Beyond the City (Chapter 1, page 2 of 3)


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Chapter 1

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."

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