Those Extraordinary Twins

Mark Twain

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Children’s booksMarc TwainThose Extraordinary TwinsContents
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Chapter II > > >

Chapter I


The conglomerate twins were brought on 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 bankbill, 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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Chapter II > > >

Children’s booksMarc Twain – Those Extraordinary Twins – Contents

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