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such dialogue as the following takes place between him and
the cad :

" What are you stopping for ? "

Here the cad whistles, and affects not to hear the question.

" I say [a poke], what are you stopping for ? "

"For passengers, sir. Ba nk. Ty."

"I know you're stopping for passengers; but you've no
business to do so. Why are you stopping?"

"Vy, sir, that's a difficult question. I think it is because
we perfer stopping here to going on."

"Now mind," exclaims the little old man, with great
vehemence, " Til pull you up to-morrow ; I've often threatened
to do it ; now I will."

"Thankee, sir," replies the cad, touching his hat with a
mock expression of gratitude ; " werry much obliged to you
indeed, sir." Here the young men in the omnibus laugh very
heartily, and the old gentleman gets very red in the face, and
seems highly exasperated.

The stout gentleman in the white neckcloth, at the other
end of the vehicle, looks very prophetic, and says that some-
thing must shortly be done with these fellows, or there's no
saying where all this will end ; and the shabby-genteel man
with the green bag, expresses his entire concurrence in the
opinion, as he has done regularly every morning for the last
six months.

A second omnibus now comes up, and stops immediately
behind us. Another old gentleman elevates his cane in the
air, and runs with all his might towards our omnibus ; we
watch his progress with great interest ; the door is opened
to receive him, he suddenly disappears he has been spirited
away by the opposition. Hereupon the driver of the opposition


taunts our people with his having "regularly done 'em
out of that old swell, 11 and the voice of the " old swell " is
heard, vainly protesting against this unlawful detention. We
rattle off, the other omnibus rattles after us, and every time
we stop to take up a passenger, they stop to take him too;
sometimes we get him ; sometimes they get him ; but whoever
don't get him, say they ought to have had him, and the cads
of the respective vehicles abuse one another accordingly.

As we arrive in the vicinity of LincolnVinn-fields, Bedford-
row, and other legal haunts, we drop a great many of our
original passengers, and take up fresh ones, who meet with a
very sulky reception. It is rather remarkable, that the people
already in an omnibus, always look at new-comers, as if they
entertained some undefined idea that they have no business
to come in at all. We are quite persuaded the little old
man has some notion of this kind, and that he considers their
entry as a sort of negative impertinence.

Conversation is now entirely dropped ; each person gazes
vacantly through the window in front of him, and everybody
thinks that his opposite neighbour is staring at him. If one
man gets out at Shoe-lane, and another at the corner of
Farringdon-street, the little old gentleman grumbles, and
suggests to the latter, that if he had got out at Shoe-lane
too, he would have saved them the delay of another stoppage ;
whereupon the young men laugh again, and the old gentle-
man looks very solemn, and says nothing more till he gets to
the Bank, when he trots off as fast as he can, leaving us to
do the same, and to wish, as we walk away, that we could
impart to others any portion of the amusement we have
irained for ourselves.



OF all the cabriolet-drivers whom we have ever had the
honour and gratification of knowing by sight and our
acquaintance in this way has been most extensive there is
one who made an impression on our mind which can never
be effaced, and who awakened in our bosom a feeling of
admiration and respect, which we entertain a fatal presenti-
ment will never be called forth again by any human being.
He was a man of most simple and prepossessing appearance.
He was a brown-whiskered, white-hatted, no-coated cabman ;
his nose was generally red, and his bright blue eye not
unfrequently stood out in bold relief against a black border
of artificial workmanship ; his boots were of the Wellington
form, pulled up to meet his corduroy knee-smalls, or at least
to approach as near them as their dimensions would admit
of; and his neck was usually garnished with a bright yellow
handkerchief. In summer he carried in his mouth a flower;
in winter, a straw slight, but, to a contemplative mind, cer-
tain indications of a love of nature, and a taste for botany.

His cabriolet was gorgeously painted a bright red; and
wherever we went, City or West End, Paddington or
Holloway, North, East, West, or South, there was the red
cab, bumping up against the posts at the street corners, and
turning in and out, among hackney-coaches, and drays, and
carts, and waggons, and omnibuses, and contriving by some


strange means or other, to get out of places which no other
vehicle but the red cab could ever by any possibility have
contrived to get into at all. Our fondness for that red cab
was unbounded. How we should have liked to have seen it
in the circle at Astley's ! Our life upon it, that it should
have performed such evolutions as would have put the whole
company to shame Indian chiefs, knights, Swiss peasants,
and all.

