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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

IV. Aunt Jane Defines Her Position

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"Such pretty covers!" said Kate. "It is too bad."

"Yes," said Aunt Jane. "I mean to send them back and have new leaves put in. These are so wretched, there is not a teakettle in the land so insignificant that it would boil over them. Don't let us talk any more about it. Have Philip and Hope gone out upon the water?"

"Yes, dear," said Kate. "Did Ruth tell you?"

"When did that aimless infant ever tell anything?"

"Then how did you know it?"

"If I waited for knowledge till that sweet-tempered parrot chose to tell me," Aunt Jane went on, "I should be even more foolish than I am."

"Then how did you know?"

"Of course I heard the boat hauled down, and of course I knew that none but lovers would go out just before a thunder-storm. Then you and Harry came in, and I knew it was the others."

"Aunt Jane," said Kate, "you divine everything: what a brain you have!"

"Brain! it is nothing but a collection of shreds, like a little girl's work-basket,--a scrap of blue silk and a bit of white muslin."

"Now she is fishing for compliments," said Kate, "and she shall have one. She was very sweet and good to Philip last night."

"I know it," said Aunt Jane, with a groan. "I waked in the night and thought about it. I was awake a great deal last night. I have heard cocks crowing all my life, but I never knew what that creature could accomplish before. So I lay and thought how good and forgiving I was; it was quite distressing."

"Remorse?" said Kate.

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"Yes, indeed. I hate to be a saint all the time. There ought to be vacations. Instead of suffering from a bad conscience, I suffer from a good one."

"It was no merit of yours, aunt," put in Harry. "Who was ever more agreeable and lovable than Malbone last night?"

"Lovable!" burst out Aunt Jane, who never could be managed or manipulated by anybody but Kate, and who often rebelled against Harry's blunt assertions. "Of course he is lovable, and that is why I dislike him. His father was so before him. That is the worst of it. I never in my life saw any harm done by a villain; I wish I could. All the mischief in this world is done by lovable people. Thank Heaven, nobody ever dared to call me lovable!"

"I should like to see any one dare call you anything else,--you dear, old, soft-hearted darling!" interposed Kate.

"But, aunt," persisted Harry, "if you only knew what the mass of young men are--"

"Don't I?" interrupted the impetuous lady. "What is there that is not known to any woman who has common sense, and eyes enough to look out of a window?"

"If you only knew," Harry went on, "how superior Phil Malbone is, in his whole tone, to any fellow of my acquaintance."

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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