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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

XVI. On The Stairs

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"But no two people have just the same tastes," said Kate, "except Harry and myself. It is not expected. It would be absurd for two people to be divorced, because the one preferred white bread and the other brown."

"They would be divorced very soon," said Aunt Jane, "for the one who ate brown bread would not live long."

"But it is possible that he might live, auntie, in spite of your prediction. And perhaps people may be happy, even if you and I do not see how."

"Nobody ever thinks I see anything," said Aunt Jane, in some dejection. "You think I am nothing in the world but a sort of old oyster, making amusement for people, and having no more to do with real life than oysters have."

"No, dearest!" cried Kate. "You have a great deal to do with all our lives. You are a dear old insidious sapper-and-miner, looking at first very inoffensive, and then working your way into our affections, and spoiling us with coaxing. How you behave about children, for instance!"

"How?" said the other meekly. "As well as I can."

"But you pretend that you dislike them."

"But I do dislike them. How can anybody help it? Hear them swearing at this moment, boys of five, paddling in the water there! Talk about the murder of the innocents! There are so few innocents to be murdered! If I only had a gun and could shoot!"

"You may not like those particular boys," said Kate, "but you like good, well-behaved children, very much."

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"It takes so many to take care of them! People drive by here, with carriages so large that two of the largest horses can hardly draw them, and all full of those little beings. They have a sort of roof, too, and seem to expect to be out in all weathers."

"If you had a family of children, perhaps you would find such a travelling caravan very convenient," said Kate.

"If I had such a family," said her aunt, "I would have a separate governess and guardian for each, very moral persons. They should come when each child was two, and stay till it was twenty. The children should all live apart, in order not to quarrel, and should meet once or twice a day and bow to each other. I think that each should learn a different language, so as not to converse, and then, perhaps, they would not get each other into mischief."

"I am sure, auntie," said Kate, "you have missed our small nephews and nieces ever since their visit ended. How still the house has been!"

"I do not know," was the answer. "I hear a great many noises about the house. Somebody comes in late at night. Perhaps it is Philip; but he comes very softly in, wipes his feet very gently, like a clean thief, and goes up stairs."

"O auntie!" said Kate, "you know you have got over all such fancies."

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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