Beyond the City
Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 1 out of 3

Updated by David Widger from the 1995 edition of Michael Hart
Additional proofreading by Trevor Carlson




"If you please, mum," said the voice of a domestic from somewhere round
the angle of the door, "number three is moving in."

Two little old ladies, who were sitting at either side of a table,
sprang to their feet with ejaculations of interest, and rushed to the
window of the sitting-room.

"Take care, Monica dear," said one, shrouding herself in the lace
curtain; "don't let them see us.

"No, no, Bertha. We must not give them reason to say that their
neighbors are inquisitive. But I think that we are safe if we stand
like this."

The open window looked out upon a sloping lawn, well trimmed and
pleasant, with fuzzy rosebushes and a star-shaped bed of sweet-william.
It was bounded by a low wooden fence, which screened it off from a
broad, modern, new metaled road. At the other side of this road were
three large detached deep-bodied villas with peaky eaves and small
wooden balconies, each standing in its own little square of grass and of
flowers. All three were equally new, but numbers one and two were
curtained and sedate, with a human, sociable look to them; while number
three, with yawning door and unkempt garden, had apparently only just
received its furniture and made itself ready for its occupants. A four-
wheeler had driven up to the gate, and it was at this that the old
ladies, peeping out bird-like from behind their curtains, directed an
eager and questioning gaze.

The cabman had descended, and the passengers within were handing out the
articles which they desired him to carry up to the house. He stood red-
faced and blinking, with his crooked arms outstretched, while a male
hand, protruding from the window, kept piling up upon him a series of
articles the sight of which filled the curious old ladies with

"My goodness me!" cried Monica, the smaller, the drier, and the more
wizened of the pair. "What do you call that, Bertha? It looks to me
like four batter puddings."

"Those are what young men box each other with," said Bertha, with a
conscious air of superior worldly knowledge.

"And those?"

Two great bottle-shaped pieces of yellow shining wood had been heaped
upon the cabman.

"Oh, I don't know what those are," confessed Bertha. Indian clubs had
never before obtruded themselves upon her peaceful and very feminine

These mysterious articles were followed, however, by others which were
more within their, range of comprehension--by a pair of dumb-bells, a
purple cricket-bag, a set of golf clubs, and a tennis racket. Finally,
when the cabman, all top-heavy and bristling, had staggered off up the
garden path, there emerged in a very leisurely way from the cab a big,
powerfully built young man, with a bull pup under one arm and a pink
sporting paper in his hand. The paper he crammed into the pocket of his
light yellow dust-coat, and extended his hand as if to assist some one
else from the vehicle. To the surprise of the two old ladies, however,
the only thing which his open palm received was a violent slap, and a
tall lady bounded unassisted out of the cab. With a regal wave she
motioned the young man towards the door, and then with one hand upon her
hip she stood in a careless, lounging attitude by the gate, kicking her
toe against the wall and listlessly awaiting the return of the driver.

As she turned slowly round, and the sunshine struck upon her face, the
two watchers were amazed to see that this very active and energetic lady
was far from being in her first youth, so far that she had certainly
come of age again since she first passed that landmark in life's
journey. Her finely chiseled, clean-cut face, with something red Indian
about the firm mouth and strongly marked cheek bones, showed even at
that distance traces of the friction of the passing years. And yet she
was very handsome. Her features were as firm in repose as those of a
Greek bust, and her great dark eyes were arched over by two brows so
black, so thick, and so delicately curved, that the eye turned away from
the harsher details of the face to marvel at their grace and strength.
Her figure, too, was straight as a dart, a little portly, perhaps, but
curving into magnificent outlines, which were half accentuated by the
strange costume which she wore. Her hair, black but plentifully shot
with grey, was brushed plainly back from her high forehead, and was
gathered under a small round felt hat, like that of a man, with one
sprig of feather in the band as a concession to her sex. A double-
breasted jacket of some dark frieze-like material fitted closely to her
figure, while her straight blue skirt, untrimmed and ungathered, was cut
so short that the lower curve of her finely-turned legs was plainly
visible beneath it, terminating in a pair of broad, flat, low-heeled and
square-toed shoes. Such was the lady who lounged at the gate of number
three, under the curious eyes of her two opposite neighbors.

But if her conduct and appearance had already somewhat jarred upon their
limited and precise sense of the fitness of things, what were they to
think of the next little act in this tableau vivant? The cabman, red
and heavy-jowled, had come back from his labors, and held out his hand
for his fare. The lady passed him a coin, there was a moment of
mumbling and gesticulating, and suddenly she had him with both hands by
the red cravat which girt his neck, and was shaking him as a terrier
would a rat. Right across the pavement she thrust him, and, pushing him
up against the wheel, she banged his head three several times against
the side of his own vehicle.

"Can I be of any use to you, aunt?" asked the large youth, framing
himself in the open doorway.

"Not the slightest," panted the enraged lady. "There, you low
blackguard, that will teach you to be impertinent to a lady."

The cabman looked helplessly about him with a bewildered, questioning
gaze, as one to whom alone of all men this unheard-of and extraordinary
thing had happened. Then, rubbing his head, he mounted slowly on to the
box and drove away with an uptossed hand appealing to the universe. The
lady smoothed down her dress, pushed back her hair under her little felt
hat, and strode in through the hall-door, which was closed behind her.
As with a whisk her short skirts vanished into the darkness, the two
spectators--Miss Bertha and Miss Monica Williams--sat looking at each
other in speechless amazement. For fifty years they had peeped through
that little window and across that trim garden, but never yet had such a
sight as this come to confound them.

"I wish," said Monica at last, "that we had kept the field."

"I am sure I wish we had," answered her sister.




The cottage from the window of which the Misses Williams had looked out
stands, and has stood for many a year, in that pleasant suburban
district which lies between Norwood, Anerley, and Forest Hill. Long
before there had been a thought of a township there, when the Metropolis
was still quite a distant thing, old Mr. Williams had inhabited "The
Brambles," as the little house was called, and had owned all the fields
about it. Six or eight such cottages scattered over a rolling country-
side were all the houses to be found there in the days when the century
was young. From afar, when the breeze came from the north, the dull,
low roar of the great city might be heard, like the breaking of the tide
of life, while along the horizon might be seen the dim curtain of smoke,
the grim spray which that tide threw up. Gradually, however, as the
years passed, the City had thrown out a long brick-feeler here and
there, curving, extending, and coalescing, until at last the little
cottages had been gripped round by these red tentacles, and had been
absorbed to make room for the modern villa. Field by field the estate
of old Mr. Williams had been sold to the speculative builder, and had
borne rich crops of snug suburban dwellings, arranged in curving
crescents and tree-lined avenues. The father had passed away before his
cottage was entirely bricked round, but his two daughters, to whom the
property had descended, lived to see the last vestige of country taken
from them. For years they had clung to the one field which faced their
windows, and it was only after much argument and many heartburnings,
that they had at last consented that it should share the fate of the
others. A broad road was driven through their quiet domain, the quarter
was re-named "The Wilderness," and three square, staring, uncompromising
villas began to sprout up on the other side. With sore hearts, the two
shy little old maids watched their steady progress, and speculated as to
what fashion of neighbors chance would bring into the little nook which
had always been their own.

And at last they were all three finished. Wooden balconies and
overhanging eaves had been added to them, so that, in the language of
the advertisement, there were vacant three eligible Swiss-built villas,
with sixteen rooms, no basement, electric bells, hot and cold water, and
every modern convenience, including a common tennis lawn, to be let at
L100 a year, or L1,500 purchase. So tempting an offer did not long
remain open. Within a few weeks the card had vanished from number one,
and it was known that Admiral Hay Denver, V. C., C. B., with Mrs. Hay
Denver and their only son, were about to move into it. The news brought
peace to the hearts of the Williams sisters. They had lived with a
settled conviction that some wild impossible colony, some shouting,
singing family of madcaps, would break in upon their peace. This
establishment at least was irreproachable. A reference to "Men of the
Time" showed them that Admiral Hay Denver was a most distinguished
officer, who had begun his active career at Bomarsund, and had ended it
at Alexandria, having managed between these two episodes to see as much
service as any man of his years. From the Taku Forts and the _Shannon_
brigade, to dhow-harrying off Zanzibar, there was no variety of naval
work which did not appear in his record; while the Victoria Cross, and
the Albert Medal for saving life, vouched for it that in peace as in war
his courage was still of the same true temper. Clearly a very eligible
neighbor this, the more so as they had been confidentially assured by
the estate agent that Mr. Harold Denver, the son, was a most quiet young
gentleman, and that he was busy from morning to night on the Stock

The Hay Denvers had hardly moved in before number two also struck its
placard, and again the ladies found that they had no reason to be
discontented with their neighbors. Doctor Balthazar Walker was a very
well-known name in the medical world. Did not his qualifications, his
membership, and the record of his writings fill a long half-column in
the "Medical Directory," from his first little paper on the "Gouty
Diathesis" in 1859 to his exhaustive treatise upon "Affections of the
Vaso-Motor System" in 1884? A successful medical career which promised
to end in a presidentship of a college and a baronetcy, had been cut
short by his sudden inheritance of a considerable sum from a grateful
patient, which had rendered him independent for life, and had enabled
him to turn his attention to the more scientific part of his profession,
which had always had a greater charm for him than its more practical and
commercial aspect. To this end he had given up his house in Weymouth
Street, and had taken this opportunity of moving himself, his scientific
instruments, and his two charming daughters (he had been a widower for
some years) into the more peaceful atmosphere of Norwood.

There was thus but one villa unoccupied, and it was no wonder that the
two maiden ladies watched with a keen interest, which deepened into a
dire apprehension, the curious incidents which heralded the coming of
the new tenants. They had already learned from the agent that the
family consisted of two only, Mrs. Westmacott, a widow, and her nephew,
Charles Westmacott. How simple and how select it had sounded! Who
could have foreseen from it these fearful portents which seemed to
threaten violence and discord among the dwellers in The Wilderness?
Again the two old maids cried in heartfelt chorus that they wished they
had not sold their field.

