Cox's Diary, by William Makepeace Thackeray

Over-Boarded and Under-Lodged.

We had no great reason to brag of our tournament at Tuggeridgeville: but, after all, it was better than the turn-out at Kilblazes, where poor Lord Heydownderry went about in a black velvet dressing-gown, and the Emperor Napoleon Bonypart appeared in a suit of armor and silk stockings, like Mr. Pell’s friend in Pickwick; we, having employed the gentlemen from Astley’s Antitheatre, had some decent sport for our money.

We never heard a word from the Baron, who had so distinguished himself by his horsemanship, and had knocked down (and very justly) Mr. Nabb, the bailiff, and Mr. Stubbs, his man, who came to lay hands upon him. My sweet Jemmy seemed to be very low in spirits after his departure, and a sad thing it is to see her in low spirits: on days of illness she no more minds giving Jemimarann a box on the ear, or sending a plate of muffins across a table at poor me, than she does taking her tea.

Jemmy, I say, was very low in spirits; but, one day (I remember it was the day after Captain Higgins called, and said he had seen the Baron at Boulogne), she vowed that nothing but change of air would do her good, and declared that she should die unless she went to the seaside in France. I knew what this meant, and that I might as well attempt to resist her as to resist her Gracious Majesty in Parliament assembled; so I told the people to pack up the things, and took four places on board the “Grand Turk” steamer for Boulogne.

The travelling-carriage, which, with Jemmy’s thirty-seven boxes and my carpet-bag, was pretty well loaded, was sent on board the night before; and we, after breakfasting in Portland Place (little did I think it was the — but, poh! never mind), went down to the Custom House in the other carriage, followed by a hackney-coach and a cab, with the servants, and fourteen bandboxes and trunks more, which were to be wanted by my dear girl in the journey.

The road down Cheapside and Thames Street need not be described: we saw the Monument, a memento of the wicked Popish massacre of St. Bartholomew; — why erected here I can’t think, as St. Bartholomew is in Smithfield; — we had a glimpse of Billingsgate, and of the Mansion House, where we saw the two-and-twenty-shilling-coal smoke coming out of the chimneys, and were landed at the Custom House in safety. I felt melancholy, for we were going among a people of swindlers, as all Frenchmen are thought to be; and, besides not being able to speak the language, leaving our own dear country and honest countrymen.

Fourteen porters came out, and each took a package with the greatest civility; calling Jemmy her ladyship, and me your honor; ay, and your honoring and my ladyshipping even my man and the maid in the cab. I somehow felt all over quite melancholy at going away. “Here, my fine fellow,” says I to the coachman, who was standing very respectful, holding his hat in one hand and Jemmy’s jewel-case in the other —“Here, my fine chap,” says I, “here’s six shillings for you;” for I did not care for the money.

“Six what?” says he.

“Six shillings, fellow,” shrieks Jemmy, “and twice as much as your fare.”

“Feller, marm!” says this insolent coachman. “Feller yourself, marm: do you think I’m a-going to kill my horses, and break my precious back, and bust my carriage, and carry you, and your kids, and your traps for six hog?” And with this the monster dropped his hat, with my money in it, and doubling his fist put it so very near my nose that I really thought he would have made it bleed. “My fare’s heighteen shillings,” says he, “hain’t it? — hask hany of these gentlemen.”

“Why, it ain’t more than seventeen-and-six,” says one of the fourteen porters; “but if the gen’l’man IS a gen’l’man, he can’t give no less than a suffering anyhow.”

I wanted to resist, and Jemmy screamed like a Turk; but, “Holloa!” says one. “What’s the row?” says another. “Come, dub up!” roars a third. And I don’t mind telling you, in confidence, that I was so frightened that I took out the sovereign and gave it. My man and Jemmy’s maid had disappeared by this time: they always do when there’s a robbery or a row going on.

I was going after them. “Stop, Mr. Ferguson,” pipes a young gentleman of about thirteen, with a red livery waistcoat that reached to his ankles, and every variety of button, pin, string, to keep it together. “Stop, Mr. Heff,” says he, taking a small pipe out of his mouth, “and don’t forgit the cabman.”

“What’s your fare, my lad?” says I.

