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Title: "Ask Mamma"; or, The Richest Commoner In England
Author: Surtees, Robert Smith
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Internet Archive



“ASK MAMMA”, or THE RICHEST COMMONER IN ENGLAND


By R. S. Surtees


Illustrated by JOHN LEECH



CONTENTS

PREFACE TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION.

CHAPTER I. OUR HERO AND CO.—A SLEEPING PARTNER.

CHAPTER II. THE ROAD.

CHAPTER III. THE ROAD RESUMED.—MISS PHEASANT-FEATHERS.

CHAPTER IV. A GLASS COACH.—MISS WILLING (EN GRAND COSTUME)

CHAPTER V. THE LADY’S BOUDOIR.—A DECLARATION.

CHAPTER VI. THE HAPPY UNITED FAMILY.—CURTAIN CRESCENT.

CHAPTER VII. THE EARL OF LADYTHORNE.—MISS DE GLANCEY.

CHAPTER VIII. CUB-HUNTING.

CHAPTER IX. A PUP AT WALK.—IMPERIAL JOHN.

CHAPTER X. JEAN ROUGIER, OR JACK ROGERS.

CHAPTER XI. THE OPENING DAY.—THE HUNT BREAKFAST.

CHAPTER XII. THE MORNING FOX.—THE AFTERNOON FOX.

CHAPTER XIII. GONE AWAY!

CHAPTER XIV. THE PRINGLE CORRESPONDENCE.

CHAPTER XV. MAJOR YAMMERTON’S COACH STOPS THE WAY.

CHAPTER XVI. THE MAJOR’S MENAGE.

CHAPTER XVII. ARRIVAL AT YAMMERTON GRANGE.—A FAMILY PARTY.

CHAPTER XVIII. A LEETLE, CONTRETEMPS.

CHAPTER XIX. THE MAJOR’S STUD.

CHAPTER XX. CARDS FOR A SPREAD.

CHAPTER XXI. THE GATHERING.—THE GRAND SPREAD ITSELF.

CHAPTER XXII. A HUNTING MORNING.—UNKENNELING.

CHAPTER XXIII. SHOWING A HORSE.—THE MEET.

CHAPTER XXIV. THE WILD BEAST ITSELF.

CHAPTER XXV. A CRUEL FINISH.

CHAPTER XXVI. THE PRINGLE CORRESPONDENCE.

CHAPTER XXVII. SIR MOSES MAINCHANCE.

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE HIT-IM AND HOLD-IM SHIRE HOUNDS.

CHAPTER XXIX. THE PANGBURN PARK ESTATE.

CHAPTER XXX. COMMERCE AND AGRICULTURE.

CHAPTER XXXI. SIR MOSES’S MENAGE.—DEPARTURE OF FINE BILLY.

CHAPTER XXXII. THE BAD STABLE; OR, “IT’S ONLY FOR ONE NIGHT.”

CHAPTER XXXIII. SIR MOSES’S SPREAD.

CHAPTER XXXIV. GOING TO COVER WITH THE HOUNDS.

CHAPTER XXXV. THE MEET.

CHAPTER XXXVI. A BIRD’S EYE VIEW.

CHAPTER XXXVII. TWO ACCOUNTS OF A RUN; OR, LOOK ON THIS PICTURE.

CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE SICK HORSE AND THE SICK MASTER.

CHAPTER XXXIX. MR. PRINGLE SUDDENLY BECOMES A MEMBER OF THE H. H. H.

CHAPTER XL. THE HUNT DINNER,

CHAPTER XLI. THE HUNT TEA.—BUSHEY HEATH AND BARE ACRES.

CHAPTER XLII. MR. GEORDEY GALLON.

CHAPTER XLIII. SIR MOSES PERPLEXED—THE RENDEZVOUS FOR THE RACE.

CHAPTER XLIV. THE RACE ITSELF.

CHAPTER XLV. HENEREY BROWN & CO. AGAIN.

CHAPTER XLVI. THE PRINGLE CORRESPONDENCE.

CHAPTER XLVII. A CATASTROPHE.—A TÊTE-À-TÊTE DINNER

CHAPTER XLVIII. ROUGIER’S MYSTERIOUS LODGINGS—THE GIFT HORSE.

CHAPTER XLIX. THE SHAM DAY.

CHAPTER L. THE SURPRISE.

CHAPTER LI. MONEY AND MATRIMONY.

CHAPTER LII. A NIGHT DRIVE.

CHAPTER LIII. MASTER ANTHONY THOM.

CHAPTER LIV. MR. WITHERSPOON’S DEJEUNER À LA FOURCHETTE.

CHAPTER LV. THE COUNCIL OF WAR.—POOR PUSS AGAIN!

CHAPTER LVI. A FINE RUN!—THE MAINCHANCE CORRESPONDENCE.

CHAPTER LVII. THE ANTHONY THOM TRAP.

CHAPTER LVIII. THE ANTHONY THOM TAKE.

CHAPTER LIX. ANOTHER COUNCIL OF WAR.—MR. GALLON AT HOME.

CHAPTER LX. MR. CARROTY KEBBEL.

CHAPTER LXI. THE HUNT BALL.—MISS DE GLANCEY’S REFLECTIONS.

CHAPTER LXII. LOVE AT SECOND SIGHT.—CUPID’S SETTLING DAY.

CHAPTER LXIII. A STARTLING ANNOUNCEMENT.



PREFACE TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION.

IT may be a recommendation to the lover of light literature to be told,
that the following story does not involve the complication of a plot.
It is a mere continuous narrative of an almost everyday exaggeration,
interspersed with sporting scenes and excellent illustrations by Leech.

March 31, 1858.



CHAPTER I. OUR HERO AND CO.—A SLEEPING PARTNER.



017m


CONSIDERING that Billy Pringle, or Fine Billy, as his good-natured
friends called him, was only an underbred chap, he was as good an
imitation of a Swell as ever we saw. He had all the airy dreaminess
of an hereditary high flyer, while his big talk and off-hand manner
strengthened the delusion.

It was only when you came to close quarters with him, and found that
though he talked in pounds he acted in pence, and marked his fine
dictionary words and laboured expletives, that you came to the
conclusion that he was “painfully gentlemanly.” So few people, however,
agree upon what a gentleman is, that Billy was well calculated to
pass muster with the million. Fine shirts, fine ties, fine talk, fine
trinkets, go a long way towards furnishing the character with many.
Billy was liberal, not to say prodigal, in all these. The only
infallible rule we know is, that the man who is always talking about
being a gentleman never is one. Just as the man who is always talking
about honour, morality, fine feeling, and so or never knows anything of
these qualities but the name.

Nature had favoured Billy’s pretensions in the lady-killing way. In
person he was above the middle height, five feet eleven or so, slim and
well-proportioned, with a finely-shaped head and face, fair complexion,
light brown hair, laughing blue eyes, with long lashes, good eyebrows,
regular pearly teeth and delicately pencilled moustache. Whiskers he
did not aspire to. Nor did Billy abuse the gifts of Nature by disguising
himself in any of the vulgar groomy gamekeepery style of dress, that so
effectually reduce all mankind to the level of the labourer, nor adopt
any of the “loud” patterns that have lately figured so conspicuously in
our streets. On the contrary, he studied the quiet unobtrusive order
of costume, and the harmony of colours, with a view of producing a
perfectly elegant general effect. Neatly-fitting frock or dress coats,
instead of baggy sacks, with trouser legs for sleeves, quiet-patterned
vests and equally quiet-patterned trousers. If he could only have been
easy in them he would have done extremely well, but there was always a
nervous twitching, and jerking, and feeling, as if he was wondering what
people were thinking or saying of him.

In the dress department he was ably assisted by his mother, a lady of
very considerable taste, who not only fashioned his clothes but his
mind, indeed we might add his person, Billy having taken after her, as
they say; for his father, though an excellent man and warm, was rather
of the suet-dumpling order of architecture, short, thick, and round,
with a neck that was rather difficult to find. His name, too, was
William, and some, the good-natured ones again of course, used to say
that he might have been called “Fine Billy the first,” for under the
auspices of his elegant wife he had assumed a certain indifference to
trade; and when in the grand strut at Ramsgate or Broadstairs, or any
of his watering-places, if appealed to about any of the things made
or dealt in by any of the concerns in which he was a “Co.,” he used to
raise his brows and shrug his shoulders, and say with a very deprecatory
sort of air, “‘Pon my life, I should say you’re right,” or “‘Deed I
should say it was so,” just as if he was one of the other Pringles,—the
Pringles who have nothing to do with trade,—and in noways connected with
Pringle & Co.; Pringle & Potts; Smith, Sharp & Pringle; or any of the
firms that the Pringles carried on under the titles of the original
founders. He was neither a tradesman nor a gentleman. The Pringles—like
the happy united family we meet upon wheels; the dove nestling with the
gorged cat, and so on—all pulled well together when there was a common
victim to plunder; and kept their hands in by what they called taking
fair advantages of each other, that is to say, cheating each other, when
there was not.

Nobody knew the ins and outs of the Pringles. If they let their own
right hands know what their left hands did, they took care not to
let anybody else’s right hand know. In multiplicity of concerns they
rivalled that great man “Co.,” who the country-lad coming to London said
seemed to be in partnership with almost everybody. The author of “Who’s
Who?” would be puzzled to post people who are Brown in one place, Jones
in a second, and Robinson in a third. Still the Pringles were “a most
respectable family,” mercantile morality being too often mere matter of
moonshine. The only member of the family who was not exactly “legally
honest,”—legal honesty being much more elastic than common honesty,—was
cunning Jerry, who thought to cover by his piety the omissions of his
practice. He was a fawning, sanctified, smooth-spoken, plausible, plump
little man, who seemed to be swelling with the milk of human kindness,
anxious only to pour it out upon some deserving object. His manner was
so frank and bland, and his front face smile so sweet, that it was
cruel of his side one to contradict the impression and show the cunning
duplicity of his nature. Still he smirked and smiled, and “bless-you,
dear” and “hope-your-happy,” deared the women, that, being a bachelor,
they all thought it best to put up with his “mistakes,” as he called his
peculations, and sought his favour by frequent visits with appropriate
presents to his elegant villa at Peckham Rye. Here he passed for quite
a model man; twice to church every Sunday, and to the lecture in the
evening, and would not profane the sanctity of the day by having a hot
potato to eat with his cold meat.

He was a ripe rogue, and had been jointly or severally, as the lawyers
say, in a good many little transactions that would not exactly bear
inspection; and these “mistakes” not tallying with the sanctified
character he assumed, he had been obliged to wriggle out of them as best
he could, with the loss of as few feathers as possible. At first, of
course, he always tried the humbugging system, at which he was a great
adept; that failing, he had recourse to bullying, at which he was
not bad, declaring that the party complaining was an ill-natured,
ill-conditioned, quarrelsome fellow, who merely wanted a peg to hang a
grievance upon, and that Jerry, so far from defrauding him, had been the
best friend he ever had in his life, and that he would put him through
every court in the kingdom before he would be imposed upon, by him. If
neither of these answered, and Jerry found himself pinned in a corner,
he feigned madness, when his solicitor, Mr. Supple, appeared, and by
dint of legal threats, and declaring that if the unmerited persecution
was persisted in, it would infallibly consign his too sensitive client
to a lunatic asylum, he generally contrived to get Jerry out of the
scrape by some means or other best known to themselves. Then Jerry,
of course, being clear, would inuendo his own version of the story as
dexterously as he could, always taking care to avoid a collision with
the party, but more than insinuating that he (Jerry) had been infamously
used, and his well-known love of peace and quietness taken advantage
of; and though men of the world generally suspect the party who is most
anxious to propagate his story to be in the wrong, yet their number is
but small compared to those who believe anything they are told, and who
cannot put “that and that” together for themselves.

So Jerry went on robbing and praying and passing for a very proper man.
Some called him “cunning Jerry,” to distinguish him from an uncle who
was Jerry also; but as this name would not do for the family to adopt,
he was generally designated by them as “Want-nothin’-but-what’s-right
Jerry,” that being the form of words with which he generally prefaced
his extortions. In the same way they distinguished between a fat Joe and
a thin one, calling the thin one merely “Joe,” and the fat one “Joe who
can’t get within half a yard of the table;” and between two clerks,
each bearing the not uncommon name of Smith, one being called Smith,
the other “Head-and-shoulders Smith,”—the latter, of course, taking his
title from his figure.

With this outline of the Pringle family, we will proceed to draw out
such of its members as figure more conspicuously in our story.

With Mrs. William Pringle’s (née Willing) birth, parentage, and
education, we would gladly furnish the readers of this work with some
information, but, unfortunately, it does not lie in our power so to do,
for the simple reason, that we do not know anything. We first find her
located at that eminent Court milliner and dressmaker’s, Madame Adelaide
Banboxeney, in Furbelow Street, Berkeley Square, where her elegant
manners, and obliging disposition, to say nothing of her taste in
torturing ribbons and wreaths, and her talent for making plain girls
into pretty ones, earned for her a very distinguished reputation. She
soon became first-hand, or trier-on, and unfortunately, was afterwards
tempted into setting-up for herself, when she soon found, that though
fine ladies like to be cheated, it must be done in style, and by some
one, if not with a carriage, at all events with a name; and that a
bonnet, though beautiful in Bond Street, loses all power of attraction
if it is known to come out of Bloomsbury. Miss Willing was, therefore,
soon sold up; and Madame Banboxeney (whose real name was Brown, Jane
Brown, wife of John Brown, who was a billiard-table marker, until his
wife’s fingers set him up in a gig), Madame Banboxeney, we say, thinking
to profit by Miss Willing’s misfortunes, offered her a very reduced
salary to return to her situation; but Miss Willing having tasted the
sweets of bed, a thing she very seldom did at Madame Banboxeney’s, at
least not during the season, stood out for more money; the consequence
of which was, she lost that chance, and had the benefit of Madame’s bad
word at all the other establishments she afterwards applied to. In this
dilemma, she resolved to turn her hand to lady’s-maid-ism; and having
mastered the science of hair-dressing, she made the rounds of the
accustomed servant-shops, grocers, oilmen, brushmen, and so on, asking
if they knew of any one wanting a perfect lady’s-maid.

As usual in almost all the affairs of life, the first attempt was a
failure. She got into what she thoroughly despised, an untitled family,
where she had a great deal more to do than she liked, and was grossly
“put upon” both by the master and missis. She gave the place up,
because, as she said, “the master would come into the missis’s room with
nothing but his night-shirt and spectacles on,” but, in reality, because
the missis had some of her things made-up for the children instead of
passing them on, as of right they ought to have been, to her. She deeply
regretted ever having demeaned herself by taking such a situation. Being
thus out of place, and finding the many applications she made for other
situations, when she gave a reference to her former one, always resulted
in the ladies declining her services, sometimes on the plea of being
already suited, or of another “young person” having applied just before
her, or of her being too young (they never said too pretty, though one
elderly lady on seeing her shook her head, and said she “had sons”);
and, being tired of living on old tea leaves, Miss Willing resolved
to sink her former place, and advertise as if she had just left Madame
Banboxeney’s. Accordingly she drew out a very specious advertisement,
headed “to the nobility,” offering the services of a lady’s-maid,
who thoroughly understood millinery, dress-making, hair-dressing, and
getting up fine linen, with an address to a cheese shop, and made an
arrangement to give Madame Banboxeney a lift with a heavy wedding order
she was busy upon, if she would recommend her as just fresh from her
establishment.

This advertisement produced a goodly crop of letters, and Miss Willing
presently closed with the Honourable Mrs. Cavesson, whose husband was
a good deal connected with the turf, enjoying that certain road to
ruin which so many have pursued; and it says much for Miss Willing’s
acuteness, that though she entered Mrs. Cavesson’s service late in the
day, when all the preliminaries for a smash had been perfected, her fine
sensibilities and discrimination enabled her to anticipate the coming
evil, and to deposit her mistress’s jewellery in a place of safety
three-quarters of an hour before the bailiffs entered. This act of
fidelity greatly enhanced her reputation, and as it was well known that
“poor dear Mrs. Cavesson” would not be able to keep her, there were
several great candidates for this “treasure of a maid.” Miss Willing had
now nothing to do but pick and choose; and after some consideration, she
selected what she called a high quality family, one where there was a
regular assessed tax-paper establishment of servants, where the butler
sold his lord’s wine-custom to the highest bidder, and the heads of all
the departments received their “reglars” upon the tradesmen’s bills; the
lady never demeaning herself by wearing the same gloves or ball-shoes
twice, or propitiating the nurse by presents of raiment that was
undoubtedly hers—we mean the maid’s. She was a real lady, in the proper
acceptation of the term.

This was the beautiful, and then newly married, Countess Delacey, whose
exquisite garniture will still live in the recollection of many of the
now bald-headed beaux of that period. For these delightful successes,
the countess was mainly indebted to our hero’s mother, Miss Willing,
whose suggestive genius oft came to the aid of the perplexed and
exhausted milliner. It was to the service of the Countess Delacey
that Miss Willing was indebted for becoming the wife of Mr. Pringle,
afterwards “Fine Billy the first,”—an event that deserves to be
introduced in a separate chapter.



CHAPTER II. THE ROAD.

IT was on a cold, damp, raw December morning, before the emancipating
civilisation of railways, that our hero’s father, then returning from a
trading tour, after stamping up and down the damp flags before the Lion
and Unicorn hotel and posting-house at Slopperton, waiting for the old
True Blue Independent coach “comin’ hup,” for whose cramped inside he
had booked a preference seat, at length found himself bundled into the
straw-bottomed vehicle, to a very different companion to what he was
accustomed to meet in those deplorable conveyances. Instead of a fusty
old farmer, or a crumby basket-encumbered market-woman, he found
himself opposite a smiling, radiant young lady, whoso elegant dress and
ring-bedizened hand proclaimed, as indeed was then generally the case
with ladies, that she was travelling in a coach “for the first time in
her life.”

This was our fair friend, Miss Willing.

The Earl and Countess Delacey had just received an invitation to spend
the Christmas at Tiara Castle, where the countess on the previous year
had received if not a defeat, at all events had not achieved a triumph,
in the dressing way, over the Countess of Honiton, whose maid, Miss
Criblace, though now bribed to secrecy with a full set of very little
the worse for wear Chinchilla fur, had kept the fur and told the secret
to Miss Willing, that their ladyships were to meet again. Miss Willing
was now on her way to town, to arrange with the Countess’s milliner
for an annihilating series of morning and evening dresses wherewith
to extinguish Lady Honiton, it being utterly impossible, as our fair
friends will avouch, for any lady to appear twice in the same attire.
How thankful men ought to be that the same rule does not prevail with
them!

Miss Willing was extremely well got up; for being of nearly the same
size as the countess, her ladyship’s slightly-worn things passed on
to her with scarcely a perceptible diminution of freshness, it being
remarkable how, in even third and fourth-rate establishments, dresses
that were not fit for the “missus” to be seen in come out quite new and
smart on the maid.

On this occasion Miss Willing ran entirely to the dark colours, just
such as a lady travelling in her own carriage might be expected to wear.
A black terry velvet bonnet with a single ostrich feather, a dark brown
Levantine silk dress, with rich sable cuffs, muff, and boa, and a pair
of well-fitting primrose-coloured kid gloves, which if they ever had
been on before had not suffered by the act.

Billy—old Billy that is to say—was quite struck in a heap at such an
unwonted apparition, and after the then usual salutations, and inquiries
how she would like to have the window, he popped the old question,
“How far was she going?” with very different feelings to what it was
generally asked, when the traveller wished to calculate how soon he
might hope to get rid of his vis-à-vis and lay up his legs on the seat.

“To town,” replied the lady, dimpling her pretty cheeks with a smile.
“And you?” asked she, thinking to have as good as she gave.

“Ditto,” replied the delighted Billy, divesting himself of a great
coarse blue and white worsted comforter, and pulling up his somewhat
dejected gills, abandoning the idea of economising his Lincoln and
Bennett by the substitution of an old Gregory’s mixture coloured fur
cap, with its great ears tied over the top, in which he had snoozed and
snored through many a long journey.

Miss Willing then drew from her richly-buckled belt a beautiful Geneva
watch set round with pearls, (her ladyship’s, which she was taking to
town to have repaired), and Billy followed suit with his substantial
gold-repeater, with which he struck the hour. Miss then ungloved the
other hand, and passed it down her glossy brown hair, all smooth and
regular, for she had just been scrutinising it in a pocket-mirror she
had in her gold-embroidered reticule.

Billy’s commercial soul was in ecstacies, and he was fairly over head
and ears in love before they came to the first change of horses. He had
never seen sich a sample of a hand before, no, nor sich a face; and he
felt quite relieved when among the multiplicity of rings he failed to
discover that thin plain gold one that intimates so much.

Whatever disadvantages old stage coaches possessed, and their name
certainly was legion, it must be admitted that in a case of this sort
their slowness was a recommendation. The old True Blue Independent did
not profess to travel or trail above eight miles an hour, and this it
only accomplished under favourable circumstances, such as light loads,
good roads, and stout steeds, instead of the top-heavy cargo that now
ploughed along the woolly turnpike after the weak, jaded horses, that
seemed hardly able to keep their legs against the keen careering
wind. If, under such circumstances, the wretched concern made the
wild-beast-show looking place in London, called an inn, where it put up,
an hour or an hour and a half or so after its time, it was said to be
all very well, “considering,”—and this, perhaps, in a journey of sixty
miles.

Posterity will know nothing of the misery their forefathers underwent in
the travelling way; and whenever we hear—which we often do—unreasonable
grumblings about the absence of trifling luxuries on railways, we are
tempted to wish the parties consigned to a good long ride in an old
stage coach. Why the worst third class that ever was put next the engine
is infinitely better than the inside of the best of them used to be, to
say nothing of the speed. As to the outsides of the old coaches, with
their roastings, their soakings, their freezings, and their smotherings
with dust, one cannot but feel that the establishment of railways was a
downright prolongation of life. Then the coach refreshments, or want of
refreshments rather; the turning out at all hours to breakfast, dine, or
sup, just as the coach reached the house of a proprietor “wot oss’d it,”
 and the cool incivility of every body about the place. Any thing was
good enough for a coach passenger.

On this auspicious day, though Miss Willing had her reticule full of
macaroons and sponge biscuits, and Fine Billy the first had a great
bulging paper of sandwiches in his brown overcoat pocket, they neither
of them felt the slightest approach to hunger, ere the lumbering
vehicle, after a series of clumsy, would-be-dash-cutting lurches and
evolutions over the rough inequalities of the country pavement, pulled
up short at the arched doorway of the Salutation Inn—we beg pardon,
hotel—in Bramfordrig, and a many-coated, brandy-faced, blear-eyed guard
let in a whole hurricane of wind while proclaiming that they “dined
there and stopped half an hour.” Then Fine Billy the first had an
opportunity of showing his gallantry and surveying the figure of his
innamorata, as he helped her down the perilous mud-shot iron steps of
the old Independent, and certainly never countess descended from her
carriage on a drawing-room day with greater elegance than Miss Willing
displayed on the present occasion, showing a lettle circle of delicate
white linen petticoat as she protected her clothes from the mud-begrimed
wheel, and just as much fine open-worked stocking above the fringed
top of her Adelaide boots. On reaching the ground, which she did with
a curtsey, she gave such a sweet smile as emboldened our Billy to
offer his arm; and amid the nudging of outsiders, and staring of
street-loungers, and “make way”-ing of inn hangers-on, our Billy
strutted up the archway with all the dignity of a drum-major. His
admiration increased as he now became sensible of the lady’s height,
for like all little men he was an admirer of tall women. As he caught
a glimpse of himself in the unbecoming mirror between the drab and red
fringed window curtains of the little back room into which they were
ushered, he wished he had had on his new blue coat and bright buttons,
with a buff vest, instead of the invisible green and black spot
swansdown one in which he was then attired.

The outside passengers having descended from their eminences, proceeded
to flagellate themselves into circulation, and throw off their husks,
while Billy strutted consequentially in with the lady on his arm, and
placed her in the seat of honour beside himself at the top of the
table. The outsides then came swarming in, jostling the dish-bearers and
seating themselves as they could. All seemed bent upon getting as much
as they could for their money.

Pork was the repast. Pork in varions shapes: roast at the top, boiled
at the bottom, sausages on one side, fry on the other; and Miss Willing
couldn’t eat pork, and, curious coincidence! neither could Billy. The
lady having intimated this to Billy in the most delicate way possible,
for she had a particular reason for not wishing to aggravate the new
landlord, Mr. Bouncible, Billy gladly sallied forth to give battle as it
were on his own account, and by way of impressing the household with his
consequence, he ordered a bottle of Teneriffe as he passed the bar, and
then commenced a furious onslaught about the food when he got into
the kitchen. This reading of the riot act brought Bouncible from his
“Times,” who having been in the profession himself took Billy for a
nobleman’s gentleman, or a house-steward at least—a class of men not so
easily put upon as their masters. He therefore, after sundry regrets
at the fare not being ‘zactly to their mind, which he attributed to its
being washing-day, offered to let them have a the first turn at a very
nice dish of hashed venison that was then simmering on the fire for Mrs.
B. and himself, provided our travellers would have the goodness to call
it hashed mutton, so that it might not be devoured by the outsiders,
a class of people whom all landlords held in great contempt. To this
proposition Billy readily assented, and returned triumphantly to the
object of his adoration. He then slashed right and left at the roast
pork, and had every plate but hers full by the time the hashed mutton
made its appearance. He then culled out all the delicate tit-bits for
his fair partner, and decked her hot plate with sweet sauce and mealy
potatoes. Billy’s turn came next, and amidst demands for malt liquor
and the arrival of smoking tumblers of brown brandy and water, clatter,
patter, clatter, patter, became the order of the day, with an occasional
suspicious, not to say dissatisfied, glance of a pork-eating passenger
at the savoury dish at the top of the table. Mr. Bonncible, however,
brought in the Teneriffe just at the critical moment, when Billy having
replenished both plates, the pork-eaters might have expected to be
let in; and walked off with the dish in exchange for the decanter.
Our friends then pledged each other in a bumper of Cape. The pork was
followed by an extremely large strong-smelling Cheshire cheese, in a
high wooden cradle, which in its turn was followed by an extremely large
strong-smelling man in a mountainous many-caped greatcoat, who with a
bob of his head and a kick out behind, intimated that paying time was
come for him. Growls were then heard of its not being half an hour, or
of not having had their full time, accompanied by dives into the pockets
and reticules for the needful—each person wondering how little he could
give without a snubbing.



027m


Quite “optional” of course. Billy, who was bent on doing the
magnificent, produced a large green-and-gold-tasseled purse, almost as
big as a stocking, and drew therefrom a great five-shilling piece, which
having tapped imposingly on his plate, he handed ostentatiously to the
man, saying, “for this lady and me,” just as if she belonged to him;
whereupon down went the head even with the table, with an undertoned
intimation that Billy “needn’t ‘urry, for he would make it all right
with the guard.” The waiter followed close on the heels of the coachman,
drawing every body for half-a-crown for the dinner, besides what they
had had to drink, and what they “pleased for himself,” and Billy again
anticipated the lady by paying for both. Instead, however, of disputing
his right so to do, she seemed to take it as a matter of course, and
bent a little forward and said in a sort of half-whisper, though
loud enough to be heard by a twinkling-eyed, clayey-complexioned
she-outsider, sitting opposite, dressed in a puce-coloured cloth
pelisse and a pheasant-feather bonnet, “I fear you will think me
very troublesome, but do you think you could manage to get me a
finger-glass?” twiddling her pretty taper fingers as she spoke.

“Certainly!” replied Billy, all alacrity, “certainly.”

“With a little tepid water,” continued Miss Willing, looking imploringly
at Billy as he rose to fulfil her behests.

“Such airs!” growled Pheasant-feathers to her next neighbour with an
indignant toss of her colour-varying head.

Billy presently appeared, bearing one of the old deep blue-patterned
finger-glasses, with a fine damask napkin, marked with a ducal
coronet—one of the usual perquisites of servitude.

Miss then holding each pretty hand downwards, stripped her fingers of
their rings, just as a gardener strips a stalk of currants of its fruit,
dropping, however, a large diamond ring (belonging to her ladyship,
which she was just airing) skilfully under the table, and for which fat
Billy had to dive like a dog after an otter.

“Oh, dear!” she was quite ashamed at her awkwardness and the trouble
she had given, she assured Billy, as he rose red and panting from the
pursuit.

“Done on purpose to show her finery,” muttered Pheasant-feather bonnet,
with a sneer.

Miss having just passed the wet end of the napkin across her cherry lips
and pearly teeth, and dipped her fingers becomingly in the warm water,
was restoring her manifold rings, when the shrill twang, twang, twang of
the horn, with the prancing of some of the newly-harnessed cripples on
the pavement as they tried to find their legs, sounded up the arch-way
into the little room, and warned our travellers that they should be
reinvesting themselves in their wraps. So declining any more Teneriffe,
Miss Willing set the example by drawing on her pretty kid gloves, and
rising to give the time to the rest. Up they all got.



CHAPTER III. THE ROAD RESUMED.—MISS PHEASANT-FEATHERS.

THE room, as we said before, being crammed, and our fair friend
Miss Willing taking some time to pass gracefully down the line of
chair-backs, many of whose late occupants were now swinging their arms
about in all the exertion of tying up their mouths, and fighting their
ways into their over-coats, Mr. Pringle, as he followed, had a good
opportunity of examining her exquisite tournure, than which he thought
he never saw anything more beautifully perfect. He was quite proud
when a little more width of room at the end of the table enabled him to
squeeze past a robing, Dutch-built British-lace-vending pack-woman, and
reclaim his fair friend, just as a gentleman does his partner at the end
of an old country dance. How exultingly he marched her through the line
of inn hangers-on, hostlers, waiters, porters, post-boys, coachmen,
and insatiable Matthews-at-home of an inn establishment, “Boots,”
 a gentleman who will undertake all characters in succession for a
consideration. How thankful we ought to be to be done with these
harpies!

Bouncible, either mistaking the rank of his guests, or wanting to have
a better look at the lady, emerged from his glass-fronted den of a bar,
and salaam’d them up to the dirty coach, where the highly-fee’d coachman
stood door in hand, waiting to perform the last act of attention for
his money. In went Billy and the beauty, or rather the beauty and Billy,
bang went the door, the outsiders scrambled up on to their perches and
shelves as best they could. “All right! Sit tight!” was presently heard,
and whip, jip, crack, cut, three blind ‘uns and a bolter were again
bumping the lumbering vehicle along the cobble-stoned street, bringing
no end of cherry cheeks and corkscrew ringlets to the windows, to mark
that important epoch of the day, the coach passing by.



031m


Billy, feeling all the better for his dinner, and inspirited by sundry
gulps of wine, proceeded to make himself comfortable, in order to open
fire as soon as ever the coach got off the stones. He took a rapid
retrospect of all the various angels he had encountered, those who had
favoured him, those who had frowned, and he was decidedly of opinion
that he had never seen anything to compare to the fair lady before him.
He was rich and thriving and would please himself without consulting
Want-nothin’-but-what’s-right Jerry, Half-a-yard-of-the-table Joe, or
any of them. It wasn’t like as if they were to be in Co. with him in the
lady. She would never come into the balance sheets. No; she was to
be all his, and they had no business with it. He believed
Want-nothin’-but-what’s-right would be glad if he never married. Just
then the coach glid from the noisy pavement on to the comparatively
speaking silent macadamised road, and Billy and the lady opened fire
simultaneously, the lady about the discomforts of coach-travelling,
which she had never tried before, and Billy about the smack of the
Teneriffe, which he thought very earthy. He had some capital wine at
home, he said, as everybody has. This led him to London, the street
conveniences or inconveniences as they then were of the metropolis,
which subject he plied for the purpose of finding out as well where the
lady lived as whether her carriage would meet her or not; but this she
skilfully parried, by asking Billy where he lived, and finding it was
Doughty Street, Russell Square, she observed, as in truth it is, that
it was a very airy part of the town, and proceeded to expatiate on
the beauty of the flowers in Covent Garden, from whence she got to the
theatres, then to the opera, intimating a very considerable acquaintance
as well with the capital as with that enchanted circle, the West-end,
comprising in its contracted limits what is called the world. Billy
was puzzled. He wished she mightn’t be a cut above him—such lords, such
ladies, such knowledge of the court—could she be a maid-of-honour? Well,
he didn’t care. No ask no have, so he proceeded with the pumping process
again. “Did she live in town?”

Fair Lady.—“Part of the year.”

Billy.—“During the season I ‘spose?”

Fair Lady.—“During the sitting of parliament.”

“There again!” thought Billy, feeling the expectation-funds fall ten per
cent, at least. “Well, faint heart never won fair lady,” continued he
to himself, considering how next he should sound her. She was very
beautiful—what pretty pearly teeth she had, and such a pair of rosy
lips—such a fair forehead too, and such nice hair—he’d give a fipun note
for a kiss!—he’d give a tenpun note for a kiss!—dashed if he wouldn’t
give a fifty-pun for a kiss. Then he wondered what Head-and-shoulders
Smith would think of her. As he didn’t seem to be making much
progress, however, in the information way, he now desisted from that
consideration, and while contemplating her beauty considered how best he
should carry on the siege. Should he declare who and what he was, making
the best of himself of course, and ask her to be equally explicit, or
should he beat about the bush a little longer and try to fish out what
he could about her.

They had a good deal of day before them yet, dark though the latter part
of it would be; which, however, on second thoughts, he felt might be
rather favourable, inasmuch as she wouldn’t see when he was taken aback
by her answers. He would beat about the bush a little longer. It was
very pleasant sport.

“Did you say you lived in Chelsea?” at length asked Billy, in a stupid
self-convicting sort of way.

“No,” replied the fair lady with a smile; “I never mentioned Chelsea.”

“Oh, no; no more you did,” replied Billy, taken aback, especially as the
lady led up to no other place.

“Did she like the country?” at length asked he, thinking to try and fix
her locality there, if he could not earth her in London.

“Yes, she liked the country, at least out of the season—there was no
place like London in the season,” she thought.

Billy thought so too; it was the best place in summer, and the only
place in winter.

Well, the lady didn’t know, but if she had to choose either place for a
permanency, she would choose London.

This sent the Billy funds up a little. He forgot his intention of
following her into the country, and began to expatiate upon the luxuries
of London, the capital fish they got, the cod and hoyster sauce (for
when excited, he knocked his h’s about a little), the cod and hoyster
sauce, the turbot, the mackerel, the mullet, that woodcock of the sea,
as he exultingly called it, thinking what a tuck-out he would have in
revenge for his country inn abstinence. He then got upon the splendour
of his own house in Doughty Street—the most agreeable in London.
Its spacious entrance, its elegant stone staircase; his beautiful
drawingroom, with its maroon and rose-coloured brocaded satin damask
curtains, and rich Toumay carpet, its beautiful chandelier of eighteen
lights, and Piccolo pianoforte, and was describing a most magnificent
mirror—we don’t know what size, but most beautiful and becoming—when the
pace of the vehicle was sensibly felt to relax; and before they had time
to speculate on the cause, it had come to a stand-still.

“Stopped,” observed Billy, lowering the window to look out for squalls.

No sooner was the window down, than a head at the door proclaimed
mischief. The tête-à-tête was at an end. The guard was going to put
Pheasant-feather bonnet inside. Open sesame —W-h-i-s-h. In came the
cutting wind—oh dear what a day!



031m


“Rum for a leddy?” asked the guard, raising a great half-frozen,
grog-blossomy face out of the blue and white coil of a shawl-cravat in
which it was enveloped,—“Git in” continued he, shouldering the leddy
up the steps, without waiting for an answer, and in popped
Pheasant-feathers; when, slamming-to the door, he cried “right!” to the
coachman, and on went the vehicle, leaving the enterer to settle into a
seat by its shaking, after the manner of the omnibus cads, who seem to
think all they have to do is to see people past the door. As it was, the
new-comer alighted upon Billy, who cannoned her off against the opposite
door, and then made himself as big as he could, the better to incommode
her. Pheasant-feathers, however, having effected an entrance, seemed
to regard herself as good as her neighbours, and forthwith proceeded to
adjust the window to her liking, despite the eyeing and staring of Miss
Willing. Billy was indignant at the nasty peppermint-drop-smelling woman
intruding between the wind and his beauty, and inwardly resolved he
would dock the guard’s fee for his presumption in putting her there.
Miss Willing gathered herself together as if afraid of contamination;
and, forgetting her role, declared, after a jolt received in one of her
seat-shiftings, that it was just the “smallest coach she had ever been
in.” She then began to scrutinise her female companion’s attire.

A cottage-bonnet, made of pheasant-feathers; was there ever such a
frightful thing seen,—all the colours of the rainbow combined,—must be a
poacher’s daughter, or a poulterer’s. Paste egg-coloured ribbons; what
a cloth pelisse,—puce colour in some parts,—bath-brick colour in
others,—nearly drab in others,—thread-bare all over. Dare say she
thought herself fine, with her braided waist, up to her ears. Her glazy
gloves might be any colour—black, brown, green, gray. Then a qualm shot
across Miss Willing’s mind that she had seen the pelisse before. Yes,
no, yes; she believed it was the very one she had sold to Mrs. Pickles’
nursery governess for eighteen shillings. So it was. She had stripped
the fur edging off herself, and there were the marks. Who could the
wearer be? Where could she have got it? She could not recollect ever
having seen her unwholesome face before. And yet the little ferrety,
white-lashed eyes settled upon her as if they knew her. Who could she
be? What, if she had lived fellow—(we’ll not say what)—with the creature
somewhere. There was no knowing people out of their working clothes,
especially when they set up to ride inside of coaches. Altogether, it
was very unpleasant.

Billy remarked his fair friend’s altered mood, and rightly attributed
it to the intrusion of the nasty woman, whose gaudy headgear the few
flickering rays of a December sun were now lighting up, making the
feathers, so beautiful on a bird, look, to Billy’s mind, so ugly on
a bonnet, at least on the bonnet that now thatched the frightful face
beside him. Billy saw the fair lady was not accustomed to these sort of
companions, and wished he had only had the sense to book the rest of the
inside when the coach stopped to dine. However, it could not be helped
now; so, having ascertained that Pheasant-feathers was going all the
way to “Lunnnn,” as she called it, when the sun sunk behind its massive
leadeen cloud, preparatory to that long reign of darkness with which
travellers were oppressed,—for there were no oil-lamps to the roofs of
stage-coaches,—Billy being no longer able to contemplate the beauties
of his charmer, now changed his seat, for a little confidential
conversation by her side.

He then, after a few comforting remarks, not very flattering to
Pheasant-feathers’ beauty, resumed his expatiations about his splendid
house in Doughty Street, Russell Square, omitting, of course, to mention
that it had been fitted up to suit the taste of another lady, who
had jilted him. He began about his dining-room, twenty-five feet by
eighteen, with a polished steel fender, and “pictors” all about the
walls; for, like many people, he fancied himself a judge of the fine
arts, and, of course, was very frequently fleeced.

This subject, however, rather hung fire, a dining-room being about the
last room in a house that a lady cares to hear about, so she presently
cajoled him into the more genial region of the kitchen, which, unlike
would-be fine ladies of the present day, she was not ashamed to
recognise. From the kitchen they proceeded to the store-room, which
Billy explained was entered by a door at the top of the back stairs, six
feet nine by two feet eight, covered on both sides with crimson cloth,
brass moulded in panels and mortise latch. He then got upon the endless,
but “never-lady-tiring,” subject of bed-rooms—his best bed-room, with
a most elegant five-feet-three canopy-top, mahogany bedstead, with
beautiful French chintz furniture, lined with pink, outer and inner
valance, trimmed silk tassel fringe, &c., &c., &c. And so he went
maundering on, paving the way most elaborately to an offer, as some
men are apt to do, instead of getting briskly to the “ask-mamma” point,
which the ladies are generally anxious to have them at.

To be sure, Billy had been bowled over by a fair, or rather unfair one,
who had appeared quite as much interested about his furniture and all
his belongings as Miss Willing did, and who, when she got the offer, and
found he was not nearly so well off as Jack Sanderson, declared she was
never so surprised in her life as when Billy proposed; for though, as
she politely said, every one who knew him must respect him, yet he had
never even entered her head in any other light than that of an agreeable
companion. This was Miss Amelia Titterton, afterwards Mrs. Sanderson.
Another lady, as we said before (Miss Bowerbank), had done worse; for
she had regularly jilted him, after putting him to no end of expense
in furnishing his house, so that, upon the whole, Billy had cause to
be cautious. A coach, too, with its jolts and its jerks, and its
brandy-and-water stoppages, is but ill calculated for the delicate
performance of offering, to say nothing of having a pair of nasty
white-lashed, inquisitive-looking, ferrety eyes sitting opposite, with a
pair of listening ears, nestling under the thatch of a pheasant-feather
bonnet. All things considered, therefore, Billy may, perhaps, stand
excused for his slowness, especially as he did not know but what he was
addressing a countess.

And so the close of a scarcely dawned December day, was followed by the
shades of night, and still the jip, jip, jipping; whip, whip, whipping;
creak, creak, creaking of the heavy lumbering coach, was accompanied by
Billy’s maunderings about his noble ebony this, and splendid mahogany
that, varied with, here and there, a judicious interpolation of
an “indeed,” or a “how beautiful,” from Miss Willing, to show how
interested she was in the recital; for ladies are generally good
listeners, and Miss Willing was essentially so.

The “demeanour of the witness” was lost, to be sure, in the
chancery-like darkness that prevailed; and Billy felt it might be all
blandishment, for nothing could be more marked or agreeable than the
interest both the other ladies had taken in his family, furniture, and
effects. Indeed, as he felt, they all took much the same course,
for, for cool home-questioning, there is no man can compete with
an experienced woman. They get to the “What-have-you-got, and
What-will-you-do” point, before a man has settled upon the line of
inquiry—very likely before he has got done with that interesting
topic—the weather.

At length, a sudden turn of the road revealed to our friends, who were
sitting with their faces to the horses, the first distant curve of
glow-worm-like lamps in the distance, and presently the great white
invitations to “try warren’s,” or “day and martin’s blacking,” began to
loom through the darkness of the dead walls of the outskirts of London.
They were fast approaching the metropolis. The gaunt elms and leafless
poplars presently became fewer, while castellated and sentry-box-looking
summer-houses stood dark in the little paled-off gardens. At last the
villas, and semi-detached villas, collapsed into one continuous gas-lit
shop-dotted street. The shops soon became better and more frequent,—more
ribbons and flowers, and fewer periwinkle stalls. They now got upon the
stones. Billy’s heart jumped into his month at the jerk, for he knew
not how soon his charmer and he might part, and as yet he had not
even ascertained her locality. Now or never, thought he, rising to the
occasion, and, with difficulty of utterance, he expressed a hope that he
might have the pleasure of seeing her ‘ome.

“Thank you, no,” replied Miss Willing, emphatically, for it was just
the very thing she most dreaded, letting him see her reception by the
servants.

“Humph!” grunted Billy, feeling his funds fall five-and-twenty per
cent.—“Miss Titterton or Miss Bowerbank over again,” thought he.

“Not but that I most fully appreciate your kindness,” whispered Miss
Willing, in the sweetest tone possible, right into his ear, thinking by
Billy’s silence that her vehemence had offended him; “but,” continued
she, “I’m only going to the house of a friend, a long way from you, and
I expect a servant to meet me at the Green Man in Oxford Street.”

“Well, but let me see you to the”—(puff, gasp)—“Green Man,” ejaculated
Billy, the funds of hope rising more rapidly than his words.

“It’s very kind,” whispered Miss Willing, “and I feel it very, very
much, but”—

“But if your servant shouldn’t come,” interrupted Billy, “you’d never
find your way to Brompton in this nasty dense yellow fog,” for they had
now got into the thick of a fine fat one.

“Oh, but I’m not going to Brompton,” exclaimed Miss Willing, amused at
this second bad shot of Billy’s at her abode.

“Well, wherever you are going, I shall only be too happy to escort you,”
 replied Billy, “I know Lunnun well.”

“So do I,” thought Miss Willing, with a sigh. And the coach having
now reached that elegant hostelry, the George and Blue Badger, in High
Holborn, Miss showed her knowledge of it by intimating to Billy that
that was the place for him to alight; so taking off her glove she
tendered him her soft hand, which Billy grasped eagerly, still urging
her to let him see her home, or at all events to the Green Man, in
Oxford Street.

Miss, however, firmly but kindly declined his services, assuring him
repeatedly that she appreciated his kindness, which she evinced by
informing him that she was going to a friend’s at No. —, Grosvenor
Square, that she would only be in town for a couple of nights; but that
if he really wished to see her again,—“really wished it,” she repeated
with an emphasis, for she didn’t want to be trifled with,—she would be
happy to see him to tea at eight o’clock on the following evening.

“Eight o’clock!” gasped Billy. “No. ——, Gruvenor Square,” repeated
he. “I knows it—I’ll be with you to a certainty—I’ll be with you
to a”—(puff)—“certainty.” So saying, he made a sandwich of her fair
taper-fingered hand, and then responded to the inquiry of the guard,
if there was any one to “git oot there,” by alighting. And he was so
excited that he walked off, leaving his new silk umbrella and all his
luggage in the coach, exclaiming, as he worked his way through the
fog to Doughty Street, “No.——, Gruvenor Square—eight o’clock—eight
o’clock—No.——, Gruvenor Square—was there ever such a beauty!—be with her
to a certainty, be with her to a certainty.” Saying which, he gave
an ecstatic bound, and next moment found himself sprawling a-top of a
murder!—crying apple-woman in the gutter. Leaving him there to get up at
his leisure, let us return to his late companion in the coach.

Scarcely was the door closed on his exit, ere a sharp shrill “You don’t
know me!—you don’t know me!” sounded from under the pheasant-feather
bonnet, and shot through Miss Willing like a thrill.

“Yes, no, yes; who is it?” ejaculated she, thankful they were alone.

“Sarey Grimes, to be sure,” replied the voice, in a semi-tone of
exultation.

“Sarah Grimes!” exclaimed Miss Willing, recollecting the veriest little
imp of mischief that ever came about a place, the daughter of a most
notorious poacher. “So it is! Why, Sarah, who would ever have thought of
seeing you grown into a great big woman.”

“I thought you didn’t know me,” replied Sarah; “I used often to run
errands for you,” added she.

“I remember,” replied Miss Willing, feeling in her reticule for her
purse. Sarah had carried certain delicate missives in the country that
Miss Willing would now rather have forgotten, how thankful she was that
the creature had not introduced herself when her fat friend was in the
coach. “What are you doing now?” asked Miss Willing, jingling up the
money at one end of the purse to distinguish between the gold and the
silver.

Sarey explained that being now out of place (she had been recently
dismissed from a cheesemonger’s at Lutterworth for stealing a copper
coal-scoop, a pound of whitening, and a pair of gold spectacles, for
which a donkey-travelling general merchant had given her seven and
sixpence), the guard of the coach, who was her great-uncle, had given
her a lift up to town to try what she could do there again; and Miss
Willing’s quick apprehension seeing that there was some use to be made
of such a sharp-witted thing, having selected a half-sovereign out of
her purse, thus addressed her:

“Well, Sarah, I’m glad to see you again. You are very much improved, and
will be very good-looking. There’s half a sovereign for you,” handing
it to her, “and if you’ll come to me at six o’clock to-morrow evening
in Grosvenor Square, I dare say I shall be able to look out some things
that may be useful to you.”

“Thanke, mum; thanke!” exclaimed Sarey, delighted at the idea. “I’ll be
with you, you may depend.”

“You know Big Ben,” continued Miss Willing, “who was my lord’s own man;
he’s hall-porter now, ring and tell him you come for me, and he’ll let
you in at the door.”

“Certainly, mum, certainly,” assented Pheasant-feathers, thinking how
much more magnificent that would be than sneaking down the area.

And the coach having now reached the Green Man, Miss Willing alighted
and took a coach to Grosvenor Square, leaving Miss Grimes to pursue its
peregrinations to the end of its journey.

And Billy Pringle having, with the aid of the “pollis,” appeased the
basket-woman’s wrath, was presently ensconced in his beautiful house in
Doughty Street.

So, tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,—down goes the curtain on this somewhat long
chapter.



CHAPTER IV. A GLASS COACH.—MISS WILLING (EN GRAND COSTUME)

NEXT day our friend Billy was buried in looking after his lost luggage
and burnishing up the gilt bugle-horn buttons of the coat, waist-coat,
and shorts of the Royal Epping Archers, in which he meant to figure in
the evening. Having, through the medium of his “Boyle,” ascertained the
rank of the owner of the residence where he was going to be regaled, he
ordered a glass-coach—not a coach made of glass, juvenile readers, in
which we could see a gentleman disparting himself like a gold-fish in
a glass bowl, but a better sort of hackney coach with a less filthy
driver, which, by a “beautiful fiction” of the times, used to be
considered the hirer’s “private carriage.”

It was not the “thing” in those days to drive up to a gentleman’s door
in a public conveyance, and doing the magnificent was very expensive:
for the glass fiction involved a pair of gaunt raw-boned horses, which,
with the napless-hatted drab-turned-up-with-grease-coated-coachman, left
very little change out of a sovereign. How thankful we ought to be to
railways and Mr. Fitzroy for being able to cut about openly at the rate
of sixpence a mile. The first great man who drove up St. James’s Street
at high tide in a Hansom, deserves to have his portrait painted at the
public expense, for he opened the door of common sense and utility.

What a follow-my-leader-world it is! People all took to street cabs
simultaneously, just as they did to walking in the Park on a Sunday when
Count D’Orsay set up his “‘andsomest ombrella in de vorld,” being
no longer able to keep a horse. But we are getting into recent times
instead of attending Mr. Pringle to his party. He is supposed to have
ordered his glass phenomenon.

Now Mr. Forage, the job-master, in Lamb’s Conduit Street, with whom
our friend did his magnificence, “performed funerals” also, as his
yard-doors indicated, and being rather “full,” or more properly
speaking, empty, he acted upon the principle of all coaches being black
in the dark, and sent a mourning one, so there was a striking contrast
between the gaiety of the Royal Epping Archers’ uniform—pea-green coat
with a blue collar, salmon-coloured vest and shorts—in which Mr. Pringle
was attired, and the gravity of the vehicle that conveyed him. However,
our lover was so intent upon taking care of his pumps, for the fog
had made the flags both slippery and greasy, that he popped in without
noticing the peculiarity, and his stuttering knock-knee’d hobble-de-hoy,
yclept “Paul,” having closed the door and mounted up behind, they were
presently jingling away to the west, Billy putting up first one leg
and then the other on to the opposite seat to admire his
white-gauze-silk-encased calves by the gas and chemists’ windows as they
passed. So he went fingering and feeling at his legs, and pulling and
hauling at his coat,—for the Epping Archer uniform had got rather tight,
and, moreover, had been made on the George-the-Fourth principle, of not
being easily got into—along Oxford Street, through Hanover Square, and
up Brook Street, to the spacious region that contained the object of
his adoration. The coach presently drew up at a stately Italian-column
porticoed mansion: down goes Paul, but before he gets half through
his meditated knock, the door opens suddenly in his face, and he is
confronted by Big Ben in the full livery,—we beg pardon,—uniform of the
Delacey family, beetroot-coloured coat, with cherry-coloured vest and
shorts, the whole elaborately bedizened with gold-lace.



043m


The unexpected apparition, rendered more formidable by the blazing fire
in the background, throwing a lurid light over the giant, completely
deprived little Paul of his breath, and he stood gaping and shaking as
if he expected the monster to address him.

“Who may you please to want?” at length demanded Ben, in a deep sonorous
tone of mingled defiance and contempt.

“P—p—p—please, wo—wo—wo—want,” stuttered little Paul, now recollecting
that he had never been told who to ask for.

“Yes, who do you wish to see?” demanded Ben, in a clear explanatory
tone, for though he had agreed to dress up for the occasion on the
reciprocity principle of course—Miss Willing winking at his having two
nephews living in the house—he by no means undertook to furnish civility
to any of the undergraduates of life, as he called such apologies as
Paul.

“I—I—I’ll ask,” replied Paul, glad to escape back to the coach, out of
which the Royal Archer’s bull-head was now protruding, anxious to be
emancipated.

“Who—ho—ho am I to a—a—ask for, pa—pa—per—please?” stuttered Paul,
trembling all over with fear and excitement, for he had never seen such
a sight except in a show.

“Ask for!” muttered Billy, now recollecting for the first time that the
fair lady and he were mutually ignorant of each other’s names. “Ask for!
What if it should be a hoax?” thought he; “how foolish he would look!”

While these thoughts were revolving in Billy’s mind, Big Ben, having
thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his cherry-coloured
shorts, was contemplating the dismal-looking coach in the disdainful
cock-up-nose sort of way that a high-life Johnny looks at what he
considers a low-life equipage; wondering, we dare say, who was to be
deceived by such a thing.

Billy, seeing the case was desperate, resolved to put a bold face on the
matter, especially as he remembered his person could not be seen in the
glass coach; so, raising his crush hat to his face, he holloaed out, “I
say! is this the Earl of Delacey’s?”

“It is,” replied Ben, with a slight inclination of his gigantic person.

“Then, let me out,” demanded Billy of Paul. And this request being
complied with, Billy skipped smartly across the flags, and was presently
alongside of Ben, whispering up into his now slightly-inclined ear, “I
say, was there a lady arrived here last night from the country?” (He was
going to say “by the coach,” but he checked himself when he got to the
word country.)

“There was, sir,” replied Ben, relaxing into something like
condescension.

“Then I’m come to see her,” whispered Billy, with a grin.

“Your name, if you please, sir?” replied Ben, still getting up the steam
of politeness.

“Mr. Pringle—Mr. William Pringle!” replied Billy with firmness.

“All right, sir,” replied the blood-red monster, pretending to know
more than he did; and, motioning Billy onward into the black and white
marble-flagged entrance hall, he was about to shut him in, when Billy,
recollecting himself, holloaed, “‘Ome!” to his coachman, so that he
mightn’t be let in for the two days’ hire. The door then closed, and he
was in for an adventure.

It will be evident to our fair friends that the Archer bold had the
advantage over the lady, in having all his raiment in town, while she
had all hers, at least all the pick of hers,—her first-class things,—in
the country. Now every body knows that what looks very smart in the
country looks very seedy in London, and though the country cousins of
life do get their new things to take back with them there, yet regular
town-comers have theirs ready, or ready at all events to try on against
they arrive, and so have the advantage of looking like civilised people
while they are up. London, however, is one excellent place for remedying
any little deficiency of any sort, at least if a person has only either
money or credit, and a lady or gentleman can soon be rigged out by
driving about to the different shops.

Now it so happened that Miss Willing had nothing of her own in town,
that she felt she would be doing herself justice to appear before Billy
in, and had omitted bringing her ladyship’s keys, whereby she might
have remedied the deficiency out of that wardrobe; however, with such
a commission as she held, there could be no difficulty in procuring the
loan of whatever was wanted from her ladyship’s milliner. We may mention
that on accepting office under Lady Delacey, Miss Willing, with
the greatest spirit of fairness, had put her ladyship’s custom in
competition among three distinguished modistes, viz. her old friend
Madame Adelaide Banboxeney, Madame Celeste de Montmorency, of Dover
Street, and Miss Julia Freemantle, of Cowslip Street, May Fair; and Miss
Freemantle having offered the same percentage on the bill (£15) as the
other two, and £20 a year certain money more than Madame Banboxeney, and
£25 more than Madame Celeste de Montmorency, Miss Freemantle had been
duly declared the purchaser, as the auctioneers say, and in due time (as
soon as a plausible quarrel could be picked with the then milliner) was
in the enjoyment of a very good thing, for though the Countess Delacey,
in the Gilpin-ian spirit of the age, tried to tie Miss Freemantle down
to price, yet she overlooked the extras, the little embroidery of a
bill, if we may so call it, such as four pound seventeen and sixpence
for a buckle, worth perhaps the odd silver, and the surreptitious lace,
at no one knows what, so long as they were not all in one item, and
were cleverly scattered about the bill in broken sums, just as the
lady thought the ribbon dear at a shilling a yard, but took it when
the counter-skipper replied, “S’pose, marm, then, we say thirteen
pence”—Miss Willing having had a consultation with Miss Freemantle as to
the most certain means of quashing the Countess of Honiton, broached
her own little requirements, and Miss Freemantle, finding that she
only wanted the dress for one night, agreed to lend her a very
rich emerald-green Genoa velvet evening-dress, trimmed with broad
Valenciennes lace, she was on the point of furnishing for Alderman
Boozey’s son’s bran-new wife; Miss Freemantle feeling satisfied, as
she said, that Miss Willing would do it no harm; indeed, would rather
benefit it by the sit her fine figure would give it, in the same way as
shooters find it to their advantage to let their keepers have a day or
two’s wear out of their new shoes in order to get them to go easy for
themselves.

The reader will therefore have the goodness to consider Miss Willing
arrayed in Alderman Boozey’s son’s bran-new wife’s bran-new Genoa velvet
dress, with a wreath of pure white camellias on her beautiful brown
Madonna-dressed hair, and a massive true-lover’s-knot brooch in
brilliants at her bosom. On her right arm she wears a magnificent pearl
armlet, which Miss Freemantle had on sale or return from that equitable
diamond-merchant, Samuel Emanuel Moses, of the Minories, the price
ranging, with Miss Freemantle, from eighty to two hundred and fifty
guineas, according to the rank and paying properties of the inquirer,
though as between Moses and “Mantle,” the price was to be sixty guineas,
or perhaps pounds, depending upon the humour Moses might happen to be
in, when she came with the dear £. s. d. The reader will further imagine
an elegant little boudoir with its amber-coloured silk fittings
and furniture, lit up with the united influence of the best wax and
Wallsend, and Miss Willing sitting at an inlaid centre-table, turning
over the leaves of Heath’s “Picturesque Annual” of the preceding year.
Opposite the fire are large white and gold folding-doors, opening we
know not where, outside of which lurks Pheasant-feathers, placed there
by Miss Willing on a service of delicacy.



CHAPTER V. THE LADY’S BOUDOIR.—A DECLARATION.

THIS way, sir,—please, sir,—yes, sir,” bowed the now obsequious Ben,
guiding Billy by the light of a chamber candle through the intricacies
of the half-lit inner entrance. “Take care, sir, there’s a step, sir,”
 continued he, stopping and showing where the first stumbling-block
resided. Billy then commenced the gradual accent of the broad,
gently-rising staircase, each step increasing his conviction of the
magnitude of the venture, and making him feel that his was not
the biggest house in town. As he proceeded he wondered what
Nothin’-but-what’s-right Jerry, or Half-a-yard-of-the-table Joe, above
all Mrs. Half-a-yard-of-the-table, would say if they could see him thus
visiting at a nobleman’s house, it seemed more like summut in a book or
a play than downright reality. Still there was no reason why a fine lady
should not take a fancy to him—many deuced deal uglier fellows than he
had married fine ladies, and he would take his chance along with the
rest of them—so he laboured up after Ben, hoping he might not come down
stairs quicker than he went up.

The top landing being gained, they passed through lofty folding-doors
into the suite of magnificent but now put-away drawing-rooms, whose
spectral half collapsed canvas bags, and covered statues and sofas,
threw a Kensal-Green-Cemetery sort of gloom over Billy’s spirits;
speedily, however, to be dispelled by the radiance of the boudoir into
which he was now passed through an invisible door in the gilt-papered
wall. “Mr. William Pringle, ma’m,” whispered Ben, in a tone that one
could hardly reconcile to the size of the monster: and Miss Willing
having risen at the sound of the voice, bowing, Billy and she
were presently locked hand in hand, smiling and teeth-showing most
extravagantly. “I’ll ring for tea presently,” observed she to Ben, who
seemed disposed to fuss and loiter about the room. “If you please, my
lady,” replied Ben, bowing himself backwards through the panel. Happy
Billy was then left alone with his charmer, save that beetroot-coloured
Ben was now listening at one door on his own account, and
Pheasant-feathers at the other on Miss Willing’s.

Billy was quite taken aback. If he had been captivated in the coach what
chance had he now, with all the aid of dress, scenery, and decorations.
He thought he had never seen such a beauty—he thought he had never
seen such a bust—he thought he had never seen such an arm! Miss
Titterton—pooh!—wasn’t to be mentioned in the same century—hadn’t half
such a waist. “Won’t you be seated?” at length asked Miss Willing, as
Billy still stood staring and making a mental inventory of her charms.
“Seat”—(puff)—“seat” (wheeze), gasped Billy, looking around at the
shining amber-coloured magnificence by which he was surrounded, as if
afraid to venture, even in his nice salmon-coloured shorts. At length he
got squatted on a gilt chair by his charmer’s side, when taking to look
at his toes, she led off the ball of conversation. She had had enough of
the billing and cooing or gammon and spinach of matrimony, and knew if
she could not bring him to book at once, time would not assist her. She
soon probed his family circle, and was glad to find there was no “mamma”
 to “ask,” that dread parent having more than once been too many for
her. She took in the whole range of connection with the precision of an
auctioneer or an equity draftsman.

There was no occasion for much diplomacy on her part, for Billy came
into the trap just like a fly to a “Ketch-’em-alive O!” The conversation
soon waxed so warm that she quite forgot to ring for the tea; and Ben,
who affected early hours in the winter, being slightly asthmatical, as a
hall-porter ought to be, at length brought it in of his own accord.
Most polite he was; “My lady” and “Your ladyship-ing” Miss Willing with
accidental intention every now and then, which raised Billy’s opinion of
her consequence very considerably. And so he sat, and sipped and sipped,
and thought what a beauty she would be to transfer to Doughty Street.
Tea, in due time, was followed by the tray—Melton pie, oysters,
sandwiches, anchovy toast, bottled stout, sherry and Seltzer water, for
which latter there was no demand.

A profane medicine-chest-looking mahogany case then made its appearance,
which, being opened, proved to contain four cut-glass spirit-bottles,
labelled respectively, “Rum,” “Brandy,” “Whiskey,” “Gin,” though
they were not true inscriptions, for there were two whiskey’s and two
brandy’s. A good old-fashioned black-bottomed kettle having next mounted
a stand placed on the top bar, Miss intimated to Ben that if they had
a few more coals, he need not “trouble to sit up;” and these being
obtained, our friends made a brew, and then drew their chairs together
to enjoy the feast of reason and the flow of soul; Miss slightly raising
Alderman Boozey’s son’s bran-new wife’s bran-new emerald-green velvet
dress to show her beautiful white-satin slippered foot, as it now rested
on the polished steel fender.

The awkwardness of resuming the interrupted addresses being at length
overcome by sundry gulphs of the inspiring fluid, our friend Mr.
Pringle was soon in full fervour again. He anathematised the lawyers and
settlements, and delay, and was all for being married off-hand at the
moment.

Miss, on her part, was dignified and prudent. All she would say was that
Mr. William Pringle was not indifferent to her,—“No,” sighed she, “he
wasn’t”—but there were many, many considerations, and many, many points
to be discussed, and many, many questions to be asked of each
other, before they could even begin to talk of such a thing as
immediate—“hem”—(she wouldn’t say the word) turning away her pretty
head.

“Ask away, then!” exclaimed Billy, helping himself to another beaker of
brandy—for he saw he was approaching the “Ketch-’em-alive O.” Miss then
put the home-question whether his family knew what he was about, and
finding they did not, she saw there was no time to lose; so knocking off
the expletives, she talked of many considerations and points, the main
one being to know how she was likely to be kept,—whether she was to have
a full-sized footman, or an under-sized stripling, or a buttony boy of
a page, or be waited upon by that greatest aversion to all female minds,
one of her own sex. Not that she had the slightest idea of saying “No,”
 but her experience of life teaching her that all early grandeur may be
mastered by footmen, she could very soon calculate what sort of a set
down she was likely to have by knowing the style of her attendant.
“Show me your footman, and I will tell you what you are,” was one of
her maxims. Moreover, it is well for all young ladies to have a sort of
rough estimate, at all events, of what they are likely to have,—which,
we will venture to say, unlike estimates in general, will fall very
far short of the reality. Our friend Billy, however, was quite in the
promising mood, and if she had asked for half-a-dozen Big Bens he would
have promised her them, canes, powder, and all.

“Oh! she should have anything, everything she wanted! A tall man with
good legs, and all right about the mouth,—an Arab horse, an Erard harp,
a royal pianoforte, a silver tea-urn, a gold coffee-pot, a service of
gold—eat gold, if she liked,” and as he declared she might eat gold if
she liked, he dropped upon his salmon-coloured knees, and with his glass
of brandy in one hand, and hers in the other, looked imploringly up at
her, a beautiful specimen of heavy sentimentality; and Miss, thinking
she had got him far enough, and seeing it was nearly twelve o’clock, now
urged him to rise, and allow her maid to go and get him a coach. Saying
which, she disengaged her hand, and slipping through the invisible door,
was presently whispering her behests to the giggling Pheasant-feathers,
on the other side of the folding ones. A good half-hour, however,
elapsed before one of those drowsy vehicles could be found, during which
time our suitor obtained the fair lady’s consent to allow him to meet
her at her friend Mrs. Freemantle’s, as she called her, in Cowslip
Street, May Fair, at three o’clock in the following afternoon; and the
coach having at length arrived, Miss Willing graciously allowed Mr.
Pringle to kiss her hand, and then accompanied him to the second landing
of the staircase, which commanded the hall, in order to check any
communication between Pheasant-feathers and him.

The reader will now perhaps accompany us to this famed milliner, dress
and mantle-maker’s, who will be happy to execute any orders our fair
ones may choose to favour her with.

Despite the anathemas of a certain law lord, match-forwarding is quite
the natural prerogative and instinct of women. They all like it, from
the duchess downwards, and you might as well try to restrain a cat from
mousing as a woman from match-making. Miss Freemantle (who acted Mrs. on
this occasion) was as fond of the pursuit as any one. She looked Billy
over with a searching, scrutinising glance, thinking what a flat he
was, and wondered what he would think of himself that time twelvemonths.
Billy, on his part, was rather dumb-foundered. Talking before two
women was not so easy as talking to one; and he did not get on with the
immediate matrimony story half so well as he had done over-night. The
ladies saw his dilemma, and Miss Willing quickly essayed to relieve
him. She put him through his pleadings with all the skill of the great
Serjeant Silvertougue, making Billy commit himself most irretrievably.

“Mamma” (Miss Freemantle that is to say) then had her innings.

She was much afraid it couldn’t be done off-hand—indeed she was. There
was a place on the Border—Gretna Green—she dare say’d he’d heard of it;
but then it was a tremendous distance, and would take half a lifetime to
get to it. Besides, Miss p’raps mightn’t like taking such a journey at
that time of year.

Miss looked neither yes nor no. Mamma was more against it than her,
Mamma feeling for the countess’s coming contest and her future favours.
Other difficulties were then discussed, particularly that of publicity,
which Miss dreaded more than the journey to Gretna. It must be kept
secret, whatever was done. Billy must be sworn to secrecy, or Miss would
have nothing to say to him. Billy was sworn accordingly.