"Well, at least, Monica," remarked Bertha, as they sat over their
teacups that afternoon, "however strange these people may be, it is our
duty to be as polite to them as to the others."

"Most certainly," acquiesced her sister.

"Since we have called upon Mrs. Hay Denver and upon the Misses Walker,
we must call upon this Mrs. Westmacott also."

"Certainly, dear. As long as they are living upon our land I feel as if
they were in a sense our guests, and that it is our duty to welcome

"Then we shall call to-morrow," said Bertha, with decision.

"Yes, dear, we shall. But, oh, I wish it was over!"

At four o'clock on the next day, the two maiden ladies set off upon
their hospitable errand. In their stiff, crackling dresses of black
silk, with jet-bespangled jackets, and little rows of cylindrical grey
curls drooping down on either side of their black bonnets, they looked
like two old fashion plates which had wandered off into the wrong
decade. Half curious and half fearful, they knocked at the door of
number three, which was instantly opened by a red-headed page-boy.

Yes, Mrs. Westmacott was at home. He ushered them into the front room,
furnished as a drawing-room, where in spite of the fine spring weather a
large fire was burning in the grate. The boy took their cards, and
then, as they sat down together upon a settee, he set their nerves in a
thrill by darting behind a curtain with a shrill cry, and prodding at
something with his foot. The bull pup which they had seen upon the day
before bolted from its hiding-place, and scuttled snarling from the

"It wants to get at Eliza," said the youth, in a confidential whisper.
"Master says she would give him more'n he brought." He smiled affably
at the two little stiff black figures, and departed in search of his

"What--what did he say?" gasped Bertha.

"Something about a---- Oh, goodness gracious! Oh, help, help, help,
help, help!" The two sisters had bounded on to the settee, and stood
there with staring eyes and skirts gathered in, while they filled the
whole house with their yells. Out of a high wicker-work basket which
stood by the fire there had risen a flat diamond-shaped head with wicked
green eyes which came flickering upwards, waving gently from side to
side, until a foot or more of glossy scaly neck was visible. Slowly the
vicious head came floating up, while at every oscillation a fresh burst
of shrieks came from the settee.

"What in the name of mischief!" cried a voice, and there was the
mistress of the house standing in the doorway. Her gaze at first had
merely taken in the fact that two strangers were standing screaming upon
her red plush sofa. A glance at the fireplace, however, showed her the
cause of the terror, and she burst into a hearty fit of laughter.

"Charley," she shouted, "here's Eliza misbehaving again."

"I'll settle her," answered a masculine voice, and the young man dashed
into the room. He had a brown horse-cloth in his hand, which he threw
over the basket, making it fast with a piece of twine so as to
effectually imprison its inmate, while his aunt ran across to reassure
her visitors.

"It is only a rock snake," she explained.

"Oh, Bertha!" "Oh, Monica!" gasped the poor exhausted gentlewomen.

"She's hatching out some eggs. That is why we have the fire. Eliza
always does better when she is warm. She is a sweet, gentle creature,
but no doubt she thought that you had designs upon her eggs. I suppose
that you did not touch any of them?"

"Oh, let us get away, Bertha!" cried Monica, with her thin, black-gloved
hands thrown forwards in abhorrence.

"Not away, but into the next room," said Mrs. Westmacott, with the air
of one whose word was law. "This way, if you please! It is less warm
here." She led the way into a very handsomely appointed library, with
three great cases of books, and upon the fourth side a long yellow table
littered over with papers and scientific instruments. "Sit here, and
you, there," she continued. "That is right. Now let me see, which of
you is Miss Williams, and which Miss Bertha Williams?"

"I am Miss Williams," said Monica, still palpitating, and glancing
furtively about in dread of some new horror.

"And you live, as I understand, over at the pretty little cottage. It
is very nice of you to call so early. I don't suppose that we shall get
on, but still the intention is equally good." She crossed her legs and
leaned her back against the marble mantelpiece.

"We thought that perhaps we might be of some assistance," said Bertha,
timidly. "If there is anything which we could do to make you feel more
at home----"

"Oh, thank you, I am too old a traveler to feel anything but at home
wherever I go. I've just come back from a few months in the Marquesas
Islands, where I had a very pleasant visit. That was where I got Eliza.
In many respects the Marquesas Islands now lead the world."

"Dear me!" ejaculated Miss Williams. "In what respect?"

"In the relation of the sexes. They have worked out the great problem
upon their own lines, and their isolated geographical position has
helped them to come to a conclusion of their own. The woman there is,
as she should be, in every way the absolute equal of the male. Come in,
Charles, and sit down. Is Eliza all right?"

"All right, aunt."

"These are our neighbors, the Misses Williams. Perhaps they will have
some stout. You might bring in a couple of bottles, Charles."

"No, no, thank you! None for us!" cried her two visitors, earnestly.

"No? I am sorry that I have no tea to offer you. I look upon the
subserviency of woman as largely due to her abandoning nutritious drinks
and invigorating exercises to the male. I do neither." She picked up a
pair of fifteen-pound dumb-bells from beside the fireplace and swung
them lightly about her head. "You see what may be done on stout," said

"But don't you think," the elder Miss Williams suggested timidly, "don't
you think, Mrs. Westmascott, that woman has a mission of her own?"

The lady of the house dropped her dumb-bells with a crash upon the

"The old cant!" she cried. "The old shibboleth! What is this mission
which is reserved for woman? All that is humble, that is mean, that is
soul-killing, that is so contemptible and so ill-paid that none other
will touch it. All that is woman's mission. And who imposed these
limitations upon her? Who cooped her up within this narrow sphere? Was
it Providence? Was it nature? No, it was the arch enemy. It was man."

"Oh, I say, auntie!" drawled her nephew.

"It was man, Charles. It was you and your fellows I say that woman is a
colossal monument to the selfishness of man. What is all this boasted
chivalry--these fine words and vague phrases? Where is it when we wish
to put it to the test? Man in the abstract will do anything to help a
woman. Of course. How does it work when his pocket is touched? Where
is his chivalry then? Will the doctors help her to qualify? will the
lawyers help her to be called to the bar? will the clergy tolerate her
in the Church? Oh, it is close your ranks then and refer poor woman to
her mission! Her mission! To be thankful for coppers and not to
interfere with the men while they grabble for gold, like swine round a
trough, that is man's reading of the mission of women. You may sit
there and sneer, Charles, while you look upon your victim, but you know
that it is truth, every word of it."

Terrified as they were by this sudden torrent of words, the two
gentlewomen could not but smile at the sight of the fiery, domineering
victim and the big apologetic representative of mankind who sat meekly
bearing all the sins of his sex. The lady struck a match, whipped a
cigarette from a case upon the mantelpiece, and began to draw the smoke
into her lungs.

"I find it very soothing when my nerves are at all ruffled," she
explained. "You don't smoke? Ah, you miss one of the purest of
pleasures--one of the few pleasures which are without a reaction."

Miss Williams smoothed out her silken lap.

"It is a pleasure," she said, with some approach to self-assertion,
"which Bertha and I are rather too old-fashioned to enjoy."

"No doubt, It would probably make you very ill if you attempted it. By
the way, I hope that you will come to some of our Guild meetings. I
shall see that tickets are sent you."

"Your Guild?"

"It is not yet formed, but I shall lose no time in forming a committee.
It is my habit to establish a branch of the Emancipation Guild wherever
I go. There is a Mrs. Sanderson in Anerley who is already one of the
emancipated, so that I have a nucleus. It is only by organized
resistance, Miss Williams, that we can hope to hold our own against the
selfish sex. Must you go, then?"

"Yes, we have one or two other visits to pay," said the elder sister.
"You will, I am sure, excuse us. I hope that you will find Norwood a
pleasant residence."

"All places are to me simply a battle-field," she answered, gripping
first one and then the other with a grip which crumpled up their little
thin fingers. "The days for work and healthful exercise, the evenings
to Browning and high discourse, eh, Charles? Good-bye!" She came to the
door with them, and as they glanced back they saw her still standing
there with the yellow bull pup cuddled up under one forearm, and the
thin blue reek of her cigarette ascending from her lips.

"Oh, what a dreadful, dreadful woman!" whispered sister Bertha, as they
hurried down the street. "Thank goodness that it is over."

"But she'll return the visit," answered the other. "I think that we had
better tell Mary that we are not at home."




How deeply are our destinies influenced by the most trifling causes!
Had the unknown builder who erected and owned these new villas contented
himself by simply building each within its own grounds, it is probable
that these three small groups of people would have remained hardly
conscious of each other's existence, and that there would have been no
opportunity for that action and reaction which is here set forth. But
there was a common link to bind them together. To single himself out
from all other Norwood builders the landlord had devised and laid out a
common lawn tennis ground, which stretched behind the houses with taut-
stretched net, green close-cropped sward, and widespread whitewashed
lines. Hither in search of that hard exercise which is as necessary as
air or food to the English temperament, came young Hay Denver when
released from the toil of the City; hither, too, came Dr. Walker and his
two fair daughters, Clara and Ida, and hither also, champions of the
lawn, came the short-skirted, muscular widow and her athletic nephew.
Ere the summer was gone they knew each other in this quiet nook as they
might not have done after years of a stiffer and more formal

And especially to the Admiral and the Doctor were this closer intimacy
and companionship of value. Each had a void in his life, as every man
must have who with unexhausted strength steps out of the great race, but
each by his society might help to fill up that of his neighbor. It is
true that they had not much in common, but that is sometimes an aid
rather than a bar to friendship. Each had been an enthusiast in his
profession, and had retained all his interest in it. The Doctor still
read from cover to cover his Lancet and his Medical Journal, attended
all professional gatherings, worked himself into an alternate state of
exaltation and depression over the results of the election of officers,
and reserved for himself a den of his own, in which before rows of
little round bottles full of glycerine, Canadian balsam, and staining
agents, he still cut sections with a microtome, and peeped through his
long, brass, old-fashioned microscope at the arcana of nature. With his
typical face, clean shaven on lip and chin, with a firm mouth, a strong
jaw, a steady eye, and two little white fluffs of whiskers, he could
never be taken for anything but what he was, a high-class British
medical consultant of the age of fifty, or perhaps just a year or two

The Doctor, in his hey-day, had been cool over great things, but now, in
his retirement, he was fussy over trifles. The man who had operated
without the quiver of a finger, when not only his patient's life but his
own reputation and future were at stake, was now shaken to the soul by a
mislaid book or a careless maid. He remarked it himself, and knew the
reason. "When Mary was alive," he would say, "she stood between me and
the little troubles. I could brace myself for the big ones. My girls
are as good as girls can be, but who can know a man as his wife knows
him?" Then his memory would conjure up a tuft of brown hair and a
single white, thin hand over a coverlet, and he would feel, as we have
all felt, that if we do not live and know each other after death, then
indeed we are tricked and betrayed by all the highest hopes and subtlest
intuitions of our nature.

