THE COACHING AGE

PERILS BY WATER

There were various modes of being- made nervous on a coach, and I do not think anything made one's heart come into one's mouth much more than having to go through water. On the ' Regent ' coach we used to leave the main road, at times, and go round by the St. Neot's paper mills, which were situated on a flat piece of ground, and occasionally, when the weather had been what the Scotchman calls ' varra saft' for any length of time, the river Ouse would take it into its head to overflow its banks, and lay the road for about half a mile under water. Upon those occasions we often had a pair of leaders put on which were ridden by a horsekeeper, not only to keep us in the right track, but to pull us through the mud and silt which made the road extra ' gumni)-.' 

I have seen the water over the axle-trees; and on one occasion it fairly ran into the coach, and all but set afloat two old ladies who were inside. Their dismay may be easily imagined, and their supplications to the coachman to stop, as the water was coming into the coach, were quite affecting. They no doubt thought they were going to meet with a ' watery grave,' and I believe they gave themselves up as lost. 

However, nothing so terrible took place; but I have no doubt from the water having come over their shoes, and from their petticoats getting somewhat wet, they were not quite comfortable for the rest of their journey. We, on the outside, were nearly as much to be pitied, for it had rained without ceasing all day — that kind of pitiless rain which comes down straight, and in solid stripes, like the water from a shower-bath, which, in nautical language, goes by the appellation of ' raining marling-spikes with their points downwards; ' the only difference between us and the old ladies being that whilst they got it from below we got it from above. It was nevertheless hardly to be called a pleasant state of things, to have water above and water below, water on all sides, heaps of stones by the roadside, invisible from the discoloured water, and a deep ditch upon either side, into which had one of our wheels gone, it would have been a case of ' over you go, Jem Peck; ' and all this with the flood rising, so that it was all but impossible to get on, and would be quite so in a few hours more.