“That’s the third time ’ee’s arst me not to forget ’im,” he remarked to me in a stentorian aside; “‘ee don’t giv’ yer much chance of doin’ it, does ’ee?”
At the corner of the Holloway Road we drew up, and our conductor began to shout after the manner of his species: “Charing Cross—Charing Cross—’ere yer are—Come along, lady—Charing Cross.”
The little Frenchman jumped up, and prepared to exit; the conductor pushed him back.
“Sit down and don’t be silly,” he said; “this ain’t Charing Cross.”
The Frenchman looked puzzled, but collapsed meekly. We picked up a few passengers, and proceeded on our way. Half a mile up the Liverpool Road a lady stood on the kerb regarding us as we passed with that pathetic mingling of desire and distrust which is the average woman’s attitude towards conveyances of all kinds. Our conductor stopped.
“Where d’yer want to go to?” he asked her severely—omnibus conductors have a manner of addressing all pedestrians as though they were lost children or suspicious loiterers—“Strand—Charing Cross?”
[Illustration: “THE CONDUCTOR COLLARED HIM.”]
The Frenchman did not hear or did not understand the first part of the speech, but he caught the words “Charing Cross,” and bounced up and out on to the step. The conductor collared him as he was getting off, and jerked him back savagely.
“Carnt yer keep still a minute,” he cried indignantly; “blessed if you don’t want lookin’ after like a bloomin’ kid.”
“I vont to be put down at Sharing Cross,” answered the little Frenchman, humbly.
“You vont to be put down at Sharing Cross,” repeated the other bitterly, as he led him back to his seat. “I shall put yer down in the middle of the road if I ’ave much more of yer. You stop there till I come and sling yer out. I ain’t likely to let yer go much past yer Sharing Cross, I shall be too jolly glad to get rid o’ yer.”
The poor Frenchman subsided, and we jolted on. At “The Angel” we, of course, stopped. “Charing Cross,” shouted the conductor, and up sprang the Frenchman.
“Oh, my Gawd,” said the conductor, taking him by the shoulders and forcing him down into the corner seat, “wot am I to do? Carnt somebody sit on ’im?”
[Illustration: “‘BLESSED IF I DIDN’T RUN HIM ON TO VICTORIA.’”]
He held him firmly down until the ’bus started, and then released him. At the top of Chancery Lane the same scene took place, and the poor little Frenchman became exasperated.
“He keep on saying Sharing Cross, Sharing Cross,” he exclaimed, turning to the other passengers; “and it is not Sharing Cross. He is fool.”
“Carnt yer understand,” retorted the conductor, equally indignant; “of course I say Sharing Cross—I mean Charing Cross, but that don’t mean that it is Charing Cross. That means that—” and then perceiving from the blank look in the Frenchman’s face the utter impossibility of ever making the matter clear to him, he turned to us with an appealing gesture, and asked: