Part 2 out of 4
consequence it may get about the neighbourhood that we are not
happy together. As a further argument, she has also hinted that my
appearance is not of the kind that can be trifled with.
On the whole, I was just as glad not to be able to take a long
farewell of Ethelbertha; I did not want to risk her breaking down.
But I should have liked more opportunity to say a few farewell
words of advice to the children, especially as regards my fishing
rod, which they will persist in using for cricket stumps; and I
hate having to run for a train. Quarter of a mile from the station
I overtook George and Harris; they were also running. In their
case--so Harris informed me, jerkily, while we trotted side by
side--it was the new kitchen stove that was to blame. This was the
first morning they had tried it, and from some cause or other it
had blown up the kidneys and scalded the cook. He said he hoped
that by the time we returned they would have got more used to it.
We caught the train by the skin of our teeth, as the saying is, and
reflecting upon the events of the morning, as we sat gasping in the
carriage, there passed vividly before my mind the panorama of my
Uncle Podger, as on two hundred and fifty days in the year he would
start from Ealing Common by the nine-thirteen train to Moorgate
From my Uncle Podger's house to the railway station was eight
minutes' walk. What my uncle always said was:
"Allow yourself a quarter of an hour, and take it easily."
What he always did was to start five minutes before the time and
run. I do not know why, but this was the custom of the suburb.
Many stout City gentlemen lived at Ealing in those days--I believe
some live there still--and caught early trains to Town. They all
started late; they all carried a black bag and a newspaper in one
hand, and an umbrella in the other; and for the last quarter of a
mile to the station, wet or fine, they all ran.
Folks with nothing else to do, nursemaids chiefly and errand boys,
with now and then a perambulating costermonger added, would gather
on the common of a fine morning to watch them pass, and cheer the
most deserving. It was not a showy spectacle. They did not run
well, they did not even run fast; but they were earnest, and they
did their best. The exhibition appealed less to one's sense of art
than to one's natural admiration for conscientious effort.
Occasionally a little harmless betting would take place among the
"Two to one agin the old gent in the white weskit!"
"Ten to one on old Blowpipes, bar he don't roll over hisself 'fore
'e gets there!"
"Heven money on the Purple Hemperor!"--a nickname bestowed by a
youth of entomological tastes upon a certain retired military
neighbour of my uncle's,--a gentleman of imposing appearance when
stationary, but apt to colour highly under exercise.
My uncle and the others would write to the Ealing Press complaining
bitterly concerning the supineness of the local police; and the
editor would add spirited leaders upon the Decay of Courtesy among
the Lower Orders, especially throughout the Western Suburbs. But
no good ever resulted.
It was not that my uncle did not rise early enough; it was that
troubles came to him at the last moment. The first thing he would
do after breakfast would be to lose his newspaper. We always knew
when Uncle Podger had lost anything, by the expression of
astonished indignation with which, on such occasions, he would
regard the world in general. It never occurred to my Uncle Podger
to say to himself:
"I am a careless old man. I lose everything: I never know where I
have put anything. I am quite incapable of finding it again for
myself. In this respect I must be a perfect nuisance to everybody
about me. I must set to work and reform myself."
On the contrary, by some peculiar course of reasoning, he had
convinced himself that whenever he lost a thing it was everybody
else's fault in the house but his own.
"I had it in my hand here not a minute ago!" he would exclaim.
From his tone you would have thought he was living surrounded by
conjurers, who spirited away things from him merely to irritate
"Could you have left it in the garden?" my aunt would suggest.
"What should I want to leave it in the garden for? I don't want a
paper in the garden; I want the paper in the train with me."
"You haven't put it in your pocket?"
"God bless the woman! Do you think I should be standing here at
five minutes to nine looking for it if I had it in my pocket all
the while? Do you think I'm a fool?"
Here somebody would explain, "What's this?" and hand him from
somewhere a paper neatly folded.
"I do wish people would leave my things alone," he would growl,
snatching at it savagely.
He would open his bag to put it in, and then glancing at it, he
would pause, speechless with sense of injury.
"What's the matter?" aunt would ask.
"The day before yesterday's!" he would answer, too hurt even to
shout, throwing the paper down upon the table.
If only sometimes it had been yesterday's it would have been a
change. But it was always the day before yesterday's; except on
Tuesday; then it would be Saturday's.
We would find it for him eventually; as often as not he was sitting
on it. And then he would smile, not genially, but with the
weariness that comes to a man who feels that fate has cast his lot
among a band of hopeless idiots.
"All the time, right in front of your noses--!" He would not
finish the sentence; he prided himself on his self-control.
This settled, he would start for the hall, where it was the custom
of my Aunt Maria to have the children gathered, ready to say good-
bye to him.
My aunt never left the house herself, if only to make a call next
door, without taking a tender farewell of every inmate. One never
knew, she would say, what might happen.
One of them, of course, was sure to be missing, and the moment this
was noticed all the other six, without an instant's hesitation,
would scatter with a whoop to find it. Immediately they were gone
it would turn up by itself from somewhere quite near, always with
the most reasonable explanation for its absence; and would at once
start off after the others to explain to them that it was found.
In this way, five minutes at least would be taken up in everybody's
looking for everybody else, which was just sufficient time to allow
my uncle to find his umbrella and lose his hat. Then, at last, the
group reassembled in the hall, the drawing-room clock would
commence to strike nine. It possessed a cold, penetrating chime
that always had the effect of confusing my uncle. In his
excitement he would kiss some of the children twice over, pass by
others, forget whom he had kissed and whom he hadn't, and have to
begin all over again. He used to say he believed they mixed
themselves up on purpose, and I am not prepared to maintain that
the charge was altogether false. To add to his troubles, one child
always had a sticky face; and that child would always be the most
If things were going too smoothly, the eldest boy would come out
with some tale about all the clocks in the house being five minutes
slow, and of his having been late for school the previous day in
consequence. This would send my uncle rushing impetuously down to
the gate, where he would recollect that he had with him neither his
bag nor his umbrella. All the children that my aunt could not stop
would charge after him, two of them struggling for the umbrella,
the others surging round the bag. And when they returned we would
discover on the hall table the most important thing of all that he
had forgotten, and wondered what he would say about it when he came
We arrived at Waterloo a little after nine, and at once proceeded
to put George's experiment into operation. Opening the book at the
chapter entitled "At the Cab Rank," we walked up to a hansom,
raised our hats, and wished the driver "Good-morning."
This man was not to be outdone in politeness by any foreigner, real
or imitation. Calling to a friend named "Charles" to "hold the
steed," he sprang from his box, and returned to us a bow, that
would have done credit to Mr. Turveydrop himself. Speaking
apparently in the name of the nation, he welcomed us to England,
adding a regret that Her Majesty was not at the moment in London.
We could not reply to him in kind. Nothing of this sort had been
anticipated by the book. We called him "coachman," at which he
again bowed to the pavement, and asked him if he would have the
goodness to drive us to the Westminster Bridge road.
He laid his hand upon his heart, and said the pleasure would be
Taking the third sentence in the chapter, George asked him what his
fare would be.
The question, as introducing a sordid element into the
conversation, seemed to hurt his feelings. He said he never took
money from distinguished strangers; he suggested a souvenir--a
diamond scarf pin, a gold snuffbox, some little trifle of that sort
by which he could remember us.
As a small crowd had collected, and as the joke was drifting rather
too far in the cabman's direction, we climbed in without further
parley, and were driven away amid cheers. We stopped the cab at a
boot shop a little past Astley's Theatre that looked the sort of
place we wanted. It was one of those overfed shops that the moment
their shutters are taken down in the morning disgorge their goods
all round them. Boxes of boots stood piled on the pavement or in
the gutter opposite. Boots hung in festoons about its doors and
windows. Its sun-blind was as some grimy vine, bearing bunches of
black and brown boots. Inside, the shop was a bower of boots. The
man, when we entered, was busy with a chisel and hammer opening a
new crate full of boots.
George raised his hat, and said "Good-morning."
The man did not even turn round. He struck me from the first as a
disagreeable man. He grunted something which might have been
"Good-morning," or might not, and went on with his work.
George said: "I have been recommended to your shop by my friend,
In response, the man should have said: "Mr. X. is a most worthy
gentleman; it will give me the greatest pleasure to serve any
friend of his."
What he did say was: "Don't know him; never heard of him."
This was disconcerting. The book gave three or four methods of
buying boots; George had carefully selected the one centred round
"Mr. X," as being of all the most courtly. You talked a good deal
with the shopkeeper about this "Mr. X," and then, when by this
means friendship and understanding had been established, you slid
naturally and gracefully into the immediate object of your coming,
namely, your desire for boots, "cheap and good." This gross,
material man cared, apparently, nothing for the niceties of retail
dealing. It was necessary with such an one to come to business
with brutal directness. George abandoned "Mr. X," and turning back
to a previous page, took a sentence at random. It was not a happy
selection; it was a speech that would have been superfluous made to
any bootmaker. Under the present circumstances, threatened and
stifled as we were on every side by boots, it possessed the dignity
of positive imbecilitiy. It ran:- "One has told me that you have
here boots for sale."