Some people object to the exertion of getting into cabs,
and others object to the difficulty of getting out of them ;
we think both these are objections which take their rise in
perverse and ill-conditioned minds. The getting into a cab
is a very pretty and graceful process, which, when well per-
formed, is essentially melo-dramatic. First, there is the ex-
pressive pantomime of every one of the eighteen cabmen on the
stand, the moment you raise your eyes from the ground. Then
there is your own pantomime in reply quite a little ballet.
Four cabs immediately leave the stand, for your especial
accommodation ; and the evolutions of the animals who draw
them, are beautiful in the extreme, as they grate the wheels
of the cabs against the curb-stones, and sport playfully in
the kennel. You single out a particular cab, and dart
swiftly towards it. One bound, and you are on the first
step ; turn your body lightly round to the right, and you are
on the second ; bend gracefully beneath the reins, working
round to the left at the same time, and you are in the cab.
There is no difficulty in finding a seat : the apron knocks
you comfortably into it at once, and off you go.

The getting out of a cab is, perhaps, rather more compli-
cated in its theory, and a shade more difficult in its execution.
We have studied the subject a great deal, and we think the
best way is, to throw yourself out, and trust to chance for
alighting on your -feet. If you make the driver alight first,
and then throw yourself upon him, you will find that he
breaks your fall materially. In the event of your con-
templating an offer of eightpence, on no account make


the tender, or show the money, until you are safely on the
pavement. It is very bad policy attempting to save the
fourpence. You are very much in the power of a cabman,
and he considers it a kind of fee not to do you any wilful
damage. Any instruction, however, in the art of getting out
of a cab, is wholly unnecessary if you are going any distance,
because the probability is, that you will be shot lightly out
before you have completed the third mile.

We are not aware of any instance on record in which a
cab-horse has performed three consecutive miles without going
down once. What of that? It is all excitement. And in
these days of derangement of the nervous system and universal
lassitude, people are content to pay handsomely for excite-
ment ; where can it be procured at a cheaper rate ?

But to return to the red cab; it was omnipresent. You
had but to walk down Holborn, or Fleet-street, or any of
the principal thoroughfares in which there is a great deal of
traffic, and judge for yourself. You had hardly turned into
the street, when you saw a trunk or two, lying on the ground :
an uprooted post, a hat-box, a portmanteau, and a carpet-
bag, strewed about in a very picturesque manner: a horse in
a cab standing by, looking about him with great unconcern ;
and a crowd, shouting and screaming with delight, cooling
their flushed faces against the glass windows of a chemist's
shop. " What's the matter here, can you tell me ? " " O'ny
a cab, sir." " Anybody hurt, do you know ? " " O'ny the
fare, sir. I see him a turnin' the corner, and I ses to another
gen'lm'n 'that's a reglar little oss that, and he's a comin'
along rayther sweet, an't he?' 'He just is,' ses the other
gen'lm'n, ven bump they cums agin the post, and out flies
the fare like bricks." Need we say it was the red cab; or
that the gentleman with the straw in his mouth, who emerged
so coolly from the chemist's shop and philosophically climbing
into the little dickey, started off' at full gallop, was the red
cab's licensed driver?

The ubiquity of this red cab, and the influence it exercised


over the risible muscles of justice itself, was perfectly astonish-
ing. You walked into the justice-room of the Mansion-
house; the whole court resounded with merriment. The
Lord Mayor threw himself back in his chair, in a state of
frantic delight at his own joke; every vein in Mr. Hoblers
countenance was swollen with laughter, partly at the Lord
Mayor's facetiousness, but more at his own; the constables
and police-officers were (as in duty bound) in ecstasies at Mr.
Hobler and the Lord Mayor combined ; and the very paupers,
glancing respectfully at the beadle's countenance, tried to
smile, as even he relaxed. A tall, weazen-faced man, with an
impediment in his speech, would be endeavouring to state a
case of imposition against the red cab's driver; and the red
cab's driver, and the Lord Mayor, and Mr. Hobler, would
be having a little fun among themselves, to the inordinate
delight of everybody but the complainant. In the end, justice
would be so tickled with the red-cab-driver's native humour,
that the fine would be mitigated, and he would go away full
gallop, in the red cab, to impose on somebody else without
loss of time.

