Chapter 45: Jerry's New Year
For some people Christmas and the New Year are very merry times;
but for cabmen and cabmen's horses it is no holiday, though it may be
a harvest. There are so many parties, balls, and places of amusement open
that the work is hard and often late. Sometimes driver and horse
have to wait for hours in the rain or frost, shivering with the cold,
while the merry people within are dancing away to the music. I wonder if
the beautiful ladies ever think of the weary cabman waiting on his box,
and his patient beast standing, till his legs get stiff with cold.
I had now most of the evening work, as I was well accustomed to standing,
and Jerry was also more afraid of Hotspur taking cold. We had a great deal
of late work in the Christmas week, and Jerry's cough was bad;
but however late we were, Polly sat up for him, and came out with a lantern
to meet him, looking anxious and troubled.
On the evening of the New Year we had to take two gentlemen to a house
in one of the West End Squares. We set them down at nine o'clock,
and were told to come again at eleven, "but," said one,
"as it is a card party, you may have to wait a few minutes,
but don't be late."
As the clock struck eleven we were at the door, for Jerry was
always punctual. The clock chimed the quarters, one, two, three,
and then struck twelve, but the door did not open.
The wind had been very changeable, with squalls of rain during the day,
but now it came on sharp, driving sleet, which seemed to come
all the way round; it was very cold, and there was no shelter.
Jerry got off his box and came and pulled one of my cloths a little more
over my neck; then he took a turn or two up and down, stamping his feet;
then he began to beat his arms, but that set him off coughing; so he opened
the cab door and sat at the bottom with his feet on the pavement,
and was a little sheltered. Still the clock chimed the quarters,
and no one came. At half-past twelve he rang the bell and asked the servant
if he would be wanted that night.