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Title: A Bicycle of Cathay
Author: Stockton, Frank Richard, 1834-1902
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Bicycle of Cathay" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A BICYCLE OF CATHAY

A Novel

By Frank R. Stockton

Author of "The Great Stone of Sardis," "The Associate Hermits" etc.

Illustrated by Orson Lowell

1900



[Illustration: The doctor's daughter]



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

    I. THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER

   II. A BAD TWIST

  III. THE DUKE'S DRESSING-GOWN

   IV. A BIT OF ADVICE

    V. THE LADY AND THE CAVALIER

   VI. THE HOLLY SPRIG INN

  VII. MRS. CHESTER IS TROUBLED

 VIII. ORSO

   IX. A RUNAWAY

    X. THE LARRAMIE FAMILY

   XI. THE THREE MCKENNAS

  XII. BACK TO THE HOLLY SPRIG

 XIII. A MAN WITH A LETTER

  XIV. MISS EDITH IS DISAPPOINTED

   XV. MISS WILLOUGHBY

  XVI. AN ICICLE

 XVII. A FORECASTER OF HUMAN PROBABILITIES

XVIII. REPENTANCE AVAILS NOT

  XIX. BEAUTY, PURITY, AND PEACE

   XX. BACK FROM CATHAY



ILLUSTRATIONS


THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER

HALF-TITLE

"I PUT ON MY COAT"

"THE RAIN WAS COMING DOWN HARD"

"ON MY RIGHT A LIGHTED DOORWAY"

A FEW THOUGHTS

"THE BEAUTY OF HER TEETH"

"I KICKED OFF MY EMBROIDERED SLIPPERS"

"IT WOULD BE WELL FOR ME TO SWALLOW A CAPSULE"

"AS SOON AS I HAD SPOKEN THESE WORDS"

"I DISMOUNTED AND APPROACHED THE WALL"

"I THOUGHT FOR A FEW MOMENTS"

"I WENT OUT FOR A WALK"

MRS. CHESTER

"SHE BEGAN TO TALK ABOUT WALFORD"

"BUT WE WERE NOT ALONE"

"TO MY LEFT I SAW A LINE OF TREES"

"HE WAS RUNNING AWAY"

"HE SOON FELT THAT HE WAS UNDER CONTROL"

"A LITTLE ARMY HAD THROWN ITSELF UPON ME"

"'WOULD IT BE EASIER TO MANAGE A BOY OR A BEAR?'"

"I TAPPED MY LEFT PALM"

"THERE WAS A SUDDEN FLUSH UPON HER FACE"

"THE SCENE VIVIDLY RECURRED TO MY MIND"

DECIPHERING THE DAGO'S LETTER

"'I DON'T THINK YOU OUGHT TO TAKE THIS LETTER'"

"'DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HIT IT WITH AN APPLE?'"

"TALKING ABOUT BABY BEARS"

"I HELD THAT PICTURE A GOOD WHILE"

"'NO, SIR,' SHE SAID"

"CUT LIKE THAT"

EUROPA



[Illustration]



CHAPTER I

THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER


It was a beautiful summer morning when slowly I wheeled my way along
the principal street of the village of Walford. A little valise was
strapped in front of my bicycle; my coat, rolled into a small compass,
was securely tied under the seat, and I was starting out to spend my
vacation.

I was the teacher of the village school, which useful institution had
been closed for the season the day before, much to the gratification
of pedagogue and scholars. This position was not at all the summit of
my youthful ambition. In fact, I had been very much disappointed when
I found myself obliged to accept it, but when I left college my
financial condition made it desirable for me to do something to
support myself while engaged in some of the studies preparatory to a
professional career.

I have never considered myself a sentimental person, but I must admit
that I did not feel very happy that morning, and this state of mind
was occasioned entirely by the feeling that there was no one who
seemed to be in the least sorry that I was going away. My boys were so
delighted to give up their studies that they were entirely satisfied
to give up their teacher, and I am sure that my vacation would have
been a very long one if they had had the ordering of it. My landlady
might have been pleased to have me stay, but if I had agreed to pay my
board during my absence I do not doubt that my empty room would have
occasioned her no pangs of regret. I had friends in the village, but
as they knew it was a matter of course that I should go away during
the vacation, they seemed to be perfectly reconciled to the fact.

As I passed a small house which was the abode of my laundress, my
mental depression was increased by the action of her oldest son. This
little fellow, probably five years of age, and the condition of whose
countenance indicated that his mother's art was seldom exercised upon
it, was playing on the sidewalk with his sister, somewhat younger and
much dirtier.

As I passed the little chap he looked up and in a sharp, clear voice,
he cried: "Good-bye! Come back soon!" These words cut into my soul.
Was it possible that this little ragamuffin was the only one in that
village who was sorry to see me depart and who desired my return? And
the acuteness of this cut was not decreased by the remembrance that on
several occasions when he had accompanied his mother to my lodging I
had given him small coins.

I was beginning to move more rapidly along the little path, well worn
by many rubber tires, which edged the broad roadway, when I perceived
the doctor's daughter standing at the gate of her father's front yard.
As I knew her very well, and she happened to be standing there and
looking in my direction, I felt that it would be the proper thing for
me to stop and speak to her, and so I dismounted and proceeded to roll
my bicycle up to the gate.

As the doctor's daughter stood looking over the gate, her hands
clasped the tops of the two central pickets.

"Good-morning," said she. "I suppose, from your carrying baggage,
that you are starting off for your vacation. How far do you expect to
go on your wheel, and do you travel alone?"

"My only plan," I answered, "is to ride over the hills and far away!
How far I really do not know; and I shall be alone except for this
good companion." And as I said this I patted the handle-bar of my
bicycle.

"Your wheel does seem to be a sort of a companion," she said; "not so
good as a horse, but better than nothing. I should think, travelling
all by yourself in this way, you would have quite a friendly feeling
for it. Did you ever think of giving it a name?"

"Oh yes," said I. "I have named it. I call it a 'Bicycle of Cathay.'"

"Is there any sense in such a name?" she asked. "It is like part of a
quotation from Tennyson, isn't it? I forget the first of it."

"You are right," I said. "'Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle
of Cathay.' I cannot tell you exactly why, but that seems to suggest a
good name for a bicycle."

"But your machine has two wheels," said she. "Therefore you ought to
say, 'Better one hundred years of Europe than two cycles of Cathay.'"

"I bow to custom," said I. "Every one speaks of a bicycle as a wheel,
and I shall not introduce the plural into the name of my good steed."

"And you don't know where your Cathay is to be?" she asked.

I smiled and shook my head. "No," I answered, "but I hope my cycle
will carry me safely through it."

The doctor's daughter looked past me across the road. "I wish I were a
man," said she, "and could go off as I pleased, as you do! It must be
delightfully independent."

I was about to remark that too much independence is not altogether
delightful, but she suddenly spoke:

"You carry very little with you for a long journey," and as she said
this she grasped the pickets of the gate more tightly. I could see the
contraction of the muscles of her white hands. It seemed as if she
were restraining something.

"Oh, this isn't all my baggage," I replied. "I sent on a large bag to
Waterton. I suppose I shall be there in a couple of days, and then I
shall forward the bag to some other place."

"I do not suppose you have packed up any medicine among your other
things?" she asked. "You don't look as if you very often needed
medicine."

I laughed as I replied that in the course of my life I had taken but
little.

"But if your cycle starts off rolling early in the morning," she said,
"or keeps on late in the evening, you ought to be able to defend
yourself against malaria. I do not know what sort of a country Cathay
may be, but I should not be a bit surprised if you found it full of
mists and morning vapors. Malaria has a fancy for strong people, you
know. Just wait here a minute, please," and with that she turned and
ran into the house.

I had liked the doctor's daughter ever since I had begun to know her,
although at first I had found it a little hard to become acquainted
with her.

She was the treasurer of the literary society of the village, and I
was its secretary. We had to work together sometimes, and I found her
a very straightforward girl in her accounts and in every other way.

In about a minute she returned, carrying a little pasteboard box.

"Here are some one-grain quinine capsules," she said. "They have no
taste, and I am quite sure that if you get into a low country it would
be a good thing for you to take at least one of them every morning.
People may have given you all sorts of things for your journey, but I
do not believe any one has given you this." And she handed me the box
over the top of the gate.

I did not say that her practical little present was the only thing
that anybody had given me, but I thanked her very heartily, and
assured her that I would take one every time I thought I needed it.
Then, as it seemed proper to do so, I straightened up my bicycle as if
I would mount it. Again her fingers clutched the top of the two
palings.

"When father comes home," she said, "he will be sorry to find that he
had not a chance to bid you good-bye. And, by-the-way," she added,
quickly, "you know there will be one more meeting of the society. Did
you write out any minutes for the last evening, and would you like me
to read them for you?"

"Upon my word!" I exclaimed. "I have forgotten all about it. I made
some rough notes, but I have written nothing."

"Well, it doesn't matter in the least," said she, quickly. "I remember
everything that happened, and I will write the minutes and read them
for you; that is, if you want me to."

I assured her that nothing would please me better, and we talked a
little about the minutes, after which I thought I ought not to keep
her standing at the gate any longer. So I took leave of her, and we
shook hands over the gate. This was the first time I had ever shaken
hands with the doctor's daughter, for she was a reserved girl, and
hitherto I had merely bowed to her.

As I sped away down the street and out into the open country my heart
was a good deal lighter than it had been when I began my journey. It
was certainly pleasant to leave that village, which had been my home
for the greater part of a year, without the feeling that there was no
one in it who cared for me, even to the extent of a little box of
quinine capsules.



CHAPTER II

A BAD TWIST


It was about the middle of the afternoon that I found myself bowling
along a smooth highway, bordered by trees and stretching itself almost
upon a level far away into the distance. Had I been a scorcher, here
would have been a chance to do a little record-breaking, for I was a
powerful and practised wheelman. But I had no desire to be extravagant
with my energies, and so contented myself with rolling steadily on at
a speed moderate enough to allow me to observe the country I was
passing through.

There were not many people on the road, but at some distance ahead of
me I saw a woman on a wheel. She was not going rapidly, and I was
gaining on her. Suddenly, with no reason whatever that I could see,
her machine gave a twist, and, although she put out her foot to save
herself, she fell to the ground. Instantly I pushed forward to assist
her, but before I could reach her she was on her feet. She made a step
towards her bicycle, which lay in the middle of the road, and then she
stopped and stood still. I saw that she was hurt, but I could not help
a sort of inward smile. "It is the old way of the world," I thought.
"Would the Fates have made that young woman fall from her bicycle if
there had been two men coming along on their wheels?"

As I jumped from my machine and approached her she turned her head and
looked at me. She was a pale girl, and her face was troubled. When I
asked her if she had hurt herself, she spoke to me without the
slightest embarrassment or hesitation.

"I twisted my foot in some way," she said, "and I do not know what I
am going to do. It hurts me to make a step, and I am sure I cannot
work my wheel."

"Have you far to go?" I asked.

"I live about two miles from here," she answered. "I do not think I
have sprained my ankle, but it hurts. Perhaps, however, if I rest for
a little while I may be able to walk."

"I would not try to do that," said I. "Whatever has happened to your
foot or ankle, you would certainly make it very much worse by walking
such a distance. Perhaps I can ride on and get you a conveyance?"

"You would have to go a long way to get one," she answered. "We do not
keep a horse and I really--"

"Don't trouble yourself in the least," I said. "I can take you to your
home without any difficulty whatever. If you will mount your machine I
can push you along very easily."

"But then you would have to walk yourself," she said, quickly, "and
push your wheel too."

Of course it would not have been necessary for me to walk, for I could
have ridden my bicycle and have pushed her along on her own, but under
the circumstances I did not think it wise to risk this. So I accepted
her suggestion of walking as if nothing else could be done.

"Oh, I do not mind walking a bit," said I. "I am used to it, and as I
have been riding for a long time, it would be a relief to me."

She stood perfectly still, apparently afraid to move lest she should
hurt her foot, but she raised her head and fixed a pair of very large
blue eyes upon me. "It is too kind in you to offer to do this! But I
do not see what else is to be done. But who is going to hold up my
wheel while you help me to get on it?"

"Oh, I will attend to all that," said I, and picking up her bicycle, I
brought it to her. She made a little step towards it, and then
stopped.

"You mustn't do that," said I. "I will put you on." And holding her
bicycle upright with my left hand, I put my right arm around her and
lifted her to the seat. She was such a childlike, sensible young
person that I did not think it necessary to ask any permission for
this action, nor even to allude to its necessity.

"Now you might guide yourself with the handle-bar," I said. "Please
steer over to that tree where I have left my machine." I easily pushed
her over to the tree, and when I had laid hold of my bicycle with my
left hand, we slowly proceeded along the smooth road.

"I think you would better take your feet from the pedals," said I,
"and put them on the coasters--the motion must hurt you. It is better
to have your injured foot raised, anyway, as that will keep the blood
from running down into it and giving you more pain."

She instantly adopted my suggestion, and presently said, "That is a
great deal more pleasant, and I am sure it is better for my foot to
keep it still. I do hope I haven't sprained my ankle! It is possible
to give a foot a bad twist without spraining it, isn't it?"

I assented, and as I did so I thought it would not be difficult to
give a bad twist to any part of this slenderly framed young creature.

"How did you happen to fall?" I asked--not that I needed to inquire,
for my own knowledge of wheelcraft assured me that she had tumbled
simply because she did not know how to ride.

"I haven't the slightest idea," she answered. "The first thing I knew
I was going over, and I wish I had not tried to save myself. It would
have been better to go down bodily."

As we went on she told me that she had not had much practice, as it
had been but a few weeks since she had become the possessor of a
wheel, and that this was the first trip she had ever taken by herself.
She had always gone in company with some one, but to-day she had
thought she was able to take care of herself, like other girls.
Finding her so entirely free from conventional embarrassment, I made
bold to give her a little advice on the subject of wheeling in
general, and she seemed entirely willing to be instructed. In fact, as
I went on with my little discourse I began to think that I would much
rather teach girls than boys. At first sight the young person under
my charge might have been taken for a school-girl, but her
conversation would have soon removed that illusion.

We had not proceeded more than a mile when suddenly I felt a very
gentle tap on the end of my nose, and at the same moment the young
lady turned her head towards me and exclaimed: "It's going to rain! I
felt a drop!"

"I will walk faster," I said, "and no doubt I will get you to your
house before the shower is upon us. At any rate, I hope you won't be
much wet."

"Oh, it doesn't matter about me in the least," she said. "I shall be
at home and can put on dry clothes, but you will be soaked through and
have to go on. You haven't any coat on!"

If I had known there was any probability of rain I should have put on
my coat before I started out on this somewhat unusual method of
travelling, but there was no help for it now, and all I could do was
to hurry on. From walking fast I began to trot. The drops were coming
down quite frequently.

"Won't that tire you dreadfully?" she said.

"Not at all," I replied. "I could run like this for a long distance."

[Illustration: "I PUT ON MY COAT"]

She looked up at me with a little smile. I think she must have
forgotten the pain in her foot.

"It must be nice to be strong like that," she said.

Now the rain came down faster, and my companion declared that I ought
to stop and put on my coat. I agreed to this, and when I came to a
suitable tree by the road-side, I carefully leaned her against it and
detached my coat from my bicycle. But just as I was about to put it on
I glanced at the young girl. She had on a thin shirt-waist, and I
could see that the shoulders of it were already wet. I advanced
towards her, holding out my coat. "I must lay this over you," I said.
"I am afraid now that I shall not get you to your home before it
begins to rain hard."

She turned to me so suddenly that I made ready to catch her if her
unguarded movement should overturn her machine. "You mustn't do that
at all!" she said. "It doesn't matter whether I am wet or not. I do
not have to travel in wet clothes, and you do. Please put on your coat
and let us hurry!"

I obeyed her, and away we went again, the rain now coming down hard
and fast. For some minutes she did not say anything; but I did not
wonder at this, for circumstances were not favorable to conversation.
But presently, in spite of the rain and our haste, she spoke:

"It must seem dreadfully ungrateful and hard-hearted in me to say to
you, after all you have done for me, that you must go on in the rain.
Anybody would think that I ought to ask you to come into our house and
wait until the storm is over. But, really, I do not see how I can do
it."

I urged her not for a moment to think of me. I was hardy, and did not
mind rain, and when I was mounted upon my wheel the exercise would
keep me warm enough until I reached a place of shelter.

"I do not like it," she said. "It is cruel and inhuman, and nothing
you can say will make it any better. But the fact is that I find
myself in a very--Well, I do not know what to say about it. You are
the school-teacher at Walford, are you not?"

This question surprised me, and I assented quickly, wondering what
would come next.

"I thought so," she said. "I have seen you on the road on your wheel,
and some one told me who you were. And now, since you have been so
kind to me, I am going to tell you exactly why I cannot ask you to
stop at our house. Everything is all wrong there to-day, and if I
don't explain what has happened, you might think that things are
worse than they really are, and I wouldn't want anybody to think
that."

[Illustration: "THE RAIN WAS COMING DOWN HARD"]

I listened with great attention, for I saw that she was anxious to
free herself of the imputation of being inhospitable, and although the
heavy rain and my rapid pace made it sometimes difficult to catch her
words, I lost very little of her story.

"You see," said she, "my father is very fond of gardening, and he
takes great pride in his vegetables, especially the early ones. He has
peas this year ahead of everybody else in the neighborhood, and it was
only day before yesterday that he took me out to look at them. He has
been watching them ever since they first came up out of the ground,
and when he showed me the nice big pods and told me they would be
ready to pick in a day or two, he looked so proud and happy that you
might have thought his peas were little living people. I truly believe
that even at prayer-time he could not help thinking how good those
peas would taste.

"But this morning when he came in from the garden and told mother that
he was going to pick our first peas, so as to have them perfectly
fresh for dinner, she said that he would better not pick them to-day,
because the vegetable man had been along just after breakfast, and he
had had such nice green peas that she had bought some, and therefore
he had better keep his peas for some other day.

"Now, I don't want you to think that mother isn't just as good as
gold, for she is. But she doesn't take such interest in garden things
as father does, and to her all peas are peas, provided they are good
ones. But when father heard what she had done I know that he felt
exactly as if he had been stabbed in one of his tenderest places. He
did not say one word, and he walked right out of the house, and since
that they haven't spoken to each other. It was dreadful to sit at
dinner, neither of them saying a word to the other, and only speaking
to me. It was all so different from the way things generally are that
I can scarcely bear it.

"And I went out this afternoon for no other reason than to give them a
chance to make it up between them. I thought perhaps they would do it
better if they were alone with each other. But of course I do not know
what has happened, and things may be worse than they were. I could not
take a stranger into the house at such a time--they would not like to
be found not speaking to each other--and, besides, I do not know--"

Here I interrupted her, and begged her not to give another thought to
the subject. I wanted very much to go on, and in every way it was the
best thing I could do.

As I finished speaking she pointed out a pretty house standing back
from the road, and told me that was where she lived. In a very few
minutes after that I had run her up to the steps of her piazza and was
assisting her to dismount from her wheel.

"It is awful!" she said. "This rain is coming down like a cataract!"

"You must hurry in-doors," I answered. "Let me help you up the steps."
And with this I took hold of her under the arms, and in a second I had
set her down in front of the closed front door. I then ran down and
brought up her wheel. "Do you think you can manage to walk in?" said
I.

"Oh yes!" she said. "If I can't do anything else, I can hop. My mother
will soon have me all right. She knows all about such things."

She looked at me with an anxious expression, and then said, "How do
you think it would do for you to wait on the piazza until the rain is
over?"

"Good-bye," I said, with a laugh, and bounding down to the front
gate, where I had left my bicycle, I mounted and rode away.

The rain came down harder and harder. The road was full of little
running streams, and liquid mud flew from under my whirling wheels. It
was not late in the afternoon, but it was actually getting dark, and I
seemed to be the only living creature out in this tremendous storm. I
looked from side to side for some place into which I could run for
shelter, but here the road ran between broad open fields. My coat had
ceased to protect me, and I could feel the water upon my skin.

But in spite of my discomforts and violent exertions I found myself
under the influence of some very pleasurable emotions, occasioned by
the incident of the slender girl. Her childlike frankness was charming
to me. There was not another girl in a thousand who would have told me
that story of the peas. I felt glad that she had known who I was when
she was talking to me, and that her simple confidences had been given
to me personally, and not to an entire stranger who had happened
along. I wondered if she resembled her father or her mother, and I had
no doubt that to possess such a daughter they must both be excellent
people.



CHAPTER III

THE DUKE'S DRESSING-GOWN


Thinking thus, I almost forgot the storm, but coming to a slight
descent where the road was very smooth I became conscious that my
wheel was inclined to slip, and if I were not careful I might come to
grief. But no sooner had I reached the bottom of the declivity than I
beheld on my right a lighted doorway. Without the slightest hesitation
I turned through the wide gateway, the posts of which I could scarcely
see, and stopped in front of a small house by the side of a driveway.
Waiting for no permission, I carried my bicycle into a little covered
porch. I then approached the door, for I was now seeking not only
shelter but an opportunity to dry myself. I do not believe a sponge
could have been more thoroughly soaked than I was.

At the very entrance I was met by a little man in short jacket and
top-boots.

"I heard your step," said he. "Been caught in the rain, eh? Well, this
is a storm! And now what're we going to do? You must come in. But
you're in a pretty mess, I must say! Hi, Maria!"

At these words a large, fresh-looking woman came into the little hall.

"Maria," said the man, "here's a gentleman that's pretty nigh drowned,
and he's dripping puddles big enough to swim in."

The woman smiled. "Really, sir," said she, "you've had a hard time.
Wheeling, I suppose. It's an awful time to be out. It's so dark that I
lighted a lamp to make things look a little cheery. But you must come
in until the rain is over, and try and dry yourself."

"But how about the hall, Maria?" said the man. "There'll be a dreadful
slop!"

"Oh, I'll make that all right," she said. She disappeared, and quickly
returned with a couple of rugs, which she laid, wrong side up, on the
polished floor of the hallway. "Now you can step on those, sir, and
come into the kitchen. There's a fire there."

I thanked her, and presently found myself before a large stove, on
which it was evident, from the odors, that supper was preparing. In a
certain way the heat was grateful, but in less than a minute I was
bound to admit to myself that I felt as if I were enveloped in a vast
warm poultice. The little man and his wife--if wife she were, for she
looked big enough to be his mother, and young enough to be his
daughter--stood talking in the hall, and I could hear every word they
said.

[Illustration: "ON MY RIGHT A LIGHTED DOORWAY"]

"It's of no use for him to try to dry himself," she said, "for he's
wet to the bone. He must change his clothes, and hang those he's got
on before the fire."

"Change his clothes!" exclaimed the man. "How ever can he do that?
I've nothing that'll fit him, and of course he has brought nothing
along with him."

"Never you mind," said she. "Something's got to be got. Take him into
the little chamber. And don't consider the floor; that can be wiped
up."

She came into the kitchen and spoke to me. "You must come and change
your clothes," she said. "You'll catch your death of cold, else.
You're the school-master from Walford, I think, sir? Indeed, I'm sure
of it, for I've seen you on your wheel."

Smiling at the idea that through the instrumentality of my bicycle I
had been making myself known to the people of the surrounding
country, I followed the man into a small bed-chamber on the
ground-floor.

"Now," said he, "the quicker you get off your wet clothes and give
yourself a good rub-down the better it will be for you. And I'll go
and see what I can do in the way of something for you to put on."

I asked him to bring me the bag from my bicycle, and after doing so he
left me.

Very soon I heard talking outside of my door, and as both my
entertainers had clear, high voices, I could hear distinctly what they
said.

"Go get him the corduroys," said she. "He's a well-made man, but he's
no bigger than your father was."

"The corduroys?" he said, somewhat doubtfully, I thought.

"Yes," she replied. "Go get them! I should be glad to have them put to
some use."

"But what for a coat?" said he. "There's nothing in the house that he
could get on."

"That's true," said she. "But he must have something. You can get him
the Duke's dressing-gown."

"What!" exclaimed the man. "You don't mean--"

"Yes, I do mean," said she. "It's big enough for anybody, and it'll
keep him from ketching cold. Go fetch it!"

In a short time there was a knock at my door, and the little man
handed me in a pair of yellow corduroy trousers and a large and gaudy
dressing-gown. "There!" said he. "They'll keep you warm until your own
clothes dry."

With a change of linen from my bag, which had fortunately kept its
contents dry, the yellow trousers, and a wonderful dressing-gown, made
of some blue stuff embroidered with gold and lined throughout with
crimson satin, I made a truly gorgeous appearance. But it struck me
that it would be rather startling to a beholder were I to appear
barefooted in such raiment, for my shoes and stockings were as wet as
the rest of my clothes. I had not finished dressing before the little
man knocked again, this time with some gray socks and a pair of
embroidered slippers.

"These'll fit you, I think," said he, "for I'll lay you ten shillings
that I'm as big in the feet as you are."

I would have been glad to gaze at myself in a full-length mirror, but
there was no opportunity for the indulgence of such vanity; and before
leaving the room I sat down for a moment to give a few thoughts to
the situation. My mind first reverted to the soaked condition of my
garments and the difficulty of getting them dry enough for me to put
them on and continue my journey. Then I found that I had dropped the
subject and was thinking of the slender girl, wondering if she had
really hurt herself very much, congratulating myself that I had been
fortunate enough to be on hand to help her in her need, and
considering what a plight she would have been in if she had been
caught in that terrible rain and utterly unable to get herself to
shelter.

Suddenly I stopped short in my thinking, and going to my bag I took
from it the little box of quinine capsules which had been given to me
by the doctor's daughter, and promptly proceeded to swallow one of
them.

"It may be of service to me," I said to myself.

When I made my appearance in the hallway I met the little man, who
immediately burst into a roar of laughter.

