Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
economica e scientifica in lingua inglese con audio di ReadSpeaker e traduttore
automatico interattivo FGA Translate
Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
Clicca sul pulsante qui sopra per iscriverti alla nostra newsletter gratuita che
ti informerà su tutte le nostre novità e iniziative!
legge il testo inglese con una perfetta pronuncia
britannica e con il magico effetto karaoke. Per attivarlo clicca sul
pulsante Ascolta il testo che si trova qui sotto. Puoi anche
selezionare una parola, frase o porzione di testo e ascoltare solo
quella cliccando sul simbolino di altoparlante che apparirà vicino alla
porzione di testo selezionata.
Translate: selezionando con il mouse una qualsiasi porzione di testo,
FGA Translate te la traduce istantaneamente in una finestrella pop-up.
Per evitare eventuali conflitti tra ReadSpeaker e FGA Translate puoi
deselezionare quest'ultimo togliendo la spunta qui sopra.
ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL.
BY JEROME K. JEROME.
Three men need change--Anecdote showing evil result of deception--Moral
cowardice of George--Harris has ideas--Yarn of the Ancient Mariner and
the Inexperienced Yachtsman--A hearty crew--Danger of sailing when the
wind is off the land--Impossibility of sailing when the wind is off the
sea--The argumentativeness of Ethelbertha--The dampness of the
river--Harris suggests a bicycle tour--George thinks of the wind--Harris
suggests the Black Forest--George thinks of the hills--Plan adopted by
Harris for ascent of hills--Interruption by Mrs. Harris.
"What we want," said Harris, "is a change."
At this moment the door opened, and Mrs. Harris put her head in to say
that Ethelbertha had sent her to remind me that we must not be late
getting home because of Clarence. Ethelbertha, I am inclined to think,
is unnecessarily nervous about the children. As a matter of fact, there
was nothing wrong with the child whatever. He had been out with his aunt
that morning; and if he looks wistfully at a pastrycook's window she
takes him inside and buys him cream buns and "maids-of-honour" until he
insists that he has had enough, and politely, but firmly, refuses to eat
another anything. Then, of course, he wants only one helping of pudding
at lunch, and Ethelbertha thinks he is sickening for something. Mrs.
Harris added that it would be as well for us to come upstairs soon, on
our own account also, as otherwise we should miss Muriel's rendering of
"The Mad Hatter's Tea Party," out of "Alice in Wonderland". Muriel is
Harris's second, age eight: she is a bright, intelligent child; but I
prefer her myself in serious pieces. We said we would finish our
cigarettes and follow almost immediately; we also begged her not to let
Muriel begin until we arrived. She promised to hold the child back as
long as possible, and went. Harris, as soon as the door was closed,
resumed his interrupted sentence.
"You know what I mean," he said, "a complete change."
The question was how to get it.
George suggested "business." It was the sort of suggestion George would
make. A bachelor thinks a married woman doesn't know enough to get out
of the way of a steam-roller. I knew a young fellow once, an engineer,
who thought he would go to Vienna "on business." His wife wanted to know
"what business?" He told her it would be his duty to visit the mines in
the neighbourhood of the Austrian capital, and to make reports. She said
she would go with him; she was that sort of woman. He tried to dissuade
her: he told her that a mine was no place for a beautiful woman. She
said she felt that herself, and that therefore she did not intend to
accompany him down the shafts; she would see him off in the morning, and
then amuse herself until his return, looking round the Vienna shops, and
buying a few things she might want. Having started the idea, he did not
see very well how to get out of it; and for ten long summer days he did
visit the mines in the neighbourhood of Vienna, and in the evening wrote
reports about them, which she posted for him to his firm, who didn't want
I should be grieved to think that either Ethelbertha or Mrs. Harris
belonged to that class of wife, but it is as well not to overdo
"business"--it should be kept for cases of real emergency.
"No," I said, "the thing is to be frank and manly. I shall tell
Ethelbertha that I have come to the conclusion a man never values
happiness that is always with him. I shall tell her that, for the sake
of learning to appreciate my own advantages as I know they should be
appreciated, I intend to tear myself away from her and the children for
at least three weeks. I shall tell her," I continued, turning to Harris,
"that it is you who have shown me my duty in this respect; that it is to
you we shall owe--"
Harris put down his glass rather hurriedly.
"If you don't mind, old man," he interrupted, "I'd really rather you
didn't. She'll talk it over with my wife, and--well, I should not be
happy, taking credit that I do not deserve."
"But you do deserve it," I insisted; "it was your suggestion."
"It was you gave me the idea," interrupted Harris again. "You know you
said it was a mistake for a man to get into a groove, and that unbroken
domesticity cloyed the brain."
"I was speaking generally," I explained.
"It struck me as very apt," said Harris. "I thought of repeating it to
Clara; she has a great opinion of your sense, I know. I am sure that
"We won't risk it," I interrupted, in my turn; "it is a delicate matter,
and I see a way out of it. We will say George suggested the idea."
There is a lack of genial helpfulness about George that it sometimes
vexes me to notice. You would have thought he would have welcomed the
chance of assisting two old friends out of a dilemma; instead, he became
"You do," said George, "and I shall tell them both that my original plan
was that we should make a party--children and all; that I should bring my
aunt, and that we should hire a charming old chateau I know of in
Normandy, on the coast, where the climate is peculiarly adapted to
delicate children, and the milk such as you do not get in England. I
shall add that you over-rode that suggestion, arguing we should be
happier by ourselves."
With a man like George kindness is of no use; you have to be firm.
"You do," said Harris, "and I, for one, will close with the offer. We
will just take that chateau. You will bring your aunt--I will see to
that,--and we will have a month of it. The children are all fond of you;
J. and I will be nowhere. You've promised to teach Edgar fishing; and it
is you who will have to play wild beasts. Since last Sunday Dick and
Muriel have talked of nothing else but your hippopotamus. We will picnic
in the woods--there will only be eleven of us,--and in the evenings we
will have music and recitations. Muriel is master of six pieces already,
as perhaps you know; and all the other children are quick studies."
George climbed down--he has no real courage--but he did not do it
gracefully. He said that if we were mean and cowardly and false-hearted
enough to stoop to such a shabby trick, he supposed he couldn't help it;
and that if I didn't intend to finish the whole bottle of claret myself,
he would trouble me to spare him a glass. He also added, somewhat
illogically, that it really did not matter, seeing both Ethelbertha and
Mrs. Harris were women of sense who would judge him better than to
believe for a moment that the suggestion emanated from him.
This little point settled, the question was: What sort of a change?
Harris, as usual, was for the sea. He said he knew a yacht, just the
very thing--one that we could manage by ourselves; no skulking lot of
lubbers loafing about, adding to the expense and taking away from the
romance. Give him a handy boy, he would sail it himself. We knew that
yacht, and we told him so; we had been on it with Harris before. It
smells of bilge-water and greens to the exclusion of all other scents; no
ordinary sea air can hope to head against it. So far as sense of smell
is concerned, one might be spending a week in Limehouse Hole. There is
no place to get out of the rain; the saloon is ten feet by four, and half
of that is taken up by a stove, which falls to pieces when you go to
light it. You have to take your bath on deck, and the towel blows
overboard just as you step out of the tub. Harris and the boy do all the
interesting work--the lugging and the reefing, the letting her go and the
heeling her over, and all that sort of thing,--leaving George and myself
to do the peeling of the potatoes and the washing up.
"Very well, then," said Harris, "let's take a proper yacht, with a
skipper, and do the thing in style."
That also I objected to. I know that skipper; his notion of yachting is
to lie in what he calls the "offing," where he can be well in touch with
his wife and family, to say nothing of his favourite public-house.
Years ago, when I was young and inexperienced, I hired a yacht myself.
Three things had combined to lead me into this foolishness: I had had a
stroke of unexpected luck; Ethelbertha had expressed a yearning for sea
air; and the very next morning, in taking up casually at the club a copy
of the "Sportsman", I had come across the following advertisement:--
TO YACHTSMEN.--Unique Opportunity.--"Rogue," 28-ton Yawl.--Owner, called
away suddenly on business, is willing to let this superbly-fitted
"greyhound of the sea" for any period short or long. Two cabins and
saloon; pianette, by Woffenkoff; new copper. Terms, 10 guineas a
week.--Apply Pertwee and Co., 3A Bucklersbury.
It had seemed to me like the answer to a prayer. "The new copper" did
not interest me; what little washing we might want could wait, I thought.
But the "pianette by Woffenkoff" sounded alluring. I pictured
Ethelbertha playing in the evening--something with a chorus, in which,
perhaps, the crew, with a little training, might join--while our moving
home bounded, "greyhound-like," over the silvery billows.
I took a cab and drove direct to 3A Bucklersbury. Mr. Pertwee was an
unpretentious-looking gentleman, who had an unostentatious office on the
third floor. He showed me a picture in water-colours of the "Rogue"
flying before the wind. The deck was at an angle of 95 to the ocean. In
the picture no human beings were represented on the deck; I suppose they
had slipped off. Indeed, I do not see how anyone could have kept on,
unless nailed. I pointed out this disadvantage to the agent, who,
however, explained to me that the picture represented the "Rogue"
doubling something or other on the well-known occasion of her winning the
Medway Challenge Shield. Mr. Pertwee assumed that I knew all about the
event, so that I did not like to ask any questions. Two specks near the
frame of the picture, which at first I had taken for moths, represented,
it appeared, the second and third winners in this celebrated race. A
photograph of the yacht at anchor off Gravesend was less impressive, but
suggested more stability. All answers to my inquiries being
satisfactory, I took the thing for a fortnight. Mr. Pertwee said it was
fortunate I wanted it only for a fortnight--later on I came to agree with
him,--the time fitting in exactly with another hiring. Had I required it
for three weeks he would have been compelled to refuse me.
The letting being thus arranged, Mr. Pertwee asked me if I had a skipper
in my eye. That I had not was also fortunate--things seemed to be
turning out luckily for me all round,--because Mr. Pertwee felt sure I
could not do better than keep on Mr. Goyles, at present in charge--an
excellent skipper, so Mr. Pertwee assured me, a man who knew the sea as a
man knows his own wife, and who had never lost a life.
It was still early in the day, and the yacht was lying off Harwich. I
caught the ten forty-five from Liverpool Street, and by one o'clock was
talking to Mr. Goyles on deck. He was a stout man, and had a fatherly
way with him. I told him my idea, which was to take the outlying Dutch
islands and then creep up to Norway. He said, "Aye, aye, sir," and
appeared quite enthusiastic about the trip; said he should enjoy it
himself. We came to the question of victualling, and he grew more
enthusiastic. The amount of food suggested by Mr. Goyles, I confess,
surprised me. Had we been living in the days of Drake and the Spanish
Main, I should have feared he was arranging for something illegal.
However, he laughed in his fatherly way, and assured me we were not
overdoing it. Anything left the crew would divide and take home with
them--it seemed this was the custom. It appeared to me that I was
providing for this crew for the winter, but I did not like to appear
stingy, and said no more. The amount of drink required also surprised
me. I arranged for what I thought we should need for ourselves, and then
Mr. Goyles spoke up for the crew. I must say that for him, he did think
of his men.
"We don't want anything in the nature of an orgie, Mr. Goyles," I
"Orgie!" replied Mr. Goyles; "why they'll take that little drop in their
He explained to me that his motto was, Get good men and treat them well.
"They work better for you," said Mr. Goyles; "and they come again."
Personally, I didn't feel I wanted them to come again. I was beginning
to take a dislike to them before I had seen them; I regarded them as a
greedy and guzzling crew. But Mr. Goyles was so cheerfully emphatic, and
I was so inexperienced, that again I let him have his way. He also
promised that even in this department he would see to it personally that
nothing was wasted.
I also left him to engage the crew. He said he could do the thing, and
would, for me, with the help two men and a boy. If he was alluding to
the clearing up of the victuals and drink, I think he was making an under-
estimate; but possibly he may have been speaking of the sailing of the
I called at my tailors on the way home and ordered a yachting suit, with
a white hat, which they promised to bustle up and have ready in time; and
then I went home and told Ethelbertha all I had done. Her delight was
clouded by only one reflection--would the dressmaker be able to finish a
yachting costume for her in time? That is so like a woman.
Our honeymoon, which had taken place not very long before, had been
somewhat curtailed, so we decided we would invite nobody, but have the
yacht to ourselves. And thankful I am to Heaven that we did so decide.
On Monday we put on all our clothes and started. I forget what
Ethelbertha wore, but, whatever it may have been, it looked very
fetching. My own costume was a dark blue trimmed with a narrow white
braid, which, I think, was rather effective.
Mr. Goyles met us on deck, and told us that lunch was ready. I must
admit Goyles had secured the services of a very fair cook. The
capabilities of the other members of the crew I had no opportunity of
judging. Speaking of them in a state of rest, however, I can say of them
they appeared to be a cheerful crew.
My idea had been that so soon as the men had finished their dinner we
would weigh anchor, while I, smoking a cigar, with Ethelbertha by my
side, would lean over the gunwale and watch the white cliffs of the
Fatherland sink imperceptibly into the horizon. Ethelbertha and I
carried out our part of the programme, and waited, with the deck to
"They seem to be taking their time," said Ethelbertha.
"If, in the course of fourteen days," I said, "they eat half of what is
on this yacht, they will want a fairly long time for every meal. We had
better not hurry them, or they won't get through a quarter of it."
"They must have gone to sleep," said Ethelbertha, later on. "It will be
They were certainly very quiet. I went for'ard, and hailed Captain
Goyles down the ladder. I hailed him three times; then he came up
slowly. He appeared to be a heavier and older man than when I had seen
him last. He had a cold cigar in his mouth.
"When you are ready, Captain Goyles," I said, "we'll start."
Captain Goyles removed the cigar from his mouth.
"Not to-day we won't, sir," he replied, ""with" your permission."
"Why, what's the matter with to-day?" I said. I know sailors are a
superstitious folk; I thought maybe a Monday might be considered unlucky.
"The day's all right," answered Captain Goyles, "it's the wind I'm
a-thinking of. It don't look much like changing."
"But do we want it to change?" I asked. "It seems to me to be just where
it should be, dead behind us."
"Aye, aye," said Captain Goyles, "dead's the right word to use, for dead
we'd all be, bar Providence, if we was to put out in this. You see,
sir," he explained, in answer to my look of surprise, "this is what we
call a 'land wind,' that is, it's a-blowing, as one might say, direct off
When I came to think of it the man was right; the wind was blowing off
"It may change in the night," said Captain Goyles, more hopefully
"anyhow, it's not violent, and she rides well."
Captain Goyles resumed his cigar, and I returned aft, and explained to
Ethelbertha the reason for the delay. Ethelbertha, who appeared to be
less high spirited than when we first boarded, wanted to know "why" we
couldn't sail when the wind was off the land.
"If it was not blowing off the land," said Ethelbertha, "it would be
blowing off the sea, and that would send us back into the shore again. It
seems to me this is just the very wind we want."
I said: "That is your inexperience, love; it "seems" to be the very wind
we want, but it is not. It's what we call a land wind, and a land wind
is always very dangerous."
Ethelbertha wanted to know "why" a land wind was very dangerous.
Her argumentativeness annoyed me somewhat; maybe I was feeling a bit
cross; the monotonous rolling heave of a small yacht at anchor depresses
an ardent spirit.
"I can't explain it to you," I replied, which was true, "but to set sail
in this wind would be the height of foolhardiness, and I care for you too
much, dear, to expose you to unnecessary risks."
I thought this rather a neat conclusion, but Ethelbertha merely replied
that she wished, under the circumstances, we hadn't come on board till
Tuesday, and went below.
In the morning the wind veered round to the north; I was up early, and
observed this to Captain Goyles.
"Aye, aye, sir," he remarked; "it's unfortunate, but it can't be helped."
"You don't think it possible for us to start to-day?" I hazarded.
He did not get angry with me, he only laughed.
"Well, sir," said he, "if you was a-wanting to go to Ipswich, I should
say as it couldn't be better for us, but our destination being, as you
see, the Dutch coast--why there you are!"
I broke the news to Ethelbertha, and we agreed to spend the day on shore.
Harwich is not a merry town, towards evening you might call it dull. We
had some tea and watercress at Dovercourt, and then returned to the quay
to look for Captain Goyles and the boat. We waited an hour for him. When
he came he was more cheerful than we were; if he had not told me himself
that he never drank anything but one glass of hot grog before turning in
for the night, I should have said he was drunk.
The next morning the wind was in the south, which made Captain Goyles
rather anxious, it appearing that it was equally unsafe to move or to
stop where we were; our only hope was it would change before anything
happened. By this time, Ethelbertha had taken a dislike to the yacht;
she said that, personally, she would rather be spending a week in a
bathing machine, seeing that a bathing machine was at least steady.
We passed another day in Harwich, and that night and the next, the wind
still continuing in the south, we slept at the "King's Head." On Friday
the wind was blowing direct from the east. I met Captain Goyles on the
quay, and suggested that, under these circumstances, we might start. He
appeared irritated at my persistence.
"If you knew a bit more, sir," he said, "you'd see for yourself that it's
impossible. The wind's a-blowing direct off the sea."
I said: "Captain Goyles, tell me what is this thing I have hired? Is it
a yacht or a house-boat?"
He seemed surprised at my question.
He said: "It's a yawl."
"What I mean is," I said, "can it be moved at all, or is it a fixture
here? If it is a fixture," I continued, "tell me so frankly, then we
will get some ivy in boxes and train over the port-holes, stick some
flowers and an awning on deck, and make the thing look pretty. If, on
the other hand, it can be moved--"
"Moved!" interrupted Captain Goyles. "You get the right wind behind the
I said: "What is the right wind?"
Captain Goyles looked puzzled.
"In the course of this week," I went on, "we have had wind from the
north, from the south, from the east, from the west--with variations. If
you can think of any other point of the compass from which it can blow,
tell me, and I will wait for it. If not, and if that anchor has not
grown into the bottom of the ocean, we will have it up to-day and see
He grasped the fact that I was determined.
"Very well, sir," he said, "you're master and I'm man. I've only got one
child as is still dependent on me, thank God, and no doubt your executors
will feel it their duty to do the right thing by the old woman."
His solemnity impressed me.
"Mr. Goyles," I said, "be honest with me. Is there any hope, in any
weather, of getting away from this damned hole?"
Captain Goyles's kindly geniality returned to him.
"You see, sir," he said, "this is a very peculiar coast. We'd be all
right if we were once out, but getting away from it in a cockle-shell
like that--well, to be frank, sir, it wants doing."
I left Captain Goyles with the assurance that he would watch the weather
as a mother would her sleeping babe; it was his own simile, and it struck
me as rather touching. I saw him again at twelve o'clock; he was
watching it from the window of the "Chain and Anchor."
At five o'clock that evening a stroke of luck occurred; in the middle of
the High Street I met a couple of yachting friends, who had had to put in
by reason of a strained rudder. I told them my story, and they appeared
less surprised than amused. Captain Goyles and the two men were still
watching the weather. I ran into the "King's Head," and prepared
Ethelbertha. The four of us crept quietly down to the quay, where we
found our boat. Only the boy was on board; my two friends took charge of
the yacht, and by six o'clock we were scudding merrily up the coast.
We put in that night at Aldborough, and the next day worked up to
Yarmouth, where, as my friends had to leave, I decided to abandon the
yacht. We sold the stores by auction on Yarmouth sands early in the
morning. I made a loss, but had the satisfaction of "doing" Captain
Goyles. I left the "Rogue" in charge of a local mariner, who, for a
couple of sovereigns, undertook to see to its return to Harwich; and we
came back to London by train. There may be yachts other than the
"Rogue", and skippers other than Mr. Goyles, but that experience has
prejudiced me against both.
George also thought a yacht would be a good deal of responsibility, so we
dismissed the idea.
"What about the river?" suggested Harris.
"We have had some pleasant times on that."
George pulled in silence at his cigar, and I cracked another nut.
"The river is not what it used to be," said I; "I don't know what, but
there's a something--a dampness--about the river air that always starts
"It's the same with me," said George. "I don't know how it is, but I
never can sleep now in the neighbourhood of the river. I spent a week at
Joe's place in the spring, and every night I woke up at seven o'clock and
never got a wink afterwards."
"I merely suggested it," observed Harris. "Personally, I don't think it
good for me, either; it touches my gout."
"What suits me best," I said, "is mountain air. What say you to a
walking tour in Scotland?"
"It's always wet in Scotland," said George. "I was three weeks in
Scotland the year before last, and was never dry once all the time--not
in that sense."
"It's fine enough in Switzerland," said Harris.
"They would never stand our going to Switzerland by ourselves," I
objected. "You know what happened last time. It must be some place
where no delicately nurtured woman or child could possibly live; a
country of bad hotels and comfortless travelling; where we shall have to
rough it, to work hard, to starve perhaps--"
"Easy!" interrupted George, "easy, there! Don't forget I'm coming with
"I have it!" exclaimed Harris; "a bicycle tour!"
George looked doubtful.
"There's a lot of uphill about a bicycle tour," said he, "and the wind is
"So there is downhill, and the wind behind you," said Harris.
"I've never noticed it," said George.
"You won't think of anything better than a bicycle tour," persisted
I was inclined to agree with him.
"And I'll tell you where," continued he; "through the Black Forest."
"Why, that's "all" uphill," said George.
"Not all," retorted Harris; "say two-thirds. And there's one thing
He looked round cautiously, and sunk his voice to a whisper.
"There are little railways going up those hills, little cogwheel things
The door opened, and Mrs. Harris appeared. She said that Ethelbertha was
putting on her bonnet, and that Muriel, after waiting, had given "The Mad
Hatter's Tea Party" without us.
"Club, to-morrow, at four," whispered Harris to me, as he rose, and I
passed it on to George as we went upstairs
A delicate business--What Ethelbertha might have said--What she did
say--What Mrs. Harris said--What we told George--We will start on
Wednesday--George suggests the possibility of improving our minds--Harris
and I are doubtful--Which man on a tandem does the most work?--The
opinion of the man in front--Views of the man behind--How Harris lost his
wife--The luggage question--The wisdom of my late Uncle Podger--Beginning
of story about a man who had a bag.
I opened the ball with Ethelbertha that same evening. I commenced by
being purposely a little irritable. My idea was that Ethelbertha would
remark upon this. I should admit it, and account for it by over brain
pressure. This would naturally lead to talk about my health in general,
and the evident necessity there was for my taking prompt and vigorous
measures. I thought that with a little tact I might even manage so that
the suggestion should come from Ethelbertha herself. I imagined her
saying: "No, dear, it is change you want; complete change. Now be
persuaded by me, and go away for a month. No, do not ask me to come with
you. I know you would rather that I did, but I will not. It is the
society of other men you need. Try and persuade George and Harris to go
with you. Believe me, a highly strung brain such as yours demands
occasional relaxation from the strain of domestic surroundings. Forget
for a little while that children want music lessons, and boots, and
bicycles, with tincture of rhubarb three times a day; forget there are
such things in life as cooks, and house decorators, and next-door dogs,
and butchers' bills. Go away to some green corner of the earth, where
all is new and strange to you, where your over-wrought mind will gather
peace and fresh ideas. Go away for a space and give me time to miss you,
and to reflect upon your goodness and virtue, which, continually present
with me, I may, human-like, be apt to forget, as one, through use, grows
indifferent to the blessing of the sun and the beauty of the moon. Go
away, and come back refreshed in mind and body, a brighter, better man--if
that be possible--than when you went away."
But even when we obtain our desires they never come to us garbed as we
would wish. To begin with, Ethelbertha did not seem to remark that I was
irritable; I had to draw her attention to it. I said:
"You must forgive me, I'm not feeling quite myself to-night."
She said: "Oh! I have not noticed anything different; what's the matter
"I can't tell you what it is," I said; "I've felt it coming on for
"It's that whisky," said Ethelbertha. "You never touch it except when we
go to the Harris's. You know you can't stand it; you have not a strong
"It isn't the whisky," I replied; "it's deeper than that. I fancy it's
more mental than bodily."
"You've been reading those criticisms again," said Ethelbertha, more
sympathetically; "why don't you take my advice and put them on the fire?"
"And it isn't the criticisms," I answered; "they've been quite flattering
of late--one or two of them."
"Well, what is it?" said Ethelbertha; "there must be something to account
"No, there isn't," I replied; "that's the remarkable thing about it; I
can only describe it as a strange feeling of unrest that seems to have
taken possession of me."
Ethelbertha glanced across at me with a somewhat curious expression, I
thought; but as she said nothing, I continued the argument myself.
"This aching monotony of life, these days of peaceful, uneventful
felicity, they appal one."
"I should not grumble at them," said Ethelbertha; "we might get some of
the other sort, and like them still less."
"I'm not so sure of that," I replied. "In a life of continuous joy, I
can imagine even pain coming as a welcome variation. I wonder sometimes
whether the saints in heaven do not occasionally feel the continual
serenity a burden. To myself a life of endless bliss, uninterrupted by a
single contrasting note, would, I feel, grow maddening. I suppose," I
continued, "I am a strange sort of man; I can hardly understand myself at
times. There are moments," I added, "when I hate myself."
Often a little speech like this, hinting at hidden depths of
indescribable emotion has touched Ethelbertha, but to-night she appeared
strangely unsympathetic. With regard to heaven and its possible effect
upon me, she suggested my not worrying myself about that, remarking it
was always foolish to go half-way to meet trouble that might never come;
while as to my being a strange sort of fellow, that, she supposed, I
could not help, and if other people were willing to put up with me, there
was an end of the matter. The monotony of life, she added, was a common
experience; there she could sympathise with me.
"You don't know I long," said Ethelbertha, "to get away occasionally,
even from you; but I know it can never be, so I do not brood upon it."
I had never heard Ethelbertha speak like this before; it astonished and
grieved me beyond measure.
"That's not a very kind remark to make," I said, "not a wifely remark."
"I know it isn't," she replied; "that is why I have never said it before.
You men never can understand," continued Ethelbertha, "that, however fond
a woman may be of a man, there are times when he palls upon her. You
don't know how I long to be able sometimes to put on my bonnet and go
out, with nobody to ask me where I am going, why I am going, how long I
am going to be, and when I shall be back. You don't know how I sometimes
long to order a dinner that I should like and that the children would
like, but at the sight of which you would put on your hat and be off to
the Club. You don't know how much I feel inclined sometimes to invite
some woman here that I like, and that I know you don't; to go and see the
people that I want to see, to go to bed when "I" am tired, and to get up
when "I" feel I want to get up. Two people living together are bound
both to be continually sacrificing their own desires to the other one. It
is sometimes a good thing to slacken the strain a bit."
On thinking over Ethelbertha's words afterwards, have come to see their
wisdom; but at the time I admit I was hurt and indignant.
"If your desire," I said, "is to get rid of me--"
"Now, don't be an old goose," said Ethelbertha; "I only want to get rid
of you for a little while, just long enough to forget there are one or
two corners about you that are not perfect, just long enough to let me
remember what a dear fellow you are in other respects, and to look
forward to your return, as I used to look forward to your coming in the
old days when I did not see you so often as to become, perhaps, a little
indifferent to you, as one grows indifferent to the glory of the sun,
just because he is there every day."
I did not like the tone that Ethelbertha took. There seemed to be a
frivolity about her, unsuited to the theme into which we had drifted.
That a woman should contemplate cheerfully an absence of three or four
weeks from her husband appeared to me to be not altogether nice, not what
I call womanly; it was not like Ethelbertha at all. I was worried, I
felt I didn't want to go this trip at all. If it had not been for George
and Harris, I would have abandoned it. As it was, I could not see how to
change my mind with dignity.
"Very well, Ethelbertha," I replied, "it shall be as you wish. If you
desire a holiday from my presence, you shall enjoy it; but if it be not
impertinent curiosity on the part of a husband, I should like to know
what you propose doing in my absence?"
"We will take that house at Folkestone," answered Ethelbertha, "and I'll
go down there with Kate. And if you want to do Clara Harris a good
turn," added Ethelbertha, "you'll persuade Harris to go with you, and
then Clara can join us. We three used to have some very jolly times
together before you men ever came along, and it would be just delightful
to renew them. Do you think," continued Ethelbertha, "that you could
persuade Mr. Harris to go with you?"
I said I would try.
"There's a dear boy," said Ethelbertha; "try hard. You might get George
to join you."
I replied there was not much advantage in George's coming, seeing he was
a bachelor, and that therefore nobody would be much benefited by his
absence. But a woman never understands satire. Ethelbertha merely
remarked it would look unkind leaving him behind. I promised to put it
I met Harris at the Club in the afternoon, and asked him how he had got
He said, "Oh, that's all right; there's no difficulty about getting
But there was that about his tone that suggested incomplete satisfaction,
so I pressed him for further details.
"She was as sweet as milk about it," he continued; "said it was an
excellent idea of George's, and that she thought it would do me good."
"That seems all right," I said; "what's wrong about that?"
"There's nothing wrong about that," he answered, "but that wasn't all.
She went on to talk of other things."
"I understand," I said.
"There's that bathroom fad of hers," he continued.
"I've heard of it," I said; "she has started Ethelbertha on the same
"Well, I've had to agree to that being put in hand at once; I couldn't
argue any more when she was so nice about the other thing. That will
cost me a hundred pounds, at the very least."
"As much as that?" I asked.
"Every penny of it," said Harris; "the estimate alone is sixty."
I was sorry to hear him say this.
"Then there's the kitchen stove," continued Harris; "everything that has
gone wrong in the house for the last two years has been the fault of that
"I know," I said. "We have been in seven houses since we were married,
and every kitchen stove has been worse than the last. Our present one is
not only incompetent; it is spiteful. It knows when we are giving a
party, and goes out of its way to do its worst."
""We" are going to have a new one," said Harris, but he did not say it
proudly. "Clara thought it would be such a saving of expense, having the
two things done at the same time. I believe," said Harris, "if a woman
wanted a diamond tiara, she would explain that it was to save the expense
of a bonnet."
"How much do you reckon the stove is going to cost you?" I asked. I felt
interested in the subject.
"I don't know," answered Harris; "another twenty, I suppose. Then we
talked about the piano. Could you ever notice," said Harris, "any
difference between one piano and another?"
"Some of them seem to be a bit louder than others," I answered; "but one
gets used to that."
"Ours is all wrong about the treble," said Harris. "By the way, what
"is" the treble?"
"It's the shrill end of the thing," I explained; "the part that sounds as
if you'd trod on its tail. The brilliant selections always end up with a
flourish on it."
