Page:The Bostonians (London & New York, Macmillan & Co., 1886).djvu/99

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'Oh, a great many gentlemen have spoken to me,' Verena said. 'There were quite a number at Topeka—' And her phrase lost itself in her look at Olive, as if she were wondering what was the matter with her.

'Now, I am afraid you are going the very moment I appear,' Ransom went on. 'Do you know that's very cruel to me? I know what your ideas are—you expressed them last night in such beautiful language; of course you convinced me. I am ashamed of being a man; but I am, and I can't help it, and I'll do penance any way you may prescribe. Must she go, Miss Olive?' he asked of his cousin. 'Do you flee before the individual male?' And he turned again to Verena.

This young lady gave a laugh that resembled speech in liquid fusion. 'Oh no; I like the individual!'

As an incarnation of a 'movement,' Ransom thought her more and more singular, and he wondered how she came to be closeted so soon with his kinswoman, to whom, only a few hours before, she had been a complete stranger. These, however, were doubtless the normal proceedings of women. He begged her to sit down again; he was sure Miss Chancellor would be sorry to part with her. Verena, looking at her friend, not for permission, but for sympathy, dropped again into a chair, and Ransom waited to see Miss Chancellor do the same. She gratified him after a moment, because she could not refuse without appearing to put a hurt upon Verena; but it went hard with her, and she was altogether discomposed. She had never seen any one so free in her own drawing-room as this loud Southerner, to whom she had so rashly offered a footing; he extended invitations to her guests under her nose. That Verena should do as he asked her was a signal sign of the absence of that 'home-culture' (it was so that Miss Chancellor expressed the missing quality) which she never supposed the girl possessed: fortunately, as it would be supplied to her in abundance in Charles Street. (Olive of course held that home-culture was perfectly compatible with the widest emancipation.) It was with a perfectly good conscience that Verena complied with Basil Ransom's request; but it took her quick sensibility only a moment to discover that