The Cabman's Story HTML version
The Cabman's Story
or THE MYSTERIES OF A LONDON "GROWLER"]
We had to take a "growler," for the day looked rather threatening and we agreed that it
would be a very bad way of beginning our holiday by getting wet, especially when Fanny
was only just coming round from the whooping cough. Holidays were rather scarce with
us, and when we took one we generally arranged some little treat, and went in for
enjoying ourselves. On this occasion we were starting off from Hammersmith to the
Alexandra Palace in all the dignity of a four-wheeler. What with the wife and her sister,
and Tommy and Fanny and Jack, the inside was pretty well filled up, so I had to look out
for myself. I didn't adopt the plan of John Gilpin under similar circumstances, but I took
my waterproof and climbed up beside the driver.
This driver was a knowing-looking old veteran, with a weather-beaten face and white
side whiskers. It has always seemed to me that a London cabman is about the shrewdest
of the human race, but this specimen struck me as looking like the shrewdest of the
cabmen. I tried to draw him out a bit as we jogged along, for I am always fond of a chat;
but he was a bit rusty until I oiled his tongue with glass of gin when we got as far as the
"Green Anchor." Then he rattled away quickly enough, and some of what he said is
worth trying to put down in black and white.
"Wouldn't a hansom pay me better?" he said, in answer to a question of mine. "Why, of
course it would. But look at the position! A four-wheeler's a respectable conveyance, and
the driver of it's a respectable man, but you can't say that of a rattling, splashing 'ansom.
Any boy would do for that job. Now, to my mind money hain't to be compared to
position, whatever a man's trade may be."
"Certainly not!" I answered.
"Besides, I've saved my little penny, and I'm got too old to change my ways. I've begun
on a growler, and I'll end on one. If you'll believe me, sir, I've been on the streets for
"That's a long time," I said.
"Well, it's long for our trade," he replied. "You see, there ain't no other in the world that
takes the steam out of a man so quickly-- what with wet and cold and late hours, and
maybe no hours at all. There's few that lasts at it as long as I have."
"You must have seen a deal of the world during that time," I remarked. "There are few
men who can have greater opportunities of seeing life."