"Will the fraulein be willing to wait until my journey around the world is completed?"
"Yes; she vill vait mit much pleezure; I vill zee dat she vait; und I know you vill return, for an Englishman alvays forgets his promeezes." Henceforth, when Igali and myself enter upon a programme of whistling, "Yankee Doodle" is supplanted by "The girl I left behind me," much to his annoyance, since, not understanding the sentiment responsible for the change, bethinks "Yankee Doodle" a far better tune. So much attached, in fact, has Igali become to the American national air, that he informs the professor and editor of Uj Videk of the circumstance of the band playing it at Szekszard. As, after supper, several of us promenade the streets of Neusatz, the professor links his arm in mine, and, taking the cue from Igali, begs me to favor him by whistling it. I try my best to palm this patriotic duty off on Igali, by paying flattering compliments to his style of whistling; but, after all, the duty falls on me, and I whistle the tune softly, yet merrily, as we walk along, the professor, spectacled and wise-looking, meanwhile exchanging numerous nods of recognition with his fellow-Neusatzers we meet.
The provost-judge of Neusatz shares the honors with Frau Schrieber of knowing more or less English; but this evening the judge is out of town. The enterprising professor lies in wait for him, however, and at 5.30 on Monday morning, while we are dressing, an invasion of our bed-chamber is made by the professor, the jolly-looking and portly provost-judge, a Slavonian lieutenant of artillery, and a druggist friend of the others. The provost- judge and the lieutenant actually own bicycles and ride them, the only representatives of the wheel in Neusatz and Peterwardein, and the judge is " very angry " - as he expresses it - that Monday is court day, and to-day an unusually busy one, for he would be most happy to wheel with us to Belgrade.
The lieutenant fetches his wheel and accompanies us to the next village. Peterwardein is a strongly fortified place, and, as a poition commanding the Danube so completely, is furnished with thirty guns of large calibre, a battery certainly not to be despised when posted on a position so commanding as the hill on which Peterwardein fortress is built. As the editor and others at Eszek, so here the professor, the judge, and the druggist unite in a friendly protest against my attempt to wheel through Asia, and more especially through China, "for everybody knows it is quite dangerous," they say. These people cannot possibly understand why it is that an Englishman or American, knowing of danger beforehand, will still venture ahead; and when, in reply to their questions, I modestly announce my intention of going ahead, notwithstanding possible danger and probable difficulties, they each, in turn, shake my hand as though reluctantly resigning me to a reckless determination, and the judge, acting as spokesman, and echoing and interpreting the sentiments of his companions, exclaims, "England and America forever! it is ze grandest peeples on ze world!" The lieutenant, when questioned on the subject by the judge and the professor, simply shrugs his shoulders and says nothing, as becomes a man whose first duty is to cultivate a supreme contempt for danger in all its forms.
They all accompany us outside the city gates, when, after mutual farewells and assurances of good-will, we mount and wheel away down the Danube, the lieutenant's big mastiff trotting soberly alongside his master, while Igali, sometimes in and sometimes out of sight behind, brings up the rear. After the lieutenant leaves us we have to trundle our weary way up the steep gradients of the Fruskagora Mountains for a number of kilometres. For Igali it is quite an adventurous morning. Ere we had left the shadows of Peterwardein fortress he upset while wheeling beneath some overhanging mulberry-boughs that threatened destruction to his jockey-cap; soon after parting company with the lieutenant he gets into an altercation with a gang of gypsies about being the cause of their horses breaking loose from their picket-ropes and stampeding, and then making uncivil comments upon the circumstance; an hour after this he overturns again and breaks a pedal, and when we dismount at Indjia, for our noontide halt, he discovers that his saddle-spring has snapped in the middle. As he ruefully surveys the breakage caused by the roughness of the Fruskagora roads, and sends out to scour the village for a mechanic capable of undertaking the repairs, he eyes my Columbia wistfully, and asks me for the address where one like it can be obtained. The blacksmith is not prepared to mend the spring, although he makes a good job of the pedal, and it takes a carpenter and his assistant from 1.30 to 4.30 P.M. to manufacture a grooved piece of wood to fit between the spring and backbone so that he can ride with me to Belgrade. It would have been a fifteen-minute task for a Yankee carpenter.
