Unplanned stoppage

Sommersbury Turnpike Inn
August 31st 1853

This day has been too much for me to bear! Not five hours into my solitary journey I was beset by trouble and had not the faintest notion of when a living soul would realise my plight.

When I say ‘living’ I should truly say that I mean ‘conscious’. My driver, after a number of treacherous departures from the designated road we were on, suddenly slumped in a stupor across his driving plate! He remained there, quite still but making the sort of noise I imagine might come from a half-slaughtered sow, for an interminable age while Dauncey and I tried to wake him.

I eventually noticed that we had stopped within sight of a small coaching house, so I stepped down from the carriage and carried my companion with me to see if anyone sensible might be in attendance there.

It was only the services of the woman from the Inn and her runt of a servant boy that saved me from certain disaster. On seeing my driver, she indicated to the boy that he knew what to do – I had the strange impression that this kind of occurrence was not unfamiliar to her – and within two minutes he had climbed onto the carriage plate and emptied a bowl of water onto the driver’s head. Miraculously, he was not dead or dying after all  – but his revival was not sufficient for him to restart our journey.

I am now sitting with Dauncey in a room which I would not use at home even to store sweeping brushes. The driver is asleep in a room above me and so Dauncey and I must wait until he is fit to resume his task of setting us safely down on the Blindingham approach. I cannot tell how many hours I may have to endure here – with the Inn keeper’s wife revelling in my misfortune whenever she brings me some soup – but I can assure the owners of the South Eastern Express Coach Company that very soon they shall have to change either their workforce or their name. They cannot carry on with both.

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