tive for outrage, and done more than all | as it were, in cold water- was weak. the measures, however much they be tem- Besides, he dreaded the ruler of the unporarily required, for its suppression in savage Englishman, the British policeJ. H. TUKE.

other ways.

From Blackwood's Magazine.




SOME people have a surprising talent for despising the ordinary amusements and occupations of life; and very fortunate creatures they are, for it is clear that more than their fair share of the amusement lurking about in odd corners of this labyrinthine universe has been given them to cause this satiety. Or perchance it may be truer to say that more amusement than they are able to assimilate has been offered to their mental palate.

Mark Forrester was one of these fortunate unfortunates: he seemed to have found everything out, and detected the hollowness of all things. Though a younger son, he was born afflicted with a fortune a year, and no compensating skeleton in his closet; and as he was neither a genius nor a scoundrel, he scarcely knew what to do with himself without the warm stimulus of necessary labor. He had not even the consolation of a hobby, nor the solace of being a fool. Of late he had taken to cab-driving, in which he found temporary refuge.


At times he envied his brother, Lord Woodman, who, though little wealthier than himself, would, on the demise of Lord Grandveneur, their father, became a legislator of his country, and a large landowner, which, as the Honorable Mark knew, not only is a position of toil and difficulty, but also perhaps in a few years may be one of personal danger and stern oppression; for the example of grinding the faces of landlords has been set with some success.

It was near the hour when good, oldfashioned ghosts used to break churchyard, and good, old-fashioned fairies to begin their revels the once witching but now too familiar hour of midnight and Mr. Forrester had just left a theatre, where the afterpiece had been a burlesque on something-perhaps on "Paradise Lost." He was always expecting some enterprising pulpiteer to run up a burlesque church, and start a burlesque liturgy. From his experience of the public taste, he thought that the thing would draw.

Thus musing, he mounted the drivingseat of his private hansom. The groom was about to step inside, when a gesture. from his master warned him to go home, and the hansom-driver started on his lonely and adventurous career. It is supposed that one of the sweet little cherubs who keep watch over the recklessness of English tars, schoolboys, and street infants, is told off to protect hansom cabs in London. Accidents do sometimes oc. cur for all the cherub's care: these ought not to be called accidents but natural sequences, the safe journeys being the real accidents.

He was no common Mark: he was an honorable, and consequently a noble Mark, and had made his mark till he became a Mark of admiration in the pursuits most esteemed by the gilded youth of today. And he had even been marked with distinction in university lists. Naturally, he had received many marks of esteem This private vehicle behaved as miracfrom those members of the fair sex who ulously as its public fellows. It darted no longer graced the arena of the ball-like lightning round abrupt corners; it room on their own account, but on that of wound a swift and sinuous course through their young. He was the gilded mark at densely packed vehicles going in five difwhich the bold and wary hunter of the ferent directions at once at fifty different husband aimed with care. But he had as rates of speed; and it charged itinerant. yet made no Mrs. Mark. Of all things, vendors' stalls and the forms of foot-pashe hated conventionality, and he found sengers with the apparent purpose of cutthe fair things of the drawing-room con- ting them in two, but relented in the very ventional to a fault. There were mo-act, shaving these obstacles with the most ments when, under the influence of this delicate accuracy. The cabman, from his hatred, he even thought of eschewing the lofty elevation, surveyed such of mankind modern use of the tub, and putting it to as were revealed by the artificial lights the more comprehensive purposes of the amid the natural, all-compassing darkness, Grecian sage he who appropriated the with satisfaction: he was as happy as a sunshine. But in this the flesh-cradled, | Greek athlete, skilfully guiding his char

iot to the goal on the Olympic course, | regulated by the countenances of the fares though neither parsley, beech, nor olive rather than by the distances traversed, was to crown his happy brows. All along and thus some were not charged at all. Piccadilly he flashed like a star, and then And one, a young lordling of his acquaintin the quiet by the Green Park one of ance, gloriously tipsy and apostrophizing those dramas which the streets so fre- a lamp-post in the fondest terms, he had quently offered him began to unfold itself. conveyed the length of a street for the A woman's form, closely pursued by that sum of five pounds, coins which he had of a man, fled swiftly over the pavement; | returned, with their history and a timely and when the pursuer gained upon her, sarcasm to the dismayed and contrite lad she uttered a panting cry. A policeman next morning. was apparently studying astronomy just within sight.

On the impulse of the moment, the cab was driven to the kerb, and stopped close to the fugitive, who, as if the movement had been foreseen and fore-ordered, at once jumped in and shut the doors, with a panting but superfluous "Drive on!" and the honorable cabby, keenly interested in his fare, and ignorant whether he were assisting in a tragedy or a comedy, flicked his high-bred steed, and plunged into the dark distance of night. "So swiftly," he mused, "did the gloomy king of shades ravish his fresh bride from the flowery meads of Enna!”

