Harris breaks the law--The helpful man: The dangers that beset
him--George sets forth upon a career of crime--Those to whom
Germany would come as a boon and a blessing--The English Sinner:
His disappointments--The German Sinner: His exceptional
advantages--What you may not do with your bed--An inexpensive vice-
-The German dog: His simple goodness--The misbehaviour of the
beetle--A people that go the way they ought to go--The German small
boy: His love of legality--How to go astray with a perambulator--
The German student: His chastened wilfulness.
All three of us, by some means or another, managed, between
Nuremberg and the Black Forest, to get into trouble.
Harris led off at Stuttgart by insulting an official. Stuttgart is
a charming town, clean and bright, a smaller Dresden. It has the
additional attraction of containing little that one need to go out
of one's way to see: a medium-sized picture gallery, a small
museum of antiquities, and half a palace, and you are through with
the entire thing and can enjoy yourself. Harris did not know it
was an official he was insulting. He took it for a fireman (it
looked liked a fireman), and he called it a "dummer Esel."
In German you are not permitted to call an official a "silly ass,"
but undoubtedly this particular man was one. What had happened was
this: Harris in the Stadgarten, anxious to get out, and seeing a
gate open before him, had stepped over a wire into the street.
Harris maintains he never saw it, but undoubtedly there was hanging
to the wire a notice, "Durchgang Verboten!" The man, who was
standing near the gates stopped Harris, and pointed out to him this
notice. Harris thanked him, and passed on. The man came after
him, and explained that treatment of the matter in such off-hand
way could not be allowed; what was necessary to put the business
right was that Harris should step back over the wire into the
garden. Harris pointed out to the man that the notice said "going
through forbidden," and that, therefore, by re-entering the garden
that way he would be infringing the law a second time. The man saw
this for himself, and suggested that to get over the difficulty
Harris should go back into the garden by the proper entrance, which
was round the corner, and afterwards immediately come out again by
the same gate. Then it was that Harris called the man a silly ass.
That delayed us a day, and cost Harris forty marks.
I followed suit at Carlsruhe, by stealing a bicycle. I did not
mean to steal the bicycle; I was merely trying to be useful. The
train was on the point of starting when I noticed, as I thought,
Harris's bicycle still in the goods van. No one was about to help
me. I jumped into the van and hauled it out, only just in time.
Wheeling it down the platform in triumph, I came across Harris's
bicycle, standing against a wall behind some milk-cans. The
bicycle I had secured was not Harris's, but some other man's.
It was an awkward situation. In England, I should have gone to the
stationmaster and explained my mistake. But in Germany they are
not content with your explaining a little matter of this sort to
one man: they take you round and get you to explain it to about
half a dozen; and if any one of the half dozen happens not to be
handy, or not to have time just then to listen to you, they have a
habit of leaving you over for the night to finish your explanation
the next morning. I thought I would just put the thing out of
sight, and then, without making any fuss or show, take a short
walk. I found a wood shed, which seemed just the very place, and
was wheeling the bicycle into it when, unfortunately, a red-hatted
railway official, with the airs of a retired field-marshal, caught
sight of me and came up. He said:
"What are you doing with that bicycle?"
I said: "I am going to put it in this wood shed out of the way."
I tried to convey by my tone that I was performing a kind and
thoughtful action, for which the railway officials ought to thank
me; but he was unresponsive.
"Is it your bicycle?" he said.
"Well, not exactly," I replied.
"Whose is it?" he asked, quite sharply.
"I can't tell you," I answered. "I don't know whose bicycle it
"Where did you get it from?" was his next question. There was a
suspiciousness about his tone that was almost insulting.
"I got it," I answered, with as much calm dignity as at the moment
I could assume, "out of the train."
"The fact is," I continued, frankly, "I have made a mistake."
He did not allow me time to finish. He merely said he thought so
too, and blew a whistle.
Recollection of the subsequent proceedings is not, so far as I am
concerned, amusing. By a miracle of good luck--they say Providence
watches over certain of us--the incident happened in Carlsruhe,
where I possess a German friend, an official of some importance.