"They want more of it," said Harris; "our old one hasn't got enough of
it. I'll have to put it in the nursery, and get a new one for the
"Anything else?" I asked.
"No," said Harris; "she didn't seem able to think of anything else."
"You'll find when you get home," I said, "she has thought of one other
"What's that?" said Harris.
"A house at Folkestone for the season."
"What should she want a house at Folkestone for?" said Harris.
"To live in," I suggested, "during the summer months."
"She's going to her people in Wales," said Harris, "for the holidays,
with the children; we've had an invitation."
"Possibly," I said, "she'll go to Wales before she goes to Folkestone, or
maybe she'll take Wales on her way home; but she'll want a house at
Folkestone for the season, notwithstanding. I may be mistaken--I hope
for your sake that I am--but I feel a presentiment that I'm not."
"This trip," said Harris, "is going to be expensive."
"It was an idiotic suggestion," I said, "from the beginning."
"It was foolish of us to listen to him," said Harris; "he'll get us into
real trouble one of these days."
"He always was a muddler," I agreed.
"So headstrong," added Harris.
We heard his voice at that moment in the hall, asking for letters.
"Better not say anything to him," I suggested; "it's too late to go back
"There would be no advantage in doing so," replied Harris. "I should
have to get that bathroom and piano in any case now."
He came in looking very cheerful.
"Well," he said, "is it all right? Have you managed it?"
There was that about his tone I did not altogether like; I noticed Harris
resented it also.
"Managed what?" I said.
"Why, to get off," said George.
I felt the time was come to explain things to George.
"In married life," I said, "the man proposes, the woman submits. It is
her duty; all religion teaches it."
George folded his hands and fixed his eyes on the ceiling.
"We may chaff and joke a little about these things," I continued; "but
when it comes to practice, that is what always happens. We have
mentioned to our wives that we are going. Naturally, they are grieved;
they would prefer to come with us; failing that, they would have us
remain with them. But we have explained to them our wishes on the
subject, and--there's an end of the matter."
George said, "Forgive me; I did not understand. I am only a bachelor.
People tell me this, that, and the other, and I listen."
I said, "That is where you do wrong. When you want information come to
Harris or myself; we will tell you the truth about these questions."
George thanked us, and we proceeded with the business in hand.
"When shall we start?" said George.
"So far as I am concerned," replied Harris, "the sooner the better."
His idea, I fancy, was to get away before Mrs. H. thought of other
things. We fixed the following Wednesday.
"What about route?" said Harris.
"I have an idea," said George. "I take it you fellows are naturally
anxious to improve your minds?"
I said, "We don't want to become monstrosities. To a reasonable degree,
yes, if it can be done without much expense and with little personal
"It can," said George. "We know Holland and the Rhine. Very well, my
suggestion is that we take the boat to Hamburg, see Berlin and Dresden,
and work our way to the Schwarzwald, through Nuremberg and Stuttgart."
"There are some pretty bits in Mesopotamia, so I've been told," murmured
George said Mesopotamia was too much out of our way, but that the Berlin-
Dresden route was quite practicable. For good or evil, he persuaded us
"The machines, I suppose," said George, "as before. Harris and I on the
"I think not," interrupted Harris, firmly. "You and J. on the tandem, I
on the single."
"All the same to me," agreed George. "J. and I on the tandem, Harris--"
"I do not mind taking my turn," I interrupted, "but I am not going to
carry George "all" the way; the burden should be divided."
"Very well," agreed Harris, "we'll divide it. But it must be on the
distinct understanding that he works."
"That he what?" said George.
"That he works," repeated Harris, firmly; "at all events, uphill."
"Great Scott!" said George; "don't you want "any" exercise?"
There is always unpleasantness about this tandem. It is the theory of
the man in front that the man behind does nothing; it is equally the
theory of the man behind that he alone is the motive power, the man in
front merely doing the puffing. The mystery will never be solved. It is
annoying when Prudence is whispering to you on the one side not to overdo
your strength and bring on heart disease; while Justice into the other
ear is remarking, "Why should you do it all? This isn't a cab. He's not
your passenger:" to hear him grunt out:
"What's the matter--lost your pedals?"
Harris, in his early married days, made much trouble for himself on one
occasion, owing to this impossibility of knowing what the person behind
is doing. He was riding with his wife through Holland. The roads were
stony, and the machine jumped a good deal.
"Sit tight," said Harris, without turning his head.
What Mrs. Harris thought he said was, "Jump off." Why she should have
thought he said "Jump off," when he said "Sit tight," neither of them can
Mrs. Harris puts it in this way, "If you had said, 'Sit tight,' why
should I have jumped off?"
Harris puts it, "If I had wanted you to jump off, why should I have said
The bitterness is past, but they argue about the matter to this day.
Be the explanation what it may, however, nothing alters the fact that
Mrs. Harris did jump off, while Harris pedalled away hard, under the
impression she was still behind him. It appears that at first she
thought he was riding up the hill merely to show off. They were both
young in those days, and he used to do that sort of thing. She expected
him to spring to earth on reaching the summit, and lean in a careless and
graceful attitude against the machine, waiting for her. When, on the
contrary, she saw him pass the summit and proceed rapidly down a long and
steep incline, she was seized, first with surprise, secondly with
indignation, and lastly with alarm. She ran to the top of the hill and
shouted, but he never turned his head. She watched him disappear into a
wood a mile and a half distant, and then sat down and cried. They had
had a slight difference that morning, and she wondered if he had taken it
seriously and intended desertion. She had no money; she knew no Dutch.
People passed, and seemed sorry for her; she tried to make them
understand what had happened. They gathered that she had lost something,
but could not grasp what. They took her to the nearest village, and
found a policeman for her. He concluded from her pantomime that some man
had stolen her bicycle. They put the telegraph into operation, and
discovered in a village four miles off an unfortunate boy riding a lady's
machine of an obsolete pattern. They brought him to her in a cart, but
as she did not appear to want either him or his bicycle they let him go
again, and resigned themselves to bewilderment.
Meanwhile, Harris continued his ride with much enjoyment. It seemed to
him that he had suddenly become a stronger, and in every way a more
capable cyclist. Said he to what he thought was Mrs. Harris:
"I haven't felt this machine so light for months. It's this air, I
think; it's doing me good."
Then he told her not to be afraid, and he would show her how fast he
"could" go. He bent down over the handles, and put his heart into his
work. The bicycle bounded over the road like a thing of life; farmhouses
and churches, dogs and chickens came to him and passed. Old folks stood
and gazed at him, the children cheered him.
In this way he sped merrily onward for about five miles. Then, as he
explains it, the feeling began to grow upon him that something was wrong.
He was not surprised at the silence; the wind was blowing strongly, and
the machine was rattling a good deal. It was a sense of void that came
upon him. He stretched out his hand behind him, and felt; there was
nothing there but space. He jumped, or rather fell off, and looked back
up the road; it stretched white and straight through the dark wood, and
not a living soul could be seen upon it. He remounted, and rode back up
the hill. In ten minutes he came to where the road broke into four;
there he dismounted and tried to remember which fork he had come down.
While he was deliberating a man passed, sitting sideways on a horse.
Harris stopped him, and explained to him that he had lost his wife. The
man appeared to be neither surprised nor sorry for him. While they were
talking another farmer came along, to whom the first man explained the
matter, not as an accident, but as a good story. What appeared to
surprise the second man most was that Harris should be making a fuss
about the thing. He could get no sense out of either of them, and
cursing them he mounted his machine again, and took the middle road on
chance. Half-way up, he came upon a party of two young women with one
young man between them. They appeared to be making the most of him. He
asked them if they had seen his wife. They asked him what she was like.
He did not know enough Dutch to describe her properly; all he could tell
them was she was a very beautiful woman, of medium size. Evidently this
did not satisfy them, the description was too general; any man could say
that, and by this means perhaps get possession of a wife that did not
belong to him. They asked him how she was dressed; for the life of him
he could not recollect.
I doubt if any man could tell how any woman was dressed ten minutes after
he had left her. He recollected a blue skirt, and then there was
something that carried the dress on, as it were, up to the neck.
Possibly, this may have been a blouse; he retained a dim vision of a
belt; but what sort of a blouse? Was it green, or yellow, or blue? Had
it a collar, or was it fastened with a bow? Were there feathers in her
hat, or flowers? Or was it a hat at all? He dared not say, for fear of
making a mistake and being sent miles after the wrong party. The two
young women giggled, which in his then state of mind irritated Harris.
The young man, who appeared anxious to get rid of him, suggested the
police station at the next town. Harris made his way there. The police
gave him a piece of paper, and told him to write down a full description
of his wife, together with details of when and where he had lost her. He
did not know where he had lost her; all he could tell them was the name
of the village where he had lunched. He knew he had her with him then,
and that they had started from there together.
The police looked suspicious; they were doubtful about three matters:
Firstly, was she really his wife? Secondly, had he really lost her?
Thirdly, why had he lost her? With the aid of a hotel-keeper, however,
who spoke a little English, he overcame their scruples. They promised to
act, and in the evening they brought her to him in a covered wagon,
together with a bill for expenses. The meeting was not a tender one.
Mrs. Harris is not a good actress, and always has great difficulty in
disguising her feelings. On this occasion, she frankly admits, she made
no attempt to disguise them.
The wheel business settled, there arose the ever-lasting luggage
"The usual list, I suppose," said George, preparing to write.
That was wisdom I had taught them; I had learned it myself years ago from
my Uncle Podger.
"Always before beginning to pack," my Uncle would say, "make a list."
He was a methodical man.
"Take a piece of paper"--he always began at the beginning--"put down on
it everything you can possibly require, then go over it and see that it
contains nothing you can possibly do without. Imagine yourself in bed;
what have you got on? Very well, put it down--together with a change.
You get up; what do you do? Wash yourself. What do you wash yourself
with? Soap; put down soap. Go on till you have finished. Then take
your clothes. Begin at your feet; what do you wear on your feet? Boots,
shoes, socks; put them down. Work up till you get to your head. What
else do you want besides clothes? A little brandy; put it down. A
corkscrew, put it down. Put down everything, then you don't forget
That is the plan he always pursued himself. The list made, he would go
over it carefully, as he always advised, to see that he had forgotten
nothing. Then he would go over it again, and strike out everything it
was possible to dispense with.
Then he would lose the list.
Said George: "Just sufficient for a day or two we will take with us on
our bikes. The bulk of our luggage we must send on from town to town."
"We must be careful," I said; "I knew a man once--"
Harris looked at his watch.
"We'll hear about him on the boat," said Harris; "I have got to meet
Clara at Waterloo Station in half an hour."
"It won't take half an hour," I said; "it's a true story, and--"
"Don't waste it," said George: "I am told there are rainy evenings in the
Black Forest; we may be glad of it. What we have to do now is to finish
Now I come to think of it, I never did get off that story; something
always interrupted it. And it really was true.
Harris's one fault--Harris and the Angel--A patent bicycle lamp--The
ideal saddle--The "Overhauler"--His eagle eye--His method--His cheery
confidence--His simple and inexpensive tastes--His appearance--How to get
rid of him--George as prophet--The gentle art of making oneself
disagreeable in a foreign tongue--George as a student of human nature--He
proposes an experiment--His Prudence--Harris's support secured, upon
On Monday afternoon Harris came round; he had a cycling paper in his
I said: "If you take my advice, you will leave it alone."
Harris said: "Leave what alone?"
I said: "That brand-new, patent, revolution in cycling, record-breaking,
Tomfoolishness, whatever it may be, the advertisement of which you have
there in your hand."
He said: "Well, I don't know; there will be some steep hills for us to
negotiate; I guess we shall want a good brake."
I said: "We shall want a brake, I agree; what we shall not want is a
mechanical surprise that we don't understand, and that never acts when it
"This thing," he said, "acts automatically."
"You needn't tell me," I said. "I know exactly what it will do, by
instinct. Going uphill it will jamb the wheel so effectively that we
shall have to carry the machine bodily. The air at the top of the hill
will do it good, and it will suddenly come right again. Going downhill
it will start reflecting what a nuisance it has been. This will lead to
remorse, and finally to despair. It will say to itself: 'I'm not fit to
be a brake. I don't help these fellows; I only hinder them. I'm a
curse, that's what I am;' and, without a word of warning, it will 'chuck'
the whole business. That is what that brake will do. Leave it alone.
You are a good fellow," I continued, "but you have one fault."
"What?" he asked, indignantly.
"You have too much faith," I answered. "If you read an advertisement,
you go away and believe it. Every experiment that every fool has thought
of in connection with cycling you have tried. Your guardian angel
appears to be a capable and conscientious spirit, and hitherto she has
seen you through; take my advice and don't try her too far. She must
have had a busy time since you started cycling. Don't go on till you
make her mad."
He said: "If every man talked like that there would be no advancement
made in any department of life. If nobody ever tried a new thing the
world would come to a standstill. It is by--"
"I know all that can be said on that side of the argument," I
interrupted. "I agree in trying new experiments up to thirty-five;
"after" thirty-five I consider a man is entitled to think of himself. You
and I have done our duty in this direction, you especially. You have
been blown up by a patent gas lamp--"
He said: "I really think, you know, that was my fault; I think I must
have screwed it up too tight."
I said: "I am quite willing to believe that if there was a wrong way of
handling the thing that is the way you handle it. You should take that
tendency of yours into consideration; it bears upon the argument. Myself,
I did not notice what you did; I only know we were riding peacefully and
pleasantly along the Whitby Road, discussing the Thirty Years' War, when
your lamp went off like a pistol-shot. The start sent me into the ditch;
and your wife's face, when I told her there was nothing the matter and
that she was not to worry, because the two men would carry you upstairs,
and the doctor would be round in a minute bringing the nurse with him,
still lingers in my memory."
He said: "I wish you had thought to pick up the lamp. I should like to
have found out what was the cause of its going off like that."
I said: "There was not time to pick up the lamp. I calculate it would
have taken two hours to have collected it. As to its 'going off,' the
mere fact of its being advertised as the safest lamp ever invented would
of itself, to anyone but you, have suggested accident. Then there was
that electric lamp," I continued.
"Well, that really did give a fine light," he replied; "you said so
I said: "It gave a brilliant light in the King's Road, Brighton, and
frightened a horse. The moment we got into the dark beyond Kemp Town it
went out, and you were summoned for riding without a light. You may
remember that on sunny afternoons you used to ride about with that lamp
shining for all it was worth. When lighting-up time came it was
naturally tired, and wanted a rest."
"It was a bit irritating, that lamp," he murmured; "I remember it."
I said: "It irritated me; it must have been worse for you. Then there
are saddles," I went on--I wished to get this lesson home to him. "Can
you think of any saddle ever advertised that you have "not" tried?"
He said: "It has been an idea of mine that the right saddle is to be
I said: "You give up that idea; this is an imperfect world of joy and
sorrow mingled. There may be a better land where bicycle saddles are
made out of rainbow, stuffed with cloud; in this world the simplest thing
is to get used to something hard. There was that saddle you bought in
Birmingham; it was divided in the middle, and looked like a pair of
He said: "You mean that one constructed on anatomical principles."
"Very likely," I replied. "The box you bought it in had a picture on the
cover, representing a sitting skeleton--or rather that part of a skeleton
which does sit."
He said: "It was quite correct; it showed you the true position of the--"
I said: "We will not go into details; the picture always seemed to me
He said: "Medically speaking, it was right."
"Possibly," I said, "for a man who rode in nothing but his bones. I only
know that I tried it myself, and that to a man who wore flesh it was
agony. Every time you went over a stone or a rut it nipped you; it was
like riding on an irritable lobster. You rode that for a month."
"I thought it only right to give it a fair trial," he answered.
I said: "You gave your family a fair trial also; if you will allow me the
use of slang. Your wife told me that never in the whole course of your
married life had she known you so bad tempered, so un-Christian like, as
you were that month. Then you remember that other saddle, the one with
the spring under it."
He said: "You mean 'the Spiral.'"
I said: "I mean the one that jerked you up and down like a Jack-in-the-
box; sometimes you came down again in the right place, and sometimes you
didn't. I am not referring to these matters merely to recall painful
memories, but I want to impress you with the folly of trying experiments
at your time of life."
He said. "I wish you wouldn't harp so much on my age. A man at thirty-
"A man at what?"
He said: "If you don't want the thing, don't have it. If your machine
runs away with you down a mountain, and you and George get flung through
a church roof, don't blame me."
"I cannot promise for George," I said; "a little thing will sometimes
irritate him, as you know. If such an accident as you suggest happen, he
may be cross, but I will undertake to explain to him that it was not your
"Is the thing all right?" he asked.
"The tandem," I replied, "is well."
He said: "Have you overhauled it?"
I said: "I have not, nor is anyone else going to overhaul it. The thing
is now in working order, and it is going to remain in working order till
I have had experience of this "overhauling." There was a man at
Folkestone; I used to meet him on the Lees. He proposed one evening we
should go for a long bicycle ride together on the following day, and I
agreed. I got up early, for me; I made an effort, and was pleased with
myself. He came half an hour late: I was waiting for him in the garden.
It was a lovely day. He said:--
"That's a good-looking machine of yours. How does it run?"
"Oh, like most of them!" I answered; "easily enough in the morning; goes
a little stiffly after lunch."
He caught hold of it by the front wheel and the fork and shook it
I said: "Don't do that; you'll hurt it."
I did not see why he should shake it; it had not done anything to him.
Besides, if it wanted shaking, I was the proper person to shake it. I
felt much as I should had he started whacking my dog.
He said: "This front wheel wobbles."
I said: "It doesn't if you don't wobble it." It didn't wobble, as a
matter of fact--nothing worth calling a wobble.
He said: "This is dangerous; have you got a screw-hammer?"
I ought to have been firm, but I thought that perhaps he really did know
something about the business. I went to the tool shed to see what I
could find. When I came back he was sitting on the ground with the front
wheel between his legs. He was playing with it, twiddling it round
between his fingers; the remnant of the machine was lying on the gravel
path beside him.
He said: "Something has happened to this front wheel of yours."
"It looks like it, doesn't it?" I answered. But he was the sort of man
that never understands satire.
He said: "It looks to me as if the bearings were all wrong."
I said: "Don't you trouble about it any more; you will make yourself
tired. Let us put it back and get off."
He said: "We may as well see what is the matter with it, now it is out."
He talked as though it had dropped out by accident.
Before I could stop him he had unscrewed something somewhere, and out
rolled all over the path some dozen or so little balls.
"Catch 'em!" he shouted; "catch 'em! We mustn't lose any of them." He
was quite excited about them.
We grovelled round for half an hour, and found sixteen. He said he hoped
we had got them all, because, if not, it would make a serious difference
to the machine. He said there was nothing you should be more careful
about in taking a bicycle to pieces than seeing you did not lose any of
the balls. He explained that you ought to count them as you took them
out, and see that exactly the same number went back in each place. I
promised, if ever I took a bicycle to pieces I would remember his advice.
I put the balls for safety in my hat, and I put my hat upon the doorstep.
It was not a sensible thing to do, I admit. As a matter of fact, it was
a silly thing to do. I am not as a rule addle-headed; his influence must
have affected me.
He then said that while he was about it he would see to the chain for me,
and at once began taking off the gear-case. I did try to persuade him
from that. I told him what an experienced friend of mine once said to me
"If anything goes wrong with your gear-case, sell the machine and buy a
new one; it comes cheaper."
He said: "People talk like that who understand nothing about machines.
Nothing is easier than taking off a gear-case."
I had to confess he was right. In less than five minutes he had the gear-
case in two pieces, lying on the path, and was grovelling for screws. He
said it was always a mystery to him the way screws disappeared.
We were still looking for the screws when Ethelbertha came out. She
seemed surprised to find us there; she said she thought we had started
He said: "We shan't be long now. I'm just helping your husband to
overhaul this machine of his. It's a good machine; but they all want
going over occasionally."
Ethelbertha said: "If you want to wash yourselves when you have done you
might go into the back kitchen, if you don't mind; the girls have just
finished the bedrooms."
She told me that if she met Kate they would probably go for a sail; but
that in any case she would be back to lunch. I would have given a
sovereign to be going with her. I was getting heartily sick of standing
about watching this fool breaking up my bicycle.
Common sense continued to whisper to me: "Stop him, before he does any
more mischief. You have a right to protect your own property from the
ravages of a lunatic. Take him by the scruff of the neck, and kick him
out of the gate!"
But I am weak when it comes to hurting other people's feelings, and I let
him muddle on.
He gave up looking for the rest of the screws. He said screws had a
knack of turning up when you least expected them; and that now he would
see to the chain. He tightened it till it would not move; next he
loosened it until it was twice as loose as it was before. Then he said
we had better think about getting the front wheel back into its place
I held the fork open, and he worried with the wheel. At the end of ten
minutes I suggested he should hold the forks, and that I should handle
the wheel; and we changed places. At the end of his first minute he
dropped the machine, and took a short walk round the croquet lawn, with
his hands pressed together between his thighs. He explained as he walked
that the thing to be careful about was to avoid getting your fingers
pinched between the forks and the spokes of the wheel. I replied I was
convinced, from my own experience, that there was much truth in what he
said. He wrapped himself up in a couple of dusters, and we commenced
again. At length we did get the thing into position; and the moment it
was in position he burst out laughing.
I said: "What's the joke?"
He said: "Well, I am an ass!"
It was the first thing he had said that made me respect him. I asked him
what had led him to the discovery.
He said: "We've forgotten the balls!"
I looked for my hat; it was lying topsy-turvy in the middle of the path,
and Ethelbertha's favourite hound was swallowing the balls as fast as he
could pick them up.
"He will kill himself," said Ebbson--I have never met him since that day,
thank the Lord; but I think his name was Ebbson--"they are solid steel."
I said: "I am not troubling about the dog. He has had a bootlace and a
packet of needles already this week. Nature's the best guide; puppies
seem to require this kind of stimulant. What I am thinking about is my
He was of a cheerful disposition. He said: "Well, we must put back all
we can find, and trust to Providence."
We found eleven. We fixed six on one side and five on the other, and
half an hour later the wheel was in its place again. It need hardly be
added that it really did wobble now; a child might have noticed it.
Ebbson said it would do for the present. He appeared to be getting a bit
tired himself. If I had let him, he would, I believe, at this point have
gone home. I was determined now, however, that he should stop and
finish; I had abandoned all thoughts of a ride. My pride in the machine
he had killed. My only interest lay now in seeing him scratch and bump
and pinch himself. I revived his drooping spirits with a glass of beer
and some judicious praise. I said:
"Watching you do this is of real use to me. It is not only your skill
and dexterity that fascinates me, it is your cheery confidence in
yourself, your inexplicable hopefulness, that does me good."
Thus encouraged, he set to work to refix the gear-case. He stood the
bicycle against the house, and worked from the off side. Then he stood
it against a tree, and worked from the near side. Then I held it for
him, while he lay on the ground with his head between the wheels, and
worked at it from below, and dropped oil upon himself. Then he took it
away from me, and doubled himself across it like a pack-saddle, till he
lost his balance and slid over on to his head. Three times he said:
"Thank Heaven, that's right at last!"
And twice he said:
"No, I'm damned if it is after all!"
What he said the third time I try to forget.
Then he lost his temper and tried bullying the thing. The bicycle, I was
glad to see, showed spirit; and the subsequent proceedings degenerated
into little else than a rough-and-tumble fight between him and the
machine. One moment the bicycle would be on the gravel path, and he on
top of it; the next, the position would be reversed--he on the gravel
path, the bicycle on him. Now he would be standing flushed with victory,
the bicycle firmly fixed between his legs. But his triumph would be
short-lived. By a sudden, quick movement it would free itself, and,
turning upon him, hit him sharply over the head with one of its handles.
At a quarter to one, dirty and dishevelled, cut and breeding, he said: "I
think that will do;" and rose and wiped his brow.
The bicycle looked as if it also had had enough of it. Which had
received most punishment it would have been difficult to say. I took him
into the back kitchen, where, so far as was possible without soda and
proper tools, he cleaned himself, and sent him home.
The bicycle I put into a cab and took round to the nearest repairing
shop. The foreman of the works came up and looked at it.
"What do you want me to do with that?" said he.
"I want you," I said, "so far as is possible, to restore it."
"It's a bit far gone," said he; "but I'll do my best."
He did his best, which came to two pounds ten. But it was never the same
machine again; and at the end of the season I left it in an agent's hands
to sell. I wished to deceive nobody; I instructed the man to advertise
it as a last year's machine. The agent advised me not to mention any
date. He said:
"In this business it isn't a question of what is true and what isn't;
it's a question of what you can get people to believe. Now, between you
and me, it don't look like a last year's machine; so far as looks are
concerned, it might be a ten-year old. We'll say nothing about date;
we'll just get what we can."
I left the matter to him, and he got me five pounds, which he said was
more than he had expected.
There are two ways you can get exercise out of a bicycle: you can
"overhaul" it, or you can ride it. On the whole, I am not sure that a
man who takes his pleasure overhauling does not have the best of the
bargain. He is independent of the weather and the wind; the state of the
roads troubles him not. Give him a screw-hammer, a bundle of rags, an
oil-can, and something to sit down upon, and he is happy for the day. He
has to put up with certain disadvantages, of course; there is no joy
without alloy. He himself always looks like a tinker, and his machine
always suggests the idea that, having stolen it, he has tried to disguise
it; but as he rarely gets beyond the first milestone with it, this,
perhaps, does not much matter. The mistake some people make is in
thinking they can get both forms of sport out of the same machine. This
is impossible; no machine will stand the double strain. You must make up
your mind whether you are going to be an "overhauler" or a rider.
Personally, I prefer to ride, therefore I take care to have near me
nothing that can tempt me to overhaul. When anything happens to my
machine I wheel it to the nearest repairing shop. If I am too far from
the town or village to walk, I sit by the roadside and wait till a cart
comes along. My chief danger, I always find, is from the wandering
overhauler. The sight of a broken-down machine is to the overhauler as a
wayside corpse to a crow; he swoops down upon it with a friendly yell of
triumph. At first I used to try politeness. I would say:
"It is nothing; don't you trouble. You ride on, and enjoy yourself, I
beg it of you as a favour; please go away."
Experience has taught me, however, that courtesy is of no use in such an
extremity. Now I say:
"You go away and leave the thing alone, or I will knock your silly head
And if you look determined, and have a good stout cudgel in your hand,
you can generally drive him off.
George came in later in the day. He said:
"Well, do you think everything will be ready?"
I said: "Everything will be ready by Wednesday, except, perhaps, you and
He said: "Is the tandem all right?"
"The tandem," I said, "is well."
He said: "You don't think it wants overhauling?"
I replied: "Age and experience have taught me that there are few matters
concerning which a man does well to be positive. Consequently, there
remain to me now but a limited number of questions upon which I feel any
degree of certainty. Among such still-unshaken beliefs, however, is the
conviction that that tandem does not want overhauling. I also feel a
presentiment that, provided my life is spared, no human being between now
and Wednesday morning is going to overhaul it."
George said: "I should not show temper over the matter, if I were you.
There will come a day, perhaps not far distant, when that bicycle, with a
couple of mountains between it and the nearest repairing shop, will, in
spite of your chronic desire for rest, "have" to be overhauled. Then you
will clamour for people to tell you where you put the oil-can, and what
you have done with the screw-hammer. Then, while you exert yourself
holding the thing steady against a tree, you will suggest that somebody
else should clean the chain and pump the back wheel."
I felt there was justice in George's rebuke--also a certain amount of
prophetic wisdom. I said:
"Forgive me if I seemed unresponsive. The truth is, Harris was round
here this morning--"
George said: "Say no more; I understand. Besides, what I came to talk to
you about was another matter. Look at that."
He handed me a small book bound in red cloth. It was a guide to English
conversation for the use of German travellers. It commenced "On a Steam-
boat," and terminated "At the Doctor's"; its longest chapter being
devoted to conversation in a railway carriage, among, apparently, a
compartment load of quarrelsome and ill-mannered lunatics: "Can you not
get further away from me, sir?"--"It is impossible, madam; my neighbour,
here, is very stout"--"Shall we not endeavour to arrange our
legs?"--"Please have the goodness to keep your elbows down"--"Pray do not
inconvenience yourself, madam, if my shoulder is of any accommodation to
you," whether intended to be said sarcastically or not, there was nothing
to indicate--"I really must request you to move a little, madam, I can
hardly breathe," the author's idea being, presumably, that by this time
the whole party was mixed up together on the floor. The chapter
concluded with the phrase, "Here we are at our destination, God be
thanked! ("Gott sei dank"!)" a pious exclamation, which under the
circumstances must have taken the form of a chorus.
At the end of the book was an appendix, giving the German traveller hints
concerning the preservation of his health and comfort during his sojourn
in English towns, chief among such hints being advice to him to always
travel with a supply of disinfectant powder, to always lock his bedroom
door at night, and to always carefully count his small change.
"It is not a brilliant publication," I remarked, handing the book back to
George; "it is not a book that personally I would recommend to any German
about to visit England; I think it would get him disliked. But I have
read books published in London for the use of English travellers abroad
every whit as foolish. Some educated idiot, misunderstanding seven
languages, would appear to go about writing these books for the
misinformation and false guidance of modern Europe."
"You cannot deny," said George, "that these books are in large request.
They are bought by the thousand, I know. In every town in Europe there
must be people going about talking this sort of thing."
"Maybe," I replied; "but fortunately nobody understands them. I have
noticed, myself, men standing on railway platforms and at street corners
reading aloud from such books. Nobody knows what language they are
speaking; nobody has the slightest knowledge of what they are saying.
This is, perhaps, as well; were they understood they would probably be
George said: "Maybe you are right; my idea is to see what would happen if
they were understood. My proposal is to get to London early on Wednesday
morning, and spend an hour or two going about and shopping with the aid
of this book. There are one or two little things I want--a hat and a
pair of bedroom slippers, among other articles. Our boat does not leave
Tilbury till twelve, and that just gives us time. I want to try this
sort of talk where I can properly judge of its effect. I want to see how
the foreigner feels when he is talked to in this way."
It struck me as a sporting idea. In my enthusiasm I offered to accompany
him, and wait outside the shop. I said I thought that Harris would like
to be in it, too--or rather outside.
George said that was not quite his scheme. His proposal was that Harris
and I should accompany him into the shop. With Harris, who looks
formidable, to support him, and myself at the door to call the police if
necessary, he said he was willing to adventure the thing.
