A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 9, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 9

He was a very slow walker, that bear. If I had been alone I would have
been out of sight of the inn in less than five minutes. As it was, I
looked back after a considerable time to see if I really were out of
sight of the house, and I found I was not. She was still standing in
the doorway, and when I turned she waved her handkerchief. Now that I
had truly left and was gone, she seemed to be willing to let me know
better than before what a charming woman she was. I took off my hat
again and pressed forward.

For a couple of miles, perhaps, I walked thoughtfully, and I do not
believe I once thought of the bear shambling silently behind me. I had
been dreaming a day-dream--not building a castle in the air, for I had
seen before me a castle already built. I had simply been dreaming
myself into it, into its life, into its possessions, into the
possession of everything which belonged to it.

It had been a fascinating vision. It had suited my fancy better than
any vision of the future which I had ever had. I was not ambitious; I
loved the loveliness of life. I was a student, and I had a dream of
life which would not interfere with the society of my books. I loved
all rural pleasures, and I had dreamed of a life where these were
spread out ready for my enjoyment. I was a man formed to love, and
there had come to me dreams of this sort of thing.

My dreams had even taken practical shape. As I was dressing myself
that morning I had puzzled my brain to find a pretext for taking the
first step, which would be to remain a few days at the inn.

The pretext for doing this had appeared to me. For a moment I had
snatched at it and shown my joy, and then it had utterly
disappeared--the vision, the fancy, the anticipations, the plans, the
vine-covered home in the air, all were destroyed as completely as if
it had been the tire of my bicycle scattered about in little bits upon
the ground.

"Come along, old Orso!" I exclaimed, endeavoring to mend my pace, and
giving the bear a good pull upon his chain. But the ugly creature did
not walk any faster; he simply looked at me with an air as if he would
say that if I kept long upon the road I would learn to take it easy,
and maintained the deliberate slouch of his demeanor.

Presently I stopped, and Orso was very willing to imitate me in that
action. I found, to my surprise, that I was not walking upon a
macadamized road: such was the highway which passed the inn and led, I
had been told, to the Cheltenham. I was now upon a road of gravel and
clay, smooth enough and wide enough, but of a different character from
that on which I had started that morning. I looked about me. Across a
field to my left I saw a line of trees which seemed to indicate a
road. I had a dim recollection of having passed a road which seemed to
turn to the left, but I had been thinking very earnestly, and had paid
little attention to it. Probably that road was the main road and this
the one which turned off.

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