Malbone: An Oldport Romance
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
Part 1 out of 3
This etext was prepared by Judy Boss, Omaha, NE
MALBONE: AN OLDPORT ROMANCE.
by THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON.
"What is Nature unless there is an eventful human life passing
Many joys and many sorrows are the lights and shadows in which
she shows most beautiful."--THOREAU, MS. Diary.
I. AN ARRIVAL
II. PLACE AUX DAMES!
III. A DRIVE ON THE AVENUE
IV. AUNT JANE DEFINES HER POSITION
V. A MULTIVALVE HEART
VI. "SOME LOVER'S CLEAR DAY"
VII. AN INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION
VIII. TALKING IT OVER
IX. DANGEROUS WAYS
XI. DESCENSUS AVERNI
XII. A NEW ENGAGEMENT
XIII. DREAMING DREAMS
XIV. THE NEMESIS OF FASHION
XV. ACROSS THE BAY
XVI. ON THE STAIRS
XVIII. HOPE'S VIGIL
XIX. DE PROFUNDIS
XX. AUNT JANE TO THE RESCUE
XXI. A STORM
XXII. OUT OF THE DEPTHS
AS one wanders along this southwestern promontory of the Isle
of Peace, and looks down upon the green translucent water which
forever bathes the marble slopes of the Pirates' Cave, it is
natural to think of the ten wrecks with which the past winter
has strewn this shore. Though almost all trace of their
presence is already gone, yet their mere memory lends to these
cliffs a human interest. Where a stranded vessel lies, thither
all steps converge, so long as one plank remains upon another.
There centres the emotion. All else is but the setting, and the
eye sweeps with indifference the line of unpeopled rocks. They
are barren, till the imagination has tenanted them with
possibilities of danger and dismay. The ocean provides the
scenery and properties of a perpetual tragedy, but the interest
arrives with the performers. Till then the shores remain
vacant, like the great conventional armchairs of the French
drama, that wait for Rachel to come and die.
Yet as I ride along this fashionable avenue in August, and
watch the procession of the young and fair,--as I look at
stately houses, from each of which has gone forth almost within
my memory a funeral or a bride,--then every thoroughfare of
human life becomes in fancy but an ocean shore, with its
ripples and its wrecks. One learns, in growing older, that no
fiction can be so strange nor appear so improbable as would the
simple truth; and that doubtless even Shakespeare did but
timidly transcribe a few of the deeds and passions he had
personally known. For no man of middle age can dare trust
himself to portray life in its full intensity, as he has
studied or shared it; he must resolutely set aside as
indescribable the things most worth describing, and must expect
to be charged with exaggeration, even when he tells the rest.
IT was one of the changing days of our Oldport midsummer. In
the morning it had rained in rather a dismal way, and Aunt Jane
had said she should put it in her diary. It was a very serious
thing for the elements when they got into Aunt Jane's diary. By
noon the sun came out as clear and sultry as if there had never
been a cloud, the northeast wind died away, the bay was
motionless, the first locust of the summer shrilled from the
elms, and the robins seemed to be serving up butterflies hot
for their insatiable second brood, while nothing seemed
desirable for a human luncheon except ice-cream and fans. In
the afternoon the southwest wind came up the bay, with its line
of dark-blue ripple and its delicious coolness; while the hue
of the water grew more and more intense, till we seemed to be
living in the heart of a sapphire.
The household sat beneath the large western doorway of the old
Maxwell House,--he rear door, which looks on the water. The
house had just been reoccupied by my Aunt Jane, whose
great-grandfather had built it, though it had for several
generations been out of the family. I know no finer specimen of
those large colonial dwellings in which the genius of Sir
Christopher Wren bequeathed traditions of stateliness to our
democratic days. Its central hall has a carved archway; most
of the rooms have painted tiles and are wainscoted to the
ceiling; the sashes are red-cedar, the great staircase
mahogany; there are pilasters with delicate Corinthian
capitals; there are cherubs' heads and wings that go astray and
lose themselves in closets and behind glass doors; there are
curling acanthus-leaves that cluster over shelves and ledges,
and there are those graceful shell-patterns which one often
sees on old furniture, but rarely in houses. The high front
door still retains its Ionic cornice; and the western entrance,
looking on the bay, is surmounted by carved fruit and flowers,
and is crowned, as is the roof, with that pineapple in whose
symbolic wealth the rich merchants of the last century
Like most of the statelier houses in that region of Oldport,
this abode had its rumors of a ghost and of secret chambers.
The ghost had never been properly lionized nor laid, for Aunt
Jane, the neatest of housekeepers, had discouraged all silly
explorations, had at once required all barred windows to be
opened, all superfluous partitions to be taken down, and
several highly eligible dark-closets to be nailed up. If there
was anything she hated, it was nooks and odd corners. Yet there
had been times that year, when the household would have been
glad to find a few more such hiding-places; for during the
first few weeks the house had been crammed with guests so
closely that the very mice had been ill-accommodated and
obliged to sit up all night, which had caused them much
discomfort and many audible disagreements.
But this first tumult had passed away; and now there remained
only the various nephews and nieces of the house, including a
due proportion of small children. Two final guests were to
arrive that day, bringing the latest breath of Europe on their
wings,--Philip Malbone, Hope's betrothed; and little Emilia,
None of the family had seen Emilia since her wandering mother
had taken her abroad, a fascinating spoiled child of four, and
they were all eager to see in how many ways the succeeding
twelve years had completed or corrected the spoiling. As for
Philip, he had been spoiled, as Aunt Jane declared, from the
day of his birth, by the joint effort of all friends and
neighbors. Everybody had conspired to carry on the process
except Aunt Jane herself, who directed toward him one of her
honest, steady, immovable dislikes, which may be said to have
dated back to the time when his father and mother were married,
some years before he personally entered on the scene.
The New York steamer, detained by the heavy fog of the night
before, now came in unwonted daylight up the bay. At the first
glimpse, Harry and the boys pushed off in the row-boat; for, as
one of the children said, anybody who had been to Venice would
naturally wish to come to the very house in a gondola. In
another half-hour there was a great entanglement of embraces at
the water-side, for the guests had landed.
Malbone's self-poised easy grace was the same as ever; his
chestnut-brown eyes were as winning, his features as handsome;
his complexion, too clearly pink for a man, had a sea bronze
upon it: he was the same Philip who had left home, though with
some added lines of care. But in the brilliant little fairy
beside him all looked in vain for the Emilia they remembered as
a child. Her eyes were more beautiful than ever,--the darkest
violet eyes, that grew luminous with thought and almost black
with sorrow. Her gypsy taste, as everybody used to call it,
still showed itself in the scarlet and dark blue of her dress;
but the clouded gypsy tint had gone from her cheek, and in its
place shone a deep carnation, so hard and brilliant that it
appeared to be enamelled on the surface, yet so firm and
deep-dyed that it seemed as if not even death could ever blanch
it. There is a kind of beauty that seems made to be painted on
ivory, and such was hers. Only the microscopic pencil of a
miniature-painter could portray those slender eyebrows, that
arched caressingly over the beautiful eyes,--or the silky hair
of darkest chestnut that crept in a wavy line along the
temples, as if longing to meet the brows,--or those unequalled
lashes! "Unnecessarily long," Aunt Jane afterwards pronounced
them; while Kate had to admit that they did indeed give Emilia
an overdressed look at breakfast, and that she ought to have a
less showy set to match her morning costume.
But what was most irresistible about Emilia,--that which we all
noticed in this interview, and which haunted us all
thenceforward,--was a certain wild, entangled look she wore, as
of some untamed out-door thing, and a kind of pathetic lost
sweetness in her voice, which made her at once and forever a
heroine of romance with the children. Yet she scarcely seemed
to heed their existence, and only submitted to the kisses of
Hope and Kate as if that were a part of the price of coming
home, and she must pay it.
Had she been alone, there might have been an awkward pause; for
if you expect a cousin, and there alights a butterfly of the
tropics, what hospitality can you offer? But no sense of
embarrassment ever came near Malbone, especially with the
children to swarm over him and claim him for their own.
Moreover, little Helen got in the first remark in the way of
"Let me tell him something!" said the child. "Philip! that
doll of mine that you used to know, only think! she was sick
and died last summer, and went into the rag-bag. And the other
split down the back, so there was an end of her."
Polar ice would have been thawed by this reopening of
communication. Philip soon had the little maid on his
shoulder,--the natural throne of all children,--and they went
in together to greet Aunt Jane.
Aunt Jane was the head of the house,--a lady who had spent more
than fifty years in educating her brains and battling with her
ailments. She had received from her parents a considerable
inheritance in the way of whims, and had nursed it up into a
handsome fortune. Being one of the most impulsive of human
beings, she was naturally one of the most entertaining; and
behind all her eccentricities there was a fund of the soundest
sense and the tenderest affection. She had seen much and varied
society, had been greatly admired in her youth, but had chosen
to remain unmarried. Obliged by her physical condition to make
herself the first object, she was saved from utter selfishness
by sympathies as democratic as her personal habits were
exclusive. Unexpected and commonly fantastic in her doings,
often dismayed by small difficulties, but never by large ones,
she sagaciously administered the affairs of all those around
her,--planned their dinners and their marriages, fought out
their bargains and their feuds.
She hated everything irresolute or vague; people might play at
cat's-cradle or study Spinoza, just as they pleased; but,
whatever they did, they must give their minds to it. She kept
house from an easy-chair, and ruled her dependants with
severity tempered by wit, and by the very sweetest voice in
which reproof was ever uttered. She never praised them, but if
they did anything particularly well, rebuked them
retrospectively, asking why they had never done it well before?