We walked round to Harris's, and put the proposal before him. He
examined the book, especially the chapters dealing with the purchase of
shoes and hats. He said:
"If George talks to any bootmaker or any hatter the things that are put
down here, it is not support he will want; it is carrying to the hospital
that he will need."
That made George angry.
"You talk," said George, "as though I were a foolhardy boy without any
sense. I shall select from the more polite and less irritating speeches;
the grosser insults I shall avoid."
This being clearly understood, Harris gave in his adhesion; and our start
was fixed for early Wednesday morning.
Why Harris considers alarm clocks unnecessary in a family--Social
instinct of the young--A child's thoughts about the morning--The
sleepless watchman--The mystery of him--His over anxiety--Night
thoughts--The sort of work one does before breakfast--The good sheep and
the bad--Disadvantages of being virtuous--Harris's new stove begins
badly--The daily out-going of my Uncle Podger--The elderly city man
considered as a racer--We arrive in London--We talk the language of the
George came down on Tuesday evening, and slept at Harris's place. We
thought this a better arrangement than his own suggestion, which was that
we should call for him on our way and "pick him up." Picking George up
in the morning means picking him out of bed to begin with, and shaking
him awake--in itself an exhausting effort with which to commence the day;
helping him find his things and finish his packing; and then waiting for
him while he eats his breakfast, a tedious entertainment from the
spectator's point of view, full of wearisome repetition.
I knew that if he slept at "Beggarbush" he would be up in time; I have
slept there myself, and I know what happens. About the middle of the
night, as you judge, though in reality it may be somewhat later, you are
startled out of your first sleep by what sounds like a rush of cavalry
along the passage, just outside your door. Your half-awakened
intelligence fluctuates between burglars, the Day of Judgment, and a gas
explosion. You sit up in bed and listen intently. You are not kept
waiting long; the next moment a door is violently slammed, and somebody,
or something, is evidently coming downstairs on a tea-tray.
"I told you so," says a voice outside, and immediately some hard
substance, a head one would say from the ring of it, rebounds against the
panel of your door.
By this time you are charging madly round the room for your clothes.
Nothing is where you put it overnight, the articles most essential have
disappeared entirely; and meanwhile the murder, or revolution, or
whatever it is, continues unchecked. You pause for a moment, with your
head under the wardrobe, where you think you can see your slippers, to
listen to a steady, monotonous thumping upon a distant door. The victim,
you presume, has taken refuge there; they mean to have him out and finish
him. Will you be in time? The knocking ceases, and a voice, sweetly
reassuring in its gentle plaintiveness, asks meekly:
"Pa, may I get up?"
You do not hear the other voice, but the responses are:
"No, it was only the bath--no, she ain't really hurt,--only wet, you
know. Yes, ma, I'll tell 'em what you say. No, it was a pure accident.
Yes; good-night, papa."
Then the same voice, exerting itself so as to be heard in a distant part
of the house, remarks:
"You've got to come upstairs again. Pa says it isn't time yet to get
You return to bed, and lie listening to somebody being dragged upstairs,
evidently against their will. By a thoughtful arrangement the spare
rooms at "Beggarbush" are exactly underneath the nurseries. The same
somebody, you conclude, still offering the most creditable opposition, is
being put back into bed. You can follow the contest with much
exactitude, because every time the body is flung down upon the spring
mattress, the bedstead, just above your head, makes a sort of jump; while
every time the body succeeds in struggling out again, you are aware by
the thud upon the floor. After a time the struggle wanes, or maybe the
bed collapses; and you drift back into sleep. But the next moment, or
what seems to be the next moment, you again open your eyes under the
consciousness of a presence. The door is being held ajar, and four
solemn faces, piled one on top of the other, are peering at you, as
though you were some natural curiosity kept in this particular room.
Seeing you awake, the top face, walking calmly over the other three,
comes in and sits on the bed in a friendly attitude.
"Oh!" it says, "we didn't know you were awake. I've been awake some
"So I gather," you reply, shortly.
"Pa doesn't like us to get up too early," it continues. "He says
everybody else in the house is liable to be disturbed if we get up. So,
of course, we mustn't."
The tone is that of gentle resignation. It is instinct with the spirit
of virtuous pride, arising from the consciousness of self-sacrifice.
"Don't you call this being up?" you suggest.
"Oh, no; we're not really up, you know, because we're not properly
dressed." The fact is self-evident. "Pa's always very tired in the
morning," the voice continues; "of course, that's because he works hard
all day. Are you ever tired in the morning?"
At this point he turns and notices, for the first time, that the three
other children have also entered, and are sitting in a semi-circle on the
floor. From their attitude it is clear they have mistaken the whole
thing for one of the slower forms of entertainment, some comic lecture or
conjuring exhibition, and are waiting patiently for you to get out of bed
and do something. It shocks him, the idea of their being in the guest's
bedchamber. He peremptorily orders them out. They do not answer him,
they do not argue; in dead silence, and with one accord they fall upon
him. All you can see from the bed is a confused tangle of waving arms
and legs, suggestive of an intoxicated octopus trying to find bottom. Not
a word is spoken; that seems to be the etiquette of the thing. If you
are sleeping in your pyjamas, you spring from the bed, and only add to
the confusion; if you are wearing a less showy garment, you stop where
you are and shout commands, which are utterly unheeded. The simplest
plan is to leave it to the eldest boy. He does get them out after a
while, and closes the door upon them. It re-opens immediately, and one,
generally Muriel, is shot back into the room. She enters as from a
catapult. She is handicapped by having long hair, which can be used as a
convenient handle. Evidently aware of this natural disadvantage, she
clutches it herself tightly in one hand, and punches with the other. He
opens the door again, and cleverly uses her as a battering-ram against
the wall of those without. You can hear the dull crash as her head
enters among them, and scatters them. When the victory is complete, he
comes back and resumes his seat on the bed. There is no bitterness about
him; he has forgotten the whole incident.
"I like the morning," he says, "don't you?"
"Some mornings," you agree, "are all right; others are not so peaceful."
He takes no notice of your exception; a far-away look steals over his
somewhat ethereal face.
"I should like to die in the morning," he says; "everything is so
"Well," you answer, "perhaps you will, if your father ever invites an
irritable man to come and sleep here, and doesn't warn him beforehand."
He descends from his contemplative mood, and becomes himself again.
"It's jolly in the garden," he suggests; "you wouldn't like to get up and
have a game of cricket, would you?"
It was not the idea with which you went to bed, but now, as things have
turned out, it seems as good a plan as lying there hopelessly awake; and
You learn, later in the day, that the explanation of the proceeding is
that you, unable to sleep, woke up early in the morning, and thought you
would like a game of cricket. The children, taught to be ever courteous
to guests, felt it their duty to humour you. Mrs. Harris remarks at
breakfast that at least you might have seen to it that the children were
properly dressed before you took them out; while Harris points out to
you, pathetically, how, by your one morning's example and encouragement,
you have undone his labour of months.
On this Wednesday morning, George, it seems, clamoured to get up at a
quarter-past five, and persuaded them to let him teach them cycling
tricks round the cucumber frames on Harris's new wheel. Even Mrs.
Harris, however, did not blame George on this occasion; she felt
intuitively the idea could not have been entirely his.
It is not that the Harris children have the faintest notion of avoiding
blame at the expense of a friend and comrade. One and all they are
honesty itself in accepting responsibility for their own misdeeds. It
simply is, that is how the thing presents itself to their understanding.
When you explain to them that you had no original intention of getting up
at five o'clock in the morning to play cricket on the croquet lawn, or to
mimic the history of the early Church by shooting with a cross-bow at
dolls tied to a tree; that as a matter of fact, left to your own
initiative, you would have slept peacefully till roused in Christian
fashion with a cup of tea at eight, they are firstly astonished, secondly
apologetic, and thirdly sincerely contrite. In the present instance,
waiving the purely academic question whether the awakening of George at a
little before five was due to natural instinct on his part, or to the
accidental passing of a home-made boomerang through his bedroom window,
the dear children frankly admitted that the blame for his uprising was
their own. As the eldest boy said:
"We ought to have remembered that Uncle George had a long day, before
him, and we ought to have dissuaded him from getting up. I blame myself
But an occasional change of habit does nobody any harm; and besides, as
Harris and I agreed, it was good training for George. In the Black
Forest we should be up at five every morning; that we had determined on.
Indeed, George himself had suggested half-past four, but Harris and I had
argued that five would be early enough as an average; that would enable
us to be on our machines by six, and to break the back of our journey
before the heat of the day set in. Occasionally we might start a little
earlier, but not as a habit.
I myself was up that morning at five. This was earlier than I had
intended. I had said to myself on going to sleep, "Six o'clock, sharp!"
There are men I know who can wake themselves at any time to the minute.
They say to themselves literally, as they lay their heads upon the
pillow, "Four-thirty," "Four-forty-five," or "Five-fifteen," as the case
may be; and as the clock strikes they open their eyes. It is very
wonderful this; the more one dwells upon it, the greater the mystery
grows. Some Ego within us, acting quite independently of our conscious
self, must be capable of counting the hours while we sleep. Unaided by
clock or sun, or any other medium known to our five senses, it keeps
watch through the darkness. At the exact moment it whispers "Time!" and
we awake. The work of an old riverside fellow I once talked with called
him to be out of bed each morning half an hour before high tide. He told
me that never once had he overslept himself by a minute. Latterly, he
never even troubled to work out the tide for himself. He would lie down
tired, and sleep a dreamless sleep, and each morning at a different hour
this ghostly watchman, true as the tide itself, would silently call him.
Did the man's spirit haunt through the darkness the muddy river stairs;
or had it knowledge of the ways of Nature? Whatever the process, the man
himself was unconscious of it.
In my own case my inward watchman is, perhaps, somewhat out of practice.
He does his best; but he is over-anxious; he worries himself, and loses
count. I say to him, maybe, "Five-thirty, please;" and he wakes me with
a start at half-past two. I look at my watch. He suggests that,
perhaps, I forgot to wind it up. I put it to my ear; it is still going.
He thinks, maybe, something has happened to it; he is confident himself
it is half-past five, if not a little later. To satisfy him, I put on a
pair of slippers and go downstairs to inspect the dining-room clock. What
happens to a man when he wanders about the house in the middle of the
night, clad in a dressing-gown and a pair of slippers, there is no need
to recount; most men know by experience. Everything--especially
everything with a sharp corner--takes a cowardly delight in hitting him.
When you are wearing a pair of stout boots, things get out of your way;
when you venture among furniture in woolwork slippers and no socks, it
comes at you and kicks you. I return to bed bad tempered, and refusing
to listen to his further absurd suggestion that all the clocks in the
house have entered into a conspiracy against me, take half an hour to get
to sleep again. From four to five he wakes me every ten minutes. I wish
I had never said a word to him about the thing. At five o'clock he goes
to sleep himself, worn out, and leaves it to the girl, who does it half
an hour later than usual.
On this particular Wednesday he worried me to such an extent, that I got
up at five simply to be rid of him. I did not know what to do with
myself. Our train did not leave till eight; all our luggage had been
packed and sent on the night before, together with the bicycles, to
Fenchurch Street Station. I went into my study; I thought I would put in
an hour's writing. The early morning, before one has breakfasted, is
not, I take it, a good season for literary effort. I wrote three
paragraphs of a story, and then read them over to myself. Some unkind
things have been said about my work; but nothing has yet been written
which would have done justice to those three paragraphs. I threw them
into the waste-paper basket, and sat trying to remember what, if any,
charitable institutions provided pensions for decayed authors.
To escape from this train of reflection, I put a golf-ball in my pocket,
and selecting a driver, strolled out into the paddock. A couple of sheep
were browsing there, and they followed and took a keen interest in my
practice. The one was a kindly, sympathetic old party. I do not think
she understood the game; I think it was my doing this innocent thing so
early in the morning that appealed to her. At every stroke I made she
"Go-o-o-d, go-o-o-d ind-e-e-d!"
She seemed as pleased as if she had done it herself.
As for the other one, she was a cantankerous, disagreeable old thing, as
discouraging to me as her friend was helpful.
"Ba-a-ad, da-a-a-m ba-a-a-d!" was her comment on almost every stroke. As
a matter of fact, some were really excellent strokes; but she did it just
to be contradictory, and for the sake of irritating. I could see that.
By a most regrettable accident, one of my swiftest balls struck the good
sheep on the nose. And at that the bad sheep laughed--laughed distinctly
and undoubtedly, a husky, vulgar laugh; and, while her friend stood glued
to the ground, too astonished to move, she changed her note for the first
time and bleated:
"Go-o-o-d, ve-e-ry go-o-o-d! Be-e-e-est sho-o-o-ot he-e-e's ma-a-a-de!"
I would have given half-a-crown if it had been she I had hit instead of
the other one. It is ever the good and amiable who suffer in this world.
I had wasted more time than I had intended in the paddock, and when
Ethelbertha came to tell me it was half-past seven, and the breakfast was
on the table, I remembered that I had not shaved. It vexes Ethelbertha
my shaving quickly. She fears that to outsiders it may suggest a poor-
spirited attempt at suicide, and that in consequence it may get about the
neighbourhood that we are not happy together. As a further argument, she
has also hinted that my appearance is not of the kind that can be trifled
On the whole, I was just as glad not to be able to take a long farewell
of Ethelbertha; I did not want to risk her breaking down. But I should
have liked more opportunity to say a few farewell words of advice to the
children, especially as regards my fishing rod, which they will persist
in using for cricket stumps; and I hate having to run for a train.
Quarter of a mile from the station I overtook George and Harris; they
were also running. In their case--so Harris informed me, jerkily, while
we trotted side by side--it was the new kitchen stove that was to blame.
This was the first morning they had tried it, and from some cause or
other it had blown up the kidneys and scalded the cook. He said he hoped
that by the time we returned they would have got more used to it.
We caught the train by the skin of our teeth, as the saying is, and
reflecting upon the events of the morning, as we sat gasping in the
carriage, there passed vividly before my mind the panorama of my Uncle
Podger, as on two hundred and fifty days in the year he would start from
Ealing Common by the nine-thirteen train to Moorgate Street.
From my Uncle Podger's house to the railway station was eight minutes'
walk. What my uncle always said was:
"Allow yourself a quarter of an hour, and take it easily."
What he always did was to start five minutes before the time and run. I
do not know why, but this was the custom of the suburb. Many stout City
gentlemen lived at Ealing in those days--I believe some live there
still--and caught early trains to Town. They all started late; they all
carried a black bag and a newspaper in one hand, and an umbrella in the
other; and for the last quarter of a mile to the station, wet or fine,
they all ran.
Folks with nothing else to do, nursemaids chiefly and errand boys, with
now and then a perambulating costermonger added, would gather on the
common of a fine morning to watch them pass, and cheer the most
deserving. It was not a showy spectacle. They did not run well, they
did not even run fast; but they were earnest, and they did their best.
The exhibition appealed less to one's sense of art than to one's natural
admiration for conscientious effort.
Occasionally a little harmless betting would take place among the crowd.
"Two to one agin the old gent in the white weskit!"
"Ten to one on old Blowpipes, bar he don't roll over hisself 'fore 'e
"Heven money on the Purple Hemperor!"--a nickname bestowed by a youth of
entomological tastes upon a certain retired military neighbour of my
uncle's,--a gentleman of imposing appearance when stationary, but apt to
colour highly under exercise.
My uncle and the others would write to the "Ealing Press" complaining
bitterly concerning the supineness of the local police; and the editor
would add spirited leaders upon the Decay of Courtesy among the Lower
Orders, especially throughout the Western Suburbs. But no good ever
It was not that my uncle did not rise early enough; it was that troubles
came to him at the last moment. The first thing he would do after
breakfast would be to lose his newspaper. We always knew when Uncle
Podger had lost anything, by the expression of astonished indignation
with which, on such occasions, he would regard the world in general. It
never occurred to my Uncle Podger to say to himself:
"I am a careless old man. I lose everything: I never know where I have
put anything. I am quite incapable of finding it again for myself. In
this respect I must be a perfect nuisance to everybody about me. I must
set to work and reform myself."
On the contrary, by some peculiar course of reasoning, he had convinced
himself that whenever he lost a thing it was everybody else's fault in
the house but his own.
"I had it in my hand here not a minute ago!" he would exclaim.
From his tone you would have thought he was living surrounded by
conjurers, who spirited away things from him merely to irritate him.
"Could you have left it in the garden?" my aunt would suggest.
"What should I want to leave it in the garden for? I don't want a paper
in the garden; I want the paper in the train with me."
"You haven't put it in your pocket?"
"God bless the woman! Do you think I should be standing here at five
minutes to nine looking for it if I had it in my pocket all the while? Do
you think I'm a fool?"
Here somebody would explain, "What's this?" and hand him from somewhere a
paper neatly folded.
"I do wish people would leave my things alone," he would growl, snatching
at it savagely.
He would open his bag to put it in, and then glancing at it, he would
pause, speechless with sense of injury.
"What's the matter?" aunt would ask.
"The day before yesterday's!" he would answer, too hurt even to shout,
throwing the paper down upon the table.
If only sometimes it had been yesterday's it would have been a change.
But it was always the day before yesterday's; except on Tuesday; then it
would be Saturday's.
We would find it for him eventually; as often as not he was sitting on
it. And then he would smile, not genially, but with the weariness that
comes to a man who feels that fate has cast his lot among a band of
"All the time, right in front of your noses--!" He would not finish the
sentence; he prided himself on his self-control.
This settled, he would start for the hall, where it was the custom of my
Aunt Maria to have the children gathered, ready to say good-bye to him.
My aunt never left the house herself, if only to make a call next door,
without taking a tender farewell of every inmate. One never knew, she
would say, what might happen.
One of them, of course, was sure to be missing, and the moment this was
noticed all the other six, without an instant's hesitation, would scatter
with a whoop to find it. Immediately they were gone it would turn up by
itself from somewhere quite near, always with the most reasonable
explanation for its absence; and would at once start off after the others
to explain to them that it was found. In this way, five minutes at least
would be taken up in everybody's looking for everybody else, which was
just sufficient time to allow my uncle to find his umbrella and lose his
hat. Then, at last, the group reassembled in the hall, the drawing-room
clock would commence to strike nine. It possessed a cold, penetrating
chime that always had the effect of confusing my uncle. In his
excitement he would kiss some of the children twice over, pass by others,
forget whom he had kissed and whom he hadn't, and have to begin all over
again. He used to say he believed they mixed themselves up on purpose,
and I am not prepared to maintain that the charge was altogether false.
To add to his troubles, one child always had a sticky face; and that
child would always be the most affectionate.
If things were going too smoothly, the eldest boy would come out with
some tale about all the clocks in the house being five minutes slow, and
of his having been late for school the previous day in consequence. This
would send my uncle rushing impetuously down to the gate, where he would
recollect that he had with him neither his bag nor his umbrella. All the
children that my aunt could not stop would charge after him, two of them
struggling for the umbrella, the others surging round the bag. And when
they returned we would discover on the hall table the most important
thing of all that he had forgotten, and wondered what he would say about
it when he came home.
We arrived at Waterloo a little after nine, and at once proceeded to put
George's experiment into operation. Opening the book at the chapter
entitled "At the Cab Rank," we walked up to a hansom, raised our hats,
and wished the driver "Good-morning."
This man was not to be outdone in politeness by any foreigner, real or
imitation. Calling to a friend named "Charles" to "hold the steed," he
sprang from his box, and returned to us a bow, that would have done
credit to Mr. Turveydrop himself. Speaking apparently in the name of the
nation, he welcomed us to England, adding a regret that Her Majesty was
not at the moment in London.
We could not reply to him in kind. Nothing of this sort had been
anticipated by the book. We called him "coachman," at which he again
bowed to the pavement, and asked him if he would have the goodness to
drive us to the Westminster Bridge road.
He laid his hand upon his heart, and said the pleasure would be his.
Taking the third sentence in the chapter, George asked him what his fare
The question, as introducing a sordid element into the conversation,
seemed to hurt his feelings. He said he never took money from
distinguished strangers; he suggested a souvenir--a diamond scarf pin, a
gold snuffbox, some little trifle of that sort by which he could remember
As a small crowd had collected, and as the joke was drifting rather too
far in the cabman's direction, we climbed in without further parley, and
were driven away amid cheers. We stopped the cab at a boot shop a little
past Astley's Theatre that looked the sort of place we wanted. It was
one of those overfed shops that the moment their shutters are taken down
in the morning disgorge their goods all round them. Boxes of boots stood
piled on the pavement or in the gutter opposite. Boots hung in festoons
about its doors and windows. Its sun-blind was as some grimy vine,
bearing bunches of black and brown boots. Inside, the shop was a bower
of boots. The man, when we entered, was busy with a chisel and hammer
opening a new crate full of boots.
George raised his hat, and said "Good-morning."
The man did not even turn round. He struck me from the first as a
disagreeable man. He grunted something which might have been
"Good-morning," or might not, and went on with his work.
George said: "I have been recommended to your shop by my friend, Mr. X."
In response, the man should have said: "Mr. X. is a most worthy
gentleman; it will give me the greatest pleasure to serve any friend of
What he did say was: "Don't know him; never heard of him."
This was disconcerting. The book gave three or four methods of buying
boots; George had carefully selected the one centred round "Mr. X," as
being of all the most courtly. You talked a good deal with the
shopkeeper about this "Mr. X," and then, when by this means friendship
and understanding had been established, you slid naturally and gracefully
into the immediate object of your coming, namely, your desire for boots,
"cheap and good." This gross, material man cared, apparently, nothing
for the niceties of retail dealing. It was necessary with such an one to
come to business with brutal directness. George abandoned "Mr. X," and
turning back to a previous page, took a sentence at random. It was not a
happy selection; it was a speech that would have been superfluous made to
any bootmaker. Under the present circumstances, threatened and stifled
as we were on every side by boots, it possessed the dignity of positive
imbecility. It ran:--"One has told me that you have here boots for
For the first time the man put down his hammer and chisel, and looked at
us. He spoke slowly, in a thick and husky voice. He said:
"What d'ye think I keep boots for--to smell 'em?"
He was one of those men that begin quietly and grow more angry as they
proceed, their wrongs apparently working within them like yeast.
"What d'ye think I am," he continued, "a boot collector? What d'ye think
I'm running this shop for--my health? D'ye think I love the boots, and
can't bear to part with a pair? D'ye think I hang 'em about here to look
at 'em? Ain't there enough of 'em? Where d'ye think you are--in an
international exhibition of boots? What d'ye think these boots are--a
historical collection? Did you ever hear of a man keeping a boot shop
and not selling boots? D'ye think I decorate the shop with 'em to make
it look pretty? What d'ye take me for--a prize idiot?"
I have always maintained that these conversation books are never of any
real use. What we wanted was some English equivalent for the well-known
German idiom: "Behalten Sie Ihr Haar auf."
Nothing of the sort was to be found in the book from beginning to end.
However, I will do George the credit to admit he chose the very best
sentence that was to be found therein and applied it. He said:.
"I will come again, when, perhaps, you will have some more boots to show
me. Till then, adieu!"
With that we returned to our cab and drove away, leaving the man standing
in the centre of his boot-bedecked doorway addressing remarks to us. What
he said, I did not hear, but the passers-by appeared to find it
George was for stopping at another boot shop and trying the experiment
afresh; he said he really did want a pair of bedroom slippers. But we
persuaded him to postpone their purchase until our arrival in some
foreign city, where the tradespeople are no doubt more inured to this
sort of talk, or else more naturally amiable. On the subject of the hat,
however, he was adamant. He maintained that without that he could not
travel, and, accordingly, we pulled up at a small shop in the Blackfriars
The proprietor of this shop was a cheery, bright-eyed little man, and he
helped us rather than hindered us.
When George asked him in the words of the book, "Have you any hats?" he
did not get angry; he just stopped and thoughtfully scratched his chin.
"Hats," said he. "Let me think. Yes"--here a smile of positive pleasure
broke over his genial countenance--"yes, now I come to think of it, I
believe I have a hat. But, tell me, why do you ask me?"
George explained to him that he wished to purchase a cap, a travelling
cap, but the essence of the transaction was that it was to be a "good
The man's face fell.
"Ah," he remarked, "there, I am afraid, you have me. Now, if you had
wanted a bad cap, not worth the price asked for it; a cap good for
nothing but to clean windows with, I could have found you the very thing.
But a good cap--no; we don't keep them. But wait a minute," he
continued,--on seeing the disappointment that spread over George's
expressive countenance, "don't be in a hurry. I have a cap here"--he
went to a drawer and opened it--"it is not a good cap, but it is not so
bad as most of the caps I sell."
He brought it forward, extended on his palm.
"What do you think of that?" he asked. "Could you put up with that?"
George fitted it on before the glass, and, choosing another remark from
the book, said:
"This hat fits me sufficiently well, but, tell me, do you consider that
it becomes me?"
The man stepped back and took a bird's-eye view.
"Candidly," he replied, "I can't say that it does."
He turned from George, and addressed himself to Harris and myself.
"Your friend's beauty," said he, "I should describe as elusive. It is
there, but you can easily miss it. Now, in that cap, to my mind, you do
At that point it occurred to George that he had had sufficient fun with
this particular man. He said:
"That is all right. We don't want to lose the train. How much?"
Answered the man: "The price of that cap, sir, which, in my opinion, is
twice as much as it is worth, is four-and-six. Would you like it wrapped
up in brown paper, sir, or in white?"
George said he would take it as it was, paid the man four-and-six
in-silver, and went out. Harris and I followed.
At Fenchurch Street we compromised with our cabman for five shillings. He
made us another courtly bow, and begged us to remember him to the Emperor
Comparing views in the train, we agreed that we had lost the game by two
points to one; and George, who was evidently disappointed, threw the book
out of window.
We found our luggage and the bicycles safe on the boat, and with the tide
at twelve dropped down the river.
A necessary digression--Introduced by story containing moral--One of the
charms of this book--The Journal that did not command success--Its boast:
"Instruction combined with Amusement"--Problem: say what should be
considered instructive and what amusing--A popular game--Expert opinion
on English law--Another of the charms of this book--A hackneyed tune--Yet
a third charm of this book--The sort of wood it was where the maiden
lived--Description of the Black Forest.
A story is told of a Scotchman who, loving a lassie, desired her for his
wife. But he possessed the prudence of his race. He had noticed in his
circle many an otherwise promising union result in disappointment and
dismay, purely in consequence of the false estimate formed by bride or
bridegroom concerning the imagined perfectability of the other. He
determined that in his own case no collapsed ideal should be possible.
Therefore, it was that his proposal took the following form:
"I'm but a puir lad, Jennie; I hae nae siller to offer ye, and nae land."
"Ah, but ye hae yoursel', Davie!"
"An' I'm wishfu' it wa' onything else, lassie. I'm nae but a puir ill-
seasoned loon, Jennie."
"Na, na; there's mony a lad mair ill-looking than yoursel', Davie."
"I hae na seen him, lass, and I'm just a-thinkin' I shouldna' care to."
"Better a plain man, Davie, that ye can depend a' than ane that would be
a speirin' at the lassies, a-bringin' trouble into the hame wi' his
"Dinna ye reckon on that, Jennie; it's nae the bonniest Bubbly Jock that
mak's the most feathers to fly in the kailyard. I was ever a lad to run
after the petticoats, as is weel kent; an' it's a weary handfu' I'll be
to ye, I'm thinkin'."
"Ah, but ye hae a kind heart, Davie! an' ye love me weel. I'm sure
"I like ye weel enoo', Jennie, though I canna say how long the feeling
may bide wi' me; an' I'm kind enoo' when I hae my ain way, an' naethin'
happens to put me oot. But I hae the deevil's ain temper, as my mither
call tell ye, an' like my puir fayther, I'm a-thinkin', I'll grow nae
better as I grow mair auld."
"Ay, but ye're sair hard upon yersel', Davie. Ye're an honest lad. I
ken ye better than ye ken yersel', an' ye'll mak a guid hame for me."
"Maybe, Jennie! But I hae my doots. It's a sair thing for wife an'
bairns when the guid man canna keep awa' frae the glass; an' when the
scent of the whusky comes to me it's just as though I hae'd the throat o'
a Loch Tay salmon; it just gaes doon an' doon, an' there's nae filling o'
"Ay, but ye're a guid man when ye're sober, Davie."
"Maybe I'll be that, Jennie, if I'm nae disturbed."
"An' ye'll bide wi' me, Davie, an' work for me?"
"I see nae reason why I shouldna bide wi' yet Jennie; but dinna ye clack
aboot work to me, for I just canna bear the thoct o't."
"Anyhow, ye'll do your best, Davie? As the minister says, nae man can do
mair than that."
"An' it's a puir best that mine'll be, Jennie, and I'm nae sae sure ye'll
hae ower muckle even o' that. We're a' weak, sinfu' creatures, Jennie,
an' ye'd hae some deefficulty to find a man weaker or mair sinfu' than
"Weel, weel, ye hae a truthfu' tongue, Davie. Mony a lad will mak fine
promises to a puir lassie, only to break 'em an' her heart wi' 'em. Ye
speak me fair, Davie, and I'm thinkin' I'll just tak ye, an' see what
Concerning what did come of it, the story is silent, but one feels that
under no circumstances had the lady any right to complain of her bargain.
Whether she ever did or did not--for women do not invariably order their
tongues according to logic, nor men either for the matter of that--Davie,
himself, must have had the satisfaction of reflecting that all reproaches
I wish to be equally frank with the reader of this book. I wish here
conscientiously to let forth its shortcomings. I wish no one to read
this book under a misapprehension.
There will be no useful information in this book.
Anyone who should think that with the aid of this book he would be able
to make a tour through Germany and the Black Forest would probably lose
himself before he got to the Nore. That, at all events, would be the
best thing that could happen to him. The farther away from home he got,
the greater only would be his difficulties.
I do not regard the conveyance of useful information as my "forte". This
belief was not inborn with me; it has been driven home upon me by
In my early journalistic days, I served upon a paper, the forerunner of
many very popular periodicals of the present day. Our boast was that we
combined instruction with amusement; as to what should be regarded as
affording amusement and what instruction, the reader judged for himself.
We gave advice to people about to marry--long, earnest advice that would,
had they followed it, have made our circle of readers the envy of the
whole married world. We told our subscribers how to make fortunes by
keeping rabbits, giving facts and figures. The thing that must have
surprised them was that we ourselves did not give up journalism and start
rabbit-farming. Often and often have I proved conclusively from
authoritative sources how a man starting a rabbit farm with twelve
selected rabbits and a little judgment must, at the end of three years,
be in receipt of an income of two thousand a year, rising rapidly; he
simply could not help himself. He might not want the money. He might
not know what to do with it when he had it. But there it was for him. I
have never met a rabbit farmer myself worth two thousand a year, though I
have known many start with the twelve necessary, assorted rabbits.
