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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

VIII. Talking It Over

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"None of them are rich, though, I suppose," said Emilia, "nor of very nice families, or they would not be teachers. So they will not be so prominent in society."

"But they may yet become very prominent in society," said Hope,--"they or their pupils or their children. At any rate, it is as certain that the noblest lives will have most influence in the end, as that two and two make four."

"Is that certain?" said Philip. "Perhaps there are worlds where two and two do not make just that desirable amount."

"I trust there are," said Aunt Jane. "Perhaps I was intended to be born in one of them, and that is why my housekeeping accounts never add up."

Here hope was called away, and Emilia saucily murmured, "Sour grapes!"

"Not a bit of it!" cried Kate, indignantly. "Hope might have anything in society she wishes, if she would only give up some of her own plans, and let me choose her dresses, and her rich uncles pay for them. Count Posen told me, only yesterday, that there was not a girl in Oldport with such an air as hers."

"Not Kate herself?" said Emilia, slyly.

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"I?" said Kate. "What am I? A silly chit of a thing, with about a dozen ideas in my head, nearly every one of which was planted there by Hope. I like the nonsense of the world very well as it is, and without her I should have cared for nothing else. Count Posen asked me the other day, which country produced on the whole the most womanly women, France or America. He is one of the few foreigners who expect a rational answer. So I told him that I knew very little of Frenchwomen personally, but that I had read French novels ever since I was born, and there was not a woman worthy to be compared with Hope in any of them, except Consuelo, and even she told lies."

"Do not begin upon Hope," said Aunt Jane. "It is the only subject on which Kate can be tedious. Tell me about the dresses. Were people over-dressed or under-dressed?"

"Under-dressed," said Phil. "Miss Ingleside had a half-inch strip of muslin over her shoulder."

Here Philip followed Hope out of the room, and Emilia presently followed him.

"Tell on!" said Aunt Jane. "How did Philip enjoy himself?"

"He is easily amused, you know," said Kate. "He likes to observe people, and to shoot folly as it flies."

"It does not fly," retorted the elder lady. "I wish it did. You can shoot it sitting, at least where Philip is."

"Auntie," said Kate, "tell me truly your objection to Philip. I think you did not like his parents. Had he not a good mother?"

"She was good," said Aunt Jane, reluctantly, "but it was that kind of goodness which is quite offensive."

"And did you know his father well?"

"Know him!" exclaimed Aunt Jane. "I should think I did. I have sat up all night to hate him."

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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