Mamma then thought the best plan was to have the banns put up in some
quiet church, where no questions would be asked as to where they lived,
and it would be assumed that they resided within the parish, and when
they had been called out, they could just go quietly and get married,
which would keep things square with the countess and everybody else. And
this arrangement being perfected, and liberty given to Billy to write to
his bride, whose name and address were now furnished him, he at length
took his departure; and the ladies having talked him over, then resolved
themselves into a committee of taste, to further the forthcoming
tournament. And by dint of keeping all hands at work all night, Miss
Willing was enabled to return to the countess with the first instalment
of such a series of lady-killing garments as mollified her heart,
and enabled her to sustain the blow that followed, which however was
mitigated by the assurance that Mr. and Mrs. William Pringle were
going to live in London, and that Madam’s taste would always be at her
ladyship’s command.

We wish we could gratify our lady readers with a description of the
brilliant attire that so completely took the shine out of the Countess
of Honiton as has caused her to hide her diminished head ever since, but
our pen is unequal to the occasion, and even if we had had a John Leech
to supply our deficiencies, the dresses of those days would look as
nothing compared to the rotatory haystacks of the present one.

What fair lady can bear the sight of her face painted in one of the old
poke bonnets of former days? To keep things right, the bonnet ought to
be painted to the face every year or two.

But to the lovers.

In due time “Mamma” (Miss Freemantle) presented her blooming daughter
to the happy Billy, who was attended to the hymeneal alter by his
confidential clerk, Head-and-shoulders Smith. Big Ben, who was dressed
in a blue frock coat with a velvet collar, white kerseymere trousers,
and varnished boots, looking very like one of the old royal dukes,
was the only other person present at the interesting ceremony, save
Pheasant-feathers, who lurked in one of the pews.

The secret had been well kept, for the evening papers of that day and
the morning ones of the next first proclaimed to the “great world,”
 that sphere of one’s own acquaintance, that William Pringle, Esquire, of
Doughty Street, Russell Square, was married to Miss Emma Willing, of—the
papers did not say where.



CHAPTER VI. THE HAPPY UNITED FAMILY.—CURTAIN CRESCENT.



052m


THE PRINGLES of course were furious when they read the announcement of
Billy’s marriage. Such a degradation to such a respectable family, and
communicated in such a way. We need scarcely say that at first they
all made the worst of it, running Mrs. William down much below her real
level, and declaring that Billy though hard enough in money matters, was
soft enough in love affairs. Then Mrs. Half-a-yard-of-the-table Joe, who
up to that time had been the belle of the family, essayed to pick her
to pieces, intimating that she was much indebted to her dress—that fine
feathers made fine birds—hoped that Billy would like paying for the
clothes, and wondered what her figure would be like a dozen years
thence. Mrs. Joe had preserved hers, never having indeed having been in
the way of spoiling it. Joe looked as if he was to perpetuate the family
name. By-and-by, when it became known that the Countess Delacey’s
yellow carriage, with the high-stepping greys and the cocked-up-nose
beet-root-and-cherry-coloured Johnnies, was to be seen astonishing the
natives in Doughty Street, they began to think better of it; and though
they did not stint themselves for rudeness (disguised as civility of
course), they treated her less like a show, more especially when Billy
was present. Still, though they could not make up their minds to be
really civil to her, they could not keep away from her, just as the moth
will be at the candle despite its unpleasant consequences. Indeed, it is
one of the marked characteristics of Snobbism, that they won’t be cut.
At least, if you do get a Snob cut, ten to one but he will take every
opportunity of rubbing up against you, or sitting down beside you in
public, or overtaking you on the road, or stopping a mutual acquaintance
with you in the street, either to show his indifference or his
independence, or in the hope of its passing for intimacy. There are
people who can’t understand any coolness short of a kick. The Pringles
were tiresome people. They would neither be in with Mrs. William, nor
out with her. So there was that continual knag, knag, knagging going on
in the happy united family, that makes life so pleasant and enjoyable.
Mrs. William well knew, when any of them came to call upon her, that her
sayings and doings would furnish recreation for the rest of the cage. It
is an agreeable thing to have people in one’s house acting the part
of spies. One day Mrs. Joe, who lived in Guildford Street, seeing the
Countess’s carriage-horses cold-catching in Doughty Street, while her
ladyship discussed some important millinery question with Mrs. William,
could not resist the temptation of calling, and not being introduced
to the Countess, said to Mis. William, with her best vinegar sneer, the
next time they met. She “‘oped she had told her fine friend that the
vulgar woman she saw at her ‘ouse was no connection of her’s.” But
enough of such nonsense. Let us on to something more pleasant.

Well, then, of course the next step in our story is the appearance of
our hero, the boy Billy——Fine Billy, aforesaid. Such a boy as never was
seen! All other mammas went away dissatisfied with theirs, after they
had got a peep of our Billy. If baby-shows had been in existence in
those days, Mrs. Billy might have scoured the country and carried away
all the prizes. Everybody was struck in a heap at the sight of him, and
his sayings and doings were worthy of a place in Punch. So thought his
parents, at least. What perfected their happiness, of course, operated
differently with the family, and eased the minds of the ladies, as to
the expediency of further outward civility to Mrs. William, who they now
snubbed at all points, and prophesied all sorts of uncharitableness
of. Mrs., on her side, surpassed them all in dress and good looks,
and bucked Billy up into a very produceable-looking article. Though he
mightn’t exactly do for White’s bay-window on a summer afternoon, he
looked uncommonly well on “‘Change,” and capitally in the country. Of
course, he came in for one of the three cardinal sources of abuse the
world is always so handy with, viz., that a man either behaves ill to
his wife, is a screw, or is out-running the constable, the latter, of
course, being Billy’s crime, which admitted of a large amount of blame
being laid on the lady, though, we are happy to say, Billy had no trial
of speed with the constable, for his wife, by whose permission men
thrive, was a capital manager, and Billy slapped his fat thigh over
his beloved balance-sheets every Christmas, exclaiming, as he hopped
joyously round on one leg, snapping his finger and thumb, “Our Billy
shall be a gent! Our Billy shall be a gent!” And he half came in to the
oft-expressed wish of his wife, that he might live to see him united
to a quality lady: Mr. and Lady Arabella Pringle, Mr. and Lady Sophia
Pringle, or Mr. and Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Pringle, as the case might
be.

Vainglorious ambition! After an inordinate kidney supper, poor Billy was
found dead in his chair. Great was the consternation among the Pringle
family at the lamentable affliction. All except Jerry, who, speculating
on his habits, had recently effected a policy on his life, were deeply
shocked at the event. They buried him with all becoming pomp, and then,
Jerry, who had always professed great interest in the boy Billy—so
great, indeed, as to induce his brother (though with no great opinion of
Jerry, but hoping that his services would never be wanted, and that it
might ingratiate the nephew with the bachelor uncle,) to appoint him an
executor and guardian—waited upon the widow, and with worlds of tears
and pious lamentations, explained to her in the most unexplanatory
manner possible, all how things were left, but begging that she would
not give herself any trouble about her son’s affairs, for, if she would
attend to his spiritual wants, and instil high principles of honour,
morality, and fine feeling into his youthful mind, he would look after
the mere worldly dross, which was as nothing compared to the importance
of the other. “Teach him to want nothin’ but what’s right,” continued
Jerry, as he thought most impressively. “Teach him to want nothin’ but
what’s right, and when he grows up to manhood marry him to some nice,
pious respectable young woman in his own rank of life, with a somethin’
of her own; gentility is all very well to talk about, but it gets you
nothin’ at the market,” added he, forgetting that he was against the
mere worldly dross.

But Mrs. Pringle, who knew the value of the article, intimated at an
early day, that she would like to be admitted into the money partnership
as well, whereupon Jerry waxing wroth, said with an irate glance of his
keen grey eyes, “My dear madam, these family matters, in my opinion,
require to be treated not only in a business-like way, but with a very
considerable degree of delicacy,” an undisputed dogma, acquiring force
only by the manner in which it was delivered. So the pretty widow saw
she had better hold her tongue, and hope for the best from the little
fawning bully.



055m


The melancholy catastrophe with which we closed our last chapter found
our hero at a preparatory school, studying for Eton, whither papa
proposed sending him on the old principle of getting him into good
society; though we believe it is an experiment that seldom succeeds. The
widow, indeed, took this view of the matter, for her knowledge of
high life caused her to know that though a “proud aristocracy” can
condescend, and even worship wealth, yet that they are naturally
clannish and exclusive, and tenacious of pedigree. In addition to
this, Mrs. Pringle’s experience of men led her to think that the solemn
pedantic “Greek and Latin ones,” as she called them, who know all about
Julius Cæsar coming, “summa diligentia,” on the top of the diligence,
were not half so agreeable as those who could dance and sing, and knew
all that was going on in the present-day world; which, in addition to
her just appreciation of the delicate position of her son, made her
resolve not to risk him among the rising aristocracy at Eton, who,
instead of advancing, might only damage his future prospects in life,
but to send him to Paris, where, besides the three R’s,—“reading,
riting, and rithmetic,”—he would acquire all the elegant accomplishments
and dawn fresh upon the world an unexpected meteor.

This matter being arranged, she then left Dirty Street, as she called
Doughty Street, with all the disagreeable Pringle family espionage, and
reminiscences, and migrated westward, taking up her abode in the more
congenial atmosphere of Curtain Crescent, Pimlico, or Belgravia, as,
we believe the owners of the houses wish to have it called. Here she
established herself in a very handsome, commodious house, with porticoed
doorway and balconied drawing-rooms—every requisite for a genteel family
in short; and such a mansion being clearly more than a single lady
required, she sometimes accommodated the less fortunate, through the
medium of a house-agent, though both he and she always begged it to be
distinctly understood that she did not let lodgings, but “apartments;”
 and she always requested that the consideration might be sent to her
in a sealed envelope by the occupants, in the same manner as she
transmitted them the bill. So she managed to make a considerable
appearance at a moderate expense, it being only in the full season that
her heart yearned towards the houseless, when of course a high premium
was expected. There is nothing uncommon in people letting their
whole houses; so why should there be anything strange in Mrs. Pringle
occasionally letting a part of one? Clearly nothing. Though Mrs. Joe did
say she had turned a lodging-house keeper, she could not refrain from
having seven-and-sixpence worth of Brougham occasionally to see how the
land lay.

It is but justice to our fair friend to say that she commenced with
great prudence. So handsome unprotected a female being open to the
criticisms of the censorious, she changed her good-looking footman for
a sedate elderly man, whose name, Properjohn, John Properjohn, coupled
with the severe austerity of his manners, was enough to scare away
intruders, and to keep the young girls in order, whom our friend had
consigned to her from the country, in the hopes that her drilling and
recommendation would procure them admission into quality families.



057m


Properjohn had been spoiled for high service by an attack of the
jaundice, but his figure was stately and good, and she sought to modify
his injured complexion by a snuff-coloured, Quaker-cut coat and vest,
with claret-coloured shorts, and buckled shoes. Thus attired, with his
oval-brimmed hat looped up with gold cord, and a large double-jointed
brass-headed cane in his hand, he marched after his mistress, a damper
to the most audacious. Properjohn, having lived in good families until
he got spoiled by the jaundice, had a very extensive acquaintance among
the aristocracy, with whom Mrs. Pringle soon established a peculiar
intercourse. She became a sort of ultimate Court of Appeal, a Cour de
Cassation, in all matters of taste in apparel,—whether a bonnet should
be lilac or lavender colour, a dress deeply flounced or lightly, a lady
go to a ball in feathers or diamonds, or both—in all those varying and
perplexing points that so excite and bewilder the female mind: Mrs.
Pringle would settle all these, whatever Mrs. Pringle said the fair
applicants would abide by, and milliners and dress-makers submitted to
her judgment. This, of course, let her into the privacies of domestic
life. She knew what husbands stormed at the milliners’ and dress-makers’
bills, bounced at the price of the Opera-box, and were eternally
complaining of their valuable horses catching cold. She knew who the
cousin was who was always to be admitted in Lavender Square, and where
the needle-case-shaped note went to after it had visited the toy-shop in
Arcadia Street. If her own information was defective, Properjohn could
supply the deficiency. The two, between them, knew almost everything.

Nor was Mrs. Pringle’s influence confined to the heads of houses, for
it soon extended to many of the junior members also. It is a well known
fact that, when the gorgeous Lady Rainbow came to consult her about her
daughter’s goings on with Captain Conquest, the Captain and Matilda saw
Mamma alight from the flaunting hammer-clothed tub, as they stood behind
the figured yellow tabaret curtains of Mrs. Pringle’s drawing-room
window, whither they had been attracted by the thundering of one of
the old noisy order of footmen. Blessings on the man, say we, who
substituted bells for knockers—so that lovers may not be disturbed,
or visitors unaccustomed to public knocking have to expose their
incompetence.

We should, however, state, that whenever Mrs. Pringle was consulted by
any of the juveniles upon their love affairs, she invariably suggested
that they had better “Ask Mamma,” though perhaps it was only done as
a matter of form, and to enable her to remind them at a future day, if
things went wrong, that she had done so. Many people make offers that
they never mean to have accepted, but still, if they are not accepted,
they made them you know. If they are accepted, why then they wriggle
out of them the best way they can. But we are dealing in generalities,
instead of confining ourselves to Mrs. Pringle’s practice. If the
young lady or gentleman—for Mrs. Pringle was equally accessible to the
sexes—preferred “asking” her to “Asking Mamma,” Mrs. Pringle was always
ready to do what she could for them; and the fine Sèvres and Dresden
china, the opal vases, the Bohemian scent-bottles, the beautiful
bronzes, the or-molu jewel caskets, and Parisian clocks, that mounted
guard in the drawing-room when it was not “in commission” (occupied as
apartments), spoke volumes for the gratitude of those she befriended.
Mrs. Pringle was soon the repository of many secrets, but we need not
say that the lady who so adroitly concealed Pheasant Feathers on her
own account was not likely to be entrapped into committing others;
and though she was often waited upon by pleasant conversationalists on
far-fetched errands, who endeavoured to draw carelessly down wind to
their point, as well as by seedy and half-seedy gentlemen, who proceeded
in a more business-like style, both the pleasant conversationalists and
the seedy and the half-seedy gentlemen went away as wise as they came.
She never knew anything; it was the first she had heard of anything of
the sort.

Altogether, Mrs. Pringle was a wonderful woman, and not the least
remarkable trait in her character was that, although servants, who, like
the rest of the world, are so ready to pull people down to their own
level, knew her early professional career, yet she managed them so well
that they all felt an interest in elevating her, from the Duke’s Duke,
down to old quivering-calved Jeames de la Pluche, who sipped her hop
champagne, and told all he heard while waiting at table—that festive
period when people talk as if their attendants were cattle or inanimate
beings.

The reader will now have the goodness to consider our friend, Fine
Billy, established with his handsome mother in Curtain Crescent—not
Pimlico, but Belgravia—with all the airs and action described in our
opening chapter. We have been a long time in working up to him, but the
reader will not find the space wasted, inasmuch as it has given him a
good introduction to “Madam,” under whose auspices Billy will shortly
have to grapple with the “Ask Mamma” world. Moreover, we feel that if
there has been a piece of elegance overlooked by novelists generally,
it is the delicate, sensitive, highly-refined lady’s-maid. With these
observations, we now pass on to the son He had exceeded, if possible,
his good mother’s Parisian anticipations, for if he had not brought away
any great amount of learning, if he did not know a planet from a fixed
star, the difference of oratory between Cicero and Demosthenes, or the
history of Cupid and the minor heathen deities, he was nevertheless an
uncommonly good hand at a polka, could be matched to waltz with any one,
and had a tremendous determination of words to the mouth. His dancing
propensities, indeed, were likely to mislead him at starting; for, not
getting into the sort of society Mrs. Pringle wished to see him attain,
he took up with Cremorne and Casinos, and questionable characters
generally.

Mrs. Pringle’s own establishment, we are sorry to say, soon furnished
her with the severest cause of disquietude; for having always acted
upon the principle of having pretty maids—the difference, as she said,
between pretty and plain ones being, that the men ran after the pretty
ones, while the plain ones ran after the men—having always, we say,
acted upon the principle of having pretty ones, she forgot to change her
system on the return of her hopeful son; and before she knew where
she was, he had established a desperate liaison with a fair maid whose
aptitude for breakage had procured for her the sobriquet of Butter
Fingers. Now, Butter Fingers, whose real name was Disher—Jane Disher—was
a niece of our old friend, Big Ben, now a flourishing London hotel
landlord, and Butter Fingers partook of the goodly properties and
proportions for which the Ben family are distinguished. She was a
little, plump, fair, round-about thing, with every quality of a healthy
country beauty.

Fine Billy was first struck with her one Sunday afternoon, tripping
along in Knightsbridge, as she was making her way home from Kensington
Gardens, when the cheap finery—the parasol, the profusely-flowered white
gauze bonnet, the veil, the machinery laced cloak, the fringed kerchief,
worked sleeves, &c., which she kept at Chickory the greengrocer’s in Sun
Street, and changed there for the quiet apparel in which she left Mrs.
Pringle’s house in Curtain Crescent—completely deceived him; as much as
did the half-starting smile of recognition she involuntarily gave him
on meeting. Great was his surprise to find that such a smart,
neat-stepping, well-set-up, bien chaussée beauty and he came from the
same quarters. We need not say what followed: how Properjohn couldn’t
see what everybody else saw; and how at length poor Mrs. Pringle,
having changed her mind about going to hear Mr. Spurgeon, caught the
two sitting together, on her richly carved sofa of chaste design, in the
then non-commissioned put-away drawing room. There was Butter Fingers
in a flounced book-muslin gown with a broad French sash, and her hair
clubbed at the back à la crow’s-nest. It was hard to say which of
the three got the greatest start, though the blow was undoubtedly the
severest on the poor mother, who had looked forward to seeing her son
entering the rank of life legitimately in which she had occupied a too
questionable position. The worst of it was, she did not know what to
do—whether to turn her out of the house at the moment, and so infuriate
the uncle and her son also, or give her a good scolding, and get rid of
her on the first plausible opportunity. She had no one to consult. She
knew what “Want-nothin’-but-what’s-right Jerry” would say, and that
nothing would please Mrs. Half-a-yard-of-the-table Joe more than to read
the marriage of Billy and Butter Fingers.

Mrs. Pringle was afraid too of offending Big Ben by the abrupt dismissal
of his niece, and dreaded if Butter Fingers had gained any ascendancy
over William, that he too might find a convenient marrying place as
somebody else had done.

Altogether our fair friend was terribly perplexed. Thrown on the natural
resources of her own strong mind, she thought, perhaps, the usual way of
getting young ladies off bad matches, by showing them something better,
might be tried with her son. Billy’s début in the metropolis had not
been so flattering as she could have wished, but then she could make
allowances for town exclusiveness, and the pick and choice of dancing
activity which old family connections and associations supplied. The
country was very different; there, young men were always in request, and
were taken with much lighter credentials.

If, thought she, sweet William could but manage to establish a good
country connection, there was no saying but he might retain it in town;
at all events, the experiment would separate him from the artful Butter
Fingers, and pave the way for her dismissal.

To accomplish this desirable object, Mrs. Pringle therefore devoted her
undivided attention.



CHAPTER VII. THE EARL OF LADYTHORNE.—MISS DE GLANCEY.

AMONG Mrs. Pringle’s many visitors was that gallant old
philanthropist, the well-known Earl of Ladythorne, of Tantivy Castle,
Featherbedfordshire and Belvedere House, London.

His lordship had known her at Lady Delacey’s, and Mrs. Pringle still
wore and prized a ruby ring he slipped upon her finger as he met her
(accidentally of course) in the passage early one morning as he was
going to hunt. His saddle-horses might often be seen of a summer
afternoon, tossing their heads up and down Curtain Crescent, to the
amusement of the inhabitants of that locality. His lordship indeed was a
well-known general patron of all that was fair and fine and handsome
in creation, fine women, fine houses, fine horses, fine hounds, fine
pictures, fine statues, fine every thing. No pretty woman either in town
or country ever wanted a friend if he was aware of it.

He had long hunted Featherbedfordshire in a style of great magnificence,
and though latterly his energies had perhaps been as much devoted to
the pursuit of the fair as the fox, yet, as he found the two worked well
together, he kept up the hunting establishment with all the splendour of
his youth. Not that he was old: as he would say, “far from it!” Indeed,
to walk behind him down St.James’s Street (he does not go quite so well
up), his easy jaunty air, tall graceful figure, and elasticity of step,
might make him pass for a man in that most uncertain period of existence
the “prime of life,” and if uncivil, unfriendly, inexorable time has
whitened his pow, his lordship carries it off with the aid of gay
costume and colour. He had a great reputation among the ladies,
and though they all laughed and shook their heads when his name was
mentioned, from the pretty simpering Mrs. Ringdove, of Lime-Tree Grove,
who said he was a “naughty man,” down to the buxom chambermaid of the
Rose and Crown, who giggled and called him a “gay old gentleman,” they
all felt pleased and flattered by his attentions.

Hunting a country undoubtedly gives gay old gentlemen great
opportunities, for, under pretence of finding a fox, they may rummage
any where from the garret to the cellar.

In this interesting pursuit, his lordship was ably assisted by his
huntsman, Dicky Boggledike. Better huntsman there might be than Dicky,
but none so eminently qualified for the double pursuit of the fox and
the fine. He had a great deal of tact and manner, and looked and was
essentially a nobleman’s servant. He didn’t come blurting open-mouthed
with “I’ve seen a davilish,” for such was his dialect, “I’ve seen a
davilish fine oss, my lord,” or “They say Mrs. Candle’s cow has gained
another prize,” but he would take an opportunity of introducing the
subject neatly and delicately, through the medium of some allusion to
the country in which they were to be found, some cover wanting cutting,
some poacher wanting trouncing, or some puppy out at walk, so that if
his lordship didn’t seem to come into the humour of the thing, Dicky
could whip off to the other scent as if he had nothing else in his mind.
It was seldom, however, that his lordship was not inclined to profit
by Dicky’s experience, for he had great sources of information, and was
very careful in his statements. His lordship and Dicky had now hunted
Featherbedfordshire together for nearly forty years, and though they
might not be so Ex. gra., As we say in the classics. “A Fox Run into a
Lady’s Dressing-Room.—The Heythrop hounds met at Ranger’s Lodge, within
about a mile of Charlbury, found in Hazell Wood, and went away through
Great Cran well, crossing the park of Cornbury, on by the old kennel
to Live Oak, taking the side hill, leaving Leafield (so celebrated for
clay-pipes) to his left, crossed the bottom by Five Ashes; then turned
to the right, through King’s Wood. Smallstones, Knighton Copse, over the
plain to Ranger’s Lodge, with the hounds close at his brush, where they
left him in a mysterious manner. After the lapse of a little time he was
discovered by a maid- servant in the ladies’ dressing-room, from which
he immediately bolted on the appearance of the petticoats, without
doing the slightest damage to person or property.”—Bell’s Life. What a
gentlemanly fox! punctual in the mornings, or so late in leaving off in
the evenings, as they were; and though his lordship might come to the
meet in his carriage and four with the reigning favourite by his side,
instead of on his neat cover hack, and though Dicky did dance longer at
his fences than he used, still there was no diminution in the scale
of the establishment, or in Dicky’s influence throughout the country.
Indeed, it would rather seem as if the now well-matured hunt ran to show
instead of sport, for each succeeding year brought out either another
second horseman (though neither his lordship nor Dicky ever tired one),
or another man in a scarlet and cap, or established another Rose and
Crown, whereat his lordship kept dry things to change in case he got
wet. He was uncommonly kind to himself, and hated his heir with an
intensity of hatred which was at once the best chance for longevity and
for sustaining the oft-disappointed ambitious hopes of the fair.

Now Mrs. Pringle had always had a very laudable admiration of
fox-hunters. She thought the best introduction for a young man of
fortune was at the cover side, and though Jerry Pringle (who looked upon
them as synonymous) had always denounced “gamblin’ and huntin’” as the
two greatest vices of the day, she could never come in to that opinion,
as far as hunting was concerned.

She now thought if she could get Billy launched under the auspices of
that distinguished sportsman, the Earl of Ladythorne, it might be the
means of reclaiming him from Butter Fingers, and getting him on in
society, for she well knew how being seen at one good place led to
another, just as the umbrella-keepers at the Royal Academy try to lead
people into giving them something in contravention of the rule above
their heads, by jingling a few half-pence before their faces. Moreover,
Billy had shown an inclination for equitation—by nearly galloping
several of Mr. Spavin, the neighbouring livery-stable-keeper’s horses’
tails off; and Mrs. Pringle’s knowledge of hunting not being equal to
her appreciation of the sport, she thought that a master of hounds found
all the gentlemen who joined his hunt in horses, just as a shooter finds
them in dogs or guns, so that the thing would be managed immediately.

Indeed, like many ladies, she had rather a confused idea of the whole
thing, not knowing but that one horse would hunt every day in the week;
or that there was any distinction of horses, further than the purposes
to which they were applied. Hunters and racehorses she had no doubt were
the same animals, working their ways honestly from year’s end to year’s
end, or at most with only the sort of difference between them that there
is between a milliner and a dressmaker. Be that as it may, however, all
things considered, Mrs. Pringle determined to test the sincerity of her
friend the Earl of Ladythorne: and to that end wrote him a gossiping
sort of letter, asking, in the postscript, when his dogs would be going
out, as her son was at home and would “so like” to see them.

Although we introduced Lord Ladythorne as a philanthropist, his
philanthropy, we should add, was rather lop-sided, being chiefly
confined to the fair. Indeed, he could better stand a dozen women than
one man. He had no taste or sympathy, for the hirsute tribe, hence his
fields were very select, being chiefly composed of his dependents
and people whom he could d—— and do what he liked with. Though the
Crumpletin Railway cut right through his country, making it “varry
contagious,” as Harry Swan, his first whip, said, for sundry large
towns, the sporting inhabitants thereof preferred the money-griping
propensities of a certain Baronet—Sir Moses Mainchance—whose
acquaintance the reader will presently make, to the scot-free sport with
the frigid civilities of the noble Earl. Under ordinary circumstances,
therefore, Mrs. Pringle had made rather an unfortunate selection for
her son’s début, but it so happened that her letter found the Earl in
anything but his usual frame of mind.

He was suffering most acutely for the hundred and twentieth time or
so from one of Cupid’s shafts, and that too levelled by a hand against
whose attacks he had always hitherto been thought impervious. This wound
had been inflicted by the well-known—perhaps to some of our readers
too well-known—equestrian coquette, Miss de Glancey of
Half-the-watering-places-in-England-and-some-on-the-Continent, whose
many conquests had caused her to be regarded as almost irresistible, and
induced, it was said—with what degree of truth we know not—a party of
England’s enterprising sons to fit her out for an expedition against the
gallant Earl of Ladythorne under the Limited Liability Act.

Now, none but a most accomplished, self-sufficient coquette, such
as Miss de Glancey undoubtedly was, would have undertaken such an
enterprise, for it was in direct contravention of two of the noble
Earl’s leading principles, namely, that of liking large ladies (fine,
coarse women, as the slim ones call them.) and of disliking foxhunting
ones, the sofa and not the saddle being, as he always said, the proper
place for the ladies; but Miss de Glancey prided herself upon her power
of subjugating the tyrant man, and gladly undertook to couch the lance
of blandishment against the hitherto impracticable nobleman. In order,
however, to understand the exact position of parties, perhaps the
reader will allow us to show how his lordship came to be seized with his
present attack, and also how he treated it.

Well, the ash was yellow, the beech was brown, and the oak ginger
coloured, and the indomitable youth was again in cub-hunting costume—a
white beaver hat, a green cut-away, a buff vest, with white cords and
caps, attended by Boggledike and his whips in hats, and their last
season’s pinks or purples, disturbing the numerous litters of cubs with
which the country abounded, when, after a musical twenty minutes with a
kill in Allonby Wood, his lordship joined horses with Dicky, to discuss
the merits of the performance, as they rode home together.

“Yas, my lord, yas,” replied Dicky, sawing away at his hat, in reply to
his lordship’s observation that they ran uncommonly well; “yas, my lord,
they did. I don’t know that I can ever remamber bein’ better pleased
with an entry than I am with this year’s. I really think in a few
more seasons we shall get ‘em as near parfection as possible. Did your
lordship notish that Barbara betch, how she took to runnin’ to-day? The
first time she has left my oss’s eels. Her mother, old Blossom, was jest
the same. Never left my oss’s eels the first season, and everybody said
she was fit for nothin’ but the halter; but my!” continued he, shaking
his head, “what a rare betch she did become.”

“She did that,” replied his lordship, smiling at Dicky’s pronunciation.

“And that reminds me,” continued Dicky, emboldened by what he thought
the encouragement, “I was down at Freestone Banks yasterday, where
Barbara was walked, a seein’ a pup I have there now, and I think I seed
the very neatest lady’s pad I ever set eyes on!”—Dicky’s light-blue
eyes settling on his lordship’s eagle ones as he spoke. “Aye! who’s was
that?” asked the gay old gentleman, catching at the word “lady.”

“Why, they say she belongs to a young lady from the south—a Miss
Dedancey, I think they call her,” with the aptitude people have for
mistaking proper names.

“Dedancey,” repeated his lordship, “Dedancey; never heard of the name
before—what’s set her here?”

“She’s styin’ at Mrs. Roseworth’s, at Lanecroft House, but her osses
stand at the Spread Heagle, at Bush Dill—Old Sam ‘Utchison’s, you know.”

Indomitable Youth. Horses! what, has she more than one?

Dicky. Two, a bay and a gray,—it’s the bay that takes my fancy most:—the
neatest stepper, with the lightest month, and fairest, freeest, truest
action I ever seed.

Indomitable Youth. What’s she going to do with them?

Dicky. Ride them, ride them! They say she’s the finest oss-woman that
ever was seen.

“In-deed,” mused his lordship, thinking over the pros and cons of
female equestrianism,—the disagreeableness of being beat by
them,—the disagreeableness of having to leave them in the lurch,—the
disagreeableness of seeing them floored,—the disagreeableness of seeing
them all running down with perspiration;—the result being that his
lordship adhered to his established opinion that women have no business
out hunting.

Dicky knew his lordship’s sentiments, and did not press the matter, but
drew his horse a little to the rear, thinking it fortunate that all men
are not of the same way of thinking. Thus they rode on for some distance
in silence, broken only by the occasional flopping and chiding of Harry
Swan or his brother whip of some loitering or refractory hound. His
lordship had a great opinion of Dicky’s judgment, and though they might
not always agree in their views, he never damped Dicky’s ardour by
openly differing with him. He thought by Dicky’s way of mentioning the
lady that he had a good opinion of her, and, barring the riding, his
lordship saw no reason why he should not have a good opinion of her
too. Taking advantage of the Linton side-bar now bringing them upon the
Somerton-Longville road, he reined in his horse a little so as to let
Dicky come alongside of him again.

“What is this young lady like?” asked the indomitable youth, as soon as
they got their horses to step pleasantly together again.

“Well now,” replied Dicky, screwing up his mouth, with an apologetic
touch of his hat, knowing that that was his weak point, “well now, I
don’t mean to say that she’s zactly—no, not zactly, your lordship’s
model,—not a large full-bodied woman like Mrs. Blissland or Miss Poach,
but an elegant, very elegant, well-set-up young lady, with a high-bred
hair about her that one seldom sees in the country, for though we breeds
our women very beautiful—uncommon ‘andsome, I may say—we don’t polish
them hup to that fine degree of parfection that they do in the towns,
and even if we did they would most likely spoil the ‘ole thing by some
untoward unsightly dress, jest as a country servant spoils a London
livery by a coloured tie, or goin’ about with a great shock head of
‘air, or some such disfigurement; but this young lady, to my mind, is a
perfect pictor, self, oss, and seat,—all as neat and perfect as can be,
and nothing that one could either halter or amend. She is what, savin’
your lordship’s presence, I might call the ‘pink of fashion and the
mould of form!’—Dicky sawing away at his hat as he spoke.

“Tall, slim, and genteel, I suppose,” observed his lordship drily.

“Jest so,” assented Dicky, with a chuck of the chin, making a clean
breast of it, “jest so,” adding, “at least as far as one can judge of
her in her ‘abit, you know.”

“Thought so,” muttered his lordship.

And having now gained one of the doors in the wall, they cut across
the deer-studded park, and were presently back at the Castle. And his
lordship ate his dinner, and quaffed his sweet and dry and twenty-five
Lafitte without ever thinking about either the horse, or the lady, or
the habit, or anything connected with the foregoing conversation, while
the reigning favourite, Mrs. Moffatt, appeared just as handsome as could
be in his eyes.



CHAPTER VIII. CUB-HUNTING.



069m


THOUGH his lordship, as we said before, would stoutly deny being old, he
had nevertheless got sufficiently through the morning of life not to let
cub-hunting get him out of bed a moment sooner than usual, and it was
twelve o’clock on the next day but one to that on which the foregoing
conversation took place, that Mr. Boggledike was again to be seen
standing erect in his stirrups, yoiking and coaxing his hounds into
Crashington Gorse. There was Dicky, cap-in-hand, in the Micentre
ride, exhorting the young hounds to dive into the strong sea of gorse.
“Y-o-o-icks! wind him! y-o-o-icks! pash him up!” cheered the veteran,
now turning his horse across to enforce the request. There was his
lordship at the high corner as usual, ensconced among the clump of
weather-beaten blackthorns—thorns that had neither advanced nor receded
a single inch since he first knew them,—his eagle eye fixed on the
narrow fern and coarse grass-covered dell down which Reynard generally
stole. There was Harry Swan at one corner to head the fox back from
the beans, and Tom Speed at the other to welcome him away over the
corn-garnered open. And now the whimper of old sure-finding Harbinger,
backed by the sharp “yap” of the terrier, proclaims that our friend is
at home, and presently a perfect hurricane of melody bursts from the
agitated gorse,—every hound is in the paroxysm of excitement, and there
are five-and-twenty couple of them, fifty musicians in the whole!

“Tally-ho! there he goes across the ride!”

“Cub!” cries his lordship.

“Cub!” responded Dicky.

“Crack!” sounds the whip.

Now the whole infuriated phalanx dashed across the ride and dived into
the close prickly gorse on the other side as if it were the softest,
pleasantest quarters in the world. There is no occasion to coax, and
exhort, and ride cap-in-hand to them now. It’s all fury and commotion.
Each hound seems to consider himself personally aggrieved,—though we
will be bound to say the fox and he never met in their lives,—and to be
bent upon having immediate satisfaction. And immediate, any tyro would
think it must necessarily be, seeing such preponderating influence
brought to bear upon so small an animal. Not so, however: pug holds
his own; and, by dint of creeping, and crawling, and stopping, and
listening, and lying down, and running his foil, he brings the lately
rushing, clamorous pack to a more plodding, pains-taking, unravelling
sort of performance.

Meanwhile three foxes in succession slip away, one at Speed’s corner,
two at Swan’s; and though Speed screeched, and screamed, and yelled, as
if he were getting killed, not a hound came to see what had happened.
They all stuck to the original scent.

“Here he comes again!” now cries his lordship from his thorn-formed
bower, as the cool-mannered fox again steals across the ride, and Dicky
again uncovers, and goes through the capping ceremony. Over come the
pack, bristling and lashing for blood—each hound looking as if he would
eat the fox single-handed. Now he’s up to the high corner as though he
were going to charge his lordship himself, and passing over fresh ground
the hounds get the benefit of a scent, and work with redoubled energy,
making the opener gorse bushes crack and bend with their pressure. Pug
has now gained the rabbit-burrowed bank of the north fence, and has
about made up his mind to follow the example of his comrades, and try
his luck in the open, when a cannonading crack of Swan’s whip strikes
terror into his heart, and causes him to turn tail, and run the
moss-grown mound of the hedge. Here he unexpectedly meets young Prodigal
face to face, who, thinking that rabbit may be as good eating as fox,
has got up a little hunt of his own, and who is considerably put out
of countenance by the rencontre; but pug, not anticipating any such
delicacy on the part of a pursuer, turns tail, and is very soon in the
rear of the hounds, hunting them instead of their hunting him. The thing
then becomes more difficult, businesslike, and sedate—the sages of the
pack taking upon them to guide the energy of the young. So what with the
slow music of the hounds, the yap, yap, yapping of the terriers, and
the shaking of the gorse, an invisible underground sort of hunt is
maintained—his lordship sitting among his blackthorn bushes like a
gentleman in his opera-stall, thinking now of the hunt, now of his
dinner, now of what a good thing it was to be a lord, with a good
digestion and plenty of cash, and nobody to comb his head.



At length pug finds it too hot to hold him. The rays of an autumnal sun
have long been striking into the gorse, while a warm westerly wind does
little to ventilate it from the steam of the rummaging inquisitive pack.
Though but a cub, he is the son of an old stager, who took Dicky and
his lordship a deal of killing, and with the talent of his sire, he thus
ruminates on his uncomfortable condition.

“If,” says he, “I stay here, I shall either be smothered or fall a
prey to these noisy unrelenting monsters, who seem to have the knack
of finding me wherever I go. I’d better cut my stick as I did the time
before, and have fresh air and exercise at all events, in the open:” so
saying he made a dash at the hedge near where Swan was stationed, and
regardless of his screams and the cracks of his whip, cut through the
beans and went away, with a sort of defiant whisk of his brush.

What a commotion followed his departure! How the screeches of the men
mingled with the screams of the hounds and the twangs of the horn! In
an instant his lordship vacates his opera-stall and is flying over
the ragged boundary fence that separates him from the beans; while Mr.
Boggledike capers and prances at a much smaller place, looking as if
he would fain turn away were it not for the observation of the men. Now
Dicky is over! Swan and Speed take it in their stride, just as the last
hound leaves the gorse and strains to regain his distant companions. A
large grass field, followed by a rough bare fallow, takes the remaining
strength out of poor pug; and, turning short to the left, he seeks the
friendless shelter of a patch of wretched oats. The hounds overrun the
scent, but, spreading like a rocket, they quickly recover it; and in an
instant, fox, hounds, horses, men, are among the standing corn,—one ring
in final destruction of the beggarly crop, and poor pug is in the hands
of his pursuers. Then came the grand finale, the who hoop! the baying,
the blowing, the beheading, &c. Now Harry Swan, whose province it is to
magnify sport and make imaginary runs to ground, exercises his calling,
by declaring it was five-and-thirty minutes (twenty perhaps), and the
finest young fox he ever had hold of. Now his lordship and Dicky take
out their tootlers and blow a shrill reverberating blast; while Swan
stands straddling and yelling, with the mangled remains high above his
head, ready to throw it into the sea of mouths that are baying around to
receive it. After a sufficiency of noise, up goes the carcase; the
wave of hounds breaks against it as it falls, while a half-ravenous,
half-indignant, growling worry succeeds the late clamourous outcry.

“Tear ‘im and eat ‘im!” cries Dicky.

“Tear ‘im and eat ‘im!” shouts his lordship.

“Tear ‘im and eat ‘im!” shrieks Speed.

“Hie worry! worry! worry!” shouts Swan, trying to tantalize the young
hounds with a haunch, which, however, they do not seem much to care
about.



073m


The old hounds, too, seem as if they had lost their hunger with their
anger; and Marmion lets Warrior run off with his leg with only a snap
and an indignant rise of his bristles.

Altogether the froth and effervescence of the thing has evaporated; so
his lordship and Dicky turning their horses’ heads, the watchful hounds
give a bay of obedient delight as they frolic under their noses; and
Swan having reclaimed his horse from Speed, the onward procession
is formed to give Brambleton Wood a rattle by way of closing the
performance of the day.

His lordship and Dicky ride side by side, extolling the merits of the
pack and the excellence of Crashington Gorse. Never was so good a cover.
Never was a better pack. Mainchance’s! pooh! Not to be mentioned in the
same century. So they proceed, magnifying and complimenting themselves
in the handsomest terms possible, down Daisyfield lane, across Hill
House pastures, and on by Duston Mills to Broomley, which is close to
Brambleton Wood.

Most of our Featherbedfordshire friends will remember that after leaving
Duston Mills the roads wind along the impetuous Lime, whose thorn and
broom-grown banks offer dry, if not very secure, accommodation for
master Reynard; and the draw being pretty, and the echo fine, his
lordship thought they might as well run the hounds along the banks, not
being aware that Peter Hitter, Squire Porker’s keeper, had just emerged
at the east end as they came up at the west. However, that was neither
here nor there, Dicky got his Y-o-o-icks, his lordship got his view,
Swan and Speed their cracks and canters, and it was all in the day’s
work. No fox, of course, was the result. “Tweet, tweet, tweet,” went the
horns, his lordship taking a blow as well as Dicky, which sounded up
the valley and lost itself among the distant hills. The hounds came
straggling leisurely out of cover, as much as to say, “You know there
never is a fox there, so why bother us?”

All hands being again united, the cavalcade rose the hill, and
were presently on the Longford and Aldenbury turnpike. Here the
Featherbedfordshire reader’s local knowledge will again remind him that
the Chaddleworth lane crosses the turnpike at right angles, and just as
old Ringwood, who, as usual, was trotting consequentially in advance of
the pack, with the fox’s head in his mouth, got to the finger-post, a
fair equestrian on a tall blood bay rode leisurely past with downcast
eyes in full view of the advancing party. Though her horse whinnied and
shied, and seemed inclined to be sociable, she took no more notice of
the cause than if it had been a cart, merely coaxing and patting him
with her delicate primrose-coloured kid gloves. So she got him past
without even a sidelong look from herself.

But though she did not look my lord did, and was much struck with the
air and elegance of everything—her mild classic features—her black-felt,
Queen’s-patterned, wide-awake, trimmed with lightish-green velvet, and
green cock-feathered plume, tipped with straw-colour to match the ribbon
that now gently fluttered at her fair neck,—her hair, her whip, her
gloves, her tout ensemble. Her lightish-green habit was the quintessence
of a fit, and altogether there was a high-bred finish about her that
looked more like Hyde Park than what one usually sees in the country.

“Who the deuce is that, Dicky?” asked his lordship, as she now got out
of hearing.

“That be her, my lord,” whispered Dicky, sawing away at his hat. “That
be her,” repeated he with a knowing leer.

“Her! who d’ye mean?” asked his lordship, who had forgotten all Dicky’s
preamble.

“Well,—Miss—Miss—What’s her name—Dedancev, Dedancey,—the lady I told you
about.”

And the Earl’s heart smote him, for he felt that he had done injustice
to Dicky, and moreover, had persevered too long in his admiration of
large ladies, and in his repudiation of horsemanship. He thought he had
never seen such a graceful seat, or such a piece of symmetrical elegance
before, and inwardly resolved to make Dicky a most surprising present
at Christmas, for he went on the principle of giving low wages, and of
rewarding zeal and discretion, such as Dicky’s, profusely. And though
he went and drew Brambleton Wood, he was thinking far more of the fair
maid, her pensive, downcast look, her long eyelashes, her light silken
hair, her graceful figure, and exquisite seat, than of finding a
fox; and he was not at all sorry when he heard Dicky’s horn at the
bridle-gate at the Ashburne end blowing the hounds out of cover. They
then went home, and his lordship was very grumpy all that evening with
his fat fair-and-forty friend, Mrs. Moffatt, who could not get his tea
to his liking at all.

We dare say most of our readers will agree with us, that when a couple
want to be acquainted there is seldom much difficulty about the matter,
even though there be no friendly go-between to mutter the cabalistic
words that constitute an introduction; and though Miss de Glancey did
ride so unconcernedly past, it was a sheer piece of acting, as she had
long been waiting at Carlton Clumps, which commands a view over the
surrounding country, timing herself for the exact spot where she met the
too susceptible Earl and his hounds.

No one knew better how to angle for admiration than this renowned young
lady,—when to do the bold—when the bashful—when the timid—when the
scornful and retiring, and she rightly calculated that the way to
attract and win the young old Earl was to look as if she didn’t want to
have anything to say to him. Her downcast look, and utter indifference
to that fertile source of introduction, a pack of hounds, had sunk
deeper into his tender heart than if she had pulled up to up to admire
them collectively, and to kiss them individually. We all know how useful
a dog can be made in matters of this sort—how the fair creatures can
express their feelings by their fondness. And if one dog can be so
convenient, by how much more so can a whole pack of hounds be made!



CHAPTER IX. A PUP AT WALK.—IMPERIAL JOHN.

N ext day his lordship, who was of the nice old Andlesey school of
dressers, was to be seen in regular St. James’s Street attire, viz. a
bright blue coat with gilt buttons, a light blue scarf, a buff vest with
fawn-coloured leathers, and brass heel spurs, capering on a long-tailed
silver dun, attended by a diminutive rosy-cheeked boy—known in the
stables as Cupid-without-Wings—on a bay.

He was going to see a pup he had at walk at Freestone Banks, of which
the reader will remember Dicky had spoken approvingly on a previous day;
and the morning being fine and sunny, his lordship took the bridle-road
over Ashley Downs, and along the range of undulating Heathmoor Hills,
as well for the purpose of enjoying the breeze as of seeing what was
passing in the vale below. So he tit-up’d and tit-up’d away, over the
sound green sward, on his flowing-tailed steed, his keen far-seeing eye
raking all the roads as he went. There seemed to be nothing stirring but
heavy crushing waggons, with doctor’s gigs and country carts, and here
and there a slow-moving steed of the grand order of agriculture.

When, however, he got to the broken stony ground where all the
independent hill tracks join in common union to effect the descent into
the vale, his hack pricked his ears, and looking a-head to the turn
of the lane into which the tracks ultimately resolved themselves, his
lordship first saw a fluttering, light-tipped feather, and then the
whole figure of a horsewoman, emerge from the concealing hedge as it
were on to the open space beyond. Miss, too, had been on the hills, as
the Earl might have seen by her horse’s imprints, if he had not been too
busy looking abroad; and she had just had time to effect the descent as
he approached. She was now sauntering along as unconcernedly as if there
was nought but herself and her horse in the world. His lordship started
when he saw her, and a crimson flush suffused his healthy cheeks as he
drew his reins, and felt his hack gently with his spur to induce him to
use a little more expedition down the hill. Cupid-without-Wings put on
also, to open the rickety gate at the bottom, and his lordship telling
him, as he passed through, to “shut it gently,” pressed on at a
well-in-hand trot, which he could ease down to a walk as he came near
the object of his pursuit. Miss’s horse heard footsteps coming and
looked round, but she pursued the even tenour of her way apparently
indifferent to everything—even to a garotting. His lordship, however,
was not to be daunted by any such coolness; so stealing quietly
alongside of her, he raised his hat respectfully, and asked, in his
mildest, blandest tone, if she had “seen a man with a hound in a
string?”

“Hound! me! see!” exclaimed Miss de Glancey, with a well feigned start
of astonishment. “No, sir, I have not,” continued she haughtily, as if
recovering herself, and offended by the inquiry.

“I’m afraid my hounds startled your horse the other day,” observed his
lordship, half inclined to think she didn’t know him.

“Oh, no, they didn’t,” replied she with an upward curl of her pretty
lip; “my horse is not so easily startled as that; are you, Cock Robin?”
 asked she, leaning forward to pat him.

Cock Robin replied by laying back his ears, and taking a snatch at his
lordship’s hack’s silver mane, which afforded him an opportunity of
observing that Cock Robin was not very sociable.

“Not with strangers,” pouted Miss de Glancey, with a flash of her
bright hazel eyes. So saying, she touched her horse lightly with her
gold-mounted whip, and in an instant she was careering away, leaving his
lordship to the care of the now grinning Cupid-without-Wings.



079m


And thus the mynx held the sprightly youth in tow, till she nearly drove
him mad, not missing any opportunity of meeting him, but never giving
him too much of her company, and always pouting at the suggestion of
her marrying a “mere fox-hunter.” The whole thing, of course, furnished
conversation for the gossips, and Mr. Boggledike, as in duty bound,
reported what he heard. She puzzled his lordship more than any lady he
had ever had to do with, and though he often resolved to strike and
be free, he had only to meet her again to go home more subjugated than
ever. And so what between Miss de Glancey out of doors and Mrs. Moffatt
in, he began to have a very unpleasant time of it. His hat had so long
covered his family, that he hardly knew how to set about obtaining his
own consent to marry; and yet he felt that he ought to marry if it was
only to spite his odious heir—old General Binks; for his lordship called
him old though the General was ten years younger than himself; but still
he would like to look about him a little longer. What he would now
wish to do would be to keep Miss de Glancey in the country, for he felt
interested in her, and thought she would be ornamental to the pack.
Moreover, he liked all that was handsome, piquant, and gay, and to be
joked about the Featherbedfordshire witches when he went to town. So he
resolved himself into a committee of ways and means, to consider how the
object was to be effected, without surrendering himself. That must be
the last resource at all events, thought he.

Now upon his lordship’s vast estates was a most unmitigated block-head
called Imperial John, from his growing one of those chin appendages. His
real name was Hybrid—John Hybrid, of Barley Hill Farm; but his handsome
sister, “Imperial Jane,” as the wags called her, having attracted his
lordship’s attention, to the danger as it was thought of old Binks, on
leaving her furnishing seminary at Turnham Green, John had been taken
by the hand, which caused him to lose his head, and make him set up for
what he called “a gent.” He built a lodge and a portico to Barley
Hill Farm, rough cast, and put a pine roof on to the house, and then
advertised in the “Featherbedfordshire Gazette,” that letters and papers
were for the future to be addressed to John Hybrid, Esquire, Barley Hill
Hall, and not Farm as they had hitherto been. And having done so much
for the place, John next revised his own person, which, though not
unsightly, was coarse, and a long way off looking anything like that
of a gentleman. He first started the imperial aforesaid, and not being
laughed at as much as he expected for that, he was emboldened to order
a red coat for the then approaching season. Mounting the pink is a
critical thing, for if a man does not land in the front rank they will
not admit him again into the rear, and he remains a sort of red bat for
the rest of his life,—neither a gentleman nor a farmer.

John, however, feeling that he had his lordship’s countenance, went
boldly at it, and the first day of the season before that with which we
are dealing, found him with his stomach buttoned consequentially up in a
spic and span scarlet with fancy buttons, looking as bumptious as a man
with a large balance at his banker’s. He sat bolt upright, holding his
whip like a field-marshal’s bâton, on his ill-groomed horse, with a
tight-bearing rein chucking the Imperial chin well in the air, and a
sort of half-defiant “you’d better not laugh at me” look. And John was
always proud to break a fence, or turn a hound, or hold a horse, or do
anything his lordship bid him, and became a sort of hunting aide-de-camp
to the great man. He was a boasting, bragging fool, always talking about
m-o-y hall, and m-o-y lodge, and m-o-y plate in m-o-y drawing-room, for
he had not discovered that plate was the appendage of a dining-room, and
altogether he was very magnificent.

Imperial Jane kept old Binks on the fret for some time, until another of
his lordship’s tenants, young Fred Poppyfield, becoming enamoured of
her charms, and perhaps wishing to ride in scarlet too, sought her fair
hand, whereupon his lordship, acting with his usual munificence, set
them up on a farm at so low a rent that it acquired the name of
Gift Hall Farm. This arrangement set Barley Hall free so far as the
petticoats were concerned, and his lordship little knowing how well she
was “up” in the country, thought this great gouk of a farmer, with
his plate in his drawingroom, might come over the accomplished Miss de
Glancey,—the lady who sneered at himself as “a mere fox-hunter.” And the
wicked monkey favoured the delusion, which she saw through the moment
his lordship brought the pompous egotist up at Newington Gorse, and
begged to be allowed to introduce his friend, Mr Hybrid, and she
inwardly resolved to give Mr. Hybrid a benefit. Forsaking his lordship
therefore entirely, she put forth her most seductive allurements at
Imperial John, talked most amazingly to him, rode over whatever he
recommended, and seemed quite smitten with him.

And John, who used to boast that somehow the “gals couldn’t withstand
him,” was so satisfied with his success, that he presently blundered out
an offer, when Miss de Glancey, having led him out to the extreme length
of his tether, gave such a start and shudder of astonishment as Fanny
Kemble, or Mrs. Siddons herself, might have envied.

“O, Mr. Hybrid! O, Mr. Hybrid!” gasped she, opening wide her intelligent
eyes, as if she had but just discovered his meaning. “O, Mr. Hybrid!”
 exclaimed she for the third time, “you—you—you,” and turning aside as
if to conceal her emotion, she buried her face in her laced-fringed,
richly-cyphered kerchief.

John, who was rather put out by some women who were watching him
from the adjoining turnip-field, construing all this into the usual
misfortune of the ladies not being able to withstand him, returned to
the charge as soon as he got out of their hearing, when he was suddenly
brought up by such a withering “Si-r-r-r! do you mean to insult me?”
 coupled with a look that nearly started the basket-buttons of his green
cut-away, and convinced him that Miss de Glancey, at all events, could
withstand him. So his Majesty slunk off, consoling himself with the
reflection, that riding-habits covered a multitude of sins, and that
if he was not much mistaken, she would want a deal of oil-cake, or cod
liver oil, or summut o’ that sort, afore she was fit to show.

And the next time Miss met my lord (which, of course, she did by
accident), she pouted and frowned at the “mere fox-hunter,” and
intimated her intention of leaving the country—going home to her mamma,
in fact.

It was just at this juncture that Mrs. Pringle’s letter arrived, and his
lordship’s mind being distracted between love on his own account, dread
of matrimony, and dislike of old Binks, he caught at what he would in
general have stormed at, and wrote to say that he should begin hunting
the first Monday in November, and if Mrs. Pringle’s son would come down
a day or two before, he would “put him up” (which meant mount him), and
“do for him” (which meant board and lodge him), all, in fact, that Mrs.
Pringle could desire. And his lordship inwardly hoped that Mr. Pringle
might be more to Miss de Glancey’s liking than his Imperial Highness
had proved. At all events, he felt it was but a simple act of justice to
himself to try. Let us now return to Curtain Crescent.



CHAPTER X. JEAN ROUGIER, OR JACK ROGERS.



083m


WE need not say that Mrs. Pringle was overjoyed at the receipt of the
Earl’s letter. It was so kind and good, and so like him. He always
said he would do her a good turn if he could: but there are so many
fine-weather friends in this world that there is no being certain of
any one. Happy are they who never have occasion to test the sincerity of
their friends, say we.

Mrs. Pringle was now all bustle and excitement, preparing Billy for the
great event.

His wardrobe, always grand, underwent revision in the undergarment line.
She got him some magnificently embroidered dress shirts, so fine that
the fronts almost looked as if you might blow them out, and regardful of
the rôle he was now about to play, she added several dozen with horses,
dogs, birds, and foxes upon them, “suitable for fishing, shooting,
boating, &c.,” as the advertisements said. His cambric kerchiefs were of
the finest quality, while his stockings and other things were in great
abundance, the whole surmounted by a splendid dressing-case, the like of
which had ne’er been seen since the days of Pea-Green Haine. Altogether
he was capitally provided, and quite in accordance with a lady’s-maid’s
ideas of gentility.

Billy, on his part, was active and energetic too, for though he had his
doubts about being able to sit at the jumps, he had no objection to wear
a red coat; and mysterious-looking boys, with blue bags, were constantly
to be found seated on the mahogany bench, in the Curtain Crescent
passage, waiting to try on his top boots; while the cheval glass
up-stairs was constantly reflecting his figure in scarlet, à la Old
Briggs. The concomitants of the chase, leathers, cords, whips, spurs,
came pouring in apace. The next thing was to get somebody to take care
of them.

It is observable that the heads of the various branches of an
establishment are all in favour of “master” spending all his money
on their particular department. Thus, the coachman would have him run
entirely to carriages, the groom to horses, the cook to the cuisine, the
butler to wines, the gardener to grapes, &c., and so on.

Mrs. Pringle, we need hardly say, favoured lady’s-maids and valets.
It has been well said, that if a man wants to get acquainted with a
gentleman’s private affairs, he should either go to the lawyer or else
to the valet that’s courting the lady’s-maid; and Mrs. Pringle was
quite of that opinion. Moreover, she held that no man with an efficient,
properly trained valet, need ever be catspawed or jilted, because the
lady’s-maid would feel it a point of honour to let the valet know how
the land lay, a compliment he would return under similar circumstances.
To provide Billy with this, as she considered, most essential appendage
to a gentleman, was her next consideration—a valet that should know
enough and not too much—enough to enable him to blow his master’s
trumpet properly, and not too much, lest he should turn restive and play
the wrong tune.

At length she fixed upon the Anglo-Frenchman, whose name stands at the
head of this chapter—Jean Rougier, or Jack Rogers. Jack was the son of
old Jack Rogers, so well known as the enactor of the Drunken Huzzar,
and similar characters of Nutkins’s Circus; and Jack was entered to his
father’s profession, but disagreeing with the clown, Tom Oliver, who
used to give him sundry most unqualified cuts and cuffs in the Circus,
Jack, who was a tremendously strong fellow, gave Oliver such a desperate
beating one night as caused his life to be despaired off. This took
place at Nottingham, from whence Jack fled for fear of the consequences;
and after sundry vicissitudes he was next discovered as a post-boy, at
Sittingbourne, an office that he was well adapted for, being short
and stout and extremely powerful. No brute was ever too bad for Jack’s
riding: he would tame them before the day was over. Somehow he got
bumped down to Dover, when taking a fancy to go “foreign,” he sold his
master’s horses for what they would fetch; and this being just about
the time that the late Mr. Probert expiated a similar mistake at the Old
Bailey, Jack hearing of it, thought it was better to stay where he was
than give Mr. Calcraft any trouble. He therefore accepted the situation
of boots to the Albion Hotel, Boulogne-sur-mer; but finding that he did
not get on half so well as he would if he were a Frenchman, he took to
acquiring the language, which, with getting his ears bored, letting
his hair and whiskers grow, and adopting the French costume in all its
integrity, coupled with a liberal attack of the small-pox, soon told a
tale in favour of his fees. After a long absence, he at length returned
at the Bill Smith Revolution; and vacillating for some time between a
courier and a valet, finally settled down to what we now find him.

We know not how it is, if valets are so essentially necessary, that
there should always be so many out of place, but certain it is that an
advertisment in a morning paper will always bring a full crop to a door.

Perhaps, being the laziest of all lazy lives, any one can turn his hand
to valeting, who to dig is unable, and yet to want is unwilling.

Mrs. Pringle knew better than hold a levee in Curtain Crescent, letting
all the applicants pump Properjohn or such of the maids as they could
get hold of; and having advertised for written applications, stating
full particulars of previous service, and credentials, to be addressed
to F. P. at Chisel the baker’s, in Yeast Street, she selected some
half-dozen of the most promising ones, and appointed the parties to meet
her, at different hours of course, at the first-class waiting-room of
the great Western Station, intimating that they would know her by
a bunch of red geraniums she would hold in her hand. And the second
applicant, Jean Rougier, looked so like her money, having a sufficient
knowledge of the English language to be able to understand all that was
said, and yet at the same time sufficiently ignorant of it to invite
confidential communications to be made before him; that after glancing
over the testimonials bound up in his little parchment-backed passport
book, she got the name and address of his then master, and sought an
interview to obtain Monsieur’s character. This gentleman, Sir Harry
Bolter, happening to owe Jack three-quarters of a year’s wages, which
he was not likely to pay, spoke of him in the highest possible terms,
glossing over his little partiality for drink by saying that, like all
Frenchmen, he was of a convivial turn; and in consequence of Sir Harry’s
and Jack’s own recommendations, Mrs. Pringle took him.

The reader will therefore now have the kindness to consider our hero
and his valet under way, with a perfect pyramid of luggage, and Monsieur
arrayed in the foraging cap, the little coatee, the petticoat trowsers,
and odds and ends money-bag of his long adopted country, slung across
his ample chest.

Their arrival and reception at Tantivy Castle will perhaps be best
described in the following letter from Billy to his mother:—

Tantivy Castle.

My dearest Mamma,

I write a line to say that I arrived here quite safe by the 5-30 train,
and found the Earl as polite as possible. I should tell you that I made
a mistake at starting, for it being dark when I arrived, and getting
confused with a whole regiment of footmen, I mistook a fine gentleman
who came forward to meet me for the Earl, and made him a most respectful
bow, which the ass returned, and began to talk about the weather; and
when the real Earl came in I took him for a guest, and was going to
weather him. However he soon put all matters right, and introduced me
to Mrs. Moffatt, a very fine lady, who seems to rule the roast here in
grand style. They say she never wears the same dress twice.

There are always at least half-a-dozen powdered footmen, in cerulean
blue lined with rose-coloured silk, and pink silk stockings, the whole
profusely illustrated with gold lace, gold aigulets, and I don’t know
what, lounging about in the halls and passages, wailing for company
which Rougier says never comes. This worthy seems to have mastered the
ins and outs of the place already, and says, “my lor has an Englishman
to cook his beef-steak for breakfast, a Frenchman to cook his dinner,
and an Italian confectioner; every thing that a ‘my lord’ ought to have”
 It is a splendid place,—as you will see by the above picture, * more
like Windsor than anything I ever saw, and there seems to be no expense
spared that could by any possibility be incurred. I’ve got a beautiful
bedroom with warm and cold baths and a conservatory attached.

* Our friend was writing on Castle-paper, of course.

To-morrow is the first day of the season, and all the world and his
wife will be there to a grand déjeuner à la Fourchette. The hounds meet
before the Castle. His lordship says he will put me on a safe, steady
hunter, and I hope he will, for I am not quite sure that I can sit at
the jumps. However I’ll let you know how I come on. Meanwhile as the
gong is sounding for dressing, believe me, my dearest mamma,

Ever your truly affectionate son,

Wm. PRINGLE.

Mrs. Pringle,

Curtain Crescent, Belgrade Square, London.



CHAPTER XI. THE OPENING DAY.—THE HUNT BREAKFAST.



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REVERSING the usual order of things, each first Monday in November saw
the sporting inmates of Tantivy Castle emerge from the chrysalis into
the butterfly state of existence. His lordship’s green-duck hunter and
drab caps disappeared, and were succeeded by a spic-and-span span new
scarlet and white top; Mr. Roggledike’s last year’s pink was replaced
by a new one, his hat was succeeded by a cap; and the same luck attended
the garments of both Swan and Speed. The stud-groom, the pad-groom,
the sending-on groom, all the grooms down to our little friend,
Cupid-without-Wings, underwent renovation in their outward men. The
whole place smelt of leather and new cloth. The Castle itself on this
occasion seemed to participate in the general festivity, for a bright
sun emblazoned the quarterings of the gaily flaunting flag, lit up the
glittering vanes of the lower towers, and burnished the modest ivy
of the basements. Every thing was bright and sunny, and though Dicky
Boggledike did not “zactly like” the red sunrise, he “oped the rine
might keep off until they were done, ‘specially as it was a show day.”
 Very showy indeed it was, for all the gentlemen out of livery,—those
strange puzzlers—were in full ball costume; while the standard footmen
strutted like peacocks in their rich blue liveries with rose-coloured
linings, and enormous bouquets under their noses, feeling that for once
they were going to have something to do.

The noble Earl, having got himself up most elaborately in his new
hunting garments, and effected a satisfactory tie of a heart’s-ease
embroidered blue satin cravat, took his usual stand before the now
blazing wood and coal fire in the enormous grate in the centre of his
magnificent baronial hall, ready to receive his visitors and pass them
on to Mrs. Moffat in the banqueting room. This fair lady was just as
fine as hands could make her, and the fit of her rich pale satin dress,
trimmed with swan’s-down, reflected equal credit on her milliner and
her maid. Looking at her as she now sat at the head of the
sumptuously-furnished breakfast table, her plainly dressed hair
surmounted by a diminutive point-lace cap, and her gazelle-like eye
lighting up an intelligent countenance, it were hardly possible to
imagine that she had ever been handsomer, or that beneath that quiet
aspect there lurked what is politely called a “high spirit,” that is to
say, a little bit of temper.

That however is more the Earl’s look-out than ours, so we will return to
his lordship at the entrance hall fire.

Of course this sort of gathering was of rather an anomalous
character,—some coming because they wanted something, some because they
“dirsn’t” stay away, some because they did not know Mrs. Moffat would be
there, some because they did not care whether she was or not. It was a
show day, and they came to see the beautiful Castle, not Mrs. Anybody.

The first to arrive were the gentlemen of the second class, the agents
and dependents of the estate,—Mr. Cypher, the auditor, he who never
audited; Mr. Easylease, the land agent; his son, Mr. John Easylease, the
sucking land agent; Mr. Staple, the mining agent; Mr. James Staple, the
sucking mining agent; Mr. Section, the architect; Mr. Pillerton, the
doctor; Mr. Brick, the builder; &c., who were all very polite ard
obsequious, “your lordship” and my “my lording” the Earl at every
opportunity. These, ranging themselves on either side of the fire, now
formed the nucleus of the court, with the Earl in the centre.

Presently the rumbling of wheels and the grinding of gravel was
succeeded by the muffled-drum sort of sound of the wood pavement of
the grand covered portico, and the powdered footmen threw back the
folding-doors as if they expected Daniel Lambert or the Durham Ox
to enter. It was our old friend Imperial John, who having handed his
pipeclayed reins to his ploughman-groom, descended from his buggy with
a clumsy half buck, half hawbuck sort of air, and entered the spacious
portals of the Castle hall. Having divested himself of his paletot in
which he had been doing “the pride that apes humility,” he shook out his
red feathers, pulled up his sea-green-silk-tied gills, finger-combed his
stiff black hair, and stood forth a sort of rough impersonation of the
last year’s Earl. His coat was the same cut, his hat was the same shape,
his boots and breeches were the same colour, and altogether there was
the same sort of resemblance between John and the Earl that there is
between a cart-horse and a race-horse.

Having deposited his whip and paletot on the table on the door-side of
a tall, wide-spreading carved oak screen, which at once concealed the
enterers from the court, and kept the wind from that august assembly,
John was now ready for the very obsequious gentleman who had been
standing watching his performances without considering it necessary to
give him any assistance. This bland gentleman, in his own blue coat with
a white vest, having made a retrograde movement which cleared himself
of the screen, John was presently crossing the hall, bowing and stepping
and bowing and stepping as if he was measuring off a drain.

His lordship, who felt grateful for John’s recent services, and perhaps
thought he might require them again, advanced to meet him and gave him
a very cordial shake of the hand, as much as to say, “Never mind Miss de
Glancey, old fellow, we’ll make it right another time.” They then fell
to conversing about turnips, John’s Green Globes having turned out a
splendid crop, while his Swedes were not so good as usual, though they
still might improve.

A more potent wheel-roll than John’s now attracted his lordship’s
attention, and through the far windows he saw a large canary-coloured
ark of a coach, driven by a cockaded coachman, which he at once
recognised as belonging to his natural enemy Major Yammerton,
“five-and-thirty years master of haryers,” as the Major would say,
“without a subscription.” Mr. Boggledike had lately been regaling his
lordship with some of the Major’s boastings about his “haryars” and the
wonderful sport they showed, which he had had the impudence to compare
with his lordship’s fox hounds. Besides which, he was always disturbing
his lordship’s covers on the Roughborough side of the country, causing
his lordship to snub him at all opportunities. The Major, however,
who was a keen, hard-bitten, little man, not easily choked off when he
wanted anything, and his present want being to be made a magistrate, he
had attired himself in an antediluvian swallow-tailed scarlet, with a
gothic-arched collar, and brought his wife and two pretty daughters
to aid in the design. Of course the ladies were only coming to see the
Castle.