But she treated them munificently, made all manner of plans for
their comfort, and they all thought her the wisest and wittiest
of the human race. So did the youths and maidens of her large
circle; they all came to see her, and she counselled, admired,
scolded, and petted them all. She had the gayest spirits, and
an unerring eye for the ludicrous, and she spoke her mind with
absolute plainness to all comers. Her intuitions were
instantaneous as lightning, and, like that, struck very often
in the wrong place. She was thus extremely unreasonable and
Such was the lady whom Emilia and Malbone went up to
greet,--the one shyly, the other with an easy assurance, such
as she always disliked. Emilia submitted to another kiss, while
Philip pressed Aunt Jane's hand, as he pressed all women's, and
they sat down.
"Now begin to tell your adventures," said Kate. "People always
tell their adventures till tea is ready."
"Who can have any adventures left," said Philip, "after such
letters as I wrote you all?"
"Of which we got precisely one!" said Kate. "That made it such
an event, after we had wondered in what part of the globe you
might be looking for the post-office! It was like finding a
letter in a bottle, or disentangling a person from the Dark
"I was at Neuchatel two months; but I had no adventures. I
lodged with a good Pasteur, who taught me geology and German."
"That is suspicious," said Kate. "Had he a daughter passing
"Indeed he had."
"And you taught her English? That is what these beguiling
youths always do in novels."
"What was her name?"
"What a pretty name! How old was she?"
"She was six."
"O Philip!" cried Kate; "but I might have known it. Did she
love you very much?"
Hope looked up, her eyes full of mild reproach at the
possibility of doubting any child's love for Philip. He had
been her betrothed for more than a year, during which time she
had habitually seen him wooing every child he had met as if it
were a woman,--which, for Philip, was saying a great deal.
Happily they had in common the one trait of perfect amiability,
and she knew no more how to be jealous than he to be constant.
"Lili was easily won," he said. "Other things being equal,
people of six prefer that man who is tallest."
"Philip is not so very tall," said the eldest of the boys, who
was listening eagerly, and growing rapidly.
"No," said Philip, meekly. "But then the Pasteur was short,
and his brother was a dwarf."
"When Lili found that she could reach the ceiling from Mr.
Malbone's shoulder," said Emilia, "she asked no more."
"Then you knew the pastor's family also, my child," said Aunt
Jane, looking at her kindly and a little keenly.
"I was allowed to go there sometimes," she began, timidly.
"To meet her American Cousin," interrupted Philip. "I got some
relaxation in the rules of the school. But, Aunt Jane, you
have told us nothing about your health."
"There is nothing to tell," she answered. "I should like, if
it were convenient, to be a little better. But in this life,
if one can walk across the floor, and not be an idiot, it is
something. That is all I aim at."
"Isn't it rather tiresome?" said Emilia, as the elder lady
happened to look at her.
"Not at all," said Aunt Jane, composedly. "I naturally fall
back into happiness, when left to myself."
"So you have returned to the house of your fathers," said
Philip. "I hope you like it."
"It is commonplace in one respect," said Aunt Jane. "General
Washington once slept here."
"Oh!" said Philip. "It is one of that class of houses?"
"Yes," said she. "There is not a village in America that has
not half a dozen of them, not counting those where he only
breakfasted. Did ever man sleep like that man? What else could
he ever have done? Who governed, I wonder, while he was asleep?
How he must have travelled! The swiftest horse could scarcely
have carried him from one of these houses to another."
"I never was attached to the memory of Washington," meditated
Philip; "but I always thought it was the pear-tree. It must
have been that he was such a very unsettled person."
"He certainly was not what is called a domestic character,"
said Aunt Jane.
"I suppose you are, Miss Maxwell," said Philip. "Do you often
"Sometimes, to drive," said Aunt Jane. "Yesterday I went
shopping with Kate, and sat in the carriage while she bought
under-sleeves enough for a centipede. It is always so with
that child. People talk about the trouble of getting a daughter
ready to be married; but it is like being married once a month
to live with her."
"I wonder that you take her to drive with you," suggested
"It is a great deal worse to drive without her," said the
impetuous lady. "She is the only person who lets me enjoy
things, and now I cannot enjoy them in her absence. Yesterday
I drove alone over the three beaches, and left her at home with
a dress-maker. Never did I see so many lines of surf; but they
only seemed to me like some of Kate's ball-dresses, with the
prevailing flounces, six deep. I was so enraged that she was
not there, I wished to cover my face with my handkerchief. By
the third beach I was ready for the madhouse."
"Is Oldport a pleasant place to live in?" asked Emilia,
"It is amusing in the summer," said Aunt Jane, "though the
society is nothing but a pack of visiting-cards. In winter it
is too dull for young people, and only suits quiet old women
like me, who merely live here to keep the Ten Commandments and
darn their stockings."
Meantime the children were aiming at Emilia, whose butterfly
looks amazed and charmed them, but who evidently did not know
what to do with their eager affection.
"I know about you," said little Helen; "I know what you said
when you were little."
"Did I say anything?" asked Emilia, carelessly.
"Yes," replied the child, and began to repeat the oft-told
domestic tradition in an accurate way, as if it were a school
lesson. "Once you had been naughty, and your papa thought it
his duty to slap you, and you cried; and he told you in French,
because he always spoke French with you, that he did not punish
you for his own pleasure. Then you stopped crying, and asked,
'Pour le plaisir de qui alors?' That means 'For whose pleasure
then?' Hope said it was a droll question for a little girl to
"I do not think it was Emilia who asked that remarkable
question, little girl," said Kate.
"I dare say it was," said Emilia; "I have been asking it all my
life." Her eyes grew very moist, what with fatigue and
excitement. But just then, as is apt to happen in this world,
they were all suddenly recalled from tears to tea, and the
children smothered their curiosity in strawberries and cream.
They sat again beside the western door, after tea. The young
moon came from a cloud and dropped a broad path of glory upon
the bay; a black yacht glided noiselessly in, and anchored amid
this tract of splendor. The shadow of its masts was on the
luminous surface, while their reflection lay at a different
angle, and seemed to penetrate far below. Then the departing
steamer went flashing across this bright realm with gorgeous
lustre; its red and green lights were doubled in the paler
waves, its four reflected chimneys chased each other among the
reflected masts. This jewelled wonder passing, a single
fishing-boat drifted silently by, with its one dark sail; and
then the moon and the anchored yacht were left alone.
Presently some of the luggage came from the wharf. Malbone
brought out presents for everybody; then all the family went to
Europe in photographs, and with some reluctance came back to
America for bed.
PLACE AUX DAMES!
IN every town there is one young maiden who is the universal
favorite, who belongs to all sets and is made an exception to
all family feuds, who is the confidante of all girls and the
adopted sister of all young men, up to the time when they
respectively offer themselves to her, and again after they are
rejected. This post was filled in Oldport, in those days, by
my cousin Kate.
Born into the world with many other gifts, this last and least
definable gift of popularity was added to complete them all.
Nobody criticised her, nobody was jealous of her, her very
rivals lent her their new music and their lovers; and her own
discarded wooers always sought her to be a bridesmaid when they
married somebody else.
She was one of those persons who seem to have come into the
world well-dressed. There was an atmosphere of elegance around
her, like a costume; every attitude implied a presence-chamber
or a ball-room. The girls complained that in private
theatricals no combination of disguises could reduce Kate to
the ranks, nor give her the "make-up" of a waiting-maid. Yet as
her father was a New York merchant of the precarious or
spasmodic description, she had been used from childhood to the
wildest fluctuations of wardrobe;--a year of Paris
dresses,--then another year spent in making over ancient
finery, that never looked like either finery or antiquity when
it came from her magic hands. Without a particle of vanity or
fear, secure in health and good-nature and invariable
prettiness, she cared little whether the appointed means of
grace were ancient silk or modern muslin. In her periods of
poverty, she made no secret of the necessary devices; the other
girls, of course, guessed them, but her lovers never did,
because she always told them. There was one particular tarlatan
dress of hers which was a sort of local institution. It was
known to all her companions, like the State House. There was a
report that she had first worn it at her christening; the
report originated with herself. The young men knew that she was
going to the party if she could turn that pink tarlatan once
more; but they had only the vaguest impression what a tarlatan
was, and cared little on which side it was worn, so long as
Kate was inside.
During these epochs of privation her life, in respect to dress,
was a perpetual Christmas-tree of second-hand gifts. Wealthy
aunts supplied her with cast-off shoes of all sizes, from two
and a half up to five, and she used them all. She was reported
to have worn one straw hat through five changes of fashion. It
was averred that, when square crowns were in vogue, she
flattened it over a tin pan, and that, when round crowns
returned, she bent it on the bedpost. There was such a charm
in her way of adapting these treasures, that the other girls
liked to test her with new problems in the way of millinery and
dress-making; millionnaire friends implored her to trim their
hats, and lent her their own things in order to learn how to
wear them. This applied especially to certain rich cousins, shy
and studious girls, who adored her, and to whom society only
ceased to be alarming when the brilliant Kate took them under
her wing, and graciously accepted a few of their newest
feathers. Well might they acquiesce, for she stood by them
superbly, and her most favored partners found no way to her
hand so sure as to dance systematically through that staid
sisterhood. Dear, sunshiny, gracious, generous Kate!--who has
ever done justice to the charm given to this grave old world by
the presence of one free-hearted and joyous girl?
At the time now to be described, however, Kate's purse was well
filled; and if she wore only second-best finery, it was because
she had lent her very best to somebody else. All that her
doting father asked was to pay for her dresses, and to see her
wear them; and if her friends wore a part of them, it only made
necessary a larger wardrobe, and more varied and pleasurable
shopping. She was as good a manager in wealth as in poverty,
wasted nothing, took exquisite care of everything, and saved
faithfully for some one else all that was not needed for her
own pretty person.
