Those Extraordinary Twins

Mark Twain

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Children’s booksMarc TwainThose Extraordinary TwinsContents
< < < Chapter VI
Chapter VIII > > >

Chapter VII


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.”

< < < Chapter VI
Chapter VIII > > >

Children’s booksMarc Twain – Those Extraordinary Twins – Contents

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