Now that the disappointments of the first week were left behind, it was with a light heart that I started on this day from the Central Restaurant, Worcester, where Sunday had been spent.
According to my book, Penkridge was to be the stopping place for the night, but I decided, if possible, to reach Stafford, 6 ½ miles beyond.
If Glasgow, 320 miles distant from Worcester, was to be reached by Saturday, no less distance than this would suffice. My courage was screwed to the sticking-point when at 4.20 a.m. I set off for the second week.
The morning was lovely; my cyclist was cheerful; and we decided to put a good distance behind our backs before our first meal time. The surface of the road between Worcester and Birmingham was good.
By the time Droitwich (7 miles) was reached I felt in perfect condition. One or two visitors, evidently there for the benefit to be derived from the famous brine baths, were about and looked after me as if they envied me my vitality. Health is its own advertisement.
Five miles further on, several workmen were enjoying an early cup of coffee in the well-kept coffee-house at Bromsgrove. A policeman in plain clothes rather reluctantly signed our book here. The importance of his position had evidently grown upon him, for he explained that "he was very careful what he put his name to." My friend, the cyclist, assured him that all was straight and above-board, then he signed his name with a flourish.
Northfield Institute, 20 miles since starting that morning, was reached by 9 o'clock. We had our breakfast at the fine coffee-house, built by Mr. Cadbury, of cocoa fame. Mr. and Mrs. Ketley, the good people in charge, had become interested in the walk, from reading accounts in the Daily News. When we paid our bill they would only accept the bare cost of the food, and pressed us to take some fruit to eat on the way. Thoughts of George Fox, and his leather suit were prompted by the quiet maid in a plain, neat gown, who waited upon us, and also by the kindly advice of one of the "Friends” at parting, to be honest at all costs. The world owes more to the Quakers than it will ever realize.
When the famous Leicestershire shoemaker set out on that eventful morning, 200 years ago, in search of the Holy Grail, the powers of evil received a blow from which they will never recover.
The clocks of Birmingham were striking eleven as we went along Corporation Street, Birmingham (26 miles).
By 1 o'clock Walsall (36 ¾ miles) was reached. The heat of the sun was by this time intense, and my feet burned as they came in contact with the dusty road. People were hurrying home to their dinners as if they had only a few hours to live and do their life's work in.
At Bloxwich, 1 ½ miles further, we tried in vain to get a meal. The pavements were vile, and I was glad to leave this town behind.
When we were having dinner at Cannock (42 ¾ miles) we were interviewed by a local reporter, and felt glad when he took his departure and left us in peace. So well had I been going all the day that it was only 2.40 p.m. when Cannock was reached.
At 4 o'clock the last 10 ¾ miles for the day was entered upon. Penkridge was entered at 5 o'clock, and for the first time I was ahead of my book-plans. A pleasant-looking man in charge of a smart horse and trap kept close to me from the latter town to Stafford. My attendant left me with five miles to go to obtain accommodation for the night. A mile from the finish he met me again with the doleful news that no bath was to be had unless we cared to wait for an hour and-a-half. Whereupon the gentleman in the trap, before referred to, at once invited us to go with him to his place.
He turned out to be the proprietor of the Eagle Hotel. When he learned that we were vegetarians, he and his wife put themselves to a great deal of trouble to get us a variety of fruits and salads. I never wish to be better treated than I was that night.
I hate the drink traffic like poison, but that does not blind me to kindness of heart whereever I see it. Kindness is not confined to any cult or creed. I prefer the sins of this publican to the virtues of many people.
That night I slept peacefully, feeling I had met a friend indeed, and also with the consolation afforded by reason of having exceeded my book by 6 ½ miles.
It is worth mentioning that I walked from Penkridge to Stafford at the rate of 5 ¼ miles per hour.