A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 5, page 2 of 4)


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Chapter 5

But if she felt any pique she quickly brushed it out of sight, for, as
I have said before, she was a young woman who had great command of
herself. Of course I said to her that I was very glad to have this
chance of seeing her again, and she answered, with a laugh: "If you really are glad, you ought to thank the Burton girl. This is
one of my favorite walks. The path runs along inside the wall for a
considerable distance and then turns around the little hill over
there, and so leads back to the house. When I happened to look over
the wall and saw you I was truly surprised."

The ground was lower on the outside of the wall than on the inside,
and as I stood and looked almost into the eyes of this girl, as she
leaned with her arms upon the smooth top of the wall, the idea which
the gardener's wife put into my head came into it again. This was a
beautiful face, and the expression upon it was different from
anything I had seen there before. Her surprise had disappeared, her
pique had gone, but a very great interest in the incident of my
passing this spot at the moment of her being there was plainly
evident. As I gazed at her my blood ran warmer through my veins, and
there came upon me a feeling of the olden time--of the days when the
brave cavalier rode up to the spot where, waiting for him, his lady
sat upon her impatient jennet.

Without the least hesitation, I asked: "Do you ride a wheel?"

She looked wonderingly at me for a moment, and then broke into a
laugh.

"Why on earth do you ask such a question as that? I have a bicycle,
but I am not a very good rider, and I never venture out upon the
public road by myself."

"You shouldn't think of such a thing," said I; and then I stood
silent, and my mind showed me two young people, each mounted, not upon
a swift steed, but upon a far swifter pair of wheels, skimming onward
through the summer air, still rolling on, on, on, through country
lanes and woodland roads, laughing at pursuit if they heard the
trampling of eager hoofs behind them, with never a telegraph wire to
stretch menacingly above them, and so on, on, on, their eyes
sparkling, their hearts beating high with youthful hope.

Again, through the tender mists of the afternoon, I saw them returning
from some secluded Gretna Green to bend their knees and bow their
heads before the lord of the fair bride's home.

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