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Chapter 9

  • 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.