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to doing the honours of his coach, his business, as I have said, is
with the horses. The coach follows because it is attached to them
and goes on wheels: not because you are in it. Sometimes, towards
the end of a long stage, he suddenly breaks out into a discordant
fragment of an election song, but his face never sings along with
him: it is only his voice, and not often that.
He always chews and always spits, and never encumbers himself with
a pocket-handkerchief. The consequences to the box passenger,
especially when the wind blows towards him, are not agreeable.
Whenever the coach stops, and you can hear the voices of the inside
passengers; or whenever any bystander addresses them, or any one
among them; or they address each other; you will hear one phrase
repeated over and over and over again to the most extraordinary
extent. It is an ordinary and unpromising phrase enough, being
neither more nor less than 'Yes, sir;' but it is adapted to every
variety of circumstance, and fills up every pause in the
The time is one o'clock at noon. The scene, a place where we are
to stay and dine, on this journey. The coach drives up to the door
of an inn. The day is warm, and there are several idlers lingering
about the tavern, and waiting for the public dinner. Among them,
is a stout gentleman in a brown hat, swinging himself to and fro in
a rocking-chair on the pavement.
As the coach stops, a gentleman in a straw hat looks out of the
STRAW HAT. (To the stout gentleman in the rocking-chair.) I
reckon that's Judge Jefferson, an't it?
BROWN HAT. (Still swinging; speaking very slowly; and without any
emotion whatever.) Yes, sir.
STRAW HAT. Warm weather, Judge.
BROWN HAT. Yes, sir.
STRAW HAT. There was a snap of cold, last week.
BROWN HAT. Yes, sir.
STRAW HAT. Yes, sir.
A pause. They look at each other, very seriously.
STRAW HAT. I calculate you'll have got through that case of the
corporation, Judge, by this time, now?
BROWN HAT. Yes, sir.
STRAW HAT. How did the verdict go, sir?
BROWN HAT. For the defendant, sir.
STRAW HAT. (Interrogatively.) Yes, sir?
BROWN HAT. (Affirmatively.) Yes, sir.
BOTH. (Musingly, as each gazes down the street.) Yes, sir.
Another pause. They look at each other again, still more seriously
BROWN HAT. This coach is rather behind its time to-day, I guess.
STRAW HAT. (Doubtingly.) Yes, sir.
BROWN HAT. (Looking at his watch.) Yes, sir; nigh upon two hours.
STRAW HAT. (Raising his eyebrows in very great surprise.) Yes,
BROWN HAT. (Decisively, as he puts up his watch.) Yes, sir.
ALL THE OTHER INSIDE PASSENGERS. (Among themselves.) Yes, sir.
COACHMAN. (In a very surly tone.) No it an't.
STRAW HAT. (To the coachman.) Well, I don't know, sir. We were a
pretty tall time coming that last fifteen mile. That's a fact.
The coachman making no reply, and plainly declining to enter into
any controversy on a subject so far removed from his sympathies and
feelings, another passenger says, 'Yes, sir;' and the gentleman in
the straw hat in acknowledgment of his courtesy, says 'Yes, sir,'
to him, in return. The straw hat then inquires of the brown hat,
whether that coach in which he (the straw hat) then sits, is not a
new one? To which the brown hat again makes answer, 'Yes, sir.'
STRAW HAT. I thought so. Pretty loud smell of varnish, sir?
BROWN HAT. Yes, sir.
ALL THE OTHER INSIDE PASSENGERS. Yes, sir.
BROWN HAT. (To the company in general.) Yes, sir.
The conversational powers of the company having been by this time
pretty heavily taxed, the straw hat opens the door and gets out;
and all the rest alight also. We dine soon afterwards with the
boarders in the house, and have nothing to drink but tea and
coffee. As they are both very bad and the water is worse, I ask
for brandy; but it is a Temperance Hotel, and spirits are not to be
had for love or money. This preposterous forcing of unpleasant
drinks down the reluctant throats of travellers is not at all
uncommon in America, but I never discovered that the scruples of
such wincing landlords induced them to preserve any unusually nice
balance between the quality of their fare, and their scale of
charges: on the contrary, I rather suspected them of diminishing
the one and exalting the other, by way of recompense for the loss
of their profit on the sale of spirituous liquors. After all,
perhaps, the plainest course for persons of such tender
consciences, would be, a total abstinence from tavern-keeping.
