Chapter 38: Dolly and a Real Gentleman
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.
When the weather was very bad many of the men would go and sit
in the tavern close by, and get some one to watch for them;
but they often lost a fare in that way, and could not, as Jerry said,
be there without spending money. He never went to the Rising Sun;
there was a coffee-shop near, where he now and then went,
or he bought of an old man, who came to our rank with tins
of hot coffee and pies. It was his opinion that spirits and beer
made a man colder afterward, and that dry clothes, good food, cheerfulness,
and a comfortable wife at home, were the best things to keep a cabman warm.
Polly always supplied him with something to eat when he could not get home,
and sometimes he would see little Dolly peeping from the corner
of the street, to make sure if "father" was on the stand.
If she saw him she would run off at full speed and soon come back
with something in a tin or basket, some hot soup or pudding Polly had ready.
It was wonderful how such a little thing could get safely across the street,
often thronged with horses and carriages; but she was a brave little maid,
and felt it quite an honor to bring "father's first course",
as he used to call it. She was a general favorite on the stand,
and there was not a man who would not have seen her safely across the street,
if Jerry had not been able to do it.