Beyond the City (Chapter 1, page 1 of 3)

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Chapter 1

"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

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.

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