Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/372

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362
XXXVI.
THE BOSTONIANS.

would be much drawn to. So it would be a pity for me to come down after them just to spoil it!'

'I am afraid I shall spoil it, Miss Birdseye.'

'Oh, well, a gentleman,' murmured the ancient woman.

'Yes, what can you expect of a gentleman? I certainly shall spoil it if I can.'

'You had better go fishing with Doctor Prance,' said Miss Birdseye, with a serenity which showed that she was far from measuring the sinister quality of the announcement he had just made.

'I shan't object to that at all. The days here must be very long—very full of hours. Have you got the doctor with you?' Ransom inquired, as if he knew nothing at all about her.

'Yes, Miss Chancellor invited us both; she is very thoughtful. She is not merely a theoretic philanthropist—she goes into details,' said Miss Birdseye, presenting her large person, in her chair, as if she herself were only an item. 'It seems as if we were not so much wanted in Boston, just in August.'

'And here you sit and enjoy the breeze, and admire the view,' the young man remarked, wondering when the two messengers, whose seven minutes must long since have expired, would return from the post-office.

'Yes, I enjoy everything in this little old-world place; I didn't suppose I should be satisfied to be so passive. It's a great contrast to my former exertions. But somehow it doesn't seem as if there were any trouble or any wrong round here; and if there should be, there are Miss Chancellor and Miss Tarrant to look after it. They seem to think I had better fold my hands. Besides, when helpful, generous minds begin to flock in from your part of the country,' Miss Birdseye continued, looking at him from under the distorted and discoloured canopy of her hat with a benignity which completed the idea in any cheerful sense he chose.

He felt by this time that he was committed to rather a dishonest part; he was pledged not to give a shock to her optimism. This might cost him, in the coming days, a good deal of dissimulation, but he was now saved from any