The cockaded coachman having tied his reins to the rail of the
driving-box, descended from his eminence to release his passengers,
while a couple of cerulean-blue gentlemen looked complacently on, each
with half a door in his hand ready to throw open as they approached, the
party were presently at the hall table, where one of those indispensable
articles, a looking-glass, enabled the ladies to rectify any little
derangement incidental to the joltings of the journey, while the little
Major run a pocket-comb through a fringe of carroty curls that encircled
his bald head, and disposed of a cream-coloured scarf cravat to what he
considered the best advantage. Having drawn a doeskin glove on to the
left hand, he offered his arm to his wife, and advanced from behind the
screen with his hat in his ungloved right hand ready to transfer it to
the left should occasion require.

“Ah Major Yammerton!” exclaimed the Earl, breaking off in the middle
of the turnip dialogue with Imperial John. “Ah, Major Yammerton, I’m
delighted to see you” (getting a glimpse of the girls). “Mrs. Yammerton,
this is indeed extremely kind,” continued he, taking both her hands in
his; “and bringing your lovely daughters,” continued he, advancing to
greet them.

Mrs. Yammerton here gave the Major a nudge to remind him of his
propriety speech. “The gi—gi—girls and Mrs. Ya—Ya—Yammerton,” for
he always stuttered when he told lies, which was pretty often; “the
gi—gi—girls and Mrs. Ya—Ya—Yammerton have done me the honour—”

Another nudge from Mrs. Yammerton.

“I mean to say the gi—gi—girls and Mrs. Ya—Ya—Yammerton,” observed he,
with a stamp of the foot and a shake of the head, for he saw that his
dread enemy, Imperial John, was laughing at him, “have done themselves
the honour of co—co—coming, in hopes to be allowed the p—p—p—pleasure of
seeing your mama—magnificent collection of pi—pi—pictors.” the Major at
length getting out what he had been charged to say.



091m


“By all means!” exclaimed the delighted Earl, “by all means; but first
let me have the pleasure of conducting you to the refreshment-room;”
 saying which his lordship offered Mrs. Yammerton his arm. So passing up
the long gallery, and entering by the private door, he popped her down
beside Mrs. Moffatt before Mrs. Yammerton knew where she was.

Just then our friend Billy Pringle, who, with the aid of Rougier, had
effected a most successful logement in his hunting things, made his
appearance, to whom the Earl having assigned the care of the young
ladies, now beat a retreat to the hall, leaving Mrs. Yammerton lost in
astonishment as to what her Mrs. Grundy would say, and speculations as
to which of her daughters would do for Mr. Pringle.

Imperial John, who had usurped the Earl’s place before the fire, now
shied off to one side as his lordship approached, and made his most
flexible obeisance to the two Mr. Fothergills and Mr. Stot, who had
arrived during his absence. These, then, gladly passed on to the
banqueting-room just as the Condor-like wings of the entrance hall door
flew open and admitted Imperial Jane, now the buxom Mrs. Poppyfield. She
came smiling past the screen, magnificently attired in purple velvet and
ermine, pretending she had only come to warm herself at the “‘All fire
while Pop looked for the groom, who had brought his ‘orse, and who was
to drive her ‘ome;” but hearing from the Earl that the Yammertons were
all in the banqueting-room, she saw no reason why she shouldn’t go too;
so when the next shoal of company broke against the screen, she took
Imperial John’s arm, and preceded by a cloud of lackeys, cerulean-blue
and others, passed from the hall to the grand apartment, up which
she sailed majestically, tossing her plumed head at that usurper Mrs.
Moffatt; and then increased the kettle of fish poor Mrs. Yammerton was
in by seating herself beside her.

“Impudent woman,” thought Mrs. Yammerton, “if I’d had any idea of this
I wouldn’t have come;” and she thought how lucky it was she had put the
Major up to asking to see the “pictors.” It was almost a pity he was
so anxious to be a magistrate. Thought he might be satisfied with being
Major of such a fine regiment as the Featherbedfordshire Militia. Nor
were her anxieties diminished by the way the girls took the words out
of each other’s mouths, as it were, in their intercourse with Billy
Pringle, thus preventing either from making any permanent impression.

The great flood of company now poured into the hall, red coats, green
coats, black coats, brown coats, mingled with variously-coloured
petticoats. The ladies of the court, Mrs. Cypher, Mrs. Pillerton, Mrs.
and the Misses Easylease, Mrs. Section, and others, hurried through with
a shivering sort of step as if they were going to bathe. Mr. D’Orsay
Davis, the “we” of the Featherbedfordshire Gazette, made his bow and
passed on with stately air, as a ruler of the roast ought to do. The
Earl of Stare, as Mr. Buckwheat was called, from the fixed protuberance
of his eyes—a sort of second edition of Imperial John, but wanting his
looks, and Gameboy Green, the hard rider of the hunt, came in together;
and the Earl of Stare, sporting scarlet, advanced to his brother peer,
the Earl, who, not thinking him an available card, turned him over to
Imperial John who had now returned from his voyage with Imperial Jane,
while his lordship commenced a building conversation with Mr. Brick.

A lull then ensuing as if the door had done its duty, his lordship gave
a wave of his hand, whereupon the trained courtiers shot out into horns
on either side, with his lordship in the centre, and passed majestically
along to the banqueting-room.

The noble apartment a hundred feet long, and correspondingly
proportioned, was in the full swing of hospitality when the Earl
entered. The great influx of guests for which the Castle was always
prepared, had at length really arrived, and from Mrs. Moffatt’s end of
the table to the door, were continuous lines of party-coloured eaters,
all engaged in the noble act of deglutition. Up the centre was a
magnificent avenue of choice exotics in gold, silver, and china vases,
alternating with sugar-spun Towers, Temples, Pagodas, and Rialtos, with
here and there the more substantial form of massive plate, èpergnes,
testimonials, and prizes of different kinds. It was a regular field day
for plate, linen, and china.

The whole force of domestics was now brought to bear upon the charge,
and the cerulean-blue gentlemen vied with the gentlemen out of livery in
the assiduity of their attentions. Soup, game, tea, coffee, chocolate,
ham, eggs, honey, marmalade, grapes, pines, melons, ices, buns, cakes,
skimmed and soared, and floated about the room, in obedience to the
behests of the callers. The only apparently disengaged person in the
room, was Monsieur Jean Rougier, who, in a blue coat with a velvet
collar and bright buttons, a rolling-collared white vest, and an
amplified lace-tipped black Joinville, stood like a pouter pigeon behind
Mr. Pringle’s chair, the beau ideal of an indifferent spectator. And yet
he was anything but an indifferent spectator; for beneath his stubbly
hair were a pair of little roving, watchful eyes, and his ringed ears
were cocked for whatever they could catch. The clatter, patter, clatter,
patter of eating, which was slightly interrupted by the entrance of
his lordship was soon in full vigour again, and all eyes resumed the
contemplation of the plates.

Presently, the “fiz, pop, bang” of a champagne cork was heard on the
extreme right, which was immediately taken up on the left, and ran down
either side of the table like gigantic crackers. Eighty guests were now
imbibing the sparkling fluid, as fast as the footmen could supply it.
And it was wonderful what a volubility that single glass a-piece (to
be sure they were good large ones) infused into the meeting; how
tongue-tied ones became talkative, and awed ones began to feel
themselves sufficiently at home to tackle with the pines and sugar
ornaments of the centre. Grottoes and Pyramids and Pagodas and Rialtos
began to topple to their fall, and even a sugar Crystal Palace, which
occupied the post of honour between two flower-decked Sèvres vases, was
threatened with destruction. The band and the gardeners were swept away
immediately, and an assault on the fountains was only prevented by the
interference of Mr. Beverage, the butler. And now a renewed pop-ponading
commenced, more formidable, if possible, than the first, and all glasses
were eagerly drained, and prepared to receive the salute.

All being ready, Lord Ladythorne rose amid the applause so justly due
to a man entertaining his friends, and after a few prefatory remarks,
expressive of the pleasure it gave him to see them all again at the
opening of another season, and hoping that they might have many
more such meetings, he concluded by giving as a toast, “Success to
fox-hunting!”—which, of course, was drunk upstanding with all the
honours.

All parties having gradually subsided into their seats after this
uncomfortable performance, a partial lull ensued, which was at length
interrupted by his lordship giving Imperial John, who sat on his left,
a nod, who after a loud throat-clearing hem! rose bolt upright with his
imperial chin well up, and began, “Gentlemen and Ladies!” just as little
weazeley Major Yammerton commenced “Ladies and gentlemen!” from Mrs.
Moffatt’s end of the table. This brought things to a stand still—some
called for Hybrid, some for Yammerton, and each disliking the other,
neither was disposed to give way. The calls, however, becoming more
frequent for Yammerton, who had never addressed them before, while
Hybrid had, saying the same thing both times, the Earl gave his
Highness a hint to sit down, and the Major was then left in that awful
predicament, from which so many men would be glad to escape, after they
have achieved it, namely,—the possession of the meeting.

However, Yammerton had got his speech well off, and had the heads of it
under his plate; so on silence being restored, he thus went away with
it:—

“Ladies and gentlemen,—(cough)—ladies and gentlemen,—(hem) I rise, I
assure you—(cough)—with feelings of considerable trepidation—(hem)—to
perform an act—(hem)—of greater difficulty than may at first sight
appear—(hem, hem, haw)—for let me ask what it is I am about to do? (“You
know best,” growled Imperial John, thinking how ill he was doing it.)
I am going to propose the health of a nobleman—(applause)—of whom,
in whose presence, if I say too much, I may offend, and if I say too
little, I shall most justly receive your displeasure (renewed applause).
But, ladies and gentlemen, there are times when the ‘umblest abilities
become equal to the occasion, and assuredly this is one—(applause). To
estimate the character of the illustrious nobleman aright, whose
health I shall conclude by proposing, we must regard him in his
several capacities—(applause)—as Lord-Lieutenant of the great county of
Featherbedford, as a great and liberal landlord, as a kind and generous
neighbour, and though last, not least, as a brilliant sportsman—(great
applause, during which Yammerton looked under his plate at his
notes.)—As Lord-Lieutenant,” continued he, “perhaps the greatest praise
I can offer him, the ‘ighest compliment I can pay him, is to say that
his appointments are so truly impartial as not to disclose his own
politics—(applause)—as a landlord, he is so truly a pattern that it
would be a mere waste of words for me to try to recommend him to your
notice,—(applause)—as a neighbour, he is truly exemplary in all the
relations of life,—(applause)—and as a sportsman, having myself kept
haryers five-and-thirty years without a subscription, I may be permitted
to say that he is quite first-rate,—(laughter from the Earl’s end of the
table, and applause from Mrs. Moffatt’s.)—In all the relations of life,
therefore, ladies and gentlemen,”—continued the Major, looking irately
down at the laughers—“I beg to propose the bumper toast of health, and
long life to our ‘ost, the noble Earl of Ladythorne!”

Whereupon the little Major popped down on his chair, wondering whether
he had omitted any thing he ought to have said, and seeing him well
down, Imperial John, who was not to be done out of his show-off, rose,
glass in hand, and exclaimed in a stentorian voice,

“Gentlemen and Ladies! Oi beg to propose that we drink this toast up
standin’ with all the honours!—Featherbedfordshire fire!” upon which
there was a great outburst of applause, mingled with demands for wine,
and requests from the ladies, that the gentlemen would be good enough
to take their chairs off their dresses, or move a little to one side,
so that they might have room to stand up; Crinoline, we should observe,
being very abundant with many of them.

A tremendous discharge of popularity then ensued, the cheers being led
by Imperial John, much to the little Major’s chagrin, who wondered how
he could ever have sat down without calling for them.

Now, the Earl, we should observe, had not risen in the best of moods
that morning, having had a disagreeable dream, in which he saw old Binks
riding his favourite horse Valiant, Mazeppa fashion, making a drag
of his statue of the Greek slave, enveloped in an anise-seeded
bathing-gown; a vexation that had been further increased when he arose,
by the receipt of a letter from his “good-natured friend” in London,
telling him how old Binks had been boasting at Boodle’s that he was
within an ace of an Earldom, and now to be clumsily palavered by
Yammerton was more than he could bear.

He didn’t want to be praised for anything but his sporting propensities,
and Imperial John knew how to do it. Having, however, a good dash of
satire in his composition, when the applause and the Crinoline had
subsided, he arose as if highly delighted, and assured them that if
anything could enhance the pleasure of that meeting, it was to have his
health proposed by such a sportsman as Major Yammerton, a gentleman who
he believed had kept harriers five-and-thirty years, a feat he
believed altogether unequalled in the annals of sporting—(laughter
and applause)—during which the little Major felt sure he was going to
conclude by proposing his health with all the honours, instead of which,
however, his lordship branched off to his own department of sport,
urging them to preserve foxes most scrupulously, never to mind a little
poultry damage, for Mr. Boggledike would put all that right, never to
let the odious word Strychnine be heard in the country, and concluded
by proposing a bumper to their next merry meeting, which was the usual
termination of the proceedings. The party then rose, chairs fell out of
line, and flying crumpled napkins completed the confusion of the scene.



CHAPTER XII. THE MORNING FOX.—THE AFTERNOON FOX.



097m


THE day was quite at its best, when the party-coloured bees emerged from
the sweets of Tantivy Castle, to taint the pure atmosphere with their
nasty cigars, and air themselves on the terrace, letting the unadmitted
world below see on what excellent terms they were with an Earl. Then
Imperial John upbraided Major. Yammerton for taking the words out of
his mouth, as it were, and the cockey Major turned up his nose at the
“farmer fellow” for presuming to lector him. Then the emboldened ladies
strolled through the picture-galleries and reception-rooms, regardless
of Mrs. Moffatt or any one else, wondering where this door led to and
where that. The hounds had been basking and loitering on the lawn for
some time, undergoing the inspection and criticisms of the non-hunting
portion of the establishment, the gardeners, the gamekeepers, the
coachmen, the helpers, the housemaids, and so on. They all pronounced
them as perfect as could be, and Mr. Hoggledike received their
compliments with becoming satisfaction, saying, with a chuck of his
chin, “Yas, Yas, I think they’re about as good as can be! Parfaction. I
may say!”

Having abused the cigars, we hope our fair friends will now excuse us
for saying that we know of few less agreeable scenes than a show meet
with fox-hounds. The whole thing is opposed to the wild nature of
hunting. Some people can eat at any time, but to a well-regulated
appetite, having to undergo even the semblance of an additional meal is
inconvenient; while to have to take a bonâ fide dinner in the morning,
soup, toast, speeches and all, is perfectly suicidal of pleasure. On
this occasion, the wine-flushed guests seemed fitted for Cremorne or
Foxhall, as they used to pronounce Vauxhall, than for fox-hunting.
Indeed, the cigar gentry swaggered about with a very rakish, Regent
Street air. His lordship alone seemed impressed with the importance
of the occasion; but his anxiety arose from indecision, caused by the
Binks’ dream and letter, and fear lest the Yammerton girls might spoil
Billy for Miss de Glancey, should his lordship adhere to his intention
of introducing them to each other. Then he began to fidget lest he might
be late at the appointed place, and Miss de Glancey go home, and so
frustrate either design.

“To horse! to horse!” therefore exclaimed he, now hurrying through the
crowd, lowering his Imperial Jane-made hat-string, and drawing on his
Moffatt-knit mits. “To horse! to horse!” repeated he, flourishing his
cane hunting-whip, causing a commotion among the outer circle of grooms.
His magnificent black horse, Valiant (the one he had seen old Binks
bucketing), faultless in shape, faultless in condition, faultless every
way, stepped proudly aside, and Cupid-without-Wings dropping himself off
by the neck, Mr. Beanley, the stud groom, swept the coronetted rug over
the horse’s bang tail, as the superb and sensible animal stepped forward
to receive his rider, as the Earl came up. With a jaunty air, the gay
old gentleman vaulted lightly into the saddle, saying as he drew the
thin rein, and felt the horse gently with his left leg, “Now get Mr.
Pringle his horse.” His lordship then passed on a few paces to receive
the sky-scraping salutes of the servants, and at a jerk of his head the
cavalcade was in motion.

Our friend Billy then became the object of attention. The dismounted
Cupid dived into the thick of the led horses to seek his, while
Mr. Beanley went respectfully up to him, and with a touch of his
flat-brimmed hat, intimated that “his oss was at ‘and.”

“What sort of an animal is it?” asked the somewhat misgiving Billy, now
bowing his adieus to the pretty Misses Yammerton.

“A very nice oss, sir,” replied Mr. Beanley, with another touch of hat;
“yes, sir, a very nice oss—a perfect ‘unter—nothin’ to do but sit still,
and give ‘im ‘is ‘ead, he’ll take far better care o’ you than you can
of ‘im.” So saying, Mr. Beanley led the way to a very sedate-looking,
thorough-bred bay, with a flat flapped saddle, and a splint boot on his
near foreleg, but in other respects quite unobjectionable. He was one of
Swan’s stud, but Mr. Beanley, understanding from the under butler, who
had it from Jack Rogers—we beg his pardon,—Monsieur Rougier himself,
that Mr. Pringle was likely to be a good tip, he had drawn it for him.
The stirrups, for a wonder, being the right length, Billy was presently
astride, and in pursuit of his now progressing lordship, the gaping
crowd making way for the young lord as they supposed him to be—for
people are all lords when they visit at lords.

Pop, pop, bob, bob, went the black caps of the men in advance,
indicating the whereabouts of the hounds, while his lordship ambled
over the green turf on the right, surrounded by the usual high-pressure
toadies. Thus the cavalcade passed through the large wood-studded,
deer-scattered park, rousing the nearer herds from their lairs,
frightening the silver-tails into their holes, and causing the conceited
hares to scuttle away for the fern-browned, undulating hills, as if they
had the vanity to suppose that this goodly array would condescend to
have anything to do with them. Silly things! Peppercorn, the keeper, had
a much readier way of settling their business. The field then crossed
the long stretch of smooth, ornamental water, by the old gothic-arched
bridge, and passed through the beautiful iron gates of the south lodge,
now wheeled back by grey-headed porters, in cerulean-blue plush coats,
and broad, gold-laced hats. Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the accustomed
hunt was indicated by a lengthening line of pedestrians and small
cavalry, toiling across the park by Duntler the watcher’s cottage and
the deer sheds, to the door in the wall at the bottom of Crow-tree hill,
from whence a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding country is obtained.
The piece had been enacted so often, the same company, the same day, the
same hour, the same find, the same finish, that one might almost imagine
it was the same fox On this particular occasion, however, as if out
of pure contradiction, Master Reynard, by a series of successful
manoeuvres, lying down, running a wall, popping backwards and forwards
between Ashley quarries and Warmley Gorse, varied by an occasional trip
to Crow-tree hill, completely baffled Mr. Boggledike, so that it was
afternoon before he brought his morning fox to hand, to the great
discomfort of the Earl, who had twice or thrice signaled Swan to “who
hoop” him to ground, when the tiresome animal popped up in the midst of
the pack. At length Boggledike mastered him; and after proclaiming him
a “cowardly, short-running dastardly traitor, no better nor a ‘are,” he
chucked him scornfully to the hounds, decorating Master Pillerton’s
pony with the brush, while Swan distributed the pads among others of the
rising generation.

The last act of the “show meet” being thus concluded, Mr. Boggledike and
his men quickly collected their hounds, and set off in search of fresh
fields and pastures new.

The Earl, having disposed of his show-meet fox—a bagman, of course—now
set up his business-back, and getting alongside of Mr. Boggledike, led
the pack at as good a trot as the hounds and the state of the line would
allow. The newly laid whinstone of the Brittleworth road rather impeded
their progress at first; but this inconvenience was soon overcome by the
road becoming less parsimonious in width, extending at length to a grass
siding, along which his lordship ambled at a toe in the stirrup trot,
his eagle-eye raking every bend and curve, his mind distracted with
visions of Binks, and anxiety for the future.

He couldn’t get over the dream, and the letter had anything but cheered
him.

“Very odd,” said he to himself, “very odd,” as nothing but drab-coated
farmers and dark-coated grooms lounging leisurely “on,” with here and
there a loitering pedestrian, broke the monotony of the scene. “Hope
she’s not tired, and gone home,” thought he, looking now at his watch,
and now back into the crowd, to see where he had Billy Pringle. There
was Billy riding alongside of Major Yammerton’s old flea-bitten grey,
whose rider was impressing Billy with a sense of his consequence, and
the excellence of his “haryers,” paving the way for an invitation
to Yammerton Grange. “D-a-ash that Yammerton,” growled his lordship,
thinking how he was spoiling sport at both ends; at the Castle by his
uninvited eloquence, and now by his fastening on to the only man in
the field he didn’t want him to get acquainted with. And his lordship
inwardly resolved that he would make Easylease a magistrate before he
would make the Major one. So settling matters in his own mind, he gave
the gallant Valiant a gentle tap on the shoulder with his whip, and shot
a few paces ahead of Dicky, telling the whips to keep the crowd off the
hounds—meaning off himself. Thus he ambled on through the quiet little
village of Strotherdale, whose inhabitants all rushed out to see the
hounds pass, and after tantalising poor Jonathan Gape, the turnpike-gate
man, at the far end, who thought he was going to get a grand haul,
he turned short to the left down the tortuous green lane leading to
Quarrington Gorse.

“There’s a footmark,” said his lordship to himself, looking down at the
now closely eaten sward. “Ah! and there’s a hat and feather,” added
he as a sudden turn of the lane afforded a passing glimpse. Thus
inspirited, he mended his pace a little, and was presently in sight of
the wearer. There was the bay, and there was the wide-awake, and there
was the green trimming, and there was the feather; but somehow, as he
got nearer, they all seemed to have lost caste. The slender waist
and graceful upright seat had degenerated into a fuller form and lazy
slouch; the habit didn’t look like her habit, nor the bay horse like
her bay horse, and as he got within speaking distance, the healthy,
full-blown face of Miss Winkworth smiled upon him instead of the mild,
placid features of the elegant de Glancey.

“Ah, my dear Miss Winkworth!” exclaimed his half-disgusted,
half-delighted lordship, raising his hat, and then extending the
right-hand of fellowship; “Ah, my dear Miss Winkworth, I’m charmed to
see you” (inwardly wondering what business women had out hunting). “I
hope you are all well at home,” continued he (most devoutly wishing she
was there); and without waiting for an answer, he commenced a
furious assault upon Benedict, who had taken a fancy to follow him, a
performance that enabled General Boggledike to come up with that army
of relief, the pack, and engulf the lady in the sea of horsemen in the
rear.

“If that had been her,” said his lordship to himself, “old Binks would
have had a better chance;” and he thought what an odious thing a bad
copy was.



Another bend of the land and another glimpse, presently put all
matters right. The real feather now fluttered before him. There was the
graceful, upright seat, the elegant air, the well-groomed horse, the
tout ensemble being heightened, if possible, by the recent contrast with
the coarse, country attired Miss Winkworth.

The Earl again trotted gently on, raising his hat most deferentially as
he came along side of her, as usual, unaverted head.

“Good morning, my Lord!” exclaimed she gaily, as if agreeably surprised,
tendering for the first time her pretty, little, primrose-coloured
kid-gloved hand, looking as though she would condescend to notice a
“mere fox-hunter.”

The gay old gentleman pressed it with becoming fervour, thinking he
never saw her looking so well before.

They then struck up a light rapid conversation.

Miss perhaps never did look brighter or more radiant, and as his
lordship rode by her side, he really thought if he could make up his
mind to surrender his freedom to any woman, it would be to her. There
was a something about her that he could not describe, but still a
something that was essentially different to all his other flames.

He never could bear a riding-woman before, but now he felt quite proud
to have such an elegant, piquant attendant on his pack.—Should like,
at all events, to keep her in the country, and enjoy her society.—Would
like to add her to the collection of Featherbedfordshire witches of
which his friends joked him in town.—“Might have done worse than marry
Imperial John,” thought his lordship. John mightn’t be quite her match
in point of manner, but she would soon have polished him up, and John
must be doing uncommonly well as times go—cattle and corn both selling
prodigiously high, and John with his farm at a very low rent. And the
thought of John and his beef brought our friend Billy to the Earl’s
mind, and after a sort of random compliment between Miss de Glancey and
her horse, he exclaimed, “By the way! I’ve got a young friend out I wish
to introduce to you,” so rising in his saddle and looking back into the
crowd he hallooed out, “Pringle!” a name that was instantly caught up
by the quick-eared Dicky, a “Mister” tacked to it and passed backward to
Speed, who gave it to a groom; and Billy was presently seen boring his
way through the opening crowd, just as a shepherd’s dog bores its way
through a flock of sheep.

“Pringle,” said his lordship, as the approach of Billy’s horse caused
Valiant to lay back his ears, “Pringle! I want to introduce you to Miss
de Glancey, Miss de Glancey give me leave to introduce my friend Mr.
Pringle,” continued he, adding soto voce, as if for Miss de Glancey’s
ear alone, “young man of very good family and fortune—richest Commoner,
in England, they say.” But before his lordship got to the richest
Commoner part of his speech, a dark frown of displeasure had overcast
the sweet smile of those usually tranquil features, which luckily,
however, was not seen by Billy; and before he got his cap restored to
his head after a sky scraping salute, Miss de Glancey had resumed
her wonted complacency,—inwardly resolving to extinguish the “richest
Commoner,” just as she had done his lordship’s other “friend Mr.
Hybrid.” Discarding the Earl, therefore, she now opened a most voluble
battering on our good-looking Billy who, to do him justice, maintained
his part so well, that a lady with less ambitious views might have been
very well satisfied to be Mrs. Pringle. Indeed, when his lordship looked
at the two chattering and ogling and simpering together, and thought
of that abominable old Binks and the drag, and the letter from the
Boodleite, his heart rather smote him for what he had done; for young
and fresh as he then felt himself, he knew that age would infallibly
creep upon him at last, just as he saw it creeping upon each particular
friend when he went to town, and he questioned that he should ever find
any lady so eminently qualified to do the double duty of gracing his
coronet and disappointing the General. Not but that the same thought had
obtruded itself with regard to other ladies; but he now saw that he had
been mistaken with respect to all of them, and that this was the real,
genuine, no mistake, “right one.” Moreover, Miss de Glancey was the only
lady who according to his idea had not made up to him—rather snubbed him
in fact. Mistaken nobleman! There are, many ways of making up to a man.
But as with many, so with his lordship, the last run was always the
finest, and the last lady always the fairest—the most engaging. With
distracting considerations such as these, and the advantage of seeing
Miss de Glancey play the artillery of her arts upon our young friend,
they reached the large old pasture on the high side of Quarrington
Gorse, a cover of some four acres in extent, lying along a gently
sloping bank, with cross rides cut down to the brook. Mr. Boggledike
pulled up near the rubbing-post in the centre of the field, to give his
hounds a roll, while the second-horse gentlemen got their nags, and
the new comers exchanged their hacks for their hunters. Judging by the
shaking of hands, the exclamations of “halloo! old boy is that you?”

“I say! where are you from?” and similar inquiries, there were a good
many of the latter—some who never went to the Castle, some who thought
it too far, some who thought it poor fun. Altogether, when the field got
scattered over the pasture, as a shop-keeper scatters his change on the
counter, or as an old stage coachman used to scatter his passengers on
the road with an upset, there might be fifty or sixty horsemen, assmen,
and gigmen.

Most conspicuous was his lordship’s old eye-sore, Hicks, the flying
hatter of Hinton (Sir Moses Mainchance’s “best man”), who seemed to
think it incumbent upon him to kill his lordship a hound every year by
his reckless riding, and who now came out in mufti, a hunting-cap, a
Napoleon-grey tweed jacket, loose white cords, with tight drab leggings,
and spurs on his shoes, as if his lordship’s hounds were not worth the
green cut-a-way and brown boots he sported with Sir Moses. He now gave
his cap-peak a sort of rude rap with his fore-finger, as his lordship
came up, as much as to say, “I don’t know whether I’ll speak to you or
not,” and then ran his great raking chestnut into the crowd to get at
his old opponent Gameboy Green, who generally rode for the credit of the
Tantivy hunt. As these sort of cattle always hunt in couples, Hicks is
followed by his shadow, Tom Snowdon, the draper—or the Damper, as he is
generally called, from his unhappy propensity of taking a gloomy view of
everything.

To the right are a knot of half-horse, half-pony mounted
Squireen-looking gentlemen, with clay pipes in their mouths, whose
myrtle-green coats, baggy cords, and ill-cleaned tops, denote as
belonging to the Major’s “haryers.” And mark how the little, pompons man
wheels before them, in order that Pringle may see the reverence they
pay to his red coat. He raises his punt hat with all the dignity of the
immortal Simpson of Vauxhall memory, and passes on in search of further
compliments.

His lordship has now settled himself into the “Wilkinson and Kidd” of
Rob Roy, a bay horse of equal beauty with Valiant, but better adapted to
the country into which they are now going, Imperial John has drawn his
girths with his teeth, D’Orsay Davis has let down his hat-string, Mr.
John Easylease has tightened his curb, Mr. Section drawn on his gloves,
the Damper finished his cigar, and all things are approximating a start.

“Elope, lads! Elope!” cries Dicky Boggledike to his hounds,
whistling and waving them together, and in an instant the rollers
and wide-spreaders are frolicking and chiding under his horse’s nose.
“G-e-e-ntly, lads! g-e-ently!” adds he, looking the more boisterous ones
reprovingly in the face—“gently lads, gently,” repeats he, “or you’ll be
rousin’ the gem’lman i’ the gos.” This movement of Dicky and the hounds
has the effect of concentrating the field, all except our fair friend
and Billy, who are still in the full cry of conversation, Miss putting
forth her best allurements the sooner to bring Billy to book.

At a chuck of his lordship’s chin, Dicky turns his horse towards the
gorse, just as Billy, in reply to Miss de Glancey’s question, if he is
fond of hunting, declares, as many a youth has done who hates it, that
he “doats upon it!”

A whistle, a waive, and a cheer, and the hounds are away. They charge
the hedge with a crash, and drive into the gorse as if each hound had a
bet that he would find the fox himself.

Mr. Boggledike being now free of his pack, avails himself of this moment
of ease, to exhibit his neat, newly clad person of which he is not a
little proud, by riding along the pedestrian-lined hedge, and requesting
that “you fut people,” as he calls them, “will have the goodness not
to ‘alloa, but to ‘old up your ‘ats if you view the fox;” and having
delivered his charge in three several places, he turns into the cover by
the little white bridle-gate in the middle, which Cupid-without-Wings is
now holding open, and who touches his hat as Dicky passes.

The scene is most exciting. The natural inclination of the land
affords every one a full view of almost every part of the sloping,
southerly-lying gorse, while a bright sun, with a clear, rarified
atmosphere, lights up the landscape, making the distant fences look like
nothing. Weak must be the nerves that would hesitate to ride over them
as they now appear.

Delusive view! Between the gorse and yonder fir-clad hills are two
bottomless brooks, and ere the dashing rider reaches Fairbank Farm,
whose tall chimney stands in bold relief against the clear, blue sky,
lies a tract of country whose flat surface requires gulph-like drains to
carry off the surplus water that rushes down from the higher grounds.
To the right, though the country looks rougher, it is in reality easier,
but foxes seem to know it, and seldom take that line; while to the left
is a strongly-fenced country, fairish for hounds, but very difficult for
horses, inasmuch as the vales are both narrow and deep. But let us find
our fox and see what we can do among them. And as we are in for a burst,
let us do the grand and have a fresh horse.



CHAPTER XIII. GONE AWAY!

SEE! a sudden thrill shoots through the field, though not a hound has
spoken; no, not even a whimper been heard. It is Speed’s new cap rising
from the dip of the ground at the low end of the cover, and now having
seen the fox “right well away,” as he says, he gives such a ringing view
halloa as startles friend Echo, and brings the eager pack pouring and
screeching to the cry—

“Tweet! tweet! tweet!” now goes cantering Dicky’s superfluous horn, only
he doesn’t like to be done out of his blow, and thinks the “fut people”
 may attribut’ the crash to his coming.

All eyes are now eagerly strained to get a view of old Reynard, some for
the pleasure of seeing him, others to speculate upon whether they will
have to take the stiff stake and rise in front, or the briar-tangled
boundary fence below, in order to fulfil the honourable obligation
of going into every field with the hounds. Others, again, who do not
acknowledge the necessity, and mean to take neither, hold their horses
steadily in hand, to be ready to slip down Cherry-tree Lane, or through
West Hill fold-yard, into the Billinghurst turnpike, according as the
line of chase seems to lie.

“Talli-ho!” cries the Flying Hatter, as he views the fox whisking his
brush as he rises the stubble-field over Fawley May Farm, and in an
instant he is soaring over the boundary-fence to the clamorous pack just
as his lordship takes it a little higher up, and lands handsomely in the
next field. Miss de Glancey then goes at it in a canter, and clears it
neatly, while Billy Pringle’s horse, unused to linger, after waiting in
vain for an intimation from his rider, just gathers himself together,
and takes it on his own account, shooting Billy on to his shoulder.

“He’s off! no, he’s on; he hangs by the mane!” was the cry of the foot
people, as Billy scrambled back into his saddle, which he regained with
anything but a conviction that he could sit at the jumps. Worst of all,
he thought he saw Miss de Glancey’s shoulders laughing at his failure.

The privileged ones having now taken their unenviable precedence, the
scramble became general, some going one way, some another, and the
recent frowning fences are soon laid level with the fields.

A lucky lane running parallel with the line, along which the almost mute
pack were now racing with a breast-high scent, relieved our friend Billy
from any immediate repetition of the leaping inconvenience, though
he could not hear the clattering of horses’ hoofs behind him without
shuddering at the idea of falling and being ridden over. It seemed very
different he thought to the first run, or to Hyde Park; people were all
so excitcd, instead of riding quietly, or for admiration, as they do in
the park. Just as Billy was flattering himself that the leaping danger
was at an end, a sudden jerk of his horse nearly chucked him into
Imperial John’s pocket, who happened to be next in advance. The fox had
been headed by the foot postman between Hinton and Sambrook; and Dicky
Boggledike, after objurgating the astonished man, demanding, “What the
daval business he had there?” had drawn his horse short across the lane,
thus causing a sudden halt to those in the rear.

The Flying Hatter and the Damper pressing close upon the pack as usual,
despite the remonstrance of Gameboy Green and others, made them shoot
up to the far-end of the enclosure, where they would most likely have
topped the fence but for Swan and Speed getting round them, and adding
the persuasion of their whips to the entreaties of Dicky’s horn. The
hounds sweep round to the twang, lashing and bristling with excitement.

“Yo doit!” cries Dicky, as Sparkler and Pilgrim feather up the lane,
trying first this side, then that. Sparkler speaks! “He’s across the
lane.”

“Hoop! hoop! tallio! tallio!” cries Dicky cheerily, taking off his cap,
and sweeping it in the direction the fox has gone, while his lordship,
who has been bottling up the vial of his wrath, now uncorks it as he
gets the delinquents within hearing.

“Thank you, Mr. Hicks, for pressing on my hounds! Much obleged to you,
Mr. Hicks, for pressing on my hounds! Hang you, Mr. Hicks, for pressing
on my hounds!” So saying, his lordship gathered Rob Roy together, and
followed Mr. Boggledike through a very stiff bullfinch that Dicky would
rather have shirked, had not the eyes of England been upon him.

S-w-ic-h! Dicky goes through, and the vigorous thorns close again like a
rat-trap.

“Allow me, my lord!” exclaims Imperial John from behind, anxious to be
conspicuous.

“Thank ‘e, no,” replied his lordship, carelessly thinking it would
not do to let Miss de Glancey too much into the secrets of the hunting
field. “Thank ‘e, no,” repeated he, and ramming his horse well at it, he
gets through with little more disturbance of the thorns than Dicky had
made. Miss de Glancey comes next, and riding quietly up the bank, she
gives her horse a chuck with the curb and a touch with the whip that
causes him to rise well on his haunches and buck over without injury to
herself, her hat, or her habit. Imperial John was nearly offering his
services to break the fence for her, but the “S-i-r-r! do you mean to
insult me?” still tingling in his ears, caused him to desist. However
he gives Billy a lift by squashing through before him, whose horse then
just rushed through it as before, leaving Billy to take care of himself.
A switched face was the result, the pain, however, being far greater
than the disfigurement.

While this was going on above, D’Orsay Davis, who can ride a spurt, has
led a charge through a weaker place lower down; and when our friend had
ascertained that his eyes were still in his head, he found two distinct
lines of sportsmen spinning away in the distance as if they were riding
a race. Added to this, the pent-up party behind him having got vent,
made a great show of horsemanship as they passed.

“Come along!” screamed one.

“Look alive!” shouted another.

“Never say die!” cried a third, though they were all as ready to shut up
as our friend.

Billy’s horse, however, not being used to stopping, gets the bit between
his teeth, and scuttles away at a very overtaking pace, bringing him
sufficiently near to let him see Gameboy Green and the Flying Hatter
leading the honourable obligation van, out of whose extending line now
a red coat, now a green coat, now a dark coat drops in the usual “had
enough” style.

In the ride-cunning, or know-the-country detachment, Miss de Glancey’s
flaunting habit, giving dignity to the figure and flowing elegance to
the scene, might be seen going at perfect ease beside the noble Earl,
who from the higher ground surveys Gameboy Green and the Hatter
racing to get first at each fence, while the close-packing hounds are
sufficiently far in advance to be well out of harm’s way.

“C—a—a—tch ‘em, if you can!” shrieks his lordship, eyeing their zealous
endeavours.

“C—a—a—tch ‘em, if you can!” repeats he, laughing, as the pace gets
better and better, scarce a hound having time to give tongue.

“Yooi, over he goes!” now cries his lordship, as a spasmodic jerk of the
leading hounds, on Alsike water meadow, turns Trumpeter’s and Wrangler’s
heads toward the newly widened and deepened drain-cut, and the whole
pack wheel to the left. What a scramble there is to get over! Some clear
it, some fall back, while some souse in and out.

Now Gameboy, seeing by the newly thrown out gravel the magnitude of the
venture, thrusts down his hat firmly on his brow, while Hicks gets his
chesnut well by the head, and hardening their hearts they clear it in
stride, and the Damper takes soundings for the benefit of those who come
after. What a splash he makes!

And now the five-and-thirty years master of “haryers” without a
subscription coming up, seeks to save the credit of his quivering-tailed
grey by stopping to help the discontented Damper out of his difficulty,
whose horse coming out on the wrong side affords them both a very fair
excuse for shutting up shop.

The rest of the detachment, unwilling to bathe, after craning at the
cut, scuttle away by its side down to the wooden cattle-bridge
below, which being crossed, the honourable obligationers and the
take-care-of-their-neckers are again joined in common union. It is,
however, no time to boast of individual feats, or to inquire for absent
friends, for the hounds still press on, though the pace is not quite so
severe as it was. They are on worse soil, and the scent does not serve
them so well. It soon begins to fail, and at length is carried on upon
the silent system, and looks very like failing altogether.

Mr. Boggledike, who has been riding as cunning as any one, now shows to
the front, watching the stooping pack with anxious eye, lest he should
have to make a cast over fences that do not quite suit his convenience.

“G—e—ntly, urryin’! gently!” cries he, seeing that a little precipitancy
may carry them off the line. “Yon cur dog has chased the fox, and the
hounds are puzzled at the point where he has left him.”

“Ah, sarr, what the daval business have you out with a dog on such an
occasion as this?” demands Dicky of an astonished drover who thought the
road was as open to him as to Dicky.

“O, sar! sar! you desarve to be put i’ the lock-up,” continues Dicky, as
the pack now divide on the scent.

“O, sar! sar! you should be chaasetised!” added he, shaking his whip at
the drover, as he trotted on to the assistance of the pack.

The melody of the majority however recalls the cur-ites, and saves Dicky
from the meditated assault.

While the brief check was going on, his lordship was eyeing Miss de
Glancey, thinking of all the quiet captivating women he had ever seen,
she was the most so. Her riding was perfection, and he couldn’t conceive
how it was that he had ever entertained any objection to sports-women.
It must have been from seeing some clumsy ones rolling about who
couldn’t ride; and old Binks’s chance at that moment was not worth one
farthing.

“Where’s Pringle?” now asked his lordship, as the thought of Binks
brought our hero to his recollection.

“Down,” replied Miss de Glancey carelessly, pointing to the ground with
her pretty amethyst-topped whip.

“Down, is he!” smiled the Earl, adding half to himself and half to her,
“thought he was a mull’.”

Our friend indeed has come to grief. After pulling and hauling at his
horse until he got him quite savage, the irritated animal, shaking his
head as a terrier shakes a rat, ran blindfold into a bullfinch, shooting
Billy into a newly-made manure-heap beyond. The last of the “harryer”
 men caught his horse, and not knowing who he belonged to, just threw
the bridle-rein over the next gatepost, while D’Orsay Davis, who had had
enough, and was glad of an excuse for stopping, pulls up to assist Billy
out of his dirty dilemma.

Augh, what a figure he was!

But see! Mr. Boggledike is hitting off the scent, and the astonished
drover is spurring on his pony to escape the chasetisement Dicky has
promised him.

At this critical moment, Miss de Glancey’s better genius whispered her
to go home. She had availed herself of the short respite to take a sly
peep at herself in a little pocket-mirror she carried in her saddle,
and found she was quite as much heated as was becoming or as could be
ventured upon without detriment to her dress. Moreover, she was not
quite sure but that one of her frizettes was coming out.

So now when the hounds break out in fresh melody, and the Flying Hatter
and Gameboy Green are again elbowing to the front, she sits reining in
her steed, evidently showing she is done.

“Oh, come along!” exclaimed the Earl, looking back for her. “Oh, come
along,” repeated he, waving her onward, as he held in his horse.

There was no resisting the appeal, for it was clear he would come back
for her if she did, so touching her horse with the whip, she is again
cantering by his side.

“I’d give the world to see you beat that impudent ugly hatter,” said
he, now pointing Hicks out in the act of riding at a stiff newly-plashed
fence before his hounds were half over.

And his lordship spurred his horse as he spoke with a vigour that spoke
the intensity of his feelings.

The line of chase then lay along the swiftly flowing Arrow banks and
across Oxley large pastures, parallel with the Downton bridle-road,
along which Dicky and his followers now pounded; Dicky hugging himself
with the idea that the fox was making for the main earths on Bringwood
moor, to which he knew every yard of the country.

And so the fox was going as straight and as hard as ever he could, but
as ill luck would have it, young Mr. Nailor, the son of the owner of
Oxley pastures, shot at a snipe at the west corner of the large pasture
just as pug entered at the east, causing him to shift his line and
thread Larchfield plantations instead of crossing the pasture, and
popping down Tillington Dean as he intended.

Dicky had heard the gun, and the short turn of the hounds now showing
him what had happened, he availed himself of the superiority of
a well-mounted nobleman’s huntsman in scarlet over a tweed-clad
muffin-capped shooter, for exclaiming at the top of his voice as he
cantered past, horn in hand,

“O ye poachin’ davil, what business ‘ave ye there!”

“O ye nasty sneakin’ snarin’ ticket-o’-leaver, go back to the place from
whance you came!” leaving the poor shooter staring with astonishment.

A twang of the horn now brings the hounds—who have been running with a
flinging catching side-wind scent on to the line, and a full burst of
melody greets the diminished field, as they strike it on the bright
grass of the plantation.

“For—rard! for—rard!” is the cry, though there isn’t a hound but what is
getting on as best as he can.

The merry music reanimates the party, and causes them to press on their
horses with rather more freedom than past exertions warrant.

Imperial John’s is the first to begin wheezing, but his Highness feeling
him going covers a retreat of his hundred-and-fifty-guineas-worth, as he
hopes he will be, under shelter of the plantation. ****

“I think the ‘atter’s oss has about ‘ad enough,” now observes Dicky
to his lordship, as he holds open the bridle-gate at the end of the
plantation into the Benington Lane for his lordship and Miss de Glancey
to pass.

“Glad of it,” replied the Earl, thinking the Hatter would not be able to
go home and boast how he had cut down the Tantivy men and hung them up
to dry.

“Old ‘ard, one moment!” now cries Dicky, raising his right hand as the
Hatter comes blundering through the quickset fence into the hard lane,
his horse nearly alighting on his nose.

“Old ‘ard, please!” adds he, as the Hatter spurs among the road-stooping
pack.

“Hooick to Challenger! Hooick to Challenger!” now holloas Dicky, as
Challenger, after sniffing up the grassy mound of the opposite hedge,
proclaims that the fox is over; and Dicky getting his horse short by the
head, slips behind the Hatter’s horse’s tail for his old familiar friend
the gap in the corner, while the Hatter gathers his horse together to
fulfil the honourable obligation of going with the hounds.

“C—u—r—m up!” cries he, with an obligato accompaniment of the spur
rowels, which the honest beast acknowledges by a clambering flounder
up the bank, making the descent on his head on the field side that he
nearly executed before. The Hatter’s legs perform a sort of wands of a
mill evolution.

“Not hurt, I hope!” holloas the Earl, who with Miss de Glancey now lands
a little above, and seeing the Hatter rise and shake himself he canters
on, giving Miss de Glancey a touch on the elbow, and saying with a
knowing look, “That’s capital! get rid of him, leggings and all!”

His lordship having now seen the last of his tormentors, has time to
look about him a little.

“Been a monstrous fine run,” observes he to the lady, as they canter
together behind the pace-slackening pack.

“Monstrous,” replies the lady, who sees no fun in it at all.

“How long has it been?” asks his lordship of Swan, who now shows to the
front as a whip-aspiring huntsman is wont to do.

“An hour all but five minutes, my lord,” replies the magnifier, looking
at his watch. “No—no—an hour ‘zactly, my lord,” adds he, trotting
on—restoring his watch to his fob as he goes.

“An hour best pace with but one slight check—can’t have come less than
twelve miles,” observes his lordship, thinking it over.

“Indeed,” replied Miss de Glancey, wishing it was done.

“Grand sport fox-hunting, isn’t it?” asked his lordship, edging close up
to her.

“Charming!” replied Miss de Glancey, feeling her failing frizette.

The effervescence of the thing is now about over, and the hounds are
reduced to a very plodding pains-taking pace. The day has changed for
the worse, and heavy clouds are gathering overhead. Still there is a
good holding scent, and as the old saying is, a fox so pressed must stop
at last, the few remaining sportsmen begin speculating on his probable
destination, one backing him for Cauldwell rocks, another for Fulford
woods, a third for the Hawkhurst Hills.

“‘Awk’urst ‘ills for a sovereign!” now cries Dicky, hustling his
horse, as, having steered the nearly mute pack along Sandy-well banks,
Challenger and Sparkler strike a scent on the track leading up to
Sorryfold Moor, and go away at an improving pace.

“‘Awk’urst ‘ills for a fi’-pun note!” adds he, as the rest of the pack
score to cry.

“Going to have rine!” now observes he, as a heavy drop beats upon his
up-turned nose. At the same instant a duplicate drop falls upon Miss de
Glancey’s fair cheek, causing her to wish herself anywhere but where she
was.

Another, and another, and another, follow in quick succession, while the
dark, dreary moor offers nothing but the inhospitable freedom of space.
The cold wind cuts through her, making her shudder for the result.
“He’s for the hills!” exclaims Gameboy Green, still struggling on with a
somewhat worse-for-wear looking steed.

“He’s for the hills!” repeats he, pointing to a frowning line in the
misty distance.

At the same instant his horse puts his foot in a stone-hole, and Gameboy
and he measure their lengths on the moor.

“That comes of star-gazing,” observed his lordship, turning his
coat-collar up about his ears. “That comes of star-gazing,” repeats he,
eyeing the loose horse scampering the wrong way.

“We’ll see no more of him,” observed Miss de Glancey, wishing she was as
well out of it as Green.

“Not likely, I think,” replied his lordship, seeing the evasive rush the
horse gave, as Speed, who was coming up with some tail hounds, tried to
catch him.

The heath-brushing fox leaves a scent that fills the painfully
still atmosphere with the melody of the hounds, mingled with the
co-beck—co-beck—co-beck of the startled grouse. There is a solemn calm
that portends a coming storm. To Miss de Clancey, for whom the music
of the hounds has no charms, and the fast-gathering clouds have great
danger, the situation is peculiarly distressing. She would stop if she
durst, but on the middle of a dreary moor how dare she.

An ominous gusty wind, followed by a vivid flash of lightning and
a piercing scream from Miss de Glancey, now startled the Earl’s
meditations.

“Lightning!” exclaimed his lordship, turning short round to her
assistance. “Lightning in the month of November—never heard of such a
thing!”

But ere his lordship gets to Miss de Glancey’s horse, a most terrific
clap of thunder burst right over head, shaking the earth to the very
centre, silencing the startled hounds, and satisfying his lordship that
it was lightning.

Another flash, more vivid if possible than the first, followed by
another pealing crash of thunder, more terrific than before, calls all
hands to a hurried council of war on the subject of shelter.

“We must make for the Punch-bowl at Rockbeer,” exclaims General
Boggledike, flourishing his horn in an ambiguous sort of way, for he
wasn’t quite sure he could find it.

“You know the Punch-bowl at Rockbeer!” shouts he to Harry Swan, anxious
to have some one on whom to lay the blame if he went wrong.

“I know it when I’m there,” replied Swan, who didn’t consider it part of
his duty to make imaginary runs to ground for his lordship.

“Know it when you’re there, man,” retorted Dicky in disgust; “why
any————” the remainder of his sentence being lost in a tremendously
illuminating flash of lightning, followed by a long cannonading,
reverberating roll of thunder.

Poor Miss de Glancey was ready to sink into the earth.



113m


“Elope, hounds! elope!” cried Dicky, getting his horse short by the
head, and spurring him into a brisk trot. “Elope, hounds! elope!”
 repeated he, setting off on a speculative cast, for he saw it was no
time for dallying.

And now,

“From cloud to cloud the rending lightnings rage; Till in the furious
elemental war Dissolved, the whole precipitated mass, Unbroken floods
and solid torrents pour.”

Luckily for Dicky, an unusually vivid flash of lightning so lit up
the landscape as to show the clump of large elms at the entrance to
Rockbeer; and taking his bearings, he went swish swash, squirt spurt,
swish swash, squirt spurt, through the spongy, half land, half water
moor, at as good a trot as he could raise. The lately ardent, pressing
hounds follow on in long-drawn file, looking anything but large or
formidable. The frightened horses tucked in their tails, and looked
fifty per cent. worse for the suppression. The hard, driving rain beats
downways, and sideways, and frontways, and backways—all ways at once.
The horses know not which way to duck, to evade the storm. In less
than a minute Miss de Glancey is as drenched as if she had taken a
shower-bath. The smart hat and feathers are annihilated; the dubious
frizette falls out, down comes the hair; the bella-donna-inspired
radiance of her eyes is quenched; the Crinoline and wadding dissolve
like ice before the fire; and ere the love-cured Earl lifts her off her
horse at the Punch-bowl at Rockbeer, she has no more shape or figure
than an icicle. Indeed she very much resembles one, for the cold sleet,
freezing as it fell, has encrusted her in a rich coat of ice lace,
causing her saturated garments to cling to her with the utmost
pertinacity. A more complete wreck of a belle was, perhaps, never seen.

“What an object!” inwardly ejaculated she, as Mrs. Hetherington, the
landlady, brought a snivelling mould candle into the cheerless, fireless
little inn-parlour, and she caught a glimpse of herself in the—at
best—most unbecoming mirror. What would she have given to have turned
back!

And as his lordship hurried up stairs in his water-logged boots, he said
to himself, with a nervous swing of his arm, “I was right!—women have no
business out hunting.” And the Binks chance improved amazingly.

The further denouement of this perishing day will be gleaned from the
following letters.



CHAPTER XIV. THE PRINGLE CORRESPONDENCE. MR WILLIAM TO HIS MAMMA.

“Tantivy Castle, November.

“My dearest Mamma,

“Though I wrote to you only the other day, I take up my pen, stiff and
sore as I am and scarcely able to sit, to tell you of my first day’s
hunt, which, I assure you, was anything but enjoyable. In fact, at this
moment I feel just as if I had been thumped by half the pugilists in
London and severely kicked at the end. To my fancy, hunting is about the
most curious, unreasonable amusement that ever was invented. The first
fox was well enough, running backwards and forwards in an agreeable
manner, though they all abused him and called him a cowardly beggar,
though to my mind it was far pluckier to do what he did, with fifty
great dogs after him, than to fly like a thief as the next one did.
Indeed I saw all the first run without the slightest inconvenience
or exertion, for a very agreeable gentleman, called Major Hammerton,
himself an old keeper of hounds, led me about and showed me the country.

“I don’t mean to say that he led my horse, but he showed me the way to
go, so as to avoid the jumps, and pointed out the places where I
could get a peep of the fox. I saw him frequently. The Major, who was
extremely polite, asked me to go and stay with him after I leave here,
and I wouldn’t mind going if it wasn’t for the hounds, which, however,
he says are quite as fine as his lordship’s, without being so furiously
and inconveniently fast. For my part, however, I don’t see the use of
hunting an animal that you can shoot, as they do in France. It seems
a monstrous waste of exertion. If they were all as sore as I am this
morning, I’m sure they wouldn’t try it again in a hurry. I really think
racing, where you pay people for doing the dangerous for you, is much
better fun, and prettier too, for you can choose any lively colour you
like for your jacket, instead of having to stick to scarlet or dark
clothes.

“But I will tell you about fox No. 2. I was riding with a very pretty
young lady, Miss de Glancey, whom the Earl had just introduced me
to, when all of a sudden everybody seemed to be seized with an
uncontrollable galloping mania, and set off as hard as ever their horses
could lay legs to the ground. My horse, who they said was a perfect
hunter, but who, I should say, was a perfect brute, partook of the
prevailing epidemic, and, though he had gone quite quietly enough
before, now seized the bit between his teeth, and plunged and reared as
though he would either knock my teeth down my throat, or come back over
upon me. ‘Drop your hand!’ cried one. ‘Ease his head!’ cried another,
and what was the consequence? He ran away with me and, dashing through a
flock of turkeys, nearly capsized an old sow.

“Then the people, who had been so civil before, all seemed to be seized
with the rudes. It was nothing but ‘g-u-u-r along, sir! g-u-u-r along!
Hang it! don’t you see the hounds are running!’ just as if I had made
them run, or as if I could stop them. My good friend, the Major, seemed
to be as excited as any body: indeed, the only cool person was Miss de
Glancey, who cantered away in a most unconcerned manner. I am sorry to
say she came in for a desperate ducking. It seems that after I had had
as much as I wanted, and pulled up to come home, they encountered a
most terrific thunder-storm in crossing some outlandish moor, and as his
lordship, who didn’t get home till long after dark, said she all at once
became a dissolving view, and went away to nothing. Mrs. Moffatt, who is
stout and would not easily dissolve, seemed amazingly tickled with the
joke, and said she supposed she would look like a Mermaid—which his
lordship said was exactly the case. When the first roll of thunder
was heard here, the Earl’s carriage and four was ordered out, with dry
things, to go in quest of him; but they tried two of his houses of call
before they fell in with him. It then had to return to take the Mermaid
to her home, who had to borrow the publican’s wife’s Sunday clothes to
travel in.

“After dinner, the stud-groom came in to announce the horses for to-day;
and hearing one named for me, I begged to decline the honour, on
the plea of having a great many letters to write, so Mrs. Moffatt
accompanied his lordship to the meet, some ten miles north of this, in
his carriage and four, from whence she has just returned, and says
they went away with a brilliant scent from Foxlydiate Gorse, meaning,
I presume, with another such clatter as we had yesterday. I am glad I
didn’t go, for I don’t think I could have got on to a horse, let alone
sit one, especially at the jumps, which all the Clods in the country
seem to have clubbed their ideas to concoct. Rougier says people are
always stiff after the first day’s hunting; but if I had thought I
should be as sore and stiff as I am, I don’t think I would ever have
taken a day, because Major Hammerlon says it is not necessary to go out
hunting in the morning to entitle one to wear the dress uniform in the
evening—which is really all I care for.

“The servants here seem to live like fighting-cocks, from Rougier’s
account; breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, teas, and suppers. They sit
down, ten or a dozen at the second table, and about thirty or so in the
hall, besides which there are no end of people out of doors. Rougier
says they have wine at the second table, and eau de vie punch at night
at discretion, of which, I think, he takes more than is discreet, for he
came swaggering into my room at day-break this morning, in his evening
dress, with his hat on, and a great pewter inkstand in his hand, which
he set down on the dressing-table, and said, ‘dere, sir, dere is your
shavin’ water!’ Strange to say, the fellow speaks better English when
he’s drunk than he does when he’s sober. However, I suppose I must have
a valet, otherwise I should think it would be a real kindness to give
the great lazy fellows here something to do, other than hanging about
the passages waylaying the girls, I’ll write you again when I know what
I’m going to do, but I don’t think I shall stay here much longer, if I’m
obliged to risk my neck after these ridiculous dogs. Ever, my dearest
Mamma your most affectionate, but excruciatingly sore, son.

“Wm. PRINGLE.”

The following is Mrs. Pringle’s answer; who, it will be seen, received
Billy’s last letter while she was answering his first one:—

“25, Curtain Crescent, “Belgrave Square, London.

“My own dearest William,

“I was overjoyed, my own darling, to receive your kind letter, and hear
that you had arrived safe, and found his lordship so kind and agreeable.
I thought you had known him by sight, or I would have prevented your
making the mistake by describing him to you. However, there is no harm
done. In a general way, the great man of the place is oftentimes the
least.—The most accessible, that is to say. The Earl is an excellent,
kind-hearted man, and it will do you great good among your companions to
be known to be intimate with him, for I can assure you it is not every
one he takes up with. Of course, there are people who abuse him, and
say he is this and that, and so on; but you must take people—especially
great ones—as you find them in this world; and he is quite as good as
his whites of their eyes turning-up neighbours. Don’t, however presume
on his kindness by attempting to stay beyond what he presses you to do,
for two short visits tell better than one long one, looking as though
you had been approved of. You can easily find out from the butler or the
groom of the chambers, or some of the upper servants, how long you are
expected to stay, or perhaps some of the guests can tell you how long
they are invited for.

“I had written thus far when your second welcome letter arrived, and I
can’t tell you how delighted I am to hear you are safe and well, though
I’m sorry to hear you don’t like hunting, for I assure you it is the
best of all possible sports, and there is none that admits of such
elegant variety of costume.

“Look at a shooter,—what a ragamuffin dress his is, hardly
distinguishable from a keeper; and yachters and cricketers might be
taken for ticket-of-leave men. I should be very sorry indeed if you were
not to persevere in your hunting; for a red coat and leathers are quite
your become, and there is none, in my opinion, in which a gentleman
looks so well, or a snob so ill. Learning to hunt can’t be more
disagreeable than learning to sail or to smoke, and see how many
hundreds—thousands I may say—overcome the difficulty every year, and
blow their clouds, as they call them, on the quarterdeck, as though they
had been born sailors with pipes in their mouths. Remember, if you
can’t manage to sit your horse, you’ll be fit for nothing but a seat in
Parliament along with Captain Catlap and the other incurables. I can’t
think there can be much difficulty in the matter, judging from the lumpy
wash-balley sort of men one hears talking about it. I should think
if you had a horse of your own, you would be able to make better out.
Whatever you do, however, have nothing to do with racing. It’s only for
rogues and people who have more money than they know what to do with,
and to whom it doesn’t matter whether they win or they lose. We
musn’t have you setting up a confidential crossing-sweeper with a gold
eyeglass. No gentleman need expect to make money on the turf, for if
you were to win they wouldn’t pay you, whereas, if you lose it’s quite
a different thing. One of the beauties of hunting is that people have
no inducement to poison each other; whereas in racing, from poisoning
horses they have got to poisoning men, besides which one party must lose
if the other is to win. Mutual advantage is impossible. Another thing,
if you were to win ever so, the trainer would always keep his little
bill in advance of your gains, or he would be a very bad trainer.

“I hope Major Hammerton is a gentleman of station, whose acquaintance
will do you good, though the name is not very aristocratic—Hamilton
would have been belter. Are there any Miss H’s? Remember there are
always forward people in the world, who think to advance themselves by
taking strangers by the hand, and that a bad introduction is far worse
than none. Above all, never ask to be introduced to a great man. Great
people have their eyes and ears about them just as well as little ones,
and if they choose to know you, they will make the advance. Asking to be
introduced only prejudices them against you, and generally insures a cut
at the first opportunity.

“Beware of Miss de Glancey. She is a most determined coquette, and if
she had fifty suitors, wouldn’t be happy if she saw another woman with
one, without trying to get him from her. She hasn’t a halfpenny. If
you see her again, ask her if she knows Mr. Hotspur Smith, or Mr. Enoch
Benson, or Mr. Woodhorn, and tell me how she looks. What is she doing
down there? Surely she hasn’t the vanity to think she can captivate the
Earl. You needn’t mention me to Mrs. Moffatt, but I should like to
know what she has on, and also if there are any new dishes for dinner.
Indeed, the less you talk about your belongings the better; for the
world has but two ways, that of running people down much below their
real level, or of extolling them much beyond their deserts. Remember,
well-bred people always take breeding for granted, ‘one of us,’ as they
say in others when they find them at good houses, and as you have a good
name, you have nothing to do but hold your tongue, and the chances are
they will estimate you at far more than your real worth.

“A valet is absolutely indispensable for a young gentleman. Bless you!
you would be thought nothing of among the servants if you hadn’t one.
They are their masters’ trumpeters. A valet, especially a French one,
putting on two clean shirts a day, and calling for Burgundy after your
cheese, are about the most imposing things in the lower regions. In
small places, giving as much trouble as possible, and asking for things
you think they haven’t got, is very well; but this will not do where
you now are. In a general way, it is a bad plan taking servants to great
houses, for, as they all measure their own places by the best they have
ever seen, and never think how many much worse ones there are, they
come back discontented, and are seldom good for much until they have
undergone a quarter’s starving or so, out of place. It is a good thing
when the great man of a country sets an example of prudence and economy,
for then all others can quote him, instead of having the bad practices
of other places raked up as authority for introducing them into theirs.
The Earl, however, would never be able to get through half his income if
he was not to wink at a little prodigality, and the consumption of wine
in great houses would be a mere nothing if it was not for the assistance
of the servants. Indeed, the higher you get into society, the less
wine you get, until you might expect to see it run out to nothing at
a Duke’s. I dare say Rougier will be fond of drink, and the English
servants will perhaps be fond of plying him with it; but, so long as he
does not get incompetent, a little jollity on his part will make them
more communicative before him, and it is wonderful what servants can
tell. They know everything in the kitchen—nothing in the parlour. His
lordship, I believe, doesn’t allow strange servants to wait except upon
very full occasions, otherwise it might be well to put Rougier under the
surveillance of Beverage, the butler, lest he should come into the room
drunk and incompetent, which would be very disagreeable.

“I enclose you a gold fox-head pin to give Mr. Boggledike, who doesn’t
take money, at least nothing under £5, and this only costs 18s. He is a
favourite with his lordship, and it will be well to be in with him.
You had better give the men who whip the hounds a trifle, say 10s. or
half-a-sovereign each—gold looks better than silver. If you go to Major
Hammertons you must let me know; but perhaps you will inquire further
before you fix. And now, hoping that you will stick to your hunting,
and be more successful on another horse after a quieter fox, believe me
ever, my own dearest William, your most truly and sincerely affectionate
mother,

“Emma Pringle.

“P.S.—Don’t forget the two clean shirts.

“P.S.—When you give Dicky Boggledike the pin, you can compliment him on
his talents as a huntsman (as Mr. Redpath did the actor); and as they
say he is a very bad one, he will be all the more grateful for it.

“P.S.—I have just had another most pressing letter from your uncle
Jerry, urging me to go and look through all the accounts and papers, as
he says it is not fair throwing such a heavy responsibility upon him.
Poor man! He need not be so pressing. He little knows how anxious I am
to do it. I hope now we shall get something satisfactory, for as yet I
know no more than I did before your poor father died.

“P.S.—Don’t forget to tell me if there are any Miss H.’s, and whatever
you do, take care of Dowb, that is, yourself.”

But somehow Billy forgot to tell his Mamma whether there were any Miss
H.’s or not, though he might have said “No,” seeing they were Miss
“Y.’s.”

And now, while our hero is recovering from his bruises, let us introduce
the reader further to his next host, Major Y.



CHAPTER XV. MAJOR YAMMERTON’S COACH STOPS THE WAY.

MAJOR Yammerton was rather a peculiar man, inasmuch as he was an Ass,
without being a Fool. He was an Ass for always puffing and inflating
himself, while as regarded worldly knowledge, particularly that
comprised in the magic letters £. s. d., few, if any, were his equals.
In the former department, he was always either on the strut or the
fret, always either proclaiming the marked attention he had met with,
or worrying himself with the idea that he had not had enough. At home,
instead of offering people freely and hospitably what he had, he was
continually boring them with apologies for what he had not. Just as if
all men were expected to have things alike, or as if the Major was an
injured innocent who had been defrauded of his rights. If he was not
boring and apologising, then he was puffing or praising everything
indiscriminately—depending, of course, upon who he had there—a great gun
or a little one.

He returned from his Tantivy Castle hunt, very much pleased with our
Billy, who seemed to be just the man for his money, and by the aid
of his Baronetage he made him out to be very highly connected. Mrs.
Yammerton and the young ladies were equally delighted with him, and it
was unanimously resolved that he should be invited to the Grange, for
which purpose the standing order of the house “never to invite any one
direct from a great house to theirs,” was suspended. A very salutary
rule it is for all who study appearances, seeing that what looks very
well one way may look very shady the other; but this being perhaps
a case of “now or never,” the exception would seem to have been
judiciously made. The heads of the house had different objects in view;
Mamma’s, of course, being matrimonial, the Major’s, the laudable desire
to sell Mr. Pringle a horse. And the mention of Mamma’s object leads us
to the young ladies.

These, Clara, Flora, and Harriet, were very pretty, and very highly
educated—that is to say, they could do everything that is useless—play,
draw, sing, dance, make wax-flowers, bead-stands, do decorative gilding,
and crochet-work; but as to knowing how many ounces there are in a pound
of tea, or how many pounds of meat a person should eat in a day, they
were utterly, entirely, and most elegantly ignorant. Towards the close
of the last century, and at the beginning of the present one, ladies ran
entirely to domesticity, pickling, preserving, and pressing people to
eat. Corded petticoats and patent mangles long formed the staple of
a mid life woman’s conversation. Presently a new era sprang up, which
banished everything in the shape of utilitarianism, and taught the then
rising generation that the less they knew of domestic matters the finer
ladies they would be, until we really believe the daughters of the
nobility are better calculated for wives, simply because they are
generally economically brought up, and are not afraid of losing caste,
by knowing what every woman ought to do. No man thinks the worse of a
woman for being able to manage her house, while few men can afford to
marry mere music-stools and embroidery frames. Mrs. Yammerton, however,
took a different view of the matter. She had been brought up in the
patent mangle and corded petticoat school, and inwardly resolved that
her daughters should know nothing of the sort—should be “real ladies,”
 in the true kitchen acceptation of the term. Hence they were mistresses
of all the little accomplishments before enumerated, which, with making
calls and drinking tea, formed the principal occupation of their lives.
Not one of them could write a letter without a copy, and were all very
uncertain in their spelling—though they knew to a day when every King
and Queen began to reign, and could spout all the chief towns in the
kingdom. Now this might have been all very well, at least bearable, if
the cockey Major had had plenty of money to give them, but at the time
they were acquiring them, the “contrary was the case,” as the lawyers
say. The Major’s grandfather (his father died when he was young) had
gone upon the old annexation principle of buying land and buying land
simply because “it joined,” and not always having the cash to pay for
it with, our Major came into an estate (large or small, according as the
reader has more or less of his own) saddled with a good, stout, firmly
setting mortgage. Land, however, being the only beast of burthen that
does not show what it carries, our orphan—orphan in top-boots to be
sure—passed for his best, and was speedily snapped up by the then
beautiful, Italian—like Miss Winnington, who consoled herself for the
collapse of his fortune, by the reflection that she had nothing of
her own. Perhaps, too, she had made allowance for the exaggeration of
estimates, which generally rate a man at three or four times his worth.
The Winningtons, however, having made a great “crow” at the “catch,” the
newly-married couple started at score as if the estate had nothing to
carry but themselves.



