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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

VI. "Some Lover's Clear Day"

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"HOPE!" said Philip Malbone, as they sailed together in a little boat the next morning, "I have come back to you from months of bewildered dreaming. I have been wandering,--no matter where. I need you. You cannot tell how much I need you."

"I can estimate it," she answered, gently, "by my need of you."

"Not at all," said Philip, gazing in her trustful face. "Any one whom you loved would adore you, could he be by your side. You need nothing. It is I who need you."

"Why?" she asked, simply.

"Because," he said, "I am capable of behaving very much like a fool. Hope, I am not worthy of you; why do you love me? why do you trust me?"

"I do not know how I learned to love you," said Hope. "It is a blessing that was given to me. But I learned to trust you in your mother's sick-room."

"Ay," said Philip, sadly, "there, at least, I did my full duty."

"As few would have done it," said Hope, firmly,--"very few. Such prolonged self-sacrifice must strengthen a man for life."

"Not always," said Philip, uneasily. "Too much of that sort of thing may hurt one, I fancy, as well as too little. He may come to imagine that the balance of virtue is in his favor, and that he may grant himself a little indulgence to make up for lost time. That sort of recoil is a little dangerous, as I sometimes feel, do you know?"

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"And you show it," said Hope, ardently, "by fresh sacrifices! How much trouble you have taken about Emilia! Some time, when you are willing, you shall tell me all about it. You always seemed to me a magician, but I did not think that even you could restore her to sense and wisdom so soon."

Malbone was just then very busy putting the boat about; but when he had it on the other tack, he said, "How do you like her?"

"Philip," said Hope, her eyes filling with tears, "I wonder if you have the slightest conception how my heart is fixed on that child. She has always been a sort of dream to me, and the difficulty of getting any letters from her has only added to the excitement. Now that she is here, my whole heart yearns toward her. Yet, when I look into her eyes, a sort of blank hopelessness comes over me. They seem like the eyes of some untamable creature whose language I shall never learn. Philip, you are older and wiser than I, and have shown already that you understand her. Tell me what I can do to make her love me?"

"Tell me how any one could help it?" said Malbone, looking fondly on the sweet, pleading face before him.

"I am beginning to fear that it can be helped," she said. Her thoughts were still with Emilia.

"Perhaps it can," said Phil, "if you sit so far away from people. Here we are alone on the bay. Come and sit by me, Hope."

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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