Pretty she was throughout, from the parting of her jet-black
hair to the high instep of her slender foot; a glancing,
brilliant, brunette beauty, with the piquant charm of perpetual
spirits, and the equipoise of a perfectly healthy nature. She
was altogether graceful, yet she had not the fresh, free grace
of her cousin
Hope, who was lithe and strong as a hawthorne spray: Kate's
was the narrower grace of culture grown hereditary, an in-door
elegance that was born in her, and of which dancing-school was
but the natural development. You could not picture Hope to your
mind in one position more than in another; she had an endless
variety of easy motion. When you thought of Kate, you
remembered precisely how she sat, how she stood, and how she
walked. That was all, and it was always the same. But is not
that enough? We do not ask of Mary Stuart's portrait that it
should represent her in more than one attitude, and why should
a living beauty need more than two or three?
Kate was betrothed to her cousin Harry, Hope's brother, and,
though she was barely twenty, they had seemed to appertain to
each other for a time so long that the memory of man or maiden
aunt ran not to the contrary. She always declared, indeed, that
they were born married, and that their wedding-day would seem
like a silver wedding. Harry was quiet, unobtrusive, and manly.
He might seem commonplace at first beside the brilliant Kate
and his more gifted sister; but thorough manhood is never
commonplace, and he was a person to whom one could anchor. His
strong, steadfast physique was the type of his whole nature;
when he came into the room, you felt as if a good many people
had been added to the company. He made steady progress in his
profession of the law, through sheer worth; he never dazzled,
but he led. His type was pure Saxon, with short, curling hair,
blue eyes, and thin, fair skin, to which the color readily
mounted. Up to a certain point he was imperturbably patient
and amiable, but, when overtaxed, was fiery and impetuous for a
single instant, and no more. It seemed as if a sudden flash of
anger went over him, like the flash that glides along the
glutinous stem of the fraxinella, when you touch it with a
candle; the next moment it had utterly vanished, and was
forgotten as if it had never been.
Kate's love for her lover was one of those healthy and assured
ties that often outlast the ardors of more passionate natures.
For other temperaments it might have been inadequate; but
theirs matched perfectly, and it was all sufficient for them.
If there was within Kate's range a more heroic and ardent
emotion than that inspired by Harry, it was put forth toward
Hope. This was her idolatry; she always said that it was
fortunate Hope was Hal's sister, or she should have felt it her
duty to give them to each other, and not die till the wedding
was accomplished. Harry shared this adoration to quite a
reasonable extent, for a brother; but his admiration for Philip
Malbone was one that Kate did not quite share. Harry's quieter
mood had been dazzled from childhood by Philip, who had always
been a privileged guest in the household. Kate's clear,
penetrating, buoyant nature had divined Phil's weaknesses, and
had sometimes laughed at them, even from her childhood; though
she did not dislike him, for she did not dislike anybody. But
Harry was magnetized by him very much as women were; believed
him true, because he was tender, and called him only fastidious
where Kate called him lazy.
Kate was spending that summer with her aunt Jane, whose
especial pet and pride she was. Hope was spending there the
summer vacation of a Normal School in which she had just become
a teacher. Her father had shared in the family ups and downs,
but had finally stayed down, while the rest had remained up.
Fortunately, his elder children were indifferent to this, and
indeed rather preferred it; it was a tradition that Hope had
expressed the wish, when a child, that her father might lose
his property, so that she could become a teacher. As for Harry,
he infinitely preferred the drudgery of a law office to that of
a gentleman of leisure; and as for their step-mother, it turned
out, when she was left a widow, that she had secured for
herself and Emilia whatever property remained, so that she
suffered only the delightful need of living in Europe for
The elder brother and sister had alike that fine physical vigor
which New England is now developing, just in time to save it
from decay. Hope was of Saxon type, though a shade less blonde
than her brother; she was a little taller, and of more
commanding presence, with a peculiarly noble carriage of the
shoulders. Her brow was sometimes criticised as being a little
too full for a woman; but her nose was straight, her mouth and
teeth beautiful, and her profile almost perfect. Her complexion
had lost by out-door life something of its delicacy, but had
gained a freshness and firmness that no sunlight could impair.
She had that wealth of hair which young girls find the most
enviable point of beauty in each other. Hers reached below her
knees, when loosened, or else lay coiled, in munificent braids
of gold, full of sparkling lights and contrasted shadows, upon
her queenly head.
Her eyes were much darker than her hair, and had a way of
opening naively and suddenly, with a perfectly infantine
expression, as if she at that moment saw the sunlight for the
first time. Her long lashes were somewhat like Emilia's, and
she had the same deeply curved eyebrows; in no other point was
there a shade of resemblance between the half-sisters. As
compared with Kate, Hope showed a more abundant physical life;
there was more blood in her; she had ampler outlines, and
health more absolutely unvaried, for she had yet to know the
experience of a day's illness. Kate seemed born to tread upon a
Brussels carpet, and Hope on the softer luxury of the forest
floor. Out of doors her vigor became a sort of ecstasy, and
she walked the earth with a jubilee of the senses, such as
Browning attributes to his Saul.
This inexhaustible freshness of physical organization seemed to
open the windows of her soul, and make for her a new heaven and
earth every day. It gave also a peculiar and almost
embarrassing directness to her mental processes, and suggested
in them a sort of final and absolute value, as if truth had for
the first time found a perfectly translucent medium. It was
not so much that she said rare things, but her very silence was
eloquent, and there was a great deal of it. Her girlhood had in
it a certain dignity as of a virgin priestess or sibyl. Yet
her hearty sympathies and her healthy energy made her at home
in daily life, and in a democratic society. To Kate, for
instance, she was a necessity of existence, like light or air.
Kate's nature was limited; part of her graceful equipoise was
narrowness. Hope was capable of far more self-abandonment to a
controlling emotion, and, if she ever erred, would err more
widely, for it would be because the whole power of her
conscience was misdirected. "Once let her take wrong for
right," said Aunt Jane, "and stop her if you can; these born
saints give a great deal more trouble than children of this
world, like my Kate." Yet in daily life Hope yielded to her
cousin nine times out of ten; but the tenth time was the key to
the situation. Hope loved Kate devotedly; but Kate believed in
her as the hunted fugitive believes in the north star.
To these maidens, thus united, came Emilia home from Europe.
The father of Harry and Hope had been lured into a second
marriage with Emilia's mother, a charming and unscrupulous
woman, born with an American body and a French soul. She
having once won him to Paris, held him there life-long, and
kept her step-children at a safe distance. She arranged that,
even after her own death, her daughter should still remain
abroad for education; nor was Emilia ordered back until she
brought down some scandal by a romantic attempt to elope from
boarding-school with a Swiss servant. It was by weaning her
heart from this man that Philip Malbone had earned the thanks
of the whole household during his hasty flight through Europe.
He possessed some skill in withdrawing the female heart from an
undesirable attachment, though it was apt to be done by
substituting another. It was fortunate that, in this case, no
fears could be entertained. Since his engagement Philip had not
permitted himself so much as a flirtation; he and Hope were to
be married soon; he loved and admired her heartily, and had an
indifference to her want of fortune that was quite amazing,
when we consider that he had a fortune of his own.
A DRIVE ON THE AVENUE.
OLDPORT AVENUE is a place where a great many carriages may be
seen driving so slowly that they might almost be photographed
without halting, and where their occupants already wear the
dismal expression which befits that process. In these fine
vehicles, following each other in an endless file, one sees
such faces as used to be exhibited in ball-rooms during the
performance of quadrilles, before round dances came in,--faces
marked by the renunciation of all human joy. Sometimes a faint
suspicion suggests itself on the Avenue, that these torpid
countenances might be roused to life, in case some horse should
run away. But that one chance never occurs; the riders may not
yet be toned down into perfect breeding, but the horses are. I
do not know what could ever break the gloom of this joyless
procession, were it not that youth and beauty are always in
fashion, and one sometimes meets an exceptional barouche full
of boys and girls, who could absolutely be no happier if they
were a thousand miles away from the best society. And such a
joyous company were our four youths and maidens when they went
to drive that day, Emilia being left at home to rest after the
fatigues of the voyage.
"What beautiful horses!" was Hope's first exclamation. "What
grave people!" was her second.
"What though in solemn silence all
Roll round --"
"Hope is thinking," said Harry, "whether 'in reason's ear they
"How COULD you know that?" said she, opening her eyes.
"One thing always strikes me," said Kate. "The sentence of
stupefaction does not seem to be enforced till after
five-and-twenty. That young lady we just met looked quite
lively and juvenile last year, I remember, and now she has
graduated into a dowager."
"Like little Helen's kitten," said Philip. "She justly remarks
that, since I saw it last, it is all spoiled into a great big
"Those must be snobs," said Harry, as a carriage with unusually
gorgeous liveries rolled by.
"I suppose so," said Malbone, indifferently. "In Oldport we
call all new-comers snobs, you know, till they have invited us
to their grand ball. Then we go to it, and afterwards speak
well of them, and only abuse their wine."
"How do you know them for new-comers?" asked Hope, looking
after the carriage.
"By their improperly intelligent expression," returned Phil.
"They look around them as you do, my child, with the air of
wide-awake curiosity which marks the American traveller. That
is out of place here. The Avenue abhors everything but a
"I never can find out," continued Hope, "how people recognize
each other here. They do not look at each other, unless they
know each other: and how are they to know if they know, unless
they look first?"
"It seems an embarrassment," said Malbone. "But it is supposed
that fashion perforates the eyelids and looks through. If you
attempt it in any other way, you are lost. Newly arrived
people look about them, and, the more new wealth they have, the
more they gaze. The men are uneasy behind their recently
educated mustaches, and the women hold their parasols with
trembling hands. It takes two years to learn to drive on the
Avenue. Come again next summer, and you will see in those same
carriages faces of remote superciliousness, that suggest
generations of gout and ancestors."