"Lord, sir!" said he. "You must excuse me, but you look like a king on
a lark! Walk into the parlor, sir, and sit down and make yourself
comfortable. She's hurrying up supper to give you something warm after
your wettin'. Would you like a little nip of whiskey, sir, to keep
the damp out?"

[Illustration: A Few Thoughts]

I declined the whiskey, and seated myself in the neatly-furnished
parlor. It was wonderful, I thought, to fall into such a hospitable
household, and then I began to ask myself whether or not it would be
the proper thing to offer to pay for my entertainment. I thought I had
quite properly divined the position in life of the little man. This
small house, so handsomely built and neatly kept, must be a lodge upon
some fine country place, and the man was probably the head gardener,
or something of the kind.

It was not long before my hostess came into the room, but she did not
laugh at my appearance. She was a handsome woman, erect and broad,
with a free and powerful step. She smiled as she spoke to me.

"You may think that that's an over-handsome gown for such as us to be
owning. It was given to my man by the Duke of Radford. That was before
we were married, and he was an undergardener then. The Duchess
wouldn't let the Duke wear it, because it was so gay, and there wasn't
none of the servants that would care to take it, for fear they'd be
laughed at, until they offered it to John. And John, you must know,
he'd take anything! But I came in to tell you supper's ready; and, if
you like, I'll bring you something in here, and you can eat it on that
table, or--"

Here I interrupted my good hostess, and declared that, while I should
be glad to have some supper, I would not eat any unless I might sit
down with her husband and herself; and, as this proposition seemed to
please her, the three of us were soon seated around a very tastefully
furnished table in a dining-room looking out upon a pretty lawn. The
rain had now almost ceased, and from the window I could see beautiful
stretches of grass, interspersed with ornamental trees and
flower-beds.

The meal was plain but abundant, with an appetizing smell pervading it
which is seldom noticed in connection with the tables of the rich.
When we had finished supper I found that the skies had nearly cleared
and that it was growing quite light again. I asked permission to step
out upon a little piazza which opened from the dining-room and smoke a
pipe, and while I was sitting there enjoying the beauty of the
sunlight on the sparkling grass and trees I again heard the little man
and his wife talking to each other.

"It can't be done," said he, speaking very positively. "I've orders
about that, and there's no getting round them."

"It's got to be done!" said she, "and there's an end of it! The
clothes won't be dry until morning, and it won't do to put them too
near the stove, or they'll shrink so he can't get them on. And he
can't go away to hunt up lodgings wearing the Duke's dressing-gown and
them yellow breeches!"

"Orders is orders," said the man, "and unless I get special leave, it
can't be done."

"Well, then, go and get special leave," said she, "and don't stand
there talking about it!"

There was no doubt that my lodging that night was the subject of this
conversation, but I had no desire to interfere with the good
intentions of my hostess. I must stay somewhere until my clothes were
dry, and I should be glad to stop in my present comfortable quarters.

So I sat still and smoked, and very soon I heard the big shoes of the
little man grating upon the gravel as he walked rapidly away from the
house. Now came the good woman out upon the piazza to ask me if I had
found my tobacco dry. "Because if it's damp," said she, "my man has
some very good 'baccy in his jar."

I assured her that my pouch had kept dry; and then, as she seemed
inclined to talk, I begged her to sit down if she did not mind the
pipe. Down she sat, and steadily she talked. She congratulated herself
on her happy thought to light the hall lamp, or I might never have
noticed the house in the darkness, and she would have been sorry
enough if I had had to keep on the road for another half-hour in that
dreadful rain.

On she talked in the most cheerful and communicative way, until
suddenly she rose with a start. "He's coming himself, sir!" she said,
"with Miss Putney."

"Who is 'he'?" I asked.

"It's the master, sir Mr. Putney, and his daughter. Just stay here
where you are, sir, and make yourself comfortable. I'll go and speak
to them."

Left to myself, I knocked out my pipe and sat wondering what would
happen next. A thing happened which surprised me very much. Upon a
path which ran in front of the little piazza there appeared two
persons--one, an elderly gentleman, with gray side-whiskers and a pale
face, attired in clothes with such an appearance of newness that it
might well have been supposed this was the first time he had worn
them; the other, a young lady, rather small in stature, but
extremely pleasant to look upon. She had dark hair and large blue
eyes; her complexion was rich, and her dress of light silk was
wonderfully well shaped.

[Illustration: "The beauty of her teeth"]

All this I saw at a glance, and immediately afterwards I also
perceived that she had most beautiful teeth; for when she beheld me as
I rose from my chair and stood in my elevated position before her she
could not restrain a laugh; but for this apparent impoliteness I did
not blame her at all.

But not so much as a smile came upon the countenance of the elderly
gentleman. He, too, was small, but he had a deep voice. "Good-evening,
sir," said he. "I am told that you are the school-master at Walford,
and that you were overtaken by the storm."

I assured him that these were the facts, and stood waiting to hear
what he would say next.

"It was very proper indeed, sir, that my gardener and his wife should
take you under the protection of this roof, but as I hear that it is
proposed that you should spend the night here, I have come down to
speak about it. I will tell you at once, sir, that I have given my man
the most positive orders that he is not to allow any one to spend a
night in this house. It is so conveniently near to the road that I
should not know what sort of persons were being entertained here if I
allowed him any such privilege."

As he spoke the young lady stood silently gazing at me. There was a
remnant of a smile upon her face, but I could also see that she was a
little annoyed. I was about to make some sort of an independent answer
to the gentleman's remarks, but he anticipated me.

"I do not want you to think, sir, on account of what I have said, that
I intend to drive you off my property at this hour of the evening, and
in your inappropriate clothing. I have heard of you, sir, and you
occupy a position of trust and, to a certain degree, of honor, in your
village. Therefore, while I cannot depart from my rule--for I wish to
make no precedent of that kind--I will ask you to spend the night at
my house. You need not be annoyed by the peculiarity of your attire.
If you desire to avoid observation you can remain here until it grows
darker, and then you can walk up to the mansion. I shall have a
bed-room prepared for you, and whenever you choose you can occupy it.
I have been informed that you have had something to eat, and it is as
well, for perhaps your dress would prevent you from accepting an
invitation to our evening meal."

I still held my brier-wood pipe in my hand, and I felt inclined to
hurl it at the dapper head of the consequential little gentleman, but
with such a girl standing by it would have been impossible to treat
him with any disrespect, and as I looked at him I felt sure that his
apparent superciliousness was probably the result of too much money
and too little breeding.

The young lady said nothing, but she turned and looked steadily at her
father. Her countenance was probably in the habit of very promptly
expressing the state of her mind, and it now seemed to say to her
father, "I hope that what you have said will not make him decline what
you offer!"

My irritation quickly disappeared. I had now entered into my Cathay,
and I must take things as I found them there. As I could not stay
where I was, and could not continue my journey, it would be a sensible
thing to overlook the man's manner and accept his offer, and I
accordingly did so. I think he was pleased more than he cared to
express.

"Very good, sir!" said he. "As soon as it grows a little darker I
shall be glad to have you walk up to my house. As I said before, I am
sure you would not care to do so now, as you might provoke remarks
even from the servants. Good-evening, sir, until I see you again."

During all this time the young lady had not spoken, but as the two
disappeared around the corner of the house I heard her voice. She
spoke very clearly and distinctly, and she said, "It would have been a
great deal more gracious if you had asked him to come at once, without
all that----" The rest of her remarks were lost to me.

The little man and his wife presently came out on the porch. Her
countenance expressed a sort of resignation to thwarted hospitality.

"It's the way of the world, sir!" she said. "The ups are always up and
the downs are always down! I expect they will be glad to have company
at the house, for it must be dreadfully lonely up there--which might
be said of this house as well."

It soon became dark enough for me to walk through the grounds without
hurting the sensibilities of their proprietor, and as I arose to go
the good wife of the gardener brought me my cap.

"I dried that out for you, sir, for I knew you would want it, and
to-morrow morning my man will take your clothes up to the house."

I thanked her for her thoughtful kindness, and was about to depart,
but the little man was not quite ready for me to go.

"If you don't mind, sir," said he, "and would step back there in the
light just for one minute, I would like to take another look at you. I
don't suppose I'll ever see anybody again wearing the Duke's
dressing-gown. By George, sir, you do look real royal!"

His wife looked at me admiringly. "Yes, sir," said she, "and I wish it
was the fashion for gentlemen to dress something like that every day.
But I will say, sir, that if you don't want people to be staring at
you, and will just wrap that gown round you so that the lining won't
be seen, you won't look so much out of the way."

As I walked along the smooth, hard driveway I adopted the suggestion
of the gardener's wife; but as I approached the house, and saw that
even the broad piazza was lighted by electric lamps, I was seized with
the fancy to appear in all my glory, and I allowed my capacious robe
to float out on each side of me in crimson brightness.

The gentleman stood at the top of the steps. "I have been waiting for
you, sir," said he. He looked as if he were about to offer me his
hand, but probably considered this an unnecessary ceremony under the
circumstances. "Would you like to retire to your room, sir, or would
you prefer--prefer sitting out here to enjoy the cool of the evening?
Here are chairs and seats, sir, of all variety of comfort. My family
and I frequently sit out here in the evenings, but to-night the air is
a little damp."

I assured the gentleman that the air suited me very well, and that I
would prefer not to retire so early; and so, not caring any longer to
stand in front of the lighted doorway, I walked to one end of the
piazza and took a seat.

"We haven't yet--that is to say, we are still at the table," he
remarked, as he followed me; "but if there is anything that you would
like to have, I should be--"

I interrupted him by declaring that I had supped heartily and did not
want for anything in the world, and then, with some sort of an
inarticulate excuse, he left me. I knew very well that this nervously
correct personage had jumped up from his dinner in order that he might
meet me at the door and thus prevent my unconventional attire from
shocking any of the servants.

It was very quiet and pleasant on the piazza, but, although I could
hear that a great deal of talking was going on inside, no words came
to me. In a short time, however, a man-servant in livery came out
upon the piazza and approached me with a tray on which were a cup of
coffee and some cigars. I could not refrain from smiling as I saw the
man.

"The old fellow has been forced to conquer his prejudices," I said to
myself, "and to submit to the mortification of allowing me to be seen
by his butler!"

I think, however, that even had the master been regarding us he would
have seen no reason for mortification in the manner of his servant.
The man was extremely polite and attentive, suggesting various
refreshments, such as wine and biscuits, and I never was treated by a
lackey with more respect.

Leaning back in a comfortable chair, I sipped my coffee and puffed
away at a perfectly delightful Havana cigar. "Cathay is not a bad
place," said I, to myself. "Its hospitality is a little queer, but as
to gorgeousness, luxury, and----" I was about to add another quality
when my mind was diverted by a light step on the piazza, and, turning
my head, I beheld the young lady I had seen before. Instantly I rose
and laid aside my cigar.

"Please do not disturb yourself," she said. "I simply came out to give
a little message from my father. Sit down again, and I will take this
seat for a moment. My father's health is delicate," she said, "and we
do not like him to be out in the night air, especially after a rain.
So I came in his stead to tell you that if you would like to come into
the house you must do so without the slightest hesitation, because my
mother and I do not mind that dressing-gown any more than if it were
an ordinary coat. We are very glad to have the opportunity of
entertaining you, for we know some people in Walford--not very many,
but some--and we have heard you and your school spoken of very
highly. So we want you to make yourself perfectly at home, and come in
or sit out here, just as your own feelings in regard to extraordinary
fine clothes shall prompt you."

At this she reassured me as to the beauty of her teeth. "As long as
you will sit out here," said I, to myself, "there will be no in-doors
for me."

She seemed to read my thoughts, and said: "If you will go on with your
smoking, I will wait and ask you some things about Walford. I dearly
love the smell of a good cigar, and father never smokes. He always
keeps them, however, in case of gentlemen visitors."

She then went on to talk about some Walford people, and asked me if I
knew Mary Talbot. I replied in the affirmative, for Miss Talbot was a
member of our literary society, and the young lady informed me that
Mary Talbot had a brother in my school--a fact of which I was aware to
my sorrow--and it was on account of this brother that she had first
happened to see me.

"See me!" I exclaimed, with surprise.

"Yes," said she. "I drove over to the village one day this spring, and
Mary and I were walking past your school-house, and the door was wide
open, for it was so warm, and we stopped so that Mary might point out
her brother to me; and so, as we were looking in, of course I saw
you."

"And you recognized me," I said, "when you saw me at the gardener's
house?"

"We call that the lodge," said she. "Not that I care in the least what
name you give it. And while we are on a personal subject, I want to
ask you to excuse me for laughing at you when I first saw you in that
astounding garb. It was very improper, I know, but the apparition was
so sudden I could not help it."

I had never met a young lady so thoroughly self-contained as this one.
None of the formalities of society had been observed in regard to our
acquaintance with each other, but she talked with me with such an easy
grace and with such a gentle assurance that there was no need of
introduction or presentation; I felt acquainted with her on the spot.
I had no doubt that her exceptionally gracious demeanor was due to the
fact that nobody else in the house seemed inclined to be gracious, and
she felt hospitality demanded that something of the kind should be
offered me by some one of the family.

We talked together for some minutes longer, and then, apparently
hearing something in the house which I did not notice, she rose rather
abruptly.

"I must go in," she said; "but don't you stay out here a second longer
than you want to."

She had left me but a very short time when her father came out on the
piazza, his coat buttoned up nearly to his chin. "I have been
detained, sir," he said, "by a man who came to see me on business. I
cannot remain with you out here, for the air affects me; but if you
will come in, sir, I shall be glad to have you do so, without regard
to your appearance. My wife is not strong and she has retired, and if
it pleases you I shall be very glad to have you tell me something of
your duties and success in Walford. Or, if you are fatigued, your
room is ready for you, and my man will show you to it."

I snatched at the relief held out to me. To sit in the company of that
condescending prig, to bore him and to be bored by him, was a doleful
grievance I did not wish to inflict upon myself, and I eagerly
answered that the day had been a long and hard one, and that I would
be glad to go to bed.

This was an assertion which was doubly false, for I was not in the
least tired or sleepy; and just as I had made the statement and was
entering the hall I saw that the young lady was standing at the parlor
door; but it was too late now for me to change my mind.

"Brownster," said Mr. Putney to his butler, "will you give this
gentleman a candle and show him to his room?"

Brownster quietly bowed, and stepping to a table in the corner, on
which stood some brass bed-room candlesticks, he lighted one of the
candles and stood waiting.

The gentleman moved towards his daughter, and then he stopped and
turned to me. "We have breakfast," he said, "at half-past eight But if
that is too late for you," he added, with a certain hesitation, "you
can have--"

At this moment I distinctly saw his daughter punch him with her elbow,
and as I had no desire to make an early start, and wished very much to
enjoy a good breakfast in Cathay, I quickly declared that I was in no
hurry, and that the family breakfast hour would suit me perfectly.

The young lady disappeared into the parlor, and I moved towards the
butler; but my host, probably thinking that he had not been quite as
attentive to me as his station demanded, or wishing to let me see what
a fine house he possessed, stepped up to me and asked me to look into
the billiard-room, the door of which I was about to pass. After some
remarks of deprecatory ostentation, in which he informed me that in
building his house he thought only of comfort and convenience, and
nothing of show, he carelessly invited my attention to the
drawing-room, the library, the music-room, and the little
sitting-room, all of which were furnished with as much stiffness and
hardness and inharmonious coloring as money could command.

When we had finished the round of these rooms he made me a bow as
stiff as one of his white and gold chairs, and I followed the butler
up the staircase. The man with the light preceded me into a room on
the second floor, and just as I was about to enter after him I saw the
young lady come around a corner of the hall with a lighted candle in
her hand.

[Illustration: "I kicked off my embroidered slippers"]

"Good-night," she said, with a smile so charming that I wanted to stop
and tell her something about Mary Talbot's brother; but she passed on,
and I went into my room.

It seemed perfectly ridiculous to me that people should carry around
bed-room candles in a house lighted from top to bottom by electricity,
but I had no doubt that this was one of the ultra-conventional customs
from which the dapper gentleman would not allow his family to depart.
I did not believe for a moment that his daughter would conform to such
nonsense except to please her parent.

The softly moving and attentive Brownster put the candle on the table,
blew it out, and touched a button, thereby lighting up a very
handsomely furnished room. Then, after performing every possible
service for me, with a bow he left me. Throwing myself into a great
easy chair, I kicked off my embroidered slippers and put my feet upon
another chair gay with satin stripes. Raising my eyes, I saw in front
of me a handsome mirror extending from the floor nearly to the
ceiling, and at the magnificent personage which therein met my gaze I
could not help laughing aloud.

I rose, stood before the mirror, folded my gorgeous gown around me,
spread it out, contrasting the crimson glory of its lining with the
golden yellow of my trousers, and wondered in my soul how that
exceedingly handsome girl with the bright eyes could have controlled
her risibilities as she sat with me on the piazza. I could see that
she had a wonderful command of herself, but this exercise of it seemed
superhuman.

I walked around the sumptuously furnished chamber, looking at the
pictures and bric-à-brac; I wondered that the master of the house was
willing to put me in a room like this--I had expected a hall bed-room,
at the best; I sat down by an open window, for it was very early yet
and I did not want to go to bed, but I had scarcely seated myself when
I heard a tap at the door. I could not have explained it, but this tap
made me jump, and I went to the door and opened it instead of calling
out. There stood the butler, with a tray in his hand on which was a
decanter of wine, biscuits, cheese, and some cigars.

"It's so early, sir," said Brownster, "that she said--I mean, sir, I
thought that you might like something to eat, and if you want to enjoy
a cigar before retiring, as many gentlemen do, you need not mind
smoking here. These rooms are so well ventilated, sir, that every
particle of odor will be out in no time." Placing the tray upon a
table, he retired.

[Illustration: "IT WOULD BE WELL FOR ME TO SWALLOW A CAPSULE"]

For an hour or more I sat sipping my wine, puffing smoke into rings,
and allowing my mind to dwell pleasingly upon the situation, the most
prominent feature of which seemed to me to be a young lady with bright
eyes and white teeth, and dressed in a perfectly-fitting gown.

When at last I thought I ought to go to bed, I stood and gazed at my
little valise. I had left it on the porch and had totally forgotten
it, but here it was upon a table, where it had been placed, no doubt,
by the thoughtful Brownster. I opened it and took out the box of
capsules. I did not feel that I had taken cold in the night air; this
was not a time to protect myself against morning mists; but still I
thought it would be well for me to swallow a capsule, and I did so.



CHAPTER IV

A BIT OF ADVICE


The next morning I awoke about seven o'clock. My clothes, neatly
brushed and folded, were on a chair near the bed, with my
brightly-blackened shoes near by. I rose, quickly dressed myself, and
went forth into the morning air. I met no one in the house, and the
hall door was open. For an hour or more I walked about the beautiful
grounds. Sometimes I wandered near the house, among the flower-beds
and shrubs; sometimes I followed the winding path to a considerable
distance; occasionally I sat down in a covered arbor; and then I
sought the shade of a little grove, in which there were hammocks and
rustic chairs. But I met no one, and I saw no one except some men
working near the stables. I would have been glad to go down to the
lodge and say "Good-morning" to my kind entertainers there, but for
some reason or other it struck me that that neat little house was too
much out of the way.

When I had had enough walking I retired to the piazza and sat there,
until Brownster, with a bow, came and informed me that breakfast was
served.

The young lady, in the freshest of summer costumes, met me at the door
and bade me "Good-morning," but the greeting of her father was not by
any means cordial, although his manner had lost some of the stiff
condescension which had sat so badly upon him the evening before. The
mother was a very pleasant little lady of few words and a general air
which indicated an intimate acquaintance with back seats.

The breakfast was a remarkably good one. When the meal was over, Mr.
Putney walked with me into the hall. "I must now ask you to excuse me,
sir," said he, "as this is the hour when I receive my manager and
arrange with him for the varied business of the day. Good-morning,
sir. I wish you a very pleasant journey." And, barely giving me a
chance to thank him for his entertainment, he disappeared into the
back part of the house.

The young lady was standing at the front of the hall. "Won't you
please come in," she said, "and see mother? She wants to talk to you
about Walford."

I found the little lady in a small room opening from the parlor, and
also, to my great surprise, I found her extremely talkative and
chatty. She asked me so many questions that I had little chance to
answer them, and she told me a great deal more about Walford and its
people and citizens than I had learned during my nine months'
residence in the village. I was very glad to give her an opportunity
of talking, which was a pleasure, I imagined, she did not often enjoy;
but as I saw no signs of her stopping, I was obliged to rise and take
leave of her.

The young lady accompanied me into the hall. "I must get my valise," I
said, "and then I must be off. And I assure you--"

"No, do not trouble yourself about your valise," she interrupted.
"Brownster will attend to that--he will take it down to the lodge.
And as to your gorgeous raiment, he will see that that is all properly
returned to its owners."

I picked up my cap, and she walked with me out upon the piazza. "I
suppose you saw everything on our place," she asked, "when you were
walking about this morning?"

A little surprised, I answered that I had seen a good deal, but I did
not add that I had not found what I was looking for.

"We have all sorts of hot-houses and green-houses," she said, "but
they are not very interesting at this time of the year, otherwise I
would ask you to walk through them before you go." She then went on to
tell me that a little building which she pointed out was a
mushroom-house. "And you will think it strange that it should be there
when I tell you that not one of our family likes mushrooms or ever
tastes one. But the manager thinks that we ought to grow mushrooms,
and so we do it."

As she was talking, the thought came to me that there were some people
who might consider this young lady a little forward in her method of
entertaining a comparative stranger, but I dismissed this idea. With
such a peculiarly constituted family it was perhaps necessary for her
to put herself forward, in regard, at least, to the expression of
hospitality.

"One thing I must show you," she said, suddenly, "and that is the
orchid-house! Are you fond of orchids?"

"Under certain circumstances," I said, unguardedly, "I could be fond
of apple-cores." As soon as I had spoken these words I would have
been glad to recall them, but they seemed to make no impression
whatever on her.

We walked to the orchid-house, we went through it, and she explained
all its beauties, its singularities, and its rarities. When we came
out again, I asked myself: "Is she in the habit of doing all this to
chance visitors? Would she treat a Brown or a Robinson in the way she
is treating me?" I could not answer my question, but if Brown and
Robinson had appeared at that moment I should have been glad to knock
their heads together.

I did not want to go; I would have been glad to examine every building
on the place, but I knew I must depart; and as I was beginning to
express my sense of the kindness with which I had been treated, she
interrupted by asking me if I expected to come back this way.

"No," said I, "that is not my plan. I expect to ride on to Waterton,
and there I shall stop for a day or two and decide what section of the
country I shall explore next."

"And to-day?" she said. "Where have you planned to spend the night?"

"I have been recommended to stop at a little inn called the 'Holly
Sprig,'" I replied. "It is a leisurely day's journey from Walford, and
I have been told that it is a pleasant place and a pretty country. I
do not care to travel all the time, and I want to stop a little when I
find interesting scenery."

[Illustration: "As soon as I had spoken these words"]

"Oh, I know the Holly Sprig Inn," said she, speaking very quickly,
"and I would advise you not to stop there. We have lunched there two
or three times when we were out on long drives. There is a much better
house about five miles the other side of the Holly Sprig. It is really
a large, handsome hotel, with good service and everything you
want--where people go to spend the summer."

I thanked her for her information and bade her good-bye. She shook my
hand very cordially and I walked away. I had gone but a very few steps
when I wanted to turn around and look back, but I did not.

Before I had reached the lodge, where I had left my bicycle, I met
Brownster, and when I saw him I put my hand into my pocket. He had
certainly been very attentive.

"I carried your valise, sir," he said, "to the lodge, and I took the
liberty of strapping it to your handle-bar. You will find everything
all right, sir, and the--other clothes will be properly attended to."

I thanked him, and then handed him some money. To my surprise, he did
not offer to take it. He smiled a little and bowed.

"Would you mind, sir," he said, "if you did not give me anything? I
assure you, sir, that I'd very much rather that you wouldn't give me
anything." And with this he bowed and rapidly disappeared.

"Well," said I, to myself, as I put my money back into my pocket, "it
is a queer country, this Cathay."

As I approached the lodge, I felt that perhaps I had received a
lesson, but I was not sure. I would wait and let circumstances decide.
The gardener was away attending to his duties; but his wife was there,
and when she came forward, with a frank, cheery greeting, I instantly
decided that I had had a lesson. I thanked her, as earnestly as I knew
how, for what she had done for me, and then I added:

"You and your husband have treated me with such kind hospitality that
I am not going to offer you anything in return for what you have
done."

"You would have hurt us, sir, if you had," said she.

Then, in order to change the subject, I spoke of the honor which had
been bestowed upon me by being allowed to wear the Duke's
dressing-gown. She smiled, and replied:

"Honors would always be easy for you, sir, if you only chose to take
them."

As I rode away I thought that the last remark of the gardener's wife
seemed to show a mental brightness above her station, although I did
not know exactly what she meant. "Can it be," I asked myself, "that
she fancies that good family, six feet of athletic muscle, and no
money would be considered sufficient to make matrimonial honors easy
on that estate?" If such an idea had come into her head, it certainly
was a very foolish one, and I determined to drive it from my mind by
thinking of something else.

Suddenly I slackened my speed. I stopped and put one foot to the
ground. What a hard-hearted wretch I thought myself to be! Here I was
thinking of all sorts of nonsense and speeding away without a thought
of the young girl who had hurt herself the day before and who had been
helped by me to her home! She lived but a few miles back, and I had
determined, the evening before, to run down and see how she was
getting on before starting on my day's journey.

I turned and went bowling back over the road on which I had been so
terribly drenched the previous afternoon. In a very little while my
bicycle was leaning against the fence of the pretty house by the
road-side, and I had entered the front yard. The slender girl was
sitting on the piazza behind some vines. When she saw me she quickly
closed the book she was reading, drew one foot from a little stool,
and rose to meet me. There was more color on her face than I had
supposed would be likely to find its way there, and her bright eyes
showed that she was not only surprised but glad to see me.

