'Thank you very much; I would much rather lean on this sofa. And I am much too tired to stand on chairs. Besides, I wouldn't for the world that either Verena or Olive should see me craning over the heads of the crowd—as if I attached the smallest importance to their perorations!'
'It isn't time for the peroration yet,' Ransom said, with savage dryness; and he sat forward, with his elbow on his knees, his eyes on the ground, a flush in his sallow cheek.
'It's never time to say such things as those,' Mrs. Luna remarked, arranging her laces.
'How do you know what she is saying?'
'I can tell by the way her voice goes up and down. It sounds so silly.'
Ransom sat there five minutes longer—minutes which, he felt, the recording angel ought to write down to his credit—and asked himself how Mrs. Luna could be such a goose as not to see that she was making him hate her. But she was goose enough for anything. He tried to appear indifferent, and it occurred to him to doubt whether the Mississippi system could be right, after all. It certainly hadn't foreseen such a case as this. 'It's as plain as day that Mr. Burrage intends to marry her—if he can,' he said in a minute; that remark being better calculated than any other he could think of to dissimulate his real state of mind.
It drew no rejoinder from his companion, and after an instant he turned his head a little and glanced at her. The result of something that silently passed between them was to make her say, abruptly: 'Mr. Ransom, my sister never sent you an invitation to this place. Didn't it come from Verena Tarrant?'
'I haven't the least idea.'
'As you hadn't the least acquaintance with Mrs. Burrage, who else could it have come from?'
'If it came from Miss Tarrant, I ought at least to recognise her courtesy by listening to her.'
'If you rise from this sofa I will tell Olive what I suspect. She will be perfectly capable of carrying Verena off to China—or anywhere out of your reach.'