The Cabman's Story
"The world!" he grunted, flicking up the horse with his whip. "I've seen enough of it to be
well-nigh sick of it. As to life, if you'd said death, you'd ha' been nearer the mark."
"Death!" I ejaculated.
"Yes, death," he said. "Why, bless your soul, sir, if I was to write down all I've seen since
I've been in the trade, there's not a man in London would believe me, unless maybe some
o' the other cabbies. I tell ye I took a dead man for a fare once, and drove about with him
nigh half the night. Oh, you needn't look shocked, sir, for this wasn't the cab--no, nor the
last one I had neither."
"How did it happen?" I asked, feeling glad, in spite of his assurance, that Matilda had not
heard of the episode.
"Well, it's an old story now," said the driver, putting a small piece of very black tobacco
into the corner of his mouth. "I daresay it's twenty odd years since it happened, but it's
not the kind o' thing as slips out of a man's memory. It was very late one night, and I was
working my hardest to pick up something good, for I'd made a poor day's work of it. The
theatres had all come out, and though I kept up and down the Strand till nigh one o'clock,
I got nothing but one eighteenpenny job. I was thinking of giving it up and going home,
when it struck me that I might as well make a bit of a circuit, and see if I couldn't drop
across something. Pretty soon I gave a gentleman a lift as far as the Oxford Road, and
then I drove through St. John's Wood on my way home. By that time it would be about
half-past one, and the streets were quite quiet and deserted, for the night was cloudy and
it was beginning to rain. I was putting on the pace as well as my tired beast would go, for
we both wanted to get back to our suppers, when I heard a woman's voice hail me out of
a side street. I turned back, and there in about the darkest part of the road was standing
two ladies--real ladies, mind you, for it would take a deal of darkness before I would
mistake one for the other. One was elderly and stoutish; the other was young, and had a
veil over her face. Between them there was a man in evening dress, whom they were
supporting on each side, while his back was propped up against a lamp-post. He seemed
beyond taking care of himself altogether, for his head was sunk down on his chest, and
he'd have fallen if they hadn't held him.
"'Cabman,' said the stout lady, with a very shaky voice, 'I wish you would help us in this
painful business.' Those were her very hidentical words.
"'Cert'nly, mum,' I says for I saw my way to a good thing. 'What can I do for the young
lady and yourself?' I mentioned the other in order to console her like, for she was sobbing
behind her veil something pitiful.
"'The fact is, cabman,' she answers, 'this gentleman is my daughter's husband. They have
only just been married, and we are visiting at a friend's house near here. My son-in-law
has just returned in a state of complete intoxication, and my daughter and I have brought
him out in the hope of seeing a cab in which we could send him home, for we have most
particular reasons for not wishing our friends to see him in this state, and as yet they are