Upon what would have been my fate had the station not been at
Carlsruhe, or had my friend been from home, I do not care to dwell;
as it was I got off, as the saying is, by the skin of my teeth. I
should like to add that I left Carlsruhe without a stain upon my
character, but that would not be the truth. My going scot free is
regarded in police circles there to this day as a grave miscarriage
But all lesser sin sinks into insignificance beside the lawlessness
of George. The bicycle incident had thrown us all into confusion,
with the result that we lost George altogether. It transpired
subsequently that he was waiting for us outside the police court;
but this at the time we did not know. We thought, maybe, he had
gone on to Baden by himself; and anxious to get away from
Carlsruhe, and not, perhaps, thinking out things too clearly, we
jumped into the next train that came up and proceeded thither.
When George, tired of waiting, returned to the station, he found us
gone and he found his luggage gone. Harris had his ticket; I was
acting as banker to the party, so that he had in his pocket only
some small change. Excusing himself upon these grounds, he
thereupon commenced deliberately a career of crime that, reading it
later, as set forth baldly in the official summons, made the hair
of Harris and myself almost to stand on end.
German travelling, it may be explained, is somewhat complicated.
You buy a ticket at the station you start from for the place you
want to go to. You might think this would enable you to get there,
but it does not. When your train comes up, you attempt to swarm
into it; but the guard magnificently waves you away. Where are
your credentials? You show him your ticket. He explains to you
that by itself that is of no service whatever; you have only taken
the first step towards travelling; you must go back to the booking-
office and get in addition what is called a "schnellzug ticket."
With this you return, thinking your troubles over. You are allowed
to get in, so far so good. But you must not sit down anywhere, and
you must not stand still, and you must not wander about. You must
take another ticket, this time what is called a "platz ticket,"
which entitles you to a place for a certain distance.
What a man could do who persisted in taking nothing but the one
ticket, I have often wondered. Would he be entitled to run behind
the train on the six-foot way? Or could he stick a label on
himself and get into the goods van? Again, what could be done with
the man who, having taken his schnellzug ticket, obstinately
refused, or had not the money to take a platz ticket: would they
let him lie in the umbrella rack, or allow him to hang himself out
of the window?
To return to George, he had just sufficient money to take a third-
class slow train ticket to Baden, and that was all. To avoid the
inquisitiveness of the guard, he waited till the train was moving,
and then jumped in.
That was his first sin:
(a) Entering a train in motion;
(b) After being warned not to do so by an official.
(a) Travelling in train of superior class to that for which ticket
(b) Refusing to pay difference when demanded by an official.
(George says he did not "refuse"; he simply told the man he had not
(a) Travelling in carriage of superior class to that for which
ticket was held.
(b) Refusing to pay difference when demanded by an official.
(Again George disputes the accuracy of the report. He turned his
pockets out, and offered the man all he had, which was about
eightpence in German money. He offered to go into a third class,
but there was no third class. He offered to go into the goods van,
but they would not hear of it.)
(a) Occupying seat, and not paying for same.
(b) Loitering about corridor. (As they would not let him sit down
without paying, and as he could not pay, it was difficult to see
what else he could do.)
But explanations are held as no excuse in Germany; and his journey
from Carlsruhe to Baden was one of the most expensive perhaps on
Reflecting upon the case and frequency with which one gets into
trouble here in Germany, one is led to the conclusion that this
country would come as a boon and a blessing to the average young
Englishman. To the medical student, to the eater of dinners at the
Temple, to the subaltern on leave, life in London is a wearisome
proceeding. The healthy Briton takes his pleasure lawlessly, or it
is no pleasure to him. Nothing that he may do affords to him any
genuine satisfaction. To be in trouble of some sort is his only
idea of bliss. Now, England affords him small opportunity in this
respect; to get himself into a scrape requires a good deal of
persistence on the part of the young Englishman.
I spoke on this subject one day with our senior churchwarden. It
was the morning of the 10th of November, and we were both of us
glancing, somewhat anxiously, through the police reports. The
usual batch of young men had been summoned for creating the usual
disturbance the night before at the Criterion. My friend the
churchwarden has boys of his own, and a nephew of mine, upon whom I
am keeping a fatherly eye, is by a fond mother supposed to be in
London for the sole purpose of studying engineering. No names we
knew happened, by fortunate chance, to be in the list of those
detained in custody, and, relieved, we fell to moralising upon the
folly and depravity of youth.
