A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 7, page 3 of 8)


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Chapter 7

When I opened my little valise, before going to bed, I saw the box the
doctor's daughter had given me.

After sitting so long at the open window, thought I, it might be well
to take one of these capsules, and I swallowed one.

When I was called to breakfast the next morning I saw that the table
was laid with covers for two. In a moment my hostess entered and bade
me good-morning. We sat down at the table; and the elderly woman
waited. I could now see that her face was the color of a shop-worn
lemon.

As for the lady who had gone to school at Walford--I wondered what
place in the old school-room she had occupied--she was more charming
than ever. Her manner was so cordial and cheerful that I could not
doubt that she considered the entry of my name in her book as a
regular introduction. She asked me about my plan of travel, how far I
would go in a day, and that sort of thing. The elderly woman was very
grim, and somehow or other I did not take very much interest in my
plan of travel, but the meal was an extremely pleasant one for all
that.

The natural thing for me to do after I finished my breakfast was to
pay my bill and ride away, but I felt no inclination for anything of
the sort. In fact, the naturalness of departure did not strike me. I
went out on the little porch and gazed upon the bright, fresh morning
landscape, and as I did so I asked myself why I should mount my
bicycle and wheel away over hot and dusty roads, leaving all this
cool, delicious beauty behind me.

What could I find more enjoyable than this? Why should I not spend a
few days at this inn, reading, studying, fishing? Here I wondered why
that man told me such a lie about the fishing. If I wanted to exercise
on my wheel I felt sure there were pretty roads hereabout. I had
plenty of time before me--my whole vacation. Why should I be consumed
by this restless desire to get on?

I could not help smiling as I thought of my somewhat absurd fancies of
the night before; but they were pleasant fancies, and I did not wonder
that they had come to me. It certainly is provocative of pleasant
fancies to have an exceedingly attractive young woman talk of you in
any way as her husband's successor.

I could not make up my mind what I ought to do, and I walked back into
the hall. I glanced into the parlor, but it was unoccupied. Then I
went into the large room on the right; no one was there, and I stood
by the window trying to make up my mind in regard to proposing a brief
stay at the inn.

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