But as he was not prepared for the reception of a Persephone in the realms of which he was king, he presently drew up, and opening the trap-door, asked, "Where to, mum?"

A very pale face, not particularly pretty, and still bearing the infantile sweetness of early youth, looked up. "Is he gone?" she cried, quite gone?"

[ocr errors]

"Half a mile behind, mum," he replied, in a reassuring tone; and received an address which put his London topography to the test. However, after threading a tangled maze of streets for a quarter of an hour or so, he landed his charge at the gate of a small villa, which had been left | behind by mistake in an ugly, quiet street of great new dismal houses.

"One moment, cabman, please," said the young lady, springing lightly to the pavement; "I have no change." And she ran in.

Not one lady returned to reward the gallant cabman, but three, and that after some moments' delay. There was a lamp just over the gate of the little villa, and by its light he saw an elderly lady in a bonnet whom he at once recognized as Lady M'Whymper, his fare, and a taller girl with a woollen shawl thrown round her head and shonlders.

"Sixpence," he replied, in answer to the latter's question of how much.

"We don't want to impose on you, cabman," she said; "and however short the distance, nobody charges so little."

"Beg pardon, miss, I ain't nobody," returned the cabman, with more truth than she dreamed.


Very true," she laughed, looking up in his face, which was a little above the lamplight, and muffled to the nose in a comforter assumed for the occasion. "But you ought to have a double fare for your kindness to my sister. She is young and easily frightened, and I am too much occupied to go about with her, as we are all working women. And I wanted to make an arrangement with you to take her to her singing engagements twice a week in future. But if you fleece yourself in this way, the thing will be impos sible. However, as we are poor, and Maisie has hitherto walked home on that account, I thought that a permanent engagement might be contracted for; but nothing shall induce us to fleece honest men, even with their consent," she added, putting three sixpences into his hand.

The honorable cabman was a little One would imagine that such an oppor- startled at being nailed, as it were, on the tunity for vanishing unquestioned would spot, in consequence of his chivalrous have been gladly and promptly seized by succor of a forlorn damsel. It was, howan amateur cabman; but it was not so. ever, a fine opening for him, since his Mr. Forrester had more than once before mind had of late been seriously exercised made himself useful to the British public with regard to the advisability of driving in the capacity of cab-driver, and had fre- a stage-coach, an omnibus, or an engine. quently received a cabman's due, coins So he quickly caught at the offer; and which, when duly cleansed and polished, | Lady M'Whymper, whom he knew as a he treasured fondly in an ebony cabinet as the only money he had ever earned and how sweet such money is, they who have won it only know. His charges were

canny Scotswoman and strict treasurer of pence, having suggested an outrageously small payment, he declared the sum to be a princely reward; and the bargain was

struck, not without hesitation on the part | the cabman husk would have revealed a of the tall girl, who thought the price too gentlemen in ordinary evening array. small, and who was yet evidently so poor that she could not afford more. "I can't have Maisie exposed to such terrors," she mused aloud; "and yet I don't like to take advantage of this good cabman." The earnest consultation of the two young ladies on the subject moved him, for he had never yet realized the tragic importance of a few shillings to people of narrow means. Pounds and shillings were to him and his fellows as the common rain and sunshine to ordinary humanity. His knowledge of the poor was theoretic and fragmentary, by no means experimental, and he had yet to become acquainted with the vast border of decent and even cultured and refined poverty that separates wealth from squalid


On starting with Lady M'Whymper he received a card from the taller sister with the name Olivia Winter, and the address Normandy Villa, Bromley Road, W., that he might not fail in his assignation on the following Tuesday, and drove off highly interested and deeply speculating upon the circumstances of his novel acquaintances, and concluding that Olivia was probably a needlewoman or former maid of Lady M'Whymper's, and that Maisie, his fare, was in training for the ballet or some supernumerary stage employment. With all that, it was strange of Lady M'Whymper to be there at that time of night.

His fears that the old Scotch woman would recognize him were groundless. Having calculated the exact fare, and given him a few pence under it on her arrival at her lighted house, with its opened door and advancing servants, she was in far too great a hurry to get the door closed between herself and the injured cabby to bestow a glance either on him or his smart cab.

"Stebbing," said Mr. Forrester, when his groom stepped up to take the reins from his hand, "have the crest painted out of the cab to-morrow, and get me a set of plain single harness without any plating or ornament whatever."

"Certainly, sir."