For the first time the man put down his hammer and chisel, and
looked at us. He spoke slowly, in a thick and husky voice. He
"What d'ye think I keep boots for--to smell 'em?"
He was one of those men that begin quietly and grow more angry as
they proceed, their wrongs apparently working within them like
"What d'ye think I am," he continued, "a boot collector? What d'ye
think I'm running this shop for--my health? D'ye think I love the
boots, and can't bear to part with a pair? D'ye think I hang 'em
about here to look at 'em? Ain't there enough of 'em? Where d'ye
think you are--in an international exhibition of boots? What d'ye
think these boots are--a historical collection? Did you ever hear
of a man keeping a boot shop and not selling boots? D'ye think I
decorate the shop with 'em to make it look pretty? What d'ye take
me for--a prize idiot?"
I have always maintained that these conversation books are never of
any real use. What we wanted was some English equivalent for the
well-known German idiom: "Behalten Sie Ihr Haar auf."
Nothing of the sort was to be found in the book from beginning to
end. However, I will do George the credit to admit he chose the
very best sentence that was to be found therein and applied it. He
"I will come again, when, perhaps, you will have some more boots to
show me. Till then, adieu!"
With that we returned to our cab and drove away, leaving the man
standing in the centre of his boot-bedecked doorway addressing
remarks to us. What he said, I did not hear, but the passers-by
appeared to find it interesting.
George was for stopping at another boot shop and trying the
experiment afresh; he said he really did want a pair of bedroom
slippers. But we persuaded him to postpone their purchase until
our arrival in some foreign city, where the tradespeople are no
doubt more inured to this sort of talk, or else more naturally
amiable. On the subject of the hat, however, he was adamant. He
maintained that without that he could not travel, and, accordingly,
we pulled up at a small shop in the Blackfriars Road.
The proprietor of this shop was a cheery, bright-eyed little man,
and he helped us rather than hindered us.
When George asked him in the words of the book, "Have you any
hats?" he did not get angry; he just stopped and thoughtfully
scratched his chin.
"Hats," said he. "Let me think. Yes"--here a smile of positive
pleasure broke over his genial countenance--"yes, now I come to
think of it, I believe I have a hat. But, tell me, why do you ask
George explained to him that he wished to purchase a cap, a
travelling cap, but the essence of the transaction was that it was
to be a "good cap."
The man's face fell.
"Ah," he remarked, "there, I am afraid, you have me. Now, if you
had wanted a bad cap, not worth the price asked for it; a cap good
for nothing but to clean windows with, I could have found you the
very thing. But a good cap--no; we don't keep them. But wait a
minute," he continued,--on seeing the disappointment that spread
over George's expressive countenance, "don't be in a hurry. I have
a cap here"--he went to a drawer and opened it--"it is not a good
cap, but it is not so bad as most of the caps I sell."
He brought it forward, extended on his palm.
"What do you think of that?" he asked. "Could you put up with
George fitted it on before the glass, and, choosing another remark
from the book, said:
"This hat fits me sufficiently well, but, tell me, do you consider
that it becomes me?"
The man stepped back and took a bird's-eye view.
"Candidly," he replied, "I can't say that it does."
He turned from George, and addressed himself to Harris and myself.
"Your friend's beauty," said he, "I should describe as elusive. It
is there, but you can easily miss it. Now, in that cap, to my
mind, you do miss it."
At that point it occurred to George that he had had sufficient fun
with this particular man. He said:
"That is all right. We don't want to lose the train. How much?"
Answered the man: "The price of that cap, sir, which, in my
opinion, is twice as much as it is worth, is four-and-six. Would
you like it wrapped up in brown paper, sir, or in white?"
George said he would take it as it was, paid the man four-and-six
in-silver, and went out. Harris and I followed.
At Fenchurch Street we compromised with our cabman for five
shillings. He made us another courtly bow, and begged us to
remember him to the Emperor of Austria.
Comparing views in the train, we agreed that we had lost the game
by two points to one; and George, who was evidently disappointed,
threw the book out of window.
We found our luggage and the bicycles safe on the boat, and with
the tide at twelve dropped down the river.
A necessary digression--Introduced by story containing moral--One
of the charms of this book--The Journal that did not command
success--Its boast: "Instruction combined with Amusement"--
Problem: say what should be considered instructive and what
amusing--A popular game--Expert opinion on English law--Another of
the charms of this book--A hackneyed tune--Yet a third charm of
this book--The sort of wood it was where the maiden lived--
Description of the Black Forest.
A story is told of a Scotchman who, loving a lassie, desired her
for his wife. But he possessed the prudence of his race. He had
noticed in his circle many an otherwise promising union result in
disappointment and dismay, purely in consequence of the false
estimate formed by bride or bridegroom concerning the imagined
perfectability of the other. He determined that in his own case no
collapsed ideal should be possible. Therefore, it was that his
proposal took the following form:
"I'm but a puir lad, Jennie; I hae nae siller to offer ye, and nae
"Ah, but ye hae yoursel', Davie!"
"An' I'm wishfu' it wa' onything else, lassie. I'm nae but a puir
ill-seasoned loon, Jennie."
"Na, na; there's mony a lad mair ill-looking than yoursel', Davie."
"I hae na seen him, lass, and I'm just a-thinkin' I shouldna' care
"Better a plain man, Davie, that ye can depend a' than ane that
would be a speirin' at the lassies, a-bringin' trouble into the
hame wi' his flouting ways."
"Dinna ye reckon on that, Jennie; it's nae the bonniest Bubbly Jock
that mak's the most feathers to fly in the kailyard. I was ever a
lad to run after the petticoats, as is weel kent; an' it's a weary
handfu' I'll be to ye, I'm thinkin'."
"Ah, but ye hae a kind heart, Davie! an' ye love me weel. I'm sure
"I like ye weel enoo', Jennie, though I canna say how long the
feeling may bide wi' me; an' I'm kind enoo' when I hae my ain way,
an' naethin' happens to put me oot. But I hae the deevil's ain
temper, as my mither call tell ye, an' like my puir fayther, I'm a-
thinkin', I'll grow nae better as I grow mair auld."
"Ay, but ye're sair hard upon yersel', Davie. Ye're an honest lad.
I ken ye better than ye ken yersel', an' ye'll mak a guid hame for
"Maybe, Jennie! But I hae my doots. It's a sair thing for wife
an' bairns when the guid man canna keep awa' frae the glass; an'
when the scent of the whusky comes to me it's just as though I
hae'd the throat o' a Loch Tay salmon; it just gaes doon an' doon,
an' there's nae filling o' me."
"Ay, but ye're a guid man when ye're sober, Davie."
"Maybe I'll be that, Jennie, if I'm nae disturbed."
"An' ye'll bide wi' me, Davie, an' work for me?"
"I see nae reason why I shouldna bide wi' yet Jennie; but dinna ye
clack aboot work to me, for I just canna bear the thoct o't."
"Anyhow, ye'll do your best, Davie? As the minister says, nae man
can do mair than that."
"An' it's a puir best that mine'll be, Jennie, and I'm nae sae sure
ye'll hae ower muckle even o' that. We're a' weak, sinfu'
creatures, Jennie, an' ye'd hae some deefficulty to find a man
weaker or mair sinfu' than mysel'."
"Weel, weel, ye hae a truthfu' tongue, Davie. Mony a lad will mak
fine promises to a puir lassie, only to break 'em an' her heart wi'
'em. Ye speak me fair, Davie, and I'm thinkin' I'll just tak ye,
an' see what comes o't."
Concerning what did come of it, the story is silent, but one feels
that under no circumstances had the lady any right to complain of
her bargain. Whether she ever did or did not--for women do not
invariably order their tongues according to logic, nor men either
for the matter of that--Davie, himself, must have had the
satisfaction of reflecting that all reproaches were undeserved.
I wish to be equally frank with the reader of this book. I wish
here conscientiously to let forth its shortcomings. I wish no one
to read this book under a misapprehension.
There will be no useful information in this book.
Anyone who should think that with the aid of this book he would be
able to make a tour through Germany and the Black Forest would
probably lose himself before he got to the Nore. That, at all
events, would be the best thing that could happen to him. The
farther away from home he got, the greater only would be his
I do not regard the conveyance of useful information as my forte.
This belief was not inborn with me; it has been driven home upon me
In my early journalistic days, I served upon a paper, the
forerunner of many very popular periodicals of the present day.
