Ransom approached Mrs. Farrinder again, who had remained on her sofa wit_live Chancellor; and as she turned her face to him he saw that she had fel_he universal contagion. Her keen eye sparkled, there was a flush on he_atronly cheek, and she had evidently made up her mind what line to take.
Olive Chancellor sat motionless; her eyes were fixed on the floor with th_igid, alarmed expression of her moments of nervous diffidence; she gave n_ign of observing her kinsman's approach. He said something to Mrs. Farrinder,
something that imperfectly represented his admiration of Verena; and this lad_eplied with dignity that it was no wonder the girl spoke so well—she spoke i_uch a good cause. "She is very graceful, has a fine command of language; he_ather says it's a natural gift." Ransom saw that he should not in the leas_iscover Mrs. Farrinder's real opinion, and her dissimulation added to hi_mpression that she was a woman with a policy. It was none of his busines_hether in her heart she thought Verena a parrot or a genius; it wa_erceptible to him that she saw she would be effective, would help the cause.
He stood almost appalled for a moment, as he said to himself that she woul_ake her up and the girl would be ruined, would force her note and become _creamer. But he quickly dodged this vision, taking refuge in a mechanica_ppeal to his cousin, of whom he inquired how she liked Miss Verena. Oliv_ade no answer; her head remained averted, she bored the carpet with he_onscious eyes. Mrs. Farrinder glanced at her askance, and then said to Ranso_erenely:
"You praise the grace of your Southern ladies, but you have had to come Nort_o see a human gazelle. Miss Tarrant is of the best New England stock—what _all the best!"
"I'm sure from what I have seen of the Boston ladies, no manifestation o_race can excite my surprise," Ransom rejoined, looking, with his smile, a_is cousin.
"She has been powerfully affected," Mrs. Farrinder explained, very slightl_ropping her voice, as Olive, apparently, still remained deaf.
Miss Birdseye drew near at this moment; she wanted to know if Mrs. Farrinde_idn't want to express some acknowledgment, on the part of the company a_arge, for the real stimulus Miss Tarrant had given them. Mrs. Farrinder said:
Oh yes, she would speak now with pleasure; only she must have a glass of wate_irst. Miss Birdseye replied that there was some coming in a moment; one o_he ladies had asked for it, and Mr. Pardon had just stepped down to dra_ome. Basil took advantage of this intermission to ask Miss Birdseye if sh_ould give him the great privilege of an introduction to Miss Verena. "Mrs.
Farrinder will thank her for the company," he said, laughing, "but she won'_hank her for me."
Miss Birdseye manifested the greatest disposition to oblige him; she was s_lad he had been impressed. She was proceeding to lead him toward Miss Tarran_hen Olive Chancellor rose abruptly from her chair and laid her hand, with a_rresting movement, on the arm of her hostess. She explained to her that sh_ust go, that she was not very well, that her carriage was there; also tha_he hoped Miss Birdseye, if it was not asking too much, would accompany her t_he door.
"Well, you are impressed too," said Miss Birdseye, looking at he_hilosophically. "It seems as if no one had escaped."
Ransom was disappointed; he saw he was going to be taken away, and, before h_ould suppress it, an exclamation burst from his lips—the first exclamation h_ould think of that would perhaps check his cousin's retreat: "Ah, Miss Olive,
are you going to give up Mrs. Farrinder?"
At this Miss Olive looked at him, showed him an extraordinary face, a face h_carcely understood or even recognised. It was portentously grave, the eye_ere enlarged, there was a red spot in each of the cheeks, and as directed t_im, a quick, piercing question, a kind of leaping challenge, in the whol_xpression. He could only answer this sudden gleam with a stare, and wonde_fresh what trick his Northern kinswoman was destined to play him. Impresse_oo? He should think he had been! Mrs. Farrinder, who was decidedly a woman o_he world, came to his assistance, or to Miss Chancellor's, and said she hope_ery much Olive wouldn't stay—she felt these things too much. "If you stay, _on't speak," she added; "I should upset you altogether." And then sh_ontinued, tenderly, for so preponderantly intellectual a nature: "When wome_eel as you do, how can I doubt that we shall come out all right?"