"It is very remarkable," said my friend the churchwarden, "how the
Criterion retains its position in this respect. It was just so
when I was young; the evening always wound up with a row at the
"So meaningless," I remarked.
"So monotonous," he replied. "You have no idea," he continued, a
dreamy expression stealing over his furrowed face, "how unutterably
tired one can become of the walk from Piccadilly Circus to the Vine
Street Police Court. Yet, what else was there for us to do?
Simply nothing. Sometimes we would put out a street lamp, and a
man would come round and light it again. If one insulted a
policeman, he simply took no notice. He did not even know he was
being insulted; or, if he did, he seemed not to care. You could
fight a Covent Garden porter, if you fancied yourself at that sort
of thing. Generally speaking, the porter got the best of it; and
when he did it cost you five shillings, and when he did not the
price was half a sovereign. I could never see much excitement in
that particular sport. I tried driving a hansom cab once. That
has always been regarded as the acme of modern Tom and Jerryism. I
stole it late one night from outside a public-house in Dean Street,
and the first thing that happened to me was that I was hailed in
Golden Square by an old lady surrounded by three children, two of
them crying and the third one half asleep. Before I could get away
she had shot the brats into the cab, taken my number, paid me, so
she said, a shilling over the legal fare, and directed me to an
address a little beyond what she called North Kensington. As a
matter of fact, the place turned out to be the other side of
Willesden. The horse was tired, and the journey took us well over
two hours. It was the slowest lark I ever remember being concerned
in. I tried one or twice to persuade the children to let me take
them back to the old lady: but every time I opened the trap-door
to speak to them the youngest one, a boy, started screaming; and
when I offered other drivers to transfer the job to them, most of
them replied in the words of a song popular about that period:
'Oh, George, don't you think you're going just a bit too far?' One
man offered to take home to my wife any last message I might be
thinking of, while another promised to organise a party to come and
dig me out in the spring. When I mounted the dickey I had imagined
myself driving a peppery old colonel to some lonesome and cabless
region, half a dozen miles from where he wanted to go, and there
leaving him upon the kerbstone to swear. About that there might
have been good sport or there might not, according to circumstances
and the colonel. The idea of a trip to an outlying suburb in
charge of a nursery full of helpless infants had never occurred to
me. No, London," concluded my friend the churchwarden with a sigh,
"affords but limited opportunity to the lover of the illegal."
Now, in Germany, on the other hand, trouble is to be had for the
asking. There are many things in Germany that you must not do that
are quite easy to do. To any young Englishman yearning to get
himself into a scrape, and finding himself hampered in his own
country, I would advise a single ticket to Germany; a return,
lasting as it does only a month, might prove a waste.
In the Police Guide of the Fatherland he will find set forth a list
of the things the doing of which will bring to him interest and
excitement. In Germany you must not hang your bed out of window.
He might begin with that. By waving his bed out of window he could
get into trouble before he had his breakfast. At home he might
hang himself out of window, and nobody would mind much, provided he
did not obstruct anybody's ancient lights or break away and injure
any passer underneath.
In Germany you must not wear fancy dress in the streets. A
Highlander of my acquaintance who came to pass the winter in
Dresden spent the first few days of his residence there in arguing
this question with the Saxon Government. They asked him what he
was doing in those clothes. He was not an amiable man. He
answered, he was wearing them. They asked him why he was wearing
them. He replied, to keep himself warm. They told him frankly
that they did not believe him, and sent him back to his lodgings in
a closed landau. The personal testimony of the English Minister
was necessary to assure the authorities that the Highland garb was
the customary dress of many respectable, law-abiding British
subjects. They accepted the statement, as diplomatically bound,
but retain their private opinion to this day. The English tourist
they have grown accustomed to; but a Leicestershire gentleman,
invited to hunt with some German officers, on appearing outside his
hotel, was promptly marched off, horse and all, to explain his
frivolity at the police court.
Another thing you must not do in the streets of German towns is to
feed horses, mules, or donkeys, whether your own or those belonging
to other people. If a passion seizes you to feed somebody else's
horse, you must make an appointment with the animal, and the meal
must take place in some properly authorised place. You must not
break glass or china in the street, nor, in fact, in any public
resort whatever; and if you do, you must pick up all the pieces.