123m


In due time the three graces appeared,—Clara, very fair, with large
languishing blue eyes and light hair; Flora, with auburn hair and hazel
eyes; and Harriet, tall, clear, and dark, like Mamma. As they grew up,
and had had their heads made into Almanacs at home, they were sent to
the celebrated Miss Featherey’s finishing and polishing seminary at
Westbourne Grove, who for £200 a-year, or as near £200 as she could get,
taught them all the airs and graces, particularly how to get in and
out of a carriage properly, how to speak to a doctor, how to a
counter-skipper, how to a servant, and so on. The Major, we may state,
had his three daughters taken as two. Well, just as Miss Harriet was
supplying the place of Miss Clara (polished), that great agricultural
revolution, the repeal of the corn laws, took place, and our Major, who
had regarded his estate more with an eye to its hunting and shooting
capabilities than to high farming, very soon found it slipping away
from him, just as Miss de Glancey slipped away from her dress in the
thunder-storm. Up to that time, his easy-minded agent, Mr. Bullrush, a
twenty stone man of sixty years of age, had thought the perfection of
management was not to let an estate go back, but now the Major’s seemed
likely to slip through its girths altogether. To be sure, it had not had
any great assistance in the advancing line, and was just the same sour,
rush-grown, poachy, snipe-shooting looking place that it was when the
Major got it; but this was not his grandfather’s fault, who had buried
as many stones in great gulf-like drains, as would have carried off a
river and walled the estate all round into the bargain; but there was no
making head against wet land with stone drains, the bit you cured only
showing the wetness of the rest. The blotchy March fallows looked as
if they had got the small pox, the pastures were hardly green before
Midsummer, and the greyhound-like cattle that wandered over them were
evidently of Pharaoh’s lean sort, and looked as if they would never be
ready for the butcher. Foreign cattle, too, were coming in free, and
the old cry of “down corn, down horn,” frightened the fabulously famed
“stout British farmer” out of his wits.

Then those valuable documents called leases—so binding on the landlord,
were found to be wholly inoperative on the tenants, who threw up their
farms as if there were no such things in existence.

If the Major wouldn’t take their givings up, why then he might just do
his “warst;” meanwhile, of course, they would “do their warst,” by the
land. With those who had nothing (farming and beer-shop keeping being
about the only trades a man can start with upon nothing), of course, it
was of no use persisting, but the awkward part of the thing was, that
this probing of pockets showed that in too many cases the reputed
honesty of the British farmer was also mere fiction; for some who
were thought to be well off, now declared that their capital was their
aunt’s, or their uncle’s, or their grandmother’s, or some one else’s, so
that the two classes, the have-somethings, and the have-nothings, were
reduced to a level. This sort of thing went on throughout the country,
and landlords who could not face the difficulty by taking their estates
in hand, had to submit to very serious reductions of rent, and rent once
got down, is very difficult to get up again, especially in countries
where they value by the rate-book, or where a traditionary legend
attaches to land of the lowest rent it has ever been let for.

Our Major was sorely dispirited, and each market-day, as he returned
from Mr. Bullrush’s with worse and worse news than before, he pondered
o’er his misfortunes, fearing that he would have to give up his hounds
and his horses, withdraw his daughters from Miss Featherey’s, and go to
Boulogne, and as he contemplated the airy outline of their newly-erected
rural palace of a workhouse, he said it was lucky they had built it, for
he thought they would all very soon be in it. Certainly, things got to
their worst in the farming way, before they began to mend, and such land
as the Major’s—good, but “salivated with wet,” as the cabman said of his
coat—was scarcely to be let at any price.

In these go-a-head days of farming, when the enterprising sons of
trade are fast obliterating the traces of the heavy-heel’d order of
easy-minded Hodges who,

——“held their farms and lived content While one year paid another’s
rent,”

without ever making any attempt at improvement, it may be amusing to
record the business-like offer of some of those indolent worthies who
would bid for a pig in a poke. Thus it runs:—It should have been dated
April 1, instead of 21:— TO MAJOR YAMMERTON.

“Onard Sir,

“Hobnail Hill, April 21.

“Wheas We have considered we shall give you for Bonnyrig’s farme the som
£100 25 puns upon condishinds per year if you should think it to little
we may perhaps advance a little as we have not looked her carefully over
her and for character Mr. Sowerby will give you every information as we
are the third giniration that’s been under the Sowerbys.

“Yours sincerely,

“Henerey Brown,

“Homfray Brown—Co.

“If you want anye otes I could sell you fifteen bowels of verye fine
ones.”

Now the “som £100 25 puns” being less than half what the Major’s
grandfather used to get for the farm:—viz. “£200 63 puns,”—our Major was
considerably perplexed; and as “Henerey and Homfray”’s offer was but a
sample of the whole, it became a question between Boulogne and Bastile,
as those once unpopular edifices, the workhouses, were then called. And
here we may observe, that there is nothing perhaps, either so manageable
or so unmanageable as land—nothing easier to keep right than land in
good order, and nothing more difficult to get by the head, and stop,
than land that has run wild; and it may be laid down as an infallible
rule, that the man who has no taste for land or horses should have
nothing to do with either. He should put his money in the funds, and
rail or steam when he has occasion to travel. He will be far richer,
far fatter, and fill the bay window of his club far better, than by
undergoing the grinding of farmers and the tyranny of grooms. Land, like
horses, when once in condition is easily kept so, but once let either go
down, and the owner becomes a prey to the scratchers and the copers.

If, however, a man likes a little occupation better than the eternal
gossip, and “who’s that?” of the clubs, and prefers a smiling improving
landscape to a barren retrograding scene, he will find no pleasanter,
healthier, or more interesting occupation than improving his property.
And a happy thing it was for this kingdom, that Prince Albert who has
done so much to refine and elevate mankind, should have included farming
in the list of his amusements,—bringing the before despised pursuit into
favour and fashion, so that now instead of land remaining a prey to the
“Henerey Browns & Co.” of life, we find gentlemen advertising for farms
in all directions, generally stipulating that they are to be on the line
of one or other of the once derided railways.

But we are getting in advance of the times with our Major, whom we left
in the slough of despond, consequent on the coming down of his rents.
Just when things were at their worst, the first sensible sunbeam of
simplicity that ever shone upon land, appeared in the shape of
the practical, easy-working Drainage Act, an act that has advanced
agriculture more than all previous inventions and legislation put
together. But our gallant friend had his difficulties to contend with
even here.

Mr. Bullrush was opposed to it. He was fat and didn’t like trouble, so
he doubted the capacity of such a pocket companion as a pipe to carry
off the superfluous water, then he doubted the ability of the water to
get into the pipe at such a depth, above all he doubted the ability of
the tenants to pay drainage interests. “How could they if they couldn’t
pay their rents?” Of course, the tenants adopted this view of the
matter, and were all opposed to making what they called “experiences,”
 at their own expense; so upon the whole, Mr. Bullrush advised the Major
to have nothing to do with it. It being, however, a case of necessity
with the Major, he disregarded Mr. Bullrush’s advice which led to a
separation, and being now a free agent, he went boldly at the government
loan, and soon scared all the snipes and half the tenants off his
estate. The water poured off in torrents; the plump juicy rushes got
the jaundice, and Mossington bog, over which the Major used to have
to scuttle on foot after his “haryers,” became sound enough to carry
a horse. Then as Mr. Bullrush rode by and saw each dreary swamp become
sound ground, he hugged himself with the sloven’s consolation that it
“wouldn’t p-a-a-y.” Pay, however, it did, for our Major next went and
got some stout horses, and the right sort of implements of agriculture,
and soon proved the truth of the old adage, that it is better to follow
a sloven than a scientific farmer. He worked his land well, cleaned it
well, and manured it well; in which three simple operations consists the
whole science of husbandry, and instead of growing turnips for pickling,
as his predecessors seemed to do, he got great healthy Swedes that
loomed as large as his now fashionable daughter’s dresses. He grew as
many “bowels” of oats upon one acre of land as any previous tenant had
done upon three. So altogether, our Major throve, and instead of going
to Boulogne, he presently set up the Cockaded Coach in which we saw him
arrive at Tantivy Castle. Not that he went to a coachmaker’s and said,
“Build me a roomy family coach regardless of expense,” but, finding that
he couldn’t get an inside seat along with the thirty-six yard dresses in
the old chariot, he dropped in at the sale of the late Squire Trefoil’s
effects, who had given some such order, and, under pretence of buying
a shower-bath, succeeded in getting a capital large coach on its first
wheels for ten pounds,—scarcely the value of the pole.

As a contrast to Henerey Brown and Co.’s business-like offer for the
farm, and in illustration of the difference between buying and selling,
we append the verbose estimate of this ponderous affair. Thus it runs—
HENRY TREFOIL, ESQ.

To CHALKER AND CHARGER COACHMAKERS, BY APPOINTMENT, TO THE EMPEROR OF
CHINA, Emperor of Morocco, the King of Oude, the King of the Cannibal
Islands, &c., &c., &c., &c.

Long Acre, London.

(Followed by all the crowns, arms, orders, flourish, and flannel,
peculiar to aristocratic tradesmen.)



128m


Three hundred and ninety pounds! And to think that the whole should
come to be sold for ten sovereigns. Oh, what a falling off was there, my
coachmakers! Surely the King of the Cannibal Islands could never afford
to pay such prices as those! Verily, Sir Robert Peel was right when
he said that there was no class of tradespeople whose bills wanted
reforming so much as coachmakers. What ridiculous price they make wood
and iron assume, and what absurd offers they make when you go to them to
sell!



CHAPTER XVI. THE MAJOR’S MENAGE.



129m


AND first about the “haryers!”

“Five-and-thirty years master of haryers without a subscription!”

This, we think, is rather an exaggeration, both as regards time and
money, unless the Major reckons an undivide d moiety he had in an
old lady-hound called “Lavender” along with the village blacksmith of
Billinghurst when he was at school. If he so calculates, then he would
be right as to time, but wrong as to money, for the blacksmith paid his
share of the tax, and found the greater part of the food. For thirty
years, we need hardly tell the reader of sporting literature, that the
Major had been a master of harriers—for well has he blown the horn of
their celebrity during the whole of that long period—never were such
harriers for finding jack hares, and pushing them through parishes
innumerable, making them take rivers, and run as straight as railways,
putting the costly performances of the foxhounds altogether to the
blush. Ten miles from point to point, and generally without a turn,
is the usual style of thing, the last run with this distinguished pack
being always unsurpassed by any previous performance. Season after
season has the sporting world been startled with these surprising
announcements, until red-coated men, tired of blanks and ringing foxes,
have almost said, “Dash my buttons, if I won’t shut up shop here and
go and hunt with these tremendous harriers,” while other currant-jelly
gentlemen, whose hares dance the fandango before their plodding pack,
have sighed for some of these wonderful “Jacks” that never make a curve,
or some of the astonishing hounds that have such a knack at making them
fly.

Well, but the reader will, perhaps, say it’s the blood that does it—the
Major has an unrivalled, unequalled strain of harrier blood that nobody
else can procure. Nothing of the sort! Nothing of the sort! The Major’s
blood is just anything he can get. He never misses a chance of selling
either a single hound or a pack, and has emptied his kennel over and
over again. But then he always knows where to lay hands on more; and
as soon as ever the new hounds cross his threshold they become the very
“best in the world”—better than any he ever had before. They then figure
upon paper, just as if it was a continuous pack; and the field being
under pretty good command, and, moreover, implicated in the honour of
their performances, the thing goes on smoothly and well, and few are any
the wiser. There is nothing so popular as a little fuss and excitement,
in which every man may take his share, and this it is that makes scratch
packs so celebrated. Their followers see nothing but their perfections.
They are

“To their faults a little blind, And to their virtues ever kind.”

At the period of which we are writing, the Major’s pack was rather
better than usual, being composed of the pick of three packs,—“cries
of dogs” rather—viz., the Corkycove harriers, kept by the shoemakers of
Waxley; the Bog-trotter harriers (four couple), kept by some moor-edge
miners; the Dribbleford dogs, upon whom nobody would pay the tax; and
of some two or three couple of incurables, that had been consigned from
different kennels on condition of the Major returning the hampers in
which they came.

The Major was open to general consignments in the canine line—Hounds,
Pointers, Setters, Terriers, &c.—not being of George the Third’s way of
thinking, who used to denounce all “presents that eat.” He would take
anything; anything, at least, except a Greyhound, an animal that he held
in mortal abhorrence. What he liked best was to get a Lurcher, for which
he soon found a place under a pear-tree.

The Major’s huntsman, old Solomon, was coachman, shepherd, groom, and
gamekeeper, as well as huntsman, and was the cockaded gentleman who
drove the ark on the occasion of our introduction. In addition to all
this, he waited at table on grand occasions, and did a little fishing,
hay-making, and gardening in the summer. He was one of the old-fashioned
breed of servants, now nearly extinct, who passed their lives in one
family and turned their hands to whatever was wanted. The Major, whose
maxim was not to keep any cats that didn’t catch mice, knowing full well
that all gentlemen’s servants can do double the work of their places,
provided they only get paid for it, resolved, that it was cheaper to pay
one man the wages of one-and-a-half to do the work of two men, than
to keep two men to do the same quantity; consequently, there was very
little hissing at bits and curb-chains in the Major’s establishment, the
hard work of other places being the light work, or no work at all, of
his. Solomon was the beau idéal of a harrier huntsman, being, as the
French say, d’un certain age, quiet, patient, and a pusillanimous rider.

Now about the subscription.

It is true that the Major did not take a subscription in the common
acceptation of the term, but he took assistance in various ways, such
as a few days ploughing from one man, a few “bowels” of seed-wheat from
another, a few “bowels” of seed-oats from a third, a lamb from a fourth,
a pig from a fifth, added to which, he had all the hounds walked during
the summer, so that his actual expenses were very little more than the
tax. This he jockeyed by only returning about two-thirds the number
of hounds he kept; and as twelve couple were his hunting maximum, his
taxing minimum would be about eight—eight couple—or sixteen hounds, at
twelve shillings a-piece, is nine pound twelve, for which sum he made
more noise in the papers than the Quorn, the Belvoir, and the Cottesmore
all put together. Indeed the old adage of “great cry and little wool,”
 applies to packs as well as flocks, for we never see hounds making a
great “to-do” in the papers without suspecting that they are either good
for nothing, or that the fortunate owner wants to sell them.

With regard to horses, the Major, like many people, had but one sort—the
best in England—though they were divided into two classes, viz., hunters
and draught horses. Hacks or carriage horses he utterly eschewed.
Horses must either hunt or plough with him; nor was he above putting
his hunters into the harrows occasionally. Hence he always had a pair
of efficient horses for his carriage when he wanted them, instead of
animals that were fit to jump out of their skins at starting, and ready
to slip through them on coming home.

Clothing he utterly repudiated for carriage horses, alleging, that
people never get any work out of them after they are once clothed.

The hunters were mostly sedate, elderly animals, horses that had got
through the “morning of life” with the foxhounds, and came to the
harriers in preference to harness. The Major was always a buyer or an
exchanger, or a mixer of both, and would generally “advance a little” on
the neighbouring job-master’s prices. Then having got them, he recruited
the veterans by care and crushed corn, which, with cutting their tails,
so altered them, that sometimes their late groom scarcely knew them
again.

Certainly, if the animals could have spoken, they would have expressed
their surprise at the different language the Major held as a buyer and
as a seller; as a buyer, when like Gil Blas’ mule, he made them out to
be all faults, as a seller when they suddenly seemed to become paragons
of perfection. He was always ready for a deal, and would accommodate
matters to people’s convenience—take part cash, part corn, part hay,
part anything, for he was a most miscellaneous barterer, and his stable
loft was like a Marine Store-dealer’s shop. Though always boasting that
his little white hands were not “soiled with trade,” he would traffic
in anything (on the sly) by which he thought he could turn a penny. His
last effort in the buying way had nearly got him into the County Court,
as the following correspondence will show, as also how differently two
people can view the same thing.

Being in town, with wheat at 80s. and barley and oats in proportion,
and consequently more plethoric in the pocket than usual, he happened to
stray into a certain great furniture mart where two chairs struck him
as being cheap. They were standing together, and one of them was thus
ticketed:

No. 8205.

2 Elizabethan chairs.

India Japanned.

43 s.

The Major took a good stare at them, never having seen any before. Well,
he thought they could not be dear at that; little more than a guinea
each. Get them home for fifty shillings, say There was a deal of gold,
and lacker, and varnish about them. Coloured bunches of flowers,
inlaid with mother of pearl, Chinese temples, with “insolent pig-tailed
barbarians,” in pink silk jackets, with baggy blue trowsers, and gig
whips in their hands, looking after the purple ducks on the pea-grcen
lake—all very elegant.

He’d have them, dashed if he wouldn’t! Would try and swap them for Mrs.
Rocket Larkspur’s Croydon basket-carriage that the girls wanted. Just
the things to tickle her fancy. So he went into the office and gave his
card most consequentially, with a reference to Pannell, the sadler in
Spur Street, Leicestor-square, desiring that the chairs might be most
carefully packed and forwarded to him by the goods train with an invoice
by post.

When the invoice came, behold! the 43s. had changed into 86s.

“Hilloa!” exclaimed the astonished Major. This won’t do! 86s. is twice
43s.; and he wrote off to say they had made a mistake. This brought
the secretary of the concern, Mr. Badbill, on to the scene. He replied
beneath a copious shower of arms, orders, flourish, and flannel, that
the mistake was the Major’s—that they, “never marked their goods in
pairs,” to which the Major rejoined, that they had in this instance,
as the ticket which he forwarded to Pannell for Badbill’s inspection
showed, and that he must decline the chairs at double the price they
were ticketed for.

Badbill, having duly inspected the ticket, retorted that he was
surprised at the Major’s stupidity, that two meant one, in fact, all the
world over.

The Major rejoined, that he didn’t know what the Reform Bill might have
done, but that two didn’t mean one when he was at school; and added,
that as he declined the chairs at 86s. they were at Badhill’s service
for sending for.

Badbill wrote in reply—

“We really cannot understand how it is possible, for any one to make out
that a ticket on an article includes the other that may stand next it.
Certainly the ticket you allude to referred only to the chair on which
it was placed.”

And in a subsequent letter he claimed to have the chairs repacked at
the Major’s expense, as it was very unfair saddling them with the loss
arising entirely from the Major’s mistake.

To which our gallant friend rejoined, “that as he would neither admit
that the mistake was his, nor submit to the imputation of unfairness, he
would stick to the chairs at the price they were ticketed at.”

Badbill then wrote that this declaration surprised them much—that they
did not for a moment think he “intentionally misunderstood the ticket
as referring to a pair of chairs, whereas it only gave the price of one
chair,” and again begged to have them back; to which the Major inwardly
responded, he “wished they might get them,” and sent them an order for
the 43s.

This was returned with expressions of surprise, that after the
explanation given, the Major should persevere in the same “course of
error,” and hoped that he would, without further delay, favour the Co.
with the right amount, for which Badbill said they “anxiously waited,”
 and for which the Major inwardly said, they “might wait.”

In due time came a lithographed circular, more imposingly flourished
and flanneled than ever, stating the terms of the firm were “cash on
delivery;” and that unless the Major remitted without further delay, he
would be handed over to their solicitor, &c.; with an intimation at
the bottom, that that was the “third application”—of which our gallant
friend took no notice.

Next came a written,

“Sir,

“I am desired by this firm to inform you, that unless we hear from you
by return of post respecting the payment of our account, we shall place
the matter in the hands of our solicitors without further notice, and
regret you should have occasioned us so much trouble through your own
misunderstanding.”

Then came the climax. The Major’s solicitor went, ticket in hand, and
tendered the 43s., when the late bullying Badbill was obliged to write
as follows:—

“It appears you are quite correct rejecting the ticket, and we are in
error. Our ticketing clerk had placed the figure in the wrong part of
the card, the figure ‘two’ referring to the number of chairs in stock,
and not as understood to signifying chairs for 43s.;” and Badbill
humorously concluded by expressing a hope that the Major would return
the chairs and continue his custom—two very unlikely events, as we dare
say the reader will think, to happen.

Such, then, was the knowing gentleman who now sought the company of Fine
Billy; and considering that he is to be besieged an both sides, we
hope to be excused for having gone a little into his host and hostess’
pedigree and performances.

The Major wrote Billy a well-considered note, saying, that when he could
spare a few days from his lordship and the foxhounds, it would afford
Mrs. Yammerton and himself great pleasure if he would come and pay them
a visit at Yammerton Grange, and the Major would be happy to mount him,
and keep his best country for him, and show him all the sport in his
power, adding, that they had been having some most marvellous runs
lately—better than any he ever remembered.

Now, independently of our friend Billy having pondered a good deal on
the beauty of the young lady’s eyes, he could well spare a few days
from the foxhounds, for his lordship, being quite de Glancey-cured, and
wishing to get rid of him, had had him out again, and put him on to a
more fractious horse than before, who after giving him a most indefinite
shaking, had finally shot him over his head.

The Earl was delighted, therefore, when he heard of the Major’s
invitation, and after expressing great regret at the idea of losing our
Billy, begged he would “come back whenever it suited him:” well knowing
that if he once got him out of the house, he would be very sly if he got
in again. And so Billy, who never answered Mamma’s repeated inquiries if
there were any “Miss H’s” engaged himself to Yammerton Grange, whither
the reader will now perhaps have the kindness to accompany him.



CHAPTER XVII. ARRIVAL AT YAMMERTON GRANGE.—A FAMILY PARTY.



135m


AILWAYS have taken the starch out of country magnificence, as well as
out of town.

Time was when a visitor could hardly drive up to a great man’s door in
the country in a po’chav—now it would be considered very magnificent—a
bliss, or a one-oss fly being more likely the conveyance. The Richest
Commoner in England took his departure from Tantivy Castle in a
one-horse fly. into which he was assisted by an immense retinue of
servants. It was about time for him to be gone for Mons. Jean Rougier
had been what he called “boxaing” with the Earl’s big watcher, Stephen
Stout, to whom having given a most elaborate licking, the rest of the
establishment were up in arms, and would most likely have found a match
for Monsieur among them. Jack—that is to say, Mons. Jean—now kissed his
hand, and grinned, and bowed, and bon-jour’d them from the box of the
fly, with all the affability of a gentleman who has had the best of it.

Off then they ground at as good a trot as the shaky old quadruped could
raise.

It is undoubtedly a good sound principle that Major and Mrs. Yammerton
went upon, never to invite people direct from great houses to theirs; it
dwarfs little ones so. A few days ventilation at a country inn with its
stupid dirty waiters, copper-showing plate, and wretched cookery, would
be a good preparation, only no one ever goes into an inn in England that
can help it. Still, coming down from a first-class nobleman’s castle to
a third-class gentleman’s house, was rather a trial upon the latter. Not
that we mean to say anything disrespectful of Yammerton Grange, which,
though built at different times, was good, roomy, and rough-cast, with a
man-boy in brown and yellow livery, who called himself the “Butler,”
 but whom the women-servants called the “Bumbler.” The above outline will
give the reader a general idea of the “style of thing,” as the
insolvent dandy said, when he asked his creditors for a “wax candle and
eau-de-Cologne” sort of allowance. Everything at the Grange of course
was now put into holiday garb, both externally and internally—gravel
raked, garden spruced, stables strawed, &c. All the Major’s old
sheep-caps, old hare-snares, old hang-locks, old hedging-gloves,
pruning-knives, and implements of husbandry were thrust into the back
of the drawer of the passage table, while a mixed sporting and military
trophy, composed of whips, swords and pistols, radiated round his Sunday
hat against the wall above it.

The drawing-room, we need not say, underwent metamorphose, the chairs
and sofas suddenly changing from rather dirty print to pea-green
damask, the druggeted carpet bursting into cornucopias of fruit and gay
bouquets, while a rich cover of many colours adorned the centre table,
which, in turn, was covered with the proceeds of the young ladies’
industry. The room became a sort of exhibition of their united
accomplishments. The silver inkstand surmounted a beautiful unblemished
blotting-book, fresh pens and paper stood invitingly behind, while the
little dictionary was consigned, with other “sundries,” to the well of
the ottoman.

As the finishing preparations were progressing, the Major and Mrs.
Yammerton carried on a broken discussion as to the programme of
proceedings, and as, in the Major’s opinion,

“There’s nothing can compare, To hunting of the hare,”

he wanted to lead off with a gallope, to which Mrs. Yammerton demurred.
She thought it would be a much better plan to have a quiet day about the
place—let the girls walk Mr. Pringle up to Prospect Hill to see the view
from Eagleton Rocks, and call on Mrs. Wasperton, and show him to her
ugly girls, in return for their visit with Mr. Giles Smith. The Major,
on the contrary, thought if there was to be a quiet day about the place,
he would like to employ it in showing Billy a horse he had to sell; but
while they were in the midst of the argument the click of front gate
sneck, followed by the vehement bow-wow-wow-wow-wow bark of the Skye
terrier, Fury, announced an arrival, and from behind a ground-feathering
spruce, emerged the shaky old horse, dragging at its tail the heavily
laden cab. Then there was such a scattering of crinoline below, and
such a gathering of cotton above, to see the gentleman alight, and such
speculations as to his Christian name, and which of the young ladies he
would do for.

“I say his name’s Harry!” whispered Sally Scuttle, the housemaid, into
Benson’s—we beg pardon—Miss Benson’s, the ladies’-maid’s ear, who was
standing before her, peeping past the faded curtains of the chintz-room.

“I say it’s John!” replied Miss Benson, now that Mr. Pringle’s head
appeared at the window.

“I say it’s Joseph!” interposed Betty Bone, the cook, who stood behind
Sally Scuttle, at which speculation they all laughed.

“Hoot, no! he’s not a bit like Joseph,” replied Sally, eyeing Billy as
he now alighted.

“Lank! he’s quite a young gent,” observed Bone.

“Young! to be sure!” replied Miss Henson; “you don’t s’pose we want any
old’uns here.”

“He’ll do nicely for Miss;” observed Sally.

“And why not for Miss F.?” asked Henson, from whom she had just received
an old gown.

“Well, either,” rejoined Sally; “only Miss had the last chance.”

“Oh, curates go for nothin’!” retorted Benson; “if it had been a captin
it would have been something like.”

“Well, but there’s Miss Harriet; you never mention Miss Harriet, why
shouldn’t Miss Harriet have a chance?” interposed the cook.

“Oh. Miss Harriet must wait her turn. Let her sisters be served first.
They can’t all have him, you know, so it’s no use trying.”

Billy having entered the house, the ladies’ attention was now directed
to Monsieur.

“What a thick, plummy man he is!” observed Benson, looking down on
Rougier’s broad shoulders.

“He looks as if he got his vittles well,” rejoined Bone, wondering how
he would like their lean beef and bacon fare.

“Where will he have to sleep?” asked Sally Scuttle.

“O, with the Bumbler to be sure,” replied Bone.

“Not he!” interposed Miss Benson, with disdain. “You don’t s’pose a
reg’lar valley-de-chambre ‘ill condescend to sleep with a footman! You
don’t know them—if you think that.”

“He’s got mouse catchers,” observed Sally Scuttle, who had been eyeing
Monsieur intently.

“Ay, and a beard like a blacking brush,” whispered Bone.

“He’s surely a foreigner,” whispered Benson, as Monsieur’s, “I say!
take vell care of her!—leeaft her down j-e-a-ntly” (alluding to his
own carpet bag, in which he had a bottle of rum enveloped in swaddling
clothes of dirty linen) to the cabman, sounded upstairs.

“So he is,” replied Benson, adding, after a pause, “Well, anybody may
have him for me;”—saying which she tripped out of the room, quickly
followed by the others.

Our Major having, on the first alarm, rushed off to his dirty Sanctum,
and crowned himself with a drab felt wide-a-wake, next snatched a little
knotty dog-whip out of the trophy as he passed, and was at the sash door
of the front entrance welcoming our hero with the full spring tide of
hospitality as he alighted from his fly.

The Major was overjoyed to see him. It was indeed kind of him, leaving
the castle to “come and visit them in their ‘umble abode.” The Major, of
course, now being on the humility tack.

“Let me take your cloak!” said he; “let me take your cap!” and, with the
aid of the Bumbler, who came shuffling himself into his brown and yellow
livery coat, Billy was eased of his wrapper, and stood before the now
thrown-open drawing-room door, just as Mrs. Yammerton having swept the
last brown holland cover off the reclining chair, had stuffed it under
the sofa cushion. She, too, was delighted to see Billy, and thankful she
had got the room ready, so as to be able presently to subside upon the
sofa, “Morning Post” in hand, just as if she had been interrupted in
her reading. The young ladies then dropped in one by one; Miss at the
passage door, Miss Flora at the one connecting the drawingroom with the
Sanctum, and Miss Harriet again at the passage door, all divested of
their aprons, and fresh from their respective looking-glasses. The two
former, of course, met Billy as an old acquaintance, and as they did not
mean to allow Misa Harriet to participate in the prize, they just let
her shuffle herself into an introduction as best she could. Billy wasn’t
quite sure whether he had seen her before or he hadn’t. At first he
thought he had; then he thought he hadn’t; but whether he had or
he hadn’t, he knew there would be no harm in bowing, so he just
promiscuated one to her, which she acknowledged with a best Featherey
curtsey. A great cry of conversation, or rather of random observation,
then ensued; in the midst of which the Major slipped out, and from
his Sanctum he overheard Monsieur getting up much the same sort of
entertainment in the kitchen. There was such laughing and giggling and
“he-hawing” among the maids, that the Major feared the dinner would be
neglected.

The Major’s dining-room, though small, would accommodate a dozen people,
or incommode eighteen, which latter number is considered the most
serviceable-sized party in the country where people feed off their
acquaintance, more upon the debtor and creditor system, than with a view
to making pleasant parties, or considering who would like to meet. Even
when they are what they call “alone,” they can’t be “alone,” but
must have in as many servants as they can raise, to show how far the
assertion is from the truth.

Though the Yammertons sat down but six on the present occasion, and
there were the two accustomed dumb-waiters in the room, three live ones
were introduced, viz., Monsieur, the Bumbler, and Solomon, whose duty
seemed to consist in cooling the victuals, by carrying them about, and
in preventing people from helping themselves to what was before them,
by taking the dishes off the steady table, and presenting them again on
very unsteady hands.

No one is ever allowed to shoot a dish sitting if a servant can see it.
How pleasant it would be if we were watched in all the affairs of life
as we are in eating!

Monsieur, we may observe, had completely superseded the Bumbler, just as
a colonel supersedes a captain on coming up.

“Oi am Colonel Crushington of the Royal Plungers,” proclaims the
Colonel, stretching himself to his utmost altitude.

“And I am Captain Succumber, of the Sugar-Candy Hussars,” bows the
Captain with the utmost humility; whereupon the Captain is snuffed out,
and the Colonel reigns in his stead.

“I am Monsieur Jean Rougier, valet-de-chambre to me lor Pringle, and I
sail take in de potage,—de soup,” observed Rougier, coming down stairs
in his first-class clothes, and pushing the now yellow-legged Bumbler
aside.



141m


And these hobble-de-hovs never being favourites with the fair, the maids
saw him reduced without remorse.

So the dinner got set upon the table without a fight and though Monsieur
allowed the Bumbler to announce it in the drawing-room, it was only
that he might take a suck of the sherry while he was away. But he was
standing as bolt upright as a serjeant-major on parade when “me lor”
 entered the dining-room with Mrs. Yammerton on his arm, followed by the
Graces, the Major having stayed behind to blow out the composites.

They were soon settled in their places, grace said, and the assault
commenced.

The Major was rather behind Imperial John in magnificence, for John had
got his plate in his drawing-room, while the Major still adhered to the
good old-fashioned blue and red, and gold and green crockery ware of his
youth.

Not but that both Mamma and the young ladies had often represented to
him the absolute necessity of having plate, but the Major could never
fall in with it at his price—that of German silver, or Britannia metal
perhaps.

We dare say Fine Billy would never have noticed the deficiency, if the
Major had not drawn attention to it by apologising for its absence, and
fearing he would not be able to eat his dinner without; though we dare
say, if the truth were known our readers—our male readers at least—will
agree with us, that a good, hot well-washed china dish is a great deal
better than a dull, lukewarm, hand-rubbed silver one. It’s the “wittles”
 people look to, not the ware.

Then the Major was afraid his wine wouldn’t pass muster after the
Earl’s, and certainly his champagne was nothing to boast of, being that
ambiguous stuff that halts between the price of gooseberry and real;
in addition to which, the Major had omitted to pay it the compliment
of icing it, so that it stood forth in all its native imperfection.
However, it hissed, and fizzed, and popped, and banged, which is
always something exciting at all events; and as the Major sported
needle-case-shaped glasses which he had got at a sale (very cheap we
hope), there was no fear of people getting enough to do them any harm.

Giving champagne is one of those things that has passed into custom
almost imperceptibly. Twenty, or five-and-twenty years ago, a
mid-rank-of-life person giving champagne was talked of in a very
shake-the-head, solemn, “I wish-it-may-last,” style; now everybody gives
it of some sort or other. We read in the papers the other day of ninety
dozen, for which the holder had paid £400, being sold for 13s. 6d. a
doz.! What a chance that would have been for our Major. We wonder what
that had been made of.

It was a happy discovery that giving champagne at dinner saved other
wine after, for certainly nothing promotes the conviviality of a meeting
so much as champagne, and there is nothing so melancholy and funereal as
a dinner party without it. Indeed, giving champagne may be regarded as
a downright promoter of temperance, for a person who drinks freely of
champagne cannot drink freely of any other sort of wine after it: so
that champagne may be said to have contributed to the abolition of the
old port-wine toping wherewith our fathers were wont to beguile their
long evenings. Indeed, light wines and London clubs have about banished
inebriety from anything like good society. Enlarged newspapers, too,
have contributed their quota, whereby a man can read what is passing in
all parts of the world, instead of being told whose cat has kittened in
his own immediate neighbourhood.—With which philosophical reflections,
let us return to our party.

Although youth is undoubtedly the age of matured judgment and
connoisseurship in everything, and Billy was quite as knowing as his
neighbours, he accepted the Major’s encomiums on his wine with all the
confidence of ignorance, and, what is more to the purpose, he drank
it. Indeed, there was nothing faulty on the table that the Major didn’t
praise, on the old horse-dealing principle of lauding the bad points,
and leaving the good ones to speak for themselves. So the dinner
progressed through a multiplicity of dishes; for, to do the ladies
justice, they always give good fare:—it is the men who treat their
friends to mutton-chops and rice puddings.

Betty Bone, too, was a noble-hearted woman, and would undertake to cook
for a party of fifty,—roasts, boils, stews, soups, sweets, savouries,
sauces, and all! And so what with a pretty girl along side of him, and
two sitting opposite, Billy did uncommonly well, and felt far more at
home than he did at Tantivy Castle with the Earl and Mrs. Moffatt, and
the stiff dependents his lordship brought in to dine.

The Major stopped Billy from calling for Burgundy after his cheese by
volunteering a glass of home-brewed ale, “bo-bo-bottled,” he said, “when
he came of age,” though, in fact, it had only arrived from Aloes, the
chemist’s, at Hinton, about an hour before dinner. This being only
sipped, and smacked, and applauded, grace was said, the cloth removed,
the Major was presently assuring Billy, in a bumper of moderate juvenile
port, how delighted he was to see him, how flattered he felt by his
condescension in coming to visit him at his ‘umble abode, and how he
‘oped to make the visit agreeable to him. This piece of flummery being
delivered, the bottles and dessert circulated, and in due time the
ladies retired, the Misses to the drawing-room, Madam to the pantry, to
see that the Bumbler had not pocketed any of the cheese-cakes or tarts,
for which, boy-like, he had a propensity. * * * *

The Major, we are ashamed to say, had no mirror in his drawing-room,
wherein the ladies could now see how they had been looking; so, of
course, they drew to that next attraction—the fire, which having duly
stirred, Miss Yammerton and Flora laid their heads together, with each
a fair arm resting on the old-fashioned grey-veined marble mantel-piece,
and commenced a very laughing, whispering conversation. This, of course,
attracted Miss Harrier, who tried first to edge in between them, and
then to participate at the sides; but she was repulsed at all points,
and at length was told by Miss Yammerton to “get away!” as she had
“nothing to do with what they were talking about.”

“Yes I have,” pouted Miss Harriet, who guessed what the conversation was
about.

“No, you haven’t,” retorted Miss Flora.

“It’s between Flora and me,” observed Miss Yammerton dryly, with an air
of authority.

“Well, but that’s not fair!” exclaimed Miss Harriet.

“Yes it is!” replied Miss Yammerton, throwing up her head.

“Yes it is!” asserted Miss Flora, supporting her elder sister’s
assertion.

“No, it’s not!” retorted Miss Harriet.

“You weren’t there at the beginning,” observed Miss Yammerton, alluding
to the expedition to Tantivy Castle.

“That was not my fault,” replied Miss Harriet, firmly; “Pa would go in
the coach.”

“Never mind, you were not there,” replied Miss Yammerton tartly.

“Well, but I’ll ask mamma if that’s fair?” rejoined Miss Harriet,
hurrying out of the room.



CHAPTER XVIII. A LEETLE, CONTRETEMPS.

THE Major having inducted his guest into one of those expensive articles
of dining-room furniture, an easy chair—expensive, inasmuch as they
cause a great consumption of candles, by sending their occupants to
sleep,—now set a little round table between them, to which having
transferred the biscuits and wine, he drew a duplicate chair to the fire
for himself, and, sousing down in it, prepared for a tête-à-tête chat
with our friend. He wanted to know what Lord Ladythorne said of him, to
sound Billy, in fact, whether there was any chance of his making him a
magistrate. He also wanted to find out how long Billy was going to stay
in the country, and see whether there was any chance of selling him
a horse; so he led up to the points, by calling upon Billy to fill a
bumper to the “Merry haryers,” observing casually, as he passed the
bottle, that he had now kept them “live-and-thirty years without a
subscription, and was as much attached to the sport as ever.” This toast
was followed by the foxhounds and Lord Ladythorne’s health, which opened
out a fine field for general dissertation and sounding, commencing with
Mr. Boggledike, who, the Major not liking, of course, he condemned;
and Mrs. Pringle having expressed an adverse opinion of him too, Billy
adopted their ideas, and agreed that he was slow, and ought to be
drafted.

With his magisterial inquiry the Major was not so fortunate, his
lordship being too old a soldier to commit himself before a boy like
Billy; and the Major, after trying every meuse, and every twist,
and every turn, with the proverbial patience and pertinacity of a
hare-hunter, was at length obliged to whip off and get upon his horses.
When a man gets upon his horses, especially after dinner, and that man
such an optimist as the Major, there is no help for it but either buying
them in a lump or going to sleep; and as we shall have to endeavour to
induce the reader to accompany us through the Major’s stable by-and-bye,
we will leave Billy to do which he pleases, while we proceed to relate
what took place in another part of the house. For this purpose, it will
be necessary to “ease her—back her,” as the Thames steamboat boys say,
our story a little to the close of the dinner.

Monsieur Jean Rougier having taken the general bearings of the family as
he stood behind “me lor Pringle’s” chair, retired from active service on
the coming in of the cheese, and proceeded to Billy’s apartment, there
to arrange the toilette table, and see that everything was comme il
faut. Billy’s dirty boots, of course, he took downstairs to the Bumbler
to clean, who, in turn, put them off upon Solomon.

Very smart everything in the room was. The contents of the gorgeous
dressing-case were duly displayed on the fine white damask cloth that
covered the rose-colour-lined muslin of the gracefully-fringed and
festooned toilette cover, whose flowing drapery presented at once an
effectual barrier to the legs, and formed an excellent repository for
old crusts, envelopes, curlpapers, and general sweepings. Solid ivory
hair-brushes, with tortoiseshell combs, cosmetics, curling fluids, oils
and essences without end, mingled with the bijouterie and knick-nacks
of the distinguished visitor. Having examined himself attentively in
the glass, and spruced up his bristles with Billy’s brushes, Jack then
stirred the fire, extinguished the toilette-table candle, which he
had lit on coming in, and produced a great blue blouse from the bottom
drawer of the wardrobe, in which, having enveloped himself in order to
prevent his fine clothes catching dust, he next crawled backwards under
the bed. He had not lain there very long ere the opening and shutting
of downstairs doors, with the ringing of a bell, was followed by the
rustling of silks, and the light tread of airy steps hurrying along the
passage, and stopping at the partially-opened door. Presently increased
light in the apartment was succeeded by less rustle and tip-toe treads
passing the bed, and making up to the looking-glass. The self-inspection
being over, candles were then flashed about the room in various
directions; and Jack having now thrown all his energies into his ears,
overheard the following hurried sotto voce exclamations:—

First Voice. “Lauk! what a little dandy it is!”

Second Voice. “Look, I say! look at his boots—one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten: ten pair, as I live, besides jacks
and tops.”



145m


First Voice. “And shoes in proportion,” the speaker running her candle
along the line of various patterned shoes.

Second Voice. (Advancing to the toilette-table). “Let’s look at his
studs. Wot an assortment! Wonder if those are diamonds or paste he has
on.”

First Voice. “Oh, diamonds to be sure” (with an emphasis on diamonds).
“You don’t s’pose such a little swell as that would wear paste. See!
there’s a pearl and diamond ring. Just fits me, I do declare,” added
she, trying it on.

Second Voice. “What beautiful carbuncle pins!”

First Voice. “Oh. what studs!”

Second Voice. “Oh. what chains!”

First Voice. “Oh, what pins!”

Second Voice. “Oh, what a love of a ring!” And so the ladies continued,
turning the articles hastily over. “Oh, how happy he must be,” sighed a
languishing voice, as the inspection proceeded.

“See! here’s his little silver shaving box,” observed the first speaker,
opening it.

“Wonder what he wants with a shaving box,—got no more beard than I
have,” replied the other, taking up Billy’s badger-hair shaving-brush,
and applying it to her own pretty chin.

“Oh! smell what delicious perfume!” now exclaimed the discoverer of
the shaving-box. “Essence of Rondeletia, I do believe! No, extrait de
millefleurs,” added she, scenting her ‘kerchief with some.

Then there was a hurried, frightened “hush!” followed by a “Take care
that ugly man of his doesn’t come.”

“Did you ever see such a monster!” ejaculated the other earnestly.

“Kept his horrid eyes fixed upon me the whole dinner,” observed the
first speaker.

“Frights they are,” rejoined the other.

“He must keep him for a foil,” suggested the first.

“Let’s go, or we’ll be caught!” replied the alarmist; and forthwith the
rustling of silks was resumed, the candles hurried past, and the ladies
tripped softly out of the room, leaving the door ajar, with Jack under
the bed to digest their compliments at his leisure. * * * *

But Monsieur was too many for them. Miss had dropped her glove at the
foot of the bed, which Jack found on emerging from his hiding place,
and waiting until he had the whole party reassembled at tea, he walked
majestically into the middle of the drawing-room with it extended on a
plated tray, his “horrid eyes” combining all the venom of a Frenchman
with the hauteur of an Englishman, and inquired, in a loud and audible
voice, “Please, has any lady or shentleman lost its glo-o-ve?”

“Yes, I have!” replied Miss, hastily, who had been wondering where she
had dropped it.

“Indeed, marm,” replied Monsieur, bowing and presenting it to her on the
tray, adding, in a still louder voice, “I found it in Monsieur Pringle’s
bed-room.” And Jack’s flashing eye saw by the brightly colouring girls
which were the offenders.

Very much shocked was Mamma at the announcement; and the young ladies
were so put about, that they could scarcely compose themselves at the
piano, while Miss Harriet’s voice soared exultingly as she accompanied
herself on her harp.



CHAPTER XIX. THE MAJOR’S STUD.

MRS. Yammerton carried the day, and the young ladies carried
paper-booted Billy, or rather walked him up to Mrs. Wasperton’s at
Prospect Hill, and showed him the ugly girls, and also the beautiful
view from Eagleton Rocks, over the wide-spreading vale of Vernerley
beyond, which, of course, Billy enjoyed amazingly, as all young
gentlemen do enjoy views under such pleasant circumstances. Perhaps he
might have enjoyed it more, if two out of three of the dear charmers had
been absent, but then things had not got to that pass, and Mamma would
not have thought it proper—at least, not unless she saw her way to a
very decided preference—which, of course, was then out of the question.
Billy was a great swell, and the “chaws” who met him stared with
astonishment at such an elegant parasol’d exquisite, picking his way
daintily along the dirty, sloppy, rutty lanes. Like all gentlemen in
similar circumstances, he declared his boots “wouldn’t take in wet.”

Of course, Mamma charged the girls not to be out late, an injunction
that applied as well to precaution against the night air, as to the
importance of getting Billy back by afternoon stable time, when the
Major purposed treating him to a sight of his stud, and trying to lay
the foundation of a sale.

Perhaps our sporting readers would like to take a look into the Major’s
stable before he comes with his victim, Fine Billy. If so, let them
accompany us; meanwhile our lady friends can skip the chapter if they do
not like to read about horses—or here; if they will step this way,
and here comes the Dairymaid, they can look at the cows: real Durham
short-horns, with great milking powers and most undeniable pedigrees.
Ah, we thought they would tickle your fancy. The cow is to the lady,
what the horse is to the gentleman, or, on the score of usefulness, what
hare-hunting is to fox-hunting—or shooting to hunting. Master may have
many horses pulled backwards out of his stable without exciting half
the commiseration among the fair, that the loss of one nice quiet
milk-giving cushy cow affords. Cows are friendly creatures. They
remember people longer than almost any other animal, dogs not excepted.
Well, here are four of them, Old Lily, Strawberry Cream, Red Rose, and
Toy; the house is clean and sweet, and smells of milk, and well-made
hay, instead of the nasty brown-coloured snuff-smelling stuff that some
people think good enough for the poor cow.

The Major is proud of his cows, and against the whitewashed wall he
has pasted the description of a perfect one, in order that people may
compare the originals with the portrait. Thus it runs:—

She’s long in the face, she’s fine in the horn, She’ll quickly get fat
without cake or corn; She’s clean in her jaws, anti full in her chine,
She’s heavy in flank, and wide in her loin; She’s broad in her ribs, and
long in her rump, A straight and flat back without ever a hump; She’s
wide in her hips, and calm in her eyes, She’s fine in her shoulders,
and thin in her thighs; She’s light in her neck, and small in her tail,
She’s wide at the breast, and good at the pail. She’s tine in her bone
and silky of skin. She’s a grazier’s without, and a butcher’s within.

Now for the stable; this way, through the saddle-room, and mind the
whitening on the walls. Stoop yonr head, for the Major being low
himself, has made the door on the principle of all other people being
low too. There, there you are, you see, in a stable as neat and clean as
a London dealer’s; a Newmarket straw plait, a sanded floor with a roomy
bench against the wall on which the Major kicks his legs and stutters
forth the merits of his steeds. They are six in number, and before he
comes we will just run the reader through the lot, with the aid of truth
for an accompaniment.

This grey, or rather white one next the wall, White Surrey, as he calls
him, is the old quivering tailed horse he rode on the de Glancey day,
and pulled up to save, from the price-depressing inconvenience of being
beat. He is eighteen years old, the Major having got him when he was
sixteen, in a sort of part purchase, part swap, part barter deal. He
gave young Mr. Meggison of Spoonbill Park thirteen pounds ten shillings,
an old mahogany Piano-Forte, by Broadwood, six and a half octaves,
a Squirrel Cage, two Sun-blinds, and a very feeble old horse called
Nonpareil, that Tom Rivett the blacksmith declared it would be like
robbing Meggison to put new shoes on to, for him. He is a game good
shaped old horse, but having frequently in the course of a chequered
career, been in that hardest of all hard places, the hands of young
single horse owners, White Surrey has done the work of three or four
horses. He has been fired and blistered, and blistered and fired,
till his legs are as round and as callous as those of a mahogany
dining-table; still it is wonderful how they support him, and as he has
never given the Major a fall, he rides him as if he thought he never
would. His price is sometimes fifty, sometimes forty, sometimes thirty,
and there are times when he might be bought for a little less—two
sovereigns, perhaps, returned out of the thirty. The next one to him—the
white legged brown,—is of the antediluvian order too. He is now called
Woodpecker, but he may be traced by half-a-dozen aliases through other
stables—Buckhunter, Captain Tart, Fleacatcher, Sportsman, Marc Anthony,
&c. He is nearly, if not quite thorough bred, and the ignoble purposes
to which he has been subjected, false start making, steeple chasing,
flat and hurdle racing, accounts for the number of his names. The Major
got him from Captain Caret, of the Apple-pie huzzars, when that gallant
regiment was ordered out to India,—taking him all away together, saddle,
bridle, clothing, &c., for twenty-three pounds, a strong iron-bound
chest, fit for sea purposes, as the Major described it, and a spying
glass. This horse, like all the rest of them, indeed, is variously
priced, depending upon the party asking, sometimes fifty, sometimes
five-and-twenty would buy him.

The third is a mare, a black mare, called Star, late the property of Mr.
Hazey, the horse-dealing master of the Squeezington hounds. Hazey
sold her in his usual course of horse-dealing cheating to young Mr.
Sprigginson, of Mary gold Lodge, for a hundred and twenty guineas (the
shillings back), Hazey’s discrimination enabling him to see that she
was turning weaver, and Sprigginson not liking her, returned her on the
warranty; when, of course, Hazey refusing to receive her, she was sent
to the Eclipse Livery and Bait Stables at Hinton, where, after weaving
her head off, she was sold at the hammer to the Major for twenty-nine
pounds. Sprig then brought an action against Hazey for the balance,
bringing half-a-dozen witnesses to prove that she wove when she came;
Hazey, of course, bringing a dozen to swear that she never did nothin’
‘o the sort with him, and must have learnt it on the road; and the jury
being perplexed, and one of them having a cow to calve, another wanting
to see his sweetheart, and the rest wanting their dinners, they just
tossed up for it, “Heads!” for Sprig; “Tails!” for Hazey, and Sprig won.
There she goes, you see, weaving backwards and forwards like a caged
panther in a den. Still she is far from being the worst that the Major
has; indeed, we are not sure that she is not about the best, only, as
Solomon says, with reference to her weaving, she gets the “langer the
warser.”

Number four is a handsome whole coloured bright bay horse, “Napoleon the
Great,” as the Major calls him, in hopes that his illustrious name will
sell him, for of all bad tickets he ever had, the Major thinks Nap is
the worst. At starting, he is all fire, frisk, and emulation, but before
he has gone five miles, he begins to droop, and in hunting knocks
up entirely before he has crossed half-a-dozen fields. He is a weak,
watery, washy creature, wanting no end of coddling, boiled corn, and
linseed tea. One hears of two days a-week horses, but Napoleon the Great
is a day in two weeks one. The reader will wonder how the Major came to
get such an animal, still more how he came to keep him; above all, how
he ever came to have him twice. The mystery, however, is explained on
the old bartering, huckstering, half-and-half system. The Major got him
first from Tom Brandysneak, a low public-house-keeping leather-plater,
one of those sporting men, not sportsmen, who talk about supporting
the turf, as if they did it like the noblemen of old, upon principle,
instead of for what they can put into their own pockets; and the Major
gave Sneak an old green dog-cart, a melon frame, sixteen volumes of
the “Racing Calendar,” bound in calf, a ton of seed-hay, fifty yards of
Croggon’s asphalt roofing felt, and three “golden sovereigns” for him.
Nap was then doing duty under the title of Johnny Raw, his calling being
to appear at different posts whenever the cruel conditions of a race
required a certain number of horses to start in order to secure the
added money; but Johnny enacted that office so often for the benefit
of the “Honourable Society of Confederated Legs,” that the stewards of
races framed their conditions for excluding him; and Johnny’s occupation
being gone, he came to the Major in manner aforesaid. Being, however,
a horse of prepossessing appearance, a good bay, with four clean black
legs, a neat well set-on head, with an equally neat set-on tail, a
flowing mane, and other &c’s, he soon passed into the possession of
young Mr. Tabberton, of Green Linnet Hill, whose grandmamma had just
given him a hundred guineas wherewith to buy a good horse—a real good
one he was to be—a hundred-guinea-one in fact. Tabberton soon took all
the gay insolence out of Johnny’s tail, and brought him back to the
Major, sadly dilapidated—a sad satire upon his former self.

Meanwhile the Major had filled up his stall with a handsome
rich-coloured brown mare, with a decidedly doubtful fore-leg; and
the Major, all candour and affability, readily agreed to exchange, on
condition of getting five-and-twenty pounds to boot. The mare presently
went down to exercise, confirming the Major’s opinion of the instability
of her leg, and increasing his confidence in his own judgment. Napoleon
the Great, late Johnny Raw, now reigns in her stead, and very well he
looks in the straw. Indeed, that is his proper place; and as many people
only keep their horses to look at, there is no reason why Napoleon the
Great should remain in the Major’s stables. He certainly won’t if the
Major can help it.

Number five is a vulgar looking little dun-duck-et-y mud-coloured horse,
with long white stockings, and a large white face, called Bull-dog, that
Solomon generally rides. Nobody knows how old he is, or how many masters
he has had, or where he came from, or who his father was, or whether he
had a grandfather, or anything whatever about him. The Major got him for
a mere nothing—nine pounds—at Joe Seton’s, the runaway Vet’s sale, about
five years ago, and being so desperately ugly and common looking, no
one has ever attempted to deprive the Major of him either in the way of
barter or sale. Still Bully is a capital slave, always ready either
to hunt, or hack, or go in harness, and will pass anything except a
public-house, being familiarly and favourably known at the doors
of every one in the county. Like most horses, he has his little
peculiarity; and his consists of a sort of rheumatic affection of the
hind leg, which causes him to catch it up, and sends him limping along
on three legs, like a lame dog, but still he never comes down, and the
attack soon goes off. Solomon and he look very like their work together.

The next horse to Bull-dog, and the last in the stable, is Golden-drop,
a soft, mealy chestnut—of all colours the most objectionable. He is
a hot, pulling, hauling, rushing, rough-actioned animal, that gives a
rider two days’ exercise in one.

The worst of him is, he has the impudence to decline harness; for though
he doesn’t “mill,” as they call it, he yet runs backwards as fast
as forwards, and would crash through a plate-glass window, a gate, a
conservatory, or anything else that happened to be behind. As a hack he
is below mediocrity, for in his walk he digs his toes into the ground
about every tenth step, and either comes down on his nose, or sets off
at score for fear of a licking, added to which, he shies at every heap
of stones and other available object on the road, whereby he makes a ten
miles’ journey into one of twelve. The Major got him of Mr. Brisket, the
butcher, at Hinton, being taken with the way in which his hatless
lad spun him about the ill-paved streets, with the meat-basket on his
arm—the full trot, it may be observed, being the animal’s pace—but
having got him home, the more the Major saw of him the less he liked
him. He had a severe deal for him too, and made two or three journeys
over to Hinton on market-days, and bought a pennyworth of whipcord of
one saddler, a set of spur-leathers of another, a pot of harness-paste
of a third, in order to pump them about the horse ere he ventured to
touch. He also got Mr. Paul Straddler, the disengaged gentleman of the
place, whose greatest pleasure is to be employed upon a deal, to ferret
out all he could about him, who reported that the horse was perfectly
sound, and a capital feeder, which indeed he is, for he will attack
anything, from a hayband down to a hedge-stake. You see he’s busy on his
bedding now.

Brisket knowing his man, and that the Major killed his own mutton, and
occasionally beef, in the winter, so that there was no good to be got of
him in the meat way, determined to ask a stiff price, viz., £25 (Brisket
having given £14, which the Major having beat down to £23 commenced on
the mercantile line, which Brisket’s then approaching marriage favoured,
and the Major ultimately gave a four-post mahogany bedstead, with
blue damask furniture, palliasse and mattress to match; a mahogany
toilet-mirror, 23 inches by 28: a hot-water pudding-dish, a silver-edged
cake-basket, a bad barometer, a child’s birch-wood crib, a chess-board,
and £2 10 s. in cash for him, the £2 1 s.. being, as the Major now
declares (to himself, of course,) far more than his real worth. However,
there the horse stands; and though he has been down twice with the
Major, and once with the Humbler, these little fore paws (faux pas)
as the Major calls them, have been on the soft, and the knees bear no
evidence of the fact. Such is our friend’s present stud, and such is its
general character.

But stay! We are omitting the horse in this large family-pew-looking box
at the end, whose drawn curtains have caused us to overlook him. He is
another of the Major’s bad tickets, and one of which he has just become
possessed in the following way:—

Having—in furtherance of his character of a “thorrer sportsman,” and
to preserve the spirit of impartiality so becoming an old master of
“haryers”—gone to Sir Moses Mainchance’s opening day, as well as to my
Lord’s, Sir Moses, as if in appreciation of the compliment, had offered
to give the horse on which his second whip was blundering among the
blind ditches.

The Major jumped at the offer, for the horse looked well with the whip
on him; and, as he accepted, Sir Moses increased the stream of his
generosity by engaging the Major to dine and take him away. Sir Moses
had a distinguished party to meet him, and was hospitality itself. He
plied our Major with champagne, and hock, and Barsac, and Sauterne, and
port, and claret, and compliments, but never alluded to the horse until
about an hour after dinner, when Mr. Smoothley, the jackal of the hunt,
brought him on the tapis.

“Ah!” exclaimed Sir Moses, as if in sudden recollection, “that’s
true! Major, you’re quite welcome to ‘Little-bo-peep,’ (for so he
had christened him, in order to account for his inquisitive manner of
peering). Your quite welcome to ‘Little-bo-peep,’ and I hope he’ll be
useful to you.”

“Thank’e, Sir Moses, thank’e!” bobbed the grateful Major, thinking what
a good chap the baronet was.

“Not a bit!” replied Sir Moses, chucking up his chin, just as if he was
in the habit of giving a horse away every other day in the week. “Not a
bit! Keep him as long as you like—all the season if you please—and send
him back when you are done.”

Then, as if in deprecation of any more thanks, he plied the wine again,
and gave the Major and his “harriers” in a speech of great gammonosity.
The Major was divided between mortification at the reduction of the gift
into a loan, and gratification at the compliment now paid him, but
was speedily comforted by the flattering reception his health, and the
stereotyped speech in which he returned thanks, met at the hands of the
company. He thought he must be very popular. Then, when they were all
well wined, and had gathered round the sparkling fire with their coffee
or their Curaçoa in their hands, Sir Moses button-holed the Major with
a loud familiar, “I’ll tell ye what, Yammerton! you’re a devilish good
feller, and there shall be no obligation between us—you shall just give
me forty puns for ‘Little-bo-peep,’ and that’s making you a present of
him for it’s a hundred less than I gave.”

“‘Ah! that’s the way to do it!” exclaimed Mr. Smoothley, as if delighted
at Sir Moses having dropped upon the right course. “Ah! that’s the way
to do it!” repented he swinging himself gaily round on his toe, with a
loud snap of his finger and thumb in the air.

And Sir Moses said it in such a kind, considerate, matter-of-course sort
of way, before company too, and Smoothley clenched it so neatly, that
our wine-flushed Major, acute as he is, hadn’t presence of mind to say
“No.” So he was saddled with “Little-bo-peep,” who has already lost one
eye from cataract, which is fast going with the other.

But see! Here comes Solomon followed by the Bumbler in fustian, and the
boy from the farm, and we shall soon have the Major and Billy, so let us
step into Bo-peep’s box, an I hear the Major’s description of his stud.
* * * *

Scarcely have the grooms dispersed the fast-gathering gloom of a
November afternoon, by lighting the mould candles in the cord-suspended
lanterns slung along the ceiling, and began to hiss at the straw, when
the Major entered, with our friend Billy at his heels. The Bumbler and
Chaw then put on extra activity, and the stable being presently righted,
heads were loosened, water supplied, and the horses excited by Solomon’s
well-known peregrination to the crushed corn-bin. All ears were then
pricked, eyes cast back, and hind-quarters tucked under to respond gaily
to the “come over” of the feeder.



155m


The late watchful whinnying restlessness is succeeded by gulping,
diving, energetic eating. Our friend having passed his regiment of
horses in silent review, while the hissing was going on, now exchanges a
few confidential words with the stud groom, as if he left everything to
him, and then passes upwards to where he started from. Solomon having
plenty to do elsewhere, presently retires, followed by his helpers, and
the Major and Billy seat themselves on the bench. After a few puffs and
blows of the cheeks and premonitory jerks of the legs, the Major nods an
approving “nice ‘oss, that,” to Napoleon the Great, standing opposite,
who is the first to look up from his food, being with it as with his
work, always in a desperate hurry to begin, and in an equally great one
to leave off.

“Nice ‘oss, that,” repeats the Major, nodding again.

“Yarse, he looks like a nice ‘orse;” replied Billy, which is really as
much as any man can say under the circumstances.

“That ‘oss should have won the D-d-d-derby in Nobbler’s year,” observed
the Major; “only they d-d-drugged him the night before starting, and he
didn’t get half round the c-c-co-course,” which was true enough, only it
wasn’t owing to any drugging, for he wasn’t worth the expense.

“That ‘oss should be in Le-le-le-leieestershire,” observed the Major.
“He has all the commandin’ s-s-s-statur requisite to make large
fences look s-s-s-small, and the s-s-s-smoothest, oiliest action
i-ma-ma-maginable.”

“Yarse;” replied Billy, wondering what pleasure there was in looking
at a lot of blankets and hoods upon horses—which was about all he could
see.

“He should be at Me-me-melton,” observed the Major; still harping on
Napoleon—“wasted upon haryers,” added he.

“Yarse,” replied Billy, not caring where he was.

The Major then took a nod at the Weaver, who, as if in aid of her
master’s design, now stood bolt upright, listening, as it were, instead
of reeling from side to side.

“That’s a sw-sw-swe-e-t mare,” observed the Major, wishing he was rid of
her. “I don’t know whether I would rather have her or the horse (Nap);”
 which was true enough, though he knew which he would like to sell Billy.

“You’ll remember the g-g-gray, the whi-white,” continued he; looking
on at the old stager against the wall. “That’s the ‘oss I rode with
the Peer, on the Castle day, and an undeniable g-g-good one he is;” but
knowing that he was not a young man’s horse—moreover, not wanting
to sell him, he returned to Napoleon, whose praises he again sounded
considerably. Billy, however, having heard enough about him, and wanting
to get into the house to the ladies, drew his attention to Bull-dog,
now almost enveloped in blankets and straw; but the Major, not feeling
inclined to waste any words on him either, replied, “That he was only a
servant’s ‘oss.” He, however, spoke handsomely of Golden-drop, declaring
he was the fastest trotter in England, perhaps in Europe, perhaps in the
world, and would be invaluable to a D-d-doctor, or any man who wanted to
get over the ground. And then, thinking he had said about enough for a
beginning, it all at once occurred to him that Billy’s feet must be wet,
and though our friend asserted most confidently that they were not, as
all townsmen do assert who walk about the country in thin soles, the
Major persisted in urging him to go in and change, which Billy at length
reluctantly assented to do.



CHAPTER XX. CARDS FOR A SPREAD.



158m


THE Major’s ménage not admitting of two such great events as a hunt and
a dinner party taking place on the same day, and market interfering as
well, the hunt again had to be postponed to the interests of the
table. Such an event as a distinguished stranger—the friend of an Earl,
too—coming into the country could not but excite convivial expectations,
and it would ill become a master of hounds and a mother of daughters
not to parade the acquisition. Still, raising a party under such
circumstances, required a good deal of tact and consideration, care, of
course, being taken not to introduce any matrimonial competitor, at the
same time to make the gathering sufficiently grand, and to include a
good bellman or two to proclaim its splendour over the country. The
Major, like a county member with his constituents, was somewhat hampered
with his hounds, not being able to ask exactly who he liked, for fear of
being hauled over the coals, viz. warned off the land of those who
might think they ought to have been included, and altogether, the party
required a good deal of management. Inclination in these matters is not
of so much moment, it being no uncommon thing in the country for people
to abuse each other right well one day, and dine together the next.
The “gap” which the Major prized so much with his hounds, he strongly
objected to with his parties.

Stopping gaps, indeed, sending out invitations at all in the country, so
as not to look like stopping gaps, requires circumspection, where
people seem to have nothing whatever to do but to note their neighbours’
movements. Let any one watch the progress of an important trial, one
for murder say, and mark the wonderful way in which country people
come forward, long after the event, to depose to facts, that one would
imagine would never have been noticed—the passing of a man with a cow,
for instance, just as they dropped their noses upon their bacon plates,
the suspension of payment by their clock, on that morning, or the post
messenger being a few minutes late with the letters on that day, and
so on. What then is there to prevent people from laying that and that
together, where John met James, or Michael saw Mary, so as to be able
to calculate, whether they were included in the first, second, or third
batch of invitations? Towns-people escape this difficulty, as also the
equally disagreeable one of having it known whether their “previous
engagements” are real or imaginary; but then, on the other hand, they
have the inconvenience of feeling certain, that as sure as ever they
issue cards for a certain day, every one else will be seized with a
mania for giving dinners on the same one. No one can have an idea of
the extent of London hospitality—who has not attempted to give a dinner
there. Still, it is a difficult world to please, even in the matter
of mastication, for some people who abuse you if you don’t ask them
to dine, abuse you quite as much if you do. Take the Reverend Mr.
Tightlace, the rector, and his excellent lady, for instance. Tightlace
was always complaining, at least observing, that the Yammertons never
asked them to dine—wondered “why the Yammertons never asked them to
dine, was very odd they never asked them to dine,” and yet, when Miss
Yammerton’s best copper-plate handwriting appeared on the highly-musked
best cream-laid satin note-paper, “requesting, &c.” Tightlace pretended
to be quite put out at the idea of having to go to meet that wild
sporting youth, who, “he’d be bound to say, could talk of nothing but
hunting.” Indeed, having most reluctantly accepted the invitation, he
found it necessary to cram for the occasion, and having borrowed a copy
of that veteran volume, the “British Sportsman,” he read up all the
long chapter on racing and hunting, how to prepare a horse for a hunting
match or plate; directions for riding a hunting match or plate; of
hunting the hare, and hunting the fox, with directions for the choice of
a hunter, and the management of a hunter; part of which latter consisted
in putting him to grass between May and Bartholomew-tide, and comforting
his stomach before going out to hunt with toasted bread and wine, or
toasted bread and ale, and other valuable information of that sort—all
of which Tightlace stored in his mind for future use—thinking to reduce
his great intellect to the level of Billy’s capacity.

