Mrs. Wilkins was, however, at the height of her wishes; she sported her "carriage," and probably would have remained in this state of blissful ignorance and fancied greatness, had not her aspiring thought suggested a drive in the Park after her two o'clock dinner. Arrived there, she of course ordered Jones to (if he could) get into the line of circulating carriages, the servants belonging to whom were far too well trained to indulge in any audible remarks, in the hearing of their mistresses, on Jones and his vehicle. Not so with sundry servants out of place, or, at all events, unluckily for the Wilkinses, out of employ for the time being. Sundry remarks were made; but Mrs. Wilkins and the Misses Wilkins felt quite at their ease, considering the remarks could not possibly have their carriage for its object. The thing at last became too broad (not pointed) to be mistaken. "I say, Sammywell, who feeds the hogs while you are out?" "I say, bright'un, I'll give you a sov. to show me how you clean your harness." "What child's funeral have you been to, to get your white gloves?" alluding to the white cottons that his mistress had given the unfortunate Jones. But all things must have an end; they had run the gauntlet up the drive and back; when Mrs. Wilkius, her face white and red in succession, ordered Jones to drive home, where we leave the ladies in all their astonishment at the events of the day, and determined to ascertain from Wilkins, on his return home, what it could possibly be.
I have given a sketch showing the consequences of employing "Joneses" in the capacity of coachmen: this arises in the case of those living in town being perfect judges of whether a man puts up the shop shutters, or takes them down handily, or whether he arranges the shop according to rule of a morning; but, being no judges of whether or not he puts on harness properly or the reverse, he might, for instance, put on the breeching so that it could by no possibility act, or the belly-band holding the tugs so long as to admit the rising of the shafts to such height as obliged the horse, when stopped, to stop the carriage by his tail and rump pressing against it. The master of the shop would probably be quick enough in detecting whether the show bottles of pickles, or the large canisters that contained no tea, though labelled as if they did, were in proper place; he is right in being able to do this, and deserves not our ridicule because he does not know whether the horse is properly attached to a vehicle or not; what means has he ever had of learning this? He sees an animal, and a carriage of some sort; he sees the animal move on, he also sees the carriage follow-what is to tell him all is not arranged as properly as possible?
The ladies of the family consider it as a matter of course that every male must more or less know how to drive, as they see and know that every female more or less has a knowledge of the use of the needle. Now, many a man can mend his stockings very neatly, but knows no more about driving than he does of embroidery. The young lady would no more trust the making up of the commonest dress to the housemaid than she would to one of her father's shopmen; yet she will trust the safety of her life and limbs at times to a "Jones," who, probably, is far less an adept in driving than the housemaid is in dressmaking. If she perpetrated such an enormity as to trust her maid to make her dress, she would fancy that even in a phaeton, and closely enveloped in shawls, the odious dress showed somehow through, and that every eye was upon her: it would haunt her imagination, and she would be miserable; though, as unseen, it could produce no remark from any one. Now, though it is quite true that thousands know nothing as to how an equipage of any sort is arranged or turned out, hundreds do: and of the sneers and sarcastic remarks of such she is as morally certain as if she walked the streets with a bandanna bound round her head in Eastern fashion.
I know of few mere manual arts that, though they certainly call for no great exercise of mental attri butes, are more difficult of attainment than is the art of driving well. In fact, I can hold out but little encouragement to those who begin late in life; for I must honestly tell them the utmost they can hope to arrive at is to drive with safety under ordinary circumstances. This is found exemplified particularly with medical men, many of whom have driven their gigs for years, and look quite as much astray in them as they did the first day they started one. A man may be made a very fair, nay, a good horseman, who begins late in life, if properly instructed. It is true he probably may never show as a man likely to cross country with hounds; still he may pass muster among the generality of horsemen. But there is a mannerism in the way of doing the most trivial thing as respects driving, that shows at once the man who knows what he is about, and he who does not. You never see a coachman, whether gentleman or otherwise, get on to his box or into his phaeton without first glancing his eye over his horses; the man who is not one, steps into his vehicle as if that was his only care, and, after seating himself in it about as handily as a clown would seat himself in a drawing-room chair, takes or is given his reins, and, with his hand or hands about a foot nearer the splashboard than one accustomed to driving would hold them, he gets, as Jack would say, "under weigh." A man intending to mount his horse need not confine himself to the regular riding-master's manner of doing the same thing; it would pass unnoticed; but the taking his reins in driving is quite a different affair. All men -that is, all driving men-do these things alike; the failing in which shows, on the contrary, a man knows nothing at all about the matter.
There can be no reason, supposing a man wishes to drive his family to any given place in search of business or pleasure, that he should not do so, though manifesting by so doing that he is no coachman; and, if the man at his side knows still less about the matter than he does, he perhaps acts judiciously in taking the reins in his own hands (and here, peradventure, may be a case in which he is permitted to do so without controversy in quarters that shall be nameless); but, supposing his attendant on the box, though no coachman, from practice and imitation is greatly superior to his master, what on earth can induce the latter to undertake a task by which he exposes himself to remarks in no way flattering, and causes him constant trouble and watchfulness, seems an enigma somewhat difficult to solve. Of other persons' amusements it is not for me to judge; but certainly if I were asked to exhibit driving such a cortège, I should decline the compliment. I remember, when a boy, seeing the then Lord Sefton in a barouche and six in Hyde Park. I have read somewhere of an eccentric nobleman who sported a phaeton and six; but the phaeton and six we see daily in our streets is a somewhat different affair. I can quite understand the feelings of the captain of a fine fast-sailing frigate standing on the deck and feeling both pride and pleasure as he marks.
" How gloriously her gallant course she goes;" but for the soul of me I cannot conceive any pleasure a man could derive from undertaking the conduct of a barge up or down the Thames. I conceive the difference between a well-appointed mail phaeton, with its two high and fast steppers, and the unaccommodating phaeton and six, to be about the same as that between the frigate and the barge.
I in no shape mean to infer that it is at all necessary that a man keeping a vehicle for the use of his family, involves the necessity of keeping an expensive servant either to drive or take charge of them. The attributes of a very clever servant are by no means necessary for such a place. Persons are apt to say: "Servants are the plague of one's life." I always set down such persons as somewhat low, and never having been accustomed to keep good ones. I beg so far to differ from such sweeping allegations against servants as to assert, "Servants are one of the great comforts of one's life" - not, certainly, such as persons who change every two, three, or four months, and then seek to replace them on the bare chance of finding better.
Many persons have strange ideas as regards the purchasing and then managing their horses, equipages, and even their houses. They are not less sin gular in their ideas of servants: they get a bad class, and then do not blame their own selection, but the so-styled servant, as regards whom the spirit of Brummel's remark on a bad-made coat may with truth be applied: "My dear fellow, do you call that thing a servant?"