Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/348

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338
XXXIV.
THE BOSTONIANS.

hurrying step, which expressed all the trepidation she was anxious to conceal. 'Immense ability, but not in the line in which you most try to have it. In a very different line, Miss Tarrant! Ability is no word for it; it's genius!'

She felt his eyes on her face—ever so close and fixed there—after he had chosen to reply to her question that way. She was beginning to blush; if he had kept them longer, and on the part of any one else, she would have called such a stare impertinent. Verena had been commended of old by Olive for her serenity 'while exposed to the gaze of hundreds'; but a change had taken place, and she was now unable to endure the contemplation of an individual. She wished to detach him, to lead him off again into the general; and for this purpose, at the end of a moment, she made another inquiry: 'I am to understand, then, as your last word that you regard us as quite inferior?'

'For public, civic uses, absolutely—perfectly weak and second-rate. I know nothing more indicative of the muddled sentiment of the time than that any number of men should be found to pretend that they regard you in any other light. But privately, personally, it's another affair. In the realm of family life and the domestic affections———'

At this Verena broke in, with a nervous laugh, 'Don't say that; it's only a phrase!'

'Well, it's a better one than any of yours,' said Basil Ransom, turning with her out of one of the smaller gates—the first they had come to. They emerged into the species of plaza formed by the numbered street which constitutes the southern extremity of the park and the termination of the Sixth Avenue. The glow of the splendid afternoon was over everything, and the day seemed to Ransom still in its youth. The bowers and boskages stretched behind them, the artificial lakes and cockneyfied landscapes, making all the region bright with the sense of air and space, and raw natural tints, and vegetation too diminutive to overshadow. The chocolate-coloured houses, in tall, new rows, surveyed the expanse; the street-cars rattled in the foreground, changing horses while the horses