Our boast was that we combined instruction with amusement; as to
what should be regarded as affording amusement and what
instruction, the reader judged for himself. We gave advice to
people about to marry--long, earnest advice that would, had they
followed it, have made our circle of readers the envy of the whole
married world. We told our subscribers how to make fortunes by
keeping rabbits, giving facts and figures. The thing that must
have surprised them was that we ourselves did not give up
journalism and start rabbit-farming. Often and often have I proved
conclusively from authoritative sources how a man starting a rabbit
farm with twelve selected rabbits and a little judgment must, at
the end of three years, be in receipt of an income of two thousand
a year, rising rapidly; he simply could not help himself. He might
not want the money. He might not know what to do with it when he
had it. But there it was for him. I have never met a rabbit
farmer myself worth two thousand a year, though I have known many
start with the twelve necessary, assorted rabbits. Something has
always gone wrong somewhere; maybe the continued atmosphere of a
rabbit farm saps the judgment.
We told our readers how many bald-headed men there were in Iceland,
and for all we knew our figures may have been correct; how many red
herrings placed tail to mouth it would take to reach from London to
Rome, which must have been useful to anyone desirous of laying down
a line of red herrings from London to Rome, enabling him to order
in the right quantity at the beginning; how many words the average
woman spoke in a day; and other such like items of information
calculated to make them wise and great beyond the readers of other
We told them how to cure fits in cats. Personally I do not
believe, and I did not believe then, that you can cure fits in
cats. If I had a cat subject to fits I should advertise it for
sale, or even give it away. But our duty was to supply information
when asked for. Some fool wrote, clamouring to know; and I spent
the best part of a morning seeking knowledge on the subject. I
found what I wanted at length at the end of an old cookery book.
What it was doing there I have never been able to understand. It
had nothing to do with the proper subject of the book whatever;
there was no suggestion that you could make anything savoury out of
a cat, even when you had cured it of its fits. The authoress had
just thrown in this paragraph out of pure generosity. I can only
say that I wish she had left it out; it was the cause of a deal of
angry correspondence and of the loss of four subscribers to the
paper, if not more. The man said the result of following our
advice had been two pounds worth of damage to his kitchen crockery,
to say nothing of a broken window and probable blood poisoning to
himself; added to which the cat's fits were worse than before. And
yet it was a simple enough recipe. You held the cat between your
legs, gently, so as not to hurt it, and with a pair of scissors
made a sharp, clean cut in its tail. You did not cut off any part
of the tail; you were to be careful not to do that; you only made
As we explained to the man, the garden or the coal cellar would
have been the proper place for the operation; no one but an idiot
would have attempted to perform it in a kitchen, and without help.
We gave them hints on etiquette. We told them how to address peers
and bishops; also how to eat soup. We instructed shy young men how
to acquire easy grace in drawing-rooms. We taught dancing to both
sexes by the aid of diagrams. We solved their religious doubts for
them, and supplied them with a code of morals that would have done
credit to a stained-glass window.
The paper was not a financial success, it was some years before its
time, and the consequence was that our staff was limited. My own
apartment, I remember, included "Advice to Mothers"--I wrote that
with the assistance of my landlady, who, having divorced one
husband and buried four children, was, I considered, a reliable
authority on all domestic matters; "Hints on Furnishing and
Household Decorations--with Designs" a column of "Literary Counsel
to Beginners"--I sincerely hope my guidance was of better service
to them than it has ever proved to myself; and our weekly article,
"Straight Talks to Young Men," signed "Uncle Henry." A kindly,
genial old fellow was "Uncle Henry," with wide and varied
experience, and a sympathetic attitude towards the rising
generation. He had been through trouble himself in his far back
youth, and knew most things. Even to this day I read of "Uncle
Henry's" advice, and, though I say it who should not, it still
seems to me good, sound advice. I often think that had I followed
"Uncle Henry's" counsel closer I would have been wiser, made fewer
mistakes, felt better satisfied with myself than is now the case.
A quiet, weary little woman, who lived in a bed-sitting room off
the Tottenham Court Road, and who had a husband in a lunatic
asylum, did our "Cooking Column," "Hints on Education"--we were
full of hints,--and a page and a half of "Fashionable
Intelligence," written in the pertly personal style which even yet
has not altogether disappeared, so I am informed, from modern
journalism: "I must tell you about the DIVINE frock I wore at
'Glorious Goodwood' last week. Prince C.--but there, I really must
not repeat all the things the silly fellow says; he is TOO foolish-
-and the DEAR Countess, I fancy, was just the WEEISH bit jealous"--
and so on.
Poor little woman! I see her now in the shabby grey alpaca, with
the inkstains on it. Perhaps a day at "Glorious Goodwood," or
anywhere else in the fresh air, might have put some colour into her
Our proprietor--one of the most unashamedly ignorant men I ever
met--I remember his gravely informing a correspondent once that Ben
Jonson had written Rabelais to pay for his mother's funeral, and
only laughing good-naturedly when his mistakes were pointed out to
him--wrote with the aid of a cheap encyclopedia the pages devoted
to "General Information," and did them on the whole remarkably
well; while our office boy, with an excellent pair of scissors for
his assistant, was responsible for our supply of "Wit and Humour."
It was hard work, and the pay was poor, what sustained us was the
consciousness that we were instructing and improving our fellow men
and women. Of all games in the world, the one most universally and
eternally popular is the game of school. You collect six children,
and put them on a doorstep, while you walk up and down with the
book and cane. We play it when babies, we play it when boys and
girls, we play it when men and women, we play it as, lean and
slippered, we totter towards the grave. It never palls upon, it
never wearies us. Only one thing mars it: the tendency of one and
all of the other six children to clamour for their turn with the
book and the cane. The reason, I am sure, that journalism is so
popular a calling, in spite of its many drawbacks, is this: each
journalist feels he is the boy walking up and down with the cane.
The Government, the Classes, and the Masses, Society, Art, and
Literature, are the other children sitting on the doorstep. He
instructs and improves them.
But I digress. It was to excuse my present permanent
disinclination to be the vehicle of useful information that I
recalled these matters. Let us now return.
Somebody, signing himself "Balloonist," had written to ask
concerning the manufacture of hydrogen gas. It is an easy thing to
manufacture--at least, so I gathered after reading up the subject
at the British Museum; yet I did warn "Balloonist," whoever he
might be, to take all necessary precaution against accident. What
more could I have done? Ten days afterwards a florid-faced lady
called at the office, leading by the hand what, she explained, was
her son, aged twelve. The boy's face was unimpressive to a degree
positively remarkable. His mother pushed him forward and took off
his hat, and then I perceived the reason for this. He had no
eyebrows whatever, and of his hair nothing remained but a scrubby
dust, giving to his head the appearance of a hard-boiled egg,
skinned and sprinkled with black pepper.
"That was a handsome lad this time last week, with naturally curly
hair," remarked the lady. She spoke with a rising inflection,
suggestive of the beginning of things.
"What has happened to him?" asked our chief.
"This is what's happened to him," retorted the lady. She drew from
her muff a copy of our last week's issue, with my article on
hydrogen gas scored in pencil, and flung it before his eyes. Our
chief took it and read it through.
"He was 'Balloonist'?" queried the chief.
"He was 'Balloonist,'" admitted the lady, "the poor innocent child,
and now look at him!"
"Maybe it'll grow again," suggested our chief.
"Maybe it will," retorted the lady, her key continuing to rise,
"and maybe it won't. What I want to know is what you are going to
do for him."
Our chief suggested a hair wash. I thought at first she was going
to fly at him; but for the moment she confined herself to words.
It appears she was not thinking of a hair wash, but of
compensation. She also made observations on the general character
of our paper, its utility, its claim to public support, the sense
and wisdom of its contributors.
"I really don't see that it is our fault," urged the chief--he was
a mild-mannered man; "he asked for information, and he got it."
"Don't you try to be funny about it," said the lady (he had not
meant to be funny, I am sure; levity was not his failing) "or
you'll get something that YOU haven't asked for. Why, for two
pins," said the lady, with a suddenness that sent us both flying
like scuttled chickens behind our respective chairs, "I'd come
round and make your head like it!" I take it, she meant like the
boy's. She also added observations upon our chief's personal
appearance, that were distinctly in bad taste. She was not a nice
woman by any means.
Myself, I am of opinion that had she brought the action she
threatened, she would have had no case; but our chief was a man who
had had experience of the law, and his principle was always to
avoid it. I have heard him say:
"If a man stopped me in the street and demanded of me my watch, I
should refuse to give it to him. If he threatened to take it by
force, I feel I should, though not a fighting man, do my best to
protect it. If, on the other hand, he should assert his intention
of trying to obtain it by means of an action in any court of law, I
should take it out of my pocket and hand it to him, and think I had
got off cheaply."