The Doctor had his compensations to make up for his loss. The great
scales of Fate had been held on a level for him; for where in all great
London could one find two sweeter girls, more loving, more intelligent,
and more sympathetic than Clara and Ida Walker? So bright were they, so
quick, so interested in all which interested him, that if it were
possible for a man to be compensated for the loss of a good wife then
Balthazar Walker might claim to be so.

Clara was tall and thin and supple, with a graceful, womanly figure.
There was something stately and distinguished in her carriage, "queenly"
her friends called her, while her critics described her as reserved and

Such as it was, however, it was part and parcel of herself, for she was,
and had always from her childhood been, different from any one around
her. There was nothing gregarious in her nature. She thought with her
own mind, saw with her own eyes, acted from her own impulse. Her face
was pale, striking rather than pretty, but with two great dark eyes, so
earnestly questioning, so quick in their transitions from joy to pathos,
so swift in their comment upon every word and deed around her, that
those eyes alone were to many more attractive than all the beauty of her
younger sister. Hers was a strong, quiet soul, and it was her firm hand
which had taken over the duties of her mother, had ordered the house,
restrained the servants, comforted her father, and upheld her weaker
sister, from the day of that great misfortune.

Ida Walker was a hand's breadth smaller than Clara, but was a little
fuller in the face and plumper in the figure. She had light yellow
hair, mischievous blue eyes with the light of humor ever twinkling in
their depths, and a large, perfectly formed mouth, with that slight
upward curve of the corners which goes with a keen appreciation of fun,
suggesting even in repose that a latent smile is ever lurking at the
edges of the lips. She was modern to the soles of her dainty little
high-heeled shoes, frankly fond of dress and of pleasure, devoted to
tennis and to comic opera, delighted with a dance, which came her way
only too seldom, longing ever for some new excitement, and yet behind
all this lighter side of her character a thoroughly good, healthy-minded
English girl, the life and soul of the house, and the idol of her sister
and her father. Such was the family at number two. A peep into the
remaining villa and our introductions are complete.

Admiral Hay Denver did not belong to the florid, white-haired, hearty
school of sea-dogs which is more common in works of fiction than in the
Navy List. On the contrary, he was the representative of a much more
common type which is the antithesis of the conventional sailor. He was a
thin, hard-featured man, with an ascetic, acquiline cast of face,
grizzled and hollow-cheeked, clean-shaven with the exception of the
tiniest curved promontory of ash-colored whisker. An observer,
accustomed to classify men, might have put him down as a canon of the
church with a taste for lay costume and a country life, or as the master
of a large public school, who joined his scholars in their outdoor
sports. His lips were firm, his chin prominent, he had a hard, dry eye,
and his manner was precise and formal. Forty years of stern discipline
had made him reserved and silent. Yet, when at his ease with an equal,
he could readily assume a less quarter-deck style, and he had a fund of
little, dry stories of the world and its ways which were of interest
from one who had seen so many phases of life. Dry and spare, as lean as
a jockey and as tough as whipcord, he might be seen any day swinging his
silver-headed Malacca cane, and pacing along the suburban roads with the
same measured gait with which he had been wont to tread the poop of his
flagship. He wore a good service stripe upon his cheek, for on one side
it was pitted and scarred where a spurt of gravel knocked up by a round-
shot had struck him thirty years before, when he served in the Lancaster
gun-battery. Yet he was hale and sound, and though he was fifteen years
senior to his friend the Doctor, he might have passed as the younger

Mrs. Hay Denver's life had been a very broken one, and her record upon
land represented a greater amount of endurance and self-sacrifice than
his upon the sea. They had been together for four months after their
marriage, and then had come a hiatus of four years, during which he was
flitting about between St. Helena and the Oil Rivers in a gunboat. Then
came a blessed year of peace and domesticity, to be followed by nine
years, with only a three months' break, five upon the Pacific station,
and four on the East Indian. After that was a respite in the shape of
five years in the Channel squadron, with periodical runs home, and then
again he was off to the Mediterranean for three years and to Halifax for
four. Now, at last, however, this old married couple, who were still
almost strangers to one another, had come together in Norwood, where, if
their short day had been chequered and broken, the evening at least
promised to be sweet and mellow. In person Mrs. Hay Denver was tall and
stout, with a bright, round, ruddy-cheeked face still pretty, with a
gracious, matronly comeliness. Her whole life was a round of devotion
and of love, which was divided between her husband and her only son,

This son it was who kept them in the neighborhood of London, for the
Admiral was as fond of ships and of salt water as ever, and was as happy
in the sheets of a two-ton yacht as on the bridge of his sixteen-knot
monitor. Had he been untied, the Devonshire or Hampshire coast would
certainly have been his choice. There was Harold, however, and Harold's
interests were their chief care. Harold was four-and-twenty now. Three
years before he had been taken in hand by an acquaintance of his
father's, the head of a considerable firm of stock-brokers, and fairly
launched upon 'Change. His three hundred guinea entrance fee paid, his
three sureties of five hundred pounds each found, his name approved by
the Committee, and all other formalities complied with, he found himself
whirling round, an insignificant unit, in the vortex of the money market
of the world. There, under the guidance of his father's friend, he was
instructed in the mysteries of bulling and of bearing, in the strange
usages of 'Change in the intricacies of carrying over and of
transferring. He learned to know where to place his clients' money,
which of the jobbers would make a price in New Zealands, and which would
touch nothing but American rails, which might be trusted and which
shunned. All this, and much more, he mastered, and to such purpose that
he soon began to prosper, to retain the clients who had been recommened
to him, and to attract fresh ones. But the work was never congenial.
He had inherited from his father his love of the air of heaven, his
affection for a manly and natural existence. To act as middleman
between the pursuer of wealth, and the wealth which he pursued, or to
stand as a human barometer, registering the rise and fall of the great
mammon pressure in the markets, was not the work for which Providence
had placed those broad shoulders and strong limbs upon his well knit
frame. His dark open face, too, with his straight Grecian nose, well
opened brown eyes, and round black-curled head, were all those of a man
who was fashioned for active physical work. Meanwhile he was popular
with his fellow brokers, respected by his clients, and beloved at home,
but his spirit was restless within him and his mind chafed unceasingly
against his surroundings.

"Do you know, Willy," said Mrs. Hay Denver one evening as she stood
behind her husband's chair, with her hand upon his shoulder, "I think
sometimes that Harold is not quite happy."

"He looks happy, the young rascal," answered the Admiral, pointing with
his cigar. It was after dinner, and through the open French window of
the dining-room a clear view was to be had of the tennis court and the
players. A set had just been finished, and young Charles Westmacott was
hitting up the balls as high as he could send them in the middle of the
ground. Doctor Walker and Mrs. Westmacott were pacing up and down the
lawn, the lady waving her racket as she emphasized her remarks, and the
Doctor listening with slanting head and little nods of agreement.
Against the rails at the near end Harold was leaning in his flannels
talking to the two sisters, who stood listening to him with their long
dark shadows streaming down the lawn behind them. The girls were
dressed alike in dark skirts, with light pink tennis blouses and pink
bands on their straw hats, so that as they stood with the soft red of
the setting sun tinging their faces, Clara, demure and quiet, Ida,
mischievous and daring, it was a group which might have pleased the eye
of a more exacting critic than the old sailor.

"Yes, he looks happy, mother," he repeated, with a chuckle. "It is not
so long ago since it was you and I who were standing like that, and I
don't remember that we were very unhappy either. It was croquet in our
time, and the ladies had not reefed in their skirts quite so taut. What
year would it be? Just before the commission of the Penelope."

Mrs. Hay Denver ran her fingers through his grizzled hair. "It was when
you came back in the Antelope, just before you got your step."

"Ah, the old Antelope! What a clipper she was! She could sail two
points nearer the wind than anything of her tonnage in the service. You
remember her, mother. You saw her come into Plymouth Bay. Wasn't she a

"She was indeed, dear. But when I say that I think that Harold is not
happy I mean in his daily life. Has it never struck you how thoughtful,
he is at times, and how absent-minded?"

"In love perhaps, the young dog. He seems to have found snug moorings
now at any rate."

"I think that it is very likely that you are right, Willy," answered the
mother seriously. "But with which of them?"

"I cannot tell."

"Well, they are very charming girls, both of them. But as long as he
hangs in the wind between the two it cannot be serious. After all, the
boy is four-and-twenty, and he made five hundred pounds last year. He
is better able to marry than I was when I was lieutenant."

