The Twiddle Twins by wxr16887


									                              THE TWIDDLE TWINS.
   It was a sultry August day. The sky          greater task than his languid ambition was
was covered with a thick blanket of clouds,     willing to undertake.
which yielded no cooling rain, and scarce-         Nevertheless, after riding two or three
ly moved in the still air. Though these         rods beyond the bridge, Mr. Twiddle sud-
clouds shut out the direct rays of the sun,     denly checked his wheel. He came so
they also seemed to shut out every breath       nearly to a stand-still that he lost his bal-
of wind, and to pen in and reflect back         ance and dismounted after a few prelimi-
the quivering heat which rose from the          nary wobbles. Then he leaned one arm
steaming earth. The road was deserted.          on his saddle and stared sharply, with his
Its length of baked gravel and clay stretched   mouth ajar, at an object under the edge of
away a silent and lonely whitish-yellow         a thicket on the left-hand side of the road.
streak across the languid landscape. Mr.        Presently Mr. Twiddle shut his mouth
Twiddle drove his wheel along with a            with a snap, pursed his lips, and emitted a
faint and half-wilted indifference as to        long whistle, expressive of great astonish-
whether he ever arrived anywhere. He            ment. Waiting a moment as if to see
had the whole road to himself, and he took      what effect his whistle would produce, he
improper liberties with it, wobbling all        pronounced in a solemn and emphatic
over its glowing breadth, with many lazy        manner the word “Je-ru-sa-lem!” expres-
side-lurches, as if he did not care how         sive of prodigious surprise.
many rods to the mile he made of it. It            The object whose appearance in that re-
was so hot—so almost infernally hot—            tired and silent place had thus singularly
that nobody else was abroad on the high-        upset Mr. Twiddle’s long and pretty
way. Man and beast remained at home.            thoroughly trained equanimity—a virtue
As he rode the sweat poured from every          which receives a pretty sharp and con-
pore of his body, and enveloped him in a        tinual tillage at the hands of the club
filmy steam that would have been almost         wits—was a small red and white checkered
visible if anybody had been there to see        shawl spread out upon the grass, with a
him. Where he was riding the road               three or four months’ old baby sitting bolt
traversed a wood, without a house within        upright in the middle of it, and no other
a mile of him, either before or behind.         person, especially no female person, any-
This wood on either side, instead of look-      where apparent either to sight or hearing!
ing cool and inviting, seemed like two             This baby was dressed in crumpled
rows of vast ovens, out of whose myriad         white muslin, with a soiled pink ribbon
mouths exhaled a heated air, making the         about its waist. It held in one of its
highway thus walled in still more insuffer-     chubby fists a rubber rattle. It stared at
ably sultry. The woods seemed tiresome          Mr. Twiddle for a minute with unwinking
because of their monotonous silence and         eyes, and a very business-like expression,
sameness.      No squirrel rustled their        as if taking an inventory of his visible
leaves; no bird flitted among their branch-     qualities. Apparently its investigation
es; even the insects had retired to the         proved satisfactory, for it suddenly raised
deeper shades to seek shelter from the          its rattle and brought it down with a vigo-
heat.                                           rous whack of approval on one of its legs,
   Presently Mr. Twiddle rolled slowly          and looked at Mr. Twiddle to note if he
across a wooden bridge spanning a ravine,       had anything to say about it.
through which flowed a sluggish brook.             Mr. Twiddle looked up the road, down
If the water of this brook had exhibited a      the road, all along the wood, and at the
lively motion. if it had looked cool. clear.    brook. He saw nobody; he heard
and inviting, for either drinking or bathing;   nobody.      Then he looked at the baby
Mr. Twiddle would have been tempted to          again, and remarked with sincere earnest-
leave his saddle and refresh himself by         ness:—
bathing his ‘head, neck, and arms in its           “Great Scott!”
current. But its water flowed slowly and           This remark the baby immediately
looked dark and warm; the bunks were            applauded with another vigorous whack
steep, and the exertion of dismounting and      with its rattle.
