Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/316

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tection in them (from something worse), a fund of some sort that she and Verena might convert to a large use, setting aside the mother and son when once they had got what they had to give—she was so arrested with the vague daze of this vision, the sense of Mrs. Burrage's full hands, her eagerness, her thinking it worth while to flatter and conciliate, whatever her pretexts and pretensions might be, that she was almost insensible, for the time, to the strangeness of such a woman's coming round to a positive desire for a connection with the Tarrants. Mrs. Burrage had indeed explained this partly by saying that her son's condition was wearing her out, and that she would enter into anything that would make him happier, make him better. She was fonder of him than of the whole world beside, and it was an anguish to her to see him yearning for Miss Tarrant only to lose her. She made that charge about Olive's power in the matter in such a way that it seemed at the same time a tribute to her force of character.

'I don't know on what terms you suppose me to be with my friend,' Olive returned, with considerable majesty. 'She will do exactly as she likes, in such a case as the one you allude to. She is absolutely free; you speak as if I were her keeper!'

Then Mrs. Burrage explained that of course she didn't mean that Miss Chancellor exercised a conscious tyranny; but only that Verena had a boundless admiration for her, saw through her eyes, took the impress of all her opinions, preferences. She was sure that if Olive would only take a favourable view of her son Miss Tarrant would instantly throw herself into it. 'It's very true that you may ask me,' added Mrs. Burrage, smiling, 'how you can take a favourable view of a young man who wants to marry the very person in the world you want most to keep unmarried!'

This description of Verena was of course perfectly correct; but it was not agreeable to Olive to have the fact in question so clearly perceived, even by a person who expressed it with an air intimating that there was nothing in the world she couldn't understand.

'Did your son know that you were going to speak to me about this?' Olive asked, rather coldly, waiving the