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I can never forget the last of those memorable days of July, when the sun, as if to make amends for his cold treatment of us at other times, poured down on the metropolis, all at once, a flood of unindurable heat. The streets were as silent as the squares—the Strand was, comparatively, a desert. For five hours there was the stillness of desolation around me; if I except a few unprofitables, hurrying to the recesses of Somerset House, or the rookeries of the Temple. The last of these days threatened to be the last of mine. Fresh from old Ireland, and scant of money, without a plat of green grass or a drink of clean water within miles of me, a feverish despondency came over me. It was just three o'clock, p.m. on the 31st, -I am positive as to the day and hour, having committed a memorandum thereof to the safe keeping of my mother's bible, which has been treasured for years at the bottom of her oaken chest, and never molested by any one but myself, and for the purpose just mentioned ;-well, on the day and date aforesaid, I, fom Finnarty, was seated on the dicky of my cab, as patient as a saint, opposite the soda-water warehouse, facing Catherine Street; I had not had a fare all that day, and but one on the preceding day—a fine fat crown-piece given by a member of Parliament, for such I judged him to be, from the gentility of his behaviour, and the nate grammar of his conversation.
After braving the heat for hours, I was fairly worsted, and compelled to take shelter under the hood of my cab. Three had just tolled on St. Clement's, when it was my accursed fate to descry, at a considerable distance, a stout little man carrying a large blue bag, containing something more ponderous than is usually entrusted to the keeping of frail gambroon or worsted. This bag he kept swinging from one hand to the other, clanking it, as if by accident, against the shins of all those who were not aware of his approach; and, after this grievous fashion, he threaded his way towards me. I could not but wonder at the bold daring of the queer little fellow: he was a strange ungainly brute—his broad shoulders out of all proportion to his wizen body-he looked as if he had been put together of ill-assorted members, and like the droll formations of a Christmas pantomime. But what amazed me most was, that the little ugly creature appeared, from the first moment I saw him, to be hailing my cab. It was verily so. As he drew near, he fixed his black eye intently upon me. I shuddered-by the Virgin, I, Tom Finnarty, did shudder at the thought of polluting my cab with such a strange looking animal. I took no notice of him; though eager and panting for a fare, I would rather have carried a living shark, turtle, or sea monster, or a man diseased with the cholera, than this odious creature. , I feigned sleep— I pretended to be drunk; but all to no purpose. He roared out in the silent street, Halloo, Tom Finnarty, no tricks upon travellers. You are neither sleeping nor drunk. I know you, man-I know your mother, and I know your oaken chest, and your bible, wherein you keep your memorandums." Burning with shame atthis remarkable disclosure, and devoutly crossing myself, I hurried to receive his detested body within my vehicle Whereupon, summoning my resolution, I asked, with a subdued voice, Where to, Sir ? • Straight forward,” was the answer. The malicious devil, seeing my confusion and shame, dashed down the hood of my cab, and cast a proud glare of defiance at the bright and burning sun.
He then commenced a series of extravagancies, the most remarkable in the records of cab-driving. He took a sort of canister out of his gambroon bag, and amused himself like a juggler, with tossing it on high, and catching it in its descent, to the amusement of every spectator, but to my extreme terror and astonishment. The clang it made, every time it fell into his iron
fist, was indescribable. The noise and the laughter of the people only added to his outrageous mirth. At Charing Cross, though mortally perplexed and terrified, I ventured to repeat the question, Where to, Sir ? Straight forward,” he cried, with a horrible chuckle; and, thereupon, pulled out of the blue bag a massy silver divider, and, holding the canister by a little handle, he would one time twirl it aloft like a tamborine, than rattle it with as much ease as if it were a dice-box; at another, he would make it ring louder than a Chinese gong, by banging it with the divider, which he would then flourish about his head after the manner of a bassdrummer. On passing the Opera House I know not whether the sight of it suggested the idea of music, but he broke out into a song or yell in some savage tongue, not a whit daunted by the respectability of the West End. He sang vociferously, often cracking his voice into a howl; the burt hen I remember well, from the frequency of its repetition, and from the furious dashing of the divider against the canister, exactly at every syllable--a precision which, I do believe, drove it through my ears, to take it's everlasting seat in my memory :
Janga boonga wanga loo
Koomaloo, woomaloo, kom coo coo. To me all this was appalling. To him and to others it appeared rare fun; but I determined to put a speedy conclusion to it at all risks, and to convey the madman, fool, felon, or juggler, no farther than the top of St. James's Street. On arriving there, I run my horse suddenly close to the pavement; but he no sooner observed my purpose, than, with a terrific crash on the accursed canister, accompanied as if with the screams of twenty eagles, or the hallooings of a hundred hungry cannibals, he roared out “Straight forward, Tom Finnarty," and my horse started forward in a fright, which required more steadiness than I was master of to control. Shopkeepers now crowded to their doors and windows-the boys hooted and cheered—the monster twirled and jangled his canister, and sung with tenfold fury. We scoured past St. James's Church, and to a certainty should have been driven, horse, cah, canister, and all, into the shop of Mr. Hamlet, the silversmith, had not a policeman, to my unspeakable comfort, though with more bravery than brains, checked our career, and, springing into the cab, ordered me to drive to Bow Street. Now, thought I, he has got hold of the right sow by the horns. The demoniac could, without question, have tossed the valiant 'blue' into the street, like a wallet; or into the air like the canister; but all he uttered was a growl, like that of the lion, when he collects his strength for an onset.
