_Miss Cayley's adventures_ (1897), ch. 3
by Grant Allen
THE ADVENTURE OF THE INQUISITIVE AMERICAN
IN one week I had multiplied my capital two hundred and
forty-fold! I left London with twopence in the world; I
quitted Schlangenbad with two pounds in pocket.
'There's a splendid turn-over!' I thought to myself. 'If
this luck holds, at the same rate, I shall have made four
hundred and eighty pounds by Tuesday next, and I may look
forward to being a Barney Barnato by Christmas.' For I had
taken high mathematical honours at Cambridge, and if there
is anything on earth on which I pride myself, it is my firm
grasp of the principle of ratios.
Still, in spite of this brilliant financial prospect, a
budding Klondike, I went away from the little Spa on the
flanks of the Taunus with a heavy heart. I had grown quite
to like dear, virulent, fidgety old Lady Georgina; and I
felt that it had cost me a distinct wrench to part with
Harold Tillington. The wrench left a scar which was long in
healing; but as I am not a professional sentimentalist, I
will not trouble you here with details of the symptoms.
My livelihood, however, was now assured me. With two
pounds in pocket, a sensible girl can read her title clear
to six days' board and lodging, at six marks a day, with a
glorious margin of four marks over for pocket-money. And if
at the end of six days my fairy godmother had not pointed me
out some other means of earning my bread honestly--well, I
should feel myself unworthy to be ranked in the noble army
of adventuresses. I thank thee, Lady Georgina, for teaching
me that word. An adventuress I would be; for I loved
Meanwhile, it occurred to me that I might fill up the
interval by going to study art at Frankfort. Elsie
Petheridge had been there, and had impressed upon me the
fact that I must on no account omit to see the Stadel
Gallery. She was strong on culture. Besides, the study of
art should be most useful to an adventuress; for she must
need all the arts that human skill has developed.
So to Frankfort I betook myself, and found there a nice
little pension--'for ladies only,' Frau Bockenheimer assured
me--at very moderate rates, in a pleasant part of the
Lindenstrasse. It had dimity curtains. I will not deny
that as I entered the house I was conscious of feeling
lonely; my heart sank once or twice as I glanced round the
luncheon-table at the domestically-unsympathetic German old
maids who formed the rank-and-file of my fellow-boarders.
There they sat--eight comfortable Fraus who had missed their
vocation; plentiful ladies, bulging and surging in tightly
stretched black silk bodices. They had been cut out for
such housewives as Harold Tillington had described, but
found themselves deprived of their natural sphere in life by
the unaccountable caprice of the men of their nation. Each
was a model Teutonic matron manque. Each looked capable of
frying Frankfort sausages to a turn, and knitting woollen
socks to a remote eternity. But I sought in vain for one
kindred soul among them. How horrified they would have
been, with their fat pudding-faces and big saucer-eyes, had
I boldly announced myself as an English adventuress!
I spent my first morning in laborious self-education at
the Ariadneum and the Stadel Gallery. I borrowed a
catalogue. I wrestled with Van der Weyden; I toiled like a
galley-slave at Meister Wilhelm and Meister Stephan. I have
a confused recollection that I saw a number of stiff
mediaeval pictures, and an alabaster statue of the lady who
smiled as she rode on a tiger, taken at the beginning of
that interesting episode. But the remainder of the
Institute has faded from my memory.
In the afternoon I consoled myself for my herculean
efforts in the direction of culture by going out for a
bicycle ride on a hired machine, to which end I decided to
devote my pocket-money. You will, perhaps, object here that
my conduct was imprudent. To raise that objection is to
misunderstand the spirit of these artless adventures. I
told you that I set out to go round the world; but to go
round the world does not necessarily mean to circumnavigate
it. My idea was to go round by easy stages, seeing the
world as I went as far as I got, and taking as little heed
as possible of the morrow. Most of my readers, no doubt,
accept that philosophy of life on Sundays only; on week-days
they swallow the usual contradictory economic platitudes
about prudential forethought and the horrid improvidence of
the lower classes. For myself, I am not built that way. I
prefer to take life in a spirit of pure inquiry. I put on
my hat: I saunter where I choose, so far as circumstances
permit; and I wait to see what chance will bring me. My
ideal is breeziness.
