Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/100

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XII.
THE BOSTONIANS.

her friend was not pleased. She scarcely knew what had ruffled her, but at the same instant there passed before her the vision of the anxieties (of this sudden, unexplained sort, for instance, and much worse) which intimate relations with Miss Chancellor might entail.

'Now, I want you to tell me this,' Basil Ransom said, leaning forward towards Verena, with his hands on his knees, and completely oblivious to his hostess. 'Do you really believe all that pretty moonshine you talked last night? I could have listened to you for another hour; but I never heard such monstrous sentiments. I must protest—I must, as a calumniated, misrepresented man. Confess you meant it as a kind of reductio ad absurdum—a satire on Mrs. Farrinder?' He spoke in a tone of the freest pleasantry, with his familiar, friendly Southern cadence.

Verena looked at him with eyes that grew large. 'Why, you don't mean to say you don't believe in our cause?'

'Oh, it won't do—it won't do!' Ransom went on, laughing. 'You are on the wrong tack altogether. Do you really take the ground that your sex has been without influence? Influence? Why, you have led us all by the nose to where we are now! Wherever we are, it's all you. You are at the bottom of everything.'

'Oh yes, and we want to be at the top,' said Verena.

'Ah, the bottom is a better place, depend on it, when from there you move the whole mass! Besides, you are on the top as well; you are everywhere, you are everything. I am of the opinion of that historical character—wasn't he some king?—who thought there was a lady behind everything. Whatever it was, he held, you have only to look for her; she is the explanation. Well, I always look for her, and I always find her; of course, I am always delighted to do so; but it proves she is the universal cause. Now, you don't mean to deny that power, the power of setting men in motion. You are at the bottom of all the wars.'

'Well, I am like Mrs. Farrinder; I like opposition,' Verena exclaimed, with a happy smile.

'That proves, as I say, how in spite of your expressions of horror you delight in the shock of battle. What do you