Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/451

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XLII.
441
THE BOSTONIANS.

him and challenged all his manhood, tossing his determination to a height from which not only Doctor Tarrant, and Mr. Filer, and Olive, over there, in her sightless, soundless shame, but the great expectant hall as well, and the mighty multitude, in suspense, keeping quiet from minute to minute and holding the breath of its anger—from which all these things looked small, surmountable, and of the moment only. He didn't quite understand, as yet, however; he saw that Verena had not refused, but temporised, that the spell upon her—thanks to which he should still be able to rescue her—had been the knowledge that he was near.

'Come away, come away,' he murmured, quickly, putting out his two hands to her.

She took one of them, as if to plead, not to consent. 'Oh, let me off, let me off—for her, for the others! It's too terrible, it's impossible!'

'What I want to know is why Mr. Ransom isn't in the hands of the police!' wailed Mrs. Tarrant, from her sofa.

'I have been, madam, for the last quarter of an hour.' Ransom felt more and more that he could manage it, if he only kept cool. He bent over Verena with a tenderness in which he was careless, now, of observation. 'Dearest, I told you, I warned you. I left you alone for ten weeks; but could that make you doubt it was coming? Not for worlds, not for millions, shall you give yourself to that roaring crowd. Don't ask me to care for them, or for any one! What do they care for you but to gape and grin and babble? You are mine, you are not theirs.'

'What under the sun is the man talking about? With the most magnificent audience ever brought together! The city of Boston is under this roof!' Mr. Filer gaspingly interposed.

'The city of Boston be damned!' said Ransom.

'Mr. Ransom, is very much interested in my daughter. He doesn't approve of our views,' Selah Tarrant explained.

'It's the most horrible, wicked, immoral selfishness I ever heard in my life!' roared Mrs. Tarrant.

'Selfishness! Mrs. Tarrant, do you suppose I pretend not to be selfish?'

'Do you want us all murdered by the mob, then?'