A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 7, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 7

I sat on that porch a good while, but she did not come out again. Why
should she? Nobody came out, and within I could hear no sound of
voices. I might certainly recommend this inn as a quiet place. The
Italian and the crickets continued singing and chirping, but they only
seemed to make the scene more lonely.

I went in-doors. On the left hand of the hall was a door which I had
not noticed before, but which was now open. There was a light within,
and I saw a prettily-furnished parlor. There was a table with a lamp
on it, and by the table sat the lady, Mrs. Chester. I involuntarily
stopped, and, looking up, she invited me to come in. Instantly I
accepted the invitation, but with a sort of an apology for the
intrusion.

"Oh, this is the public parlor," she said, "although everything about
this house seems private at present. We generally have families
staying with us in the summer, but last week nearly all of them went
away to the sea-shore. In a few days, however, we expect to be full
again."

She immediately began to talk about Walford, for evidently the subject
interested her, and I answered all her questions as well as I could.

"You may know that my husband taught that school. I was his scholar
before I became his wife."

I had heard of a Mr. Chester who, before me, had taught the school,
but, although the information had not interested me at the time, now
it did. I wished very much to ask what Mr. Chester was doing at
present, but I waited.

"I went to boarding-school after I left Walford," said she, "and so
for a time lost sight of the village, although I have often visited it
since."

"How long is it since Mr. Chester gave up the school there?" I asked.

This proved to be a very good question indeed. "About six years," she
said. "He gave it up just before we were married. He did not like
teaching school, and as the death of his father put him into the
possession of some money, he was able to change his mode of life. It
was by accident that we settled here as innkeepers. We happened to
pass the place, and Mr. Chester was struck by its beauty. It was not
an inn then, but he thought it would make a charming one, and he also
thought that this sort of life would suit him exactly. He was a
student, a great reader, and a lover of rural sports--such as fishing
and all that."

"Was." Here was a dim light. "Was" must mean that Mr. Chester had
been. If he were living, he would still be a reader and a student.

"Did he find the new life all that he expected?" I said, hesitating a
little at the word did, as it was not impossible that I might be
mistaken.

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