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Chapter 53 THE HORATII AND CURIATII

  • With a slight alteration, I might begin this chapter after the manner of Livy,
  • in the 24th section of his first book:—"It _happened, that in each family wer_hree twin brothers, between whom there was little disparity in point of ag_r of strength."_
  • Among the steerage passengers of the Highlander, were two women from Armagh,
  • in Ireland, widows and sisters, who had each three twin sons, born, as the_aid, on the same day.
  • They were ten years old. Each three of these six cousins were as like as th_utually reflected figures in a kaleidoscope; and like the forms seen in _aleidoscope, together, as well as separately, they seemed to form a complet_igure. But, though besides this fraternal likeness, all six boys bore _trong cousin-german resemblance to each other; yet, the O'Briens were i_isposition quite the reverse of the O'Regans. The former were a timid, silen_rio, who used to revolve around their mother's waist, and seldom quit th_aternal orbit; whereas, the O'Regans were "broths of boys," full of mischie_nd fun, and given to all manner of devilment, like the tails of the comets.
  • Early every morning, Mrs. O'Regan emerged from the steerage, driving he_pirited twins before her, like a riotous herd of young steers; and made he_ay to the capacious deck-tub, full of salt water, pumped up from the sea, fo_he purpose of washing down the ship. Three splashes, and the three boys wer_ucking and diving together in the brine; their mother engaged in _shampooing_hem, though it was haphazard sort of work enough; a rub here, and a scru_here, as she could manage to fasten on a stray limb.
  • "Pat, ye divil, hould still while I wash ye. Ah! but it's you, Teddy, yo_ogue. Arrah, now, Mike, ye spalpeen, don't be mixing your legs up wit_at's."
  • The little rascals, leaping and scrambling with delight, enjoyed the spor_ightily; while this indefatigable, but merry matron, manipulated them al_ver, as if it were a matter of conscience.
  • Meanwhile, Mrs. O'Brien would be standing on the boatswain's locker—or rop_nd tar-pot pantry in the vessel's bows —with a large old quarto Bible, blac_ith age, laid before her between the knight-heads, and reading aloud to he_hree meek little lambs.
  • The sailors took much pleasure in the deck-tub performances of the O'Regans,
  • and greatly admired them always for their archness and activity; but th_ranquil O'Briens they did not fancy so much. More especially they dislike_he grave matron herself; hooded in rusty black; and they had a bitter grudg_gainst her book. To that, and the incantations muttered over it, the_scribed the head winds that haunted us; and Blunt, our Irish cockney, reall_elieved that Mrs. O'Brien purposely came on deck every morning, in order t_ecure a foul wind for the next ensuing twenty-four hours.
  • At last, upon her coming forward one morning, Max the Dutchman accosted her,
  • saying he was sorry for it, but if she went between the knight-heads agai_ith her book, the crew would throw it overboard for her.
  • Now, although contrasted in character, there existed a great warmth o_ffection between the two families of twins, which upon this occasion wa_uriously manifested.
  • Notwithstanding the rebuke and threat of the sailor, the widow silentl_ccupied her old place; and with her children clustering round her, began he_ow, muttered reading, standing right in the extreme bows of the ship, an_lightly leaning over them, as if addressing the multitudinous waves from _loating pulpit. Presently Max came behind her, snatched the book from he_ands, and threw it overboard. The widow gave a wail, and her boys set up _ry. Their cousins, then ducking in the water close by, at once saw the caus_f the cry; and springing from the tub, like so many dogs, seized Max by th_egs, biting and striking at him: which, the before timid little O'Briens n_ooner perceived, than they, too, threw themselves on the enemy, and th_mazed seaman found himself baited like a bull by all six boys.
  • And here it gives me joy to record one good thing on the part of the mate. H_aw the fray, and its beginning; and rushing forward, told Max that he woul_arm the boys at his peril; while he cheered them on, as if rejoiced at thei_iving the fellow such a tussle. At last Max, sorely scratched, bit, pinched,
  • and every way aggravated, though of course without a serious bruise, cried out
  • "enough!" and the assailants were ordered to quit him; but though the thre_'Briens obeyed, the three O'Regans hung on to him like leeches, and had to b_ragged off.
  • "There now, you rascal," cried the mate, "throw overboard another Bible, an_'ll send you after it without a bowline."
  • This event gave additional celebrity to the twins throughout the vessel. Tha_orning all six were invited to the quarter-deck, and reviewed by the cabin-
  • passengers, the ladies manifesting particular interest in them, as they alway_o concerning twins, which some of them show in public parks and gardens, b_topping to look at them, and questioning their nurses.
  • "And were you all born at one time?" asked an old lady, letting her eye run i_onder along the even file of white heads.
  • "Indeed, an' we were," said Teddy; "wasn't we, mother?"
  • Many more questions were asked and answered, when a collection was taken u_or their benefit among these magnanimous cabin-passengers, which resulted i_tarting all six boys in the world with a penny apiece.
  • I never could look at these little fellows without an inexplicable feelin_oming over me; and though there was nothing so very remarkable o_nprecedented about them, except the singular coincidence of two sister_imultaneously making the world such a generous present; yet, the mere fact o_here being twins always seemed curious; in fact, to me at least, all twin_re prodigies; and still I hardly know why this should be; for all of us i_ur own persons furnish numerous examples of the same phenomenon. Are not ou_humbs twins? A regular Castor and Pollux? And all of our fingers? Are not ou_rms, hands, legs, feet, eyes, ears, all twins; born at one birth, and as muc_like as they possibly can be?
  • Can it be, that the Greek grammarians invented their dual number for th_articular benefit of twins?