Dinner over, we get into another vehicle which is ready at the door
(for the coach has been changed in the interval), and resume our
journey; which continues through the same kind of country until
evening, when we come to the town where we are to stop for tea and
supper; and having delivered the mail bags at the Post-office, ride
through the usual wide street, lined with the usual stores and
houses (the drapers always having hung up at their door, by way of
sign, a piece of bright red cloth), to the hotel where this meal is
prepared. There being many boarders here, we sit down, a large
party, and a very melancholy one as usual. But there is a buxom
hostess at the head of the table, and opposite, a simple Welsh
schoolmaster with his wife and child; who came here, on a
speculation of greater promise than performance, to teach the
classics: and they are sufficient subjects of interest until the
meal is over, and another coach is ready. In it we go on once
more, lighted by a bright moon, until midnight; when we stop to
change the coach again, and remain for half an hour or so in a
miserable room, with a blurred lithograph of Washington over the
smoky fire-place, and a mighty jug of cold water on the table: to
which refreshment the moody passengers do so apply themselves that
they would seem to be, one and all, keen patients of Dr. Sangrado.
Among them is a very little boy, who chews tobacco like a very big
one; and a droning gentleman, who talks arithmetically and
statistically on all subjects, from poetry downwards; and who
always speaks in the same key, with exactly the same emphasis, and
with very grave deliberation. He came outside just now, and told
me how that the uncle of a certain young lady who had been spirited
away and married by a certain captain, lived in these parts; and
how this uncle was so valiant and ferocious that he shouldn't
wonder if he were to follow the said captain to England, 'and shoot
him down in the street wherever he found him;' in the feasibility
of which strong measure I, being for the moment rather prone to
contradiction, from feeling half asleep and very tired, declined to
acquiesce: assuring him that if the uncle did resort to it, or
gratified any other little whim of the like nature, he would find
himself one morning prematurely throttled at the Old Bailey: and
that he would do well to make his will before he went, as he would
certainly want it before he had been in Britain very long.
On we go, all night, and by-and-by the day begins to break, and
presently the first cheerful rays of the warm sun come slanting on
us brightly. It sheds its light upon a miserable waste of sodden
grass, and dull trees, and squalid huts, whose aspect is forlorn
and grievous in the last degree. A very desert in the wood, whose
growth of green is dank and noxious like that upon the top of
standing water: where poisonous fungus grows in the rare footprint
on the oozy ground, and sprouts like witches' coral, from the
crevices in the cabin wall and floor; it is a hideous thing to lie
upon the very threshold of a city. But it was purchased years ago,
and as the owner cannot be discovered, the State has been unable to
reclaim it. So there it remains, in the midst of cultivation and
improvement, like ground accursed, and made obscene and rank by
some great crime.
We reached Columbus shortly before seven o'clock, and stayed there,
to refresh, that day and night: having excellent apartments in a
very large unfinished hotel called the Neill House, which were
richly fitted with the polished wood of the black walnut, and
opened on a handsome portico and stone verandah, like rooms in some
Italian mansion. The town is clean and pretty, and of course is
'going to be' much larger. It is the seat of the State legislature
of Ohio, and lays claim, in consequence, to some consideration and
There being no stage-coach next day, upon the road we wished to
take, I hired 'an extra,' at a reasonable charge to carry us to
Tiffin; a small town from whence there is a railroad to Sandusky.
This extra was an ordinary four-horse stage-coach, such as I have
described, changing horses and drivers, as the stage-coach would,
but was exclusively our own for the journey. To ensure our having
horses at the proper stations, and being incommoded by no
strangers, the proprietors sent an agent on the box, who was to
accompany us the whole way through; and thus attended, and bearing
with us, besides, a hamper full of savoury cold meats, and fruit,
and wine, we started off again in high spirits, at half-past six
o'clock next morning, very much delighted to be by ourselves, and
disposed to enjoy even the roughest journey.
It was well for us, that we were in this humour, for the road we
went over that day, was certainly enough to have shaken tempers
that were not resolutely at Set Fair, down to some inches below
Stormy. At one time we were all flung together in a heap at the
bottom of the coach, and at another we were crushing our heads