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Mark Twain > Those Extraordinary Twins > Chapter VI

Those Extraordinary Twins

Chapter VI



THE AMAZING DUEL

     A deputation came in the evening and conferred upon Wilson the
     welcome honor of a nomination for mayor; for the village has just
     been converted into a city by charter. Tom skulks out of
     challenging the twins. Judge Driscoll thereupon challenges Angelo
     (accused by Tom of doing the kicking); he declines, but Luigi
     accepts in his place against Angelo's timid protest.

It was late Saturday night nearing eleven.

The judge and his second found the rest of the war party at the further
end of the vacant ground, near the haunted house. Pudd'nhead Wilson
advanced to meet them, and said anxiously:

"I must say a word in behalf of my principal's proxy, Count Luigi, to
whom you have kindly granted the privilege of fighting my principal's
battle for him. It is growing late, and Count Luigi is in great trouble
lest midnight shall strike before the finish."

"It is another testimony," said Howard, approvingly. "That young man is
fine all through. He wishes to save his brother the sorrow of fighting
on the Sabbath, and he is right; it is the right and manly feeling and
does him credit. We will make all possible haste."

Wilson said: "There is also another reason--a consideration, in fact,
which deeply concerns Count Luigi himself. These twins have command of
their mutual legs turn about. Count Luigi is in command now; but at
midnight, possession will pass to my principal, Count Angelo, and--well,
you can foresee what will happen. He will march straight off the field,
and carry Luigi with him."

"Why! sure enough!" cried the judge, "we have heard something about that
extraordinary law of their being, already--nothing very definite, it is
true, as regards dates and durations of power, but I see it is definite
enough as regards to-night. Of course we must give Luigi every chance.
Omit all the ceremonial possible, gentlemen, and place us in position."

The seconds at once tossed up a coin; Howard won the choice. He placed
the judge sixty feet from the haunted house and facing it; Wilson placed
the twins within fifteen feet of the house and facing the judge--
necessarily. The pistol-case was opened and the long slim tubes taken
out; when the moonlight glinted from them a shiver went through Angelo.
The doctor was a fool, but a thoroughly well-meaning one, with a kind
heart and a sincere disposition to oblige, but along with it an absence
of tact which often hurt its effectiveness. He brought his box of lint
and bandages, and asked Angelo to feel and see how soft and comfortable
they were. Angelo's head fell over against Luigi's in a faint, and
precious time was lost in bringing him to; which provoked Luigi into
expressing his mind to the doctor with a good deal of vigor and
frankness. After Angelo came to he was still so weak that Luigi was
obliged to drink a stiff horn of brandy to brace him up.

The seconds now stepped at once to their posts, halfway between the
combatants, one of them on each side of the line of fire. Wilson was to
count, very deliberately, "One-two-three-fire!--stop!" and the duelists
could bang away at any time they chose during that recitation, but not
after the last word. Angelo grew very nervous when he saw Wilson's hand
rising slowly into the air as a sign to make ready, and he leaned his
head against Luigi's and said:

"Oh, please take me away from here, I can't stay, I know I can't!"

"What in the world are you doing? Straighten up! What's the matter with
you?--you're in no danger--nobody's going to shoot at you. Straighten
up, I tell you!"

Angelo obeyed, just in time to hear:

"One--!"

"Bang!" Just one report, and a little tuft of white hair floated slowly
to the judge's feet in the moonlight. The judge did not swerve; he still
stood erect and motionless, like a statue, with his pistol-arm hanging
straight down at his side. He was reserving his fire.

"Two--!"

"Three--"!

"Fire--!"

Up came the pistol-arm instantly-Angelo dodged with the report. He said
"Ouch!" and fainted again.

The doctor examined and bandaged the wound.

It was of no consequence, he said--bullet through fleshy part of arm--no
bones broken the gentleman was still able to fight let the duel proceed.

Next time Angelo jumped just as Luigi fired, which disordered his aim and
caused him to cut a chip off of Howard's ear. The judge took his time
again, and when he fired Angelo jumped and got a knuckle skinned. The
doctor inspected and dressed the wounds. Angelo now spoke out and said
he was content with the satisfaction he had got, and if the judge--but
Luigi shut him roughly up, and asked him not to make an ass of himself;
adding:

"And I want you to stop dodging. You take a great deal too prominent a
part in this thing for a person who has got nothing to do with it. You
should remember that you are here only by courtesy, and are without
official recognition; officially you are not here at all; officially you
do not even exist. To all intents and purposes you are absent from this
place, and you ought for your own modesty's sake to reflect that it
cannot become a person who is not present here to be taking this sort of
public and indecent prominence in a matter in which he is not in the
slightest degree concerned. Now, don't dodge again; the bullets are not
for you, they are for me; if I want them dodged I will attend to it
myself. I never saw a person act so."