What you are to do with the pieces when you have gathered them
together I cannot say. The only thing I know for certain is that
you are not permitted to throw them anywhere, to leave them
anywhere, or apparently to part with them in any way whatever.
Presumably, you are expected to carry them about with you until you
die, and then be buried with them; or, maybe, you are allowed to
In German streets you must not shoot with a crossbow. The German
law-maker does not content himself with the misdeeds of the average
man--the crime one feels one wants to do, but must not: he worries
himself imagining all the things a wandering maniac might do. In
Germany there is no law against a man standing on his head in the
middle of the road; the idea has not occurred to them. One of
these days a German statesman, visiting a circus and seeing
acrobats, will reflect upon this omission. Then he will
straightway set to work and frame a clause forbidding people from
standing on their heads in the middle of the road, and fixing a
fine. This is the charm of German law: misdemeanour in Germany
has its fixed price. You are not kept awake all night, as in
England, wondering whether you will get off with a caution, be
fined forty shillings, or, catching the magistrate in an unhappy
moment for yourself, get seven days. You know exactly what your
fun is going to cost you. You can spread out your money on the
table, open your Police Guide, and plan out your holiday to a fifty
pfennig piece. For a really cheap evening, I would recommend
walking on the wrong side of the pavement after being cautioned not
to do so. I calculate that by choosing your district and keeping
to the quiet side streets you could walk for a whole evening on the
wrong side of the pavement at a cost of little over three marks.
In German towns you must not ramble about after dark "in droves."
I am not quite sure how many constitute a "drove," and no official
to whom I have spoken on this subject has felt himself competent to
fix the exact number. I once put it to a German friend who was
starting for the theatre with his wife, his mother-in-law, five
children of his own, his sister and her fiance, and two nieces, if
he did not think he was running a risk under this by-law. He did
not take my suggestion as a joke. He cast an eye over the group.
"Oh, I don't think so," he said; "you see, we are all one family."
"The paragraph says nothing about its being a family drove or not,"
I replied; "it simply says 'drove.' I do not mean it in any
uncomplimentary sense, but, speaking etymologically, I am inclined
personally to regard your collection as a 'drove.' Whether the
police will take the same view or not remains to be seen. I am
merely warning you."
My friend himself was inclined to pooh-pooh my fears; but his wife
thinking it better not to run any risk of having the party broken
up by the police at the very beginning of the evening, they
divided, arranging to come together again in the theatre lobby.
Another passion you must restrain in Germany is that prompting you
to throw things out of window. Cats are no excuse. During the
first week of my residence in Germany I was awakened incessantly by
cats. One night I got mad. I collected a small arsenal--two or
three pieces of coal, a few hard pears, a couple of candle ends, an
odd egg I found on the kitchen table, an empty soda-water bottle,
and a few articles of that sort,--and, opening the window,
bombarded the spot from where the noise appeared to come. I do not
suppose I hit anything; I never knew a man who did hit a cat, even
when he could see it, except, maybe, by accident when aiming at
something else. I have known crack shots, winners of Queen's
prizes--those sort of men,--shoot with shot-guns at cats fifty
yards away, and never hit a hair. I have often thought that,
instead of bull's-eyes, running deer, and that rubbish, the really
superior marksman would be he who could boast that he had shot the
But, anyhow, they moved off; maybe the egg annoyed them. I had
noticed when I picked it up that it did not look a good egg; and I
went back to bed again, thinking the incident closed. Ten minutes
afterwards there came a violent ringing of the electric bell. I
tried to ignore it, but it was too persistent, and, putting on my
dressing gown, I went down to the gate. A policeman was standing
there. He had all the things I had been throwing out of the window
in a little heap in front of him, all except the egg. He had
evidently been collecting them. He said:
"Are these things yours?"
I said: "They were mine, but personally I have done with them.
Anybody can have them--you can have them."
He ignored my offer. He said:
"You threw these things out of window."
"You are right," I admitted; "I did."
"Why did you throw them out of window?" he asked. A German
policeman has his code of questions arranged for him; he never
varies them, and he never omits one.