WHEN the appointed Tuesday came, Mr. Forrester, true to his word, drew up at the gate of Normandy Villa five minutes before the trysted hour, carefully got up in the cabinan mode as to his extreme outer man, while an abstraction of

His punctuality was rewarded. In answer to the bell, which was pulled by a passing arab, Olivia Winter came to the gate in the lamplight, patted the horse's neck with a slim white hand, on which Mr. Forrester detected the gleam of a diamond ring. "I am so sorry, cabman,” she said kindly; "my sister will not be ready for at least ten minutes, and you really are a little before your time. I would ask you to come in, but of course you cannot leave your beautiful horse. I never saw so fine a creature between cab shafts before, though I know that a good deal of blood is sometimes to be found in hansom cattle. What is his name? Bright? Then you are on our side in politics. We are extreme Radicals. And your name? I hate to call people by their offices, as if they were mere machines. I recognize a brother in every man I meet, and think of his human ty rather than his accidental relations with myself."

"Mark Forrester, at your service, miss," he replied, touching his hat, not quite at his ease under the steady, frank gaze of the eyes beneath the woollen shawl. Are you

[ocr errors]

"Mark a nice manly name. married, Forster?"

"Not exactly, miss."

"Not exactly? Trembling on the verge, Forster? I hope you will make a good choice. People don't reflect sufficiently before marrying, particularly when circumstances allow them to marry young and without difficulty. Now a cabman must find great comfort in a wife. But don't be in a hurry, Forster," she said earnestly; "don't give up your life for a bright eye and a pretty cheek. Make sure first that she is good."

Mr. Forrester smiled in his comforter. He had frequently before been lectured upon his matrimonial duties and prospects, but never by a being so young, so bright-eyed, and so disinterested. He liked new experiences.

"There's a good deal in that, miss," he replied, copying the intonation of the London million; "I'm blest if I don't turn it over in my mind."

"Do, Forster. And if you can manage it, bring her to see me, and I'll find out what she is made of. Women know women. I dare say you think that she is not quite in my class; but we have given up class distinctions, my sisters and I. We consider ourselves quite on an equality with you," she added, with a smile full

of innocent and unconscious condescension.

"Do you now, miss?" he returned, with evident surprise; "well, now, if that ain't queer! Rum, I call it." The idea of a working girl on the second floor of a little Cockney villa descending to social equality with an earl's son tickled him.

"Yes, I am plain Olivia Winter."

The cabman doubted it. Such a voice and such eyes could not belong to a plain woman, he was certain. However, he scarcely felt equal to expressing this opinion, and merely shook his head dissentingly in the darkness.

"I care little for the conversation of gentlemen. They speak to women as if they were highly developed pussy-cats. I prefer talking to men like yourself -honest fellows whose life is too serious to be fooled away in idle things." He thought of his own aimless existence, and sighed. "What do you think of this war? You see the papers, I suppose, and have a vote, of course? And only think, I have none. Isn't it hard?"

[ocr errors]

Things in general is rough upon women, miss. Howsomever, I shouldn't wonder if they was to pull the woman suffrage through Parlymint some of these days."

"Do you really think so, Forster? I am so glad. This is my sister, Geraldine Winter," she added, as a girl with a cup and saucer came tripping down to the gate, "Mark Forster, Gerry."

Mr. Forrester, by force of habit, lifted his hat in the usual way, to the great surprise of his friends.

"I have brought you a cup of coffee, Forster," said Miss Geraldine, with a frank smile. "Maisie is just coming. Would you prefer beer?"

Maisie, otherwise Margaret, then appeared, and was driven to her destination, which proved to be some well-known public rooms in which a concert was being held, and where the cabman had the pleasure of hearing his fare, who figured in the programme under a professional name, sing very artistically in a trained chorus, and once in a brief solo. Having driven her back to Normandy Villa, and having been cordially thanked, duly paid, and wished a pleasant good-night, he finished the evening at a brilliant ball, where the weariness of conventionality was specially borne in upon him.

"Are you a Radical?" he asked casually of Miss Mabel Coinless, after a turn in a waltz, during which it struck him that the lady's want of originality was surfacewashed rather than ingrained.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Really. Well, it is something to be allowed even that dignity." Mr. Forrester looked thoughtfully at the lady's fan, which he held for some moments. She was one of ten daughters; and he knew, and she knew, and everybody knew, that the present object of her being was to secure a man of equal social standing and superior wealth to herself as husband. Then he looked at Miss Coinless, who was pretty and charming after the conventional pattern he abhorred.

"Are you perchance a woman's rights' woman?" he asked.

"Am I devoid of common sense?" she replied, dropping the conventional mask, or are you?

