Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/330

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
320
XXXIII.
THE BOSTONIANS.

several years, with her portrait in the druggists' windows and her posters on the fences, and during that time would make a fortune sufficient to keep her in affluence for evermore. I shall perhaps expose our young man to the contempt of superior minds if I say that all this seemed to him an insuperable impediment to his making up to Verena. His scruples were doubtless begotten of a false pride, a sentiment in which there was a thread of moral tinsel, as there was in the Southern idea of chivalry; but he felt ashamed of his own poverty, the positive flatness of his situation, when he thought of the gilded nimbus that surrounded the protégée of Mrs. Burrage. This shame was possible to him even while he was conscious of what a mean business it was to practise upon human imbecility, how much better it was even to be seedy and obscure, discouraged about one's self. He had been born to the prospect of a fortune, and in spite of the years of misery that followed the war had never rid himself of the belief that a gentleman who desired to unite himself to a charming girl couldn't yet ask her to come and live with him in sordid conditions. On the other hand it was no possible basis of matrimony that Verena should continue for his advantage the exercise of her remunerative profession; if he should become her husband he should know a way to strike her dumb. In the midst of this an irrepressible desire urged him on to taste, for once, deeply, all that he was condemned to lose, or at any rate forbidden to attempt to gain. To spend a day with her and not to see her again—that presented itself to him at once as the least and the most that was possible. He did not need even to remind himself that young Mr. Burrage was able to offer her everything he lacked, including the most amiable adhesion to her views.

'It will be charming in the Park to-day. Why not take a stroll with me there as I did with you in the little park at Harvard?' he asked, when Olive had disappeared.

'Oh, I have seen it, very well, in every corner. A friend of mine kindly took me to drive there yesterday,' Verena said.

'A friend?—do you mean Mr. Burrage?' And Ran-