We have been traversing a spur of the Fruskagora Mountains all the morning, and our progress has been slow. The roads through here are mainly of the natural soil, and correspondingly bad; but the glorious views of the Danube, with its alternating wealth of green woods and greener cultivated areas, fully recompense for the extra toil. Prune-orchards, the trees weighed down with fruit yet green, clothe the hill-sides with their luxuriance; indeed, the whole broad, rich valley of the Danube seems nodding and smiling in the consciousness of overflowing plenty; for days we have traversed roads leading through vineyards and orchards, and broad areas with promising-looking grain-crops.
It is but thirty kilometres from Indjia to Semlin, on the riverbank opposite Belgrade, and since leaving the Fruskagora Mountains the country has been a level plain, and the roads fairly smooth. But Igali has naturally become doubly cautious since his succession of misadventures this morning, and as, while waiting for him to overtake me, I recline beneath the mulberry-trees near the village of Batainitz and survey the blue mountains of Servia looming up to the southward through the evening haze, he rides up and proposes Batainitz as our halting-place for the night, adding persuasively, "There will be no ferry-boat across to Belgrade to-night, and we can easily catch the first boat in the morning." I reluctantly agree, though advocating going on to Semlin this evening.
While our supper is being prepared we are taken in hand by the leading merchant of the village and "turned loose" in an orchard of small fruits and early pears, and from thence conducted to a large gypsy encampment in the outskirts of the village, where, in acknowledgment of the honor of our visit-and a few kreuzers by way of supplement - the "flower of the camp," a blooming damsel, about the shade of a total eclipse, kisses the backs of our hands, and the men play a strumming monotone with sticks and an inverted wooden trough, while the women dance in a most lively and not ungraceful manner. These gypsy bands are a happy crowd of vagabonds, looking as though they had never a single care in all the world; the men wear long, flowing hair, and to the ordinary costume of the peasant is added many a gewgaw, worn with a careless jaunty grace that fails not to carry with it a certain charm in spite of unkempt locks and dirty faces. The women wear a minimum of clothes and a profusion of beads and trinkets, and the children go stark naked or partly dressed.
Unmistakable evidence that one is approaching the Orient appears in the semi-Oriental costumes. of the peasantry and roving gypsy bands, as we gradually near the Servian capital. An Oriental costume in Eszek is sufficiently exceptional to be a novelty, and so it is until one gets south of Peterwardein, when the national costumes of Slavonia and Croatia are gradually merged into the tasselled fez, the many-folded waistband, and the loose, flowing pantaloons of Eastern lands. Here at Batainitz the feet are encased in rude raw-hide moccasins, bound on with leathern thongs, and the ankle and calf are bandaged with many folds of heavy red material, also similarly bound. The scene around our gasthaus, after our arrival, resembles a popular meeting; for, although a few of the villagers have been to Belgrade and seen a bicycle, it is only within the last six months that Belgrade itself has boasted one, and the great majority of the Batainitz people have simply heard enough about them to whet their curiosity for a closer acquaintance. More-over, from the interest taken in my tour at Belgrade on account of the bicycle's recent introduction in that capital, these villagers, but a dozen kilometres away, have heard more of my journey than people in villages farther north, and their curiosity is roused in proportion.
We are astir by five o'clock next morning; but the same curious crowd is making the stone corridors of the rambling old gasthaus impassable, and filling the space in front, gazing curiously at us, and commenting on our appearance whenever we happen to become visible, while waiting with commendable patience to obtain a glimpse of our wonderful machines. They are a motley, and withal a ragged assembly; old women devoutly cross themselves as, after a slight repast of bread and milk, we sally forth with our wheels, prepared to start; and the spontaneous murmur of admiration which breaks forth as we mount becomes louder and more pronounced as I turn in the saddle and doff my helmet in deference to the homage paid us by hearts which are none the less warm because hidden beneath the rags of honest poverty and semi-civilization. It takes but little to win the hearts of these rude, unsophisticated people. A two hours' ride from Batainitz, over level and reasonably smooth roads, brings us into Semlin, quite an important Slavonian city on the Danube, nearly opposite Belgrade, which is on the same side, but separated from it by a large tributary called the Save. Ferry-boats ply regularly between the two cities, and, after an hour spent in hunting up different officials to gain permission for Igali to cross over into Servian territory without having a regular traveller's passport, we escape from the madding crowds of Semlinites by boarding the ferry-boat, and ten minutes later are exchanging signals! with three Servian wheelmen, who have come down to the landing in full uniform to meet and welcome us to Belgrade.
