Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/409

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you would think only of helping on humanity. You are our heroine, you are our saint, and there has never been any one like you!' Verena had no glance for Ransom now, and there was neither deprecation nor entreaty in her face. A wave of contrition, of shame, had swept over her—a quick desire to atone for her secret swerving by a renewed recognition of the nobleness of such a life as Miss Birdseye's.

'Oh, I haven't effected very much; I have only cared and hoped. You will do more than I have ever done—you and Olive Chancellor, because you are young and bright, brighter than I ever was; and besides, everything has got started.'

'Well, you've got started, Miss Birdseye,' Doctor Prance remarked, with raised eyebrows, protesting drily but kindly, and putting forward, with an air as if, after all, it didn't matter much, an authority that had been superseded. The manner in which this competent little woman indulged her patient showed sufficiently that the good lady was sinking fast.

'We will think of you always, and your name will be sacred to us, and that will teach us singleness and devotion,' Verena went on, in the same tone, still not meeting Ransom's eyes again, and speaking as if she were trying now to stop herself, to tie herself by a vow.

'Well, it's the thing you and Olive have given your lives to that has absorbed me most, of late years. I did want to see justice done—to us. I haven't seen it, but you will. And Olive will. Where is she—why isn't she near me, to bid me farewell? And Mr. Ransom will—and he will be proud to have helped.'

'Oh, mercy, mercy!' cried Verena, burying her head in Miss Birdseye's lap.

'You are not mistaken if you think I desire above all things that your weakness, your generosity, should be protected,' Ransom said, rather ambiguously, but with pointed respectfulness. 'I shall remember you as an example of what women are capable of,' he added; and he had no subsequent compunctions for the speech, for he thought poor Miss Birdseye, for all her absence of profile, essentially feminine.