"I think that we can see which it is now," remarked the observant
mother. Charles Westmacott had ceased to knock the tennis balls about,
and was chatting with Clara Walker, while Ida and Harold Denver were
still talking by the railing with little outbursts of laughter.
Presently a fresh set was formed, and Doctor Walker, the odd man out,
came through the wicket gate and strolled up the garden walk.

"Good evening, Mrs. Hay Denver," said he, raising his broad straw hat.
"May I come in?"

"Good evening, Doctor! Pray do!"

"Try one of these," said the Admiral, holding out his cigar-case. "They
are not bad. I got them on the Mosquito Coast. I was thinking of
signaling to you, but you seemed so very happy out there."

"Mrs. Westmacott is a very clever woman," said the Doctor, lighting the
cigar. "By the way, you spoke about the Mosquito Coast just now. Did
you see much of the Hyla when you were out there?"

"No such name on the list," answered the seaman, with decision.
"There's the Hydra, a harbor defense turret-ship, but she never leaves
the home waters."

The Doctor laughed. "We live in two separate worlds," said he. "The
Hyla is the little green tree frog, and Beale has founded some of his
views on protoplasm upon the appearancer, of its nerve cells. It is a
subject in which I take an interest."

"There were vermin of all sorts in the woods. When I have been on river
service I have heard it at night like the engine-room when you are on
the measured mile. You can't sleep for the piping, and croaking, and
chirping. Great Scott! what a woman that is! She was across the lawn
in three jumps. She would have made a captain of the foretop in the old

"She is a very remarkable woman."

"A very cranky one."

"A very sensible one in some things," remarked Mrs. Hay Denver.

"Look at that now!" cried the Admiral, with a lunge of his forefinger at
the Doctor. "You mark my words, Walker, if we don't look out that woman
will raise a mutiny with her preaching. Here's my wife disaffected
already, and your girls will be no better. We must combine, man, or
there's an end of all discipline."

"No doubt she is a little excessive in her views." said the Doctor, "but
in the main I think as she does."

"Bravo, Doctor!" cried the lady.

"What, turned traitor to your sex! We'll court-martial you as a

"She is quite right. The professions are not sufficiently open to
women. They are still far too much circumscribed in their employments.
They are a feeble folk, the women who have to work for their bread--
poor, unorganized, timid, taking as a favor what they might demand as a
right. That is why their case is not more constantly before the public,
for if their cry for redress was as great as their grievance it would
fill the world to the exclusion of all others. It is all very well for
us to be courteous to the rich, the refined, those to whom life is
already made easy. It is a mere form, a trick of manner. If we are
truly courteous, we shall stoop to lift up struggling womanhood when she
really needs our help--when it is life and death to her whether she has
it or not. And then to cant about it being unwomanly to work in the
higher professions. It is womanly enough to starve, but unwomanly to
use the brains which God has given them. Is it not a monstrous

The Admiral chuckled. "You are like one of these phonographs, Walker,"
said he; "you have had all this talked into you, and now you are reeling
it off again. It's rank mutiny, every word of it, for man has his duties
and woman has hers, but they are as separate as their natures are. I
suppose that we shall have a woman hoisting her pennant on the flagship
presently, and taking command of the Channel Squadron."

"Well, you have a woman on the throne taking command of the whole
nation," remarked his wife; "and everybody is agreed that she does it
better than any of the men."

The Admiral was somewhat staggered by this home-thrust. "That's quite
another thing," said he.

"You should come to their next meeting. I am to take the chair. I have
just promised Mrs. Westmacott that I will do so. But it has turned
chilly, and it is time that the girls were indoors. Good night! I
shall look out for you after breakfast for our constitutional, Admiral."

The old sailor looked after his friend with a twinkle in his eyes.

"How old is he, mother?"

"About fifty, I think."

"And Mrs. Westmacott?"

"I heard that she was forty-three."

The Admiral rubbed his hands, and shook with amusement. "We'll find one
of these days that three and two make one," said he. "I'll bet you a
new bonnet on it, mother."



"Tell me, Miss Walker! You know how things should be. What would you
say was a good profession for a young man of twenty-six who has had no
education worth speaking about, and who is not very quick by nature?"
The speaker was Charles Westmacott, and the time this same summer
evening in the tennis ground, though the shadows had fallen now and the
game been abandoned.

The girl glanced up at him, amused and surprised.

"Do you mean yourself?"


"But how could I tell?"

"I have no one to advise me. I believe that you could do it better than
any one. I feel confidence in your opinion."

"It is very flattering." She glanced up again at his earnest,
questioning face, with its Saxon eyes and drooping flaxen mustache, in
some doubt as to whether he might be joking. On the contrary, all his
attention seemed to be concentrated upon her answer.

"It depends so much upon what you can do, you know. I do not know you
sufficiently to be able to say what natural gifts you have." They were
walking slowly across the lawn in the direction of the house.

"I have none. That is to say none worth mentioning. I have no memory
and I am very slow."

"But you are very strong."

"Oh, if that goes for anything. I can put up a hundred-pound bar till
further orders; but what sort of a calling is that?"

Some little joke about being called to the bar flickered up in Miss
Walker's mind, but her companion was in such obvious earnest that she
stifled down her inclination to laugh.

"I can do a mile on the cinder-track in 4:50 and across-country in 5:20,
but how is that to help me? I might be a cricket professional, but it
is not a very dignified position. Not that I care a straw about
dignity, you know, but I should not like to hurt the old lady's

"Your aunt's?"

"Yes, my aunt's. My parents were killed in the Mutiny, you know, when I
was a baby, and she has looked after me ever since. She has been very
good to me. I'm sorry to leave her."

"But why should you leave her?" They had reached the garden gate, and
the girl leaned her racket upon the top of it, looking up with grave
interest at her big white-flanneled companion.

"It's, Browning," said he.


"Don't tell my aunt that I said it"--he sank his voice to a whisper--"I
hate Browning."

Clara Walker rippled off into such a merry peal of laughter that he
forgot the evil things which he had suffered from the poet, and burst
out laughing too.

"I can't make him out," said he. "I try, but he is one too many. No
doubt it is very stupid of me; I don't deny it. But as long as I cannot
there is no use pretending that I can. And then of course she feels
hurt, for she is very fond of him, and likes to read him aloud in the
evenings. She is reading a piece now `Pippa Passes,' and I assure you,
Miss Walker, that I don't even know what the title means. You must
think me a dreadful fool."

"But surely he is not so incomprehensible as all that?" she said, as an
attempt at encouragement.

"He is very bad. There are some things, you know, which are fine. That
ride of the three Dutchmen, and Herve Riel and others, they are all
right. But there was a piece we read last week. The first line stumped
my aunt, and it takes a good deal to do that, for she rides very
straight. `Setebos and Setebos and Setebos.' That was the line."

"It sounds like a charm."

"No, it is a gentleman's name. Three gentlemen, I thought, at first,
but my aunt says one. Then he goes on, `Thinketh he dwelleth in the
light of the moon.' It was a very trying piece."

Clara Walker laughed again.

"You must not think of leaving your aunt," she said. "Think how lonely
she would be without you."

"Well, yes, I have thought of that. But you must remember that my aunt
is to all intents hardly middle-aged, and a very eligible person. I
don't think that her dislike to mankind extends to individuals. She
might form new ties, and then I should be a third wheel in the coach.
It was all very well as long as I was only a boy, when her first husband
was alive."

"But, good gracious, you don't mean that Mrs. Westmacott is going to
marry again?" gasped Clara.

The young man glanced down at her with a question in his eyes. "Oh, it
is only a remote, possibility, you know," said he. "Still, of course,
it might happen, and I should like to know what I ought to turn my hand

"I wish I could help you," said Clara. "But I really know very little
about such things. However, I could talk to my father, who knows a very
great deal of the world."

"I wish you would. I should be so glad if you would."

"Then I certainly will. And now I must say good-night, Mr. Westmacott,
for papa will be wondering where I am."

"Good night, Miss Walker." He pulled off his flannel cap, and stalked
away through the gathering darkness.

Clara had imagined that they had been the last on the lawn, but, looking
back from the steps which led up to the French windows, she saw two dark
figures moving across towards the house. As they came nearer she could
distinguish that they were Harold Denver and her sister Ida. The murmur
of their voices rose up to her ears, and then the musical little child-
like laugh which she knew so well. "I am so delighted," she heard her
sister say. "So pleased and proud. I had no idea of it. Your words
were such a surprise and a joy to me. Oh, I am so glad."

"Is that you, Ida?"

"Oh, there is Clara. I must go in, Mr. Denver. Good-night!"

There were a few whispered words, a laugh from Ida, and a "Good-night,
Miss Walker," out of the darkness. Clara took her sister's hand, and
they passed together through the long folding window. The Doctor had
gone into his study, and the dining-room was empty. A single small red
lamp upon the sideboard was reflected tenfold by the plate about it and
the mahogany beneath it, though its single wick cast but a feeble light
into the large, dimly shadowed room. Ida danced off to the big central
lamp, but Clara put her hand upon her arm. "I rather like this quiet
light," said she. "Why should we not have a chat?" She sat in the
Doctor's large red plush chair, and her sister cuddled down upon the
footstool at her feet, glancing up at her elder with a smile upon her
lips and a mischievous gleam in her eyes. There was a shade of anxiety
in Clara's face, which cleared away as she gazed into her sister's frank
blue eyes.

"Have you anything to tell me, dear?" she asked.

Ida gave a little pout and shrug to her shoulder. "The Solicitor-General
then opened the case for the prosecution," said she. "You are going to
cross-examine me, Clara, so don't deny it. I do wish you would have
that grey satin foulard of yours done up. With a little trimming and a
new white vest it would look as good as new, and it is really very

"You were quite late upon the lawn," said the inexorable Clara.

"Yes, I was rather. So were you. Have you anything to tell me?" She
broke away into her merry musical laugh.

"I was chatting with Mr. Westmacott."

