THE COACHING AGE

‍Hackneys and Charlies

‍Can anyone be alive in the year 1874 who can lay his hand upon his heart and swear that he has ever seen a real live ‘Charlie’ in his watch-box with his horn lantern and his rattle? And is there anyone left who has been in a real old hackney coach before anything in the shape of a cab existed? 

‍Believe me, I have both seen the real old Charlie with his horn lantern in his watch-box and his rattle stuck in his belt, and I have ‘ridden’ often in a real old hackney coach, with its pair of worn-out dog horses smelling of ‘King Froust’ . . . and sometimes, I fear, they smelled of ‘subjects’ taken by the ‘body-snatchers’ from some churchyard to the hospital for dissection. The hackney coach was just the thing for the transport of these. 

‍Often, too, as a boy at that little-loved place called ‘The Charter House,’ have I and others let down our nightcaps (for everyone wore white nightcaps with a tassel to them in those days) to the old Charlie at the corner of Wilderness Row, to buy for us tarts, plums, apples, and other contraband eatables, which could only be procured by stealth. And when it came to stealth, there was no better means than your nightcap and a string let down from the window with a sixpence in it for the Charlie’s trouble. 

‍But few in these days can call to mind a real foggy morning in London in winter under the influence of such lamplight as there was then.

‍Gas was in its infancy, and oil lamps were still burning in most parts. Can you imagine having only oil lamps in a thick London fog in the middle of winter? And only the occasional Charlie (more often than not asleep in his watch-box) to protect the British public! ‘Bobbies’ had not been created in those remote days. 

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