Something has always gone wrong somewhere; maybe the continued atmosphere
of a rabbit farm saps the judgment.
We told our readers how many bald-headed men there were in Iceland, and
for all we knew our figures may have been correct; how many red herrings
placed tail to mouth it would take to reach from London to Rome, which
must have been useful to anyone desirous of laying down a line of red
herrings from London to Rome, enabling him to order in the right quantity
at the beginning; how many words the average woman spoke in a day; and
other such like items of information calculated to make them wise and
great beyond the readers of other journals.
We told them how to cure fits in cats. Personally I do not believe, and
I did not believe then, that you can cure fits in cats. If I had a cat
subject to fits I should advertise it for sale, or even give it away. But
our duty was to supply information when asked for. Some fool wrote,
clamouring to know; and I spent the best part of a morning seeking
knowledge on the subject. I found what I wanted at length at the end of
an old cookery book. What it was doing there I have never been able to
understand. It had nothing to do with the proper subject of the book
whatever; there was no suggestion that you could make anything savoury
out of a cat, even when you had cured it of its fits. The authoress had
just thrown in this paragraph out of pure generosity. I can only say
that I wish she had left it out; it was the cause of a deal of angry
correspondence and of the loss of four subscribers to the paper, if not
more. The man said the result of following our advice had been two
pounds worth of damage to his kitchen crockery, to say nothing of a
broken window and probable blood poisoning to himself; added to which the
cat's fits were worse than before. And yet it was a simple enough
recipe. You held the cat between your legs, gently, so as not to hurt
it, and with a pair of scissors made a sharp, clean cut in its tail. You
did not cut off any part of the tail; you were to be careful not to do
that; you only made an incision.
As we explained to the man, the garden or the coal cellar would have been
the proper place for the operation; no one but an idiot would have
attempted to perform it in a kitchen, and without help.
We gave them hints on etiquette. We told them how to address peers and
bishops; also how to eat soup. We instructed shy young men how to
acquire easy grace in drawing-rooms. We taught dancing to both sexes by
the aid of diagrams. We solved their religious doubts for them, and
supplied them with a code of morals that would have done credit to a
The paper was not a financial success, it was some years before its time,
and the consequence was that our staff was limited. My own apartment, I
remember, included "Advice to Mothers"--I wrote that with the assistance
of my landlady, who, having divorced one husband and buried four
children, was, I considered, a reliable authority on all domestic
matters; "Hints on Furnishing and Household Decorations--with Designs" a
column of "Literary Counsel to Beginners"--I sincerely hope my guidance
was of better service to them than it has ever proved to myself; and our
weekly article, "Straight Talks to Young Men," signed "Uncle Henry." A
kindly, genial old fellow was "Uncle Henry," with wide and varied
experience, and a sympathetic attitude towards the rising generation. He
had been through trouble himself in his far back youth, and knew most
things. Even to this day I read of "Uncle Henry's" advice, and, though I
say it who should not, it still seems to me good, sound advice. I often
think that had I followed "Uncle Henry's" counsel closer I would have
been wiser, made fewer mistakes, felt better satisfied with myself than
is now the case.
A quiet, weary little woman, who lived in a bed-sitting room off the
Tottenham Court Road, and who had a husband in a lunatic asylum, did our
"Cooking Column," "Hints on Education"--we were full of hints,--and a
page and a half of "Fashionable Intelligence," written in the pertly
personal style which even yet has not altogether disappeared, so I am
informed, from modern journalism: "I must tell you about the "divine"
frock I wore at 'Glorious Goodwood' last week. Prince C.--but there, I
really must not repeat all the things the silly fellow says; he is "too"
foolish--and the "dear" Countess, I fancy, was just the "weeish" bit
jealous"--and so on.
Poor little woman! I see her now in the shabby grey alpaca, with the
inkstains on it. Perhaps a day at "Glorious Goodwood," or anywhere else
in the fresh air, might have put some colour into her cheeks.
Our proprietor--one of the most unashamedly ignorant men I ever met--I
remember his gravely informing a correspondent once that Ben Jonson had
written "Rabelais" to pay for his mother's funeral, and only laughing
good-naturedly when his mistakes were pointed out to him--wrote with the
aid of a cheap encyclopedia the pages devoted to "General Information,"
and did them on the whole remarkably well; while our office boy, with an
excellent pair of scissors for his assistant, was responsible for our
supply of "Wit and Humour."
It was hard work, and the pay was poor, what sustained us was the
consciousness that we were instructing and improving our fellow men and
women. Of all games in the world, the one most universally and eternally
popular is the game of school. You collect six children, and put them on
a doorstep, while you walk up and down with the book and cane. We play
it when babies, we play it when boys and girls, we play it when men and
women, we play it as, lean and slippered, we totter towards the grave. It
never palls upon, it never wearies us. Only one thing mars it: the
tendency of one and all of the other six children to clamour for their
turn with the book and the cane. The reason, I am sure, that journalism
is so popular a calling, in spite of its many drawbacks, is this: each
journalist feels he is the boy walking up and down with the cane. The
Government, the Classes, and the Masses, Society, Art, and Literature,
are the other children sitting on the doorstep. He instructs and
But I digress. It was to excuse my present permanent disinclination to
be the vehicle of useful information that I recalled these matters. Let
us now return.
Somebody, signing himself "Balloonist," had written to ask concerning the
manufacture of hydrogen gas. It is an easy thing to manufacture--at
least, so I gathered after reading up the subject at the British Museum;
yet I did warn "Balloonist," whoever he might be, to take all necessary
precaution against accident. What more could I have done? Ten days
afterwards a florid-faced lady called at the office, leading by the hand
what, she explained, was her son, aged twelve. The boy's face was
unimpressive to a degree positively remarkable. His mother pushed him
forward and took off his hat, and then I perceived the reason for this.
He had no eyebrows whatever, and of his hair nothing remained but a
scrubby dust, giving to his head the appearance of a hard-boiled egg,
skinned and sprinkled with black pepper.
"That was a handsome lad this time last week, with naturally curly hair,"
remarked the lady. She spoke with a rising inflection, suggestive of the
beginning of things.
"What has happened to him?" asked our chief.
"This is what's happened to him," retorted the lady. She drew from her
muff a copy of our last week's issue, with my article on hydrogen gas
scored in pencil, and flung it before his eyes. Our chief took it and
read it through.
"He was 'Balloonist'?" queried the chief.
"He was 'Balloonist,'" admitted the lady, "the poor innocent child, and
now look at him!"
"Maybe it'll grow again," suggested our chief.
"Maybe it will," retorted the lady, her key continuing to rise, "and
maybe it won't. What I want to know is what you are going to do for
Our chief suggested a hair wash. I thought at first she was going to fly
at him; but for the moment she confined herself to words. It appears she
was not thinking of a hair wash, but of compensation. She also made
observations on the general character of our paper, its utility, its
claim to public support, the sense and wisdom of its contributors.
"I really don't see that it is our fault," urged the chief--he was a mild-
mannered man; "he asked for information, and he got it."
"Don't you try to be funny about it," said the lady (he had not meant to
be funny, I am sure; levity was not his failing) "or you'll get something
that "you" haven't asked for. Why, for two pins," said the lady, with a
suddenness that sent us both flying like scuttled chickens behind our
respective chairs, "I'd come round and make your head like it!" I take
it, she meant like the boy's. She also added observations upon our
chief's personal appearance, that were distinctly in bad taste. She was
not a nice woman by any means.
Myself, I am of opinion that had she brought the action she threatened,
she would have had no case; but our chief was a man who had had
experience of the law, and his principle was always to avoid it. I have
heard him say:
"If a man stopped me in the street and demanded of me my watch, I should
refuse to give it to him. If he threatened to take it by force, I feel I
should, though not a fighting man, do my best to protect it. If, on the
other hand, he should assert his intention of trying to obtain it by
means of an action in any court of law, I should take it out of my pocket
and hand it to him, and think I had got off cheaply."
He squared the matter with the florid-faced lady for a five-pound note,
which must have represented a month's profits on the paper; and she
departed, taking her damaged offspring with her. After she was gone, our
chief spoke kindly to me. He said:
"Don't think I am blaming you in the least; it is not your fault, it is
Fate. Keep to moral advice and criticism--there you are distinctly good;
but don't try your hand any more on 'Useful Information.' As I have
said, it is not your fault. Your information is correct enough--there is
nothing to be said against that; it simply is that you are not lucky with
I would that I had followed his advice always; I would have saved myself
and other people much disaster. I see no reason why it should be, but so
it is. If I instruct a man as to the best route between London and Rome,
he loses his luggage in Switzerland, or is nearly shipwrecked off Dover.
If I counsel him in the purchase of a camera, he gets run in by the
German police for photographing fortresses. I once took a deal of
trouble to explain to a man how to marry his deceased wife's sister at
Stockholm. I found out for him the time the boat left Hull and the best
hotels to stop at. There was not a single mistake from beginning to end
in the information with which I supplied him; no hitch occurred anywhere;
yet now he never speaks to me.
Therefore it is that I have come to restrain my passion for the giving of
information; therefore it is that nothing in the nature of practical
instruction will be found, if I can help it, within these pages.
There will be no description of towns, no historical reminiscences, no
architecture, no morals.
I once asked an intelligent foreigner what he thought of London.
He said: "It is a very big town."
I said: "What struck you most about it?"
He replied: "The people."
I said: "Compared with other towns--Paris, Rome, Berlin,--what did you
think of it?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "It is bigger," he said; "what more can one
One anthill is very much like another. So many avenues, wide or narrow,
where the little creatures swarm in strange confusion; these bustling by,
important; these halting to pow-wow with one another. These struggling
with big burdens; those but basking in the sun. So many granaries stored
with food; so many cells where the little things sleep, and eat, and
love; the corner where lie their little white bones. This hive is
larger, the next smaller. This nest lies on the sand, and another under
the stones. This was built but yesterday, while that was fashioned ages
ago, some say even before the swallows came; who knows?
Nor will there be found herein folk-lore or story.
Every valley where lie homesteads has its song. I will tell you the
plot; you can turn it into verse and set it to music of your own.
There lived a lass, and there came a lad, who loved and rode away.
It is a monotonous song, written in many languages; for the young man
seems to have been a mighty traveller. Here in sentimental Germany they
remember him well. So also the dwellers of the Blue Alsatian Mountains
remember his coming among them; while, if my memory serves me truly, he
likewise visited the Banks of Allan Water. A veritable Wandering Jew is
he; for still the foolish girls listen, so they say, to the dying away of
In this land of many ruins, that long while ago were voice-filled homes,
linger many legends; and here again, giving you the essentials, I leave
you to cook the dish for yourself. Take a human heart or two, assorted;
a bundle of human passions--there are not many of them, half a dozen at
the most; season with a mixture of good and evil; flavour the whole with
the sauce of death, and serve up where and when you will. "The Saint's
Cell," "The Haunted Keep," "The Dungeon Grave," "The Lover's Leap"--call
it what you will, the stew's the same.
Lastly, in this book there will be no scenery. This is not laziness on
my part; it is self-control. Nothing is easier to write than scenery;
nothing more difficult and unnecessary to read. When Gibbon had to trust
to travellers' tales for a description of the Hellespont, and the Rhine
was chiefly familiar to English students through the medium of "Caesar's
Commentaries", it behoved every globe-trotter, for whatever distance, to
describe to the best of his ability the things that he had seen. Dr.
Johnson, familiar with little else than the view down Fleet Street, could
read the description of a Yorkshire moor with pleasure and with profit.
To a cockney who had never seen higher ground than the Hog's Back in
Surrey, an account of Snowdon must have appeared exciting. But we, or
rather the steam-engine and the camera for us, have changed all that. The
man who plays tennis every year at the foot of the Matterhorn, and
billiards on the summit of the Rigi, does not thank you for an elaborate
and painstaking description of the Grampian Hills. To the average man,
who has seen a dozen oil paintings, a hundred photographs, a thousand
pictures in the illustrated journals, and a couple of panoramas of
Niagara, the word-painting of a waterfall is tedious.
An American friend of mine, a cultured gentleman, who loved poetry well
enough for its own sake, told me that he had obtained a more correct and
more satisfying idea of the Lake district from an eighteenpenny book of
photographic views than from all the works of Coleridge, Southey, and
Wordsworth put together. I also remember his saying concerning this
subject of scenery in literature, that he would thank an author as much
for writing an eloquent description of what he had just had for dinner.
But this was in reference to another argument; namely, the proper
province of each art. My friend maintained that just as canvas and
colour were the wrong mediums for story telling, so word-painting was, at
its best, but a clumsy method of conveying impressions that could much
better be received through the eye.
As regards the question, there also lingers in my memory very distinctly
a hot school afternoon. The class was for English literature, and the
proceedings commenced with the reading of a certain lengthy, but
otherwise unobjectionable, poem. The author's name, I am ashamed to say,
I have forgotten, together with the title of the poem. The reading
finished, we closed our books, and the Professor, a kindly, white-haired
old gentleman, suggested our giving in our own words an account of what
we had just read.
"Tell me," said the Professor, encouragingly, "what it is all about."
"Please, sir," said the first boy--he spoke with bowed head and evident
reluctance, as though the subject were one which, left to himself, he
would never have mentioned,--"it is about a maiden."
"Yes," agreed the Professor; "but I want you to tell me in your own
words. We do not speak of a maiden, you know; we say a girl. Yes, it is
about a girl. Go on."
"A girl," repeated the top boy, the substitution apparently increasing
his embarrassment, "who lived in a wood."
"What sort of a wood?" asked the Professor.
The first boy examined his inkpot carefully, and then looked at the
"Come," urged the Professor, growing impatient, "you have been reading
about this wood for the last ten minutes. Surely you can tell me
something concerning it."
"The gnarly trees, their twisted branches"--recommenced the top boy.
"No, no," interrupted the Professor; "I do not want you to repeat the
poem. I want you to tell me in your own words what sort of a wood it was
where the girl lived."
The Professor tapped his foot impatiently; the top boy made a dash for
"Please, sir, it was the usual sort of a wood."
"Tell him what sort of a wood," said he, pointing to the second lad.
The second boy said it was a "green wood." This annoyed the Professor
still more; he called the second boy a blockhead, though really I cannot
see why, and passed on to the third, who, for the last minute, had been
sitting apparently on hot plates, with his right arm waving up and down
like a distracted semaphore signal. He would have had to say it the next
second, whether the Professor had asked him or not; he was red in the
face, holding his knowledge in.
"A dark and gloomy wood," shouted the third boy, with much relief to his
"A dark and gloomy wood," repeated the Professor, with evident approval.
"And why was it dark and gloomy?"
The third boy was still equal to the occasion.
"Because the sun could not get inside it."
The Professor felt he had discovered the poet of the class.
"Because the sun could not get into it, or, better, because the sunbeams
could not penetrate. And why could not the sunbeams penetrate there?"
"Please, sir, because the leaves were too thick."
"Very well," said the Professor. "The girl lived in a dark and gloomy
wood, through the leafy canopy of which the sunbeams were unable to
pierce. Now, what grew in this wood?" He pointed to the fourth boy.
"Please, sir, trees, sir."
"And what else?"
"Toadstools, sir." This after a pause.
The Professor was not quite sure about the toadstools, but on referring
to the text he found that the boy was right; toadstools had been
"Quite right," admitted the Professor, "toadstools grew there. And what
else? What do you find underneath trees in a wood?"
"Please, sir, earth, sir."
"No; no; what grows in a wood besides trees?"
"Oh, please, sir, bushes, sir."
"Bushes; very good. Now we are getting on. In this wood there were
trees and bushes. And what else?"
He pointed to a small boy near the bottom, who having decided that the
wood was too far off to be of any annoyance to him, individually, was
occupying his leisure playing noughts and crosses against himself. Vexed
and bewildered, but feeling it necessary to add something to the
inventory, he hazarded blackberries. This was a mistake; the poet had
not mentioned blackberries.
"Of course, Klobstock would think of something to eat," commented the
Professor, who prided himself on his ready wit. This raised a laugh
against Klobstock, and pleased the Professor.
"You," continued he, pointing to a boy in the middle; "what else was
there in this wood besides trees and bushes?"
"Please, sir, there was a torrent there."
"Quite right; and what did the torrent do?"
"Please, sir, it gurgled."
"No; no. Streams gurgle, torrents--?"
"It roared. And what made it roar?"
This was a poser. One boy--he was not our prize intellect, I
admit--suggested the girl. To help us the Professor put his question in
"When did it roar?"
Our third boy, again coming to the rescue, explained that it roared when
it fell down among the rocks. I think some of us had a vague idea that
it must have been a cowardly torrent to make such a noise about a little
thing like this; a pluckier torrent, we felt, would have got up and gone
on, saying nothing about it. A torrent that roared every time it fell
upon a rock we deemed a poor spirited torrent; but the Professor seemed
quite content with it.
"And what lived in this wood beside the girl?" was the next question.
"Please, sir, birds, sir."
"Yes, birds lived in this wood. What else?"
Birds seemed to have exhausted our ideas.
"Come," said the Professor, "what are those animals with tails, that run
We thought for a while, then one of us suggested cats.
This was an error; the poet had said nothing about cats; squirrels was
what the Professor was trying to get.
I do not recall much more about this wood in detail. I only recollect
that the sky was introduced into it. In places where there occurred an
opening among the trees you could by looking up see the sky above you;
very often there were clouds in this sky, and occasionally, if I remember
rightly, the girl got wet.
I have dwelt upon this incident, because it seems to me suggestive of the
whole question of scenery in literature. I could not at the time, I
cannot now, understand why the top boy's summary was not sufficient. With
all due deference to the poet, whoever he may have been, one cannot but
acknowledge that his wood was, and could not be otherwise than, "the
usual sort of a wood."
I could describe the Black Forest to you at great length. I could
translate to you Hebel, the poet of the Black Forest. I could write
pages concerning its rocky gorges and its smiling valleys, its pine-clad
slopes, its rock-crowned summits, its foaming rivulets (where the tidy
German has not condemned them to flow respectably through wooden troughs
or drainpipes), its white villages, its lonely farmsteads.
But I am haunted by the suspicion you might skip all this. Were you
sufficiently conscientious--or weak-minded enough--not to do so, I
should, all said and done, succeed in conveying to you only an impression
much better summed up in the simple words of the unpretentious guide
"A picturesque, mountainous district, bounded on the south and the west
by the plain of the Rhine, towards which its spurs descend precipitately.
Its geological formation consists chiefly of variegated sandstone and
granite; its lower heights being covered with extensive pine forests. It
is well watered with numerous streams, while its populous valleys are
fertile and well cultivated. The inns are good; but the local wines
should be partaken of by the stranger with discretion."
Why we went to Hanover--Something they do better abroad--The art of
polite foreign conversation, as taught in English schools--A true
history, now told for the first time--The French joke, as provided for
the amusement of British youth--Fatherly instincts of Harris--The road-
waterer, considered as an artist--Patriotism of George--What Harris ought
to have done--What he did--We save Harris's life--A sleepless city--The
cab-horse as a critic.
We arrived in Hamburg on Friday after a smooth and uneventful voyage; and
from Hamburg we travelled to Berlin by way of Hanover. It is not the
most direct route. I can only account for our visit to Hanover as the
nigger accounted to the magistrate for his appearance in the Deacon's
"Yes, sar, what the constable sez is quite true, sar; I was dar, sar."
"Oh, so you admit it? And what were you doing with a sack, pray, in
Deacon Abraham's poultry-yard at twelve o'clock at night?"
"I'se gwine ter tell yer, sar; yes, sar. I'd been to Massa Jordan's wid
a sack of melons. Yes, sar; an' Massa Jordan he wuz very 'greeable, an'
axed me for ter come in."
"Yes, sar, very 'greeable man is Massa Jordan. An' dar we sat a talking
an' a talking--"
"Very likely. What we want to know is what you were doing in the
"Yes, sar, dat's what I'se cumming to. It wuz ver' late 'fore I left
Massa Jordan's, an' den I sez ter mysel', sez I, now yer jest step out
with yer best leg foremost, Ulysses, case yer gets into trouble wid de
ole woman. Ver' talkative woman she is, sar, very--"
"Yes, never mind her; there are other people very talkative in this town
besides your wife. Deacon Abraham's house is half a mile out of your way
home from Mr. Jordan's. How did you get there?"
"Dat's what I'm a-gwine ter explain, sar."
"I am glad of that. And how do you propose to do it?"
"Well, I'se thinkin', sar, I must ha' digressed."
I take it we digressed a little.
At first, from some reason or other, Hanover strikes you as an
uninteresting town, but it grows upon you. It is in reality two towns; a
place of broad, modern, handsome streets and tasteful gardens; side by
side with a sixteenth-century town, where old timbered houses overhang
the narrow lanes; where through low archways one catches glimpses of
galleried courtyards, once often thronged, no doubt, with troops of
horse, or blocked with lumbering coach and six, waiting its rich merchant
owner, and his fat placid Frau, but where now children and chickens
scuttle at their will; while over the carved balconies hang dingy clothes
A singularly English atmosphere hovers over Hanover, especially on
Sundays, when its shuttered shops and clanging bells give to it the
suggestion of a sunnier London. Nor was this British Sunday atmosphere
apparent only to myself, else I might have attributed it to imagination;
even George felt it. Harris and I, returning from a short stroll with
our cigars after lunch on the Sunday afternoon, found him peacefully
slumbering in the smoke-room's easiest chair.
"After all," said Harris, "there is something about the British Sunday
that appeals to the man with English blood in his veins. I should be
sorry to see it altogether done away with, let the new generation say
what it will."
And taking one each end of the ample settee, we kept George company.
To Hanover one should go, they say, to learn the best German. The
disadvantage is that outside Hanover, which is only a small province,
nobody understands this best German. Thus you have to decide whether to
speak good German and remain in Hanover, or bad German and travel about.
Germany being separated so many centuries into a dozen principalities, is
unfortunate in possessing a variety of dialects. Germans from Posen
wishful to converse with men of Wurtemburg, have to talk as often as not
in French or English; and young ladies who have received an expensive
education in Westphalia surprise and disappoint their parents by being
unable to understand a word said to them in Mechlenberg. An
English-speaking foreigner, it is true, would find himself equally
nonplussed among the Yorkshire wolds, or in the purlieus of Whitechapel;
but the cases are not on all fours. Throughout Germany it is not only in
the country districts and among the uneducated that dialects are
maintained. Every province has practically its own language, of which it
is proud and retentive. An educated Bavarian will admit to you that,
academically speaking, the North German is more correct; but he will
continue to speak South German and to teach it to his children.
In the course of the century, I am inclined to think that Germany will
solve her difficulty in this respect by speaking English. Every boy and
girl in Germany, above the peasant class, speaks English. Were English
pronunciation less arbitrary, there is not the slightest doubt but that
in the course of a very few years, comparatively speaking, it would
become the language of the world. All foreigners agree that,
grammatically, it is the easiest language of any to learn. A German,
comparing it with his own language, where every word in every sentence is
governed by at least four distinct and separate rules, tells you that
English has no grammar. A good many English people would seem to have
come to the same conclusion; but they are wrong. As a matter of fact,
there is an English grammar, and one of these days our schools will
recognise the fact, and it will be taught to our children, penetrating
maybe even into literary and journalistic circles. But at present we
appear to agree with the foreigner that it is a quantity neglectable.
English pronunciation is the stumbling-block to our progress. English
spelling would seem to have been designed chiefly as a disguise to
pronunciation. It is a clever idea, calculated to check presumption on
the part of the foreigner; but for that he would learn it in a year.
For they have a way of teaching languages in Germany that is not our way,
and the consequence is that when the German youth or maiden leaves the
gymnasium or high school at fifteen, "it" (as in Germany one conveniently
may say) can understand and speak the tongue it has been learning. In
England we have a method that for obtaining the least possible result at
the greatest possible expenditure of time and money is perhaps
unequalled. An English boy who has been through a good middle-class
school in England can talk to a Frenchman, slowly and with difficulty,
about female gardeners and aunts; conversation which, to a man possessed
perhaps of neither, is liable to pall. Possibly, if he be a bright
exception, he may be able to tell the time, or make a few guarded
observations concerning the weather. No doubt he could repeat a goodly
number of irregular verbs by heart; only, as a matter of fact, few
foreigners care to listen to their own irregular verbs, recited by young
Englishmen. Likewise he might be able to remember a choice selection of
grotesquely involved French idioms, such as no modern Frenchman has ever
heard or understands when he does hear.
The explanation is that, in nine cases out of ten, he has learnt French
from an "Ahn's First-Course." The history of this famous work is
remarkable and instructive. The book was originally written for a joke,
by a witty Frenchman who had resided for some years in England. He
intended it as a satire upon the conversational powers of British
society. From this point of view it was distinctly good. He submitted
it to a London publishing firm. The manager was a shrewd man. He read
the book through. Then he sent for the author.
"This book of yours," said he to the author, "is very clever. I have
laughed over it myself till the tears came."
"I am delighted to hear you say so," replied the pleased Frenchman. "I
tried to be truthful without being unnecessarily offensive."
"It is most amusing," concurred the manager; "and yet published as a
harmless joke, I feel it would fail."
The author's face fell.
"Its humour," proceeded the manager, "would be denounced as forced and
extravagant. It would amuse the thoughtful and intelligent, but from a
business point of view that portion of the public are never worth
considering. But I have an idea," continued the manager. He glanced
round the room to be sure they were alone, and leaning forward sunk his
voice to a whisper. "My notion is to publish it as a serious work for
the use of schools!"
The author stared, speechless.
"I know the English schoolman," said the manager; "this book will appeal
to him. It will exactly fit in with his method. Nothing sillier,
nothing more useless for the purpose will he ever discover. He will
smack his lips over the book, as a puppy licks up blacking."
The author, sacrificing art to greed, consented. They altered the title
and added a vocabulary, but left the book otherwise as it was.
The result is known to every schoolboy. "Ahn" became the palladium of
English philological education. If it no longer retains its ubiquity, it
is because something even less adaptable to the object in view has been
Lest, in spite of all, the British schoolboy should obtain, even from the
like of "Ahn," some glimmering of French, the British educational method
further handicaps him by bestowing upon him the assistance of, what is
termed in the prospectus, "A native gentleman." This native French
gentleman, who, by-the-by, is generally a Belgian, is no doubt a most
worthy person, and can, it is true, understand and speak his own language
with tolerable fluency. There his qualifications cease. Invariably he
is a man with a quite remarkable inability to teach anybody anything.
Indeed, he would seem to be chosen not so much as an instructor as an
amuser of youth. He is always a comic figure. No Frenchman of a
dignified appearance would be engaged for any English school. If he
possess by nature a few harmless peculiarities, calculated to cause
merriment, so much the more is he esteemed by his employers. The class
naturally regards him as an animated joke. The two to four hours a week
that are deliberately wasted on this ancient farce, are looked forward to
by the boys as a merry interlude in an otherwise monotonous existence.
And then, when the proud parent takes his son and heir to Dieppe merely
to discover that the lad does not know enough to call a cab, he abuses
not the system, but its innocent victim.
I confine my remarks to French, because that is the only language we
attempt to teach our youth. An English boy who could speak German would
be looked down upon as unpatriotic. Why we waste time in teaching even
French according to this method I have never been able to understand. A
perfect unacquaintance with a language is respectable. But putting aside
comic journalists and lady novelists, for whom it is a business
necessity, this smattering of French which we are so proud to possess
only serves to render us ridiculous.
In the German school the method is somewhat different. One hour every
day is devoted to the same language. The idea is not to give the lad
time between each lesson to forget what he learned at the last; the idea
is for him to get on. There is no comic foreigner provided for his
amusement. The desired language is taught by a German school-master who
knows it inside and out as thoroughly as he knows his own. Maybe this
system does not provide the German youth with that perfection of foreign
accent for which the British tourist is in every land remarkable, but it
has other advantages. The boy does not call his master "froggy," or
"sausage," nor prepare for the French or English hour any exhibition of
homely wit whatever. He just sits there, and for his own sake tries to
learn that foreign tongue with as little trouble to everybody concerned
as possible. When he has left school he can talk, not about penknives
and gardeners and aunts merely, but about European politics, history,
Shakespeare, or the musical glasses, according to the turn the
conversation may take.
Viewing the German people from an Anglo-Saxon standpoint, it may be that
in this book I shall find occasion to criticise them: but on the other
hand there is much that we might learn from them; and in the matter of
common sense, as applied to education, they can give us ninety-nine in a
hundred and beat us with one hand.
The beautiful wood of the Eilenriede bounds Hanover on the south and
west, and here occurred a sad drama in which Harris took a prominent
We were riding our machines through this wood on the Monday afternoon in
the company of many other cyclists, for it is a favourite resort with the
Hanoverians on a sunny afternoon, and its shady pathways are then filled
with happy, thoughtless folk. Among them rode a young and beautiful girl
on a machine that was new. She was evidently a novice on the bicycle.
One felt instinctively that there would come a moment when she would
require help, and Harris, with his accustomed chivalry, suggested we
should keep near her. Harris, as he occasionally explains to George and
to myself, has daughters of his own, or, to speak more correctly, a
daughter, who as the years progress will no doubt cease practising
catherine wheels in the front garden, and will grow up into a beautiful
and respectable young lady. This naturally gives Harris an interest in
all beautiful girls up to the age of thirty-five or thereabouts; they
remind him, so he says, of home.
We had ridden for about two miles, when we noticed, a little ahead of us
in a space where five ways met, a man with a hose, watering the roads.
The pipe, supported at each joint by a pair of tiny wheels, writhed after
him as he moved, suggesting a gigantic-worm, from whose open neck, as the
man, gripping it firmly in both hands, pointing it now this way, and now
that, now elevating it, now depressing it, poured a strong stream of
water at the rate of about a gallon a second.
"What a much better method than ours," observed Harris, enthusiastically.
Harris is inclined to be chronically severe on all British institutions.
"How much simpler, quicker, and more economical! You see, one man by
this method can in five minutes water a stretch of road that would take
us with our clumsy lumbering cart half an hour to cover."
George, who was riding behind me on the tandem, said, "Yes, and it is
also a method by which with a little carelessness a man could cover a
good many people in a good deal less time than they could get out of the
George, the opposite to Harris, is British to the core. I remember
George quite patriotically indignant with Harris once for suggesting the
introduction of the guillotine into England.
