Cabman's Railway Yarn, The

An incompetent driver gets lost on a branch-line network and ends up back at his starting point. 

Here, keb, sir?... d'you want a four-wheeler? [Note 049.1]
You don't?... No, exactly of course,
No one does, they never want me, Sir,
And they don't want the keb or the 'orse.

Take you down the Strand for a bob, Sir?
Patronise the old firm Billy Webb,
Here make it half a thick 'un guv'nor!
And I'll give you the 'orse and the keb.

Nothing doing? Orl right keep your 'air on,
Yer needn't get ratty and shout,
Don't slang an unfortunate bounder [Note 049.2]
Who's down, and who's very near out.

Time was when I wasn't a cabby.
I was once on the railway, a fact,
And I might have been general manager,
If it hadn't have been I got sacked.

It was back in the time of the strike, Sir, [Note 049.3]
My line was 'it 'ard sir, you see,
And men were so scarce in those times, Sir,
Why, they even thought something of me.

And day after day they got shorter
And shorter of workers, and so
They bunged me on the train sir, one evening,
To take her to Bexhill you know.

Well, it wasn't for me to make trouble,
Though it didn't seem right I must say,
I'd never before been to Bexhill,
And had no idea of the way.

Still I got a shove-off at eight-thirty,
And things for a time went on fine,
Till they pulled me up sudden at Willesden,
And said I was on the wrong line.

So I was, it was no good to argue,
But it wasn't my fault you'll admit,
Still I went back and looked for my line, sir,
And discovered it after a bit.

To a porter I says, 'I want Bexhill!
Which way do I take this 'ere train?'
He says, 'Straight on until you reach Clapham,
Then if you're in doubt... ask again.'

I cheered up and pushed on a bit further,
But I somehow seemed all of a maze,
For in front I could see the lines parted
And branched off in different ways.

My stoker, Bill Jones, hollers quickly,
'The left hand for Clapham, hold tight!'
But I knew what a liar Bill Jones was,
So I pulled her head round to the right.

Bill 'ad spoke the truth for a wonder,
As I found out before very long,
For an hour after, when I reached Ilford,
I knew very well something was wrong.

It's a mystery to me how I got there,
But the night was as dark as could be,
And you couldn't 'ave blamed any driver,
Let alone a poor novice like me.

Well we turned round the train and went back, Sir,
The Inspector he showed us a light,
He said, 'Straight on until you reach Stratford,
And then bear a bit to the right.

Keep off the down line if you can, mate,
I'm telling you plainly, because
I hope with good luck by twelve thirty,
You'll get back to wherever you was.'

Well I carefully followed directions,
Got through London without any slip
And glad enough too, for the passengers
By now were beginning to chip.

I felt a bit doubtful at Barnet,
But I ran through the station quite fast,
And I felt very proud two hours after,
When I saw Clapham junction at last.

Then I give 'er 'er 'ead, and we moved some,
Bill stoked up the furnace with care,
And I said, 'If we keep on the metals
By seven we ought to be there.'

And the men in each signal box shouted,
And waved some red flags at us too,
I 'ollers back, 'Are we down-hearted?'
And Bill 'e calls out, 'Toodle oo!'

At last there looms out a big station,
And lights on the water I saw,
I says, 'Bill, I believe we 'ave got there,'
But Bill only murmurs, 'O lor!'

We ran to the end of the station,
Where the book-stall man's busy at work;
We came up with a bump on the buffers,
Which brought the train up with a jerk.

You'd have thought there'd been a mishap, Sir,
The passengers swarmed out in a group,
Was it Bexhill? No, matey, Victoria!
We'd been bloomin'-well looping the loop.