Mr. and Mrs. Rocket Larkspur, of Ninian Green, were also successfully
angled for and caught; indeed, Mrs. Larkspur would have been much
disappointed if they had not been invited, for she had heard of Billy’s
elegant appearance from her maid, and being an aspiring lady, had a
great desire to cultivate an acquaintance with high life, in which Billy
evidently moved. Rocket was a good slow sort of gentleman-farmer, quite
a contrast to his fast wife, who was all fire, bustle, and animation,
wanting to manage everybody’s house and affairs for them. He had married
her, it was supposed, out of sheer submission, because she had made
a dead set at him, and would not apparently be said “nay” to. It is a
difficult thing to manouvre a determined woman in the country, where
your habits are known, and they can assail you at all points—church,
streets, fields, roads, lanes, all are open to them; or they can even
get into your house under plea of a charity subscription, if needs
be. Mrs. and Miss Dotherington, of Goney Garth, were invited to do
the Morning Post department, and because there was no fear of Miss
Dotherington, who was “very amiable,” interfering with our Billy. Mrs.
Dotherington’s other forte, besides propagating parties, consisted in
angling for legacies, and she was continually on the trot looking after
or killing people from whom she had, or fancied she had, expectations.
“I’ve just been to see poor Mrs. Snuff,” she would say, drawing a long
face; “she’s looking wretchedly ill, poor thing; fear she’s not long
for this world;” or, with a grin, “I suppose you’ve heard old Mr.
Wheezington has had another attack in the night, which nearly carried
him off.” Nothing pleased her so much as being told that any one from
whom she had expectations was on the wane. She could ill conceal her
satisfaction.

So far so good; the party now numbered twelve, six of themselves and six
strangers, and nobody to interfere with Fine Billy. The question
then arose, whether to ask the Blurkinses, or the Faireys, or the
Crickletons, and this caused an anxious deliberation. Blurkins was a
landowner, over whose property the Major frequently hunted; but then on
the other hand, he was a most disagreeable person, who would be sure to
tread upon every body’s corns before the evening was over. Indeed, the
Blurkins’ family, like noxious vermin, would seem to have been sent into
the world for some inscrutable purpose, their mission apparently being
to take the conceit out of people by telling them home truths. “Lor’
bless us! how old you have got! why you’ve lost a front tooth! declare
I shouldn’t have known you!” or “Your nose and your chin have got
into fearful proximity,” was the sort of salute Blurkins would give an
acquaintance after an absence. Or if the “Featherbedfordshire Gazette,”
 or the “Hit-im and Hold-im shire Herald” had an unflattering paragraph
respecting a party’s interference at the recent elections, or on any
other subject, Blurkins was the man who would bring it under his notice.
“There, sir, there; see what they say about you!” he would say, coming
up in the news-room, with the paper neatly folded to the paragraph, and
presenting it to him.

The Faireys of Yarrow Court were the most producible people, but then
Miss was a beauty, who had even presumed to vie with the Yammertons,
and they could not ask the old people without her. Besides which, it had
transpired that a large deal box, carefully covered with glazed canvas,
had recently arrived at the Rosedale station, which it was strongly
suspected contained a new dinner dress from Madame Glace’s in Hanover
Street; and it would never do to let her sport it at Yammerton Grange
against their girl’s rather soiled—but still by candle-light extremely
passable—watered silk ones. So, after due deliberation, the Faireys were
rejected.

The Crickletons’ claims were then taken into consideration.

Crick was the son of Crickleton, the late eminent chiropodist of Bolton
Row, whom many of our readers will remember parading about London on
his piebald pony, with a groom in a yellow coat, red plush breeches,
and boots; and the present Crickleton was now what he called “seeking
repose” in the country, which, in his opinion, consisted in setting all
his neighbours by the ears. He rented Lavender Lodge and farm, and being
a thorough Cockney, with a great inclination for exposing his ignorance
both in the sporting and farming way, our knowing Major was making
rather a good thing of him. At first there was a little rivalry between
them, as to which was the greater man: Crickleton affirming that his
father might have been knighted; the Major replying, that as long as he
wasn’t knighted it made no matter. The Major, however, finding it his
interest to humour his consequence, compromised matters, by always
taking in Mrs. Crickleton, a compliment that Crick returned by taking in
Mrs. Yammerton. Though the Major used, when in the running-down tack,
to laugh at the idea of a knight’s son claiming precedence, yet, when on
the running-up one, he used to intimate that his friend’s lather might
have been knighted, and even sometimes assigned the honour to his friend
himself. So he talked of him to our Billy.

The usual preponderating influence setting in in favour of acceptances,
our host and hostess were obliged to play their remaining card with
caution. There were two sets of people with equal claims—the Impelows
of Buckup Hill, and the Baskyfields of Lingworth Lawn; the Impelows, if
anything, having the prior claim, inasmuch as the Yammertons had dined
with them last; but then, on the other hand, there was a very forward
young Impelow whom they couldn’t accommodate, that is to say, didn’t
want to have; while, as regarded the Baskyfields, old Basky and
Crickleton were at daggers drawn about a sow Basky had sold him, and
they would very likely get to loggerheads about it during the evening.
A plan of the table was drawn up, to see if it was possible to separate
them sufficiently, supposing people would only have the sense to go to
their right places, but it was found to be impracticable to do justice
to their consequence, and preserve the peace as well; so the idea of
having the Baskyfields was obliged to be relinquished. This delay was
fatal to the Impelows, for John Giles, their man-of-all-work, having
seen Solomon scouring the country on horseback with a basket, in search
of superfluous poultry, had reported the forthcoming grand spread at the
Grange to his “Missis”; and after waiting patiently for an invitation,
it at length came so late as to be an evident convenience, which they
wouldn’t submit to; so after taking a liberal allowance of time to
answer, in order to prevent the Yammertons from playing the same base
trick upon any one else, they declined in a stiff, non-reason-assigning
note. This was the first check to the hitherto prosperous current of
events, and showed our sagacious friends that the time was past for
stopping gaps with family people, and threw them on the other resources
of the district.

The usual bachelor stop-gaps of the neighbourhood were Tom Hetherington,
of Bearbinder Park, and Jimmy Jarperson, of Fothergill Burn, both
of whom had their disqualifications; Jarperson’s being an acute
nerve-shaking sort of laugh, that set every one’s teeth on edge who
heard it, and earned for him the title of the Laughing Hyæna; the
other’s misfortune being, that he was only what may be called an
intermediate gentleman, that is to say, he could act the gentleman up to
a pint of wine or so, after which quantity nature gradually asserted her
supremacy, and he became himself again.

Our friend Paul Straddler, of Hinton, at one time had had the call of
them both, but the Major, considering that Straddler had not used due
diligence in the matter of Golden-drop, was not inclined to have
him. Besides which, Straddler required a bed, which the Major was not
disposed to yield, a bed involving a breakfast, and perhaps a stall
for his horse, to say nothing of an out-of-place groom Straddler
occasionally adopted, and who could eat as much as any two men. So the
Laughing Hyæna and Hetherington were selected.

And now, gentle reader, if you will have the kindness to tell them
off on your fingers as we call them over, we will see if we have got
country, and as many as ever the Major can cram into his diningroom.
Please count:—

Major, Mrs., three Misses Yammerton and Fine Billy...6

The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Tightlace......................2

Mr. and Mrs. Rocket Larkspur.........................2

Mrs. and Miss Dotherington...........................2

Mr. and Mrs. Blurkins................................2

Mr. and Mrs. Crickleton..............................2

The Hyæna, and Hetherington..........................2

18

All right! eighteen; fourteen for dining-room chairs, and four for
bedroom ones. There are but twelve Champagne needle-cases, but the
deficiency is supplied by half-a-dozen ale glasses at the low end of the
table, which the Major says will “never be seen.”

So now, if you please, we will go and dress—dinner being sharp six,
recollect.



CHAPTER XXI. THE GATHERING.—THE GRAND SPREAD ITSELF.

IF a dinner-party in town, with all the aids and appliances
of sham-butlers, job-cooks, area-sneak-entrés, and extraneous
confectionary, causes confusion in an establishment, how much more so
must a party in the country, where, in addition to the guests, their
servants, their horses, and their carriages, are to be accommodated.
What a turning-out, and putting-up, and make-shifting, is there! What
a grumbling and growling at not getting into the best stable, or at not
having the state-vehicle put into the coach-house. If Solomon had not
combined the wisdom of his namesake, with the patience of Job, he
would have succumbed to the pressure from without. As it was, he kept
persevering on until having got the last shandry-dan deposited under the
hay house, he had just time to slip up-stairs to “clean himself,” and be
ready to wait at dinner.

But what a commotion the party makes in the kitchen! Everybody is in
a state of stew, from the gallant Betty Bone down to the hind’s little
girl from Bonnyriggs Farm, whom they have “got in” for the occasion.

Nor do their anxieties end with the dishing-up of the dinner; for no
sooner is it despatched, than that scarcely less onerous entertainment,
the supper for the servants, has to be provided.

Then comes the coffee, then the tea, then the tray, and then the
carriages wanted, then good night, good night, good night; most
agreeable evening; no idea it was so late; and getting away. But the
heat, and steam, and vapour of the kitchen overpowers us, and we gladly
seek refuge in the newly “done-up” drawingroom.

In it behold the Major!—the Major in all the glory of the Yammerton
harrier uniform, a myrtle-green coat, with a gold embroidered hare
on the myrtle-green velvet collar, and puss with her ears well back,
striding away over a dead gold surface, with a raised burnished rim of
a button, a nicely-washed, stiffly-starched, white vest, with a yellow
silk one underneath, black shorts, black silk stockings, and patent
leather pumps. He has told off his very rare and singularly fine port
wine, his prime old Madeira, matured in the West Indies; his nutty
sherry, and excellently flavoured claret, all recently bought at the
auction mart, not forgetting the ginger-pop-like champagne,—allowing the
liberal measure of a pint for each person of the latter, and he is
now trying to cool himself down into the easy-minded, unconcerned,
every-day-dinner-giving host.

Mrs. Yammerton too, on whom devolves the care of the wax and the
modérateurs, is here superintending her department—seeing that the
hearth is properly swept, and distributing the Punches, and Posts, and
“Ask Mamma’s” judiciously over the fine variegated table-cover. She is
dressed in a rich silvery grey—with a sort of thing like a silver cow
tie, with full tassels, twisted and twined serpent-like into her full,
slightly streaked, dark hair.

The illumination being complete, she seats herself fan in hand on
the sofa, and a solemn pause then ensues, broken only by Billy’s and
Monsieur’s meanderings over-head, and the keen whistle of the November
wind careering among the hollies and evergreens which the Major keeps
interpreting into wheels.

Then his wife and he seek to relieve the suspense of the moment by
speculating on who will come first.

“Those nasty Tightlaces for a guinea,” observed the Major, polishing his
nails, while Mrs. Yammerton predicted the Larkspurs.

“No, the Tights,” reiterated the Major, jingling his silver; “Tights
always comes first—thinks to catch one unprepared—”

At length the furious bark of the inhospitable terrier, who really
seemed as if he would eat horses, vehicle, visitors, and all, was
followed by a quick grind up to the door, and such a pull at the bell
as made the Major fear would cause it to suspend payment for
good—ring-ring-ring-ring-ring it went, as if it was never going to stop.

“Pulled the bell out of the socket, for a guinea,” exclaimed the Major,
listening for the letting down of steps, iron or recessed—recessed had
it.

“Mrs. D.” said the Major—figuring her old Landaulet in his mind.

“Ladies evidently,” assented Mrs. Yammerton, as the rustle of silks on
their way to the put-to-rights Sanctum, sounded past the drawing-room
door. The Major then began speculating as to whether they would get
announced before another arrival took place, or not. ****

Presently a renewed rustle was succeeded by the now yellow-logged,
brown-backed Bumbler, throwing open the door and exclaiming in a
stentorian voice, as if he thought his master and mistress had turned
suddenly deaf, “Mrs. and Miss Dothering-ton!” and in an instant the four
were hugging, and grinning, and pump-handling each other’s arms as
if they were going into ecstacies, Mrs. Dotherington interlarding her
gymnastics with Mrs. Yammerton, with sly squeezes of the hand, suited to
soto voce observations not intended for the Major’s ears, of “so ‘appy
to ear it! so glad to congratulate you! So nice!” with an inquisitive
whisper of—“which is it? which is it? Do tell me!” ****

Bow-wow-wow-wow-wow-wow went the clamorous Fury again;
Ring-ring-ring-ring-ring-ring-ring went the aggravated bell,
half drowning Mrs. Yammerton’s impressive “O dear! nothin’ of the
sort—nothin’ of the sort, only a fox-hunting acquaintance of the
Major’s—only a fox-hunting acquaintance of the Major’s.” And then the
Major came to renew his affectionate embraces, with inquiries about the
night, and the looks of the moon—was it hazy, or was it clear, or how
was it?

“Mr. and Mrs. Rocket Larkspur!” exclaimed the Bumbler, following up the
key-note in which he had pitched his first announcement and forthwith
the hugging and grinning was resumed with the new comers, Mrs. Larkspur
presently leading Mrs. Yammerton off sofawards, in order to poke her
inquiries unheard by the Major, who was now opening a turnip dialogue
with Mr. Rocket—yellow bullocks, purple tops, and so on. “Well, tell
me—which is it ‘?” ejaculated Mrs. Rocket Larkspur, looking earnestly,
in Mrs. Yammerton’s expressive eyes—“which is it repeated she, in a
determined sort of take-no-denial tone.

“Oh dear! nothin’ of the sort—nothin’ of the sort, I assure you!”
 whispered Mrs. Yammerton anxiously, well knowing the danger of holloaing
before you are out of the wood.

“Oh, tell me—tell me,” whispered Mrs. Rocket, coaxingly; “I’m not like
Mrs.————um there, looking at Mrs. Dotherington, who would blab it all
over the country.”

“Really I have nothing to tell,” replied Mrs. Yammerton serenely.

“Why, do you mean to say he’s not after one of the————um’s?” demanded
Mrs. Rocket eagerly.

“I don’t know what you mean,” laughed Mrs. Yammerton.



167m


Bow-wow-wow-wow-wow-wow went the terrier again, giving Mrs. Yammerton an
excuse for sidling off to Mrs. “um,” who with her daughter were lost
in admiration at a floss silk cockatoo, perched on an orange tree, the
production of Miss Flora. “Oh, it was so beautiful! Oh, what a love of a
screen it would make; what would she give if her Margaret could do such
work,” inwardly thinking how much better Margaret was employed making
her own—we will not say what.

Bow-wow-wow-wow-wow-wow went Fury again, the proceeds of this bark being
Mr. and Mrs. Tightlace, who now entered, the former “‘oping they weren’t
late,” as he smirked, and smiled, and looked round for the youth on whom
he had to vent his “British Sportsman” knowledge—the latter speedily
drawing Mrs. Yammerton aside—to the ladies know what. But it was “no go”
 again. Mrs. Yammerton really didn’t know what Mrs. Tightlace meant. No;
she really didn’t. Nor did Mrs. Tightlace’s assurance that it was
“the talk of the country,” afford any clue to her meaning—but Mrs.
Tightlace’s large miniature brooch being luckily loose, Mrs. Yammerton
essayed to fasten it, which afforded her an opportunity of bursting into
transports of delight at its beauty, mingled with exclamations as to
its “wonderful likeness to Mr. T.,” though in reality she was looking at
Mrs. Tightlace’s berthe, to see whether it was machinery lace, or real.

Then the grand rush took place; and Fury’s throat seemed wholly
inadequate to the occasion, as first Blurkins’s Brougham, then
Jarperson’s Gig, next the corn-cutter’s calèche, and lastly,
Hetherington’s Dog-cart whisked up to the door, causing a meeting of the
highly decorated watered silks of the house, and the hooded enveloped
visitors hurrying through the passage to the cloak-room.

By the time the young ladies had made their obeisances and got
congratulated on their looks, the now metamorphosed visitors came
trooping in, flourishing their laced kerchiefs, and flattening
their chapeaux mèchaniques as they entered. Then the full chorus of
conversation was established; moon, hounds, turnips, horses.

Parliament, with the usual—“Oi see by the papers that Her is gone to
Osborne,” or, “Oi see by the papers that the Comet is coming;” while
Mrs. Rocket Larkspur draws Miss Yammerton aside to try what she can
fish out of her. But here comes Fine Billy, and if ever hero realised an
author’s description of him. assuredly it is our friend, for he sidles
as unconcernedly into the room as he would into a Club or Casino,
with all the dreamy listlessness of a thorough exquisite, apparently
unconscious of any change having taken place in the part. But if Billy
is unconscious of the presence of strangers, his host is not, and
forthwith he inducts him into their acquaintance—Hetherington’s,
Hyæna’s, and all.

It is, doubtless, very flattering of great people to vote all the little
ones “one of us,” and not introduce them to anybody, but we take
leave to say, that society is considerably improved by a judicious
presentation. We talk of our advanced civilisation, but manners are
not nearly so good, or so “at-ease-setting,” as they were with the last
generation of apparently stiffer, but in reality easier, more affable
gentlemen of the old school. But what a note of admiration our Billy is!
How gloriously he is attired. His naturally curling hair, how gracefully
it flows; his elliptic collar, how faultlessly it stands; his cravat,
how correct; his shirt, how wonderfully fine; and, oh! how happy he must
be with such splendid sparkling diamond studs—such beautiful amethyst
buttons at his wrists—and such a love of a chain disporting itself over
his richly embroidered blood-stone-buttoned vest. Altogether, such a
first-class swell is rarely seen beyond the bills of mortality. He
looks as if he ought to be kept under a glass shade. But here comes the
Bumbler, and now for the agony of the entertainment.

The Major, who for the last few minutes has been fidgetting about
pairing parties off according to a written programme he has in his
waistcoat pocket, has just time to assign Billy to Mrs. Rocket Larkspur,
to assuage her anguish at not being taken in before Mrs. Crickleton,
when the Bumbler’s half-fledged voice is heard proclaiming at its utmost
altitude—“dinner is sarved!” Then there is such a bobbing and bowing,
and backing of chairs, and such inward congratulations, that the “‘orrid
‘alf’our” is over, and hopes from some that they may not get next the
fire—while others wish to be there. Though the Major could not,
perhaps, manage to get twenty thousand men out of Hyde Park, he
can, nevertheless, manouvre a party out of his drawing-room into his
dining-room, and forthwith he led the way, with Mrs. Crickleton under
his arm, trusting to the reel winding off right at the end. And right
it would most likely have wound off had not the leg-protruding
Bumbler’s tongue-buckle caught the balloon-like amplitude of Mrs. Rocket
Larkspur’s dress and caused a slight stoppage—in the passage,—during
which time two couples slipped past and so deranged the entire order
of the table. However, there was no great harm done, as far as Mrs.
Larkspur’s consequence was concerned, for she got next Mr. Tightlace,
with Mr. Pringle between her and Miss Yammerton, whom Mrs. Larkspur had
just got to admit, that she wouldn’t mind being Mrs. P————, and
Miss having been thus confidential, Mrs. was inclined, partly out of
gratitude,—partly, perhaps, because she couldn’t help it—to befriend
her. She was a great mouser, and would promote the most forlorn hope,
sooner than not be doing.

We are now in the dining-room, and very smart everything is. In the
centre of the table, of course, stands the Yammer ton testimonial,—a
“Savory” chased silver plated candelabrum, with six branches, all
lighted up, and an ornamental centre flower-basket, decorated with
evergreens and winter roses, presented to our friend on his completing
his “five and twentieth year as master of harriers,” and in gratitude
for the unparalleled sport he had uniformly shown the subscribers.

Testimonialising has become quite a mania since the Major got his, and
no one can say whose turn it may be next. It is not everybody who, like
Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey with the police force one, can nip them in
the bud; but Inspector Field, we think, might usefully combine
testimonial-detecting with his other secret services. He would have
plenty to do—especially in the provinces. Indeed London does not seem
to be exempt from the mania, if we may judge by Davis the Queen’s
huntsman’s recent attempt to avert the intended honour; neatly informing
the projectors that “their continuing to meet him in the hunting field
would be the best proof of their approbation of his conduct.” However,
the Major got his testimonial; and there it stands, flanked by two
pretty imitation Dresden vases decorated with flowers and evergreens
also. And now the company being at length seated and grace said, the
reeking covers are removed from the hare and mock turtle tureens, and
the confusion of tongues gradually subsides into sip-sip-sipping of
soup. And now Jarperson, having told his newly caught footman groom to
get him hare soup instead of mock turtle, the lad takes the plate of the
latter up to the tureen of the former, and his master gets a mixture of
both—which he thinks very good.

And now the nutty sherry comes round, which the Major introduces with
a stuttering exordium that would induce anyone who didn’t know him
to suppose it cost at least 80s. a-dozen, instead of 36s. (bottles
included); and this being sipped and smacked and pronounced excellent,
“two fishes” replace the two soups, and the banquet proceeds, Mr.
Tightlace trying to poke his sporting knowledge at Billy between heats,
but without success, the commoner not rising at the bait, indeed rather
shirking it.

A long-necked green bottle of what the Bumbler called “bluecellas,”
 then goes its rounds; and the first qualms of hunger being appeased, the
gentlemen are more inclined to talk and listen to the luncheon-dining
ladies. Mrs. Rocket Larkspur has been waiting most anxiously for
Billy’s last mouthful, in order to interrogate him, as well as to London
fashion, as to his opinions of the Miss “ums.” Of course with Miss “um”
 sitting just below Billy, the latter must be done through the medium of
the former,—so she leads off upon London.

“She supposed he’d been very gay in London?”

“Yarse,” drawled Billy in the true dandified style, drawing his napkin
across his lips as he spoke.

Mrs. Rocket wasn’t so young as she had been, and Billy was too young to
take up with what he profanely called “old ladies.”

“He’d live at the west-end, she s’posed?”

“Yarse,” replied Billy, feeling his amplified tie.

“Did he know Billiter Square?”

“Yarse,” replied he, running his ringed fingers down his studs. “Was it
fashionable?” asked Mrs. Rocket. (She had a cousin lived there who had
asked her to go and see her.)

“Y-a-a-rse, I should say it is,” drawled Billy, now playing with a
bunch of trinkets, a gold miniature pistol, a pearl and diamond studded
locket, a gold pencil-case, and a white cornelian heart, suspended to
his watch-chain. “Y-a-a-rse, I should say it is,” repeated he; adding
“not so fashionable as Belgrave.”

“Sceuse me, sare,” interrupted Monsieur Jean Rougier from behind his
master’s chair, “Sceuse me, it is not fashionable, sare,—it is not near
de Palace or de Park of Hyde, sare, bot down away among those dem base
mechanics in de east—beyond de Mansion ‘Ouse, in fact.”

“Oh, ah, y-a-a-rse, true,” replied Billy, not knowing where it was, but
presuming from Mrs. Larkspur’s inquiry that it was some newly sprung-up
square on one of the western horns of the metropolis.

Taking advantage of the interruption, Mr. Tightlace again essayed to
edge in his “British Sportsman” knowledge beginning with an inquiry if
“the Earl of Ladythorne had a good set of dogs this season?” but the
Bumbler soon cut short the thread of his discourse by presenting a
bottle of brisk gooseberry at his ear. The fizzing stuff then went
quickly round, taxing the ingenuity of the drinkers to manoeuvre
the frothy fluid out of their needlecase-shaped glasses. Then as
conversation was beginning to be restored, the door suddenly flew open
to a general rush of returning servants. There was Soloman carrying a
sirloin of beef, followed by Mr. Crickleton’s gaudy red-and-yellow
young man with a boiled turkey, who in turn was succeeded by Mr. Rocket
Larkspur’s hobbledehoy with a ham, and Mr. Tightlace’s with a stew.
Pâtés and côtelettes, and minces, and messes follow in quick succession;
and these having taken their seats, immediately vacate them for the
Chiltern-hundreds of the hand. A shoal of vegetables and sundries alight
on the side table, and the feast seems fairly under weigh.

But see! somehow it prospers not!

People stop short at the second or third mouthful, and lay down their
knives and forks as if they had had quite enough. Patties, and cutlets,
and sausages, and side-dishes, all share the same fate!

“Take round the champagne,” says the Major, with an air, thinking to
retrieve the character of his kitchen with the solids. The juicy roast
beef, and delicate white turkey with inviting green stulling, and rich
red ham, and turnip-and-carrot-adorned stewed beef then made their
progresses, but the same fate attends them also. People stop at the
second or third mouthful;—some send their plates away slily, and ask for
a little of a different dish to what they have been eating, or rather
tasting. That, however, shares the same fate.

“Take round the champagne,” again says the Major, trying what another
cheerer would do. Then he invites the turkey-eaters—or leavers,
rather—to eat beef; and the beef eaters—or leavers—to eat turkey: but
they all decline with a thoroughly satisfied ‘no-more-for-me’ sort of
shake of the head.

“Take away!” at length says the Major, with an air of disgust, following
the order with an invitation to Mrs. Rocket Larkspur to take wine. The
guests follow the host’s example, and a momentary rally of liveliness
ensues. Mrs. Rocket Larkspur and Mr. Tight-lace contend for Fine Billy’s
ear; but Miss Yammerton interposing with a sly whisper supersedes
them both. Mrs. Rocket construes that accordingly. A general chirp of
conversation is presently established, interspersed with heavy demands
upon the breadbasket by the gentlemen. Presently the door is thrown
open, and a grand procession of sweets enters—jellies, blancmanges,
open tarts, shut tarts, meringues, plum pudding, maccaroni, black
puddings,—we know not what besides: and the funds of conviviality again
look up. The rally is, however, but of momentary duration. The same evil
genius that awaited on the second course seems to attend on the
third. People stop at the second or third mouthful and send away the
undiminished plates slily, as before. Home venture on other dishes—but
the result is the same—the plate vanishes with its contents. There is,
however, a great run upon the cheese—Cheshire and Gloucester; and the
dessert suffers severely. All the make-weight dishes, even, disappear;
and when the gentlemen rejoin the ladies in the drawing-room they attack
the tea as if they had not had any dinner.

At length a “most agreeable evening” is got through; and as each
group whisks away, there is a general exclamation of “What a most
extraordinary taste everything had of—————” What do you think, gentle
reader?

“Can’t guess! can’t you?”

“What do you think, Mrs. Brown?”

“What do you think, Mrs. Jones?

“What do you, Mrs. Robinson?”

“What! none of you able to guess! And yet everybody at table hit off
directly!”

“All give it up?” Brown, Jones, and Robinson?

“Yes—yes—yes.”

“Well then, we’ll tell you”:—

“Everything tasted of Castor oil!”

“Castor oil!” exclaims Mrs. Brown.

“Castor oil!” shrieks Mrs. Jones.

“Castor oil!” shudders Mrs. Robinson.

“O-o-o-o! how nasty!”

“But how came it there?” asks Mrs. Brown.

“We’ll tell you that, too—”

The Major’s famous cow Strawberry-cream’s calf was ill, and they had
tapped a pint of fine “cold-drawn” for it, which Monsieur Jean Rougier
happening to upset, just mopped it up with his napkin, and chucking it
away, it was speedily adopted by the hind’s little girl in charge of
the plates and dishes, who imparted a most liberal castor oil flavour to
everything she touched.

And that entertainment is now known by the name of the “Castor Oil
Dinner.”



CHAPTER XXII. A HUNTING MORNING.—UNKENNELING.

WHAT a commotion there was in the house the next morning! As great a
disturbance as if the Major had been going to hunt an African Lion,
a royal Bengal Tiger, or a Bison itself. Ring-ring-ring-ring went one
bell, tinkle-tinkle-tinkle went another, ring-ring-ring went the first
again, followed by exclamations of “There’s master’s bell again!” with
such a running down stairs, and such a getting up again. Master wanted
this, master wanted that, master had carried away the buttons at his
knees, master wanted his other pair of White what-do-they-call-ems—not
cords, but moleskins—that treacherous material being much in vogue among
masters of harriers. Then master’s boots wouldn’t do, he wanted his last
pair, not the newly-footed ones, and they were on the trees, and the
Bumbler was busy in the stable, and Betty Bone could not skin the trees,
and altogether there was a terrible hubbub in the house. His overnight
exertions, though coupled with the castor oil catastrophe, seemed to
have abated none of his ardour in pursuit of the hare.

Meanwhile our little dandy, Billy, lay tumbling and tossing in bed,
listening to the dread preparations, wishing he could devise an excuse
for declining to join him. The recollection of his bumps, and his jumps,
and his falls, arose vividly before him, and he would fain have said
“no” to any more. He felt certain that the Major was going to give him a
startler, more dreadful perhaps than those he had had with his lordship.
Would that he was well out of it! What pleasure could there be in
galloping after an animal they could shoot? In the midst of these
reflections Mons. Rougier entered the apartment and threw further light
on the matter by opening the shutters.

“You sall get up, sare, and pursue the vild beast of de voods—de Major
is a-goin’ to hont.”

“Y-a-r-se,” replied Billy, turning over.

“I sal get out your habit verd, your green coat, dat is to say.”

“No! no!” roared Billy; “the red! the red!”

“De red!” exclaimed Monsieur in astonishment, “de red Not for de soup
dogs! you only hont bold reynard in de red.”

“Oh, yes, you do,” retorted Billy, “didn’t the Major come to the carstle
in red?”

“Because he came to hont de fox,” replied Monsieur; “if he had com’ for
to hont poor puss he would ‘ave ‘ad on his green or his grey, or his
some other colour.”

Billy now saw the difference, and his mortification increased. “Well,
I’ll breakfast in red at all events,” said he, determined to have that
pleasure.

“Vell, sare, you can pleasure yourself in dat matter; but it sall be
moch ridicule if you pursue de puss in it.”

“But why not?” asked Billy, “hunting’s hunting, all the world over.”

“I cannot tell you vy, sir; but it is not etiquette, and I as a
professor of garniture, toggery vot you call, sid lose caste with my
comrades if I lived with a me lor vot honted poor puss in de pink.”

“Humph!” grunted Billy, bouncing out of bed, thinking what a bore it was
paying a man for being his master. He then commenced the operations of
the occasion, and with the aid of Monsieur was presently attired in
the dread costume. He then clonk, clonk, clonked down stairs with his
Jersey-patterned spurs, toes well out to clear the steps, most heartily
wishing he was clonking up again on his return from the hunt.



175m


Monsieur was right. The Major is in his myrtle-green coat—a coat, not
built after the fashion of the scanty swallow-tailed red in which he
appears at page 65 of this agreeable work, but with the more liberal
allowance of cloth peculiar to the period in which we live. A loosely
hanging garment, and not a strait-waistcoat, in fact, a fashion very
much in favour of bunglers, seeing that anybody can make a sack, while
it takes a tailor to make a coat. The Major’s cost him about two pounds
five, the cloth having been purchased at a clothier’s and made up at
home, by a three shilling a day man and his meat. We laugh at the ladies
for liking to be cheated by their milliners; but young gentlemen are
quite as accommodating to their tailors. Let any man of forty look
at his tailor’s bill when he was twenty, and see what a liberality
of innocence it displays. And that not only in matters of taste and
fashion, which are the legitimate loopholes of extortion, but in
the sober articles of ordinary requirement. We saw a once-celebrated
west-end tailor’s bill the other day, in which a plain black coat was
made to figure in the following magniloquent item:—

“A superfine black cloth coat, lappels sewed on” (we wonder if they are
usually pinned or glued) “lappels sewed on, cloth collar, cotton sleeve
linings, velvet handfacings,” (most likely cotton too,) “embossed edges
and fine wove buttons”—how much does the reader think? four guineas?
four pound ten? five guineas? No, five pound eighteen and sixpence! An
article that our own excellent tailor supplies for three pounds fifteen!
In a tailor’s case that was recently tried, a party swore that fourteen
guineas was a fair price for a Taglioni, when every body knows that they
are to be had for less than four. But boys will be boys to the end of
the chapter, so let us return to our sporting Major. He is not so happy
in his nether garments as he is in his upper ones; indeed he has on the
same boots and moleskins that Leech drew him in at Tantivy Castle, for
these lower habiliments are not so easy of accomplishment in the country
as coats, and though most people have tried them there, few wear them
out, they are always so ugly and unbecoming. As, however, our Major
doesn’t often compare his with town-made ones, he struts about in the
comfortable belief that they are all right—very smart.

He is now in a terrible stew, and has been backwards and forwards
between the house and the stable, and in and out of the kennel, and has
called Solomon repeatedly from his work to give him further instructions
and further instructions still, until the Major has about confused
himself and every body about him. As soon as ever he heard by his tramp
overhead that Billy had got into his boots, he went to the bottom of
the stairs and holloaed along the passage towards the kitchen. “Betty!
Betty! Betty! send in breakfast as soon as ever Mr. Pringle comes
down!”’ “Ah, dere is de Majur.” observed Monsieur, pausing from Billy’s
hair-arranging to listen—“him kick up dc deval’s own dost on a huntin’
mornin’.”

“What’s happened him?” asked Billy.

“Don’t know—but von vould think he was going to storm a city—take
Sebastopol himself,” replied Monsieur, shrugging his broad shoulders. He
then resumed his valeting operations, and crowned the whole by putting
Billy into his green cut-away, without giving him even a peep of the
pink.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Yammerton has been holding a court of inquiry in the
kitchen and larder, as to the extent of the overnight mischief, smelling
at this dish and that, criticising the spoons, and subjecting each
castor-oily offender to severe ablution in boiling water. Of course no
one could tell in whose hands the bottle of “cold drawn” had come “in
two,” and Monsieur was too good a judge to know anything about it; so
as the mischief couldn’t be repaired, it was no use bewailing it farther
than to make a knot in her mind to be more careful of such dangerous
commodities in future.

Betty Bone had everything—tea, coffee, bread, cakes, eggs, ham (fried
so as to hide the spurious flavour), honey, jam, &c., ready for Miss
Benson, who had been impressed into the carrying service, vice the
Bumbler turned whip, to take in as soon as Mr. Pringle descended, a fact
that was announced to the household by the Major’s uproarious greeting
of him in the passage. He was overjoyed to see him! He hoped he was none
the worse for his over-night festivities; and without waiting for an
answer to that, he was delighted to say that it was a fine hunting
morning, and as far as human judgment could form an opinion, a good
scenting one; but after five-and-thirty years’ experience as a master
of “haryers,” he could conscientiously say that there was nothing
so doubtful or ticklish as scent, and he made no doubt Mr. Pringle’s
experience would confirm his own, that many days when they might expect
it to be first-rate, it was bad, and many days when they might expect it
to be bad, it was first-rate; to all which accumulated infliction Billy
replied with his usual imperturbable “Yarse,” and passed on to the more
agreeable occupation of greeting the young ladies in the dining-room.
Very glad they all were to see him as he shook hands with all three.

The Major, however, was not to be put off that way; and as he could not
get Billy to talk about hunting, he drew his attention to breakfast,
observing that they had a goodish trot before them, and that punctuality
was the politeness of princes. Saying which, he sat down, laying his
great gold watch open on a plate beside him, so that its noisy ticking
might remind Billy of what they had to do. The Major couldn’t make it
out how it was that the souls of the young men of the present day are so
difficult to inflame about hunting. Here was he, turned of————, and
as eager in the pursuit as ever. “Must be that they smoke all their
energies out,” thought he; and then applied himself vigorously to his
tea and toast, looking up every now and then with irate looks at his
wife and daughters, whose volubility greatly retarded Billy’s breakfast
proceedings. He, nevertheless, made sundry efforts to edge in a hunting
conversation himself, observing that Mr. Pringle mustn’t expect such
an establishment as the Peer’s, or perhaps many that he was accustomed
to—that they would have rather a shortish pack out, which would enable
them to take the field again at an early day, and so on; all of which
Billy received with the most provoking indifference, making the Major
wish he mightn’t be a regular crasher, who cared for nothing but riding.
At length, tea, toast, eggs, ham, jam, all had been successively taxed,
the Major closed and pocketed his noisy watch, and the doomed youth
rose to perform the dread penance with the pack. “Good byes,”
 “good mornings,” “hope you’ll have good sport,” followed his bowing
spur-clanking exit from the room.

A loud crack of the Major’s hammer-headed whip now announced their
arrival in the stable-yard, which was at once a signal for the hounds to
raise a merry cry, and for the stable-men to loosen their horses’ heads
from the pillar-reins. It also brought a bevy of caps and curl-papers to
the back windows of the house to see the young Earl, for so Rougier had
assured them his master was—(heir to the Earldom of Ladythorne)—mount.
At a second crack of the whip the stable-door flew open, and as a
shirt-sleeved lad receded, the grey-headed, green-coated sage Solomon
advanced, leading forth the sleek, well-tended, well-coddled, Napoleon
the Great.

Amid the various offices filled by this Mathews-at-home of a servant,
there was none perhaps in which he looked better or more natural than
in that of a huntsman. Short, spare, neat, with a bright black eye,
contrasting with the sobered hue of his thin grey hair, no one would
suppose that the calfless little yellow and brown-liveried coachman of
the previous night was the trim, neatly-booted, neatly-tied huntsman now
raising his cap to the Richest Commoner in England, and his great master
Major Yammerton—Major of the Featherbedfordshire Militia, master of
“haryers,” and expectant magistrate.

“Well, Solomon,” said the Major, acknowledging his salute, as though
it was their first meeting of the morning, “well, Solomon, what do you
think of the day?”

“Well, sir, I think the day’s well enough,” replied Solomon, who was no
waster of words.

“I think so too,” said the Major, drawing on his clean doeskin gloves.
The pent-up hounds then raised another cry.

“That’s pretty!” exclaimed the Major listening

“That’s beautiful!” added he, like an enthusiastic admirer of music at
the opera.

Imperturbable Billy spoke not.

“Pr’aps you’d like to see them unkenneled?” said the Major, thinking to
begin with the first act of the drama.

“Yarse,” replied Billy, feeling safe as long as he was on foot.

The Major then led the way through a hen-house-looking door into a
little green court-yard, separated by peeled larch palings from a
flagged one beyond, in which the expectant pack were now jumping and
frisking and capering in every species of wild delight.

“Ah, you beauties!” exclaimed the Major, again cracking his whip. He
then paused, thinking there would surely be a little praise. But no;
Billy just looked at them as he would at a pen full of stock at a cattle
show.

“Be-be-beauties, ar’n’t they?” stuttered the Major.

“Yarse,” replied Billy; thinking they were prettier than the great
lounging, slouching foxhounds.

“Ca-ca-capital hounds,” observed the Major.

No response from Billy.

“Undeniable b-b-blood,” continued our friend.

No response again.

“F-f-foxhounds in mi-mi-miniature,” observed the Major.

“Yarse,” replied Billy, who understood that.

“Lovely! Lovely! Lovely! there’s a beautiful bitch,” continued the
Major, pointing to a richly pied one that began frolicking to his call.

“Bracelet! Bracelet! Bracelet!” holloaed he to another; “pretty
bitch that—pure Sir Dashwood King’s blood, just the right size for a
haryer—shouldn’t be too large. I hold with So-so-somerville,” continued
the Major, waxing warm, either with his subject, or at Billy’s
indifference, “that one should

‘A di-di-different hound for every chase Select with judgment; nor the
timorous hare, O’ermatch’d, destroy; but leave that vile offence To the
mean, murderous, coursing crew, intent On blood and spoil.’”

“Yarse,” replied Billy, turning on his heel as though he had had enough
of the show.

At this juncture, the Major drew the bolt, open flew the door, and out
poured the pack; Ruffler and Bustler dashing at Billy, and streaking his
nice cream-coloured leathers down with their dirty paws, while Thunder
and Victim nearly carried him off his legs with the couples. Billy was
in a great fright, never having been in such a predicament before.

The Major came to the rescue, and with the aid of his whip and his
voice, and his “for shame, Ruffler! for shame, Bustler!” with cuts at
the coupled ones, succeeded in restoring order.

“Let’s mount,” said he, thinking to get Billy out of further danger; so
saying he wheeled about and led the way through the outer yard with the
glad pack gamboling and frisking around him to the stables.

The hounds raise a fresh cry of joy as they see Solomon with his horse
ready to receive them.



CHAPTER XXIII. SHOWING A HORSE.—THE MEET.

THE Bumbler, like our Mathews-at-home of a huntsman, is now
metamorphosed, and in lieu of a little footman, we have a capped and
booted whip. Not that he is a whip, for Solomon carries the couples
as well as the horn, and also a spare stirrup-leather slung across his
shoulder; but our Major has an eye as well to show as to business, and
thinks he may as well do the magnificent, and have a horse ready to
change with Billy as soon as Napoleon the Great seems to have had
enough. To that end the Bumbler now advances with the Weaver which he
tenders to Billy, with a deferential touch of his cap.

“Ah, that’s your horse!” exclaimed the Major, making for White Surrey,
to avoid the frolics and favours of his followers; adding, as he climbed
on, “you’ll find her a ca-ca-capital hack and a first-rate hunter. Here,
elope, hounds, elope!” added he, turning his horse’s head away to get
the course clear for our friend to mount unmolested.

Billy then effects the ascent of the black mare, most devoutly wishing
himself safe off again. The stirrups being adjusted to his length, he
gives a home thrust with his feet in the irons, and gathering the thin
reins, feels his horse gently with his left leg, just as Solomon mounts
Napoleon the Great and advances to relieve the Major of his charge.
The cavalcade then proceed; Solomon, with the now clustering hounds,
leading; the Major and Billy riding side by side, and the Bumbler on
Bulldog bringing up the rear. Caps and curl-papers then disappear to
attend to the avocations of the house, the wearers all agreeing that Mr.
Pringle is a very pretty young gentleman, and quite worthy of the pick
of the young ladies.

Crossing Cowslip garth at an angle they get upon Greenbat pasture, where
the first fruits of idleness are shown by Twister and Towler breaking
away at the cows.

“Yow, yow!” they go in the full enjoyment of the chase. It’s a grand
chance for the Bumbler, who, adjusting his whip-thong, sticks spurs into
Bulldog and sets off as hard as ever the old horse can lay legs to the
ground.

“Get round them, man! get round them,” shouts the Major, watching
Bully’s leg-tied endeavours, the old horse being a better hand at
walking than galloping.

At length they are stopped and chided and for shamed, and two more
fields land our party in Hollington lane, which soon brings them into
the Lingytine and Ewehurst-road, whose liberal width and ample siding
bespeaks the neighbourhood of a roomier region. Solomon at a look from
the Major now takes the grass siding with his hounds, while the gallant
master just draws his young friend alongside of them on the road,
casting an unconcerned eye upon the scene, in the hope that his guest
will say something handsome at last. But no, Billy doesn’t. He is fully
occupied with his boots and breeches, whose polish and virgin purity he
still deplores. There’s a desperate daub down one side. The Major tries
to engage his attention by coaxing and talking to the hounds. “Cleaver,
good dog! Cleaver! Chaunter, good dog! Chaunter!” throwing them bits
of biscuit, but all his efforts are vain. Billy plods on at the old
post-boy pace, apparently thinking of nothing but himself.

Meanwhile Solomon ambles cockily along on Napoleon, with a backward and
forward move of his leg to the horse’s action, who ducks and shakes his
head and plays good-naturedly with the hounds, as if quite delighted at
the idea of what they are going to do. He shows to great advantage. He
has not been out for a week, and the coddling and linseeding have given
a healthy bloom to his bay coat, and he has taken a cordial ball with a
little catechu, and ten grains of opium, to aid his exertions. Solomon,
too, shows him off well. Though he hasn’t our friend Dicky Boggledike’s
airified manner, like him he is little and light, sits neatly in his
saddle, while his long coat-lap partly conceals the want of ribbing home
of the handsome but washy horse. His boots and breeehes, drab cords and
brown tops, are good, so are his spurs, also his saddle and bridle.

There is a difference of twenty per cent, between the looks of a horse
in a good, well-made London saddle, and in one of those great, spongy,
pulby, puddingy things we see in the country. Again, what a contrast
there is between a horse looking through a nice plain-fronted,
plain-buckled, thin-reined, town-made bridle, and in one of those
gaudy-fronted things, all over buckles, with reins thick enough for
traces to the Lord Mayor’s coach.

All this adornment, however, is wasted upon fine Billy, who hasn’t got
beyond the mane and tail beauties of a horse. Action, strength, stamina,
symmetry, are as yet sealed subjects to him. The Major was the man who
could enlighten him, if Billy would only let him do it, on the two words
for himself and one for Billy principle. Do it he would, too, for he saw
it was of no use waiting for Billy to begin.



181m


“Nice ‘oss that,” now observed the Major casually, nodding towards Nap.

“Yarse,” replied Billy, looking him over.

“That’s the o-o-oss I showed you in the stable.”

“Is it?” observed Billy, who didn’t recognize him.

“Ought to be at M-m-melton, that oss,” observed the Major.

“Why isn’t he?” asked Billy, in the innocence of his heart.

“Don’t know,” replied the Major carelessly, with a toss of his head;
“don’t know. The fact is, I’m idle—no one to send with him—too old to
go myself—haryers keep me at home—year too short to do all one has to
do—see what a length he is—ord bless us he’d go over Ashby p-p-pastures
like a comet.”

Billy had now got his eyes well fixed upon the horse, which the Major
seeing held his peace, for he was a capital seller, and had the great
gift of knowing when he had said enough. He was not the man to try and
bore a person into buying, or spoil his market by telling a youngster
that the horse would go in harness, or by not asking enough. So with
Solomon still to and froing with his little legs, the horse still lively
and gay, the hounds still frisking and playing, the party proceeded
through the fertility-diminishing country, until the small fields with
live fences gradually gave way to larger, drabber enclosures with stone
walls, and Broadstruther hill with its heath-burnt summit and quarry
broken side at length announces their approach to the moors. The moors!
Who does not feel his heart expand and his spirit glow as he comes upon
the vast ocean-like space of moorland country? Leaving the strife, the
cares, the contentions of a narrow, elbow-jostling world for the grand
enjoyment of pure unrestricted freedom! The green streak of fertile
soil, how sweet it looks, lit up by the fitful gleam of a cloud-obscured
sun, the distant sky-touching cairn, how tempting to reach through the
many intricacies of mountain ground—so easy to look at, so difficult to
travel. The ink rises gaily in our pen at the thought, and pressing
on, we cross the rough, picturesque, stone bridge over the translucent
stream, so unlike the polished, chiseled structures of town art, where
nothing is thought good that is not expensive; and now, shaking off
the last enclosure, we reach the sandy road below the watcher’s
hill-ensconced hut, and so wind round into the panorama of the hills
within.

“Ah! there we are!” exclaimed the Major, now pointing out the
myrtle-green gentlemen with their white cords, moving their steeds to
and fro upon the bright sward below the grey rocks of Cushetlaw hill.

“There we are,” repeated he, eyeing them, trying to make out who they
were, so as to season his greetings accordingly.

There was farmer Rintoul on the white, and Godfrey Faulder, the cattle
jobber, on the grey; and Caleb Bennison, the horse-breaker, in his
twilled-fustian frock, ready to ride over a hound as usual; and old
Duffield, the horse-leech, in his low-crowned hat, black tops, and
one spur; and Dick Trail, the auctioneer, on his long-tailed nag; and
Bonnet, the billiard-table keeper of Hinton, in his odious white hat,
grey tweed, and collar-marked screw; but who the cluster of men are on
the left the Major can’t for the life of him make out. He had hoped that
Crickleton might have graced the meet with his presence, but there is no
symptom of the yellow-coated groom, and Paul Straddler would most
likely be too offended at not being invited to dine and have gone to Sir
Moses’s hounds at the Cow and Calf on the Fixton and Primrose-bank road.
Still there were a dozen or fourteen sportsmen, with two or three more
coming over the hill, and distance hiding the deficiencies as well
of steeds as of costume, the whole has a very lively and inspiriting
effect.

At the joyous, well-known “here they come!” of the lookers out, a
move is perceptible among the field, who forthwith set off to meet
the hounds, and as the advancing parties near, the Major has time to
identify and appropriate their faces and their persons. First comes
Captain Nabley, the chief constable of Featherbeds, who greets our
master with the friendliness of a brother soldier, “one of us” in arms,
and is forthwith introduced to our Billy. Next is fat farmer Nettlefold,
who considers himself entitled to a shake of the hand in return for
the Major’s frequent comings over his farm at Carol-hill green, which
compliment being duly paid the great master then raises his hat in
return for the salutes of Faulder, Rennison, and Trail, and again stops
to shake hands with an aged well-whiskered dandy in mufty, one Mr.
Wotherspoon, now farming or starving a little property he purchased
with his butlerage savings under the great Duke of Thunderdownshire.
Wotherspoon apes the manners of high life with the brandified face
of low, talks parliament, and takes snuff from a gold box with a
George-the-Fourthian air. He now offers the Major a pinch, who accepts
it with graceful concession.

The seedy-looking gentleman in black, on the too palpable three and
sixpence a sider, is Mr. Catoheside, the County Court bailiff, with his
pocket full of summonses, who thinks to throw a round with the
Major into the day’s hire of his broken-knee’d chestnut, and the
greasy-haired, shining-faced youth with him, on the longtailed white
pony, is Ramshaw, the butcher’s boy, on the same sort of speculation.
Then we have Mr. Meggison’s coachman availing himself of his master’s
absence to give the family horse a turn with the hounds instead of going
to coals, as he ought; and Mr. Dotherington’s young man halting on his
way to the doctor’s with a note. He will tell his mistress the doctor
was out and he had to wait ever so long till he came home. The four
truants seem to herd together on the birds-of-a-feather principle.
And now the reinforced party reach the meet below the grey ivy-tangled
rocks, and Solomon pulls up at the accustomed spot to give his hounds a
roll, and let the Major receive the encomiums of the encircling field.
Then there is a repetition of the kennel scene: “Lovely! Lovely!
Lovely!—beautiful bitch that—Chaunter. Chaunter! Chaunter!—there’s a
handsome hound—Bustler, good dog!” Only each man has his particular
favourite or hound that he has either bred or walked, or knows the
name of, and so most of the pack come in for more or less praise. It is
agreed on all hands that they never looked better, or the establishment
more complete. “Couldn’t be better if it had cost five thousand a-year!”

Most grateful were their commendations to the Major after the dry,
monotonous “yarses” of Billy, who sits looking unconcernedly on, a
regular sleeping partner in the old established firm of “Laudation
and Co.” The Major inwardly attributes his indifference to conceited
fox-hunting pride. “Looks down upon haryers.”

The field, however, gradually got the steam of praise up to a very high
pitch. Indeed, had not Mr. Wotherspoon, who was only an air-and-exercise
gentleman, observed, after a pompous pinch of snuff, that he saw by the
papers that the House of Lords, of which he considered himself a sort of
supernumerary member, were going to do something or not to do something,
caused a check in the cry, there is no saying but they might altogether
have forgotten what they had come out about. As it was, the mention of
Mr. Wotherspoon’s favourite branch of the legislature, from which they
had all suffered more or less severely, operated like the hose of a
fire-engine upon a crowd, sending one man one way, another another,
until Wotherspoon had only Solomon and the hounds to finish off before.
“Indeed, sir,” was all the encouragement he got from Solomon. But let
us get away from the insufferable Brummagem brandy-faced old bore by
supposing Solomon transferred from Napoleon the Great to Bulldog, Billy
mounted on the washy horse instead of the weaving mare, the Major’s
girths drawn, clay pipes deposited in the breast pockets of the owners,
and thongs unloosened to commence the all-important operation of
thistle-whipping.

At a nod from the Major, Solomon gives a wave of his hand to the
hounds, and putting his horse on, the tide of sportsmen sweep after, and
Cushetlaw rocks are again left in their pristine composure.

Despite Billy’s indifference, the Major is still anxious to show to
advantage, not knowing who Billy may relate his day’s sport to, and has
therefore arranged with Solomon not to cast off until they get upon
the more favourable ground of Sunnylaws moor. This gives Billy time to
settle in his new saddle, and scrape acquaintance with Napoleon, whom
he finds a very complacent, easy-going horse. He has a light, playful
mouth, and Billy doesn’t feel afraid of him. Indeed, if it wasn’t for
the idea of the jumps, he would rather enjoy it. His mind, however,
might have been easy on that score, for they are going into the hills
instead of away from them, and the Major has scuttled over the ground
so often that he knows every bog, and every crossing, and every
vantage-taking line; where to view the hare, and where to catch up his
hounds, to a nicety.

At length they reached a pretty, amphitheatreish piece of country,
encircled by grassy hills, folding gracefully into each other, with
the bolder outline of the Arkenhill moors for the background. A silvery
stream meanders carelessly about the lowland, occasionally lost to view
by sand wreaths and gravel beds thrown up by impetuous torrents rushing
down from the higher grounds.

The field is here reinforced by Tom Springer, the generally out-of-place
watcher, and his friend Joe Pitfall, the beer-shop keeper of Wetten
hill, with their tenpenny wide-awakes, well-worn, baggy-pocketed
shooting-coats, and strong oak staffs, suitable either for leaping or
poking poles.

The Major returns their salute with a lowering brow, for he strongly
suspects they are there on their own account, and not for the sake of
enjoying a day with his unrivalled hounds. However, as neither of them
have leave over the ground, they can neither of them find fault, and
must just put up with each other.

So the Major, addressing Springer, says “I’ll give you a shillin’ if
you’ll find me a hare,” as he turns to the Bumbler and bids him uncouple
Billy’s old friends Ruffler and Bustler. This done, the hounds quickly
spread to try and hit off the morning scent, while the myrtle-greeners
and others distribute themselves, cracking, Hopping, and hissing, here,
there, and everywhere. Springer and Pitfall go poke, poke, tap, tap,
peep, peep, at every likely bush and tuft, but both the Major and they
are too often over the ground to allow of hares being very plentiful.
When they do find them they are generally well in wind from work
Meanwhile, Mr. Wotherspoon, finding that Billy Pringle is a friend of
Lord Ladythorne’s, makes up to him, and speaks of his lordship in the
kind, encouraging way, so becoming a great man speaking of a lesser one.
“Oh, he knew his lordship well, excellent man he was, knew Mrs. Moffatt,
too—‘andsome woman she was. Not so ‘andsome, p’raps, as Mrs. Spangles,
the actress, but still a v-a-a-ry ‘andsome woman. Ah, he knew Mrs.
Spangles, poor thing, long before she came to Tantivy—when she was
on the stage, in fact.” And here the old buck, putting his massive,
gold-mounted riding-whip under his arm, heaved a deep sigh, as though
the mention of her name recalled painful recollections, and producing
his gold snuff-box, after offering it to Billy, he consoled himself
with a long-drawn respiration from its contents. He then flourished his
scarlet, attar-of-rose-scented bandana, and seemed lost in contemplation
of the stripes down his trowsers and his little lacquered-toe’d boots.
Billy rode silently on with him, making no doubt he was a very great
man—just the sort of man his Mamma would wish him to get acquainted
with.



187m



CHAPTER XXIV. THE WILD BEAST ITSELF.

JUST as the old buck was resuming the thread of his fashionable
high-life narrative, preparatory to sounding Billy about the Major and
his family, the same sort of electric thrill shot through the field that
characterised the terrible “g-n-r along—don’t you see the hounds
are running?” de Glancey day with the Earl. Billy felt all over
he-didn’t-know-how-ish—very wish-he-was-at-home-ish. The horse, too,
began to caper.

The thrill is caused by a shilling’s-worth of wide-awake on a stick
held high against the sky-line of the gently-swelling hill on the left,
denoting that the wild beast is found, causing the Major to hold up his
hat as a signal of reply, and all the rest of the field to desist from
their flopping and thistle-whipping, and rein in their screws for the
coming conflict.

“Now s-s-sir!” exclaims the stuttering Major, cantering up to our Billy
all flurry and enthusiasm. “Now, s-s-sir! we ha-ha-have her, and if
you’ll fo-fo-follow me, I’ll show you her,” thinking he was offering
Billy the greatest treat imaginable. So saying the Major drops his
hands on White Surrey’s neck, rises in his stirrups, and scuttles away,
bounding over the gorse bushes and broom that intervened between him and
the still stick-hoisted tenpenny. ****

“Where is she?” demands the Major. “Where is she!’ repeats he, coming
up.

“A Major, he mun gi’ us halfe-croon ony ho’ this time,” exclaims our
friend Tom Springer, whose head gear it is that has been hoisted.

“Deed mun ye!” asserts Pitfall, who has now joined his companion.

“No, no!” retorts the Major angrily, “I said a shillin’—a shillin’s my
price, and you know it.”

“Well, but consider what a time we’ve been a lookin’ for her, Major,”
 replied Springer, mopping his brow.

“Well, but consider that you are about to partake of the enjoyments
as well as myself, and that I find the whole of this expensive
establishment,” retorted the Major, looking back for his hounds. “Not a
farthin’ subscription.”

“Say two shillin’s, then,” replied Springer coaxingly.

“No, no,” replied the Major, “a shillin’s plenty.”

“Make it eighteen-pence then,” said Pitfall, “and oop she goes for the
money.”

“Well, come,” snapped the Major hurriedly, as Billy now came elbowing
up. “Where is she? Where is she?” demanded he.

“A, she’s not here—she’s not here, but I see her in her form thonder,”
 replied Springer, nodding towards the adjoining bush-dotted hill.

“Go to her, then,” said the Major, jingling the eighteen-pence in his
hand, to be ready to give him on view of the hare.

The man then led the way through rushes, brambles, and briars, keeping
a steady eye on the spot where she sate. At length he stopped. “There
she’s, see!” said he, sotto voce, pointing to the green hill-side.

“I have her!” whispered the Major, his keen eyes sparkling with delight.
“Come here,” said he to Billy, “and I’ll show her to you. There,” said
he, “there you see that patch of gorse with the burnt stick stumps, at
the low end—well, carry your eye down the slope of the land, past the
old willow-tree, and you have her as plain as a pike-staff.”

Billy shook his head. He saw nothing but a tuft or two of rough grass.

“O yes, you see her large eyes watching us,” continued the Major,
“thinking she sees us without our seeing her.

“No,” our friend didn’t.

“Very odd,” laughed the Major, “very odd,” with the sort of vexation a
man feels when another can’t be made to see the object he does.

“Will you give them a view now?” asked Springer, “or put her away
quietly?”

“Oh, put her away quietly,” replied the Major, “put her away quietly;
and let them get their noses well down to the scent;” adding—“I’ve got
some strange hounds out, and I want to see how they work.”

The man then advanced a few paces, and touching one of the apparently
lifeless tufts with his pole, out sprang puss and went stotting and
dotting away with one ear back and the other forward, in a state of
indignant perturbation. “Buck!” exclaims Pitfall, watching her as she
goes.

“Doubt it,” replied the Major, scrutinising her attentively.

“Nay look at its head and shoulders; did you iver see sic red shoulders
as those on a doe?” asked Springer.

“Well,” said the Major, “there’s your money,” handing Springer the
eighteen-pence, “and I hope she’ll be worth it; but mind, for the futur’
a shillin’s my price.”

After scudding up the hill, puss stopped to listen and ascertain the
quality of her pursuers. She had suffered persecution from many hands,
shooters, coursers, snarers, and once before from the Major and his
harriers. That, however, was on a bad scenting day, and she had not had
much difficulty in beating them.

Meanwhile Solomon has been creeping quietly on with his hounds,
encouraging such to hunt as seemed inclined that way, though the
majority were pretty well aware of the grand discovery and lean towards
the horsemen in advance. Puss however had slipped away unseen by the
hounds, and Twister darts at the empty form thinking to save all
trouble by a chop. Bracelet then strikes a scent in advance. Ruffler
and Chaunter confirm it, and after one or two hesitating rashes and
flourishes, increasing in intensity each time, a scent is fairly
established, and away they drive full cry amid exclamations of
“Beautiful! beautiful! never saw anything puttier!” from the Major and
the held—the music of the hounds being increased and prolonged by the
echoes of the valleys and adjacent hills.

The field then fall into line, Silent Solomon first, the Major of
course next. Fine Billy third, with Wotherspoon and Nettlefold rather
contending for his company. Nabley, Duffield, Bonnet, Reunison. Fanlder,
Catcheside, truants, all mixed up together in heterogeneous confusion,
jostling for precedence as men do when there are no leaps. So they round
Hawthorn hill, and pour up the pretty valley beyond, each man riding
a good deal harder than his horse, the hounds going best pace, which
however is not very great.

“Give me,—” inwardly prays the Major, cantering consequentially along
with his thong-gathered whip held up like a sword, “give me five and
twenty minutes, the first fifteen a burst, then a fault well hit
off’, and the remaining ten without a turn,” thinking to astonish the
supercilious foxhunter. Then he takes a sly look to see how Napoleon is
faring, it being by no means his intention to let Fine Billy get to the
bottom of him.

On, on, the hounds press, for now is the time to enjoy the scent with a
hare, and they have ran long enough together to have confidence in their
leaders.

Now Lovely has the scent, now Lilter, now Ruffler flings in advance, and
again is superseded by Twister.

They brush through the heathery open with an increasing cry, and fling
at the cross-road between Birwell Mill and Capstone with something like
the energy of foxhounds; Twister catches it up beyond the sandy track,
and hurrying over it, some twenty yards further on is superseded by
Lovely, who hits it off to the left.

Away she goes with the lead.

“Beautiful! beautiful!” exclaims the Major, hoping the fox-hunter sees
it.

“Beautiful! beautiful!” echoes Nettlefold, as the clustering pack drop
their sterns to the scent and push forward with renewed velocity.

The Major again looks for our friend Billy, who is riding in a very
careless slack-rein sort of style, not at all adapted for making the
most of his horse. However it is no time for remonstrance, and the music
of the hounds helps to make things pleasant. On, on they speed; up one
hill, down another, round a third, and so on.

One great advantage of hunting in a strange country undoubtedly is, that
all runs are straight, with harriers as well as foxhounds, with some
men, who ride over the same ground again and again without knowing that
it is the same, and Billy was one of this sort. Though they rounded
Hawthorn hill again, it never occurred to him that it was the second
time of asking; indeed he just cantered carelessly on like a man on a
watering-place hack, thinking when his hour will be out, regardless of
the beautiful hits made by Lovely and Lilter or any of them, and which
almost threw the Major and their respective admirers into ecstacies.
Great was the praise bestowed upon their performances, it being the
interest of every man to magnify the run and astonish the stranger. Had
they but known as much of the Richest Commoner as the reader does, they
would not have given themselves the trouble.

Away they pour over hill and dale, over soft ground and sound, through
reedy rushes and sedgy flats, and over the rolling stones of the fallen
rocks.

Then they score away full cry on getting upon more propitious ground.
What a cry they make 1 and echo seemingly takes pleasure to repeat the
sound!

Napoleon the Great presently begins to play the castanets with his
feet, an ominous sound to our Major, who looks back for the Bumbler,
and inwardly wishes for a check to favour his design of dismounting our
hero.

Half a mile or so further on, and the chance occurs. They get upon a
piece of bare heather burnt ground, whose peaty smell baffles the scent,
and brings the hounds first to a check, then to a stand-still.

Solomon’s hand in the air beckons a halt, to which the field gladly
respond, for many of the steeds are eating new oats, and do not get any
great quantity of those, while some are on swedes, and others only have
hay. Altogether their condition is not to be spoken of.

The Major now all hurry scurry, just like a case of “second horses I
second horses! where’s my fellow with my second horse?” at a check in
Leicestershire, beckons the Bumbler up to Billy; and despite of our
friend’s remonstrance, who has got on such terms with Napoleon as to
allow of his taking the liberty of spurring him, and would rather remain
where he is, insists upon putting him upon the mare again, observing,
that he couldn’t think of taking the only spare ‘orse from a gen’lman
who had done him the distinguished honour of leaving the Earl’s
establishment for his ‘umble pack; and so, in the excitement of the
moment, Billy is hustled off one horse and hurried on to another, as
if a moment’s hesitation would be fatal to the fray. The Major then,
addressing the Bumbler in an undertone, says, “Now walk that ‘orse
quietly home, and get him some linseed tea, and have him done up by the
time we get in.” He then spurs gallantly up to the front, as though he
expected the hounds to be off again at score. There was no need of such
energy, for puss has set them a puzzle that will take them some time to
unravel; but it saved an argument with Billy, and perhaps the credit
of the bay. He now goes drooping and slouching away, very unlike the
cock-horse he came out.

Meanwhile, the hounds have shot out and contracted, and shot out and
contracted—and tried and tested, and tried and tested—every tuft and
every inch of burnt ground, while Solomon sits motionless between them
and the head mopping chattering field.

“Must be on,” observes Caleb Rennison, the horse-breaker, whose
three-year-old began fidgetting and neighing.

“Back, I say,” speculated Bonnet, whose domicile lay to the rear.

“Very odd,” observed Captain Nabley, “they ran her well to here.”

“Hares are queer things,” said old Duffield, wishing he had her by the
ears for the pot.

“Far more hunting with a hare nor a fox,” observed Mr. Rintoul, who
always praised his department of the chase.

“Must have squatted,” observes old “Wotherspoon, taking a pinch
of snuff, and placing his double gold eye-glasses on his nose to
reconnoitre the scene.

“Lies very close, if she has,” rejoins Godfrey Faulder, flopping at a
furze-bush as he spoke.

“Lost her, I fear,” ejaculated Mr. Trail, who meant to beg her for a
christening dinner if they killed.

The fact is, puss having, as we said before, had a game at romps with
her pursuers On a bad scenting day, when she regulated her speed by
their pace, has been inconveniently pressed on the present occasion, and
feeling her strength fail, has had recourse to some of the many arts for
which hares are famous. After crossing the burnt ground she made for
a greasy sheep-track, up which she ran some fifty yards, and then
deliberately retracing her steps, threw herself with a mighty spring
into a rushy furze patch at the bottom of the hill. She now lies heaving
and panting, and watching the success of her stratagem from her ambush,
with the terror-striking pack full before her.



191m


And now having accommodated Mr. Pringle with a second horse, perhaps the
reader will allow us to take a fresh pen and finish the run in another
Chapter.



CHAPTER XXV. A CRUEL FINISH.

EVERY hound having at length sniffed and snuffed, and sniffed and
snuffed, to satiety, Solomon now essays to assist them by casting round
the flat of smoke-infected ground. He makes the ‘head good first,
which manouvre hitting off the seent, he is hailed and applauded as a
conqueror. Never was such a huntsman as Solomon! First harrier huntsman
in England! Worth any money is a huntsman! The again clamorous pack
bustle up the sheep-path, at such a pace as sends the leaders hurrying
far beyond the scent. Then the rear rush to the front, and a general
spread of bewildered, benighted, confusion ensues.

“Where has she got to?” is the question.

“Doubled!” mutters the disappointed Major, reining in his steed.

“Squatted!” exclaims Mr. Rintoul, who always sported an opinion.

“Hold hard!” cries Mr. Trail, though they were all at a standstill; but
then he wished to let them know he was there.

The leading hounds retrace their steps, and again essay to carry the
scent forward. The second effort is attended with the same result as the
first. They cannot get it beyond the double.

“Cunning animal!” mutters the Major, eyeing their endeavours.

“Far more hunt with a hare nor a fox,” now observes Mr. Bonnet, raising
his white hat to cool his bald head.

“Far!” replies Mr. Faulder, thinking he must be off.

“If it weren’t for the red coats there wouldn’t be so many fox-hunters,”
 chuckles old Duffield, who dearly loves roast hare.

Solomon is puzzled; but as he doesn’t profess to be wiser than the
hounds, he just lets them try to make it out for themselves. If they
can’t wind her, he can’t: so the old sage sits like a statue.

At length the majority give her up.

