The poor old lady was in a whirl of amazement and confusion, but she managed to stammer out:
"I'm sure I'm glad to make your acquaintance, sir--I mean, gentlemen. As for the delay, it is nothing, don't mention it. This is my daughter Rowena, sir--gentlemen. Please step into the parlor and sit down and have a bite and sup; you are dreadful wet and must be uncomfortable-- both of you, I mean."
But to the old lady's relief they courteously excused themselves, saying it would be wrong to keep the family out of their beds longer; then each head bowed in turn and uttered a friendly good night, and the singular figure moved away in the wake of Rowena's small brothers, who bore candles, and disappeared up the stairs.
The widow tottered into the parlor and sank into a chair with a gasp, and Rowena followed, tongue-tied and dazed. The two sat silent in the throbbing summer heat unconscious of the million-voiced music of the mosquitoes, unconscious of the roaring gale, the lashing and thrashing of the rain along the windows and the roof, the white glare of the lightning, the tumultuous booming and bellowing of the thunder; conscious of nothing but that prodigy, that uncanny apparition that had come and gone so suddenly--that weird strange thing that was so soft-spoken and so gentle of manner and yet had shaken them up like an earthquake with the shock of its gruesome aspect. At last a cold little shudder quivered along down the widow's meager frame and she said in a weak voice:
"Ugh, it was awful just the mere look of that phillipene!"
Rowena did not answer. Her faculties were still caked; she had not yet found her voice. Presently the widow said, a little resentfully:
"Always been used to sleeping together--in-fact, prefer it. And I was thinking it was to accommodate me. I thought it was very good of them, whereas a person situated as that young man is--"
"Ma, you oughtn't to begin by getting up a prejudice against him. I'm sure he is good-hearted and means well. Both of his faces show it."
"I'm not so certain about that. The one on the left--I mean the one on it's left--hasn't near as good a face, in my opinion, as its brother."
"Yes, Luigi; anyway it's the dark-skinned one; the one that was west of his brother when they stood in the door. Up to all kinds of mischief and disobedience when he was a boy, I'll be bound. I lay his mother had trouble to lay her hand on him when she wanted him. But the one on the right is as good as gold, I can see that."
"Yes, Angelo, I reckon, though I can't tell t'other from which by their names, yet awhile. But it's the right-hand one--the blond one. He has such kind blue eyes, and curly copper hair and fresh complexion--"
"And such a noble face!--oh, it is a noble face, ma, just royal, you may say! And beautiful deary me, how beautiful! But both are that; the dark one's as beautiful as--a picture. There's no such wonderful faces and handsome heads in this town none that even begin. And such hands, especially Angelo's--so shapely and--"
"Stuff, how could you tell which they belonged to?--they had gloves on."
"Why, didn't I see them take off their hats?"
"That don't signify. They might have taken off each other's hats. Nobody could tell. There was just a wormy squirming of arms in the air --seemed to be a couple of dozen of them, all writhing at once, and it just made me dizzy to see them go."
"Why, ma, I hadn't any difficulty. There's two arms on each shoulder--"
"There, now. One arm on each shoulder belongs to each of the creatures, don't it? For a person to have two arms on one shoulder wouldn't do him any good, would it? Of course not. Each has an arm on each shoulder. Now then, you tell me which of them belongs to which, if you can. They don't know, themselves--they just work whichever arm comes handy. Of course they do; especially if they are in a hurry and can't stop to think which belongs to which."
The mother seemed to have the rights of the argument, so the daughter abandoned the struggle.