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There was that about Mr. Twist which, once one had begun them, encouraged confidences; something kind about his eyes, something not too determined about his chin. He bore no resemblance to those pictures of efficient Americans in advertisements with which Europe is familiar,--eagle-faced gentlemen with intimidatingly firm mouths and chins, wiry creatures, physically and mentally perfect, offering in capital letters to make you Just Like Them. Mr. Twist was the reverse of eagle-faced. He was also the reverse of good-looking; that is, he would have been very handsome indeed, as Anna-Rose remarked several days later to Anna-Felicitas, when the friendship had become a settled thing,--which indeed it did as soon as Mr. Twist had finished wiping their eyes and noses that first afternoon, it being impossible, they discovered, to have one's eyes and noses wiped by somebody without being friends afterwards (for such an activity, said Anna-Felicitas, belonged to the same order of events as rescue from fire, lions, or drowning, after which in books you married him; but this having only been wiping, said Anna-Rose, the case was adequately met by friendship)--he would have been very handsome indeed if he hadn't had a face.
"But you have to have a face," said Anna-Felicitas, who didn't think it much mattered what sort it was so long as you could eat with it and see out of it.
"And as long as one is as kind as Mr. Twist," said Anna-Rose; but secretly she thought that having been begun so successfully at his feet, and carried upwards with such grace of long limbs and happy proportions, he might as well have gone on equally felicitously for the last little bit.
"I expect God got tired of him over that last bit," she mused, "and just put on any sort of head."
"Yes--that happened to be lying about," agreed Anna-Felicitas. "In a hurry to get done with him."
"Anyway he's very kind," said Anna-Rose, a slight touch of defiance in her voice.
"Oh, very kind," agreed Anna-Felicitas.
"And it doesn't matter about faces for being kind," said Anna-Rose.
"Not in the least," agreed Anna-Felicitas.
"And if it hadn't been for the submarine we shouldn't have got to know him. So you see," said Anna-Rose,--and again produced her favourite remark about good coming out of evil.
Those were the days in mid-Atlantic when England was lost in its own peculiar mists, and the sunshine of America was stretching out towards them. The sea was getting calmer and bluer every hour, and submarines more and more unlikely. If a ship could be pleasant, which Anna-Felicitas doubted, for she still found difficulty in dressing and undressing without being sea-sick and was unpopular in the cabin, this ship was pleasant. You lay in a deck-chair all day long, staring at the blue sky and blue sea that enclosed you as if you were living in the middle of a jewel, and tried not to remember--oh, there were heaps of things it was best not to remember; and when the rail of the ship moved up across the horizon too far into the sky, or moved down across it and showed too much water, you just shut your eyes and then it didn't matter; and the sun shone warm and steady on your face, and the wind tickled the tassel on the top of your German-knitted cap, and Mr. Twist came and read aloud to you, which sent you to sleep quicker than anything you had ever known.
The book he read out of and carried about with him his pocket was called "Masterpieces You Must Master," and was an American collection of English poetry, professing in its preface to be a Short Cut to Culture; and he would read with what at that time, it being new to them, seemed to the twins a strange exotic pronunciation, Wordsworth's "Ode to Dooty," and the effect was as if someone should dig a majestic Gregorian psalm in its ribs, and make it leap and giggle.
Anna-Rose, who had no reason to shut her eyes, for she didn't mind what the ship's rail did with the horizon, opened them very round when first Mr. Twist started on his Masterpieces. She was used to hearing them read by her mother in the adorable husky voice that sent such thrills through one, but she listened with the courtesy and final gratitude due to the efforts to entertain her of so amiable a friend, and only the roundness of her eyes showed her astonishment at this waltzing round, as it appeared to her, of Mr. Twist with the Stern Daughter of the Voice of God. He also read "Lycidas" to her, that same "Lycidas" Uncle Arthur took for a Derby winner, and only Anna-Rose's politeness enabled her to refrain from stopping up her ears. As it was, she fidgeted to the point of having to explain, on Mr. Twist's pausing to gaze at her questioningly through the smoke-coloured spectacles he wore on deck, which made him look so like a gigantic dragon-fly, that it was because her deck-chair was so very much harder than she was.