The driver of the red cab, confident in the strength of his
own moral principles, like many other philosophers, was wont
to set the feelings and opinions of society at complete defiance.
Generally speaking, perhaps, he would as soon carry a fare
safely to his destination, as he would upset him sooner,
perhaps, because in that case he not only got the money, but
had the additional amusement of running a longer heat
against some smart rival. But society made war upon him
in the shape of penalties, and he must make war upon society
in his own way. This was the reasoning of the red-cab-
driver. So, he bestowed a searching look upon the fare, as
he put his hand in his waistcoat pocket, when he had gone
half the mile, to get the money ready ; and if he brought
forth eightpence, out he went.

The last time we saw our friend was one wet evening in
Tottenham-court-road, when he was engaged in a very warm


and somewhat personal altercation with a loquacious little
gentleman in a green coat. Poor fellow! there were great
excuses to be made for him: he had not received above
eighteenpence more than his fare, and consequently laboured
under a great deal of very natural indignation. The dispute
had attained a pretty considerable height, when at last the
loquacious little gentleman, making a mental calculation of
the distance, and finding that he had already paid more than
he ought, avowed his unalterable determination to " pull up "
the cabman in the morning.

"Now, just mark this, young man," said the little gentle-
man, " Til pull you up to-morrow morning."

" No ! will you though ? " said our friend, with a sneer.

"I will," replied the little gentleman, "mark my words,
that's all. If I live till to-morrow morning, you shall repent

There was a steadiness of purpose, and indignation of
speech, about the little gentleman, as he took an angry
pinch of snuff, after this last declaration, which made a
visible impression on the mind of the red-cab-driver. He
appeared to hesitate for an instant. It was only for an
instant; his resolve was soon taken.

" You'll pull me up, will you ? " said our friend.

"I will," rejoined the little gentleman, with even greater
vehemence than before.

"Very well," said our friend, tucking up his shirt sleeves
very calmly. " There'll be three veeks for that. Wery good ;
that'll bring me up to the middle o' next month. Three
veeks more would carry me on to my birthday, and then I've
got ten pound to draw. I may as well get board, lodgin',
and washin', till then, out of the county, as pay for it myself ;
consequently here goes ! "

So, without more ado, the red-cab-driver knocked the little
gentleman down, and then called the police to take himself
into custody, with all the civility in the world.

A story is nothing without the sequel; and therefore, we


may state, that to our certain knowledge, the board, lodging,
and washing, were all provided in due course. We happen to
know the fact, for it came to our knowledge thus : We went
over the House of Correction for the county of Middlesex
shortly after, to witness the operation of the silent system ;
and looked on all the "wheels" with the greatest anxiety,
in search of our long-lost friend. He was nowhere to be
seen, however, and we began to think that the little gentle-
man in the green coat must have relented, when, as we were
traversing the kitchen-garden, which lies in a sequestered
part of the prison, we were startled by hearing a voice,
which apparently proceeded from the wall, pouring forth its
soul in the plaintive air of "All round my hat," 11 which was
then just beginning to form a recognised portion of our
national music.

We started. "What voice is that?"" said we.

The Governor shook his head.

" Sad fellow, 1 ' 1 he replied, " very sad. He positively refused
to work on the wheel ; so, after many trials, I was compelled
to order him into solitary confinement. He says he likes it
very much though, and I am afraid he does, for he lies on
his back on the floor, and sings comic songs all day ! "

Shall we add, that our heart had not deceived us ; and
that the comic singer was no other than our eagerly-sought
friend, the red -cab-driver ?

