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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

VI. "Some Lover's Clear Day"

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Within, the tower is full of debris, now disintegrated into one solid mass, and covered with vegetation. You can lie on the blossoming clover, where the bees hum and the crickets chirp around you, and can look through the arch which frames its own fair picture. In the foreground lies the steep slope overgrown with bayberry and gay with thistle blooms; then the little winding cove with its bordering cliffs; and the rough pastures with their grazing sheep beyond. Or, ascending the parapet, you can look across the bay to the men making hay picturesquely on far-off lawns, or to the cannon on the outer works of Fort Adams, looking like vast black insects that have crawled forth to die.

Here our young people spent the day; some sketched, some played croquet, some bathed in rocky inlets where the kingfisher screamed above them, some rowed to little craggy isles for wild roses, some fished, and then were taught by the boatmen to cook their fish in novel island ways. The morning grew more and more cloudless, and then in the afternoon a fog came and went again, marching by with its white armies, soon met and annihilated by a rainbow.

The conversation that day was very gay and incoherent,--little fragments of all manner of things; science, sentiment, everything: "Like a distracted dictionary," Kate said. At last this lively maiden got Philip away from the rest, and began to cross-question him.

"Tell me," she said, "about Emilia's Swiss lover. She shuddered when she spoke of him. Was he so very bad?"

"Not at all," was the answer. "You had false impressions of him. He was a handsome, manly fellow, a little over-sentimental. He had travelled, and had been a merchant's clerk in Paris and London. Then he came back, and became a boatman on the lake, some said, for love of her."

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"Did she love him?"

"Passionately, as she thought."

"Did he love her much?"

"I suppose so."

"Then why did she stop loving him?"

"She does not hate him?"

"No," said Kate, "that is what surprises me. Lovers hate, or those who have been lovers. She is only indifferent. Philip, she had wound silk upon a torn piece of his carte-de-visite, and did not know it till I showed it to her. Even then she did not care."

"Such is woman!" said Philip.

"Nonsense," said Kate. "She had seen somebody whom she loved better, and she still loves that somebody. Who was it? She had not been introduced into society. Were there any superior men among her teachers? She is just the girl to fall in love with her teacher, at least in Europe, where they are the only men one sees."

"There were some very superior men among them," said Philip. "Professor Schirmer has a European reputation; he wears blue spectacles and a maroon wig."

"Do not talk so," said Kate. "I tell you, Emilia is not changeable, like you, sir. She is passionate and constant. She would have married that man or died for him. You may think that your sage counsels restrained her, but they did not; it was that she loved some one else. Tell me honestly. Do you not know that there is somebody in Europe whom she loves to distraction?"

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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