going down to the water appeared a                Thus far Mr. Twiddle had stood facing
360                           THE TWIDDLE TWINS.
the baby, and had not looked at the oppo-      other. They were both there. He went
site side of the road. But now a slight        up close to the right-hand baby, and ven-
 noise behind him caused him to suddenly       tured to touch its head softly with his right
 turn about. He started violently, and let     forefinger.    It was a sure enough live
 his wheel drop rattling to the ground. In     baby. Then he crossed over the road and
falling, one of the handles grazed the pet     touched the head of the other baby with
corn of his left foot. He immediately          his left forefinger. It was a no-mistake
gathered up this foot affectionately in both   flesh-and-blood infant. No optical delusion
his hands, and sought to press it to his       about either of them. Then Mr. Twiddle
bosom, while he hopped ludicrously about       went back to his wheel, mopped his face
on the other foot till he stumbled and sat     and neck some more with his wet handker-
down bard on the road. All this time he        chief, and cried out:—
kept his eyes fixed upon the object which         “Hello-o!”
had a second time upset his equanimity.           No reply from anybody. He tried it
After sitting and staring a few moments,       again, a good deal louder and longer:—
Mr. Twiddle slowly arose and dusted off           “Hello-o-o!”
the expanse of his knickerbockers with            No answer. Silence everywhere, thick
various slaps of his hands.        Then he     enough to be felt. Then Mr. Twiddle laid
ejaculated with solemn force and deep          his head back between his shoulder-blades,
feeling:—                                      opened his mouth wide, shut his eyes, took
   “I’ll be blowed!”                           in a big breath, and let out a yell that
   This second object which had so singu-      would have strained the vocal chord of a
larly disarranged Mr. Twiddle’s collection     four-horse-power steam calliope:
of ideas was ‘another small red and white         “Hello-o-o-ah!”
checkered shawl, spread upon the grass,           He paused for a reply, and gasped for
under the edge of the thicket, on the right-   air. Not a sound anywhere; not an indi-
hand side of the road, with another baby,      cation that there ever would be any sound.
very much like the first one in size and       Only the two babies looked at his perform-
appearance, and also dressed in soiled         ance with grave surprise and some alarm.
white crumpled muslin, with a pink ribbon      But they concluded that this was merely a
about its waist, sitting bold upright in the   vocal entertainment gotten up out of pure
middle of the shawl, and staring at the        kindness of heart for their amusement,
astonished wheelman. This second baby          so they simultaneously banged their rattles
in white was also armed with a rubber          again in unanimous applause.
rattle.                                           After waiting a few moments in the vain
   Seeing that this second baby made no        hope that somebody would appear, Mr.
reply to Mr. Twiddle’s first eloquent re-      Twiddle began to consider the situation
mark, he looked first at one, then at the      seriously.    It was exceedingly awkward
other, of the singular phenomena, mean-        and perplexing. He thought of mounting
while mopping his face and neck with a         his wheel and riding on to give an alarm
handkerchief already saturated with sweat,     at the first house where he could find a
and observed with increased emphasis, in-      woman. It seemed to him that a woman
dicative of the extreme climax of sur-         was the one central necessity of the uni-
prise:—                                        verse. His respect for woman rose almost
   “Well, by George!”                          to veneration. He felt that he would
   To this pertinent remark both babies        gladly give all the money in his pockets,
responded by simultaneously banging their      and his note for any reasonable amount in
rubber rattles down upon their knees, pro-     addition, for a woman,—any sort of a
ducing the effect of unanimous applause.       woman, young or old, ugly or beautiful,
   Mr. Twiddle now walked to the right-        without regard to race, color, or previous
hand side of the road, where We mounted a      condition,—anything capable of taking
log and peered carefully into the recesses     charge of babies.
of the wood. Nobody in sight. Then he             On further reflection he concluded not
crossed to the left-hand side of the road,     to ride on. Suppose a cow should come
mounted a stump, and looked sharply into       along and trample on one of the babies, or
all the woody vistas. Nobody there. Then       a hog, or dog, and attack them, or a snake.
he walked back to the bridge, and looked       He thought that either of these animals
over each side down at the water. Nobody       would be a fool of its kind to travel on
visible. Then he went back to his wheel,       such a hot day; still one might do so, and
and looked first at one baby and then at the   he dare not take the risk. He wished
                              THE TWIDDLE TWINS.                                         361
ardently that some traveller would appear;       ing in her large, black eyes; but her face
but the road was deserted and lonely, as         was as sober as the face on a postage-stamp.
