Page:Omnibuses and Cabs.djvu/219

This page has been validated.

by two or three men who made a comfortable living as common informers. One of these fellows would stroll into a hackney-coach yard, greet the proprietor in a friendly way and have a chat with him on any topic of the day. The conversation always ended, however, in one way—with a request by the informer that the proprietor would lend him half a sovereign. In most cases the proprietor, knowing who the man was, complied with the request at once, and nothing more would be seen of the borrower for a month or two. But if the proprietor refused the "loan," he received, in the course of a day or two, a summons for some irregularity in connection with his drivers, his vehicles, or his horses. The informer received one-half of every fine that was imposed. These blackmailers flourished long after the introduction of cabs, and when at last their nefarious business was stopped, they were succeeded by blackmailers of another class. Strange as it may seem, forty years ago it was a common thing for the proprietors of a large number of horses to submit to being blackmailed by men whose duty it was to keep an eye on their studs.

In 1822, an order was issued compelling