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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

VIII. Talking It Over

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AUNT JANE was eager to hear about the ball, and called everybody into her breakfast-parlor the next morning. She was still hesitating about her bill of fare.

"I wish somebody would invent a new animal," she burst forth. "How those sheep bleated last night! I know it was an expression of shame for providing such tiresome food."

"You must not be so carnally minded, dear," said Kate. "You must be very good and grateful, and not care for your breakfast. Somebody says that mutton chops with wit are a great deal better than turtle without."

"A very foolish somebody," pronounced Aunt Jane. "I have had a great deal of wit in my life, and very little turtle. Dear child, do not excite me with impossible suggestions. There are dropped eggs, I might have those. They look so beautifully, if it only were not necessary to eat them. Yes, I will certainly have dropped eggs. I think Ruth could drop them; she drops everything else."

"Poor little Ruth!" said Kate. "Not yet grown up!"

"She will never grow up," said Aunt Jane, "but she thinks she is a woman; she even thinks she has a lover. O that in early life I had provided myself with a pair of twins from some asylum; then I should have had some one to wait on me."

"Perhaps they would have been married too," said Kate.

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"They should never have been married," retorted Aunt Jane. "They should have signed a paper at five years old to do no such thing. Yesterday I told a lady that I was enraged that a servant should presume to have a heart, and the woman took it seriously and began to argue with me. To think of living in a town where one person could be so idiotic! Such a town ought to be extinguished from the universe."

"Auntie!" said Kate, sternly, "you must grow more charitable."

"Must I?" said Aunt Jane; "it will not be at all becoming. I have thought about it; often have I weighed it in my mind whether to be monotonously lovely; but I have always thrust it away. It must make life so tedious. It is too late for me to change,--at least, anything about me but my countenance, and that changes the wrong way. Yet I feel so young and fresh; I look in my glass every morning to see if I have not a new face, but it never comes. I am not what is called well-favored. In fact, I am not favored at all. Tell me about the party."

"What shall I tell?" said Kate.

"Tell me what people were there," said Aunt Jane, "and how they were dressed; who were the happiest and who the most miserable. I think I would rather hear about the most miserable,--at least, till I have my breakfast."

"The most miserable person I saw," said Kate, "was Mrs. Meredith. It was very amusing to hear her and Hope talk at cross-purposes. You know her daughter Helen is in Paris, and the mother seemed very sad about her. A lady was asking if something or other were true; 'Too true,' said Mrs. Meredith; 'with every opportunity she has had no real success. It was not the poor child's fault. She was properly presented; but as yet she has had no success at all.'

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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