A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 1, page 1 of 4)


 
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Chapter 1

It was a beautiful summer morning when slowly I wheeled my way along
the principal street of the village of Walford. A little valise was
strapped in front of my bicycle; my coat, rolled into a small compass,
was securely tied under the seat, and I was starting out to spend my
vacation.

I was the teacher of the village school, which useful institution had
been closed for the season the day before, much to the gratification
of pedagogue and scholars. This position was not at all the summit of
my youthful ambition. In fact, I had been very much disappointed when
I found myself obliged to accept it, but when I left college my
financial condition made it desirable for me to do something to
support myself while engaged in some of the studies preparatory to a
professional career.

I have never considered myself a sentimental person, but I must admit
that I did not feel very happy that morning, and this state of mind
was occasioned entirely by the feeling that there was no one who
seemed to be in the least sorry that I was going away. My boys were so
delighted to give up their studies that they were entirely satisfied
to give up their teacher, and I am sure that my vacation would have
been a very long one if they had had the ordering of it. My landlady
might have been pleased to have me stay, but if I had agreed to pay my
board during my absence I do not doubt that my empty room would have
occasioned her no pangs of regret. I had friends in the village, but
as they knew it was a matter of course that I should go away during
the vacation, they seemed to be perfectly reconciled to the fact.

As I passed a small house which was the abode of my laundress, my
mental depression was increased by the action of her oldest son. This
little fellow, probably five years of age, and the condition of whose
countenance indicated that his mother's art was seldom exercised upon
it, was playing on the sidewalk with his sister, somewhat younger and
much dirtier.

As I passed the little chap he looked up and in a sharp, clear voice,
he cried: "Good-bye! Come back soon!" These words cut into my soul.
Was it possible that this little ragamuffin was the only one in that
village who was sorry to see me depart and who desired my return? And
the acuteness of this cut was not decreased by the remembrance that on
several occasions when he had accompanied his mother to my lodging I
had given him small coins.

 
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