Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 748
A Friend in Need
On election day there is no shortage of work for Jerry and Jack. They have a variety of passengers doing a variety of errands on this busy day. At the bank, a red-faced gentleman comes running out of the building with a sheaf of papers in his hand. Before Jerry can even get down and open the door for the man, he lets himself into the cab and is calling out his destination: the police station. Once that errand has been completed, they go back to the cab stand and Jerry feeds Jack while they have a few moments to rest between jobs.
After feeding Jack a delightful mix of oats and bran, Jerry eats one of Polly’s meat pies. The streets are full of cabs with the candidates’ colors on them, and they are dashing through the streets with little regard for pedestrians—they even see two people knocked down that day, one of them a woman. The horses are struggling, and the half-drunk voters inside the cabs are cheering out of the cab windows as their own party passes by them. It is the first election Jack has seen, and he has no desire to see another.
Soon a distressed young woman carrying a heavy child walks in a bewildered manner toward the cab stand. She tells Jerry she must get her son to the hospital but does not know how to get there as she has just arrived from the country and knows nothing about the election or about London. Her child is four years old and cannot walk, but there is a doctor at the hospital who says the boy might get well if she can get him to the hospital. It is three miles away, Jerry tells her, and the child is heavy to carry. The woman insists she can get there if he will only give her directions. It is about to rain and Jerry insists that she allow him to drive her, but she has only enough money for them to get back home and cannot pay him.
Jerry tells her he has a wife and children at home, and he would be ashamed of himself if he did not help her. The woman bursts into tears and blesses Jerry as he escorts her to his cab. As Jerry opens the door, two rough men wearing election colors push the woman aside and get into the cab. He tells the men the cab has already been engaged by the woman, but they insist their business is more important than anything a woman could need. They say it is their right and they will stay in the cab.
Jerry turns his back on the interlopers and walks to the woman and laughs, telling her the men will be gone soon. They realize his intention and leave, calling Jerry names as they walk away. Soon the cab is on its way to the hospital, where Jerry rings the bell and helps the woman out of the cab. She blesses the man once again before dashing into the hospital. Jerry reminds himself of the biblical mandate that whatever is done to the least of these is done to Him, patting Jack on the neck (something he always does when he is well pleased).
It has begun to rain, and just as the cab is leaving the hospital a woman comes out of the building and calls for a cab. Jerry recognizes her, and she is thankful to find a friend in these circumstances. He takes the woman to Paddington Station and they talk about Jerry’s family. It seems the woman had been Polly’s mistress. She asks about Jerry’s health, remembering his wife had been concerned about a lingering cough. He tells her it is difficult to stay healthy since he is outside in all manner of adverse weather for long periods of time, but he is feeling well.
The woman tells him it is a shame for him to ruin his health in this job when there are plenty of good positions for grooms or drivers. If he ever decides to make a change, he is to let her know. When she leaves, the woman gives him the fare plus an extra ten shillings, five for each child. She knows his wife will know best how to spend it. Jerry is much pleased and thanks her for her generosity. They arrive home and Jack is exhausted.