A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 5, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 5

The day was fine, and the landscape lay clean and sharply defined
under the blue sky and white clouds. I sped along in a cheerful mood,
well pleased with what my good cycle had so far done for me. Again I
passed the open gate of the Putney estate, and glanced through it at
the lodge. I saw no one, and was glad of it--better pleased, perhaps,
than I could have given good reason for. When I had gone on a few
hundred yards I was suddenly startled by a voice--a female voice.

"Well! well!" cried some one on my right, and turning, I saw, above a
low wall, the head and shoulders of the young lady with the dark eyes
with whom I had parted an hour or so before. A broad hat shaded her
face, her eyes were very dark and very wide open, and I saw some of
her beautiful teeth, although she was not smiling or laughing. It
was plain that she had not come down there to see me pass; she was
genuinely astonished; I dismounted and approached the wall.
"I thought you were miles and miles on your way!" said she. It
occurred to me that I had recently heard a remark very like this, and
yet the words, as they came from the slender girl and from this one,
seemed to have entirely different meanings. She was desirous,
earnestly desirous, to know how I came to be passing this place at
this time, when I had left their gate so long before, and, as I was
not unwilling to gratify her curiosity, I told her the whole story of
the accident the day before, and of everything which had followed it.

"And you went all the way back," she said, "to inquire after that
Burton girl?"

"Do you know her?" I asked.

"No," she said, "I do not know her; but I have seen her often, and I
know all about her family. They seem to be of such little consequence,
one way or the other, that I can scarcely understand how things could
so twist themselves that you should consider it necessary to go back
there this morning before you really started on your day's journey."

I do not remember what I said, but it was something commonplace, no
doubt, but I imagined I perceived a little pique in the young lady. Of
course I did not object to this, for nothing could be more flattering
to a young man than the exhibition of such a feeling on an occasion
such as this.

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