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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.
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.
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