“There was a fund got up.”
“Yes, it helped a few of us to learn the motor-drivin’; but what’s the good of that to me, at my time of life? Sixty, that’s my age; I’m not the only one—there’s hundreds like me. We’re not fit for it, that’s the fact; we haven’t got the nerve now. It’d want a mint of money to help us. And what you say’s the truth—people want to see the end of us. They want the taxis—our day’s over. I’m not complaining; you asked me about it yourself.”
And for the third time he raised his whip.
“Tell me what you would have done if you had been given your fare and just sixpence over?”
The cabman stared downward, as though puzzled by that question.
“Done? Why, nothing. What could I have done?”
“But you said that it had saved your life.”
“Yes, I said that,” he answered slowly; “I was feelin’ a bit low. You can’t help it sometimes; it’s the thing comin’ on you, and no way out of it—that’s what gets over you. We try not to think about it, as a rule.”
And this time, with a “Thank you, kindly!” he touched his horse’s flank with the whip. Like a thing aroused from sleep the forgotten creature started and began to draw the cabman away from us. Very slowly they travelled down the road among the shadows of the trees broken by lamplight. Above us, white ships of cloud were sailing rapidly across the dark river of sky on the wind which smelled of change. And, after the cab was lost to sight, that wind still brought to us the dying sound of the slow wheels. 1910.
Wet and hot, having her winter coat, the mare exactly matched the drenched fox-coloured beech-leaf drifts. As was her wont on such misty days, she danced along with head held high, her neck a little arched, her ears pricked, pretending that things were not what they seemed, and now and then vigorously trying to leave me planted on the air. Stones which had rolled out of the lane banks were her especial goblins, for one such had maltreated her nerves before she came into this ball-room world, and she had not forgotten.
There was no wind that day. On the beech-trees were still just enough of coppery leaves to look like fires lighted high-up to air the eeriness; but most of the twigs, pearled with water, were patterned very naked against universal grey. Berries were few, except the pink spindle one, so far the most beautiful, of which there were more than Earth generally vouchsafes. There was no sound in the deep lanes, none of that sweet, overhead sighing of yesterday at the same hour, but there was a quality of silence—a dumb mist murmuration. We passed a tree with a proud pigeon sitting on its top spire, quite too heavy for the twig delicacy below; undisturbed by the mare’s hoofs or the creaking of saddle leather, he let us pass, absorbed in his world of tranquil turtledoves. The mist had thickened to a white, infinitesimal rain-dust, and in it the trees began to look strange, as though they had lost one another. The world seemed inhabited only by quick, soundless wraiths as one trotted past.