The hired bicycle was not a bad machine, as hired bicycles
go; it jolted one as little as you can expect from a common
hack; it never stopped at a Bier-Garten; and it showed very
few signs of having been ridden by beginners with an
unconquerable desire to tilt at the hedgerow. So off I
soared at once, heedless of the jeers of Teutonic youth who
found the sight of a lady riding a cycle in skirts a strange
one--for in South Germany the 'rational' costume is so
universal among women cyclists that 'tis the skirt that
provokes unfavourable comment from those jealous guardians
of female propriety, the street boys. I hurried on at a
brisk pace past the Palm-Garden and the suburbs, with my
loose hair straying on the breeze behind, till I found
myself pedalling at a good round pace on a broad, level
road, which led towards a village, by name Fraunheim.
As I scurried across the plain, with the wind in my face,
not unpleasantly, I had some dim consciousness of somebody
unknown flying after me headlong. My first idea was that
Harold Tillington had hunted me down and tracked me to my
lair; but gazing back, I saw my pursuer was a tall and
ungainly man, with a straw-coloured moustache, apparently
American, and that he was following me on his machine,
closely watching my action. He had such a cunning
expression on his face, and seemed so strangely inquisitive,
with eyes riveted on my treadles, that I didn't quite like
the look of him. I put on the pace, to see if I could
outstrip him, for I am a swift cyclist. But his long legs
were too much for me. He did not gain on me, it is true;
but neither did I outpace him. Pedalling my very hardest--
and I can make good time when necessary--I still kept pretty
much at the same distance in front of him all the way to
Gradually I began to feel sure that the weedy-looking man
with the alert face was really pursuing me. When I went
faster, he went faster too; when I gave him a chance to pass
me, he kept close at my heels, and appeared to be keenly
watching the style of my ankle-action. I gathered that he
was a connoisseur; but why on earth he should persecute me I
could not imagine. My spirit was roused now--I pedalled
with a will; if I rode all day I would not let him go past
Beyond the cobble-paved chief street of Fraunheim the road
took a sharp bend, and began to mount the slopes of the
Taunus suddenly. It was an abrupt, steep climb; but I
flatter myself I am a tolerable mountain cyclist. I rode
sturdily on; my pursuer darted after me. But on this stiff
upward grade my light weight and agile ankle-action told; I
began to distance him. He seemed afraid that I would give
him the slip, and called out suddenly, with a whoop, in
English, 'Stop, miss!' I looked back with dignity, but
answered nothing. He put on the pace, panting; I pedalled
away, and got clear from him.
At a turn of the corner, however, as luck would have it I
was pulled up short by a mounted policeman. He blocked the
road with his horse, like an ogre, and asked me, in a very
gruff Swabian voice, if this was a licensed bicycle. I had
no idea, till he spoke, that any license was required;
though to be sure I might have guessed it; for modern
Germany is studded with notices at all the street corners,
to inform you in minute detail that everything is forbidden.
I stammered out that I did not know. The mounted policeman
drew near and inspected me rudely. 'It is strongly
undersaid,' he began, but just at that moment my pursuer
came up, and, with American quickness, took in the
situation. He accosted the policeman in choice bad German.
'I have two licenses,' he said, producing a handful. 'The
Fraulein rides with me.'
I was too much taken aback at so providential an
interposition to contradict this highly imaginative
statement. My highwayman had turned into a protecting
knight-errant of injured innocence. I let the policeman go
his way; then I glanced at my preserver. A very ordinary
modern St. George he looked, with no lance to speak of, and
no steed but a bicycle. Yet his mien was reassuring.
'Good morning, miss,' he began--he called me 'Miss' every
time he addressed me, as though he took me for a barmaid.
'Ex-cuse me, but why did you want to speed her?'
'I thought you were pursuing me,' I answered, a little
tremulous, I will confess, but avid of incident.
'And if I was,' he went on, 'you might have conjectured,
miss, it was for our mutual advantage. A business man don't
go out of his way unless he expects to turn an honest
dollar; and he don't reckon on other folks going out of
theirs,. unless he knows he can put them in the way of
turning an honest dollar with him.'
'That's reasonable,' I answered: for I am a political
economist. 'The benefit should be mutual.' But I wondered
if he was going to propose at sight to me.
