Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/429

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with rippling laughter. 'And pray what do you want to do with her?'

Ransom hesitated a little. 'I think I would rather not tell you.'

'Your charming frankness, then, has its limits! My poor cousin, you are really too naïf. Do you suppose it matters a straw to me?'

Ransom made no answer to this appeal, but after an instant he broke out: 'Honestly, Mrs. Luna, can you give me no clue?'

'Lord, what terrible eyes you make, and what terrible words you use! "Honestly," quoth he! Do you think I am so fond of the creature that I want to keep her all to myself?'

'I don't know; I don't understand,' said Ransom, slowly and softly, but still with his terrible eyes.

'And do you think I understand any better? You are not a very edifying young man,' Mrs. Luna went on; 'but I really think you have deserved a better fate than to be jilted and thrown over by a girl of that class.'

'I haven't been jilted. I like her very much, but she never encouraged me.'

At this Mrs. Luna broke again into articulate scoffing. 'It is very odd that at your age you should be so little a man of the world!'

Ransom made her no other answer than to remark, thoughtfully and rather absently: 'Your sister is really very clever.'

'By which you mean, I suppose, that I am not!' Mrs. Luna suddenly changed her tone, and said, with the greatest sweetness and humility: 'God knows, I have never pretended to be!'

Ransom looked at her a moment, and guessed the meaning of this altered note. It had suddenly come over her that with her portrait in half the shop-fronts, her advertisement on all the fences, and the great occasion on which she was to reveal herself to the country at large close at hand, Verena had become so conscious of high destinies that her dear friend's Southern kinsman really appeared to her very small game, and she might therefore be regarded as having cast him off. If this were the case, it would