far as he could see in either direction.            Mr. Twiddle mechanically lifted his hat
    Suppose these deserted babies should         and bowed. Both the women nodded, but
cry? His hair rose at the thought. He            said nothing, only continuing to look at
felt sure they would begin to cry pretty         him demurely. Then the mother began
soon. Suppose they should get hungry?            making strange motions and antics with
Dreadful supposition! They would, they           her fingers, her hands, and her free arm,
must, ere long. A cold chill ran down            looking fixedly at the girl. The girl shook
his spine, in spite of the heat of the day.      her pretty head solemnly, and then made
    While he was thus cogitating, the right-     antic motions at the mother with her fin-
hand baby began preparations for crying.         gers, her hands, and her free arm. Then
It snarled up its little face. Mr. Twiddle       the women turned to Mr. Twiddle, who
hastily snapped his fingers at it. It looked     was watching this performance with in-
a little astonished for a moment, and then       creasing amazement, and began making
snarled up its face again. He rattled his        queer motions at him. He stared, backed
watch-chain; no case. Then he blew a             away a step or two, and fell over his
soft note on his wheelman’s whistle. Only        wheel. Both women advanced hurriedly.
a temporary check. It suddenly emitted           He thought they were about to attack him;
an unmistakable yell, indicating a fixed         but the kind concern in their faces, which,
and business-like determination. He ran          in spite of themselves, was mingled with
to it and tried to stop it by shaking its        mirthful smiles. reassured him. He arose,
rattle, poking his finger at it, and saying      dusted himself with furtive slaps of his
“Boo!” and other demonstrations of               hands, picked up his wheel, and leaned
which he had read as the proper thing to         upon its saddle, still gazing at the pair
do in such cases. The baby looked at him         with deep astonishment. Then the mother
a moment with indignant astonishment,            smoothed a place in the surface of the road
and then shut both eyes, puckered its face       with the sole of her neat walking-shoe,
all over, and howled. Mr. Twiddle                stooped and traced in the sand with her
 stooped to pick it up; but suddenly drew        forefinger the words:—
back. Suppose it should be—sweaty?                  “Deaf and dumb.”
Very likely that was what ailed it. As if           She pointed to this inscription, and Mr.
to reduce him to despair, at this instant        Twiddle bent and read it. He bowed,
the other baby began to cry also. Proba-         smiled, and pawed the air with lunatic
bly they were both—sweaty. The situa-            gestures, which he fondly imagined con-
tion was simply appalling. Consternation;        veyed to the woman a whole dictionary
 confusion; chaos; all nature demanding a        full of expressions of sincere sympathy.
 woman!                                          But she watched. all his gestures closely,
    Suddenly Mr. Twiddle heard flying            and then shook her head, signifying that
footsteps. Two women darted past him.            she did not understand. He was about to
One swooped upon the right-hand baby.            go through another ridiculous pantomime
 She was a comely woman, apparently              when the girl, who had been shaking with
aged twenty-five or twenty-six years, and        suppressed merriment during his first at-
 evidently a mother. She lifted the child        tempt at sign-talking, suddenly burst out
to her bosom, where it instantly cuddled          laughing in a clear, joyous, irrepressible
and became quiet. The other was a pretty         peal. She laughed till she sat down on
 girl, apparently about eighteen years old.       the grass, with the baby in her arms, and
 She snatched up the left-hand baby, gave         the tears softened her dark eyes. Mr.
 it a dexterous toss or two, and a pat on the     Twiddle’s confusion was immense. He
back, when it also became quiet. Then            grinned, then looked sober, then grinned
the pair faced Mr. Twiddle and scrutinized        again, then looked indignant, and finally
him with a decorousness so demure and             stood smiling like an idiot. As soon as
grave that he was instantly sure that they        the girl could command herself she spoke
were inwardly laughing at him. No                 in a soft and ladylike voice:—
woman would be quite so unnaturally                  “I be your pardon, sir, but really it
 sober, he felt, unless she was sitting on the    was too funny to resist. We were sitting
safety-valve of her laughter, to prevent an       under the bridge when you first came, and
escape of pent-up merriment. The girl,            saw the whole thing through a crevice.