He squared the matter with the florid-faced lady for a five-pound
note, which must have represented a month's profits on the paper;
and she departed, taking her damaged offspring with her. After she
was gone, our chief spoke kindly to me. He said:
"Don't think I am blaming you in the least; it is not your fault,
it is Fate. Keep to moral advice and criticism--there you are
distinctly good; but don't try your hand any more on 'Useful
Information.' As I have said, it is not your fault. Your
information is correct enough--there is nothing to be said against
that; it simply is that you are not lucky with it."
I would that I had followed his advice always; I would have saved
myself and other people much disaster. I see no reason why it
should be, but so it is. If I instruct a man as to the best route
between London and Rome, he loses his luggage in Switzerland, or is
nearly shipwrecked off Dover. If I counsel him in the purchase of
a camera, he gets run in by the German police for photographing
fortresses. I once took a deal of trouble to explain to a man how
to marry his deceased wife's sister at Stockholm. I found out for
him the time the boat left Hull and the best hotels to stop at.
There was not a single mistake from beginning to end in the
information with which I supplied him; no hitch occurred anywhere;
yet now he never speaks to me.
Therefore it is that I have come to restrain my passion for the
giving of information; therefore it is that nothing in the nature
of practical instruction will be found, if I can help it, within
There will be no description of towns, no historical reminiscences,
no architecture, no morals.
I once asked an intelligent foreigner what he thought of London.
He said: "It is a very big town."
I said: "What struck you most about it?"
He replied: "The people."
I said: "Compared with other towns--Paris, Rome, Berlin,--what did
you think of it?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "It is bigger," he said; "what more can
One anthill is very much like another. So many avenues, wide or
narrow, where the little creatures swarm in strange confusion;
these bustling by, important; these halting to pow-wow with one
another. These struggling with big burdens; those but basking in
the sun. So many granaries stored with food; so many cells where
the little things sleep, and eat, and love; the corner where lie
their little white bones. This hive is larger, the next smaller.
This nest lies on the sand, and another under the stones. This was
built but yesterday, while that was fashioned ages ago, some say
even before the swallows came; who knows?
Nor will there be found herein folk-lore or story.
Every valley where lie homesteads has its song. I will tell you
the plot; you can turn it into verse and set it to music of your
There lived a lass, and there came a lad, who loved and rode away.
It is a monotonous song, written in many languages; for the young
man seems to have been a mighty traveller. Here in sentimental
Germany they remember him well. So also the dwellers of the Blue
Alsatian Mountains remember his coming among them; while, if my
memory serves me truly, he likewise visited the Banks of Allan
Water. A veritable Wandering Jew is he; for still the foolish
girls listen, so they say, to the dying away of his hoof-beats.
In this land of many ruins, that long while ago were voice-filled
homes, linger many legends; and here again, giving you the
essentials, I leave you to cook the dish for yourself. Take a
human heart or two, assorted; a bundle of human passions--there are
not many of them, half a dozen at the most; season with a mixture
of good and evil; flavour the whole with the sauce of death, and
serve up where and when you will. "The Saint's Cell," "The Haunted
Keep," "The Dungeon Grave," "The Lover's Leap"--call it what you
will, the stew's the same.
Lastly, in this book there will be no scenery. This is not
laziness on my part; it is self-control. Nothing is easier to
write than scenery; nothing more difficult and unnecessary to read.
When Gibbon had to trust to travellers' tales for a description of
the Hellespont, and the Rhine was chiefly familiar to English
students through the medium of Caesar's Commentaries, it behoved
every globe-trotter, for whatever distance, to describe to the best
of his ability the things that he had seen. Dr. Johnson, familiar
with little else than the view down Fleet Street, could read the
description of a Yorkshire moor with pleasure and with profit. To
a cockney who had never seen higher ground than the Hog's Back in
Surrey, an account of Snowdon must have appeared exciting. But we,
or rather the steam-engine and the camera for us, have changed all
that. The man who plays tennis every year at the foot of the
Matterhorn, and billiards on the summit of the Rigi, does not thank
you for an elaborate and painstaking description of the Grampian
Hills. To the average man, who has seen a dozen oil paintings, a
hundred photographs, a thousand pictures in the illustrated
journals, and a couple of panoramas of Niagara, the word-painting
of a waterfall is tedious.
An American friend of mine, a cultured gentleman, who loved poetry
well enough for its own sake, told me that he had obtained a more
correct and more satisfying idea of the Lake district from an
eighteenpenny book of photographic views than from all the works of
Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth put together. I also remember
his saying concerning this subject of scenery in literature, that
he would thank an author as much for writing an eloquent
description of what he had just had for dinner. But this was in
reference to another argument; namely, the proper province of each
art. My friend maintained that just as canvas and colour were the
wrong mediums for story telling, so word-painting was, at its best,
but a clumsy method of conveying impressions that could much better
be received through the eye.
As regards the question, there also lingers in my memory very
distinctly a hot school afternoon. The class was for English
literature, and the proceedings commenced with the reading of a
certain lengthy, but otherwise unobjectionable, poem. The author's
name, I am ashamed to say, I have forgotten, together with the
title of the poem. The reading finished, we closed our books, and
the Professor, a kindly, white-haired old gentleman, suggested our
giving in our own words an account of what we had just read.
"Tell me," said the Professor, encouragingly, "what it is all
"Please, sir," said the first boy--he spoke with bowed head and
evident reluctance, as though the subject were one which, left to
himself, he would never have mentioned,--"it is about a maiden."
"Yes," agreed the Professor; "but I want you to tell me in your own
words. We do not speak of a maiden, you know; we say a girl. Yes,
it is about a girl. Go on."
"A girl," repeated the top boy, the substitution apparently
increasing his embarrassment, "who lived in a wood."
"What sort of a wood?" asked the Professor.
The first boy examined his inkpot carefully, and then looked at the
"Come," urged the Professor, growing impatient, "you have been
reading about this wood for the last ten minutes. Surely you can
tell me something concerning it."
"The gnarly trees, their twisted branches"--recommenced the top
"No, no," interrupted the Professor; "I do not want you to repeat
the poem. I want you to tell me in your own words what sort of a
wood it was where the girl lived."
The Professor tapped his foot impatiently; the top boy made a dash
"Please, sir, it was the usual sort of a wood."
"Tell him what sort of a wood," said he, pointing to the second
The second boy said it was a "green wood." This annoyed the
Professor still more; he called the second boy a blockhead, though
really I cannot see why, and passed on to the third, who, for the
last minute, had been sitting apparently on hot plates, with his
right arm waving up and down like a distracted semaphore signal.
He would have had to say it the next second, whether the Professor
had asked him or not; he was red in the face, holding his knowledge
"A dark and gloomy wood," shouted the third boy, with much relief
to his feelings.
"A dark and gloomy wood," repeated the Professor, with evident
approval. "And why was it dark and gloomy?"
The third boy was still equal to the occasion.
"Because the sun could not get inside it."
The Professor felt he had discovered the poet of the class.
"Because the sun could not get into it, or, better, because the
sunbeams could not penetrate. And why could not the sunbeams
"Please, sir, because the leaves were too thick."
"Very well," said the Professor. "The girl lived in a dark and
gloomy wood, through the leafy canopy of which the sunbeams were
unable to pierce. Now, what grew in this wood?" He pointed to the
"Please, sir, trees, sir."
"And what else?"
"Toadstools, sir." This after a pause.
The Professor was not quite sure about the toadstools, but on
referring to the text he found that the boy was right; toadstools
had been mentioned.
"Quite right," admitted the Professor, "toadstools grew there. And
what else? What do you find underneath trees in a wood?"
"Please, sir, earth, sir."
"No; no; what grows in a wood besides trees?"
"Oh, please, sir, bushes, sir."
"Bushes; very good. Now we are getting on. In this wood there
were trees and bushes. And what else?"
He pointed to a small boy near the bottom, who having decided that
the wood was too far off to be of any annoyance to him,
individually, was occupying his leisure playing noughts and crosses
against himself. Vexed and bewildered, but feeling it necessary to
add something to the inventory, he hazarded blackberries. This was
a mistake; the poet had not mentioned blackberries.
"Of course, Klobstock would think of something to eat," commented
the Professor, who prided himself on his ready wit. This raised a
laugh against Klobstock, and pleased the Professor.
"You," continued he, pointing to a boy in the middle; "what else
was there in this wood besides trees and bushes?"
"Please, sir, there was a torrent there."
"Quite right; and what did the torrent do?"
"Please, sir, it gurgled."
"No; no. Streams gurgle, torrents--?"
"It roared. And what made it roar?"
This was a poser. One boy--he was not our prize intellect, I
admit--suggested the girl. To help us the Professor put his
question in another form:
"When did it roar?"
Our third boy, again coming to the rescue, explained that it roared
when it fell down among the rocks. I think some of us had a vague
idea that it must have been a cowardly torrent to make such a noise
about a little thing like this; a pluckier torrent, we felt, would
have got up and gone on, saying nothing about it. A torrent that
roared every time it fell upon a rock we deemed a poor spirited
torrent; but the Professor seemed quite content with it.
