Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/249

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

sciousness coming into her face, without the least supposable intention of coquetry, or any visible purpose of challenging the young man to say more.

'My interest in you—my interest in you,' he began. Then hesitating, he broke off suddenly. 'It is certain your discovery doesn't make it any less!'

'Well, that's better,' she went on; 'for we needn't dispute.'

He laughed at the way she arranged it, and they presently reached the irregular group of heterogeneous buildings—chapels, dormitories, libraries, halls—which, scattered among slender trees, over a space reserved by means of a low rustic fence, rather than inclosed (for Harvard knows nothing either of the jealousy or the dignity of high walls and guarded gateways), constitutes the great university of Massachusetts. The yard, or college-precinct, is traversed by a number of straight little paths, over which, at certain hours of the day, a thousand undergraduates, with books under their arm and youth in their step, flit from one school to another. Verena Tarrant knew her way round, as she said to her companion; it was not the first time she had taken an admiring visitor to see the local monuments. Basil Ransom, walking with her from point to point, admired them all, and thought several of them exceedingly quaint and venerable. The rectangular structures of old red brick especially gratified his eye; the afternoon sun was yellow on their homely faces; their windows showed a peep of flower-pots and bright-coloured curtains; they wore an expression of scholastic quietude, and exhaled for the young Mississippian a tradition, an antiquity. 'This is the place where I ought to have been,' he said to his charming guide. 'I should have had a good time if I had been able to study here.'

'Yes; I presume you feel yourself drawn to any place where ancient prejudices are garnered up,' she answered, not without archness. 'I know by the stand you take about our cause that you share the superstitions of the old bookmen. You ought to have been at one of those really mediæval universities that we saw on the other side, at Oxford, or Göttingen, or Padua. You would have been in perfect sympathy with their spirit.'