“Why, let’s see — yes — ho! — my fare’s seven-and-thirty and eightpence eggs — acly.”

The fourteen gentlemen holding the luggage, here burst out and laughed very rudely indeed; and the only person who seemed disappointed was, I thought, the hackney-coachman. “Why, YOU rascal!” says Jemmy, laying hold of the boy, “do you want more than the coachman?”

“Don’t rascal ME, marm!” shrieks the little chap in return. “What’s the coach to me? Vy, you may go in an omlibus for sixpence if you like; vy don’t you go and buss it, marm? Vy did you call my cab, marm? Vy am I to come forty mile, from Scarlot Street, Po’tl’nd Street, Po’tl’nd Place, and not git my fare, marm? Come, give me a suffering and a half, and don’t keep my hoss avaiting all day.” This speech, which takes some time to write down, was made in about the fifth part of a second; and, at the end of it, the young gentleman hurled down his pipe, and, advancing towards Jemmy, doubled his fist, and seemed to challenge her to fight.

My dearest girl now turned from red to be as pale as white Windsor, and fell into my arms. What was I to do? I called “Policeman!” but a policeman won’t interfere in Thames Street; robbery is licensed there. What was I to do? Oh! my heart beats with paternal gratitude when I think of what my Tug did!

As soon as this young cab-chap put himself into a fighting attitude, Master Tuggeridge Coxe — who had been standing by laughing very rudely, I thought — Master Tuggeridge Coxe, I say, flung his jacket suddenly into his mamma’s face (the brass buttons made her start and recovered her a little), and, before we could say a word was in the ring in which we stood (formed by the porters, nine orangemen and women, I don’t know how many newspaper-boys, hotel-cads, and old-clothesmen), and, whirling about two little white fists in the face of the gentleman in the red waistcoat, who brought up a great pair of black ones to bear on the enemy, was engaged in an instant.

But la bless you! Tug hadn’t been at Richmond School for nothing; and MILLED away one, two, right and left — like a little hero as he is, with all his dear mother’s spirit in him. First came a crack which sent a long dusky white hat — that looked damp and deep like a well, and had a long black crape-rag twisted round it — first came a crack which sent this white hat spinning over the gentleman’s cab and scattered among the crowd a vast number of things which the cabman kept in it — such as a ball of string, a piece of candle, a comb, a whip-lash, a little warbler, a slice of bacon, &c. &c.

The cabman seemed sadly ashamed of this display, but Tug gave him no time: another blow was planted on his cheekbone; and a third, which hit him straight on the nose, sent this rude cabman straight down to the ground.

“Brayvo, my lord!” shouted all the people around.

“I won’t have no more, thank yer,” said the little cabman, gathering himself up. “Give us over my fare, vil yer, and let me git away?”

“What’s your fare, NOW, you cowardly little thief?” says Tug.

“Vy, then, two-and-eightpence,” says he. “Go along — you KNOW it is!” and two-and-eightpence he had; and everybody applauded Tug, and hissed the cab-boy, and asked Tug for something to drink. We heard the packet-bell ringing, and all run down the stairs to be in time.

I now thought our troubles would soon be over; mine were, very nearly so, in one sense at least: for after Mrs. Coxe and Jemimarann, and Tug, and the maid, and valet, and valuables had been handed across, it came to my turn. I had often heard of people being taken up by a PLANK, but seldom of their being set down by one. Just as I was going over, the vessel rode off a little, the board slipped, and down I soused into the water. You might have heard Mrs. Coxe’s shriek as far as Gravesend; it rung in my ears as I went down, all grieved at the thought of leaving her a disconsolate widder. Well, up I came again, and caught the brim of my beaver-hat — though I have heard that drowning men catch at straws:— I floated, and hoped to escape by hook or by crook; and, luckily, just then, I felt myself suddenly jerked by the waistband of my whites, and found myself hauled up in the air at the end of a boat-hook, to the sound of “Yeho! yeho! yehoi! yehoi!” and so I was dragged aboard. I was put to bed, and had swallowed so much water that it took a very considerable quantity of brandy to bring it to a proper mixture in my inside. In fact, for some hours I was in a very deplorable state.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00