'Don't think I can forget that. If I suggest a deviation, it's only because it sometimes seems to me that perhaps, after all, almost anything is better than the form reality may take with us.' This was slightly obscure, as well as very melancholy, and Verena was relieved when her companion remarked, in a moment, 'You must think me strangely inconsequent;' for this gave her a chance to reply, soothingly:
'Why, you don't suppose I expect you to keep always screwed up! I will stay a week with Mrs. Burrage, or a fortnight, or a month, or anything you like,' she pursued; 'anything it may seem to you best to tell her after you have seen her.'
'Do you leave it all to me? You don't give me much help,' Olive said.
'Help to what?'
'Help to help you.'
'I don't want any help; I am quite strong enough!' Verena cried, gaily. The next moment she inquired, in an appeal half comical, half touching, 'My dear colleague, why do you make me say such conceited things?'
'And if you do stay—just even to-morrow—shall you be—very much of the time—with Mr. Ransom?'
As Verena for the moment appeared ironically-minded, she might have found a fresh subject for hilarity in the tremulous, tentative tone in which Olive made this inquiry. But it had not that effect; it produced the first manifestation of impatience—the first, literally, and the first note of reproach—that had occurred in the course of their remarkable intimacy. The colour rose to Verena's cheek, and her eye for an instant looked moist.
'I don't know what you always think, Olive, nor why you don't seem able to trust me. You didn't, from the first, with gentlemen. Perhaps you were right then—I don't say; but surely it is very different now. I don't think I ought to be suspected so much. Why have you a manner as if I had to be watched, as if I wanted to run away with every man that speaks to me? I should think I had proved how little I care. I thought you had discovered by this time that I am serious; that I have dedicated my life; that there