Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/345

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'I'm glad it's to be better; there's room for it. Woe to American womanhood when you start a movement for being more—what you like to be—at home!'

'Lord, how you're perverted; you, the very genius!' Basil Ransom murmured, looking at her with the kindest eyes.

She paid no attention to this, she went on, 'And those who have got no home (there are millions, you know), what are you going to do with them? You must remember that women marry—are given in marriage—less and less; that isn't their career, as a matter of course, any more. You can't tell them to go and mind their husband and children, when they have no husband and children to mind.'

'Oh,' said Ransom, 'that's a detail! And for myself, I confess, I have such a boundless appreciation of your sex in private life that I am perfectly ready to advocate a man's having a half a dozen wives.'

'The civilisation of the Turks, then, strikes you as the highest?'

'The Turks have a second-rate religion; they are fatalists, and that keeps them down. Besides, their women are not nearly so charming as ours—or as ours would be if this modern pestilence were eradicated. Think what a confession you make when you say that women are less and less sought in marriage; what a testimony that is to the pernicious effect on their manners, their person, their nature, of this fatuous agitation.'

'That's very complimentary to me!' Verena broke in, lightly.

But Ransom was carried over her interruption by the current of his argument. 'There are a thousand ways in which any woman, all women, married or single, may find occupation. They may find it in making society agreeable.'

'Agreeable to men, of course.'

'To whom else, pray? Dear Miss Tarrant, what is most agreeable to women is to be agreeable to men! That is a truth as old as the human race, and don't let Olive Chancellor persuade you that she and Mrs. Farrinder have invented any that can take its place, or that is more profound, more durable.'