He looked me all up and down. 'You're a lady of
con-siderable personal attractions,' he said, musingly, as
if he were criticising a horse; 'and I want one that sort.
That's jest why I trailed you, see? Besides which, there's
some style about you.'
'Style!' I repeated.
'Yes,' he went on; 'you know how to use your feet and you
have good understandings.'
I gathered from his glance that he referred to my nether
limbs. We are all vertebrate animals; why seek to conceal
'I fail to follow you,' I answered frigidly; for I really
didn't know what the man might say next.
'That's so!' he replied. 'It was I that followed you;
seems I didn't make much of a job of it, either, anyway.'
I mounted my machine again. 'Well, good morning,' I said,
coldly. 'I am much obliged for your kind assistance; but
your remark was fictitious, and I desire to go on
He held up his hand in warning. 'You ain't going!' he
cried, horrified. 'You ain't going without hearing me! I
mean business, say! Don't chuck away good money like that.
I tell you, there's dollars in it.'
'In what?' I asked, still moving on, but curious. On the
slope, if need were, I could easily distance him.
'Why, in this cycling of yours,' he replied. 'You're jest
about the very woman I'm looking for, miss. Lithe--that's
what I call you. I kin put you in the way of making your
pile, I kin. This is a bona-fide offer. No flies on my
business! You decline it? Prejudice! Injures you; injures
me! Be reasonable anyway!'
I looked round and laughed. 'Formulate yourself,' I said,
He rose to it like a man. 'Meet me at Fraunheim corner by
the Post Office; ten o'clock to-morrow morning,' he shouted,
as I rode off, 'and ef I don't convince you there's money in
this job, my name's not Cyrus W. Hitchcock.'
Something about his keen, unlovely face impressed me with
a sense of his underlying honesty. 'Very well,' I answered,
'I'll come, if you follow me no further.' I reflected that
Fraunheim was a populous village, and that only beyond it
did the mountain road over the Taunus begin to grow lonely.
If he wished to cut my throat, I was well within reach of
the resources of civilisation.
When I got home to the Abode of Blighted Fraus that
evening I debated seriously with myself whether or not I
should accept Mr. Cyrus W. Hitchcock's mysterious
invitation. Prudence said no, curiosity said yes; I put the
question to a meeting of one; and, since I am a daughter of
Eve, curiosity had it. Carried unanimously. I think I
might have hesitated, indeed, had it not been for the
Blighted Fraus. Their talk was of dinner and of the
digestive process; they were critics of digestion. They
each of them sat so complacently through the evening--solid
and stolid, stodgy and podgy, stuffed comatose images,
knitting white woollen shawls, to throw over their capacious
shoulders at table d'hote--and they purred with such content
in their middle-aged rotundity that I made up my mind I must
take warning betimes, and avoid their temptations to adipose
deposit. I prefer to grow upwards; the Frau grows sideways.
Better get my throat cut by an American desperado, in my
pursuit of romance, than settle down on a rock like a placid
fat oyster. I am not by nature sessile.
Adventures are to the adventurous. They abound on every
side; but only the chosen few have the courage to embrace
them. And they will not come to you: you must go out to
seek them. Then they meet you half-way, and rush into your
arms, for they know their true lovers. There were eight
Blighted Fraus at the Home for Lost Ideals, and I could tell
by simple inspection that they had not had an average of
half an adventure per lifetime between them. They sat and
knitted still, like Awful Examples.
If I had declined to meet Mr. Hitchcock at Fraunheim, I
know not what changes it might have induced in my life. I
might now be knitting. But I went boldly forth, on a voyage
of exploration, prepared to accept aught that fate held in
store for me.
As Mr. Hitchcock had assured me there was money in his
offer, I felt justified in speculating. I expended another
three marks on the hire of a bicycle, though I ran the risk
thereby of going perhaps without Monday's dinner. That
showed my vocation. The Blighted Fraus, I felt sure, would
have clung to their dinner at all hazards.
When I arrived at Fraunheim, I found my alert American
punctually there before me. He raised his crush hat with
awkward politeness. I could see he was little accustomed to
ladies' society. Then he pointed to a close cab in which he
had reached the village.
'I've got it inside,' he whispered, in a confidential
tone. 'I couldn't let 'em ketch sight of it. You see,
there's dollars in it.'
