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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

XX. Aunt Jane To The Rescue

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THE thing that saves us from insanity during great grief is that there is usually something to do, and the mind composes itself to the mechanical task of adjusting the details. Hope dared not look forward an inch into the future; that way madness lay. Fortunately, it was plain what must come first,--to keep the whole thing within their own walls, and therefore to make some explanation to Mrs. Meredith, whose servants had doubtless been kept up all night awaiting Emilia. Profoundly perplexed what to say or not to say to her, Hope longed with her whole soul for an adviser. Harry and Kate were both away, and besides, she shrank from darkening their young lives as hers had been darkened. She resolved to seek counsel in the one person who most thoroughly distrusted Emilia,--Aunt Jane.

This lady was in a particularly happy mood that day. Emilia, who did all kinds of fine needle-work exquisitely, had just embroidered for Aunt Jane some pillow-cases. The original suggestion came from Hope, but it never cost Emilia anything to keep a secret, and she had presented the gift very sweetly, as if it were a thought of her own. Aunt Jane, who with all her penetration as to facts was often very guileless as to motives, was thoroughly touched by the humility and the embroidery.

"All last night," she said, "I kept waking up, and thinking about Christian charity and my pillow-cases."

It was, therefore, a very favorable day for Hope's consultation, though it was nearly noon before her aunt was visible, perhaps because it took so long to make up her bed with the new adornments.

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Hope said frankly to Aunt Jane that there were some circumstances about which she should rather not be questioned, but that Emilia had come there the previous night from the ball, had been seized with one of her peculiar attacks, and had stayed all night. Aunt Jane kept her eyes steadily fixed on Hope's sad face, and, when the tale was ended, drew her down and kissed her lips.

"Now tell me, dear," she said; "what comes first?"

"The first thing is," said Hope, "to have Emilia's absence explained to Mrs. Meredith in some such way that she will think no more of it, and not talk about it."

"Certainly," said Aunt Jane. "There is but one way to do that. I will call on her myself."

"You, auntie?" said Hope.

"Yes, I," said her aunt. "I have owed her a call for five years. It is the only thing that will excite her so much as to put all else out of her head."

"O auntie!" said Hope, greatly relieved, "if you only would! But ought you really to go out? It is almost raining."

"I shall go," said Aunt Jane, decisively, "if it rains little boys!"

"But will not Mrs. Meredith wonder--?" began Hope.

"That is one advantage," interrupted her aunt, "of being an absurd old woman. Nobody ever wonders at anything I do, or else it is that they never stop wondering."

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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