« AnteriorContinuar »
stage coachman may be seen, he cannot be mistaken for one of any other craft or mystery.
He has commonly a broad, full face, curiously mottled with red, as if the blood had been forced by hard feeding into every vessel of the skin; he is swelled into jolly dimensions by frequent potations of malt liquors, and his bulk is still further increased by a multiplicity of coats, in which he is buried like a cauliflower, the upper one reaching to his heels. He wears a broad-brimmed lowcrowned hat; a huge roll of coloured handkerchief about his neck, knowingly knotted and tucked in at the bosom; and has in summer time a large bouquet of flowers in his button-hole; the present, most probably, of some enamoured country lass. His waistcoat is commonly of some bright colour, striped, and his small-clothes extend far below the knees, to meet a pair of jockey-boots which reach about half way up his legs.
All this costume is maintained with much precision; he has a pride in having his clothes of excellent materials; and, notwithstanding the seeming grossness of his appearance, there is still discernible that neatness and propriety of person, which is almost inherent in an Englishman. He enjoys great consequence and consideration along the road; has frequent conferences with the village housewives, who look upon him as a man of great trust and dependence; and he seems to have a good understanding with every bright-eyed country lass. The moment he arrives where the horses are to be changed, he throws down the reins with something of an air, and abandons the cattle to
the care of the hostler; his duty being merely to drive from one stage to another. When off the box, his hands are thrust into the pockets of his great coat, and he rolls about the inn yard with an air of the most absolute lordliness. Here he is generally surrounded by an admiring throng of hostlers, stable-boys, shoeblacks, and those nameless hangers-on that infest inns and taverns, and run errands, and do all kinds of odd jobs, for the privilege of battening on the drippings of the kitchen, and the leakage of the tap-room. These all look up to him as to an oracle; treasure up his cant phrases ; echo his opinions about horses and other topics of jockey lore; and, above all, endeavour to imitate his air and carriage. Every ragamuffin that has a coat to his back, thrusts his hands in the pockets, rolls in his gait, talks slang, and is an embryo Coachey.
As many of the retired matrons of this city, vnskilled in “gestic lore,” are doubtless ignorant of the movements and figures of this modest exhibition, I will endeavour to give some account of it, in order that they may learn what odd capers their daughters sometimes cut when from under their guardian wings.—On a signal being given by the music, the gentleman seizes the lady round her waist; the lady, scorning to be outdone in courtesy, very politely takes the gentleman round
the neck, with one arm resting against his shoulder to prevent encroachments. Away, then, they go, about, and about, and about—"About what, sir?”About the room, madam, to be sure. The whole economy of this dance consists in turning round and round the room in a certain measured step; and it is truly astonishing that this continued revolution does not set all their heads swimming like a top; but I have been positively assured that it only occasions a gentle sensation which is marvellously agreeable. In the course of this circumnavigation, the dancers, in order to give the charm of variety, are continually changing their relative situations,—now the gentleman, meaning no harm in the world, I assure you, madam, carelessly flings his arm about the lady's neck, with an air of celestial impudence; and, anon, the lady, meaning as little harm as the gentleman, takes him round the waist with most ingenious modest languishment, to the great delight of numerous spectators and amateurs, who generally form a ring, as the mob do about a pair of amazons pulling caps, or a couple of fighting mastiffs. After continuing this divine interchange of hands, arms, et cetera, for half-an-hour or so, the lady begins to tire, and “with eyes upraised,” in most bewitching languor, petitions her partner for a little more support. This is always given without hesitation. The lady leans gently on his shoulder; their arms entwine in a thousand seducing, mischievous curves—don't be alarmed, madam-closer and closer they approach cach other; and, in conclusion, the parties being