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

"For the free. Really, Mr. Forrester,' she added, once more assuming the smiling mask that the Spartan cruelty of society imposes upon women, 66 what nonsense we are talking! I promised merely to dance with you, not to say my catechism."

[ocr errors]

He took the hint and the lady, and whirled agreeably round in silence, musing upon the occult cause of the conventional mask that so vexed him. He made an advance that night in the knowledge of human nature. The conventional woman," he affirmed, "is a sham. She is a sham because she is not free." Then he stood apart, and mused what figures Olivia, Geraldine, and Maisie would make in that gay scene! Happy girls! born to the noble independence of labor, and blissful exemption from conventional fetters! But what were they? He wondered how a cabman might respectfully arrive at some knowledge upon that subject.

In the mean time, life had ceased to be dull. The pleasant aroma of the cabnights pervaded the rest of the week. His fare always chatted agreeably and frankly with him, though with an unconscious condescension which tickled him im

mensely; and his curiosity was kept upon | opportunity for reflection, the eager Olivia

the stretch by the fact that beyond knowing that the three were working women, he could not tell the occupation of the two elder sisters, each of whom appeared from time to time, bringing him tea or coffee, and bits of carrot or sugar for the horse, and talked pleasantly upon general subjects, particularly politics and literature, in which last he had much ado to keep at a proper level of ignorance.

One night Olivia accompanied her sister to her destination. "I'm having a holiday, Forster," she laughed, "and I have really earned it. Do you ever have a holiday?"

Well, miss," he returned, with some embarrassment, "there's a good deal of sameness in the cabman's life, to be sure."

had engaged him to come to Normandy Villa on the following Sunday evening for his first Greek lesson; and after this he felt that he could not disappoint the ardent girl, whatever his opinion of the expediency of the arrangement might be.

On the following morning he appeared at the house of his brother, the Hon. and Rev. Alan Forrester, vicar of a large London parish, into which he threw all his youthful energies and large young heart.

"Alan," he said, entering the room in which his brother was snatching a hasty luncheon at a table piled with correspondence, reports, and statistics, to which he paid more attention than to the frugal meal before him, "I want to know all about your cabmen."

"I do hope you have your Sundays at "My cabmen, honest fellows," replied least," she said through the trap, which the Honorable and Reverend young man, was frequently opened for conversational smiling, "would make a pretty stiff subpurposes, a proceeding that by no means ject for a competitive examination. They diminished street dangers. "I often can't be crammed in a minute, Mark. think," she added, blushing with eager- Look here, dear old boy- we have a big ness on learning that his Sundays were tea on to-morrow night. Suppose you free, "what an intelligent and well-in- come and give them a bit of a jaw afterformed man you are, and what a pity it is wards. No, you needn't preach; your that your calling should prevent you from happy chaff will be just the thing for still further cultivating your mind. Now, them. We have opened several new Forster, as a friend, I should like to do shelters, and are going to propose a selfwhat little I can for you; and if you would supporting coffee-tavern, in which they like to have lessons in French, Latin, shall have shares. Woodman and I give Greek, or anything that I or my sisters £50 to start them." know, we should be too happy to teach you of a Sunday evening of course if you have no better engagement," she put in, remembering the matrimonial bonds into which the cabman was probably drifting.

"I won't be outshone by Woodman; write me down for £60. But what I want to know is something of the social and domestic life of the genus cabman. I've made the discovery, Alan, that women and cabmen are human beings; and furThe driver felt quite dizzy for a mother, that while the universe contains ment, and was thankful that he did not human beings, it contains objects of indrop from his elevated perch. The idea terest." of the girl knowing Greek, he thought, and proposing to teach him, of all men!

[ocr errors]

“Ah, dear old boy! you would say so if you saw what I see daily. What will you have? Claret? Come round to the shelters with me this afternoon, and you shall see cabmen galore."

Lord, miss, to think of your knowing Greek, now! That took my breath away, that did. I should like to have a try at Greek. I've heard it's the hardest of the This Mr. Forrester did, picking up lot, and one as you can't turn into ready many choice flowers of speech on his way money; and thinks I to myself, things for future use; and he was touched to that'll fetch no money is worth the most." find the confidence reposed in his brother "Quite so. Why, Forster, you are a by these rough men, who all appeared to philosopher. You have chosen the lead- know him intimately, and a little crushed en casket," returned his fare, with rap-by a sense of his own superfluity. He

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

also went to the tea, and studied the festive attire proper to cabmen. This he found to consist chiefly of a bath of pomatum for the hair, a good deal of necktie, and a large occasional flower in the ¦ coat; and all these he himself assumed

« VorigeDoorgaan »