DOLLY AND A REAL GENTLEMAN
The winter came in early, with a great deal of cold and wet. There was snow, or sleet, or rain, almost every day for weeks, changing only for keen driving winds or sharp frosts. The horses all felt it very much. When it is a dry cold, a couple of good thick rugs will keep the warmth in us; but when it is soaking rain, they soon get wet through and are no good. Some of the drivers had a waterproof cover to throw over, which was a fine thing; but some of the men were so poor that they could not protect either themselves or their horses, and many of them suffered very much that winter. When we horses had worked half the day we went to our dry stables, and could rest; while they had to sit on their boxes, sometimes staying out as late as one or two o’clock in the morning, if they had a party to wait for.
When the streets were slippery with frost or snow, that was the worst of all for us horses; one mile of such traveling with a weight to draw, and no firm footing, would take more out of us than four on a good road; every nerve and muscle of our bodies is on the strain to keep our balance; and, added to this, the fear of falling is more exhausting than anything else. If the roads are very bad, indeed, our shoes are roughed, but that makes us feel nervous at first.
One cold windy day, Dolly brought Jerry a basin of something hot, and was standing by him while he ate it. He had scarcely begun, when a gentleman, walking toward us very fast, held up his umbrella. Jerry touched his hat in return, gave the basin to Dolly, and was taking off my cloth, when the gentleman, hastening up, cried out, “No, no, finish your soup, my friend; I have not much time to spare, but I can wait till you have done, and set your little girl safe on the pavement.”
So saying, he seated himself in the cab. Jerry thanked him kindly, and came back to Dolly. “There, Dolly, that’s a gentleman; that’s a real gentleman, Dolly; he has got time and thought for the comfort of a poor cabman and a little girl.”
Jerry finished his soup, set the child across, and then took his orders to drive to Clapham Rise. Several times after that, the same gentleman took our cab. I think he was very fond of dogs and horses, for whenever we took him to his own door, two or three dogs ¸would come bounding out to meet him. Sometimes he came round and patted me saying in his quiet, pleasant way: “This horse has got a good master, and he deserves it.” It was a very rare thing for any one to notice the horse that had been working for him. I have known ladies to do it now and then, and this gentleman, and one or two others have given me a pat and a kind word; but ninety-nine out of a hundred would as soon think of patting the steam engine that drew the train.
One day, he and another gentleman took our cab; they stopped at a shop in R—- Street, and while his friend went in, he stood at the door. A little ahead of us on the other side of the street, a cart with two very fine horses was standing before some wine vaults; the carter was not with them, and I cannot tell how long they had been standing, but they seemed to think they had waited long enough, and began to move off. Before they had gone, many paces, the carter came running out and caught them. He seemed furious at their having moved, and with whip and rein punished them brutally, even beating them about the head. Our gentleman saw it all, and stepping quickly across the street, said in a decided voice: “If you don’t stop that directly, I’ll have you arrested for leaving your horses, and for brutal conduct.”
The man, who had clearly been drinking, poured forth some abusive language, but he left off knocking the horses about, and taking the reins, got into his cart; meantime our friend had quietly taken a notebook from his pocket, and looking at the name and address painted on the cart, he wrote something down.
“What do you want with that?” growled the carter, as he cracked his whip and was moving on. A nod and a grim smile was the only answer he got.
On returning to the cab, our friend was joined by his companion, who said laughing, “I should have thought, Wright, you had enough business of your own to look after, without troubling yourself about other people’s horses and servants.”
Our friend stood still for a moment, and throwing his head a little back, “Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?”
“No,” said the other.
“Then I’ll tell you. It is because people think only about their own business, and won’t trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrong-doer to light. I never see a wicked ¸thing like this without doing what I can, and many a master has thanked me for letting him know how his horses have been used.”
“I wish there were more gentlemen like you, sir,” said Jerry, “for they are wanted badly enough in this city.”