"I threw them out of the window at some cats," I answered.
"What cats?" he asked.
It was the sort of question a German policeman would ask. I
replied with as much sarcasm as I could put into my accent that I
was ashamed to say I could not tell him what cats. I explained
that, personally, they were strangers to me; but I offered, if the
police would call all the cats in the district together, to come
round and see if I could recognise them by their yaul.
The German policeman does not understand a joke, which is perhaps
on the whole just as well, for I believe there is a heavy fine for
joking with any German uniform; they call it "treating an official
with contumely." He merely replied that it was not the duty of the
police to help me recognise the cats; their duty was merely to fine
me for throwing things out of window.
I asked what a man was supposed to do in Germany when woke up night
after night by cats, and he explained that I could lodge an
information against the owner of the cat, when the police would
proceed to caution him, and, if necessary, order the cat to be
destroyed. Who was going to destroy the cat, and what the cat
would be doing during the process, he did not explain.
I asked him how he proposed I should discover the owner of the cat.
He thought for a while, and then suggested that I might follow it
home. I did not feel inclined to argue with him any more after
that; I should only have said things that would have made the
matter worse. As it was, that night's sport cost me twelve marks;
and not a single one of the four German officials who interviewed
me on the subject could see anything ridiculous in the proceedings
from beginning to end.
But in Germany most human faults and follies sink into comparative
insignificance beside the enormity of walking on the grass.
Nowhere, and under no circumstances, may you at any time in Germany
walk on the grass. Grass in Germany is quite a fetish. To put
your foot on German grass would be as great a sacrilege as to dance
a hornpipe on a Mohammedan's praying-mat. The very dogs respect
German grass; no German dog would dream of putting a paw on it. If
you see a dog scampering across the grass in Germany, you may know
for certain that it is the dog of some unholy foreigner. In
England, when we want to keep dogs out of places, we put up wire
netting, six feet high, supported by buttresses, and defended on
the top by spikes. In Germany, they put a notice-board in the
middle of the place, "Hunden verboten," and a dog that has German
blood in its veins looks at that notice-board and walks away. In a
German park I have seen a gardener step gingerly with felt boots on
to grass-plot, and removing therefrom a beetle, place it gravely
but firmly on the gravel; which done, he stood sternly watching the
beetle, to see that it did not try to get back on the grass; and
the beetle, looking utterly ashamed of itself, walked hurriedly
down the gutter, and turned up the path marked "Ausgang."
In German parks separate roads are devoted to the different orders
of the community, and no one person, at peril of liberty and
fortune, may go upon another person's road. There are special
paths for "wheel-riders" and special paths for "foot-goers,"
avenues for "horse-riders," roads for people in light vehicles, and
roads for people in heavy vehicles; ways for children and for
"alone ladies." That no particular route has yet been set aside
for bald-headed men or "new women" has always struck me as an
In the Grosse Garten in Dresden I once came across an old lady,
standing, helpless and bewildered, in the centre of seven tracks.
Each was guarded by a threatening notice, warning everybody off it
but the person for whom it was intended.
"I am sorry to trouble you," said the old lady, on learning I could
speak English and read German, "but would you mind telling me what
I am and where I have to go?"
I inspected her carefully. I came to the conclusion that she was a
"grown-up" and a "foot-goer," and pointed out her path. She looked
at it, and seemed disappointed.
"But I don't want to go down there," she said; "mayn't I go this
"Great heavens, no, madam!" I replied. "That path is reserved for
"But I wouldn't do them any harm," said the old lady, with a smile.
She did not look the sort of old lady who would have done them any
"Madam," I replied, "if it rested with me, I would trust you down
that path, though my own first-born were at the other end; but I
can only inform you of the laws of this country. For you, a full-
grown woman, to venture down that path is to go to certain fine, if
not imprisonment. There is your path, marked plainly--Nur fur
Fussganger, and if you will follow my advice, you will hasten down
it; you are not allowed to stand here and hesitate."
"It doesn't lead a bit in the direction I want to go," said the old
"It leads in the direction you OUGHT to want to go," I replied, and
In the German parks there are special seats labelled, "Only for
grown-ups" (Nur fur Erwachsene), and the German small boy, anxious
to sit down, and reading that notice, passes by, and hunts for a
seat on which children are permitted to rest; and there he seats
himself, careful not to touch the woodwork with his muddy boots.