"It is so much neater," said Harris.
"I don't care if it is," said George; "I'm an Englishman; hanging is good
enough for me."
"Our water-cart may have its disadvantages," continued George, "but it
can only make you uncomfortable about the legs, and you can avoid it.
This is the sort of machine with which a man can follow you round the
corner and upstairs."
"It fascinates me to watch them," said Harris. "They are so skilful. I
have seen a man from the corner of a crowded square in Strassburg cover
every inch of ground, and not so much as wet an apron string. It is
marvellous how they judge their distance. They will send the water up to
your toes, and then bring it over your head so that it falls around your
heels. They can--"
"Ease up a minute," said George. I said: "Why?"
He said: "I am going to get off and watch the rest of this show from
behind a tree. There may be great performers in this line, as Harris
says; this particular artist appears to me to lack something. He has
just soused a dog, and now he's busy watering a sign-post. I am going to
wait till he has finished."
"Nonsense," said Harris; "he won't wet you."
"That is precisely what I am going to make sure of," answered George,
saying which he jumped off, and, taking up a position behind a remarkably
fine elm, pulled out and commenced filling his pipe.
I did not care to take the tandem on by myself, so I stepped off and
joined him, leaving the machine against a tree. Harris shouted something
or other about our being a disgrace to the land that gave us birth, and
The next moment I heard a woman's cry of distress. Glancing round the
stem of the tree, I perceived that it proceeded from the young and
elegant lady before mentioned, whom, in our interest concerning the road-
waterer, we had forgotten. She was riding her machine steadily and
straightly through a drenching shower of water from the hose. She
appeared to be too paralysed either to get off or turn her wheel aside.
Every instant she was becoming wetter, while the man with the hose, who
was either drunk or blind, continued to pour water upon her with utter
indifference. A dozen voices yelled imprecations upon him, but he took
no heed whatever.
Harris, his fatherly nature stirred to its depths, did at this point
what, under the circumstances, was quite the right and proper thing to
do. Had he acted throughout with the same coolness and judgment he then
displayed, he would have emerged from that incident the hero of the hour,
instead of, as happened, riding away followed by insult and threat.
Without a moment's hesitation he spurted at the man, sprang to the
ground, and, seizing the hose by the nozzle, attempted to wrest it away.
What he ought to have done, what any man retaining his common sense would
have done the moment he got his hands upon the thing, was to turn off the
tap. Then he might have played foot-ball with the man, or battledore and
shuttlecock as he pleased; and the twenty or thirty people who had rushed
forward to assist would have only applauded. His idea, however, as he
explained to us afterwards, was to take away the hose from the man, and,
for punishment, turn it upon the fool himself. The waterman's idea
appeared to be the same, namely, to retain the hose as a weapon with
which to soak Harris. Of course, the result was that, between them, they
soused every dead and living thing within fifty yards, except themselves.
One furious man, too drenched to care what more happened to him, leapt
into the arena and also took a hand. The three among them proceeded to
sweep the compass with that hose. They pointed it to heaven, and the
water descended upon the people in the form of an equinoctial storm. They
pointed it downwards, and sent the water in rushing streams that took
people off their feet, or caught them about the waist line, and doubled
Not one of them would loosen his grip upon the hose, not one of them
thought to turn the water off. You might have concluded they were
struggling with some primeval force of nature. In forty-five seconds, so
George said, who was timing it, they had swept that circus bare of every
living thing except one dog, who, dripping like a water nymph, rolled
over by the force of water, now on this side, now on that, still
gallantly staggered again and again to its feet to bark defiance at what
it evidently regarded as the powers of hell let loose.
Men and women left their machines upon the ground, and flew into the
woods. From behind every tree of importance peeped out wet, angry heads.
At last, there arrived upon the scene one man of sense. Braving all
things, he crept to the hydrant, where still stood the iron key, and
screwed it down. And then from forty trees began to creep more or less
soaked human beings, each one with something to say.
At first I fell to wondering whether a stretcher or a clothes basket
would be the more useful for the conveyance of Harris's remains back to
the hotel. I consider that George's promptness on that occasion saved
Harris's life. Being dry, and therefore able to run quicker, he was
there before the crowd. Harris was for explaining things, but George cut
"You get on that," said George, handing him his bicycle, "and go. They
don't know we belong to you, and you may trust us implicitly not to
reveal the secret. We'll hang about behind, and get in their way. Ride
zig-zag in case they shoot."
I wish this book to be a strict record of fact, unmarred by exaggeration,
and therefore I have shown my description of this incident to Harris,
lest anything beyond bald narrative may have crept into it. Harris
maintains it is exaggerated, but admits that one or two people may have
been "sprinkled." I have offered to turn a street hose on him at a
distance of five-and-twenty yards, and take his opinion afterwards, as to
whether "sprinkled" is the adequate term, but he has declined the test.
Again, he insists there could not have been more than half a dozen
people, at the outside, involved in the catastrophe, that forty is a
ridiculous misstatement. I have offered to return with him to Hanover
and make strict inquiry into the matter, and this offer he has likewise
declined. Under these circumstances, I maintain that mine is a true and
restrained narrative of an event that is, by a certain number of
Hanoverians, remembered with bitterness unto this very day.
We left Hanover that same evening, and arrived at Berlin in time for
supper and an evening stroll. Berlin is a disappointing town; its centre
over-crowded, its outlying parts lifeless; its one famous street, Unter
den Linden, an attempt to combine Oxford Street with the Champs Elysee,
singularly unimposing, being much too wide for its size; its theatres
dainty and charming, where acting is considered of more importance than
scenery or dress, where long runs are unknown, successful pieces being
played again and again, but never consecutively, so that for a week
running you may go to the same Berlin theatre, and see a fresh play every
night; its opera house unworthy of it; its two music halls, with an
unnecessary suggestion of vulgarity and commonness about them,
ill-arranged and much too large for comfort. In the Berlin cafes and
restaurants, the busy time is from midnight on till three. Yet most of
the people who frequent them are up again at seven. Either the Berliner
has solved the great problem of modern life, how to do without sleep, or,
with Carlyle, he must be looking forward to eternity.
Personally, I know of no other town where such late hours are the vogue,
except St. Petersburg. But your St. Petersburger does not get up early
in the morning. At St. Petersburg, the music halls, which it is the
fashionable thing to attend "after" the theatre--a drive to them taking
half an hour in a swift sleigh--do not practically begin till twelve.
Through the Neva at four o'clock in the morning you have to literally
push your way; and the favourite trains for travellers are those starting
about five o'clock in the morning. These trains save the Russian the
trouble of getting up early. He wishes his friends "Good-night," and
drives down to the station comfortably after supper, without putting the
house to any inconvenience.
Potsdam, the Versailles to Berlin, is a beautiful little town, situate
among lakes and woods. Here in the shady ways of its quiet,
far-stretching park of Sans Souci, it is easy to imagine lean, snuffy
Frederick "bummeling" with shrill Voltaire.
Acting on my advice, George and Harris consented not to stay long in
Berlin; but to push on to Dresden. Most that Berlin has to show can be
seen better elsewhere, and we decided to be content with a drive through
the town. The hotel porter introduced us to a droschke driver, under
whose guidance, so he assured us, we should see everything worth seeing
in the shortest possible time. The man himself, who called for us at
nine o'clock in the morning, was all that could be desired. He was
bright, intelligent, and well-informed; his German was easy to
understand, and he knew a little English with which to eke it out on
occasion. With the man himself there was no fault to be found, but his
horse was the most unsympathetic brute I have ever sat behind.
He took a dislike to us the moment he saw us. I was the first to come
out of the hotel. He turned his head, and looked me up and down with a
cold, glassy eye; and then he looked across at another horse, a friend of
his that was standing facing him. I knew what he said. He had an
expressive head, and he made no attempt to disguise his thought.
"Funny things one does come across in the summer time, don't one?"
George followed me out the next moment, and stood behind me. The horse
again turned his head and looked. I have never known a horse that could
twist himself as this horse did. I have seen a camelopard do trick's
with his neck that compelled one's attention, but this animal was more
like the thing one dreams of after a dusty days at Ascot, followed by a
dinner with six old chums. If I had seen his eyes looking at me from
between his own hind legs, I doubt if I should have been surprised. He
seemed more amused with George if anything, than with myself. He turned
to his friend again.
"Extraordinary, isn't it?" he remarked; "I suppose there must be some
place where they grow them"; and then he commenced licking flies off his
own left shoulder. I began to wonder whether he had lost his mother when
young, and had been brought up by a cat.
George and I climbed in, and sat waiting for Harris. He came a moment
later. Myself, I thought he looked rather neat. He wore a white flannel
knickerbocker suit, which he had had made specially for bicycling in hot
weather; his hat may have been a trifle out of the common, but it did
keep the sun off.
The horse gave one look at him, said "Gott in Himmel!" as plainly as ever
horse spoke, and started off down Friedrich Strasse at a brisk walk,
leaving Harris and the driver standing on the pavement. His owner called
to him to stop, but he took no notice. They ran after us, and overtook
us at the corner of the Dorotheen Strasse. I could not catch what the
man said to the horse, he spoke quickly and excitedly; but I gathered a
few phrases, such as:
"Got to earn my living somehow, haven't I? Who asked for your opinion?
Aye, little you care so long as you can guzzle."
The horse cut the conversation short by turning up the Dorotheen Strasse
on his own account. I think what he said was:
"Come on then; don't talk so much. Let's get the job over, and, where
possible, let's keep to the back streets."
Opposite the Brandenburger Thor our driver hitched the reins to the whip,
climbed down, and came round to explain things to us. He pointed out the
Thiergarten, and then descanted to us of the Reichstag House. He
informed us of its exact height, length, and breadth, after the manner of
guides. Then he turned his attention to the Gate. He said it was
constructed of sandstone, in imitation of the "Properleer" in Athens.
At this point the horse, which had been occupying its leisure licking its
own legs, turned round its head. It did not say anything, it just
The man began again nervously. This time he said it was an imitation of
Here the horse proceeded up the Linden, and nothing would persuade him
not to proceed up the Linden. His owner expostulated with him, but he
continued to trot on. From the way he hitched his shoulders as he moved,
I somehow felt he was saying:
"They've seen the Gate, haven't they? Very well, that's enough. As for
the rest, you don't know what you are talking about, and they wouldn't
understand you if you did. You talk German."
It was the same throughout the length of the Linden. The horse consented
to stand still sufficiently long to enable us to have a good look at each
sight, and to hear the name of it. All explanation and description he
cut short by the simple process of moving on.
"What these fellows want," he seemed to say to himself, "is to go home
and tell people they have seen these things. If I am doing them an
injustice, if they are more intelligent than they look, they can get
better information than this old fool of mine is giving them from the
guide book. Who wants to know how high a steeple is? You don't remember
it the next five minutes when you are told, and if you do it is because
you have got nothing else in your head. He just tires me with his talk.
Why doesn't he hurry up, and let us all get home to lunch?"
Upon reflection, I am not sure that wall-eyed old brute had not sense on
its side. Anyhow, I know there have been occasions, with a guide, when I
would have been glad of its interference.
But one is apt to "sin one's mercies," as the Scotch say, and at the time
we cursed that horse instead of blessing it.
George wonders--German love of order--"The Band of the Schwarzwald
Blackbirds will perform at seven"--The china dog--Its superiority over
all other dogs--The German and the solar system--A tidy country--The
mountain valley as it ought to be, according to the German idea--How the
waters come down in Germany--The scandal of Dresden--Harris gives an
entertainment--It is unappreciated--George and the aunt of him--George, a
cushion, and three damsels.
At a point between Berlin and Dresden, George, who had, for the last
quarter of an hour or so, been looking very attentively out of the
"Why, in Germany, is it the custom to put the letter-box up a tree? Why
do they not fix it to the front door as we do? I should hate having to
climb up a tree to get my letters. Besides, it is not fair to the
postman. In addition to being most exhausting, the delivery of letters
must to a heavy man, on windy nights, be positively dangerous work. If
they will fix it to a tree, why not fix it lower down, why always among
the topmost branches? But, maybe, I am misjudging the country," he
continued, a new idea occurring to him. "Possibly the Germans, who are
in many matters ahead of us, have perfected a pigeon post. Even so, I
cannot help thinking they would have been wiser to train the birds, while
they were about it, to deliver the letters nearer the ground. Getting
your letters out of those boxes must be tricky work even to the average
I followed his gaze out of window. I said:
"Those are not letter-boxes, they are birds' nests. You must understand
this nation. The German loves birds, but he likes tidy birds. A bird
left to himself builds his nest just anywhere. It is not a pretty
object, according to the German notion of prettiness. There is not a bit
of paint on it anywhere, not a plaster image all round, not even a flag.
The nest finished, the bird proceeds to live outside it. He drops things
on the grass; twigs, ends of worms, all sorts of things. He is
indelicate. He makes love, quarrels with his wife, and feeds the
children quite in public. The German householder is shocked. He says to
"'For many things I like you. I like to look at you. I like to hear you
sing. But I don't like your ways. Take this little box, and put your
rubbish inside where I can't see it. Come out when you want to sing; but
let your domestic arrangements be confined to the interior. Keep to the
box, and don't make the garden untidy.'"
In Germany one breathes in love of order with the air, in Germany the
babies beat time with their rattles, and the German bird has come to
prefer the box, and to regard with contempt the few uncivilised outcasts
who continue to build their nests in trees and hedges. In course of time
every German bird, one is confident, will have his proper place in a full
chorus. This promiscuous and desultory warbling of his must, one feels,
be irritating to the precise German mind; there is no method in it. The
music-loving German will organise him. Some stout bird with a specially
well-developed crop will be trained to conduct him, and, instead of
wasting himself in a wood at four o'clock in the morning, he will, at the
advertised time, sing in a beer garden, accompanied by a piano. Things
are drifting that way.
Your German likes nature, but his idea of nature is a glorified Welsh
Harp. He takes great interest in his garden. He plants seven rose trees
on the north side and seven on the south, and if they do not grow up all
the same size and shape it worries him so that he cannot sleep of nights.
Every flower he ties to a stick. This interferes with his view of the
flower, but he has the satisfaction of knowing it is there, and that it
is behaving itself. The lake is lined with zinc, and once a week he
takes it up, carries it into the kitchen, and scours it. In the
geometrical centre of the grass plot, which is sometimes as large as a
tablecloth and is generally railed round, he places a china dog. The
Germans are very fond of dogs, but as a rule they prefer them of china.
The china dog never digs holes in the lawn to bury bones, and never
scatters a flower-bed to the winds with his hind legs. From the German
point of view, he is the ideal dog. He stops where you put him, and he
is never where you do not want him. You can have him perfect in all
points, according to the latest requirements of the Kennel Club; or you
can indulge your own fancy and have something unique. You are not, as
with other dogs, limited to breed. In china, you can have a blue dog or
a pink dog. For a little extra, you can have a double-headed dog.
On a certain fixed date in the autumn the German stakes his flowers and
bushes to the earth, and covers them with Chinese matting; and on a
certain fixed date in the spring he uncovers them, and stands them up
again. If it happens to be an exceptionally fine autumn, or an
exceptionally late spring, so much the worse for the unfortunate
vegetable. No true German would allow his arrangements to be interfered
with by so unruly a thing as the solar system. Unable to regulate the
weather, he ignores it.
Among trees, your German's favourite is the poplar. Other disorderly
nations may sing the charms of the rugged oak, the spreading chestnut, or
the waving elm. To the German all such, with their wilful, untidy ways,
are eyesores. The poplar grows where it is planted, and how it is
planted. It has no improper rugged ideas of its own. It does not want
to wave or to spread itself. It just grows straight and upright as a
German tree should grow; and so gradually the German is rooting out all
other trees, and replacing them with poplars.
Your German likes the country, but he prefers it as the lady thought she
would the noble savage--more dressed. He likes his walk through the
wood--to a restaurant. But the pathway must not be too steep, it must
have a brick gutter running down one side of it to drain it, and every
twenty yards or so it must have its seat on which he can rest and mop his
brow; for your German would no more think of sitting on the grass than
would an English bishop dream of rolling down One Tree Hill. He likes
his view from the summit of the hill, but he likes to find there a stone
tablet telling him what to look at, find a table and bench at which he
can sit to partake of the frugal beer and "belegte Semmel" he has been
careful to bring with him. If, in addition, he can find a police notice
posted on a tree, forbidding him to do something or other, that gives him
an extra sense of comfort and security.
Your German is not averse even to wild scenery, provided it be not too
wild. But if he consider it too savage, he sets to work to tame it. I
remember, in the neighbourhood of Dresden, discovering a picturesque and
narrow valley leading down towards the Elbe. The winding roadway ran
beside a mountain torrent, which for a mile or so fretted and foamed over
rocks and boulders between wood-covered banks. I followed it enchanted
until, turning a corner, I suddenly came across a gang of eighty or a
hundred workmen. They were busy tidying up that valley, and making that
stream respectable. All the stones that were impeding the course of the
water they were carefully picking out and carting away. The bank on
either side they were bricking up and cementing. The overhanging trees
and bushes, the tangled vines and creepers they were rooting up and
trimming down. A little further I came upon the finished work--the
mountain valley as it ought to be, according to German ideas. The water,
now a broad, sluggish stream, flowed over a level, gravelly bed, between
two walls crowned with stone coping. At every hundred yards it gently
descended down three shallow wooden platforms. For a space on either
side the ground had been cleared, and at regular intervals young poplars
planted. Each sapling was protected by a shield of wickerwork and bossed
by an iron rod. In the course of a couple of years it is the hope of the
local council to have "finished" that valley throughout its entire
length, and made it fit for a tidy-minded lover of German nature to walk
in. There will be a seat every fifty yards, a police notice every
hundred, and a restaurant every half-mile.
They are doing the same from the Memel to the Rhine. They are just
tidying up the country. I remember well the Wehrthal. It was once the
most romantic ravine to be found in the Black Forest. The last time I
walked down it some hundreds of Italian workmen were encamped there hard
at work, training the wild little Wehr the way it should go, bricking the
banks for it here, blasting the rocks for it there, making cement steps
for it down which it can travel soberly and without fuss.
For in Germany there is no nonsense talked about untrammelled nature. In
Germany nature has got to behave herself, and not set a bad example to
the children. A German poet, noticing waters coming down as Southey
describes, somewhat inexactly, the waters coming down at Lodore, would be
too shocked to stop and write alliterative verse about them. He would
hurry away, and at once report them to the police. Then their foaming
and their shrieking would be of short duration.
"Now then, now then, what's all this about?" the voice of German
authority would say severely to the waters. "We can't have this sort of
thing, you know. Come down quietly, can't you? Where do you think you
And the local German council would provide those waters with zinc pipes
and wooden troughs, and a corkscrew staircase, and show them how to come
down sensibly, in the German manner.
It is a tidy land is Germany.
We reached Dresden on the Wednesday evening, and stayed there over the
Taking one consideration with another, Dresden, perhaps, is the most
attractive town in Germany; but it is a place to be lived in for a while
rather than visited. Its museums and galleries, its palaces and gardens,
its beautiful and historically rich environment, provide pleasure for a
winter, but bewilder for a week. It has not the gaiety of Paris or
Vienna, which quickly palls; its charms are more solidly German, and more
lasting. It is the Mecca of the musician. For five shillings, in
Dresden, you can purchase a stall at the opera house, together,
unfortunately, with a strong disinclination ever again to take the
trouble of sitting out a performance in any English, French, or, American
The chief scandal of Dresden still centres round August the Strong, "the
Man of Sin," as Carlyle always called him, who is popularly reputed to
have cursed Europe with over a thousand children. Castles where he
imprisoned this discarded mistress or that--one of them, who persisted in
her claim to a better title, for forty years, it is said, poor lady! The
narrow rooms where she ate her heart out and died are still shown.
Chateaux, shameful for this deed of infamy or that, lie scattered round
the neighbourhood like bones about a battlefield; and most of your
guide's stories are such as the "young person" educated in Germany had
best not hear. His life-sized portrait hangs in the fine Zwinger, which
he built as an arena for his wild beast fights when the people grew tired
of them in the market-place; a beetle-browed, frankly animal man, but
with the culture and taste that so often wait upon animalism. Modern
Dresden undoubtedly owes much to him.
But what the stranger in Dresden stares at most is, perhaps, its electric
trams. These huge vehicles flash through the streets at from ten to
twenty miles an hour, taking curves and corners after the manner of an
Irish car driver. Everybody travels by them, excepting only officers in
uniform, who must not. Ladies in evening dress, going to ball or opera,
porters with their baskets, sit side by side. They are all-important in
the streets, and everything and everybody makes haste to get out of their
way. If you do not get out of their way, and you still happen to be
alive when picked up, then on your recovery you are fined for having been
in their way. This teaches you to be wary of them.
One afternoon Harris took a "bummel" by himself. In the evening, as we
sat listening to the band at the Belvedere, Harris said, "a propos" of
nothing in particular, "These Germans have no sense of humour."
"What makes you think that?" I asked.
"Why, this afternoon," he answered, "I jumped on one of those electric
tramcars. I wanted to see the town, so I stood outside on the little
platform--what do you call it?"
"The Stehplatz," I suggested.
"That's it," said Harris. "Well, you know the way they shake you about,
and how you have to look out for the corners, and mind yourself when they
stop and when they start?"
"There were about half a dozen of us standing there," he continued, "and,
of course, I am not experienced. The thing started suddenly, and that
jerked me backwards. I fell against a stout gentleman, just behind me.
He could not have been standing very firmly himself, and he, in his turn,
fell back against a boy who was carrying a trumpet in a green baize case.
They never smiled, neither the man nor the boy with the trumpet; they
just stood there and looked sulky. I was going to say I was sorry, but
before I could get the words out the tram eased up, for some reason or
other, and that, of course, shot me forward again, and I butted into a
white-haired old chap, who looked to me like a professor. Well, "he"
never smiled, never moved a muscle."
"Maybe, he was thinking of something else," I suggested.
"That could not have been the case with them all," replied Harris, "and
in the course of that journey, I must have fallen against every one of
them at least three times. You see," explained Harris, "they knew when
the corners were coming, and in which direction to brace themselves. I,
as a stranger, was naturally at a disadvantage. The way I rolled and
staggered about that platform, clutching wildly now at this man and now
at that, must have been really comic. I don't say it was high-class
humour, but it would have amused most people. Those Germans seemed to
see no fun in it whatever--just seemed anxious, that was all. There was
one man, a little man, who stood with his back against the brake; I fell
against him five times, I counted them. You would have expected the
fifth time would have dragged a laugh out of him, but it didn't; he
merely looked tired. They are a dull lot."
George also had an adventure at Dresden. There was a shop near the
Altmarkt, in the window of which were exhibited some cushions for sale.
The proper business of the shop was handling of glass and china; the
cushions appeared to be in the nature of an experiment. They were very
beautiful cushions, hand-embroidered on satin. We often passed the shop,
and every time George paused and examined those cushions. He said he
thought his aunt would like one.
George has been very attentive to this aunt of his during the journey. He
has written her quite a long letter every day, and from every town we
stop at he sends her off a present. To my mind, he is overdoing the
business, and more than once I have expostulated with him. His aunt will
be meeting other aunts, and talking to them; the whole class will become
disorganised and unruly. As a nephew, I object to the impossible
standard that George is setting up. But he will not listen.
Therefore it was that on the Saturday he left us after lunch, saying he
would go round to that shop and get one of those cushions for his aunt.
He said he would not be long, and suggested our waiting for him.
We waited for what seemed to me rather a long time. When he rejoined us
he was empty handed, and looked worried. We asked him where his cushion
was. He said he hadn't got a cushion, said he had changed his mind, said
he didn't think his aunt would care for a cushion. Evidently something
was amiss. We tried to get at the bottom of it, but he was not
communicative. Indeed, his answers after our twentieth question or
thereabouts became quite short.
In the evening, however, when he and I happened to be alone, he broached
the subject himself. He said:
"They are somewhat peculiar in some things, these Germans."
I said: "What has happened?"
"Well," he answered, "there was that cushion I wanted."
"For your aunt," I remarked.
"Why not?" he returned. He was huffy in a moment; I never knew a man so
touchy about an aunt. "Why shouldn't I send a cushion to my aunt?"
"Don't get excited," I replied. "I am not objecting; I respect you for
He recovered his temper, and went on:
"There were four in the window, if you remember, all very much alike, and
each one labelled in plain figures twenty marks. I don't pretend to
speak German fluently, but I can generally make myself understood with a
little effort, and gather the sense of what is said to me, provided they
don't gabble. I went into the shop. A young girl came up to me; she was
a pretty, quiet little soul, one might almost say, demure; not at all the
sort of girl from whom you would have expected such a thing. I was never
more surprised in all my life."
"Surprised about what?" I said.
George always assumes you know the end of the story while he is telling
you the beginning; it is an annoying method.
"At what happened," replied George; "at what I am telling you. She
smiled and asked me what I wanted. I understood that all right; there
could have been no mistake about that. I put down a twenty mark piece on
the counter and said:
"Please give me a cushion."
"She stared at me as if I had asked for a feather bed. I thought, maybe,
she had not heard, so I repeated it louder. If I had chucked her under
the chin she could not have looked more surprised or indignant.
"She said she thought I must be making a mistake.
"I did not want to begin a long conversation and find myself stranded. I
said there was no mistake. I pointed to my twenty mark piece, and
repeated for the third time that I wanted a cushion, 'a twenty mark
"Another girl came up, an elder girl; and the first girl repeated to her
what I had just said: she seemed quite excited about it. The second girl
did not believe her--did not think I looked the sort of man who would
want a cushion. To make sure, she put the question to me herself.
"'Did you say you wanted a cushion?' she asked.
"'I have said it three times,' I answered. 'I will say it again--I want
"She said: 'Then you can't have one.'
"I was getting angry by this time. If I hadn't really wanted the thing I
should have walked out of the shop; but there the cushions were in the
window, evidently for sale. I didn't see "why" I couldn't have one.
"I said: 'I will have one!' It is a simple sentence. I said it with
"A third girl came up at this point, the three representing, I fancy, the
whole force of the shop. She was a bright-eyed, saucy-looking little
wench, this last one. On any other occasion I might have been pleased to
see her; now, her coming only irritated me. I didn't see the need of
three girls for this business.
"The first two girls started explaining the thing to the third girl, and
before they were half-way through the third girl began to giggle--she was
the sort of girl who would giggle at anything. That done, they fell to
chattering like Jenny Wrens, all three together; and between every half-
dozen words they looked across at me; and the more they looked at me the
more the third girl giggled; and before they had finished they were all
three giggling, the little idiots; you might have thought I was a clown,
giving a private performance.
"When she was steady enough to move, the third girl came up to me; she
was still giggling. She said:
"'If you get it, will you go?'
"I did not quite understand her at first, and she repeated it.
"'This cushion. When you've got it, will you go--away--at once?'
"I was only too anxious to go. I told her so. But, I added I was not
going without it. I had made up my mind to have that cushion now if I
stopped in the shop all night for it.
"She rejoined the other two girls. I thought they were going to get me
the cushion and have done with the business. Instead of that, the
strangest thing possible happened. The two other girls got behind the
first girl, all three still giggling, Heaven knows what about, and pushed
her towards me. They pushed her close up to me, and then, before I knew
what was happening, she put her hands on my shoulders, stood up on
tiptoe, and kissed me. After which, burying her face in her apron, she
ran off, followed by the second girl. The third girl opened the door for
me, and so evidently expected me to go, that in my confusion I went,
leaving my twenty marks behind me. I don't say I minded the kiss, though
I did not particularly want it, while I did want the cushion. I don't
like to go back to the shop. I cannot understand the thing at all."
I said: "What did you ask for?"
He said: "A cushion"
I said: "That is what you wanted, I know. What I mean is, what was the
actual German word you said."
He replied: "A kuss."
I said: "You have nothing to complain of. It is somewhat confusing. A
'kuss' sounds as if it ought to be a cushion, but it is not; it is a
kiss, while a 'kissen' is a cushion. You muddled up the two words--people
have done it before. I don't know much about this sort of thing myself;
but you asked for a twenty mark kiss, and from your description of the
girl some people might consider the price reasonable. Anyhow, I should
not tell Harris. If I remember rightly, he also has an aunt."
George agreed with me it would be better not.
Mr. and Miss Jones, of Manchester--The benefits of cocoa--A hint to the
Peace Society--The window as a mediaeval argument--The favourite
Christian recreation--The language of the guide--How to repair the
ravages of time--George tries a bottle--The fate of the German beer
drinker--Harris and I resolve to do a good action--The usual sort of
statue--Harris and his friends--A pepperless Paradise--Women and towns.
We were on our way to Prague, and were waiting in the great hall of the
Dresden Station until such time as the powers-that-be should permit us on
to the platform. George, who had wandered to the bookstall, returned to
us with a wild look in his eyes. He said:
"I've seen it."
I said, "Seen what?"
He was too excited to answer intelligently. He said
"It's here. It's coming this way, both of them. If you wait, you'll see
it for yourselves. I'm not joking; it's the real thing."
As is usual about this period, some paragraphs, more or less serious, had
been appearing in the papers concerning the sea-serpent, and I thought
for the moment he must be referring to this. A moment's reflection,
however, told me that here, in the middle of Europe, three hundred miles
from the coast, such a thing was impossible. Before I could question him
further, he seized me by the arm.
"Look!" he said; "now am I exaggerating?"
I turned my head and saw what, I suppose, few living Englishmen have ever
seen before--the travelling Britisher according to the Continental idea,
accompanied by his daughter. They were coming towards us in the flesh
and blood, unless we were dreaming, alive and concrete--the English
"Milor" and the English "Mees," as for generations they have been
portrayed in the Continental comic press and upon the Continental stage.
They were perfect in every detail. The man was tall and thin, with sandy
hair, a huge nose, and long Dundreary whiskers. Over a pepper-and-salt
suit he wore a light overcoat, reaching almost to his heels. His white
helmet was ornamented with a green veil; a pair of opera-glasses hung at
his side, and in his lavender-gloved hand he carried an alpenstock a
little taller than himself. His daughter was long and angular. Her
dress I cannot describe: my grandfather, poor gentleman, might have been
able to do so; it would have been more familiar to him. I can only say
that it appeared to me unnecessarily short, exhibiting a pair of
ankles--if I may be permitted to refer to such points--that, from an
artistic point of view, called rather for concealment. Her hat made me
think of Mrs. Hemans; but why I cannot explain. She wore side-spring
boots--"prunella," I believe, used to be the trade name--mittens, and
pince-nez. She also carried an alpenstock (there is not a mountain
within a hundred miles of Dresden) and a black bag strapped to her waist.
