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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 18. Repentance Avails Not
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A Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 18. Repentance Avails Not Post by :runtonk Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1205

Click below to download : A Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 18. Repentance Avails Not (Format : PDF)

A Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 18. Repentance Avails Not

CHAPTER XVIII. REPENTANCE AVAILS NOT

When I was positively certain that I had left the little inn far behind me, I slackened my speed, and, perceiving a spreading tree by the road-side, I dismounted and sat down in the shade. It was a hot day, and unconsciously I had been working very hard. Several persons on wheels passed along the road, and every time I saw one approaching I was afraid that it might be somebody I knew, who might stop and sit by me in the shade. I was now near enough to Walford to meet with people from that neighborhood, and I did not want to meet with any one just now. I had a great many things to think about and just then I was busy trying to make up my mind whether or not it would be well for me to stop at the Putneys'.

If I should pass without stopping, some one in the lodge would probably see me, and the family would know of my discourtesy, but, although it would have been a very simple thing to do, and a very proper thing, I did not feel sure that I wanted to stop. If Edith Larramie had never said anything about it, I think I would surely have made a morning call upon the Putneys.

After I had cooled off a little I rose to remount; I had not decided anything, but it was of no use to sit there any longer. Glancing along the road towards Walford, I saw in the distance some one approaching on a wheel. Involuntarily I stood still and watched the on-coming cyclist, who I saw was a woman. She moved steadily and rapidly on the other side of the road. Very soon I recognized her. It was Miss Putney.

As she came nearer and nearer I was greatly impressed with her appearance. Her costume was as suitable and becoming for the occasion as if it had been an evening dress for a ball, and she wheeled better than any woman cyclist I ever saw. Her head was erect, her eyes straight before her, and her motion was rhythm of action.

With my hand on my wheel I moved a few steps towards the middle of the road. I was about to take off my cap when she turned her eyes upon me. She even moved her head a little so as to gaze upon me a few seconds longer. Her face was quiet and serene, her eyes were large, clear, and observant. In them was not one gleam of recognition. Turning them again upon the road in front of her, she sped on and away.

(Illustration: "CUT LIKE THAT")

For some minutes I stood looking after her, utterly astonished. I do not think in all my life I had ever been cut like that. What did it mean? Could she care enough about me to resent my stopping at the Holly Sprig? Was it possible that she could have known what had been likely to happen there, and what had happened there? All this was very improbable, but in Cathay people seemed to know a great many things. Anyway, she had solved my problem for me. I need give no further thought to a stop at her father's mansion.

I mounted and rode on, but not rapidly. I was very much moved. My soul grew warm as I thought of the steady gaze of the eyes which that girl had fixed upon me. For a mile or so I moved steadily and quietly in a mood of incensed dignity. I pressed the pedals with a hard and cruel tread. I did not understand. I could scarcely believe.

Soon, however, I began to move a little faster. Somehow or other I became conscious that there was a bicycle at some distance behind me. I pushed on a little faster. I did not wish to be overtaken by anybody. Now I was sure there was a wheel behind me. I could not hear it, but I knew it was there.

Presently I became certain that my instincts had not deceived me, for I heard the quick sound of a bicycle bell. This was odd, for surely no one would ring for me to get out of the way. Then there was another tinkle, a little nearer.

Now I sped faster and faster. I heard the bell violently ringing. Then I thought, but I am not sure, that I heard a voice. I struck out with the thrust of a steam-engine, and the earth slipped backward beneath me like the water of a mill-race. I passed wagons as if they had been puffs of smoke, and people on wheels as though they were flying cinders.

In some ten minutes I slackened speed and looked back. For a long distance behind me not a bicycle was in sight. I now pursued my homeward way with a warm body and a lacerated heart. I hated this region which I had called Cathay. Its inhabitants were not barbarians, but I was suffering from their barbarities. I had come among them clean, whole, with an upright bearing. I was going away torn, bloody, and downcast.

If the last words of the lady of the Holly Sprig meant the sweet thing I thought they meant, then did they make the words which preceded them all the more bitter. The more friendly and honest the counsels of Edith Larramie had grown, the deeper they had cut into my heart. Even the more than regard with which my soul prompted me to look back to Amy Willoughby was a pain to me. My judgment would enrage me if it should try to compel me to feel as I did not want to feel.

But none of these wounds would have so pained and disturbed me had it not been for the merciless gaze which that dark-eyed girl had fixed upon me as she passed me standing in the road. And if she had gone too far and had done more than her own nature could endure, and if it were she who had been pursuing me, then the wound was more cruel and the smart deeper. If she believed me a man who would stop at the ringing of her bell, then was I ashamed of myself for having given her that impression.

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