. There was just a wormy squirming of arms in the air
--seemed to be a couple of dozen of them, all writhing at once, and it
just made me dizzy to see them go."

"Why, ma, I hadn't any difficulty. There's two arms on each shoulder--"

"There, now. One arm on each shoulder belongs to each of the creatures,
don't it? For a person to have two arms on one shoulder wouldn't do him
any good, would it? Of course not. Each has an arm on each shoulder.
Now then, you tell me which of them belongs to which, if you can. They
don't know, themselves--they just work whichever arm comes handy. Of
course they do; especially if they are in a hurry and can't stop to think
which belongs to which."

The mother seemed to have the rights of the argument, so the daughter
abandoned the struggle. Presently the widow rose with a yawn and said:

"Poor thing, I hope it won't catch cold; it was powerful wet, just
drenched, you may say. I hope it has left its boots outside, so they can
be dried."

Then she gave a little start, and looked perplexed.

"Now I remember I heard one of them ask Joe to call him at half after
seven--I think it was the one on the left--no, it was the one to the east
of the other one--but I didn't hear the other one say any thing. I
wonder if he wants to be called too. Do you reckon it's too late to
ask?"

"Why, ma, it's not necessary. Calling one is calling both. If one gets
up, the other's got to."

"Sho, of course; I never thought of that. Well, come along, maybe we can
get some sleep, but I don't know, I'm so shook up with what we've been
through."

The stranger had made an impression on the boys, too. They had a word of
talk as they were getting to bed. Henry, the gentle, the humane, said:

"I feel ever so sorry for it, don't you, Joe?"

But Joe was a boy of this world, active, enterprising, and had a
theatrical side to him:

"Sorry? Why, how you talk! It can't stir a step without attracting
attention. It's just grand!"

Henry said, reproachfully:

"Instead of pitying it, Joe, you talk as if--"

"Talk as if what? I know one thing mighty certain: if you can fix me so
I can eat for two and only have to stub toes for one, I ain't going to
fool away no such chance just for sentiment."

The twins were wet and tired, and they proceeded to undress without-any
preliminary remarks. The abundance of sleeve made the partnership coat
hard to get off, for it was like skinning a tarantula; but it came at
last, after much tugging and perspiring. The mutual vest followed. Then
the brothers stood up before the glass, and each took off his own cravat
and collar. The collars were of the standing kind, and came high up
under the ears, like the sides of a wheelbarrow, as required by the
fashion of the day. The cravats were as broad as a bank-bill, with
fringed ends which stood far out to right and left like the wings of a
dragon-fly, and this also was strictly in accordance with the fashion of
the time. Each cravat, as to color, was in perfect taste, so far as its
owner's complexion was concerned--a delicate pink, in the case of the
blond brother, a violent scarlet in the case of the brunette--but as a
combination they broke all the laws of taste known to civilization.
Nothing more fiendish and irreconcilable than those shrieking and
blaspheming colors could have been contrived, The wet boots gave no end
of trouble--to Luigi. When they were off at last, Angelo said, with
bitterness:

"I wish you wouldn't wear such tight boots, they hurt my feet."

Luigi answered with indifference:

"My friend, when I am in command of our body, I choose my apparel
according to my own convenience, as I have remarked more than several
times already. When you are in command, I beg you will do as you
please."

Angelo was hurt, and the tears came into his eyes. There was gentle
reproach in his voice, but, not anger, when he replied:

"Luigi, I often consult your wishes, but you never consult mine. When I
am in command I treat you as a guest; I try to make you feel at home;
when you are in command you treat me as an intruder, you make me feel
unwelcome. It embarrasses me cruelly in company, for I can, see that
people notice it and comment on it."

"Oh, damn the people," responded the brother languidly, and with the air
of one who is tired of the subject.

A slight shudder shook the frame of Angelo, but he said nothing and the
conversation ceased. Each buttoned his own share of the nightshirt in
silence; then Luigi, with Paine's Age of Reason in his hand, sat down in
one chair and put his feet in another and lit his pipe, while Angelo took
his Whole Duty of Man, and both began to read. Angelo presently began to
cough; his coughing increased and became mixed with gaspings for breath,
and he was finally obliged to make an appeal to his brother's humanity:

"Luigi, if you would only smoke a little milder tobacco, I am sure I
could learn not to mind it in time, but this is so strong, and the pipe
is so rank that--"

"Angelo, I wouldn't be such a baby! I have learned to smoke in a week,
and the trouble is already over with me; if you would try, you could
learn too, and then you would stop spoiling my comfort with your
everlasting complaints."

"Ah, brother, that is a strong word--everlasting--and isn't quite fair.
I only complain when I suffocate; you know I don't complain when we are
in the open air."

"Well, anyway, you could learn to smoke yourself."

"But my principles, Luigi, you forget my principles. You would not have
me do a thing which I regard as a sin?"

"Oh, bosh!"

The conversation ceased again, for Angelo was sick and discouraged and
strangling; but after some time he closed his book and asked Luigi to
sing "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" with him, but he would not, and
when he tried to sing by himself Luigi did his best to drown his
plaintive tenor with a rude and rollicking song delivered in a thundering
bass.

After the singing there was silence, and neither brother was happy.
Before blowing the light out Luigi swallowed half a tumbler of whisky,
and Angelo, whose sensitive organization could not endure intoxicants of
any kind, took a pill to keep it from giving him the headache.

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