"What a pity one feels," said Harry, "for these people who
still suffer from lingering modesty, and need a master to teach
them to be insolent!"
"They learn it soon enough," said Kate. "Philip is right.
Fashion lies in the eye. People fix their own position by the
way they don't look at you."
"There is a certain indifference of manner," philosophized
Malbone, "before which ingenuous youth is crushed. I may know
that a man can hardly read or write, and that his father was a
ragpicker till one day he picked up bank-notes for a million.
No matter. If he does not take the trouble to look at me, I
must look reverentially at him."
"Here is somebody who will look at Hope," cried Kate, suddenly.
A carriage passed, bearing a young lady with fair hair, and a
keen, bright look, talking eagerly to a small and quiet youth
Her face brightened still more as she caught the eye of Hope,
whose face lighted up in return, and who then sank back with a
sort of sigh of relief, as if she had at last seen somebody she
cared for. The lady waved an un-gloved hand, and drove by.
"Who is that?" asked Philip, eagerly. He was used to knowing
"Hope's pet," said Kate, "and she who pets Hope, Lady Antwerp."
"Is it possible?" said Malbone. "That young creature? I
fancied her ladyship in spectacles, with little side curls. Men
speak of her with such dismay."
"Of course," said Kate, "she asks them sensible questions."
"That is bad," admitted Philip. "Nothing exasperates
fashionable Americans like a really intelligent foreigner. They
feel as Sydney Smith says the English clergy felt about
Elizabeth Fry; she disturbs their repose, and gives rise to
distressing comparisons,--they long to burn her alive. It is
not their notion of a countess."
"I am sure it was not mine," said Hope; "I can hardly remember
that she is one; I only know that I like her, she is so simple
and intelligent. She might be a girl from a Normal School."
"It is because you are just that," said Kate, "that she likes
you. She came here supposing that we had all been at such
schools. Then she complained of us,--us girls in what we call
good society, I mean,--because, as she more than hinted, we did
not seem to know anything."
"Some of the mothers were angry," said Hope. "But Aunt Jane
told her that it was perfectly true, and that her ladyship had
not yet seen the best-educated girls in America, who were
generally the daughters of old ministers and well-to-do
shopkeepers in small New England towns, Aunt Jane said."
"Yes," said Kate, "she said that the best of those girls went
to High Schools and Normal Schools, and learned things
thoroughly, you know; but that we were only taught at
boarding-schools and by governesses, and came out at eighteen,
and what could we know? Then came Hope, who had been at those
schools, and was the child of refined people too, and Lady
Antwerp was perfectly satisfied."
"Especially," said Hope, "when Aunt Jane told her that, after
all, schools did not do very much good, for if people were born
stupid they only became more tiresome by schooling. She said
that she had forgotten all she learned at school except the
boundaries of ancient Cappadocia."
Aunt Jane's fearless sayings always passed current among her
nieces; and they drove on, Hope not being lowered in Philip's
estimation, nor raised in her own, by being the pet of a
Who would not be charmed (he thought to himself) by this noble
girl, who walks the earth fresh and strong as a Greek goddess,
pure as Diana, stately as Juno? She belongs to the unspoiled
womanhood of another age, and is wasted among these dolls and
He looked at her. She sat erect and graceful, unable to droop
into the debility of fashionable reclining,--her breezy hair
lifted a little by the soft wind, her face flushed, her full
brown eyes looking eagerly about, her mouth smiling happily.
To be with those she loved best, and to be driving over the
beautiful earth! She was so happy that no mob of fashionables
could have lessened her enjoyment, or made her for a moment
conscious that anybody looked at her. The brilliant equipages
which they met each moment were not wholly uninteresting even
to her, for her affections went forth to some of the riders and
to all the horses. She was as well contented at that moment, on
the glittering Avenue, as if they had all been riding home
through country lanes, and in constant peril of being jolted
out among the whortleberry-bushes.
Her face brightened yet more as they met a carriage containing
a graceful lady dressed with that exquisiteness of taste that
charms both man and woman, even if no man can analyze and no
woman rival its effect. She had a perfectly high-bred look, and
an eye that in an instant would calculate one's ancestors as
far back as Nebuchadnezzar, and bow to them all together. She
smiled good-naturedly on Hope, and kissed her hand to Kate.
"So, Hope," said Philip, "you are bent on teaching music to
Mrs. Meredith's children."
"Indeed I am!" said Hope, eagerly. "O Philip, I shall enjoy it
so! I do not care so very much about her, but she has dear
little girls. And you know I am a born drudge. I have not been
working hard enough to enjoy an entire vacation, but I shall be
so very happy here if I can have some real work for an hour or
two every other day."
"Hope," said Philip, gravely, "look steadily at these people
whom we are meeting, and reflect. Should you like to have them
say, 'There goes Mrs. Meredith's music teacher'?"
"Why not?" said Hope, with surprise. "The children are young,
and it is not very presumptuous. I ought to know enough for
Malbone looked at Kate, who smiled with delight, and put her
hand on that of Hope. Indeed, she kept it there so long that
one or two passing ladies stopped their salutations in mid
career, and actually looked after them in amazement at their
attitude, as who should say, "What a very mixed society!"
So they drove on,--meeting four-in-hands, and tandems, and
donkey-carts, and a goat-cart, and basket-wagons driven by
pretty girls, with uncomfortable youths in or out of livery
behind. They met, had they but known it, many who were aiming
at notoriety, and some who had it; many who looked contented
with their lot, and some who actually were so. They met some
who put on courtesy and grace with their kid gloves, and laid
away those virtues in their glove-boxes afterwards; while to
others the mere consciousness of kid gloves brought uneasiness,
redness of the face, and a general impression of being all made
of hands. They met the four white horses of an
ex-harness-maker, and the superb harnesses of an
ex-horse-dealer. Behind these came the gayest and most plebeian
equipage of all, a party of journeymen carpenters returning
from their work in a four-horse wagon. Their only fit compeers
were an Italian opera-troupe, who were chatting and
gesticulating on the piazza of the great hotel, and planning,
amid jest and laughter, their future campaigns. Their work
seemed like play, while the play around them seemed like work.
Indeed, most people on the Avenue seemed to be happy in inverse
ratio to their income list.
As our youths and maidens passed the hotel, a group of French
naval officers strolled forth, some of whom had a good deal of
inexplicable gold lace dangling in festoons from their
shoulders,--"topsail halyards" the American midshipmen called
them. Philip looked hard at one of these gentlemen.
"I have seen that young fellow before," said he, "or his twin
brother. But who can swear to the personal identity of a
AUNT JANE DEFINES HER POSITION.
THE next morning had that luminous morning haze, not quite
dense enough to be called a fog, which is often so lovely in
Oldport. It was perfectly still; the tide swelled and swelled
till it touched the edge of the green lawn behind the house,
and seemed ready to submerge the slender pier; the water looked
at first like glass, till closer gaze revealed long sinuous
undulations, as if from unseen water-snakes beneath. A few rags
of storm-cloud lay over the half-seen hills beyond the bay, and
behind them came little mutterings of thunder, now here, now
there, as if some wild creature were roaming up and down,
dissatisfied, in the shelter of the clouds. The pale haze
extended into the foreground, and half veiled the schooners
that lay at anchor with their sails up. It was sultry, and
there was something in the atmosphere that at once threatened
and soothed. Sometimes a few drops dimpled the water and then
ceased; the muttering creature in the sky moved northward and
grew still. It was a day when every one would be tempted to go
out rowing, but when only lovers would go. Philip and Hope
Kate and Harry, meanwhile, awaited their opportunity to go in
and visit Aunt Jane. This was a thing that never could be done
till near noon, because that dear lady was very deliberate in
her morning habits, and always averred that she had never seen
the sun rise except in a panorama. She hated to be hurried in
dressing, too; for she was accustomed to say that she must have
leisure to understand herself, and this was clearly an affair
But she was never more charming than when, after dressing and
breakfasting in seclusion, and then vigilantly watching her
handmaiden through the necessary dustings and arrangements, she
sat at last, with her affairs in order, to await events. Every
day she expected something entirely new to happen, and was
never disappointed. For she herself always happened, if
nothing else did; she could no more repeat herself than the
sunrise can; and the liveliest visitor always carried away
something fresher and more remarkable than he brought.
Her book that morning had displeased her, and she was boiling
with indignation against its author.
"I am reading a book so dry," she said, "it makes me cough. No
wonder there was a drought last summer. It was printed then.
Worcester's Geography seems in my memory as fascinating as
Shakespeare, when I look back upon it from this book. How can a
man write such a thing and live?"
"Perhaps he lived by writing it," said Kate.
"Perhaps it was the best he could do," added the more literal
"It certainly was not the best he could do, for he might have
died,--died instead of dried. O, I should like to prick that
man with something sharp, and see if sawdust did not run out of
him! Kate, ask the bookseller to let me know if he ever really
dies, and then life may seem fresh again."
"What is it?" asked Kate.
"Somebody's memoirs," said Aunt Jane. "Was there no man left
worth writing about, that they should make a biography about
this one? It is like a life of Napoleon with all the battles
left out. They are conceited enough to put his age in the upper
corner of each page too, as if anybody cared how old he was."
"Such pretty covers!" said Kate. "It is too bad."
"Yes," said Aunt Jane. "I mean to send them back and have new
leaves put in. These are so wretched, there is not a teakettle
in the land so insignificant that it would boil over them.
Don't let us talk any more about it. Have Philip and Hope gone
out upon the water?"
