« AnteriorContinuar »
“One of those forms which flit by us when we
Are young, and fix our eyes on every face;
In momentary gliding--the soft grace,
In many a nameless being, we retrace;
It was yet too early for the world of fashion to be abroad, but the world of business thronged through the streets, as Ellen was jolted through them in the huge and cumbrous vehicle, from which she frequently expected a sudden ejection. Once or twice she thought of walking, as both more safe and more speedy; but to walk alone in the crowded streets of London seems an awful undertaking to a young lady; and, after a moment's reflec
tion, she relinquished it. A sudden and terrible jolt, having been succeeded by the coachman's stopping, and getting off his box to repair something broken in his rude harness, Ellen, after a long attempt to get the window down, put her head out, and said, “ Coachman, I see a stand close by, perhaps you had better call me another coach ; and something seems broken about yours.” For some time, the coachman would not hear ; but when Ellen appeared to be about to put her intention into execution, he came up.
“Why–Lord love your pretty face, young woman! what would you be arter ?”
“ I want you to call me another coach ; I think this unsafe."
“I call you another coach! Why — Lor' bless ye — you must mean that for a lark, sure! You might as well ask a man to be his own Jack Ketch. Why, I should be the laughingstock of every stand in Lunnun. I should be a disgrace to my number.” And he stuck his arms in his sides, and laughed heartily. There was something so character
istic and good-humoured in the man, that Ellen, though provoked, laughed too.
“Ah, come !” he exclaimed, “I thought as how you were arter a lark.... I call another jarvie! Why, there aint not finer osses (pointing to two creatures that looked like shorteared donkeys), nor a handsomer, more sizeable, easy coach—no, nor a more respected and knowing coachee, though I says it as shouldn't, maybe, on any stand in Lunnun or Westminster.”
“But can you assure me it is safe? that's all I wish to know."
“ Safe ! lor, sure it's safe. Be asy, you're as safe as if ye wor in a wile, despicable homnibush; I suppose it's them you're used to. I'd as lieve go about in a hearse, if I wor gentry. The meanest, lumberingest, wulgarest wehicles is them homnibushes. They've done their best to spoil our trade; and I never sees one but I wishes to run agen it......I wor had up t'other day did you read it ? I wor in all the papers—Jem Crump (fighting Jem) —but nothing could be proved agen me.”
This boast of his
Ellen more anxious than ever to escape from his power. She had no wish to form part of a crusade of the old lumbering coach against an omnibus. She said, “ What are we waiting for now ?” Why, I took adwantage of
your wanting to talk a bit, to give them noble beasts a little
I treat my osses more like children nor brutes; and, look! there aint not such another pair on any stand in Lunnun.”
Ellen thought it would be difficult to match them ; but she saw, with pleasure, that they were indeed engaged in eating out of some dark bags suspended to their noses, and that, though small, rough, and ill-made, they were fat and lively. Conceiving, from this, a good opinion of “fighting Jem,” she said, “ If you can assure me that I am safe—and if you drive without coming in contact with any omnibus down Regent Street and to the waxwork in Baker Street, I will give you an extra shilling."
“Well—now that's what I call coming it
andsome, and is more than I expected. I see, from the first, you wor a wery genteel young 'ooman; but that beats reg'lar gentry; many of the grandest of them not only gives one nothing to drink, but grudges one one's fare. Sixpenny customers, I calls 'em, and fit for homnibushes, not for a regular licensed, sizeable hackney, as has been on the stand these thirty year. Don't be afear'd, miss, I always behaves ansome to those as comes it ansome. • Ansome is as ansome gives.'” So saying, he touched his hat. His respect for Ellen much increased—for, at first, her simple straw bonnet, plain morning-dress, and “Bruce Cottage,” had given him an erroneous idea of the station and importance of his fare.
“I warrant you're as safe as a bug in a rug, miss,” he added. “I'spose, by your curousness to drive up Regent Street for nothen, you're a country lady. I'm country-bred myself, so I don't despise country-folk; and, as you're so timorous, I'll fight shy of the omnibushes, and take you to the waxwork in a jiffy."
The drive up and down Regent Street