The Watermen of the Thames

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The watermen were not only quick at repartee, but also with their fists. Pepys records an instance. When that madcap Ferrers came to see him he brought a German with him, who played the oboe and entertained them with his music; but a quarter of an hour after the two had left to return by boat, the German came back in a "goare of blood," to tell Pepys that he was afraid the Captain had been killed by the watermen at the stairs.

Pepys immediately left to ascertain the truth, as, being one of the watermen's best customers, he would be told the truth of the matter, and what had happened to Captain Ferrers. He was told that, as was commonly the case, the watermen had become aggressive, anxious for their fare.

Ferrers, not liking it, had struck one with his cane, which naturally led to a row and a fight. Then the German had drawn his sword and run at them which resulted in them both being beaten, and the feathers in the Captain's hat carried off in triumph. The Captain got off the hoy minus his plumes. Pepys recovers the feathers, which had been taken to an alehouse close by, and sends them to Ferrers by a messenger.

He then returns home, and finds his wife dressing the German's head and plastering his wounds; and, as his cravat had been torn in the affray, gives him one of his own, and five shillings for his purse, and sends him off. A lesson to them both that the Thames watermen were not men to be messed with, or to let cold steel be drawn on them.

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