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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

VII. An International Exposition

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The young people lingered extravagantly late at that ball, for the corvette was to sail next day, and the girls were willing to make the most of it. As they came to the outer door, the dawn was inexpressibly beautiful,--deep rose melting into saffron, beneath a tremulous morning star. With a sudden impulse, they agreed to walk home, the fresh air seemed so delicious. Philip and Emilia went first, outstripping the others.

Passing the Jewish cemetery, Kate and Harry paused a moment. The sky was almost cloudless, the air was full of a thousand scents and songs, the rose-tints in the sky were deepening, the star paling, while a few vague clouds went wandering upward, and dreamed themselves away.

"There is a grave in that cemetery," said Kate, gently, "where lovers should always be sitting. It lies behind that tall monument; I cannot see it for the blossoming boughs. There were two young cousins who loved each other from childhood, but were separated, because Jews do not allow such unions. Neither of them was ever married; and they lived to be very old, the one in New Orleans, the other at the North. In their last illnesses each dreamed of walking in the fields with the other, as in their early days; and the telegraphic despatches that told their deaths crossed each other on the way. That is his monument, and her grave was made behind it; there was no room for a stone."

Kate moved a step or two, that she might see the graves. The branches opened clear. What living lovers had met there, at this strange hour, above the dust of lovers dead? She saw with amazement, and walked on quickly that Harry might not also see.

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It was Emilia who sat beside the grave, her dark hair drooping and dishevelled, her carnation cheek still brilliant after the night's excitement; and he who sat at her feet, grasping her hand in both of his, while his lips poured out passionate words to which she eagerly listened, was Philip Malbone.

Here, upon the soil of a new nation, lay a spot whose associations seemed already as old as time could make them,--the last footprint of a tribe now vanished from this island forever,--the resting-place of a race whose very funerals would soon be no more. Each April the robins built their nests around these crumbling stones, each May they reared their broods, each June the clover blossomed, each July the wild strawberries grew cool and red; all around was youth and life and ecstasy, and yet the stones bore inscriptions in an unknown language, and the very graves seemed dead.

And lovelier than all the youth of Nature, little Emilia sat there in the early light, her girlish existence gliding into that drama of passion which is older than the buried nations, older than time, than death, than all things save life and God.

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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