The boats were very uncertain in low water in these primitive times. This time the Thursday boat had not arrived at ten at night—so the people had waited at the landing all day for nothing; they were driven to their homes by a heavy storm without having had a view of the illustrious foreigners.
Eleven o’clock came; and the Cooper house was the only one in the town that still had lights burning. The rain and thunder were booming yet, and the anxious family were still waiting, still hoping. At last there was a knock at the door, and the family jumped to open it. Two Negro men entered, each carrying a trunk, and proceeded upstairs toward the guest room. Then entered the twins—the handsomest, the best dressed, the most distinguished-looking pair of young fellows the West had ever seen. One was a little fairer than the other, but otherwise they were exact duplicates.
CHAPTER 6 — Swimming in Glory
Let us endeavor so
to live that when we come to die even
the undertaker will be sorry. —Pudd’nhead Wilson’s
Habit is habit, and
not to be flung out of the window by
any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time. —
Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar
At breakfast in the morning, the twins’ charm of manner and easy and polished bearing made speedy conquest of the family’s good graces. All constraint and formality quickly disappeared, and the friendliest feeling succeeded. Aunt Patsy called them by their Christian names almost from the beginning. She was full of the keenest curiosity about them, and showed it; they responded by talking about themselves, which pleased her greatly. It presently appeared that in their early youth they had known poverty and hardship. As the talk wandered along, the old lady watched for the right place to drop in a question or two concerning that matter, and when she found it, she said to the blond twin, who was now doing the biographies in his turn while the brunette one rested:
“If it ain’t asking what I ought not to ask, Mr. Angelo, how did you come to be so friendless and in such trouble when you were little? Do you mind telling? But don’t, if you do.”
“Oh, we don’t mind it at all, madam; in our case it was merely misfortune, and nobody’s fault. Our parents were well to do, there in Italy, and we were their only child. We were of the old Florentine nobility”—Rowena’s heart gave a great bound, her nostrils expanded, and a fine light played in her eyes—“and when the war broke out, my father was on the losing side and had to fly for his life. His estates were confiscated, his personal property seized, and there we were, in Germany, strangers, friendless, and in fact paupers. My brother and I were ten years old, and well educated for that age, very studious, very fond of our books, and well grounded in the German, French, Spanish, and English languages. Also, we were marvelous musical prodigies—if you will allow me to say it, it being only the truth.