"I thought you were ever so far on your journey!" she said. "And how
did you get through that awful storm?"

"I want to know first about your foot," I said--"how is that?"

"My own opinion is," she answered, "that it is nearly well. Mother
knew exactly what to do for it; she wrapped it in wet cloths and dry
cloths, and this morning I scarcely think of it. But there is one
thing I want to tell you before you meet father and mother--for they
want to see you, I know. We talked a great deal about you last night.
You may have thought it strange I told you about the peas, but I had
to do it to explain why I could not ask you to stop. Now I want to
tell you that this accident made everything all right. As soon as
father and mother knew that I was hurt they forgot everything else,
and neither of them remembered that there was such a thing as a
pea-vine in the world. It really seems as if my tumble was a most
lucky thing. And now you must come in. They will never forgive me if I
let you go away without seeing them."

The mother, a pleasant little woman, full of cheerful gratitude to me
for having done so much for her daughter, and the father, tall and
slender, hurrying in from the garden, his face beaming with a friendly
enthusiasm, apologizing for the mud on his clothes, and almost in the
same breath telling me of the obligations under which I had placed
him, both seemed to me at the first glance to be such kind,
simple-hearted, simple-mannered people that I could not help
contrasting this family with the one under whose roof I had passed the
night.

I spent half an hour with these good people, patiently listening to
their gratitude and to their deep regrets that I had been allowed to
go on in the storm; but I succeeded in allaying their friendly regrets
by assuring them that it would have been impossible to keep me from
going on, so certain had I been that I could reach the little town of
Vernon before the storm grew violent. Then I was obliged to tell them
that I did not reach Vernon, and how I had spent the night.

"With the Putneys!" exclaimed the mother. "I am sure you could not
have been entertained in a finer house!"

They asked me many questions and I told them many things, and I soon
discovered that they took a generous interest in the lives of other
people. They spoke of the good this rich family had done in the
neighborhood during the building of their great house and the
improvement of their estate, and not a word did I hear of ridicule or
scandalous comment, although in good truth there was opportunity
enough for it.

The young lady asked me if I had seen Miss Putney, and when I replied
that I had, she inquired if I did not think that she was a very pretty
girl. "I do not know her," she said, "but I have often seen her when
she was out driving. I do not believe there is any one in this part of
the country who dresses better than she does."

I laughed, and told her that I thought I knew somebody who dressed
much finer even than Miss Putney, and then I described the incident
of the Duke's dressing-gown. This delighted them all, and before I
left I was obliged to give every detail of my gorgeous attire.

It was about eleven o'clock when at last I tore myself away from this
most attractive little family. To live as they lived, to be interested
in the things that interested them--for the house seemed filled with
books and pictures--to love nature, to love each other, and to think
well of their fellow-beings, even of the super-rich--seemed to me to
be an object for which a man of my temperament should be willing to
strive and thankful to win. After meeting her parents I did not wonder
that I had thought the slender girl so honest-hearted and so lovable.
It was true that I had thought that.



CHAPTER V

THE LADY AND THE CAVALIER


The day was fine, and the landscape lay clean and sharply defined
under the blue sky and white clouds. I sped along in a cheerful mood,
well pleased with what my good cycle had so far done for me. Again I
passed the open gate of the Putney estate, and glanced through it at
the lodge. I saw no one, and was glad of it--better pleased, perhaps,
than I could have given good reason for. When I had gone on a few
hundred yards I was suddenly startled by a voice--a female voice.

"Well! well!" cried some one on my right, and turning, I saw, above a
low wall, the head and shoulders of the young lady with the dark eyes
with whom I had parted an hour or so before. A broad hat shaded her
face, her eyes were very dark and very wide open, and I saw some of
her beautiful teeth, although she was not smiling or laughing. It
was plain that she had not come down there to see me pass; she was
genuinely astonished; I dismounted and approached the wall.

[Illustration: "I dismounted and approached the wall"]

"I thought you were miles and miles on your way!" said she. It
occurred to me that I had recently heard a remark very like this, and
yet the words, as they came from the slender girl and from this one,
seemed to have entirely different meanings. She was desirous,
earnestly desirous, to know how I came to be passing this place at
this time, when I had left their gate so long before, and, as I was
not unwilling to gratify her curiosity, I told her the whole story of
the accident the day before, and of everything which had followed it.

"And you went all the way back," she said, "to inquire after that
Burton girl?"

"Do you know her?" I asked.

"No," she said, "I do not know her; but I have seen her often, and I
know all about her family. They seem to be of such little consequence,
one way or the other, that I can scarcely understand how things could
so twist themselves that you should consider it necessary to go back
there this morning before you really started on your day's journey."

I do not remember what I said, but it was something commonplace, no
doubt, but I imagined I perceived a little pique in the young lady. Of
course I did not object to this, for nothing could be more flattering
to a young man than the exhibition of such a feeling on an occasion
such as this.

But if she felt any pique she quickly brushed it out of sight, for, as
I have said before, she was a young woman who had great command of
herself. Of course I said to her that I was very glad to have this
chance of seeing her again, and she answered, with a laugh:

"If you really are glad, you ought to thank the Burton girl. This is
one of my favorite walks. The path runs along inside the wall for a
considerable distance and then turns around the little hill over
there, and so leads back to the house. When I happened to look over
the wall and saw you I was truly surprised."

The ground was lower on the outside of the wall than on the inside,
and as I stood and looked almost into the eyes of this girl, as she
leaned with her arms upon the smooth top of the wall, the idea which
the gardener's wife put into my head came into it again. This was a
beautiful face, and the expression upon it was different from
anything I had seen there before. Her surprise had disappeared, her
pique had gone, but a very great interest in the incident of my
passing this spot at the moment of her being there was plainly
evident. As I gazed at her my blood ran warmer through my veins, and
there came upon me a feeling of the olden time--of the days when the
brave cavalier rode up to the spot where, waiting for him, his lady
sat upon her impatient jennet.

Without the least hesitation, I asked:

"Do you ride a wheel?"

She looked wonderingly at me for a moment, and then broke into a
laugh.

"Why on earth do you ask such a question as that? I have a bicycle,
but I am not a very good rider, and I never venture out upon the
public road by myself."

"You shouldn't think of such a thing," said I; and then I stood
silent, and my mind showed me two young people, each mounted, not upon
a swift steed, but upon a far swifter pair of wheels, skimming onward
through the summer air, still rolling on, on, on, through country
lanes and woodland roads, laughing at pursuit if they heard the
trampling of eager hoofs behind them, with never a telegraph wire to
stretch menacingly above them, and so on, on, on, their eyes
sparkling, their hearts beating high with youthful hope.

Again, through the tender mists of the afternoon, I saw them returning
from some secluded Gretna Green to bend their knees and bow their
heads before the lord of the fair bride's home.

When all this had passed through my brain, I wondered how such a pair
would be received. I knew the gardener and his wife would welcome
them, to begin with; Brownster would be very glad to see them; and I
believe the mother would stand with tears of joy and open arms, in
whatever quiet room she might feel free to await them. Moreover, when
the sterner parent heard my tale and read my pedigree, might he not
consider good name on the one side an equivalent for good money on the
other?

I looked up at her; she did not ask me what I had been thinking about
nor remark upon my silence. She, too, had been wrapped in revery; her
face was grave. She raised her arms from the wall and stood up.

It was plainly time for me to do something, and she decided the point
for me by slightly moving away from the wall. "Some time, when you are
riding out from Walford," she said, "we should be glad to have you
stop and take luncheon. Father likes to have people at luncheon."

"I should be delighted to do so," said I; and if she had asked me to
delay my journey and take luncheon with them that day I think I should
have accepted the invitation. But she did not do that, and she was not
a young lady who would stand too long by a public road talking to a
young man. She smiled very sweetly and held out her hand over the
wall. "Good-bye again," she said. As I took her hand I felt very much
inclined to press it warmly, but I refrained. Her grasp was firm and
friendly, and I would have liked very much to know whether or not it
was more so than was her custom.

I was mounting my wheel when she called to me again. "Now, I suppose,"
she said, "you are going straight on?"

"Oh yes," I replied, with emphasis, "straight on."

"And the name of the hotel where you will stay to-night," said she,
"it is the Cheltenham. I forgot it when I spoke to you before. I do
not believe, really, it is more than three miles beyond the other
little place where you thought of stopping."

Then she walked away from the wall and I mounted. I moved very slowly
onward, and as I turned my head I saw that a row of straggling bushes
which grew close to the wall were now between her and me. But I also
saw, or thought I saw, between the leaves and boughs, that her face
was towards me, and that she was waving her handkerchief. If I had
been sure of that, I think I should have jumped over the wall, pushed
through the bushes, and should have asked her to give me that
handkerchief, that I might fasten it on the front of my cap as, in
olden days, a knight going forth to his adventures bound upon his
helmet the glove of his lady-love.

But I was not sure of it, and, seized by a sudden energetic
excitement, I started off at a tremendous rate of speed. The ground
flew backward beneath me as if I had been standing on the platform of
a railroad car. Not far ahead of me there came from a side road into
the main avenue on which I was travelling a Scorcher, scorching. As he
spun away in front of me, his body bent forward until his back was
nearly horizontal, and his green-stockinged legs striking out behind
him with the furious rapidity of a great frog trying to push his head
into the mud, he turned back his little face with a leer of triumphant
derision at every moving thing which might happen to be behind him.

[Illustration: "I THOUGHT FOR A FEW MOMENTS"]

At the sight of this green-legged Scorcher my blood rose, and it was
with me as if I had heard the clang of trumpets and the clash of arms.
I leaned slightly forward; I struck out powerfully, swiftly, and
steadily; I gained upon the Scorcher; I sent into his emerald legs a
thrill of startled fear, as if he had been a terrified hare bounding
madly away from a pursuing foe, and I passed him as if I had been a
swift falcon swooping by a quarry unworthy of his talons.

On, on I sped, not deigning even to look back. The same spirit
possessed me as that which fired the hearts of the olden knights. I
would have been glad to meet with another Scorcher, and yet another,
that for the sake of my fair lady I might engage with each and humble
his pride in the dust.

"It is true," I said to myself, with an inward laugh, "I carry no
glove or delicate handkerchief bound upon my visor--" but at this
point my mind wandered. I went more slowly, and at last I stopped and
sat down under the shade of a way-side tree. I thought for a few
minutes, and then I said to myself, "It seems to me this would be a
good time to take one of those capsules," and I took one. I then
fancied that perhaps I ought to take two, but I contented myself with
one.



CHAPTER VI

THE HOLLY SPRIG INN


In the middle of the day I stopped at Vernon, and the afternoon was
well advanced when I came in sight of a little way-side house with a
broad unfenced green in front of it, and a swinging sign which told
the traveller that this was the "Holly Sprig Inn."

I dismounted on the opposite side of the road and gazed upon the
smoothly shaven greensward in front of the little inn; upon the pretty
upper windows peeping out from their frames of leaves; upon the
queerly-shaped projections of the building; upon the low portico which
shaded the doorway; and upon the gentle stream of blue smoke which
rose from the great gray chimney.

Then I turned and looked over the surrounding country. There were
broad meadows slightly descending to a long line of trees, between
which I could see the glimmering of water. On the other side of the
road, and extending back of the inn, there were low, forest-crowned
hills. Then my eyes, returning to nearer objects, fell upon an
old-fashioned garden, with bright flowers and rows of box, which lay
beyond the house.

"Why on earth," I thought, "should I pass such a place as this and go
on to the Cheltenham, with its waiters in coat tails, its nurse-maids,
and its rows of people on piazzas? She could not know my tastes, and
perhaps she had thought but little on the subject, and had taken her
ideas from her father. He is just the man to be contented with nothing
else than a vast sprawling hotel, with disdainful menials expecting
tips."

I rolled my bicycle along the little path which ran around the green,
and knocked upon the open door of Holly Sprig Inn.

In a few moments a boy came into the hall. He was not dressed like an
ordinary hotel attendant, but his appearance was decent, and he might
have been a sub-clerk or a head hall-boy.

"Can I obtain lodging here for the night?" I asked.

The boy looked at me from head to foot, and an expression such as
might be produced by too much lemon juice came upon his face.

"No," said he; "we don't take cyclers."

This reception was something novel to me, who had cycled over
thousands of miles, and I was not at all inclined to accept it at the
hands of the boy. I stepped into the hall. "Can I see the master of
this house?" said I.

"There ain't none," he answered, gruffly.

"Well, then, I want to see whoever is in charge."

He looked as if he were about to say that he was in charge, but he had
no opportunity for such impertinence. A female figure came into the
hall and advanced towards me. She stopped in an attitude of
interrogation.

"I was just inquiring," I said, with a bow--for I saw that the
new-comer was not a servant--"if I could be accommodated here for the
night, but the boy informed me that cyclers are not received here."

"What!" she exclaimed, and turned as if she would speak to the boy,
but he had vanished. "That is a mistake, sir," she said to me. "Very
few wheelmen do stop here, as they prefer a hotel farther on, but we
are glad to entertain them when they come."

It was not very light in the hall in which we stood, but I could see
that this lady was young, that she was of medium size, and
good-looking.

"Will you walk in, sir, and register?" she said. "I will have your
wheel taken around to the back."

I followed her into a large apartment to the right of the
hall--evidently a room of general assembly. Near the window was a desk
with a great book on it. As I stood before this desk and she handed me
a pen, her face was in the full light of the window, and glancing at
it, the thought struck me that I now knew why Miss Putney did not wish
me to stop at the Holly Sprig Inn. I almost laughed as I turned away
my head to write my name. I was amused, and at the same time I could
not help feeling highly complimented. It cannot but be grateful to the
feelings of a young man to find that a very handsome woman objects to
his making the acquaintance of an extremely pretty one.

When I laid down the pen she stepped up and looked at my name and
address.

"Oh," said she, "you are the schoolmaster at Walford?" She seemed to
be pleased by this discovery, and smiled in a very engaging way as she
said, "I am much interested in that school, for I received a great
part of my education there." "Indeed!" said I, very much surprised.
"But I do not exactly understand. It is a boys' school."

"I know that," she answered, "but both boys and girls used to go
there. Now the girls have a school of their own."

As she spoke I could not help contrasting in my mind what the school
must have been with what it was now.

She stepped to the door and told a woman who was just entering the
room to show me No. 2. The woman said something which I did not hear,
although her tones indicated surprise, and then conducted me to my
room.

This was an exceedingly pleasant chamber on the first floor at the
back of the house. It was furnished far better than the quarters
generally allotted to me in country inns, or, in fact, in hostelries
of any kind. There was great comfort and even simple elegance in its
appointments.

I would have liked to ask the maid some questions, but she was an
elderly woman, who looked as if she might be the mother of the
lemon-juice boy, and as she said not a word to me while she made a few
arrangements in the room, I did not feel emboldened to say anything to
her.

When I left my room and went out on the little porch, I soon came to
the conclusion that this was not a house of great resort. I saw
nobody in front and I heard nobody within. There seemed to be an air
of quiet greenness about the surroundings, and the little porch was a
charming place in which to sit and look upon the evening landscape.

After a time the boy came to tell me that supper was ready. He did so
as if he were informing me that it was time to take medicine and he
had just taken his.

Supper awaited me in a very pleasant room, through the open windows of
which there came a gentle breeze which made me know that there was a
flower-garden not far away. The table was a small one, round, and on
it there was supper for one person. I seated myself, and the elderly
woman waited on me. I was so grateful that the boy was not my
attendant that my heart warmed towards her, and I thought she might
not consider it much out of the way if I said something.

"Did I arrive after the regular supper-time?" I asked. "I am sorry if
I put the establishment to any inconvenience."

"What's inconvenience in your own house isn't anything of the kind in
a tavern," she said. "We're used to that. But it doesn't matter
to-day. You're the only transient; that is, that eats here," she
added.

I wanted very much to ask something about the lady who had gone to
school in Walford, but I thought it would be well to approach that
subject by degrees.

"Apparently," said I, "your house is not full."

"No," said she, "not at this precise moment of time. Do you want some
more tea?"

The tone in which she said this made me feel sure she was the mother
of the boy, and when she had given me the tea, and looked around in a
general way to see that I was provided with what else I needed, she
left the room.

After supper I looked into the large room where I had registered; it
was lighted, and was very comfortably furnished with easy-chairs and a
lounge, but it was an extremely lonely place, and, lighting a cigar, I
went out for a walk. It was truly a beautiful country, and, illumined
by the sunset sky, with all its forms and colors softened by the
growing dusk, it was more charming to me than it had been by daylight.

As I returned to the inn I noticed a man standing at the entrance of a
driveway which appeared to lead back to the stable-yards. "Here is
some one who may talk," I thought, and I stopped.

[Illustration: "WENT OUT FOR A WALK"]

"This ought to be a good country for sport," I said--"fishing, and
that sort of thing."

"You're stoppin' here for the night?" he asked. I presumed from his
voice and appearance that he was a stable-man, and from his tone that
he was disappointed that I had not brought a horse with me.

I assented to his question, and he said:

"I never heard of no fishin'. When people want to fish, they go to a
lake about ten miles furder on."

"Oh, I do not care particularly about fishing," I said, "but there
must be a good many pleasant roads about here."

"There's this one," said he. "The people on wheels keep to it." With
this he turned and walked slowly towards the back of the house.

"A lemon-loving lot!" thought I, and as I approached the porch I saw
that the lady who had gone to school at Walford was standing there. I
did not believe she had been eating lemons, and I stepped forward
quickly for fear that she should depart before I reached her.

"Been taking a walk?" she said, pleasantly. There was something in the
general air of this young woman which indicated that she should have
worn a little apron with pockets, and that her hands should have been
jauntily thrust into those pockets; but her dress included nothing of
the sort.

The hall lamp was now lighted, and I could see that her attire was
extremely neat and becoming. Her face was in shadow, but she had
beautiful hair of a ruddy brown. I asked myself if she were the "lady
clerk" of the establishment, or the daughter of the keeper of the inn.
She was evidently a person in some authority, and one with whom it
would be proper for me to converse, and as she had given me a very
good opportunity to open conversation, I lost no time in doing so.

"And so you used to live in Walford?" I said.

"Oh yes," she replied, and then she began to speak of the pleasant
days she had spent in that village. As she talked I endeavored to
discover from her words who she was and what was her position. I did
not care to discuss Walford. I wanted to talk about the Holly Sprig
Inn, but I could not devise a courteous question which would serve my
purpose.

Presently our attention was attracted by the sound of singing at the
corner of the little lawn most distant from the house. It was growing
dark, and the form of the singer could barely be discerned upon a
bench under a great oak. The voice was that of a man, and his song
was an Italian air from one of Verdi's operas. He sang in a low tone,
as if he were simply amusing himself and did not wish to disturb the
rest of the world.

[Illustration: MRS. CHESTER]

"That must be the Italian who is stopping here for the night," she
said. "We do not generally take such people; but he spoke so civilly,
and said it was so hard to get lodging for his bear--"

"His bear!" I exclaimed.

"Oh yes," she answered, with a little laugh, "he has a bear with him.
I suppose it dances, and so makes a living for its master. Anyway, I
said he might stay and lodge with our stable-man. He would sing very
well if he had a better voice--don't you think so?"

"We do not generally accommodate," "I said he might stay"--these were
phrases which I turned over in my mind. If she were the lady clerk she
might say "we"--even the boy said "we"--but "I said he might stay" was
different. A daughter of a landlord or a landlady might say that.

I made a remark about the difficulty of finding lodging for man and
beast, if the beast happened to be a bear, and I had scarcely finished
it when from the house there came a shrill voice, flavored with lemon
without any sugar, and it said, "Mrs. Chester!"

"Excuse me," said the young lady, and immediately she went in-doors.

Here was a revelation! Mrs. Chester! Strange to say, I had not thought
of her as a married woman; and yet, now that I recalled her manner of
perfect self-possession, she did suggest the idea of a satisfied young
wife. And Mr. Chester--what of him? Could it be possible? Hardly.
There was nothing about her to suggest a widow.



CHAPTER VII

MRS. CHESTER IS TROUBLED


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."

[Illustration: "SHE BEGAN TO TALK ABOUT WALFORD"]

"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.

"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."

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.

It really did not seem necessary to give the matter much thought. Here
was a place of public entertainment, and, as I was one of the public,
why should I not be entertained? I had stopped at many a road-side
hostelry, and in each one of them I knew I would be welcome to stay as
long as I was willing to pay.

Still, there was something, some sort of an undefined consciousness,
which seemed to rise in the way of an off-hand proposal to stay at
this inn for several days, when I had clearly stated that I wished to
stop only for the night.

While I was still turning over this matter in my mind Mrs. Chester
came into the room. I had expected her. The natural thing for her to
do was to come in and receive the amount I owed her for her
entertainment of me, but as I looked at her I could not ask her for my
bill. It seemed to me that such a thing would shock her sensibilities.
Moreover, I did not want her bill.

It was plain enough, however, that she expected me to depart, for she
asked me where I proposed to stop in the middle of the day, and she
suggested that she should have a light luncheon put up for me. She
thought probably a wheelman would like that sort of thing, for then he
could stop and rest wherever it suited him.

"Speaking of stopping," said I, "I am very glad that I did not do as I
was advised to do and go on to the Cheltenham. I do not know anything
about that hotel, but I am sure it is not so charming as this
delightful little inn with its picturesque surroundings."

"I am glad you did not," she answered. "Who advised you to go on to
the Cheltenham?"

"Miss Putney," said I. "Her father's place is between here and
Walford. I stopped there night before last." And then, as I was glad
of an opportunity to prolong the interview, I told her the history of
my adventures at that place.

Mrs. Chester was amused, and I thought I might as well tell her how I
came to be delayed on the road and so caught in the storm, and I
related my experience with Miss Burton. I would have been glad to go
still farther back and tell her how I came to take the school at
Walford, and anything else she might care to listen to.

When I told her about Miss Burton she sat down in a chair near by and
laughed heartily.

"It is wonderfully funny," she said, "that you should have met those
two young ladies and should then have stopped here."

"You know them?" I said, promptly taking another chair.

"Oh yes," she answered. "I know them both; and, as I have mentioned
that your meeting with them seemed funny to me, I suppose I ought to
tell you the reason. Some time ago a photographer in Walford, who has
taken a portrait of me and also of Miss Putney and Miss Burton, took
it into his head to print the three on one card and expose them for
sale with a ridiculous inscription under them. This created a great
deal of talk, and Miss Putney made the photographer destroy his
negative and all the cards he had on hand. After that we were talked
about as a trio, and, I expect, a good deal of fun was made of us. And
now it seems a little odd--does it not?--that you have become
acquainted with all the members of this trio as soon as you left
Walford. But I must not keep you in this way." And she rose.

Now was my opportunity to make known my desire to be kept, but before
I could do so the boy hurriedly came into the room.

"The Dago wants to see you," he said. "He's in an awful hurry."

"Excuse me," said Mrs. Chester. "It is that Italian who was singing
outside last night. I thought he had gone. Would you mind waiting a
few minutes?"

It was getting harder and harder to enunciate my proposition to make a
sojourn at the inn. I wished that I had spoken sooner. It is so much
easier to do things promptly.

While I was waiting the elderly woman came in. "Do you want the boy to
take your little bag out and strap it on?" said she.

Evidently there was no want of desire to speed the departing guest.
"Oh, I will attend to that myself," said I, but I made no step to do
it. When my hostess came back I wanted to be there.

Presently she did come back. She ran in hurriedly, and her face was
flushed. "Here is a very bad piece of business," she said. "That man's
bear has eaten the tire off one of your wheels!"

"What!" I exclaimed, and my heart bounded within me. Here, perhaps,
was the solution of all my troubles. If by any happy chance my bicycle
had been damaged, of course I could not go on.

"Come and see," she said, and, following her through the back hall
door, we entered a large, enclosed yard. Not far from the house was a
shed, and in front of this lay my bicycle on its side in an apparently
disabled condition. An Italian, greatly agitated, was standing by it.
He was hatless, and his tangled black hair hung over his swarthy face.
At the other end of the yard was a whitish-brown bear, not very large,
and chained to a post.

I approached my bicycle, earnestly hoping that the bear had been
attempting to ride it, but I found that he had been trying to do
something very different. He had torn the pneumatic tire from one of
the wheels, and nearly the whole of it was lying scattered about in
little bits upon the ground.

"How did this happen?" I said to the Italian, feeling very much
inclined to give him a dollar for the good offices of the beast.

The man began immediately to pour out an explanation upon me. His
English was as badly broken as the torn parts of my tire, but I had no
trouble in understanding. The bear had got loose in the night. He had
pulled up a little post to which he had been chained. The man had not
known it was such a weak post. The bear was never muzzled at night. He
had gone about looking for something to eat. He was very fond of
India-rubber--or, as the man called it, "Injer-rub." He always ate up
India-rubber shoes wherever he could find them. He would eat them off
a man's feet if the man should be asleep. He liked the taste of
Injer-rub. He did not swallow it. He dropped it all about in little
bits.

[Illustration: BUT WE WERE NOT ALONE]

Then the man sprang towards me and seized the injured wheel. "See!" he
exclaimed. "He eat your Injer-rub, but he no break your machine!"

This was very true. The wheel did not seem to be injured, but still I
could not travel without a tire. This was the most satisfactory
feature of the affair. If he and I had been alone together I would
have handed the man two dollars, and told him to go in peace with his
bear and give himself no more trouble.

But we were not alone. The stable-man who had lied to me about the
fishing was there; the boy who had lied to me about the reception of
cyclers was there; the lemon-faced woman was there, standing close to
Mrs. Chester; and there were two maids looking out of the window of
the kitchen.

