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 it."
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 cushion.'
"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 a cushion.'
"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 determination.
"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 on stilts.
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 way.
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 the label.
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 mediaeval history.
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 and myself.
"We ought to do something to stop it," said Harris; "it is becoming serious."
"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 said:
"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 in Piccadilly.
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 Ringplatz."
"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 everything."
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 sometimes, now."
At the corner of the Wenzelsplatz, Harris, who was a few steps ahead of us, paused.
"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 grateful.
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 planned.
"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 towers.
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 liked 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 unresponsive.
"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 held.
(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 was held.
(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 it.)
(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 one 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 a waste.
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 you."
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 their yaul.
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 explain.
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 an omission.
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 children."
"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 parted.
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 against it.
"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 him.
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 with him.
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 abused.
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," remarks one.
"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 enough?"
The voice of Virtue protests, faintly: "It will be breaking our resolution."
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 work."
"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- toned:
"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. Blasien here."
"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 smooth."
Again there returned silence, broken after awhile by George, this time.
"Don't you two fellows over-exert yourselves merely on my account," said George.
"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 it?"
"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 you."
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 heavenly powers.
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 and peace.
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 generally.
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 of chalk."
"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 much—"
"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 road.
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 this often.