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

"Only thirty years, that's all."

"You must know something of the business,

"Had ought to, by this time," he replied.

"Take a glass of something warm," I said,
"and tell me all about it."

My visitor was very willing to accept my
invitation, and I soon saw him seated comfortably
before me.

"Cabmen," he began, "are neither worse than
anybody else, nor yet better. There's good and
bad amongst 'em, like in a basket of eggs; and
there must be nearly eleven thousand of them,
according to the badges issued. The first thing
cabmen have got to do is to find a cab, and here
they've got a pick of about ten thousand. P'raps
three thousand of these cabs are 'Hansoms,'
and all the rest four-wheelers; but as some of the
men work at night, and others in the day, all the
cabs are not on the road, and only six thousand,
perhaps, are paying duty as licensed carriages.
Some of these have got what we call the six-
day plateand they only run for six days.
Others have got the seven-day plate, and they're
Sunday cabs. The plate costs a sovereign,
which we call the 'one pound racket,' and the
duty is a shilling a day extra. We used to pay
five pound for the plate, and two pound duty, in
one lump. All this money goes to gover'ment.
Well, as I said before, the first thing cabmen
have got to do is to find a cab, and they haven't
got to look amongst many proprietors. All the
cabs are in very few handsI needn't mention
namesand the owners do pretty well what they
like with the drivers. Of course a man needn't
drive a cab unless he likes, but lots of them do
like, and something must be done to get a living.
The young fellows take a great fancy to the
'Hansoms,' because they look smart, and run
easy. Their high wheels push 'em on, while the
low four-wheeler always drags. As to their
earnings, that depends. A Hansom is very good
in fine weather; and during April, May, and
June, before the people begin to go out of town,
they do very well at road-work. They're of no
use for families and heavy railway work, and
the regular Hansom cabman hardly understands
ladies and children. They make money at what
we call 'mouching' and 'putting on,' which
means loitering along the roads, and playing
about a club-house, or some large building.
Some of the police are very sharp upon this
game, and the driver gets summoned before he
knows where he is. The driver of a Hansom
has to earn fourteen or sixteen shillings a day in
summer for his owner, besides paying his 'yard
money' " (stable charges), "about four shillings,
before he begins to pick up anything for

"A four-wheeler is let to a driver for about
twelve shillings a-day, and he has to pay all
expenses. The best work these get is at theatres
and railways, and they go on for the day at nine
in the morning to run till eleven at night, being
allowed two horses. Their best day is one with
a fine morning and a wet afternoon. The people
come out and are caught. If the day begins
wet, it's bad for the cabs. The night cabs go
on at seven or eight at night, working till seven
or eight in the morning, and they're allowed
only one horseor what the owner makes do
for one. Of course it's often only a bellows on
four legs, and those not very substantial. The
owner seldom makes any allowance for the
difference in horsesyou take 'em as they come;
and he knows pretty well how much work can
be got out of them.

"When we go to the yard to begin work in
the morning, we deposit our licenses as security
for the cabs and horses. Some of the men
who're very anxious to start as drivers, or who
want work, are compelled to sign contracts, and
when they do this, they bind themselves to pay
all damages that may be done to their horses
or cabs. They either pay these by instalments,
or thirty or forty men in a yard will make a
fund amongst themselves for accidents, which
they call 'box-money.'

"We drive out, and choose our stand from
fancy, providing it's not full. A stand mustn't
have more than twenty cabs on it at one time,
and it's watched over by a police waterman, who
gets fifteen shillings a week and his clothes. If
a cabman takes a place on a stand after it's full,
we say he's 'fouled' it, and he's liable to be
summoned. The worst court they can take him
to is Bow-street. If a month's imprisonment
can be given, he gets it there, or he has to pay
a heavier fine."

"He can always avoid this," I said, observing
that my visitor had come to a pause, "if he
conducts himself properly."

"So he can," returned my visitor, "but the
public often appears at the same place. If a
cabman sometimes overcharges a passenger, a
passenger quite as often underpays a cabman.
We've started protection clubs amongst us, with
measuring wheels, and we sometimes make the
secretaries measure and sue for the balance of
fares. We find ladies the worst passengers.
They're timid and obstinate, and run into houses,
and send out servants. When the passenger is
summoned he is said to have made a mistake; but
the cabman is always pulled up for fraud. He
earns his pound or five-and-twenty shillings every
week, and is quite as likely to be as respectable
and honest as any other workman who gets the
same money. He's all right enough, if people
wouldn't regulate him so much. There's the
street police regulating him; the police water
men regulating him; and the gover'ment
regulating him by saying what price he's to charge
for his work. This sets everybody a thinking he
must be awful bad, and a benevolent society of
gentlemen has just started up, who want to
regulate him still more by giving him what they
call 'Cabmen's Clubs.' There's one club at
Paddington, one at Millbank, another at
Newington Butts, and another at King's Cross.
They talk of others at Chelsea and Whitechapel.
The one I've been to most is at King's
Cross, and I don't like it, because it's too far
away from my stand. They've taken an old
public-house in a back street, and they've scooped