The Four Million HTML version
From The Cabby's Seat
The cabby has his point of view. It is more single-minded, perhaps, than that of a
follower of any other calling. From the high, swaying seat of his hansom he looks upon
his fellow-men as nomadic particles, of no account except when possessed of migratory
desires. He is Jehu, and you are goods in transit. Be you President or vagabond, to cabby
you are only a Fare, he takes you up, cracks his whip, joggles your vertebrae and sets you
When time for payment arrives, if you exhibit a familiarity with legal rates you come to
know what contempt is; if you find that you have left your pocketbook behind you are
made to realise the mildness of Dante's imagination.
It is not an extravagant theory that the cabby's singleness of purpose and concentrated
view of life are the results of the hansom's peculiar construction. The cock-of-the-roost
sits aloft like Jupiter on an unsharable seat, holding your fate between two thongs of
inconstant leather. Helpless, ridiculous, confined, bobbing like a toy mandarin, you sit
like a rat in a trap—you, before whom butlers cringe on solid land—and must squeak
upward through a slit in your peripatetic sarcophagus to make your feeble wishes known.
Then, in a cab, you are not even an occupant; you are contents. You are a cargo at sea,
and the "cherub that sits up aloft" has Davy Jones's street and number by heart.
One night there were sounds of revelry in the big brick tenement-house next door but one
to McGary's Family Café. The sounds seemed to emanate from the apartments of the
Walsh family. The sidewalk was obstructed by an assortment of interested neighbours,
who opened a lane from time to time for a hurrying messenger bearing from McGary's
goods pertinent to festivity and diversion. The sidewalk contingent was engaged in
comment and discussion from which it made no effort to eliminate the news that Norah
Walsh was being married.
In the fulness of time there was an eruption of the merry-makers to the sidewalk. The
uninvited guests enveloped and permeated them, and upon the night air rose joyous cries,
congratulations, laughter and unclassified noises born of McGary's oblations to the
Close to the curb stood Jerry O'Donovan's cab. Night-hawk was Jerry called; but no more
lustrous or cleaner hansom than his ever closed its doors upon point lace and November
violets. And Jerry's horse! I am within bounds when I tell you that he was stuffed with
oats until one of those old ladies who leave their dishes unwashed at home and go about
having expressmen arrested, would have smiled—yes, smiled—to have seen him.
Among the shifting, sonorous, pulsing crowd glimpses could be had of Jerry's high hat,
battered by the winds and rains of many years; of his nose like a carrot, battered by the
frolicsome, athletic progeny of millionaires and by contumacious fares; of his brass-