A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 6, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 6

In the middle of the day I stopped at Vernon, and the afternoon was
well advanced when I came in sight of a little way-side house with a
broad unfenced green in front of it, and a swinging sign which told
the traveller that this was the "Holly Sprig Inn."

I dismounted on the opposite side of the road and gazed upon the
smoothly shaven greensward in front of the little inn; upon the pretty
upper windows peeping out from their frames of leaves; upon the
queerly-shaped projections of the building; upon the low portico which
shaded the doorway; and upon the gentle stream of blue smoke which
rose from the great gray chimney.

Then I turned and looked over the surrounding country. There were
broad meadows slightly descending to a long line of trees, between
which I could see the glimmering of water. On the other side of the
road, and extending back of the inn, there were low, forest-crowned
hills. Then my eyes, returning to nearer objects, fell upon an
old-fashioned garden, with bright flowers and rows of box, which lay
beyond the house.

"Why on earth," I thought, "should I pass such a place as this and go
on to the Cheltenham, with its waiters in coat tails, its nurse-maids,
and its rows of people on piazzas? She could not know my tastes, and
perhaps she had thought but little on the subject, and had taken her
ideas from her father. He is just the man to be contented with nothing
else than a vast sprawling hotel, with disdainful menials expecting
tips."

I rolled my bicycle along the little path which ran around the green,
and knocked upon the open door of Holly Sprig Inn.

In a few moments a boy came into the hall. He was not dressed like an
ordinary hotel attendant, but his appearance was decent, and he might
have been a sub-clerk or a head hall-boy.

"Can I obtain lodging here for the night?" I asked.

The boy looked at me from head to foot, and an expression such as
might be produced by too much lemon juice came upon his face.

"No," said he; "we don't take cyclers."

This reception was something novel to me, who had cycled over
thousands of miles, and I was not at all inclined to accept it at the
hands of the boy. I stepped into the hall. "Can I see the master of
this house?" said I.

"There ain't none," he answered, gruffly.

"Well, then, I want to see whoever is in charge."

He looked as if he were about to say that he was in charge, but he had
no opportunity for such impertinence. A female figure came into the
hall and advanced towards me. She stopped in an attitude of
interrogation.

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