Her teeth stuck out like a rabbit's, and her figure was that of a bolster
Harris rushed for his camera, and of course could not find it; he never
can when he wants it. Whenever we see Harris scuttling up and down like
a lost dog, shouting, "Where's my camera? What the dickens have I done
with my camera? Don't either of you remember where I put my
camera?"--then we know that for the first time that day he has come
across something worth photographing. Later on, he remembered it was in
his bag; that is where it would be on an occasion like this.
They were not content with appearance; they acted the thing to the
letter. They walked gaping round them at every step. The gentleman had
an open Baedeker in his hand, and the lady carried a phrase book. They
talked French that nobody could understand, and German that they could
not translate themselves! The man poked at officials with his alpenstock
to attract their attention, and the lady, her eye catching sight of an
advertisement of somebody's cocoa, said "Shocking!" and turned the other
Really, there was some excuse for her. One notices, even in England, the
home of the proprieties, that the lady who drinks cocoa appears,
according to the poster, to require very little else in this world; a
yard or so of art muslin at the most. On the Continent she dispenses, so
far as one can judge, with every other necessity of life. Not only is
cocoa food and drink to her, it should be clothes also, according to the
idea of the cocoa manufacturer. But this by the way.
Of course, they immediately became the centre of attraction. By being
able to render them some slight assistance, I gained the advantage of
five minutes' conversation with them. They were very affable. The
gentleman told me his name was Jones, and that he came from Manchester,
but he did not seem to know what part of Manchester, or where Manchester
was. I asked him where he was going to, but he evidently did not know.
He said it depended. I asked him if he did not find an alpenstock a
clumsy thing to walk about with through a crowded town; he admitted that
occasionally it did get in the way. I asked him if he did not find a
veil interfere with his view of things; he explained that you only wore
it when the flies became troublesome. I enquired of the lady if she did
not find the wind blow cold; she said she had noticed it, especially at
the corners. I did not ask these questions one after another as I have
here put them down; I mixed them up with general conversation, and we
parted on good terms.
I have pondered much upon the apparition, and have come to a definite
opinion. A man I met later at Frankfort, and to whom I described the
pair, said he had seen them himself in Paris, three weeks after the
termination of the Fashoda incident; while a traveller for some English
steel works whom we met in Strassburg remembered having seen them in
Berlin during the excitement caused by the Transvaal question. My
conclusion is that they were actors out of work, hired to do this thing
in the interest of international peace. The French Foreign Office,
wishful to allay the anger of the Parisian mob clamouring for war with
England, secured this admirable couple and sent them round the town. You
cannot be amused at a thing, and at the same time want to kill it. The
French nation saw the English citizen and citizeness--no caricature, but
the living reality--and their indignation exploded in laughter. The
success of the stratagem prompted them later on to offer their services
to the German Government, with the beneficial results that we all know.
Our own Government might learn the lesson. It might be as well to keep
near Downing Street a few small, fat Frenchmen, to be sent round the
country when occasion called for it, shrugging their shoulders and eating
frog sandwiches; or a file of untidy, lank-haired Germans might be
retained, to walk about, smoking long pipes, saying "So." The public
would laugh and exclaim, "War with such? It would be too absurd."
Failing the Government, I recommend the scheme to the Peace Society.
Our visit to Prague we were compelled to lengthen somewhat. Prague is
one of the most interesting towns in Europe. Its stones are saturated
with history and romance; its every suburb must have been a battlefield.
It is the town that conceived the Reformation and hatched the Thirty
Years' War. But half Prague's troubles, one imagines, might have been
saved to it, had it possessed windows less large and temptingly
convenient. The first of these mighty catastrophes it set rolling by
throwing the seven Catholic councillors from the windows of its Rathhaus
on to the pikes of the Hussites below. Later, it gave the signal for the
second by again throwing the Imperial councillors from the windows of the
old Burg in the Hradschin--Prague's second "Fenstersturz." Since, other
fateful questions have been decide in Prague, one assumes from their
having been concluded without violence that such must have been discussed
in cellars. The window, as an argument, one feels, would always have
proved too strong a temptation to any true-born Praguer.
In the Teynkirche stands the worm-eaten pulpit from which preached John
Huss. One may hear from the selfsame desk to-day the voice of a Papist
priest, while in far-off Constance a rude block of stone, half ivy
hidden, marks the spot where Huss and Jerome died burning at the stake.
History is fond of her little ironies. In this same Teynkirche lies
buried Tycho Brahe, the astronomer, who made the common mistake of
thinking the earth, with its eleven hundred creeds and one humanity, the
centre of the universe; but who otherwise observed the stars clearly.
Through Prague's dirty, palace-bordered alleys must have pressed often in
hot haste blind Ziska and open-minded Wallenstein--they have dubbed him
"The Hero" in Prague; and the town is honestly proud of having owned him
for citizen. In his gloomy palace in the Waldstein-Platz they show as a
sacred spot the cabinet where he prayed, and seem to have persuaded
themselves he really had a soul. Its steep, winding ways must have been
choked a dozen times, now by Sigismund's flying legions, followed by
fierce-killing Tarborites, and now by pale Protestants pursued by the
victorious Catholics of Maximilian. Now Saxons, now Bavarians, and now
French; now the saints of Gustavus Adolphus, and now the steel fighting
machines of Frederick the Great, have thundered at its gates and fought
upon its bridges.
The Jews have always been an important feature of Prague. Occasionally
they have assisted the Christians in their favourite occupation of
slaughtering one another, and the great flag suspended from the vaulting
of the Altneuschule testifies to the courage with which they helped
Catholic Ferdinand to resist the Protestant Swedes. The Prague Ghetto
was one of the first to be established in Europe, and in the tiny
synagogue, still standing, the Jew of Prague has worshipped for eight
hundred years, his women folk devoutly listening, without, at the ear
holes provided for them in the massive walls. A Jewish cemetery
adjacent, "Bethchajim, or the House of Life," seems as though it were
bursting with its dead. Within its narrow acre it was the law of
centuries that here or nowhere must the bones of Israel rest. So the
worn and broken tombstones lie piled in close confusion, as though tossed
and tumbled by the struggling host beneath.
The Ghetto walls have long been levelled, but the living Jews of Prague
still cling to their foetid lanes, though these are being rapidly
replaced by fine new streets that promise to eventually transform this
quarter into the handsomest part of the town.
At Dresden they advised us not to talk German in Prague. For years
racial animosity between the German minority and the Czech majority has
raged throughout Bohemia, and to be mistaken for a German in certain
streets of Prague is inconvenient to a man whose staying powers in a race
are not what once they were. However, we did talk German in certain
streets in Prague; it was a case of talking German or nothing. The Czech
dialect is said to be of great antiquity and of highly scientific
cultivation. Its alphabet contains forty-two letters, suggestive to a
stranger of Chinese. It is not a language to be picked up in a hurry. We
decided that on the whole there would be less risk to our constitution in
keeping to German, and as a matter of fact no harm came to us. The
explanation I can only surmise. The Praguer is an exceedingly acute
person; some subtle falsity of accent, some slight grammatical
inaccuracy, may have crept into our German, revealing to him the fact
that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, we were no true-born
Deutscher. I do not assert this; I put it forward as a possibility.
To avoid unnecessary danger, however, we did our sight-seeing with the
aid of a guide. No guide I have ever come across is perfect. This one
had two distinct failings. His English was decidedly weak. Indeed, it
was not English at all. I do not know what you would call it. It was
not altogether his fault; he had learnt English from a Scotch lady. I
understand Scotch fairly well--to keep abreast of modern English
literature this is necessary,--but to understand broad Scotch talked with
a Sclavonic accent, occasionally relieved by German modifications, taxes
the intelligence. For the first hour it was difficult to rid one's self
of the conviction that the man was choking. Every moment we expected him
to die on our hands. In the course of the morning we grew accustomed to
him, and rid ourselves of the instinct to throw him on his back every
time he opened his mouth, and tear his clothes from him. Later, we came
to understand a part of what he said, and this led to the discovery of
his second failing.
It would seem he had lately invented a hair-restorer, which he had
persuaded a local chemist to take up and advertise. Half his time he had
been pointing out to us, not the beauties of Prague, but the benefits
likely to accrue to the human race from the use of this concoction; and
the conventional agreement with which, under the impression he was waxing
eloquent concerning views and architecture, we had met his enthusiasm he
had attributed to sympathetic interest in this wretched wash of his.
The result was that now there was no keeping him away from the subject.
Ruined palaces and crumbling churches he dismissed with curt reference as
mere frivolities, encouraging a morbid taste for the decadent. His duty,
as he saw it, was not to lead us to dwell upon the ravages of time, but
rather to direct our attention to the means of repairing them. What had
we to do with broken-headed heroes, or bald-headed saints? Our interest
should be surely in the living world; in the maidens with their flowing
tresses, or the flowing tresses they might have, by judicious use of
"Kophkeo," in the young men with their fierce moustaches--as pictured on
Unconsciously, in his own mind, he had divided the world into two
sections. The Past ("Before Use"), a sickly, disagreeable-looking,
uninteresting world. The Future ("After Use") a fat, jolly, God-bless-
everybody sort of world; and this unfitted him as a guide to scenes of
He sent us each a bottle of the stuff to our hotel. It appeared that in
the early part of our converse with him we had, unwittingly, clamoured
for it. Personally, I can neither praise it nor condemn it. A long
series of disappointments has disheartened me; added to which a permanent
atmosphere of paraffin, however faint, is apt to cause remark, especially
in the case of a married man. Now, I never try even the sample.
I gave my bottle to George. He asked for it to send to a man he knew in
Leeds. I learnt later that Harris had given him his bottle also, to send
to the same man.
A suggestion of onions has clung to this tour since we left Prague.
George has noticed it himself. He attributes it to the prevalence of
garlic in European cooking.
It was in Prague that Harris and I did a kind and friendly thing to
George. We had noticed for some time past that George was getting too
fond of Pilsener beer. This German beer is an insidious drink,
especially in hot weather; but it does not do to imbibe too freely of it.
It does not get into your head, but after a time it spoils your waist. I
always say to myself on entering Germany:
"Now, I will drink no German beer. The white wine of the country, with a
little soda-water; perhaps occasionally a glass of Ems or potash. But
beer, never--or, at all events, hardly ever."
It is a good and useful resolution, which I recommend to all travellers.
I only wish I could keep to it myself. George, although I urged him,
refused to bind himself by any such hard and fast limit. He said that in
moderation German beer was good.
"One glass in the morning," said George, "one in the evening, or even
two. That will do no harm to anyone."
Maybe he was right. It was his half-dozen glasses that troubled Harris
"We ought to do something to stop it," said Harris; "it is becoming
"It's hereditary, so he has explained to me," I answered. "It seems his
family have always been thirsty."
"There is Apollinaris water," replied Harris, "which, I believe, with a
little lemon squeezed into it, is practically harmless. What I am
thinking about is his figure. He will lose all his natural elegance."
We talked the matter over, and, Providence aiding us, we fixed upon a
plan. For the ornamentation of the town a new statue had just been cast.
I forget of whom it was a statue. I only remember that in the essentials
it was the usual sort of street statue, representing the usual sort of
gentleman, with the usual stiff neck, riding the usual sort of horse--the
horse that always walks on its hind legs, keeping its front paws for
beating time. But in detail it possessed individuality. Instead of the
usual sword or baton, the man was holding, stretched out in his hand, his
own plumed hat; and the horse, instead of the usual waterfall for a tail,
possessed a somewhat attenuated appendage that somehow appeared out of
keeping with his ostentatious behaviour. One felt that a horse with a
tail like that would not have pranced so much.
It stood in a small square not far from the further end of the
Karlsbrucke, but it stood there only temporarily. Before deciding
finally where to fix it, the town authorities had resolved, very
sensibly, to judge by practical test where it would look best.
Accordingly, they had made three rough copies of the statue--mere wooden
profiles, things that would not bear looking at closely, but which,
viewed from a little distance, produced all the effect that was
necessary. One of these they had set up at the approach to the Franz-
Josefsbrucke, a second stood in the open space behind the theatre, and
the third in the centre of the Wenzelsplatz.
"If George is not in the secret of this thing," said Harris--we were
walking by ourselves for an hour, he having remained behind in the hotel
to write a letter to his aunt,--"if he has not observed these statues,
then by their aid we will make a better and a thinner man of him, and
that this very evening."
So during dinner we sounded him, judiciously; and finding him ignorant of
the matter, we took him out, and led him by side-streets to the place
where stood the real statue. George was for looking at it and passing
on, as is his way with statues, but we insisted on his pulling up and
viewing the thing conscientiously. We walked him round that statue four
times, and showed it to him from every possible point of view. I think,
on the whole, we rather bored him with the thing, but our object was to
impress it upon him. We told him the history of the man who rode upon
the horse, the name of the artist who had made the statue, how much it
weighed, how much it measured. We worked that statue into his system. By
the time we had done with him he knew more about that statue, for the
time being, than he knew about anything else. We soaked him in that
statue, and only let him go at last on the condition that he would come
again with us in the morning, when we could all see it better, and for
such purpose we saw to it that he made a note in his pocket-book of the
place where the statue stood.
Then we accompanied him to his favourite beer hall, and sat beside him,
telling him anecdotes of men who, unaccustomed to German beer, and
drinking too much of it, had gone mad and developed homicidal mania; of
men who had died young through drinking German beer; of lovers that
German beer had been the means of parting for ever from beautiful girls.
At ten o'clock we started to walk back to the hotel. It was a stormy-
looking night, with heavy clouds drifting over a light moon. Harris
"We won't go back the same way we came; we'll walk back by the river. It
is lovely in the moonlight."
Harris told a sad history, as we walked, about a man he once knew, who is
now in a home for harmless imbeciles. He said he recalled the story
because it was on just such another night as this that he was walking
with that man the very last time he ever saw the poor fellow. They were
strolling down the Thames Embankment, Harris said, and the man frightened
him then by persisting that he saw the statue of the Duke of Wellington
at the corner of Westminster Bridge, when, as everybody knows, it stands
It was at this exact instant that we came in sight of the first of these
wooden copies. It occupied the centre of a small, railed-in square a
little above us on the opposite side of the way. George suddenly stood
still and leant against the wall of the quay.
"What's the matter?" I said; "feeling giddy?"
He said: "I do, a little. Let's rest here a moment."
He stood there with his eyes glued to the thing.
He said, speaking huskily:
"Talking of statues, what always strikes me is how very much one statue
is like another statue."
Harris said: "I cannot agree with you there--pictures, if you like. Some
pictures are very like other pictures, but with a statue there is always
something distinctive. Take that statue we saw early in the evening,"
continued Harris, "before we went into the concert hall. It represented
a man sitting on a horse. In Prague you will see other statues of men on
horses, but nothing at all like that one."
"Yes they are," said George; "they are all alike. It's always the same
horse, and it's always the same man. They are all exactly alike. It's
idiotic nonsense to say they are not."
He appeared to be angry with Harris.
"What makes you think so?" I asked.
"What makes me think so?" retorted George, now turning upon me. "Why,
look at that damned thing over there!"
I said: "What damned thing?"
"Why, that thing," said George; "look at it! There is the same horse
with half a tail, standing on its hind legs; the same man without his
hat; the same--"
Harris said: "You are talking now about the statue we saw in the
"No, I'm not," replied George; "I'm talking about the statue over there."
"What statue?" said Harris.
George looked at Harris; but Harris is a man who might, with care, have
been a fair amateur actor. His face merely expressed friendly sorrow,
mingled with alarm. Next, George turned his gaze on me. I endeavoured,
so far as lay with me, to copy Harris's expression, adding to it on my
own account a touch of reproof.
"Will you have a cab?" I said as kindly as I could to George. "I'll run
and get one."
"What the devil do I want with a cab?" he answered, ungraciously. "Can't
you fellows understand a joke? It's like being out with a couple of
confounded old women," saying which, he started off across the bridge,
leaving us to follow.
"I am so glad that was only a joke of yours," said Harris, on our
overtaking him. "I knew a case of softening of the brain that began--"
"Oh, you're a silly ass!" said George, cutting him short; "you know
He was really most unpleasant in his manner.
We took him round by the riverside of the theatre. We told him it was
the shortest way, and, as a matter of fact, it was. In the open space
behind the theatre stood the second of these wooden apparitions. George
looked at it, and again stood still.
"What's the matter?" said Harris, kindly. "You are not ill, are you?"
"I don't believe this is the shortest way," said George.
"I assure you it is," persisted Harris.
"Well, I'm going the other," said George; and he turned and went, we, as
before, following him.
Along the Ferdinand Strasse Harris and I talked about private lunatic
asylums, which, Harris said, were not well managed in England. He said a
friend of his, a patient in a lunatic asylum--
George said, interrupting: "You appear to have a large number of friends
in lunatic asylums."
He said it in a most insulting tone, as though to imply that that is
where one would look for the majority of Harris's friends. But Harris
did not get angry; he merely replied, quite mildly:
"Well, it really is extraordinary, when one comes to think of it, how
many of them have gone that way sooner or later. I get quite nervous
At the corner of the Wenzelsplatz, Harris, who was a few steps ahead of
"It's a fine street, isn't it?" he said, sticking his hands in his
pockets, and gazing up at it admiringly.
George and I followed suit. Two hundred yards away from us, in its very
centre, was the third of these ghostly statues. I think it was the best
of the three--the most like, the most deceptive. It stood boldly
outlined against the wild sky: the horse on its hind legs, with its
curiously attenuated tail; the man bareheaded, pointing with his plumed
hat to the now entirely visible moon.
"I think, if you don't mind," said George--he spoke with almost a
pathetic ring in his voice, his aggressiveness had completely fallen from
him,--"that I will have that cab, if there's one handy."
"I thought you were looking queer," said Harris, kindly. "It's your
head, isn't it?"
"Perhaps it is," answered George.
"I have noticed it coining on," said Harris; "but I didn't like to say
anything to you. You fancy you see things, don't you?"
"No, no; it isn't that," replied George, rather quickly. "I don't know
what it is."
"I do," said Harris, solemnly, "and I'll tell you. It's this German beer
that you are drinking. I have known a case where a man--"
"Don't tell me about him just now," said George. "I dare say it's true,
but somehow I don't feel I want to hear about him."
"You are not used to it," said Harris.
"I shall give it up from to-night," said George. "I think you must be
right; it doesn't seem to agree with me."
We took him home, and saw him to bed. He was very gentle and quite
One evening later on, after a long day's ride, followed by a most
satisfactory dinner, we started him on a big cigar, and, removing things
from his reach, told him of this stratagem that for his good we had
"How many copies of that statue did you say we saw?" asked George, after
we had finished.
"Three," replied Harris.
"Only three?" said George. "Are you sure?"
"Positive," replied Harris. "Why?"
"Oh, nothing!" answered George.
But I don't think he quite believed Harris.
From Prague we travelled to Nuremberg, through Carlsbad. Good Germans,
when they die, go, they say, to Carlsbad, as good Americans to Paris.
This I doubt, seeing that it is a small place with no convenience for a
crowd. In Carlsbad, you rise at five, the fashionable hour for
promenade, when the band plays under the Colonnade, and the Sprudel is
filled with a packed throng over a mile long, being from six to eight in
the morning. Here you may hear more languages spoken than the Tower of
Babel could have echoed. Polish Jews and Russian princes, Chinese
mandarins and Turkish pashas, Norwegians looking as if they had stepped
out of Ibsen's plays, women from the Boulevards, Spanish grandees and
English countesses, mountaineers from Montenegro and millionaires from
Chicago, you will find every dozen yards. Every luxury in the world
Carlsbad provides for its visitors, with the one exception of pepper.
That you cannot get within five miles of the town for money; what you can
get there for love is not worth taking away. Pepper, to the liver
brigade that forms four-fifths of Carlsbad's customers, is poison; and,
prevention being better than cure, it is carefully kept out of the
neighbourhood. "Pepper parties" are formed in Carlsbad to journey to
some place without the boundary, and there indulge in pepper orgies.
Nuremberg, if one expects a town of mediaeval appearance, disappoints.
Quaint corners, picturesque glimpses, there are in plenty; but everywhere
they are surrounded and intruded upon by the modern, and even what is
ancient is not nearly so ancient as one thought it was. After all, a
town, like a woman, is only as old as it looks; and Nuremberg is still a
comfortable-looking dame, its age somewhat difficult to conceive under
its fresh paint and stucco in the blaze of the gas and the electric
light. Still, looking closely, you may see its wrinkled walls and grey
Harris breaks the law--The helpful man: The dangers that beset him--George
sets forth upon a career of crime--Those to whom Germany would come as a
boon and a blessing--The English Sinner: His disappointments--The German
Sinner: His exceptional advantages--What you may not do with your bed--An
inexpensive vice--The German dog: His simple goodness--The misbehaviour
of the beetle--A people that go the way they ought to go--The German
small boy: His love of legality--How to go astray with a perambulator--The
German student: His chastened wilfulness.
All three of us, by some means or another, managed, between Nuremberg and
the Black Forest, to get into trouble.
Harris led off at Stuttgart by insulting an official. Stuttgart is a
charming town, clean and bright, a smaller Dresden. It has the
additional attraction of containing little that one need to go out of
one's way to see: a medium-sized picture gallery, a small museum of
antiquities, and half a palace, and you are through with the entire thing
and can enjoy yourself. Harris did not know it was an official he was
insulting. He took it for a fireman (it looked like a fireman), and he
called it a "dummer Esel."
In German you are not permitted to call an official a "silly ass," but
undoubtedly this particular man was one. What had happened was this:
Harris in the Stadgarten, anxious to get out, and seeing a gate open
before him, had stepped over a wire into the street. Harris maintains he
never saw it, but undoubtedly there was hanging to the wire a notice,
"Durchgang Verboten!" The man, who was standing near the gates stopped
Harris, and pointed out to him this notice. Harris thanked him, and
passed on. The man came after him, and explained that treatment of the
matter in such off-hand way could not be allowed; what was necessary to
put the business right was that Harris should step back over the wire
into the garden. Harris pointed out to the man that the notice said
"going through forbidden," and that, therefore, by re-entering the garden
that way he would be infringing the law a second time. The man saw this
for himself, and suggested that to get over the difficulty Harris should
go back into the garden by the proper entrance, which was round the
corner, and afterwards immediately come out again by the same gate. Then
it was that Harris called the man a silly ass. That delayed us a day,
and cost Harris forty marks.
I followed suit at Carlsruhe, by stealing a bicycle. I did not mean to
steal the bicycle; I was merely trying to be useful. The train was on
the point of starting when I noticed, as I thought, Harris's bicycle
still in the goods van. No one was about to help me. I jumped into the
van and hauled it out, only just in time. Wheeling it down the platform
in triumph, I came across Harris's bicycle, standing against a wall
behind some milk-cans. The bicycle I had secured was not Harris's, but
some other man's.
It was an awkward situation. In England, I should have gone to the
stationmaster and explained my mistake. But in Germany they are not
content with your explaining a little matter of this sort to one man:
they take you round and get you to explain it to about half a dozen; and
if any one of the half dozen happens not to be handy, or not to have time
just then to listen to you, they have a habit of leaving you over for the
night to finish your explanation the next morning. I thought I would
just put the thing out of sight, and then, without making any fuss or
show, take a short walk. I found a wood shed, which seemed just the very
place, and was wheeling the bicycle into it when, unfortunately, a red-
hatted railway official, with the airs of a retired field-marshal, caught
sight of me and came up. He said:
"What are you doing with that bicycle?"
I said: "I am going to put it in this wood shed out of the way." I tried
to convey by my tone that I was performing a kind and thoughtful action,
for which the railway officials ought to thank me; but he was
"Is it your bicycle?" he said.
"Well, not exactly," I replied.
"Whose is it?" he asked, quite sharply.
"I can't tell you," I answered. "I don't know whose bicycle it is."
"Where did you get it from?" was his next question. There was a
suspiciousness about his tone that was almost insulting.
"I got it," I answered, with as much calm dignity as at the moment I
could assume, "out of the train."
"The fact is," I continued, frankly, "I have made a mistake."
He did not allow me time to finish. He merely said he thought so too,
and blew a whistle.
Recollection of the subsequent proceedings is not, so far as I am
concerned, amusing. By a miracle of good luck--they say Providence
watches over certain of us--the incident happened in Carlsruhe, where I
possess a German friend, an official of some importance. Upon what would
have been my fate had the station not been at Carlsruhe, or had my friend
been from home, I do not care to dwell; as it was I got off, as the
saying is, by the skin of my teeth. I should like to add that I left
Carlsruhe without a stain upon my character, but that would not be the
truth. My going scot free is regarded in police circles there to this
day as a grave miscarriage of justice.
But all lesser sin sinks into insignificance beside the lawlessness of
George. The bicycle incident had thrown us all into confusion, with the
result that we lost George altogether. It transpired subsequently that
he was waiting for us outside the police court; but this at the time we
did not know. We thought, maybe, he had gone on to Baden by himself; and
anxious to get away from Carlsruhe, and not, perhaps, thinking out things
too clearly, we jumped into the next train that came up and proceeded
thither. When George, tired of waiting, returned to the station, he
found us gone and he found his luggage gone. Harris had his ticket; I
was acting as banker to the party, so that he had in his pocket only some
small change. Excusing himself upon these grounds, he thereupon
commenced deliberately a career of crime that, reading it later, as set
forth baldly in the official summons, made the hair of Harris and myself
almost to stand on end.
German travelling, it may be explained, is somewhat complicated. You buy
a ticket at the station you start from for the place you want to go to.
You might think this would enable you to get there, but it does not. When
your train comes up, you attempt to swarm into it; but the guard
magnificently waves you away. Where are your credentials? You show him
your ticket. He explains to you that by itself that is of no service
whatever; you have only taken the first step towards travelling; you must
go back to the booking-office and get in addition what is called a
"schnellzug ticket." With this you return, thinking your troubles over.
You are allowed to get in, so far so good. But you must not sit down
anywhere, and you must not stand still, and you must not wander about.
You must take another ticket, this time what is called a "platz ticket,"
which entitles you to a place for a certain distance.
What a man could do who persisted in taking nothing but the one ticket, I
have often wondered. Would he be entitled to run behind the train on the
six-foot way? Or could he stick a label on himself and get into the
goods van? Again, what could be done with the man who, having taken his
schnellzug ticket, obstinately refused, or had not the money to take a
platz ticket: would they let him lie in the umbrella rack, or allow him
to hang himself out of the window?
To return to George, he had just sufficient money to take a third-class
slow train ticket to Baden, and that was all. To avoid the
inquisitiveness of the guard, he waited till the train was moving, and
then jumped in.
That was his first sin:
(a) Entering a train in motion;
(b) After being warned not to do so by an official.
(a) Travelling in train of superior class to that for which ticket was
(b) Refusing to pay difference when demanded by an official. (George
says he did not "refuse"; he simply told the man he had not got it.)
(a) Travelling in carriage of superior class to that for which ticket
(b) Refusing to pay difference when demanded by an official. (Again
George disputes the accuracy of the report. He turned his pockets out,
and offered the man all he had, which was about eightpence in German
money. He offered to go into a third class, but there was no third
class. He offered to go into the goods van, but they would not hear of
(a) Occupying seat, and not paying for same.
(b) Loitering about corridor. (As they would not let him sit down
without paying, and as he could not pay, it was difficult to see what
else he could do.)
But explanations are held as no excuse in Germany; and his journey from
Carlsruhe to Baden was one of the most expensive perhaps on record.
Reflecting upon the case and frequency with which one gets into trouble
here in Germany, one is led to the conclusion that this country would
come as a boon and a blessing to the average young Englishman. To the
medical student, to the eater of dinners at the Temple, to the subaltern
on leave, life in London is a wearisome proceeding. The healthy Briton
takes his pleasure lawlessly, or it is no pleasure to him. Nothing that
he may do affords to him any genuine satisfaction. To be in trouble of
some sort is his only idea of bliss. Now, England affords him small
opportunity in this respect; to get himself into a scrape requires a good
deal of persistence on the part of the young Englishman.
I spoke on this subject one day with our senior churchwarden. It was the
morning of the 10th of November, and we were both of us glancing,
somewhat anxiously, through the police reports. The usual batch of young
men had been summoned for creating the usual disturbance the night before
at the Criterion. My friend the churchwarden has boys of his own, and a
nephew of mine, upon whom I am keeping a fatherly eye, is by a fond
mother supposed to be in London for the sole purpose of studying
engineering. No names we knew happened, by fortunate chance, to be in
the list of those detained in custody, and, relieved, we fell to
moralising upon the folly and depravity of youth.
"It is very remarkable," said my friend the churchwarden, "how the
Criterion retains its position in this respect. It was just so when I
was young; the evening always wound up with a row at the Criterion."
"So meaningless," I remarked.
"So monotonous," he replied. "You have no idea," he continued, a dreamy
expression stealing over his furrowed face, "how unutterably tired one
can become of the walk from Piccadilly Circus to the Vine Street Police
Court. Yet, what else was there for us to do? Simply nothing. Sometimes
we would put out a street lamp, and a man would come round and light it
again. If one insulted a policeman, he simply took no notice. He did
not even know he was being insulted; or, if he did, he seemed not to
care. You could fight a Covent Garden porter, if you fancied yourself at
that sort of thing. Generally speaking, the porter got the best of it;
and when he did it cost you five shillings, and when he did not the price
was half a sovereign. I could never see much excitement in that
particular sport. I tried driving a hansom cab once. That has always
been regarded as the acme of modern Tom and Jerryism. I stole it late
one night from outside a public-house in Dean Street, and the first thing
that happened to me was that I was hailed in Golden Square by an old lady
surrounded by three children, two of them crying and the third one half
asleep. Before I could get away she had shot the brats into the cab,
taken my number, paid me, so she said, a shilling over the legal fare,
and directed me to an address a little beyond what she called North
Kensington. As a matter of fact, the place turned out to be the other
side of Willesden. The horse was tired, and the journey took us well
over two hours. It was the slowest lark I ever remember being concerned
in. I tried once or twice to persuade the children to let me take them
back to the old lady: but every time I opened the trap-door to speak to
them the youngest one, a boy, started screaming; and when I offered other
drivers to transfer the job to them, most of them replied in the words of
a song popular about that period: 'Oh, George, don't you think you're
going just a bit too far?' One man offered to take home to my wife any
last message I might be thinking of, while another promised to organise a
party to come and dig me out in the spring. When I mounted the dickey I
had imagined myself driving a peppery old colonel to some lonesome and
cabless region, half a dozen miles from where he wanted to go, and there
leaving him upon the kerbstone to swear. About that there might have
been good sport or there might not, according to circumstances and the
colonel. The idea of a trip to an outlying suburb in charge of a nursery
full of helpless infants had never occurred to me. No, London,"
concluded my friend the churchwarden with a sigh, "affords but limited
opportunity to the lover of the illegal."
