Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/297

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had done in the earlier months, that the great trouble was that weak spot of Verena's, that sole infirmity and subtle flaw, which she had expressed to her very soon after they began to live together, in saying (she remembered it through the ineffaceable impression made by her friend's avowal), 'I'll tell you what is the matter with you—you don't dislike men as a class!' Verena had replied on this occasion, 'Well, no, I don't dislike them when they are pleasant!' As if organised atrociousness could ever be pleasant! Olive disliked them most when they were least unpleasant. After a little, at present, she remarked, referring to Henry Burrage: 'It is not right of him, not decent, after your making him feel how, while he was at Cambridge, he wearied you, tormented you.'

'Oh, I didn't show anything,' said Verena, gaily. 'I am learning to dissimulate,' she added in a moment. 'I suppose you have to as you go along. I pretend not to notice.'

At this moment the gong sounded for luncheon, and the two young women covered up their ears, face to face, Verena with her quick smile, Olive with her pale patience. When they could hear themselves speak, the latter said abruptly:

'How did Mrs. Burrage come to invite Mr. Ransom to her party? He told Adeline he had never seen her before.'

'Oh, I asked her to send him an invitation—after she had written to me, to thank me, when it was definitely settled we should come on. She asked me in her letter if there were any friends of mine in the city to whom I should like her to send cards, and I mentioned Mr. Ransom.'

Verena spoke without a single instant's hesitation, and the only sign of embarrassment she gave was that she got up from her chair, passing in this manner a little out of Olive's scrutiny. It was easy for her not to falter, because she was glad of the chance. She wanted to be very simple in all her relations with her friend, and of course it was not simple so soon as she began to keep things back. She could at any rate keep back as little as possible, and she felt as if she were making up for a dereliction when she answered Olive's inquiry so promptly.