Anna-Felicitas, who considered that, if these things were short-cuts to anywhere, seeing she knew them all by heart she must have long ago got there, snoozed complacently. Sometimes for a few moments she would drop off really to sleep, and then her mouth would fall open, which worried Anna-Rose, who couldn't bear her to look even for a moment less beautiful than she knew she was, so that she fidgeted more than ever, unable, pinned down by politeness and the culture being administered, to make her shut her mouth and look beautiful again by taking and shaking her. Also Anna-Felicitas had a trick of waking up suddenly and forgetting to be polite, as one does when first one wakes up and hasn't had time to remember one is a lady. "To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures noo," Mr. Twist would finish, for instance, with a sort of gulp of satisfaction at having swallowed yet another solid slab of culture; and Anna-Felicitas, returning suddenly to consciousness, would murmur, with her eyes still shut and her head lolling limply, things like, "After all, it does rhyme with blue. I wonder why, then, one still doesn't like it."
Then Mr. Twist would turn his spectacles towards her in mild inquiry, and Anna-Rose, as always, would rush in and elaborately explain what Anna-Felicitas meant, which was so remote from anything resembling what she had said that Mr. Twist looked more mildly inquiring than ever.
Usually Anna-Felicitas didn't contradict Anna-Rose, being too sleepy or too lazy, but sometimes she did, and then Anna-Rose got angry, and would get what the Germans call a red head and look at Anna-Felicitas very severely and say things, and Mr. Twist would close his book and watch with that alert, cocked-up-ear look of a sympathetic and highly interested terrier; but sooner or later the ship would always give a roll, and Anna-Felicitas would shut her eyes and fade to paleness and become the helpless bundle of sickness that nobody could possibly go on being severe with.
The passengers in the second class were more generally friendly than those in the first class. The first class sorted itself out into little groups, and whispered about each other, as Anna-Rose observed, watching their movements across the rope that separated her from them. The second class remained to the end one big group, frayed out just a little at the edge in one or two places.
The chief fraying out was where the Twinkler kids, as the second-class young men, who knew no better, dared to call them, interrupted the circle by talking apart with Mr. Twist. Mr. Twist had no business there. He was a plutocrat of the first class; but in spite of the regulations which cut off the classes from communicating, with a view apparently to the continued sanitariness of the first class, the implication being that the second class was easily infectious and probably overrun, there he was every day and several times in every day. He must have heavily squared the officials, the second-class young men thought until the day when Mr. Twist let it somehow be understood that he had known the Twinkler young ladies for years, dandled them in their not very remote infancy on his already full-grown knee, and had been specially appointed to look after them on this journey.
Mr. Twist did not specify who had appointed him, except to the Twinkler young ladies themselves, and to them he announced that it was no less a thing, being, or creature, than Providence. The second-class young men, therefore, in spite of their rising spirits as danger lay further behind, and their increasing tendency, peculiar to those who go on ships, to become affectionate, found themselves no further on in acquaintance with the Misses Twinkler the last day of the voyage than they had been the first. Not that, under any other conditions, they would have so much as noticed the existence of the Twinkler kids. In their blue caps, pulled down tight to their eyebrows and hiding every trace of hair, they looked like bald babies. They never came to meals; their assiduous guardian, or whatever he was, feeding them on deck with the care of a mother-bird for its fledglings, so that nobody except the two German ladies in their cabin had seen them without the caps. The young men put them down as half-grown only, somewhere about fourteen they thought, and nothing but what, if they were boys instead of girls, would have been called louts.
