- CHAPTER X ADVENTURES EN ROUTE
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ADVENTURES EN ROUTE
LAKEVILLE lies at the southern extremity of the lake, and at the point where it forms the sharpest curve and its opposite shores are closest together. It is twelve miles from Lee, the pretty village lying just two miles up the lake shore from the Chetwyndes' villa, and three miles, as the crow flies, from Redlands; and Lakeville is just ten miles by rail from the villa; Redlands is off its course.
Half a dozen railways may bring Hope Chetwynde down from her mountain eyrie, and two at least will land her at Lee, two miles from home.
The fast train is due at Lee, from the north-east, at 3.30 p.m. Another is timed, for Lakewood, at precisely 4 o'clock, coming from due east.
Now Miss Cassandra is particular in most things, and positive--when her mind has full sway--in all; and she has decided that Hope must arrive at 3.30, via the N.W. and E.J.C. Felix, on the other hand, has chosen to look for his sister's arrival by Lakeville; and Hope herself, who should know, has been silent upon this subject, while requesting that "the | | 122 pony carriage be in attendance." "Tell Felix that he must bring it," she has written to her aunt. "I want to have a little talk with him right away."
"Very secret! and a nice way to warn me off," Hope's aunt has said, upon reading this aloud. "And I fancy I know what it's all about," Felix has grumbled, with anything but a delighted manner.
Hope Chetwynde can forget most things in a good book, and she has set out on her journey with such an one, kindly provided by a friend, who assures her that it will prove to be food, drink, and "no end of good company" for her on her homeward way.
This has proved so true that she is nearing Lakeville and the end of the small volume together, and it is only when she has read finis that she finds time to think of her arrival, and discovers, after some reflection, that she has not named the hour when she will arrive, nor the route by which she will come.
"It won't matter--much," she finally assures herself. "Fee will come to both trains, of course--the station is so near, it won't tax the ponies much."
As they run into Lakeville station, she looks out in search of some familiar face, but is rewarded scantily. The newsboy and the porter are changed here, and the two last are natives of Lee; she nods to these, the only familiar faces, and buys an afternoon paper of the newsboy "for acquaintance' sake."
Several people are taken on here, but they are strangers and most uninteresting; among the last | | 123 of these comes a lad who is somewhat shabby and dishevelled, but who has in tow a bicycle so handsome that it attracts the attention of a number of connoisseurs in wheels, and brings the conductor down upon its custodian.
"You can't take that wheel in here, boy!" he says roughly, "it's too big, and--"
"I'm only going a little way," the boy replies, "and I'll pay extra."
But the conductor shakes his head. "You'll have to carry it to the smoker," he says gruffly.
"I can't. It--it makes me ill."
The two are very near Hope's place, and she is quite alone in her section, for the coach being sparsely filled the porter has reserved the seat in front of her for her better comfort--and a silver half-dollar. She knows the conductor through having been his occasional passenger, and she now leans toward him.
"Conductor, if you please let the young man put his wheel in here. It will not inconvenience me--I leave so soon."
There is sympathy in her face and voice, for she has noted that the lad is pale, and that his thin, grimy hands are trembling.
But the effect of this kindness upon the tired looking lad is something of a surprise. With his face changing from pale to red and back to pale and red again, he shoots one wild glance at the fair face bent upon him, stoops over his bicycle and, with half a dozen rapid motions, has folded it, the wheels one upon the other, tipped up the saddle, pressed down the handle-bars, and, | | 124 muttering as he goes something of which they can only distinguish the words "room," "lady," and "smoker," he shoulders the collapsed machine and goes stumbling forward.
"By Jove!" exclaims one of two sporty looking young men in the seat just ahead of Hope. "But that was well done; I never saw a folding wheel before."
"Well I have!" the other affirmed. "But they've always been owned by the sports. And, say--did you get on to that pace-maker attachment? I call that a d--d queer outfit for a chump of a boy."
"Hired by some dude, I suppose," replies the other comfortably, and pulls his cap over his eyes.
The road between Lakeville and Lee is charming to the unaccustomed eye, but it is familiar to Hope, now grown restless after the manner of travellers when almost at the journey's end, and so she opens the evening paper and idly scans its pages.
Every other headline, she thinks, contains the word bicycle, or else it is Wheel, Scorch, Run, Meet, and so on. "A plague upon all bicycles!" she thinks, in a fit of vexation which she might--though she does not--trace to the unthankful lad of the folding wheel.
And thus, in sheer idleness, she begins to scan a column of "Cycle Notes."
"A meet at Lee on the 20th."
"Mrs. J-- injured by a fall from her bike."
"Miss Grimes rides a new wheel," &c.
Then comes this item, over which she ponders a moment.
"That graceful and daring young cyclist and | | 125 trick rider Juan Alvarege, who has performed before so many admirers at Newport, Saratoga, Manhattan Beach, &c., has suddenly disappeared from his hotel in this city, taking one of his valuable gift wheels with him. Since his fall, while performing at Manhattan Beach, he has been subject to fits of waywardness or moodiness, and his friends are greatly concerned because of his continued absence."
"That," thinks Hope, "must be the handsome boy who fell from the high trestle upon wheels right before my eyes at the Beach--ugh! Small blame to the poor fellow if he never performs the like again."
And now the train begins to slow up, and the bell to ring for Lee, and she commences to bestir herself. As she folds the newspaper, and is about to drop it upon the seat before her another line catches her eye, or rather a familiar name meets it.
It appears in a list of "Notes from Lee," and this is what she sees--
"Miss Cassandra Chetwynde, of Beach Villa, is fast becoming an expert wheelwoman under the tutelage of her handsome nephew, Mr. Felix Chetwynde."
Hope stares at this line and then tosses the paper from her.
"It can't be!" she assures herself indignantly. "Aunt Cass of all people. It's a joke, and a silly one--for it can't be a mistake--or else Aunt Cass has gone raving crazy; why I took Fee's tales as just his nonsense!"
For some moments she sits pondering over this | | 126 last absurd item, and then rouses herself again as the train steams across the pretty stream at the edge of Lee and close to the station, and begins to gather up her luggage. The newspaper has fallen upon her knees, and she brushes it away, and is about to rise, when she observes a tiny folded paper lying upon her lap. She looks about her quickly, but no one is observing her, and she is sure that no one has passed close enough to let the note fall where it now lies. Once more she glances about her, and lifts her hand to brush it away unopened. But no, perhaps it contains her name, perhaps--they are almost at the station, and the girl takes up the bit of paper with sudden resolution and opens it.
This is what she reads--
"How will so fine and proud a lady feel to lose her lover through his own treachery? for he loves another and will win her if he can. Or through his death? He is lost to you, proud lady. He was unfaithful and a traitor--He is dead! even now."
There is no address, no signature, no date, and the writing is that of a woman, beyond a doubt. Irregular, as if written in haste and with a nervous hand, but a woman's, doubtless.
For just a moment Hope's fingers hover over it as if to tear and scatter the strange missive, which must have reached her through some mistake; and then another impulse causes her to open the little chatelaine hanging at her side, and to drop the note within.
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