Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/254

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were discussing their affairs, which had nothing to do with the heroic symbols that surrounded them; but their affairs had suddenly grown so serious that there was no want of decency in their lingering there for the purpose. The implication that his visit might remain as a secret between them made them both feel it differently. To ask her to keep it so would have been, as it seemed to Ransom, a liberty, and, moreover, he didn't care so much as that; but if she were to prefer to do so such a preference would only make him consider the more that his expedition had been a success.

'Oh, then, you can tell her this!' he said in a moment.

'If I shouldn't, it would be the first———' And Verena checked herself.

'You must arrange that with your conscience,' Ransom went on, laughing.

They came out of the hall, passed down the steps, and emerged from the Delta, as that portion of the college precinct is called. The afternoon had begun to wane, but the air was filled with a pink brightness, and there was a cool, pure smell, a vague breath of spring.

'Well, if I don't tell Olive, then you must leave me here,' said Verena, stopping in the path and putting out a hand of farewell.

'I don't understand. What has that to do with it? Besides I thought you said you must tell,' Ransom added. In playing with the subject this way, in enjoying her visible hesitation, he was slightly conscious of a man's brutality—of being pushed by an impulse to test her good-nature, which seemed to have no limit. It showed no sign of perturbation as she answered:

'Well, I want to be free—to do as I think best. And, if there is a chance of my keeping it back, there mustn't be anything more—there must not, Mr. Ransom, really.'

'Anything more? Why, what are you afraid there will be—if I should simply walk home with you?'

'I must go alone, I must hurry back to mother,' she said, for all reply. And she again put out her hand, which he had not taken before.

Of course he took it now, and even held it a moment;