Imagine a seat in Regent's or St. James's Park labelled "Only for
grown-ups!" Every child for five miles round would be trying to
get on that seat, and hauling other children off who were on. As
for any "grown-up," he would never be able to get within half a
mile of that seat for the crowd. The German small boy, who has
accidentally sat down on such without noticing, rises with a start
when his error is pointed out to him, and goes away with down-cast
head, brushing to the roots of his hair with shame and regret.
Not that the German child is neglected by a paternal Government.
In German parks and public gardens special places (Spielplatze) are
provided for him, each one supplied with a heap of sand. There he
can play to his heart's content at making mud pies and building
sand castles. To the German child a pie made of any other mud than
this would appear an immoral pie. It would give to him no
satisfaction: his soul would revolt against it.
"That pie," he would say to himself, "was not, as it should have
been, made of Government mud specially set apart for the purpose;
it was nor manufactured in the place planned and maintained by the
Government for the making of mud pies. It can bring no real
blessing with it; it is a lawless pie." And until his father had
paid the proper fine, and he had received his proper licking, his
conscience would continue to trouble him.
Another excellent piece of material for obtaining excitement in
Germany is the simple domestic perambulator. What you may do with
a "kinder-wagen," as it is called, and what you may not, covers
pages of German law; after the reading of which, you conclude that
the man who can push a perambulator through a German town without
breaking the law was meant for a diplomatist. You must not loiter
with a perambulator, and you must not go too fast. You must not
get in anybody's way with a perambulator, and if anybody gets in
your way you must get out of their way. If you want to stop with a
perambulator, you must go to a place specially appointed where
perambulators may stop; and when you get there you MUST stop. You
must not cross the road with a perambulator; if you and the baby
happen to live on the other side, that is your fault. You must not
leave your perambulator anywhere, and only in certain places can
you take it with you. I should say that in Germany you could go
out with a perambulator and get into enough trouble in half an hour
to last you for a month. Any young Englishman anxious for a row
with the police could not do better than come over to Germany and
bring his perambulator with him.
In Germany you must not leave your front door unlocked after ten
o'clock at night, and you must not play the piano in your own house
after eleven. In England I have never felt I wanted to play the
piano myself, or to hear anyone else play it, after eleven o'clock
at night; but that is a very different thing to being told that you
must not play it. Here, in Germany, I never feel that I really
care for the piano until eleven o'clock, then I could sit and
listen to the "Maiden's Prayer," or the Overture to "Zampa," with
pleasure. To the law-loving German, on the other hand, music after
eleven o'clock at night ceases to be music; it becomes sin, and as
such gives him no satisfaction.
The only individual throughout Germany who ever dreams of taking
liberties with the law is the German student, and he only to a
certain well-defined point. By custom, certain privileges are
permitted to him, but even these are strictly limited and clearly
understood. For instance, the German student may get drunk and
fall asleep in the gutter with no other penalty than that of having
the next morning to tip the policeman who has found him and brought
him home. But for this purpose he must choose the gutters of side-
streets. The German student, conscious of the rapid approach of
oblivion, uses all his remaining energy to get round the corner,
where he may collapse without anxiety. In certain districts he may
ring bells. The rent of flats in these localities is lower than in
other quarters of the town; while the difficulty is further met by
each family preparing for itself a secret code of bell-ringing by
means of which it is known whether the summons is genuine or not.
When visiting such a household late at night it is well to be
acquainted with this code, or you may, if persistent, get a bucket
of water thrown over you.
Also the German student is allowed to put out lights at night, but
there is a prejudice against his putting out too many. The larky
German student generally keeps count, contenting himself with half
a dozen lights per night. Likewise, he may shout and sing as he
walks home, up till half-past two; and at certain restaurants it is
permitted to him to put his arm round the Fraulein's waist. To
prevent any suggestion of unseemliness, the waitresses at
restaurants frequented by students are always carefully selected
from among a staid and elderly classy of women, by reason of which
the German student can enjoy the delights of flirtation without
fear and without reproach to anyone.
They are a law-abiding people, the Germans.