Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/16

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6
I.
THE BOSTONIANS.

sufficiently pretty; her hair was in clusters of curls, like bunches of grapes; her tight bodice seemed to crack with her vivacity; and from beneath the stiff little plaits of her petticoat a small fat foot protruded, resting upon a stilted heel. She was attractive and impertinent, especially the latter. He seemed to think it was a great pity, what she had told him; but he lost himself in this consideration, or, at any rate, said nothing for some time, while his eyes wandered over Mrs. Luna, and he probably wondered what body of doctrine she represented, little as she might partake of the nature of her sister. Many things were strange to Basil Ransom; Boston especially was strewn with surprises, and he was a man who liked to understand. Mrs. Luna was drawing on her gloves; Ransom had never seen any that were so long; they reminded him of stockings, and he wondered how she managed without garters above the elbow. 'Well, I suppose I might have known that,' he continued, at last.

'You might have known what?'

'Well, that Miss Chancellor would be all that you say. She was brought up in the city of reform.'

'Oh, it isn't the city; it's just Olive Chancellor. She would reform the solar system if she could get hold of it. She'll reform you, if you don't look out. That's the way I found her when I returned from Europe.'

'Have you been in Europe?' Ransom asked.

'Mercy, yes! Haven't you?'

'No, I haven't been anywhere. Has your sister?'

'Yes; but she stayed only an hour or two. She hates it; she would like to abolish it. Didn't you know I had been to Europe?' Mrs. Luna went on, in the slightly aggrieved tone of a woman who discovers the limits of her reputation.

Ransom reflected he might answer her that until five minutes ago he didn't know she existed; but he remembered that this was not the way in which a Southern gentleman spoke to ladies, and he contented himself with saying that he must condone his Bœotian ignorance (he was fond of an elegant phrase); that he lived in a part of the country where they didn't think much about Europe, and