"This is very bad indeed!" said Mrs. Chester, addressing the Italian.
"You have damaged this gentleman's wheel, and you must pay him for
it."

Now the Italian began to tear his hair. Never before had I seen any
one tear his hair. More than that, he shed tears, and declared he had
no money. After he had paid his bill he would not have a cent in the
world. His bear had ruined him. He was in despair.

"What are you going to do?" said Mrs. Chester to me. "You cannot use
your bicycle."

Before I could answer, the elderly woman exclaimed: "You ought to come
in, Mrs. Chester! This is no place for you! Suppose that beast should
break loose again! Let the gentleman settle it with the man."

I do not think my hostess wanted to go, but she accompanied her grim
companion into the house.

"I suppose there is no place near here where I can have a new tire put
on this wheel?" said I to the stable-man.

"Not nearer than Waterton," he replied; "but we could take you and
your machine there in a wagon."

"That's so," said the boy. "I'll drive."

I glared upon the two fellows as if they had been a couple of fiends
who were trying to put a drop of poison into my cup of joy. To be
dolefully driven to Waterton by that boy! What a picture! How
different from my picture!

The Italian sat down on the ground and embraced his knees with his
arms. He moaned and groaned, and declared over and over again that he
was ruined; that he had no money to pay.

In regard to him my mind was made up. I would forgive him his debt and
send him away with my blessing, even if I found no opportunity of
rewarding him for his great service to me.

I would go in and speak to Mrs. Chester about it. Of course it would
not be right to do anything without consulting her, and now I could
boldly tell her that it would suit me very well to stop at the inn
until my wheel could be sent away and repaired.

As I entered the large room the elderly woman came out. She was
plainly in a bad humor. Mrs. Chester was awaiting me with an anxious
countenance, evidently much more troubled about the damage to my
bicycle than I was. I hastened to relieve her mind.

"It does not matter a bit about the damage done by the bear," I said.
"I should not wonder if that wheel would be a great deal better for a
new tire, anyway. And, as for that doleful Italian, I do not want to
be hard on him, even if he has a little money in his pocket."

But my remarks did not relieve her, while my cheerful and contented
tones seemed to add to her anxiety.

"But you cannot travel," she said, "and there is no place about here
where you could get a new tire."

It was very plain that no one in this house entertained the idea that
it would be a good thing for me to rest here quietly until my bicycle
could be sent away and repaired. In fact, my first statement, that I
wished to stop but for the night, was accepted with general approval.

I did not deem it necessary to refer to the man's offer, to send me
and my machine to Waterton in a wagon, and I was just on the point of
boldly announcing that I was in no hurry whatever to get on, and that
it would suit me very well to wait here for a few days, when the boy
burst into the room, one end of his little neck-tie flying behind him.

"The Dago's put!" he shouted. "He's put off and gone!"

We looked at him in amazement.

"Gone!" I exclaimed. "Shall I go after him? Has he paid his bill?"

"No, you needn't do that," said the boy. "He cut across the fields
like a chipmunk--skipped right over the fences! You'd never ketch him,
and you needn't try! He's off for the station. I'll tell you all
about it," said the boy, turning to his mistress, who had been too
much startled to ask any questions. "When he went into the
house"--jerking his head in my direction--"I was left alone with the
Dago, and he begun to talk to me. He asked me a lot of things. He
rattled on so I couldn't understand half he said. He wanted to know
how much a tire cost; he wanted to know how much his bill would be,
and if he'd have to pay for the little post that was broke.

"Then he asked if I thought that if he'd promise to send you the money
would the gentleman let him go without payin' for the tire, and he
wanted to know what your name was; and when I told him you hadn't no
husband, and what your name was, he asked me to say it over again, and
then he made me say it once more--the whole of it; and while I was
tellin' him that I'd write it down for him if he wanted to send you
the money, he give a big jump and he stuck his head out like a bull.
He looked so queer that I was gettin' skeered; and then he says,
almost whisperin': 'I go! I go away! I leave my bear! If she sell him,
that pay everything! I come back no more--never! never!'

"I saw he was goin' to scoot, and I made a grab at him, but he give me
a push that nearly tore my collar off, and away he went. You never see
anybody run like he run. He was out of sight in no time."

"And he left his bear!" she exclaimed, in horror. "What on earth am I
to do with a bear?" She looked at me, and in spite of her annoyance
and perplexity she could not help joining me when I laughed outright.



CHAPTER VIII

ORSO


Mrs. Chester and I hurried back to the yard. There was the bear,
sitting calmly on his haunches, but there was no Italian.

"Now that his master is gone," my hostess exclaimed, "I am afraid of
him! I will not go any farther! Can you imagine anything that can be
done with that beast?"

I had no immediate answer to give, and I was still very much amused at
the absurdity of the situation. Had any one ever before paid his bill
in such fashion? At this moment the stable-man approached us from one
of the outbuildings. "This is my hostler," she said. "Perhaps he can
suggest something."

"This is a bad go, ma'am," said he. "The horse was out in the pasture
all night, but this morning when I went to bring him up I couldn't
make him come near the stable. He smells that bear! It seems to drive
him crazy!"

"It's awful!" she said. "What are we going to do, John? Do you think
the animal will become dangerous when he misses his master?"

"Oh, there's nothin' dangerous about him," answered John. "I was
sittin' talkin' to that Dago last night after supper, and he says his
bear's tamer than a cat. He is so mild-tempered that he wouldn't hurt
nobody. The Dago says he sleeps close up to him of cold nights to keep
himself warm. There ain't no trouble about his bein' dangerous, but
you can't bring the horse into the stable while he's about. If anybody
was to drive into this yard without knowin' they'd be a circus, I can
tell you! Horses can't stand bears."

She looked at me in dismay. "Couldn't he be shot and buried?" she
asked.

I had my doubts on that point. A tame bear is a valuable animal, and I
could not advise her to dispose of the property of another person in
that summary way.

"But he must be got away," she said. "We can't have a bear here. He
must be taken away some way or other. Isn't there any place where he
could be put until the Italian comes back?"

"That Dago's never comin' back," said the boy, solemnly. "If you'd
a-seen him scoot, you'd a-knowed that he was dead skeered, and would
never turn up here no more, bear or no bear."

Mrs. Chester looked at me. She was greatly worried, but she was also
amused, and she could not help laughing.

"Isn't this a dreadful predicament?" she said. "What in the world am I
to do?" At this moment there was an acidulated voice from the kitchen.
"Mrs. Whittaker wants to see you, Mrs. Chester," it cried, "right
away!"

"Oh, dear!" said she. "Here is more trouble! Mrs. Whittaker is an
invalid lady who is so nervous that she could not sleep one night
because she heard a man had killed a snake at the back of the barn,
and what she will say when she hears that we have a bear here without
a master I do not know. I must go to her, and I do wish you could
think of something that I can do;" as she said this she looked at me
as if it were a natural thing for her to rely upon me. For a moment it
made me think of the star that had winked the night before.

Mrs. Chester hurried into the house, and in company with the
stable-man I crossed the yard towards the bear.

"You are sure he is gentle?" said I.

"Mild as milk!" said the man. "I was a-playin' with him last night.
He'll let you do anything with him! If you box his ears, he'll lay
over flat down on his side!"

When we were within a few feet of the bear he sat upright, dangled his
fore paws in front of him, and, with his head on one side, he partly
opened his mouth and lolled out his tongue. "I guess he's beggin' for
his breakfust," said John.

"Can't you get him something to eat?" I asked. "He ought to be fed, to
begin with."

The man went back to the kitchen, and I walked slowly around the bear,
looking at the chain and the post, and trying to see what sort of a
collar was almost hidden under his shaggy hair. Apparently he seemed
securely attached, and then--as he was at the end of his chain--I went
up to him and gently patted one paw. He did not object to this, and
turning his head he let his tongue loll out on the other side, fixing
his little black eyes upon me with much earnestness. When the man came
with the pan of scraps from the kitchen I took it from him and placed
it on the ground in front of the bear. Instantly the animal dropped to
his feet and began to eat with earnest rapidity.

"I wonder how much he'd take in for one meal," said John, "if you'd
give him all he wanted? I guess that Dago never let him have any
more'n he could help."

As the bear was licking the tin pan I stood and looked at him. "I
wonder if he would be tame with strangers?" said I. "Do you suppose we
could take him away from this post if we wanted to?"

"Oh yes," said John. "I wouldn't be afraid to take him anywheres, only
there isn't any place to take him to." He then stepped quite close to
the bear. "Hey, horsey!" said he. "Hey, old horsey! Good old horsey!"

"Is that his name?" I asked.

"That's what the Dago called him," said John. "Hey, horsey! Good
horsey!" And he stooped and unfastened the chain from the post.

I imagined that the Italian had called the bear "Orso," perhaps with
some diminutive, but I did not care to discuss this. I was very much
interested to see what the man was going to do. With the end of the
chain in his hand, John now stepped in front of the bear and said,
"Come along, horsey!" and, to my surprise, the bear began to shamble
after him as quietly as if he had been following his old master.
"See!" cried John. "He'll go anywheres I choose to take him!" and he
began to lead him about the yard.

As he approached the kitchen there came a fearful scream from the open
window.

"Take him away! Take him away!" I heard, in the shrillest accents.

"They're dreadfully skeered," said John, as he led the bear back; "but
he wouldn't hurt nobody! It would be a good thing, though, to put his
muzzle on; that's it hangin' over there by the shed; it's like a
halter, and straps up his jaws. The Dago said there ain't no need for
it, but he puts it on when he's travellin' along the road to keep
people from bein' skeered."

"It would be well to put it on," said I. "I wonder if we can get him
into it?"

"I guess he'd let you do anything you'd a mind to," replied John, as
he again fastened the chain to the post.

I took down the muzzle and approached the bear. He did not growl, but
stood perfectly still and looked at me. I put the muzzle over his
head, and, holding myself in readiness to elude a sudden snap, I
strapped up his jaws. The creature made no snap--he gazed at me with
mild resignation.

"As far as he goes," said John, "he's all right; but as far as
everything else goes--especially horses--they're all wrong. He's got
to be got rid of some way."

I had nothing more to say to John, and I went into the house. I met
Mrs. Chester in the hall.

"I have had a bad time up-stairs," she said. "Mrs. Whittaker declares
that she will not stay an hour in a house where there is a bear
without a master; but as she has a terrible sciatica and cannot
travel, I do not know what she is going to do. Her trained nurse, I
believe, is now putting on her bonnet to depart."

As she spoke, the joyful anticipation of a few days at the Holly Sprig
Inn began to fade away. I did not blame the bear as the present cause
of my disappointment. He had done all he could for me. It was his
wretched master who had done the mischief by running away and leaving
him. But no matter what had happened, I saw my duty plainly before me.
I had not been encouraged to stay, but it is possible that I might
have done so without encouragement, but now I saw that I must go. The
Fates, who, as I had hoped, had compelled my stay, now compelled my
departure.

"Do not give yourself another thought upon the subject," I said. "I
will settle the whole matter, and nobody need be frightened or
disturbed. The Cheltenham Hotel is only a few miles farther on, and I
shall have to walk there anyway. I will start immediately and take the
bear with me. I am sure that he will allow me to lead him wherever I
please. I have tried him, and I find that he is a great deal gentler
than most children."

She exclaimed, in horror: "You must not think of it! He might spring
upon you and tear you to pieces!"

"Oh, he will not do that," I answered. "He is not that sort of a
bear--and, besides, he is securely muzzled. I muzzled him myself, and
he did not mind it in the least. Oh, you need not be afraid of the
bear; he has had his breakfast and he is in perfect good-humor with
the world. It will not take me long to reach the hotel, and I shall
enjoy the walk, and when I get there I will be sure to find some shed
or out-house where the beast can be shut up until it can be decided
what to do with him. I can leave him there and have him legally
advertised, and then--if nothing else can be done--he can be shot. I
shall be very glad to have his skin; it will be worth enough to cover
his bill here, and the damages to my bicycle. I shall send for that
as soon as I reach the hotel. I can go to Waterton by train and take
it with me. I can have it made all right in Waterton. So now, you see,
I have settled everything satisfactorily."

She looked at me earnestly, and, although there was a certain
solicitude in her gaze, I could also see there signs of great relief.
"But isn't there some other way of getting that bear to the hotel?"
she said. "It will be dreadful for you to have to walk there and lead
him."

"It's the only way to do it," I answered. "You could not hitch a bear
behind a wagon--the horse would run away and jerk his head off. The
only way to take a bear about the country is to lead him, and I do not
mind it in the least. As I have got to go without my bicycle I would
like to have some sort of company. Anyway, the bear must go, and as I
am on the road to the Cheltenham I shall be very glad to take him
along with me."

"I think you are wonderfully brave," she said, "and very good. If I
can persuade myself it will be perfectly safe for you, it will
certainly be a great relief to me."

I was now engaged in a piece of self-sacrifice, and I felt that I must
do it thoroughly and promptly. "I will go and get my valise," I said,
"for I ought to start immediately."

"Oh, I will send that!" she exclaimed.

"No," I answered; "it does not weigh anything, and I can sling it over
my shoulder. By-the-way," I said, turning as I was about to leave the
room, "I have forgotten something." I put my hand into my pocket; it
would not do to forget that I was, after all, only a departing guest.

"No, no," she replied, quickly, "I am your debtor. When you find out
how much damage you have suffered, and what is to be done with the
bear, all that can be settled. You can write to me, but I will have
nothing to do with it now."

With my valise over my shoulder I returned to the hall to take leave
of my hostess. Now she seemed somewhat contrite. Fate and she had
conquered, I was going away, and she was sorry for me.

"I think it is wonderfully good of you to do all this," she said. "I
wish I could do something for you."

I would have been glad to suggest that she might ask me to come again,
and it would also have pleased me to say that I did not believe that
her husband, if he could express his opinion, would commend her
apparent inhospitality to his successor. But I made no such remarks,
and offered my hand, which she cordially clasped as if I were an old
friend and were going away to settle in the Himalayas.

I went into the yard to get Orso. He was lying down when I approached
him, but I think he knew from my general appearance that I was
prepared to take the road, and he rose to his feet as much as to say,
"I am ready." I unfastened the chain from the post, and, with the best
of wishes for good-luck from John, who now seemed to be very well
satisfied with me, I walked around the side of the house, the bear
following as submissively as if he had been used to my leadership all
his life.

I did not see the boy nor the lemon-faced woman, and I was glad of it.
I believe they would have cast evil eyes upon me, and there is no
knowing what that bear might have done in consequence.

Mrs. Chester was standing in the door as I reached the road.
"Good-bye!" she cried, "and good fortune go with you!" I raised my
hat, and gave Orso a little jerk with the chain.



CHAPTER IX

A RUNAWAY


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.

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.

[Illustration: "TO MY LEFT I SAW A LINE OF TREES"]

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.

[Illustration: "HE WAS RUNNING AWAY"]

"Are you hurt?" I asked.

"Oh no," she said, "but I am shaken up a bit. I cannot tell you how
grateful I am! I don't believe I ever can tell you!"

"Do not speak of that." I said, quickly. "Perhaps you would feel
better if you were to sit down somewhere."

"Oh, I don't want to sit down," said she. "I am so glad to have my
feet on the solid earth again that that is enough for me. It was a
bear that frightened him--a bear lying down by the side of the road a
little way back. He never ran away before, but when he saw that bear
he gave a great shy and a bolt, and he was off. I just got a glimpse
of the beast."

I was very anxious to change the conversation, and suggested that I
lead the horse into the shade, for the sun was blazing down upon us.
The horse submitted to be led to the side of the road, but he was very
nervous, and looked everywhere for the approach of shaggy bears.

"It is perfectly dreadful," she said, when she again approached me,
"for people to leave bears about in that way. I suppose he was
fastened, for it could not have been a wild beast. They do not lie
down by the side of the road. I do not say that I was rattled, but I
expected every second that there would be a smash, and there would
have been if it had not been for--"

"It is a wonder you were not thrown out," I interrupted, "those carts
are so tall."

"Yes," she answered, "and if I hadn't slipped off the driving-cushion
at the first shy I would have been out sure. I never had anything
happen like this, but who could have expected a great bear by the side
of the road?"

"Have you far to go?" I asked.

"Not very--about three miles. I made a call this morning on the other
road, and was driving home. My name is Miss Larramie. My father's
place is on this road. He is Henry Esmond Larramie." I had heard of
the gentleman, but had never met him. "I am not afraid of horses,"
she continued, "but I do not know about driving this one now. He looks
as if he were all ready to bolt again."

"Oh, it would not do for you to drive him," I said. "That would be
extremely risky."

"I might walk home," she said, "but I could not leave the horse."

"Let me think a minute," said I. Then presently I asked, "Will this
horse stand if he is hitched?"

"Oh yes," she answered; "I always hitch him when I make calls. There
is a big strap under the seat which goes around his neck, and then
through a ring in his bit. He has to stand--he can't get away."

"Very well, then," said I; "I will tell you what I will do. I will tie
him to this tree. I think he is quieter, and if you will stand by him
and talk to him--he knows you?"

"Oh yes," she answered, "and I can feed him with grass. But why do you
want to tie him? What are you going to do?"

As she spoke she brought me the tie strap, and I proceeded to fasten
the horse to a tree.

"Now, then," said I, "I must go and get the bear and take him away
somewhere out of sight. It will never do to leave him there. Some
other horse might be coming along."

"You get the bear!" she said, surprised.

"Yes," I answered; "he is my bear, and--"

She stepped back, her eyes expanded and her lower jaw dropped. "_Your_
bear!" she cried, and with that her glance seemed to run all over me
as if she were trying to find some resemblance to a man who exhibited
a bear.

"Yes," I replied; "I left him there while I went to ask my way. It was
a dreadful thing to do, but I must leave him there no longer. I will
tell you all about it when I come back."

I had decided upon a plan of action. I ran down the road to the bear,
took down some bars of the fence, and then, untying him, I led him
over a field to a patch of woodland. Orso shuffled along humbly as if
it did not make any difference to him where he went, and when I
reached the woods I entered it by an old cart-road, and soon struck
off to one side among some heavy underbrush. Finding a spot where it
would be impossible for the beast to be seen from the road, I fastened
him securely to a tree. He looked after me regretfully, and I think I
heard him whine, but I am not sure of that. I hurried back to the
road, replaced the bars, and very soon had joined the young lady.

"Well," said she, "never in this world would I have thought that was
your bear! But what is to be done now? This horse gave a jump as soon
as he heard you running this way."

"Now," said I, "I will drive you to your house, or, if you are afraid,
you can walk, and I will take him home for you if you will give me the
directions."

"Oh, I am not a bit afraid," she said. "I am sure you can manage
him--you seem to be able to manage animals. But will not this be a
great inconvenience to you? Are you going this way? And won't you have
to come back after your bear? I can't believe that you are really
leading a bear about."

I laughed as I unfastened the horse. "It will not take me long to come
back," I said. "Now, I will get in first, and, when I have him
properly in hand, you can mount on the other side."

The young lady appeared to have entirely recovered from the effects of
her fright, and was by my side in a moment. The horse danced a little
as we started and tried to look behind him, but he soon felt that he
was under control, and trotted off finely.

I now thought that I ought to tell her who I was, for I did not want
to be taken for a travelling showman, although I really did not
suppose that she would make such a mistake.

"So you are the school-master at Walford!" said she. "I have heard
about you. Little Billy Marshall is one of your scholars."

I admitted that he was, and that I was afraid he did not do me very
much credit.

"Perhaps not," she said, "but he is a good boy. His mother sometimes
works for us; she does quite heavy jobs of sewing, and Billy brings
them up by train. He was here a little more than a week ago, and I
asked him how he was getting on at school, and if he had a good
teacher, and he said the man was pretty good. But I want to know about
the bear. How in the world did you happen to be leading a bear?"

I related the ursine incident, which amused her very much, and, as she
was a wheelwoman herself, she commiserated with me sincerely on the
damage to my machine.

"So you stopped at the Holly Sprig?" she said. "And how did you like
the mistress of that little inn?"

I replied that I had found her very interesting.

"Yes, she is an interesting woman," said my companion, "and a very
pretty one, too. Some people wonder why she continues to keep the inn,
but perhaps she has to. You know, her husband was murdered."

[Illustration: "He soon felt that he was under control"]

"No, I did not!" I exclaimed, in surprise. "I knew he was not
living--but murdered! That is dreadful! How did that happen?"

"Nobody knows," she answered. "They had not been married very long--I
do not know how long--when he was killed. He went to New York on
business by himself, and did not come back. They were searching for
him days and days--ever so long, and they could find no clew. At
last--it may have been a month afterwards--or perhaps it was more--it
was found that he had been murdered. His body had been discovered, and
was supposed to be that of somebody else, and had been buried in
whatever place the authorities buried people in such cases. Then it
was too late to get it or to identify it, or to do anything. Wasn't
that perfectly awful?"

This story gave me a peculiar shock. I could not have imagined that
that charming and apparently light-hearted young woman at the Holly
Sprig had ever been crushed down by such a sorrow as this. But I did
not ask any more questions. The young girl by my side probably knew no
more than she had already told me. Besides, I did not want to hear any
more.

"'Royal' goes along just as if nothing had happened," she said,
admiringly regarding the horse. "Now, I wonder if it will be safe for
me to drive him again?"

"I should be very sorry," I answered, "if my thoughtlessness had
rendered him unsafe for you; but if he could be led up and down past
the place where he saw the bear until he becomes convinced that there
is now nothing dreadful in that spot, he may soon be all right again."

"Do you know," she said, suddenly turning towards me, "what I would
like better than anything else in this world? I would like to be able
to stand in the middle of the road and stop a horse as you did!"

I laughed and assured her that I knew there were a great many things
in the world which it would be much better for her to do than that.

"Nothing would please me so much," she said, decisively, "not one
single, solitary thing! There's our gate. Turn in here, please."

I drove up a winding road which led to a house standing among trees on
a slight elevation. "Please let me out here," she said, when I reached
the end of the porch. "I will send a man to take the horse."



CHAPTER X

THE LARRAMIE FAMILY


I think I did not have to wait ten seconds after her departure, for a
stable-man had seen us approach and immediately came forward. I jumped
down from the cart and looked in the direction of the road. I thought
if I were to make a cross-cut over the lawn and some adjacent fields I
should get back to my bear much quicker than if I returned the way I
had come. But this thought had scarcely shaped itself in my mind when
I heard the approach of hurrying feet, and in the next moment a little
army had thrown itself upon me.

There was a tall, bright-faced man, with side whiskers and a flowing
jacket, who came forward with long steps and outstretched hand; there
was a lady behind him, with little curls on the side of her head; and
there were some boys and girls and other people. And nearly in front
of the whole of them was the young lady I had brought to the house.
Each one of them seized me by the hand; each one of them told me what
a great thing I had done; each of them thanked me from the bottom of
his or her heart for saving the life of his or her daughter or sister,
and not one of them gave me a chance to say that as I had done all the
mischief I could not be too thankful that I had been able to avert
evil consequences. From the various references to the details of the
incident I concluded that the young lady had dashed into the house and
had given a full account of everything which had happened in less time
than it would have taken me to arrange my ideas for such a recital.

As soon as I could get a chance I thanked them all for their gracious
words, and said that as I was in a hurry I must take my leave.
Thereupon arose a hubbub of voices. "Not at dinner-time!" exclaimed
Mr. Larramie. "We would never listen to such a thing!"

"And you need not trouble yourself about your bear," cried my young
lady, whose Christian name I soon discovered to be Edith. "He can live
on barks and roots until we have time to attend to him. He is used to
that in his native wilds."

[Illustration: "A LITTLE ARMY HAD THROWN ITSELF UPON US."]

Now everybody wanted to know everything about the bear, and great was
the hilarity which my account occasioned.

"Come in! Come in!" exclaimed Mr. Larramie. "The bear will be all
right if you tied him well. You have just time to get ready for
dinner." And noticing a glance I had given to my garments, he
continued: "You need not bother about your clothes. We are all in
field costume. Oh, I did not see you had a valise. Now, hurry in, all
of you!"

That dinner was a most lively meal. Everybody seemed to be talking at
once, yet they all found time to eat. The father talked so much that
his daughter Edith took the carving-fork from him and served out the
mutton-chops herself. The mother, from the other end of the table,
with tears in her eyes, continually asked me if I would not have
something or other, and how I could ever screw up my courage to go
about with an absolutely strange bear.

There was a young man, apparently the oldest son, with a fine, frank
manner and very broad shoulders. He was so wonderfully developed about
the bust that he seemed almost deformed, his breast projecting so far
that it gave him the appearance of being round-shouldered in front.
This, my practised eye told me, was the result of undue exercise in
the direction of chest-expansion. He was a good-natured fellow, and
overlooked my not answering several of his questions, owing to the
evident want of opportunity to do so.

There was a yellow-haired girl with a long plait down her back; there
was a half-grown boy, wearing a blue calico shirt with a red cravat;
there was a small girl who sat by her mother; and there was a young
lady, very upright and slender, who did not seem to belong to the
family, for she never used the words "father" and "mother," which were
continually in the mouths of the others. This young lady talked
incessantly, and fired her words after the manner of a Gatling gun,
without taking aim at anybody in particular. Sometimes she may have
been talking to me, but, as she did not direct her gaze towards me on
such occasions, I did not feel bound to consider any suppositions in
regard to the matter.

I, of course, was the principal object of general attention. They
wanted to know what I really thought of Billy Marshall as a scholar.
They wanted to know if I would have some more. They wanted to know if
I had had any previous experience with bears. The father asked which
I thought it would be easier to manage, a boy or a bear. The boy Percy
wanted to know how I placed my feet when I stood up in front of a
runaway horse. Others asked if I intended to go back to my school at
Walford, and how I liked the village, and if I were president of the
literary society there, which Mrs. Larramie thought I ought to be, on
account of my scholastic position.

[Illustration: "'WOULD IT BE EASIER TO MANAGE A BOY OR A BEAR?'"]

