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|Malbone: An Oldport Romance||Thomas Wentworth Higginson|
VIII. Talking It Over
|Page 6 of 6||
"Then why stand aside?" persisted the downright Harry.
"I have no place in it but a lounging-place," said Malbone. "I do not wish to chop blocks with a razor. I envy those men, born mere Americans, with no ambition in life but to 'swing a railroad' as they say at the West. Every morning I hope to wake up like them in the fear of God and the love of money."
"You may as well stop," said Harry, coloring a little. "Malbone, you used to be my ideal man in my boyhood, but"--
"I am glad we have got beyond that," interrupted the other, cheerily, "I am only an idler in the land. Meanwhile, I have my little interests,--read, write, sketch--"
"Flirt?" put in Hal, with growing displeasure.
"Not now," said Phil, patting his shoulder, with imperturbable good-nature. "Our beloved has cured me of that. He who has won the pearl dives no more."
"Do not let us speak of Hope," said Harry. "Everything that you have been asserting Hope's daily life disproves."
"That may be," answered Malbone, heartily. "But, Hal, I never flirted; I always despised it. It was always a grande passion with me, or what I took for such. I loved to be loved, I suppose; and there was always something new and fascinating to be explored in a human heart, that is, a woman's."
"Some new temple to profane?" asked Hal severely.
"Never!" said Philip. "I never profaned it. If I deceived, I shared the deception, at least for a time; and, as for sensuality, I had none in me."
"Did you have nothing worse? Rousseau ends where Tom Jones begins."
"My temperament saved me," said Philip. "A woman is not a woman to me, without personal refinement."
"Just what Rousseau said," replied Harry.
"I acted upon it," answered Malbone. "No one dislikes Blanche Ingleside and her demi monde more than I."
"You ought not," was the retort. "You help to bring other girls to her level."
"Whom?" said Malbone, startled.
"Emilia?" repeated the other, coloring crimson. "I, who have warned her against Blanche's society."
"And have left her no other resource," said Harry, coloring still more. "Malbone, you have gained (unconsciously of course) too much power over that girl, and the only effect of it is, to keep her in perpetual excitement. So she seeks Blanche, as she would any other strong stimulant. Hope does not seem to have discovered this, but Kate has, and I have."
Hope came in, and Harry went out. The next day he came to Philip and apologized most warmly for his unjust and inconsiderate words. Malbone, always generous, bade him think no more about it, and Harry for that day reverted strongly to his first faith. "So noble, so high-toned," he said to Kate. Indeed, a man never appears more magnanimous than in forgiving a friend who has told him the truth.
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|Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
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