Many readers will doubtless be as surprised as I was to learn that at Belgrade, the capital of the little Kingdom of Servia, independent only since the Treaty of Berlin, a bicycle club was organized in January, 1885, and that now, in June of the same year, they have a promising club of thirty members, twelve of whom are riders owning their own wheels. Their club is named, in French, La Societe Velocipedique Serbe; in the Servian language it is unpronounceable to an Anglo-Saxon, and printable only with Slav type. The president, Milorade M. Nicolitch Terzibachitch, is the Cyclists' Touring Club Consul for Servia, and is the southeastern picket of that organization, their club being the extreme 'cycle outpost in this direction. Our approach has been announced beforehand, and the club has thoughtfully "seen" the Servian authorities, and so far smoothed the way for our entrance into their country that the officials do not even make a pretence of examining my passport or packages - an almost unprecedented occurrence, I should say, since they are more particular about passports here than perhaps in any other European country, save Russia and Turkey.
Here at Belgrade I am to part company with Igali, who, by the way, has applied for, and just received, his certificate of appointment to the Cyclists' Touring Club Consulship of Duna Szekeso and Mohacs, an honor of which he feels quite proud. True, there is no other 'cycler in his whole district, and hardly likely to be for some time to corne; but I can heartily recommend him to any wandering wheelman happening down the Danube Valley on a tour; he knows the best wine-cellars in all the country round, and, besides being an agreeable and accommodating road companion, will prove a salutary check upon the headlong career of anyone disposed to over-exertion. I am not yet to be abandoned entirely to my own resources, however; these hospitable Servian wheelmen couldn't think of such a thing. I am to remain over as their guest till to-morrow afternoon, when Mr. Douchan Popovitz, the best rider in Belgrade, is delegated to escort me through Servia to the Bulgarian frontier. When I get there I shall not be much astonished to see a Bulgarian wheelman offer to escort me to Roumelia, and so on clear to Constantinople; for I certainly never expected to find so jolly and enthusiastic a company of 'cyclers in this corner of the world.
The good fellowship and hospitality of this Servian club know no bounds; Igali and I are banqueted and driven about in carriages all day.
Belgrade is a strongly fortified city, occupying a commanding hill overlooking the Danube; it is a rare old town, battle-scarred and rugged; having been a frontier position of importance in a country that has been debatable ground between Turk and Christian for centuries, it has been a coveted prize to be won and lost on the diplomatic chess-board, or, worse still, the foot-ball of contending armies and wrangling monarchs. Long before the Ottoman Turks first appeared, like a small dark cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, upon the southeastern horizon of Europe, to extend and overwhelm the budding flower of Christianity and civilization in these fairest portions of the continent, Belgrade was an important Roman fortress, and to-day its national museum and antiquarian stores are particularly rich in the treasure-trove of Byzantine antiquities, unearthed from time to time in the fortress itself and the region round about that came under its protection. So plentiful, indeed, are old coins and relics of all sorts at Belgrade, that, as I am standing looking at the collection in the window of an antiquary shop, the proprietor steps out and presents me a small handful of copper coins of Byzantium as a sort of bait that might perchance tempt one to enter and make a closer inspection of his stock.
By the famous Treaty of Berlin the Servians gained their complete independence, and their country, from a principality, paying tribute to the Sultan, changed to an independent kingdom with a Servian on the throne, owing allegiance to nobody, and the people have not yet ceased to show, in a thousand little ways, their thorough appreciation of the change; besides filling the picture-galleries of their museum with portraits of Servian heroes, battle-flags, and other gentle reminders of their past history, they have, among other practical methods of manifesting how they feel about the departure of the dominating crescent from among them, turned the leading Turkish mosque into a gas- house. One of the most interesting relics in the Servian capital is an old Roman well, dug from the brow of the fortress hill to below the level of the Danube, for furnishing water to the city when cut off from the river by a besieging army. It is an enormous affair, a tubular brick wall about forty feet in circumference and two hundred and fifty feet deep, outside of which a stone stairway, winding round and round the shaft, leads from top to bottom. Openings through the wall, six feet high and three wide, occur at regular intervals all the way down, and, as we follow our ragged guide down, down into the damp and darkness by the feeble light of a tallow candle in a broken lantern, I cannot help thinking that these o'erhandy openings leading into the dark, watery depths have, in the tragic history of Belgrade, doubtless been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of more than one objectionable person. It is not without certain involuntary misgivings that I take the lantern from the guide - whose general appearance is, by the way, hardly calculated to be reassuring - and, standing in one of the openings, peer down into the darksome depths, with him hanging on to my coat as an act of precaution.