But before the meal was over the bear had come to be the absorbing
subject of conversation. I was asked my plans about him, and they were
all disapproved.

"It would be of no use to take him to the Cheltenham," said Walter,
the oldest son. "They couldn't keep him there. They have too many
horses--a livery-stable. They wouldn't let you come on the place with
him."

"Of course not," said Mr. Larramie. "And, besides, why should you take
him there? It would be a poor place anyway. They wouldn't keep him
until his owner turned up. They wouldn't have anything to do with him.
What you want to do is to bring your bear here. We have a hay-barn out
in the fields. He could sleep in the hay, and we could give him a long
chain so that he could have a nice range."

The younger members of the family were delighted with this
suggestion. Nothing would please them better than to have a bear on
the place. Each one of them was ready to take entire charge of it, and
Percy declared that he would go into the woods and hunt for wild-bee
honey with which to feed it. Even Mrs. Larramie assured me that if a
bear were well chained, at a suitable distance, she would have no
fears whatever of it.

I accepted the proposition, for I was glad to get rid of the animal in
a way which would please so many people, and after dinner was over,
and I had smoked a cigar with my host and his son Walter, I said that
it was time for me to go and get the bear.

"But you won't go by the main road," said Mr. Larramie. "That makes a
great curve below here to avoid a hill. If I understood you properly,
you left the bear not far from a small house inhabited by three
women?"

"They're the McKenna sisters," added Walter.

"Yes," said the father, "and their house is not more than two miles
from here by a field road. I will go with you."

I exclaimed that I would not put him to so much trouble, but my words
were useless. The Walter son declared that he would go also, that he
would like the walk; the Percy son declared he was going if anybody
went; and Genevieve, the girl with the yellow plait, said that she
wished she were a boy so that she could go too, and she wished she
could go anyway, boy or no boy, and as her father said that there was
no earthly reason why she should not go, she ran for her hat.

Miss Edith looked as if she would like to go, but she did not say so;
and, as for me, I agreed to every proposition. It would certainly be
great fun to do things with this lively household.

We started off without the boy, but it was not long before he came
running after us, and to my horror I perceived that he carried a
rifle.

"What are you going to do with that, Percy?" exclaimed his father.

"I don't expect to do anything with it," the boy replied, "but I
thought it would be a good thing to bring it along--especially as
Genevieve is with us. Nobody knows what might happen."

"That's true," exclaimed Walter, "and the fact that Genevieve is along
is the best reason in the world for your not bringing a gun. You
better go take it back."

To this Percy strongly objected. He was going out on a sort of a
bear-hunt, and to him half the pleasure would be lost if he did not
carry a gun. I am not a coward, but a boy with a gun is a terror to
me. My expression may have intimated my state of mind, for Mr.
Larramie said to me that we had now gone so far that it would be a
pity to send Percy back, and that he did not think there would be any
danger, for his boy had been taught how to carry a gun properly.

"We are all out-of-door people and sportsmen," he said, "and we begin
early. But I suppose what you are thinking about is the danger of some
of us ending soon. But we need not be afraid of that. Walk in front,
Percy, and keep the barrel pointed downward."

When we came in sight of the house of the three McKennas, Walter
proposed that we make a détour towards the woods. "For," said he, "if
those good women see a party like this with a gun among them, they
will be sure to think it is a case of escaped criminal, or something
of that kind, and be frightened out of their wits."

We skirted the edge of the trees until we came to the opening of the
wood road, which I recognized immediately, and, asking Percy and the
others to keep back, I went on by myself.

"I don't think people would frighten that sort of a bear," I heard
Genevieve say. "He must be used to crowds around him when he's
dancing."

I presently reached the place where I had turned from the road. It was
a natural break in the woods. There was the tree to which I had tied
the bear, but there was no bear.

I stood aghast, and in a moment the rest of the party were clustered
around me. "Is this where you left him?" they cried. "And is he gone?
Are you sure this is the place?"

Yes, I was sure of it. I have an excellent eye for locality, and I
knew that I had chained the bear to the small oak in front of me. At
that moment there was a scream from Genevieve. "Look! Look!" she
cried. "There he is, just ready to spring!"

We all looked up, and, sure enough, on the lower branch of the oak,
half enveloped in foliage, we saw the bear extended at full length and
blinking down at us. I gave a shout of delight.

"Now, keep back, all of you!" I cried. "Bears don't spring from trees,
but it will be better for you to be out of the way while I try to get
him down."

I walked up to the oak-tree, and then I found that the bear was still
firmly attached to it. His chain had been fastened loosely around the
trunk; he had climbed up to the branch and pulled the chain with him.

I now called upon Orso to come down, but apparently he did not
understand English, and lay quietly upon the branch, his head towards
the trunk of the tree. I extended my hand up towards the chain, and
found that I could nearly reach it. "Shall I give you a lift?" cried
Walter, and I accepted the offer. It was a hard piece of work for him,
but he was a professed athlete, and he would have lifted me if it had
cracked his spine. I reached up and unhooked the chain. It was then
long enough for me to stand on the ground and hold the end of it.

Now I began to pull. "Come down!" I said. "Come down, Orso!" But Orso
did not move.

"Bears don't come down head-foremost," cried Percy; "they turn around
and come down backwards. You ought to have a chain to his tail if you
want to pull him down."

"He hasn't got any tail!" exclaimed Genevieve.

I was in a quandary. I might as well try to break the branch as to
pull the bear down. "If we had only thought of bringing a bucket of
meat!" cried Percy.

"Would you mind holding the chain," I said to Walter, "while I try to
drive him down?" Of course the developed young man was not afraid to
do anything I was not afraid to do, and he took the chain. There was
a pine-tree growing near the oak, and, mounting into this, I found
that with a long stick which Mr. Larramie handed me I could just reach
the bear. "Go down!" I said, tapping him on the haunches, but he did
not move.

"Can't you speak to him in Italian?" said Genevieve. "Tame bears know
Italian. Doesn't anybody know the Italian for 'Come down out of a
tree?'" But such knowledge was absent from the party.

"Try him in Latin," cried Percy. "That must be a good deal like
Italian, anyway."

To this suggestion Mr. Larramie made no answer; he had left college
before any of the party present had been born; Mr. Walter looked a
little confused; he had graduated several years before, and his
classics were rusty. I felt that my pedagogical position made it
incumbent upon me to take immediate action, but for the life of me I
could not think of an appropriate phrase.

"Give him high English!" cried Mr. Larramie. "That's often classic
enough! Tell him to descend!"

"Orso, descend!" I cried, giving a little foreign twang to the words.
Immediately the bear began to twist like a caterpillar upon the limb,
he extended his hind-legs towards the trunk, he seized it with his
fore-paws. He began slowly to move downward.

"Hurrah!" cried Percy, "that hit him like a rifle-ball! Hurrah for
high English! That's good enough for me!"

"Look at his hind hands!" cried Genevieve. "He has worn all the hair
off his palms!"

I hurried from the tree and reached the ground before the bear. Then
taking the end of the chain, I advised the others to move out of the
woods while I followed with the bear. They all obeyed except
Genevieve, who wanted very much to linger behind and help me lead him.
But this I would not permit.

The bear followed me with his usual docility until we had emerged from
the woods. Then he gave a little start, and fixed his eyes upon Percy,
who stood at a short distance, his rifle in his hand. I had not
supposed that this bear was afraid of anything, but now I had reason
to believe that he was afraid of guns, for the instant he saw the
armed boy he made the little start I have mentioned, and followed it
up by a great bolt which jerked the chain from my hand, and the next
instant Orso was bounding away in great lopes, his chain rattling
behind him.

Promptly Percy brought his rifle to his shoulder. "Don't you fire!" I
shouted. "Put down your gun and leave it here. It frightens him!" And
with that we were all off in hot pursuit.

"Cut him off from the woods!" shouted Mr. Walter, who was in advance.
"If he gets in the woods we'll lose him sure!"

We followed this good advice, and at the top of our speed we
endeavored to get between the beast and the trees. To a certain extent
we succeeded in our object, for some of us were fast runners, and
Orso, perceiving that he might be cut off from a woody retreat, turned
almost at right angles and made directly for the house.

"He's after the three McKennas!" screamed Genevieve, as she turned to
follow the bear, and from being somewhat in the rear she was now in
advance of us, and dashed across the field at a most wonderful rate
for a girl.

The rest of us soon passed her, but before we reached the house the
bear disappeared behind some out-buildings. Then we saw him again. He
dashed through the gate of a back yard. He seemed to throw himself
against the house. He disappeared through a door-way. There was a
great crash as of crockery and tin. There were screams. There was
rattling and banging, and then all was still. When we reached the
house we heard no sound.



CHAPTER XI

THE THREE McKENNAS


I was in advance, and as I entered the door-way through which the bear
had disappeared, I found myself in the kitchen where I had seen the
three women at their dinner. Wild confusion had been brought about in
a second. A table had been over-turned, broken dishes and tin things
were scattered on the floor, a wooden chair lay upon its back, and the
room seemed deserted. The rest of the party quickly rushed in behind
me, and great were their exclamations at the scene of havoc.

"I hope nothing has happened to the McKenna sisters," cried Mr.
Larramie. "They must have been in here!"

I did not suppose that anything serious had occurred, for the bear's
jaws were securely strapped, but with anxious haste I went into the
other part of the house. Across a hallway I saw an open door, and
from the room within came groans, or perhaps I should call them
long-drawn wails of woe.

I was in the room in a moment, and the others crowded through the
door-way behind me. It was a good-sized bedroom, probably the
"spare-room" of the first floor. In one corner was a tall and wide
high-posted bedstead, and in the very middle of it sat an elderly
woman drawn up into the smallest compass into which she could possibly
compress herself. Her eyes were closed, her jaws were dropped, her
spectacles hung in front of her mouth, her gray hair straggled over
her eyes, and her skin was of a soapy whiteness.

She paid no attention to the crowd of people in the room. Evidently
she was frightened out of her senses. Every moment she emitted a
doleful wail. As we stood gazing at her, and before we had time to
speak to her, she seemed to be seized by an upheaving spasm, the
influence of which was so great that she actually rose in the air, and
as she did so her wail intensified itself into a shriek, and as she
came down again with a sudden thump all the breath in her body seemed
to be bounced out in a gasp of woe.

"It's Susan McKenna!" exclaimed Walter. "What in the world is the
matter with her? Miss Susan, are you hurt?"

She made no answer, but again she rose, again she gave vent to a wild
wail, and again she came down with a thump.

Percy was now on his knees near the bed. "It's the bear!" he cried.
"He's under there, and he's humping himself!"

"Sacking bottom!" cried the practical Genevieve "There isn't room
enough for him!"

Stooping down I saw the bear under the bed, now crowding himself back
as far as possible into a corner. No part of his chain was exposed to
view, and for a moment I did not see how I was going to get him out.
But the first thing was to get rid of the woman.

"Come, Miss Susan," said Mr. Larramie, "let me help you off the bed,
and you can go into another room, and then we will attend to this
animal. You need not be afraid to get down. He won't hurt you."

But the McKenna sister paid no attention to these remarks. She kept
her eyes closed; she moaned and wailed. So long as that horrible demon
was under the bed she would not have put as much as one of her toes
over the edge for all the money in the world!

In every way I tried to induce the bear to come out, but he paid no
attention to me. He had been frightened, and he was now in darkness
and security. Suddenly a happy thought struck me. I glanced around the
room, and then I rushed into the hall. Genevieve followed me. "What do
you want?" she said.

"I am looking for some overshoes!" I cried. "India-rubber ones!"

Instantly Genevieve began to dash around. In a few moments she had
opened a little closet which I had not noticed. "Here is one!" she
cried, "but it's torn--the heel is nearly off! Perhaps the other
one--"

"Give me that!" I exclaimed. "It doesn't matter about its being torn!"
With the old overshoe in my hand I ran back into the room, where Mr.
Larramie was still imploring the McKenna sister to get down from the
bed. I stooped and thrust the shoe under as far as I could reach.
Almost immediately I saw a movement in the shaggy mass in the corner.
I wriggled the shoe, and a paw was slightly extended. Then I drew it
away slowly from under the bed.

Now, Miss Susan McKenna rose in the air higher than she had yet gone.
A maddening wail went up, and for a moment she tottered on the apex
of an elevation like a wooden idol upheaved by an earthquake. Before
she had time to tumble over she sank again with a thump. The great
hairy bear, looking twice as large in that room as he appeared in the
open air, came out from under the foot of the bed, and as I dangled
the old rubber shoe in front of his nose he would have seized upon it
if his jaws had not been strapped together. I got hold of the chain
and conducted him quietly outside, amid the cheers and hand-clapping
of Percy and Genevieve.

I chained Orso to a post of the fence, and, removing his muzzle, I
gave him the old rubber shoe.

"Shall I bring him some more?" cried Genevieve, full of zeal in good
works. But I assured her that one would do for the present.

I now hurried into the house to find out what had happened to the
persons and property of the McKenna sisters.

"Where are the other two?" cried Genevieve, who was darting from one
room to another; "the bear can't have swallowed them."

It was not long before Percy discovered the two missing sisters in the
cellar. They were seated on the ground with their aprons over their
heads.

It was some time before quiet was restored in that household. To the
paralyzing terror occasioned by the sudden advent of the bear
succeeded wild lamentations over the loss of property. I assured them
that I was perfectly willing to make good the loss, but Mr. Larramie
would not allow me to say anything on the subject.

"It is not your affair," said he. "The bear would have done no damage
whatever had it not been for the folly of Percy in bringing his gun--I
suppose the animal has been shot at some time or other--and my
weakness in allowing him to keep it. I will attend to these damages.
The amount is very little, I imagine, principally cheap crockery, and
the best thing you can do is to start off slowly with your bear. The
women will not be able to talk reasonably until it is off the
premises. I will catch up with you presently."

When the bear and I, with the rest of the party, were fairly out of
sight of the house, we stopped and waited for Mr. Larramie, and it was
not long before he joined us.

When we reached the hay-barn we were met by the rest of the Larramie
family, all anxious to see the bear. Even Miss Edith, who had had one
glimpse of the beast, was very glad indeed to assure me that she did
not wonder in the least that I had supposed there would be no harm in
leaving such a mild creature for a little while by the side of the
road, and I was sure from the exclamations of the rest of the family
that Orso would not suffer for want of care and attention during his
stay in the hay-barn.

I was immensely relieved to get rid of the bear and to leave him in
such good quarters, for it now appeared to me quite reasonable that I
might have had difficulty in lodging him anywhere on the premises of
the Cheltenham, and under any circumstances I very much preferred
appearing at that hotel without an ursine companion. As soon as we
reached the house I told Mr. Larramie that it was now necessary for me
to hurry on, and asked if there were not some way to the hotel which
would not make it necessary for me to go back to the main road.

The good gentleman fairly shouted at me. "You aren't going to any
hotel!" he declared. "Do you suppose we are heathens, to let you start
off at this late hour in the afternoon for a hotel? You have nothing
to do with hotels--you spend the night with us, sir! If you are
thinking about your clothes, pray dismiss the subject from your mind.
If it will make you feel better satisfied, we will all put on golf
suits. In the morning we will get your machine from the Holly Sprig,
and when you want to go on we will send you and it to Waterton in a
wagon. It is not a long drive, and it is much the pleasanter way to
manage your business."

The family showed themselves delighted when they heard that I was to
spend the night with them, and I did not object to the plan, for I had
not the slightest desire to go to a summer hotel. Just before I went
up to my room to get ready for supper, the young Genevieve came to me
upon the porch.

"Would you mind," she said, "letting me feel your muscle?"

Very much surprised, I reached out my arm for her inspection, and she
clasped her long thin fingers around my _biceps flexor cubiti._
Apparently, the inspection was very satisfactory to her.

"I would give anything," she said, "if I had muscle like that!"

I laughed heartily. "My dear little girl," said I, "you would be
sorry, indeed, if you had anything of the sort. When you grow up and
go to parties, how would you like to show bare arms shaped like mine?
You would be a spectacle, indeed."

"Well," said she, "perhaps you are right. I might not care to have
them bulge, but I would like to have them hard."

It was a lively supper and an interesting evening. Miss Edith sat
opposite to me at table--I gave her this title because I was informed
that there was an elder sister who was away on a visit. I could see
that she regarded me as her especial charge. She did not ask me what I
would have, but she saw that every possible want was attended to. As
the table was lighted by a large hanging-lamp, I had a better view of
her features than I had yet obtained. She was not handsome. Her eyes
were too wide apart, her nose needed perhaps an eighth of an inch in
length, and her well-shaped mouth would not have suffered by a slight
reduction. But there was a cheerful honesty in her expression and in
her words which gave me the idea that she was a girl to believe in.

After supper we played round games, and the nervous young lady talked.
She could not keep her mind on cards, and therefore played no game. In
the course of the evening Mrs. Larramie took occasion to say to me,
and her eyes were very full as she spoke, that she did not want me to
think she had forgotten that that day I had given her her daughter,
and although the others--greatly to my satisfaction--did not indulge
in any such embarrassing expressions of gratitude, they did not fail
to let me know the high estimation in which they held me. The little
girl, Clara, sat close to me while I was playing, every now and then
gently stroking my arm, and when she was taken off to bed she ran back
to say to me that the next time I brought a bear to their house she
hoped I would also bring some little ones. Even Percy took occasion to
let me know that, under the circumstances, he was willing to overlook
entirely the fact of my being a school-master.

After the games, when the family was scattering--not to their several
bed-chambers, but apparently to various forms of recreation or study
which seemed to demand their attention--Miss Edith asked me if I would
not like to take a walk and look at the stars. As this suggestion was
made in the presence of her parents, I hesitated a moment, expecting
some discreet objection. But none came, and I assented most willingly
to a sub-astral promenade.

There was a long, flagged walk which led to the road, and backward and
forward upon this path we walked many, many times.

"I like starlight better than moonlight," said Miss Edith, "for it
doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is. You cannot do anything
by starlight except simply walk about, and if there are any trees,
that isn't easy. You know this, you don't expect anything more, and
you're satisfied. But moonlight is different. Sometimes it is so
bright out-of-doors when the moon is full that you are apt to think
you could play golf or croquet, or even sit on a bench and read. But
it isn't so. You can't do any of these things--at least, you can't do
them with any satisfaction. And yet, month after month, if you live in
the country, the moon deceives you into thinking that for a great many
things she is nearly as good as the sun. But all she does is to make
the world beautiful, and she doesn't do that as well as the sun does
it. The stars make no pretences, and that is the reason I like them
better.

"But I did not bring you out here to tell you all this," she
continued, offering me no opportunity of giving my opinions on the
stars and moon. "I simply wanted to say that I am so glad and thankful
to be walking about on the surface of the earth with whole bones and
not a scratch from head to foot"--at this point my heart began to
sink: I never do know what to say when people are grateful to
me--"that I am going to show you my gratitude by treating you as I
know you would like to be treated. I shall not pour out my gratitude
before you and make you say things which are incorrect, for you are
bound to do that if you say anything--"

"I thank you from the bottom of my heart," I said; "but now let us
talk some more about the stars."

"Oh, bother the stars!" said she. "But I will drop the subject of
gratitude as soon as I have said that if you ever come to know me
better than you do now, you will know that in regard to such things I
am the right kind of a girl."

I had not the slightest doubt that she was entirely correct. And then
she began to talk about golf, and after that of croquet.

"I consider that the finest out-door game we have," she said, "because
there is more science in it than you find in any of the others. Your
brains must work when you play croquet with intelligent opponents."

"The great trouble about it is," I said, "that it is often so easy."

"But you can get rid of that objection," she replied, "if you have a
bad ground. Croquet needs hazards just as much as golf does. The
finest games I have ever seen were played on a bad ground."

So we talked and walked until some of the lights in the upper windows
of the house had gone out. We ascended to the porch, and just before
entering the front door she turned to me.

"I wish I could go to sleep to-night with the same right to feel
proud, self-confident, superior, that you have. Good-night." And she
held out her hand and gave mine a strong, hearty shake.

I smiled as she left me standing on the porch. This was the same spot
on which her sister Genevieve had felt my muscle. "This is an
appreciative family," I said, and, guided by the sound of voices, I
found Mr. Larramie and his son Walter in the billiard-room.



CHAPTER XII

BACK TO THE HOLLY SPRIG


Before going to bed that night I did not throw myself into an
easy-chair and gaze musingly out into the night. On the contrary, I
stood up sturdily with my back to the mantel-piece, and with the
forefinger of my right hand I tapped my left palm.

"Now, then," said I to myself, "as soon as my bicycle is put into
working order I shall imitate travellers in hot countries--I shall
ride all night, and I shall rest all day. There are too many young
women in Cathay. They turn up one after another with the regularity of
a continuous performance. No sooner is the curtain rung down on one
act than it is rung up on another. Perhaps after a while I may get out
of Cathay, and then again I may ride by day."

In taking my things from my valise, I pulled out the little box which
the doctor's daughter had given me, but I did not open it. "No,"
said I, "there is no need whatever that I should take a capsule
to-night."

[Illustration: "I TAPPED MY LEFT PALM."]

After breakfast the next day Mr. Larramie came to me. "Do you know,"
said he, "I feel ashamed on account of the plans I made for you."

I did not know, for I could see no earthly reason for such feeling.

"I arranged," said he, "to send to the Holly Sprig for your machine,
and then to have you and it driven over to Waterton. Now this I
consider brutish. My wife told me that it was, and I agree with her
perfectly. It will take several days to repair that injured
wheel--Walter tells me you cannot expect it in less than three
days--and what will you do in Waterton all that time? It isn't a
pretty country, the hotels are barely good enough for a night's stop,
and there isn't anything for you to do. Even if you hired a wheel you
would find it stupid exploring that country. Now, sir, that plan is
brushed entirely out of sight. Your bicycle shall be sent on, and when
you hear that it is repaired and ready for use, you can go on yourself
if you wish to."

"My dear sir," I exclaimed, "this is entirely too much!"

He put his hands upon my shoulders and looked me squarely in the
face. "Too much!" said he, "too much! That may be your opinion, but I
can tell you you have the whole of the rest of the world against you.
That is, you would have if they all knew the circumstances. Now you
are only one, and if you want to know how many people are opposed to
you, I have no doubt Percy can tell you, but I am not very well posted
in regard to the present population of the world."

There was no good reason that I could offer why I should go and sit
solitary in Waterton for three days, and if I had had any such reason
I know it would have been treated with contempt. So I submitted--not
altogether with an easy mind, and yet seeing cause for nothing but
satisfaction and content.

"Another thing," said Mr. Larramie; "I have thought that you would
like to attend to your bicycle yourself. Perhaps you will want to take
it apart before you send it away. Percy will be glad to drive to the
Holly Sprig, and you can go with him. Then, when you come back, I will
have my man take your machine to Waterton. I have a young horse very
much in need of work, and I shall be glad to have an excuse for giving
him some travelling to do." I stood astounded. Go back to the Holly
Sprig! This arrangement had been made without reference to me. It had
been supposed, of course, that I would be glad to go and attend to the
proper packing of my bicycle. Even now, Percy, running across the
yard, called to me that he would be ready to start in two minutes.

When I took my seat in the wagon, Mr. Larramie was telling me that he
would like me to inform Mrs. Chester that he would keep the bear until
it was reasonable to suppose that the owner would not come for it, and
that then he would either sell it or buy it himself, and make
satisfactory settlement with her.

I know I did not hear all that he said, for my mind was wildly busy
trying to decide what I ought to do. Should I jump down even now and
decline to go to the Holly Sprig, or should I go on and attend to my
business like a sensible man? There was certainly no reason why I
should do anything else, but when the impatient Percy started, my mind
was not in the least made up; I remained on the seat beside him simply
because I was there.

Percy was a good driver, and glad to exhibit his skill. He was also in
a lively mood, and talked with great freedom. "Do you know," said he,
"that Edith wanted to drive you over to the inn? Think of that! But it
had all been cut and dried that I should go, and I was not going to
listen to any such nonsense. Besides, you might want somebody to help
you take your machine apart and pack it up."

I was well satisfied to be accompanied by the boy and not by his
sister, and with the wheels and his tongue rattling along together, we
soon reached the inn.

Percy drove past it and was about to turn into the entrance of the
yard, but I stopped him. "I suppose your wheel is back there," he
said.

"Yes," said I, "but I will get out here."

"All right," he replied, "I'll drive around to the sheds."

At the open door of the large room I met Mrs. Chester, evidently on
her way out-of-doors. She wore a wide straw hat, her hands were
gloved, and she carried a basket and a pair of large shears. When she
saw me there was a sudden flush upon her face, but it disappeared
quickly. Whether this meant that she was agreeably surprised to see me
again, or whether it showed that she resented my turning up again so
soon after she thought she was finally rid of me, I did not know. It
does not do to predicate too much upon the flushes of women.

[Illustration: "THERE WAS A SUDDEN FLUSH"]

I hastened to inform her why I had come, and now, having recovered
from her momentary surprise, she asked me to walk in and sit down, an
invitation which I willingly accepted, for I did not in the least
object to detaining her from her garden.

Now she wanted to know how I had managed to get on with the bear, and
what the people at the Cheltenham said about it, and when I went on to
tell her the whole story, which I did at considerable length, she was
intensely interested. She shuddered at the runaway, she laughed
heartily at the uprising of the McKenna sister, and she listened
earnestly to everything I had to say about the Larramies.

"You seem to have a wonderful way," she exclaimed, "of falling in
with--" I think she was going to say "girls," but she changed it to
"people."

"Yes," said I. "I should not have imagined that I could make so many
good friends in such a short time."

Then I went on to give her Mr. Larramie's message, and to say more
things about the bear. I was glad to think of any subject which might
prolong the conversation. So far she was interested, and all that we
said seemed perfectly natural to the occasion, but this could not
last, and I felt within me a strong desire to make some better use of
this interview.

