A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 9, page 2 of 6)


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Chapter 9

I determined to investigate. It would not do to wander out of my way
with my present encumbrance. It was now somewhat after noon; the
country people were eating their dinners or engaged about their barns;
there was nobody upon the road. At some distance ahead of me was a
small house standing well back behind a little group of trees, and I
decided to go there and make inquiries. And as it would not do at all
to throw a rural establishment into a state of wild confusion by
leading a bear up to its door, I conducted Orso to the side of the
road and chained him to a fence-post. He was perfectly satisfied and
lay down, his nose upon his fore-paws.

I found three women in the little house. They were in a side kitchen
eating their dinner, and I wondered what the bear would have done if
he had smelled that dinner. They told me that I was not on the main
road, and would have to go back more than half a mile in order to
regain it.

When I was out on the road again I said to myself that if I could
possibly make Orso step along at a little more lively pace I might get
to the hotel in time for a very late luncheon, and I was beginning to
think that I had not been wise in declining portable refreshment, when
I heard a noise ahead of me. At a considerable distance along the
road, and not far from where I had left the bear, I saw a horse
attached to a vehicle approaching me at a furious speed. He was
running away! The truth flashed upon me--he had been frightened by
Orso!

I ran a few steps towards the approaching horse. His head was high in
the air, and the vehicle swayed from side to side. It was a tall
affair with two wheels, and on the high seat sat a lady vainly tugging
at the reins. My heart sank. What dreadful thing had I done!

I stood in the middle of the road. It seemed but a few seconds before
the horse was upon me. He swerved to one side, but I was ready for
that. I dashed at his bridle, but caught the end of his cumbrous bit
in my right hand. I leaned forward with all the strength that dwelt in
my muscles and nerves. The horse's glaring eye was over my face, and I
felt the round end of a shaft rise up under my arm. A pair of
outstretched forelegs slid past me. I saw the end of a banged tail
switching in the dust. The horse was on his haunches. He was stopped.

Before I had time to recover an erect attitude and to let up the horse
the occupant of the vehicle was on the ground She had skipped down
with wonderful alacrity on the side opposite to me, and was coming
round by the back of the cart. The horse was now standing on his four
legs, trembling in every fibre, and with eyes that were still wild and
staring. Holding him firmly, I faced the lady as she stopped near me.
She was a young woman in a jaunty summer costume and a round straw
hat. She did not seem to be quite mistress of herself; she was not
pale, but perhaps that was because her face was somewhat browned by
the sun, but her step was not steady, and she breathed hard. Under
ordinary circumstances she would have been assisted to the side of the
road, where she might sit down and recover herself, and have water
brought to her. But I could do nothing of that sort. I could not leave
that shivering horse.

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