"Yes, dear," said Kate. "Did Ruth tell you?"
"When did that aimless infant ever tell anything?"
"Then how did you know it?"
"If I waited for knowledge till that sweet-tempered parrot
chose to tell me," Aunt Jane went on, "I should be even more
foolish than I am."
"Then how did you know?"
"Of course I heard the boat hauled down, and of course I knew
that none but lovers would go out just before a thunder-storm.
Then you and Harry came in, and I knew it was the others."
"Aunt Jane," said Kate, "you divine everything: what a brain
"Brain! it is nothing but a collection of shreds, like a little
girl's work-basket,--a scrap of blue silk and a bit of white
"Now she is fishing for compliments," said Kate, "and she shall
have one. She was very sweet and good to Philip last night."
"I know it," said Aunt Jane, with a groan. "I waked in the
night and thought about it. I was awake a great deal last
night. I have heard cocks crowing all my life, but I never
knew what that creature could accomplish before. So I lay and
thought how good and forgiving I was; it was quite
"Remorse?" said Kate.
"Yes, indeed. I hate to be a saint all the time. There ought
to be vacations. Instead of suffering from a bad conscience, I
suffer from a good one."
"It was no merit of yours, aunt," put in Harry. "Who was ever
more agreeable and lovable than Malbone last night?"
"Lovable!" burst out Aunt Jane, who never could be managed or
manipulated by anybody but Kate, and who often rebelled against
Harry's blunt assertions. "Of course he is lovable, and that
is why I dislike him. His father was so before him. That is
the worst of it. I never in my life saw any harm done by a
villain; I wish I could. All the mischief in this world is done
by lovable people. Thank Heaven, nobody ever dared to call me
"I should like to see any one dare call you anything else,--you
dear, old, soft-hearted darling!" interposed Kate.
"But, aunt," persisted Harry, "if you only knew what the mass
of young men are--"
"Don't I?" interrupted the impetuous lady. "What is there that
is not known to any woman who has common sense, and eyes enough
to look out of a window?"
"If you only knew," Harry went on, "how superior Phil Malbone
is, in his whole tone, to any fellow of my acquaintance."
"Lord help the rest!" she answered. "Philip has a sort of
refinement instead of principles, and a heart instead of a
conscience,--just heart enough to keep himself happy and
everybody else miserable."
"Do you mean to say," asked the obstinate Hal, "that there is
no difference between refinement and coarseness?"
"Yes, there is," she said.
"Well, which is best?"
"Coarseness is safer by a great deal," said Aunt Jane, "in the
hands of a man like Philip. What harm can that swearing
coachman do, I should like to know, in the street yonder? To be
sure it is very unpleasant, and I wonder they let people swear
so, except, perhaps, in waste places outside the town; but that
is his way of expressing himself, and he only frightens people,
"Which Philip does not," said Hal.
"Exactly. That is the danger. He frightens nobody, not even
himself, when he ought to wear a label round his neck marked
'Dangerous,' such as they have at other places where it is
slippery and brittle. When he is here, I keep saying to myself,
'Too smooth, too smooth!'"
"Aunt Jane," said Harry, gravely, "I know Malbone very well,
and I never knew any man whom it was more unjust to call a
"Did I say he was a hypocrite?" she cried. "He is worse than
that; at least, more really dangerous. It is these high-strung
sentimentalists who do all the mischief; who play on their own
lovely emotions, forsooth, till they wear out those fine
fiddlestrings, and then have nothing left but the flesh and the
D. Don't tell me!"
"Do stop, auntie," interposed Kate, quite alarmed, "you are
really worse than a coachman. You are growing very profane
"I have a much harder time than any coachman, Kate," retorted
the injured lady. "Nobody tries to stop him, and you are
always hushing me up."
"Hushing you up, darling?" said Kate. "When we only spoil you
by praising and quoting everything you say."
"Only when it amuses you," said Aunt Jane. "So long as I sit
and cry my eyes out over a book, you all love me, and when I
talk nonsense, you are ready to encourage it; but when I begin
to utter a little sense, you all want to silence me, or else
run out of the room! Yesterday I read about a newspaper
somewhere, called the 'Daily Evening Voice'; I wish you would
allow me a daily morning voice."
"Do not interfere, Kate," said Hal. "Aunt Jane and I only wish
to understand each other."
"I am sure we don't," said Aunt Jane; "I have no desire to
understand you, and you never will understand me till you
"Let us agree on one thing," Harry said. "Surely, aunt, you
know how he loves Hope?"
Aunt Jane approached a degree nearer the equator, and said,
gently, "I fear I do."
"Yes, fear. That is just what troubles me. I know precisely
how he loves her. Il se laisse aimer. Philip likes to be
petted, as much as any cat, and, while he will purr, Hope is
happy. Very few men accept idolatry with any degree of grace,
but he unfortunately does."
"Unfortunately?" remonstrated Hal, as far as ever from being
satisfied. "This is really too bad. You never will do him any
"Ah?" said Aunt Jane, chilling again, "I thought I did. I
observe he is very much afraid of me, and there seems to be no
"The real trouble is," said Harry, after a pause, "that you
doubt his constancy."
"What do you call constancy?" said she. "Kissing a woman's
picture ten years after a man has broken her heart? Philip
Malbone has that kind of constancy, and so had his father
This was too much for Harry, who was making for the door in
indignation, when little Ruth came in with Aunt Jane's
luncheon, and that lady was soon absorbed in the hopeless task
of keeping her handmaiden's pretty blue and white gingham
sleeve out of the butter-plate.
A MULTIVALVE HEART.
PHILIP MALBONE had that perfectly sunny temperament which is
peculiarly captivating among Americans, because it is so rare.
He liked everybody and everybody liked him; he had a thousand
ways of affording pleasure, and he received it in the giving.
He had a personal beauty, which, strange to say, was recognized
by both sexes,--for handsome men must often consent to be
mildly hated by their own. He had travelled much, and had
mingled in very varied society; he had a moderate fortune, no
vices, no ambition, and no capacity of ennui.
He was fastidious and over-critical, it might be, in his
theories, but in practice he was easily suited and never vexed.
He liked travelling, and he liked staying at home; he was so
continually occupied as to give an apparent activity to all his
life, and yet he was never too busy to be interrupted,
especially if the intruder were a woman or a child. He liked
to be with people of his own age, whatever their condition; he
also liked old people because they were old, and children
because they were young. In travelling by rail, he would woo
crying babies out of their mothers' arms, and still them; it
was always his back that Irishwomen thumped, to ask if they
must get out at the next station; and he might be seen handing
out decrepit paupers, as if they were of royal blood and bore
concealed sceptres in their old umbrellas. Exquisitely nice in
his personal habits, he had the practical democracy of a
good-natured young prince; he had never yet seen a human being
who awed him, nor one whom he had the slightest wish to awe.
His courtesy, had, therefore, that comprehensiveness which we
call republican, though it was really the least republican
thing about him. All felt its attraction; there was really no
one who disliked him, except Aunt Jane; and even she admitted
that he was the only person who knew how to cut her
That cheerful English premier who thought that any man ought to
find happiness enough in walking London streets and looking at
the lobsters in the fish-markets, was not more easily satisfied
than Malbone. He liked to observe the groups of boys fishing
at the wharves, or to hear the chat of their fathers about
coral-reefs and penguins' eggs; or to sketch the fisher's
little daughter awaiting her father at night on some deserted
and crumbling wharf, his blue pea-jacket over her fair
ring-leted head, and a great cat standing by with tail
uplifted, her sole protector. He liked the luxurious indolence
of yachting, and he liked as well to float in his wherry among
the fleet of fishing schooners getting under way after a three
days' storm, each vessel slipping out in turn from the closely
packed crowd, and spreading its white wings for flight. He
liked to watch the groups of negro boys and girls strolling by
the window at evening, and strumming on the banjo,--the only
vestige of tropical life that haunts our busy Northern zone.
But he liked just as well to note the ways of well-dressed
girls and boys at croquet parties, or to sit at the club window
and hear the gossip. He was a jewel of a listener, and was not
easily bored even when Philadelphians talked about families, or
New Yorkers about bargains, or Bostonians about books. A man
who has not one absorbing aim can get a great many
miscellaneous things into each twenty-four hours; and there was
not a day in which Philip did not make himself agreeable and
useful to many people, receive many confidences, and give much
good-humored advice about matters of which he knew nothing. His
friends' children ran after him in the street, and he knew the
pet theories and wines of elderly gentlemen. He said that he
won their hearts by remembering every occurrence in their lives
except their birthdays.
It was, perhaps, no drawback on the popularity of Philip
Malbone that he had been for some ten years reproached as a
systematic flirt by all women with whom he did not happen at
the moment to be flirting. The reproach was unjust; he had
never done anything systematically in his life; it was his
temperament that flirted, not his will. He simply had that most
perilous of all seductive natures, in which the seducer is
himself seduced. With a personal refinement that almost
amounted to purity, he was constantly drifting into loves more
profoundly perilous than if they had belonged to a grosser man.
Almost all women loved him, because he loved almost all; he
never had to assume an ardor, for he always felt it. His heart
was multivalve; he could love a dozen at once in various modes
and gradations, press a dozen hands in a day, gaze into a dozen
pair of eyes with unfeigned tenderness; while the last pair
wept for him, he was looking into the next. In truth, he loved
to explore those sweet depths; humanity is the highest thing to
investigate, he said, and the proper study of mankind is woman.
Woman needs to be studied while under the influence of emotion;
let us therefore have the emotions. This was the reason he gave
to himself; but this refined Mormonism of the heart was not
based on reason, but on temperament and habit. In such matters
logic is only for the by-standers.
