Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/364

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354
XXXV.
THE BOSTONIANS.

for the moment, to perceive what he had done up to this time to gratify the senior member of the group. 'I hope she will find me an acquisition after I have been here a few days,' he said, laughing.

'Well, she thinks you are one of the most important converts yet,' Doctor Prance replied, in a colourless way, as if she would not have pretended to explain why.

'A convert—me? Do you mean of Miss Tarrant's?' It had come over him that Miss Birdseye, in fact, when he was parting with her after their meeting in Boston, had assented to his request for secrecy (which at first had struck her as somewhat unholy), on the ground that Verena would bring him into the fold. He wondered whether that young lady had been telling her old friend that she had succeeded with him. He thought this improbable; but it didn't matter, and he said, gaily, 'Well, I can easily let her suppose so!'

It was evident that it would be no easier for Doctor Prance to subscribe to a deception than it had been for her venerable patient; but she went so far as to reply, 'Well, I hope you won't let her suppose you are where you were that time I conversed with you. I could see where you were then!'

'It was in about the same place you were, wasn't it?'

'Well,' said Doctor Prance, with a small sigh, 'I am afraid I have moved back, if anything!' Her sigh told him a good deal; it seemed a thin, self-controlled protest against the tone of Miss Chancellor's interior, of which it was her present fortune to form a part: and the way she hovered round, indistinct in the gloom, as if she were rather loath to resume her place there, completed his impression that the little doctress had a line of her own.

'That, at least, must distress Miss Birdseye,' he said, reproachfully.

'Not much, because I am not of importance. They think women the equals of men; but they are a great deal more pleased when a man joins than when a woman does.'

Ransom complimented Doctor Prance on the lucidity of her mind, and then he said: 'Is Miss Birdseye really sick? Is her condition very precarious?'