"And I was chatting with Mr. Denver. By the way, Clara, now tell me
truly, what do you think of Mr. Denver? Do you like him? Honestly

"I like him very much indeed. I think that he is one of the most
gentlemanly, modest, manly young men that I have ever known. So now,
dear, have you nothing to tell me?" Clara smoothed down her sister's
golden hair with a motherly gesture, and stooped her face to catch the
expected confidence. She could wish nothing better than that Ida should
be the wife of Harold Denver, and from the words which she had overheard
as they left the lawn that evening, she could not doubt that there was
some understanding between them.

But there came no confession from Ida. Only the same mischievous smile
and amused gleam in her deep blue eyes.

"That grey foulard dress----" she began.

"Oh, you little tease! Come now, I will ask you what you have just
asked me. Do you like Harold Denver?"

"Oh, he's a darling!"


"Well, you asked me. That's what I think of him. And now, you dear old
inquisitive, you will get nothing more out of me; so you must wait and
not be too curious. I'm going off to see what papa is doing." She
sprang to her feet, threw her arms round her sister's neck, gave her a
final squeeze, and was gone. A chorus from Olivette, sung in her clear
contralto, grew fainter and fainter until it ended in the slam of a
distant door.

But Clara Walker still sat in the dim-lit room with her chin upon her
hands, and her dreamy eyes looking out into the gathering gloom. It was
the duty of her, a maiden, to play the part of a mother--to guide
another in paths which her own steps had not yet trodden. Since her
mother died not a thought had been given to herself, all was for her
father and her sister. In her own eyes she was herself very plain, and
she knew that her manner was often ungracious when she would most wish
to be gracious. She saw her face as the glass reflected it, but she did
not see the changing play of expression which gave it its charm--the
infinite pity, the sympathy, the sweet womanliness which drew towards
her all who were in doubt and in trouble, even as poor slow-moving
Charles Westmacott had been drawn to her that night. She was herself,
she thought, outside the pale of love. But it was very different with
Ida, merry, little, quick-witted, bright-faced Ida. She was born for
love. It was her inheritance. But she was young and innocent. She
must not be allowed to venture too far without help in those dangerous
waters. Some understanding there was between her and Harold Denver. In
her heart of hearts Clara, like every good woman, was a match-maker, and
already she had chosen Denver of all men as the one to whom she could
most safely confide Ida. He had talked to her more than once on the
serious topics of life, on his aspirations, on what a man could do to
leave the world better for his presence. She knew that he was a man of
a noble nature, high-minded and earnest. And yet she did not like this
secrecy, this disinclination upon the part of one so frank and honest as
Ida to tell her what was passing. She would wait, and if she got the
opportunity next day she would lead Harold Denver himself on to this
topic. It was possible that she might learn from him what her sister had
refused to tell her.




It was the habit of the Doctor and the Admiral to accompany each other
upon a morning ramble between breakfast and lunch. The dwellers in
those quiet tree-lined roads were accustomed to see the two figures, the
long, thin, austere seaman, and the short, bustling, tweed-clad
physician, pass and repass with such regularity that a stopped clock has
been reset by them. The Admiral took two steps to his companion's three,
but the younger man was the quicker, and both were equal to a good four
and a half miles an hour.

It was a lovely summer day which followed the events which have been
described. The sky was of the deepest blue, with a few white, fleecy
clouds drifting lazily across it, and the air was filled with the low
drone of insects or with a sudden sharper note as bee or bluefly shot
past with its quivering, long-drawn hum, like an insect tuning-fork. As
the friends topped each rise which leads up to the Crystal Palace, they
could see the dun clouds of London stretching along the northern skyline,
with spire or dome breaking through the low-lying haze. The
Admiral was in high spirits, for the morning post had brought good news
to his son.

"It is wonderful, Walker," he was saying, "positively wonderful, the way
that boy of mine has gone ahead during the last three years. We heard
from Pearson to-day. Pearson is the senior partner, you know, and my boy
the junior--Pearson and Denver the firm. Cunning old dog is Pearson, as
cute and as greedy as a Rio shark. Yet he goes off for a fortnight's
leave, and puts my boy in full charge, with all that immense business in
his hands, and a freehand to do what he likes with it. How's that for
confidence, and he only three years upon 'Change?"

"Any one would confide in him. His face is a surety," said the Doctor.

"Go on, Walker!" The Admiral dug his elbow at him. "You know my weak
side. Still it's truth all the same. I've been blessed with a good wife
and a good son, and maybe I relish them the more for having been cut off
from them so long. I have much to be thankful for!"

"And so have I. The best two girls that ever stepped. There's Clara,
who has learned up as much medicine as would give her the L.S.A., simply
in order that she may sympathize with me in my work. But hullo, what is
this coming along?"

"All drawing and the wind astern!" cried the Admiral. "Fourteen knots if
it's one. Why, by George, it is that woman!"

A rolling cloud of yellow dust had streamed round the curve of the road,
and from the heart of it had emerged a high tandem tricycle flying along
at a breakneck pace. In front sat Mrs. Westmacott clad in a heather
tweed pea-jacket, a skirt which just{?} passed her knees and a pair of
thick gaiters of the same material. She had a great bundle of red
papers under her arm, while Charles, who sat behind her clad in Norfolk
jacket and knickerbockers, bore a similar roll protruding from either
pocket. Even as they watched, the pair eased up, the lady sprang off,
impaled one of her bills upon the garden railing of an empty house, and
then jumping on to her seat again was about to hurry onwards when her
nephew drew her attention to the two gentlemen upon the footpath.

"Oh, now, really I didn't notice you," said she, taking a few turns of
the treadle and steering the machine across to them. "Is it not a
beautiful morning?"

"Lovely," answered the Doctor. "You seem to be very busy."

"I am very busy." She pointed to the colored paper which still fluttered
from the railing. "We have been pushing our propaganda, you see.
Charles and I have been at it since seven o'clock. It is about our
meeting. I wish it to be a great success. See!" She smoothed out one
of the bills, and the Doctor read his own name in great black letters
across the bottom.

"We don't forget our chairman, you see. Everybody is coming. Those two
dear little old maids opposite, the Williamses, held out for some time;
but I have their promise now. Admiral, I am sure that you wish us

"Hum! I wish you no harm, ma'am."

"You will come on the platform?"

"I'll be---- No, I don't think I can do that."

"To our meeting, then?"

"No, ma'am; I don't go out after dinner."

"Oh yes, you will come. I will call in if I may, and chat it over with
you when you come home. We have not breakfasted yet. Goodbye!" There
was a whir of wheels, and the yellow cloud rolled away down the road
again. By some legerdemain the Admiral found that he was clutching in
his right hand one of the obnoxious bills. He crumpled it up, and threw
it into the roadway.

"I'll be hanged if I go, Walker," said he, as be resumed his walk.
"I've never been hustled into doing a thing yet, whether by woman or

"I am not a betting man," answered the Doctor, "but I rather think that
the odds are in favor of your going."

The Admiral had hardly got home, and had just seated himself in his
dining-room, when the attack upon him was renewed. He was slowly and
lovingly unfolding the Times preparatory to the long read which led up
to luncheon, and had even got so far as to fasten his golden pince-nez
on to his thin, high-bridged nose, when he heard a crunching of gravel,
and, looking over the top of his paper, saw Mrs. Westmacott coming up
the garden walk. She was still dressed in the singular costume which
offended the sailor's old-fashioned notions of propriety, but he could
not deny, as he looked at her, that she was a very fine woman. In many
climes he had looked upon women of all shades and ages, but never upon a
more clearcut, handsome face, nor a more erect, supple, and womanly
figure. He ceased to glower as he gazed upon her, and the frown
smoothed away from his rugged brow.

"May I come in?" said she, framing herself in the open window, with a
background of green sward and blue sky. "I feel like an invader deep in
an enemy's country."

"It is a very welcome invasion, ma'am," said he, clearing his throat and
pulling at his high collar. "Try this garden chair. What is there that
I can do for you? Shall I ring and let Mrs. Denver know that you are

"Pray do not trouble, Admiral. I only looked in with reference to our
little chat this morning. I wish that you would give us your powerful
support at our coming meeting for the improvement of the condition of

"No, ma'am, I can't do that." He pursed up his lips and shook his
grizzled head.

"And why not?"

"Against my principles, ma'am."

"But why?"

"Because woman has her duties and man has his. I may be old-fashioned,
but that is my view. Why, what is the world coming to? I was saying to
Dr. Walker only last night that we shall have a woman wanting to command
the Channel Fleet next."

"That is one of the few professions which cannot be improved," said Mrs.
Westmacott, with her sweetest smile. "Poor woman must still look to man
for protection."

"I don't like these new-fangled ideas, ma'am. I tell you honestly that
I don't. I like discipline, and I think every one is the better for it.
Women have got a great deal which they had not in the days of our
fathers. They have universities all for themselves, I am told, and there
are women doctors, I hear. Surely they should rest contented. What
more can they want?"

"You are a sailor, and sailors are always chivalrous. If you could see
how things really are, you would change your opinion. What are the poor
things to do? There are so many of them and so few things to which they
can turn their hands. Governesses? But there are hardly any
situations. Music and drawing? There is not one in fifty who has any
special talent in that direction. Medicine? It is still surrounded with
difficulties for women, and it takes many years and a small fortune to
qualify. Nursing? It is hard work ill paid, and none but the strongest
can stand it. What would you have them do then, Admiral? Sit down and

"Tut, tut! It is not so bad as that."

"The pressure is terrible. Advertise for a lady companion at ten
shillings a week, which is less than a cook's wage, and see how many
answers you get. There is no hope, no outlook, for these struggling
thousands. Life is a dull, sordid struggle, leading down to a cheerless
old age. Yet when we try to bring some little ray of hope, some chance,
however distant, of something better, we are told by chivalrous
gentlemen that it is against their principles to help."

The Admiral winced, but shook his head in dissent.

