Around the World on a Bicycle

In 1884, the 29 year old Thomas Stevens set out from San Fransisco on the 'modern mechanical invention' of the Penny Farthing to circumnavigate the globe on his 'big wheel'. His book - "Around the World on a Bicycle" - was published in 1888 and his writings are presented here in blog form. Read more in the archive.

Locked out

Among other agreeable and sensible arrangements at the Hotel du Loiret, there is no such thing as opening one's room-door from the outside save with the key; and unless one thoroughly understands this handy peculiarity, and has his wits about him continually, he is morally certain, sometime when he is leaving his room, absent-mindedly to shut the door and leave the key inside. This is, of course, among the first things that happen to me, and it costs me half a franc and three hours of wretchedness before I see the interior of my room again. The hotel keeps a rude skeleton-key on hand, presumably for possible emergencies of this nature; but in manipulating this uncouth instrument le portier actually locks the door, and as the skeleton-key is expected to manage the catch only, and not the lock, this, of course, makes matters infinitely worse. The keys of every room in the house are next brought into requisition and tried in succession, but not a key among them all is a duplicate of mine. What is to be done. Le portier looks as dejected as though Paris was about to be bombarded, as he goes down and breaks the dreadful news to le proprietaire. Up comes le proprietaire - avoirdupois three hundred pounds - sighing like an exhaust-pipe at every step. For fifteen unhappy minutes the skeleton-key is wriggled and twisted about again in the key- hole, and the fat proprietaire rubs his bald head impatiently, but all to no purpose. Each returns to his respective avocation. Impatient to get at my writing materials, I look up at the iron bars across the fifth- story windows above, and motion that if they will procure a rope I will descend from thence and enter the window. They one and all point out into the street; and, thinking they have sent for something or somebody, I sit down and wait with Job-like patience for something to turn up. Nothing, however, turns up, and at the expiration of an hour I naturally begin to feel neglected and impatient, and again suggest the rope; when, at a motion from le proprietaire, le portier pilots me around a neighboring corner to a locksmith's establishment, where, voluntarily acting the part of interpreter, he engages on my behalf, for half a franc, a man to come with a bunch of at least a hundred skeleton-keys of all possible shapes to attack the refractory key-hole. After trying nearly all the keys, and disburdening himself of whole volumes of impulsive French ejaculations, this man likewise gives it up in despair; but, now everything else has been tried and failed, the countenance of la portier suddenly lights up, and he slips quietly around to an adjoining room, and enters mine inside of two minutes by simply lifting a small hook out of a staple with his knife-blade. There appears to be a slight coolness, as it were, between le proprietaire and me after this incident, probably owing to the intellectual standard of each becoming somewhat lowered in the other's estimation in consequence of it. Le proprietaire, doubtless, thinks a man capable of leaving the key inside of the door must be the worst type of an ignoramus; and certainly my opinion of him for leaving such a diabolical arrangement unchanged in the latter half of the nineteenth century is not far removed from the same.

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Posted in stevens blog by Thomas Stevens on Thursday 14th May 1885 (19:00 +0200) | Add a comment | Permalink

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