"And what lived in this wood beside the girl?" was the next
"Please, sir, birds, sir."
"Yes, birds lived in this wood. What else?"
Birds seemed to have exhausted our ideas.
"Come," said the Professor, "what are those animals with tails,
that run up trees?"
We thought for a while, then one of us suggested cats.
This was an error; the poet had said nothing about cats; squirrels
was what the Professor was trying to get.
I do not recall much more about this wood in detail. I only
recollect that the sky was introduced into it. In places where
there occurred an opening among the trees you could by looking up
see the sky above you; very often there were clouds in this sky,
and occasionally, if I remember rightly, the girl got wet.
I have dwelt upon this incident, because it seems to me suggestive
of the whole question of scenery in literature. I could not at the
time, I cannot now, understand why the top boy's summary was not
sufficient. With all due deference to the poet, whoever he may
have been, one cannot but acknowledge that his wood was, and could
not be otherwise than, "the usual sort of a wood."
I could describe the Black Forest to you at great length. I could
translate to you Hebel, the poet of the Black Forest. I could
write pages concerning its rocky gorges and its smiling valleys,
its pine-clad slopes, its rock-crowned summits, its foaming
rivulets (where the tidy German has not condemned them to flow
respectably through wooden troughs or drainpipes), its white
villages, its lonely farmsteads.
But I am haunted by the suspicion you might skip all this. Were
you sufficiently conscientious--or weak-minded enough--not to do
so, I should, all said and done, succeed in conveying to you only
an impression much better summed up in the simple words of the
unpretentious guide book:
"A picturesque, mountainous district, bounded on the south and the
west by the plain of the Rhine, towards which its spurs descend
precipitately. Its geological formation consists chiefly of
variegated sandstone and granite; its lower heights being covered
with extensive pine forests. It is well watered with numerous
streams, while its populous valleys are fertile and well
cultivated. The inns are good; but the local wines should be
partaken of by the stranger with discretion."
Why we went to Hanover--Something they do better abroad--The art of
polite foreign conversation, as taught in English schools--A true
history, now told for the first time--The French joke, as provided
for the amusement of British youth--Fatherly instincts of Harris--
The road-waterer, considered as an artist--Patriotism of George--
What Harris ought to have done--What he did--We save Harris's life-
-A sleepless city--The cab-horse as a critic.
We arrived in Hamburg on Friday after a smooth and uneventful
voyage; and from Hamburg we travelled to Berlin by way of Hanover.
It is not the most direct route. I can only account for our visit
to Hanover as the nigger accounted to the magistrate for his
appearance in the Deacon's poultry-yard.
"Yes, sar, what the constable sez is quite true, sar; I was dar,
"Oh, so you admit it? And what were you doing with a sack, pray,
in Deacon Abraham's poultry-yard at twelve o'clock at night?"
"I'se gwine ter tell yer, sar; yes, sar. I'd been to Massa
Jordan's wid a sack of melons. Yes, sar; an' Massa Jordan he wuz
very 'greeable, an' axed me for ter come in."
"Yes, sar, very 'greeable man is Massa Jordan. An' dar we sat a
talking an' a talking--"
"Very likely. What we want to know is what you were doing in the
"Yes, sar, dat's what I'se cumming to. It wuz ver' late 'fore I
left Massa Jordan's, an' den I sez ter mysel', sez I, now yer jest
step out with yer best leg foremost, Ulysses, case yer gets into
trouble wid de ole woman. Ver' talkative woman she is, sar, very--
"Yes, never mind her; there are other people very talkative in this
town besides your wife. Deacon Abraham's house is half a mile out
of your way home from Mr. Jordan's. How did you get there?"
"Dat's what I'm a-gwine ter explain, sar."
"I am glad of that. And how do you propose to do it?"
"Well, I'se thinkin', sar, I must ha' digressed."
I take it we digressed a little.
At first, from some reason or other, Hanover strikes you as an
uninteresting town, but it grows upon you. It is in reality two
towns; a place of broad, modern, handsome streets and tasteful
gardens; side by side with a sixteenth-century town, where old
timbered houses overhang the narrow lanes; where through low
archways one catches glimpses of galleried courtyards, once often
thronged, no doubt, with troops of horse, or blocked with lumbering
coach and six, waiting its rich merchant owner, and his fat placid
Frau, but where now children and chickens scuttle at their will;
while over the carved balconies hang dingy clothes a-drying.
A singularly English atmosphere hovers over Hanover, especially on
Sundays, when its shuttered shops and clanging bells give to it the
suggestion of a sunnier London. Nor was this British Sunday
atmosphere apparent only to myself, else I might have attributed it
to imagination; even George felt it. Harris and I, returning from
a short stroll with our cigars after lunch on the Sunday afternoon,
found him peacefully slumbering in the smoke-room's easiest chair.
"After all," said Harris, "there is something about the British
Sunday that appeals to the man with English blood in his veins. I
should be sorry to see it altogether done away with, let the new
generation say what it will."
And taking one each end of the ample settee, we kept George
To Hanover one should go, they say, to learn the best German. The
disadvantage is that outside Hanover, which is only a small
province, nobody understands this best German. Thus you have to
decide whether to speak good German and remain in Hanover, or bad
German and travel about. Germany being separated so many centuries
into a dozen principalities, is unfortunate in possessing a variety
of dialects. Germans from Posen wishful to converse with men of
Wurtemburg, have to talk as often as not in French or English; and
young ladies who have received an expensive education in Westphalia
surprise and disappoint their parents by being unable to understand
a word said to them in Mechlenberg. An English-speaking foreigner,
it is true, would find himself equally nonplussed among the
Yorkshire wolds, or in the purlieus of Whitechapel; but the cases
are not on all fours. Throughout Germany it is not only in the
country districts and among the uneducated that dialects are
maintained. Every province has practically its own language, of
which it is proud and retentive. An educated Bavarian will admit
to you that, academically speaking, the North German is more
correct; but he will continue to speak South German and to teach it
to his children.
In the course of the century, I am inclined to think that Germany
will solve her difficulty in this respect by speaking English.
Every boy and girl in Germany, above the peasant class, speaks
English. Were English pronunciation less arbitrary, there is not
the slightest doubt but that in the course of a very few years,
comparatively speaking, it would become the language of the world.
All foreigners agree that, grammatically, it is the easiest
language of any to learn. A German, comparing it with his own
language, where every word in every sentence is governed by at
least four distinct and separate rules, tells you that English has
no grammar. A good many English people would seem to have come to
the same conclusion; but they are wrong. As a matter of fact,
there is an English grammar, and one of these days our schools will
recognise the fact, and it will be taught to our children,
penetrating maybe even into literary and journalistic circles. But
at present we appear to agree with the foreigner that it is a
quantity neglectable. English pronunciation is the stumbling-block
to our progress. English spelling would seem to have been designed
chiefly as a disguise to pronunciation. It is a clever idea,
calculated to check presumption on the part of the foreigner; but
for that he would learn it in a year.
For they have a way of teaching languages in Germany that is not
our way, and the consequence is that when the German youth or
maiden leaves the gymnasium or high school at fifteen, "it" (as in
Germany one conveniently may say) can understand and speak the
tongue it has been learning. In England we have a method that for
obtaining the least possible result at the greatest possible
expenditure of time and money is perhaps unequalled. An English
boy who has been through a good middle-class school in England can
talk to a Frenchman, slowly and with difficulty, about female
gardeners and aunts; conversation which, to a man possessed perhaps
of neither, is liable to pall. Possibly, if he be a bright
exception, he may be able to tell the time, or make a few guarded
observations concerning the weather. No doubt he could repeat a
goodly number of irregular verbs by heart; only, as a matter of
fact, few foreigners care to listen to their own irregular verbs,
recited by young Englishmen. Likewise he might be able to remember
a choice selection of grotesquely involved French idioms, such as
no modern Frenchman has ever heard or understands when he does
The explanation is that, in nine cases out of ten, he has learnt
French from an "Ahn's First-Course." The history of this famous
work is remarkable and instructive. The book was originally
written for a joke, by a witty Frenchman who had resided for some
years in England. He intended it as a satire upon the
conversational powers of British society. From this point of view
it was distinctly good. He submitted it to a London publishing
firm. The manager was a shrewd man. He read the book through.
Then he sent for the author.
"This book of yours," said he to the author, "is very clever. I
have laughed over it myself till the tears came."
"I am delighted to hear you say so," replied the pleased Frenchman.
"I tried to be truthful without being unnecessarily offensive."
"It is most amusing," concurred the manager; "and yet published as
a harmless joke, I feel it would fail."
The author's face fell.
"Its humour," proceeded the manager, "would be denounced as forced
and extravagant. It would amuse the thoughtful and intelligent,
but from a business point of view that portion of the public are
never worth considering. But I have an idea," continued the
manager. He glanced round the room to be sure they were alone,
and leaning forward sunk his voice to a whisper. "My notion is to
publish it as a serious work for the use of schools!"
