in vain. They have perished in the cause of an ancient monopoly. The public indignation at their cruel fate is being used as a handy hook on which to hang all "newfangled systems of marine insurance which have not stood the test of time, and which have hardly yet seen the light of day."
I had reached my own door when I was attracted by a shout and the wrangling of many angry voices round the corner of the street. Running round, I saw the débris of an overturned dog-cart. Several persons seemed to be engaged in an animated debate in a small circle, while the crowd played the rôle of a Greek chorus. The disputants appeared to be a young gentleman of mettle, in a high collar and dog-skin gloves, a broken-down solicitor's clerk, the usual policeman, and a workman in corduroys. It was easy to explain the construction of the group. The "masher" was obviously the owner of the ill-fated dog-cart; the workman was the watchman in charge of the traction-engine, which was lying quietly at the side of the road with a red lamp at each side. The clerk was "the man in the street," the vir pietate gravis called in as arbitrator by both disputants; and the policeman was there as a matter of course. When I reached the spot and worked my way to the inner circle, the debate had reached this stage: "I tell you, any well-bred horse would shy at a god-forsaken machine like that; your people had no right to leave it there. I will make them pay for this." Workman—"Well, them's my instructions; here's my lights all a-burning, and you shouldn't drive horses like that in the streets of London. They'll shy at anything, and it ain't safe." Masher—"I beg your pardon, I tell you any horse would shy at that: and what is more, I believe traction-engines are unlawful in the streets; I know I have heard so." Clerk—"Well, I can't quite say, but I think so. I know elephants are not allowed to go through the streets without a special license in the daytime, because our people had a case in which a man wanted to ride an elephant through the city and distribute colored leaflets, and the Bench said that"… Policeman—"Traction-engines isn't elephants; we don't want to know about elephants; which way was you coming when your horse caught sight of this engine? That is what I want to get at." "Straight up King Street, constable, and this fellow was fast asleep near the machine." "No. I warn't fast asleep; didn't I ketch 'old of the 'orse?" "Oh, yes, you woke up, but you never gave any warning; why didn't you shout out. Beware of the traction-engine?" "What for? ain't you got no eyes? Am I to be shouting all day? What is there worse about this 'ere engine than about a flappin' van? Eh? policeman, what is there worse, I say?" Policeman (firmly)—"That's not the question. The question is. Was your lamp burning?" "A course they was a-burnin'; ain't they a-burnin' now?" Clerk (soothingly)—"They were burning." Policeman (treading on clerk's toes)—"What do you want here? Be off. What have you got to do with it? Off with you. Now, sir," turning to the owner of the broken dog-cart, "was this man asleep on dooty?" "Well, I cannot exactly swear he was asleep, but" (contriving to slip something into the expectant hand of the officer), "but I am sure he was not awake—not wide awake." "Thank you, sir"; turning to the watchman, "you see where you are now; I shall report you asleep on dooty." "But I warn't asleep, I tell you." "You was: didn't you hear the gentleman say you wasn't awake?" This was the conclusion; there was a slight and sullen murmur in the crowd; but it died away. The incident was at an end; law was vindicated; justice was done. Yes, done, and no mistake! But I left without any clear idea
as to the right of an engine-owner to the use of the common roads. The