His very generosity harmed him, as all our good qualities may
harm us when linked with bad ones; he had so many excuses for
doing kindnesses to his friends, it was hard to quarrel with
him if he did them too tenderly. He was no more capable of
unkindness than of constancy; and so strongly did he fix the
allegiance of those who loved him, that the women to whom he
had caused most anguish would still defend him when accused;
would have crossed the continent, if needed, to nurse him in
illness, and would have rained rivers of tears on his grave.
To do him justice, he would have done almost as much for
them,--for any of them. He could torture a devoted heart, but
only through a sort of half-wilful unconsciousness; he could
not bear to see tears shed in his presence, nor to let his
imagination dwell very much on those which flowed in his
absence. When he had once loved a woman, or even fancied that
he loved her, he built for her a shrine that was never
dismantled, and in which a very little faint incense would
sometimes be found burning for years after; he never quite
ceased to feel a languid thrill at the mention of her name; he
would make even for a past love the most generous sacrifices of
time, convenience, truth perhaps,--everything, in short, but
the present love. To those who had given him all that an
undivided heart can give he would deny nothing but an undivided
heart in return. The misfortune was that this was the only
thing they cared to possess.
This abundant and spontaneous feeling gave him an air of
earnestness, without which he could not have charmed any woman,
and, least of all, one like Hope. No woman really loves a
trifler; she must at least convince herself that he who trifles
with others is serious with her. Philip was never quite serious
and never quite otherwise; he never deliberately got up a
passion, for it was never needful; he simply found an object
for his emotions, opened their valves, and then watched their
flow. To love a charming woman in her presence is no test of
genuine passion; let us know how much you long for her in
absence. This longing had never yet seriously troubled Malbone,
provided there was another charming person within an easy walk.
If it was sometimes forced upon him that all this ended in
anguish to some of these various charmers, first or last, then
there was always in reserve the pleasure of repentance. He was
very winning and generous in his repentances, and he enjoyed
them so much they were often repeated. He did not pass for a
weak person, and he was not exactly weak; but he spent his life
in putting away temptations with one hand and pulling them back
with the other. There was for him something piquant in being
thus neither innocent nor guilty, but always on some delicious
middle ground. He loved dearly to skate on thin ice,--that was
the trouble,--especially where he fancied the water to be just
within his depth. Unluckily the sea of life deepens rather
Malbone had known Hope from her childhood, as he had known her
cousins, but their love dated from their meetings beside the
sickbed of his mother, over whom he had watched with unstinted
devotion for weary months. She had been very fond of the young
girl, and her last earthly act was to place Hope's hand in
Philip's. Long before this final consecration, Hope had won his
heart more thoroughly, he fancied, than any woman he had ever
seen. The secret of this crowning charm was, perhaps, that she
was a new sensation. He had prided himself on his knowledge of
her sex, and yet here was a wholly new species. He was
acquainted with the women of society, and with the women who
only wished to be in society. But here was one who was in the
chrysalis, and had never been a grub, and had no wish to be a
butterfly, and what should he make of her? He was like a
student of insects who had never seen a bee. Never had he
known a young girl who cared for the things which this maiden
sought, or who was not dazzled by things to which Hope seemed
perfectly indifferent. She was not a devotee, she was not a
prude; people seemed to amuse and interest her; she liked them,
she declared, as much as she liked books. But this very way of
putting the thing seemed like inverting the accustomed order of
affairs in the polite world, and was of itself a novelty.
Of course he had previously taken his turn for a while among
Kate's admirers; but it was when she was very young, and,
moreover, it was hard to get up anything like a tender and
confidential relation with that frank maiden; she never would
have accepted Philip Malbone for herself, and she was by no
means satisfied with his betrothal to her best beloved. But
that Hope loved him ardently there was no doubt, however it
might be explained. Perhaps it was some law of opposites, and
she needed some one of lighter nature than her own. As her
resolute purpose charmed him, so she may have found a certain
fascination in the airy way in which he took hold on life; he
was so full of thought and intelligence; possessing infinite
leisure, and yet incapable of ennui; ready to oblige every one,
and doing so many kind acts at so little personal sacrifice;
always easy, graceful, lovable, and kind. In her just
indignation at those who called him heartless, she forgot to
notice that his heart was not deep. He was interested in all
her pursuits, could aid her in all her studies, suggest schemes
for her benevolent desires, and could then make others work for
her, and even work himself. People usually loved Philip, even
while they criticised him; but Hope loved him first, and then
could not criticise him at all.
Nature seems always planning to equalize characters, and to
protect our friends from growing too perfect for our deserts.
Love, for instance, is apt to strengthen the weak, and yet
sometimes weakens the strong. Under its influence Hope
sometimes appeared at disadvantage. Had the object of her love
been indifferent, the result might have been otherwise, but her
ample nature apparently needed to contract itself a little, to
find room within Philip's heart. Not that in his presence she
became vain or petty or jealous; that would have been
impossible. She only grew credulous and absorbed and blind. A
kind of gentle obstinacy, too, developed itself in her nature,
and all suggestion of defects in him fell off from her as from
a marble image of Faith. If he said or did anything, there was
no appeal; that was settled, let us pass to something else.
I almost blush to admit that Aunt Jane--of whom it could by no
means be asserted that she was a saintly lady, but only a very
charming one--rather rejoiced in this transformation.
"I like it better, my dear," she said, with her usual
frankness, to Kate. "Hope was altogether too heavenly for my
style. When she first came here, I secretly thought I never
should care anything about her. She seemed nothing but a
little moral tale. I thought she would not last me five
minutes. But now she is growing quite human and ridiculous
about that Philip, and I think I may find her very attractive
"SOME LOVER'S CLEAR DAY."
"HOPE!" said Philip Malbone, as they sailed together in a
little boat the next morning, "I have come back to you from
months of bewildered dreaming. I have been wandering,--no
matter where. I need you. You cannot tell how much I need
"I can estimate it," she answered, gently, "by my need of you."
"Not at all," said Philip, gazing in her trustful face. "Any
one whom you loved would adore you, could he be by your side.
You need nothing. It is I who need you."
"Why?" she asked, simply.
"Because," he said, "I am capable of behaving very much like a
fool. Hope, I am not worthy of you; why do you love me? why do
you trust me?"
"I do not know how I learned to love you," said Hope. "It is a
blessing that was given to me. But I learned to trust you in
your mother's sick-room."
"Ay," said Philip, sadly, "there, at least, I did my full
"As few would have done it," said Hope, firmly,--"very few.
Such prolonged self-sacrifice must strengthen a man for life."
"Not always," said Philip, uneasily. "Too much of that sort of
thing may hurt one, I fancy, as well as too little. He may come
to imagine that the balance of virtue is in his favor, and that
he may grant himself a little indulgence to make up for lost
time. That sort of recoil is a little dangerous, as I
sometimes feel, do you know?"
"And you show it," said Hope, ardently, "by fresh sacrifices!
How much trouble you have taken about Emilia! Some time, when
you are willing, you shall tell me all about it. You always
seemed to me a magician, but I did not think that even you
could restore her to sense and wisdom so soon."
Malbone was just then very busy putting the boat about; but
when he had it on the other tack, he said, "How do you like
"Philip," said Hope, her eyes filling with tears, "I wonder if
you have the slightest conception how my heart is fixed on that
child. She has always been a sort of dream to me, and the
difficulty of getting any letters from her has only added to
the excitement. Now that she is here, my whole heart yearns
toward her. Yet, when I look into her eyes, a sort of blank
hopelessness comes over me. They seem like the eyes of some
untamable creature whose language I shall never learn. Philip,
you are older and wiser than I, and have shown already that you
understand her. Tell me what I can do to make her love me?"
"Tell me how any one could help it?" said Malbone, looking
fondly on the sweet, pleading face before him.
"I am beginning to fear that it can be helped," she said. Her
thoughts were still with Emilia.
"Perhaps it can," said Phil, "if you sit so far away from
people. Here we are alone on the bay. Come and sit by me,
She had been sitting amidships, but she came aft at once, and
nestled by him as he sat holding the tiller. She put her face
against his knee, like a tired child, and shut her eyes; her
hair was lifted by the summer breeze; a scent of roses came
from her; the mere contact of anything so fresh and pure was a
delight. He put his arm around her, and all the first ardor of
passion came back to him again; he remembered how he had longed
to win this Diana, and how thoroughly she was won.
"It is you who do me good," said she. "O Philip, sail as
slowly as you can." But he only sailed farther, instead of more
slowly, gliding in and out among the rocky islands in the light
north wind, which, for a wonder, lasted all that day,--dappling
the bare hills of the Isle of Shadows with a shifting beauty.
The tide was in and brimming, the fishing-boats were busy,
white gulls soared and clattered round them, and heavy
cormorants flapped away as they neared the rocks. Beneath the
boat the soft multitudinous jellyfishes waved their fringed
pendants, or glittered with tremulous gold along their pink,
translucent sides. Long lines and streaks of paler blue lay
smoothly along the enamelled surface, the low, amethystine
hills lay couched beyond them, and little clouds stretched
themselves in lazy length above the beautiful expanse. They
reached the ruined fort at last, and Philip, surrendering Hope
to others, was himself besieged by a joyous group.
As you stand upon the crumbling parapet of old Fort Louis, you
feel yourself poised in middle air; the sea-birds soar and
swoop around you, the white surf lashes the rocks far below,
the white vessels come and go, the water is around you on all
sides but one, and spreads its pale blue beauty up the lovely
bay, or, in deeper tints, southward towards the horizon line. I
know of no ruin in America which nature has so resumed; it
seems a part of the living rock; you cannot imagine it away.