We have never seen him since, but we have strong reason
to suspect that this noble individual was a distant relative of
a waterman of our acquaintance, who, on one occasion, when
we were passing the coach-stand over which he presides, after
standing very quietly to see a tall man struggle into a cab,
ran up very briskly when it was all over (as his brethren
invariably do), and, touching his hat, asked, as a matter of
course, for " a copper for the waterman." Now, the fare was
by no means a handsome man; and, waxing very indignant
at the demand, he replied " Money ! What for ? Coming
up and looking at me, I suppose !" "Veil, sir," rejoined the


waterman, with a smile of immovable complacency, "that's

worth twopence. 11

The identical waterman afterwards attained a very prominent
station in society ; and as we know something of his life, and
have often thought of telling what we do know, perhaps we
shall never have a better opportunity than the present.

Mr. William Barker, then, for that was the gentleman's

name, Mr. William Barker was born but why need

we relate where Mr. William Barker was born, or when ?
Why scrutinise the entries in parochial ledgers, or seek to
penetrate the Lucinian mysteries of lying-in-hospitals ? Mr.
William Barker was born, or he had never been. There
is a son there was a father. There is an effect there
was a cause. Surely this is sufficient information for the
most Fatima-like curiosity ; and, if it be not, we regret our
inability to supply any further evidence on the point. Can
there be a more satisfactory, or more strictly parliamentary
course ? Impossible.

We at once avow a similar inability to record at what
precise period, or by what particular process, this gentleman's
patronymic, of William Barker, became corrupted into " Bill
Boorker. 11 Mr. Barker acquired a high standing, and no
inconsiderable reputation, among the members of that pro-
fession to which he more peculiarly devoted his energies ; and
to them he was generally known, either by the familiar
appellation of "Bill Boorker, 11 or the flattering designation
of "Aggerawatin Bill," the latter being a playful and ex-
pressive sobriquet, illustrative of Mr. Barker's great talent
in " aggerawatin " and rendering wild such subjects of her
Majesty as are conveyed from place to place, through the
instrumentality of omnibuses. Of the early life of Mr. Barker
little is known, and even that little is involved in considerable
doubt and obscurity. A want of application, a restlessness
of purpose, a thirsting after porter, a love of all that is
roving and cadger-like in nature, shared in common with
many other great geniuses, appear to have been his leading


characteristics. The busy hum of a parochial free-school, and
the shady repose of a county gaol, were alike inefficacious in
producing the slightest alteration in Mr. Barker's disposition.
His feverish attachment to change and variety nothing could
repress ; his native daring no punishment could subdue.

If Mr. Barker can be fairly said to have had any weakness
in his earlier years, it was an amiable one love ; love in its
most comprehensive form a love of ladies, liquids, and pocket-
handkerchiefs. It was no selfish feeling; it was not confined
to his own possessions, which but too many men regard with
exclusive complacency. No; it was a nobler love a general
principle. It extended itself with equal force to the property
of other people.

There is something very affecting in this. It is still more
affecting to know, that such philanthropy is but imperfectly
rewarded. Bow-street, Newgate, and Millbank, are a poor
return for general benevolence, evincing itself in an irrepressible
love for all created objects. Mr. Barker felt it so. After a
lengthened interview with the highest legal authorities, he
quitted his ungrateful country, with the consent, and at the
expense, of its Government ; proceeded to a distant shore ;
and there employed himself, like another Cincinnatus, in
clearing and cultivating the soil a peaceful pursuit, in which
a term of seven years glided almost imperceptibly away.

Whether, at the expiration of the period we have just
mentioned, the British Government required Mr. Barker's
presence here, or did not require his residence abroad, we
have no distinct means of ascertaining. We should be inclined,
however, to favour the latter position, inasmuch as we do not
find that he was advanced to any other public post on his
return, than the post at the comer of the Hay market, where
he officiated as assistant- water man to the hackney-coach stand.
Seated, in this capacity, on a couple of tubs near the curb-
stone, with a brass plate and number suspended round his
neck by a massive chain, and his ankles curiously enveloped
in haybands, he is supposed to have made those observations


on human nature which exercised so material an influence
over all his proceedings in later life.