"There is banking, the law, veterinary surgery, government offices, the
civil service, all these at least should be thrown freely open to women,
if they have brains enough to compete successfully for them. Then if
woman were unsuccessful it would be her own fault, and the majority of
the population of this country could no longer complain that they live
under a different law to the minority, and that they are held down in
poverty and serfdom, with every road to independence sealed to them."

"What would you propose to do, ma'am?"

"To set the more obvious injustices right, and so to pave the way for a
reform. Now look at that man digging in the field. I know him. He can
neither read nor write, he is steeped in whisky, and he has as much
intelligence as the potatoes that he is digging. Yet the man has a
vote, can possibly turn the scale of an election, and may help to decide
the policy of this empire. Now, to take the nearest example, here am I,
a woman who have had some education, who have traveled, and who have
seen and studied the institutions of many countries. I hold
considerable property, and I pay more in imperial taxes than that man
spends in whisky, which is saying a great deal, and yet I have no more
direct influence upon the disposal of the money which I pay than that
fly which creeps along the wall. Is that right? Is it fair?"

The Admiral moved uneasily in his chair. "Yours is an exceptional
case," said he.

"But no woman has a voice. Consider that the women are a majority in
the nation. Yet if there was a question of legislation upon which all
women were agreed upon one side and all the men upon the other, it would
appear that the matter was settled unanimously when more than half the
population were opposed to it. Is that right?"

Again the Admiral wriggled. It was very awkward for the gallant seaman
to have a handsome woman opposite to him, bombarding him with questions
to none of which he could find an answer. "Couldn't even get the
tompions out of his guns," as he explained the matter to the Doctor that

"Now those are really the points that we shall lay stress upon at the
meeting. The free and complete opening of the professions, the final
abolition of the zenana I call it, and the franchise to all women who
pay Queen's taxes above a certain sum. Surely there is nothing
unreasonable in that. Nothing which could offend your principles. We
shall have medicine, law, and the church all rallying that night for the
protection of woman. Is the navy to be the one profession absent?"

The Admiral jumped out of his chair with an evil word in his throat.
"There, there, ma'am," he cried. "Drop it for a time. I have heard
enough. You've turned me a point or two. I won't deny it. But let it
stand at that. I will think it over."

"Certainly, Admiral. We would not hurry you in your decision. But we
still hope to see you on our platform." She rose and moved about in her
lounging masculine fashion from one picture to another, for the walls
were thickly covered with reminiscences of the Admiral's voyages.

"Hullo!" said she. "Surely this ship would have furled all her lower
canvas and reefed her topsails if she found herself on a lee shore with
the wind on her quarter."

"Of course she would. The artist was never past Gravesend, I swear.
It's the Penelope as she was on the 14th of June, 1857, in the throat of
the Straits of Banca, with the Island of Banca on the starboard bow, and
Sumatra on the port. He painted it from description, but of course, as
you very sensibly say, all was snug below and she carried storm sails
and double-reefed topsails, for it was blowing a cyclone from the
sou'east. I compliment you, ma'am, I do indeed!"

"Oh, I have done a little sailoring myself--as much as a woman can
aspire to, you know. This is the Bay of Funchal. What a lovely

"Lovely, you say! Ah, she was lovely! That is the Andromeda. I was a
mate aboard of her--sub-lieutenant they call it now, though I like the
old name best."

"What a lovely rake her masts have, and what a curve to her bows! She
must have been a clipper."

The old sailor rubbed his hands and his eyes glistened. His old ships
bordered close upon his wife and his son in his affections.

"I know Funchal," said the lady carelessly. "A couple of years ago I
had a seven-ton cutter-rigged yacht, the Banshee, and we ran over to
Madeira from Falmouth."

"You ma'am, in a seven-tonner?"

"With a couple of Cornish lads for a crew. Oh, it was glorious! A
fortnight right out in the open, with no worries, no letters, no
callers, no petty thoughts, nothing but the grand works of God, the
tossing sea and the great silent sky. They talk of riding, indeed, I am
fond of horses, too, but what is there to compare with the swoop of a
little craft as she pitches down the long steep side of a wave, and then
the quiver and spring as she is tossed upwards again? Oh, if our souls
could transmigrate I'd be a seamew above all birds that fly! But I keep
you, Admiral. Adieu!"

The old sailor was too transported with sympathy to say a word. He
could only shake her broad muscular hand. She was half-way down the
garden path before she heard him calling her, and saw his grizzled head
and weather-stained face looking out from behind the curtains.

"You may put me down for the platform," he cried, and vanished abashed
behind the curtain of his Times, where his wife found him at lunch time.

"I hear that you have had quite a long chat with Mrs. Westmacott," said

"Yes, and I think that she is one of the most sensible women that I ever

"Except on the woman's rights question, of course."

"Oh, I don't know. She had a good deal to say for herself on that also.
In fact, mother, I have taken a platfom ticket for her meeting."




But this was not to be the only eventful conversation which Mrs.
Westmacott held that day, nor was the Admiral the only person in the
Wilderness who was destined to find his opinions considerably changed.
Two neighboring families, the Winslows from Anerley, and the
Cumberbatches from Gipsy Hill, had been invited to tennis by Mrs.
Westmacott, and the lawn was gay in the evening with the blazers of the
young men and the bright dresses of the girls. To the older people,
sitting round in their wicker-work garden chairs, the darting, stooping,
springing white figures, the sweep of skirts, and twinkle of canvas
shoes, the click of the rackets and sharp whiz of the balls, with the
continual "fifteen love--fifteen all!" of the marker, made up a merry
and exhilarating scene. To see their sons and daughters so flushed and
healthy and happy, gave them also a reflected glow, and it was hard to
say who had most pleasure from the game, those who played or those who

Mrs. Westmacott had just finished a set when she caught a glimpse of
Clara Walker sitting alone at the farther end of the ground. She ran
down the court, cleared the net to the amazement of the visitors, and
seated herself beside her. Clara's reserved and refined nature shrank
somewhat from the boisterous frankness and strange manners of the widow,
and yet her feminine instinct told her that beneath all her
peculiarities there lay much that was good and noble. She smiled up at
her, therefore, and nodded a greeting.

"Why aren't you playing, then? Don't, for goodness' sake, begin to be
languid and young ladyish! When you give up active sports you give up

"I have played a set, Mrs. Westmacott."

"That's right, my dear." She sat down beside her, and tapped her upon
the arm with her tennis racket. "I like you, my dear, and I am going to
call you Clara. You are not as aggressive as I should wish, Clara, but
still I like you very much. Self-sacrifice is all very well, you know,
but we have had rather too much of it on our side, and should like to
see a little on the other. What do you think of my nephew Charles?"

The question was so sudden and unexpected that Clara gave quite a jump
in her chair. "I--I--I hardly ever have thought of your nephew

"No? Oh, you must think him well over, for I want to speak to you about

"To me? But why?"

"It seemed to me most delicate. You see, Clara, the matter stands in
this way. It is quite possible that I may soon find myself in a
completely new sphere of life, which will involve fresh duties and make
it impossible for me to keep up a household which Charles can share."

Clara stared. Did this mean that she was about to marry again? What
else could it point to?

"Therefore Charles must have a household of his own. That is obvious.
Now, I don't approve of bachelor establishments. Do you?"

"Really, Mrs. Westmacott, I have never thought of the matter."

"Oh, you little sly puss! Was there ever a girl who never thought of
the matter? I think that a young man of six-and-twenty ought to be

Clara felt very uncomfortable. The awful thought had come upon her that
this ambassadress had come to her as a proxy with a proposal of
marriage. But how could that be? She had not spoken more than three or
four times with her nephew, and knew nothing more of him than he had
told her on the evening before. It was impossible, then. And yet what
could his aunt mean by this discussion of his private affairs?

"Do you not think yourself," she persisted, "that a young man of six-
and-twenty is better married?"

"I should think that he is old enough to decide for himself."

"Yes, yes. He has done so. But Charles is just a little shy, just a
little slow in expressing himself. I thought that I would pave the way
for him. Two women can arrange these things so much better. Men
sometimes have a difficulty in making themselves clear."

"I really hardly follow you, Mrs. Westmacott," cried Clara in despair.

"He has no profession. But he has nice tastes. He reads Browning every
night. And he is most amazingly strong. When he was younger we used to
put on the gloves together, but I cannot persuade him to now, for he
says he cannot play light enough. I should allow him five hundred,
which should be enough at first."

"My dear Mrs. Westmacott," cried Clara, "I assure you that I have not
the least idea what it is that you are talking of."

"Do you think your sister Ida would have my nephew Charles?"

Her sister Ida? Quite a little thrill of relief and of pleasure ran
through her at the thought. Ida and Charles Westmacott. She had never
thought of it. And yet they had been a good deal together. They had
played tennis. They had shared the tandem tricycle. Again came the
thrill of joy, and close at its heels the cold questionings of
conscience. Why this joy? What was the real source of it? Was it that
deep down, somewhere pushed back in the black recesses of the soul,
there was the thought lurking that if Charles prospered in his wooing
then Harold Denver would still be free? How mean, how unmaidenly, how
unsisterly the thought! She crushed it down and thrust it aside, but
still it would push up its wicked little head. She crimsoned with shame
at her own baseness, as she turned once more to her companion.

"I really do not know," she said.

"She is not engaged?"

"Not that I know of."

"You speak hesitatingly."

"Because I am not sure. But he may ask. She cannot but be flattered."

"Quite so. I tell him that it is the most practical compliment which a
man can pay to a woman. He is a little shy, but when he sets himself to
do it he will do it. He is very much in love with her, I assure you.
These little lively people always do attract the slow and heavy ones,
which is nature's device for the neutralizing of bores. But they are
all going in. I think if you will allow me that I will just take the
opportunity to tell him that, as far as you know, there is no positive
obstacle in the way."