It is a single round, low tower, shaped like the tomb of
Cacilia Metella. But its stately position makes it rank with
the vast sisterhood of wave-washed strongholds; it might be
King Arthur's Cornish Tyntagel; it might be "the teocallis
tower" of Tuloom. As you gaze down from its height, all things
that float upon the ocean seem equalized. Look at the crowded
life on yonder frigate, coming in full-sailed before the steady
sea-breeze. To furl that heavy canvas, a hundred men cluster
like bees upon the yards, yet to us upon this height it is all
but a plaything for the eyes, and we turn with equal interest
from that thronged floating citadel to some lonely boy in his
Yonder there sail to the ocean, beating wearily to windward, a
few slow vessels. Inward come jubilant white schooners,
wing-and-wing. There are fishing-smacks towing their boats
behind them like a family of children; and there are slender
yachts that bear only their own light burden. Once from this
height I saw the whole yacht squadron round Point Judith, and
glide in like a flock of land-bound sea-birds; and above them,
yet more snowy and with softer curves, pressed onward the white
squadrons of the sky.
Within, the tower is full of debris, now disintegrated into one
solid mass, and covered with vegetation. You can lie on the
blossoming clover, where the bees hum and the crickets chirp
around you, and can look through the arch which frames its own
fair picture. In the foreground lies the steep slope overgrown
with bayberry and gay with thistle blooms; then the little
winding cove with its bordering cliffs; and the rough pastures
with their grazing sheep beyond. Or, ascending the parapet,
you can look across the bay to the men making hay picturesquely
on far-off lawns, or to the cannon on the outer works of Fort
Adams, looking like vast black insects that have crawled forth
Here our young people spent the day; some sketched, some played
croquet, some bathed in rocky inlets where the kingfisher
screamed above them, some rowed to little craggy isles for wild
roses, some fished, and then were taught by the boatmen to cook
their fish in novel island ways. The morning grew more and more
cloudless, and then in the afternoon a fog came and went again,
marching by with its white armies, soon met and annihilated by
The conversation that day was very gay and incoherent,--little
fragments of all manner of things; science, sentiment,
everything: "Like a distracted dictionary," Kate said. At
last this lively maiden got Philip away from the rest, and
began to cross-question him.
"Tell me," she said, "about Emilia's Swiss lover. She shuddered
when she spoke of him. Was he so very bad?"
"Not at all," was the answer. "You had false impressions of
him. He was a handsome, manly fellow, a little
over-sentimental. He had travelled, and had been a merchant's
clerk in Paris and London. Then he came back, and became a
boatman on the lake, some said, for love of her."
"Did she love him?"
"Passionately, as she thought."
"Did he love her much?"
"I suppose so."
"Then why did she stop loving him?"
"She does not hate him?"
"No," said Kate, "that is what surprises me. Lovers hate, or
those who have been lovers. She is only indifferent. Philip,
she had wound silk upon a torn piece of his carte-de-visite,
and did not know it till I showed it to her. Even then she did
"Such is woman!" said Philip.
"Nonsense," said Kate. "She had seen somebody whom she loved
better, and she still loves that somebody. Who was it? She
had not been introduced into society. Were there any superior
men among her teachers? She is just the girl to fall in love
with her teacher, at least in Europe, where they are the only
men one sees."
"There were some very superior men among them," said Philip.
"Professor Schirmer has a European reputation; he wears blue
spectacles and a maroon wig."
"Do not talk so," said Kate. "I tell you, Emilia is not
changeable, like you, sir. She is passionate and constant. She
would have married that man or died for him. You may think
that your sage counsels restrained her, but they did not; it
was that she loved some one else. Tell me honestly. Do you not
know that there is somebody in Europe whom she loves to
"I do not know it," said Philip.
"Of course you do not KNOW it," returned the questioner. "Do
you not think it?"
"I have no reason to believe it."
"That has nothing to do with it," said Kate. "Things that we
believe without any reason have a great deal more weight with
us. Do you not believe it?"
"No," said Philip, point-blank.
"It is very strange," mused Kate. "Of course you do not know
much about it. She may have misled you, but I am sure that
neither you nor any one else could have cured her of a passion,
especially an unreasonable one, without putting another in its
place. If you did it without that, you are a magician, as Hope
once called you. Philip, I am afraid of you."
"There we sympathize," said Phil. "I am sometimes afraid of
myself, but I discover within half an hour what a very
commonplace land harmless person I am."
Meantime Emilia found herself beside her sister, who was
sketching. After watching Hope for a time in silence, she began
to question her.
"Tell me what you have been doing in all these years," she
"O, I have been at school," said Hope. "First I went through
the High School; then I stayed out of school a year, and
studied Greek and German with my uncle, and music with my aunt,
who plays uncommonly well. Then I persuaded them to let me go
to the Normal School for two years, and learn to be a teacher."
"A teacher!" said Emilia, with surprise. "Is it necessary that
you should be a teacher?"
"Very necessary," replied Hope. "I must have something to do,
you know, after I leave school."
"To do?" said the other. "Cannot you go to parties?"
"Not all the time," said her sister.
"Well," said Emilia, "in the mean time you can go to drive, or
make calls, or stay at home and make pretty little things to
wear, as other girls do."
"I can find time for that too, little sister, when I need them.
But I love children, you know, and I like to teach interesting
studies. I have splendid health, and I enjoy it all. I like it
as you love dancing, my child, only I like dancing too, so I
have a greater variety of enjoyments."
"But shall you not sometimes find it very hard?" said Emilia.
"That is why I shall like it," was the answer.
"What a girl you are!" exclaimed the younger sister. "You know
everything and can do everything."
"A very short everything," interposed Hope.
"Kate says," continued Emilia, "that you speak French as well
as I do, and I dare say you dance a great deal better; and
those are the only things I know."
"If we both had French partners, dear," replied the elder
maiden, "they would soon find the difference in both respects.
My dancing came by nature, I believe, and I learned French as a
child, by talking with my old uncle, who was half a Parisian.
I believe I have a good accent, but I have so little practice
that I have no command of the language compared to yours. In a
week or two we can both try our skill, as there is to be a ball
for the officers of the French corvette yonder," and Hope
pointed to the heavy spars, the dark canvas, and the high
quarter-deck which made the "Jean Hoche" seem as if she had
floated out of the days of Nelson.
The calm day waned, the sun drooped to his setting amid a few
golden bars and pencilled lines of light. Ere they were ready
for departure, the tide had ebbed, and, in getting the boats to
a practicable landing-place, Malbone was delayed behind the
others. As he at length brought his boat to the rock, Hope sat
upon the ruined fort, far above him, and sang. Her noble
contralto voice echoed among the cliffs down to the smooth
water; the sun went down behind her, and still she sat stately
and noble, her white dress looking more and more spirit-like
against the golden sky; and still the song rang on,--
"Never a scornful word should grieve thee,
I'd smile on thee, sweet, as the angels do;
Sweet as thy smile on me shone ever,
Douglas, Douglas, tender and true."
All sacredness and sweetness, all that was pure and brave and
truthful, seemed to rest in her. And when the song ceased at
his summons, and she came down to meet him,--glowing,
beautiful, appealing, tender,--then all meaner spells vanished,
if such had ever haunted him, and he was hers alone.
Later that evening, after the household had separated, Hope
went into the empty drawing-room for a light. Philip, after a
moment's hesitation, followed her, and paused in the doorway.
She stood, a white-robed figure, holding the lighted candle;
behind her rose the arched alcove, whose quaint cherubs looked
down on her; she seemed to have stepped forth, the awakened
image of a saint. Looking up, she saw his eager glance; then
she colored, trembled, and put the candle down. He came to her,
took her hand and kissed it, then put his hand upon her brow
and gazed into her face, then kissed her lips. She quietly
yielded, but her color came and went, and her lips moved as if
to speak. For a moment he saw her only, thought only of her.
Then, even while he gazed into her eyes, a flood of other
memories surged over him, and his own eyes grew dim. His head
swam, the lips he had just kissed appeared to fade away, and
something of darker, richer beauty seemed to burn through those
fair features; he looked through those gentle eyes into orbs
more radiant, and it was as if a countenance of eager passion
obliterated that fair head, and spoke with substituted lips,
"Behold your love." There was a thrill of infinite ecstasy in
the work his imagination did; he gave it rein, then suddenly
drew it in and looked at Hope. Her touch brought pain for an
instant, as she laid her hand upon him, but he bore it. Then
some influence of calmness came; there swept by him a flood of
earlier, serener memories; he sat down in the window-seat
beside her, and when she put her face beside his, and her soft
hair touched his cheek, and he inhaled the rose-odor that
always clung round her, every atom of his manhood stood up to
drive away the intruding presence, and he again belonged to her
When he went to his chamber that night, he drew from his pocket
a little note in a girlish hand, which he lighted in the
candle, and put upon the open hearth to burn. With what a
cruel, tinkling rustle the pages flamed and twisted and opened,
as if the fire read them, and collapsed again as if in
agonizing effort to hold their secret even in death! The
closely folded paper refused to burn, it went out again and
again; while each time Philip Malbone examined it ere
relighting, with a sort of vague curiosity, to see how much
passion had already vanished out of existence, and how much yet
survived. For each of these inspections he had to brush aside
the calcined portion of the letter, once so warm and beautiful
with love, but changed to something that seemed to him a
semblance of his own heart just then,--black, trivial, and
Then he took from a little folded paper a long tress of dark
silken hair, and, without trusting himself to kiss it, held it
firmly in the candle. It crisped and sparkled, and sent out a
pungent odor, then turned and writhed between his fingers, like
a living thing in pain. What part of us has earthly immortality
but our hair? It dies not with death. When all else of human
beauty has decayed beyond corruption into the more agonizing
irrecov-erableness of dust, the hair is still fresh and
beautiful, defying annihilation, and restoring to the powerless
heart the full association of the living image. These
shrinking hairs, they feared not death, but they seemed to fear
Malbone. Nothing but the hand of man could destroy what he was
destroying; but his hand shrank not, and it was done.
