Beyond the City (Chapter 4, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 4

"Tell me, Miss Walker! You know how things should be. What would you
say was a good profession for a young man of twenty-six who has had no
education worth speaking about, and who is not very quick by nature?"
The speaker was Charles Westmacott, and the time this same summer
evening in the tennis ground, though the shadows had fallen now and the
game been abandoned.

The girl glanced up at him, amused and surprised.

"Do you mean yourself?"

"Precisely."

"But how could I tell?"

"I have no one to advise me. I believe that you could do it better than
any one. I feel confidence in your opinion."

"It is very flattering." She glanced up again at his earnest,
questioning face, with its Saxon eyes and drooping flaxen mustache, in
some doubt as to whether he might be joking. On the contrary, all his
attention seemed to be concentrated upon her answer.

"It depends so much upon what you can do, you know. I do not know you
sufficiently to be able to say what natural gifts you have." They were
walking slowly across the lawn in the direction of the house.

"I have none. That is to say none worth mentioning. I have no memory and
I am very slow."

"But you are very strong."

"Oh, if that goes for anything. I can put up a hundred-pound bar till
further orders; but what sort of a calling is that?"

Some little joke about being called to the bar flickered up in Miss
Walker's mind, but her companion was in such obvious earnest that she
stifled down her inclination to laugh.

"I can do a mile on the cinder-track in 4:50 and across-country in 5:20,
but how is that to help me? I might be a cricket professional, but it
is not a very dignified position. Not that I care a straw about dignity,
you know, but I should not like to hurt the old lady's feelings.

"Your aunt's?"

"Yes, my aunt's. My parents were killed in the Mutiny, you know, when
I was a baby, and she has looked after me ever since. She has been very
good to me. I'm sorry to leave her."

"But why should you leave her?" They had reached the garden gate, and
the girl leaned her racket upon the top of it, looking up with grave
interest at her big white-flanneled companion.

"It's, Browning," said he.

"What!"

"Don't tell my aunt that I said it"--he sank his voice to a whisper--"I
hate Browning."

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