Mr. Barker had not officiated for many months in this
capacity, when the appearance of the first omnibus caused
the public mind to go in a new direction, and prevented a
great many hackney-coaches from going in any direction at
all. The genius of Mr. Barker at once perceived the whole
extent of the injury that would be eventually inflicted on cab
and coach stands, and, by consequence, on watermen also, by
the progress of the system of which the first omnibus was
a part. He saw, too, the necessity of adopting some more
profitable profession ; and his active mind at once perceived
how much might be done in the way of enticing the youthful
and unwary, and shoving the old and helpless, into the wrong
buss, and carrying them off, until, reduced to despair, they
ransomed themselves by the payment of sixpence a-head,
or, to adopt his own figurative expression in all its native
beauty, "till they was riglarly done over, and forked out
the stumpy."

An opportunity for realising his fondest anticipations, soon
presented itself. Rumours were rife on the hackney-coach
stands, that a buss was building, to run from Lisson-grove
to the Bank, down Oxford-street and Holborn ; and the rapid
increase of busses on the Paddington-road, encouraged the idea.
Mr. Barker secretly and cautiously inquired in the proper
quarters. The report was correct; the "Royal William"
was to make its first journey on the following Monday. It
was a crack affair altogether. An enterprising young cab-
man, of established reputation as a dashing whip for he had
compromised with the parents of three scrunched children,
and just "worked out" his fine, for knocking down an old
lady was the driver; and the spirited proprietor, knowing
Mr. Barker's qualifications, appointed him to the vacant office
of cad on the very first application. The buss began to run,
and Mr. Barker entered into a new suit of clothes, and on a
new sphere of action.


To recapitulate all the improvements introduced by this
extraordinary man, into the omnibus system gradually,
indeed, but surely would occupy a far greater space than
we are enabled to devote to this imperfect memoir. To him
is universally assigned the original suggestion of the practice
which afterwards became so general of the driver of a second
buss keeping constantly behind the first one, and driving the
pole of his vehicle either into the door of the other, every
time it was opened, or through the body of any lady or
gentleman who might make an attempt to get into it; a
humorous and pleasant invention, exhibiting all that origi-
nality of idea, and fine bold flow of spirits, so conspicuous
in every action of this great man.

Mr. Barker had opponents of course ; what man in public
life has not ? But even his worst enemies cannot deny that
he has taken more old ladies and gentlemen to Paddington
who wanted to go to the Bank, and more old ladies and
gentlemen to the Bank who Avanted to go to Paddington,
than any six men on the road ; and however much malevolent
spirits may pretend to doubt the accuracy of the statement,
they well know it to be an established fact, that he has
forcibly conveyed a variety of ancient persons of either sex,
to both places, who had not the slightest or most distant
intention of going anywhere at all.

Mr. Barker was the identical cad who nobly distinguished
himself, some time since, by keeping a tradesman on the step
the omnibus going at full speed all the time till he had
thrashed him to his entire satisfaction, and finally throwing
him away, when he had quite done with him. Mr. Barker
it ought to have been, who honestly indignant at being
ignominiously ejected from a house of public entertain-
ment, kicked the landlord in the knee, and thereby caused
his death. We say it ought to have been Mr. Barker, because
the action was not a common one, and could have emanated
from no ordinary mind.

It has now become matter of history ; it is recorded in


the Newgate Calendar; and we wish we could attribute this
piece of daring heroism to Mr. Barker. We regret being
compelled to state that it was not performed by him. Would,
for the family credit we could add, that it was achieved by
his brother !

It was in the exercise of the nicer details of his profession,
that Mr. Barker's knowledge of human nature was beauti-
fully displayed. He could tell at a glance where a passenger
wanted to go to, and would shout the name of the place
accordingly, without the slightest reference to the real des-
tination of the vehicle. He knew exactly the kind of old
lady that would be too much flurried by the process of
pushing in and pulling out of the caravan, to discover where
she had been put down, until too late ; had an intuitive per-
ception of what was passing in a passenger's mind when he
inwardly resolved to " pull that cad up to-morrow morning ; "
and never failed to make himself agreeable to female servants,
whom he would place next the door, and talk to all the way.

Human judgment is never infallible, and it would occa-
sionally happen that Mr. Barker experimentalised with the
timidity or forbearance of the wrong person, in which case a

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 26) → online text (page 14 of 31)