Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/62

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for all you have done for us. For you have spoken for us girls, just as much as—just as much as———' She hesitated now, looking about with enthusiastic eyes at the rest of the group, and meeting once more the gaze of Basil Ransom.

'Just as much as for the old women,' said Mrs. Farrinder, genially. 'You seem very well able to speak for yourself.'

'She speaks so beautifully—if she would only make a little address,' the young man who had introduced her remarked. 'It's a new style, quite original,' he added. He stood there with folded arms, looking down at his work, the conjunction of the two ladies, with a smile; and Basil Ransom, remembering what Miss Prance had told him, and enlightened by his observation in New York of some of the sources from which newspapers are fed, was immediately touched by the conviction that he perceived in it the material of a paragraph.

'My dear child, if you'll take the floor, I'll call the meeting to order,' said Mrs. Farrinder.

The girl looked at her with extraordinary candour and confidence. 'If I could only hear you first—just to give me an atmosphere.'

'I've got no atmosphere; there's very little of the Indian summer about me! I deal with facts—hard facts,' Mrs. Farrinder replied. 'Have you ever heard me? If so, you know how crisp I am.'

'Heard you? I've lived on you! It's so much to me to see you. Ask mother if it ain't!' She had expressed herself, from the first word she uttered, with a promptness and assurance which gave almost the impression of a lesson rehearsed in advance. And yet there was a strange spontaneity in her manner, and an air of artless enthusiasm, of personal purity. If she was theatrical, she was naturally theatrical. She looked up at Mrs. Farrinder with all her emotion in her smiling eyes. This lady had been the object of many ovations; it was familiar to her that the collective heart of her sex had gone forth to her; but, visibly, she was puzzled by this unforeseen embodiment of gratitude and fluency, and her eyes wandered over the girl