Their mother dead early, their father uninterested, the Wallace twins had grown up in the care of an ever-changing succession of housekeepers, with no one close but one another. Fortunately, they had always been content with that company and had almost never been apart.
Now, Adam has met someone and, without preamble, married her. Robert is bereft, and the stage is set for a Christmas nobody is likely to forget.
A short story from our Nibs literary line.
“The happiest day of their lives was probably the day their father died.” I told the police that when they questioned me, and I don’t think I did the Wallace twins any disservice by saying so.
Doctor Wallace was born to money but, by means of a felicitous marriage to a woman of similar means and little spirit who died soon after the twins were born, and by a single-minded and often ruthless devotion to the management of his investments, he had multiplied that initially modest wealth many times over.
“A man without a heart,” some described him, but I do not think that is so—I believe his love for his money was a grand passion indeed, and if there was nothing of affection left over for his sons, I suspect he thought the cost well worth it.
Death, however, is the one investor who can’t be cheated, and in time he collected his due and those twin boys, now of a majority, inherited both a considerable fortune and, for the first time in their lives, a measure of freedom.
They had grown up, though, in the care of a constantly changing number of housekeepers, with no one close but one another, and while they must surely have felt a sense of release to watch that gilded coffin lowered into the ground, they were entirely unprepared at this late stage in life to venture into the larger world where they might have had some pleasure of the money that was now at their disposal.
I say it to their credit, they satisfied themselves with tending the garden rather than increasing the crop, living very modestly, for men of such wealth. Their house was far from a cottage but neither might one have described it as a mansion. They entertained hardly at all and rarely went out, seemingly content with the company they had known growing up—their own.
Of course, some said, “they are peculiar, aren’t they?” but there were many who had long felt an abiding sympathy for those poor, neglected waifs, and no one blamed them now for cherishing their privacy and one another to an extent that might have been regarded as unseemly under other circumstances.
I had lived all my life next door to them and I was not only their attorney, but I suppose I was as well as close a friend as they had ever known, which is to say, not very. They sometimes came over to my house for a drink, always together and never when any other friends were present, and from time to time I was invited to theirs, though these invitations seemed more dutiful than heartfelt.
The truth is, I don’t think, not having known it before, that they missed the company of others very much, and I never left them without hearing, in my mind if not my ears, twin sighs of relief that they were once again alone.