A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 4, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 4

The young lady accompanied me into the hall. "I must get my valise," I
said, "and then I must be off. And I assure you--"

"No, do not trouble yourself about your valise," she interrupted.
"Brownster will attend to that--he will take it down to the lodge.
And as to your gorgeous raiment, he will see that that is all properly
returned to its owners."

I picked up my cap, and she walked with me out upon the piazza. "I
suppose you saw everything on our place," she asked, "when you were
walking about this morning?"

A little surprised, I answered that I had seen a good deal, but I did
not add that I had not found what I was looking for.

"We have all sorts of hot-houses and green-houses," she said, "but
they are not very interesting at this time of the year, otherwise I
would ask you to walk through them before you go." She then went on to
tell me that a little building which she pointed out was a
mushroom-house. "And you will think it strange that it should be there
when I tell you that not one of our family likes mushrooms or ever
tastes one. But the manager thinks that we ought to grow mushrooms,
and so we do it."

As she was talking, the thought came to me that there were some people
who might consider this young lady a little forward in her method of
entertaining a comparative stranger, but I dismissed this idea. With
such a peculiarly constituted family it was perhaps necessary for her
to put herself forward, in regard, at least, to the expression of
hospitality.

"One thing I must show you," she said, suddenly, "and that is the
orchid-house! Are you fond of orchids?"

"Under certain circumstances," I said, unguardedly, "I could be fond
of apple-cores." As soon as I had spoken these words I would have
been glad to recall them, but they seemed to make no impression
whatever on her.

We walked to the orchid-house, we went through it, and she explained
all its beauties, its singularities, and its rarities. When we came
out again, I asked myself: "Is she in the habit of doing all this to
chance visitors? Would she treat a Brown or a Robinson in the way she
is treating me?" I could not answer my question, but if Brown and
Robinson had appeared at that moment I should have been glad to knock
their heads together.

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