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Chapter 19

  • This idea of their triumph, a triumph as yet ultimate and remote, but precede_y the solemn vista of an effort so religious as never to be wanting i_cstasy, became tremendously familiar to the two friends, but especially t_live, during the winter of 187-, a season which ushered in the most momentou_eriod of Miss Chancellor's life. About Christmas a step was taken whic_dvanced her affairs immensely, and put them, to her apprehension, on _egular footing. This consisted in Verena's coming in to Charles Street t_tay with her, in pursuance of an arrangement on Olive's part with Sela_arrant and his wife that she should remain for many months. The coast was no_erfectly clear. Mrs. Farrinder had started on her annual grand tour; she wa_ousing the people, from Maine to Texas; Matthias Pardon (it was to b_upposed) had received, temporarily at least, his quietus; and Mrs. Luna wa_stablished in New York, where she had taken a house for a year, and whenc_he wrote to her sister that she was going to engage Basil Ransom (with who_he was in communication for this purpose) to do her law-business. Oliv_ondered what law-business Adeline could have, and hoped she would get into _ickle with her landlord or her milliner, so that repeated interviews with Mr.
  • Ransom might become necessary. Mrs. Luna let her know very soon that thes_nterviews had begun; the young Mississippian had come to dine with her; h_adn't got started much, by what she could make out, and she was even afrai_hat he didn't dine every day. But he wore a tall hat now, like a Norther_entleman, and Adeline intimated that she found him really attractive. He ha_een very nice to Newton, told him all about the war (quite the Souther_ersion, of course, but Mrs. Luna didn't care anything about America_olitics, and she wanted her son to know all sides), and Newton did nothin_ut talk about him, calling him "Rannie," and imitating his pronunciation o_ertain words. Adeline subsequently wrote that she had made up her mind to pu_er affairs into his hands (Olive sighed, not unmagnanimously, as she though_f her sister's "affairs"), and later still she mentioned that she wa_hinking strongly of taking him to be Newton's tutor. She wished thi_nteresting child to be privately educated, and it would be more agreeable t_ave in that relation a person who was already, as it were, a member of th_amily. Mrs. Luna wrote as if he were prepared to give up his profession t_ake charge of her son, and Olive was pretty sure that this was only a part o_er grandeur, of the habit she had contracted, especially since living i_urope, of speaking as if in every case she required special arrangements.
  • In spite of the difference in their age, Olive had long since judged her, an_ade up her mind that Adeline lacked every quality that a person needed to b_nteresting in her eyes. She was rich (or sufficiently so), she wa_onventional and timid, very fond of attentions from men (with whom indeed sh_as reputed bold, but Olive scorned such boldness as that), given up to _erely personal, egotistical, instinctive life, and as unconscious of th_endencies of the age, the revenges of the future, the new truths and th_reat social questions, as if she had been a mere bundle of dress-trimmings,
  • which she very nearly was. It was perfectly observable that she had n_onscience, and it irritated Olive deeply to see how much trouble a woman wa_pared when she was constructed on that system. Adeline's "affairs," as I hav_ntimated, her social relations, her views of Newton's education, her practic_nd her theory (for she had plenty of that, such as it was, heaven save th_ark!), her spasmodic disposition to marry again, and her still sillie_etreats in the presence of danger (for she had not even the courage of he_rivolity), these things had been a subject of tragic consideration to Oliv_ver since the return of the elder sister to America. The tragedy was not i_ny particular harm that Mrs. Luna could do her (for she did her good, rather,
  • that is, she did her honour by laughing at her), but in the spectacle itself,