The author stared, speechless.
"I know the English schoolman," said the manager; "this book will
appeal to him. It will exactly fit in with his method. Nothing
sillier, nothing more useless for the purpose will he ever
discover. He will smack his lips over the book, as a puppy licks
The author, sacrificing art to greed, consented. They altered the
title and added a vocabulary, but left the book otherwise as it
The result is known to every schoolboy. "Ahn" became the palladium
of English philological education. If it no longer retains its
ubiquity, it is because something even less adaptable to the object
in view has been since invented.
Lest, in spite of all, the British schoolboy should obtain, even
from the like of "Ahn," some glimmering of French, the British
educational method further handicaps him by bestowing upon him the
assistance of, what is termed in the prospectus, "A native
gentleman." This native French gentleman, who, by-the-by, is
generally a Belgian, is no doubt a most worthy person, and can, it
is true, understand and speak his own language with tolerable
fluency. There his qualifications cease. Invariably he is a man
with a quite remarkable inability to teach anybody anything.
Indeed, he would seem to be chosen not so much as an instructor as
an amuser of youth. He is always a comic figure. No Frenchman of
a dignified appearance would be engaged for any English school. If
he possess by nature a few harmless peculiarities, calculated to
cause merriment, so much the more is he esteemed by his employers.
The class naturally regards him as an animated joke. The two to
four hours a week that are deliberately wasted on this ancient
farce, are looked forward to by the boys as a merry interlude in an
otherwise monotonous existence. And then, when the proud parent
takes his son and heir to Dieppe merely to discover that the lad
does not know enough to call a cab, he abuses not the system, but
its innocent victim.
I confine my remarks to French, because that is the only language
we attempt to teach our youth. An English boy who could speak
German would be looked down upon as unpatriotic. Why we waste time
in teaching even French according to this method I have never been
able to understand. A perfect unacquaintance with a language is
respectable. But putting aside comic journalists and lady
novelists, for whom it is a business necessity, this smattering of
French which we are so proud to possess only serves to render us
In the German school the method is somewhat different. One hour
every day is devoted to the same language. The idea is not to give
the lad time between each lesson to forget what he learned at the
last; the idea is for him to get on. There is no comic foreigner
provided for his amusement. The desired language is taught by a
German school-master who knows it inside and out as thoroughly as
he knows his own. Maybe this system does not provide the German
youth with that perfection of foreign accent for which the British
tourist is in every land remarkable, but it has other advantages.
The boy does not call his master "froggy," or "sausage," nor
prepare for the French or English hour any exhibition of homely wit
whatever. He just sits there, and for his own sake tries to learn
that foreign tongue with as little trouble to everybody concerned
as possible. When he has left school he can talk, not about
penknives and gardeners and aunts merely, but about European
politics, history, Shakespeare, or the musical glasses, according
to the turn the conversation may take.
Viewing the German people from an Anglo-Saxon standpoint, it may be
that in this book I shall find occasion to criticise them: but on
the other hand there is much that we might learn from them; and in
the matter of common sense, as applied to education, they can give
us ninety-nine in a hundred and beat us with one hand.
The beautiful wood of the Eilenriede bounds Hanover on the south
and west, and here occurred a sad drama in which Harris took a
We were riding our machines through this wood on the Monday
afternoon in the company of many other cyclists, for it is a
favourite resort with the Hanoverians on a sunny afternoon, and its
shady pathways are then filled with happy, thoughtless folk. Among
them rode a young and beautiful girl on a machine that was new.
She was evidently a novice on the bicycle. One felt instinctively
that there would come a moment when she would require help, and
Harris, with his accustomed chivalry, suggested we should keep near
her. Harris, as he occasionally explains to George and to myself,
has daughters of his own, or, to speak more correctly, a daughter,
who as the years progress will no doubt cease practising catherine
wheels in the front garden, and will grow up into a beautiful and
respectable young lady. This naturally gives Harris an interest in
all beautiful girls up to the age of thirty-five or thereabouts;
they remind him, so he says, of home.
We had ridden for about two miles, when we noticed, a little ahead
of us in a space where five ways met, a man with a hose, watering
the roads. The pipe, supported at each joint by a pair of tiny
wheels, writhed after him as he moved, suggesting a gigantic-worm,
from whose open neck, as the man, gripping it firmly in both hands,
pointing it now this way, and now that, now elevating it, now
depressing it, poured a strong stream of water at the rate of about
a gallon a second.
"What a much better method than ours," observed Harris,
enthusiastically. Harris is inclined to be chronically severe on
all British institutions. "How much simpler, quicker, and more
economical! You see, one man by this method can in five minutes
water a stretch of road that would take us with our clumsy
lumbering cart half an hour to cover."
George, who was riding behind me on the tandem, said, "Yes, and it
is also a method by which with a little carelessness a man could
cover a good many people in a good deal less time than they could
get out of the way."
George, the opposite to Harris, is British to the core. I remember
George quite patriotically indignant with Harris once for
suggesting the introduction of the guillotine into England.
"It is so much neater," said Harris.
"I don't care if it is," said George; "I'm an Englishman; hanging
is good enough for me."
"Our water-cart may have its disadvantages," continued George, "but
it can only make you uncomfortable about the legs, and you can
avoid it. This is the sort of machine with which a man can follow
you round the corner and upstairs."
"It fascinates me to watch them," said Harris. "They are so
skilful. I have seen a man from the corner of a crowded square in
Strassburg cover every inch of ground, and not so much as wet an
apron string. It is marvellous how they judge their distance.
They will send the water up to your toes, and then bring it over
your head so that it falls around your heels. They can--"
"Ease up a minute," said George. I said: "Why?"
He said: "I am going to get off and watch the rest of this show
from behind a tree. There may be great performers in this line, as
Harris says; this particular artist appears to me to lack
something. He has just soused a dog, and now he's busy watering a
sign-post. I am going to wait till he has finished."
"Nonsense," said Harris; "he won't wet you."
"That is precisely what I am going to make sure of," answered
George, saying which he jumped off, and, taking up a position
behind a remarkably fine elm, pulled out and commenced filling his
I did not care to take the tandem on by myself, so I stepped off
and joined him, leaving the machine against a tree. Harris shouted
something or other about our being a disgrace to the land that gave
us birth, and rode on.
The next moment I heard a woman's cry of distress. Glancing round
the stem of the tree, I perceived that it proceeded from the young
and elegant lady before mentioned, whom, in our interest concerning
the road-waterer, we had forgotten. She was riding her machine
steadily and straightly through a drenching shower of water from
the hose. She appeared to be too paralysed either to get off or
turn her wheel aside. Every instant she was becoming wetter, while
the man with the hose, who was either drunk or blind, continued to
pour water upon her with utter indifference. A dozen voices yelled
imprecations upon him, but he took no heed whatever.
Harris, his fatherly nature stirred to its depths, did at this
point what, under the circumstances, was quite the right and proper
thing to do. Had he acted throughout with the same coolness and
judgment he then displayed, he would have emerged from that
incident the hero of the hour, instead of, as happened, riding away
followed by insult and threat. Without a moment's hesitation he
spurted at the man, sprang to the ground, and, seizing the hose by
the nozzle, attempted to wrest it away.
What he ought to have done, what any man retaining his common sense
would have done the moment he got his hands upon the thing, was to
turn off the tap. Then he might have played foot-ball with the
man, or battledore and shuttlecock as he pleased; and the twenty or
thirty people who had rushed forward to assist would have only
applauded. His idea, however, as he explained to us afterwards,
was to take away the hose from the man, and, for punishment, turn
it upon the fool himself. The waterman's idea appeared to be the
same, namely, to retain the hose as a weapon with which to soak
Harris. Of course, the result was that, between them, they soused
every dead and living thing within fifty yards, except themselves.
One furious man, too drenched to care what more happened to him,
leapt into the arena and also took a hand. The three among them
proceeded to sweep the compass with that hose. They pointed it to
heaven, and the water descended upon the people in the form of an
equinoctial storm. They pointed it downwards, and sent the water
in rushing streams that took people off their feet, or caught them
about the waist line, and doubled them up.
Not one of them would loosen his grip upon the hose, not one of
them thought to turn the water off. You might have concluded they
were struggling with some primeval force of nature. In forty-five
seconds, so George said, who was timing it, they had swept that
circus bare of every living thing except one dog, who, dripping
like a water nymph, rolled over by the force of water, now on this
side, now on that, still gallantly staggered again and again to its
feet to bark defiance at what it evidently regarded as the powers
of hell let loose.
Men and women left their machines upon the ground, and flew into
the woods. From behind every tree of importance peeped out wet,
At last, there arrived upon the scene one man of sense. Braving
all things, he crept to the hydrant, where still stood the iron
key, and screwed it down. And then from forty trees began to creep
more or less soaked human beings, each one with something to say.
