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Mark Twain > Those Extraordinary Twins > Chapter VII

Those Extraordinary Twins

Chapter VII


LUIGI DEFIES GALEN

When the doctor arrived at Aunt Patsy Cooper's house, he found the lights
going and everybody up and dressed and in a great state of solicitude and
excitement. The twins were stretched on a sofa in the sitting-room, Aunt
Patsy was fussing at Angelo's arm, Nancy was flying around under her
commands, the two young boys were trying to keep out of the way and
always getting in it, in order to see and wonder, Rowena stood apart,
helpless with apprehension and emotion, and Luigi was growling in
unappeasable fury over Angelo's shameful flight.

As has been reported before, the doctor was a fool--a kind-hearted and
well-meaning one, but with no tact; and as he was by long odds the most
learned physician in the town, and was quite well aware of it, and could
talk his learning with ease and precision, and liked to show off when he
had an audience, he was sometimes tempted into revealing more of a case
than was good for the patient.

He examined Angelo's wound, and was really minded to say nothing for
once; but Aunt Patsy was so anxious and so pressing that he allowed his
caution to be overcome, and proceeded to empty himself as follows, with
scientific relish:

"Without going too much into detail, madam--for you would probably not
understand it, anyway--I concede that great care is going to be necessary
here; otherwise exudation of the esophagus is nearly sure to ensue, and
this will be followed by ossification and extradition of the maxillaris
superioris, which must decompose the granular surfaces of the great
infusorial ganglionic system, thus obstructing the action of the
posterior varioloid arteries, and precipitating compound strangulated
sorosis of the valvular tissues, and ending unavoidably in the dispersion
and combustion of the marsupial fluxes and the consequent embrocation of
the bicuspid populo redax referendum rotulorum."

A miserable silence followed. Aunt Patsy's heart sank, the pallor of
despair invaded her face, she was not able to speak; poor Rowena wrung
her hands in privacy and silence, and said to herself in the bitterness
of her young grief, "There is no hope--it is plain there is no hope"; the
good-hearted negro wench, Nancy, paled to chocolate, then to orange, then
to amber, and thought to herself with yearning sympathy and sorrow, "Po'
thing, he ain' gwyne to las' throo de half o' dat"; small Henry choked
up, and turned his head away to hide his rising tears, and his brother
Joe said to himself, with a sense of loss, "The baptizing's busted,
that's sure." Luigi was the only person who had any heart to speak. He
said, a little bit sharply, to the doctor:

"Well, well, there's nothing to be gained by wasting precious time; give
him a barrel of pills--I'll take them for him."

"You?" asked the doctor.

"Yes. Did you suppose he was going to take them himself?"

"Why, of course."

"Well, it's a mistake. He never took a dose of medicine in his life. He
can't."

"Well, upon my word, it's the most extraordinary thing I ever heard of!"

"Oh," said Aunt Patsy, as pleased as a mother whose child is being
admired and wondered at; "you'll find that there's more about them that's
wonderful than their just being made in the image of God like the rest of
His creatures, now you can depend on that, I tell you," and she wagged
her complacent head like one who could reveal marvelous things if she
chose.

The boy Joe began:

"Why, ma, they ain't made in the im--"

"You shut up, and wait till you're asked, Joe. I'll let you know when I
want help. Are you looking for something, doctor?"

The doctor asked for a few sheets of paper and a pen, and said he would
write a prescription; which he did. It was one of Galen's; in fact, it
was Galen's favorite, and had been slaying people for sixteen thousand
years. Galen used it for everything, applied it to everything, said it
would remove everything, from warts all the way through to lungs and it
generally did. Galen was still the only medical authority recognized in
Missouri; his practice was the only practice known to the Missouri
doctors, and his prescriptions were the only ammunition they carried when
they went out for game.

By and by Dr. Claypool laid down his pen and read the result of his
labors aloud, carefully and deliberately, for this battery must be
constructed on the premises by the family, and mistakes could occur;
for he wrote a doctor's hand the hand which from the beginning of time
has been so disastrous to the apothecary and so profitable to the
undertaker:

"Take of afarabocca, henbane, corpobalsamum, each two drams and a half:
of cloves, opium, myrrh, cyperus, each two drams; of opobalsamum, Indian
leaf, cinnamon, zedoary, ginger, coftus, coral, cassia, euphorbium, gum
tragacanth, frankincense, styrax calamita, Celtic, nard, spignel,
hartwort, mustard, saxifrage, dill, anise, each one dram; of xylaloes,
rheum ponticum, alipta, moschata, castor, spikenard, galangals, opoponax,
anacardium, mastich, brimstone, peony, eringo, pulp of dates, red and
white hermodactyls, roses, thyme, acorns, pennyroyal, gentian, the bark
of the root of mandrake, germander, valerian, bishop's-weed, bayberries,
long and white pepper, xylobalsamum, carnabadium, macedonian, parsley
seeds, lovage, the seeds of rue, and sinon, of each a dram and a half; of
pure gold, pure silver, pearls not perforated, the blatta byzantina, the
bone of the stag's heart, of each the quantity of fourteen grains of
wheat; of sapphire, emerald and jasper stones, each one dram; of hazel-
nuts, two drams; of pellitory of Spain, shavings of ivory, calamus
odoratus, each the quantity of twenty-nine grains of wheat; of honey or
sugar a sufficient quantity. Boil down and skim off."

