Beyond the City (Chapter 6, page 1 of 6)

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Chapter 6

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 Charles."

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

"To me? But why?"

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