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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

VI. "Some Lover's Clear Day"

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She had been sitting amidships, but she came aft at once, and nestled by him as he sat holding the tiller. She put her face against his knee, like a tired child, and shut her eyes; her hair was lifted by the summer breeze; a scent of roses came from her; the mere contact of anything so fresh and pure was a delight. He put his arm around her, and all the first ardor of passion came back to him again; he remembered how he had longed to win this Diana, and how thoroughly she was won.

"It is you who do me good," said she. "O Philip, sail as slowly as you can." But he only sailed farther, instead of more slowly, gliding in and out among the rocky islands in the light north wind, which, for a wonder, lasted all that day,--dappling the bare hills of the Isle of Shadows with a shifting beauty. The tide was in and brimming, the fishing-boats were busy, white gulls soared and clattered round them, and heavy cormorants flapped away as they neared the rocks. Beneath the boat the soft multitudinous jellyfishes waved their fringed pendants, or glittered with tremulous gold along their pink, translucent sides. Long lines and streaks of paler blue lay smoothly along the enamelled surface, the low, amethystine hills lay couched beyond them, and little clouds stretched themselves in lazy length above the beautiful expanse. They reached the ruined fort at last, and Philip, surrendering Hope to others, was himself besieged by a joyous group.

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As you stand upon the crumbling parapet of old Fort Louis, you feel yourself poised in middle air; the sea-birds soar and swoop around you, the white surf lashes the rocks far below, the white vessels come and go, the water is around you on all sides but one, and spreads its pale blue beauty up the lovely bay, or, in deeper tints, southward towards the horizon line. I know of no ruin in America which nature has so resumed; it seems a part of the living rock; you cannot imagine it away.

It is a single round, low tower, shaped like the tomb of Cacilia Metella. But its stately position makes it rank with the vast sisterhood of wave-washed strongholds; it might be King Arthur's Cornish Tyntagel; it might be "the teocallis tower" of Tuloom. As you gaze down from its height, all things that float upon the ocean seem equalized. Look at the crowded life on yonder frigate, coming in full-sailed before the steady sea-breeze. To furl that heavy canvas, a hundred men cluster like bees upon the yards, yet to us upon this height it is all but a plaything for the eyes, and we turn with equal interest from that thronged floating citadel to some lonely boy in his skiff.

Yonder there sail to the ocean, beating wearily to windward, a few slow vessels. Inward come jubilant white schooners, wing-and-wing. There are fishing-smacks towing their boats behind them like a family of children; and there are slender yachts that bear only their own light burden. Once from this height I saw the whole yacht squadron round Point Judith, and glide in like a flock of land-bound sea-birds; and above them, yet more snowy and with softer curves, pressed onward the white squadrons of the sky.

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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