At first I fell to wondering whether a stretcher or a clothes
basket would be the more useful for the conveyance of Harris's
remains back to the hotel. I consider that George's promptness on
that occasion saved Harris's life. Being dry, and therefore able
to run quicker, he was there before the crowd. Harris was for
explaining things, but George cut him short.
"You get on that," said George, handing him his bicycle, "and go.
They don't know we belong to you, and you may trust us implicitly
not to reveal the secret. We'll hang about behind, and get in
their way. Ride zig-zag in case they shoot."
I wish this book to be a strict record of fact, unmarred by
exaggeration, and therefore I have shown my description of this
incident to Harris, lest anything beyond bald narrative may have
crept into it. Harris maintains it is exaggerated, but admits that
one or two people may have been "sprinkled." I have offered to
turn a street hose on him at a distance of five-and-twenty yards,
and take his opinion afterwards, as to whether "sprinkled" is the
adequate term, but he has declined the test. Again, he insists
there could not have been more than half a dozen people, at the
outside, involved in the catastrophe, that forty is a ridiculous
misstatement. I have offered to return with him to Hanover and
make strict inquiry into the matter, and this offer he has likewise
declined. Under these circumstances, I maintain that mine is a
true and restrained narrative of an event that is, by a certain
number of Hanoverians, remembered with bitterness unto this very
We left Hanover that same evening, and arrived at Berlin in time
for supper and an evening stroll. Berlin is a disappointing town;
its centre over-crowded, its outlying parts lifeless; its one
famous street, Unter den Linden, an attempt to combine Oxford
Street with the Champs Elysee, singularly unimposing, being much
too wide for its size; its theatres dainty and charming, where
acting is considered of more importance than scenery or dress,
where long runs are unknown, successful pieces being played again
and again, but never consecutively, so that for a week running you
may go to the same Berlin theatre, and see a fresh play every
night; its opera house unworthy of it; its two music halls, with an
unnecessary suggestion of vulgarity and commonness about them, ill-
arranged and much too large for comfort. In the Berlin cafes and
restaurants, the busy time is from midnight on till three. Yet
most of the people who frequent them are up again at seven. Either
the Berliner has solved the great problem of modern life, how to do
without sleep, or, with Carlyle, he must be looking forward to
Personally, I know of no other town where such late hours are the
vogue, except St. Petersburg. But your St. Petersburger does not
get up early in the morning. At St. Petersburg, the music halls,
which it is the fashionable thing to attend AFTER the theatre--a
drive to them taking half an hour in a swift sleigh--do not
practically begin till twelve. Through the Neva at four o'clock in
the morning you have to literally push your way; and the favourite
trains for travellers are those starting about five o'clock in the
morning. These trains save the Russian the trouble of getting up
early. He wishes his friends "Good-night," and drives down to the
station comfortably after supper, without putting the house to any
Potsdam, the Versailles to Berlin, is a beautiful little town,
situate among lakes and woods. Here in the shady ways of its
quiet, far-stretching park of Sans Souci, it is easy to imagine
lean, snuffy Frederick "bummeling" with shrill Voltaire.
Acting on my advice, George and Harris consented not to stay long
in Berlin; but to push on to Dresden. Most that Berlin has to show
can be seen better elsewhere, and we decided to be content with a
drive through the town. The hotel porter introduced us to a
droschke driver, under whose guidance, so he assured us, we should
see everything worth seeing in the shortest possible time. The man
himself, who called for us at nine o'clock in the morning, was all
that could be desired. He was bright, intelligent, and well-
informed; his German was easy to understand, and he knew a little
English with which to eke it out on occasion. With the man himself
there was no fault to be found, but his horse was the most
unsympathetic brute I have ever sat behind.
He took a dislike to us the moment he saw us. I was the first to
come out of the hotel. He turned his head, and looked me up and
down with a cold, glassy eye; and then he looked across at another
horse, a friend of his that was standing facing him. I knew what
he said. He had an expressive head, and he made no attempt to
disguise his thought.
"Funny things one does come across in the summer time, don't one?"
George followed me out the next moment, and stood behind me. The
horse again turned his head and looked. I have never known a horse
that could twist himself as this horse did. I have seen a
camelopard do trick's with his neck that compelled one's attention,
but this animal was more like the thing one dreams of after a dusty
days at Ascot, followed by a dinner with six old chums. If I had
seen his eyes looking at me from between his own hind legs, I doubt
if I should have been surprised. He seemed more amused with George
if anything, than with myself. He turned to his friend again.
"Extraordinary, isn't it?" he remarked; "I suppose there must be
some place where they grow them"; and then he commenced licking
flies off his own left shoulder. I began to wonder whether he had
lost his mother when young, and had been brought up by a cat.
George and I climbed in, and sat waiting for Harris. He came a
moment later. Myself, I thought he looked rather neat. He wore a
white flannel knickerbocker suit, which he had had made specially
for bicycling in hot weather; his hat may have been a trifle out of
the common, but it did keep the sun off.
The horse gave one look at him, said "Gott in Himmel!" as plainly
as ever horse spoke, and started off down Friedrich Strasse at a
brisk walk, leaving Harris and the driver standing on the pavement.
His owner called to him to stop, but he took no notice. They ran
after us, and overtook us at the corner of the Dorotheen Strasse.
I could not catch what the man said to the horse, he spoke quickly
and excitedly; but I gathered a few phrases, such as:
"Got to earn my living somehow, haven't I? Who asked for your
opinion? Aye, little you care so long as you can guzzle."
The horse cut the conversation short by turning up the Dorotheen
Strasse on his own account. I think what he said was:
"Come on then; don't talk so much. Let's get the job over, and,
where possible, let's keep to the back streets."
Opposite the Brandenburger Thor our driver hitched the reins to the
whip, climbed down, and came round to explain things to us. He
pointed out the Thiergarten, and then descanted to us of the
Reichstag House. He informed us of its exact height, length, and
breadth, after the manner of guides. Then he turned his attention
to the Gate. He said it was constructed of sandstone, in imitation
of the "Properleer" in Athens.
At this point the horse, which had been occupying its leisure
licking its own legs, turned round its head. It did not say
anything, it just looked.
The man began again nervously. This time he said it was an
imitation of the "Propeyedliar."
Here the horse proceeded up the Linden, and nothing would persuade
him not to proceed up the Linden. His owner expostulated with him,
but he continued to trot on. From the way he hitched his shoulders
as he moved, I somehow felt he was saying:
"They've seen the Gate, haven' t they? Very well, that's enough.
As for the rest, you don't know what you are talking about, and
they wouldn't understand you if you did. You talk German."
It was the same throughout the length of the Linden. The horse
consented to stand still sufficiently long to enable us to have a
good look at each sight, and to hear the name of it. All
explanation and description he cut short by the simple process of
"What these fellows want," he seemed to say to himself, "is to go
home and tell people they have seen these things. If I am doing
them an injustice, if they are more intelligent than they look,
they can get better information than this old fool of mine is
giving them from the guide book. Who wants to know how high a
steeple is? You don't remember it the next five minutes when you
are told, and if you do it is because you have got nothing else in
your head. He just tires me with his talk. Why doesn't he hurry
up, and let us all get home to lunch?"
Upon reflection, I am not sure that wall-eyed old brute had not
sense on its side. Anyhow, I know there have been occasions, with
a guide, when I would have been glad of its interference.
But one is apt to "sin one's mercies," as the Scotch say, and at
the time we cursed that horse instead of blessing it.
George wonders--German love of order--"The Band of the Schwarzwald
Blackbirds will perform at seven"--The china dog--Its superiority
over all other dogs--The German and the solar system--A tidy
country--The mountain valley as it ought to be, according to the
German idea--How the waters come down in Germany--The scandal of
Dresden--Harris gives an entertainment--It is unappreciated--George
and the aunt of him--George, a cushion, and three damsels.
At a point between Berlin and Dresden, George, who had, for the
last quarter of an hour or so, been looking very attentively out of
the window, said:
"Why, in Germany, is it the custom to put the letter-box up a tree?
Why do they not fix it to the front door as we do? I should hate
having to climb up a tree to get my letters. Besides, it is not
fair to the postman. In addition to being most exhausting, the
delivery of letters must to a heavy man, on windy nights, be
positively dangerous work. If they will fix it to a tree, why not
fix it lower down, why always among the topmost branches? But,
maybe, I am misjudging the country," he continued, a new idea
occurring to him. "Possibly the Germans, who are in many matters
ahead of us, have perfected a pigeon post. Even so, I cannot help
thinking they would have been wiser to train the birds, while they
were about it, to deliver the letters nearer the ground. Getting
your letters out of those boxes must be tricky work even to the
average middle-aged German."