And now Springer and Pitfall, and two or three other pedestrians who
have been attracted from their work by the music of the hounds, and have
been enjoying the panorama of the chase with their pipes from the summit
of an inside hill, descend to see if they can either prick her or pole
her.

Down go their heads as if they were looking for a pin.—The hounds,
however, have obliterated all traces of her, and they soon have recourse
to their staves.

Bang, bang, bang, they beat the gorse and broom and juniper bushes with
vigorous sincerity. Crack, flop, crack, go the field in aid of their
endeavours. Solomon leans with his hounds to the left, which is lucky
for puss, for though she withstood the downward blow of Springer’s pole
on her bush, a well-directed side thrust sends her flying out in a state
of the greatest excitement. What an outburst of joy the sight of her
occasioned! Hounds, horses, riders, all seemed to participate in the
common enthusiasm! How they whooped, and halloo’d and shouted! enough
to frighten the poor thing out of her wits. Billy and the field have a
grand view of her, for she darts first to the right, then to the left,
then off the right and again to the left, ere she tucks her long
legs under her and strides up Kleeope hill at a pace that looks quite
unapproachable. Faulder alone remains where he is, muttering “fresh har”
 as she goes.

The Major and all the rest of the field hug their horses and tear along
in a state of joyous excitement, for they see her life is theirs. They
keep the low ground and jump with the hounds at the bridlegate between
Greenlaw sheep-walks and Hindhope cairn just as Lovely hits the scent
off over the boundary wall, and the rest of the pack endorse her note.
They are now on fresh ground, which greatly aids the efforts of the
hounds, who push on with a head that the Major thinks ought to procure
them a compliment from Billy. Our friend, however, keeps all his
compliments for the ladies, not being aware that there is anything
remarkable in the performance, which he now begins to wish at an end. He
has ridden as long as he likes, quite as much as Mr. Spavin, or any of
the London livery stable-keepers, would let him have for half-a-guinea.
Indeed he wishes he mayn’t have got more than is good for him.

The Major meanwhile, all energy and enthusiasm, rides gallantly forward,
for though he is no great hand among the enclosures, he makes a good
fight in the hills, especially when, as now, he knows every yard of the
country. Many’s the towl he’s had over it, though to look at his
excited face one would think this was his first hunt. He’ll now “bet
half-a-crown they kill her!” He’ll “bet a guinea they kill her!” He’ll
“bet a fi-pun note they kill her!” He’ll “bet half the national debt
they kill her!” as Dainty, and Lovely, and Bustler, after dwelling and
hesitating over some rushy ground, at length proclaim the scent beyond.

Away they all sweep like the careering wind. On follow the field
in glorious excitement. A flock of black-faced sheep next foil the
ground—sheep as wild, if not wilder, than the animal the hounds are
pursuing. We often think, when we see these strong-scented animals
scouring the country, that a good beast of chase has been overlooked
for the stag. Why shouldn’t an old wiry black-faced tup, with his wild
sparkling eyes and spiral horns, afford as good a run as a home-fed
deer? Start the tup in his own rough region, and we will be bound to say
he will give the hounds and their followers a scramble. The Major now
denounces the flying flock—“Oh, those nasty muttons!” exclaims he, “bags
of bone rather, for they won’t be meat these five years. Wonder how any
sane people can cultivate such animals.”

The hounds hunt well through the difficulty, or the Major would have
been more savage still. On they go, yapping and towling, and howling as
before, the Major’s confidence in a kill increasing at every stride.

The terror-striking shouts that greeted poor puss’s exit from the bush,
have had the effect as well of driving her out of her country as of
pressing her beyond her strength; and she has no sooner succeeded in
placing what she hopes is a comfortable distance between herself and her
pursuers, than she again has recourse to those tricks with which nature
has so plentifully endowed her. Sinking the hill she makes for the
little enclosed allotments below, and electing a bare fallow—bare,
except in the matter of whicken grass—she steals quietly in, and
commences her performances on the least verdant part of it.

First she described a small circle, then she sprung into the middle
of it and squatted. Next she jumped up and bounded out in a different
direction to the one by which she had entered. She then ran about twenty
yards up a furrow, retracing her steps backwards, and giving a roll
near where she started from. Then she took three bounding springs to the
left, which landed her on the hard headland, and creeping along the side
of the wall she finally popped through the water-hole, and squeezed into
an incredibly small space between the kerbstone and the gate-post. There
she lay with her head to the air, panting and heaving, and listening for
her dread pursuers coming. O what agony was hers!

Presently the gallant band came howling and towling over the hill, in
all the gay delirium of a hunt without leaps—the Major with difficulty
restraining their ardour as he pointed out the brilliance of the
performance to Billy—“Most splendid running! most capital hunting! most
superb pack!” with a sly “pish” and “shaw” at foxhounds in general,
and Sir Mosey’s in particular. The Major hadn’t got over the Bo-peep
business, and never would.

The pack now reached the scene of Puss’s frolics, and the music very
soon descended from a towering tenour to an insignificant whimper, which
at length died out altogether. Soloman and Bulldog were again fixtures,
Solomon as usual with his hand up beckoning silence. He knew how weak
the scent must be, and how important it was to keep quiet at such a
critical period; and let the hounds hit her off if they could.

Puss had certainly given them a Gordian knot to unravel, and not all the
hallooing and encouragement in the world could drive them much beyond
the magic circle she had described. Whenever the hunt seemed likely to
be re-established, it invariably resulted in a return to the place from
whence they started. They couldn’t get forward with it at all, and poked
about, and tested the same ground over and over again.

It was a regular period or full stop.

“Very rum,” observed Caleb Rennison, looking first at his
three-year-old, then at his watch, thinking that it was about
pudding-time.

“She’s surely a witch,” said Mr. Wotherspoon, taking a prolonged pinch
of snuff.

“‘We’ll roast her for one at all events,” laughed Mr. Trail, the
auctioneer, still hoping to get her.

“First catch your hare, says Mrs. Somebody,” responded Captain Nabley,
eyeing the sorely puzzled pack.

“O ketch her! we’re sure to ketch her,” observed Mr. Nettlefold,
chucking up his chin and dismounting.

“Not so clear about that,” muttered Mr. Rintoul, as Lovely, and Bustler,
and Lilter, again returned to repeat the search.

“If those hounds can’t own her, there are no hounds in England can,”
 asserted the Major, anxious to save the credit of his pack before the—he
feared—too critical stranger.

At this depressing moment, again come the infantry, and commence the
same system of peering and poking that marked their descent on the
former occasion.

And now poor puss being again a little recruited, steals out of her
hiding-place, and crosses quietly along the outside of the wall to where
a flock of those best friends to a hunted hare, some newly-smeared,
white-faeed sheep, were quietly nibbling at the halfgrass, half-heather,
of the little moor-edge farm of Mossheugh-law, whose stone-roofed
buildings, washed by a clear mountain stream, and sheltered by a clump
of venerable Scotch firs, stand on a bright green patch, a sort of oasis
in the desert. The sheep hardly deign to notice the hare, far different
to the consternation bold Reynard carries into their camp, when they go
circling round like a squadron of dragoons, drawing boldly up to charge
when the danger’s past. So poor, weary, foot sore, fur-matted puss, goes
hobbling and limping up to the farm-buildings as if to seek protection
from man against his brother man.

Now it so happened that Mrs. Kidwell, the half-farmer, halfshepherd’s
pretty wife, was in the fold-yard, washing her churn, along with her
little chubby-faced Jessey, who was equally busy with her Mamma munching
away at a very long slice of plentifully-buttered and sugar’d bread;
and Mamma chancing to look up from the churn to see how her darling
progressed, saw puss halting at the threshold, as if waiting to be asked
in.



199m


“It’s that mad old Major and his dogs!” exclaimed Mrs. Kidwell, catching
up the child lest its red petticoat might scare away the visitor, and
popping into the dairy, she saw the hare, after a little demur, hobble
into the cow-house. Having seen her well in, Mrs. Kidwell emerged from
her hiding-place, and locking the door, she put the key in her pocket,
and resumed her occupation with her churn. Presently the familiar
melody—the yow, yow, yap, yap, yow, yow of the hounds broke upon her
ear, increasing in strength as she listened, making her feel glad she
was at hand to befriend the poor hare.

The hunt was indeed revived. The hounds, one and all, having declared
their inability to make any thing more of it.

Solomon had set off on one of his cruises, which resulted in the yeomen
prickers and he meeting at the gate, where the hare had squatted,
when Lovely gave tongue, just as Springer, with his eyes well down,
exclaimed, “here she’s!” Bustler, and Bracelet, and Twister, and
Chaunter, confirmed Lovely’s opinion, and away they went with the feeble
scent peculiar to the sinking animal. Their difficulties are further
increased by the sheep, it requiring Solomon’s oft-raised hand to
prevent the hounds being hurried over the line—as it is, the hunt was
conducted on the silent system for some little distance. The pace rather
improved after they got clear of the smear and foil of the muttons,
and the Major pulled up his gills, felt his tie, and cocked his hat
jauntily, as the hounds pointed for the pretty farm-house, the Major
thinking to show off to advantage before Mrs. Kidwell. They presently
carried the scent up to the still open gates of the fold-yard. Lovely
now proclaims where puss has paused. Things look very critical.

“Good mornin’, Mrs. Kidwell,” exclaimed the gallant Major, addressing
her; “pray how long have you been at the churn?”

“O, this twenty minutes or more, Major,” replied Mrs. Kidwell, gaily.

“You haven’t got the hare in it, have you?” asked he.

“Not that I know of; but you can look if you like,” replied Mrs.
Kidwell, colouring slightly.

“Why, no; we’ll take your word for it,” rejoined the Major gallantly.
“Must be on, Solomon; must be on,” said he—nodding his huntsman to
proceed.

Solomon is doubtful, but “master being master,” Solomon holds his hounds
on past the stable, round the lambing-sheds and stackyard, to the front
of the little three windows and a doored farm-house, without eliciting a
whimper, no, not even from a babbler.

Just at this moment a passing cloud discharged a gentle shower over
the scene, and when Solomon returned to pursue his inquiries in the
fold-yard, the last vestige of scent had been effectually obliterated.

Mrs. Kidwell now stood watching the inquisitive proceedings if the
party, searching now the hen-house, now the pigstye, now the ash-hole;
and when Solomon tried the cow-house door, she observed carelessly: “Ah,
that’s locked;” and he passed on to examine the straw-shed adjoining.
All places were overhauled and scrutinized. At length, even Captain
Nabley’s detective genius failed in suggesting where puss could be.

“Where did you see her last?” asked Mrs. Kidwell, with well-feigned
ignorance.

“Why, we’ve not seen her for some time; but the hounds hunted her up to
your very gate,” replied the Major.

“Deary me, how strange! and you’ve made nothin’ of her since?” observed
she.

“Nothin’,” assented the Major, reluctantly.

“Very odd,” observed Mr. Catcheside, who was anxious for a kill.

“Never saw nothin’ like it,” asserted Mr. Rintoul, looking again into
the pigstye.

“She must have doubled back,” suggested Mr. Nettlefold.

“Should have met her if she had,” observed old Duffield.

“She must be somewhere hereabouts,” observes Mr. Trail, dismounting, and
stamping about on foot among the half-trodden straw of the fold-yard.

No puss there.

“Hard upon the hounds,” observes Mr. Wotherspoon, replenishing his nose
with a good charge of snuff.

“Cruel, indeed,” assented the Major, who never gave them more than
entrails.

“Never saw a hare better hunted!” exclaimed Captain Nabley, lighting a
cigar.

“Nor I,” assented fat Mr. Nettleford, mopping his brow.

“How long was it?” asked Mr. Rintoul.

“An hour and five minutes,” replied the Major, looking at his watch
(five-and-forty minutes in reality).

“V-a-a-ry good running,” elaborates old dandy Wortherspoon. “I see by
the Post, that——”

“Well, I s’pose we must give her up,” interrupted the Major, who didn’t
want to have the contents of his own second-hand copy forestalled.

“Pity to leave her,” observes Mr. Trail, returning to his horse.

“What can you do?” asked the Major, adding, “it’s no use sitting here.”

“None,” assents Captain Nabley, blowing a cloud.

At a nod from the Major, Solomon now collects his hounds, and passing
through the scattered group, observes with a sort of Wellingtonian touch
of his cap, in reply to their condolence, “Yes, sir, but it takes a slee
chap, sir, to kill a moor-edge hare, sir!”

So the poor Major was foiled of his fur, and when the cows came lowing
down from the fell to be milked, kind Mrs. Kidwell opened the door and
out popped puss, as fresh and lively as ever; making for her old haunts,
where she was again to be found at the end of a week.



CHAPTER XXVI. THE PRINGLE CORRESPONDENCE.

THE reader will perhaps wonder what our fair friend Mrs. Pringle is
about, and how there happens to be no tidings from Curtain Crescent.
Tidings there were, only the Tantivy Castle servants were so oppressed
with work that they could never find time to redirect her effusions. At
length Mr. Beverage, the butler, seeing the accumulation of letters
in Mr. Packwood, the house-steward’s room, suggested that they might
perhaps be wanted, whereupon Mr. Packwood huddled them into a fresh
envelope, and sent them to the post along with the general consignment
from the Castle. Very pressing and urgent the letters were, increasing
in anxiety with each one, as no answer had been received to its
predecessor. Were it not that Mrs. Pringle knew the Earl would have
written, she would have feared her Billy had sustained some hunting
calamity. The first letter merely related how Mrs. Pringle had gone to
uncle Jerry’s according to appointment to have a field-day among the
papers, and how Jerry had gone to attend an anti-Sunday-band meeting,
leaving seed-cake, and sponge-cake, and wine, with a very affectionate
three-cornered note, saying how deeply he deplored the necessity, but
how he hoped to remedy the delay by another and an early appointment.
This letter enclosed a very handsome large coat-of-arms seal, made
entirely out of Mrs. Pringle’s own head—containing what the heralds call
assumptive arms—divided into as many compartments as a backgammon
board, which she advised Billy to use judiciously, hinting that Major
H. (meaning our friend Major Y.) would be a fitter person to try it
upon than Lord L. The next letter, among many other things of minor
importance, reminded Billy that he had not told his Mamma what Mrs.
Moffatt had on, or whether they had any new dishes for dinner, and
urging him to write her full particulars, but to be careful not to leave
either his or her letters lying about, and hoping that he emptied his
pockets every night instead of leaving that for Rougier to do, and
giving him much other good and wholesome advice. The third letter was
merely to remind him that she had not heard from him in answer to either
of her other two, and begging him just to drop her a single line by
return of post, saying he was well, and so on. The next was larger,
enclosing him a double-crest seal, containing a lion on a cap of
dignity, and an eagle, for sealing notes in aid of the great seal, and
saying that she had had a letter from uncle Jerry, upbraiding her for
not keeping her appointment with him, whereas she had never made any, he
having promised to make one with her, and again urging Billy to write
to her, if only a single line, and when he had time to send her a full
account of what Mrs. Moffatt had on every day, and whether they had any
new dishes for dinner, and all the news, sporting and otherwise, urging
him as before to take care of Dowb (meaning himself), and hoping he was
improving in his hunting, able to sit at the jumps, and enjoying himself
generally..

The fifth, which caused the rest to come, was a mere repetition of
her anxieties and requests for a line, and immediately produced the
following letter:— MR. WILLIAM TO HIS MAMMA.

“Yammerton Grange.

“My dearest Mamma,

“Your letters have all reached me at once, for though both Rougier and
I especially charged the butler and another fine fellow, and gave them
heads to put on, to send all that came immediately, they seem to have
waited for an accumulation so as to make one sending do. It is very idle
of them.

“The seals are beautiful, and I am very much obliged to you for them. I
will seal this letter with the large one by way of a beginning. It seems
to be uncommonly well quartered—quite noble.

“I will now tell you all my movements.

“I have been here at Major Yammertons,—not Hammerton’s as you called
him—for some days enjoying myself amazingly, for the Major has a nice
pack of harriers that go along leisurely, instead of tearing away at the
unconscionable pace the Earl’s do. Still, a canter in the Park at high
tide in my opinion is a much better thing with plenty of ladies
looking on. Talking of cantering reminds me I’ve bought a horse of the
Major’s,—bought him all except paying for him, so you had better send me
the money, one hundred guineas; for though the Major says I may pay
for him when I like, and seems quite easy about it, they say horses are
always ready money, so I suppose I must conform to the rule. It is a
beautiful bay with four black legs, and a splendid mane and tail—very
blood-like and racing; indeed the Major says if I was to put him into
some of the spring handicaps I should be sure to win a hatful of money
with him, or perhaps a gold cup or two. The Major is a great sportsman
and has kept hounds for a great number of years, and altogether he is
very agreeable, and I feel more at home here than I did at the Castle,
where, though everything was very fine, still there was no fun and only
Mrs. Moffatt to talk to, at least in the lady way, for though she always
professed to be expecting lady callers, none ever came that I saw or
heard of.

“I really forget all about the dinners there, except that they were very
good and lasted a long time. We had a new dish here the other night,
which if you want a novelty, you can introduce, namely, to flavour the
plates with castor oil; you will find it a very serviceable one for
saving your meat, as nobody can eat it. Mrs. Moffatt was splendidly
dressed every day, sometimes in blue, sometimes in pink, sometimes in
green, sometimes in silk, sometimes in satin, sometimes in velvet with
a profusion of very lovely lace and magnificent jewelry. Rougier says,
‘she makes de hay vile the son does shine.’

“I don’t know how long I shall stay here, certainly over Friday, and
most likely until Monday, after which I suppose I shall go back to the
Castle. The Major says I must have another day with his hounds, and I
don’t care if I do, provided he keeps in the hills and away from the
jumps, as I can manage the galloping well enough. It’s the jerks that
send me out of my saddle. A hare is quite a different animal to
pursue to a fox, and seems to have some sort of consideration for its
followers. She stops short every now and then and jumps up in view,
instead of tearing away like an express train on a railway.

“The girls here are very pretty—Miss Yammerton extremely so,—fair,
with beautiful blue eyes, and such a figure; but Rougier says they are
desperately bad-tempered, except the youngest one, who is dark and like
her Mamma; but I shouldn’t say Monsieur is a particular sweet-tempered
gentleman himself. He is always grumbling and grouting about what he
calls his ‘grob’ and declares the Major keeps his house on sturdied
mutton and stale beer. But he complained at the Castle that there was
nothing but port and sherry, and composite candles to go to bed with,
which he declared was an insult to his station, which entitles him to
wax.

“You can’t, think how funny and small this place looked after the
Castle. It seemed just as if I had got into a series of closets instead
of rooms. However. I soon got used to it, and like it amazingly. But
here comes Monsieur with my dressing things, so I must out with the
great seat and bid you good bye for the present, for the Major is a six
o’clock man, and doesn’t like to be kept waiting for his dinner, so
now, my dearest Mamma, believe me. to remain ever your most truly
affectionate son,

“Wm. Pringle,”

To which we need scarcely say the delighted Mrs. Pringle replied by
return of post, writing in the following loving and judicious strain.

“25, Curtain Crescent,

“Belgrave Square.

“My own Beloved Darling,

“I was so overjoyed you can’t imagine, to receive your most welcome
letter, for I really began to be uneasy about you, not that I feared any
accident out hunting, but I was afraid you might have caught cold or
be otherwise unwell—mind, if ever you feel in the slightest degree
indisposed send for the doctor immediately. There is nothing like taking
things in time. It was very idle of the servants at Tantivy Castle to
neglect your instructions so, but for the future you had better always
write a line to the post-master of the place where you are staying,
giving him your next address to forward your letters to; for it is the
work for which they are paid, and there is no shuffling it off on to
anybody elses shoulders. The greatest people are oftentimes the worst
served, not because the servants have any particular objection to them
personally—but because they are so desperately afraid of being what they
call put upon by each other, that they spend double the time in fighting
off doing a thing that it would take to do it. This is one of the
drawbacks upon rank. Noblemen must keep a great staff of people, whom
in a general way they cannot employ, and who do nothing but squabble and
fight with each other who is to do the little there is, the greatest man
among servants being he who does the least. However, as you have got the
letters at last we will say no more about it.

“I hope your horse is handsome, and neighs and paws the ground
prettily; you should be careful, however, in buying, for few people are
magnanimous enough to resist cheating a young man in horses;—still, I
am glad you have bought one if he suits you, as it is much better and
pleasanter to ride your own horse than be indebted to other people for
mounts. Nevertheless, I would strongly advise you to stick to either the
fox or the stag, with either of which you can sport pink and look smart.
Harriers are only for bottle-nosed old gentlemen with gouty shoes. I
can’t help thinking, that a day with a milder, more reasonable fox
than the ones you had with Lord Ladythorne, would convince you of the
superiority of fox-hounds over harriers. I was asking Mr. Ralph Rasper,
who called here the other day, how little Tom Stott of the Albany
managed with the Queen’s, and he said Tom always shoes his horses with
country nails, and consequently throws a shoe before he has gone three
fields, which enables him to pull up and lament his ill luck. He then
gets it put on, and has a glorious ride home in red—landing at the
Piccadilly end of the Albany about dusk. He then goes down to the Acacia
or some other Club, and having ordered his dinner, retires to one of the
dressing-rooms to change—having had, to his mind, a delightful day.

“Beware of the girls!—There’s nothing so dangerous as a young man
staying in a country house with pretty girls. He is sure to fall in love
with one or other of them imperceptibly, or one or other of them is sure
to fall in love with him; and then when at length he leaves, there is
sure to be a little scene arranged, Miss with her red eye-lids and lace
fringed kerchief, Mamma with her smirks and smiles, and hopes that he’ll
soon return, and so on. There are more matches made up in country houses
than in all the west-end London ones put together,—indeed, London is
always allowed to be only the cover for finding the game in, and the
country the place for running it down. Just as you find your fox in a
wood and run him down in the open. Be careful therefore what you are
about.

“It is much easier to get entangled with a girl than to get free again,
for though they will always offer to set a young man free, they
know better than do it, unless, indeed, they have secured something
better,—above all, never consult a male friend in these matters.

“The stupidest woman that ever was born, is belter than the cleverest
man in love-affairs. In fact, no man is a match for a woman until he’s
married,—not all even then. The worst of young men is, they never know
their worth until it is too late—they think the girls are difficult to
catch, whereas there is nothing so easy, unless, as I said before, the
girls are better engaged. Indeed, a young man should always have his
Mamma at his elbow, to guard him against the machinations of the fair.
As, however, that cannot be, let me urge you to be cautious what you are
about, and as you seem to have plenty of choice, Don’t be more attentive
to one sister than to another, by which means you will escape the red
eye-lids, and also escape having Mamma declaring you have trifled with
Maria or Sophia’s feelings, and all the old women of the neighbourhood
denouncing your conduct and making up to you themselves for one of their
own girls. Some ladies ask a man’s intentions before he is well aware
that he has any himself, but these are the spoil-sport order of women.
Most of them are prudent enough to get a man well hooked before they
hand him over to Papa, it is generally a case of ‘Ask Mamma first.
Beware of brothers!—I have known undoubted heiresses crumpled up into
nothing by the appearance (after the catch) of two or three great heavy
dragooners. Rougier will find all that out for you.

“Be cautious too about letter-writing. There is no real privacy about
love-letters, any more than there is about the flags and banners of
a regiment, though they occasionally furl and cover them up. The love
letters are a woman’s flags and banners, her trophies of success, and
the more flowery they are, the more likely to be shown, and to aid in
enlivening a Christmas tea-party. Then the girls’ Mammas read them,
their sisters read them, their maids read them, and ultimately, perhaps,
a boisterous energetic barrister reads them to an exasperated jury, some
of whose daughters may have suffered from simitar effusions themselves.
Altogether, I assure you, you are on very ticklish ground, and I make no
doubt if you could ascertain the opinion of the neighbourhood, you are
booked for one or other of the girls, so again I say, my dearest boy,
beware what you are about, for it is much easier to get fast than to get
free again;—get a lady of rank, and not the daughter of a little scrubby
squire; and whatever you do, don’t leave this letter lying about, and
mind, empty your pockets at nights, and don’t leave it for Rougier to
find.

“Now, about your movements. I think I wouldn’t go back to Lord L.’s
unless he asks you, or unless he named a specific day for your doing so
when you came away. Mere general invitations mean nothing; they are only
the small coin of good society. ‘Sorry you’re going. Hope we shall soon
meet again. Hope we shall have the pleasure of seeing you to dinner some
day,’ is a very common mean-nothing form of politeness.

“Indeed, I question that your going to a master of harriers from Tantivy
Castle would be any great recommendation to his Lordship; for masters of
foxhounds and masters of harriers are generally at variance. Altogether,
I think I would pause and consider before you decided on returning. I
would not talk much about his Lordship where you now are, as it would
look as if you were not accustomed to great people. You’ll find plenty
of friends ready to bring him in for you, just as Mr. Handycock brings
in Lord Privilege in Peter Simple. We all like talking of titles.
Remember, all noblemen under the rank of dukes are lords in common
conversation. No earls or marquises then.

“It just occurs to me, that as you are in the neighbourhood, you might
take advantage of the opportunity for paying a visit to Yawnington Hot
Wells, where you will find a great deal of good society assembled at
this time of year, and where you might pickup some useful and desirable
acquaintances. Go to the best hotel whatever it is, and put Rougier on
board wages, which will get rid of his grumbling. It is impertinent, no
doubt, but still it carries weight in a certain quarter.

“As you have got a hunting horse, you will want a groom, and should try
to get a nice-looking one. He should not be knocknee’d; on the contrary,
bow-legged,—the sort of legs that a pig can pop through. Look an
applicant over first, and if his appearance is against him. just put him
off quietly by taking his name and address, and say that there are one
or two before him, and that you will write to him if you are likely to
require his services.

“You will soon have plenty to choose from, but it is hard to say whether
the tricks of the town ones, or the gaucheries of the country ones are
most objectionable. The latter never put on their boots and upper
things properly. A slangy, slovenly-looking fellow should be especially
avoided. Also men with great shock heads of hair. If they can’t trim
themselves, there will not be much chance of their trimming their
horses. In short, I believe a groom—a man who really knows and cares
anything about horses—is a very difficult person to get. There are
plenty who can hiss and fuss, and be busy upon nothing, but very few who
can both dress a horse, and dress themselves.

“I know Lord Ladythorne makes it a rule never to take one who has been
brought up in the racing-stable, for he says they are all hurry and
gallop, and for putting two hours’ exercise into one. Whatever you do,
don’t take one without a character, for however people may gloss over
their late servant’s faults and imperfections, and however abject and
penitent the applicants may appear, rely upon it, nature will out, and
as soon as ever they yet up their condition, as they call it, or are
installed into their new clothes, they begin to take liberties, and
ultimately relapse into their old drunken dissolute habits. It is
fortunate for the world that most of them carry their characters in
their faces. Besides, it isn’t fair to respectable servants to bring
them in contact with these sort of profligates.

“Whatever you do, don’t let him find his own clothes. There isn’t one
in twenty who can be trusted to do so, and nothing looks worse than the
half-livery, half-plain, wholly shabby clothes some of them adopt.

“It is wonderful what things they will vote good if they have to find
others themselves, things that they would declare were not fit to put
on, and they couldn’t be seen in if master supplied them. The best of
everything then is only good enough for them.

“Some of them will grumble and growl whatever you give them; declare
this man’s cloth is bad, and another’s boots inferior, and recommend you
to go to Mr. Somebody else, who Mr. This, or Captain That, employs, Mr.
This, or Captain That, having, in all probability, been recommended to
this Mr. Somebody by some other servant. The same with the saddlers and
tradespeople generally. If you employ a saddler who does not tip them,
there will be nothing bad enough for his workmanship, or they
will declare he does not do that sort of work, only farmer’s
work—cart-trappings, and such like things.

“The remedy for this is to pay your own bills, and give the servants to
understand at starting that you mean to be master. They are to be had
on your own terms, if you only begin as you mean to go on. If the worst
comes to the worst, a month’s notice, or a month’s pay, settles all
differences, and it is no use keeping and paying a servant that doesn’t
suit you. Perhaps you will think Rougier trouble enough, but he would be
highly offended if you were to ask him to valet a horse. I will try if I
can hear of anything likely to suit you, but the old saying, ‘who shall
counsel a man in the choice of a wife, or a horse,’ applies with equal
force to grooms.

“And now, my own dearest boy, having given you all the advice and
assistance in my power, I will conclude by repeating what joy the
arrival of your letter occasioned me, and also my advice to beware
of the girls, and request that you will not leave this letter in your
pockets, or lying about, by signing myself ever, my own dearest son,
your most truly loving and affectionate Mamma,

“Emma Pringle.

“P.S.—I will enclose the halves of two fifty-pound notes for the horse,
the receipt of which please to acknowledge by return of post, when I
will send the other halves.

“P.S.—Mind the red eyelids! There’s nothing so infectious



CHAPTER XXVII. SIR MOSES MAINCHANCE.

OUR friend Billy, as the foregoing letter shows, was now very
comfortably installed in his quarters, and his presence brought sundry
visitors, as well to pay their respects to him and the family, as to see
how matters were progressing.

Mr. and Mrs. Rocket Larkspur, Mrs. Blurkins, and Mrs. Dotheringfcon,
also Mrs. Crickleton came after their castor-oil entertainment, and Mrs.
and Miss Wasperton, accompanied by their stiff friend Miss Freezer, who
had the reputation of being very satirical. Then there were Mr. Tight
and Miss Neate, chaperoned by fat Mrs. Plumberry, of Hollingdale
Lodge, and several others. In fact Billy had created a sensation in
the country, such godsends as a London dandy not being of every-day
occurrence in the country, and everybody wanted to see the great
“catch.” How they magnified him! His own mother wouldn’t have known him
under the garbs he assumed; now a Lord’s son, now a Baronet’s, now the
Richest Commoner in England; with, oh glorious recommendation! no Papa
to consult in the matter of a wife. Some said not even a Mamma, but
there the reader knows they were wrong. In proportion as they lauded
Billy they decried Mrs. Yammerton; she was a nasty, cunning, designing
woman, always looking after somebody.

Mrs. Wasperton, alluding to Billy’s age, declared that it was just like
kidnapping a child, and she inwardly congratulated herself that she had
never been guilty of such meanness. Billy, on his part, was airified and
gay, showing off to the greatest advantage, perfectly unconscious that
he was the observed of all observers. Like Mrs. Moffatt he never had the
same dress on twice, and was splendid in his jewelry.

Among the carriage company who came to greet him was the sporting
Baronet, Sir Moses Mainchance, whose existence we have already
indicated, being the same generous gentleman that presented Major
Yammerton with a horse, and then made him pay for it.

Sir Moses had heard of Billy’s opulence, and being a man of great
versatility, he saw no reason why he should not endeavour to partake of
it. He now came grinding up in his dog cart, with his tawdry cockaded
groom (for he was a Deputy-Lieutenant of Hit-im and Holt-im shire), to
lay the foundation of an invitation, and was received with the usual
wow, wow, wow, wow, of Fury, the terrier, and the coat shuffling of the
Bumbler.

If the late handsome Recorder of London had to present this ugly old
file to the Judges as one of the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, he
would most likely introduce him in such terms as the following:—

“My Lords, I have the honour to present to your Lordships’ (hem) notice
Sir Moses Mainchance, (cough) Baronet, and (hem) foxhunter, who has been
unanimously chosen by the (hem) livery of London to fill the high and
important (cough) office of Sheriff of that ancient and opulent city.
My Lords, Sir Moses, as his name indicates, is of Jewish origin. His
great-grandfather, Mr. Moses Levy, I believe dealt in complicated
penknives, dog-collars, and street sponges. His grandfather, more
ambitious, enlarged his sphere of action, and embarked in the
old-clothes line. He had a very extensive shop in the Minories, and
dealt in rhubarb and gum arabic as well. He married a lady of the name
of Smith, not an uncommon one in this country, who inheriting a
large fortune from her uncle, Mr. Mainchance, Mr. Moses Levy embraced
Christianity, and dropping the name of Levy became Mr. Mainchance,
Mr. Moses Mainchance, the founder of the present most important and
distinguished family. His son, the Sheriff elect’s father, also carried
on the business in the Minories, adding very largely to his already
abundant wealth, and espousing a lady of the name of Brown.

“In addition to the hereditary trade he opened a curiosity shop in the
west end of London, where, being of a highly benevolent disposition,
he accommodated young gentlemen whose parents were penurious,—unjustly
penurious of course,—with such sums of money as their stations in life
seemed likely to enable them to repay.

“But, my Lords, the usury laws, as your Lordships will doubtless
recollect, being then in full operation, to the great detriment of
heirs-at-law, Mr. Mainchance, feeling for the difficulties of the young,
introduced an ingenious mode of evading them, whereby some article of
vertu—generally a picture or something of that sort—was taken as half,
or perhaps three-quarters of the loan, and having passed into the hands
of the borrower was again returned to Mr. Mainchance at its real worth,
a Carlo Dolce, or a Coal Pit, as your Lordships doubtless know, being
capable of representing any given sum of money. This gentleman, my
Lords, the Sheriff elect’s father, having at length paid the debt of
nature—the only debt I believe that he was ever slow in discharging—the
opulent gentleman who now stands at my side, and whom I have the honour
of presenting to the Court, was enabled through one of those monetary
transactions to claim the services of a distinguished politician now
no more, and obtain that hereditary rank which he so greatly adorns.
On becoming a baronet Sir Moses Mainchance withdrew from commercial
pursuits, and set up for a gentleman, purchasing the magnificent estate
of Pangburn Park, in Hit-im and Hold-im shire, of which county he is
a Deputy-Lieutenant, getting together an unrivalled pack of
foxhounds—second to none as I am instructed—and hunting the country with
great circumspection; and he requests me to add, he will be most proud
and happy to see your Lordships to take a day with his hounds whenever
it suits you, and also to dine with him this evening in the splendid
Guildhall of the ancient and renowned City of London.’”

The foregoing outline, coupled with Sir Moses’ treatment of the Major,
will give the reader some idea of the character of the gentleman who had
sought the society of our hero. In truth, if nature had not made him the
meanest. Sir Moses would have been the most liberal of mankind, for his
life was a continual struggle between the magnificence of his offers and
the penury of his performances. He was perpetually forcing favours upon
people, and then backing out when he saw they were going to be accepted.
It required no little face to encounter the victim of such a recent “do”
 as the Major’s, but Sir Moses was not to be foiled when he had an
object in view. Telling his groom to stay at the door, and asking in
a stentorian voice if Mr. Pringle is at home, so that there may be no
mistake as to whom he is calling upon, the Baronet is now ushered into
the drawing-room, where the dandified Billy sits in all the dangerous
proximity of three pretty girls without their Mamma. Mrs. Yammerton knew
when to be out. “Good morning, young ladies!” exclaims Sir Moses gaily,
greeting them all round—“Mr. Pringle,” continued he, turning to
Billy, “allow me to introduce myself—I believe I have the pleasure of
addressing a nephew of my excellent old friend Sir Jonathan Pringle, and
I shall be most happy if I can contribute in any way to your amusement
while in this neighbourhood. Tell me now,” continued he, without waiting
for Billy’s admission or rejection of kindred with Sir Jonathan, “tell
me now, when you are not engaged in this delightful way,” smiling round
on the beauties, “would you like to come and have a day with my hounds?”

Billy shuddered at the very thought, but quickly recovering his
equanimity, he replied, “Yarse, he should like it very much.

“Oh, Mr. Pringle’s a mighty hunter!” exclaimed Miss Yammerton, who
really thought he was.—“Very good!” exclaimed Sir Moses, “very good!
Then I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We meet on Monday at the Crooked
Billet on the Bushmead Road—Tuesday at Stubbington Hill—Thursday,
Woolerton, by Heckfield—Saturday, the Kennels. S’pose now you come to
me on Sunday, I would have said Saturday, only I’m engaged to dine with
Lord Oilcake, but you wouldn’t mind coming over on a Sunday, I dare say,
would you?” and without waiting for an answer he went on to say, “Come
on Sunday, I’ll send my dogcart for you, the thing I have at the door,
we’ll then hunt Monday and Tuesday, dine at the Club at Hinton on
Wednesday, where we always have a capital dinner, and a party of
excellent fellows, good singing and all sorts of fun, and take Thursday
at Woolerton, in your way home—draw Shawley Moss, the Withy beds at
Langton, Tangleton Brake, and so on, but sure to find before we get to
the Brake, for there were swarms of foxes on the moss the last time we
were there, and capital good ones they are. Dom’d if they aren’t.
So know I think you couldn’t be better Thursday, and I’ll have a
two-stalled stable ready for you on Sunday, so that’s a bargain—ay,
young ladies, isn’t it?” appealing to our fair friends. And now fine
Billy, who had been anxiously waiting to get a word in sideways while
all this dread enjoyment was paraded, proceeded to make a vigorous
effort to deliver himself from it. He was very much obliged to this
unknown friend of his unknown uncle, Sir Jonathan, but he had only one
horse, and was afraid he must decline. “Only one horse!” exclaimed Sir
Moses, “only one horse!” who had heard he had ten, “ah, well, never
mind,” thinking he would sell him one. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,
I’ll mount you on the Tuesday—I’ll mount you on the Tuesday—dom’d if
I won’t—and that’ll make it all right—and that’ll make all right.” So
extending his hand he said, “Come on Sunday then, come on Sunday,” and,
bowing round to the ladies, he backed out of the room lest his friend
the Major might appear and open his grievance about the horse. Billy
then accompanied him to the door, where Sir Moses, pointing to the gaudy
vehicle, said, “Ah, there’s the dog-cart you see, there’s the dog-cart,
much at your service, much at your service,” adding, as he placed his
foot upon the step to ascend, “Our friend the Major here I make no doubt
will lend you a horse to put in it, and between ourselves,” concluded he
in a lower tone, “you may as well try if you can’t get him to lend you a
second horse to bring with you.” So saying, Sir Moses again shook hands
most fervently with his young friend, the nephew of Sir Jonathan, and
mounting the vehicle soused down in his seat and drove off with the air
of a Jew bailiff in his Sunday best.



213m


Of course, when Billy returned to the drawing-room the young ladies were
busy discussing the Baronet, aided by Mamma, who had gone up stairs on
the sound of wheels to reconnoitre her person, and was disappointed on
coming down to find she had had her trouble for nothing.

If Sir Moses had been a married man instead of a widower, without
incumbrance as the saying is, fine Billy would have been more likely to
have heard the truth respecting him, than he was as matters stood. As
it was, the ladies had always run Sir Moses up, and did not depart from
that course on the present occasion. Mrs. Yammerton, indeed, always
said that he looked a great deal older than he really was, and had
no objection to his being talked of for one of her daughters, and as
courtships generally go by contraries, the fair lady of the glove with
her light sunny hair, and lambent blue eyes, rather admired Sir Moses’
hook-nose and clear olive complexion than otherwise. His jewelry,
too, had always delighted her, for he had a stock equal to that of any
retired pawnbroker. So they impressed Billy very favourably with the
Baronet’s pretensions, far more favourably the reader may be-sure than
the Recorder did the Barons of the Court of Exchequer.



CHAPTER XXVIII. THE HIT-IM AND HOLD-IM SHIRE HOUNDS.

DESCENDING Long Benningborough Hill on the approach from the west,
the reader enters the rich vale of Hit-im and Hold-im shire, rich in
agricultural productions, lavish of rural beauties, and renowned for the
strength and speed of its foxes.

As a hunting country Hit-im and Hold-im shire ranks next to
Featherbedfordshire, and has always been hunted by men of wealth and
renown. The great Mr. Bruiser hunted it at one time, and was succeeded
by the equally great Mr. Customer, who kept it for upwards of twenty
years. He was succeeded by Mr. Charles Crasher, after whom came the
eminent Lord Martingal, who most materially improved its even then
almost perfect features by the judicious planting of gorse covers on the
eastern or Droxmoor side, where woodlands are deficient.

It was during Lord Martingal’s reign that Hit-im and Hold-im shire may
be said to have attained the zenith of its fame, for he was liberal in
the extreme, not receiving a farthing subscription, and maintaining the
Club at the Fox and Hounds Hotel at Hinton with the greatest spirit and
popularity. He reigned over Hit-im and Hold-im shire for the period of
a quarter of a century, his retirement being at length caused by a fall
from his horse, aggravated by distress at seeing his favourite gorses
Rattle-ford and Chivington cut up by a branch-line of the Crumpletin
railway.

On his lordship’s resignation, the country underwent the degradation of
passing into the hands of the well-known Captain Flasher, a gentleman
who, instead of keeping hounds, as Lord Martingal had done, expected the
hounds to keep him. To this end he organised a subscription—a difficult
thing to realise even when men have got into the habit of paying, or
perhaps promising one—but most difficult when, as in this case, they had
long been accustomed to have their hunting for nothing. It is then that
the beauties of a free pack are apparent. The Captain, however, nothing
daunted by the difficulty, applied the screw most assiduously, causing
many gentlemen to find out that they were just going to give up hunting,
and others that they must go abroad to economise. This was just about
the gloomy time that our friend the Major was vacillating between
Boulogne and Bastille; and it so happened that Mr. Plantagenet Brown,
of Pangburn Park, whose Norman-conquest family had long been pressing
on the vitals of the estate, taking all out and putting nothing in,
suddenly found themselves at the end of their tether. The estate
had collapsed. Then came the brief summing-up of a long career of
improvidence in the shape of an auctioneer’s advertisement, offering the
highly valuable freehold property, comprising about two thousand five
hundred acres in a ring fence, with a modern mansion replete with
every requisite for a nobleman or gentleman’s seat, for sale, which, of
course, brought the usual train of visitors, valuers, Paul-Pryers, and
so on—some lamenting the setting, others speculating on the rising sun.

At the sale, a most repulsive, poverty-stricken looking little old Jew
kept protracting the biddings when everybody else seemed done, in such
a way as to cause the auctioneer to request an imparlance, in order
that he might ascertain who his principal was; when the Jew, putting
his dirty hands to his bearded mouth, whispered in the auctioneer’s ear,
“Shir Moshes Main-chance,” whereupon the languid biddings were resumed,
and the estate was ultimately knocked down to the Baronet.

Then came the ceremony of taking possession—the carriage-and-four, the
flags, the band of music, the triumphal arch, the fervid address and
heartfelt reply, amid the prolonged cheers of the wretched pauperised
tenantry.

That mark of respect over, let us return to the hounds.

Captain Flasher did not give satisfaction, which indeed was not to be
expected, considering that he wanted a subscription. No man would have
given satisfaction under the circumstances, but the Captain least of
all, because he brought nothing into the common stock, nothing, at
least, except his impudence, of which the members of the hunt had
already a sufficient supply of their own. The country was therefore
declared vacant at the end of the Captain’s second season, the Guarantee
Committee thinking it best to buy him off the third one, for which he
had contracted to hunt it. This was just about the time that Sir Moses
purchased Pangburn Park, and, of course, the country was offered to him.
A passion for hunting is variously distributed, and Sir Moses had his
share of it. He was more than a mere follower of hounds, for he took a
pleasure in their working and management, and not knowing much about
the cost, he jumped at the offer, declaring he didn’t want a farthing
subscription, no, not a farthing: he wouldn’t even have a cover fund—no,
not even a cover fund! He’d pay keepers, stoppers, damage, everything
himself,—dom’d if he wouldn’t. Then when he got possession of the
country, he declared that he found it absolutely indispensable for the
promotion of sport, and the good of them all, that there should be a
putting together of purses—every man ought to have a direct interest
in the preservation of foxes, and, therefore, they should all pay five
guineas,—just five guineas a-year to a cover fund. It wasn’t fair that
he should pay all the cost—dom’d if it was. He wouldn’t stand it—dom’d
if he would.

Then the next season he declared that five guineas was all moonshine—it
would do nothing in the way of keeping such a country as Hit-im and
Hold-im shire together—it must be ten guineas, and that would leave a
great balance for him to pay. Well, ten guineas he got, and emboldened
by his success, at the commencement of the next season he got a grand
gathering together, at a hand-in-the-pocket hunt dinner at the Fox and
Hounds Hotel at Hinton, to which he presented a case of champagne, when
his health being drunk with suitable enthusiasm, he got up and made them
a most elaborate speech on the pleasures and advantages of fox-hunting,
which he declared was like meat, drink, washing and lodging to him, and
to which he mainly attributed the very excellent health which they had
just been good enough to wish him a continuance of in such complimentary
terms, that he was almost overpowered by it. He was glad to see that
he was not a monopoliser of the inestimable blessings of health, for,
looking round the table, he thought he never saw such an assemblage
of cheerful contented countenances—(applause)—and it was a great
satisfaction to him to think that he in any way contributed to make them
so—(renewed applause). He had been thinking since he came into the room
whether it was possible to increase in any way the general stock of
prosperity—(great applause)—and considering the success that had already
marked his humble endeavours, he really thought that there was nothing
like sticking to the same medicine, and, if possible, increasing the
dose; for—(the conclusion of this sentence was lost in the general
applause that followed). Having taken an inspiriting sip of wine, he
thus resumed, “He now hunted the country three days a-week,” he said,
“and, thanks to their generous exertions, and the very judicious
arrangement they had spontaneously made of having a hunt club, he really
thought it would stand four days.”—(Thunders of applause followed this
announcement, causing the glasses and biscuits to dance jigs on the
table. Sir Moses took a prolonged sip of wine, and silence being at
length again restored, he thus resumed):—“It had always stood four in
old Martingal’s time, and why shouldn’t it do so in theirs?—(applause).
Look at its extent! Look at its splendid gorses! Look at its magnificent
woodlands! He really thought it was second to none!” And so the company
seemed to think too by the cheering that followed the announcement.

“Well then,” said Sir Moses, drawing breath for the grand effort,
“there was only one thing to be considered—one leetle difficulty to
be overcome—but one, which after the experience he had had of their
gameness and liberality, he was sure they would easily surmount.”—(A
murmur of “O-O-O’s,” with Hookey Walkers, and fingers to the nose,
gradually following the speaker.)

“That leetle difficulty, he need hardly say, was their old familiar
friend £ s. d.! who required occasionally to be looked in the
face.”—(Ironical laughter, with sotto voce exclamations from Jack to Tom
and from Sam to Harry, of—) “I say! three days are quite enough—quite
enough. Don’t you think so?” With answers of “Plenty! plenty!” mingled
with whispers of, “I say, this is what he calls hunting the country for
nothing!”

“Well, gentlemen,” continued Sir Moses, tapping the table with his
presidential hammer, to assert his monopoly of noise, “Well, gentlemen,
as I said before, I have no doubt we can overcome any difficulty in the
matter of money—what’s the use of money if it’s not to enjoy ourselves,
and what enjoyment is there equal to fox-hunting? (applause). None!
none!” exclaimed Sir Moses with emphasis.

“Well then, gentlemen, what I was going to say was this: It occurred to
me this morning as I was shaving myself——”

“That you would shave us,” muttered Mr. Paul Straddler to Hicks, the
flying hatter, neither of whom ever subscribed.

“—It occurred to me this morning, as I was shaving myself, that for a
very little additional outlay—say four hundred a year—and what’s four
hundred a-year among so many of us? we might have four days a-week,
which is a great deal better than three in many respects, inasmuch
as you have two distinct lots of hounds, accustomed to hunt together,
instead of a jumble for one day, and both men and horses are in steadier
and more regular work; and as to foxes, I needn’t say we have plenty
of them, and that they will be all the better for a little more
exercise.—(Applause from Sir Moses’ men, Mr. Smoothley and others).
Well, then, say four hundred a-year, or, as hay and corn are dear and
likely to continue so, suppose we put it at the worst, and call it
five—five hundred—what’s five hundred a-year to a great prosperous
agricultural and commercial country like this? Nothing! A positive
bagatelle! I’d be ashamed to have it known at the ‘Corner’ that we had
ever haggled about such a sum.”

“You pay it, then,” muttered Mr. Straddler.

“Catch him doing that,” growled Hicks.

Sir Moses here took another sip of sherry, and thus resumed:—

“Well, now, gentlemen, as I said before, it only occurred to me this
morning as I was shaving, or I would have been better prepared with
some definite proposal for your consideration, but I’ve just dotted down
here, on the back of one of Grove the fishmonger’s cards (producing one
from his waistcoat pocket as he spoke), the names of those who I think
ought to be called upon to contribute;—and, waiter!” exclaimed he,
addressing one of the lanky-haired order, who had just protruded his
head in at the door to see what all the eloquence was about, “if you’ll
give me one of those mutton fats,—and your master ought to be kicked for
putting such things on the table, and you may tell him I said so,—I’ll
just read the names over to you.” Sir Moses adjusting his gold double
eye glasses on his hooked nose as the waiter obeyed his commands.

“Well, now,” said the Baronet, beginning at the top of the list, “I’ve
put young Lord Polkaton down for fifty.”

“But my Lord doesn’t hunt, Sir Moses!” ejaculated Mr. Mossman, his
Lordship’s land-agent, alarmed at the demand upon a very delicate purse.

“Doesn’t hunt!” retorted Sir Moses angrily. “No; but he might if he
liked! If there were no hounds, how the deuce could he? It would do
him far more good, let me tell him, than dancing at casinos and running
after ballet girls, as he does. I’ve put him down for fifty, however,”
 continued Sir Moses, with a jerk of his head, “and you may tell him I’ve
done so.”

“Wish you may get it,” growled Mr. Mossman, with disgust.

“Well, then,” said the Baronet, proceeding to the next name on the list,
“comes old Lord Harpsichord. He’s good for fifty, too, I should say. At
all events, I’ve put him down for that sum;” adding, “I’ve no notion of
those great landed cormorants cutting away to the continent and shirking
the obligations of country life. I hold it to be the duty of every
man to subscribe to a pack of fox-hounds. In fact, I would make a
subscription a first charge upon land, before poor-rate, highway-rate,
or any sort of rate. I’d make it payable before the assessed taxes
themselves”—(laughter and applause, very few of the company being
land-owners). “Two fifties is a hundred, then,” observed Sir Moses,
perking up; “and if we can screw another fifty out of old Lady
Shortwhist, so much the better; at all events. I think she’ll be good
for a pony; and then we come to the Baronets. First and foremost is
that confounded prosy old ass, Sir George Persiflage, with his empty
compliments and his fine cravats. I’ve put him down for fifty, though
I don’t suppose the old sinner will pay it, though we may, perhaps, get
half, which we shouldn’t do if we were not to ask for more. Well, we’ll
call the supercilious old owls five-and-twenty for safety,” added Sir
Moses. “Then there’s Sir Morgan Wildair; I should think we may say
five-aud-twenty for him. What say you, Mr. Squeezely?” appealing to Sir
Morgan’s agent at the low end of the table.

“I’ve no instructions from Sir Morgan on the subject, Sir Moses,”
 replied Mr. Squeezely, shaking his head.

“Oh, but he’s a young man, and you must tell him that it’s
right—necessary, in fact,” replied Sir Moses. “You just pay it, and pass
it through his accounts—that’s the shortest way. It’s the duty of
an agent to save his principal trouble. I wouldn’t keep an agent
who bothered me with all the twopenny-halfpenny transactions of the
estate—dom’d if I would,” said Sir Moses, resuming his eye-glass
reading.

He then went on through the names of several other parties, who he
thought might be coaxed or bullied out of subscriptions, he taking this
man, another taking that, and working them, as he said, on the fair
means first, and foul means principle afterwards.

“Well, then, now you see, gentlemen,” said Sir Moses, pocketing his card
and taking another sip of sherry prior to summing up; “it just amounts
to this. Four days a-week, as I said before, is a dom’d deal better than
three, and if we can get the fourth day out of these shabby screws,
why so much the better; but if that can’t be done entirely, it can to a
certain extent, and then it will only remain for the members of the
club and the strangers—by the way, we shouldn’t forget them—it will only
remain for the members of the club and the strangers to raise any slight
deficiency by an increased subscription, and according to my plan of
each man working his neighbour, whether the club subscription was to be
increased to fifteen, or seventeen, or even to twenty pounds a-year will
depend entirely upon ourselves; so you see, gentlemen, we have all a
direct interest in the matter, and cannot go to work too earnestly
or too strenuously; for believe me, gentlemen, there’s nothing like
hunting, it promotes health and longevity, wards off the gout and
sciatica, and keeps one out of the hands of those dom’d doctors, with
their confounded bills—no offence to our friend Plaister, there,”
 alluding to a doctor of that name who was sitting about half-way down
the table—“so now,” continued Sir Moses, “I think I cannot do better
than conclude by proposing as a bumper toast, with all the honours, Long
life and prosperity to the Hit-im and Hold-im shire hounds!”

When the forced cheering had subsided, our friend—or rather Major
Yammerton’s friend—Mr. Smoothley, the gentleman who assisted at the sale
of Bo-peep, arose to address the meeting amid coughs and knocks and
the shuffling of feet. Mr. Smoothley coughed too, for he felt he had an
uphill part to perform; but Sir Moses was a hard task-master, and held
his “I. O. U.’s” for a hundred and fifty-seven pounds. On silence being
restored, Mr. Smoothley briefly glanced at the topics urged, as he said,
in such a masterly manner by their excellent and popular master, to whom
they all owed a deep debt of gratitude for the spirited manner in which
he hunted the country, rescuing it from the degradation to which it had
fallen, and restoring it to its pristine fame and prosperity—(applause
from Sir Moses and his claqueurs). “With respect to the specific
proposal submitted by Sir Moses, Mr. Smoothley proceeded to say,
he really thought there could not be a difference of opinion on the
subject—(renewed applause, with murmurs of dissent here and there). It
was clearly their interest to have the country hunted four days a week,
and the mode in which Sir Moses proposed accomplishing the object was
worthy the talents of the greatest financier of the day—(applause)—for
it placed the load on the shoulders of those who were the best able to
bear it—(applause). Taking all the circumstances of the case, therefore,
into consideration, he thought the very least they could do would be
to pass a unanimous vote of thanks to their excellent friend for the
brilliant sport he had hitherto shown them, and pledge themselves to
aid to the utmost of their power in carrying out his most liberal and
judicious proposal.

“Jewish enough,” whispered Mr. Straddler into the flying hatter’s ear.

And the following week’s Hit-im and Hold-im shire Herald, and also
the Featherbedfordshire Gazette, contained a string of resolutions,
embodying the foregoing, as unanimously passed at a full meeting of the
members of the Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt, held at the Fox and Hounds
Hotel, in Ilinton, Sir Moses Main-chance, Bart., in the chair.

And each man set to work on the pocket of his neighbour with an
earnestness inspired by the idea of saving his own. The result was that
a very considerable sum was raised for the four days a-week, which,
somehow or other, the country rarely or ever got, except in the shape
of advertisements; for Sir Moses always had some excuse or other for
shirking it,—either his huntsman had got drunk the day before, or his
first whip had had a bad fall, or his second whip had been summoned to
the small debts court, or his hounds had been fighting and several of
them had got lamed, or the distemper had broken out in his stable, or
something or other had happened to prevent him.

Towards Christmas, or on the eve of an evident frost, he came valiantly
out, and if foiled by a sudden thaw, would indulge in all sorts of sham
draws, and short days, to the great disgust of those who were not in the
secret. Altogether Sir Moses Mainchance rode Hit-im and Hold-im shire as
Hit-im and Hold-im shire had never been ridden before.



223m



CHAPTER XXIX. THE PANGBURN PARK ESTATE.

THE first thing that struck Sir Moses Mainchance after he became a
“laird” was that he got very little interest for his money. Here he was
he who had always looked down with scorn upon any thing that would not
pay ten per cent., scarcely netting three by his acres. He couldn’t
understand it—dom’d if he could. How could people live who had nothing
but land? Certainly Mr. Plantagenet Smith had left the estate in as
forlorn a condition as could well be imagined. Latterly his agent, Mr.
Tom Teaser, had directed his attention solely to the extraction of rent,
regardless of maintenance, to say nothing of improvements, consequently
the farm buildings were dilapidated, and the land impoverished in every
shape and way. Old pasture-field after old pasture-field had gradually
succumbed to the plough, and the last ounce of freshness being
extracted, the fields were left to lay themselves down to weeds or any
thing they liked. As this sort of work never has but one ending, the
time soon arrived when the rent was not raiseable. Indeed it was the
inability to make “both ends meet,” as Paul By used to say, which caused
Mr. Plantagenet Smith to retire from Burke’s landed gentry, which he did
to his own advantage, land being sometimes like family plate, valuable
to sell, but unprofitable to keep.

Sir Moses, flushed with his reception and the consequence he had
acquired, met his tenants gallantly the first rent-day, expecting to
find everything as smooth and pleasant as a London house-rent audit.
Great was his surprise and disgust at the pauperised wretches he
encountered, creatures that really appeared to be but little raised
above the brute creation, were it not for the uncommon keenness they
showed at a “catch.” First came our old friend Henerey Brown & Co., who,
foiled in their attempt to establish themselves on Major Yammerton’s
farm at Bonnyrigs, and also upon several other farms in different parts
of the county, had at length “wheas we have considered” Mr. Teaser to
some better purpose for one on the Pangburn Park Estate.

This was Doblington farm, consisting of a hundred and sixty of undrained
obdurate clay, as sticky as bird-lime in wet, and as hard as iron in dry
weather, and therefore requiring extra strength to take advantage of
a favourable season. Now Henerey Brown & Co. had farmed, or rather
starved, a light sandy soil of some two-thirds the extent of Doblington,
and their half-fed pony horses and wretched implements were quite unable
to cope with the intractable stubborn stuff they had selected. Perhaps
we can hardly say they selected it, for it was a case of Hobson’s choice
with them, and as they offered more rent than the outgoing tenant, who
had farmed himself to the door, had paid, Mr. Teaser installed them
in it. And now at the end of the year, (the farms being let on that
beggarly pauper-encouraging system of a running half year) Henerey &
Humphrey came dragging their legs to the Park with a quarter of a year’s
rent between them, Henerey who was the orator undertaking to appear,
Humphrey paying his respects only to the cheer. Sir Moses and Mr. Teaser
were sitting in state in the side entrance-hall, surrounded by the usual
paraphernalia of pens, ink, and paper, when Henerey’s short, square
turnip-headed, vacant-countenanced figure loomed in the distance. Mr.
Teaser trembled when he saw him, for he knew that the increased rent
obtained for Henerey’s farm had been much dwelt upon by the auctioneer,
and insisted upon by the vendor as conducive evidence of the improving
nature of the whole estate. Teaser, like the schoolboy in the poem, now
traced the day’s disaster in Henerey’s morning face. However, Teaser put
a good face on the matter, saying, as Henerey came diverging up to the
table, “This is Mr. Brown, Sir Moses, the new tenant of Doblington—the
farm on the Hill.” he was going to add “with the bad out-buildings,” but
he thought he had better keep that to himself. Humph sniffed the eager
baronet, looking the new tenant over.

“Your sarvent, Sir Moses,” ducked the farmer, seating himself in the
dread cash-extracting chair.

“Well, my man, and how dy’e do? I hope you’re well—How’s your wife? I
hope she’s well,” continued the Baronet, watching Henerey’s protracted
dive into his corduroy breeches-pockets, and his fish up of the dirty
canvas money-bag. Having deliberately untied the string, Henerey,
without noticing the Baronet’s polite enquiries, shook out a few local
five pound notes, along with some sovereigns, shillings, and sixpence
upon the table, and heaving a deep sigh, pushed them over towards Mr.
Teaser. That worthy having wet his thumb at his mouth proceeded to count
the dirty old notes, and finding them as he expected, even with the aid
of the change, very short of the right amount, he asked Henerey if he
had any bills against them?

“W-h-o-y no-a ar think not,” replied Henerey, scratching his
straggling-haired head, apparently conning the matter over in his mind.
“W-h-o-y, yeas, there’s the Income Tax, and there’s the lime to ‘loo
off.”

“Lime!” exclaimed the Baronet, “What have I to do with lime?”

“W-h-o-y, yeas, you know you promised to ‘loo the lime,” replied
Hererey, appealing to Mr. Teaser, who frowned and bit his lip at the
over-true assertion.

“Never heard of such a thing!” exclaimed Sir Moses, seeing through the
deceit at a glance. “Never heard of such a thing,” repeated he. “That’s
the way you keep up your rents is it?” asked he: “Deceive yourselves by
pretending to get more money than you do, and pay rates and taxes
upon your deceit as a punishment. That ‘ill not do! dom’d if it will,”
 continued the Baronet, waxing warm.

“Well, but the income tax won’t bring your money up to anything like the
right amount,” observed Mr. Teaser to Henerey, anxious to get rid of the
lime question.

“W-h-o-y n-o-a,” replied Henerey, again scratching his pate, “but it’s
as much as I can bring ye to-day.”

“To-day, man!” retorted Sir Moses, “Why, don’t you know that this is the
rent-day! the day on which the entire monetary transactions on the whole
estate are expected to be settled.”

Henerey—“O, w-h-o-y it ‘ill make ne odds to ye, Sir Moses.”

Sir Moses—“Ne odds to me! How do you know that?”

Henerey—(apologetically) “Oh, Sir Moses, you have plenty, Sir Moses.”

Sir Moses—“Me plenty! me plenty! I’m the poorest crittur alive!” which
was true enough, only not in the sense Sir Moses intended it.

Henerey—“Why, why, Sir Moses, ar’ll bring ye some more after a bit; but
ar tell ye,” appealing to Teaser, “Ye mun ‘loo for the lime.”

“The lime be hanged,” exclaimed Sir Moses. “Dy’e sp’ose I’m such a fool
as to let you the land, and farm ye the land, and pay income tax on rent
that I never receive? That won’t do—dom’d if it will.”

Henerey—(boiling up) “Well, but Sir Moses, wor farm’s far o’er dear.”

Sir Moses—(turning flesh-colour with fury) “O’er dear! Why, isn’t it the
rent you yourself offered for it?”

Henerey—“Why, why, but we hadn’t looked her carefully over.”

“Bigger fool you,” ejaculated the Jew.

“The land’s far worse nor we took it for—some of the plough’s a shem
to be seen—wor stable rains in desprate—there isn’t a dry place for a
coo—the back wall of the barn’s all bulgin oot—the pigs get into wor
garden for want of a gate—there isn’t a fence ‘ill turn a foal—the hars
eat all wor tormots—we’re perfectly ruined wi’ rats,” and altogether
Henerey opened such a battery of grievances as completely drove Sir
Moses, who hated anyone to talk but himself, from his seat, and made him
leave the finish of his friend to Mr. Teaser.

As the Baronet went swinging out of the room he mentally exclaimed,
“Never saw such a man as that in my life—dom’d if ever I did!”

Mr. Teaser then proceeded with the wretched audit, each succeeding
tenant being a repetition of the first—excuses—drawbacks—allowances for
lime—money no matter to Sir Moses—and this with a whole year’s rent due,
to say nothing of hopeless arrears.

“How the deuce,” as Sir Moses asked, “do people live who have nothing
but land?”

When Sir Moses returned, at the end of an hour or so, he found one of
the old tenants of the estate, Jacky Hindmarch, in the chair. Jacky was
one of the real scratching order of farmers, and ought to be preserved
at Madame Tussaud’s or the British Museum, for the information of future
ages. To see him in the fields, with his crownless hat and tattered
clothes, he was more like a scare-crow than a farmer; though, thanks to
the influence of cheap finery, he turned out very shiney and satiney
on a Sunday. Jacky had seventy acres of land,—fifty acres of arable
and twenty acres of grass, which latter he complimented with an annual
mowing without giving it any manure in return, thus robbing his pastures
to feed his fallows,—if, indeed, he did not rob both by selling the
manure off his farm altogether. Still Jacky was reckoned a cute fellow
among his compatriots. He had graduated in the Insolvent Debtors’ Court
to evade his former landlord’s claims, and emerged from gaol with a good
stock of bad law engrafted on his innate knavery. In addition to this,
Jacky, when a hind, had nearly had to hold up his hand at Quarter
Sessions for stealing his master’s corn, which he effected in a very
ingenious way:—The granary being above Jacky’s stable, he bored a hole
through the floor, to which he affixed a stocking; and, having drawn as
much corn as he required, he stopped the hole up with a plug until he
wanted a fresh supply. The farmer—one Mr. Podmore—at length smelt a
rat; but giving Jacky in charge rather prematurely, he failed in
substantiating the accusation, when the latter, acting “under advice,”
 brought an action against Podmore, which ended in a compromise, Podmore
having to pay Jacky twenty pounds for robbing him! This money, coupled
with the savings of a virtuous young woman he presently espoused, and
who had made free with the produce of her master’s dairy, enabled Jacky
to take the farm off which he passed through the Insolvent Debtors’
Court, on to the Pangburn Park estate, where he was generally known by
the name of Lawyer Hindmarch.

Jacky and his excellent wife attempted to farm the whole seventy acres
themselves; to plough, harrow, clean, sow, reap, mow, milk, churn,—do
everything, in fact; consequently they were always well in arrear with
their work, and had many a fine run after the seasons. If Jacky got his
turnips in by the time other people were singling theirs, he was thought
to do extremely well. To see him raising the seed-furrow in the autumn,
a stranger would think he was ploughing in a green crop for manure, so
luxuriant were the weeds. But Jacky Hindmarch would defend his system
against Mr. Mechi himself; there being no creature so obstinate or
intractable as a pig-headed farmer. A landlord had better let his land
to a cheesemonger, a greengrocer, a draper, anybody with energy
and capital, rather than to one of these selfsufficient, dawdling
nincompoops. To be sure..Jacky farmed as if each year was to be
his last, but he wouldn’t have been a bit better if he had had a
one-and-twenty years’ lease before him. “Take all out and put nothing
in,” was his motto. This was the genius who was shuffling, and haggling,
and prevaricating with Mr. Teaser when Sir Moses returned, and who now
gladly skulked off: Henerey Brown not having reported very favourably of
the great man’s temper.

The next to come was a woman,—a great, mountainous woman—one Mrs. Peggy
Turnbull, wife of little Billy Turnbull of Lowfield Farm, who, she
politely said, was not fit to be trusted from home by hisself.—Mrs.
Turnbull was, though, being quite a match for any man in the country,
either with her tongue or her fists. She was a great masculine
knock-me-down woman, round as a sugar-barrel, with a most extravagant
stomach, wholly absorbing her neck, and reaching quite up to her chin.
Above the barrel was a round, swarthy, sunburnt face, lit up with a pair
of keen little twinkling beady black eyes. She paused in her roll as she
neared the chair, at which she now east a contemptuous look, as much as
to say, “How can I ever get into such a thing as that?”

Mr. Teaser saw her dilemma and kindly gave her the roomier one on
which he was sitting—while Sir Moses inwardly prepared a little dose of
politeness for her.

“Well, my good woman,” said he as soon as she got soused on to the
seat. “Well, my good woman, how dy’e do? I hope you’re well. How’s your
husband? I hope he’s well;” and was proceeding in a similar strain when
the monster interrupted his dialogue by thumping the table with her
fist, and exclaiming at the top of her voice, as she fixed her little
beady black eyes full upon him—

“D’ye think we’re ganninn to get a new B-a-r-r-u-n?”

“Dom you and your b-a-r-r-n!” exclaimed the Baronet, boiling up. “Why
don’t you leave those things to your husband?”

“He’s see shy!” roared the monster.

“You’re not shy, however!” replied Sir Moses, again jumping up and
running away.

