This afternoon my bicycle causes the first runaway since the trifling affair at Lembach, Austria. A brown-faced peasant woman and a little girl, driving a small, shaggy pony harnessed to a basket-work, four-wheeled vehicle, are approaching; their humble-looking steed betrays no evidence of restiveness until just as I am turning out to pass him, when, without warning, he gives a swift, sudden bound to the right, nearly upsetting the vehicle, and without more ado bolts down a considerable embankment and goes helter-skelter across a field of standing grain. The old lady pluckily hangs on to the reins, and finally succeeds in bringing the runaway around into the road again without damaging anything save the corn. It might have ended much less satisfactorily, however, and the incident illustrates one possible source of trouble to a 'cycler travelling alone through countries where the people neither understand, nor can be expected to understand, a wheelman's position; the situation would, of course, be aggravated in a country village where, not speaking the language, one could not make himself understood in his own defence. These people here, if not wise as serpents, are at least harmless as doves; but, in case of the bicycle frightening a team and causing a runaway with the unpleasant sequel of broken limbs, or injured horse, they would scarce know what to do in the premises, since they would have no precedent to govern them, and, in the absence of any intelligent guidance, might conclude to wreak summary vengeance on the bicycle. In such a case, would a wheelman be justified in using his revolver to defend his bicycle?
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.