  • the drama, guided by the hand of fate, of which the small, ignoble scene_nrolled themselves so logically. The dénouement would of course be i_eeping, and would consist simply of the spiritual death of Mrs. Luna, wh_ould end by understanding no common speech of Olive's at all, and would sin_nto mere worldly plumpness, into the last complacency, the suprem_mbecility, of petty, genteel conservatism. As for Newton, he would be mor_tterly odious, if possible, as he grew up, than he was already; in fact, h_ould not grow up at all, but only grow down, if his mother should continu_er infatuated system with him. He was insufferably forward and selfish; unde_he pretext of keeping him, at any cost, refined, Adeline had coddled an_aressed him, having him always in her petticoats, remitting his lessons whe_e pretended he had an earache, drawing him into the conversation, letting hi_nswer her back, with an impertinence beyond his years, when she administere_he smallest check. The place for him, in Olive's eyes, was one of the publi_chools, where the children of the people would teach him his smal_mportance, teach it, if necessary, by the aid of an occasional drubbing; an_he two ladies had a grand discussion on this point before Mrs. Luna lef_oston—a scene which ended in Adeline's clutching the irrepressible Newton t_er bosom (he came in at the moment), and demanding of him a vow that he woul_ive and die in the principles of his mother. Mrs. Luna declared that if sh_ust be trampled upon—and very likely it was her fate!—she would rather b_rampled upon by men than by women, and that if Olive and her friends shoul_et possession of the government they would be worse despots than those wh_ere celebrated in history. Newton took an infant oath that he would never b_ destructive, impious radical, and Olive felt that after this she needn'_rouble herself any more about her sister, whom she simply committed to he_ate. That fate might very properly be to marry an enemy of her country, a ma_ho, no doubt, desired to treat women with the lash and manacles, as he an_is people had formerly treated the wretched coloured race. If she was so fon_f the fine old institutions of the past, he would supply them to her i_bundance; and if she wanted so much to be a conservative, she could try firs_ow she liked being a conservative's wife. If Olive troubled herself littl_bout Adeline, she troubled herself more about Basil Ransom; she said t_erself that since he hated women who respected themselves (and each other),
  • destiny would use him rightly in hanging a person like Adeline round his neck.
  • That would be the way poetic justice ought to work, for him—and the law tha_ur prejudices, when they act themselves out, punish us in doing so. Oliv_onsidered all this, as it was her effort to consider everything, from a ver_igh point of view, and ended by feeling sure it was not for the sake of an_ervous personal security that she desired to see her two relations in Ne_ork get mixed up together. If such an event as their marriage would gratif_er sense of fitness, it would be simply as an illustration of certain laws.
  • Olive, thanks to the philosophic cast of her mind, was exceedingly fond o_llustrations of laws.
  • I hardly know, however, what illumination it was that sprang from he_onsciousness (now a source of considerable comfort) that Mrs. Farrinder wa_arrying the war into distant territories, and would return to Boston only i_ime to preside at a grand Female Convention, already advertised to take plac_n Boston in the month of June. It was agreeable to her that this imperia_oman should be away; it made the field more free, the air more light; i_uggested an exemption from official criticism. I have not taken space t_ention certain episodes of the more recent intercourse of these ladies, an_ust content myself with tracing them, lightly, in their consequences. Thes_ay be summed up in the remark, which will doubtless startle no one by it_reshness, that two imperial women are scarcely more likely to hit it of_ogether, as the phrase is, than two imperial men. Since that party at Mis_irdseye's, so important in its results for Olive, she had had occasion t_pproach Mrs. Farrinder more nearly, and those overtures brought forth th_nowledge that the great leader of the feminine revolution was the one person
  • (in that part of the world) more concentrated, more determined, than herself.
  • Miss Chancellor's aspirations, of late, had been immensely quickened; she ha_egun to believe in herself to a livelier tune than she had ever listened t_efore; and she now perceived that when spirit meets spirit there must eithe_e mutual absorption or a sharp concussion. It had long been familiar to he_hat she should have to count with the obstinacy of the world at large, bu_he now discovered that she should have to count also with certain elements i_he feminine camp. This complicated the problem, and such a complication,
  • naturally, could not make Mrs. Farrinder appear more easy to assimilate. I_live's was a high nature and so was hers, the fault was in neither; it wa_nly an admonition that they were not needed as landmarks in the same part o_he field. If such perceptions are delicate as between men, the reader nee_ot be reminded of the exquisite form they may assume in natures more refined.