I had not expected to see her again, certainly not so soon, and here I
was alone with her, free to say what I chose; but what should I say? I
had not premeditated anything serious. In fact, I was not sure that I
wished to say anything which should be considered absolutely serious
and definite, but if I were ever to do anything definite--and the more
I talked with this bright-eyed and merry-hearted young lady the
stronger became the longing to say something definite--now was the
time to prepare the way for what I might do or say hereafter.

I was beginning to grow nervous, for the right thing to say would not
present itself, when Percy strode into the room. "Good-morning, Mrs.
Chester," said he, and then, turning to me, he declared that he had
been waiting in the yard, and began to think I might have forgotten I
had come for my wheel.

Of course I rose and she rose, and we followed Percy to the back door
of the house. Outside I saw that the boy of the inn was holding the
horse, and that the wheel was already placed in the back part of the
wagon.

"I've got everything all right, I think," said Percy. "I didn't
suppose it was necessary to wait for you, but you'd better take a look
at it to see if you think it will travel without rubbing or damaging
itself."

I stepped to the wagon and found that the bicycle was very well
placed. "Now, then," said Percy, taking the reins and mounting to his
seat, "all you've got to do is to get up, and we'll be off."

I turned to the back door, but she was not there. "Wait a minute,"
said I, and I hurried into the house. She was not in the hall. I
looked into the large room. She was not there. I went into the parlor,
and out upon the front porch. Then I went back into the house to seek
some one who might call her. I was even willing to avail myself of the
services of citric acid, for I could not leave that house without
speaking to her again.

In a moment Mrs. Chester appeared from some inner room. I believe she
suspected that I had something to say to her which had nothing to do
with the bear or the Larramies, for I had been conscious that my
speech had been a little rambling, as if I were earnestly thinking of
something else than what I was saying, and that she desired I should
be taken away without an opportunity to unburden my mind; but now,
hearing me tramping about and knowing that I was looking for her, she
was obliged to show herself.

As she came forward I noticed that her expression had changed
somewhat. There was nothing merry about her eyes; I think she was
slightly pale, and her brows were a little contracted, as if she were
doing something she did not want to do.

"I hope you found everything all right," she said.

I looked at her steadily. "No," said I, "everything is not all right."

A slight shade of anxiety came upon her face. "I am sorry to hear
that," she said. "Was your wheel injured more than you thought?"

"Wheel!" I exclaimed. "I was not thinking of wheels! I will tell you
what is not all right! It is not right for me to go away without
saying to you that I--"

At this moment there was a strong, shrill whistle from the front of
the house. A most unmistakable sense of relief showed itself upon
her face. She ran to the front door, and called out, "Yes, he is
coming."

[Illustration: "THE SCENE VIVIDLY RECURRED TO MY MIND"]

There was nothing for me to do but to follow her. I greatly disliked
going away without saying what I wanted to say, and I would have been
willing to speak even at the front door, but she gave me no chance.

"Good-bye," she said, extending her hand. It was gloved. It gave no
clasp--it invited none. As I could not say the words which were on my
tongue, I said nothing, and, raising my cap, I hurried away.

To make up for lost time, Percy drove very rapidly. "I came mighty
near having a fight while you were in the house," said he. "It was
that boy at the inn. He's a queer sort of a fellow, and awfully
impertinent. He was talking about you, and he wanted to know if the
bear had hurt you. He said he believed you were really afraid of the
beast, and only wanted to show off before the women.

"I stood up for you, and I told him about Edith's runaway, and then he
said, fair and square, that he didn't believe you stopped the horse.
He said he guessed my sister pulled him up herself, and that then you
came along and grabbed him and took all the credit. He said he
thought you were that sort of a fellow.

"That's the time I was going to pitch into him, but then I thought it
would be a pretty low-down thing for me to be fighting a country
tavern-boy, so I simply gave him my opinion of him. I don't believe
he'd have held the horse, only he thought it would make you get away
quicker. He hates you. Did you ever kick him or anything?"

I laughed, and, telling Percy that I had never kicked the boy, I
thanked him for his championship of me.



CHAPTER XIII

A MAN WITH A LETTER


When my unfortunate bicycle had been started on its way to Waterton, I
threw myself into the family life of the Larramies, determined not to
let them see any perturbations of mind which had been caused by the
extraordinary promptness of the younger son. If a man had gone with me
instead of that boy, I would have had every opportunity of saying what
I wanted to say to the mistress of the Holly Sprig. I may state that I
frequently found myself trying to determine what it was I wanted to
say.

I did my best to suppress all thoughts relating to things outside of
this most hospitable and friendly house. I went to see the bear with
the younger members of the family. I played four games of tennis, and
in the afternoon the whole family went to fish in a very pretty
mill-pond about a mile from the house. A good many fish were caught,
large and small, and not one of the female fishers, except Miss
Willoughby, the nervous young lady, and little Clara, would allow me
to take a fish from her hook. Even Mrs. Larramie said that if she
fished at all she thought she ought to do everything for herself, and
not depend upon other people.

As much as possible I tried to be with Mr. Larramie and Walter. I had
not the slightest distaste for the company of the ladies, but there
was a consciousness upon me that there were pleasant things in which a
man ought to restrict himself. There was nothing chronic about this
consciousness. It was on duty for this occasion only.

That night at the supper-table the conversation took a peculiar turn.
Mr. Larramie was the chief speaker, and it pleased him to hold forth
upon the merits of Mrs. Chester. He said, and his wife and others of
the company agreed with him, that she was a lady of peculiarly
estimable character; that she was out of place; that every one who
knew her well felt that she was out of place; but that she so graced
her position that she almost raised it to her level. Over and over
again her friends had said to her that a lady such as she was--still
young, of a good family, well educated, who had travelled, and moved
in excellent society--should not continue to be the landlady of a
country inn, but the advice of her friends had had no effect upon her.

It was not known whether it was necessary for her to continue the
inn-keeping business, but the general belief was that it was not
necessary. It was supposed that she had had money when she married
Godfrey Chester, and he was not a poor man.

Then came a strange revelation, which Mr. Larramie dwelt upon with
considerable earnestness. There was an idea, he said, that Mrs.
Chester kept up the Holly Sprig because she thought it would be her
husband's wish that she should do so. He had probably said something
about its being a provision for her in case of his death. At any rate,
she seemed desirous to maintain the establishment exactly as he had
ordered it in his life, making no change whatever, very much as if she
had expected him to come back, and wished him to find everything as he
had left it.

"Of course she doesn't expect him to come back," said Mr. Larramie,
"because it must now be four years since the time of his supposed
murder--"

"Supposed!" I cried, with much more excited interest than I would have
shown if I had taken proper thought before speaking.

"Well," said Mr. Larramie, "that is a fine point. I said 'supposed'
because the facts of the case are not definitely known. There can be
no reasonable doubt, however, that he is dead, for even if this fact
had not been conclusively proved by the police investigations, it
might now be considered proved by his continued absence. It would have
been impossible for Mr. Chester alive to keep away from his wife for
four years--they were devoted to each other. Furthermore, the exact
manner of his death is not known--although it must have been a
murder--and for these reasons I used the word 'supposed.' But, really,
so far as human judgment can go, the whole matter is a certainty. I
have not the slightest doubt in the world that Mrs. Chester so
considers it, and yet, as she does not positively know it--as she has
not the actual proofs that her husband is no longer living--she
refuses in certain ways, in certain ways only, to consider herself a
widow."

"And what ways are those?" I asked, in a voice which, I hope,
exhibited no undue emotion.

"She declines to marry again," said Mrs. Larramie, now taking up the
conversation. "Of course, such a pretty woman--I may say, such a
charming woman--would have admirers, and I know that she has had some
most excellent offers, but she has always refused to consider any of
them. There was one gentleman, a man of wealth and position, who had
proposed to her before she married Mr. Chester, who came on here to
offer himself again, but she cut off everything he had to say by
telling him that as she did not positively know that her husband was
not living, she could not allow a word of that sort to be said to her.
I know this, because she told me so herself."

There was a good deal more talk of the sort, and of course it
interested me greatly, although I tried not to show it, but I could
not help wondering why the subject had been brought forward in such an
impressive manner upon the present occasion. It seemed to me that
there was something personal in it--personal to me. Had that boy Percy
been making reports?

In the evening I found out all about it, and in a very straightforward
and direct fashion. I discovered Miss Edith by herself, and asked her
if all that talk about Mrs. Chester had been intended for my benefit,
and, if so, why.

She laughed. "I expected you to come and ask me about that," she said,
"for of course you could see through a good deal of it. It is all
father's kindness and goodness. Percy was a little out of temper when
he came back, and he spun a yarn about your being sweet on Mrs.
Chester, and how he could hardly get you away from her, and all that.
He had an idea that you wanted to go there and live, at least for the
summer. Something a boy said to him made him think that. So father
thought that if you had any notions about Mrs. Chester you ought to
have the matter placed properly before you without any delay, and I
expect his reason for mentioning it at the supper-table was that it
might then seem like a general subject of conversation, whereas it
would have been very pointed indeed if he had taken you apart and
talked to you about it."

"Indeed it would," said I. "And if you will allow me, I will say that
boys are unmitigated nuisances! If they are not hearing what they
ought not to hear, they are imagining what they ought not to
imagine--"

"And telling things that they ought not to tell," she added, with a
laugh.

"Which is an extremely bad thing," said I, "when there is nothing to
tell."

For the rest of that evening I was more lively than is my wont, for it
was a very easy thing to be lively in that family. I do not think I
gave any one reason to suppose that I was a man whose attention had
been called to a notice not to trespass.

As usual, I communed with myself before going to bed. Wherefore this
feeling of disappointment? What did it mean? Would I have said
anything of importance, of moment, to Mrs. Chester, if the boy Percy
had given me an opportunity? What would I have said? What could I have
said? I could see that she did not wish that I should say anything,
and now I knew the reason for it. It was all plain enough on her side.
Even if she had allowed herself any sort of emotion regarding me, she
did not wish me to indulge in anything of the land. But as for myself.
I could decide nothing about myself.

I smiled grimly as my eyes fell upon the little box of capsules. My
first thought was that I should take two of them, but then I shook my
head. "It would be utterly useless," I said; "they would do me no
good."

In the course of the next morning I found myself alone. I put on my
cap, lighted a pipe, and started down the flag walk to the gate. In a
few moments I heard running steps behind me, and, turning, I saw Miss
Edith. "Don't look cross," she said. "Were you going for a walk?"

I scouted the idea of crossness, and said that I had thought of taking
a stroll.

"That seems funny," said she, "for nobody in this house ever goes out
for a lonely walk. But you cannot go just yet. There's a man at the
back of the house with a letter for you."

"A letter!" I exclaimed. "Who in the world could have sent a letter to
me here?"

"The only way to find out," she answered, "is to go and see."

Under a tree at the back of the house I found a young negro man, very
warm and dusty, who handed me a letter, which, to my surprise, bore no
address. "How do you know this is for me?" said I.

He was a good-natured looking fellow. "Oh, I know it's for you, sir,"
said he. "They told me at the little tavern--the Holly something--that
I'd find you here. You're the gentleman that had a bicycle tire eat
up by a bear, ain't you?"

I admitted that I was, and still, without opening the letter, I asked
him, where it came from.

"That was given to me in New York, sir," said he, "by a Dago, one of
these I-talians. He gave me the money to go to Blackburn Station in
the cars, and then I walked over to the tavern. He said he thought I'd
find you there, sir. He told me just what sort of a lookin' man you
was, sir, and that letter is for you, and no mistake. He didn't know
your name, or he'd put it on."

"Oh, it is from the owner of the bear," said I.

"Yes, sir," said the man, "that's him. He did own a bear--he told
me--that eat up your tire."

I now tore open the blank envelope, and found it contained a letter on
a single sheet, and in this was a folded paper, very dirty. The letter
was apparently written in Italian, and had no signature. I ran my eye
along the opening lines, and soon found that it would be a very
difficult piece of business for me to read it. I was a fair French and
German scholar, but my knowledge of Italian was due entirely to its
relationship with Latin. I told the man to rest himself somewhere, and
went to the house, and, finding Miss Edith, I informed her that I had
a letter from the bear man, and asked her if she could read Italian.

"I studied the language at school," she said, "but I have not
practised much. However, let us go into the library--there is a
dictionary there--and perhaps we can spell it out."

We spread the open sheet upon the library-table, and laid the folded
paper near by, and, sitting side by side, with a dictionary before us,
we went to work. It was very hard work.

"I think," said my companion, after ten minutes' application, "that
the man who sent you this letter writes Italian about as badly as we
read it. I think I could decipher the meaning of his words if I knew
what letters those funny scratches were intended to represent. But let
us stick to it. After a while we may get a little used to the writing,
and I must admit that I have a curiosity to know what the man has to
say about his bear."

After a time the work became easier. Miss Edith possessed an acuteness
of perception which enabled her to decipher almost illegible words by
comparing them with others which were better written. We were at last
enabled to translate the letter. The substance of it was as follows:

The writer came to New York on a ship. There was a man on the ship,
an Italian man, who was very wicked. He did very wicked things to the
writer. When he got to New York he kept on being wicked. He was so
wicked that the writer made up his mind to kill him. He waited for him
one night for two hours.

[Illustration: DECIPHERING THE DAGO'S LETTERS]

At last the moment came. It was very dark, and the victim came,
walking fast. The avenger sprang from a door-way and plunged his knife
into the back of the victim. The man fell, and the moment he fell the
writer of the letter knew that he was not the man he had intended to
kill. The wicked man would not have been killed so easily. He turned
over the man. He was dead. His eyes were used to the darkness, and he
could see that he was the wrong man.

The coat of the murdered man had fallen open, and a paper showed
itself in an inside pocket. The Italian waited only long enough to
snatch this paper. He wanted to have something which had belonged to
that poor, wrongly murdered man. After that he heard no more about the
great mistake he had committed. He could not read the newspapers, and
he asked nobody any questions. He put the paper away and kept it. He
often thought he ought to burn the paper, but he did not do it. He was
afraid. The paper had a name on it, and he was sure it was the name
of the man he had killed. He thought as long as he kept the paper
there was a chance for his forgiveness.

This was all four years ago. He worked hard, and after a while he
bought a bear. When his bear ate up the India-rubber on my bicycle he
was very much frightened, for he was afraid he might be sent to
prison. But that was not the fright that made him run away.

When he talked to the boy and asked him the name of the keeper of the
inn, and the boy told him what it was, the earth seemed to open and he
saw hell. The name was the name that was on the paper he had taken
from the man he had killed by mistake, and this was his wife whose
house he was staying at. He was seized with such a horror and such a
fear that everything might be found out, and that he would be
arrested, that he ran away to the railroad and took a train for New
York.

He did not want his bear. He did not want to be known as the man who
had been going about with a bear. One thing he wanted, and that was to
get back to Italy, where he would be safe. He was going back very soon
in a ship. He had changed his name. He could not be found any more.
But he knew his soul would never have any peace if he did not send
the paper to the wife of the man he had made a mistake about. But he
could not write a letter to her, so he sent it to me, for me to give
her the paper and to tell her what he had written in the letter. He
left America forever. Nobody in this country would ever see him again.
He was gone. He was lost to all people in this country, but his soul
felt better now that he had done that which would make the lady whose
husband he had killed know how it had happened. The bear he would give
to her. That was all that he could do for her.

There was no formal close to the letter; the writer had said what he
had to say and stopped.

Miss Edith and I looked at each other. Her eyes had grown large and
bright. "Now, shall we examine the paper?"

"I do not know that we have a right to do so," I said. I know my voice
was trembling, for I was very much agitated. "That belongs to--to
her!"

"I think," said Miss Edith, "that we ought to look at it. It is merely
a folded paper. I do not think we ought to thrust information upon
Mrs. Chester without knowing what it is. Perhaps the man made a
mistake in the name. We may do a great deal of mischief if we do not
know exactly what we are about." And so saying she took the paper and
opened it.

It was nothing but a grocery bill, but it was made out to--Godfrey
Chester, Dr. Evidently it was for goods supplied to the inn. It was
receipted.

For a few moments I said nothing, and then I exclaimed, in tones which
made my companion gaze very earnestly at me: "I must go to her
immediately! I must take these papers! She must know everything!"

"Excuse me," said Miss Edith, "but don't you think that something
ought to be done about apprehending this man--this Italian? Let us go
and question his messenger." We went out together, she carrying,
tightly clasped, both the letter and the bill.

The black man could tell us very little. An Italian he had never seen
before had given him the letter to take to Holly Sprig Inn, and give
to the gentleman who had had his tire eaten by a bear. If the
gentleman was not there, he was to ask to have it sent to him. That
was everything he knew.

"Did the Italian give you money to go back with?" asked Miss Edith,
and the man rather reluctantly admitted that he did.

"Well, you can keep that for yourself," said she, "and we'll pay your
passage back. But we would like you to wait here for a while. There
may be some sort of an answer."

The man laughed. "'Taint no use sendin' no answer," said he; "I
couldn't find that Dago again. They're all so much alike. He said he
was goin' away on a ship. You see it was yesterday he gave me that
letter. I 'spect he'll be a long way out to sea before I get back,
even if I did know who he was and what ship he was goin' on. But if
you want me to wait, I don't mind waitin'."

"Very good," said Miss Edith; "you can go into the kitchen and have
something to eat." And, calling a maid, she gave orders for the man's
entertainment.

"Now," said she, turning to me, "let us take a walk through the
orchard. I want to talk to you."

"No," said I, "I can't talk at present. I must go immediately to the
inn with those papers. It is right that not a moment should be lost in
delivering this most momentous message which has been intrusted to
me."

"But I must speak to you first," said she, and she walked rapidly
towards the orchard. As she still held the papers in her hand, I was
obliged to follow her.



CHAPTER XIV

MISS EDITH IS DISAPPOINTED


As soon as we had begun to walk under the apple-trees she turned to me
and said: "I don't think you ought to take this letter and the bill to
Mrs. Chester. It would not be right. There would be something cruel
about it."

"What do you mean?" I exclaimed.

"Of course I do not know exactly the state of the case," she answered,
"but I will tell you what I think about it as far as I know. You must
not be offended at what I say. If I am a friend to anybody--and I
would be ashamed if I were not a friend to you--I must tell him just
what I think about things, and this is what I think about this thing:
I ought to take these papers to Mrs. Chester. I know her well enough,
and it is a woman who ought to go to her at such a time."

"That message was intrusted to me," I said. "Of course it was," she
answered, "but the bear man did not know what he was doing. He did not
understand the circumstances."

[Illustration: "'I DON'T THINK YOU OUGHT TO TAKE THIS LETTER'"]

"What circumstances?" I asked.

She gave me a look as if she were going to take aim at me and wanted
to be sure of my position. Then she said: "Percy told us he thought
you were courting Mrs. Chester. That was pure impertinence on his
part, and perhaps what father said at the table was impertinence too,
but I know he said it because he thought there might be something in
Percy's chatter, and that you ought to understand how things stood.
Now, you may think it impertinence on my part if you choose, but it
really does seem to me that you are very much interested in Mrs.
Chester. Didn't you intend to walk down to the Holly Sprig when you
were starting out by yourself this morning?"

"Yes," said I, "I did."

"I thought so," she replied. "That, of course, was your own business,
and what father said about her being unwilling to marry again need not
have made any difference to you if you had chosen not to mind it. But
now, don't you think, if you look at the matter fairly and squarely,
it would be pretty hard on Mrs. Chester if you were to go down to her
and make her understand that she really is a widow, and that now she
is free to listen to you if you want to say anything to her? This may
sound a little hard and cruel, but don't you think it is the way she
would have to look at it?"

She stopped as she spoke, and I turned and stood silent, looking at
her.

"My first thought was," she said, "to advise you to tell father about
all this, and take his advice about telling her, but I don't think you
would like that. Now, would you like that?"

"No," I answered, "I certainly would not."

"And don't you really think I ought to go to her with the message, and
then come back and tell you how she took it and what she said?"

For nearly a minute I did not speak, but I knew she was right, and at
last I admitted it.

"I am glad to hear you say so!" she exclaimed. "As soon as dinner is
over I shall drive to the Holly Sprig."

We still walked on, and she proposed that we should go to the top of a
hill beyond the orchard, where there was a pretty view.

"You may think me a strange sort of a girl," she said, presently, "but
I can't help it. I suppose I am strange. I have often thought I would
like very much to talk freely and honestly with a man about the
reasons which people have for falling in love with each other. Of
course I could not ask my father or brother, because they would simply
laugh at me and tell me that falling in love was very much like the
springing up of weeds--generally without reason and often
objectionable. But you would be more likely to tell me something which
would be of advantage to me in my studies."

"Your studies!" I exclaimed. "What in the world are you studying?"

"Well, I am studying human nature--not as a whole, of course, that's
too large a subject, but certain phases of it--and I particularly want
to know why such queer people come together and get married. Now I
have great advantages in such a study, much greater than most girls
have."

"What are they?" I asked.

"The principal one is that I never intend to marry. I made up my mind
to that a good while ago. There is a great deal of work that I want to
do in this world, and I could not do it properly if I were tied to a
man. I would either have to submit myself to his ways, or he would
have to submit himself to my ways, and that would not suit me. In the
one case I should not respect him, and in the other I should not
respect myself."

"But suppose," said I, "you should meet a man who should be in perfect
harmony with you in all important points?"

"Ah," she said, "that sort of thing never happens. You might as well
expect to pick up two pebbles exactly alike. I don't believe in it.
But if at any time during the rest of my life you show me any examples
of such harmony, I will change my opinions. I believe that if I can
wait long enough, society will catch up with me. Everything looks that
way to me."

"It may be that you are right," I answered. "Society is getting on
famously. But what is it you want to ask me?"

"Simply this," she replied. "What is it which interests you so much in
Mrs. Chester?"

I looked at her in astonishment. "Truly," I exclaimed, "that is a
remarkable question."

"I know it," she replied, "and I suppose you are saying to yourself,
'Here is a girl who has known me less than three days, and yet she
asks me to tell her about my feeling towards another woman.' But,
really, it seems to me that as you have not known that other woman
three days, as much friendship and confidence might spring up in the
one case as affection in the other."

"Affection!" said I. "Have I said anything about affection?"

"No, you have not," she replied; "and if there isn't any affection, of
course that ends this special study on my part."

We reached the top of the hill, but I forgot to look out upon the
view. "I think you are a strange girl," I said, "but I like you, and I
have a mind to try to answer your question. I have not been able quite
to satisfy myself about my feelings towards Mrs. Chester, but now I
think I can say that I have an affection for her."

"Good!" she exclaimed. "I like that! That is an honest answer if ever
there was one. But tell me why it is that you have an affection for
her. It must have been almost a case of love at first sight."

"It isn't easy to give reasons for such feelings," I said. "They
spring up, as your father would say, very much like weeds."

"Indeed they do," she interpolated; "sometimes they grow in the middle
of a gravel path where they cannot expect to be allowed to stay."

I reflected a moment. "I don't mind talking about these things to
you," I said. "It seems almost like talking to myself."

"That is a compliment I appreciate," she said. "And now go on. Why do
you care for her?"

"Well," said I, "in the first place, she is very handsome. Don't you
think so?"

"Oh yes! In fact, I think she is almost what might be called exactly
beautiful."

"Then she has such charming manners," I continued. "And she is so
sensible--although you may not think I had much chance to find out
that. Moreover, there is a certain sympathetic cordiality about her--"

"Which, of course," interrupted my companion, "you suppose she would
not show to any man but you."

"Yes," said I. "I am speaking honestly now, and that's the way it
strikes me. Of course I may be a fool, but I did think that a sympathy
had arisen between us which would not arise between her and anybody
else."

Miss Edith laughed heartily. "I am getting to know a great deal about
one side of the subject," she said. "And now tell me--is that all? I
don't believe it is."

"No," I answered, "it is not. There is something more which makes her
attractive to me. I cannot exactly explain it except by saying that it
is her surrounding atmosphere--it is everything that pertains to her.
It is the life she lives, it is her home, it is the beauty and peace,
the sense of charm which infuses her and everything that belongs to
her."

"Beautiful!" said Miss Edith. "I expected an answer like that, but not
so well put. Now let me translate it into plain, simple language. What
you want is to give up your present life, which must be awfully
stupid, and go and help Mrs. Chester keep the Holly Sprig. That would
suit you exactly. A charming wife, charming surroundings, charming
sense of living, a life of absolute independence! But don't think,"
she added, quickly, "that I am imputing any sordid motives to you. I
meant nothing of the kind. You would do just as much to make the inn
popular as she would. I expect you would make her rich."

"Miss Edith Larramie," said I, "you are a heartless deceiver! It makes
my blood run cold to hear you speak in that way."

"Never mind that," she said, "but tell me, didn't you think it would
be just lovely to live with her in that delightful little inn?"

I could not help smiling at her earnestness, but I answered that I did
think so.

She nodded her head reflectively. "Yes," she said, "I was right. I
think you ought to admit that I am a good judge of human nature--at
least, in some people and under certain circumstances."

"You are," said I. "I admit that. Now answer me a question. What do
you think of it?"

"I don't like it," she said. "And don't you see," she added, with
animation, "what an advantage I possess in having determined never to
marry? Very few other girls would be willing to speak to you so
plainly. They would be afraid you would think that they wanted you,
but, as I don't want anybody, you and I can talk over things of this
kind like free and equal human beings. So I will say again that I
don't like your affection for Mrs. Chester. It disappoints me."

"Disappoints you!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," she said, "that is the word. You must remember that my
acquaintance with you began with a sort of a bump. A great deal
happened in an instant. I formed high ideas of you, and among them
were ideas of the future. You can't help that when you are thinking of
people who interest you. Your mind will run ahead. When I found out
about Mrs. Chester I was disappointed. It might be all very
delightful, but you ought to do better than that!"

