+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

I went the way lie had turned me, and I came
to the Beer-shop with the sign of The First and
Last, and was out of the town on the old
London road. I came to the Turnpike, and I
found it, in its silent way, eloquent respecting
the change that had fallen on the road. The
Turnpike-house was all overgrown with ivy; and
the Turnpike-keeper, unable to get a living out
of the tolls, plied the trade of a cobbler. Not
only that, but his wife sold ginger-beer, and, in
the very window of espial through which the
Toll-takers of old times used with awe to behold
the grand London coaches coming on at a gallop,
exhibited for sale little barber's-poles of sweet-
stuff in a sticky lantern.

The political economy of the master of the
turnpike thus expressed itself.

"How goes turnpike business, master?" said
I to him, as he sat in his little porch, repairing a

"It don't go at all, master," said he to me.

"It's stopped."

"That's bad,' said I.

"Bad?" he repeated. And he pointed to one
of his sunburnt dusty children who was climbing
the turnpike-gate, and said, extending his
open right hand in remonstrance with Universal
Nature. " Five on 'em!"

"But how to improve Turnpike business?"
said I.

"There's a way, master," said he, with the
air of one who had thought deeply on the

"I should like to know it."

"Lay a toll on everything as comes through;
lay a toll on walkers. Lay another toll on everything
as don't come through; lay a toll on them
as stops at home."

"Would the last remedy be fair?"

"Fair? Them as stops at home, could come
through if they liked; couldn't they?"

"Say they could."

"Toll 'em. If they don't come through, it's
their look out. Anyways,—Toll 'em!"

Finding it was as impossible to argue with this
financial genius as if he had been Chancellor of
the Exchequer, and consequently the right man
in the right place, I passed on meekly.

My mind now began to misgive me that the
disappointed coachmaker had sent me on a wild-
goose errand, and that there was no post-chaise
in those parts. But coming within view of
certain allotment-gardens by the roadside, I
retracted the suspicion, and confessed that I had
done him an injustice. For, there I saw, surely,
the poorest superannuated post-chaise left on

It was a post-chaise taken off its axletree and
wheels, and plumped down on the clayey soil
among a ragged growth of vegetables. It was a
post-chaise not even set straight upon the ground,
but tilted over, as if it had fallen out of a balloon.
It was a post-chaise that had been a long time
in those decayed circumstances, and against
which scarlet beans were trained. It was a
post-chaise patched and mended with old tea-
trays, or with scraps of iron that looked like
them, and boarded up as to the windows, but
having A KNOCKER on the off-side door.
Whether it was a post-chaise used as tool-house,
summer-house, or dwelling-house, I could not
discover, for there was nobody at home at the
post-chaise when I knocked; but it was
certainly used for something, and locked up. In
the wonder of this discovery, I walked round
and round the post-chaise many times, and sat
down by the post-chaise, waiting for further
elucidation. None came. At last, I made my
way back to the old London road by the further
end of the allotment-gardens, and consequently
at a point beyond that from which I had diverged.
I had to scramble through a hedge and down a
steep bank, and I nearly came down atop of a
little spare man who sat breaking stones by the

He stayed his hammer, and said, regarding
me mysteriously through his dark goggles of

"Are you aware, sir, that you've been

"I turned out of the way," said I, in
explanation, " to look at that odd post-chaise. Do
you happen to know anything about it?"

"I know it was many a year upon the road,"
said he.

"So I supposed. Do you know to whom it

The stone-breaker bent his brows and goggles
over his heap of stones, as if he were considering
whether he should answer the question or
not. Then, raising his barred eyes to my
features as before, he said:

"To me."

Being quite unprepared for the reply, I
received it with a sufficiently awkward " Indeed!
Dear me!" Presently I added, " Do you——"
I was going to say " live there," but it seemed
so absurd a question, that I substituted, " live
near here?"

The stone-breaker, who had not broken a
fragment since we began to converse, then did
as follows. He raised himself by poising his
figure on his hammer, and took his coat, on
which he had been seated, over his arm. He
then backed to an easier part of the bank than
that by which I had come down, keeping his
dark goggles silently upon me all the time, and
then shouldered his hammer, suddenly turned,
ascended, and was gone. His face was so
small, and his goggles were so large, that he left
me wholly uninformed as to his countenance;
but he left me a profound impression that the
curved legs I had seen from behind as he
vanished, were the legs of an old postboy. It
was not until then that I noticed he had been
working by a grass-grown milestone, which
looked like a tombstone erected over the grave
of the London road.

My dinner-hour being close at hand, I had no
leisure to pursue the goggles or the subject
then, but made my way back to the Dolphin's
Head. In the gateway I found J. Mellows,
looking at nothing, and apparently experiencing
that it failed to raise his spirits.