Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/374

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XXXVI.
THE BOSTONIANS.

in the light of an intruder. I found your door open, and I walked in, and Miss Birdseye seemed to think I might stay. Miss Birdseye, I put myself under your protection; I invoke you; I appeal to you,' the young man went on. 'Adopt me, answer for me, cover me with the mantle of your charity!'

Miss Birdseye looked up from her letters, as if at first she had only faintly heard his appeal. She turned her eyes from Olive to Verena; then she said, 'Doesn't it seem as if we had room for all? When I remember what I have seen in the South, Mr. Ransom's being here strikes me as a great triumph.'

Olive evidently failed to understand, and Verena broke in with eagerness, 'It was by my letter, of course, that you knew we were here. The one I wrote just before we came, Olive,' she went on. 'Don't you remember I showed it to you?'

At the mention of this act of submission on her friend's part Olive started, flashing her a strange look; then she said to Basil that she didn't see why he should explain so much about his coming; every one had a right to come. It was a very charming place; it ought to do any one good. 'But it will have one defect for you,' she added; 'three-quarters of the summer residents are women!'

This attempted pleasantry on Miss Chancellor's part, so unexpected, so incongruous, uttered with white lips and cold eyes, struck Ransom to that degree by its oddity that he could not resist exchanging a glance of wonder with Verena, who, if she had had the opportunity, could probably have explained to him the phenomenon. Olive had recovered herself, reminded herself that she was safe, that her companion in New York had repudiated, denounced her pursuer; and, as a proof to her own sense of her security, as well as a touching mark to Verena that now, after what had passed, she had no fear, she felt that a certain light mockery would be effective.

'Ah, Miss Olive, don't pretend to think I love your sex so little, when you know that what you really object to in me is that I love it too much!' Ransom was not brazen, he was not impudent, he was really a very modest man;