  • So it was that Olive passed, in three months, from the stage of veneration t_hat of competition; and the process had been accelerated by the introductio_f Verena into the fold. Mrs. Farrinder had behaved in the strangest way abou_erena. First she had been struck with her, and then she hadn't; first she ha_eemed to want to take her in, then she had shied at he_nmistakably—intimating to Olive that there were enough of that kind already.
  • Of "that kind" indeed!—the phrase reverberated in Miss Chancellor's resentfu_oul. Was it possible she didn't know the kind Verena was of, and with wha_ulgar aspirants to notoriety did she confound her? It had been Olive'_riginal desire to obtain Mrs. Farrinder's stamp for her protégée; she wishe_er to hold a commission from the commander-in-chief. With this view the tw_oung women had made more than one pilgrimage to Roxbury, and on one of thes_ccasions the sibylline mood (in its most charming form) had descended upo_erena. She had fallen into it, naturally and gracefully, in the course o_alk, and poured out a stream of eloquence even more touching than her regula_iscourse at Miss Birdseye's. Mrs. Farrinder had taken it rather dryly, an_ertainly it didn't resemble her own style of oratory, remarkable and cogen_s this was. There had been considerable question of her writing a letter t_he New York Tribune, the effect of which should be to launch Miss Tarran_nto renown; but this beneficent epistle never appeared, and now Olive sa_hat there was no favour to come from the prophetess of Roxbury. There ha_een primnesses, pruderies, small reserves, which ended by staying her pen. I_live didn't say at once that she was jealous of Verena's more attractiv_anner, it was only because such a declaration was destined to produce mor_ffect a little later. What she did say was that evidently Mrs. Farrinde_anted to keep the movement in her own hands—viewed with suspicion certai_omantic, esthetic elements which Olive and Verena seemed to be trying t_ntroduce into it. They insisted so much, for instance, on the histori_nhappiness of women; but Mrs. Farrinder didn't appear to care anything fo_hat, or indeed to know much about history at all. She seemed to begin jus_o-day, and she demanded their rights for them whether they were unhappy o_ot. The upshot of this was that Olive threw herself on Verena's neck with _ovement which was half indignation, half rapture; she exclaimed that the_ould have to fight the battle without human help, but, after all, it wa_etter so. If they were all in all to each other, what more could they want?
  • They would be isolated, but they would be free; and this view of the situatio_rought with it a feeling that they had almost already begun to be a force. I_as not, indeed, that Olive's resentment faded quite away; for not only ha_he the sense, doubtless very presumptuous, that Mrs. Farrinder was the onl_erson thereabouts of a stature to judge her (a sufficient cause of antagonis_n itself, for if we like to be praised by our betters we prefer that censur_hould come from the other sort), but the kind of opinion she had unexpectedl_etrayed, after implying such esteem in the earlier phase of thei_ntercourse, made Olive's cheeks occasionally flush. She prayed heaven tha_he might never become so personal, so narrow. She was frivolous, worldly, a_mateur, a trifler, a frequenter of Beacon Street; her taking up Veren_arrant was only a kind of elderly, ridiculous doll-dressing: this was th_ight in which Miss Chancellor had reason to believe that it now suited Mrs.
  • Farrinder to regard her! It was fortunate, perhaps, that the misrepresentatio_as so gross; yet, none the less, tears of wrath rose more than once t_live's eyes when she reflected that this particular wrong had been put upo_er. Frivolous, worldly, Beacon Street! She appealed to Verena to share in he_ledge that the world should know in due time how much of that sort of thin_here was about her. As I have already hinted, Verena at such moments quit_ose to the occasion; she had private pangs at committing herself to give th_old shoulder to Beacon Street for ever; but she was now so completely i_live's hands that there was no sacrifice to which she would not hav_onsented in order to prove that her benefactress was not frivolous.
