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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

XVIII. Hope's Vigil

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Strange, by what slender threads our lives are knitted to each other! Here was one who had taken Hope's whole existence in her hands, crushed it, and thrown it away. Hope had soberly said to herself, just before, that death would be better than life for her young sister. Yet now it moved her beyond endurance to see that fair form troubled, even while unconscious, by a feather's weight of pain; and all the lifelong habit of tenderness resumed in a moment its sway.

She approached her fingers to the offending tress, very slowly, half withholding them at the very last, as if the touch would burn her. She was almost surprised that it did not. She looked to see if it did not hurt Emilia. But it now seemed as if the slumbering girl enjoyed the caressing contact of the smooth fingers, and turned her head, almost imperceptibly, to meet them. This was more than Hope could bear. It was as if that slight motion were a puncture to relieve her overburdened heart; a thousand thoughts swept over her,--of their father, of her sister's childhood, of her years of absent expectation; she thought how young the girl was, how fascinating, how passionate, how tempted; all this swept across her in a great wave of nervous reaction, and when Emilia returned to consciousness, she was lying in her sister's arms, her face bathed in Hope's tears.

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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