"As far as I know," Clara repeated, as the widow moved away to where the
players were grouped round the net, or sauntering slowly towards the
house. She rose to follow her, but her head was in a whirl with new
thoughts, and she sat down again. Which would be best for Ida, Harold
or Charles? She thought it over with as much solicitude as a mother who
plans for her only child. Harold had seemed to her to be in many ways
the noblest and the best young man whom she had known. If ever she was
to love a man it would be such a man as that. But she must not think of
herself. She had reason to believe that both these men loved her
sister. Which would be the best for her? But perhaps the matter was
already decided. She could not forget the scrap of conversation which
she had heard the night before, nor the secret which her sister had
refused to confide to her. If Ida would not tell her, there was but one
person who could. She raised her eyes and there was Harold Denver
standing before her.

"You were lost in your thoughts," said he, smiling. "I hope that they
were pleasant ones."

"Oh, I was planning," said she, rising. "It seems rather a waste of
time as a rule, for things have a way of working themselves out just as
you least expect."

"What were you planning, then?"

"The future."


"Oh, my own and Ida's."

"And was I included in your joint futures?

"I hope all our friends were included."

"Don't go in," said he, as she began to move slowly towards the house.
"I wanted to have a word. Let us stroll up and down the lawn. Perhaps
you are cold. If you are, I could bring you out a shawl."

"Oh, no, I am not cold."

"I was speaking to your sister Ida last night." She noticed that there
was a slight quiver in his voice, and, glancing up at his dark, clearcut
face, she saw that he was very grave. She felt that it was settled,
that he had come to ask her for her sister's hand.

"She is a charming girl," said he, after a pause.

"Indeed she is," cried Clara warmly. "And no one who has not lived with
her and known her intimately can tell how charming and good she is. She
is like a sunbeam in the house."

"No one who was not good could be so absolutely happy as she seems to
be. Heaven's last gift, I think, is a mind so pure and a spirit so high
that it is unable even to see what is impure and evil in the world
around us. For as long as we can see it, how can we be truly happy?"

"She has a deeper side also. She does not turn it to the world, and it
is not natural that she should, for she is very young. But she thinks,
and has aspirations of her own."

"You cannot admire her more than I do. Indeed, Miss Walker, I only ask
to be brought into nearer relationship with her, and to feel that there
is a permanent bond between us."

It had come at last. For a moment her heart was numbed within her, and
then a flood of sisterly love carried all before it. Down with that
dark thought which would still try to raise its unhallowed head! She
turned to Harold with sparkling eyes and words of pleasure upon her

"I should wish to be near and dear to both of you," said he, as he took
her hand. "I should wish Ida to be my sister, and you my wife."

She said nothing. She only stood looking at him with parted lips and
great, dark, questioning eyes. The lawn had vanished away, the sloping
gardens, the brick villas, the darkening sky with half a pale moon
beginning to show over the chimney-tops. All was gone, and she was only
conscious of a dark, earnest, pleading face, and of a voice, far away,
disconnected from herself, the voice of a man telling a woman how he
loved her. He was unhappy, said the voice, his life was a void; there
was but one thing that could save him; he had come to the parting of the
ways, here lay happiness and honor, and all that was high and noble;
there lay the soul-killing round, the lonely life, the base pursuit of
money, the sordid, selfish aims. He needed but the hand of the woman
that he loved to lead him into the better path. And how he loved her his
life would show. He loved her for her sweetness, for her womanliness,
for her strength. He had need of her. Would she not come to him? And
then of a sudden as she listened it came home to her that the man was
Harold Denver, and that she was the woman, and that all God's work was
very beautiful--the green sward beneath her feet, the rustling leaves,
the long orange slashes in the western sky. She spoke; she scarce knew
what the broken words were, but she saw the light of joy shine out on
his face, and her hand was still in his as they wandered amid the
twilight. They said no more now, but only wandered and felt each
other's presence. All was fresh around them, familiar and yet new,
tinged with the beauty of their new-found happiness.

"Did you not know it before?" he asked. "I did not dare to think it."

"What a mask of ice I must wear! How could a man feel as I have done
without showing it? Your sister at least knew."


"It was last night. She began to praise you, I said what I felt, and
then in an instant it was all out."

"But what could you--what could you see in me? Oh, I do pray that you
may not repent it!" The gentle heart was ruffled amid its joy by the
thought of its own unworthiness.

"Repent it! I feel that I am a saved man. You do not know how
degrading this city life is, how debasing, and yet how absorbing. Money
for ever clinks in your ear. You can think of nothing else. From the
bottom of my heart I hate it, and yet how can I draw back without
bringing grief to my dear old father? There was but one way in which I
could defy the taint, and that was by having a home influence so pure
and so high that it may brace me up against all that draws me down. I
have felt that influence already. I know that when I am talking to you
I am a better man. It is you who, must go with me through life, or I
must walk for ever alone."

"Oh, Harold, I am so happy!" Still they wandered amid the darkening
shadows, while one by one the stars peeped out in the blue black sky
above them. At last a chill night wind blew up from the east, and
brought them back to the realities of life.

"You must go in. You will be cold."

"My father will wonder where I am. Shall I say anything to him?"

"If you like, my darling. Or I will in the morning. I must tell my
mother to-night. I know how delighted she will be."

"I do hope so."

"Let me take you up the garden path. It is so dark. Your lamp is not
lit yet. There is the window. Till to-morrow, then, dearest."

"Till to-morrow, Harold."

"My own darling!" He stooped, and their lips met for the first time.
Then, as she pushed open the folding windows she heard his quick, firm
step as it passed down the graveled path. A lamp was lit as she entered
the room, and there was Ida, dancing about like a mischievous little
fairy in front of her.

"And have you anything to tell me?" she asked, with a solemn face.
Then, suddenly throwing her arms round her sister's neck, "Oh, you dear,
dear old Clara! I am so pleased. I am so pleased."



It was just three days after the Doctor and the Admiral had
congratulated each other upon the closer tie which was to unite their
two families, and to turn their friendship into something even dearer
and more intimate, that Miss Ida Walker received a letter which caused
her some surprise and considerable amusement. It was dated from next
door, and was handed in by the red-headed page after breakfast.

"Dear Miss Ida," began this curious document, and then relapsed suddenly
into the third person. "Mr. Charles Westmacott hopes that he may have
the extreme pleasure of a ride with Miss Ida Walker upon his tandem
tricycle. Mr. Charles Westmacott will bring it round in half an hour.
You in front. Yours very truly, Charles Westmacott." The whole was
written in a large, loose-jointed, and school-boyish hand, very thin on
the up strokes and thick on the down, as though care and pains had gone
to the fashioning of it.

Strange as was the form, the meaning was clear enough; so Ida hastened
to her room, and had hardly slipped on her light grey cycling dress when
she saw the tandem with its large occupant at the door. He handed her
up to her saddle with a more solemn and thoughtful face than was usual
with him, and a few moments later they were flying along the beautiful,
smooth suburban roads in the direction of Forest Hill. The great limbs
of the athlete made the heavy machine spring and quiver with every
stroke; while the mignon grey figure with the laughing face, and the
golden curls blowing from under the little pink-banded straw hat, simply
held firmly to her perch, and let the treadles whirl round beneath her
feet. Mile after mile they flew, the wind beating in her face, the
trees dancing past in two long ranks on either side, until they had
passed round Croydon and were approaching Norwood once more from the
further side.

"Aren't you tired?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder and turning
towards him a little pink ear, a fluffy golden curl, and one blue eye
twinkling from the very corner of its lid.

"Not a bit. I am just getting my swing."

"Isn't it wonderful to be strong? You always remind me of a

"Why a steamengine?"

"Well, because it is so powerful, and reliable, and unreasoning. Well,
I didn't mean that last, you know, but--but--you know what I mean. What
is the matter with you?"


"Because you have something on your mind. You have not laughed once."

He broke into a gruesome laugh. "I am quite jolly," said he.

"Oh, no, you are not. And why did you write me such a dreadfully stiff

"There now," he cried, "I was sure it was stiff. I said it was absurdly

"Then why write it?"

"It wasn't my own composition."

"Whose then? Your aunt's?"

"Oh, no. It was a person of the name of Slattery."

"Goodness! Who is he?"

"I knew it would come out, I felt that it would. You've heard of
Slattery the author?"


"He is wonderful at expressing himself. He wrote a book called `The
Secret Solved; or, Letter-writing Made Easy.' It gives you models of
all sorts of letters."

Ida burst out laughing. "So you actually copied one."

"It was to invite a young lady to a picnic, but I set to work and soon
got it changed so that it would do very well. Slattery seems never to
have asked any one to ride a tandem. But when I had written it, it
seemed so dreadfully stiff that I had to put a little beginning and end
of my own, which seemed to brighten it up a good deal."

"I thought there was something funny about the beginning and end."

"Did you? Fancy your noticing the difference in style. How quick you
are! I am very slow at things like that. I ought to have been a
woodman, or game-keeper, or something. I was made on those lines. But
I have found something now."

"What is that, then?"

"Ranching. I have a chum in Texas, and he says it is a rare life. I am
to buy a share in his business. It is all in the open air--shooting,
and riding, and sport. Would it--would it inconvenience you much, Ida,
to come out there with me?"

Ida nearly fell off her perch in her amazement. The only words of which
she could think were "My goodness me!" so she said them.

"If it would not upset your plans, or change your arrangements in any
way." He had slowed down and let go of the steering handle, so that the
great machine crawled aimlessly about from one side of the road to the
other. "I know very well that I am not clever or anything of that sort,
but still I would do all I can to make you very happy. Don't you think
that in time you might come to like me a little bit?"

Ida gave a cry of fright. "I won't like you if you run me against a
brick wall," she said, as the machine rasped up against the curb "Do
attend to the steering."

"Yes, I will. But tell me, Ida, whether you will come with me."

