Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/223

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XXIII.
213
THE BOSTONIANS.

citizen in the enjoyment of his rights, which included that of staring. Miss Birdseye's modesty had never pretended that it was not to be publicly challenged; there were so many bright new motives and ideas in the world that there might even be reasons for looking at her. When Ransom approached her and, raising his hat with a smile, said, 'Shall I stop this car for you, Miss Birdseye?' she only looked at him more vaguely, in her complete failure to seize the idea that this might be simply Fame. She had trudged about the streets of Boston for fifty years, and at no period had she received that amount of attention from dark-eyed young men. She glanced, in an unprejudiced way, at the big parti-coloured human van which now jingled toward them from out of the Cambridge road. 'Well, I should like to get into it, if it will take me home,' she answered. 'Is this a South End car?'

The vehicle had been stopped by the conductor, on his perceiving Miss Birdseye; he evidently recognised her as a frequent passenger. He went, however, through none of the forms of reassurance beyond remarking, 'You want to get right in here—quick,' but stood with his hand raised, in a threatening way, to the cord of his signal-bell.

'You must allow me the honour of taking you home, madam; I will tell you who I am,' Basil Ransom said, in obedience to a rapid reflection. He helped her into the car, the conductor pressed a fraternal hand upon her back, and in a moment the young man was seated beside her, and the jingling had recommenced. At that hour of the day the car was almost empty, and they had it virtually to themselves.

'Well, I know you are some one; I don't think you belong round here,' Miss Birdseye declared, as they proceeded.

'I was once at your house—on a very interesting occasion. Do you remember a party you gave, a year ago last October, to which Miss Chancellor came, and another young lady, who made a wonderful speech?'

'Oh yes! when Verena Tarrant moved us all so! There were a good many there; I don't remember all.'

'I was one of them,' Basil Ransom said; 'I came with