Book the First - Recalled to Life
2. II. The Mail
Two other passengers, besides the one, were plodding up the hill
by the side of the mail. All three were wrapped to the cheekbones
and over the ears, and wore jack-boots. Not one of the three
could have said, from anything he saw, what either of the other
two was like; and each was hidden under almost as many wrappers
from the eyes of the mind, as from the eyes of the body, of his
two companions. In those days, travellers were very shy of being
confidential on a short notice, for anybody on the road might be
a robber or in league with robbers. As to the latter, when every
posting-house and ale-house could produce somebody in "the Captain's"
pay, ranging from the landlord to the lowest stable non-descript,
it was the likeliest thing upon the cards. So the guard of the
Dover mail thought to himself, that Friday night in November, one
thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, lumbering up Shooter's
Hill, as he stood on his own particular perch behind the mail,
beating his feet, and keeping an eye and a hand on the arm-chest
before him, where a loaded blunderbuss lay at the top of six or
eight loaded horse-pistols, deposited on a substratum of cutlass.
The Dover mail was in its usual genial position that the guard
suspected the passengers, the passengers suspected one another
and the guard, they all suspected everybody else, and the coachman
was sure of nothing but the horses; as to which cattle he could
with a clear conscience have taken his oath on the two Testaments
that they were not fit for the journey.
"Wo-ho!" said the coachman. "So, then! One more pull and you're
at the top and be damned to you, for I have had trouble enough to
get you to it!--Joe!"
"Halloa!" the guard replied.
"What o'clock do you make it, Joe?"
"Ten minutes, good, past eleven."
"My blood!" ejaculated the vexed coachman, "and not atop of
Shooter's yet! Tst! Yah! Get on with you!"