'What have you got inside?' I asked, suspiciously, drawing
back. I don't know why, but the word 'it' somehow suggested
a corpse. I began to grow frightened.
'Why, the wheel, of course,' he answered. 'Ain't you come
here to ride it?'
'Oh, the wheel?' I echoed, vaguely, pretending to look
wise; but unaware, as yet, that that word was the accepted
Americanism for a cycle. 'And I have come to ride it?'
'Why, certainly,' he replied, jerking his hand towards the
cab. 'But we mustn't start right here. This thing has got
to be kept dark, don't you see, till the last day.'
Till the last day! That was ominous. It sounded like
monomania. So ghostly and elusive! I began to suspect my
American ally of being a dangerous madman.
'Jest you wheel away a bit up the hill,' he went on, 'out
of sight of the folks, and I'll fetch her along to you.'
'Her?' I cried. 'Who?' For the man bewildered me.
'Why, the wheel, miss! You understand! This is business,
you bet! And you're jest the right woman!'
He motioned me on. Urged by a sort of spell, I remounted
my machine and rode out of the village. He owed, on the
box-seat of his cab. Then, when we had the world well
behind, and stood among the sun-smitten boles of the
pine-trees, he opened the door mysteriously, and produced
from the vehicle a very odd-looking bicycle.
It was clumsy to look at. It differed immensely, in many
particulars, from any machine I had yet seen or ridden.
The strenuous American fondled it for a moment with his
hand, as if it were a pet child. Then he mounted nimbly.
Pride shone in his eye. I saw in a second he was a fond
He rode a few yards on. Next he turned to me eagerly.
'This ma-chine,' he said, in an impressive voice, 'is
pro-pelled by an eccentric.' Like all his countrymen, he
laid most stress on unaccented syllables.
'Oh, I knew you were an eccentric,' I said, 'the moment I
set eyes upon you.'
He surveyed me gravely. 'You misunderstand me, miss,' he
corrected. 'When I say an eccentric, I mean, a crank.'
'They are much the same thing,' I answered, briskly.
'Though I confess I would hardly have applied so rude a word
as crank to you.'
He looked me over suspiciously, as if I were trying to
make game of him, but my face was sphinx-like. So he
brought the machine a yard or two nearer, and explained its
construction to me. He was quite right: it was driven by a
crank. It had no chain, but was moved by a pedal, working
narrowly up and down, and attached to a rigid bar, which
impelled the wheels by means of an eccentric.
Besides this, it had a curious device for altering the
gearing automatically while one rode, so as to enable one to
adapt it to the varying slope in mounting hills. This part
of the mechanism he explained to me elaborately. There was
a gauge in front which allowed one to sight the steepness of
the slope by mere inspection; and according as the gauge
marked one, two, three, or four, as its gradient on the
scale, the rider pressed a button on the handle-bar with his
left hand once, twice, thrice, or four times, so that the
gearing adapted itself without an effort to the rise in the
surface. Besides, there were devices for rigidity and
compensation. Altogether, it was a most apt and ingenious
piece of mechanism. I did not wonder he was proud of it.
'Get up and ride, miss,' he said in a persuasive voice.
I did as I was bid. To my immense surprise, I ran up the
steep hill as smoothly and easily as if it were a perfectly-
'Goes nicely, doesn't she?' Mr. Hitchcock murmured
rubbing his hands.
'Beautifully,' I answered. 'One could ride such a machine
up Mont Blanc, I should fancy.'
He stroked his chin with nervous fingers. 'It ought to
knock 'em,' he said, in an eager voice. 'It's geared to run
up most anything in creation.'
'One foot in three.'
'Yes. It'll climb Mount Washington.'
'What do you call it?' I asked.
He looked me over with close scrutiny.
'In Amurrica,' he said slowly, 'we call it the Great
Manitou, because it kin do pretty well what it chooses; but
in Europe, I am thinking of calling it the Martin Conway or
the Whymper, or something like that.'
'Well, because it's a famous mountain climber.'
'I see,' I said. 'With such a machine you'll put a notice
on the Matterhorn, "This hill is dangerous to cyclists."'
He laughed low to himself, and rubbed his hands again.