The view from the ramparts of Belgrade fortress is a magnificent panorama, extending over the broad valley of the Danube - which here winds about as though trying to bestow its favors with impartiality upon Hungary, Servia, and Slavonia - and of the Save. The Servian soldiers are camped in small tents in various parts of the fortress grounds and its environments, or lolling under the shade of a few scantily verdured trees, for the sun is to-day broiling hot. With a population not exceeding one and a half million, I am told that Servia supports a standing army of a hundred thousand men; and, when required, every man in Servia becomes a soldier. As one lands from the ferry-boat and looks about him he needs no interpreter to inform him that he has left the Occident on the other side of the Save, and to the observant stranger the streets of Belgrade furnish many a novel and interesting sight in the way of fanciful costumes and phases of Oriental life here encountered for the first time. In the afternoon we visit the national museum of old coins, arms, and Eoman and Servian antiquities.
A banquet in a wine-garden, where Servian national music is dispensed by a band of female musicians, is given us in the evening by the club, and royal quarters are assigned us for the night at the hospitable mansion of Mr. Terzibachitch's father, who is the merchant -prince of Servia, and purveyor to the court. Wednesday morning we take a general ramble over the city, besides visiting the club's head-quarters, where we find a handsome new album has been purchased for receiving our autographs. The Belgrade wheelmen have names painted on their bicycles, as names are painted on steamboats or yachts: "Fairy," "Good Luck," and "Servian Queen," being fair specimens. The cyclers here are sons of leading citizens and business men of Belgrade, and, while they dress and conduct themselves as becomes thorough gentlemen, one fancies detecting a certain wild expression of the eye, as though their civilization were scarcely yet established; in fact, this peculiar expression is more noticeable at Belgrade, and is apparently more general here than at any other place I visit in Europe. I apprehend it to be a peculiarity that has become hereditary with the citizens, from their city having been so often and for so long the theatre of uncertain fate and distracting political disturbances. It is the half-startled expression of people with the ever-present knowledge of insecurity. But they are a warm-hearted, impulsive set of fellows, and when, while looking through the museum, we happen across Her Britannic Majesty's representative at the Servian court, who is doing the same thing, one of them unhesitatingly approaches that gentleman, cap in hand, and, with considerable enthusiasm of manner, announces that they have with them a countryman of his who is riding around the world on a bicycle. This cooler-blooded and dignified gentleman is not near so demonstrative in his acknowledgment as they doubtless anticipated he would be; whereat they appear quite puzzled and mystified.
Three carriages with cyclers and their friends accompany us a dozen kilometres out to a wayside mehana (the Oriental name hereabouts for hotels, wayside inns, etc.); Douchan Popovitz, and Hugo Tichy, the captain of the club, will ride forty-five kilometres with me to Semendria, and at 4 o'clock we mount our wheels and ride away southward into Servia. Arriving at the mehana, wine is brought, and then the two Servians accompanying me, and those returning, kiss each other, after the manner and custom of their country; then a general hand-shaking and well-wishes all around, and the carriages turn toward Belgrade, while we wheelmen alternately ride and trundle over a muddy - for it has rained since noon - and mountainous road till 7.30, when relatives of Douchan Popovitz, in the village of Grotzka, kindly offer us the hospitality of their house till morning, which we hesitate not to avail ourselves of. When about to part at the mehana, the immortal Igali unwinds from around his waist that long blue girdle, the arranging and rearranging of which has been a familiar feature of the last week's experiences, and presents it to me for a souvenir of himself, a courtesy which I return by presenting him with several of the Byzantine coins given to me by the Belgrade antiquary as before mentioned.
Beyond Semendria, where the captain leaves us for the return journey, we leave the course of the Danube, which I have been following in a general way for over two weeks, and strike due southward up the smaller, but not less beautiful, valley of the Morava River, where we have the intense satisfaction of finding roads that are both dry and level, enabling us, in spite of the broiling heat, to bowl along at a sixteen-kilometre pace to the village, where we halt for dinner and the usual three hours noontide siesta. Seeing me jotting down my notes with a short piece of lead-pencil, the proprietor of the mehana at Semendria, where we take a parting glass of wine with the captain, and who admires America and the Americans, steps in-doors for a minute, and returns with a telescopic pencil-case, attached to a silken cord of the Servian" national colors, which he places abound my neck, requesting me to wear it around the world, and, when I arrive at my journey's end, sometimes to think of Servia.