"Oh, I don't know. It's too absurd! How can we talk about such things
when I cannot see you? You speak to the nape of my neck, and then I
have to twist my head round to answer."

"I know. That was why I put `You in front' upon my letter. I thought
that it would make it easier. But if you would prefer it I will stop
the machine, and then you can sit round and talk about it."

"Good gracious!" cried Ida. "Fancy our sitting face to face on a
motionless tricycle in the middle of the road, and all the people
looking out of their windows at us!"

"It would look rather funny, wouldn't it? Well, then, suppose that we
both get off and push the tandem along in front of us?"

"Oh, no, this is better than that."

"Or I could carry the thing."

Ida burst out laughing. "That would be more absurd still."

"Then we will go quietly, and I will look out for the steering. I won't
talk about it at all if you would rather not. But I really do love you
very much, and you would make me happy if you came to Texas with me, and
I think that perhaps after a time I could make you happy too."

"But your aunt?"

"Oh, she would like it very much. I can understand that your father
might not like to lose you. I'm sure I wouldn't either, if I were he.
But after all, America is not very far off nowadays, and is not so very
wild. We would take a grand piano, and--and--a copy of Browning. And
Denver and his wife would come over to see us. We should be quite a
family party. It would be jolly."

Ida sat listening to the stumbling words and awkward phrases which were
whispered from the back of her, but there was something in Charles
Westmacott's clumsiness of speech which was more moving than the words
of the most eloquent of pleaders. He paused, he stammered, he caught
his breath between the words, and he blurted out in little blunt phrases
all the hopes of his heart. If love had not come to her yet, there was
at least pity and sympathy, which are nearly akin to it. Wonder there
was also that one so weak and frail as she should shake this strong man
so, should have the whole course of his life waiting for her decision.
Her left hand was on the cushion at her side. He leaned forward and
took it gently in his own. She did not try to draw it back from him.

"May I have it," said he, "for life?"

"Oh, do attend to your steering," said she, smiling round at him; "and
don't say any more about this to-day. Please don't!"

"When shall I know, then?"

"Oh, to-night, to-morrow, I don't know. I must ask Clara. Talk about
something else."

And they did talk about something else; but her left hand was still
enclosed in his, and he knew, without asking again, that all was well.




Mrs. Westmacott's great meeting for the enfranchisement of woman had
passed over, and it had been a triumphant success. All the maids and
matrons of the southern suburbs had rallied at her summons, there was an
influential platform with Dr. Balthazar Walker in the chair, and Admiral
Hay Denver among his more prominent supporters. One benighted male had
come in from the outside darkness and had jeered from the further end of
the hall, but he had been called to order by the chair, petrified by
indignant glances from the unenfranchised around him, and finally
escorted to the door by Charles Westmacott. Fiery resolutions were
passed, to be forwarded to a large number of leading statesmen, and the
meeting broke up with the conviction that a shrewd blow had been struck
for the cause of woman.

But there was one woman at least to whom the meeting and all that was
connected with it had brought anything but pleasure. Clara Walker
watched with a heavy heart the friendship and close intimacy which had
sprung up between her father and the widow. From week to week it had
increased until no day ever passed without their being together. The
coming meeting had been the excuse for these continual interviews, but
now the meeting was over, and still the Doctor would refer every point
which rose to the judgment of his neighbor. He would talk, too, to his
two daughters of her strength of character, her decisive mind, and of
the necessity of their cultivating her acquaintance and following her
example, until at last it had become his most common topic of

All this might have passed as merely the natural pleasure which an
elderly man might take in the society of an intelligent and handsome
woman, but there were other points which seemed to Clara to give it a
deeper meaning. She could not forget that when Charles Westmacott had
spoken to her one night he had alluded to the possibility of his aunt
marrying again. He must have known or noticed something before he would
speak upon such a subject. And then again Mrs. Westmacott had herself
said that she hoped to change her style of living shortly and take over
completely new duties. What could that mean except that she expected to
marry? And whom? She seemed to see few friends outside their own
little circle. She must have alluded to her father. It was a hateful
thought, and yet it must be faced.

One evening the Doctor had been rather late at his neighbor's. He used
to go into the Admiral's after dinner, but now he turned more frequently
in the other direction. When he returned Clara was sitting alone in the
drawing-room reading a magazine. She sprang up as he entered, pushed
forward his chair, and ran to fetch his slippers.

"You are looking a little pale, dear," he remarked.

"Oh, no, papa, I am very well."

"All well with Harold?"

"Yes. His partner, Mr. Pearson, is still away, and he is doing all the

"Well done. He is sure to succeed. Where is Ida?"

"In her room, I think."

"She was with Charles Westmacott on the lawn not very long ago. He
seems very fond of her. He is not very bright, but I think he will make
her a good husband."

"I am sure of it, papa. He is very manly and reliable."

"Yes, I should think that he is not the sort of man who goes wrong.
There is nothing hidden about him. As to his brightness, it really does
not matter, for his aunt, Mrs. Westmacott, is very rich, much richer
than you would think from her style of living, and she has made him a
handsome provision."

"I am glad of that."

"It is between ourselves. I am her trustee, and so I know something of
her arrangements. And when are you going to marry, Clara?"

"Oh, papa, not for some time yet. We have not thought of a date."

"Well, really, I don't know that there is any reason for delay. He has
a competence and it increases yearly. As long as you are quite certain
that your mind is made up----"

"Oh, papa!"

"Well, then, I really do not know why there should be any delay. And
Ida, too, must be married within the next few months. Now, what I want
to know is what I am to do when my two little companions run away from
me." He spoke lightly, but his eyes were grave as he looked
questioningly at his daughter.

"Dear papa, you shall not be alone. It will be years before Harold and
I think of marrying, and when we do you must come and live with us."

"No, no, dear. I know that you mean what you say, but I have seen
something of the world, and I know that such arrangements never answer.
There cannot be two masters in a house, and yet at my age my freedom is
very necessary to me."

"But you would be completely free."

"No, dear, you cannot be that if you are a guest in another man's house.
Can you suggest no other alternative?"

"That we remain with you."

"No, no. That is out of the question. Mrs. Westmacott herself says
that a woman's first duty is to marry. Marriage, however, should be an
equal partnership, as she points out. I should wish you both to marry,
but still I should like a suggestion from you, Clara, as to what I
should do."

"But there is no hurry, papa. Let us wait. I do not intend to marry

Doctor Walker looked disappointed. "Well, Clara, if you can suggest
nothing, I suppose that I must take the initiative myself," said he.

"Then what do you propose, papa?" She braced herself as one who sees
the blow which is about to fall.

He looked at her and hesitated. "How like your poor dear mother you
are, Clara!" he cried. "As I looked at you then it was as if she had
come back from the grave." He stooped towards her and kissed her.
"There, run away to your sister, my dear, and do not trouble yourself
about me. Nothing is settled yet, but you will find that all will come

Clara went upstairs sad at heart, for she was sure now that what she had
feared was indeed about to come to pass, and that her father was going
to take Mrs. Westmacott to be his wife. In her pure and earnest mind
her mother's memory was enshrined as that of a saint, and the thought
that any one should take her place seemed a terrible desecration. Even
worse, however, did this marriage appear when looked at from the point
of view of her father's future. The widow might fascinate him by her
knowledge of the world, her dash, her strength, her unconventionality--
all these qualities Clara was willing to allow her--but she was
convinced that she would be unendurable as a life companion. She had
come to an age when habits are not lightly to be changed, nor was she a
woman who was at all likely to attempt to change them. How would a
sensitive man like her father stand the constant strain of such a wife,
a woman who was all decision, with no softness, and nothing soothing in
her nature? It passed as a mere eccentricity when they heard of her
stout drinking, her cigarette smoking, her occasional whiffs at a long
clay pipe, her horsewhipping of a drunken servant, and her companionship
with the snake Eliza, whom she was in the habit of bearing about in her
pocket. All this would become unendurable to her father when his first
infatuation was past. For his own sake, then, as well as for her
mother's memory, this match must be prevented. And yet how powerless
she was to prevent it! What could she do? Could Harold aid her?
Perhaps. Or Ida? At least she would tell her sister and see what she
could suggest.

Ida was in her boudoir, a tiny little tapestried room, as neat and
dainty as herself, with low walls hung with Imari plaques and with
pretty little Swiss brackets bearing blue Kaga ware, or the pure white
Coalport china. In a low chair beneath a red shaded standing lamp sat
Ida, in a diaphanous evening dress of mousseline de soie, the ruddy
light tinging her sweet childlike face, and glowing on her golden curls.
She sprang up as her sister entered, and threw her arms around her.

"Dear old Clara! Come and sit down here beside me. I have not had a
chat for days. But, oh, what a troubled face! What is it then?" She
put up her forefinger and smoothed her sister's brow with it.

Clara pulled up a stool, and sitting down beside her sister, passed her
arm round her waist. "I am so sorry to trouble you, dear Ida," she
said. "But I do not know what to do.

"There's nothing the matter with Harold?"

"Oh, no, Ida."

"Nor with my Charles?"

"No, no."

Ida gave a sigh of relief. "You quite frightened me, dear," said she.
"You can't think how solemn you look. What is it, then?"

"I believe that papa intends to ask Mrs. Westmacott to marry him."

Ida burst out laughing. "What can have put such a notion into your
head, Clara?"

"It is only too true, Ida. I suspected it before, and he himself almost
told me as much with his own lips to-night. I don't think that it is a
laughing matter."

"Really, I could not help it. If you had told me that those two dear
old ladies opposite, the Misses Williams, were both engaged, you would
not have surprised me more. It is really too funny."

"Funny, Ida! Think of any one taking the place of dear mother."

But her sister was of a more practical and less sentimental nature. "I
am sure," said she, "that dear mother would like papa to do whatever
would make him most happy. We shall both be away, and why should papa
not please himself?"


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