'You'll do, miss,' he said. 'You're the right sort, you
are. The moment I seen you, I thought we two could do a
trade together. Benefits me; benefits you. A mutual
advantage. Reciprocity is the soul of business. You hev
some go in you, you hev. There's money in your feet.
You'll give these Meinherrs fits. You'll take the
clear-starch out of them.'
'I fail to catch on,' I answered, speaking his own dialect
to humour him.
'Oh, you'll get there all the same,' he replied, stroking
his machine meanwhile. 'It was a squirrel, it was!' (He
pronounced it squirl.) 'It 'ud run up a tree ef it wanted,
wouldn't it?' He was talking to it now as if it were a dog
or a baby. 'There, there, it mustn't kick; it was a frisky
little thing! Jest you step up on it, miss, and have a go
at that there mountain.'
I stepped up and had a 'go.' The machine bounded forward
like an agile greyhound. You had but to touch it, and it
ran of itself. Never had I ridden so vivacious, so animated
a cycle. I returned to him, sailing, with the gradient
reversed. The Manitou glided smoothly, as on a gentle
slope, without the need for back-pedalling.
'It soars!' he remarked with enthusiasm.
'Balloons are at discount beside it,' I answered.
'Now you want to know about this business, I guess,' he
went on. 'You want to know jest where the reciprocity comes
'I am ready to hear you expound,' I admitted, smiling.
'Oh, it ain't all on one side,' he continued, eyeing his
machine at an angle with parental affection. 'I'm agoing to
make your fortune right here. You shall ride her for me on
the last day; and ef you pull this thing off, don't you be
scared that I won't treat you handsome.'
'If you were a little more succinct,' I said, gravely, 'we
should get forrader faster.'
'Perhaps you wonder,' he put in, 'that with money on it
like this, I should intrust the job into the hands of a
female.' I winced, but was silent. 'Well, it's like this
don't you see; ef a female wins, it makes success all the
more striking and con-spicuous. The world to-day is ruled
I could stand it no longer. 'Mr. Hitchcock,' I said, with
dignity, 'I haven't the remotest idea what on earth you are
He gazed at me with surprise. 'What?' he exclaimed at
last. 'And you kin cycle like that! Not know what all the
cycling world is mad about! Why, you don't mean to tell me
you're not a pro-fessional?'
I enlightened him at once as to my position in society,
which was respectable, if not lucrative. His face fell
somewhat. 'High-toned, eh? Still, you'd run all the same
wouldn't you?' he inquired.
'Run for what?' I asked, innocently. 'Parliament? The
Presidency? The Frankfort Town Council?'
He had difficulty in fathoming the depths of my ignorance.
But by degrees I understood him. It seemed that the German
Imperial and Prussian Royal Governments had offered a
Kaiserly and Kingly prize for the best military bicycle; the
course to be run over the Taunus, from Frankfort to Limburg;
the winning machine to get the equivalent and of a thousand
pounds; each firm to supply its own make and rider. The
'last day' was Saturday next; and the Great Manitou was the
dark horse of the contest.
Then all was clear as day to me. Mr. Cyrus W. Hitchcock
was keeping his machine a profound secret; he wanted a woman
to ride it, so that his triumph might be the more complete;
and the moment he saw me pedal up the hill, in trying to
avoid him, he recognised at once that I was that woman.
I recognised it too. 'Twas a pre-ordained harmony. After
two or three trials I felt that the Manitou was built for
me, and I was built for the Manitou. We ran together like
parts of one mechanism. I was always famed for my circular
ankle-action; and in this new machine, ankle-action was
everything. Strength of limb counted for naught; what told
was the power of 'clawing up again' promptly. I possess
that power: I have prehistoric feet: my remote progenitors
must certainly have been tree-haunting monkeys.
We arranged terms then and there.
If I pulled off the race, I was to have fifty pounds. If
I didn't, I was to have five. 'It ain't only your skill,
you see,' Mr. Hitchcock said, with frank commercialism.
'Its your personal attractiveness as well that I go upon.
That's an element to consider in business relations.'
