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My Lady’s Coach
by [?]

From the Military Memoir of Capt. J. de Courcy, late of the North Wilts Regiment.

There were four of us on top of the coach that night–the driver, the guard, the corporal and I–all well muffled up and swathed about the throat against the northwest wind; and we carried but one inside passenger, though he snored enough for six. You could hear him above the chink of the swingle-bars and the drumming of our horses’ hoofs on the miry road. What this inside fare was like I had no means of telling; for when the corporal and I overtook the coach at Torpoint Ferry he was already seated, and being served through the door with hot kidney pasty and hot brandy-and-water. He had travelled down from London–so I learned from the coachman by whose side I sat; and as soon as he ceased cursing the roads, the inns, the waiters, the weather and the country generally, his snores began to shake the vehicle under us as with the throes of Etna in labour.

The corporal squatted behind me with his feet on the treasure-chest and his loaded musket across his thighs, and the guard yet farther back on the roof nursing a blunderbuss and chanting to himself the dolefullest tune. For me I sat drumming my heels, with chin sunk deep within the collar of my greatcoat, one hand in its left hip-pocket and the other thrust through the breast-opening, where my fingers touched the butts of a brace of travelling pistols.

I was senior ensign of my regiment (the North Wilts), and my business was to overtake a couple of waggons that had started some seven or eight hours ahead of us with a consignment of pay-money to be delivered at Falmouth, where two of His Majesty’s cruisers lay on the point of sailing for the West Indies. The chest over which I mounted guard had arrived late from London: it was labelled “supplementary,” and my responsibilities would end as soon as I transferred it to the lieutenant in charge of the waggons, which never moved above a walking-pace, and always, when conveying treasure, under escort of eight or ten soldiers or marines. “Russell’s Waggons,” they were called, and there was no record of their having being attacked.

The country, to which I was a stranger, appeared wild enough, with hedgeless downs rolling up black and unshapely against the night. But the coachman, who guessed what we carried, assured me that he had always found the road perfectly safe. I remember asking him how long he had been driving upon it: to which he gave no more direct answer than that he had been born in these parts and knew them better than his Bible. “And the same you may say of Jim,” he added, with a jerk of his whip back towards the guard.

“He has a cheerful taste in tunes,” I remarked.

The fellow chuckled. “That’s his favourite. ‘My Lady’s Coach’ he calls it, and–come to think of it–I never heard him sing any other.”

“It doesn’t sound like Tantivey.” I strained my ears for the words of the guard’s song, and heard–

“The wheels go round without a sound
Or tramp or [inaudible] of whip–“

The words next following were either drowned by the wind or muffled and smothered in the man’s neck-cloths; but by-and-by I caught another line or two–

“Ho! ho! my lady saith,
Step in and ride with me:
She takes the baby, white as death,
And jigs him on her knee.
The wheels go round without a sound–“

This seemed to be the refrain.

“The wheels go round without a sound
Or [inaudible again] horse’s tread,
My lady’s breath is foul as death,
Her driver has no head–“