Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/92

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82
XI.
THE BOSTONIANS.

her suddenly exclaim, as if in a nervous ecstasy of anticipation, 'But we must wait! Why do we talk of this? We must wait! All will be right,' she added more calmly, with great sweetness.

Verena wondered afterward why she had not been more afraid of her—why, indeed, she had not turned and saved herself by darting out of the room. But it was not in this young woman's nature to be either timid or cautious; she had as yet to make acquaintance with the sentiment of fear. She knew too little of the world to have learned to mistrust sudden enthusiasms, and if she had had a suspicion it would have been (in accordance with common worldly knowledge) the wrong one—the suspicion that such a whimsical liking would burn itself out. She could not have that one, for there was a light in Miss Chancellor's magnified face which seemed to say that a sentiment, with her, might consume its object, might consume Miss Chancellor, but would never consume itself. Verena, as yet, had no sense of being scorched; she was only agreeably warmed. She also had dreamed of a friendship, though it was not what she had dreamed of most, and it came over her that this was the one which fortune might have been keeping. She never held back.

'Do you live here all alone?' she asked of Olive.

'I shouldn't if you would come and live with me!'

Even this really passionate rejoinder failed to make Verena shrink; she thought it so possible that in the wealthy class people made each other such easy proposals. It was a part of the romance, the luxury, of wealth; it belonged to the world of invitations, in which she had had so little share. But it seemed almost a mockery when she thought of the little house in Cambridge, where the boards were loose in the steps of the porch.

'I must stay with my father and mother,' she said. 'And then I have my work, you know. That's the way I must live now.'

'Your work?' Olive repeated, not quite understanding.

'My gift,' said Verena, smiling.

'Oh yes, you must use it. That's what I mean; you must move the world with it; it's divine.'