Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/268

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she does arrange herself when she wants to protest against frills! She looks as if she thought it pretty barren ground round here, now she has come to see it. I don't think she thinks you can be saved in a French dress, anyhow. I must say I call it a very base evasion of Mrs. Burrage's, producing Verena Tarrant; it's worse than the meretricious music. Why didn't she honestly send for a ballerina from Niblo's—if she wanted a young woman capering about on a platform? They don't care a fig about poor Olive's ideas; it's only because Verena has strange hair, and shiny eyes, and gets herself up like a prestidigitator's assistant. I have never understood how Olive can reconcile herself to Verena's really low style of dress. I suppose it's only because her clothes are so fearfully made. You look as if you didn't believe me—but I assure you that the cut is revolutionary; and that's a salve to Olive's conscience.'

Ransom was surprised to hear that he looked as if he didn't believe her, for he had found himself, after his first uneasiness, listening with considerable interest to her account of the circumstances under which Miss Tarrant was visiting New York. After a moment, as the result of some private reflection, he propounded this question: 'Is the son of the lady of the house a handsome young man, very polite, in a white vest?'

'I don't know the colour of his vest—but he has a kind of fawning manner. Verena judges from that that he is in love with her.'

'Perhaps he is,' said Ransom. 'You say it was his idea to get her to come on.'

'Oh, he likes to flirt; that is highly probable.'

'Perhaps she has brought him round.'

'Not to where she wants, I think. The property is very large; he will have it all one of these days.'

'Do you mean she wishes to impose on him the yoke of matrimony?' Ransom asked, with Southern languor.

'I believe she thinks matrimony an exploded superstition; but there is here and there a case in which it is still the best thing; when the gentleman's name happens to be Burrage and the young lady's Tarrant. I don't admire 'Burrage' so much myself. But I think she would