Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/52

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42
VI.
THE BOSTONIANS.

room for improvement in both sexes. Neither of them is up to the standard.' And on Ransom's asking her what the standard appeared to her to be, she said, 'Well, they ought to live better; that's what they ought to do.' And she went on to declare, further, that she thought they all talked too much. This had so long been Ransom's conviction that his heart quite warmed to Doctor Prance, and he paid homage to her wisdom in the manner of Mississippi—with a richness of compliment that made her turn her acute, suspicious eye upon him. This checked him; she was capable of thinking that he talked too much—she herself having, apparently, no general conversation. It was german to the matter, at any rate, for him to observe that he believed they were to have a lecture from Mrs. Farrinder—he didn't know why she didn't begin. 'Yes,' said Doctor Prance, rather drily, 'I suppose that's what Miss Birdseye called me up for. She seemed to think I wouldn't want to miss that.'

'Whereas, I infer, you could console yourself for the loss of the oration,' Ransom suggested.

'Well, I've got some work. I don't want any one to teach me what a woman can do!' Doctor Prance declared. 'She can find out some things, if she tries. Besides, I am familiar with Mrs. Farrinder's system; I know all she has got to say.'

'Well, what is it, then, since she continues to remain silent?'

'Well, what it amounts to is just that women want to have a better time. That's what it comes to in the end. I am aware of that, without her telling me.'

'And don't you sympathise with such an aspiration?'

'Well, I don't know as I cultivate the sentimental side,' said Doctor Prance. 'There's plenty of sympathy without mine. If they want to have a better time, I suppose it's natural; so do men too, I suppose. But I don't know as it appeals to me—to make sacrifices for it; it ain't such a wonderful time—the best you can have!'

This little lady was tough and technical; she evidently didn't care for great movements; she became more and more interesting to Basil Ransom, who, it is to be feared,