Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/262

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XXVI.
THE BOSTONIANS.

he said, 'Oh, there is plenty of time; the place isn't half full yet.'

She made no direct rejoinder to this, but she asked him about his mother and sisters, what news he received from the South. 'Have they any happiness?' she inquired, rather as if she warned him to take care not to pretend they had. He neglected her warning to the point of saying that there was one happiness they always had—that of having learned not to think about it too much, and to make the best of their circumstances. She listened to this with an air of great reserve, and apparently thought he had wished to give her a lesson; for she suddenly broke out, 'You mean that you have traced a certain line for them, and that that's all you know about it!'

Ransom stared at her, surprised; he felt, now, that she would always surprise him. 'Ah, don't be rough with me,' he said, in his soft Southern voice; 'don't you remember how you knocked me about when I called on you in Boston?'

'You hold us in chains, and then, when we writhe in our agony, you say we don't behave prettily!' These words, which did not lessen Ransom's wonderment, were the young lady's answer to his deprecatory speech. She saw that he was honestly bewildered and that in a moment more he would laugh at her, as he had done a year and a half before (she remembered it as if it had been yesterday); and to stop that off, at any cost, she went on hurriedly—'If you listen to Miss Tarrant, you will know what I mean.'

'Oh, Miss Tarrant—Miss Tarrant!' And Basil Ransom's laughter came.

She had not escaped that mockery, after all, and she looked at him sharply now, her embarrassment having quite cleared up. 'What do you know about her? What observation have you had?'

Ransom met her eye, and for a moment they scrutinised each other. Did she know of his interview with Verena a month before, and was her reserve simply the wish to place on him the burden of declaring that he had been to Boston since they last met, and yet had not called in Charles Street? He thought there was suspicion in her face; but