CHAPTER VI. GERMANY, AUSTRIA, AND HUNGARY.
The peasantry, hereabout, seem very kindly disposed and hospitable. Sometimes, while lingering for Igali, they will wonder what I am stopping for, and motion the questions of whether I wish anything to eat or drink; and this afternoon one of them, whose curiosity to see how I mounted overcomes his patience, offers me a twenty-kreuzer piece to show him. At one village a number of peasants take an old cherry-woman to task for charging me two kreuzers more for some cherries than it appears she ought, and although two kreuzers are but a farthing they make quite a squabble with the poor old woman about it, and will be soothed by neither her voice nor mine until I accept another handful of cherries in lieu of the overcharged two kreuzers.
Szekszard has the reputation, hereabout, of producing the best quality of red wine in all Hungary - no small boast, by the way - and the hotel and wine-gardens here, among them, support an excellent gypsy band of fourteen pieces. Mr. Garay, the leader of the band, once spent nearly a year in America, and after supper the band plays, with all the thrilling sweetness of the Hungarian muse, "Home, sweet Home," "Yankee Doodle," and "Sweet Violets," for my especial delectation.
A wheelman the fame of whose exploits has preceded him might as well try to wheel through hospitable Hungary without breathing its atmosphere as without drinking its wine; it isn't possible to taboo it as I tabooed the vin ordinaire of France, Hungarians and Frenchmen being two entirely different people. Notwithstanding music until 11.30 P.M., yesterday, we are on the road before six o'clock this morning - for genuine, unadulterated Hungarian music does not prevent one getting up bright and fresh next day - and about noon we roll into Duna Szekeso, Igali's native town, where we have decided to halt for the remainder of the day to get our clothing washed, one of my shoes repaired, and otherwise prepare for our journey to the Servian capital. Duna Szekeso is a calling-place for the Danube steamers, and this afternoon I have the opportunity of taking observations of a gang of Danubian roustabouts at their noontide meal. They are a swarthy, wild-looking crowd, wearing long hair parted in the middle, or not parted at all; to their national costume are added the jaunty trappings affected by river men in all countries. Their food is coarse black bread and meat, and they take turns in drinking wine from a wooden tube protruding from a two-gallon watch-shaped cask, the body of which is composed of a section of hollow log instead of staves, lifting the cask up and drinking from the tube, as they would from the bung-hole of a beer-keg. Their black bread would hardly suit the palate of the Western world; but there are doubtless a few individuals on both sides of the Atlantic who would willingly be transformed into a Danubian roustabout long enough to make the acquaintance of yonder rude cask.
After bathing in the river we call on several of Igali's friends, among them the Greek priest and his motherly-looking wife, Igali being of the Greek religion. There appears to be the greatest familiarity between the priests of these Greek churches and their people, and during our brief visit the priest, languid-eyed, fat, and jolly, his equally fat and jolly wife, and Igali, caress playfully, and cut up as many antics as three kittens in a bay window. The farther one travels southward the more amiable and affectionate in disposition the people seem to become.
Five o'clock next morning finds us wheeling out of Duna Szekeso, and during the forenoon we pass through Baranyavar, a colony of Greek Hovacs, where the women are robed in white drapery as scant as the statuary which the name of their religion calls to memory. The roads to-day are variable; there is little but what is ridable, but much that is rough and stony enough to compel slow and careful wheeling. Early in the evening, as we wheel over the bridge spanning the River Drave, an important tributary of the Danube, into Eszek, the capital of Slavonia, unmistakable rain- signs appear above the southern horizon.