Now, in Germany, on the other hand, trouble is to be had for the asking.
There are many things in Germany that you must not do that are quite easy
to do. To any young Englishman yearning to get himself into a scrape,
and finding himself hampered in his own country, I would advise a single
ticket to Germany; a return, lasting as it does only a month, might prove
In the Police Guide of the Fatherland he will find set forth a list of
the things the doing of which will bring to him interest and excitement.
In Germany you must not hang your bed out of window. He might begin with
that. By waving his bed out of window he could get into trouble before
he had his breakfast. At home he might hang himself out of window, and
nobody would mind much, provided he did not obstruct anybody's ancient
lights or break away and injure any passer underneath.
In Germany you must not wear fancy dress in the streets. A Highlander of
my acquaintance who came to pass the winter in Dresden spent the first
few days of his residence there in arguing this question with the Saxon
Government. They asked him what he was doing in those clothes. He was
not an amiable man. He answered, he was wearing them. They asked him
why he was wearing them. He replied, to keep himself warm. They told
him frankly that they did not believe him, and sent him back to his
lodgings in a closed landau. The personal testimony of the English
Minister was necessary to assure the authorities that the Highland garb
was the customary dress of many respectable, law-abiding British
subjects. They accepted the statement, as diplomatically bound, but
retain their private opinion to this day. The English tourist they have
grown accustomed to; but a Leicestershire gentleman, invited to hunt with
some German officers, on appearing outside his hotel, was promptly
marched off, horse and all, to explain his frivolity at the police court.
Another thing you must not do in the streets of German towns is to feed
horses, mules, or donkeys, whether your own or those belonging to other
people. If a passion seizes you to feed somebody else's horse, you must
make an appointment with the animal, and the meal must take place in some
properly authorised place. You must not break glass or china in the
street, nor, in fact, in any public resort whatever; and if you do, you
must pick up all the pieces. What you are to do with the pieces when you
have gathered them together I cannot say. The only thing I know for
certain is that you are not permitted to throw them anywhere, to leave
them anywhere, or apparently to part with them in any way whatever.
Presumably, you are expected to carry them about with you until you die,
and then be buried with them; or, maybe, you are allowed to swallow them.
In German streets you must not shoot with a crossbow. The German law-
maker does not content himself with the misdeeds of the average man--the
crime one feels one wants to do, but must not: he worries himself
imagining all the things a wandering maniac might do. In Germany there
is no law against a man standing on his head in the middle of the road;
the idea has not occurred to them. One of these days a German statesman,
visiting a circus and seeing acrobats, will reflect upon this omission.
Then he will straightway set to work and frame a clause forbidding people
from standing on their heads in the middle of the road, and fixing a
fine. This is the charm of German law: misdemeanour in Germany has its
fixed price. You are not kept awake all night, as in England, wondering
whether you will get off with a caution, be fined forty shillings, or,
catching the magistrate in an unhappy moment for yourself, get seven
days. You know exactly what your fun is going to cost you. You can
spread out your money on the table, open your Police Guide, and plan out
your holiday to a fifty pfennig piece. For a really cheap evening, I
would recommend walking on the wrong side of the pavement after being
cautioned not to do so. I calculate that by choosing your district and
keeping to the quiet side streets you could walk for a whole evening on
the wrong side of the pavement at a cost of little over three marks.
In German towns you must not ramble about after dark "in droves." I am
not quite sure how many constitute a "drove," and no official to whom I
have spoken on this subject has felt himself competent to fix the exact
number. I once put it to a German friend who was starting for the
theatre with his wife, his mother-in-law, five children of his own, his
sister and her "fiance", and two nieces, if he did not think he was
running a risk under this by-law. He did not take my suggestion as a
joke. He cast an eye over the group.
"Oh, I don't think so," he said; "you see, we are all one family."
"The paragraph says nothing about its being a family drove or not," I
replied; "it simply says 'drove.' I do not mean it in any
uncomplimentary sense, but, speaking etymologically, I am inclined
personally to regard your collection as a 'drove.' Whether the police
will take the same view or not remains to be seen. I am merely warning
My friend himself was inclined to pooh-pooh my fears; but his wife
thinking it better not to run any risk of having the party broken up by
the police at the very beginning of the evening, they divided, arranging
to come together again in the theatre lobby.
Another passion you must restrain in Germany is that prompting you to
throw things out of window. Cats are no excuse. During the first week
of my residence in Germany I was awakened incessantly by cats. One night
I got mad. I collected a small arsenal--two or three pieces of coal, a
few hard pears, a couple of candle ends, an odd egg I found on the
kitchen table, an empty soda-water bottle, and a few articles of that
sort,--and, opening the window, bombarded the spot from where the noise
appeared to come. I do not suppose I hit anything; I never knew a man
who did hit a cat, even when he could see it, except, maybe, by accident
when aiming at something else. I have known crack shots, winners of
Queen's prizes--those sort of men,--shoot with shot-guns at cats fifty
yards away, and never hit a hair. I have often thought that, instead of
bull's-eyes, running deer, and that rubbish, the really superior marksman
would be he who could boast that he had shot the cat.
But, anyhow, they moved off; maybe the egg annoyed them. I had noticed
when I picked it up that it did not look a good egg; and I went back to
bed again, thinking the incident closed. Ten minutes afterwards there
came a violent ringing of the electric bell. I tried to ignore it, but
it was too persistent, and, putting on my dressing gown, I went down to
the gate. A policeman was standing there. He had all the things I had
been throwing out of the window in a little heap in front of him, all
except the egg. He had evidently been collecting them. He said:
"Are these things yours?"
I said: "They were mine, but personally I have done with them. Anybody
can have them--you can have them."
He ignored my offer. He said:
"You threw these things out of window."
"You are right," I admitted; "I did."
"Why did you throw them out of window?" he asked. A German policeman has
his code of questions arranged for him; he never varies them, and he
never omits one.
"I threw them out of the window at some cats," I answered.
"What cats?" he asked.
It was the sort of question a German policeman would ask. I replied with
as much sarcasm as I could put into my accent that I was ashamed to say I
could not tell him what cats. I explained that, personally, they were
strangers to me; but I offered, if the police would call all the cats in
the district together, to come round and see if I could recognise them by
The German policeman does not understand a joke, which is perhaps on the
whole just as well, for I believe there is a heavy fine for joking with
any German uniform; they call it "treating an official with contumely."
He merely replied that it was not the duty of the police to help me
recognise the cats; their duty was merely to fine me for throwing things
out of window.
I asked what a man was supposed to do in Germany when woke up night after
night by cats, and he explained that I could lodge an information against
the owner of the cat, when the police would proceed to caution him, and,
if necessary, order the cat to be destroyed. Who was going to destroy
the cat, and what the cat would be doing during the process, he did not
I asked him how he proposed I should discover the owner of the cat. He
thought for a while, and then suggested that I might follow it home. I
did not feel inclined to argue with him any more after that; I should
only have said things that would have made the matter worse. As it was,
that night's sport cost me twelve marks; and not a single one of the four
German officials who interviewed me on the subject could see anything
ridiculous in the proceedings from beginning to end.
But in Germany most human faults and follies sink into comparative
insignificance beside the enormity of walking on the grass. Nowhere, and
under no circumstances, may you at any time in Germany walk on the grass.
Grass in Germany is quite a fetish. To put your foot on German grass
would be as great a sacrilege as to dance a hornpipe on a Mohammedan's
praying-mat. The very dogs respect German grass; no German dog would
dream of putting a paw on it. If you see a dog scampering across the
grass in Germany, you may know for certain that it is the dog of some
unholy foreigner. In England, when we want to keep dogs out of places,
we put up wire netting, six feet high, supported by buttresses, and
defended on the top by spikes. In Germany, they put a notice-board in
the middle of the place, "Hunden verboten," and a dog that has German
blood in its veins looks at that notice-board and walks away. In a
German park I have seen a gardener step gingerly with felt boots on to
grass-plot, and removing therefrom a beetle, place it gravely but firmly
on the gravel; which done, he stood sternly watching the beetle, to see
that it did not try to get back on the grass; and the beetle, looking
utterly ashamed of itself, walked hurriedly down the gutter, and turned
up the path marked "Ausgang."
In German parks separate roads are devoted to the different orders of the
community, and no one person, at peril of liberty and fortune, may go
upon another person's road. There are special paths for "wheel-riders"
and special paths for "foot-goers," avenues for "horse-riders," roads for
people in light vehicles, and roads for people in heavy vehicles; ways
for children and for "alone ladies." That no particular route has yet
been set aside for bald-headed men or "new women" has always struck me as
In the Grosse Garten in Dresden I once came across an old lady, standing,
helpless and bewildered, in the centre of seven tracks. Each was guarded
by a threatening notice, warning everybody off it but the person for whom
it was intended.
"I am sorry to trouble you," said the old lady, on learning I could speak
English and read German, "but would you mind telling me what I am and
where I have to go?"
I inspected her carefully. I came to the conclusion that she was a
"grown-up" and a "foot-goer," and pointed out her path. She looked at
it, and seemed disappointed.
"But I don't want to go down there," she said; "mayn't I go this way?"
"Great heavens, no, madam!" I replied. "That path is reserved for
"But I wouldn't do them any harm," said the old lady, with a smile. She
did not look the sort of old lady who would have done them any harm.
"Madam," I replied, "if it rested with me, I would trust you down that
path, though my own first-born were at the other end; but I can only
inform you of the laws of this country. For you, a full-grown woman, to
venture down that path is to go to certain fine, if not imprisonment.
There is your path, marked plainly--"Nur fur Fussganger", and if you will
follow my advice, you will hasten down it; you are not allowed to stand
here and hesitate."
"It doesn't lead a bit in the direction I want to go," said the old lady.
"It leads in the direction you "ought" to want to go," I replied, and we
In the German parks there are special seats labelled, "Only for grown-
ups" ("Nur fur Erwachsene"), and the German small boy, anxious to sit
down, and reading that notice, passes by, and hunts for a seat on which
children are permitted to rest; and there he seats himself, careful not
to touch the woodwork with his muddy boots. Imagine a seat in Regent's
or St. James's Park labelled "Only for grown-ups!" Every child for five
miles round would be trying to get on that seat, and hauling other
children off who were on. As for any "grown-up," he would never be able
to get within half a mile of that seat for the crowd. The German small
boy, who has accidentally sat down on such without noticing, rises with a
start when his error is pointed out to him, and goes away with down-cast
head, brushing to the roots of his hair with shame and regret.
Not that the German child is neglected by a paternal Government. In
German parks and public gardens special places ("Spielplatze") are
provided for him, each one supplied with a heap of sand. There he can
play to his heart's content at making mud pies and building sand castles.
To the German child a pie made of any other mud than this would appear an
immoral pie. It would give to him no satisfaction: his soul would revolt
"That pie," he would say to himself, "was not, as it should have been,
made of Government mud specially set apart for the purpose; it was nor
manufactured in the place planned and maintained by the Government for
the making of mud pies. It can bring no real blessing with it; it is a
lawless pie." And until his father had paid the proper fine, and he had
received his proper licking, his conscience would continue to trouble
Another excellent piece of material for obtaining excitement in Germany
is the simple domestic perambulator. What you may do with a
"kinder-wagen," as it is called, and what you may not, covers pages of
German law; after the reading of which, you conclude that the man who can
push a perambulator through a German town without breaking the law was
meant for a diplomatist. You must not loiter with a perambulator, and
you must not go too fast. You must not get in anybody's way with a
perambulator, and if anybody gets in your way you must get out of their
way. If you want to stop with a perambulator, you must go to a place
specially appointed where perambulators may stop; and when you get there
you "must" stop. You must not cross the road with a perambulator; if you
and the baby happen to live on the other side, that is your fault. You
must not leave your perambulator anywhere, and only in certain places can
you take it with you. I should say that in Germany you could go out with
a perambulator and get into enough trouble in half an hour to last you
for a month. Any young Englishman anxious for a row with the police
could not do better than come over to Germany and bring his perambulator
In Germany you must not leave your front door unlocked after ten o'clock
at night, and you must not play the piano in your own house after eleven.
In England I have never felt I wanted to play the piano myself, or to
hear anyone else play it, after eleven o'clock at night; but that is a
very different thing to being told that you must not play it. Here, in
Germany, I never feel that I really care for the piano until eleven
o'clock, then I could sit and listen to the "Maiden's Prayer," or the
Overture to "Zampa," with pleasure. To the law-loving German, on the
other hand, music after eleven o'clock at night ceases to be music; it
becomes sin, and as such gives him no satisfaction.
The only individual throughout Germany who ever dreams of taking
liberties with the law is the German student, and he only to a certain
well-defined point. By custom, certain privileges are permitted to him,
but even these are strictly limited and clearly understood. For
instance, the German student may get drunk and fall asleep in the gutter
with no other penalty than that of having the next morning to tip the
policeman who has found him and brought him home. But for this purpose
he must choose the gutters of side-streets. The German student,
conscious of the rapid approach of oblivion, uses all his remaining
energy to get round the corner, where he may collapse without anxiety. In
certain districts he may ring bells. The rent of flats in these
localities is lower than in other quarters of the town; while the
difficulty is further met by each family preparing for itself a secret
code of bell-ringing by means of which it is known whether the summons is
genuine or not. When visiting such a household late at night it is well
to be acquainted with this code, or you may, if persistent, get a bucket
of water thrown over you.
Also the German student is allowed to put out lights at night, but there
is a prejudice against his putting out too many. The larky German
student generally keeps count, contenting himself with half a dozen
lights per night. Likewise, he may shout and sing as he walks home, up
till half-past two; and at certain restaurants it is permitted to him to
put his arm round the Fraulein's waist. To prevent any suggestion of
unseemliness, the waitresses at restaurants frequented by students are
always carefully selected from among a staid and elderly classy of women,
by reason of which the German student can enjoy the delights of
flirtation without fear and without reproach to anyone.
They are a law-abiding people, the Germans.
Baden from the visitor's point of view--Beauty of the early morning, as
viewed from the preceding afternoon--Distance, as measured by the
compass--Ditto, as measured by the leg--George in account with his
conscience--A lazy machine--Bicycling, according to the poster: its
restfulness--The poster cyclist: its costume; its method--The griffin as
a household pet--A dog with proper self-respect--The horse that was
From Baden, about which it need only be said that it is a pleasure resort
singularly like other pleasure resorts of the same description, we
started bicycling in earnest. We planned a ten days' tour, which, while
completing the Black Forest, should include a spin down the Donau-Thal,
which for the twenty miles from Tuttlingen to Sigmaringen is, perhaps,
the finest valley in Germany; the Danube stream here winding its narrow
way past old-world unspoilt villages; past ancient monasteries, nestling
in green pastures, where still the bare-footed and bare-headed friar, his
rope girdle tight about his loins, shepherds, with crook in hand, his
sheep upon the hill sides; through rocky woods; between sheer walls of
cliff, whose every towering crag stands crowned with ruined fortress,
church, or castle; together with a blick at the Vosges mountains, where
half the population is bitterly pained if you speak to them in French,
the other half being insulted when you address them in German, and the
whole indignantly contemptuous at the first sound of English; a state of
things that renders conversation with the stranger somewhat nervous work.
We did not succeed in carrying out our programme in its entirety, for the
reason that human performance lags ever behind human intention. It is
easy to say and believe at three o'clock in the afternoon that: "We will
rise at five, breakfast lightly at half-past, and start away at six."
"Then we shall be well on our way before the heat of the day sets in,"
"This time of the year, the early morning is really the best part of the
day. Don't you think so?" adds another.
"So cool and fresh."
"And the half-lights are so exquisite."
The first morning one maintains one's vows. The party assembles at half-
past five. It is very silent; individually, somewhat snappy; inclined to
grumble with its food, also with most other things; the atmosphere
charged with compressed irritability seeking its vent. In the evening
the Tempter's voice is heard:
"I think if we got off by half-past six, sharp, that would be time
The voice of Virtue protests, faintly: "It will be breaking our
The Tempter replies: "Resolutions were made for man, not man for
resolutions." The devil can paraphrase Scripture for his own purpose.
"Besides, it is disturbing the whole hotel; think of the poor servants."
The voice of Virtue continues, but even feebler: "But everybody gets up
early in these parts."
"They would not if they were not obliged to, poor things! Say breakfast
at half-past six, punctual; that will be disturbing nobody."
Thus Sin masquerades under the guise of Good, and one sleeps till six,
explaining to one's conscience, who, however, doesn't believe it, that
one does this because of unselfish consideration for others. I have
known such consideration extend until seven of the clock.
Likewise, distance measured with a pair of compasses is not precisely the
same as when measured by the leg.
"Ten miles an hour for seven hours, seventy miles. A nice easy day's
"There are some stiff hills to climb?"
"The other side to come down. Say, eight miles an hour, and call it
sixty miles. Gott in Himmel! if we can't average eight miles an hour, we
had better go in bath-chairs." It does seem somewhat impossible to do
less, on paper.
But at four o'clock in the afternoon the voice of Duty rings less trumpet-
"Well, I suppose we ought to be getting on."
"Oh, there's no hurry! don't fuss. Lovely view from here, isn't it?"
"Very. Don't forget we are twenty-five miles from St. Blasien."
"Twenty-five miles, a little over if anything."
"Do you mean to say we have only come thirty-five miles?"
"Nonsense. I don't believe that map of yours."
"It is impossible, you know. We have been riding steadily ever since the
first thing this morning."
"No, we haven't. We didn't get away till eight, to begin with."
"Quarter to eight."
"Well, quarter to eight; and every half-dozen miles we have stopped."
"We have only stopped to look at the view. It's no good coming to see a
country, and then not seeing it."
"And we have had to pull up some stiff hills."
"Besides, it has been an exceptionally hot day to-day."
"Well, don't forget St. Blasien is twenty-five miles off, that's all."
"Any more hills?"
"Yes, two; up and down."
"I thought you said it was downhill into St. Blasien?"
"So it is for the last ten miles. We are twenty-five miles from St.
"Isn't there anywhere between here and St. Blasien? What's that little
place there on the lake?"
"It isn't St. Blasien, or anywhere near it. There's a danger in
beginning that sort of thing."
"There's a danger in overworking oneself. One should study moderation in
all things. Pretty little place, that Titisee, according to the map;
looks as if there would be good air there."
"All right, I'm agreeable. It was you fellows who suggested our making
for St. Blasien."
"Oh, I'm not so keen on St. Blasien! poky little place, down in a valley.
This Titisee, I should say, was ever so much nicer."
"Quite near, isn't it?"
General chorus: "We'll stop at Titisee."
George made discovery of this difference between theory and practice on
the very first day of our ride.
"I thought," said George--he was riding the single, Harris and I being a
little ahead on the tandem--"that the idea was to train up the hills and
ride down them."
"So it is," answered Harris, "as a general rule. But the trains don't go
up "every" hill in the Black Forest."
"Somehow, I felt a suspicion that they wouldn't," growled George; and for
awhile silence reigned.
"Besides," remarked Harris, who had evidently been ruminating the
subject, "you would not wish to have nothing but downhill, surely. It
would not be playing the game. One must take a little rough with one's
Again there returned silence, broken after awhile by George, this time.
"Don't you two fellows over-exert yourselves merely on my account," said
"How do you mean?" asked Harris.
"I mean," answered George, "that where a train does happen to be going up
these hills, don't you put aside the idea of taking it for fear of
outraging my finer feelings. Personally, I am prepared to go up all
these hills in a railway train, even if it's not playing the game. I'll
square the thing with my conscience; I've been up at seven every day for
a week now, and I calculate it owes me a bit. Don't you consider me in
the matter at all."
We promised to bear this in mind, and again the ride continued in dogged
dumbness, until it was again broken by George.
"What bicycle did you say this was of yours?" asked George.
Harris told him. I forget of what particular manufacture it happened to
be; it is immaterial.
"Are you sure?" persisted George.
"Of course I am sure," answered Harris. "Why, what's the matter with
"Well, it doesn't come up to the poster," said George, "that's all."
"What poster?" asked Harris.
"The poster advertising this particular brand of cycle," explained
George. "I was looking at one on a hoarding in Sloane Street only a day
or two before we started. A man was riding this make of machine, a man
with a banner in his hand: he wasn't doing any work, that was clear as
daylight; he was just sitting on the thing and drinking in the air. The
cycle was going of its own accord, and going well. This thing of yours
leaves all the work to me. It is a lazy brute of a machine; if you don't
shove, it simply does nothing: I should complain about it, if I were
When one comes to think of it, few bicycles do realise the poster. On
only one poster that I can recollect have I seen the rider represented as
doing any work. But then this man was being pursued by a bull. In
ordinary cases the object of the artist is to convince the hesitating
neophyte that the sport of bicycling consists in sitting on a luxurious
saddle, and being moved rapidly in the direction you wish to go by unseen
Generally speaking, the rider is a lady, and then one feels that, for
perfect bodily rest combined with entire freedom from mental anxiety,
slumber upon a water-bed cannot compare with bicycle-riding upon a hilly
road. No fairy travelling on a summer cloud could take things more
easily than does the bicycle girl, according to the poster. Her costume
for cycling in hot weather is ideal. Old-fashioned landladies might
refuse her lunch, it is true; and a narrowminded police force might
desire to secure her, and wrap her in a rug preliminary to summonsing
her. But such she heeds not. Uphill and downhill, through traffic that
might tax the ingenuity of a cat, over road surfaces calculated to break
the average steam roller she passes, a vision of idle loveliness; her
fair hair streaming to the wind, her sylph-like form poised airily, one
foot upon the saddle, the other resting lightly upon the lamp. Sometimes
she condescends to sit down on the saddle; then she puts her feet on the
rests, lights a cigarette, and waves above her head a Chinese lantern.
Less often, it is a mere male thing that rides the machine. He is not so
accomplished an acrobat as is the lady; but simple tricks, such as
standing on the saddle and waving flags, drinking beer or beef-tea while
riding, he can and does perform. Something, one supposes, he must do to
occupy his mind: sitting still hour after hour on this machine, having no
work to do, nothing to think about, must pall upon any man of active
temperament. Thus it is that we see him rising on his pedals as he nears
the top of some high hill to apostrophise the sun, or address poetry to
the surrounding scenery.
Occasionally the poster pictures a pair of cyclists; and then one grasps
the fact how much superior for purposes of flirtation is the modern
bicycle to the old-fashioned parlour or the played-out garden gate. He
and she mount their bicycles, being careful, of course, that such are of
the right make. After that they have nothing to think about but the old
sweet tale. Down shady lanes, through busy towns on market days, merrily
roll the wheels of the "Bermondsey Company's Bottom Bracket Britain's
Best," or of the "Camberwell Company's Jointless Eureka." They need no
pedalling; they require no guiding. Give them their heads, and tell them
what time you want to get home, and that is all they ask. While Edwin
leans from his saddle to whisper the dear old nothings in Angelina's ear,
while Angelina's face, to hide its blushes, is turned towards the horizon
at the back, the magic bicycles pursue their even course.
And the sun is always shining and the roads are always dry. No stern
parent rides behind, no interfering aunt beside, no demon small boy
brother is peeping round the corner, there never comes a skid. Ah me!
Why were there no "Britain's Best" nor "Camberwell Eurekas" to be hired
when "we" were young?
Or maybe the "Britain's Best" or the "Camberwell Eureka" stands leaning
against a gate; maybe it is tired. It has worked hard all the afternoon,
carrying these young people. Mercifully minded, they have dismounted, to
give the machine a rest. They sit upon the grass beneath the shade of
graceful boughs; it is long and dry grass. A stream flows by their feet.
All is rest and peace.
That is ever the idea the cycle poster artist sets himself to convey--rest
But I am wrong in saying that no cyclist, according to the poster, ever
works. Now I come to reflect, I have seen posters representing gentlemen
on cycles working very hard--over-working themselves, one might almost
say. They are thin and haggard with the toil, the perspiration stands
upon their brow in beads; you feel that if there is another hill beyond
the poster they must either get off or die. But this is the result of
their own folly. This happens because they will persist in riding a
machine of an inferior make. Were they riding a "Putney Popular" or
"Battersea Bounder," such as the sensible young man in the centre of the
poster rides, then all this unnecessary labour would be saved to them.
Then all required of them would be, as in gratitude bound, to look happy;
perhaps, occasionally to back-pedal a little when the machine in its
youthful buoyancy loses its head for a moment and dashes on too swiftly.
You tired young men, sitting dejectedly on milestones, too spent to heed
the steady rain that soaks you through; you weary maidens, with the
straight, damp hair, anxious about the time, longing to swear, not
knowing how; you stout bald men, vanishing visibly as you pant and grunt
along the endless road; you purple, dejected matrons, plying with pain
the slow unwilling wheel; why did you not see to it that you bought a
"Britain's Best" or a "Camberwell Eureka"? Why are these bicycles of
inferior make so prevalent throughout the land
Or is it with bicycling as with all other things: does Life at no point
realise the Poster?
The one thing in Germany that never fails to charm and fascinate me is
the German dog. In England one grows tired of the old breeds, one knows
them all so well: the mastiff, the plum-pudding dog, the terrier (black,
white or rough-haired, as the case may be, but always quarrelsome), the
collie, the bulldog; never anything new. Now in Germany you get variety.
You come across dogs the like of which you have never seen before: that
until you hear them bark you do not know are dogs. It is all so fresh,
so interesting. George stopped a dog in Sigmaringen and drew our
attention to it. It suggested a cross between a codfish and a poodle. I
would not like to be positive it was "not" a cross between a codfish and
a poodle. Harris tried to photograph it, but it ran up a fence and
disappeared through some bushes.
I do not know what the German breeder's idea is; at present he retains
his secret. George suggests he is aiming at a griffin. There is much to
bear out this theory, and indeed in one or two cases I have come across
success on these lines would seem to have been almost achieved. Yet I
cannot bring myself to believe that such are anything more than mere
accidents. The German is practical, and I fail to see the object of a
griffin. If mere quaintness of design be desired, is there not already
the Dachshund! What more is needed? Besides, about a house, a griffin
would be so inconvenient: people would be continually treading on its
tail. My own idea is that what the Germans are trying for is a mermaid,
which they will then train to catch fish.
For your German does not encourage laziness in any living thing. He
likes to see his dogs work, and the German dog loves work; of that there
can be no doubt. The life of the English dog must be a misery to him.
Imagine a strong, active, and intelligent being, of exceptionally
energetic temperament, condemned to spend twenty-four hours a day in
absolute idleness! How would you like it yourself? No wonder he feels
misunderstood, yearns for the unattainable, and gets himself into trouble
Now the German dog, on the other hand, has plenty to occupy his mind. He
is busy and important. Watch him as he walks along harnessed to his milk
cart. No churchwarden at collection time could feel or look more pleased
with himself. He does not do any real work; the human being does the
pushing, he does the barking; that is his idea of division of labour.
What he says to himself is:
"The old man can't bark, but he can shove. Very well."
The interest and the pride he takes in the business is quite beautiful to
see. Another dog passing by makes, maybe, some jeering remark, casting
discredit upon the creaminess of the milk. He stops suddenly, quite
regardless of the traffic.
"I beg your pardon, what was that you said about our milk?"
"I said nothing about your milk," retorts the other dog, in a tone of
gentle innocence. "I merely said it was a fine day, and asked the price
"Oh, you asked the price of chalk, did you? Would you like to know?"
"Yes, thanks; somehow I thought you would be able to tell me."
"You are quite right, I can. It's worth--"
"Oh, do come along!" says the old lady, who is tired and hot, and anxious
to finish her round.
"Yes, but hang it all; did you hear what he hinted about our milk?"
"Oh, never mind him! There's a tram coming round the corner: we shall
all get run over."
"Yes, but I do mind him; one has one's proper pride. He asked the price
of chalk, and he's going to know it! It's worth just twenty times as
"You'll have the whole thing over, I know you will," cries the old lady,
pathetically, struggling with all her feeble strength to haul him back.
"Oh dear, oh dear! I do wish I had left you at home."
The tram is bearing down upon them; a cab-driver is shouting at them;
another huge brute, hoping to be in time to take a hand, is dragging a
bread cart, followed by a screaming child, across the road from the
opposite side; a small crowd is collecting; and a policeman is hastening
to the scene.
"It's worth," says the milk dog, "just twenty-times as much as you'll be
worth before I've done with you."
"Oh, you think so, do you?"
"Yes, I do, you grandson of a French poodle, you cabbage-eating--"
"There! I knew you'd have it over," says the poor milk-woman. "I told
him he'd have it over."
But he is busy, and heeds her not. Five minutes later, when the traffic
is renewed, when the bread girl has collected her muddy rolls, and the
policeman has gone off with the name and address of everybody in the
street, he consents to look behind him.
"It "is" a bit of an upset," he admits. Then shaking himself free of
care, he adds, cheerfully, "But I guess I taught him the price of chalk.
He won't interfere with us again, I'm thinking."
"I'm sure I hope not," says the old lady, regarding dejectedly the milky
But his favourite sport is to wait at the top of the hill for another
dog, and then race down. On these occasions the chief occupation of the
other fellow is to run about behind, picking up the scattered articles,
loaves, cabbages, or shirts, as they are jerked out. At the bottom of
the hill, he stops and waits for his friend.
"Good race, wasn't it?" he remarks, panting, as the Human comes up, laden
to the chin. "I believe I'd have won it, too, if it hadn't been for that
fool of a small boy. He was right in my way just as I turned the corner.
"You noticed him"? Wish I had, beastly brat! What's he yelling like
that for? "Because I knocked him down and ran over him"? Well, why
didn't he get out of the way? It's disgraceful, the way people leave
their children about for other people to tumble over. Halloa! did all
those things come out? You couldn't have packed them very carefully; you
should see to a thing like that. "You did not dream of my tearing down
the hill twenty miles an hour"? Surely, you knew me better than to
expect I'd let that old Schneider's dog pass me without an effort. But
there, you never think. You're sure you've got them all? "You believe
so"? I shouldn't 'believe' if I were you; I should run back up the hill
again and make sure. "You feel too tired"? Oh, all right! don't blame
me if anything is missing, that's all."
