Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/165

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XVIII.
155
THE BOSTONIANS.

Verena went into town with her in the horse-car—she was staying in Charles Street for a few days—and that evening she startled Olive by breaking out into a reflection very similar to the whimsical falterings of which she herself had been conscious while they sat in Mr. Burrage's pretty rooms, but against which she had now violently reacted.

'It would be very nice to do that always—just to take men as they are, and not to have to think about their badness. It would be very nice not to have so many questions, but to think they were all comfortably answered, so that one could sit there on an old Spanish leather chair, with the curtains drawn and keeping out the cold, the darkness, all the big, terrible, cruel world—sit there and listen for ever to Schubert and Mendelssohn. They didn't care anything about female suffrage! And I didn't feel the want of a vote to-day at all, did you?' Verena inquired, ending, as she always ended in these few speculations, with an appeal to Olive.

This young lady thought it necessary to give her a very firm answer. 'I always feel it—everywhere—night and day. I feel it here;' and Olive laid her hand solemnly on her heart. 'I feel it as a deep, unforgetable wrong; I feel it as one feels a stain that is on one's honour.'

Verena gave a clear laugh, and after that a soft sigh, and then said, 'Do you know, Olive, I sometimes wonder whether, if it wasn't for you, I should feel it so very much!'

'My own friend,' Olive replied, 'you have never yet said anything to me which expressed so clearly the closeness and sanctity of our union.'

'You do keep me up,' Verena went on. 'You are my conscience.'

'I should like to be able to say that you are my form—my envelope. But you are too beautiful for that!' So Olive returned her friend's compliment; and later she said that, of course, it would be far easier to give up everything and draw the curtains to and pass one's life in an artificial atmosphere, with rose-coloured lamps. It would be far easier to abandon the struggle, to leave all the unhappy