Beyond the City (Chapter 9, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 9

When the Doctor came down to the dining-room next morning, he was
surprised to find that his daughters had already been up some time. Ida
was installed at one end of the table with a spirit-lamp, a curved glass
flask, and several bottles in front of her. The contents of the flask
were boiling furiously, while a villainous smell filled the room. Clara
lounged in an arm-chair with her feet upon a second one, a blue-covered
book in her hand, and a huge map of the British Islands spread across
her lap. "Hullo!" cried the Doctor, blinking and sniffing, "where's the
breakfast?"

"Oh, didn't you order it?" asked Ida.

"I! No; why should I?" He rang the bell. "Why have you not laid the
breakfast, Jane?"

"If you please, sir, Miss Ida was a workin' at the table."

"Oh, of course, Jane," said the young lady calmly. "I am so sorry. I
shall be ready to move in a few minutes."

"But what on earth are you doing, Ida?" asked the Doctor. "The smell is
most offensive. And, good gracious, look at the mess which you have made
upon the cloth! Why, you have burned a hole right through."

"Oh, that is the acid," Ida answered contentedly. "Mrs. Westmacott said
that it would burn holes."

"You might have taken her word for it without trying," said her father
dryly.

"But look here, pa! See what the book says: `The scientific mind takes
nothing upon trust. Prove all things!' I have proved that."

"You certainly have. Well, until breakfast is ready I'll glance over the
Times. Have you seen it?"

"The Times? Oh, dear me, this is it which I have under my spirit-lamp.
I am afraid there is some acid upon that too, and it is rather damp and
torn. Here it is."

The Doctor took the bedraggled paper with a rueful face. "Everything
seems to be wrong to-day," he remarked. "What is this sudden enthusiasm
about chemistry, Ida?"

"Oh, I am trying to live up to Mrs. Westmacott's teaching."

"Quite right! quite right!" said he, though perhaps with less heartiness
than he had shown the day before. "Ah, here is breakfast at last!"

But nothing was comfortable that morning. There were eggs without
egg-spoons, toast which was leathery from being kept, dried-up rashers,
and grounds in the coffee. Above all, there was that dreadful smell
which pervaded everything and gave a horrible twang to every mouthful.

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