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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 20. Back From Cathay
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A Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 20. Back From Cathay Post by :add2it Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1182

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A Bicycle Of Cathay: A Novel - Chapter 20. Back From Cathay


The next morning, being again settled in my rooms in Walford, I went to call upon the Doctor and his daughter. The Doctor was not at home, but his daughter was glad to see me.

"And how do you like your cycle of Cathay?" she asked.

"I do not like it at all," I answered. "It has taken me upon a dreary round. I am going to change it for another as soon as I have an opportunity."

"Then it has not been a wheel of fortune to you?" she remarked. "And as for that country which you figuratively called Cathay, did you find that pleasant?"

"In some ways, yes, but in others not. You see, I came back before my vacation was over, and I do not care to go there any more."

She now wanted me to tell her where I had really been and what had happened to me, and I gave her a sketch of my adventures. Of course I could not enter deeply into particulars, for that would make too long a story, but I told her where I had stopped, and my accounts of the bear and the horse were deeply interesting.

"It seems to me," she said, when I had finished, "that if things had been a little different, you might have had an extremely pleasant tour. For instance, if Mr. Godfrey Chester had been living, I think you would have liked him very much, and it is probable that you would have been glad to stay at his inn for several days. It is a beautiful country thereabout."

"Did you know him?" I asked.

"Oh yes," she said; "he was my teacher during part of my school-days here. And then there is Mr. Burton; father is very fond of him. He is a man of great intelligence. It was unfortunate that you did not see more of him."

"Perhaps you know Mr. Putney?" I said.

"No," she answered. "I have heard a great deal about him. He seems to be a stiff sort of a man. But as to Mr. Larramie, everybody likes him. He is a great favorite throughout the county, and his son Walter is a rising young man. I am glad you made the acquaintance of the Larramies."

"So am I," I said, "very glad indeed. And, by-the-way, do you know a young man named Willoughby? I never heard his first name, but he lives at Waterton."

"Oh, the Willoughbys of Waterton," she said. "I have heard a great deal about them. Father used to know the old gentleman. He was a great collector of rare books, but he is dead now. If you had met him you would have found him a man of your own tastes."

When I was going away she stopped me for a moment. "I forgot to ask you," she said; "did you take any of those capsules I gave you when you were starting off on your cycle?"

"Yes," said I, "I took some of them." But I could not well explain the capricious way in which I had endeavored to guard against the germs of malaria, and to call my own attention to the threatening germs of erratic fancy.

"Then you do not think they did you any good?" she said.

"I am not sure," I replied. "I cannot say anything about that. But of one thing I am certain, and that is, that if any germs of any kind entered my system, it is perfectly free from them now."

"I am glad to hear that," she said.

It was about a week after this that I received a letter from Percy Larramie. "I thought you would like to know about the bear," he wrote. "Somebody must have forgotten to feed him, and he broke his chain and got away. He went straight over to the Holly Sprig Inn, and I expect he did that because the inn was the last place he had seen his master. I did not know bears cared so much for masters. He didn't stay long at the inn, but he stayed long enough to bite a boy. Then he went into the woods.

"As soon as we heard of it we all set off on a bear-hunt. It was jolly fun, although I did not so much as catch a sight of him. Father shot him at a three-hundred-foot range. It was a Winchester rifle with a thirty-two cartridge. It was a beautiful shot, Walter said, and I wish I had made it.

"We took his skin off and tore it only in two or three places, which can be mended. Would you like to have the skin, and do you care particularly about the head? If you don't, I would like to have it, because without it the skeleton will not be perfect."

I wrote to Percy that I did not desire so much as a single hair of the beast. I did not tell him so, but I despised the bears of Cathay.

It was just before the Christmas holidays when I finally made up my mind that of all the women in the world the Doctor's daughter was the one for me, and when I told her so she did not try to conceal that this was also her own opinion. I had seen the most charming qualities in other women, and my somewhat rapid and enthusiastic study of them had so familiarized me with them that I was enabled readily to perceive their existence in others. I found them all in the Doctor's daughter.

Her father was very well pleased when he heard of our compact. It was plain that he had been waiting to hear of it. When he furthermore heard that I had decided to abandon all thought of the law, and to study medicine instead, his satisfaction was complete. He arranged everything with affectionate prudence. I should read with him, beginning immediately, even before I gave up my school. I should attend the necessary medical courses, and we need be in no hurry to marry. We were both young, and when I was ready to become his assistant it would be time enough for him to give me his daughter.

We were sitting together in the Doctor's library and had been looking over some of the papers of the Walford Literary Society, of which we were both officers, when I said, looking at her signature: "By-the-way, I wish you would tell me one thing. What does the initial 'E.' stand for in your name? I never knew any one to use it."

"No," she said; "I do not like it. It was given to me by my mother's sister, who was a romantic young lady. It is Europa. And I only hope," she added, quickly, "that you may have fifty years of it."

* * * * *

Three years of the fifty have now passed, and each one of the young women I met in Cathay has married. The first one to go off was Edith Larramie. She married the college friend of her brother who was at the house when I visited them. When I met her in Walford shortly after I heard of her engagement, she took me aside in her old way and told me she wanted me always to look upon her as my friend, no matter how circumstances might change with her or me.

"You do not know how much of a friend I was to you," she said, "and it is not at all necessary you should know. But I will say that when I saw you getting into such a dreadful snarl in our part of the country, I determined, if there were no other way to save you, I would marry you myself! But I did not do it, and you ought to be very glad of it, for you would have found that a little of me, now and then, would be a great deal more to your taste than to have me always."

(Illustration: EUROPA)

Mrs. Chester married the man who had courted her before she fell in love with her school-master. It appeared that the fact of her having been the landlady of the Holly Sprig made no difference in his case. He was too rich to have any prospects which might be interfered with.

Amy Willoughby married Walter Larramie. That was a thing which might well have been expected. I was very glad to hear it, for I shall never fail to be interested in the Larramies.

About a year ago there was a grand wedding at the Putney city mansion. The daughter of the family was married to an Italian gentleman with a title. I read of the affair in the newspapers, and having heard, in addition, a great many details of the match from the gossips of Walford, I supposed myself to be fully informed in regard to this grand alliance, and was therefore very much surprised to receive, personally, an announcement of the marriage upon a very large and stiff card, on which were given, in full, the various titles and dignities of the noble bridegroom. I did not believe Mr. Putney had sent me this card, nor that his wife had done so; certainly the Count did not send it. But no matter how it came to me, I was very sure I owed it to the determination, on the part of some one, that by no mischance should I fail to know exactly what had happened. I heard recently that the noble lady and her husband expect to spend the summer at her father's country-house, and some people believe that they intend to make it their permanent home.

The Doctor strongly advises that Europa and I should go before long and settle in the Cathay region. He thinks that it will be a most excellent field for me to begin my labors in, and he knows many families there who would doubtless give me their practice.

Frank R Stockton's book: Bicycle of Cathay: A Novel

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