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Mark Twain > Those Extraordinary Twins > Chapter VII

Those Extraordinary Twins

Chapter VII


BAPTISM OF THE BETTER HALF

By nine o'clock the town was humming with the news of the midnight duel,
and there were but two opinions about it: one, that Luigi's pluck in the
field was most praiseworthy and Angela's flight most scandalous; the
other, that Angelo's courage in flying the field for conscience' sake was
as fine and creditable as was Luigi's in holding the field in the face of
the bullets. The one opinion was held by half of the town, the other one
was maintained by the other half. The division was clean and exact, and
it made two parties, an Angela party and a Luigi party. The twins had
suddenly become popular idols along with Pudd'nhead Wilson, and haloed
with a glory as intense as his. The children talked the duel all the way
to Sunday-school, their elders talked it all the way to church, the choir
discussed it behind their red curtain, it usurped the place of pious
thought in the "nigger gallery."

By noon the doctor had added the news, and spread it, that Count Angelo,
in spite of his wound and all warnings and supplications, was resolute in
his determination to be baptized at the hour appointed. This swept the
town like wildfire, and mightily reinforced the enthusiasm of the Angelo
faction, who said, "If any doubted that it was moral courage that took
him from the field, what have they to say now!"

Still the excitement grew. All the morning it was traveling countryward,
toward all points of the compass; so, whereas before only the farmers and
their wives were intending to come and witness the remarkable baptism,
a general holiday was now proclaimed and the children and negroes
admitted to the privileges of the occasion. All the farms for ten miles
around were vacated, all the converging roads emptied long processions of
wagons, horses, and yeomanry into the town. The pack and cram of people
vastly exceeded any that had ever been seen in that sleepy region before.
The only thing that had ever even approached it, was the time long gone
by, but never forgotten, nor even referred to without wonder and pride,
when two circuses and a Fourth of July fell together. But the glory of
that occasion was extinguished now for good. It was but a freshet to
this deluge.

The great invasion massed itself on the river-bank and waited hungrily
for the immense event. Waited, and wondered if it would really happen,
or if the twin who was not a "professor" would stand out and prevent it.

But they were not to be disappointed. Angela was as good as his word.
He came attended by an escort of honor composed of several hundred of the
best citizens, all of the Angelo party; and when the immersion was
finished they escorted him back home and would even have carried him on
their shoulders, but that people might think they were carrying Luigi.

Far into the night the citizens continued to discuss and wonder over the
strangely mated pair of incidents that had distinguished and exalted the
past twenty-four hours above any other twenty-four in the history of
their town for picturesqueness and splendid interest; and long before the
lights were out and burghers asleep it had been decided on all hands that
in capturing these twins Dawson's Landing had drawn a prize in the great
lottery of municipal fortune.

At midnight Angelo was sleeping peacefully. His immersion had not harmed
him, it had merely made him wholesomely drowsy, and he had been dead
asleep many hours now. It had made Luigi drowsy, too, but he had got
only brief naps, on account of his having to take the medicine every
three-quarters of an hour-and Aunt Betsy Hale was there to see that he
did it. When he complained and resisted, she was quietly firm with him,
and said in a low voice:

"No-no, that won't do; you mustn't talk, and you mustn't retch and gag
that way, either--you'll wake up your poor brother."

"Well, what of it, Aunt Betsy, he--"

"'Sh-h! Don't make a noise, dear. You mustn't: forget that your poor
brother is sick and--"

"Sick, is he? Well, I wish I--"

"'Sh-h-h! Will you be quiet, Luigi! Here, now, take the rest of it--
don't keep me holding the dipper all night. I declare if you haven't
left a good fourth of it in the bottom! Come-that's a good--

"Aunt Betsy, don't make me! I feel like I've swallowed a cemetery; I do,
indeed. Do let me rest a little--just a little; I can't take any more of
the devilish stuff now."

"Luigi! Using such language here, and him just baptized! Do you want
the roof to fall on you?"

"I wish to goodness it would!"

"Why, you dreadful thing! I've a good notion to--let that blanket alone;
do you want your, brother to catch his death?"

"Aunt Betsy, I've got to have it off, I'm being roasted alive; nobody
could stand it--you couldn't yourself."

"Now, then, you're sneezing again--I just expected it."

"Because I've caught a cold in my head. I always do, when I go in the
water with my clothes on. And it takes me weeks to get over it, too.
I think it was a shame to serve me so."

"Luigi, you are unreasonable; you know very well they couldn't baptize
him dry. I should think you would be willing to undergo a little
inconvenience for your brother's sake."

"Inconvenience! Now how you talk, Aunt Betsy. I came as near as
anything to getting drowned you saw that yourself; and do you call this
inconvenience?--the room shut up as tight as a drum, and so hot the
mosquitoes are trying to get out; and a cold in the head, and dying for
sleep and no chance to get any--on account of this infamous medicine that
that assassin prescri--"

"There, you're sneezing again. I'm going down and mix some more of this
truck for you, dear."

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