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Malbone: an Oldport Romance   By: (1823-1911)

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MALBONE

AN OLDPORT ROMANCE.

By Thomas Wentworth Higginson

"What is Nature unless there is an eventful human life passing within her?

Many joys and many sorrows are the lights and shadows in which she shows most beautiful."

THOREAU, MS. Diary.

CONTENTS.

PRELUDE 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 X. REMONSTRANCES XI. DESCENSUS AVERNI XII. A NEW ENGAGEMENT XIII. DREAMING DREAMS XIV. THE NEMESIS OF FASHION XV. ACROSS THE BAY XVI. ON THE STAIRS XVII. DISCOVERY XVIII. HOPE'S VIGIL XIX. DE PROFUNDIS XX. AUNT JANE TO THE RESCUE XXI. A STORM XXII. OUT OF THE DEPTHS XXIII. REQUIESCAT

MALBONE.

PRELUDE.

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.

I. AN ARRIVAL.

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... Continue reading book >>




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