"Oh, we shall come out all right, I guess," murmured Miss Birdseye.
"But you must remember Beacon Street," Mrs. Farrinder subjoined. "You mus_ake advantage of your position—you must wake up the Back Bay!"
"I'm sick of the Back Bay!" said Olive fiercely; and she passed to the doo_ith Miss Birdseye, bidding good-bye to no one. She was so agitated that,
evidently, she could not trust herself, and there was nothing for Ransom bu_o follow. At the door of the room, however, he was checked by a sudden paus_n the part of the two ladies: Olive stopped and stood there hesitating. Sh_ooked round the room and spied out Verena, where she sat with her mother, th_entre of a gratified group; then, throwing back her head with an air o_ecision, she crossed over to her. Ransom said to himself that now, perhaps,
was his chance, and he quickly accompanied Miss Chancellor. The little knot o_eformers watched her as she arrived; their faces expressed a suspicion of he_ocial importance, mingled with conscientious scruples as to whether it wer_ight to recognise it. Verena Tarrant saw that she was the object of thi_anifestation, and she got up to meet the lady whose approach was so full o_oint. Ransom perceived, however, or thought he perceived, that she recognise_othing; she had no suspicions of social importance. Yet she smiled with al_er radiance, as she looked from Miss Chancellor to him; smiled because sh_iked to smile, to please, to feel her success—or was it because she was _erfect little actress, and this was part of her training? She took the han_hat Olive put out to her; the others, rather solemnly, sat looking up fro_heir chairs.
"You don't know me, but I want to know you," Olive said. "I can thank you now.
Will you come and see me?"
"Oh yes; where do you live?" Verena answered, in the tone of a girl for who_n invitation (she hadn't so many) was always an invitation.
Miss Chancellor syllabled her address, and Mrs. Tarrant came forward, smiling.
"I know about you, Miss Chancellor. I guess your father knew my father—Mr.
Greenstreet. Verena will be very glad to visit you. We shall be very happy t_ee you in our home."
Basil Ransom, while the mother spoke, wanted to say something to the daughter,
who stood there so near him, but he could think of nothing that would do;
certain words that came to him, his Mississippi phrases, seemed patronisin_nd ponderous. Besides, he didn't wish to assent to what she had said; h_ished simply to tell her she was delightful, and it was difficult to mar_hat difference. So he only smiled at her in silence, and she smiled back a_im—a smile that seemed to him quite for himself.
"Where do you live?" Olive asked; and Mrs. Tarrant replied that they lived a_ambridge, and that the horse-cars passed just near their door. Whereupo_live insisted "Will you come very soon?" and Verena said, Oh yes, she woul_ome very soon, and repeated the number in Charles Street, to show that sh_ad taken heed of it. This was done with childlike good faith. Ransom saw tha_he would come and see any one who would ask her like that, and he regrette_or a minute that he was not a Boston lady, so that he might extend to he_uch an invitation. Olive Chancellor held her hand a moment longer, looked a_er in farewell, and then, saying, "Come, Mr. Ransom," drew him out of th_oom. In the hall they met Mr. Pardon, coming up from the lower regions with _ug of water and a tumbler. Miss Chancellor's hackney-coach was there, an_hen Basil had put her into it she said to him that she wouldn't trouble hi_o drive with her—his hotel was not near Charles Street. He had so littl_esire to sit by her side—he wanted to smoke—that it was only after th_ehicle had rolled off that he reflected upon her coolness, and asked himsel_hy the deuce she had brought him away. She was a very odd cousin, was thi_oston cousin of his. He stood there a moment, looking at the light in Mis_irdseye's windows and greatly minded to re-enter the house, now he migh_peak to the girl. But he contented himself with the memory of her smile, an_urned away with a sense of relief, after all, at having got out of such wil_ompany, as well as with (in a different order) a vulgar consciousness o_eing very thirsty.