He is so self-willed. He is cock-sure that the correct turning is the
second on the right, and nothing will persuade him that it is the third.
He is positive he can get across the road in time, and will not be
convinced until he sees the cart smashed up. Then he is very apologetic,
it is true. But of what use is that? As he is usually of the size and
strength of a young bull, and his human companion is generally a weak-
kneed old man or woman, or a small child, he has his way. The greatest
punishment his proprietor can inflict upon him is to leave him at home,
and take the cart out alone. But your German is too kind-hearted to do
That he is harnessed to the cart for anybody's pleasure but his own it is
impossible to believe; and I am confident that the German peasant plans
the tiny harness and fashions the little cart purely with the hope of
gratifying his dog. In other countries--in Belgium, Holland and France--I
have seen these draught dogs ill-treated and over-worked; but in Germany,
never. Germans abuse animals shockingly. I have seen a German stand in
front of his horse and call it every name he could lay his tongue to. But
the horse did not mind it. I have seen a German, weary with abusing his
horse, call to his wife to come out and assist him. When she came, he
told her what the horse had done. The recital roused the woman's temper
to almost equal heat with his own; and standing one each side of the poor
beast, they both abused it. They abused its dead mother, they insulted
its father; they made cutting remarks about its personal appearance, its
intelligence, its moral sense, its general ability as a horse. The
animal bore the torrent with exemplary patience for awhile; then it did
the best thing possible to do under the circumstances. Without losing
its own temper, it moved quietly away. The lady returned to her washing,
and the man followed it up the street, still abusing it.
A kinder-hearted people than the Germans there is no need for. Cruelty
to animal or child is a thing almost unknown in the land. The whip with
them is a musical instrument; its crack is heard from morning to night,
but an Italian coachman that in the streets of Dresden I once saw use it
was very nearly lynched by the indignant crowd. Germany is the only
country in Europe where the traveller can settle himself comfortably in
his hired carriage, confident that his gentle, willing friend between the
shafts will be neither over-worked nor cruelly treated.
Black Forest House: and the sociability therein--Its perfume--George
positively declines to remain in bed after four o'clock in the
morning--The road one cannot miss--My peculiar extra instinct--An
ungrateful party--Harris as a scientist--His cheery confidence--The
village: where it was, and where it ought to have been--George: his
plan--We promenade a la Francais--The German coachman asleep and
awake--The man who spreads the English language abroad.
There was one night when, tired out and far from town or village, we
slept in a Black Forest farmhouse. The great charm about the Black
Forest house is its sociability. The cows are in the next room, the
horses are upstairs, the geese and ducks are in the kitchen, while the
pigs, the children, and the chickens live all over the place.
You are dressing, when you hear a grunt behind you.
"Good-morning! Don't happen to have any potato peelings in here? No, I
see you haven't; good-bye."
Next there is a cackle, and you see the neck of an old hen stretched
round the corner.
"Fine morning, isn't it? You don't mind my bringing this worm of mine in
here, do you? It is so difficult in this house to find a room where one
can enjoy one's food with any quietness. From a chicken I have always
been a slow eater, and when a dozen--there, I thought they wouldn't leave
me alone. Now they'll all want a bit. You don't mind my getting on the
bed, do you? Perhaps here they won't notice me."
While you are dressing various shock heads peer in at the door; they
evidently regard the room as a temporary menagerie. You cannot tell
whether the heads belong to boys or girls; you can only hope they are all
male. It is of no use shutting the door, because there is nothing to
fasten it by, and the moment you are gone they push it open again. You
breakfast as the Prodigal Son is generally represented feeding: a pig or
two drop in to keep you company; a party of elderly geese criticise you
from the door; you gather from their whispers, added to their shocked
expression, that they are talking scandal about you. Maybe a cow will
condescend to give a glance in.
This Noah's Ark arrangement it is, I suppose, that gives to the Black
Forest home its distinctive scent. It is not a scent you can liken to
any one thing. It is as if you took roses and Limburger cheese and hair
oil, some heather and onions, peaches and soapsuds, together with a dash
of sea air and a corpse, and mixed them up together. You cannot define
any particular odour, but you feel they are all there--all the odours
that the world has yet discovered. People who live in these houses are
fond of this mixture. They do not open the window and lose any of it;
they keep it carefully bottled up. If you want any other scent, you can
go outside and smell the wood violets and the pines; inside there is the
house; and after a while, I am told, you get used to it, so that you miss
it, and are unable to go to sleep in any other atmosphere.
We had a long walk before us the next day, and it was our desire,
therefore, to get up early, even so early as six o'clock, if that could
be managed without disturbing the whole household. We put it to our
hostess whether she thought this could be done. She said she thought it
could. She might not be about herself at that time; it was her morning
for going into the town, some eight miles off, and she rarely got back
much before seven; but, possibly, her husband or one of the boys would be
returning home to lunch about that hour. Anyhow, somebody should be sent
back to wake us and get our breakfast.
As it turned out, we did not need any waking. We got up at four, all by
ourselves. We got up at four in order to get away from the noise and the
din that was making our heads ache. What time the Black Forest peasant
rises in the summer time I am unable to say; to us they appeared to be
getting up all night. And the first thing the Black Forester does when
he gets up is to put on a pair of stout boots with wooden soles, and take
a constitutional round the house. Until he has been three times up and
down the stairs, he does not feel he is up. Once fully awake himself,
the next thing he does is to go upstairs to the stables, and wake up a
horse. (The Black Forest house being built generally on the side of a
steep hill, the ground floor is at the top, and the hay-loft at the
bottom.) Then the horse, it would seem, must also have its
constitutional round the house; and this seen to, the man goes downstairs
into the kitchen and begins to chop wood, and when he has chopped
sufficient wood he feels pleased with himself and begins to sing. All
things considered, we came to the conclusion we could not do better than
follow the excellent example set us. Even George was quite eager to get
up that morning.
We had a frugal breakfast at half-past four, and started away at five.
Our road lay over a mountain, and from enquiries made in the village it
appeared to be one of those roads you cannot possibly miss. I suppose
everybody knows this sort of road. Generally, it leads you back to where
you started from; and when it doesn't, you wish it did, so that at all
events you might know where you were. I foresaw evil from the very
first, and before we had accomplished a couple of miles we came up with
it. The road divided into three. A worm-eaten sign-post indicated that
the path to the left led to a place that we had never heard of--that was
on no map. Its other arm, pointing out the direction of the middle road,
had disappeared. The road to the right, so we all agreed, clearly led
back again to the village.
"The old man said distinctly," so Harris reminded us, "keep straight on
round the hill."
"Which hill?" George asked, pertinently.
We were confronted by half a dozen, some of them big, some of them
"He told us," continued Harris, "that we should come to a wood."
"I see no reason to doubt him," commented George, "whichever road we
As a matter of fact, a dense wood covered every hill.
"And he said," murmured Harris, "that we should reach the top in about an
hour and a half."
"There it is," said George, "that I begin to disbelieve him."
"Well, what shall we do?" said Harris.
Now I happen to possess the bump of locality. It is not a virtue; I make
no boast of it. It is merely an animal instinct that I cannot help. That
things occasionally get in my way--mountains, precipices, rivers, and
such like obstructions--is no fault of mine. My instinct is correct
enough; it is the earth that is wrong. I led them by the middle road.
That the middle road had not character enough to continue for any quarter
of a mile in the same direction; that after three miles up and down hill
it ended abruptly in a wasps' nest, was not a thing that should have been
laid to my door. If the middle road had gone in the direction it ought
to have done, it would have taken us to where we wanted to go, of that I
Even as it was, I would have continued to use this gift of mine to
discover a fresh way had a proper spirit been displayed towards me. But
I am not an angel--I admit this frankly,--and I decline to exert myself
for the ungrateful and the ribald. Besides, I doubt if George and Harris
would have followed me further in any event. Therefore it was that I
washed my hands of the whole affair, and that Harris entered upon the
"Well," said Harris. "I suppose you are satisfied with what you have
"I am quite satisfied," I replied from the heap of stones where I was
sitting. "So far, I have brought you with safety. I would continue to
lead you further, but no artist can work without encouragement. You
appear dissatisfied with me because you do not know where you are. For
all you know, you may be just where you want to be. But I say nothing as
to that; I expect no thanks. Go your own way; I have done with you
I spoke, perhaps, with bitterness, but I could not help it. Not a word
of kindness had I had all the weary way.
"Do not misunderstand us," said Harris; "both George and myself feel that
without your assistance we should never be where we now are. For that we
give you every credit. But instinct is liable to error. What I propose
to do is to substitute for it Science, which is exact. Now, where's the
"Don't you think," said George, "that if we made our way back to the
village, and hired a boy for a mark to guide us, it would save time in
"It would be wasting hours," said Harris, with decision. "You leave this
to me. I have been reading about this thing, and it has interested me."
He took out his watch, and began turning himself round and round.
"It's as simple as A B C," he continued. "You point the short hand at
the sun, then you bisect the segment between the short hand and the
twelve, and thus you get the north."
He worried up and down for a while, then he fixed it.
"Now I've got it," he said; "that's the north, where that wasps' nest is.
Now give me the map."
We handed it to him, and seating himself facing the wasps, he examined
"Todtmoos from here," he said, "is south by south-west."
"How do you mean, from here?" asked George.
"Why, from here, where we are," returned Harris.
"But where are we?" said George.
This worried Harris for a time, but at length he cheered up.
"It doesn't matter where we are," he said. "Wherever we are, Todtmoos is
south by south-west. Come on, we are only wasting time."
"I don't quite see how you make it out," said George, as he rose and
shouldered his knapsack; "but I suppose it doesn't matter. We are out
for our health, and it's all pretty!"
"We shall be all right," said Harris, with cheery confidence. "We shall
be in at Todtmoos before ten, don't you worry. And at Todtmoos we will
have something to eat."
He said that he, himself, fancied a beefsteak, followed by an omelette.
George said that, personally, he intended to keep his mind off the
subject until he saw Todtmoos.
We walked for half an hour, then emerging upon an opening, we saw below
us, about two miles away, the village through which we had passed that
morning. It had a quaint church with an outside staircase, a somewhat
The sight of it made me sad. We had been walking hard for three hours
and a half, and had accomplished, apparently, about four miles. But
Harris was delighted.
"Now, at last," said Harris, "we know where we are."
"I thought you said it didn't matter," George reminded him.
"No more it does, practically," replied Harris, "but it is just as well
to be certain. Now I feel more confidence in myself."
"I'm not so sure about that being an advantage," muttered George. But I
do not think Harris heard him.
"We are now," continued Harris, "east of the sun, and Todtmoos is south-
west of where we are. So that if--"
He broke off. "By-the-by," he said, "do you remember whether I said the
bisecting line of that segment pointed to the north or to the south?"
"You said it pointed to the north," replied George.
"Are you positive?" persisted Harris.
"Positive," answered George "but don't let that influence your
calculations. In all probability you were wrong."
Harris thought for a while; then his brow cleared.
"That's all right," he said; "of course, it's the north. It must be the
north. How could it be the south? Now we must make for the west. Come
"I am quite willing to make for the west," said George; "any point of the
compass is the same to me. I only wish to remark that, at the present
moment, we are going dead east."
"No we are not," returned Harris; "we are going west."
"We are going east, I tell you," said George.
"I wish you wouldn't keep saying that," said Harris, "you confuse me."
"I don't mind if I do," returned George; "I would rather do that than go
wrong. I tell you we are going dead east."
"What nonsense!" retorted Harris; "there's the sun."
"I can see the sun," answered George, "quite distinctly. It may be where
it ought to be, according to you and Science, or it may not. All I know
is, that when we were down in the village, that particular hill with that
particular lump of rock upon it was due north of us. At the present
moment we are facing due east."
"You are quite right," said Harris; "I forgot for the moment that we had
"I should get into the habit of making a note of it, if I were you,"
grumbled George; "it's a manoeuvre that will probably occur again more
We faced about, and walked in the other direction. At the end of forty
minutes' climbing we again emerged upon an opening, and again the village
lay just under our feet. On this occasion it was south of us.
"This is very extraordinary," said Harris.
"I see nothing remarkable about it," said George. "If you walk steadily
round a village it is only natural that now and then you get a glimpse of
it. Myself, I am glad to see it. It proves to me that we are not
"It ought to be the other side of us," said Harris.
"It will be in another hour or so," said George, "if we keep on."
I said little myself; I was vexed with both of them; but I was glad to
notice George evidently growing cross with Harris. It was absurd of
Harris to fancy he could find the way by the sun.
"I wish I knew," said Harris, thoughtfully, "for certain whether that
bisecting line points to the north or to the south."
"I should make up my mind about it," said George; "it's an important
"It's impossible it can be the north," said Harris, "and I'll tell you
"You needn't trouble," said George; "I am quite prepared to believe it
"You said just now it was," said Harris, reproachfully.
"I said nothing of the sort," retorted George. "I said you said it was--a
very different thing. If you think it isn't, let's go the other way.
It'll be a change, at all events."
So Harris worked things out according to the contrary calculation, and
again we plunged into the wood; and again after half an hour's stiff
climbing we came in view of that same village. True, we were a little
higher, and this time it lay between us and the sun.
"I think," said George, as he stood looking down at it, "this is the best
view we've had of it, as yet. There is only one other point from which
we can see it. After that, I propose we go down into it and get some
"I don't believe it's the same village," said Harris; "it can't be."
"There's no mistaking that church," said George. "But maybe it is a case
on all fours with that Prague statue. Possibly, the authorities
hereabout have had made some life-sized models of that village, and have
stuck them about the Forest to see where the thing would look best.
Anyhow, which way do we go now?"
"I don't know," said Harris, "and I don't care. I have done my best;
you've done nothing but grumble, and confuse me."
"I may have been critical," admitted George "but look at the thing from
my point of view. One of you says he's got an instinct, and leads me to
a wasps' nest in the middle of a wood."
"I can't help wasps building in a wood," I replied.
"I don't say you can," answered George. "I am not arguing; I am merely
stating incontrovertible facts. The other one, who leads me up and down
hill for hours on scientific principles, doesn't know the north from the
south, and is never quite sure whether he's turned round or whether he
hasn't. Personally, I profess to no instincts beyond the ordinary, nor
am I a scientist. But two fields off I can see a man. I am going to
offer him the worth of the hay he is cutting, which I estimate at one
mark fifty pfennig, to leave his work, and lead me to within sight of
Todtmoos. If you two fellows like to follow, you can. If not, you can
start another system and work it out by yourselves."
George's plan lacked both originality and aplomb, but at the moment it
appealed to us. Fortunately, we had worked round to a very short
distance away from the spot where we had originally gone wrong; with the
result that, aided by the gentleman of the scythe, we recovered the road,
and reached Todtmoos four hours later than we had calculated to reach it,
with an appetite that took forty-five minutes' steady work in silence to
From Todtmoos we had intended to walk down to the Rhine; but having
regard to our extra exertions of the morning, we decided to promenade in
a carriage, as the French would say: and for this purpose hired a
picturesque-looking vehicle, drawn by a horse that I should have called
barrel-bodied but for contrast with his driver, in comparison with whom
he was angular. In Germany every vehicle is arranged for a pair of
horses, but drawn generally by one. This gives to the equipage a lop-
sided appearance, according to our notions, but it is held here to
indicate style. The idea to be conveyed is that you usually drive a pair
of horses, but that for the moment you have mislaid the other one. The
German driver is not what we should call a first-class whip. He is at
his best when he is asleep. Then, at all events, he is harmless; and the
horse being, generally speaking, intelligent and experienced, progress
under these conditions is comparatively safe. If in Germany they could
only train the horse to collect the money at the end of the journey,
there would be no need for a coachman at all. This would be a distinct
relief to the passenger, for when the German coachman is awake and not
cracking his whip he is generally occupied in getting himself into
trouble or out of it. He is better at the former. Once I recollect
driving down a steep Black Forest hill with a couple of ladies. It was
one of those roads winding corkscrew-wise down the slope. The hill rose
at an angle of seventy-five on the off-side, and fell away at an angle of
seventy-five on the near-side. We were proceeding very comfortably, the
driver, we were happy to notice, with his eyes shut, when suddenly
something, a bad dream or indigestion, awoke him. He seized the reins,
and, by an adroit movement, pulled the near-side horse over the edge,
where it clung, half supported by the traces. Our driver did not appear
in the least annoyed or surprised; both horses, I also, noticed, seemed
equally used to the situation. We got out, and he got down. He took
from under the seat a huge clasp-knife, evidently kept there for the
purpose, and deftly cut the traces. The horse, thus released, rolled
over and over until he struck the road again some fifty feet below. There
he regained his feet and stood waiting for us. We re-entered the
carriage and descended with the single horse until we came to him. There,
with the help of some bits of string, our driver harnessed him again, and
we continued on our way. What impressed me was the evident
accustomedness of both driver and horses to this method of working down a
Evidently to them it appeared a short and convenient cut. I should not
have been surprised had the man suggested our strapping ourselves in, and
then rolling over and over, carriage and all, to the bottom.
Another peculiarity of the German coachman is that he never attempts to
pull in or to pull up. He regulates his rate of speed, not by the pace
of the horse, but by manipulation of the brake. For eight miles an hour
he puts it on slightly, so that it only scrapes the wheel, producing a
continuous sound as of the sharpening of a saw; for four miles an hour he
screws it down harder, and you travel to an accompaniment of groans and
shrieks, suggestive of a symphony of dying pigs. When he desires to come
to a full stop, he puts it on to its full. If his brake be a good one,
he calculates he can stop his carriage, unless the horse be an extra
powerful animal, in less than twice its own length. Neither the German
driver nor the German horse knows, apparently, that you can stop a
carriage by any other method. The German horse continues to pull with
his full strength until he finds it impossible to move the vehicle
another inch; then he rests. Horses of other countries are quite willing
to stop when the idea is suggested to them. I have known horses content
to go even quite slowly. But your German horse, seemingly, is built for
one particular speed, and is unable to depart from it. I am stating
nothing but the literal, unadorned truth, when I say I have seen a German
coachman, with the reins lying loose over the splash-board, working his
brake with both hands, in terror lest he would not be in time to avoid a
At Waldshut, one of those little sixteenth-century towns through which
the Rhine flows during its earlier course, we came across that
exceedingly common object of the Continent: the travelling Briton grieved
and surprised at the unacquaintance of the foreigner with the subtleties
of the English language. When we entered the station he was, in very
fair English, though with a slight Somersetshire accent, explaining to a
porter for the tenth time, as he informed us, the simple fact that though
he himself had a ticket for Donaueschingen, and wanted to go to
Donaueschingen, to see the source of the Danube, which is not there,
though they tell you it is, he wished his bicycle to be sent on to Engen
and his bag to Constance, there to await his arrival. He was hot and
angry with the effort of the thing. The porter was a young man in years,
but at the moment looked old and miserable. I offered my services. I
wish now I had not--though not so fervently, I expect, as he, the
speechless one, came subsequently to wish this. All three routes, so the
porter explained to us, were complicated, necessitating changing and re-
changing. There was not much time for calm elucidation, as our own train
was starting in a few minutes. The man himself was voluble--always a
mistake when anything entangled has to be made clear; while the porter
was only too eager to get the job done with and so breathe again. It
dawned upon me ten minutes later, when thinking the matter over in the
train, that though I had agreed with the porter that it would be best for
the bicycle to go by way of Immendingen, and had agreed to his booking it
to Immendingen, I had neglected to give instructions for its departure
from Immendingen. Were I of a despondent temperament I should be
worrying myself at the present moment with the reflection that in all
probability that bicycle is still at Immendingen to this day. But I
regard it as good philosophy to endeavour always to see the brighter side
of things. Possibly the porter corrected my omission on his own account,
or some simple miracle may have happened to restore that bicycle to its
owner some time before the end of his tour. The bag we sent to
Radolfzell: but here I console myself with the recollection that it was
labelled Constance; and no doubt after a while the railway authorities,
finding it unclaimed at Radolfzell, forwarded it on to Constance.
But all this is apart from the moral I wished to draw from the incident.
The true inwardness of the situation lay in the indignation of this
Britisher at finding a German railway porter unable to comprehend
English. The moment we spoke to him he expressed this indignation in no
"Thank you very much indeed," he said; "it's simple enough. I want to go
to Donaueschingen myself by train; from Donaueschingen I am going to walk
to Geisengen; from Geisengen I am going to take the train to Engen, and
from Engen I am going to bicycle to Constance. But I don't want to take
my bag with me; I want to find it at Constance when I get there. I have
been trying to explain the thing to this fool for the last ten minutes;
but I can't get it into him."
"It is very disgraceful," I agreed. "Some of these German workmen know
hardly any other language than their own."
"I have gone over it with him," continued the man, "on the time table,
and explained it by pantomime. Even then I could not knock it into him."
"I can hardly believe you," I again remarked; "you would think the thing
Harris was angry with the man; he wished to reprove him for his folly in
journeying through the outlying portions of a foreign clime, and seeking
in such to accomplish complicated railway tricks without knowing a word
of the language of the country. But I checked the impulsiveness of
Harris, and pointed out to him the great and good work at which the man
was unconsciously assisting.
Shakespeare and Milton may have done their little best to spread
acquaintance with the English tongue among the less favoured inhabitants
of Europe. Newton and Darwin may have rendered their language a
necessity among educated and thoughtful foreigners. Dickens and Ouida
(for your folk who imagine that the literary world is bounded by the
prejudices of New Grub Street, would be surprised and grieved at the
position occupied abroad by this at-home-sneered-at lady) may have helped
still further to popularise it. But the man who has spread the knowledge
of English from Cape St. Vincent to the Ural Mountains is the Englishman
who, unable or unwilling to learn a single word of any language but his
own, travels purse in hand into every corner of the Continent. One may
be shocked at his ignorance, annoyed at his stupidity, angry at his
presumption. But the practical fact remains; he it is that is
anglicising Europe. For him the Swiss peasant tramps through the snow on
winter evenings to attend the English class open in every village. For
him the coachman and the guard, the chambermaid and the laundress, pore
over their English grammars and colloquial phrase books. For him the
foreign shopkeeper and merchant send their sons and daughters in their
thousands to study in every English town. For him it is that every
foreign hotel- and restaurant-keeper adds to his advertisement: "Only
those with fair knowledge of English need apply."
Did the English-speaking races make it their rule to speak anything else
than English, the marvellous progress of the English tongue throughout
the world would stop. The English-speaking man stands amid the strangers
and jingles his gold.
"Here," cries, "is payment for all such as can speak English."
He it is who is the great educator. Theoretically we may scold him;
practically we should take our hats off to him. He is the missionary of
the English tongue.
We are grieved at the earthly instincts of the German--A superb view, but
no restaurant--Continental opinion of the Englishman--That he does not
know enough to come in out of the rain--There comes a weary traveller
with a brick--The hurting of the dog--An undesirable family residence--A
fruitful region--A merry old soul comes up the hill--George, alarmed at
the lateness of the hour, hastens down the other side--Harris follows
him, to show him the way--I hate being alone, and follow
Harris--Pronunciation specially designed for use of foreigners.
A thing that vexes much the high-class Anglo-Saxon soul is the earthly
instinct prompting the German to fix a restaurant at the goal of every
excursion. On mountain summit, in fairy glen, on lonely pass, by
waterfall or winding stream, stands ever the busy Wirtschaft. How can
one rhapsodise over a view when surrounded by beer-stained tables? How
lose one's self in historical reverie amid the odour of roast veal and
One day, on elevating thoughts intent, we climbed through tangled woods.
"And at the top," said Harris, bitterly, as we paused to breathe a space
and pull our belts a hole tighter, "there will be a gaudy restaurant,
where people will be guzzling beefsteaks and plum tarts and drinking
"Do you think so?" said George.
"Sure to be," answered Harris; "you know their way. Not one grove will
they consent to dedicate to solitude and contemplation; not one height
will they leave to the lover of nature unpolluted by the gross and the
"I calculate," I remarked, "that we shall be there a little before one
o'clock, provided we don't dawdle."
"The 'mittagstisch' will be just ready," groaned Harris, "with possibly
some of those little blue trout they catch about here. In Germany one
never seems able to get away from food and drink. It is maddening!"
We pushed on, and in the beauty of the walk forgot our indignation. My
estimate proved to be correct.
At a quarter to one, said Harris, who was leading:
"Here we are; I can see the summit."
"Any sign of that restaurant?" said George.
"I don't notice it," replied Harris; "but it's there, you may be sure;
Five minutes later we stood upon the top. We looked north, south, east
and west; then we looked at one another.
"Grand view, isn't it?" said Harris.
"Magnificent," I agreed.
"Superb," remarked George.
"They have had the good sense for once," said Harris, "to put that
restaurant out of sight."
"They do seem to have hidden it," said George. "One doesn't mind the
thing so much when it is not forced under one's nose," said Harris.
"Of course, in its place," I observed, "a restaurant is right enough."
"I should like to know where they have put it," said George.
"Suppose we look for it?" said Harris, with inspiration.
It seemed a good idea. I felt curious myself. We agreed to explore in
different directions, returning to the summit to report progress. In
half an hour we stood together once again. There was no need for words.
The face of one and all of us announced plainly that at last we had
discovered a recess of German nature untarnished by the sordid suggestion
of food or drink.
"I should never have believed it possible," said Harris: "would you?"
"I should say," I replied, "that this is the only square quarter of a
mile in the entire Fatherland unprovided with one."
"And we three strangers have struck it," said George, "without an
"True," I observed. "By pure good fortune we are now enabled to feast
our finer senses undisturbed by appeal to our lower nature. Observe the
light upon those distant peaks; is it not ravishing?"
"Talking of nature," said George, "which should you say was the nearest
"The road to the left," I replied, after consulting the guide book,
"takes us to Sonnensteig--where, by-the-by, I observe the 'Goldener
Adler' is well spoken of--in about two hours. The road to the right,
though somewhat longer, commands more extensive prospects."
"One prospect," said Harris, "is very much like another prospect; don't
you think so?"
"Personally," said George, "I am going by the left-hand road." And
Harris and I went after him.
But we were not to get down so soon as we had anticipated. Storms come
quickly in these regions, and before we had walked for quarter of an hour
it became a question of seeking shelter or living for the rest of the day
in soaked clothes. We decided on the former alternative, and selected a
tree that, under ordinary circumstances, should have been ample
protection. But a Black Forest thunderstorm is not an ordinary
circumstance. We consoled ourselves at first by telling each other that
at such a rate it could not last long. Next, we endeavoured to comfort
ourselves with the reflection that if it did we should soon be too wet to
fear getting wetter.
"As it turned out," said Harris, "I should have been almost glad if there
had been a restaurant up here."
"I see no advantage in being both wet "and" hungry," said George. "I
shall give it another five minutes, then I am going on."
"These mountain solitudes," I remarked, "are very attractive in fine
weather. On a rainy day, especially if you happen to be past the age
At this point there hailed us a voice, proceeding from a stout gentleman,
who stood some fifty feet away from us under a big umbrella.
"Won't you come inside?" asked the stout gentleman.
"Inside where?" I called back. I thought at first he was one of those
fools that will try to be funny when there is nothing to be funny about.
"Inside the restaurant," he answered.
We left our shelter and made for him. We wished for further information
about this thing.
"I did call to you from the window," said the stout gentleman, as we drew
near to him, "but I suppose you did not hear me. This storm may last for
another hour; you will get "so" wet."
He was a kindly old gentleman; he seemed quite anxious about us.
I said: "It is very kind of you to have come out. We are not lunatics.
We have not been standing under that tree for the last half-hour knowing
all the time there was a restaurant, hidden by the trees, within twenty
yards of us. We had no idea we were anywhere near a restaurant."
"I thought maybe you hadn't," said the old gentleman; "that is why I
It appeared that all the people in the inn had been watching us from the
windows also, wondering why we stood there looking miserable. If it had
not been for this nice old gentleman the fools would have remained
watching us, I suppose, for the rest of the afternoon. The landlord
excused himself by saying he thought we looked like English. It is no
figure of speech. On the Continent they do sincerely believe that every
Englishman is mad. They are as convinced of it as is every English
peasant that Frenchmen live on frogs. Even when one makes a direct
personal effort to disabuse them of the impression one is not always
It was a comfortable little restaurant, where they cooked well, while the
Tischwein was really most passable. We stopped there for a couple of
hours, and dried ourselves and fed ourselves, and talked about the view;
and just before we left an incident occurred that shows how much more
stirring in this world are the influences of evil compared with those of
A traveller entered. He seemed a careworn man. He carried a brick in
his hand, tied to a piece of rope. He entered nervously and hurriedly,
closed the door carefully behind him, saw to it that it was fastened,
peered out of the window long and earnestly, and then, with a sigh of
relief, laid his brick upon the bench beside him and called for food and
There was something mysterious about the whole affair. One wondered what
he was going to do with the brick, why he had closed the door so
carefully, why he had looked so anxiously from the window; but his aspect
was too wretched to invite conversation, and we forbore, therefore, to
ask him questions. As he ate and drank he grew more cheerful, sighed
less often. Later he stretched his legs, lit an evil-smelling cigar, and
puffed in calm contentment.
Then it happened. It happened too suddenly for any detailed explanation
of the thing to be possible. I recollect a Fraulein entering the room
from the kitchen with a pan in her hand. I saw her cross to the outer
door. The next moment the whole room was in an uproar. One was reminded
of those pantomime transformation scenes where, from among floating
clouds, slow music, waving flowers, and reclining fairies, one is
♥ FINE AREA VOCALIZZATA CON READSPEAKER
Prodotti straordinari per le tue lingue
online il primo numero di
l'anglorivista che mette il turbo al tuo inglese, l'unica con
pronuncia guidata e doppia traduzione italiana per capire sempre
Leggi il n. 1 gratis!
Acquista gli arretrati
Cosa dicono i lettori
- A chi serve
Total Audio, la versione del
corso 20 ORE fatta
apposta per chi come te passa tanto tempo viaggiando! Ideale per
chi fa il pendolare o compie ogni giorno lunghi tragitti sui
mezzi. Sfrutta anche tu i tempi morti per imparare o migliorare
il tuo inglese!
CORSI 20 ORE - I corsi di lingue più
completi per una preparazione di base superiore alla media in 5