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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Prue’s Magnolia
By George William Curtis (1824–1892)
 
From ‘Prue and I’

IF I meet Charles, who is bound for Alabama, or John, who sails for Savannah, with a trunk full of white jackets, I do not say to them, as their other friends say:—  1
  “Happy travelers, who cut March and April out of the dismal year!”  2
  I do not envy them. They will be seasick on the way. The Southern winds will blow all the water out of the rivers; and, desolately stranded upon mud, they will relieve the tedium of the interval by tying with large ropes a young gentleman raving with delirium tremens. They will hurry along, appalled by forests blazing in the windy night; and housed in a bad inn, they will find themselves anxiously asking, “Are the cars punctual in leaving?”—grimly sure that impatient travelers find all conveyances too slow. The travelers are very warm indeed, even in March and April,—but Prue doubts if it is altogether the effect of the Southern climate.  3
  Why should they go to the South? If they only wait a little, the South will come to them. Savannah arrives in April; Florida in May; Cuba and the Gulf come in with June; and the full splendor of the Tropics burns through July and August. Sitting upon the earth, do we not glide by all the constellations, all the awful stars? Does not the flash of Orion’s scimitar dazzle as we pass? Do we not hear, as we gaze in hushed midnights, the music of the Lyre; are we not throned with Cassiopeia; do we not play with the tangles of Berenice’s hair, as we sail, as we sail?  4
  When Christopher told me that he was going to Italy, I went into Bourne’s conservatory, saw a magnolia, and so reached Italy before him. Can Christopher bring Italy home? But I brought to Prue a branch of magnolia blossoms, with Mr. Bourne’s kindest regards, and she put them upon her table, and our little house smelled of Italy for a week afterward. The incident developed Prue’s Italian tastes, which I had not suspected to be so strong. I found her looking very often at the magnolias; even holding them in her hand, and standing before the table with a pensive air. I suppose she was thinking of Beatrice Cenci, or of Tasso and Leonora, or of the wife of Marino Faliero, or of some other of those sad old Italian tales of love and woe. So easily Prue went to Italy.  5
  Thus the spring comes in my heart as well as in the air, and leaps along my veins as well as through the trees. I immediately travel. An orange takes me to Sorrento, and roses, when they blow, to Pæstum. The camellias in Aurelia’s hair bring Brazil into the happy rooms she treads, and she takes me to South America as she goes to dinner. The pearls upon her neck make me free of the Persian Gulf. Upon her shawl, like the Arabian prince upon his carpet, I am transported to the vales of Cashmere; and thus, as I daily walk in the bright spring days, I go around the world.  6
  But the season wakes a finer longing, a desire that could only be satisfied if the pavilions of the clouds were real, and I could stroll among the towering splendors of a sultry spring evening. Ah! if I could leap those flaming battlements that glow along the west—if I could tread those cool, dewy, serene isles of sunset, and sink with them in the sea of stars.  7
  I say so to Prue, and my wife smiles.  8
 
 
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