  • The matter of her coming to stay for so long in Charles Street was arrange_uring a visit that Selah Tarrant paid there at Miss Chancellor's request.
  • This interview, which had some curious features, would be worth describing bu_ am forbidden to do more than mention the most striking of these. Oliv_ished to have an understanding with him; wished the situation to be clear, s_hat, disagreeable as it would be to her to receive him, she sent him _ummons for a certain hour—an hour at which she had planned that Verena shoul_e out of the house. She withheld this incident from the girl's knowledge,
  • reflecting with some solemnity that it was the first deception (for Olive he_ilence was a deception) that she had yet practised on her friend, an_ondering whether she should have to practise others in the future. She the_nd there made up her mind that she would not shrink from others should the_e necessary. She notified Tarrant that she should keep Verena a long time,
  • and Tarrant remarked that it was certainly very pleasant to see her so happil_ocated. But he also intimated that he should like to know what Mis_hancellor laid out to do with her; and the tone of this suggestion made Oliv_eel how right she had been to foresee that their interview would have th_tamp of business. It assumed that complexion very definitely when she crosse_ver to her desk and wrote Mr. Tarrant a cheque for a very considerabl_mount. "Leave us alone—entirely alone—for a year, and then I will write yo_nother": it was with these words she handed him the little strip of pape_hat meant so much, feeling, as she did so, that surely Mrs. Farrinder hersel_ould not be less amateurish than that. Selah looked at the cheque, at Mis_hancellor, at the cheque again, at the ceiling, at the floor, at the clock,
  • and once more at his hostess; then the document disappeared beneath the fold_f his waterproof, and she saw that he was putting it into some queer place o_is queer person. "Well, if I didn't believe you were going to help her t_evelop," he remarked; and he stopped, while his hands continued to fumble,
  • out of sight, and he treated Olive to his large joyless smile. She assured hi_hat he need have no fear on that score; Verena's development was the thing i_he world in which she took most interest; she should have every opportunit_or a free expansion. "Yes, that's the great thing," Selah said; "it's mor_mportant than attracting a crowd. That's all we shall ask of you; let her ac_ut her nature. Don't all the trouble of humanity come from our being presse_ack? Don't shut down the cover, Miss Chancellor; just let her overflow!" An_gain Tarrant illuminated his inquiry, his metaphor, by the strange and silen_ateral movement of his jaws. He added, presently, that he supposed he shoul_ave to fix it with Mis' Tarrant; but Olive made no answer to that; she onl_ooked at him with a face in which she intended to express that there wa_othing that need detain him longer. She knew it had been fixed with Mrs.
  • Tarrant; she had been over all that with Verena, who had told her that he_other was willing to sacrifice her for her highest good. She had reason t_now (not through Verena, of course) that Mrs. Tarrant had embraced, tenderly,
  • the idea of a pecuniary compensation, and there was no fear of her making _cene when Tarrant should come back with a cheque in his pocket. "Well, _rust she may develop, richly, and that you may accomplish what you desire; i_eems as if we had only a little way to go further," that worthy observed, a_e erected himself for departure.
  • "It's not a little way; it's a very long way," Olive replied, rather sternly.
  • Tarrant was on the threshold; he lingered a little, embarrassed by he_rimness, for he himself had always inclined to rose-coloured views o_rogress, of the march of truth. He had never met any one so much in earnes_s this definite, literal young woman, who had taken such an unhoped-for fanc_o his daughter; whose longing for the new day had such perversities o_essimism, and who, in the midst of something that appeared to be terribl_earching in her honesty, was willing to corrupt him, as a father, with th_ost extravagant orders on her bank. He hardly knew in what language to spea_o her; it seemed as if there was nothing soothing enough, when a lady adopte_hat tone about a movement which was thought by some of the brightest to be s_romising. "Oh, well, I guess there's some kind of mysterious law… ." h_urmured, almost timidly; and so he passed from Miss Chancellor's sight.