With Igali's sky-blue girdle encompassing my waist, and the Servian national colors fondly encircling my neck, I begin to feel quite a heraldic tremor creeping over me, and actually surprise myself casting wistful glances at the huge antiquated horse pistol stuck in yonder bull- whacker's ample waistband; moreover, I really think that a pair of these Servian moccasins would not be bad foot-gear for riding the bicycle. All up the Morava Valley the roads continue far better than I have expected to find in Servia, and we wheel merrily along, the Resara Mountains covered with dark pine forests, skirting the valley on the right, sometimes rising into peaks of quite respectable proportions. The sun sinks behind the receding hills, it grows dusk, and finally dark, save the feeble light vouchsafed by the new moon, and our destination still lies several kilometres ahead. But at about nine we roll safely into Jagodina, well- satisfied with the consciousness of having covered one hundred and forty- five kilometres to-day, in spite of delaying our start in the morning until eight o'clock, and the twenty kilometres of indifferent road between Grotzka and Semendria. There has been no reclining under road-side mulberry-trees for my companion to catch up to-day, however; the Servian wheelman is altogether a speedier man than Igali, and, whether the road is rough or smooth, level or hilly, he is found close behind my rear wheel; my own shadow follows not more faithfully than does the "best rider in Servia."
We start for Jagodina at 5.30 next morning, finding the roads a little heavy with sand in places, but otherwise all that a wheelman could wish. Crossing a bridge over the Morava River, into Tchupria, we are required not only to foot it across, but to pay a toll for the bicycles, like any other wheeled vehicle. At Tchupria it seems as though the whole town must be depopulated, so great is the throng of citizens that swarm about us. Motley and picturesque even in their rags, one's pen utterly fails to convey a correct idea of their appearance; besides Servians, Bulgarians, and Turks, and the Greek priests who never fail of being on hand, now appear Roumanians, wearing huge sheep-skin busbies, with the long, ragged edges of the wool dangling about eyes and ears, or, in the case of a more "dudish " person, clipped around smooth at the brim, making the head-gear look like a small, round, thatched roof. Urchins, whose daily duty is to promenade the family goat around the streets, join in the procession, tugging their bearded charges after them; and a score of dogs, overjoyed beyond measure at the general commotion, romp about, and bark their joyous approval of it all. To have crowds like this following one out of town makes a sensitive person feel uncomfortably like being chased out of a community for borrowing chickens by moonlight, or on account of some irregularity concerning hotel bills. On occasions like this Orientals seemingly have not the slightest sense of dignity; portly, well-dressed citizens, priests, and military officers press forward among the crowds of peasants and unwashed frequenters of the streets, evidently more delighted with things about them than they have been for many a day before.
At Delegrad we wheel through the battle-field of the same name, where, in 1876, Turks and Servians were arrayed against each other. These battle- scarred hills above Delegrad command a glorious view of the lower Morava Valley, which is hereabouts most beautiful, and just broad enough for its entire beauty to be comprehended. The Servians won the battle of Delegrad, and as I pause to admire the glorious prospect to the southward from the hills, methinks their general showed no little sagacity in opposing the invaders at a spot where the Morava Vale, the jewel of Servia, was spread out like a panorama below his position, to fan with its loveliness the patriotism of his troops - they could not do otherwise than win, with the fairest portion of their well-beloved country spread out before them like a picture. A large cannon, captured from the Turks, is standing on its carriage by the road-side, a mute but eloquent witness of Servian prowess.
A few miles farther on we halt for dinner at Alexinatz, near the old Servian boundary-line, also the scene of one of the greatest battles fought during the Servian struggle for independence. The Turks were victorious this time, and fifteen thousand Servians and three thousand Russian allies yielded up their lives here to superior Turkish generalship, and Alexiuatz was burned to ashes. The Russians have erected a granite monument on a hill overlooking the town, in memory of their comrades who perished in this fight.
The roads to-day average even better than yesterday, and at six o'clock we roll into Nisch, one hundred and twenty kilometres from our starting-point this morning, and two hundred and eighty from Belgrade. As we enter the city a gang of convicts working on the fortifications forget their clanking shackles and chains, and the miseries of their state, long enough to greet us with a boisterous howl of approval, and the guards who are standing over them for once, at least, fail to check them, for their attention, too, is wholly engrossed in the same wondrous subject. Nisch appears to be a thoroughly Oriental city, and here I see the first Turkish ladies, with their features hidden behind their white yashmaks.
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