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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

XVI. On The Stairs

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AUGUST drew toward its close, and guests departed from the neighborhood.

"What a short little thing summer is," meditated Aunt Jane, "and butterflies are caterpillars most of the time after all. How quiet it seems. The wrens whisper in their box above the window, and there has not been a blast from the peacock for a week. He seems ashamed of the summer shortness of his tail. He keeps glancing at it over his shoulder to see if it is not looking better than yesterday, while the staring eyes of the old tail are in the bushes all about."

"Poor, dear little thing!" said coaxing Katie. "Is she tired of autumn, before it is begun?"

"I am never tired of anything," said Aunt Jane, "except my maid Ruth, and I should not be tired of her, if it had pleased Heaven to endow her with sufficient strength of mind to sew on a button. Life is very rich to me. There is always something new in every season; though to be sure I cannot think what novelty there is just now, except a choice variety of spiders. There is a theory that spiders kill flies. But I never miss a fly, and there does not seem to be any natural scourge divinely appointed to kill spiders, except Ruth. Even she does it so feebly, that I see them come back and hang on their webs and make faces at her. I suppose they are faces; I do not understand their anatomy, but it must be a very unpleasant one."

"You are not quite satisfied with life, today, dear," said Kate; "I fear your book did not end to your satisfaction."

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"It did end, though," said the lady, "and that is something. What is there in life so difficult as to stop a book?" If I wrote one, it would be as long as ten 'Sir Charles Grandisons,' and then I never should end it, because I should die. And there would be nobody left to read it, because each reader would have been dead long before."

"But the book amused you!" interrupted Kate. "I know it did."

"It was so absurd that I laughed till I cried; and it makes no difference whether you cry laughing or cry crying; it is equally bad when your glasses come off. Never mind. Whom did you see on the Avenue?"

"O, we saw Philip on horseback. He rides so beautifully; he seems one with his horse."

"I am glad of it," interposed his aunt. "The riders are generally so inferior to them."

"We saw Mr. and Mrs. Lambert, too. Emilia stopped and asked after you, and sent you her love, auntie."

"Love!" cried Aunt Jane. "She always does that. She has sent me love enough to rear a whole family on,--more than I ever felt for anybody in all my days. But she does not really love any one."

"I hope she will love her husband," said Kate, rather seriously.

"Mark my words, Kate!" said her aunt. "Nothing but unhappiness will ever come of that marriage. How can two people be happy who have absolutely nothing in common?"

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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