Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/255

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XXV.
245
THE BOSTONIANS.

he didn't like being dismissed, and was thinking of pretexts to linger. 'Miss Birdseye said you would convert me, but you haven't yet,' it came into his head to say.

'You can't tell yet; wait a little. My influence is peculiar; it sometimes comes out a long time afterwards!' This speech, on Verena's part, was evidently perfunctory, and the grandeur of her self-reference jocular; she was much more serious when she went on quickly, 'Do you mean to say Miss Birdseye promised you that?'

'Oh yes. Talk about influence! you should have seen the influence I obtained over her.'

'Well, what good will it do, if I'm going to tell Olive about your visit?'

'Well, you see, I think she hopes you won't. She believes you are going to convert me privately—so that I shall blaze forth, suddenly, out of the darkness of Mississippi, as a first-class proselyte: very effective and dramatic.'

Verena struck Basil Ransom as constantly simple, but there were moments when her candour seemed to him preternatural. 'If I thought that would be the effect, I might make an exception,' she remarked, speaking as if such a result were, after all, possible.

'Oh, Miss Tarrant, you will convert me enough, any way,' said the young man.

'Enough? What do you mean by enough?'

'Enough to make me terribly unhappy.'

She looked at him a moment, evidently not understanding; but she tossed him a retort at a venture, turned away, and took her course homeward. The retort was that if he should be unhappy it would serve him right—a form of words that committed her to nothing. As he returned to Boston he saw how curious he should be to learn whether she had betrayed him, as it were, to Miss Chancellor. He might learn through Mrs. Luna; that would almost reconcile him to going to see her again. Olive would mention it in writing to her sister, and Adeline would repeat the complaint. Perhaps she herself would even make him a scene about it; that would be, for him, part of the unhappiness he had foretold to Verena Tarrant.