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Malbone: An Oldport Romance Thomas Wentworth Higginson

X. Remonstrances

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Without his actual assurance, she yet believed that he would release himself in some way from his betrothal, and love only her.

Malbone had fortunately great control over Emilia when near her, and could thus keep the sight of this stormy passion from the pure and unconscious Hope. But a new distress opened before him, from the time when he again touched Hope's hand. The close intercourse of the voyage had given him for the time almost a surfeit of the hot-house atmosphere of Emilia's love. The first contact of Hope's cool, smooth fingers, the soft light of her clear eyes, the breezy grace of her motions, the rose-odors that clung around her, brought back all his early passion. Apart from this voluptuousness of the heart into which he had fallen, Malbone's was a simple and unspoiled nature; he had no vices, and had always won popularity too easily to be obliged to stoop for it; so all that was noblest in him paid allegiance to Hope. From the moment they again met, his wayward heart reverted to her. He had been in a dream, he said to himself; he would conquer it and be only hers; he would go away with her into the forests and green fields she loved, or he would share in the life of usefulness for which she yearned. But then, what was he to do with this little waif from the heart's tropics,--once tampered with, in an hour of mad dalliance, and now adhering in-separably to his life? Supposing him ready to separate from her, could she be detached from him?

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Kate's anxieties, when she at last hinted them to Malbone, only sent him further into revery. "How is it," he asked himself, "that when I only sought to love and be loved, I have thus entangled myself in the fate of others? How is one's heart to be governed? Is there any such governing? Mlle. Clairon complained that, so soon as she became seriously attached to any one, she was sure to meet somebody else whom she liked better. Have human hearts," he said, "or at least, has my heart, no more stability than this?"

It did not help the matter when Emilia went to stay awhile with Mrs. Meredith. The event came about in this way. Hope and Kate had been to a dinner-party, and were as usual reciting their experiences to Aunt Jane.

"Was it pleasant?" said that sympathetic lady.

"It was one of those dreadfully dark dining-rooms," said Hope, seating herself at the open window.

"Why do they make them look so like tombs?" said Kate.

"Because," said her aunt, "most Americans pass from them to the tomb, after eating such indigestible things. There is a wish for a gentle transition."

"Aunt Jane," said Hope, "Mrs. Meredith asks to have a little visit from Emilia. Do you think she had better go?"

"Mrs. Meredith?" asked Aunt Jane. "Is that woman alive yet?"

"Why, auntie!" said Kate. "We were talking about her only a week ago."

"Perhaps so," conceded Aunt Jane, reluctantly. "But it seems to me she has great length of days!"

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Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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