he was convinced, was inwardly boiling           We had been down to the brook to bathe
with giggle. Imps of mischief were danc-          our faces, it was so hot. You looked so
362                            THE PERFECT CANOE.
astonished when you saw the babies that          Mr. Rudd had a wife also a deaf-mute.
we really couldn’t help waiting and watch-       He fell to chatting with the young lady
ing you. It was rude, perhaps, but I             while he walked with the pair to their
really never saw anything more amusing           house. At the gate he expressed a desire
in my life. But we both beg your pardon.         for a glass of water, when he was invited
It was kind and gentlemanly in you to            in and given a glass of iced milk, which
stay by the deserted little darlings, and we     Miss Wilson said she had been told was
thank you. This is my sister, Mrs. Rudd;         the favorite drink of wheelmen. After
I am Jenny Wilson. She is deaf and               that he mounted his wheel again, and rode
dumb. You are Mr. Twiddle, I think.              slowly into the city.
We have often seen your club ride by, and           This is the reason why Mr. Twiddle
know the names of most of the gentlemen.”        always votes to have the club ride on the
   Mr. Twiddle instantly knew that the           O. Road. This is the reason why the club
home of these ladies was the next farm-          members so often speak of “The Twiddle
house. He had met Mr. Rudd, a prosper-           Twins?
ous deaf-mute; but he did not know that                                 President Bates.

                              THE PERFECT CANOE.
   It is strange, yet nevertheless true,         yond improving. But perfection is always
that although the A.C.A. brings together         just a little in advance, and the last screw
within its membership persons with such a        is never driven home nor the last piece of
variety of tastes, habits, social conditions,    leather affixed, and the canoeist dies—
religious faiths, political views, professions   if a canoeist ever does die—with the irre-
and trades, yet there is one point upon          pressible thought in his brain that if he
which its members perfectly agree,—one           had only placed that cleat a little farther
bugle-note sounded in chorus in which            aft, he would have surely acquired that
there is no discord,—one supreme belief          ignis fatuus, the perfect canoe.
grounded in every mind, and held as firm             So much of an opposing nature has been
as the mountain on its base. This one            written on the perfect canoe that, after
point of harmonious opinion is, that each        reading the various accounts, one is left in
member possesses the most perfect craft in       a mixed-up state of feeling as to what is
existence. Whether the particular mem-           what, and has confused, nightmarish ideas
ber owns a Shadow, a Princess, a Peter-          as to whether the perfect article should be
boro’, or a St. Paul; whether it is lap-         thirty inches long and fourteen feet broad,
streak or smooth skin; whether it is of          the hatches be dagger-shaped or suspended
wood, tin, leather, paper, canvas, or birch-     from the bow in a semicircle, the mast be
bark, he is equally willing to be qualified      cambered so as to turn the rain, or the
to the fact that his canoe and its appoint-      keel be rolled up in water-proof bags and
ments are the handsomest and most availa-        stowed away in the mast-tube. And
ble under the sun. Even the modest owner         then the sail-rigging-literature, that has
of the original Stella Maris, who said in a      driven so many poor canoeists to the verge
published article, some time since, that he       of insanity in their endeavor to keep the
did not claim absolute perfection for his         lines from kinking in their brains! Oh
model, blushed, I have no doubt, when he          my! Even Tyson, after writing an article
wrote the lines, at his own bold dissem-          on top-gallant halyards and pulley-lifts, has
bling.                                            been known to faint dead away when he
   Not that any member thinks that his            read the matter in cold print and endeavored
canoe cannot be improved upon. Oh, no!            to understand it; and Whitlock, our own
 Bless you, no! for he is always tinkering        gallant Whitlock, is more than suspected
at it with new ideas which he considers the       of being compelled to have his eyes
ne plus ultra of canoeistic science; but he       bandaged and his ears filled with cotton
merely believes that no one else under-          while working upon one of his awe-in-
stands so well as he what it is that is de-       spiring treatises on balance lateens and tri-
fined by the words “a perfect canoe.” Just        angular lugs, lest he might commit violence
as soon as he shortens his mast a little,         upon himself before his task was completed.
puts in a screw here, or fastens a leather          Now, if every member of the A.C.A. pos-
strap on there then his canoe will be be-         sessed a canoe such as is mine, they might

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