Beyond the City (Chapter 8, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 8

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
conversation.

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.

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