'My face is my fortune,' I answered, gravely. He nodded
Till Saturday, then, I was free. Meanwhile, I trained,
and practised quietly with the Manitou, in sequestered parts
of the hills. I also took spells, turn about, at the Stadel
Institute. I like to intersperse culture and athletics. I
know something about athletics, and hope in time to acquire
a taste for culture. 'Tis expected of a Girton girl, though
my own accomplishments run rather towards rowing, punting,
On Saturday, I confess, I rose with great misgivings. I
was not a professional; and to find oneself practically
backed for a thousand pounds in a race against men is a
trifle disquieting. Still, having once put my hand to the
plough, I felt I was bound to pull it through somehow. I
dressed my hair neatly, in a very tight coil. I ate a light
breakfast, eschewing the fried sausages which the Blighted
Fraus pressed upon my notice, and satisfying myself with a
gently-boiled egg and some toast and coffee. I always found
I rowed best at Cambridge on the lightest diet; in my
opinion, the raw beef regime is a serious error in training.
At a minute or two before eleven I turned up at the
Schiller Platz in my short serge dress and cycling jacket.
The great square was thronged with spectators to see us
start; the police made a lane through their midst for the
riders. My backer had advised me to come to the post as
late as possible, 'For I have entered your name,' he said,
'simply as Lois Cayley. These Deutschers don't think but
what you're a man and a brother. But I am apprehensive of
con-tingencies. When you put in a show they'll try to raise
objections to you on account of your being a female. There
won't be much time, though, and I shall rush the objections
Once they let you run and win, it don't matter to me whether
I get the twenty thousand marks or not. It's the
advertizement that tells. Jest you mark my words; miss, and
don't you make no mistake about it--the world to-day is
governed by advertizement.'
So I turned up at the last moment, and cast a timid glance
at my competitors. They were all men, of course, and two of
them were German officers in a sort of undress cycling
uniform. They eyed me superciliously. One of them went up
and spoke to the Herr Over-Superintendent who had charge of
the contest. I understood him to be lodging an objection
against a mere woman taking part in the race. The Herr
Over-Superintendent, a bulky official came up beside me and
perpended visibly. He bent his big brows to it. 'Twas
appalling to observe the measurable amount of Teutonic
cerebration going on under cover of his round, green
glasses. He was perpending for some minutes. Time was
almost up. Then he turned to Mr. Hitchcock, having finally
made up his colossal mind, and murmured rudely, 'The woman
'Why not?' I inquired, in my very sweetest German, with an
angelic smile, though my heart trembled.
'Warum nicht? Because the word "rider" in the Kaiserly
and Kingly for-this-contest-provided decree is distinctly in
the masculine gender stated.'
'Pardon me, Herr Over-Superintendent,' I replied, pulling
out a copy of Law 97 on the subject, with which I had duly
provided myself, 'if you will to Section 45 of the
Bicycles-Circulation-Regulation-Act your attention turn, you
will find it therein expressly enacted that unless any
clause be anywhere to the contrary inserted, the word
"rider," in the masculine gender put, shall here the word
"rideress" in the feminine to embrace be considered.'
For, anticipating this objection, I had taken the
precaution to look the legal question up beforehand.
'That is true,' the Herr Over-Superintendent observed, in
a musing voice, gazing down at me with relenting eyes. 'The
masculine habitually embraces the feminine.' And he brought
his massive intellect to bear upon the problem once more
with prodigious concentration.
I seized my opportunity. 'Let me start, at least,' I
urged, holding out the Act. 'If I win, you can the matter
more fully with the Kaiserly and Kingly Governments
hereafter argue out.'
'I guess this will be an international affair,' Mr.
Hitchcock remarked, well pleased. 'It would be a first-rate
advertizement for the Great Manitou ef England and Germany
were to make the question into a casus belli. The United
States could look on, and pocket the chestnuts.'
'Two minutes to go,' the official starter with the watch
'Fall in, then, Fraulein Englanderin,' the Herr Over-
Superintendent observed, without prejudice, waving me into
line. He pinned a badge with a large number, 7, on my
dress. 'The Kaiserly and Kingly Governments shall on the
affair of the starting's legality hereafter on my report
more at leisure pass judgment.'
The lieutenant in undress uniform drew back a little
'Oh, if this is to be woman's play,' he muttered, 'then
can a Prussian officer himself by competing not into
I dropped a little curtsy. 'If the Herr Lieutenant is
afraid even to enter against an Englishwoman----' I said,
He came up to the scratch sullenly. 'One minute to go!'
called out the starter.