[Illustration: "'DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HIT IT WITH AN APPLE?'"]

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Twenty-two last May," she replied.

"Isn't that the dinner-bell I hear in the distance?" I said.

"Yes," she answered, "and we will go down."

On the way she stopped, and we stood facing each other. "I am greatly
obliged to you," she said, "for giving me your confidence in this way,
and I want you to believe that I shall be thoroughly loyal to you, and
that I never will breathe anything you have said. But I also want you
to know that I do not change any of my opinions. Now we understand
each other, don't we?"

"Yes," I answered, "but I think I understand you better than you
understand me."

"Not a bit of it," she replied; "that's nonsense. Do you see that
flower-pot on the top of the stump by the little hill over there?
Percy has been firing at it with his air-gun. Do you think you could
hit it with an apple? Let's each take three apples and try."

It was late in the afternoon when Miss Edith returned from the Holly
Sprig, where she and Genevieve had driven in a pony-cart. I was with
the rest of the family on the golf links a short distance from the
house, and it was some time before she got a chance to speak to me,
but she managed at last.

"How did she take the news?" I eagerly asked.

The girl hesitated. "I don't think I ought to tell you all she said
and did. It was really a private interview between us two, and I know
she would not want me to say much about it. And I don't think you
would want to hear everything."

I hastened to assure her that I would not ask for the particulars of
the conversation. I only wished to know the general effect of the
message upon her. That was legitimate enough, as, in fact, she
received the message through me.

"Well, she was very much affected, and it would have teen dreadful if
you had gone. Oh the whole, however, I cannot help thinking that the
Italian's letter was a great relief to her, particularly because she
found that her husband had been killed by mistake. She said that one
of the greatest loads upon her soul had been the feeling that he had
had an enemy who hated him enough to kill him. But now the case is
very different, and it is a great comfort to her to know it."

"And about the murderer?" I said. "Did you ask her if she wanted steps
taken to apprehend him?"

"Yes," she said, "I did speak of it, and she is very anxious that
nothing shall be done in that direction. Even if the Italian should be
caught, she would not have the affair again publicly discussed and
dissected. She believes the man's story, and she never wants to hear
of him again. Indeed, I think that if it should be proved that the
Italian killed Mr. Chester on purpose, it would be the greatest blow
that could be inflicted upon her."

"Then," said I, "I might as well let the negro man go his way. I have
not paid him his passage-money to the city. I knew he would wait until
he got it, and it might be desirable to take him into custody."

"Oh no," she said. "Mrs. Chester spoke about that. She doesn't want
the man troubled in any way. He knew nothing of the message he
carried. Now I am going to tell father about it--she asked me to do
it."

That evening was a merry one. We had charades, and a good many other
things were going on. Miss Willoughby was an admirable actress, and
Miss Edith was not bad, although she could never get rid of her
personality. I was in a singular state of mind. I felt as if I had
been relieved from a weight. My spirits were actually buoyant.

"You should not be so unreasonably gay," said Miss Edith to me. "That
may be your way when you get better acquainted with people, but I am
afraid some of the family will think that you are in such good spirits
because Mrs. Chester now knows that she is a widow."

"Oh, there is no danger of their thinking anything of that sort," I
said. "Don't you suppose they will attribute my good spirits to the
fact that the man who took my bicycle to Waterton brought back my big
valise, so that I am enabled to look like a gentleman in the parlor?
And then, as he also brought word that my bicycle will be all ready
for me to-morrow, don't you think it is to be expected of me that I
should try to make myself as agreeable as possible on this my last
evening with all you good friends?"

She shook her head. "Those excuses will not pass. You are abnormally
cheerful. My study of you is extremely interesting, but not altogether
satisfactory."



CHAPTER XV

MISS WILLOUGHBY


It was decreed the next day that I should not leave until after
dinner. They would send me over to Blackburn Station by a cross-road,
and I could then reach Waterton in less than an hour. "There is
another good thing about this arrangement," said Miss Edith, for it
was she who announced it to me, "and that is that you can take charge
of Amy."

I gazed at her mystified, and she said, "Don't you know that Miss
Willoughby is going in the same train with you?"

"What!" I exclaimed, far too forcibly.

"Yes. Her visit ends to-day. She lives in Waterton. But why should
that affect you so wonderfully? I am sure you cannot object to an hour
in the train with Amy Willoughby. She may talk a good deal, but you
must admit that she talks well."

"Object!" I said. "Of course I don't object. She talks very well
indeed, and I shall be glad to have the pleasure of her company."

"No one would have thought so," she said, looking at me with a
criticising eye, "who had seen you when you heard she was going."

"It was the suddenness," I said.

"Oh yes," she replied, "and your delicate nerves."

In my soul I cried out to myself: "Am I ever to break free from young
women! Is there to be a railroad accident between here and Waterton!
If so, I shall save the nearest old gentleman!"

I believe the Larramies were truly sorry to have me go. Each one of
them in turn told me so. Mrs. Larramie again said to me, with tears in
her eyes, that it made her shudder to think what that home might be if
it had not been for me.

Mr. Larramie and Walter promised to get up some fine excursions if I
would stay a little longer, and Genevieve made me sit down beside her
under a tree.

"I am awfully sorry you are going," she said. "I always wanted a
gentleman friend, and I believe if you'd stay a little longer you'd be
one. You see, Walter is really too old for me to confide in, and Percy
thinks he's too old--and that's a great deal worse. But you're just
the age I like. There are so many things I would say to you if you
lived here."

Little Clara, cried when she heard I was going, and I felt myself
obliged to commit the shameful deception of talking about baby bears
and my possible return to this place.

Miss Edith accompanied us to the station, and when I took leave of her
on the platform she gave me a good, hearty handshake. "I believe that
we shall see each other again," she said, "and when we meet I want you
to make a report, and I hope it will be a good one!"

"About what?" I asked.

She smiled in gentle derision, and the conductor cried, "All aboard!"

I found a vacant seat, and, side by side, Miss Willoughby and I sped
on towards Waterton.

For some time I had noticed that Miss Willoughby had ceased to look
past me when she spoke to me, and now she fixed her eyes fully upon me
and said:

"I am always sorry when I go away from that house, for I think the
people who live there are the dearest in the world, excepting my own
mother and aunt, who are nearer to me than anybody else, although, if
I needed a mother, Mrs. Larramie would take me to her heart, I am
sure, just as if I were her own daughter, and I am not related to them
in any way, although I have always looked upon Edith as a sister, and
I don't believe that if I had a real sister she could possibly have
been as dear a girl as Edith, who is so lovable and tender and
forgiving--whenever there is anything to forgive--and who, although
she is a girl of such strong character and such a very peculiar way of
thinking about things, has never said a hard word to me in all her
life, even when she found that our opinions were different, which was
something she often did find, for she looks upon everything in this
world in her own way, and bases all her judgments upon her own
observations and convictions, while I am very willing to let those
whom I think I ought to look up to and respect judge for me--at least
in a great many things, but of course not in all matters, for there
are some things which we must decide for ourselves without reference
to other people's opinions, though I should be sorry indeed if I had
so many things to decide as Edith has, or rather chooses to have, for
if she would depend more upon other people I think it would not only
be easier for her, but really make her happier, for if you could hear
some of the wonderful things which she has discussed with me after
we have gone to bed at night it would really make your head ache--that
is, if you are subject to that sort of thing, which I am if I am kept
awake too long, but I am proud to say that I don't think I ever
allowed Edith to suppose that I was tired of hearing her talk, for
when any one is as lovely as she is I think she ought to be allowed to
talk about what she pleases and just along as she pleases."

[Illustration: "TALKING ABOUT BABY BEARS"]

Surprising as it may appear, nothing happened on that railroad
journey. No cow of Cathay blundered in front of the locomotive; no
freight train came around a curve going in the opposite direction upon
the same track; everything went smoothly and according to schedule.
Miss Willoughby did not talk all the time. She was not the greatest
talker I ever knew; she was not even the fastest; she was always
willing to wait until her turn came, but she had wonderful endurance
for a steady stretch. She never made a bad start, she never broke, she
went steadily over the track until the heat had been run.

When the time came for me to speak she listened with great interest,
and sometimes at my words her eyes sparkled almost as much as they
did when she was speaking herself. She knew a great many things, and
I was pleased to find out that she was especially interested in the
good qualities of the people she knew. I never heard so many gracious
sentiments in so short a time.

Miss Willoughby's residence was but a short distance from the station
at Waterton; and as she thought it entirely unnecessary to take a cab,
I attended to her baggage, and offered to walk with her to her home
and carry her little bag. I was about to leave her at the door, but
this she positively forbade. I must step in for a minute or two to see
her mother and her aunt They had heard of me, and would never forgive
her if she let me go without their seeing me. As the door opened
immediately, we went in.

Miss Willoughby's mother and aunt were two most charming elderly
ladies, immaculately dainty in their dress, cordial of manner, bright
of eye, and diminutive of hand, producing the impression of gentle
goodness set off by soft white muslin, folded tenderly.

They had heard of me. In the few days in which I had been with the
Larramies, Miss Willoughby had written of me. They insisted that I
should stay to supper, for what good reason could there be for my
taking that meal at the hotel--not a very good one--when they would be
so glad to have me sup with them and talk about our mutual friends?

I had no reasonable objection to offer, and, returning to the station,
I took my baggage to the hotel, where I prepared to sup with the
Willoughby family.

They were now a little family of three, although there was a brother
who had started away the day before on a bicycling tour very like my
own, and they were both so delighted to have Amy visit the Larramies,
and they were both so delighted to have her come back.

The supper was a delicate one, suitable for canary birds, but at an
early stage of the meal a savory little sirloin steak was brought on
which had been cooked especially for me. Of course I could not be
expected to be satisfied with thin dainties, no matter how tasteful
they might be.

This house was the abode of intelligence, cultivated taste, and
opulence. It was probably the finest mansion of the town. In every
room there were things to see, and after supper we looked at them,
and, as I wandered from pictures to vases and carved ivory, the
remarks of the two elder ladies and Miss Willoughby seemed like a
harmonized chorus accompanying the rest of the performance. Each spoke
at the right time, each in her turn said the thing she ought to say.
It was a rare exhibition of hospitable enthusiasm, tempered by
sympathetic consideration for me and for each other.

I soon discovered that many of the water-color drawings on the walls
were the work of Miss Willoughby, and when she saw I was interested in
them she produced a portfolio of her sketches. I liked her coloring
very much. It was sometimes better than her drawing. It was dainty,
delicate, and suggestive. One picture attracted me the moment my eyes
fell upon it; it was one of the most carefully executed, and it
represented the Holly Sprig Inn.

"You recognize that!" said Miss Willoughby, evidently pleased. "You
see that light-colored spot in the portico? That's Mrs. Chester; she
stood there when I was making the drawing. It is nothing but two or
three little dabs, but that is the way she looked at a distance.
Around on this side is the corner of the yard where the bear tried to
eat up the tire of your bicycle."

I gazed and gazed at the little light-colored spot in the portico. I
gave it form, light, feeling. I could see perfect features, blue
eyes which looked out at me, a form of simple grace.

[Illustration: "'I HELD THAT PICTURE A GOOD WHILE'"]

I held that picture a good while, saying little, and scarcely
listening to Miss Willoughby's words. At last I felt obliged to
replace it in the portfolio. If the artist had been a poor girl, I
would have offered to buy it; if I had known her better, I would have
asked her to give it to me; but I could do nothing but put it back.

Glancing at the clock I saw that it was time for me to go, but when I
announced this fact the ladies very much demurred. Why should I go to
that uncomfortable hotel? They would send for my baggage. There was
not the least reason in the world why I should spend the night in that
second-rate establishment.

"See," said Mrs. Willoughby, opening the door of a room in the rear of
the parlor, "if you will stay with us to-night we will lodge you in
the chamber of the favored guest. All the pictures on the walls were
done by my daughter."

I looked into the room. It was the most charming and luxurious bedroom
I had ever seen. It was lighted, and the harmony of its furnishings
was a treat to the eye.

But I stood firm in my purpose to depart. I would not spend the night
in that house. There would be a fire, burglars, I knew not what!
Against all kind entreaties I urged the absolute necessity of my
starting away by the very break of day, and I could not disturb a
private family by any such proceeding. They saw that I was determined
to go, and they allowed me to depart.



CHAPTER XVI

AN ICICLE


My room at the hotel was as dreary as a stubble-field upon a November
evening. The whole house was new, varnished, and hard. My bedroom was
small. A piece of new ingrain carpet covered part of the hard
varnished floor. Four hard walls and a ceiling, deadly white,
surrounded me. The hard varnished bedstead (the mattress felt as if it
were varnished) nearly filled the little room. Two stiff chairs, and a
yellow window-shade which looked as if it were made of varnished wood,
glittered in the feeble light of a glass lamp, while the ghastly
grayish pallor of the ewer and basin on the wash-stand was thrown into
bold relief by the intenser whiteness of the wall behind it.

I put out my light as soon as possible and resolutely closed my eyes,
for a street lamp opposite my window would not allow the room to fade
into obscurity, and, as long as the hardness of the bed prevented me
from sleeping, my thoughts ran back to the chamber of the favored
guest, but my conscience stood by me. Cathay is a country where it is
necessary to be very careful.

I did not leave Waterton until after nine o'clock the next day, for,
although I was early at the shop to which my bicycle had been sent, it
was not quite ready for me, and I had to wait. Fortunately no
Willoughby came that way.

But when at last I mounted my wheel I sped away rapidly towards the
north. I had ordered my baggage expressed to a town fifty miles away,
and I hoped that if I rode steadily and kept my eyes straight in front
of me I might safely get out of Cathay, for the boundaries of that
fateful territory could not extend themselves indefinitely.

Towards the close of the afternoon I saw a female in front of me, her
back to me, walking, and pushing a bicycle.

"Now," said I to myself, "she is doing that because she likes it, and
it is none of my business." I gazed over the fields on the other side
of the road, but as I passed her I could not help giving a glance at
her machine. The air was gone from the tire of the hind wheel.

"Ah," said I to myself, "perhaps her pump is out of order, or it may
be that she does not know how to work it. It is getting late. She may
have to go a long distance. I could pump it up for her in no time.
Even if there is a hole in it I could mend it." But I did not stop. I
had steeled my heart against any more adventures in Cathay.

But my conscience did not stand by me. I could not forget that poor
woman plodding along the weary road and darkness not far away. I went
slower and slower, and at last I turned.

"It would not take me five minutes to help her," I said. "I must be
careful, but I need not be a churl." And I rode rapidly back.

I came in sight of her just as she was turning into the gateway of a
pretty house yard. Doubtless she lived there. I turned again and spun
away faster than I had gone that day.

For more than a month I journeyed and sojourned in a beautiful river
valley and among the low foot-hills of the mountains. The weather was
fair, the scenery was pleasing, and at last I came to believe that I
had passed the boundaries of Cathay. I took no tablets from my little
box. I did not feel that I had need of them.

In the course of time I ceased to travel north-ward. My vacation was
not very near its end, but I chose to turn my face towards the scene
of my coming duties. I made a wide circuit, I rode slowly, and I
stopped often.

One day I passed through a village, and at the outer edge of it a
little girl, about four years old, tried to cross the road. Tripping,
she fell down almost in front of me. It was only by a powerful and
sudden exertion that I prevented myself from going over her, and as I
wheeled across the road my machine came within two feet of her. She
lay there yelling in the dust. I dismounted, and, picking her up I
carried her to the other side of the road. There I left her to toddle
homeward while I went on my way. I could not but sigh as I thought
that I was again in Cathay.

Two days after this I entered Waterton. There was another road, said
to be a very pleasant one, which lay to the westward, and which would
have taken me to Walford through a country new to me, but I wished to
make no further explorations in Cathay, and if one journeys back upon
a road by which he came he will find the scenery very different.

I spent the night at the hotel, and after breakfast I very reluctantly
went to call upon the Willoughbys. I forced myself to do this, for,
considering the cordiality they had shown me, it would have required
more incivility than I possessed to pass through the town without
paying my respects. But to my great joy none of the ladies was at
home. I hastened from the house with a buoyant step, and was soon
speeding away, and away, and away.

The road was dry and hard, the sun was bright, but there was a fresh
breeze in my face, and I rolled along at a swift and steady rate. On,
on I went, until, before the sun had reached its highest point, I
wheeled out of the main road, rolled up a gravel path, and dismounted
in front of the Holly Sprig Inn.

I leaned my bicycle against a tree and went in-doors. The place did
not seem so quiet as when I first saw it. I had noticed a lady sitting
under a tree in front of the house. There was a nurse-maid attending a
child who was playing on the grass. Entering the hall, I glanced into
the large room which I had called the "office," and saw a man there
writing at a table.

Presently a maid-servant came into the hall. She was not one I had
noticed before. I asked if I could see Mrs. Chester, and she said she
would go and look for her. There were chairs in the hall, and I might
have waited for her there, but I did not. I entered the parlor, and
was pleased to find it unoccupied. I went to the upper end of the
room, as far as possible from the door.

In a few minutes I heard a step in the hall. I knew it, and it was
strange how soon I had learned to know it. She stopped in front of the
office, then she went on towards the porch, and turning she came into
the parlor, first looking towards the front of the room and then
towards the place where I stood.

The light from a window near me fell directly upon her as she
approached me, and I could see that there was a slight flush on her
face, but before she reached me it had disappeared. She did not greet
me. She did not offer me her hand. In fact, from what afterwards
happened, I believe that she did not consider me at that moment a fit
subject for ordinary greeting. She stood up in front of me. She gazed
steadfastly into my face. Her features wore something of their
ordinary pleasant expression, but to this there was added a certain
determination which I had never seen there before. She gave her head a
little quick shake.

"No, sir!" she said.

This reception amazed me. I had been greatly agitated as I heard her
approach, turning over in my mind what I should first say to her, but
now I forgot everything I had prepared. "No what?" I exclaimed.

[Illustration: "'NO, SIR,' SHE SAID"]

"'No' means that I will not marry you."

I stood speechless. "Of course you are thinking," she continued, "that
you have never asked me to marry you. But that isn't at all necessary.
As soon as I saw you standing there, back two weeks before your
vacation is over, and when I got a good look at your face, I knew
exactly what you had come for. I was afraid when you left here that
you would come back for that, so I was not altogether unprepared. I
spoke promptly so as to spare you and to make it easier for me."

"Easier!" I repeated. "What do you mean?"

"Easier, because the sooner you know that I will not marry you the
better it will be for you and for me."

Now I could restrain myself no longer. "Why can't I marry you?" I
asked, speaking very rapidly, and, I am afraid, with imprudent energy.
"Is it any sort of condition or circumstance which prevents? Do you
think that I am forcing myself upon you at a time when I ought not to
do it? If so, you have mistaken me. Ever since I left here I have
thought of scarcely anything but you, and I have returned thus early
simply to tell you that I love you! I had to do that! I could not
wait! But as to all else, I can wait, and wait, and wait, as long as
you please. You can tell me to go away and come back at whatever time
you think it will be right for you to give me an answer."

"This is the right time," she said, "and I have given you your answer.
But, unfortunately, I did not prevent you from saying what you came to
say. So now I will tell you that the conditions and circumstances to
which you allude have nothing to do with the matter. I have a reason
for my decision which is of so much more importance than any other
reason that it is the only one which need be considered."

"What is that?" I asked, quickly.

"It is because I keep a tavern," she answered. "It would be wrong and
wicked for you to marry a woman who keeps a tavern."

Now my face flushed. I could feel it burning. "Keep a tavern!" I
exclaimed. "That is a horrible way to put it! But why should you think
for an instant that I cared for that? Do you suppose I consider that a
dishonorable calling? I would be only too glad to adopt it myself and
help you keep a tavern, as you call it."

"That is the trouble!" she exclaimed. "That is the greatest trouble. I
believe you would. I believe that you think that the life would just
suit you."

"Then sweep away the tavern!" I exclaimed. "Banish it. Leave it. Put
it out of all thought or consideration. I can wait for you. I can make
a place and a position for you. I can--"

"No, you cannot," she interrupted. "At least, not for a long time,
unless one of your scholars dies and leaves you a legacy. It is the
future that I am thinking about. No matter what you might sweep away,
and to what position you might attain, it could always be said, 'He
married a woman who used to keep a tavern.' Now, every one who is a
friend to you, who knows what is before you, if you choose to try for
it, should do everything that can be done to prevent such a thing ever
being said of you. I am a friend to you, and I am going to prevent
it."

I stood unable to say one word. Her voice, her eyes, even the manner
in which she stood before me, assured me that she meant everything she
said. It was almost impossible to believe that such an amiable
creature could turn into such an icicle.

"I do not want you to feel worse than you can help," she said, "but it
was necessary for me to speak as firmly and decidedly as I could, and
now it is all settled."

I knew it was all settled. I knew it as well as if it had been settled
for years. But, with my eyes still ardently fixed on her, I remembered
the little flush when she came into the room.

"Tell me one thing," said I, "and I will go. If it were not for what
you say about your position in life, and all that--if there had not
been such a place as this inn--then could you--"

She moved away from me. "You are as great a bear as the other one!"
she exclaimed, and turning she left the room by a door in the rear.
But in the next moment she ran back, holding out her hand. "Good-bye!"
she said.

I took her hand, but held it not a second. Then she was gone. I stood
looking at the door which she had closed behind her, and then I left
the house. There was no reason why I should stay in that place another
minute.

As I was about to mount my bicycle the boy came around the corner of
the inn. Upon his face was a diabolical grin. The thought rushed into
my mind that he might have been standing beneath the parlor window.
Instinctively I made a movement towards him, but he did not run. I
turned my eyes away from him and mounted. I could not kill a boy in
the presence of a nurse-maid.



CHAPTER XVII

A FORECASTER OF HUMAN PROBABILITIES


I was about to turn in the direction of Walford, but then into my
trouble-tossed mind there came the recollection that I had intended,
no matter what happened, to call on the Larramies before I went home.
I owed it to them, and at this moment their house seemed like a port
of refuge.

The Larramies received me with wide-opened eyes and outstretched
hands. They were amazed to see me before the end of my vacation, for
no member of that family had ever come back from a vacation before it
was over; but they showed that they were delighted to have me with
them, be it sooner or later than they had expected, and I had not been
in the house ten minutes before I received three separate invitations
to make that house my home until school began again.

The house was even livelier than when I left it. There was a married
couple visiting there, enthusiastic devotees of golf; one of Mr.
Walter's college friends was with him; and, to my surprise, Miss Amy
Willoughby was there again.

Genevieve received me with the greatest warmth, and I could see that
her hopes of a gentleman friend revived. Little Clara demanded to be
kissed as soon as she saw me, and I think she now looked upon me as a
permanent uncle or something of that kind. As soon as possible I was
escorted by the greater part of the family to see the bear.

Miss Edith had welcomed me as if I had been an old friend. It warmed
my heart to receive the frank and cordial handshake she gave me. She
said very little, but there was a certain interrogation in her eyes
which assured me that she had much to ask when the time came. As for
me, I was in no hurry for that time to come. I did not feel like
answering questions, and with as much animation as I could assume I
talked to everybody as we went to see the bear.

This animal had grown very fat and super-contented, but I found that
the family were in the condition of Gentleman Waife in Bulwer's novel,
and were now wondering what they would do with it.

"You see," cried Percy, who was the principal showman, "the neighbors
are all on pins and needles about him. Ever since the McKenna sisters
spread the story that Orso was in the habit of getting under beds,
there isn't a person within five miles of here who can go to bed
without looking under it to see if there is a bear there. There are
two houses for sale about a mile down the road, and we don't know any
reason why people should want to go away except it's the bear. Nearly
all the dogs around here are kept chained up for fear that Orso will
get hold of them, and there is a general commotion, I can tell you. At
first it was great fun, but it is getting a little tiresome now. We
have been talking about shooting him, and then I shall have his bones,
which I am going to set up as a skeleton, and it is my opinion that
you ought to have the skin."

Several demurrers now arose, for nobody seemed to think that I would
want such an ugly skin as that.

"Ugly!" cried Percy, who was evidently very anxious to pursue his
study of comparative anatomy. "It's a magnificent skin. Look at that
long, heavy fur. Why, if you take that skin and have it all cleaned,
and combed out, and dyed some nice color, it will be fit to put into
any room."

Genevieve was in favor of combing and cleaning, oiling and dyeing the
hide of the bear without taking it off.

"If you would do that," she declared, "he would be a beautiful bear,
and we would give him away. They would be glad to have him at Central
Park."

The Larramies would not listen to my leaving that day. There were a
good many people in the house, but there was room enough for me, and,
when we had left the bear without solving the problem of his final
disposition, there were so many things to be done and so many things
to be said that it was late in the afternoon before Miss Edith found
the opportunity of speaking to me for which she had been waiting so
long.

"Well," said she, as we walked together away from the golf links, but
not towards the house, "what have you to report?"

"Report?" I repeated, evasively.

"Yes, you promised to do that, and I always expect people to fulfil
their promises to me. You came here by the way of the Holly Sprig Inn,
didn't you?"

I assented. "A very roundabout way," she said. "It would have been
seven miles nearer if you had come by the cross-road. But I suppose
you thought you must go there first."

"That is what I thought," I answered.

"Have you been thinking about her all the time you have been away?"

"Nearly all the time."

"And actually cut off a big slice of your vacation in order to see
her?"

I replied that this was precisely the state of the case.

"But, after all, you weren't successful. You need not tell me anything
about that--I knew it as soon as I saw you this morning. But I will
ask you to answer one thing: Is the decision final?"

I sighed--I could not help it, but she did not even smile. "Yes," I
said, "the affair is settled definitely."

For a minute or so we walked on silently, and then she said: "I do not
want you to think I am hard-hearted, but I must say what is in me. I
congratulate you, and, at the same time, I am sorry for her."

At this amazing speech I turned suddenly towards her, and we both
stopped.

