A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 7, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 7

"Oh yes, and more. I think the two years he spent here were the
happiest of his life."

I was not yet quite sure about the state of affairs; he might be in an
insane asylum, or he might be a hopeless invalid up-stairs.

"If he had lived," she continued, "I suppose this would have been a
wonderfully beautiful place, for he was always making improvements.
But it is four years now since his death, and in that time there has
been very little change in the inn."

I do not remember what answer I made to this remark, but I gazed out
upon the situation as if it were an unrolled map.

"When you wrote your name in the book," she said, "it seemed to me as
if you had brought a note of introduction, and I am sure I am very
glad to be acquainted with you, for, you know, you are my husband's
successor. He did not like teaching, but he was fond of his scholars,
and he always had a great fancy for school-teachers. Whenever one of
them stopped here--which happened two or three times--he insisted that
he should be put into our best room, if it happened to be vacant, and
that is the reason I have put you into it to-day."

This was charming. She was such an extremely agreeable young person
that it was delightful for me to think of myself in any way as her
husband's successor.

There was a step at the door. I turned and saw the elderly servant.

"Mrs. Chester," she said, "I'm goin' up," and every word was flavored
with citric acid.

"Good-night," said Mrs. Chester, taking up her basket and her work.
"You know, you need not retire until you wish to do so. There is a
room opposite, where gentlemen smoke."

I did not enter the big, lonely room. I went to my own chamber,
which, I had just been informed, was the best in the house. I sat down
in an easy-chair by the open window. I looked up to the twinkling
stars.

Reading, studying, fishing, beautiful country, and all that. And he
did not like school-teaching! No wonder he was happier here than he
had ever been before! My eyes wandered around the tastefully furnished
room. "Her husband's successor," I said to myself, pondering. "He did
not like school-teaching, and he was so happy here." Of course he was
happy. "Died and left him some money." There was no one to leave me
any money, but I had saved some for the time when I should devote
myself entirely to my profession. Profession--I thought. After all,
what is there in a profession? Slavery; anxiety. And he chose a life
of reading, studying, fishing, and everything else.

I turned to the window and again looked up into the sky. There was a
great star up there, and it seemed to wink cheerfully at me as the
words came into my mind, "her husband's successor."

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