Still, a ship is a ship, and it is wonderful what can be managed in the way of dalliance if one is shut up on one long enough; and the Misses Twinkler, in spite of their loutishness, their apparent baldness, and their constant round-eyed solemnity, would no doubt have been the objects of advances before New York was reached if it hadn't been for Mr. Twist. There wasn't a girl under forty in the second class on that voyage, the young men resentfully pointed out to each other, except these two kids who were too much under it, and a young lady of thirty who sat manicuring her nails most of the day with her back supported by a life-boat, and polishing them with red stuff till they flashed rosily in the sun. This young lady was avoided for the first two days, while the young men still remembered their mothers, because of what she looked like; but was greatly loved for the rest of the voyage precisely for that reason.
Still, every one couldn't get near her. She was only one; and there were at least a dozen active, cooped-up young men taking lithe, imprisoned exercise in long, swift steps up and down the deck, ready for any sort of enterprise, bursting with energy and sea-air and spirits. So that at last the left-overs, those of the young men the lady of the rosy nails was less kind to, actually in their despair attempted ghastly flirtations with the two German ladies. They approached them with a kind of angry amorousness. They tucked them up roughly in rugs. They brought them cushions as though they were curses. And it was through this rapprochement, in the icy warmth of which the German ladies expanded like bulky flowers and grew at least ten years younger, the ten years they shed being their most respectable ones, that the ship became aware of the nationality of the Misses Twinkler.
The German ladies were not really German, as they explained directly there were no more submarines about, for a good woman, they said, becomes automatically merged into her husband, and they, therefore, were merged into Americans, both of them, and as loyal as you could find, but the Twinklers were the real thing, they said,--real, unadulterated, arrogant Junkers, which is why they wouldn't talk to anybody; for no Junker, said the German ladies, thinks anybody good enough to be talked to except another Junker. The German ladies themselves had by sheer luck not been born Junkers. They had missed it very narrowly, but they had missed it, for which they were very thankful seeing what believers they were, under the affectionate manipulation of their husbands, in democracy; but they came from the part of Germany where Junkers most abound, and knew the sort of thing well.
It seemed to Mr. Twist, who caught scraps of conversation as he came and went, that in the cabin the Twinklers must have alienated sympathy. They had. They had done more; they had got themselves actively disliked.
From the first moment when Anna-Rose had dared to peep into their shrouded bunks the ladies had been prejudiced, and this prejudice had later flared up into a great and justified dislike. The ladies, to begin with, hadn't known that they were von Twinklers, but had supposed them mere Twinklers, and the von, as every German knows, makes all the difference, especially in the case of Twinklers, who, without it, were a race, the ladies knew, of small shopkeepers, laundresses and postmen in the Westphalian district, but with it were one of the oldest families in Prussia; known to all Germans; possessed of a name ensuring subservience wherever it went.
In this stage of preliminary ignorance the ladies had treated the two apparently ordinary Twinklers with the severity their conduct, age, and obvious want of means deserved; and when, goaded by their questionings, the smaller and more active Twinkler had let out her von at them much as one lets loose a dog when one is alone and weak against the attacks of an enemy, instead of falling in harmoniously with the natural change of attitude of the ladies, which became immediately perfectly polite and conciliatory, as well as motherly in its interest and curiosity, the two young Junkers went dumb. They would have nothing to do with the most motherly questioning. And just in proportion as the German ladies found themselves full of eager milk of kindness, only asking to be permitted to nourish, so did they find themselves subsequently, after a day or two of such uncloaked repugnance to it, left with quantities of it useless on their hands and all going sour.
From first to last the Twinklers annoyed them. As plain Twinklers they had been tiresome in a hundred ways in the cabin, and as von Twinklers they were intolerable in their high-nosed indifference.
It had naturally been expected by the elder ladies at the beginning of the journey, that two obscure Twinklers of such manifest youth should rise politely and considerately each morning very early, and get themselves dressed and out of the way in at the most ten minutes, leaving the cabin clear for the slow and careful putting together bit by bit of that which ultimately emerged a perfect specimen of a lady of riper years, but the weedy Twinkler insisted on lying in her berth so late that if the ladies wished to be in time for the best parts of breakfast, which they naturally and passionately did wish, they were forced to dress in her presence, which was most annoying and awkward.
