A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 3, page 1 of 13)


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Chapter 3

Thinking thus, I almost forgot the storm, but coming to a slight
descent where the road was very smooth I became conscious that my
wheel was inclined to slip, and if I were not careful I might come to
grief. But no sooner had I reached the bottom of the declivity than I
beheld on my right a lighted doorway. Without the slightest hesitation
I turned through the wide gateway, the posts of which I could scarcely
see, and stopped in front of a small house by the side of a driveway.
Waiting for no permission, I carried my bicycle into a little covered
porch. I then approached the door, for I was now seeking not only
shelter but an opportunity to dry myself. I do not believe a sponge
could have been more thoroughly soaked than I was.

At the very entrance I was met by a little man in short jacket and
top-boots.

"I heard your step," said he. "Been caught in the rain, eh? Well, this
is a storm! And now what're we going to do? You must come in. But
you're in a pretty mess, I must say! Hi, Maria!"

At these words a large, fresh-looking woman came into the little hall.

"Maria," said the man, "here's a gentleman that's pretty nigh drowned,
and he's dripping puddles big enough to swim in."

The woman smiled. "Really, sir," said she, "you've had a hard time.
Wheeling, I suppose. It's an awful time to be out. It's so dark that I
lighted a lamp to make things look a little cheery. But you must come
in until the rain is over, and try and dry yourself."

"But how about the hall, Maria?" said the man. "There'll be a dreadful
slop!"

"Oh, I'll make that all right," she said. She disappeared, and quickly
returned with a couple of rugs, which she laid, wrong side up, on the
polished floor of the hallway. "Now you can step on those, sir, and
come into the kitchen. There's a fire there."

I thanked her, and presently found myself before a large stove, on
which it was evident, from the odors, that supper was preparing. In a
certain way the heat was grateful, but in less than a minute I was
bound to admit to myself that I felt as if I were enveloped in a vast
warm poultice. The little man and his wife--if wife she were, for she
looked big enough to be his mother, and young enough to be his
daughter--stood talking in the hall, and I could hear every word they
said.

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