Chapter VIII

By Mark Twain
From The Comedy of Those Extraordinary Twins (1893-1894).


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 Angelo'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 Angelo 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 baptised at the hour appointed. This swept the town like wildfire, and mightily reinforced the enthusism 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 countrywards, toward all points of the compass; so, whereas before only the farmers and their wives were intending to come end 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 forgot- ten, 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. Angelo 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 Lulgi.

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 Annt 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 must n't talk, and you must n't retch and gag that way, either -- you '11 wake up your poor brother."

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

"Sh-h ! Don't make a noise, dear. You must n'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 have n't left a good fourth of it in the bottom ! Come-that's a good boy."

"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 baptised ! 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 could n'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 could n't baptise 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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