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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

X. Remonstrances

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IT had been a lovely summer day, with a tinge of autumnal coolness toward nightfall, ending in what Aunt Jane called a "quince-jelly sunset." Kate and Emilia sat upon the Blue Rocks, earnestly talking.

"Promise, Emilia!" said Kate.

Emilia said nothing.

"Remember," continued Kate, "he is Hope's betrothed. Promise, promise, promise!"

Emilia looked into Kate's face and saw it flushed with a generous eagerness, that called forth an answering look in her. She tried to speak, and the words died into silence. There was a pause, while each watched the other.

When one soul is grappling with another for life, such silence may last an instant too long; and Kate soon felt her grasp slipping. Momentarily the spell relaxed. Other thoughts swelled up, and Emilia's eyes began to wander; delicious memories stole in, of walks through blossoming paths with Malbone,--of lingering steps, half-stifled words and sentences left unfinished;--then, alas! of passionate caresses,--other blossoming paths that only showed the way to sin, but had never quite led her there, she fancied. There was so much to tell, more than could ever be explained or justified. Moment by moment, farther and farther strayed the wandering thoughts, and when the poor child looked in Kate's face again, the mist between them seemed to have grown wide and dense, as if neither eyes nor words nor hands could ever meet again. When she spoke it was to say something evasive and unimportant, and her voice was as one from the grave.

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In truth, Philip had given Emilia his heart to play with at Neuchatel, that he might beguile her from an attachment they had all regretted. The device succeeded. The toy once in her hand, the passionate girl had kept it, had clung to him with all her might; he could not shake her off. Nor was this the worst, for to his dismay he found himself responding to her love with a self-abandonment of ardor for which all former loves had been but a cool preparation. He had not intended this; it seemed hardly his fault: his intentions had been good, or at least not bad. This piquant and wonderful fruit of nature, this girlish soul, he had merely touched it and it was his. Its mere fragrance was intoxicating. Good God! what should he do with it?

No clear answer coming, he had drifted on with that terrible facility for which years of self-indulged emotion had prepared him. Each step, while it was intended to be the last, only made some other last step needful.

He had begun wrong, for he had concealed his engagement, fancying that he could secure a stronger influence over this young girl without the knowledge. He had come to her simply as a friend of her Transatlantic kindred; and she, who was always rather indifferent to them, asked no questions, nor made the discovery till too late. Then, indeed, she had burst upon him with an impetuous despair that had alarmed him. He feared, not that she would do herself any violence, for she had a childish dread of death, but that she would show some desperate animosity toward Hope, whenever they should meet. After a long struggle, he had touched, not her sense of justice, for she had none, but her love for him; he had aroused her tenderness and her pride.

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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