And thus what with one and another of them, Sir Moses was so put out,
that dearly as he loved a let off for his tongue, he couldn’t bring
himself to face his friends again at dinner. So the agreeable duty
devolved upon Mr. Teaser, of taking the chair, and proposing in a bumper
toast, with all the honours and one cheer more, the health of a landlord
who, it was clear, meant to extract the uttermost farthing he could from
his tenants.

And that day’s proceedings furnished ample scope for a beginning,
for there was not one tenant on the estate who paid up; and Sir Moses
declared that of all the absurdities he had ever heard tell of in the
whole course of his life, that of paying income-tax on money he didn’t
receive was the greatest. “Dom’d if it wasn’t!” said he.

In fact the estate had come to a stand still, and wanted nursing instead
of further exhaustion. If it had got into the hands of an improving
owner—a Major Yammerton, for instance,—there was redemption enough in
the land; these scratching fellows, only exhausting the surface; and
draining and subsoiling would soon have put matters right, but Sir Moses
declared he wouldn’t throw good money after bad, that the rushes were
meant to be there and there they should stay. If the tenants couldn’t
pay their rents how could they pay any drainage interest? he asked.
Altogether Sir Moses declared it shouldn’t be a case of over shoes, over
boots, with him—that he wouldn’t go deeper into the mud than he was,
and he heartily wished he had the price of the estate back in his pocket
again, as many a man has wished, and many a one will wish again—there
being nothing so ticklish to deal with as land. There is no reason
though why it should be so; but we will keep our generalities for
another chapter.

Sir Moses’s property went rapidly back, and soon became a sort of last
refuge for the destitute, whither the ejected of all other estates
congregated prior to scattering their stock, on failing to get farms in
more favoured localities. As they never meant to pay, of course they
all offered high rents, and then having got possession the Henerey Brown
scene was enacted—the farm was “far o’er dear”—they could “make nouton’t
at that rent!” nor could they have made aught on them if they had had
them for nothing, seeing that their capital consisted solely of their
intense stupidity. Then if Sir Moses wouldn’t reduce the rent, he might
just do his “warst,” meanwhile they pillaged the land both by day and by
night. The cropping of course corresponded with the tenure, and may
be described as just anything they could get off the land. White crop
succeeded white crop, if the weeds didn’t smother the seeds, or if any
of the slovens did “try for a few turnips,” as they called it, they were
sown on dry spots selected here and there, with an implement resembling
a dog’s-meat man’s wheelbarrow—drawn by one ass and steered by another.

Meanwhile Mr. Teaser’s labours increased considerably, what with the
constant lettings and leavings and watchings for “slopings.” There was
always some one or other of the worthies on the wing, and the more paper
and words Mr. Teaser employed to bind them, the more inefficient and
futile he found the attempt. It soon became a regular system to do the
new landlord, in furtherance of which the tenants formed themselves into
a sort of mutual aid association. Then when a seizure was effected, they
combined not to buy, so that the sufferer got his wretched stock back at
little or no loss.

Wretched indeed, was the spectacle of a sale; worn out horses, innocent
of corn; cows, on whose hips one could hang one’s hat; implements that
had been “fettled oop” and “fettled oop,” until not a particle of the
parent stock remained; carts and trappings that seemed ready for a
bonfire; pigs, that looked as if they wanted food themselves instead of
being likely to feed any one else; and poultry that all seemed troubled
with the pip.

The very bailiff’s followers were shocked at the emptiness of the
larders. A shank bone of salt meat dangling from the ceiling, a few
eggs on a shelf, a loaf of bread in a bowl, a pound of butter in a
pie-dish,—the whole thing looking as unlike the plentiful profusion of a
farm-house as could well be imagined.

The arduous duties of the office, combined with the difficulty of
pleasing Sir Moses, at length compelled Mr. Teaser to resign, when our
“laird,” considering the nature of the services required concluded that
there could be no one so fit to fulfil them as one of the “peoplish.”
 Accordingly he went to town, and after Consulting Levy this, and
“Goodman” that, and Ephraim t’other, he at length fixed upon that
promising swell, young Mr. Mordecai Nathan, of Cursitor-street, whose
knowledge of the country consisted in having assisted in the provincial
department of his father’s catchpoll business in the glorious days of
writs and sponging-houses.

In due time down came Mordecai, ringed and brooched and chained and
jewelled, and as Sir Moses was now the great man, hunting the country,
associating with Lord Oilcake, and so on, he gave Mordecai a liberal
salary, four-hundred a year made up in the following clerical way:


230m


Besides, which, Sir Moses promised him ten per cent, upon all recovered
arrears, which set Mordecai to work with all the enthusiastic energy of
his race.



CHAPTER XXX. COMMERCE AND AGRICULTURE.



231m


ONE of the most distinguishing features between commerce and agriculture
and agriculture undoubtedly is the marked indifference shown to the
value of time by the small followers of the latter, compared to the
respectful treatment it receives at the hands of the members of the
commercial world. To look at their relative movements one would think
that the farmer was the man who carried on his business under cover,
instead of being the one who exposes all his capital to the weather.
It is a rare thing to see a farmer—even in hay time—in a hurry. If
the returns could be obtained we dare say it would be found that
three-fourths of the people who are late for railway trains are farmers.

In these accelerated days, when even the very street waggon horses trot,
they are the only beings whose pace has not been improved. The small
farmer is just the same slowly moving dawdling creature that he was
before the perfection of steam. Never punctual, never ready, never able
to give a direct answer to a question; a pitchfork at their backs would
fail to push some of these fellows into prosperity. They seem wholly
lost to that emulative spirit which actuates the trader to endeavour to
make each succeeding year leave him better than the last. A farmer will
be forty years on a farm without having benefited himself, his family,
his landlord, or any human being whatever. The last year’s tenancy will
find him as poor as the first, with, in all probability, his land a
great deal poorer. In dealing, a small farmer is never happy without
a haggle. Even if he gets his own price he reproaches hiself when he
returns home with not having asked a little more, and so got a wrangle.
Very often, however, they outwit themselves entirely by asking so much
more than a thing is really worth, that a man who knows what he is
about, and has no hopes of being able to get the sun to stand still,
declines entering upon an apparently endless negotiation.

See lawyer Hindmarch coming up the High Street at Halterley fair,
leading his great grey colt, with his landlord Sir Moses hailing him
with his usual “Well my man, how d’ye do? I hope you’re well, how much
for the colt?”

The lawyer’s keen intellect—seeing that it is his landlord, with whom
he is well over the left—springs a few pounds upon an already exorbitant
price, and Sir Moses, who can as he says, measure the horse out to
ninepence, turns round on his heel with a chuck of his chin, as much as
to say, “you may go on.” Then the lawyer relenting says, “w—h—o—y, but
there’ll be summit to return upon that, you know, Sir Moses, Sir.”

“I should think so,” replies the Baronet, walking away, to “Well my
man—how d’ye do? I hope you’re well,” somebody else.

A sale by auction of agricultural stock illustrates our position still
further, and one remarkable feature is that the smaller the sale the
more unpunctual people are. They seldom get begun under a couple of
hours after the advertised time, and then the dwelling, the coaxing, the
wrangling, the “puttings-up” again, the ponderous attempts at wit
are painful and oppressive to any one accustomed to the easy gliding
celerity of town auctioneers. A conference with a farmer is worse,
especially if the party is indiscreet enough to let the farmer come to
him instead of his going to the farmer.

The chances, then, are, that he is saddled with a sort of old man of the
sea; as a certain ambassador once was with a gowk of an Englishman, who
gained an audience under a mistaken notion, and kept sitting and sitting
long after his business was discussed, in spite of his Excellency’s
repeated bows and intimations that he might retire.

Gowk seemed quite insensible to a hint. In vain his Excellency stood
bowing and bowing—hoping to see him rise. No such luck. At length his
Excellency asked him if there was anything else he could do for him?

“Why, noa.” replied Gowk drily; adding after a pause, “but you haven’t
asked me to dine.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon!” replied his Excellency, “I wasn’t aware that
it was in my instructions, but I’ll refer to them and see,” added he,
backing out of the room.

Let us fancy old Heavyheels approaching his landlord, to ask if he
thinks they are gannin to get a new barrun, or anything else he may
happen to want, for these worthies have not discovered the use of the
penny-post, and will trudge any distance to deliver their own messages.
Having got rolled into the room, the first thing Heels does is to look
out for a seat, upon which he squats like one of Major Yammerton’s
hares, and from which he is about as difficult to raise. Instead of
coming out with his question as a trader would, “What’s rum? what’s
sugar? what’s indigo?” he fixes his unmeaning eyes on his landlord, and
with a heavy aspiration, and propping his chin up with a baggy umbrella,
ejaculates—“N-0-0,” just as if his landlord had sent for him instead of
his having come of his own accord.

“Well!” says the landlord briskly, in hopes of getting him on.

“It’s a foine day,” observes Heavyheels, as if he had nothing whatever
on his mind, and so he goes maundering and sauntering on, wasting
his own and his landlord’s time, most likely ending with some such
preposterous proposition as would stamp any man for a fool if it wasn’t
so decidedly in old Heavyheel’s own favour.

To give them their due, they are never shy about asking, and have
always a host of grievances to bait a landlord with who gives them
an opportunity. Some of the women—we beg their pardon—ladies of the
establishments, seem to think that a landlord rides out for the sake of
being worried, and rush at him as he passes like a cur dog at a beggar.

Altogether they are a wonderful breed! It will hardly be credited
hereafter, when the last of these grubbing old earthworms is extinct,
that in this anxious, commercial, money-striving country, where every
man is treading on his neighbour’s heels for cash, that there should
ever have been a race of men who required all the coaxing and urging
and patting on the back to induce them to benefit themselves that these
slugs of small tenant farmers have done. And the bulk of them not a bit
better for it. They say “y-e-a-s,” and go and do the reverse directly.

Fancy our friend Goodbeer, the brewer, assembling his tied Bonnifaces at
a banquet consisting of all the delicacies of the season—beef, mutton,
and cheese, as the sailor said—and after giving the usual loyal and
patriotic toasts, introducing his calling in the urgent way some
landlords do theirs—pointing out that the more swipes they sell the
greater will be their profit, recommending them to water judiciously,
keeping the capsicum out of sight, and, in lieu of some new implement of
husbandry, telling them that a good, strong, salt Dutch cheese, is found
10 be a great promoter of thirst, and recommending each man to try a
cheese on himself—perhaps ending by bowling one at each of them by way
of a start.

But some will, perhaps, say that the interests of the landlord and
tenant-farmer are identical, and that you cannot injure the latter
without hurting the former.

Not more identical, we submit, than the interests of Goodbeer with
the Bonnifaces; the land is let upon a calculation what each acre will
produce, just as Goodbeer lets a public-house on a calculation founded
on its then consumption of malt liquor; and whatever either party makes
beyond that amount, either through the aid of guano, Dutch cheese, or
what not, is the tenant’s. The only difference we know between them is,
that Goodbeer, being a trader, will have his money to the day; while
in course of time the too easy landlord’s rent has become postponed to
every other person’s claim. It is, “O, it will make ne matter to you,
Sir Moses,” with too many of them.

Then, if that convenient view is acquiesced in, the party submitting is
called a “good landlord” (which in too many instances only means a great
fool), until some other favour is refused, when the hundredth one denied
obliterates the recollection of the ninety-nine conferred, and he sinks
into a “rank bad un.” The best landlord, we imagine, is he who lets his
land on fair terms, and keeps his tenants well up to the mark both with
their farming and their payments. At present the landlords are too often
a sort of sleeping partners with their tenants, sharing with them the
losses of the bad years without partaking with them in the advantages of
the good ones.

“Ah, it’s all dom’d well,” we fancy we hear Sir Moses Main-chance
exclaim, “saying, ‘keep them up to the mark,’ but how d’ye do it? how
d’ye do it? can you bind a weasel? No man’s tried harder than I have!”

We grant that it is difficult, but agriculture never had such
opportunities as it has now. The thing is to get rid of the weasels, and
with public companies framed for draining, building, doing everything
that is required without that terrible investigation of title, no one is
justified in keeping his property in an unproductive state. The fact is
that no man of capital will live in a cottage, the thing therefore is to
lay a certain number of these small holdings together, making one good
farm of them all, with suitable buildings, and, as the saying is, let
the weasels go to the wall. They will be far happier and more at home
with spades or hoes in their hands, than in acting a part for which
they have neither capital, courage, nor capacity. Fellows take a hundred
acres who should only have five, and haven’t the wit to find out that it
is cheaper to buy manure than to rent land.

This is not a question of crinoline or taste that might be
advantageously left to Mrs. Pringle; but is one that concerns the very
food and well being of the people, and landlords ought not to require
coaxing and patting on the back to induce them to partake of the cheese
that, the commercial world offers them. Even if they are indifferent
about benefiting themselves they should not be regardless of the
interests for their country. But there are very few people who cannot
spend a little more money than they have. Let them “up then and at” the
drainage companies, and see what wonders they’ll accomplish with their
aid!

We really believe the productive powers of the country might be
quadrupled.



CHAPTER XXXI. SIR MOSES’S MENAGE.—DEPARTURE OF FINE BILLY.



235m


SIR MOSES, being now a magnate of the land, associating with Lord
Oilcake, Lord Repartee, Sir Harry Fuzball and other great dons, of
course had to live UP to the mark, an inconvenient arrangement for those
who do not like paying for it, and the consequence was that he had
to put up with an inferior article.—take first-class servants who had
fallen into second-class circumstances. He had a ticket-of-leave butler.
a delirium tremens footman, and our old friend pheasant-feathers, now
calling herself Mrs. Margerum, for cook and house-keeper. And first, of
the butler. He was indeed a magnificent man, standing six feet two and
faultlessly proportioned, with a commanding presence of sufficient age
to awe those under him, and to inspire confidence in an establishment
with such a respectable looking man at the head. Though so majestic, he
moved noiselessly, spoke in a whisper, and seemed to spirit the things
off the table without sound or effort. Pity that the exigencies of
gambling should have caused such an elegant man to melt his master’s
plate, still greater that he should have been found out and compelled
to change the faultless white vest of upper service for the unbecoming
costume of prison life. Yet so it was: and the man who was convicted as
Henry Stopper, and sentenced to fourteen years’ transportation, emerged
at the end of four with a ticket-of-leave, under the assumed name of
Demetrius Bankhead. Mr. Bankhead, knowing the sweets of office, again
aspired to high places, but found great difficulty in suiting himself,
indeed in getting into service at all.

People who keep fine gentlemen are very chary and scrupulous whom they
select, and extremely inquisitive and searching in their inquiries.

In vain Mr. Bankhead asserted that he had been out of health and
living-on the Continent, or that he had been a partner in a brewery
which hadn’t succeeded, or that his last master was abroad he didn’t
know where, and made a variety of similar excuses.

Though many fine ladies and gentlemen were amazingly taken with him at
first, and thought he would grace their sideboards uncommonly, they were
afraid to touch for fear “all was not right.”

Then those of a lower grade, thought he wouldn’t apply to them
after having lived in such high places as he described, and this
notwithstanding Bankhead’s plausible assertion, that he wished for a
situation in a quiet regular family in the country, where he could get
to bed at a reasonable hour, instead of being kept up till he didn’t
know when. He would even come upon trial, if the parties liked, which
would obviate all inquiries about character; just as if a man couldn’t
run off with the plate the first day as well as the last.

Our readers, we dare say, know the condescending sort of gentleman “who
will accept of their situations,” and who deprecate an appeal to their
late masters by saying in an airified sort of way, with a toss of the
head or a wave of the hand, that they told his Grace or Sir George they
wouldn’t trouble to ask them for characters. Just as if the Duke or Sir
George were infinitely beneath their notice or consideration.

And again the sort of men who flourish a bunch of testimonials,
skilfully selecting the imposing passages and evading the want of that
connecting link upon which the whole character depends, and who talk in
a patronising way of “poor lord this,” or “poor Sir Thomas that,” and
what they would have done for them if they had been alive, poor men!

Mr. Demetrius Bankhead tried all the tricks of the trade—we beg
pardon—profession—wherever he heard of a chance, until hope deferred
almost made his noble heart sick. The “puts off” and excuses he got were
curiously ingenious. However, he was pretty adroit himself, for when
he saw the parties were not likely to bite, he anticipated a refusal by
respectfully declining the situation, and then saying that he might have
had so and so’s place, only he wanted one where he should be in town
half the year, or that he couldn’t do with only one footman under him.

It was under stress of circumstances that Sir Moses Mainchance became
possessed of Mr. Bankhead’s services. He had kicked his last butler (one
of the fine characterless sort) out of the house for coming in drunk to
wait at dinner, and insisting upon putting on the cheese first with
the soup, then with the meat, then with the sweets, and lastly with
the dessert; and as Sir Moses was going to give one of his large hunt
dinners shortly after, it behoved him to fill up the place—we beg
pardon—office—as quickly as possible. To this end he applied to Mrs.
Listener, the gossiping Register Office-keeper of Hinton, a woman well
calculated to write the history of every family in the county, for
behind her screen every particular was related, and Mrs. Listener,
having paraded all the wretched glazey-clothed, misshapen creatures that
always turn up on such occasions, Sir Moses was leaving after his last
visit in disgust, when Mr. Bankhead walked in—“quite promiscuous,” as
the saying is, but by previous arrangement with Mrs. Listener. Sir Moses
was struck with Bankhead’s air and demeanour, so quiet, so respectful,
raising his hat as he met Sir Moses at the door, that he jumped to the
conclusion that he would do for him, and returning shortly after to Mrs.
Listener, he asked all the usual questions, which Mrs. Listener cleverly
evaded, merely saying that he professed to be a perfect butler, and had
several most excellent testimonials, but that it would be much better
for Sir Moses to judge for himself, for really Mrs. Listener had the
comfort of Sir Moses so truly at heart that she could not think of
recommending any one with whom she was not perfectly conversant, and
altogether she palavered him so neatly, always taking care to extol
Bankhead’s personal appearance as evidence of his respectability, that
the baronet was fairly talked into him, almost without his knowing it,
while Mrs. Listener salved her own conscience with the reflection
that it was Sir Moses’s own doing, and that the bulk of his plate
was “Brummagem” ware—and not silver. So the oft-disappointed
ticket-of-leaver was again installed in a butlers pantry. And having
now introduced him, we will pass over the delirium, tremens footman
and arrive at that next important personage in an establishment, the
housekeeper, in this case our old friend pheasant’s-feathers. Mrs.
Margerum, late Sarey Grimes, the early coach companion and confidante
of our fair friend Mrs. Pringle—had undergone the world’s “ungenerous
scorn,” as well for having set up an adopted son, as for having been
turned away from many places for various domestic peculations. Mrs.
Margerum, however, was too good a judge to play upon anything that
anybody could identify, consequently though she was often caught, she
always had an answer, and would not unfrequently turn the tables on her
accusers—lawyer Hindmarch like—and make them pay for having been
robbed. No one knew better than Mrs. Margerum how many feathers could
be extracted from a bed without detection, what reduction a horse-hair
mattress would stand, or how to make two hams disappear under the
process of frying one. Indeed she was quite an adept in housekeeping,
always however preferring to live with single gentlemen, for whom she
would save a world of trouble by hiring all the servants, thus of course
having them well under her thumb.

Sir Moses having suffered severely from waste, drunkenness
and incapacity, had taken Mrs. Margerum on that worst of all
recommendations, the recommendation of another servant—viz., Lord
Oilcake’s cook, for whom Mrs. Margerum had done the out-door carrying
when in another situation. Mrs. Margerum’s long career, coupled with her
now having a son equal to the out-door department, established a claim
that was not to be resisted when his lordship’s cook had a chance, on
the application of Sir Moses, of placing her.

Mrs. Margerum entered upon her duties at Pangburn Park, with the
greatest plausibility, for not content with the usual finding fault with
all the acts of her predecessors, she absolutely “reformed the butcher’s
bills,” reducing them nearly a pound a-week below what they had
previously been, and showed great assiduity in sending in all the
little odds and ends of good things that went out. To be sure the hams
disappeared rather quickly, but then they do cut so to waste in frying,
and the cows went off in their milk, but cows are capricious things, and
Mrs. Hindmarch and she had a running account in the butter and egg line,
Mrs. Hindmarch accommodating her with a few pounds of butter and a few
score of eggs when Sir Moses had company, Mrs. Margerum repaying her at
her utmost convenience, receiving the difference in cash, the repayment
being always greatly in excess of the advance. Still as Mrs. Margerum
permitted no waste, and allowed no one to rob but herself, the house
appeared to be economically kept, and if Sir Moses didn’t think that
she was a “charming woman,” he at all events considered he was a most
fortunate man, and felt greatly indebted to Lord Oilcake’s cook for
recommending her—“dom’d if he didn’t.”

But though Mrs. Margerum kept the servants well up to their tea and
sugar allowances, she granted them every indulgence in the way of
gadding about, and also in having their followers, provided the
followers didn’t eat, by which means she kept the house quiet, and made
her reign happy and prosperous.

Being in full power when Mr. Bankhead came, she received him with the
greatest cordiality, and her polite offer of having his clothes washed
in Sir Moses’s laundry being accepted, of course she had nothing to fear
from Mr. Bankhead. And so they became as they ought to be, very good
friends—greatly to Sir Moses’s advantage.

Now for the out-door department of Sir Moses’s ménage. The hunting
establishment was of the rough and ready order, but still the hounds
showed uncommon sport, and if the horses were not quite up to the mark,
that perhaps was all in favour of the hounds. The horses indeed were
of a very miscellaneous order—all sorts, all sizes, all better in their
wind than on their legs—which were desperately scored and iron-marked.
Still the cripples could go when they were warm, and being ridden by men
whose necks were at a discount, they did as well as the best. There is
nothing like a cheap horse for work.

Sir Moses’s huntsman was the noted Tom Findlater, a man famous for
everything in his line except sobriety, in which little item he was
sadly deficient. Tom would have been quite at the top of the tree if it
hadn’t been for this unfortunate infirmity. “The crittur,” as a Scotch
huntsman told Sir Moses at Tattersall’s, “could no keep itself sober.”
 To show the necessities to which this degrading propensity reduces a
man, we will quote Tom’s description of himself when he applied to be
discharged under the Insolvent Debtors’ Act before coming to Sir Moses.
Thus it ran—“John Thomas Findlater known also as Tom Find’ater, formerly
huntsman to His Grace the Duke of Streamaway, of Stream-away Castle, in
Streamaway-shire, then of No. 6, Back Row, Broomsfield, in the county of
Tansey, helper in a livery stable, then huntsman to Sampson Cobbyford,
Esq., of Bluntfield Park, master of the Hugger Mugger hounds in the
county of Scramblington, then huntsman to Sir Giles Gatherthrong,
Baronet, of Clipperley Park, in the county of Scurry, then huntsman to
the Right Honourable Lord Lovedale, of Gayhurst Court, in the county of
Tipperley, then of No. 11, Tan Yard Lane, Barrenbin, in the county
of Thistleford, assistant to a ratcatcher, then huntsman to Captain
Rattlinghope, of Killbriton Castle, in the County Steepleford, then
whipper-in to the Towrowdeshire hounds in Derrydownshire, then helper
at the Lion and the Lamb public-house at Screwford, in the County of
Mucklethrift, then of 6 1/2 Union Street, in Screwford, aforesaid,
moulder to a clay-pipe maker, then and now out of business and employ,
and whose wife is a charwoman.”

Such were the varied occupations of a man, who might have lived like a
gentleman, if he had only had conduct. There is no finer place than that
of a huntsman, for as Beckford truly says, his office is pleasing and at
the same time flattering, he is paid for that which diverts him, nor
is a general after a victory more proud, than is a huntsman who returns
with his fox’s head.

When Sir Moses fell in with Tom Findlater down Tattersall’s entry, Tom
was fresh from being whitewashed in the Insolvent Debtors’ Court, and
having only ninepence in the world, and what he stood up in, he was
uncommonly good to deal with. Moreover, Sir Moses had the vanity to
think that he could reclaim even the most vicious; and, provided they
were cheap enough, he didn’t care to try. So, having lectured Tom
well on the importance of sobriety, pointing out to him the lamentable
consequences of drunkenness—of which no one was more sensible than
Tom—Sir Moses chucked him a shilling, and told him if he had a mind
to find his way down to Pangburn Park, in Hit-im-and-Hold-im shire,
he would employ him, and give him what he was worth; with which vague
invitation Tom came in the summer of the season in which we now find
him.

And now having sketched the ménage, let us introduce our friend Billy
thereto. But first we must get him out of the dangerous premises in
which he is at present located—a visit that has caused our handsome
friend Mrs. Pringle no little uneasiness.

It was fortunate for Sir Moses Mainchance, and unfortunate for our
friend Fine Billy, that the Baronet was a bachelor, or Sir Moses would
have fared very differently at the hands of the ladies who seldom see
much harm in a man so long as he is single, and, of course, refrains
from showing a decided preference for any young lady. It is the married
men who monopolise all the vice and improprieties of life. The Major,
too, having sold Billy a horse, and got paid for him, was not very
urgent about his further society at present, nor indisposed for a little
quiet, especially as Mrs. Yammerton represented that the napkins and
table-linen generally were running rather short. Mamma, too, knowing
that there would be nothing but men-parties at Pangburn Park, had no
uneasiness on that score, indeed rather thought a little absence might
be favourable, in enabling Billy to modify his general attentions in
favour of a single daughter, for as yet he had been extremely dutiful in
obeying his Mamma’s injunctions not to be more agreeable to one sister
than to another. Indeed, our estimable young friend did not want to be
caught, and had been a good deal alarmed at the contents of his Mamma’s
last letter.

One thing, however, was settled, namely, that Billy was to go to the
Park, and how to get there was the next consideration; for, though the
Baronet had offered to convey him in the first instance, he had modified
the offer into the loan of the gig at the last, and there would be more
trouble in sending a horse to fetch it, than there would be in
starting fair in a hired horse and vehicle from Yammerton Grange. The
ready-witted Major, however, soon put matters right.

“I’ll te te tell you wot,” said he, “you can do. You can have old
Tommy P-p-plumberg, the registrar of b-b-births, deaths, and marriages,
t-t-trap for a trifle—s-s-say, s-s-seven and sixpence—only you must give
him the money as a p-p-present, you know, not as it were for the hire,
or the Excise would be down upon him for the du-du-duty, and p-p-p’raps
fine him into the b-b-bargain.”

Well, that seemed all right and feasible enough, and most likely would
have been all right if Monsieur had proposed it; but, coming from
master, of course Monsieur felt bound to object.

“It vouldn’t hold alf a quarter their things,” he said; “besides, how de
deuce were they to manage with de horse?”

The Major essayed to settle that, too. There would be no occasion for
Mr. Pringle to take all his things with him, as he hoped he would return
to them from Sir Moses’s and have another turn with the haryers—try if
they couldn’t circumvent the old hare that had beat them the other day,
and the thing would be for Mr. Pringle to ride his horse quietly over,
Monsieur going in advance with the gig, and having all things ready
against Mr. Pringle arrived; for the Major well knew that the Baronet’s
promises were not to be depended upon, and would require some little
manouvering to get carried out, especially in the stable department.

Still there was a difficulty—Monsieur couldn’t drive. No, by his vord,
he couldn’t drive. He was valet-de-chambre, not coachman or grum, and
could make nothing of horses. Might know his ear from his tail, but dat
was all. Should be sure to opset, and p’raps damage his crown. (Jack
wanted to go in a carriage and pair.) Well, the Major would accommodate
that too. Tom Cowlick, the hind’s lad at the farm, should act the part
of charioteer, and drive Monsieur, bag, baggage and all. And so matters
were ultimately settled, it never occurring to Billy to make the attempt
on the Major’s stud that the Baronet proposed, in the shape of borrowing
a second horse, our friend doubtless thinking he carried persecution
enough in his own nag. The knotty point of transit being settled, Billy
relapsed into his usual easy languor among the girls, while Monsieur
made a judicious draft of clothes to take with them, leaving him a very
smart suit to appear in at church on Sunday, and afterwards ride through
the county in. We will now suppose the dread hour of departure arrived.

It was just as Mrs. Pringle predicted! There were the red eye-lids and
laced kerchiefs, and all the paraphernalia of leave-taking, mingled
with the hopes of Major and Mrs. Yammerton, that Billy would soon return
(after the washing, of course); for, in the language of the turf, Billy
was anybody’s game, and one sister had just as good a right to red
eye-lids as another.

Having seen Billy through the ceremony of leave-taking, the Major then
accompanied him to the stable, thinking to say a word for himself and
his late horse ‘ere they parted. After admiring Napoleon the Great’s
condition, as he stood turned round in the stall ready for mounting, the
Major observed casually, “that he should not be surprised if Sir Moses
found fault with that ‘oss.”

“Why?” asked Billy, who expected perfection for a hundred guineas.

“D-d-don’t know,” replied the Major, with a Jack Rogers’ shrug of the
shoulders. “D-d-don’t know, ‘cept that Sir Moses seldom says a good word
for anybody’s ‘oss but his own.”

The clothes being then swept over the horse’s long tail into the manger,
he stepped gaily out, followed by our friend and his host.

“I thought it b-b-better to send your servant on,” observed the Major
confidentially, as he stood eyeing the gay deceiver of a horse: “for,
between ourselves, the Baronet’s stables are none of the best, and it
will give you the opportunity of getting the pick of them.”

“Yarse,” replied Billy, who did not enter into the delicacies of
condition.

“That ho-ho-horse requires w-w-warmth,” stuttered the Major, “and Sir
Moses’s stables are both d-d-damp and d-d-dirty;” saying which, he
tendered his ungloved hand, and with repeated hopes that Billy would
soon return, and wishes for good sport, not forgetting compliments to
the Baronet, our hero and his host at length parted for the present.

And the Major breathed more freely as he saw the cock-horse capering
round the turn into the Helmington road.



CHAPTER XXXII. THE BAD STABLE; OR, “IT’S ONLY FOR ONE NIGHT.”

FROM Yammerton Grange to Pangburn Park is twelve miles as the crow
flies, or sixteen by the road. The Major, who knows every nick and gap
in the country, could ride it in ten or eleven; but this species of
knowledge is not to be imparted to even the most intelligent head.
Not but what the Major tried to put it into Billy’s, and what with
directions to keep the Helmington road till he came to the blacksmith’s
shop, then to turn up the crooked lane on the left, leaving Wanley
windmill on the right, and Altringham spire on the left, avoiding
the village of Rothley, then to turn short at Samerside Hill, keeping
Missleton Plantations full before him, with repeated assurances that he
couldn’t miss his way, he so completely bewildered our friend, that he
was lost before he had gone a couple of miles. Then came the provoking
ignorance of country life,—the counter-questions instead of answers,—the
stupid stare and tedious drawl, ending, perhaps, with “ars a stranger,”
 or may be the utter negation of a place within, perhaps, a few miles of
where the parties live. Billy blundered and blundered; took the wrong
turning up the crooked lane, kept Wanley windmill on the left instead of
the right, and finally rode right into the village of Rothley, and
then began asking his way. It being Sunday, he soon attracted plenty of
starers, such an uncommon swell being rare in the country; and one told
him one way; another, another; and then the two began squabbling as
to which was the right one, enlisting of course the sympathies of the
bystanders, so that Billy’s progress was considerably impeded. Indeed,
he sometimes seemed to recede instead of advance, so contradictory were
the statements as to distance, and the further be went the further he
seemed to have to go.

If Sir Moses hadn’t been pretty notorious as well from hunting the
country as from his other performances, we doubt whether Billy
would have reached Pangburn Park that night. As it was, Sir Moses’s
unpopularity helped Billy along in a growling uncivil sort of way, so
different to the usual friendly forwarding that marks the approach to a
gentleman’s house in the country.



243m


“Ay, ay, that’s the way,” said one with a sneer. “What, you’re gannin to
him—are ye?” asked another, in a tone that as good as said, I wouldn’t
visit such a chap. “Aye, that’s the way—straight on, through Addingham
town”—for every countryman likes to have his village called a
town—“straight on through Addingham town, keep the lane on the left,
and then when ye come to the beer-shop at three road ends, ax for the
Kingswood road, and that’ll lead ye to the lodges.”

All roads are long when one has to ask the way—the distance seems nearly
double in going to a place to what it does in returning, and Billy
thought he never would get to Pangburn Park. The shades of night, too,
drew on—Napoleon the Great had long lost his freedom and gaiety of
action, and hung on the bit in a heavy listless sort of way. Billy
wished for a policeman to protect and direct him. Lights began to be
scattered about the country, and day quickly declined in favour of
night. The darkening mist gathered perceptibly. Billy longed for those
lodges of which he had heard so much, but which seemed ever to elude
him. He even appeared inclined to compound for the magnificence of two
by turning in at Mr. Pinkerton’s single one. By the direction of the
woman at this one, he at length reached the glad haven, and passing
through the open portals was at length in Pangburn Park. The
drab-coloured road directed him onward, and Billy being relieved from
the anxieties of asking his way, pulled up into a walk, as well to cool
his horse as to try and make out what sort of a place he had got to.
With the exception, however, of the road, it was a confused mass of
darkness, that might contain trees, hills, houses, hay-stacks, anything.
Presently the melodious cry of hounds came wafted on the southerly
breeze, causing our friend to shudder at the temerity of his
undertaking. “Drat these hounds,” muttered he, wishing he was well out
of the infliction, and as he proceeded onward the road suddenly divided,
and both ways inclining towards certain lights, Billy gave his horse his
choice, and was presently clattering on the pavement of the court-yard
of Pangburn Park.

Sir Moses’s hospitality was rather of a spurious order; he would float
his friends with claret and champagne, and yet grudge their horses a
feed of corn. Not but that he was always extremely liberal and pressing
in his offers, begging people would bring whatever they liked, and stay
as long as they could, but as soon as his offers were closed with, he
began to back out. Oh, he forgot! he feared he could only take in one
horse; or if he could take in a horse he feared he couldn’t take in
the groom. Just as he offered to lend Billy his gig and horse and then
reduced the offer into the loan of the gig only. So it was with the
promised two-stalled stable. When Monsieur drove, or rather was driven,
with folded arms into the court-yard, and asked for his “me lors
stable,” the half-muzzy groom observed with a lurch and a hitch of his
shorts, that “they didn’t take in (hiccup) osses there—leastways to stop
all night.”

“Veil, but you’ll put up me lor Pringle’s,” observed Jack with an air of
authority, for he considered that he and his master were the exceptions
to all general rules.

“Fear we can’t (hiccup) it,” replied the blear-eyed caitiff; “got as
many (hiccup) osses comin to-night as ever we have room for. Shall have
to (hiccup) two in a (hiccup) as it is” (hiccup).

“Oh, you can stow him away somewhere,” now observed Mr. Demetrius
Bankhead, emerging from his pantry dressed in a pea-green wide-awake,
a Meg Merrilies tartan shooting-jacket, a straw-coloured vest, and drab
pantaloons.

“You’ll be Mr. Pringle’s gentleman, I presume,” observed Bankhead, now
turning and bowing to Jack, who still retained his seat in the gig.

“I be, sare,” replied Jack, accepting the proffered hand of his friend.

“Oh, yes, you’ll put him up somewhere, Fred,” observed Bankhead,
appealing again to the groom, “he’ll take no harm anywhere,” looking at
the hairy, heated animal, “put ‘im in the empty cow-house,” adding “it’s
only for one night—only for one night.”

“O dis is not the quadruped,” observed Monsieur, nodding at the cart
mare before him, “dis is a job beggar vot ve can kick out at our
pleasure, but me lor is a cornin’ on his own proper cheval, and he vill
vant space and conciliation.”

“Oh, we’ll manage him somehow,” observed Bankhead confidently, “only
we’ve a large party to-night, and want all the spare stalls we can
raise, but they’ll put ‘im up somewhere,” added he, “they’ll put ‘im up
somewhere,” observing as before, “it’s only for one night—only for
one night. Now won’t you alight and walk in,” continued he, motioning
Monsieur to descend, and Jack having intimated that his lor vould
compliment their politeness if they took veil care of his ‘orse,
conceived he had done all that a faithful domestic could under the
circumstances, and leaving the issue in the hands of fate, alighted from
his vehicle, and entering by the back way, proceeded to exchange family
“particulars” with Mr. Bankhead in the pantry.

Now the Pangburn Park stables were originally very good, forming a
crescent at the back of the house, with coach-houses and servants’ rooms
intervening, but owing to the trifling circumstance of allowing the
drains to get choked, they had fallen into disrepute. At the back of the
crescent were some auxiliary stables, worse of course than the principal
range, into which they put night-visitors’ horses, and those whose
owners were rash enough to insist upon Sir Muses fulfilling his offers
of hospitality to them. At either end of these latter were loose boxes,
capable of being made into two-stalled stables, only these partitions
were always disappearing, and the roofs had long declined turning the
weather; but still they were better than nothing, and often formed
receptacles for sly cabby’s, or postboys who preferred the chance of
eleemosynary fare at Sir Moses’s to the hand in the pocket hospitality
of the Red Lion, at Fillerton Hill, or the Main-chance Arms, at
Duckworth Bridge. Into the best of these bad boxes the gig mare was
put, and as there was nothing to get in the house, Tom Cowlick took his
departure as soon as she had eaten her surreptitious feed of oats. The
pampered Napoleon the Great, the horse that required all the warmth and
coddling in the world, was next introduced, fine Billy alighting from
his back in the yard with all the unconcern that he would from one of
Mr. Splint’s or Mr. Spavins’s week day or hour jobs. Indeed, one of the
distinguishing features between the new generation of sportsmen and the
old, is the marked indifference of the former to the comforts of their
horses compared to that shown by the old school, who always looked to
their horses before themselves, and not unfrequently selected their inns
with reference to the stables. Now-a-days, if a youth gives himself any
concern about the matter, it will often only be with reference to the
bill, and he will frequently ride away without ever having been into the
stable. If, however, fine Billy had seen his, he would most likely have
been satisfied with the comfortable assurance that it was “only for
one night,” the old saying, “enough to kill a horse,” leading the
uninitiated to suppose that they are very difficult to kill.

“Ah, my dear Pringle!” exclaimed Sir Moses, rising from the depths of
a rather inadequately stuffed chair (for Mrs. Margerum had been at it).
“Ah, my dear Pringle, I’m delighted to see you!” continued the Baronet,
getting Billy by both hands, as the noiseless Mr. Bankhead, having
opened the library door, piloted him through the intricacies of the
company. Our host really was glad of a new arrival, for a long winter’s
evening had exhausted the gossip of parties who in a general way saw
quite enough, if not too much, of each other. And this is the worst of
country visiting in winter; people are so long together that they get
exhausted before they should begin.

They have let off the steam of their small talk, and have nothing left
to fall back upon but repetition. One man has told what there is in the
“Post,” another in “Punch,” a third in the “Mark Lane Express,” and
then they are about high-and-dry for the rest of the evening. From
criticising Billy, they had taken to speculating upon whether he would
come or not, the odds—without which an Englishmen can do nothing—being
rather in favour of Mrs. Yammerton’s detaining him. It was not known
that Monsieur Rougier had arrived. The mighty problem was at length
solved by the Richest Commoner in England appearing among them, and
making the usual gyrations peculiar to an introduction. He was then at
liberty for ever after to nod or speak or shake hands with or bow to Mr.
George and Mr. Henry Waggett, of Kitteridge Green, both five-and-twenty
pound subscribers to the Hit-im and Hold-im-shire hounds, to Mr.
Stephen Booty, of Verbena Lodge, who gave ten pounds and a cover, to
Mr. Silver-thorn, of Dryfield, who didn’t give anything, but who had two
very good covers which he had been hinting he should require to be
paid for,—a hint that had procured him the present invitation, to Mr.
Strongstubble, of Buckup Hill, and Mr. Tupman, of Cowslip Cottage, both
very good friends to the sport but not “hand in the pocket-ites,” to Mr.
Tom Dribbler, Jun., of Hardacres, and his friend Captain Hurricane, of
Her Majesty’s ship Thunderer, and to Mr. Cuthbert Flintoff, commonly
called Cuddy Flintoff, an “all about” sportsman, who professed to be
of all hunts but blindly went to none. Cuddy’s sporting was in the past
tense, indeed he seemed to exist altogether upon the recollections of
the chace, which must have made a lively impression upon him, for he was
continually interlarding his conversation with view holloas, yoicks wind
‘ims! yoick’s push ‘im ups! Indeed, in walking about he seemed to help
himself along with the aid of for-rardson! for-rards on! so that a
person out of sight, but within hearing, would think he was hunting a
pack of hounds.

He dressed the sportsman, too, most assiduously, bird’s-eye cravats,
step-collared striped vests, green or Oxford-grey cutaways, with the
neatest fitting trousers on the best bow-legs that ever were seen. To
see him at Tattersall’s sucking his cane, his cheesy hat well down
on his nose, with his stout, well-cleaned doe-skin gloves, standing
criticising each horse, a stranger would suppose that he lived entirely
on the saddle, instead of scarcely ever being in one. On the present
occasion, as soon as he got his “bob” made to our Billy, and our hero’s
back was restored to tranquillity, he at him about the weather,—how the
moon looked, whether there were any symptoms of frost, and altogether
seemed desperately anxious about the atmosphere. This inquiry giving the
conversation a start in the out-of-doors line, was quickly followed by
Sir Moses asking our Billy how he left the Major, how he found his way
there, with hopes that everything was comfortable, and oh! agonising
promise! that he would do his best to show him sport.

The assembled guests then took up the subject of their “magnificent
country” generally, one man lauding its bottomless brooks, another its
enormous bullfinches, a third its terrific stone walls, a fourth its
stupendous on-and-offs, a fifth its flying foxes, and they unanimously
resolved that the man who could ride over Hit-im and Hold-im-shire
could ride over any country in the world. “Any country in the world!”
 vociferated Cuddy, slowly and deliberately, with a hearty crack of his
fat thigh. And Billy, as he sat listening to their dreadful recitals,
thought that he had got into the lion’s den with a vengeance. Most
sincerely he wished himself back at the peaceful pursuits of Yammerton
Grange. Then, as they were in full cry with their boasting eulogiums,
the joyful dressing-bell rang, and Cuddy Flintoff putting his finger
in his ear, as if to avoid deafening himself, shrieked, “hoick halloa!
hoick!” in a. tone that almost drowned the sound of the clapper. Then
when the “ticket of leaver” and the delirium tremens footman appeared
at the door with the blaze of bedroom candles, Cuddy suddenly turned
whipper-inv and working his right arm as if he were cracking a whip,
kept holloaing, “get away hoick! get away hoick!” until he drove Billy
and Baronet and all before him. ****

“Rum fellow that,” observed the Baronet, now showing Billy up to his
room, as soon as he had got sufficient space put between them to prevent
Cuddy hearing, “Rum fellow that,” repeated he, not getting a reply from
our friend, who didn’t know exactly how to interpret the word “rum.”

“That fellow’s up to everything,—cleverest fellow under the sun,”
 continued Sir Moses, now throwing open the door of an evident bachelor’s
bed-room. Not but that it was one of the best in the house, only it
was wretchedly furnished, and wanted all the little neatnesses and
knic-knaceries peculiar to a lady-kept house. The towels were few and
flimsy, the soap hard and dry, there was a pincushion without pins,
a portfolio without paper, a grate with a smoky fire, while the
feather-bed and mattress had been ruthlessly despoiled of their
contents. Even the imitation maple-wood sofa on which Billy’s
dress-clothes were now laid, had not been overlooked, and was as lank
and as bare as a third-rate Margate lodging-house, one—all ribs and
hollows.

“Ah, there you are!” exclaimed Sir Moses, pointing to the garments,
“There you are!” adding, “You’ll find the bell at the back of your bed,”
 pointing to one of the old smothering order of four-posters with its
dyed moreen curtains closely drawn, “You’ll find the bell at the back of
the bed, and when you come down we shall be in the same room as we were
before.” So saying, the Baronet retired, leaving our Billy to commence
operations.



CHAPTER XXXIII. SIR MOSES’S SPREAD.



251m


WE dare pay it has struck such of our readers as have followed the chace
for more than the usual average allowance of three seasons, that hunts
flourish most vigorously where there is a fair share of hospitality, and
Sir Moses Mainchance was quite of that opinion. He found it answered
a very good purpose as well to give occasional dinners at home as to
attend the club meetings at Hinton. To the former he invited all the
elite of his field, and such people as he was likely to get anything out
of while the latter included the farmers and yeomen, the Flying Hatters,
the Dampers, and so on, whereby, or by reason or means whereof, as
the lawyers say, the spirit of the thing was well sustained. His home
parties were always a great source of annoyance to our friend Mrs.
Margerum, who did not like to be intruded upon by the job cook (Mrs.
Pomfret, of Hinton), Mrs. Margerum being in fact more of a housekeeper
than a cook, though quite cook enough for Sir Moses in a general way,
and perhaps rather too much of a housekeeper for him—had he but known
it. Mrs. Pomfret, however, being mistress of Mrs. Margerum’s secret
(viz., who got the dripping), the latter was obliged to “put up”
 with her, and taking her revenge by hiding her things, and locking up
whatever she was likely to want. Still, despite of all difficulties,
Mrs. Pomfret, when sober, could cook a very good dinner, and as Sir
Moses allowed her a pint of rum for supper, she had no great temptation
to exceed till then. She was thought on this occasion, if possible,
to surpass herself, and certainly Sir Moses’s dinner contrasted very
favourably with what Billy Pringle had been partaking of at our friend
Major Yammerton’s, whose cook had more energy than execution. In
addition to this, Mr. Bankhead plied the fluids most liberally, as
the feast progressed, so that what with invitations to drink, and the
regular course of the tide, the party were very happy and hilarious.

Then, after dinner, the hot chestnuts and filberts and anchovy toasts
mingling with an otherwise excellent desert flavoured the wine and
brought out no end of “yoicks wind ‘ims” and aspirations for the morrow.
They all felt as if they could ride—Billy and all!

“Not any more, thank you,” being at length the order of the day, a move
was made back to the library, a drawing-room being a superfluous luxury
where there is no lady, and tea and coffee were rung for. A new
subject of conversation was wanted, and Monsieur presently supplied the
deficiency.

“That’s a Frenchman, that servant of yours, isn’t he, Pringle?” asked
Sir Moses, when Monsieur retired with the tray.

“Yarse,” replied Billy, feeling his trifling moustache after its dip in
the cup.

“Thought so,” rejoined Sir Moses, who prided himself upon his
penetration. “I’ll have a word with him when he comes in again,”
 continued he.

Tea followed quickly on the heels of coffee, Monsieur coming in after
Bankhead. Monsieur now consequentially drank, and dressed much in the
manner that he is in the picture of the glove scene at Yammerton Grange.

“Ah, Monsieur! comment vous portez-vous?” exclaimed the Baronet, which
was about as much French as he could raise.

“Pretty middlin’, tenk you, sare,” replied Jack, bowing and grinning at
the compliment.

“What, you speak English, do you?” asked the Baronet, thinking he might
as well change the language.

“I spake it, sare, some small matter, sare,” replied Jack, with a shrug
of his shoulders—“Not nothing like my modder’s tongue, you knows.”

“Ah! you speak it domd well,” replied Sir Moses. “Let you and I have a
talk together. Tell me, now, were you ever out hunting?”

Jean Rougier. “Oh, yes, sare, I have been at the chasse of de small
dicky-bird—tom-tit—cock-robin—vot you call.”

Sir Moses (laughing). “No, no, that is not the sort of chace I mean; I
mean, have you ever been out fox-hunting?”

Jean Rougier (confidentially). “Nevare, sare—nevare.”

Sir Moses. “Ah, my friend, then you’ve a great pleasure to come to—a
great pleasure to come to, indeed. Well, you’re a domd good feller, and
I’ll tell you what I’ll do—I’ll tell you what I’ll do—I’ll mount you
to-morrow—domd if I won’t—you shall ride my old horse, Cockatoo—carry
you beautifully. What d’ye ride? Thirteen stun, I should say,” looking
Jack over, “quite up to that—quite up to that—stun above it, for that
matter. You’ll go streaming away like a bushel of beans.”

“Oh, sare, I tenk you, sare,” replied Jack, “but I have not got my
hunting apparatus—my mosquet—my gun, my—no, not notin at all.”

“Gun!” exclaimed Sir Moses, amidst the laughter of the company. “Why,
you wouldn’t shoot the fox, would ye?”

“Certainement” replied Jack. “I should pop him over.”

“Oh, the devil!” exclaimed Sir Moses, throwing up his hands in
astonishment. “Why, man, we keep the hounds on purpose to hunt him.”

“Silly fellers,” replied Jack, “you should pepper his jacket.”

“Ah, Monsieur, I see you have a deal to learn,” rejoined Sir Moses,
laughing. “However, it’s never too late to begin—never too late to
begin, and you shall take your first lesson to-morrow. I’ll mount you on
old Cockatoo, and you shall see how we manage these matters in England.”

“Oh, sare, I tenk you moch,” replied Jack, again excusing himself. “But
I have not got no breeches, no boot-jacks—no notin, comme il faut.”

“I’ll lend you everything you want,—a boot-jack and all,” replied Sir
Moses, now quite in the generous mood.

“Ah, sare, you are vure beautiful, and I moch appreciate your
benevolence; bot I sud not like to risk my neck and crop outside an
unqualified, contradictory quadruped.”

“Nothing of the sort!” exclaimed Sir Moses, “nothing of the sort! He’s
the quietest, gentlest crittur alive—a child might ride him, mightn’t
it, Cuddy?”

“Safesthorse under the sun,” replied Cuddy Flintoff, confidently. “Don’t
know such another. Have nothing to do but sit on his back, and give him
his head, and he’ll take far better care of you than you can of him.
He’s the nag to carry you close up to their stems. Ho-o-i-ck, forrard,
ho-o-i-ck!! Dash my buttons, Monsieur, but I think I see you sailing
away. Shouldn’t be surprised if you were to bring home the brush, only
you’ve got one under your nose as it is,” alluding to his moustache.

Jack at this looked rather sour, for somehow people don’t like to be
laughed at; so he proceeded to push his tray about under the guests’
noses, by way of getting rid of the subject. He had no objection to a
hunt, and to try and do what Cuddy Flintoff predicted, only he didn’t
want to spoil his own clothes, or be made a butt of. So, having had his
say, he retired as soon as he could, inquiring of Bankhead, when he got
out, who that porky old fellow with the round, close-shaven face was.

When the second flight of tea-cups came in, Sir Moses was seated on a
hardish chaise longue, beside our friend Mr. Pringle, to whom he was
doing the agreeable attentive host, and a little of the inquisitive
stranger; trying to find out as well about the Major and his family, as
about Billy himself, his friends and belongings. The Baronet had rather
cooled on the subject of mounting Monsieur, and thought to pave the way
for a back-out.

“That’s a stout-built feller of yours,” observed he to Billy, kicking up
his toe at Jack as he passed before them with the supplementary tray of
cakes and cream, and so on.

“Yarse,” drawled Billy, wondering what matter it made to Sir Moses.

“Stouter than I took him for,” continued the Baronet, eyeing Jack’s
broad back and strong undersettings. “That man’ll ride fourteen stun, I
dessay.”

Billy had no opinion on the point so began admiring his pretty foot;
comparing it with Sir Moses’s, which was rather thick and clumsy.

The Baronet conned the mount matter over in his mind; the man was heavy;
the promised horse was old and weak; the country deep, and he didn’t
know that Monsieur could ride,—altogether he thought it wouldn’t do.
Let his master mount him if he liked, or let him stay at home and help
Bankhead with the plate, or Peter with the shoes. So Sir Moses settled
it in his own mind, as far as he was concerned, at least, and resumed
his enquiries of our Billy. Which of the Miss Yammertons he thought
the prettiest, which sang the best, who played the harp, if the Major
indulged him with much hare-soup, and then glanced incidentally at his
stud, and Bo-Peep.

He then asked him about Lord Ladythorne; if it was true that Mrs.
Moffatt and he quarrelled; if his lordship wasn’t getting rather slack;
and whether Billy didn’t think Dicky Boggledale an old woman, to which
latter interrogatory he replied, “Yarse,”—he thought he was, and ought
to be drafted.

While the tête-à-tête was going on, a desultory conversation ensued
among the other guests in various parts of the room, Mr. Booty
button-holeing Captain Hurricane, to tell him a capital thing out of
“Punch,” and receiving in return an exclamation of—“Why, man, I told you
that myself before dinner.” Tom Dribbler going about touching people up
in the ribs with his thumb, inquiring with a knowing wink of his eye, or
a jerk of his head, “Aye, old feller, how goes it;” which was about the
extent of Tom’s conversational powers. Henry Waggett talking “wool” to
Mr. Tupman; while Cuddy Flintoff kept popping out every now and then to
look at the moon, returning with a “hoick wind ‘im; ho-ick!” or—

“A southerly wind and a cloudy sky, Proclaimeth a hunting morning.”

Very cheering the assurance was to our friend Billy Pringle, as the
reader may suppose; but he had the sense to keep his feelings to
himself.

At length the last act of the entertainment approached, by the door
flying open through an invisible agency, and the delirium tremens
footman appearing with a spacious tray, followed by Bankhead and
Monsieur, with “Cardigans” and other the materials of “night-caps,”
 which they placed on the mirth-promoting circle of a round table. All
hands drew to it like blue-bottle-flies to a sugar-cask, as well to
escape from themselves and each other, as to partake of the broiled
bones, and other the good things with which the tray was stored.

“Hie, worry! worry! worry!” cried Cuddy Flintoff, darting at the black
bottles, for he dearly loved a drink, and presently had a beaker of
brandy, so strong, that as Silverthorn said, the spoon almost stood
upright in it.

“Let’s get chairs!” exclaimed he, turning short round on his heel:
“let’s get chairs, and be snug; it’s as cheap sitting as standing,” so
saying, he wheeled a smoking chair up to the table, and was speedily
followed by the rest of the party, with various shaped seats. Then such
of the guests as wanted to shirk drinking took whiskey or gin, which
they could dilute as much as they chose; while those who didn’t care for
showing their predilection for drink, followed Cuddy’s example, and
made it as strong as they liked. This is the time that the sot comes out
undisguisedly. The form of wine-drinking after dinner is mere child’s
play in their proceedings: the spirit is what they go for.

At length sots and sober ones were equally helped to their liking;
and, the approving sips being taken, the other great want of
life—tobacco—then became apparent.

“Smoking allowed here,” observed Cuddy Flintoff, diving into his
side-pocket for a cigar, adding, as he looked at the wretched old red
chintz-covered furniture, which, not even the friendly light of the
moderateur lamps could convert into anything respectable: “No fear of
doing any harm here, I think?”

So the rest of the company seemed to think, for there was presently a
great kissing of cigar-ends and rising of clouds, and then the party
seeming to be lost in deep reveries. Thus they sat for some minutes,
some eyeing their cocked-up toes, some the dirty ceiling, others smoking
and nursing their beakers of spirit on their knees.

At length Tom Dribbler gave tongue—“What time will the hounds leave the
kennel in the morning, Sir Moses?” asked he.

“Hoick to Dribbler! Hoick!” immediately cheered Cuddy—as if capping the
pack to a find.

“Oh, why, let me see,” replied Sir Moses, filliping the ashes off the
end of his cigar—“Let me see,” repeated he—“Oh—ah—tomorrow’s Monday;
Monday, the Crooked Billet—Crooked Billet—nine miles—eight through
Applecross Park; leave here at nine—ten to nine, say—nothing like giving
them plenty of time on the road.”

“Nothing,” assented Cuddy Flintoff, taking a deep drain at his glass,
adding, as soon as he could get his nose persuaded to come out of it
again, “I do hate to see men hurrying hounds to cover in a morning.”

“No fear of mine doing that,” observed Sir Moses, “for I always go with
them myself when I can.”

“Capital dodge, too,” assented Cuddy, “gets the fellers past the public
houses—that drink’s the ruin of half the huntsmen in England;” whereupon
he took another good swig.

“Then, Monsieur, and you’ll all go together, I suppose,” interrupted
Dribbler, who wanted to see the fun.

“Monsieur, Monsieur—oh, ah, that’s my friend Pringle’s valet,” observed
Sir Moses, drily; “what about him?”

“Why he’s going, isn’t he?” replied Dribbler.

“Oh, poor fellow, no,” rejoined Sir Moses; “he doesn’t want to go—it’s
no use persecuting a poor devil because a Frenchman.”

“But I dare say he’d enjoy it very much,” observed Dribbler.

“Well, then, will you mount him?” asked Sir Moses.

“Why I thought you were going to do it,” replied Dribbler.

“Me mount him!” exclaimed Sir Moses, throwing out his ringed hands in
well-feigned astonishment, as if he had never made such an offer—“Me
mount him! why, my dear fellow, do you know how many people I have to
mount as it is? Let me tell you,” continued he, counting them off on his
fingers, “there’s Tom, and there’s Harry, and there’s Joe, and there’s
the pad-groom and myself, five horses out every day—generally six, when
I’ve a hack—six horses a day, four days a week—if that isn’t enough,
I don’t know what is—dom’d if I do,” added he, with a snort and a
determined jerk of his head.

“Well, but we can manage him a mount among us, somehow, I dare say,”
 persevered Dribbler, looking round upon the now partially smoke-obscured
company.

“Oh no, let him alone, poor fellow; let him alone,” replied Sir Moses,
coaxingly, adding, “he evidently doesn’t wish to go—evidently doesn’t
wish to go.”

“I don’t know that,” exclaimed Cuddy Flintoff, with a knowing jerk of
his head; “I don’t know that—I should say he’s rather a y-o-o-i-cks wind
‘im! y-o-i-eks push ‘im up! sort of chap.” So saying, Cuddy drained his
glass to the dregs.

“1 should say you’re rather a y-o-i-eks wind ‘im—y-o-i-cks drink ‘im up
sort of chap,” replied Sir Moses, at which they all laughed heartily.

Cuddy availed himself of the divertissement to make another equally
strong brew—saying, “It was put there to drink, wasn’t it?” at which
they all laughed again.

Still there was a disposition to harp upon the hunt—Dribbler tied on the
scent, and felt disposed to lend Jack a horse if nobody else would. So
he threw out a general observation, that he thought they could manage a
mount for Monsieur among them.

“Well, but perhaps his master mayn’t, like it,” suggested Sir Moses, in
hopes that Billy would come to the rescue.

“O, I don’t care about it,” replied Billy, with an air of indifference,
who would have been glad to hunt by deputy if he could, and so that
chance fell to the ground.

“Hoick to Governor! Hoick to Governor!” cheered Cuddy at the
declaration. “Now who’ll lend him a horse?” asked he, taking up the
question. “What say you, Stub?” appealing to Mr. Strongstubble, who
generally had more than he could ride.

“He’s such a beefey beggar,” replied Strongstubble, between the whiffs
of a cigar.

“Oh, ah, and a Frenchman too!” interposed Sir Moses, “he’ll have no idea
of saving a horse, or holding a horse together, or making the most of a
horse.”

“Put him on one that ‘ll take care of himself,” suggested Cuddy;
“there’s your old Nutcracker horse, for instance,” added he, addressing
himself to Harry Waggett.

“Got six drachms of aloes,” replied Waggett, drily.

“Or your Te-to-tum, Booty,” continued Cuddy, nothing baffled by the
failure.

“Lame all round,” replied Booty, following suit.

“Hut you and your lames,” rejoined Cuddy, who knew better—“I’ll tell
you what you must do then, Tommy,” continued he, addressing himself
familiarly to Dribbler, “you must lend him your old kicking
chestnut—the very horse for a Frenchman,” added Cutty, slapping his own
tight-trousered leg—“you send the Shaver to the Billet in the morning
along with your own horse, and old Johnny Crapaud will manage to get
there somehow or other—walk if he can’t ride: shoemaker’s pony’s very
safe.”

“Oh, I’ll send him in my dog-cart if that’s all,” exclaimed Sir Moses,
again waxing generous.

“That ‘ll do! That ‘ll do!” replied Cuddy, appealing triumphantly to
the brandy. Then as the out-door guests began to depart, and the in-door
ones to wind up their watches and ask about breakfast, Cuddy took
advantage of one of Sir Moses’ momentary absences in the entrance
hall to walk off to bed with the remainder of the bottle of brandy,
observing, as he hurried away, that he was “apt to have spasms in the
night”; and Sir Moses, thinking he was well rid of him at the price,
went through the ceremony of asking the “remanets” if they would take
any more, and being unanimously answered in the negative, he lit the
bedroom candles, turned off the modérateurs, and left the room to
darkness and to Bankhead.



CHAPTER XXXIV. GOING TO COVER WITH THE HOUNDS.

HOW different a place generally proves to what we anticipate, and how
difficult it is to recall our expectations after we have once seen it,
unless we have made a memorandum beforehand. How different again a place
looks in the morning to what we have conjectured over-night. What we
have taken for towers perhaps have proved to be trees, and the large
lake in front a mere floating mist.

Pangbum Park had that loose rakish air peculiar to rented places, which
carry a sort of visible contest between landlord and tenant on the face
of everything. A sort of “it’s you to do it, not me” look. It showed a
sad want of paint and maintenance generally. Sir Moses wasn’t the man
to do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, “Dom’d if he was,” so
inside and outside were pretty much alike.

Our friend Billy Pringle was not a man of much observation in
rural matters, though he understood the cut of a coat, the tie of a
watch-ribbon cravat, or the fit of a collar thoroughly. We are sorry
to say he had not slept very well, having taken too much brandy for
conformity’s sake, added to which his bed was hard and knotty, and
the finely drawn bolsters and pillows all piled together, were hardly
sufficient to raise his throbbing temples. As he lay tossing and
turning about, thinking now of Clara Yammerton’s beautiful blue eyes
and exquisitely rounded figure, now of Flora’s bright hair, or Harriet’s
graceful form, the dread Monsieur entered his shabbily furnished
bed-room, with, “Sare, I have de pleasure to bring you your pink
to-day,” at once banishing the beauties and recalling the over-night’s
conversation, the frightful fences, the yawning ditches, the bottomless
brooks, with the unanimous declaration that the man who could ride over
Hit-im and Hold-im-shire could ride over any country in the world. And
Billy really thought if he could get over the horrors of that day he
would retire from the purgatorial pleasures of the chace altogether.



259m


With this wise resolution he jumped out of bed with the vigorous
determination of a man about to take a shower-bath, and proceeded to
invest himself in the only mitigating features of the chace, the red
coat and leathers. He was hardly well in them before a clamorous bell
rang for breakfast, quickly followed by a knock at the door, announcing
that it was on the table.

Sir Moses was always in a deuce of a hurry on a hunting morning. Our
hero was then presently performing the coming downstairs feat he is
represented doing at page 147. and on reaching the lower regions
he jumped in with a dish of fried ham which led him straight to the
breakfast room.

Here Sir Moses was doing all things at once, reading the “Post,” blowing
his beak, making the tea, stirring the fire, crumpling his envelopes,
cussing the toast, and doming the footman, to which numerous avocations
he now added the pleasing one of welcoming our Billv.

“Well done you! First down, I do declare!” exclaimed he, tendering him
his left hand, his right one being occupied with his kerchief. “Sit
down, and let’s be at it,” continued he, kicking a rush-bottomed chair
under Billy as it were, adding “never wait for any man on a hunting
morning.” So saying, he proceeded to snatch an egg, in doing which he
upset the cream-jug. “Dom the thing,” growled he, “what the deuce do
they set it there for. D’ye take tea?” now asked he, pointing to the
tea-pot with his knife—“or coffee?” continued he, pointing to the
coffee-pot with his fork, “or both praps,” added he, without waiting for
an answer to either question, but pushing both pots towards his guest,
following up the advance with ham, eggs, honey, buns, butter, bread,
toast, jelly, everything within reach, until he got Billy fairly blocked
with good things, when he again set-to on his own account, munching and
crunching, and ended by nearly dragging all the contents of the table
on to the floor by catching the cloth with his spur as he got up to go
away.

He then went doming and scuttling out of the room, charging Billy if he
meant to go with the hounds to “look sharp.”

During his absence Stephen Booty and Mr. Silverthorn came dawdling into
the room, taking it as easy as men generally do who have their horses on
and don’t care much about hunting.

Indeed Silverthorn never disguised that he would rather have his covers
under plough than under gorse, and was always talking about the rent
he lost, which he estimated at two pounds an acre, and Sir Moses at ten
shillings.

Finding the coast clear, they now rang for fresh ham, fresh eggs,
fresh tea, fresh everything, and then took to pumping Billy as to his
connection with the house, Sir Moses having made him out over night
to be a son of Sir Jonathan Pringle’s, with whom he sometimes claimed
cousinship, and they wanted to get a peep at the baronetage if they
could. In the midst of their subtle examination, Sir Moses came hurrying
back, whip in one hand, hat in the other, throwing open the door, with,
“Now, are you ready?” to Billy, and “morning, gentlemen,” to Booty and
Silverthorn.

Then Billy rose with the desperate energy of a man going to a dentist’s,
and seizing his cap and whip off the entrance table, followed Sir Moses
through the intricacies of the back passages leading to the stables,
nearly falling over a coal-scuttle as he went. They presently changed
the tunnel-like darkness of the passage into the garish light of day, by
the opening of the dirty back door.

Descending the little flight of stone steps, they then entered the
stable-yard, now enlivened with red coats and the usual concomitants of
hounds leaving home. There was then an increased commotion, stable-doors
flying open, from which arch-necked horses emerged, pottering and
feeling for their legs as they went. Off the cobble-stone pavement,
and on to the grass grown soft of the centre, they stood more firm and
unflinching. Then Sir Moses took one horse, Tom Findlater another,
Harry the first whip a third, Joe the second whip a fourth, while the
bine-coated pad groom came trotting round on foot from the back stables,
between Sir Moses’s second horse and Napoleon the Great.

Billy dived at his horse without look or observation, and the clang of
departure being now at its height, the sash of a second-floor window
flew up, and a white cotton night-capped head appeared bellowing out,
“Y-o-i-cks wind ‘im! y-o-i-cks push ‘im up!” adding, “Didn’t I tell ye
it was going to be a hunting morning?”

“Ay, ay, Cuddy you did,” replied Sir Moses laughing, muttering as he
went: “That’s about the extent of your doings.”

“He’ll be late, won’t he?” asked Billy, spurring up alongside of the
Baronet.

“Oh, he’s only an afternoon sportsman that,” replied Sir Moses; adding,
“he’s greatest after dinner.”

“Indeed!” mused Billy, who had looked upon him with the respect due to
a regular flyer, a man who could ride over Hit-im and Hold-im-shire
itself.

The reverie was presently interrupted by the throwing open of the kennel
door, and the clamorous rush of the glad pack to the advancing red
coats, making the green sward look quite gay and joyful.

“Gently, there! gently!” cried Tom Findlater, and first and second whips
falling into places, Tom gathered his horse together and trotted
briskly along the side of the ill-kept carriage road, and on through the
dilapidated lodges: a tattered hat protruding through the window of one,
and two brown paper panes supplying the place of glass in the other.
They then got upon the high road, and the firy edge being taken off both
hounds and horses, Tom relaxed into the old post-boy pace, while
Sir Moses proceeded to interrogate him as to the state of the kennel
generally, how Rachael’s feet were, whether Prosperous was any better,
if Abelard had found his way home, and when Sultan would be fit to come
out again.

