Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/452

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442
XLII.
THE BOSTONIANS.

'They can have their money—can't you give them back their money?' cried Verena, turning frantically round the circle.

'Verena Tarrant, you don't mean to say you are going to back down?' her mother shrieked.

'Good God! that I should make her suffer like this!' said Ransom to himself; and to put an end to the odious scene he would have seized Verena in his arms and broken away into the outer world, if Olive, who at Mrs. Tarrant's last loud challenge had sprung to her feet, had not at the same time thrown herself between them with a force which made the girl relinquish her grasp of Ransom's hand. To his astonishment, the eyes that looked at him out of her scared, haggard face were, like Verena's, eyes of tremendous entreaty. There was a moment during which she would have been ready to go down on her knees to him, in order that the lecture should go on.

'If you don't agree with her, take her up on the platform, and have it out there; the public would like that, first-rate!' Mr. Filer said to Ransom, as if he thought this suggestion practical.

'She had prepared a lovely address!' Selah remarked, mournfully, as if to the company in general.

No one appeared to heed the observation, but his wife broke out again. 'Verena Tarrant, I should like to slap you! Do you call such a man as that a gentleman? I don't know where your father's spirit is, to let him stay!'

Olive, meanwhile, was literally praying to her kinsman. 'Let her appear this once, just this once: not to ruin, not to shame! Haven't you any pity; do you want me to be hooted? It's only for an hour. Haven't you any soul?'

Her face and voice were terrible to Ransom; she had flung herself upon Verena and was holding her close, and he could see that her friend's suffering was faint in comparison to her own. 'Why for an hour, when it's all false and damnable? An hour is as bad as ten years! She's mine or she isn't, and if she's mine, she's all mine!'

'Yours! Yours! Verena, think, think what you're doing!' Olive moaned, bending over her.

Mr. Filer was now pouring forth his nature in objurga-