Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/363

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his motives in coming to Marmion; she asked him neither when he had arrived nor how long he intended to stay. His allusion to his cousinship with Miss Chancellor might have served to her mind as a reason; yet, on the other hand, it would have been open to her to wonder why, if he had come to see the young ladies from Charles Street, he was not in more of a hurry to present himself. It was plain Doctor Prance didn't go into that kind of analysis. If Ransom had complained to her of a sore throat, she would have inquired with precision about his symptoms; but she was incapable of asking him any question with a social bearing. Sociably enough, however, they continued to wander through the principal street of the little town, darkened in places by immense old elms, which made a blackness overhead. There was a salt smell in the air, as if they were nearer the water; Doctor Prance said that Olive's house was at the other end.

'I shall take it as a kindness if, for this evening, you don't mention that you have happened to meet me,' Ransom remarked, after a little. He had changed his mind about giving notice.

'Well, I wouldn't,' his companion replied; as if she didn't need any caution in regard to making vain statements.

'I want to keep my arrival a little surprise for to-morrow. It will be a great pleasure to me to see Miss Birdseye,' he went on, rather hypocritically, as if that at bottom had been to his mind the main attraction of Marmion.

Doctor Prance did not reveal her private comment, whatever it was, on this intimation; she only said, after some hesitation—'Well, I presume the old lady will take quite an interest in your being here.'

'I have no doubt she is capable even of that degree of philanthropy.'

'Well, she has charity for all, but she does—even she—prefer her own side. She regards you as quite an acquisition.'

Ransom could not but feel flattered at the idea that he had been a subject of conversation—as this implied—in the little circle at Miss Chancellor's; but he was at a loss,