We were all on the alert. There was a pause; a deep
breath. I was horribly frightened, but I tried to look
calm. Then sharp and quick came the one word 'Go!' And like
arrows from a bow, off we all started.
I had ridden over the whole course the day but one before,
on a mountain pony, with an observant eye and my sedulous
American--rising at five o'clock, so as not to excite undue
attention; and I therefore knew beforehand the exact route
we were to follow; but I confess when I saw the Prussian
lieutenant and one of my other competitors dash forward at a
pace that simply astonished me, that fifty pounds seemed to
melt away in the dim abyss of the Ewigkeit.
I gave up all for lost. I could never make the running
against such practised cyclists.
However, we all turned out into the open road which leads
across the plain and down the Main valley, in the direction
of Mayence. For the first ten miles or so, it is a dusty
level. The surface is perfect; but 'twas a blinding white
thread. As I toiled along it, that broiling June day, I
could hear the voice of my backer, who followed on
horseback, exhorting me in loud tones, 'Don't scorch, miss;
don't scorch; never mind ef you lose sight of 'em. Keep
your wind; that's the point. The wind, the wind's
everything. Let 'em beat you on the level; you'll catch 'em
up fast enough when you get on the Taunus!'
But in spite of his encouragement, I almost lost heart as
I saw one after another of my opponents' backs disappear in
the distance, till at last I was left toiling along the bare
white road alone, in a shower-bath of sunlight, with just a
dense cloud of dust rising gray far ahead of me. My head
swam. It repented me of my boldness.
Then the riders on horseback began to grumble; for by
police regulation they were not allowed to pass the hindmost
of the cyclists; and they were kept back by my presence from
following up their special champions. 'Give it up,
Fraulein, give it up!' they cried. 'You're beaten. Let us
pass and get forward.' But at the selfsame moment, I heard
the shrill voice of my American friend whooping aloud across
the din, 'Don't you do nothing of the sort, miss! You stick
to it, and keep your wind! It's the wind that wins! Them
Germans won't be worth a cent on the high slopes, anyway!'
Encouraged by his voice, I worked steadily on, neither
scorching nor relaxing, but maintaining an even pace at my
natural pitch under the broiling sunshine. Heat rose in
waves on my face from the road below; in the thin white
dust, the accusing tracks of six wheels confronted me.
Still I kept on following them, till I reached the town of
Hochst--nine miles from Frankfort. Soldiers along the route
were timing us at intervals with chronometers, and noting
our numbers. As I rattled over the paved High Street, I
called aloud to one of them. 'How far ahead the last man?'
He shouted back, good-humouredly: 'Four minutes,
Again I lost heart. Then I mounted a slight slope, and
felt how easily the Manitou moved up the gradient. From its
summit I could note a long gray cloud of dust rolling
steadily onward down the hill towards Hattersheim.
I coasted down, with my feet up, and a slight breeze just
cooling me. Mr. Hitchcock, behind, called out, full-
throated, from his seat, 'No hurry! No flurry! Take your
time! Take--your--time, miss!'
Over the bridge at Hattersheim you turn to the right
abruptly, and begin to mount by the side of a pretty little
stream, the Schwarzbach, which runs brawling over rocks down
the Taunus from Eppstein. By this time the excitement had
somewhat cooled down for the moment; I was getting
reconciled to be beaten on the level, and began to realise
that my chances would be best as we approached the steepest
bits of the mountain road about Niederhausen. So I
positively plucked up heart to look about me and enjoy the
scenery. With hair flying behind--that coil had played me
false--I swept through Hofheim, a pleasant little village at
the mouth of a grassy valley inclosed by wooded slopes, the
Schwarzbach making cool music in the glen below as I mounted
beside it. Clambering larches, like huge candelabra, stood
out on the ridge, silhouetted against the skyline.
'How far ahead the last man?' I cried to the recording
soldier. He answered me back, 'Two minutes, Fraulein.'
I was gaining on them; I was gaining! I thundered across
the Schwarzbach, by half-a-dozen clamorous little iron
bridges, making easy time now, and with my feet working as
if they were themselves an integral part of the machinery.
