Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/237

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XXIV.
227
THE BOSTONIANS.

on the platform; and the great queerness of it was that, with such a manner, she should escape being odious. She was not odious, she was delightful; she was not dogmatic, she was genial. No wonder she was a success, if she speechified as a bird sings! Ransom could see, too, from her easy lapse, how the lecture-tone was the thing in the world with which, by education, by association, she was most familiar. He didn't know what to make of her; she was an astounding young phenomenon. The other time came back to him afresh, and how she had stood up at Miss Birdseye's; it occurred to him that an element, here, had been wanting. Several moments after she had ceased speaking he became conscious that the expression of his face presented a perceptible analogy to a broad grin. He changed his posture, saying the first thing that came into his head. 'I presume you do without your father now.'

'Without my father?'

'To set you going, as he did that time I heard you.'

'Oh, I see; you thought I had begun a lecture!' And she laughed, in perfect good humour. 'They tell me I speak as I talk, so I suppose I talk as I speak. But you mustn't put me on what I saw and heard in Europe. That's to be the title of an address I am now preparing, by the way. Yes, I don't depend on father any more,' she went on, while Ransom's sense of having said too sarcastic a thing was deepened by her perfect indifference to it. 'He finds his patients draw off about enough, any way. But I owe him everything; if it hadn't been for him, no one would ever have known I had a gift—not even myself. He started me so, once for all, that I now go alone.'

'You go beautifully,' said Ransom, wanting to say something agreeable, and even respectfully tender, to her, but troubled by the fact that there was nothing he could say that didn't sound rather like chaff. There was no resentment in her, however, for in a moment she said to him, as quickly as it occurred to her, in the manner of a person repairing an accidental omission, 'It was very good of you to come so far.'

This was a sort of speech it was never safe to make to Ransom; there was no telling what retribution it might