It is true she lay with closed eyes, apparently apathetic, but you never know with persons of that age. Experience teaches not to trust them. They shut their eyes, and yet seem, later on, to have seen; they apparently sleep, and afterwards are heard asking their spectacled American friend what people do on a ship, a place of so much gustiness, if their hair gets blown off into the sea. Also the weedy one had a most tiresome trick of being sick instantly every time Odol was used, or a little brandy was drunk. Odol is most refreshing; it has a lovely smell, without which no German bedroom is complete. And the brandy was not common schnaps, but an old expensive brandy that, regarded as a smell, was a credit to anybody's cabin.
The German ladies would have persisted, and indeed did persist in using Odol and drinking a little brandy, indifferent to the feeble prayer from the upper berth which floated down entreating them not to, but in their own interests they were forced to give it up. The objectionable child did not pray a second time; she passed immediately from prayer to performance. Of two disagreeables wise women choose the lesser, but they remain resentful.
The other Twinkler, the small active one, did get up early and take herself off, but she frequently mixed up her own articles of toilet with those belonging to the ladies, and would pin up her hair, preparatory to washing her face, with their hairpins.
When they discovered this they hid them, and she, not finding any, having come to the end of her own, lost no time in irresolution but picked up their nail-scissors and pinned up her pigtails with that.
It was a particularly sacred pair of nail-scissors that almost everything blunted. To use them for anything but nails was an outrage, but the grossest outrage was to touch them at all. When they told her sharply that the scissors were very delicate and she was instantly to take them out of her hair, she tugged them out in a silence that was itself impertinent, and pinned up her pigtails with their buttonhook instead.
Then they raised themselves on their elbows in their berths and asked her what sort of a bringing up she could have had, and they raised their voices as well, for though they were grateful, as they later on declared, for not having been born Junkers, they had nevertheless acquired by practice in imitation some of the more salient Junker characteristics.
"You are salop," said the upper berth lady,--which is untranslatable, not on grounds of propriety but of idiom. It is not, however, a term of praise.
"Yes, that is what you are--salop," echoed the lower berth lady. "And your sister is salop too--lying in bed till all hours."
"It is shameful for girls to be salop," said the upper berth.
"I didn't know it was your buttonhook. I thought it was ours," said Anna-Rose, pulling this out too with vehemence.
"That is because you are salop," said the lower berth.
"And I didn't know it wasn't our scissors either."
"Salop, salop," said the lower berth, beating her hand on the wooden edge of her bunk.
"And--and I'm sorry."
Anna-Rose's face was very red. She didn't look sorry, she looked angry. And so she was; but it was with herself, for having failed in discernment and grown-upness. She ought to have noticed that the scissors and buttonhook were not hers. She had pounced on them with the ill-considered haste of twelve years old. She hadn't been a lady,--she whose business it was to be an example and mainstay to Anna-Felicitas, in all things going first, showing her the way.
She picked up the sponge and plunged it into the water, and was just going to plunge her annoyed and heated face in after it when the upper berth lady said: "Your mother should be ashamed of herself to have brought you up so badly."
"And send you off like this before she has taught you even the ABC of manners," said the lower berth.
"Evidently," said the upper berth, "she can have none herself."
"Evidently," said the lower berth, "she is herself salop."
The sponge, dripping with water, came quickly out of the basin in Anna-Rose's clenched fist. For one awful instant she stood there in her nightgown, like some bird of judgment poised for dreadful flight, her eyes flaming, her knotted pigtails bristling on the top of her head.
The wet sponge twitched in her hand. The ladies did not realize the significance of that twitching, and continued to offer large angry faces as a target. One of the faces would certainly have received the sponge and Anna-Rose have been disgraced for ever, if it hadn't been for the prompt and skilful intervention of Anna-Felicitas.
For Anna-Felicitas, roused from her morning languor by the unusual loudness of the German ladies' voices, and smitten into attention and opening of her eyes, heard the awful things they were saying and saw the sponge. Instantly she knew, seeing it was Anna-Rose who held it, where it would be in another second, and hastily putting out a shaking little hand from her top berth, caught hold feebly but obstinately of the upright ends of Anna-Rose's knotted pigtails.
