Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/208

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XXII.
THE BOSTONIANS.

almost persuaded himself that the moral law commanded him to marry Mrs. Luna. She looked up presently from her work, their eyes met, and she smiled. He might have believed she had guessed what he was thinking of. This idea startled him, alarmed him a little, so that when Mrs. Luna said, with her sociable manner, 'There is nothing I like so much, of a winter's night, as a cosy tête-à-tête by the fire. It's quite like Darby and Joan; what a pity the kettle has ceased singing!'—when she uttered these insinuating words he gave himself a little imperceptible shake, which was, however, enough to break the spell, and made no response more direct than to ask her, in a moment, in a tone of cold, mild curiosity, whether she had lately heard from her sister, and how long Miss Chancellor intended to remain in Europe.

'Well, you have been living in your hole!' Mrs. Luna exclaimed. 'Olive came home six weeks ago. How long did you expect her to endure it?'

'I am sure I don't know; I have never been there,' Ransom replied.

'Yes, that's what I like you for,' Mrs. Luna remarked sweetly. 'If a man is nice without it, it's such a pleasant change.'

The young man started, then gave a natural laugh. 'Lord, how few reasons there must be!'

'Oh, I mention that one because I can tell it. I shouldn't care to tell the others.'

'I am glad you have some to fall back upon, the day I should go,' Ransom went on. 'I thought you thought so much of Europe.'

'So I do; but it isn't everything,' said Mrs. Luna, philosophically. 'You had better go there with me,' she added, with a certain inconsequence.

'One would go to the end of the world with so irresistible a lady!' Ransom exclaimed, falling into the tone which Mrs. Luna always found so unsatisfactory. It was a part of his Southern gallantry—his accent always came out strongly when he said anything of that sort—and it committed him to nothing in particular. She had had occasion to wish, more than once, that he wouldn't be so