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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 12. Back To The Holly Sprig
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A Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 12. Back To The Holly Sprig Post by :ow24160 Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2303

Click below to download : A Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 12. Back To The Holly Sprig (Format : PDF)

A Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 12. Back To The Holly Sprig

CHAPTER XII. BACK TO THE HOLLY SPRIG

Before going to bed that night I did not throw myself into an easy-chair and gaze musingly out into the night. On the contrary, I stood up sturdily with my back to the mantel-piece, and with the forefinger of my right hand I tapped my left palm.

"Now, then," said I to myself, "as soon as my bicycle is put into working order I shall imitate travellers in hot countries--I shall ride all night, and I shall rest all day. There are too many young women in Cathay. They turn up one after another with the regularity of a continuous performance. No sooner is the curtain rung down on one act than it is rung up on another. Perhaps after a while I may get out of Cathay, and then again I may ride by day."

In taking my things from my valise, I pulled out the little box which the doctor's daughter had given me, but I did not open it. "No," said I, "there is no need whatever that I should take a capsule to-night."

(Illustration: "I TAPPED MY LEFT PALM.")

After breakfast the next day Mr. Larramie came to me. "Do you know," said he, "I feel ashamed on account of the plans I made for you."

I did not know, for I could see no earthly reason for such feeling.

"I arranged," said he, "to send to the Holly Sprig for your machine, and then to have you and it driven over to Waterton. Now this I consider brutish. My wife told me that it was, and I agree with her perfectly. It will take several days to repair that injured wheel--Walter tells me you cannot expect it in less than three days--and what will you do in Waterton all that time? It isn't a pretty country, the hotels are barely good enough for a night's stop, and there isn't anything for you to do. Even if you hired a wheel you would find it stupid exploring that country. Now, sir, that plan is brushed entirely out of sight. Your bicycle shall be sent on, and when you hear that it is repaired and ready for use, you can go on yourself if you wish to."

"My dear sir," I exclaimed, "this is entirely too much!"

He put his hands upon my shoulders and looked me squarely in the face. "Too much!" said he, "too much! That may be your opinion, but I can tell you you have the whole of the rest of the world against you. That is, you would have if they all knew the circumstances. Now you are only one, and if you want to know how many people are opposed to you, I have no doubt Percy can tell you, but I am not very well posted in regard to the present population of the world."

There was no good reason that I could offer why I should go and sit solitary in Waterton for three days, and if I had had any such reason I know it would have been treated with contempt. So I submitted--not altogether with an easy mind, and yet seeing cause for nothing but satisfaction and content.

"Another thing," said Mr. Larramie; "I have thought that you would like to attend to your bicycle yourself. Perhaps you will want to take it apart before you send it away. Percy will be glad to drive to the Holly Sprig, and you can go with him. Then, when you come back, I will have my man take your machine to Waterton. I have a young horse very much in need of work, and I shall be glad to have an excuse for giving him some travelling to do." I stood astounded. Go back to the Holly Sprig! This arrangement had been made without reference to me. It had been supposed, of course, that I would be glad to go and attend to the proper packing of my bicycle. Even now, Percy, running across the yard, called to me that he would be ready to start in two minutes.

When I took my seat in the wagon, Mr. Larramie was telling me that he would like me to inform Mrs. Chester that he would keep the bear until it was reasonable to suppose that the owner would not come for it, and that then he would either sell it or buy it himself, and make satisfactory settlement with her.

I know I did not hear all that he said, for my mind was wildly busy trying to decide what I ought to do. Should I jump down even now and decline to go to the Holly Sprig, or should I go on and attend to my business like a sensible man? There was certainly no reason why I should do anything else, but when the impatient Percy started, my mind was not in the least made up; I remained on the seat beside him simply because I was there.

Percy was a good driver, and glad to exhibit his skill. He was also in a lively mood, and talked with great freedom. "Do you know," said he, "that Edith wanted to drive you over to the inn? Think of that! But it had all been cut and dried that I should go, and I was not going to listen to any such nonsense. Besides, you might want somebody to help you take your machine apart and pack it up."

I was well satisfied to be accompanied by the boy and not by his sister, and with the wheels and his tongue rattling along together, we soon reached the inn.

Percy drove past it and was about to turn into the entrance of the yard, but I stopped him. "I suppose your wheel is back there," he said.

"Yes," said I, "but I will get out here."

"All right," he replied, "I'll drive around to the sheds."

At the open door of the large room I met Mrs. Chester, evidently on her way out-of-doors. She wore a wide straw hat, her hands were gloved, and she carried a basket and a pair of large shears. When she saw me there was a sudden flush upon her face, but it disappeared quickly. Whether this meant that she was agreeably surprised to see me again, or whether it showed that she resented my turning up again so soon after she thought she was finally rid of me, I did not know. It does not do to predicate too much upon the flushes of women.

