A Horse Car Incident
NO matter what horse-car, but it happened that
I had to go a mile or two, and held up my
cane to attract the attention of the driver or the conductor
of one of them, which I did, after some
difficulty. I am bound to say it was not on the
Touchandgo road, for the officers employed there
have an instinctive knowledge whether a man wishes
to ride or not, and indeed often by the magic of the
upraised finger they draw people in to ride who had
hardly any previous intention of it. I have been
attracted in this way, and found myself to my
astonishment, seated in the car, confident that I had
signified no disposition to do so. In this instance,
however, I would ride, and got in.
There were the usual passengers in the car—the
respectable people going out of town, who were
reading the last editions of the papers, the women
who had been shopping, the servant girls who had
been in to visit their friends, feeling no interest in
one another, and all absorbed in their own reflections,
as I was. I was thinking seriously, when—my
eye was attracted by some glittering object on the
floor, beneath the opposite seat.
Of course everybody is attracted by glitter. A
piece of glass in the moonlight may be a diamond,
and show is far ahead of substance in influencing
men, from the illusion which affects short-sighted
vision. Thus this glittering object. What was it?—a
diamond pin dropped by a former passenger?
No, it could not be this, because it appeared to be
round, and bigger than a pin stone could be. Could
it be a bracelet? No, for it was too small. I
directed my gaze more earnestly towards it in my
doubt, and saw that it was a QUARTER, bright and
sparkling with the freshness of new mint about it, so
This I determined to make mine at the first chance,
for a woman was sitting very near it, and I dreaded
any confusion I might cause, by a sudden plunge,
through the motion of the cars; so, whistling at a
low breath, as if indifferent, but keeping my eye
upon the prize, I awaited the opportunity that should
insure me the coveted one-and-sixpence. It soon
came: the bell rang, and the lady opposite, with
her arms full of bundles, walked out, leaving the
object of my ardent regard more distinctly in view.
It seemed to me that every one in the car had an
eye on that quarter, which I felt was mine by right
of discovery, and which I was determined to have.
As the coach started I rose and fairly tumbled over
into the just-vacated seat, taking care to drop in such
a way as to screen the glittering bait. I looked at
my fellow-passengers, and found that all were staring
at me, as though they were reading my secret. The
conductor had come inside the door, and was looking
at me, and a heavy gentleman on the same seat
with me leaned far out on his cane, so that he could
take in my whole person with his glance, as though
I were a piece of property on which he had to estimate.
I felt my face burn, and a general discomfort
seized me, as a man sometimes feels when he has
done a wrong or a foolish act; though I couldn't
think the act I was about to perform was wrong,
and no one could say it was foolish in one to try
to get a quarter of a dollar in this day of postal
currency. At length I stooped down as if to adjust
something about my boot, and slipped the object of
my solicitude into my hand, unseen, as I believed.
"What is it?" asked the conductor.
"What's what?" said I, with affected smartness.
"What you just found," he persisted.
"I was pulling my pants down over my boot," I
"That's all humbug," said he; "you found something
in the car, and it belongs to the company."
"Prove that I found any thing," said I, angrily.
"Young man," said the voice of the big man who
was leaning on his cane, still looking at me, "it
is as bad to lie about a thing as it is to steal. I
saw you pick something up, and to me it had the
appearance of money." He struck his cane on the
floor as he spoke, and grasped it firmer, as if to
clinch his remark.
"Yes," said the conductor; "and we don't want
nothing of the kind here, and what's more, we won't
have it; so hand over."
"My fine fellow," said I, prepared for a crisis,
"I know my rights, and, without admitting that I
have found any thing, I contend that if I had, in
this public conveyance, which is as public as the
street to him who pays for a ride in it, that which
I find in it is mine after I have made due endeavour
to find out its owner. Money being an article impossible
to identify, unless it is marked, if I had
found it, it would have been mine—according to
Whately, Lycurgus, and Jew Moses."
"Hang your authorities," said he; "I don't know
any thing about 'em, but this I know,—that money
belongs to the Touchandgo Horse Railroad Company,
and I'll have it. Ain't I right, Mr. Diggs?"
addressing a gentleman with glasses on, reading the
"I think you are," replied he, looking at me over
the top of his spectacles, as though he were shooting
from behind a breastwork; "I think the pint is
clear, and that it belongs to the company to advertise
it and find out the owner."
"Well," I put in, "suppose they don't find the
owner; who has it?"
"The company, I should think," said he, folding
his paper preparatory to getting out.
"That's it," said the conductor, taking up the
thread as he put the passenger down; "and now I
want that money." He looked ugly.
"What money?" I queried.
"The money you picked up on the floor."
I saw that I was in a place of considerable difficulty,
involving a row on one side and imputation of
villany on the other, and studied how to escape.
"Well," said I, "if, in spite of the authorities I
have quoted, you insist upon my giving this up which
I hold in my hand,—the value of which I do not
know,—I shall protest against your act, and hold the
"Responsible be——blowed," replied he, severely;
The people in the car were much excited. The fat
man on the seat had risen up, though still in sitting
position, and balanced himself upon his toes to get a
better view. I unclosed my hand and deposited in
the conductor's a round piece of tin that had been
punched out by some tin-man and hammered smooth
bearing a close resemblance to money!
The disappointment of every one was intense. The
conductor intimated that if he met me in society he
would give me my money's worth, the fat man muttered
something about my being an "imposture,"
several lady passengers looked bluely at me, and
only one laughed heartily at the whole affair, as I
did. It was a queer incident.