Chapter 39: Seedy Sam
Some of the other drivers stood round nodding their heads
and saying he was right. The man went on:
"You that have your own horses and cabs, or drive for good masters,
have a chance of getting on and a chance of doing right; I haven't.
We can't charge more than sixpence a mile after the first,
within the four-mile radius. This very morning I had to go a clear six miles
and only took three shillings. I could not get a return fare,
and had to come all the way back; there's twelve miles for the horse
and three shillings for me. After that I had a three-mile fare,
and there were bags and boxes enough to have brought in a good many twopences
if they had been put outside; but you know how people do;
all that could be piled up inside on the front seat were put in
and three heavy boxes went on the top. That was sixpence,
and the fare one and sixpence; then I got a return for a shilling.
Now that makes eighteen miles for the horse and six shillings for me;
there's three shillings still for that horse to earn and nine shillings
for the afternoon horse before I touch a penny. Of course,
it is not always so bad as that, but you know it often is,
and I say 'tis a mockery to tell a man that he must not overwork his horse,
for when a beast is downright tired there's nothing but the whip
that will keep his legs a-going; you can't help yourself --
you must put your wife and children before the horse; the masters must
look to that, we can't. I don't ill-use my horse for the sake of it;
none of you can say I do. There's wrong lays somewhere --
never a day's rest, never a quiet hour with the wife and children.
I often feel like an old man, though I'm only forty-five.
You know how quick some of the gentry are to suspect us of cheating
and overcharging; why, they stand with their purses in their hands
counting it over to a penny and looking at us as if we were pickpockets.
I wish some of 'em had got to sit on my box sixteen hours a day
and get a living out of it and eighteen shillings beside,
and that in all weathers; they would not be so uncommon particular
never to give us a sixpence over or to cram all the luggage inside.
Of course, some of 'em tip us pretty handsome now and then,
or else we could not live; but you can't depend upon that."