The police man made an effort to catch hold of the canister, but he was instantly pinned with one arm in a corner, where he struggled like a squeezed kitten in the hands of a lusty boy, and became the sole sport of this insane mockery of a man. The canister only wbirlod about his ears with increased noise and rapidity, and the horrible “ Jooanga booanga" song was roared louder than ever. I, however, galloped on like a madman to Bow Street, and there delivered my detested freight, and we were both shown into his worship's presence. I breathed freely at the sight of Sir Richard; but the incarnate devil, nothing abashed, approaching the bench with a confidence which stunned me, whispered in his worship's ear; the magistrate smiled, and muttering something about harmless eccentricity, he uttered with a loud voice that he was discharged.
The reporters stared-they had lost a capital case. The crowd, out of respect for the decision, made instant way. Some kind souls, who had witnessed my distress, endeavoured to conceal me, but in vain. His basilisk eye was upon me. I looked in agony for the magistrate's protection, but was reminded of an Act of Parliament and its penalties. I wiped the cold drops from my brow, and in so doing, observed something like an indication of pity in the demon's countenance. He pushed, or rather lifted me before him, and, in an instant, poor Tom Finnarty was like a wisp of straw perched once more on his dicky. I had barely time for thought, when the canister was twirled ten feet into the air; and the frightened populace scattered in all directions, when they heard the never-by-me-to-be-forgotten cry of “Straight forward.” At the same moment I felt a hand in my pocket—but I knew it was empty, and so I let that pass. Away I went, reckless as to the direction, for if, at the corner of a street, I ever made the least hesitation, I was saluted with the cry of “Straight forward.” After a little time, I began to consider, what the deuce the creature's hard could have to do inside my pocket. I therefore slily slipped in a couple of my fingers, and brought out a coin which presented to my delighted eye, the rich and glossy beauty of a newly-coined full-weight sovereign. My joy was equalled only by my surprise. At another time, or from any other person, I would have considered it a Godsend ;—but in truth, I now regarded it as the devil's own benefaction. However, I bravely determined on permitting it to remain in my pocket,—willing to consider it as a first proof of the harmless eccentricity to which the magistrate had alluded. I now made up my mind to be more cheerful, especially since my companion grew a trifle more quiet.
In this way, turning and returning, we travelled through a multiplicity of streets, and at length reached the Regent's Park; but, no sooner had we passed through Gloucester gate, than I perceived, from his jerking and fidgetting, that he meditated more mischief; and just when we arrived at the Zoological Gardens, out came the divider once more, glittering in the sun as he brandished it in the air; and, before I could say a prayer, it came in furious collision with the canister, and with a clang so loud and clear, as to awaken the sleeping echoes of Primrose Hill and its sister knoll; at the same time he filled the tranquil air of that lonely region with cries, howls, yells, and screams, that were quite fearful. In an
instant he was responded to by ten thousand other cries, screams, yells, and hideous noises—the domineering roar of the disturbed lion, the angry
miaow of the devouring tigers and hyænas“ eager for the fray,” while the shrieks of alarmed monkies, the screams of eagles and other birds of prey, made up the treble of this appalling concert. The race of timid birds thrust their heads under their wings-rabbits took to their burrows-the beavers to their island dominions—and the astounded bear clambered to the top of his pole, where he gazed all around, like the Mr. Speaker of an unruly assembly, calling out“ Order! order !" This frightful outcry was the occurrence of about thirty seconds—and was instantly followed by tremulous shouts from persons within the enclosure.
Groups of elegant people were scampering from all quarters of the gardens, hallooing for their carriages. The rush towards the gate was fearful. Beautiful young creatures, pale and panting, were shrieking for help, to young men with heroic mustachios and white faces, who had far outstripped them ; husbands taking to their heels, and piously recommending their wives to the protection of Providence, while a tardy file of grandmammas, and opaque ancient aunts, brought up the rear.
To me, who knew the sole cause of this most ludicrous panic, the whole scene became the subject of overwhelming mirth. The creature within my cab was all this while dandling his canister on his knee, and chuckling joyously at the effect produced by his inimitable powers, and I was now for the last time ordered “Straight forward :" but with a voice far more gainly than on any previous occasion. I began, indeed, to like my gentleman amazingly. The garden scene had touched the key of a faculty which he possesssed in perfection, and which he forthwith began to display. One time was heard the barking of a mastiff, with the grunting of a frightened sow and her litter-sounds which brought to my remembrance the domestic decencies of our old cabin in Ireland. At another time one would have sworn that I had behind me a coop of discontented turkeys, indignant peacock, rebellious geese and ratiocinating drakes—all huddled together-conversing and wrangling after their accustomed fashion. In a rapture of satisfaction, at the amazement of the pedestrians, I would now and then cry out“ Encore, encore !" which I judged, from his chuckling laugh, took with him exceedingly. In this manner we progressed through nearly every street in wide Marybone. At length, we crossed Oxford Street, and into Grosvenor Square. Here the order was not “Straight forward,” but “ Round and round.” I do not know what kind of spirit or fancy possessed him in this particular place, but he commenced a most miraculous imitation of at least twenty different speakers. He was a portable debating club-and I made it a point of duty, at every fall of his voice, lustily to exclaim “ Hear, hear!" The singularity of our progress and exhibition, in process of time, lined the square round and round. Seventy-year-old housekeepers, and sexagenarian rosy-faced gouty