Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/339

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XXXIV.


'I presume you are the only person in this country who feels as you do,' she observed at last.

'Not the only person who feels so, but very possibly the only person who thinks so. I have an idea that my convictions exist in a vague, unformulated state in the minds of a great many of my fellow-citizens. If I should succeed some day in giving them adequate expression I should simply put into shape the slumbering instincts of an important minority.'

'I am glad you admit it's a minority!' Verena exclaimed. 'That's fortunate for us poor creatures. And what do you call adequate expression? I presume you would like to be President of the United States?'

'And breathe forth my views in glowing messages to a palpitating Senate? That is exactly what I should like to be; you read my aspirations wonderfully well.'

'Well, do you consider that you have advanced far in that direction, as yet?' Verena asked.

This question, with the tone in which it happened to be uttered, seemed to the young man to project rather an ironical light upon his present beggarly condition, so that for a moment he said nothing; a moment during which if his neighbour had glanced round at his face she would have seen it ornamented by an incipient blush. Her words had for him the effect of a sudden, though, on the part of a young woman who had of course every right to defend herself, a perfectly legitimate taunt. They appeared only to repeat in another form (so at least his exaggerated Southern pride, his hot sensibility, interpreted the matter), the idea that a gentleman so dreadfully backward in the path of fortune had no right to take up the time of a