Angelo saw the reasonableness of what his brother had said, and he did
try to reform, but it was of no use; both pistols went off at the same
instant, and he jumped once more; he got a sharp scrape along his cheek
from the judge's bullet, and so deflected Luigi's aim that his ball went
wide and chipped flake of skin from Pudd'nhead Wilson's chin. The doctor
attended to the wounded.

By the terms, the duel was over. But Luigi was entirely out of patience,
and begged for one exchange of shots, insisting that he had had no fair
chance, on account of his brother's indelicate behavior. Howard was
opposed to granting so unusual a privilege, but the judge took Luigi's
part, and added that indeed he himself might fairly be considered
entitled to another trial, because although the proxy on the other side
was in no way to blame for his (the judge's) humiliatingly resultless
work, the gentleman with whom he was fighting this duel was to blame for
it, since if he had played no advantages and had held his head still, his
proxy would have been disposed of early. He added:

"Count Luigi's request for another exchange is another proof that he is a
brave and chivalrous gentleman, and I beg that the courtesy he asks may
be accorded him."

"I thank you most sincerely for this generosity, Judge Driscoll," said
Luigi, with a polite bow, and moving to his place. Then he added to
Angelo, "Now hold your grip, hold your grip, I tell you, and I'll land
him sure!"

The men stood erect, their pistol-arms at their sides, the two seconds
stood at their official posts, the doctor stood five paces in Wilson's
rear with his instruments and bandages in his hands. The deep stillness,
the peaceful moonlight, the motionless figures, made an impressive
picture and the impending fatal possibilities augmented this
impressiveness solemnity. Wilson's hand began to rise--slowly--still
higher--still higher--in another moment:

"Boom!" the first stroke of midnight swung up out of the distance;
Angelo was off like a deer!

"Oh, you unspeakable traitor!" wailed his brother, as they went soaring
over the fence.

The others stood astonished and gazing; and so stood, watching that
strange spectacle until distance dissolved it and swept it from their
view. Then they rubbed their eyes like people waking out of a dream,

"Well, I've never seen anything like that before!" said the judge.
"Wilson, I am going to confess now, that I wasn't quite able to believe
in that leg business, and had a suspicion that it was a put-up
convenience between those twins; and when Count Angelo fainted I thought
I saw the whole scheme--thought it was pretext No. 2, and would be
followed by others till twelve o'clock should arrive, and Luigi would get
off with all the credit of seeming to want to fight and yet not have to
fight, after all. But I was mistaken. His pluck proved it. He's a
brave fellow and did want to fight."

"There isn't any doubt about that," said Howard, and added, in a grieved
tone, "but what an unworthy sort of Christian that Angelo is--I hope and
believe there are not many like him. It is not right to engage in a duel
on the Sabbath--I could not approve of that myself; but to finish one
that has been begun--that is a duty, let the day be what it may."

They strolled along, still wondering, still talking.

"It is a curious circumstance, "remarked the surgeon, halting Wilson a
moment to paste so more court-plaster on his chin, which had gone to
leaking blood again, "that in this duel neither of the parties who
handled the pistols lost blood while nearly all the persons present in
the mere capacity of guests got hit. I have not heard of such a thing
before. Don't you think it unusual?"

"Yes," said the Judge, "it has struck me as peculiar. Peculiar and
unfortunate. I was annoyed at it, all the time. In the case of Angelo
it made no great difference, because he was in a measure concerned,
though not officially; but it troubled me to see the seconds compromised,
and yet I knew no way to mend the matter.

"There was no way to mend it," said Howard, whose ear was being
readjusted now by the doctor; "the code fixes our place, and it would not
have been lawful to change it. If we could have stood at your side, or
behind you, or in front of you, it--but it would not have been legitimate
and the other parties would have had a just right to complain of our
trying to protect ourselves from danger; infractions of the code are
certainly not permissible in any case whatever."

Wilson offered no remarks. It seemed to him that there was very little
place here for so much solemnity, but he judged that if a duel where
nobody was in danger or got crippled but the seconds and the outsiders
had nothing ridiculous about it for these gentlemen, his pointing out
that feature would probably not help them to see it.

He invited them in to take a nightcap, and Howard and the judge accepted,
but the doctor said he would have to go and see how Angelo's principal
wound was getting on.

     [It was now Sunday, and in the afternoon Angelo was to be received
     into the Baptist communion by immersion--a doubtful prospect, the
     doctor feared.]

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