I followed his gaze out of window. I said:
"Those are not letter-boxes, they are birds' nests. You must
understand this nation. The German loves birds, but he likes tidy
birds. A bird left to himself builds his nest just anywhere. It
is not a pretty object, according to the German notion of
prettiness. There is not a bit of paint on it anywhere, not a
plaster image all round, not even a flag. The nest finished, the
bird proceeds to live outside it. He drops things on the grass;
twigs, ends of worms, all sorts of things. He is indelicate. He
makes love, quarrels with his wife, and feeds the children quite in
public. The German householder is shocked. He says to the bird:
"'For many things I like you. I like to look at you. I like to
hear you sing. But I don't like your ways. Take this little box,
and put your rubbish inside where I can't see it. Come out when
you want to sing; but let your domestic arrangements be confined to
the interior. Keep to the box, and don't make the garden untidy.'"
In Germany one breathes in love of order with the air, in Germany
the babies beat time with their rattles, and the German bird has
come to prefer the box, and to regard with contempt the few
uncivilised outcasts who continue to build their nests in trees and
hedges. In course of time every German bird, one is confident,
will have his proper place in a full chorus. This promiscuous and
desultory warbling of his must, one feels, be irritating to the
precise German mind; there is no method in it. The music-loving
German will organise him. Some stout bird with a specially well-
developed crop will be trained to conduct him, and, instead of
wasting himself in a wood at four o'clock in the morning, he will,
at the advertised time, sing in a beer garden, accompanied by a
piano. Things are drifting that way.
Your German likes nature, but his idea of nature is a glorified
Welsh Harp. He takes great interest in his garden. He plants
seven rose trees on the north side and seven on the south, and if
they do not grow up all the same size and shape it worries him so
that he cannot sleep of nights. Every flower he ties to a stick.
This interferes with his view of the flower, but he has the
satisfaction of knowing it is there, and that it is behaving
itself. The lake is lined with zinc, and once a week he takes it
up, carries it into the kitchen, and scours it. In the geometrical
centre of the grass plot, which is sometimes as large as a
tablecloth and is generally railed round, he places a china dog.
The Germans are very fond of dogs, but as a rule they prefer them
of china. The china dog never digs holes in the lawn to bury
bones, and never scatters a flower-bed to the winds with his hind
legs. From the German point of view, he is the ideal dog. He
stops where you put him, and he is never where you do not want him.
You can have him perfect in all points, according to the latest
requirements of the Kennel Club; or you can indulge your own fancy
and have something unique. You are not, as with other dogs,
limited to breed. In china, you can have a blue dog or a pink dog.
For a little extra, you can have a double-headed dog.
On a certain fixed date in the autumn the German stakes his flowers
and bushes to the earth, and covers them with Chinese matting; and
on a certain fixed date in the spring he uncovers them, and stands
them up again. If it happens to be an exceptionally fine autumn,
or an exceptionally late spring, so much the worse for the
unfortunate vegetable. No true German would allow his arrangements
to be interfered with by so unruly a thing as the solar system.
Unable to regulate the weather, he ignores it.
Among trees, your German's favourite is the poplar. Other
disorderly nations may sing the charms of the rugged oak, the
spreading chestnut, or the waving elm. To the German all such,
with their wilful, untidy ways, are eyesores. The poplar grows
where it is planted, and how it is planted. It has no improper
rugged ideas of its own. It does not want to wave or to spread
itself. It just grows straight and upright as a German tree should
grow; and so gradually the German is rooting out all other trees,
and replacing them with poplars.
Your German likes the country, but he prefers it as the lady
thought she would the noble savage--more dressed. He likes his
walk through the wood--to a restaurant. But the pathway must not
be too steep, it must have a brick gutter running down one side of
it to drain it, and every twenty yards or so it must have its seat
on which he can rest and mop his brow; for your German would no
more think of sitting on the grass than would an English bishop
dream of rolling down One Tree Hill. He likes his view from the
summit of the hill, but he likes to find there a stone tablet
telling him what to look at, find a table and bench at which he can
sit to partake of the frugal beer and "belegte Semmel" he has been
careful to bring with him. If, in addition, he can find a police
notice posted on a tree, forbidding him to do something or other,
that gives him an extra sense of comfort and security.
Your German is not averse even to wild scenery, provided it be not
too wild. But if he consider it too savage, he sets to work to
tame it. I remember, in the neighbourhood of Dresden, discovering
a picturesque and narrow valley leading down towards the Elbe. The
winding roadway ran beside a mountain torrent, which for a mile or
so fretted and foamed over rocks and boulders between wood-covered
banks. I followed it enchanted until, turning a corner, I suddenly
came across a gang of eighty or a hundred workmen. They were busy
tidying up that valley, and making that stream respectable. All
the stones that were impeding the course of the water they were
carefully picking out and carting away. The bank on either side
they were bricking up and cementing. The overhanging trees and
bushes, the tangled vines and creepers they were rooting up and
trimming down. A little further I came upon the finished work--the
mountain valley as it ought to be, according to German ideas. The
water, now a broad, sluggish stream, flowed over a level, gravelly
bed, between two walls crowned with stone coping. At every hundred
yards it gently descended down three shallow wooden platforms. For
a space on either side the ground had been cleared, and at regular
intervals young poplars planted. Each sapling was protected by a
shield of wickerwork and bossed by an iron rod. In the course of a
couple of years it is the hope of the local council to have
"finished" that valley throughout its entire length, and made it
fit for a tidy-minded lover of German nature to walk in. There
will be a seat every fifty yards, a police notice every hundred,
and a restaurant every half-mile.
They are doing the same from the Memel to the Rhine. They are just
tidying up the country. I remember well the Wehrthal. It was once
the most romantic ravine to be found in the Black Forest. The last
time I walked down it some hundreds of Italian workmen were
encamped there hard at work, training the wild little Wehr the way
it should go, bricking the banks for it here, blasting the rocks
for it there, making cement steps for it down which it can travel
soberly and without fuss.
For in Germany there is no nonsense talked about untrammelled
nature. In Germany nature has got to behave herself, and not set a
bad example to the children. A German poet, noticing waters coming
down as Southey describes, somewhat inexactly, the waters coming
down at Lodore, would be too shocked to stop and write alliterative
verse about them. He would hurry away, and at once report them to
the police. Then their foaming and their shrieking would be of
"Now then, now then, what's all this about?" the voice of German
authority would say severely to the waters. "We can't have this
sort of thing, you know. Come down quietly, can't you? Where do
you think you are?"
And the local German council would provide those waters with zinc
pipes and wooden troughs, and a corkscrew staircase, and show them
how to come down sensibly, in the German manner.
It is a tidy land is Germany.
We reached Dresden on the Wednesday evening, and stayed there over
Taking one consideration with another, Dresden, perhaps, is the
most attractive town in Germany; but it is a place to be lived in
for a while rather than visited. Its museums and galleries, its
palaces and gardens, its beautiful and historically rich
environment, provide pleasure for a winter, but bewilder for a
week. It has not the gaiety of Paris or Vienna, which quickly
palls; its charms are more solidly German, and more lasting. It is
the Mecca of the musician. For five shillings, in Dresden, you can
purchase a stall at the opera house, together, unfortunately, with
a strong disinclination ever again to take the trouble of sitting
out a performance in any English, French, or, American opera house.
The chief scandal of Dresden still centres round August the Strong,
"the Man of Sin," as Carlyle always called him, who is popularly
reputed to have cursed Europe with over a thousand children.
Castles where he imprisoned this discarded mistress or that--one of
them, who persisted in her claim to a better title, for forty
years, it is said, poor lady! The narrow rooms where she ate her
heart out and died are still shown. Chateaux, shameful for this
deed of infamy or that, lie scattered round the neighbourhood like
bones about a battlefield; and most of your guide's stories are
such as the "young person" educated in Germany had best not hear.
His life-sized portrait hangs in the fine Zwinger, which he built
as an arena for his wild beast fights when the people grew tired of
them in the market-place; a beetle-browed, frankly animal man, but
with the culture and taste that so often wait upon animalism.
Modern Dresden undoubtedly owes much to him.
But what the stranger in Dresden stares at most is, perhaps, its
electric trams. These huge vehicles flash through the streets at
from ten to twenty miles an hour, taking curves and corners after
the manner of an Irish car driver. Everybody travels by them,
excepting only officers in uniform, who must not. Ladies in
evening dress, going to ball or opera, porters with their baskets,
sit side by side. They are all-important in the streets, and
everything and everybody makes haste to get out of their way. If
you do not get out of their way, and you still happen to be alive
when picked up, then on your recovery you are fined for having been
in their way. This teaches you to be wary of them.
One afternoon Harris took a "bummel" by himself. In the evening,
as we sat listening to the band at the Belvedere, Harris said, a
propos of nothing in particular, "These Germans have no sense of
"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
"Don't get excited," I replied. "I am not objecting; I respect you
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
"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
"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
"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: