« PreviousContinue »
banking houses. About this time, too, you will see smirking, priggish-looking men arriving in great numbers, many of them, if not Jews, looking to have a cross of the Israelite in their blood: should you happen to be in the same Omnibus with them, you can immediately detect them; should an intimate friend get into the Omnibus, they will play some quiet practical joke upon him as he passes, either by putting out their feet to cause him to stumble, pulling his coat tail, or some boyish freak to get their hands in for their childish play, when they get to kicking each other's hats to pieces in their room for business. Some of these are members of the Stock Exchange, where money operations are transacted. The next lot consists of the principals of firms, who ride up
in the Omnibus to their house of business in the morning, and their wives and daughters come about two or three in the afternoon, in their own carriages, to fetch them for a drive in their
Most of these persons are daily taken up at their own doors; and at the several hours of three, four, five and six, may be seen progressing to the side of the Bank to re-enter their vehicles, upon their return to spend a pleasant evening in the bosom of their families. Very few ladies are to be met with in Omnibusses ; they do occasionally ride in them, but only in or out of town. To travellers in quest of orders, visitors to London who wish to see all they can as
soon as time will admit, and at as cheap a rate as possible, Omnibusses are of very great advantage.
We were also much surprised to see standing in the middle of the principal streets a very great number of carriages drawn by two, and smaller ones by a single horse, all of which are for hire; and for
very small sums you can go to any distance you please. The larger ones are called Hackney-coaches, and the little ones are called Cabs. Their drivers are very apt to impose, and the law has fixed what they are to charge; and they are heavily fined if they demand more than they ought to do. Their rates are as follows :-For Hackney-coaches, any distance not exceeding one mile, one shilling; and for any distance exceeding one mile after the rate of sixpence for every half mile, or any fractional part of half-a-mile. But as many persons who hire them wish to call upon their friends, and pay a visit, and prefer the coach to wait for them, the following is their fares computed by time :
3. d. 30 minutes 1 0 2 hours .
4 0 45
1 6 2 hours and a quarter 4 1 hour
2 0 2 hours and a half 5 0 1 hour and quarter 2 6 2 hours and 3 quarters
5 6 1 hour and half 3 0 3 hours . .
6 0 1 hour and 3 quarters 3
and so on, for any time not exceeding three
hours, after the rate of sispence for every fifteen minutes, or a fractional part of fifteen minutes.
The driver has the power to charge by distance or time; cabriolets (or cabs) are one third less than the above. Strangers, who have boxes or any luggage, should always say to the driver, before they get into either a hackney-coach or a cah, “Remember, you are not to charge anything for my luggage,” when they will always agree to make no extra charge for that; else, when they put you down, they will always try to make you pay for it. You should always take the number, which is painted outside coaches and cabs, or shewn on a metal plate with raised figures hung inside the carriages; because, if the drivers are insolent, or overcharge you, or if you leave anything in them, you have only to apply to the office in Somerset House, where they are registered, to get justice
The number of hackney-coaches which are about London streets is from six to seven hundred; a very great proportion of them are large, and will carry six persons; and although they are only licensed to carry four, the coachman will not object to as many riding as wish to get in, but he claims an extra fare for every person above four that he may be required to carry. A great many of them, perhaps ninety out of every hundred of them, have formerly been carriages be
longing to the nobility and gentry: the coach builders have taken them in exchange for more modern ones, and after being fresh painted and varnished, they are purchased by the proprietors of hackney coaches. There are a considerable number of chariots, to carry three persons inside, most of them also were built and first used by gentlemen, and when they began to get soiled and to look shabby they got into their present occupation. The cabriolets (or cabs) as they are most commonly called are small light two wheeled carriages to carry two persons drawn by one horse--although there are some modern ones with four wheels which shut up and you get in at a door at the side. Omnibusses answer the purpose very well for all persons in London who are going to any place close to the street through which they pass, and where saving of money is an object, as for the small charge of sixpence, you can ride for many miles as previously shewn. But if you are going to any of the squares, at the west end, and are not in a great hurry, for one shilling per mile you can have an hackney coach or chariot, but if you want to go only one hundred yards it is still a shilling. The great advantage to strangers is that the drivers of hackney coaches and cabs know every place, and you have only to name where you wish to go to, when they drive forthwith to the spot, and knowing all the bye streets they are enabled to get
quicker to their journey's end, than if they kept in the principal thoroughfares, where there are frequently long stoppages.
But before you get in, ask of some respectable shopkeeper or of a policeman, how far it is to where you wish to go, and then tell the coachman that you understand it is so far, and if he will take you and your luggage for such a sum you will go, and not otherwise, then you will be secure from imposition; or tell him to drive you two, three, or four miles in the direction of the place to which you
wish to go.
It is supposed there are about fifteen hundred cabs and their charge is eight pence per mile, and if you are in haste to get any where, you can readily select one with a good horse, which will get you over the ground at more than eight miles an hour ; it is wonderful they are not crushed to pieces ; you will see them fly through an opening between an omnibus and a heavy waggon with not more than an inch to spare on either side, and it is quite fearful to a stranger to see them thus braving all risks to gain time. It is very amusing to those who know London well to see how cunning and knowing the drivers of these vehicles look, when a stranger directs them to drive to any place not more than a few yards distance. Their thumb is placed to their nose and a twirl of their outstretched fingers announces to their brethren that they have “caught a flat,” to use their own words.