AN INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION.
AT the celebrated Oldport ball for the French officers, the
merit of each maiden was estimated by the number of foreigners
with whom she could talk at once, for there were more gentlemen
than ladies, and not more than half the ladies spoke French.
Here Emilia was in her glory; the ice being once broken,
officers were to her but like so many school-girls, and she
rattled away to the admiral and the fleet captain and two or
three lieutenants at once, while others hovered behind the
circle of her immediate adorers, to pick up the stray shafts of
what passed for wit. Other girls again drove two-in-hand, at
the most, in the way of conversation; while those least gifted
could only encounter one small Frenchman in some safe corner,
and converse chiefly by smiles and signs.
On the whole, the evening opened gayly. Newly arrived
Frenchmen are apt to be so unused to the familiar society of
unmarried girls, that the most innocent share in it has for
them the zest of forbidden fruit, and the most blameless
intercourse seems almost a bonne fortune. Most of these
officers were from the lower ranks of French society, but they
all had that good-breeding which their race wears with such
ease, and can unhappily put off with the same.
The admiral and the fleet captain were soon turned over to
Hope, who spoke French as she did English, with quiet grace.
She found them agreeable companions, while Emilia drifted among
the elder midshipmen, who were dazzling in gold lace if not in
intellect. Kate fell to the share of a vehement little
surgeon, who danced her out of breath. Harry officiated as
interpreter between the governor of the State and a lively
young ensign, who yearned for the society of dignitaries. The
governor was quite aware that he himself could not speak
French; the Frenchman was quite unaware that he himself could
not speak English; but with Harry's aid they plunged boldly
into conversation. Their talk happened to fall on
steam-engines, English, French, American; their comparative
cost, comparative power, comparative cost per horse
power,--until Harry, who was not very strong upon the
steam-engine in his own tongue, and was quite helpless on that
point in any other, got a good deal astray among the numerals,
and implanted some rather wild statistics in the mind of each.
The young Frenchman was far more definite, when requested by
the governor to state in English the precise number of men
engaged on board the corvette. With the accuracy of his
nation, he beamingly replied, "Seeshun-dredtousand."
As is apt to be the case in Oldport, other European
nationalities beside the French were represented, though the
most marked foreign accent was of course to be found among
Americans just returned. There were European diplomatists who
spoke English perfectly; there were travellers who spoke no
English at all; and as usual each guest sought to practise
himself in the tongue he knew least. There was the usual
eagerness among the fashionable vulgar to make acquaintance
with anything that combined broken English and a title; and two
minutes after a Russian prince had seated himself comfortably
on a sofa beside Kate, he was vehemently tapped on the shoulder
by Mrs. Courtenay Brash with the endearing summons: "Why!
Prince, I didn't see as you was here. Do you set comfortable
where you be? Come over to this window, and tell all you know!"
The prince might have felt that his summons was abrupt, but
knew not that it was ungrammatical, and so was led away in
triumph. He had been but a month or two in this country, and so
spoke our language no more correctly than Mrs. Brash, but only
with more grace. There was no great harm in Mrs. Brash; like
most loquacious people, she was kind-hearted, with a tendency
to corpulence and good works. She was also afflicted with a
high color, and a chronic eruption of diamonds. Her husband
had an eye for them, having begun life as a jeweller's
apprentice, and having developed sufficient sharpness of vision
in other directions to become a millionnaire, and a
Congressman, and to let his wife do as she pleased.
What goes forth from the lips may vary in dialect, but wine and
oysters speak the universal language. The supper-table brought
our party together, and they compared notes.
"Parties are very confusing," philosophized Hope,--"especially
when waiters and partners dress so much alike. Just now I saw
an ill-looking man elbowing his way up to Mrs. Meredith, and I
thought he was bringing her something on a plate. Instead of
that, it was his hand he held out, and she put hers into it;
and I was told that he was one of the leaders of society. There
are very few gentlemen here whom I could positively tell from
the waiters by their faces, and yet Harry says the fast set are
"Talk of the angels!" said Philip. "There come the
Through the door of the supper-room they saw entering the
drawing-room one of those pretty, fair-haired women who grow
older up to twenty-five and then remain unchanged till sixty.
She was dressed in the loveliest pale blue silk, very low in
the neck, and she seemed to smile on all with her white teeth
and her white shoulders. This was Mrs. Ingleside. With her
came her daughter Blanche, a pretty blonde, whose bearing
seemed at first as innocent and pastoral as her name. Her dress
was of spotless white, what there was of it; and her skin was
so snowy, you could hardly tell where the dress ended. Her
complexion was exquisite, her eyes of the softest blue; at
twenty-three she did not look more than seventeen; and yet
there was such a contrast between these virginal traits, and
the worn, faithless, hopeless expression, that she looked, as
Philip said, like a depraved lamb. Does it show the higher
nature of woman, that, while "fast young men" are content to
look like well-dressed stable boys and billiard-markers, one
may observe that girls of the corresponding type are apt to
addict themselves to white and rosebuds, and pose themselves
for falling angels?
Mrs. Ingleside was a stray widow (from New Orleans via Paris),
into whose antecedents it was best not to inquire too closely.
After many ups and downs, she was at present up. It was
difficult to state with certainty what bad deed she had ever
done, or what good deed. She simply lived by her wits, and
perhaps by some want of that article in her male friends. Her
house was a sort of gentlemanly clubhouse, where the presence
of two women offered a shade less restraint than if there had
been men alone. She was amiable and unscrupulous, went
regularly to church, and needed only money to be the most
respectable and fastidious of women. It was always rather a
mystery who paid for her charming little dinners; indeed,
several things in her demeanor were questionable, but as the
questions were never answered, no harm was done, and everybody
invited her because everybody else did. Had she committed some
graceful forgery tomorrow, or some mild murder the next day,
nobody would have been surprised, and all her intimate friends
would have said it was what they had always expected.
Meantime the entertainment went on.
"I shall not have scalloped oysters in heaven," lamented Kate,
as she finished with healthy appetite her first instalment.
"Are you sure you shall not?" said the sympathetic Hope, who
would have eagerly followed Kate into Paradise with a supply of
whatever she liked best.
"I suppose you will, darling," responded Kate, "but what will
you care? It seems hard that those who are bad enough to long
for them should not be good enough to earn them."
At this moment Blanche Ingleside and her train swept into the
supper-room; the girls cleared a passage, their attendant
youths collected chairs. Blanche tilted hers slightly against a
wall, professed utter exhaustion, and demanded a fresh bottle
of champagne in a voice that showed no signs of weakness.
Presently a sheepish youth drew near the noisy circle.
"Here comes that Talbot van Alsted," said Blanche, bursting at
last into a loud whisper. "What a goose he is, to be sure!
Dear baby, it promised its mother it wouldn't drink wine for
two months. Let's all drink with him. Talbot, my boy, just in
time! Fill your glass. Stosst an!"
And Blanche and her attendant spirits in white muslin thronged
around the weak boy, saw him charged with the three glasses
that were all his head could stand, and sent him reeling home
to his mother. Then they looked round for fresh worlds to
"There are the Maxwells!" said Miss Ingleside, without lowering
her voice. "Who is that party in the high-necked dress? Is she
the schoolmistress? Why do they have such people here? Society
is getting so common, there is no bearing it. That Emily who is
with her is too good for that slow set. She's the school-girl
we heard of at Nice, or somewhere; she wanted to elope with
somebody, and Phil Malbone stopped her, worse luck. She will be
for eloping with us, before long."
Emilia colored scarlet, and gave a furtive glance at Hope, half
of shame, half of triumph. Hope looked at Blanche with
surprise, made a movement forward, but was restrained by the
crowd, while the noisy damsel broke out in a different
"How fiendishly hot it is here, though! Jones junior, put your
elbow through that window! This champagne is boiling. What a
tiresome time we shall have to-morrow, when the Frenchmen are
gone! Ah, Count, there you are at last! Ready for the German?
Come for me? Just primed and up to anything, and so I tell
But as Count Posen, kissing his hand to her, squeezed his way
through the crowd with Hal, to be presented to Hope, there came
over Blanche's young face such a mingled look of hatred and
weariness and chagrin, that even her unobserving friends saw
it, and asked with tender commiseration what was up.
The dancing recommenced. There was the usual array of
partners, distributed by mysterious discrepancies, like
soldiers' uniforms, so that all the tall drew short, and all
the short had tall. There were the timid couples, who danced
with trembling knees and eyes cast over their shoulders; the
feeble couples, who meandered aimlessly and got tangled in
corners; the rash couples, who tore breathlessly through the
rooms and brought up at last against the large white waistcoat
of the violon-cello. There was the professional lady-killer,
too supreme and indolent to dance, but sitting amid an admiring
bevy of fair women, where he reared his head of raven curls,
and pulled ceaselessly his black mustache. And there were
certain young girls who, having astonished the community for a
month by the lowness of their dresses, now brought to bear
their only remaining art, and struck everybody dumb by
appearing clothed. All these came and went and came again, and
had their day or their night, and danced until the robust Hope
went home exhausted and left her more fragile cousins to dance
on till morning. Indeed, it was no easy thing for them to tear
themselves away; Kate was always in demand; Philip knew
everybody, and had that latest aroma of Paris which the soul of
fashion covets; Harry had the tried endurance which befits
brothers and lovers at balls; while Emilia's foreign court held
out till morning, and one handsome young midshipman, in
special, kept revolving back to her after each long orbit of
separation, like a gold-laced comet.
The young people lingered extravagantly late at that ball, for
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