Up, up, up; it looked a vertical ascent; the Manitou glided
well in its oil-bath at its half-way gearing. I rode for
dear life. At sixteen miles, Lorsbach; at eighteen,
Eppstein, the road still rising. 'How far ahead the last
man?' 'Just round the corner, Fraulein!'
I put on a little steam. Sure enough, round the corner I
caught sight of his back. With a spurt, I passed him--a
dust-covered soul, very hot and uncomfortable. He had not
kept his wind; I flew past him like a whirlwind. But, oh
how sultry hot in that sweltering, close valley! A pretty
little town, Eppstein, with its mediaeval castle perched
high on a craggy rock. I owed it some gratitude, I felt, as
I left it behind, for 'twas here that I came up with the
tail-end of my opponents.
That one victory cheered me. So far, our route had lain
along the well-made but dusty high road in the steaming
valley; at Nieder-Josbach, two miles on, we quitted the road
abruptly, by the course marked out for us, and turned up a
mountain path, only wide enough for two cycles abreast--a
path that clambered towards the higher slopes of the Taunus
That was arranged on purpose--for this was no fair-weather
show, but a practical trial for military bicycles, under the
conditions they might meet with in actual warfare. It was
rugged riding: black walls of pine rose steep on either
hand; the ground was uncertain. Our path mounted sharply
from the first; the steeper the better. By the time I had
reached Ober-Josbach, nestling high among larch-woods, I had
distanced all but two of my opponents. It was cooler now,
too. As I passed the hamlet my cry altered.
'How far ahead the first man?'
'Two minutes, Fraulein.'
'No, no; a Prussian officer.'
The Herr Lieutenant led, then. For Old England's sake, I
felt I must beat him.
The steepest slope of all lay in the next two miles. If I
were going to win I must pass these two there, for my
advantage lay all in the climb; if it came to coasting, the
weight scored a point in their favour. Bump, crash, jolt!
I pedalled away like a machine; the Manitou sobbed; my
ankles flew round so that I scarcely felt them.
But the road was rough and scarred with waterways--ruts
turned by rain to runnels. At half a mile, after a
desperate struggle among sand and pebbles, I passed the
second man; just ahead, the Prussian officer looked round
and saw me. 'Thunder-weather! you there, Englanderin?' he
cried, darting me a look of unchivalrous dislike, such as
only your sentimental German can cast at a woman.
'Yes, I am here, behind you, Herr Lieutenant, I answered,
putting on a spurt; 'and I hope next to be before you.'
He answered not a word, but worked his hardest. So did I.
He bent forward: I sat erect on my Manitou, pulling hard at
my handles. Now, my front wheel was upon him. It reached
his pedal. We were abreast. He had a narrow thread of
solid path, and he forced me into a runnel. Still I gained.
He swerved: I think he tried to foul me But the slope was
too steep; his attempt recoiled on himself; he ran against
the rock at the side and almost overbalanced. That second
lost him. I waved my hand as I sailed ahead. 'Good
morning,' I cried, gaily. 'See you again at Limburg!'
From the top of the slope I put my feet up and flew down
into Idstein. A thunder-shower burst: I was glad of the
cool of it. It laid the dust. I regained the high road.
From that moment, save for the risk of sideslips, 'twas easy
running--just an undulating line with occasional ups and
downs; but I saw no more of my pursuers till, twenty-two
kilometres farther on, I rattled on the cobble-paved
causeway into Limburg. I had covered the forty-six miles in
quick time for a mountain climb. As I crossed the bridge
over the Lahn, to my immense surprise, Mr. Hitchcock waved
his arms, all excitement, to greet me. He had taken the
train on from Eppstein, it seemed, and got there before me.
As I dismounted at the Cathedral, which was our appointed
end, and gave my badge to the soldier, he rushed up and
shook my hand. 'Fifty pounds!' he cried. 'Fifty pounds!
How's that for the great Anglo-Saxon race! And hooray for
The second man, the civilian, rode in, wet and draggled,
forty seconds later. As for the Herr Lieutenant, a
disappointed man, he fell out by the way, alleging a
puncture. I believe he was ashamed to admit the fact that
he had been beaten in open fight by the objurgated
So the end of it was, I was now a woman of means, with
fifty pounds of my own to my credit.
I lunched with my backer royally at the best inn in