Which of you was born first?"
Angelo's head was resting against Luigi's; weariness had overcome him, and for the past five minutes he had been peacefully sleeping. The old ladies had dropped their voices to a lulling drone, to help him to steal the rest his brother wouldn't take him up-stairs to get. Luigi listened a moment to Angelo's regular breathing, then said in a voice barely audible:
"We were both born at the same time, but I am six months older than he is."
"For the land's sake!"
"'Sh! don't wake him up; he wouldn't like my telling this. It has always been kept secret till now."
"But how in the world can it be? If you were both born at the same time, how can one of you be older than the other?"
"It is very simple, and I assure you it is true. I was born with a full crop of hair, he was as bald as an egg for six months. I could walk six months before he could make a step. I finished teething six months ahead of him. I began to take solids six months before he left the breast. I began to talk six months before he could say a word. Last, and absolutely unassailable proof, the sutures in my skull closed six months ahead of his. Always just that six months' difference to a day. Was that accident? Nobody is going to claim that, I'm sure. It was ordained it was law it had its meaning, and we know what that meaning was. Now what does this overwhelming body of evidence establish? It establishes just one thing, and that thing it establishes beyond any peradventure whatever. Friends, we would not have it known for the world, and I must beg you to keep it strictly to yourselves, but the truth is, we are no more twins than you are."
The two old ladies were stunned, paralyzed-petrified, one may almost say --and could only sit and gaze vacantly at each other for some moments; then Aunt Betsy Hale said impressively:
"There's no getting around proof like that. I do believe it's the most amazing thing I ever heard of." She sat silent a moment or two and breathing hard with excitement, then she looked up and surveyed the strangers steadfastly a little while, and added: "Well, it does beat me, but I would have took you for twins anywhere."
"So would I, so would I," said Aunt Patsy with the emphasis of a certainty that is not impaired by any shade of doubt.
"Anybody would-anybody in the world, I don't care who he is," said Aunt Betsy with decision.
"You won't tell," said Luigi, appealingly.
"Oh, dear, no!" answered both ladies promptly, "you can trust us, don't you be afraid."
"That is good of you, and kind. Never let on; treat us always as if we were twins."
"You can depend on us," said Aunt Betsy, "but it won't be easy, because now that I know you ain't you don't seem so."
Luigi muttered to himself with satisfaction: "That swindle has gone through without change of cars."
It was not very kind of him to load the poor things up with a secret like that, which would be always flying to their tongues' ends every time they heard any one speak of the strangers as twins, and would become harder and harder to hang on to with every recurrence of the temptation to tell it, while the torture of retaining it would increase with every new strain that was applied; but he never thought of that, and probably would not have worried much about it if he had.
A visitor was announced--some one to see the twins. They withdrew to the parlor, and the two old ladies began to discuss with interest the strange things which they had been listening to. When they had finished the matter to their satisfaction, and Aunt Betsy rose to go, she stopped to ask a question:
"How does things come on between Roweny and Tom Driscoll?"
"Well, about the same. He writes tolerable often, and she answers tolerable seldom."
"Where is he?"
"In St. Louis, I believe, though he's such a gadabout that a body can't be very certain of him, I reckon."
"Don't Roweny know?"
"Oh, yes, like enough. I haven't asked her lately."
"Do you know how him and the judge are getting along now?"
"First rate, I believe.