"I'm going to be sick," she announced with great presence of mind and entire absence of candour.
She knew, however, that she only had to sit up in order to be sick, and the excellent child--das gute Kind, as her father used to call her because she, so conveniently from the parental point of view, invariably never wanted to be or do anything particularly--without hesitation sacrificed herself in order to save her sister's honour, and sat up and immediately was.
By the time Anna-Rose had done attending to her, all fury had died out. She never could see Anna Felicitas lying back pale and exhausted after one of these attacks without forgiving her and everybody else everything.
She climbed up on the wooden steps to smoothe her pillow and tuck her blanket round her, and when Anna-Felicitas, her eyes shut, murmured, "Christopher--don't mind them--" and she suddenly realized, for they never called each other by those names except in great moments of emotion when it was necessary to cheer and encourage, what Anna-Felicitas had saved her from, and that it had been done deliberately, she could only whisper back, because she was so afraid of crying, "No, no, Columbus dear--of course--who really cares about them--" and came down off the steps with no fight left in her.
Also the wrath of the ladies was considerably assuaged. They had retreated behind their curtains until the so terribly unsettled Twinkler should be quiet again, and when once more they drew them a crack apart in order to keep an eye on what the other one might be going to do next and saw her doing nothing except, with meekness, getting dressed, they merely inquired what part of Westphalia she came from, and only in the tone they asked it did they convey that whatever part it was, it was anyhow a contemptible one.
"We don't come from Westphalia," said Anna-Rose, bristling a little, in spite of herself, at their persistent baiting.
Anna-Felicitas listened in cold anxiousness. She didn't want to have to be sick again. She doubted whether she could bear it.
"You must come from somewhere," said the lower berth, "and being a Twinkler it must be Westphalia."
"We don't really," said Anna-Rose, mindful of Anna-Felicitas's words and making a great effort to speak politely. "We come from England."
"England!" cried the lower berth, annoyed by this quibbling. "You were born in Westphalia. All Twinklers are born in Westphalia."
"Invariably they are," said the upper berth. "The only circumstance that stops them is if their mothers happen to be temporarily absent."
"But we weren't, really," said Anna-Rose, continuing her efforts to remain bland.
"Are you pretending--pretending to us," said the lower berth lady, again beating her hand on the edge of her bunk, "that you are not German?"
"Our father was German," said Anna-Rose, driven into a corner, "but I don't suppose he is now. I shouldn't think he'd want to go on being one directly he got to a really neutral place."
"Has he fled his country?" inquired the lower berth sternly, scenting what she had from the first suspected, something sinister in the Twinkler background.
"I suppose one might call it that," said Anna-Rose after a pause of consideration, tying her shoe-laces.
"Do you mean to say," said the ladies with one voice, feeling themselves now on the very edge of a scandal, "he was forced to fly from Westphalia?"
"I suppose one might put it that way," said Anna-Rose, again considering.
She took her cap off its hook and adjusted it over her hair with a deliberation intended to assure Anna-Felicitas that she was remaining calm. "Except that it wasn't from Westphalia he flew, but Prussia," she said.
"Prussia?" cried the ladies as one woman, again rising themselves on their elbows.
"That's where our father lived," said Anna-Rose, staring at them in her surprise at their surprise. "So of course, as he lived there, when he died he did that there too."
"Prussia?" cried the ladies again. "He died? You said your father fled his country."
"No. You said that," said Anna-Rose.
She gave her cap a final tug down over her ears and turned to the door. She felt as if she quite soon again in spite of Anna-Felicitas, might not be able to be a lady.
"After all, it is what you do when you go to heaven," she said as she opened the door, unable to resist, according to her custom, having the last word.
"But Prussia?" they still cried, still button-holing her, as it were, from afar. "Then--you were born in Prussia?"
"Yes, but we couldn't help it," said Anna-Rose; and shut the door quickly behind her.
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