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The Wrong Twin   By: (1867-1939)

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"The girl now glowered at each of them in turn. 'I don't care!' she muttered. 'I will, too, run away!'"

"'I can always find a little time for bankers. I never kept one waiting yet and I won't begin now.'"

"The girl was already reading Wilbur's palm, disclosing to him that he had a deep vein of cruelty in his nature."

"The malign eye was worn so proudly that the wearer bubbled vaingloriously of how he had achieved the stigma."


An establishment in Newbern Center, trading under the name of the Foto Art Shop, once displayed in its window a likeness of the twin sons of Dave Cowan. Side by side, on a lavishly fringed plush couch, they confronted the camera with differing aspects. One sat forward with a decently, even blandly, composed visage, nor had he meddled with his curls. His mate sat back, scowling, and fought the camera to the bitter end. His curls, at the last moment, had been mussed by a raging hand.

This was in the days of an earlier Newbern, when the twins were four and Winona Penniman began to be their troubled mentor troubled lest they should not grow up to be refined persons; a day when Dave Cowan, the widely travelled printer, could rightly deride its citizenry as small towners; a day when the Whipples were Newbern's sole noblesse and the Cowan twins not yet torn asunder.

The little town lay along a small but potent river that turned a few factory wheels with its eager current, and it drew sustenance from the hill farms that encircled it for miles about. You had to take a dingy way train up to the main line if you were going the long day's journey to New York, so that the Center of the name was often construed facetiously by outlanders.

Now Newbern Center is modern, and grows callous. Only the other day a wandering biplane circled the second nine of its new golf course, and of the four players on the tenth green but one paid it the tribute of an upward glance. Even this was a glance of resentment, for his partner at that instant eyed the alignment for a three foot putt and might be distracted. The annoyed player flung up a hostile arm at the thing and waved it from the course. Seemingly abashed, the machine slunk off into a cloud bank.

Old Sharon Whipple, the player who putted, never knew that above him had gone a thing he had very lately said could never be. Sharon has grown modern with the town. Not so many years ago he scoffed at rumours of a telephone. He called it a contraption, and said it would be against the laws of God and common sense. Later he proscribed the horseless carriage as an impracticable toy. Of flying he had affirmed that the fools who tried it would deservedly break their necks, and he had gustily raged at the waste of a hundred and seventy five acres of good pasture land when golf was talked.

Yet this very afternoon the inconsequent dotard had employed a telephone to summon his car to transport him to the links, and had denied even a glance of acknowledgment at the wonder floating above him. Much like that is growing Newbern. There was gasping aplenty when Winona Penniman abandoned the higher life and bought a flagrant pair of satin dancing slippers, but now the town lets far more sensational doings go almost unremarked.

The place tosses even with the modern fever of unrest. It has its bourgeoisie, its proletariat, its radicals, but also a city beautiful association and a rather captious sanitary league. Lately a visiting radical, on the occasion of a certain patriotic celebration, expressed a conventional wish to spit upon the abundantly displayed flag. A knowing friend was quick to dissuade him.

"Don't do it! Don't try it! Here, now, you got no freedom! Should you spit only on their sidewalk, they fine the heart's blood out of you."

Midway between these periods of very early and very late Newbern there was once a shining summer morning on which the Cowan twins, being then nine years old, set out from the Penniman home to pick wild blackberries along certain wooded lanes that environed the town... Continue reading book >>

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