Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/271

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'And pray what is it you suspect?'

'That you two have been in correspondence.'

'Tell her whatever you like, Mrs. Luna,' said the young man, with the grimness of resignation.

'You are quite unable to deny it, I see.'

'I never contradict a lady.'

'We shall see if I can't make you tell a fib. Haven't you been seeing Miss Tarrant, too?'

'Where should I have seen her? I can't see all the way to Boston, as you said the other day.'

'Haven't you been there—on secret visits?'

Ransom started just perceptibly; but to conceal it, the next instant, he stood up.

'They wouldn't be secret if I were to tell you.'

Looking down at her he saw that her words were a happy hit, not the result of definite knowledge. But she appeared to him vain, egotistical, grasping, odious.

'Well, I shall give the alarm,' she went on; 'that is, I will if you leave me. Is that the way a Southern gentleman treats a lady? Do as I wish, and I will let you off!'

'You won't let me off from staying with you.'

'Is it such a corvée? I never heard of such rudeness!' Mrs. Luna cried. 'All the same, I am determined to keep you if I can!'

Ransom felt that she must be in the wrong, and yet superficially she seemed (and it was quite intolerable), to have right on her side. All this while Verena's golden voice, with her words indistinct, solicited, tantalised his ear. The question had evidently got on Mrs. Luna's nerves; she had reached that point of feminine embroilment when a woman is perverse for the sake of perversity, and even with a clear vision of bad consequences.

'You have lost your head,' he relieved himself by saying, as he looked down at her.

'I wish you would go and get me some tea.'

'You say that only to embarrass me.' He had hardly spoken when a great sound of applause, the clapping of many hands, and the cry from fifty throats of 'Brava, brava!' floated in and died away. All Ransom's pulses throbbed, he flung his scruples to the winds, and after remarking to