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Go call a coach, and let a coach be call'd,
But Coach! Coach! Coach! O for a coach, ye gods!
Ir was early in a fine summer's day, near the end of the eighteenth century, when a young man, of genteel appearance, having occasion to
towards the north-east of Scotland, provided himself with a ticket in one of those public carriages which travel between Edinburgh and the Queensferry, at which place, as the name implies, and as is well known to all my northern readers, there is a passage-boat for crossing the Firth of Forth. The coach was calculated to carry six regular passengers, besides such interlopers as the coachman could pick up by the way, and intrude upon those who were legally in possession.
The tickets, which conferred right to a seat in this vehicle of little ease, were dispensed by sharp-looking old dame, with a pair of spectacles on a very thin nose, who inhabited a « laigh shop,» anglicé, a cellar, opening to the High-street by a strait and steep stair, at the bottom of which she sold tape, thread, needles, skeans of worsted, coarse linen cloth, and such feminine gear, to those who had the courage and skill to descend to the profundity of her dwelling, without falling headlong themselves, or throwing down any of the numerous articles which, piled on each side of the descent, indicated the profession of the trader below.
The written hand-bill, which, pasted on a projecting board, announced that the Queensferry Diligence, or Hawes Fly, departed precisely at twelve o'clock on Tuesday, the fifteenth July, 17-, in order to secure for travellers the opportunity of passing the Firth with the flood-tide, lied upon the present occasion like a bulletin ; for although that hour was pealed from Saint Giles's steeple, and repeated by the Tron, no coach appeared upon the appointed stand. It is true, only two tickets had been taken out, and possibly the lady of the subterranean mansion might have an understanding with her Automedon, that, in such cases, a little space was to be allowed for the chance of filling up the vacant places or the said Automedon might have been attending a funeral, and be delayed by the necessity of stripping his vehicle of its lugubrious trap
pings or he might have staid to take a halfmutchkin extraordinary with his crony the ostler -or-in short, he did not make his appearance.
The young gentleman, who began to grow somewhat impatient, was now joined by a companion in this petty misery of human life-the person who had taken out the other place. He who is bent upon a journey is usually easily to be distinguished from his fellow - citizens. The boots, the great - coat, the umbrella, the little bundle in his hand, the hat pulled over his resolved brows, the determined importance of his pace, his brief answers to the salutations of lounging acquaintances, are all marks by which the experienced traveller in mail-coach or diligence can distinguish, at a distance, the companion of his future journey, as he pushes onward to the place of rendezvous. It is then that, with worldly wisdom, the first comer hastens to secure the best birth in the coach for himself, and to make the most convenient arrangement for his baggage before the arrival of his competitor. Our youth, who was gifted with little prudence of any sort, and who was, moreover, by the absence of the coach, deprived of the power of availing himself of his priority of choice, amused himself, instead, by speculating upon the occupation and character of the personage who was now come to the coach-office.
He was a good-looking man of the age of sixty, perhaps older, but his hale complexion and firm step announced that years had not impaired his
strength or health. His countenance was of the true Scottish cast, strongly marked, and rather harsh in features, with a shrewd and penetrating eye, and a countenance in which habitual gravity was enlivened by a cast of ironical humour. His dress was uniform, and of a colour becoming his age and gravity; a wig, well dressed and powdered, surmounted by a slouched hat, had something of a professional air. He might be a clergyman, yet his appearance was more that of a man of the world than usually belongs to the kirk of Scotland, and his first ejaculation put the matter beyond question.
He arrived with a hurried pace, and, casting an alarmed glance towards the dial-plate of the church, then looking at the place where the coach should have been, exclaimed, « De'il's in it-I am too late after all.»
The young man relieved his anxiety by telling him the coach had not yet appeared. The old gentleman, apparently conscious of his own want of punctuality, did not at first feel courageous enough to censure that of the coachman. He took a parcel, containing apparently a large folio, from a little boy who followed him, and, patting him on the head, bid him go back and tell Mr B-, that if he had known he was to have had so much time, he would have put another word or two to their bargain, then told the boy to mind his business, and he would be as thriving a lad as ever dusted a duodecimo. The boy linger
ed, perhaps in hopes of a penny to buy marbles, but none was forthcoming. Our senior leaned his little bundle upon one of the posts at the head of the staircase, and, facing the traveller who had first arrived, waited in silence for about five minutes the arrival of the expected diligence.
At length, after one or two impatient glances at the progress of the minute-hand of the clock, having compared it with his own watch, a huge and antique gold repeater, and having twitched about his features to give due emphasis to one or two peevish pshaws, he hailed the old lady of
"Good woman, -Mrs Macleuchar!»
what the d-1 is her name?
Mrs Macleuchar, aware that she had a defensive part to sustain in the encounter which was to follow, was in no hurry to hasten the discussion by returning a ready answer.
<< Mrs Macleuchar-Good woman," (with an elevated voice)—then apart, « Old doited hag, she's as deaf as a post I say, Mrs Macleu
« I am just serving a customer.-Indeed, hinit will no be a bodle cheaper than I tell ye.» « Woman,» reiterated the traveller, « do you think we can stand here all day till you have cheated that poor servant wench out of her halfyear's fee and bountith ?»
« Cheated!» retorted Mrs Macleuchar, eager to take up the quarrel upon a defensible ground;