Книга Beyond The City. Содержание - Chapter 9 – A Family Plot
"Dear old Clara! Come and sit down here beside me. I have not had a chat for days. But, oh, what a troubled face! What is it then?" She put up her forefinger and smoothed her sister's brow with it.
Clara pulled up a stool, and sitting down beside her sister, passed her arm round her waist. "I am so sorry to trouble you, dear Ida," she said. "But I do not know what to do.
"There's nothing the matter with Harold?"
"Oh, no, Ida."
"Nor with my Charles?"
Ida gave a sigh of relief. "You quite frightened me, dear," said she. "You can't think how solemn you look. What is it, then?"
"I believe that papa intends to ask Mrs. Westmacott to marry him."
Ida burst out laughing. "What can have put such a notion into your head, Clara?"
"It is only too true, Ida. I suspected it before, and he himself almost told me as much with his own lips to-night. I don't think that it is a laughing matter."
"Really, I could not help it. If you had told me that those two dear old ladies opposite, the Misses Williams, were both engaged, you would not have surprised me more. It is really too funny."
"Funny, Ida! Think of any one taking the place of dear mother.
But her sister was of a more practical and less sentimental nature. "I am sure," said she, "that dear mother would like papa to do whatever would make him most happy. We shall both be away, and why should papa not please himself?"
"But think how unhappy he will be. You know how quiet he is in his ways, and how even a little thing will upset him. How could he live with a wife who would make his whole life a series of surprises? Fancy what a whirlwind she must be in a house. A man at his age cannot change his ways. I am sure he would be miserable."
Ida's face grew graver, and she pondered over the matter for a few minutes. "I really think that you are right as usual," said she at last. "I admire Charlie's aunt very much, you know, and I think that she is a very useful and good person, but I don't think she would do as a wife for poor quiet papa."
"But he will certainly ask her, and I really think that she intends to accept him. Then it would be too late to interfere. We have only a few days at the most. And what can we do? How can we hope to make him change his mind?"
Again Ida pondered. "He has never tried what it is to live with a strong-minded woman," said she. "If we could only get him to realize it in time. Oh, Clara, I have it; I have it! Such a lovely plan!" She leaned back in her chair and burst into a fit of laughter so natural and so hearty that Clara had to forget her troubles and to join in it.
"Oh, it is beautiful!" she gasped at last. "Poor papa! What a time he will have! But it's all for his own good, as he used to say when we had to be punished when we were little. Oh, Clara, I do hope your heart won't fail you.
"I would do anything to save him, dear."
"That's it. You must steel yourself by that thought."
"But what is your plan?"
"Oh, I am so proud of it. We will tire him for ever of the widow, and of all emancipated women. Let me see, what are Mrs. Westmacott's main ideas? You have listened to her more than I. Women should attend less to household duties. That is one, is it not?"
"Yes, if they feel they have capabilities for higher things. Then she thinks that every woman who has leisure should take up the study of some branch of science, and that, as far as possible, every woman should qualify herself for some trade or profession, choosing for preference those which have been hitherto monopolized by men. To enter the others would only be to intensify the present competition."
" Quite so. That is glorious!" Her blue eyes were dancing with mischief, and she clapped her hands in her delight. "What else? She thinks that whatever a man can do a woman should be allowed to do also-does she not?"
"She says so."
"And about dress? The short skirt, and the divided skirt are what she believes in?"
"We must get in some cloth."
"We must make ourselves a dress each. A brand-new, enfranchised, emancipated dress, dear. Don't you see my plan? We shall act up to all Mrs. Westmacott's views in every respect, and improve them when we can. Then papa will know what it is to live with a woman who claims all her rights. Oh, Clara, it will be splendid."
Her milder sister sat speechless before so daring a scheme. "But it would be wrong, Ida!" she cried at last.
"Not a bit. It is to save him."
"I should not dare."
"Oh, yes, you would. Harold will help. Besides, what other plan have you?"
"I have none."
"Then you must take mine."
"Yes. Perhaps you are right. Well, we do it for a good motive.
"You will do it?"
"I do not see any other way."
"You dear good Clara! Now I will show you what you are to do. We must not begin too suddenly. It might excite suspicion."
"What would you do, then?"
"Tomorrow we must go to Mrs. Westmacott, and sit at her feet and learn all her views."
"What hypocrites we shall feel!"
"We shall be her newest and most enthusiastic converts. Oh, it will be such fun, Clara! Then we shall make our plans and send for what we want, and begin our new life."
"I do hope that we shall not have to keep it up long. It seems so cruel to dear papa.
"Cruel! To save him!"
"I wish I was sure that we were doing right. And yet what else can we do? Well, then, Ida, the die is cast, and we will call upon Mrs. Westmacott tomorrow.
Chapter 9 – A Family Plot
Little did poor Doctor Walker imagine as he sat at his breakfast-table next morning that the two sweet girls who sat on either side of him were deep in a conspiracy, and that he, munching innocently at his muffins, was the victim against whom their wiles were planned. Patiently they waited until at last their opening came.
"It is a beautiful day," he remarked. "It will do for Mrs. Westmacott. She was thinking of having a spin upon the tricycle."
"Then we must call early. We both intended to see her after breakfast."
"Oh, indeed!" The Doctor looked pleased.
"You know, pa," said Ida, "it seems to us that we really have a very great advantage in having Mrs. Westmacott living so near."
"Why so, dear?"
"Well, because she is so advanced, you know. If we only study her ways we may advance ourselves also."
"I think I have heard you say, papa," Clara remarked, "that she is the type of the woman of the future."
"I am very pleased to hear you speak so sensibly, my dears. I certainly think that she is a woman whom you may very well take as your model. The more intimate you are with her the better pleased I shall be."
"Then that is settled," said Clara demurely, and the talk drifted to other matters.
All the morning the two girls sat extracting from Mrs. Westmacott her most extreme view as to the duty of the one sex and the tyranny of the other. Absolute equality, even in details, was her ideal. Enough of the parrot cry of unwomanly and unmaidenly. It had been invented by man to scare woman away when she poached too nearly upon his precious preserves. Every woman should be independent. Every woman should learn a trade. It was their duty to push in where they were least welcome. Then they were martyrs to the cause, and pioneers to their weaker sisters. Why should the wash-tub, the needle, and the housekeeper's book be eternally theirs? Might they not reach higher, to the consulting-room, to the bench, and even to the pulpit? Mrs. Westmacott sacrificed her tricycle ride in her eagerness over her pet subject, and her two fair disciples drank in every word, and noted every suggestion for future use. That afternoon they went shopping in London, and before evening strange packages began to be handed in at the Doctor's door. The plot was ripe for execution, and one of the conspirators was merry and jubilant, while the other was very nervous and troubled.