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A Tale Of English Mail Coach Days

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An English gentleman of' true John Buil proportions - weighing souie oighteen or twenty stone - had occasion to travel in suminer by stage-coach trom Oxford to London. ïhe stage carried six inside ; and our hero engaged two places (as in consideration of his s;e, he usually did) for himself. The other f our seats were taken by Oxford students. Theso youths, being lighter than our modern Larabert, reached the stage before he did, and each snugly possessed himself of a corner seat, leaving a centre seat on each side vacant, The round, good-tempered face of John Buil soon af ter appeared at the carriage door ; and, peering into the vehicle and observing the local arangements, its owner said, with a smile, " you see I am of a pretty conifortable size, gentlemen ; so I have taken two seats. It will greatly oblige me if one of you will kindly move into the opposite seat, so that I may be able to enter." " My good air," said a pert young l&wtudent, " possession is nine-tenths of the aw. You engaged two seats. There hey are, one on each Bide. We engaged ne each, canie first, entered regularly nto possession, and our titles to the soats we occupy are indisputable." " I do not dispute your titles," said the ther, " but I trust to your politen ess eeing how the case stands, to enable me 0 pursue myjourney." " O, hang politeness !" said a hopef ui 'oung scion of some noble house, " I have 1 horror of a middle seat, and would not ake one to oblige my grandmother ; it's ungraceful as well as uncomfortable ; and, resides, one has no chance of looking at ;h pretty girls along the road. üood old gentleman, arrange your concerns as you jlease; I stick to ïny corner." And he eaned back, yawned, and settlpd himself with hopeless composure in his place. Our corpulent ï'reind, though a man not easily discomposed, was somewhat put out by this unmannerly obstinacy. He urned to a smart-looking youth with a imper on his face. - a clerical student who had hitherto sat in a revery, possibly , hinking over his chances of a rich beneice in the future. " Will you accommoate me Y he agked ; " this is the last tage that starts for London to-day, and jusiness of urgent importance calis me to own." " Some temporal affair, no doubt," said he graceless youth, with niock gravity ; ' some speculation with filthy lucre for ts object. Good father, at your age your houghts should turn heavenward, instead of being conflned to the dull, heavy tabernacle of clay that chains us to earth." And hiB companions roared with laughter at the " d - d clever joke." A glow of indignation just colored the trangr's cheek ; büt he mastered the 'eeling in a moment, and said with much composure, to the fourth, " Are you also determined thst I shall lose my place ; or will you oblige me by taking a oenter eat 'f " Ay, do, Torn," said his lordship to the jerson addressed ; " he's something in the vay of your profession, quite a physiological curiosity. You ought to accommodate him." " May I be poisoned if I do !" replied the student of medicine. " In a dissecting-room, he'd make an excellent subject; but in a coach, and this warm weather, too ! Old gentleman if, you'll put yourself under my care, I'll engage in the course of six weeks, by a judicious course of depletives, to save you hereafter the expense of a doublé seat. But really to take a middle seat in the month of July is contrary to all the rules of hygiëne, and a practice to which I have a professional objection." And the laugh was renewed at the old gentleman's expense. By this time the patiencé of coachee, who had listened to the latter part of the dialogue, was exhausted. " Harkee, gemmen," said he, " settle the business as you like ; but it wants just three quarters of a minute of twelve, and with the flrst stroke of the University clóck my horaes must be off. I would not wait three seconds longer for the kiug, God bless him. T'would be as much as my place is worth." And with that he mounted his box. took up the reins, bid the hostler shut the door, and 8at with upraised whip listening for tho expected stroke. As it sounded froin the venerable belfry the horses, as if they recognized the signal, shot off at a gallop with the four young rogues, to whom their own rudeness and our fat friend's dilemma afforded a prolific thenie for merriment during the whole stage. Meanwhile the subject of their mirth hired a poBtchaise, followed and overtook them at the second change of horses, where the passengere got out ten minutes for lunch. As the postchaise drove up to the inn door, two young ohimney-sweeps passed with their bags and brooms and their well-known cry. " Come hither, my lads," said the corpulent gentltman, " what say you to a ride V" The whites of their eyes enlarged mto still more striking contrast with the dark shades of the sooty cheeks. " Will you have a ride my boys, in the stage-coach ?" " Ees, zur," said the eider, scarcely daring to trust the evidence of his ears. "Well, then, hostler, open the stagedoor. In with you! And, d'ye hear? be sure to take the two middle seats ; so, one on each side." The guard's hom sounded, and coachee's voice was heard : " Only one minute and a half more, gen'lemen ; come on!" They came, bowed laughingly to our fries d of the Corporation, and passedon to the coach. The young lord was the first to put his foot on the steps. " Why, how now, coachee? What confounded joke is this? Get out, you rascáis, or 111 teaeh you how to play gentlemen suoh a triek again." "Sitslill, ray lads ; you're ontitled to your places. My lord, the two middle seats, through your action and that of your young friends, are mine ; they wore regularly takun and duly paid for. I choose that two proteges oí mine shall occupy them. An English stage-eoach is tree to every one who behaves quietly, and I am answerable for thoir good con duet ; so inind you behave, boys ! Your lordship has a horror gof a middle seat : pray take the corner one." " Overreachud us. by Jove !" said the law student. " We give up the cause, and cry you mercy, Mr. Buil." " Jilythe is my name." " We cry quits, worthy Mr. Blythe." "You forget that possession is niue tenths of the law, my good sir, and that the title of these lads to their seats is indisputable. I have installed them as my lontm tenenten, if that be good law Latin. It would be highly unjust to dislodge the poor youths, and I cannot permit it. You have your corner." " Heaven preserve us !" exelaiuied the clerical student. " You surely are not afraid of a black coat," retorted the other. " Besides, we ought not to suffer onr thoughts to dweil on petty earthly concerns, but to turn tbern heavenward." " I'd rather go through my examination a second time than to sit by these dirty devils," groaned the medical student. " Soot isperfectly wholesome, my young friend ; and you will not be compelled to viólate a single hygienic rule. The corner you selected is vacant. Pray get in." At these words, coachee, who had stood grinning behind, aotually cheated into of time by the excellence of the joke, caine forward. " Gentlemen, you nave lost me a minute and a quarter already. I must drive on without ye, if so be ye don't like your couipany." The students cast rueful glances at each other, and then crept warily into their respective corners. As the hostler shut the door he found it impossible to control his features. " 111 give ycu something to change your cheer, you grinning rascal !" said the disciple of JËsculapius, stretehing out of the window ; but the hostler nimbly evaded the blow. " My white pantaloons ! ui'ied the lord. " My beautiful drab surtout !" exclaimed tho lawyer expectant. "The rilthy rascal j !" Tho noise of the carriage-wheels and the unrestrained laughter of the spectators drowned the sequel of their laruentations. At the next atage a bargain wasatruck. The sweeps were liberated and disniissed with a gratuity ; the seats shaken and brushed ; the worthy sous of the university made up, aniong themselves, the expenses of the postchaise; the young doctor violated, for once, the rules of hygiëne by taking a iniddlesoat; and all journeyed on together, withou further quarrel or grumbling, except from coachee, who deelared that " to be kept over time a minute and a quarter at one stage and only three seconds lesa than three minutes at the next was enough to try the patience


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