"Yes," said she, standing before me with her clear eyes fixed upon my
face, "you are to be congratulated. I think it is likely she is the
most charming young woman you are ever likely to meet--and I know a
great deal more about her than you do, for I have known her for a long
time, and your acquaintance is a very short one--she has qualities you
do not know anything about; she is lovely! But for all that it would
be very wrong for you to marry her, and I am glad she had sense enough
not to let you do it."

"Why do you say that?" I asked, a little sharply.

"Of course you don't like it," she replied, "but it is true. She may
be as lovely as you think her--and I am sure she is. She may be of
good family, finely educated, and a great many more things, but all
that goes for nothing beside the fact that for over five years she has
been the landlady of a little hotel."

"I do not care a snap for that!" I exclaimed. "I like her all the
better for it. I--"

"That makes it worse," she interrupted, and as she spoke I could not
but recollect that a similar remark had been made to me before. "I
have not the slightest doubt that you would have been perfectly
willing to settle down as the landlord of a little hotel. But if you
had not--even if you had gone on in the course which father has
marked out for you, and you ought to hear him talk about you--you
might have become famous, rich, nobody knows what, perhaps President
of a college, but still everybody would have known that your wife was
the young woman who used to keep the Holly Sprig Inn, and asked the
people who came there if they objected to a back room, and if they
wanted tea or coffee for their breakfast. Of course Mrs. Chester
thought too much of you to let you consider any such foolishness."

I made no answer to this remark. I thought the young woman was taking
a great deal upon herself.

"Of course," she continued, "it would have been a great thing for Mrs.
Chester, and I honor her that she stood up stiffly and did the thing
she ought to do. I do not know what she said when she gave you her
final answer, but whatever it was it was the finest compliment she
could have paid you."

I smiled grimly. "She likened me to a bear," I said. "Do you call that
a compliment?"

Edith Larramie looked at me, her eyes sparkling. "Tell me one thing,"
she said. "When she spoke to you in that way weren't you trying to
find out how she felt about the matter exclusive of the inn?"

I could not help smiling again as I assented.

"There!" she exclaimed. "I am beginning to have the highest respect
for my abilities as a forecaster of human probabilities. It was like
you to try to find out that, and it was like her to snub you. But
let's walk on. Would you like me to give you some advice."

"I am afraid your advice is not worth very much," I answered, "but I
will hear it."

"Well, then," she said, "I advise you to fall in love with somebody
else just as soon as you can. That is the best way to get this affair
out of your mind, and until you do that you won't be worth anything."

I felt that I now knew this girl so well that I could say anything to
her. "Very well, then," said I; "suppose I fall in love with you?"

"That isn't a very nice speech," she said. "There is a little bit of
spitefulness in it. But it doesn't mean anything, anyway. I am out of
the competition, and that is the reason I can speak to you so freely.
Moreover, that is the reason I know so much about the matter. I am not
biassed. But you need have no trouble--there's Amy."

"Don't say Amy to me, I beg of you!" I exclaimed.

"Why not?" she persisted. "She is very pretty. She is as good as she
can be. She is rich. And if she were your wife you would want her to
talk more than she does, you would be so glad to listen to her. I
might say more about Amy, but I won't."

"Would it be very impolite," said I, "if I whistled?"

"I don't know," she said, "but you needn't do it. I will consider it
done. Now I will speak of Bertha Putney. I was bound to mention Amy
first, because she is my dear friend, but Miss Putney is a grand girl.
And I do not mind telling you that she takes a great interest in you."

"How do you know that?" I asked.

"I have seen her since you were here--she lunched with us. As soon as
she heard your name mentioned--and that was bound to happen, for this
family has been talking about you ever since they first knew you--she
began to ask questions. Of course the bear came up, and she wanted to
know every blessed thing that happened. But when she found out that
you got the bear at the Holly Sprig her manner changed, and she
talked no more about you at the table.

"But in the afternoon she had a great deal to say to me. I did not
know exactly what she was driving at, and I may have told her too
much. We said a great many things--some of which I remember and some I
do not--but I am sure that I never knew a woman to take more interest
in a man than she takes in you. So it is my opinion that if you would
stop at the Putneys' on your way home you might do a great deal to
help you get rid of the trouble you are now in. It makes me feel
something like a spy in a camp to talk this way, but I told you I was
your friend, and I am going to be one. Spies are all right when they
are loyal to their own side."

I was very glad to have such a girl on my side, but this did not seem
to be a very good time to talk about the advantages of a call upon
Miss Putney.

In spite of all the entreaties of the Larramie family, I persisted in
my intention of going on to Walford the next morning, and, in reply to
their assurances that I would find it dreadfully dull in that little
village during the rest of my vacation, I told them that I should be
very much occupied and should have no time to be dull. I was going
seriously to work to prepare myself for my profession. For a year or
two I had been deferring this important matter, waiting until I had
laid by enough money to enable me to give up school-teaching and to
apply myself entirely to the studies which would be necessary. All
this would give me enough to do, and vacation was the time in which I
ought to do it. The distractions of the school session were very much
in the way of a proper contemplation of my own affairs.

"That sounds very well," said Miss Edith, when there was no one by,
"but if you cannot get the Holly Sprig Inn out of your mind, I do not
believe you will do very much 'proper contemplation.' Take my advice
and stop at the Putneys'. It can do you no harm, and it might help to
free your mind of distractions a great deal worse than those of the
school."

"By filling it with other distractions, I suppose you mean," I
answered. "A fickle-minded person you must think me. But it pleases me
so much to have you take an interest in me that I do not resent any of
your advice."

She laughed. "I like to give advice," she said, "but I must admit that
I sometimes think better of a person if he does not take it. But I
will say--and this is all the advice I am going to give you at
present--that if you want to be successful in making love, you must
change your methods. You cannot expect to step up in front of a girl
and stop her short as if she were a runaway horse. A horse doesn't
like that sort of thing, and a girl doesn't like it. You must take
more time about it. A runaway girl doesn't hurt anybody, and, if you
are active enough, you can jump in behind and take the reins and stop
her gradually without hurting her feelings, and then, most likely, you
can drive her for all the rest of your life."

"You ought to have that speech engraved in uncial characters on a slab
of stone," said I. "Any museum would be glad to have it."

I had two reasons besides the one I gave for wishing to leave this
hospitable house. In the first place, Edith Larramie troubled me. I
did not like to have any one know so much about my mental interior--or
to think she knew so much. I did not like to feel that I was being
managed. I had a strong belief that if anybody jumped into a vehicle
she was pulling he would find that she was doing her own driving and
would allow no interferences. I liked her very much, but I was sure
that away from her I would feel freer in mind.

The other reason for my leaving was Amy Willoughby. During my little
visit to her house my acquaintance with her had grown with great
rapidity. Now I seemed to know her very well, and the more I knew her
the better I liked her. It may be vanity, but I think she wanted me to
like her, and one reason for believing this was the fact that when she
was with me--and I saw a great deal of her during the afternoon and
evening I spent with the Larramies--she did not talk so much, and when
she did speak she invariably said something I wanted to hear.

Remembering the remarks which had been made about her by her friend
Edith, I could not but admit that she was a very fine girl, combining
a great many attractive qualities, but I rebelled against every
conviction I had in regard to her. I did not want to think about her
admirable qualities. I did not want to believe that in time they would
impress me more forcibly than they did now. I did not want people to
imagine that I would come to be so impressed. If I stayed there I
might almost look upon her in the light of a duty.

The family farewell the next morning was a tumultuous one. Invitations
to ride up again during my vacation, to come and spend Saturdays and
Sundays, were intermingled with earnest injunctions from Genevieve in
regard to a correspondence which she wished to open with me for the
benefit of her mind, and declarations from Percy that he would let me
know all about the bear as soon as it was decided what would be the
best thing to happen to him, and entreaties from little Clara that I
would not go away without kissing her good-bye.

But amid the confusion Miss Edith found a chance to say a final word
to me. "Don't you try," she said, as I was about to mount my bicycle,
"to keep those holly sprigs in your brain until Christmas. They are
awfully stickery, they will not last, and, besides, there will not be
any Christmas."

"And how about New-Year's Day?" I asked.

"That is the way to talk," skid she. "Keep your mind on that and you
will be all right."

As I rode along I could not forget that it would be necessary for me
to pass the inn. I had made inquiries, but there were no byways which
would serve my purpose. There was nothing for me to do but keep on,
and on I kept. I should pass so noiselessly and so swiftly that I did
not believe any one would notice me, unless, indeed, it should be the
boy. I earnestly hoped that I should not see the boy.

Whether or not I was seen from the inn as I passed it I do not know.
In fact, I did not know when I passed it. No shout of immature
diabolism caught my ear, no scent of lemon came into my nostrils, and
I saw nothing but the line of road directly in front of me.



CHAPTER XVIII

REPENTANCE AVAILS NOT


When I was positively certain that I had left the little inn far
behind me, I slackened my speed, and, perceiving a spreading tree by
the road-side, I dismounted and sat down in the shade. It was a hot
day, and unconsciously I had been working very hard. Several persons
on wheels passed along the road, and every time I saw one approaching
I was afraid that it might be somebody I knew, who might stop and sit
by me in the shade. I was now near enough to Walford to meet with
people from that neighborhood, and I did not want to meet with any one
just now. I had a great many things to think about and just then I was
busy trying to make up my mind whether or not it would be well for me
to stop at the Putneys'.

If I should pass without stopping, some one in the lodge would
probably see me, and the family would know of my discourtesy, but,
although it would have been a very simple thing to do, and a very
proper thing, I did not feel sure that I wanted to stop. If Edith
Larramie had never said anything about it, I think I would surely have
made a morning call upon the Putneys.

After I had cooled off a little I rose to remount; I had not decided
anything, but it was of no use to sit there any longer. Glancing along
the road towards Walford, I saw in the distance some one approaching
on a wheel. Involuntarily I stood still and watched the on-coming
cyclist, who I saw was a woman. She moved steadily and rapidly on the
other side of the road. Very soon I recognized her. It was Miss
Putney.

As she came nearer and nearer I was greatly impressed with her
appearance. Her costume was as suitable and becoming for the occasion
as if it had been an evening dress for a ball, and she wheeled better
than any woman cyclist I ever saw. Her head was erect, her eyes
straight before her, and her motion was rhythm of action.

With my hand on my wheel I moved a few steps towards the middle of the
road. I was about to take off my cap when she turned her eyes upon me.
She even moved her head a little so as to gaze upon me a few seconds
longer. Her face was quiet and serene, her eyes were large, clear, and
observant. In them was not one gleam of recognition. Turning them
again upon the road in front of her, she sped on and away.

[Illustration: "CUT LIKE THAT"]

For some minutes I stood looking after her, utterly astonished. I do
not think in all my life I had ever been cut like that. What did it
mean? Could she care enough about me to resent my stopping at the
Holly Sprig? Was it possible that she could have known what had been
likely to happen there, and what had happened there? All this was very
improbable, but in Cathay people seemed to know a great many things.
Anyway, she had solved my problem for me. I need give no further
thought to a stop at her father's mansion.

I mounted and rode on, but not rapidly. I was very much moved. My soul
grew warm as I thought of the steady gaze of the eyes which that girl
had fixed upon me. For a mile or so I moved steadily and quietly in a
mood of incensed dignity. I pressed the pedals with a hard and cruel
tread. I did not understand. I could scarcely believe.

Soon, however, I began to move a little faster. Somehow or other I
became conscious that there was a bicycle at some distance behind me.
I pushed on a little faster. I did not wish to be overtaken by
anybody. Now I was sure there was a wheel behind me. I could not hear
it, but I knew it was there.

Presently I became certain that my instincts had not deceived me, for
I heard the quick sound of a bicycle bell. This was odd, for surely no
one would ring for me to get out of the way. Then there was another
tinkle, a little nearer.

Now I sped faster and faster. I heard the bell violently ringing. Then
I thought, but I am not sure, that I heard a voice. I struck out with
the thrust of a steam-engine, and the earth slipped backward beneath
me like the water of a mill-race. I passed wagons as if they had been
puffs of smoke, and people on wheels as though they were flying
cinders.

In some ten minutes I slackened speed and looked back. For a long
distance behind me not a bicycle was in sight. I now pursued my
homeward way with a warm body and a lacerated heart. I hated this
region which I had called Cathay. Its inhabitants were not barbarians,
but I was suffering from their barbarities. I had come among them
clean, whole, with an upright bearing. I was going away torn, bloody,
and downcast.

If the last words of the lady of the Holly Sprig meant the sweet thing
I thought they meant, then did they make the words which preceded them
all the more bitter. The more friendly and honest the counsels of
Edith Larramie had grown, the deeper they had cut into my heart. Even
the more than regard with which my soul prompted me to look back to
Amy Willoughby was a pain to me. My judgment would enrage me if it
should try to compel me to feel as I did not want to feel.

But none of these wounds would have so pained and disturbed me had it
not been for the merciless gaze which that dark-eyed girl had fixed
upon me as she passed me standing in the road. And if she had gone too
far and had done more than her own nature could endure, and if it were
she who had been pursuing me, then the wound was more cruel and the
smart deeper. If she believed me a man who would stop at the ringing
of her bell, then was I ashamed of myself for having given her that
impression.



CHAPTER XIX

BEAUTY, PURITY, AND PEACE


I now proposed to wheel my way in one long stretch to Walford. I took
no interest in rest or in refreshment. Simply to feel that I had done
with this cycle of Cathay would be to me rest, refreshment, and,
perhaps, the beginning of peace.

The sun was high in the heavens, and its rays were hot, but still I
kept steadily on until I saw a female figure by the road-side waving a
handkerchief. I had not yet reached her, but she had stopped, was
looking at me, and was waving energetically. I could not be mistaken.
I turned and wheeled up in front of her. It was Mrs. Burton, the
mother of the young lady who had injured her ankle on the day when I
set out for my journey through Cathay.

"I am so glad to see you," she said, as she shook hands with me. "I
knew you as soon as my eyes first fell upon you. You know I have
often seen you on the road before we became acquainted with you. We
have frequently talked about you since you were here, and we did not
expect you would be coming back so soon. Mr. Burton has been hoping
that he would have a chance to know you better. He is very fond of
school-masters. He was an intimate friend of Godfrey Chester, who had
the school at Walford some years before you came--when the boys and
girls used to go to school together--and of the man who came
afterwards. He was a little too elderly, perhaps, but Mr. Burton liked
him too, and now he hopes that he is going to know you. But excuse me
for keeping you standing so long in the road. You must come in. We
shall have dinner in ten minutes. I was just coming home from a
neighbor's when I caught sight of you."

I declined with earnestness. Mr. Burton might be a very agreeable man,
but I wanted to make no new acquaintances then. I must keep on to
Walford.

But the good lady would listen to no refusals of her hospitality. I
was just in time. I must need a mid-day rest and something to eat. She
was very sorry that Mr. Burton was not at home. He nearly always was
at home, but to-day he had gone to Waterton. But if I would be
contented to take dinner with her daughter and herself, they would be
delighted to have me do so. She made a motion to open the gate for me,
but I opened it for her, and we both went in. The daughter met us at
the top of the garden walk. She came towards me as a cool summer
breeze comes upon a hot and dusty world. There was, no flush upon her
face, but her eyes and lips told me that she was glad to see me before
she spoke a word or placed her soft, white hand in mine. At the first
touch of that hand I felt glad that Mrs. Burton had stopped me in the
road. Here was peace.

That dinner was the most soothing meal of which I had ever partaken. I
did the carving, my companions did the questioning, and nearly all the
conversation was about myself. Ordinarily I would not have liked this,
but every word which was said by these two fair ladies--for the
sweetness of the mother was merely more seasoned than that of the
daughter--was so filled with friendly interest that it gratified me to
make my answers.

They seemed to have heard a great deal about me during my wanderings
through Cathay. They knew, of course, that I had stopped with the
Putneys, for I had told them that, but they had also heard that I had
spent a night at the Holly Sprig, and had afterwards stayed with the
Larramies. But of anything which had happened which in the slightest
degree had jarred upon my feelings they did not appear to have heard
the slightest mention.

I might have supposed that only good and happy news thought it worth
while to stop at that abode of peace. As I looked upon the serene and
tender countenance of Mrs. Burton I wondered how a cloud rising from
want of sympathy with early peas ever could have settled over this
little family circle; but it was the man who had caused the cloud. I
knew it. It is so often the man.

When we had finished dinner and had gone out to sit in the cool
shadows of the piazza, I let my gaze rest as often as I might upon the
fair face of that young girl. Several times her eyes met mine, but
their lids never drooped, their tender light did not brighten. I felt
that she was so truly glad to see me that her pleasure in the meeting
was not affected one way or the other by the slight incident of my
looking at her.

If ever a countenance told of innocence, purity, and truth, her
countenance told of them. I believe that if she had thought it
pleased me to look at her, it would have pleased her to know that it
gave me pleasure.

As I talked with her and looked at her, and as I looked at her mother
and talked with her, it was impressed upon me that if there is one
thing in this world which is better than all else, it is peace, that
peace which comprises so many forms of happiness and deep content.
That the thoughts which came to me could come to a heart so lacerated,
so torn, so full of pain as mine had been that morning, seemed
wonderful, and yet they came.

Once or twice I tried to banish these thoughts. It seemed
disrespectful to myself to entertain them so soon after other thoughts
which I now wished to banish utterly. I am not a hero of romance. I am
only a plain human being, and such is the constitution of my nature
that the more troubled and disturbed is my soul, the more welcome is
purity, truth, and peace.

But, after all, my feelings were not quite natural, and the change in
them was too sudden. It was the consequence of too violent a reaction,
but, such as it was, it was complete. I would not be hasty. I would
not be deficient in self-respect. But if at that moment I had known
that this was the time to declare what I wished to have, I would
unhesitatingly have asked for beauty, purity, and peace.

A maid came out upon the piazza who wanted something. Mrs. Burton half
rose, but her daughter forestalled her. "I will go," said she. "Excuse
me one minute."

If my face expressed the sentiment, "Oh, that the mother had gone!" I
did not intend that it should do so. Mrs. Burton then began to talk
about her daughter.

"She is like her father," she said, "in so many ways. For one thing,
she is very fond of school-masters. I do not know exactly why this
should be, but her teachers always seem to be her friends. In fact,
she is to marry a school-master--that is, an assistant professor at
Yale. He is in Europe now, but we expect him back early in the fall."

A short time after this, when the daughter had returned and I rose to
go, the young girl put her soft, white hand into mine exactly as she
had done when I arrived, and the light in her eyes showed me, just as
it had showed me before, the pleasure she had taken in my visit. But
the mother's farewell was different from her greeting. I could see in
her kind air a certain considerate sympathy which was not there
before. She had been very prompt to tell me of her daughter's
engagement.

That young angel of peace and truth would not have deemed it necessary
to say a word about the matter, even to a young man who was a
school-master, and between whom and her family a mutual interest was
rapidly growing. But with the mother it was otherwise. She had seen
the shadows pass away from my countenance as I sat and talked upon
that cool piazza, my eyes bent upon her daughter. Mothers know.



CHAPTER XX

BACK FROM CATHAY


The next morning, being again settled in my rooms in Walford, I went
to call upon the Doctor and his daughter. The Doctor was not at home,
but his daughter was glad to see me.

"And how do you like your cycle of Cathay?" she asked.

"I do not like it at all," I answered. "It has taken me upon a dreary
round. I am going to change it for another as soon as I have an
opportunity."

"Then it has not been a wheel of fortune to you?" she remarked. "And
as for that country which you figuratively called Cathay, did you find
that pleasant?"

"In some ways, yes, but in others not. You see, I came back before my
vacation was over, and I do not care to go there any more."

She now wanted me to tell her where I had really been and what had
happened to me, and I gave her a sketch of my adventures. Of course I
could not enter deeply into particulars, for that would make too long
a story, but I told her where I had stopped, and my accounts of the
bear and the horse were deeply interesting.

"It seems to me," she said, when I had finished, "that if things had
been a little different, you might have had an extremely pleasant
tour. For instance, if Mr. Godfrey Chester had been living, I think
you would have liked him very much, and it is probable that you would
have been glad to stay at his inn for several days. It is a beautiful
country thereabout."

"Did you know him?" I asked.

"Oh yes," she said; "he was my teacher during part of my school-days
here. And then there is Mr. Burton; father is very fond of him. He is
a man of great intelligence. It was unfortunate that you did not see
more of him."

"Perhaps you know Mr. Putney?" I said.

"No," she answered. "I have heard a great deal about him. He seems to
be a stiff sort of a man. But as to Mr. Larramie, everybody likes him.
He is a great favorite throughout the county, and his son Walter is a
rising young man. I am glad you made the acquaintance of the
Larramies."

"So am I," I said, "very glad indeed. And, by-the-way, do you know a
young man named Willoughby? I never heard his first name, but he lives
at Waterton."

"Oh, the Willoughbys of Waterton," she said. "I have heard a great
deal about them. Father used to know the old gentleman. He was a great
collector of rare books, but he is dead now. If you had met him you
would have found him a man of your own tastes."

When I was going away she stopped me for a moment. "I forgot to ask
you," she said; "did you take any of those capsules I gave you when
you were starting off on your cycle?"

"Yes," said I, "I took some of them." But I could not well explain the
capricious way in which I had endeavored to guard against the germs of
malaria, and to call my own attention to the threatening germs of
erratic fancy.

"Then you do not think they did you any good?" she said.

"I am not sure," I replied. "I cannot say anything about that. But of
one thing I am certain, and that is, that if any germs of any kind
entered my system, it is perfectly free from them now."

"I am glad to hear that," she said.

It was about a week after this that I received a letter from Percy
Larramie. "I thought you would like to know about the bear," he wrote.
"Somebody must have forgotten to feed him, and he broke his chain and
got away. He went straight over to the Holly Sprig Inn, and I expect
he did that because the inn was the last place he had seen his master.
I did not know bears cared so much for masters. He didn't stay long at
the inn, but he stayed long enough to bite a boy. Then he went into
the woods.

"As soon as we heard of it we all set off on a bear-hunt. It was jolly
fun, although I did not so much as catch a sight of him. Father shot
him at a three-hundred-foot range. It was a Winchester rifle with a
thirty-two cartridge. It was a beautiful shot, Walter said, and I wish
I had made it.

"We took his skin off and tore it only in two or three places, which
can be mended. Would you like to have the skin, and do you care
particularly about the head? If you don't, I would like to have it,
because without it the skeleton will not be perfect."

I wrote to Percy that I did not desire so much as a single hair of the
beast. I did not tell him so, but I despised the bears of Cathay.

It was just before the Christmas holidays when I finally made up my
mind that of all the women in the world the Doctor's daughter was the
one for me, and when I told her so she did not try to conceal that
this was also her own opinion. I had seen the most charming qualities
in other women, and my somewhat rapid and enthusiastic study of them
had so familiarized me with them that I was enabled readily to
perceive their existence in others. I found them all in the Doctor's
daughter.

Her father was very well pleased when he heard of our compact. It was
plain that he had been waiting to hear of it. When he furthermore
heard that I had decided to abandon all thought of the law, and to
study medicine instead, his satisfaction was complete. He arranged
everything with affectionate prudence. I should read with him,
beginning immediately, even before I gave up my school. I should
attend the necessary medical courses, and we need be in no hurry to
marry. We were both young, and when I was ready to become his
assistant it would be time enough for him to give me his daughter.

We were sitting together in the Doctor's library and had been looking
over some of the papers of the Walford Literary Society, of which we
were both officers, when I said, looking at her signature:
"By-the-way, I wish you would tell me one thing. What does the initial
'E.' stand for in your name? I never knew any one to use it."

"No," she said; "I do not like it. It was given to me by my mother's
sister, who was a romantic young lady. It is Europa. And I only hope,"
she added, quickly, "that you may have fifty years of it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Three years of the fifty have now passed, and each one of the young
women I met in Cathay has married. The first one to go off was Edith
Larramie. She married the college friend of her brother who was at the
house when I visited them. When I met her in Walford shortly after I
heard of her engagement, she took me aside in her old way and told me
she wanted me always to look upon her as my friend, no matter how
circumstances might change with her or me.

"You do not know how much of a friend I was to you," she said, "and it
is not at all necessary you should know. But I will say that when I
saw you getting into such a dreadful snarl in our part of the
country, I determined, if there were no other way to save you, I would
marry you myself! But I did not do it, and you ought to be very glad
of it, for you would have found that a little of me, now and then,
would be a great deal more to your taste than to have me always."

[Illustration: EUROPA]

Mrs. Chester married the man who had courted her before she fell in
love with her school-master. It appeared that the fact of her having
been the landlady of the Holly Sprig made no difference in his case.
He was too rich to have any prospects which might be interfered with.

Amy Willoughby married Walter Larramie. That was a thing which might
well have been expected. I was very glad to hear it, for I shall never
fail to be interested in the Larramies.

About a year ago there was a grand wedding at the Putney city mansion.
The daughter of the family was married to an Italian gentleman with a
title. I read of the affair in the newspapers, and having heard, in
addition, a great many details of the match from the gossips of
Walford, I supposed myself to be fully informed in regard to this
grand alliance, and was therefore very much surprised to receive,
personally, an announcement of the marriage upon a very large and
stiff card, on which were given, in full, the various titles and
dignities of the noble bridegroom. I did not believe Mr. Putney had
sent me this card, nor that his wife had done so; certainly the Count
did not send it. But no matter how it came to me, I was very sure I
owed it to the determination, on the part of some one, that by no
mischance should I fail to know exactly what had happened. I heard
recently that the noble lady and her husband expect to spend the
summer at her father's country-house, and some people believe that
they intend to make it their permanent home.

The Doctor strongly advises that Europa and I should go before long
and settle in the Cathay region. He thinks that it will be a most
excellent field for me to begin my labors in, and he knows many
families there who would doubtless give me their practice.





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