Beyond the City (Chapter 7, page 1 of 3)


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Chapter 7

It was just three days after the Doctor and the Admiral had
congratulated each other upon the closer tie which was to unite their
two families, and to turn their friendship into something even dearer
and more intimate, that Miss Ida Walker received a letter which caused
her some surprise and considerable amusement. It was dated from next
door, and was handed in by the red-headed page after breakfast.

"Dear Miss Ida," began this curious document, and then relapsed suddenly
into the third person. "Mr. Charles Westmacott hopes that he may have
the extreme pleasure of a ride with Miss Ida Walker upon his tandem
tricycle. Mr. Charles Westmacott will bring it round in half an hour.
You in front. Yours very truly, Charles Westmacott." The whole was
written in a large, loose-jointed, and school-boyish hand, very thin on
the up strokes and thick on the down, as though care and pains had gone
to the fashioning of it.

Strange as was the form, the meaning was clear enough; so Ida hastened
to her room, and had hardly slipped on her light grey cycling dress when
she saw the tandem with its large occupant at the door. He handed her up
to her saddle with a more solemn and thoughtful face than was usual
with him, and a few moments later they were flying along the beautiful,
smooth suburban roads in the direction of Forest Hill. The great limbs
of the athlete made the heavy machine spring and quiver with every
stroke; while the mignon grey figure with the laughing face, and the
golden curls blowing from under the little pink-banded straw hat, simply
held firmly to her perch, and let the treadles whirl round beneath her
feet. Mile after mile they flew, the wind beating in her face, the trees
dancing past in two long ranks on either side, until they had passed
round Croydon and were approaching Norwood once more from the further
side.

"Aren't you tired?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder and turning
towards him a little pink ear, a fluffy golden curl, and one blue eye
twinkling from the very corner of its lid.

"Not a bit. I am just getting my swing."

"Isn't it wonderful to be strong? You always remind me of a
steamengine."

"Why a steamengine?"

"Well, because it is so powerful, and reliable, and unreasoning. Well, I
didn't mean that last, you know, but--but--you know what I mean. What is
the matter with you?"

"Why?"

"Because you have something on your mind. You have not laughed once."

He broke into a gruesome laugh. "I am quite jolly," said he.

"Oh, no, you are not. And why did you write me such a dreadfully stiff
letter?"

"There now," he cried, "I was sure it was stiff. I said it was absurdly
stiff."

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