"There," he said, "that will fix the patient; give his brother a
dipperful every three-quarters of an hour--"

"--while he survives," muttered Luigi--

"--and see that the room is kept wholesomely hot, and the doors and
windows closed tight. Keep Count Angelo nicely covered up with six or
seven blankets, and when he is thirsty--which will be frequently--moisten
a 'rag in the vapor of the tea kettle and let his brother suck it. When
he is hungry--which will also be frequently he must not be humored
oftener than every seven or eight hours; then toast part of a cracker
until it begins to brown, and give it to his brother."

"That is all very well, as far as Angelo is concerned," said Luigi, "but
what am I to eat?"

"I do not see that there is anything the matter with you," the doctor
answered, "you may, of course, eat what you please."

"And also drink what I please, I suppose?"

"Oh, certainly--at present. When the violent and continuous perspiring
has reduced your strength, I shall have to reduce your diet, of course,
and also bleed you, but there is no occasion for that yet awhile." He
turned to Aunt Patsy and said: "He must be put to bed, and sat up with,
and tended with the greatest care, and not allowed to stir for several
days and nights."

"For one, I'm sacredly thankful for that," said Luigi, "it postpones the
funeral--I'm not to be drowned to-day, anyhow."

Angelo said quietly to the doctor:

"I will cheerfully submit to all your requirements, sir, up to two
o'clock this afternoon, and will resume them after three, but cannot be
confined to the house during that intermediate hour."

"Why, may I ask?"

"Because I have entered the Baptist communion, and by appointment am to
be baptised in the river at that hour."

"Oh, insanity!--it cannot be allowed!"

Angelo answered with placid firmness:

"Nothing shall prevent it, if I am alive."

"Why, consider, my dear sir, in your condition it might prove fatal."

A tender and ecstatic smile beamed from Angelo's eyes, and he broke forth
in a tone of joyous fervency:

"Ah, how blessed it would be to die for such a cause--it would be
martyrdom!"

"But your brother--consider your brother; you would be risking his life,
too."

"He risked mine an hour ago," responded Angelo, gloomily; "did he
consider me?" A thought swept through his mind that made him shudder.
"If I had not run, I might have been killed in a duel on the Sabbath day,
and my soul would have been lost--lost."

"Oh, don't fret, it wasn't in any danger," said Luigi, irritably; "they
wouldn't waste it for a little thing like that; there's a glass case all
ready for it in the heavenly museum, and a pin to stick it up with."

Aunt Patsy was shocked, and said:

"Looy, Looy!--don't talk so, dear!"

Rowena's soft heart was pierced by Luigi's unfeeling words, and she
murmured to herself, "Oh, if I but had the dear privilege of protecting
and defending him with my weak voice!--but alas! this sweet boon is
denied me by the cruel conventions of social intercourse."

"Get their bed ready," said Aunt Patsy to Nancy, "and shut up the windows
and doors, and light their candles, and see that you drive all the
mosquitoes out of their bar, and make up a good fire in their stove, and
carry up some bags of hot ashes to lay to his feet--"

"--and a shovel of fire for his head, and a mustard plaster for his neck,
and some gum shoes for his ears," Luigi interrupted, with temper; and
added, to himself, "Damnation, I'm going to be roasted alive, I just know
it!"

"Why, Looy! Do be quiet; I never saw such a fractious thing. A body
would think you didn't care for your brother."

"I don't--to that extent, Aunt Patsy. I was glad the drowning was
postponed a minute ago, but I'm not now. No, that is all gone by; I want
to be drowned."

"You'll bring a judgment on yourself just as sure as you live, if you go
on like that. Why, I never heard the beat of it. Now, there--there!
you've said enough. Not another word out of you--I won't have it!"

"But, Aunt Patsy--"

"Luigi! Didn't you hear what I told you?"

"But, Aunt Patsy, I--why, I'm not going to set my heart and lungs afloat
in that pail of sewage which this criminal here has been prescri--"

"Yes, you are, too. You are going to be good, and do everything I tell
you, like a dear," and she tapped his cheek affectionately with her
finger. "Rowena, take the prescription and go in the kitchen and hunt up
the things and lay them out for me. I'll sit up with my patient the rest
of the night, doctor; I can't trust Nancy, she couldn't make Luigi take
the medicine. Of course, you'll drop in again during the day. Have you
got any more directions?"

"No, I believe not, Aunt Patsy. If I don't get in earlier, I'll be along
by early candle-light, anyway. Meantime, don't allow him to get out of
his bed."

Angelo said, with calm determination:

"I shall be baptized at two o'clock. Nothing but death shall prevent
me."

The doctor said nothing aloud, but to himself he said:

"Why, this chap's got a manly side, after all! Physically he's a coward,
but morally he's a lion. I'll go and tell the others about this; it will
raise him a good deal in their estimation--and the public will follow
their lead, of course."

Privately, Aunt Patsy applauded too, and was proud of Angelo's courage in
the moral field as she was of Luigi's in the field of honor.

The boy Henry was troubled, but the boy Joe said, inaudibly, and
gratefully, "We're all honky, after all; and no postponement on account
of the weather."

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