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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

XV. Across The Bay

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"It is a shame to waste it," said Kate.

"It is a blessing that any of it is disposed of while you are not here," said Aunt Jane. "You have quite enough of it."

"We never have enough," said Kate. "And we never can make you repeat any of yesterday's."

"Of course not," said Aunt Jane. "Nonsense must have the dew on it, or it is good for nothing."

"So you are really happiest alone?"

"Not so happy as when you are with me,--you or Hope. I like to have Hope with me now; she does me good. Really, I do not care for anybody else. Sometimes I think if I could always have four or five young kittens by me, in a champagne-basket, with a nurse to watch them, I should be happier. But perhaps not; they would grow up so fast!"

"Then I will leave you alone without compunction," said Kate.

"I am not alone," said Aunt Jane; "I have my man in the boat to watch through the window. What a singular being he is! I think he spends hours in that boat, and what he does I can't conceive. There it is, quietly anchored, and there is he in it. I never saw anybody but myself who could get up so much industry out of nothing. He has all his housework there, a broom and a duster, and I dare say he has a cooking-stove and a gridiron. He sits a little while, then he stoops down, then he goes to the other end. Sometimes he goes ashore in that absurd little tub, with a stick that he twirls at one end."

"That is called sculling," interrupted Kate.

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"Sculling! I suppose he runs for a baked potato. Then he goes back. He is Robinson Crusoe on an island that never keeps still a single instant. It is all he has, and he never looks away, and never wants anything more. So I have him to watch. Think of living so near a beaver or a water-rat with clothes on! Good-by. Leave the door ajar, it is so warm."

And Kate went down to the landing. It was near the "baptismal shore," where every Sunday the young people used to watch the immersions; they liked to see the crowd of spectators, the eager friends, the dripping convert, the serene young minister, the old men and girls who burst forth in song as the new disciple rose from the waves. It was the weekly festival in that region, and the sunshine and the ripples made it gladdening, not gloomy. Every other day in the week the children of the fishermen waded waist-deep in the water, and played at baptism.

Near this shore stood the family bathing-house; and the girls came down to sit in its shadow and watch the swimming. It was late in August, and on the first of September Emilia was to be married.

Nothing looked cool, that day, but the bay and those who were going into it. Out came Hope from the bathing-house, in a new bathing-dress of dark blue, which was evidently what the others had come forth to behold.

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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