(Illustration: "THERE WAS A SUDDEN FLUSH")

I hastened to inform her why I had come, and now, having recovered from her momentary surprise, she asked me to walk in and sit down, an invitation which I willingly accepted, for I did not in the least object to detaining her from her garden.

Now she wanted to know how I had managed to get on with the bear, and what the people at the Cheltenham said about it, and when I went on to tell her the whole story, which I did at considerable length, she was intensely interested. She shuddered at the runaway, she laughed heartily at the uprising of the McKenna sister, and she listened earnestly to everything I had to say about the Larramies.

"You seem to have a wonderful way," she exclaimed, "of falling in with--" I think she was going to say "girls," but she changed it to "people."

"Yes," said I. "I should not have imagined that I could make so many good friends in such a short time."

Then I went on to give her Mr. Larramie's message, and to say more things about the bear. I was glad to think of any subject which might prolong the conversation. So far she was interested, and all that we said seemed perfectly natural to the occasion, but this could not last, and I felt within me a strong desire to make some better use of this interview.

I had not expected to see her again, certainly not so soon, and here I was alone with her, free to say what I chose; but what should I say? I had not premeditated anything serious. In fact, I was not sure that I wished to say anything which should be considered absolutely serious and definite, but if I were ever to do anything definite--and the more I talked with this bright-eyed and merry-hearted young lady the stronger became the longing to say something definite--now was the time to prepare the way for what I might do or say hereafter.

I was beginning to grow nervous, for the right thing to say would not present itself, when Percy strode into the room. "Good-morning, Mrs. Chester," said he, and then, turning to me, he declared that he had been waiting in the yard, and began to think I might have forgotten I had come for my wheel.

Of course I rose and she rose, and we followed Percy to the back door of the house. Outside I saw that the boy of the inn was holding the horse, and that the wheel was already placed in the back part of the wagon.

"I've got everything all right, I think," said Percy. "I didn't suppose it was necessary to wait for you, but you'd better take a look at it to see if you think it will travel without rubbing or damaging itself."

I stepped to the wagon and found that the bicycle was very well placed. "Now, then," said Percy, taking the reins and mounting to his seat, "all you've got to do is to get up, and we'll be off."

I turned to the back door, but she was not there. "Wait a minute," said I, and I hurried into the house. She was not in the hall. I looked into the large room. She was not there. I went into the parlor, and out upon the front porch. Then I went back into the house to seek some one who might call her. I was even willing to avail myself of the services of citric acid, for I could not leave that house without speaking to her again.

In a moment Mrs. Chester appeared from some inner room. I believe she suspected that I had something to say to her which had nothing to do with the bear or the Larramies, for I had been conscious that my speech had been a little rambling, as if I were earnestly thinking of something else than what I was saying, and that she desired I should be taken away without an opportunity to unburden my mind; but now, hearing me tramping about and knowing that I was looking for her, she was obliged to show herself.

As she came forward I noticed that her expression had changed somewhat. There was nothing merry about her eyes; I think she was slightly pale, and her brows were a little contracted, as if she were doing something she did not want to do.

"I hope you found everything all right," she said.

I looked at her steadily. "No," said I, "everything is not all right."

A slight shade of anxiety came upon her face. "I am sorry to hear that," she said. "Was your wheel injured more than you thought?"

"Wheel!" I exclaimed. "I was not thinking of wheels! I will tell you what is not all right! It is not right for me to go away without saying to you that I--"

At this moment there was a strong, shrill whistle from the front of the house. A most unmistakable sense of relief showed itself upon her face. She ran to the front door, and called out, "Yes, he is coming."

(Illustration: "THE SCENE VIVIDLY RECURRED TO MY MIND")

There was nothing for me to do but to follow her. I greatly disliked going away without saying what I wanted to say, and I would have been willing to speak even at the front door, but she gave me no chance.

"Good-bye," she said, extending her hand. It was gloved. It gave no clasp--it invited none. As I could not say the words which were on my tongue, I said nothing, and, raising my cap, I hurried away.

To make up for lost time, Percy drove very rapidly. "I came mighty near having a fight while you were in the house," said he. "It was that boy at the inn. He's a queer sort of a fellow, and awfully impertinent. He was talking about you, and he wanted to know if the bear had hurt you. He said he believed you were really afraid of the beast, and only wanted to show off before the women.

"I stood up for you, and I told him about Edith's runaway, and then he said, fair and square, that he didn't believe you stopped the horse. He said he guessed my sister pulled him up herself, and that then you came along and grabbed him and took all the credit. He said he thought you were that sort of a fellow.

"That's the time I was going to pitch into him, but then I thought it would be a pretty low-down thing for me to be fighting a country tavern-boy, so I simply gave him my opinion of him. I don't believe he'd have held the horse, only he thought it would make you get away quicker. He hates you. Did you ever kick him or anything?"

I laughed, and, telling Percy that I had never kicked the boy, I thanked him for his championship of me.

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