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Книга Beyond The City. Содержание - Chapter 10 – Women Of The Future

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"Oh, won't it look pretty at night!" cried her sister.

"And I know the fog-signals. One blast means that a ship steers to starboard, two to port, three astern, four that it is unmanageable. But this man asks such dreadful questions at the end of each chapter. Listen to this: `You see a red light. The ship is on the port tack and the wind at north; what course is that ship steering to a point?'"

The Doctor rose with a gesture of despair. "I can't imagine what has come over you both," said he.

"My dear papa, we are trying hard to live up to Mrs. Westmacott's standard."

"Well, I must say that I do not admire the result. Your chemistry, Ida, may perhaps do no harm; but your scheme, Clara, is out of the question. How a girl of your sense could ever entertain such a notion is more than I can imagine. But I must absolutely forbid you to go further with it."

"But, pa," asked Ida, with an air of innocent inquiry in her big blue eyes, "what are we to do when your commands and Mrs. Westmacott's advice are opposed? You told us to obey her. She says that when women try to throw off their shackles, their fathers, brothers and husbands are the very first to try to rivet them on again, and that in such a matter no man has any authority."

"Does Mrs. Westmacott teach you that I am not the head of my own house?" The Doctor flushed, and his grizzled hair bristled in his anger.

"Certainly. She says that all heads of houses are relics of the dark ages."

The Doctor muttered something and stamped his foot upon the carpet. Then without a word he passed out into the garden and his daughters could see him striding furiously up and down, cutting off the heads of the flowers with a switch.

"Oh, you darling! You played your part so splendidly!" cried Ida.

"But how cruel it is! When I saw the sorrow and surprise in his eyes I very nearly put my arms about him and told him all. Don't you think we have done enough?"

"No, no, no. Not nearly enough. You must not turn weak now, Clara. It is so funny that I should be leading you. It is quite a new experience. But I know I am right. If we go an as we are doing, we shall be able to say all our lives that we have saved him. And if we don't, oh, Clara, we should never forgive ourselves."

Chapter 10 – Women Of The Future

From that day the Doctor's peace was gone. Never was a quiet and orderly household transformed so suddenly into a bear garden, or a happy man turned into such a completely miserable one. He had never realized before how entirely his daughters had shielded him from all the friction of life. Now that they had not only ceased to protect him, but had themselves become a source of trouble to him, he began to understand how great the blessing was which he had enjoyed, and to sigh for the happy days before his girls had come under the influence of his neighbor.

"You don't look happy," Mrs. Westmacott had remarked to him one morning. "You are pale and a little off color. You should come with me for a ten mile spin upon the tandem."

"I am troubled about my girls." They were walking up and down in the garden. From time to time there sounded from the house behind them the long, sad wail of a French horn.

"That is Ida," said he. "She has taken to practicing on that dreadful instrument in the intervals of her chemistry. And Clara is quite as bad. I declare it is getting quite unendurable."

"Ah, Doctor, Doctor!" she cried, shaking her forefinger, with a gleam of her white teeth. "You must live up to your principles-you must give your daughters the same liberty as you advocate for other women."

"Liberty, madam, certainly! But this approaches to license."

"The same law for all, my friend." She tapped him reprovingly on the arm with her sunshade. "When you were twenty your father did not, I presume, object to your learning chemistry or playing a musical instrument. You would have thought it tyranny if he had."

"But there is such a sudden change in them both."

"Yes, I have noticed that they have been very enthusiastic lately in the cause of liberty. Of all my disciples I think that they promise to be the most devoted and consistent, which is the more natural since their father is one of our most trusted champions."

The Doctor gave a twitch of impatience. "I seem to have lost all authority," he cried.

"No, no, my dear friend. They are a little exuberant at having broken the trammels of custom. That is all."

"You cannot think what I have had to put up with, madam. It has been a dreadful experience. Last night, after I had extinguished the candle in my bedroom, I placed my foot upon something smooth and hard, which scuttled from under me. Imagine my horror! I lit the gas, and came upon a well-grown tortoise which Clara has thought fit to introduce into the house. I call it a filthy custom to have such pets."

Mrs. Westmacott dropped him a little courtesy. "Thank you, sir," said she. "That is a nice little side hit at my poor Eliza."

"I give you my word that I had forgotten about her," cried the Doctor, flushing. "One such pet may no doubt be endured, but two are more than I can bear. Ida has a monkey which lives on the curtain rod. It is a most dreadful creature. It will remain absolutely motionless until it sees that you have forgotten its presence, and then it will suddenly bound from picture to picture all round the walls, and end by swinging down on the bell-rope and jumping on to the top of your head. At breakfast it stole a poached egg and daubed it all over the door handle. Ida calls these outrages amusing tricks."

"Oh, all will come right," said the widow reassuringly.

"And Clara is as bad, Clara who used to be so good and sweet, the very image of her poor mother. She insists upon this preposterous scheme of being a pilot, and will talk of nothing but revolving lights and hidden rocks, and codes of signals, and nonsense of the kind."

"But why preposterous?" asked his companion. "What nobler occupation can there be than that of stimulating commerce, and aiding the mariner to steer safely into port? I should think your daughter admirably adapted for such duties."

"Then I must beg to differ from you, madam."

"Still, you are inconsistent."

"Excuse me, madam, I do not see the matter in the same light. And I should be obliged to you if you would use your influence with my daughter to dissuade her."

"You wish to make me inconsistent too."

"Then you refuse?"

"I am afraid that I cannot interfere."

The Doctor was very angry. "Very well, madam," said he. "In that case I can only say that I have the honor to wish you a very good morning." He raised his broad straw hat and strode away up the gravel path, while the widow looked after him with twinkling eyes. She was surprised herself to find that she liked the Doctor better the more masculine and aggressive he became. It was unreasonable and against all principle, and yet so it was and no argument could mend the matter.

Very hot and angry, the Doctor retired into his room and sat down to read his paper. Ida had retired, and the distant wails of the bugle showed that she was upstairs in her boudoir. Clara sat opposite to him with her exasperating charts and her blue book. The Doctor glanced at her and his eyes remained fixed in astonishment upon the front of her skirt.

"My dear Clara," he cried, "you have torn your skirt!"

His daughter laughed and smoothed out her frock. To his horror he saw the red plush of the chair where the dress ought to have been. "It is all torn!" he cried. "What have you done?"

"My dear papa!" said she, "what do you know about the mysteries of ladies' dress? This is a divided skirt."

Then he saw that it was indeed so arranged, and that his daughter was clad in a sort of loose, extremely long knickerbockers.

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