They then got upon other topics connected with the chace, such as, who
the man was that Harry saw shooting in Tinklerfield cover; if Mrs Swan
had said anything more about her confounded poultry; and whether Ned
Smith the rat-catcher would take half a sovereign for his terrier or
not.

Having at length got all he could out of Tom, Sir Moses then let the
hounds flow past him, while he held back for our Billy to come up. They
were presently trotting along together a little in the rear of Joe, the
second whip.

“I’ve surely seen that horse before,” at length observed Sir Moses,
after a prolonged stare at our friend’s steed.

“Very likely,” replied Billy, “I bought him of the Major.”

“The deuce you did!” exclaimed Sir Moses, “then that’s the horse young
Tabberton had.”

“What, you know him, do you?” asked Billy.

“Know him! I should think so,” rejoined Moses; “everybody knows him.”

“Indeed!” observed Billy, wondering whether for good or evil.

“I dare say, now, the Major would make you give thirty, or
five-and-thirty pounds for that horse,” observed Sir Moses, after
another good stare.

“Far more!” replied Billy, gaily, who was rather proud of having given a
hundred guineas.

“Far more!” exclaimed Sir Moses with energy; “far more! Ah!” added
he, with a significant shake of the head, “he’s an excellent man, the
Major—an excellent man,—but a leetle too keen in the matter of horses.”

Just at this critical moment Tommy Heslop of Hawthorndean, who had been
holding back in Crow-Tree Lane to let the hounds pass, now emerged from
his halting-place with a “Good morning, Sir Moses, here’s a fine hunting
morning?”

“Good morning, Tommy, good morning,” replied Sir Moses, extending his
right hand; for Tommy was a five-and-twenty pounder besides giving a
cover, and of course was deserving of every encouragement.

The salute over, Sir Moses then introduced our friend Billy,—“Mr.
Pringle, a Featherbedfordshire gentleman, Mr. Heslop,” which immediately
excited Tommy’s curiosity—not to say jealousy—for the “Billet” was very
“contagious,” for several of the Peer’s men, who always brought their
best horses, and did as much mischief as they could, and after ever so
good a run, declared it was nothing to talk of. Tommy thought Billy’s
horse would not take much cutting down, whatever the rider might do.
Indeed, the good steed looked anything but formidable, showing that a
bad stable, though “only for one night,” may have a considerable effect
upon a horse. His coat was dull and henfeathered; his eye was watery,
and after several premonitory sneezes, he at length mastered a cough.
Even Billy thought he felt rather less of a horse under him than he
liked. Still he didn’t think much of a cough. “Only a slight cold,” as a
young lady says when she wants to go to a ball.

Three horsemen in front, two black coats and a red, and two reds joining
the turnpike from the Witch berry road, increased the cavalcade and
exercised Sir Moses’ ingenuity in appropriating backs and boots and
horses. “That’s Simon Smith,” said he to himself, eyeing a pair
of desperately black tops dangling below a very plumb-coloured,
long-backed, short-lapped jacket. “Ah I and Tristram Wood,” added he,
now recognising his companion. He then drew gradually upon them and
returned their salutes with an extended wave of the hand that didn’t
look at all like money. Sir Moses then commenced speculating on the
foremost group. There was Peter Linch and Charley Drew; but who was the
fellow in black? He couldn’t make out.

“Who’s the man in black, Tommy?” at length asked he of Tommy Heslop.

“Don’t know,” replied Tommy, after scanning the stranger attentively.

“It can’t be that nasty young Rowley Abingdon; and yet I believe it is,”
 continued Sir Moses, eyeing him attentively, and seeing that he did not
belong to the red couple, who evidently kept aloof from him. “It is that
nasty young Abingdon,” added he. “Wonder at his impittance in coming out
with me. It’s only the other day that ugly old Owl of a father of his
killed me young Cherisher, the best hound in my pack,” whereupon the
Baronet began grinding his teeth, and brewing a little politeness
wherewith to bespatter the young Owl as he passed. The foremost horses
hanging back to let their friends the hounds overtake them, Sir Moses
was presently alongside the black coat, and finding he was right in
his conjecture as to who it contained, he returned the youth’s awkward
salute with, “Well, my man, how d’ye do? hope you’re well. How’s your
father? hope he’s well,” adding, “dom ‘im, he should be hung, and you
may tell ‘im I said so.” Sir Closes then felt his horse gently with his
heel, and trotted on to salute the red couple. And thus he passed from
singles to doubles, and from doubles to triples, and from triples to
quartets, and back to singles again, including the untold occupants
of various vehicles, until the ninth milestone on the Bushmead road,
announced their approach to the Crooked Billet. Tom Findlater then
pulled up from the postboy jog into a wallk, at which pace he turned
into the little green field on the left of the blue and gold swinging
sign. Here he was received by the earthstopper, the antediluvian ostler,
and other great officers of state. But for Sir Moses’ presence the
question would then have been “What will you have to drink?” That
however being interdicted, they raised a discussion about the weather,
one insisting that it was going to be a frost; another, that it was
going to be nothing of the sort.



CHAPTER XXXV. THE MEET.

THE Crooked Billet Hotel and Posting house, on the Bushin ead road had
been severed from society by the Crumpletin Railway. It had indeed been
cut off in the prime of life: for Joe Cherriper, the velvet-collared
doeskin-gloved Jehu of the fast Regulator Coach, had backed his opinion
of the preference of the public for horse transit over steam, by laying
out several hundred pounds of his accumulated fees upon the premises,
just as the surveyors were setting out the line.

“A rally might be andy enough for goods and eavy marchandise,” Joe said;
“but as to gents ever travellin’ by sich contraband means, that was
utterly and entirely out of the question. Never would appen so long as
there was a well-appointed coach like the Regulator to be ad.” So Joe
laid on the green paint and the white paint, and furbished up the sign
until it glittered resplendent in the rays of the mid-day sun. But
greater prophets than Joe have been mistaken.

One fine summer’s afternoon a snorting steam-engine came puffing and
panting through the country upon a private road of its own, drawing
after it the accumulated rank, beauty, and fashion of a wide district to
open the railway, which presently sucked up all the trade and traffic of
the country. The Crooked Billet fell from a first-class way-side house
at which eight coaches changed horses twice a-day, into a very seedy
unfrequented place—a very different one to what it was when our hero’s
mother, then Miss Willing, changed horses on travelling up in the Old
True Blue Independent, on the auspicious day that she captured Mr.
Pringle. Still it was visited with occasional glimpses of its former
greatness in the way of the meets of the hounds, when the stables were
filled, and the long-deserted rooms rang with the revelry of visitors.
This was its first gala-day of the season, and several of the
Feather-bedfordshire gentlemen availed themselves of the fineness of the
weather to see Sir Moses’ hounds, and try whether they, too, could ride
over Hit-im and Hold-im shire.

The hounds had scarcely had their roll on the greensward, and old black
Challenger proclaimed their arrival with his usual deep-toned
vehemence, ere all the converging roads and lanes began pouring in
their tributaries, and the space before the bay-windowed red brick-built
“Billet” was soon blocked with gentlemen on horseback, gentlemen in
Malvern dog-carts, gentlemen in Newport Pagnells, gentlemen in
Croydon clothesbaskets, some divesting themselves of their wraps, some
stretching themselves after their drive, some calling for brandy, some
for baccy, some for both brandy and baccy.

Then followed the usual inquiries, “Is Dobbinson coming?”

“Where’s the Damper?”

“Has anybody seen anything of Gameboy Green?” Next, the heavily laden
family vehicles began to arrive, containing old fat paterfamilias in the
red coat of his youth, with his “missis” by his side, and a couple of
buxom daughters behind, one of whom will be installed in the driving
seat when papa resigns. Thus we have the Mellows of Mawdsley Hill, the
Chalkers of Streetley, and the Richleys of Jollyduck Park, and the cry
is still, “They come! they come!” It is going to be a bumper meet, for
the foxes are famous, and the sight of a good “get away” is worth a
dozen Legers put together.

See here comes a nice quiet-looking little old gentleman in a
well-brushed, flat-brimmed hat, a bird’s-eye cravat, a dark grey coat
buttoned over a step-collared toilanette vest, nearly matching in line
his delicate cream-coloured leathers, who everybody stares at and then
salutes, as he lifts first one rose-tinted top and then the other,
working his way through the crowd, on a thorough-bred suatlle-bridled
bay. He now makes up to Sir Muses, who exclaims as the raised hat shows
the familiar blue-eyed face, “Ah! Dicky my man! how d’ye do? glad to
see you?” and taking off his glove the Baronet gives our old friend
Boggledike a hearty shake of the hand. Dicky acknowledges the honour
with becoming reverence, and then begins talking of sport and the
splendid runs they have been having, while Sir Moses, instead of
listening, cons over some to give him in return.

But who have we here sitting so square in the tandem-like dogcart, drawn
by the high-stepping, white-legged bay with sky-blue rosettes, and long
streamers, doing the pride that apes humility in a white Macintosh, that
shows the pink collar to great advantage? Imperial John, we do believe?

Imperial John, it is! He has come all the way from Barley Hill Hall,
leaving the people 011 the farm and the plate in the drawing-room to
take care of themselves, starting before daylight, while his footman
groom has lain ont over night to the serious detriment of a half
sovereign. As John now pulls up, with a trace-rattling ring, he cocks
his Imperial chin and looks round for applause—a “Well done, you!” or
something of that sort, for coming such a distance. Instead of that,
a line of winks, and nods, and nudges, follow his course, one man
whispering another, “I say, here’s old Imperial John,” or “I say,
look at Miss de Glancey’s boy;” while the young ladies turn their eyes
languidly upon him to see what sort of a hero the would-be Benedict is.
His Highness, however, has quite got over his de Glancey failure, and
having wormed his way after divers “with your leaves,” and “by your
leaves,” through the intricacies of the crowd, he now pulls up at the
inn door, and standing erect in his dog-cart, sticks his whip in
the socket, and looks around with a “This is Mr. Hybrid
the-friend-of-an-Earl” sort of air.

“Ah! Hybrid, how d’ye do?” now exclaims Sir Moses familiarly; “hope
you’re well?—how’s the Peer? hope he’s well. Come all the way from
Barley Hill?”

“Barley Hill Hall,” replies the great man with an emphasis on the Hall,
adding in the same breath, “Oi say, ostler, send moy fellow!” whereupon
there is a renewed nudging and whispering among the ladies beside him,
of “That’s Mr. Hybrid!”

“That’s Imperial John, the gentleman who wanted to marry Miss de Glancey
for though Miss de Glancey was far above having him, she was not above
proclaiming the other.”

His Highness then becomes an object of inquisitive scrutiny by the fair;
one thinking he might do for Lavinia Edwards; another, for Sarah Bates;
a third, for Rachel Bell; a fourth, perhaps, for herself. It must be a
poor creature that isn’t booked for somebody.

Still, John stands erect in his vehicle, flourishing his whip, hallooing
and asking for his fellow.

“Ring the bell for moy fellow!—Do go for moy fellow!—Has anybody seen
moy fellow? Have you seen moy fellow?” addressing an old smock-frocked
countryman with a hoe in his hand.

“Nor, arm d—d if iver ar i did!” replied the veteran, looking him over,
a declaration that elicited a burst of laughter from the bystanders, and
an indignant chuck of the Imperial chin from our John.

“Tweet, tweet, tweet!” who have we here? All eyes turn up the Cherryburn
road; the roused hounds prick their ears, and are with difficulty
restrained from breaking away. It’s Walker, the cross postman’s gig, and
he is treating himself to a twang of the horn. But who has he with
him? Who is the red arm-folded man lolling with as much dignity as the
contracted nature of the vehicle will allow? A man in red, with cap and
beard, and all complete. Why it’s Monsieur! Monsieur coming in forma
pauperis, after Sir Moses’ liberal offer to send him to cover,—Monsieur
in a faded old sugar-loaf shaped cap, and a scanty coat that would have
been black if it hadn’t been red.



266m


Still Walker trots him up like a man proud of his load amid the
suppressed titters and “Who’s this?” of the company. Sir Moses
immediately vouchsafes him protection—by standing erect in his stirrups,
and exclaiming with a waive of his right hand, “Ah, Monsieur! comment
vous portez-vous?”

“Pretty bobbish, I tenk you, sare, opes you are veil yourself and all
de leetle Mainchanees,” replied Monsieur, rising in the gig, showing
the scrimpness of his coat and the amplitude of his cinnamon-coloured
peg-top trousers, thrust into green-topped opera-boots, much in the
style of old Paul Pry. Having put something into Walker’s hand, Monsieur
alights with due caution and Walker whipping on, presently shows the
gilt “V. R.” on the back of his red gig as he works his way through the
separating crowd. Walker claims to be one of Her Majesty’s servants; if
not to rank next to Lord Palmerston, at all events not to be far below
him. And now Monsieur being left to himself, thrusts his Malacca
cane whip stick under his arm, and drawing on a pair of half-dirty
primrose-coloured kid gloves, pokes into the crowd in search of his
horse, making up to every disengaged one he saw, with “Is dee’s for me?
Is dee’s for me?”

Meanwhile Imperial John having emancipated himself from his Mackintosh,
and had his horse placed becomingly at the step of the dog-cart, so
as to transfer himself without alighting, and let everybody see the
magnificence of the establishment, now souces himself into the saddle
of a fairish young grey, and turns round to confront the united field;
feeling by no means the smallest man in the scene. “Hybrid!” exclaims
Sir Moses, seeing him approach the still dismounted Monsieur, “Hybrid!
let me introduce my friend Rougier, Monsieur Rougier, Mr. Hybrid! of
Barley Hill Hall, a great friend of Lord Ladythorne’s,” whereupon off
went the faded sugar-loaf-shaped cap, and down came the Imperial hat,
Sir Moses interlarding the ceremony with, “great friend of Louis
Nap’s, great friend of Louis Nap’s,” by way of balancing the Ladythorne
recommendation of John. The two then struck up a most energetic
conversation, each being uncommonly taken with the other. John almost
fancied he saw his way to the Tuileries, and wondered what Miss
“somebody” would say if he got there.

The conversation was at length interrupted by Dribbler’s grinning groom
touching Jack behind as he came up with a chestnut horse, and saying,
“Please, Sir, here’s your screw.”

“Ah, my screw, is it!” replied Jack, turning round, “dat is a queer name
for a horse—screw—hopes he’s a good ‘un.”

“A good ‘un, and nothin’ but a good ‘un,” replied the groom, giving
him a punch in the ribs, to make him form up to Jack, an operation that
produced an ominous grunt.

“Vell” said Jack, proceeding to dive at the stirrup with his foot
without taking hold of the reins; “if Screw is a good ‘un I sail make
you handsome present—tuppence a penny, p’raps—if he’s a bad ‘un, I sail
give you good crack on the skoll,” Jack flourishing his thick whipstick
as he spoke.

“Will you!” replied the man, leaving go of the rein, whereupon down
went the horse’s head, up went his heels, and Jack was presently on his
shoulder.

“Oh, de devil!” roared Jack, “he vill distribute me! he vill distribute
me! I vill be killed! Nobody sall save me! here, garçon, grum!” roared
he amid the mirth of the company. “Lay ‘old of his ‘ead! lay ‘old of
his ‘ocks! lay ‘old of ‘eels! Oh, murder! murder!” continued he in
well-feigned dismay, throwing out his supplicating arms. Off jumped
Imperial John to the rescue of his friend, and seizing the dangling
rein, chucked up the horse’s head with a resolute jerk that restored
Jack to his seat.

“Ah, my friend, I see you are not much used to the saddle,” observed His
Highness, proceeding to console the friend of an Emperor.

“Veil, sare, I am, and I am not,” replied Jack, mopping his brow, and
pretending to regain his composure, “I am used to de leetle ‘orse at de
round-about at de fair, I can carry off de ring ten time out of twice,
but these great unruly, unmannerly, undutiful screws are more than a
match for old Harry.”

“Just so,” assented His Highness, with a chuck of his Imperial chin,
“just so;” adding in an under-tone, “then I’ll tell you what we’ll
do—I’ll tell you what we’ll do—we’ll pop into the bar at the back of the
house, and have a glass of something to strengthen our nerves.”

“By all means, sare,” replied Jack, who was always ready for a glass.
So they quietly turned the corner, leaving the field to settle their
risible faculties, while they summoned the pretty corkscrew ringletted
Miss Tubbs to their behests.

“What shall it be?” asked Imperial John, as the smiling young lady
tripped down the steps to where they stood.

“Brandy,” replied Jack, with a good English accent.

“Two brandies!” demanded Imperial John, with an air of authority.

“Cold, with?” asked the lady, eyeing Monsieur’s grim visage.

“Neat!” exclaimed Jack in a tone of disdain.

“Yes, Sir,” assented the lady, bustling away.

“Shilling glasses!” roared Jack, at the last flounce of her blue muslin.

Presently she returned bearing two glasses of very brown brandy,
and each having appropriated one, Jack began grinning and bowing and
complimenting the donor.

“Sare,” said he, after smelling at the beloved liquor, “I have moch
pleasure in making your quaintance. I am moch pleased, sare, with the
expression of your mog. I tink, sare, you are de ‘andsomest man I never
had de pleasure of lookin’ at. If, sare, dey had you in my country,
sare, dey vod make you a King—Emperor, I mean. I drink, sare, your vare
good health,” so saying, Jack swigged off the contents oi his glass at a
draught.

Imperial John felt constrained to do the same.

“Better now,” observed Jack, rubbing his stomach as the liquid fire
began to descend. “Better now,” repeated he, with a jerk of his head,
“Sare,” continued he, “I sall return the compliment—I sall treat you to
a glass.”

Imperial John would rather not. He was a glass of sherry and a biscuit
sort of man; but Monsieur was not to be balked in his liberality. “Oh,
yes, sare, make me de pleasure to accept a glass,” continued Jack,
“Here! Jemima! Matilda! Adelaide! vot the doose do they call de young
vomans—look sharp,” added he, as she now reappeared. “Apportez, dat is
to say, bring tout suite, directly; two more glasses; dis gentlemans
vill be goode enough to drink my vare good ‘ealth.”

“Certainly,” replied the smiling lady, tripping away for them.

“Ah, sare, it is de stoff to make de air corl,” observed Jack, eyeing
his new acquaintance. “Ye sall go like old chaff before the vind after
it. Vill catch de fox myself.”

The first glass had nearly upset our Imperial friend, and the second
one appeared perfectly nauseous. He would give anything that Jack would
drink them both himself. However, Monsieur motioned blue muslin to
present the tray to John first, so he had no alternative but to accept.
Jack then took his glass, and smacking his lips, said—“I looks, sare,
towards you, sare, vith all de respect due to your immortal country. De
English, sare, are de finest nation under de moon; and you, sare, and
you are as fine a specimens of dat nation as never vas seen. Two such
mans as you, sare, could have taken Sebastopol. You could vop all de
ell ound savage Sepoys by yourself. So now, sare,” continued Jack,
brandishing his glass, “make ready, present, fire!” and at the word
fire, he drained off his glass, and then held it upside down to show he
had emptied it.

Poor Imperial John was obliged to follow suit.

The Imperial head now began to swim. Mr. Hybrid saw two girls in blue
muslin, two Monsieurs, two old yellow Po-chaises, two water-carts with a
Cochin-China cock a gollowing a-top of each.

Jack, on the contrary, was quite comfortable. He had got his nerves
strung, and was now ready for anything. “S’pose, now,” said he,
addressing his staring, half-bewildered friend, “you ascend your gallant
grey, and let us look after dese mighty chasseurs. But stop,” added he,
“I vill first pay for de tipple,” pretending to dive into his peg-top
trousers pocket for his purse. “Ah! malheureusement,” exclaimed he,
after feeling them both. “I have left my blont, my tin, in my oder
trousers pockets. Navare mind! navare mind,” continued he, gaily, “ve
vill square it op some other day. Here,” added he to the damsel, “dis
gentlemens vill pay, and I vill settle vid him some oder day—some oder
day.” So saying, Jack gathered his horse boldly together, and spurred
out of the inn-yard in a masterly way, singing Partant pour la Syrie as
he went.



CHAPTER XXXVI. A BIRD’S EYE VIEW.



273m


HE friends reappeared at the front of the Crooked Billet Hotel when the
whole cavalcade had swept away, leaving only the return ladies, and such
of the grooms as meant to have a drink, now that “master was safe.” Sir
Moses had not paid either Louis Napoleon’s or Lord Ladythorne’s friend,
the compliment of waiting for them. On the contrary, having hailed the
last heavy subscriber who was in the habit of using the Crooked Billet
meet, he hallooed the huntsman to trot briskly away down Rickleton Lane,
and across Beecham pastures, as well to shake off the foot-people, as
to prevent any attempted attendance on the part of the carriage company.
Sir Moses, though very gallant, was not always in the chattering mood;
and, assuredly, if ever a master of hounds may be excused for a little
abruptness, it is when he is tormented by the rival spirits of the
adjoining hunt, people who always see things so differently to the men
of the country, so differently to what they are meant to do.

It was evident however by the lingering looks and position of parties
that the hunt had not been long gone—indeed, the last red coat might
still be seen bobbing up and down past the weak and low parts of the
Rickleton Lane fence. So Monsieur, having effected a satisfactory
rounding, sot his horse’s head that way, much in the old threepence
a-mine and hopes for something over, style of his youth. Jack hadn’t
forgotten how to ride, though he might occasionally find it convenient
to pretend to be a tailor. Indeed, his horse seemed to have ascertained
the fact, and instead of playing any more monkey-tricks, he began to
apply himself sedulously to the road. Imperial John was now a fitter
subject for solicitude than Monsieur, His Highness’s usual bumptious
bolt-upright seat being exchanged for a very slouchy, vulgar roll. His
saucy eyes too seemed dim and dazzled, like an owl’s flying against
the sun. Some of the toiling pedestrians, who in spite of Sir Moses’s
intention to leave them in the lurch, had started for the hunt, were the
first overtaken, next two grinning boys riding a barebacked donkey,
one with his face to the tail, doing the flagellation with an old
hearth-brush, then a brandy-nosed horse-breaker, with a badly-grown
black colt that didn’t promise to be good for anything, next Dr. Linton
on his dun pony, working his arms and legs most energetically, riding
far faster than his nag; next Noggin, the exciseman, stealing quietly
along on his mule as though he were bent on his business and had no idea
of a hunt; and at length a more legitimate representative of the chace
in the shape of young Mr. Hadaway, of Oakharrow Hill, in a pair of very
baggy white cords, on but indifferent terms about the knees with his
badly cleaned tops. They did not, however, overtake the hounds, and the
great body of scarlet, till just as they turned off the Summersham road
into an old pasture-field, some five acres of the low end of which had
been cut off for a gorse to lay to the adjoining range of rocky hills
whose rugged juniper and broom-dotted sides afforded very comfortable
and popular lying for the foxes. It being, if a find, a quick “get
away,” all hands were too busy thinking of themselves and their horses,
and looking for their usual opponents to take heed of anything else, and
Jack and his friends entered without so much as an observation from any
one.

Just at that moment up went Joe’s cap on the top of the craig, and the
scene changed to one of universal excitement. Then, indeed, had come the
tug of war! Sir Moses, all hilarity, views the fox! Now Stephen Booty
sees him, now Peter Lynch, and now a whole cluster of hats are off in
his honour. ****

And now his honour’s off himself—

“Shrill horns proclaim his flight.” Oh dear! oh dear! where’s Billy
Pringle? Oh dear! oh dear! where’s Imperial John? Oh dear! where’s Jack
Rogers?

Jack’s all right! There he is grinning with enthusiasm, quite forgetting
that he’s a Frenchman, and hoisting his brown cap with the best of them.
Another glass would have made him give a stunning view-halloa.

Imperial John stares like a man just awoke from a dream. Is he in bed,
or is he out hunting, or how! he even thinks he hears Miss de Glancey’s
“Si-r-r! do you mean to insult me?” ringing in his ears.

Billy Pringle! poor Billy! he’s not so unhappy as usual. His horse is
very docile. His tail has lost all its elegant gaiety, and altogether
he has a very drooping, weedy look: he coughs, too, occasionally. Billy,
however, doesn’t care about the coughs, and gives him a dig with his
spur to stop it.

“Come along, Mr. Pringle, come along!” now shrieks Sir Moses, hurrying
past, hands down, head too, hugging and spurring his horse as he goes.
He is presently through the separating throng, leaving Billy far in the
rear. “Quick’s” the word, or the chance is lost. There are no reserved
places at a hunt. A flying fox admits of no delay. It is either go or
stay.

And now, Monsieur Jean Rougier having stuck his berry-brown conical cap
tight on his bristly black head, crams his chestnut horse through the
crowd, hallooing to his transfixed brandy friend, “Come along, old
cock-a-doodle! come along, old Blink Bonny!”

Imperial John, who has been holding a mental conference with himself,
poising himself in the saddle, and making a general estimate of his
condition, thinking he is not so drunk as “all that,” accepts the
familiar challenge, and urges his horse on with the now flying crowd.
He presently makes a bad shot at a gate on the swing, which catching him
011 the kneecap, contributes very materially to restore his sobriety,
the pain making him first look back for his leg, which he thinks must
be off, and then forward at the field. It is very large; two bustling
Baronets, two Monsieurs, two huntsmen, two flying hatters—everybody in
duplicate, in short.

Away they scud up Thorneycroft Valley at a pace that looks very like
killing. The foremost rise the hill, hugging aud holding 011 by the
manes.

“I’ll go!” says his Highness to himself, giving up rubbing his kneecap,
and settling himself in his saddle, he hustles his horse, and pushing
past the undecided ones, is presently in the thick of the fray. There
is Jack going, elbows and legs, elbows and legs, at a very galloping,
dreary, done sort of pace, the roaring animal he bestrides contracting
its short, leg-tied efforts every movement. Jack presently begins to
objurgate the ass who lent it him; first wishes he was on himself,
then declares the tanner ought to have him. he now sits sideways, and
proceeds to give him a good rib-roasting in the old post-boy style.

And now there’s a bobbing up and down of hats, caps, and horses’
heads in front, with the usual deviation under the “hounds clauses
consolidation act,” where the dangerous fencing begins. A pair of
white breeches are summersaulting in the air, and a bay horse is seen
careering in a wild head in the air sort of way, back to the rear
instead of following the hounds.

“That’s lucky,” said Jack Rogers to himself, as soon as he saw him
coming towards him, and circumventing him adroitly at the corner of
a turnip-field, he quits his own pumped-out animal and catches him.
“That’s good,” said he, looking him over, seeing that he was a lively
young animal in fairish condition, with a good saddle and bridle.

“Stirrups just my length, too, I do believe,” continued he, preparing to
mount. “All right, by Jove!” added he, settling himself into the saddle,
feet well home, and gathering his horse together, he shot forward with
the easy elasticity of breeding. It was a delightful change from the
rolling cow-like action of the other.

“Let us see vot he as in his monkey,” said Jack to himself, now drawing
the flask from the saddle-case.

“Sherry, I fear,” said he, uncorking it.

“Brandy, I declare,” added he with delight, after smelling it. He then
took a long pull at the contents.

“Good it is, too!” exclaimed he, smacking his lips; “better nor ve ad at
de poblic;” so saying, he took another long suck of it.

“May as vell finish it,” continued he, shaking it at his ear to
ascertain what was left; and having secured the remainder, he returned
the monkey to the saddle-case, and put on his horse with great glee,
taking a most independent line of his own.

Jack’s triumph, however, was destined to be but of short duration. The
fox being hard pressed, abandoned his original point for Collington
Woods, and swerving to the left over Stanbury Hundred, was headed by a
cur, and compelled to seek safety in a drain in the middle of a fallow
field. The hounds were presently feathering over the mouth in the usual
wild, disappointed sort of way, that as good as says, “No fault of ours,
you know; if he won’t stay above ground, we can’t catch him for you.”

Such of the field as had not ridden straight for Collington Woods, were
soon down at the spot; and while the usual enquiries, “Where’s Pepper?”
 “Where’s Viper?” “Where can we get a spade?” “Does anybody know
anything about the direction of this drain?” were going on, a fat, fair,
red-coated, flushed-faced pedestrian—to wit, young Mr. Threadcroft, the
woolstapler’s son of Harden Grange and Hinton, dived into the thick
of the throng, and making up to Monsieur, exclaimed in an anger-choked
voice, “This (puff) is my (gasp) horse! What the (gasp, puff) devil do
you mean by riding away with him in this (puff-, gasp) way?” the youth
mopping his brow with a yellow bandanna as he spoke.



277m


“Your oss!” exclaimed Jack with the greatest effrontery, “on de loose
can he be your os: I catched him fair! and I’ve a right to ride him to
de end of de run;” a claim that elicited the uproarious mirth of the
field, who all looked upon the young wool-pack, as they called him, as a
muff.

“Nonsense!” retorted the youth, half frantic with rage. “How can that
be?”

“Ow can dat be,” repeated Jack, turning sideways in his saddle, and
preparing to argue the case, “Ow can dat be? Dis hont, sare, I presume,
sare, is condocted on de principle of de grand hont de Epping, vere
every mans vot cotched anoder’s oss, is entitled to ride him to the end
of de ron,” replied Jack gravely.

“Nonsense!” again retorted the youth, amidst the renewed laughter of the
field. “We know nothing of Epping hunts here!”

“Nothin’ of Epping onts here?” exclaimed Jack, throwing out his hands
with well feigned astonishment. “Nothin’ of Epping honts here! Vy, de
grand hont de. Epping rules all the oder honts, jost as the grand Clob
de Jockey at Newmarket rules all oder Jockey Clubs in de kingdom.”

“Hoot, toot,” sneered the fat youth, “let’s have none of yonr jaw. Give
me my horse, I say, how can he be yours?”

“Because, sare,” replied Jack, “I tells you I cotched ‘im fairly in
de field. Bot for me he vod have been lost to society—to de vorld at
large—eat up by de loup—by de volf—saddle, bridle, and all.”

“Nothing of the sort!” retorted Mr. Treadcroft, indignantly, “you had no
business to touch him.”

Monsieur (with energy). I appeal to you, Sare Moses Baronet, de grand
maître de chien, de master of all de dogs and all de dogs’ vives, if I
have not a right to ride ‘im.

“Ah, I’m afraid, Monsieur, it’s not the law of this country,” replied
Sir Moses, laughing. “It may be so in France, perhaps; but tell me,
where’s your own horse?”

Monsieur. Pomped out de beggar; had no go in ‘im; left him in a ditch.

Sir Moses. That’s a pity!—if you’d allowed me, I’d have sent you a good
‘un.

Mr. Treadcroft, thus reinforced by Sir Moses’s decision, returned to the
charge with redoubled vigour. “If you don’t give me up my horse, sir,”
 says he, with firmness, “I’ll give you in charge of the police for
stealing him.” Then

“Conscience, which makes cowards of us all,”

caused Jack to shrink at the recollection of his early indiscretion in
the horse-stealing line, and instantly resolving not to give Jack Ketch
a chance of taking any liberties with his neck, he thus addresses Mr.
Treadcroft:—

“Sare, if Sare Moses Baronet, de grand maître de chien, do grandmodder
of all de dogs and all de dogs’ vives, says it is not a case of catch
‘im and keep ‘im ‘cordin’ to de rules of de grand hont de Epping, I must
surrender de quadruped, but I most say it is dem un’andsome treatment,
after I ‘ave been at de trouble of catching ‘im.” So saying, Jack
dropped off on the wrong side of the saddle, and giving the horse a slap
on his side left his owner to take him.

“Tally-ho! there he goes!” now exclaimed a dozen voices, as out bounced
the fox with a flourish of his well tagged brush that looked uncommonly
defiant. What a commotion he caused! Every man lent a shout that seemed
to be answered by a fresh effort from the flyer: but still, with twenty
couple of overpowering animals after him, what chance did there seem for
his life, especially when they could hunt him by his scent after they
had lost sight. Every moment, however, improved his opportunity, and a
friendly turn of the land shutting him out of view, the late darting,
half-frantic pack were brought to their noses.

“Hold hard for one, minute!” is the order of the day.

“Now, catch ‘em if’ you can!” is the cry.

Away they go in the settled determined way of a second start. The bolt
taking place on the lower range of the gently swelling Culmington hills,
that stretch across the north-east side of Hit-im and Hold-im shire, and
the fox making for the vale below, Monsieur has a good bird’s eye view
of the scramble, without the danger and trouble of partaking of the
struggle. Getting astride a newly stubbed ash-tree near the vacated
drain mouth, he thus sits and soliloquises—“He’s a pretty flyer, dat
fox—if dey catch ‘im afore he gets to the hills,” eyeing a gray range
uudulating in the distance, “they’ll do well. That Moff of a man,”
 alluding to Treadcroft, “‘ill never get there. At all events,” chuckled
Jack, “his brandy vont. Dats ‘im! I do believe,” exclaimed Jack, “off
again!” as a loose horse is now seen careering across a grass field.
“No; dat is a black coat,” continued Jack, as the owner now appeared
crossing the field in pursuit of his horse. “Bot dat vill be ‘im! dat
vill be friend Moll’,” as a red rider now measures his length on the
greensward of a field in the rear of the other one; and Jack, taking off
his faded cap, waives it triumphantly as he distinctly recognises the
wild, staring running of his late steed. “Dash my buttons!” exclaims
he, working his arms as if he was riding, “bot if it hadn’t been for dat
unwarrantable, unchristian-like cheek I’d ha’ shown those red coats
de vay on dat oss, for I do think he has de go in him and only vants
shovin’ along.—Ah Moff—my friend Moff!” laughed he, eyeing Treadcroft’s
vain endeavour to catch his horse, “you may as vell leave ‘im where he
is—you’ll only fatigue yourself to no purpose. If you ‘ad ‘im you’d be
off him again de next minute.”

The telescope of the chace is now drawn out to the last joint, and Jack,
as he sits, has a fine bird’s eye view of the scene. If the hounds
go rather more like a flock of wild geese than like the horses in
the chariot of the sun, so do the field, until the diminutive dots,
dribbling through the vale, look like the line of a projected railway.

“If I mistake not,” continued Jack, “dat leetle shiny eel-like ting,”
 eyeing a tortuous silvery thread meandering through the vale, “is vater,
and dere vill be some fon by de time dey get there.”

Jack is right in his conjecture. It is Long Brawlingford brook, with
its rotten banks and deep eddying pools, describing all sorts of
geographical singularities in its course through the country, too often
inviting aspiring strangers to astonish the natives by riding at it,
while the cautious countrymen rein in as they approach, and, eyeing the
hounds, ride for a ford at the first splash.

Jack’s friend, Blink Bonny, has ridden not amiss, considering his
condition—at all events pretty forward, as may be inferred from his
having twice crossed the Flying Hatter and come in for the spray of his
censure. But for the fact of his Highness getting his hats of the flyer,
he would most likely have received the abuse in the bulk. As it was, the
hatter kept letting it go as he went.

And now as the hounds speed over the rich alluvial pastures by the
brook, occasionally one throwing its tongue, occasionally another,
for the scent is first-rate and the pace severe, there is a turning
of heads, a checking of horses, and an evident inclination to diverge.
Water is in no request.

“Who knows the ford?” cries Harry Waggett, who always declined extra
risk.—“You know the ford, Smith?” continued he, addressing himself to
black tops.

“Not when I’m in a hur-hur-hurry,” ejaculates Smith, now fighting with
his five-year-old bay.

“O’ill show ye the ford!” cries Imperial John, gathering his grey
together and sending him at a stiff flight of outside slab-made rails
which separate the field from the pack. This lands His Highness right
among the tail hounds.

“Hold hard, Mr. Hybrid!” now bellows Sir Moses, indignant! at the idea
of a Featherbedfordshire farmer thinking to cut down his gallant field.

“One minuit! and you may go as hard as iver you like!” cries Tom
Findlater, who now sees the crows hovering over his fox as he scuttles
away on the opposite side of the brook.

There is then a great yawing of mouths and hauling of heads and renewed
inquiries for fords.—You know the ford, Brown? You know the ford, Green?
Who knows the ford?

His Highness, thus snubbed and rebuked on all sides, is put on his
mettle, and inwardly resolves not to be bullied by these low Hit-im and
Hold-im shire chaps. “If they don’t know what is due to the friend of
an Earl, he will let them see that he does.” So, regardless of their
shouts, he shoves along with his Imperial chin well in the air,
determined to ride at the brook—let those follow who will. He soon has a
chance. The fox has taken it right in his line, without deviating a yard
either way, and Wolds-man, and Bluecap, and Ringwood, and Hazard, and
Sparkler are soon swimming on his track, followed by the body of the
screeching, vociferating pack.

Old Blink Bonny now takes a confused, wish-I-was-well-over, sort of
look at the brook, shuddering when he thought how far he was from dry
clothes. It is however, too late to retreat. At it he goes in a half
resolute sort of way, and in an instant the Imperial hat and the
Imperial horse’s head are all that appear above water.

“Hoo-ray!” cheer some of the unfeeling Hit-im and Hold-im shireites,
dropping down into the ford a little below.

“Hoo-ray!” respond others on the bank, as the Red Otter, as Silverthorne
calls His Highness, rises hatless to the top.

“Come here, and I’ll help you out!” shouts Peter Linch, eyeing Mr.
Hybrid’s vain ‘tarts first at the hat and then at the horse.

“Featherbed ford shire for ever!” cries Charley Drew, who doesn’t at all
like Imperial John.

And John, who finds the brook not only a great deal wider, but also a
great deal deeper and colder than he expected, is in such a state of
confusion that he lands on one side and his horse on the other, so that
his chance of further distinction is out for the day. And as he
stands shivering and shaking and emptying his hat, he meditates on
the vicissitudes of life, the virtues of sobriety, and the rashness
of coping with a friend of His Imperial brother, Louis Nap. His horse
meanwhile regales upon grass, regardless of the fast receding field.
Thus John is left alone in his glory, and we must be indebted to other
sources for an account of the finish of this day’s sport.



CHAPTER XXXVII. TWO ACCOUNTS OF A RUN; OR, LOOK ON THIS PICTURE.

MONSIEUR Jean Rougier having seen the field get small by degrees, if not
beautifully less, and having viewed the quivering at the brook, thinking
the entertainment over, now dismounted from his wooden steed, and,
giving it a crack with his stick, saying it was about as good as his
first one, proceeded to perform that sorry exploit of retracing
his steps through the country on foot. Thanks to the influence of
civilisation, there is never much difficulty now in finding a road; and,
Monsieur was soon in one whose grassy hoof-marked sides showed it had
been ridden down in chase. Walking in scarlet is never a very becoming
proceeding; but, walking in such a scarlet as Jack had on, coupled with
such a cap, procured him but little respect from the country people, who
took him for one of those scarlet runners now so common with hounds. One
man (a hedger) in answer to his question, “If he had seen his horse?”
 replied, after a good stare—“Nor—nor nobody else;” thinking that the
steed was all imaginary, and Jack was wanting to show off: another said,
“Coom, coom, that ill not de; you’ve ne horse.” Altogether, Monsieur
did not get much politeness from anyone; so he stumped moodily along,
venting his spleen as he went.

The first thing that attracted his attention was his own pumped-out
steed, standing with its snaffle-rein thrown over a gate-post; and Jack,
having had about enough pedestrian exercise, especially considering
that he was walking in his own boots, now gladly availed himself of the
lately discarded mount.

“Wooay, ye great grunting brute!” exclaimed he, going up with an air of
ownership, taking the rein off the post, and climbing on.

He had scarcely got well under way, ere a clattering of horses’ hoofs
behind him, attracted his attention; and, looking back, he saw the
Collington Woods detachment careering along in the usual wild, staring,
which-way? which-way? sort of style of men, who have been riding to
points, and have lost the hounds. In the midst of the flight was his
master, on the now woe-begone bay; who came coughing, and cutting, and
hammer and pincering along, in a very ominous sort of way. Billy, on the
other hand, flattered himself that they were having a very tremendous
run, with very little risk, and he was disposed to take every advantage
of his horse, by way of increasing its apparent severity, thinking
it would be a fine thing to tell his Mamma how he had got through his
horse. Monsieur having replied to their which ways? with the comfortable
assurance “that they need not trouble themselves any further, the hounds
being miles and miles away,” there was visible satisfaction on the faces
of some; while others, more knowing, attempted to conceal their delight
by lip-curling exclamations of “What a bore!”

“Thought you knew the country, Brown.” “Never follow you again, Smith,”
 and so on. They then began asking for the publics. “Where’s the Red
Lion?”

“Does anybody know the way to the Barley Mow?”

“How far is it to the Dog and Duck at Westpool?”

“Dat oss of yours sall not be quite veil, I tink, sare,” observed Jack
to his master, after listening to one of its ominous coughs.

“Oh, yes he is, only a little lazy,” replied Billy, giving him a
refresher, as well with the whip on his shoulder, as with the spur on
his side.

“He is feeble, I should say, sare,” continued Jack, eyeing him pottering
along.

“What should I give him, then?” asked Billy, thinking there might be
something in what Jack said.

“I sud say a leetle gin vod be de best ting for im,” replied Jack.

“Gin! but where can I get gin here?” asked Billy.

“Dese gentlemens is asking their vays to de Poblic ouses,” replied Jack;
“and if you follows dem, you vill laud at some tap before long.”

Jack was right. Balmey Zephyr, as they call Billy West, the surgeon of
Hackthorn, who had joined the hunt quite promiscuous, is leading the
way to the Red Lion, and the cavalcade is presently before the
well-frequented door; one man calling for Purl, another Ale, a third
for Porter; while others hank their horses on to the crook at the door,
while they go in to make themselves comfortable. Jack dismounting, and
giving his horse in charge of his master, entered the little way-side
hostelry; and, asking for a measure of gin, and a bottle of water, he
drinks off the gin, and then proceeds to rinse Billy’s horse’s mouth out
with the water, just as a training-groom rinses a horse’s after a race.

“Dat vill do,” at length said Jack, chucking the horse’s head up in
the air, as if he gets him to swallow the last drop of the precious
beverage. “Dat vill do,” repeated he, adding, “he vill now carry you
ome like a larkspur.” So saying, Jack handed the bottle back through the
window, and, paying the charge, remounted his steed, kissing his hand,
and bon-jouring the party, as he set off with his master in search of
Pangburn Park.

Neither of them being great hands at finding their way about a country,
they made sundry bad hits, and superfluous deviations, and just reached
Pangburn Park as Sir Moses and Co. came triumphantly down Rossington
hill, flourishing the brush that had given them a splendid fifty minutes
(ten off for exaggeration) without a check, over the cream of their
country, bringing Imperial John, Gameboy Green, and the flower of the
Featherbedfordshire hunt, to the most abject and unmitigated grief.

“Oh, such a run!” exclaimed Sir Moses, throwing out his paws. “Oh, such
a run! Finest run that ever was seen! Sort of run, that if old Thome
(meaning Lord Ladythorne) had had, he’d have talked about it for a
year.” Sir Moses then descended to particulars, describing the heads
up and sterns down work to the brook, the Imperial catastrophe which he
dwelt upon with great goût, dom’d if he didn’t; and how, leaving John
in the water, they went away over Rillington Marsh, at a pace that
was perfectly appalling, every field choking off some of those
Featherbedfordshireites, who came out thinking to cut them all down;
then up Tewey Hill, nearly to the crow trees, swinging down again into
the vale by Billy Mill, skirting Laureston Plantations, and over those
splendid pastures of Arlingford, where there was a momentary check,
owing to some coursers, who ought to be hang, dom’d if they shouldn’t.
“This,” continued Sir Moses, “let in some of the laggers, Dickey among
the number; but we were speedily away again; and, passing a little to
the west of Pickering Park, through the decoy, and away over Larkington
Rise, shot down to the Farthing-pie House, where that great Owl, Gameboy
Green, thinking to show off, rode at an impracticable fence, and got a
cropper for his pains, nearly knocking the poor little Damper into the
middle of the week after next by crossing him. Well, from there he made
for the main earths in Purdoe Banks, where, of course, there was no
shelter for him; and, breaking at the east end of the dene, he set
his head straight for Brace well Woods, good two miles off (one and a
quarter, say); but his strength failing him over Winterttood Heath, we
ran from scent to view, in the finest, openest manner imaginable,—dom’d
if we didn’t,” concluded Sir Moses, having talked himself out of breath.

The same evening, just as Oliver Armstrong was shutting up day by
trimming and lighting the oil-lamp at the Lockingford toll-bar, which
stands within a few yards from where the apparently well-behaved little
stream of Long Brawlingford brook divides the far-famed Hit-im
and Hold-im shire from Featherbedfordshire, a pair of desperately
mud-stained cords below a black coat and vest, reined up behind a well
wrapped and buttoned-up gentleman in a buggy, who chanced to be passing,
and drew forth the usual inquiry of “What sport?”

The questioner was no less a personage than Mr. Easylease, Lord
Ladythorne’s agent—we beg pardon, Commissioner—and Mr. Gameboy Green,
the tenant in possession of the soiled cords, recognising the voice in
spite of the wraps, thus replied—

“Oh, Mr. Easylease it’s you, sir, is it? Hope you’re well, sir,” with
a sort of move of his hat—not a take off, nor yet a keep on—“hope Mrs.
Easylease is quite well, and the young ladies.”

“Quite well, thank you; hope Mrs. G.’s the same. What sport have you
had?” added the Commissioner, without waiting for an answer to the
inquiry about the ladies.

“Sport!” repeated Gameboy, drawing his breath, as he conned the matter
hastily over. “Sport!” recollecting he was as good as addressing the
Earl himself—master of hounds—favours past—hopes for future, and so on.
“Well,” said he, seeing his line; “We’ve had a nice-ish run—a fair-ish
day—five and twenty minutes, or so.”

“Fast?” asked Mr. Easylease, twirling his gig-whip about, for he was
going to Tantivy Castle in the morning, and thought he might as well
have something to talk about beside the weather.

“Middlin’—nothin’ partieklar,” replied Green, with a chuck of the chin.

“Kill?” asked the Commissioner, continuing the laconics.

“Don’t know,” replied the naughty Green, who knew full well they had;
for he had seen them run into their fox as he stood on Dinglebank Hill;
and, moreover, had ridden part of the way home with Tommy Heslop, who
had a pad.

“Why, you’ve been down!” exclaimed the Commissioner, starting round at
the unwonted announcement of Gameboy Green, the best man of their hunt,
not knowing if they had killed.

“Down, aye,” repeated Gameboy, looking at his soiled side, which looked
as if he had been at a sculptor’s, having a mud cast taken of himself.
“I’m indebted to the nasty little jealous Damper for that.”

“The Damper!” exclaimed the Commissioner, knowing how the Earl hated
him. “The Damper! that little rascally draper’s always doing something
wrong. How did he manage it?”

“Just charged me as I was taking a fence,” replied Green, “and knocked
me clean over.”

“What a shame!” exclaimed the Commissioner, driving on. “What a shame,”
 repeated he, whipping his horse into a trot.

And as he proceeded, he presently fell in with Dr. Pillerton, to whom he
related how infamously the Hit-im and Hold-im shire chaps had used poor
Green, breaking three of his ribs, and nearly knocking his eye out. And
Dr. Pillerton, ever anxious, &c., told D’Orsay Davis, the great we of
the Featherbedfordshire Gazette, who forthwith penned such an article on
fox-hunting Jealousy, generally, and Hit-im and Hold-im shire Jealousy
in particular, as caused Sir Moses to declare he’d horsewhip him the
first time he caught him,—“dom’d if he wouldn’t.”

“Shall be w-h-a-w-t?” drawled our hero, dreading the reply.

“Down in de mouth—seek—onvell,” replied Jack, depositing the top-boots
by the sofa, and placing the shaving-water on the toilette table.

“Oh, is he!” said Billy, perking up, thinking he saw his way out of the
dilemma. “What’s the matter with him?”

“He coughs, sare—he does not feed, sare—and altogether he is not right.”

“So-o-o,” said Billy, conning the matter over—“then, p’raps I’d better
not ride him?”



CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE SICK HORSE AND THE SICK MASTER.



288m


YOUR oss sall be seek—down in de mouth dis mornin’, sare,” observed
Monsieur to Billy, as the latter lay tossing about in his uncomfortable
bed, thinking how he could shirk that day’s hunting penance; Sir Moses,
with his usual dexterity, having evaded the offer of lending him a
horse, by saying that Billy’s having nothing to do.

“Vot you think right, sare,” replied Jack. “He is your quadruped, not
mine; but I should not say he is vot dey call, op to snoff—fit to go.”

“Ah,” replied Billy. “I’ll not ride ‘im! hate a horse that’s not up to
the mark.”

“Sare Moses Baronet vod perhaps lend you von, sare,” suggested Jack.

“Oh, by no means!” replied Billy in a fright. “By no means! I’d just as
soon not hunt to-day, in fact, for I’ve got a good many letters to write
and things to do; so just take the water away for the present and bring
it back when Sir Moses is gone.” So saying, Billy turned over on his
thin pillow, and again sought the solace of his couch. He presently fell
into a delightful dreamy sort of sleep, in which he fancied that after
dancing the Yammerton girls all round, he had at length settled into
an interminable “Ask Mamma Polka,” with Clara, from which he was
disagreeably aroused by Jack Rogers’ hirsute face again protruding
between the partially-drawn curtains, announcing, “Sare Moses Baronet,
sare, has cot his stick—is off.”

“Sir Moses, what!” started Billy, dreading to hear about the hunt.

“Sare Moses Baronet, sare, is gone, and I’ve brought you your l’eau
chaude, as you said.”

“All right!” exclaimed Billy, rubbing his eyes and recollecting himself,
“all right;” and, banishing the beauty, he jumped out of bed and
resigned himself to Rogers, who forthwith commenced the elaborate duties
of his office. As it progressed he informed Billy how the land lay.
“Sare Moses was gone, bot Coddy was left, and Mrs. Margerum said there
should be no déjeuner for Cod” (who was a bad tip), till Billy came
down. And Jack didn’t put himself at all out of his way to expedite
matters to accommodate Cuddy.

At length Billy descended in a suit of those tigerish tweeds into which
he had lapsed since he got away from Mamma, and was received with a
round of tallihos and view-holloas by Cuddy, who had been studying
Bell’s Life with exemplary patience in the little bookless library,
reading through all the meets of the hounds as if he was going to send
a horse to each of them. Then Cuddy took his revenge on the servants by
ringing for everything he could think of, demanding them all in the name
of Mr. Pringle; just as an old parish constable used to run frantically
about a fair demanding assistance from everybody in the name of the
Queen. Mr. Pringle wanted devilled turkey, Mr. Pringle wanted partridge
pie, Mr. Pringle wanted sausages, Mr. Pringle wanted chocolate, Mr.
Pringle wanted honey, jelly and preserve. Why the deuce, didn’t they
send Mr. Pringle his breakfast in properly? And if the servants didn’t
think Billy a very great man, it wasn’t for want of Cuddy trying to make
them.

And so, what with Cuddy’s exertions and the natural course of events,
Billy obtained a very good breakfast. The last cup being at length
drained, Cuddy clutched Bell’s Life, and wheeling his semicircular
chair round to the fire, dived into his side pocket, and, producing
a cigar-case, tendered Billy a weed. And Cuddy did it in such a
matter-of-course way, that much as Billy disliked smoking, he felt
constrained to accept one, thinking to get rid of it by a sidewind, just
as he had got rid of old Wotherspoon’s snuff, by throwing it away. So,
taking his choice, he lit it, and prepared to beat a retreat, but was
interrupted by Cuddy asking where “he was going?”

“Only into the open air,” replied Billy, with the manner of a professed
smoker.

“Open air, be hanged!” retorted Cuddy. “Open airs well enough in
summer-time when the roses are out, and the strawberries ripe, but this
is not the season for that kind of sport. No, no, come and sit here,
man,” continued he, drawing a chair alongside of him for Billy, “and
let’s have a chat about hunting.”

“But Sir Moses won’t like his room smoked in,” observed Billy, making a
last effort to be off.

“Oh, Sir Moses don’t care!” rejoined Cuddy, with a jerk of his head;
“Sir Moses don’t care! can’t hurt such rubbish as this,” added he,
tapping the arm of an old imitation rose-wood painted chair that stood
on his left. “No old furniture broker in the Cut, would give ten puns
for the whole lot, curtains, cushions, and all,” looking at the faded
red hangings around.

So Billy was obliged to sit down and proceed with his cigar. Meanwhile
Cuddy having established a good light to his own, took up his left leg
to nurse, and proceeded with his sporting speculations.

“Ah, hunting wasn’t what it used to be (whiff), nor racing either
(puff). Never was a truer letter (puff), than that of Lord Derby’s
(whiff), in which he said racing had got into the (puff) hands of
(whiff) persons of an inferior (puff) position, who keep (puff) horses
as mere instruments of (puff) gambling, instead of for (whiff) sport.”
 Then, having pruned the end of his cigar, he lowered his left leg
and gave his right one a turn, while he indulged in some hunting
recollections. “Hunting wasn’t what it used to be (puff) in the days
of old (whiff) Warde and (puff) Villebois and (whiff) Masters. Ah no!”
 continued he, taking his cigar out of his month, and casting his eye up
at the dirty fly-dotted ceiling. “Few such sportsmen as poor Sutton or
Ralph Lambton, or that fine old fire-brick, Assheton Smith. People
want to be all in the ring now, instead of sticking to one sport, and
enjoying it thoroughly—yachts, manors, moors, race-horses, cricket,
coaches, coursing, cooks—and the consequence is, they get blown before
they are thirty, and have to live upon air the rest of their lives.
Wasn’t one man in fifty that hunted who really enjoyed it. See how glad
they were to tail off as soon as they could. A good knock on the nose,
or a crack on the crown settled half of them. Another thing was, there
was no money to be made by it. Nothing an Englishman liked so much as
making money, or trying to make it.” So saying, Cuddy gave his cigar
another fillip, and replacing it in his mouth, proceeded to blow a
series of long revolving clouds, as he lapsed into a heaven of hunting
contemplations.

From these he was suddenly aroused by the violent retching of Billy.
Our friend, after experiencing the gradual growth of seasickness mingled
with a stupifying headache, was at length fairly overcome, and Cuddy
had just time to bring the slop-basin to the rescue. Oh, how green Billy
looked! ****

“Too soon after breakfast—too soon after breakfast,” muttered Cuddy,
disgusted at the interruption. “Lie down for half an hour, lie down for
half an hour,” continued he ringing the bell violently for assistance.

“Send Mr. Pringle’s valet here! send Mr. Pringle’s valet here!”
 exclaimed he, as the half-davercd footman came staring in, followed by
the ticket-of-leave butler, “Here, Monsieur!” continued he, as Rougier’s
hairy face now peeped past the door, “your master wants you—eat
something that’s disagreed with him—that partridge-pie, I think, for I
feel rather squeamish myself; and you, Bankhead,” added he, addressing
the butler, “just bring us each a drop of brandy, not that nasty brown
stuff Mother Margermn puts into the puddings, but some of the white, you
know—the best, you know,” saying which, with a “now old boy!” he gave
Billy a hoist from his seat by the arm, and sent him away with his
servant. The brandy, however, never came, Bankhead declaring they had
drunk all he had out, the other night. So Cuddy was obliged to console
himself with his cigars and Bell’s Life, which latter he read, marked,
learned, and inwardly digested, pausing every now and then at the
speculative passages, wondering whether Wilkinson and Kidd, or Messrs.
Wilkinson and Co. were the parties who had the honour of having his name
on their books, where Henry Just, the backer of horses, got the Latin
for his advertisement from, and considering whether Nairn Sahib, the
Indian fiend, should be roasted alive or carried round the world in
a cage. He also went through the column and a quarter of the meets of
hounds again, studied the doings at Copenhagen Grounds, Salford Borough
Gardens, and Hornsea Wood, and finally finished off with the time of
high-water at London Bridge, and the list of pedestrian matches to come.
He then folded the paper carefully up and replaced it iu his pocket,
feeling equal to a dialogue with anybody. Having examined the day
through the window, he next strolled to his old friend the weather-glass
at the bottom of the stairs, and then constituting himself huntsman to a
pack of hounds, proceeded to draw the house for our Billy; “Y-o-o-icks,
wind him! y-o-o-icks, push him up!” holloaed he, going leisurely
up-stairs, “E’leu in there! E’leu in!” continued he, on arriving at a
partially closed door on the first landing.

“There’s nobody here! There’s nobody here!” exclaimed Mrs. Margerum,
hurrying out. “There’s nobody here, sir!” repeated she, holding steadily
on by the door, to prevent any one entering where she was busy packing
her weekly basket of perquisites, or what the Americans more properly
call “stealings.”

“Nobody here! bitch-fox, at all events!” retorted Cuddy, eyeing her
confusion—“where’s Mr. Pringle’s room?” asked he.

“I’ll show you, sir; I’ll show you,” replied she, closing the room-door,
and hurrying on to another one further along. “This is Mr. Pringle’s
room, sir,” said she, stopping before it.

“All right!” exclaimed Cuddy, knocking at the door.

“Come in,” replied a feeble voice from within; and in Cuddy went.



259m


There was Billy in bed, with much such a disconsolate face as he had
when Jack Rogers appeared with his hunting things. As, however, nobody
ever admits being sick with smoking, Billy readily adopted Cuddy’s
suggestion, and laid the blame on the pie. Cuddy, indeed, was good
enough to say he had been sick himself, and of course Billy had a right
to be so, too. “Shouldn’t have been so,” said Cuddy, “if that beggar
Bankhead had brought the brandy; but there’s no getting anything out
of that fellow.” And Caddy and Billy being then placed upon terms of
equality, the interesting invalids agreed to have a walk together.
To this end Billy turned out of bed and re-established himself in his
recently-discarded coat and vest; feeling much like a man after a bad
passage from Dover to Calais. The two then toddled down-stairs together,
Cuddy stopping at the bottom of the flight to consult his old friend the
glass, and speculate upon the Weather.

“Dash it! but it’s falling,” said he, with a shake of the head after
tapping it. “Didn’t like the looks of the sky this morning—wish there
mayn’t be a storm brewing. Had one just about this time last year. Would
be a horrid bore if hunting was stopped just in its prime,” and talked
like a man with half-a-dozen horses fit to jump out of their skins,
instead of not owning one. And Billy thought it would be the very
thing for him if hunting was stopped. “With a somewhat light heart, he
followed Cuddy through the back slums to the stables.

“Sir Moses doesn’t sacrifice much to appearances, does he?” asked Cuddy,
pointing to the wretched rough-cast peeling off the back walls of the
house, which were greened with the drippings of the broken spouts.

“No,” replied Billy, staring about, thinking how different things looked
there to what they did at the Carstle.

“Desperately afraid of paint,” continued Cuddy, looking about. “Don’t
think there has been a lick of paint laid upon any place since he got
it. Always tell him he’s like a bad tenant at the end of a long lease,”
 which observation brought them to the first stable-door. “Who’s here?”
 cried Cuddy, kicking at the locked entrance.

“Who’s there?” demanded a voice from within.

“Me! Mr. Flintoff’!” replied Cuddy, in a tone of authority; “open the
door” added he, imperiously.

The dirty-shirted helper had seen them coming; but the servants
generally looking upon Cuddy as a spy, the man had locked the door upon
him.

“Beg pardon, sir,” now said the Catiff’, pulling at his cowlick as he
opened it; “beg pardon, sir, didn’t know it was you.”

“Didn’t you,” replied Cuddy, adding, “you might have known by my knock,”
 saying which Cuddy stuck his cheesey hat down on his nose, and pocketing
his hands, proceeded to scrutinise the stud.

“What’s this ‘orse got a bandage on for?” asked he about one. “Why
don’t ye let that ‘orse’s ‘ead down?” demanded he of another. “Strip
thisn’orse,” ordered he of a third. Then Cuddy stood criticising his
points, his legs, his loins, his hocks, his head, his steep shoulder,
as he called it, and then ordered the clothes to be put on again. So he
went from stable to stable, just as he does at Tattersall’s on a Sunday,
Cuddy being as true to the “corner” as the needle to the pole, though,
like the children, he looks, but never touches, that is to say, “bids,”
 at least not for himself. Our Billy, soon tiring of this amusement—if,
indeed, amusement it can be called—availed himself of the interregnum
caused by the outside passage from one set of stables to another, to
slip away to look after his own horse, of whose health he suddenly
remembered Rougier had spoken disparagingly in the morning. After some
little trouble he found the Juniper-smelling head groom, snoring asleep
among a heap of horse-cloths before the fire in the saddle-room.

It is said that a man who is never exactly sober is never quite drunk,
and Jack Wetun was one of this order, he was always running to the
“unsophisticated gin-bottle,” keeping up the steam of excitement, but
seldom overtopping it, and could shake himself into apparent sobriety
in an instant. Like most of Sir Moses’s people, he was one of the
fallen angels of servitude, having lived in high places, from which his
intemperate habits had ejected him; and he was now gradually descending
to that last refuge of the destitute, the Ostlership of a farmer’s
inn. Starting out of his nest at the rousing shake of the helper, who
holloaed in his ear that “Mr. Pringle wanted to see his ‘orse,” Wetun
stretched his brawny arms, and, rubbing his eyes, at length comprehended
Billy, when he exclaimed with a start, “Oss, sir? Oh, by all means,
sir;” and, bundling on his greasy-collared, iron-grey coat, he reeled
and rolled out of the room, followed by our friend. “That (hiccup) oss
of (hiccup) yours is (hiccup) amiss, I think (hiccup), sir,” said he,
leading, or rather lurching the way. “A w-h-a-w-t?” drawled Billy,
watching Weton’s tack and half-tack gait.

“Amiss (hiccup)—unwell—don’t like his (hiccup) looks,” replied the
groom, rolling past the stable-door where he was. “Oh, beg pardon,”
 exclaimed he, bumping against Billy on turning short back, as he
suddenly recollected himself; “Beg pardon, he’s in here,” added he,
fumbling at the door. It was locked. Then, oh dear, he hadn’t got the
(hiccup) key, then (hiccup); yes, he had got the (hiccup) key, as he
recollected he had his coat on, and dived into the pocket for it. Then
he produced it; and, after making several unsuccessful pokes at the
key-hole, at length accomplished an entry, and Billy again saw Napoleon
the Great, now standing in the promised two-stalled stable along with
Sir Moses’s gig mare.

To a man with any knowledge of horses, Napoleon certainly did look very
much amiss—more like a wooden horse at a harness-maker’s, than an animal
meant to go,—stiff, with his fore-logs abroad, and an anxious care-worn
countenance continually cast back at its bearing flanks.

“Humph!” said Billy, looking him over, as he thought, very knowingly.
“Not so much amiss, either, is he?”

“Well, sir, what you think,” replied Wetun, glad to find that Billy
didn’t blame him for his bad night’s lodgings.

“Oh, I dare say he’ll be all right in a day or two,” observed

Billy, half inclined to recommend his having his feet put into warm
water.

“Ope so,” replied Wetun, looking up the horse’s red nostrils, adding,
“but he’s not (hiccup) now, somehow.”

Just then a long reverberating crack sounded through the courtyard,
followed by the clattering of horses’ hoofs, and Wetun exclaiming, “Here
be Sir Moses!” dropped the poor horse’s head, and hurried ont to meet
his master, accompanied by Billy.

“Ah, Pringle!” exclaimed Sir Moses, gaily throwing his leg over his
horse’s head as he alighted. “Ah, Pringle, my dear fellow, what, got
you?”

“Well, what sport?” demanded Cuddy Flintoff, rushing up with eager
anxiety depicted on his face.

“Very good,” replied Sir Moses, stamping the mud off his boots, and
then giving himself a general shake; “very good,” repeated he; “found
at Lobjolt Corse—-ran up the banks and down the banks, and across
to Beatie’s Bog, then over to Deep-well Rocks, and back again to the
banks.”

“Did you kill?” demanded Cuddy, not wanting to hear any more about the
banks—up the banks or down the banks either.

“Why, no,” replied Sir Moses, moodily; “if that dom’d old Daddy Nevins
hadn’t stuck his ugly old mug right in the way, we should have forced
him over Willowsike Pastures, and doubled him up in no time, for we were
close upon him; whereas the old infidel brought us to a check, aud we
never could get upon terms with him again; but, come,” continued Sir
Moses, wishing to cut short this part of the narrative, “let’s go into
the house and get ourselves warmed, for the air’s cold, and I haven’t
had a bite since breakfast.”

“Ay, come in!” cried Cuddy, leading the way; “come in, and get Mr.
Pringle a drop of brandy, for he’s eat something that’s disagreed with
him.”

“Eat something that’s disagreed with him. Sorry to hear that; what could
it be?—what could it be?” asked Sir Moses, as the party now groped their
way along the back passages.

“Why, I blame the partridge-pie,” replied Cuddy, demurely.

“Not a bit of it!” rejoined Sir Moses—“not a bit of it! eat some
myself—eat some myself—will finish it now—will finish it now.”

“We’ve saved you that trouble,” replied Cuddy, “for we finished it
ourselves.”

“The deuce you did!” exclaimed Sir Moses, adding, “and were you sick?”

“Squeamish,” replied Cuddy—“Squeamish; not so bad as Mr. Pringle.”

“But bad enough to want some brandy, I suppose,” observed the Baronet,
now entering the library.

“Quite so,” said Cuddy—“quite.”

“Why didn’t you get some?—why didn’t you get some?” asked the Baronet,
moving towards the bell.

“Because Bankhead has none out,” replied Mr. Cuddy, before Sir Moses
rang.

“None out!” retorted Sir Moses—“none out!—what! have you finished that
too!”

“Somebody has, it seems,” replied Cuddy, quite innocently.

“Well, then, I’ll tell you what you must do—I’ll tell you what you must
do,” continued the Baronet, lighting a little red taper, and feeling in
his pocket for the keys—“you must go into the cellar yourself and get
some—go into the cellar yourself and get some;” so saying, Sir Moses
handed Cuddy the candle and keys, saying, “shelf above the left hand bin
behind the door,” adding, “you know it—you know it.”

“Better bring two when I’m there, hadn’t I?” asked Cuddy.

“Well,” said Sir Moses, dryly, “I s’pose there’ll be no great harm if
you do;” and away Cuddy went.

“D-e-e-a-vil of a fellow to drink—d-e-e-a-vil of a fellow to drink,”
 drawled Sir Moses, listening to his receding footsteps along the
passage. He then directed his blarney to Billy. “Oh dear, he was sorry
to hear he’d been ill; what could it be? Lost a nice gallop, too—dom’d
if he hadn’t. Couldn’t be the pie! Wondered he wasn’t down in the
morning.” Then Billy explained that his horse was ill, and that
prevented him.

“Horse ill!” exclaimed Sir Moses, throwing out his hands, and raising
his brows with astonishment—“horse ill! O dear, but that shouldn’t
have stopped you, if I’d known—should have been most welcome to any
of mine—dom’d if you shouldn’t! There’s Pegasus, or Atalanta, or
Will-o’-the-Wisp, or any of them, fit to go. O dear, it was a sad
mistake not sending word. Wonder what Wetun was about not to tell
me—would row him for not doing so,” and as Sir Moses went on protesting
and professing and proposing, Cuddy Flintoff’s footstep and “for-rard
on! for-rard on!” were heard returning along the passage, and he
presently entered with a bottle in each hand.

“There are a brace of beauties!” exclaimed he, placing them on the round
table, with the dew of the cellar fresh on their sides—“there are a
brace of blood-like beauties!” repeated he, eyeing their neat tapering
necks, “the very race-horse of bottles—perfect pictures, I declare; so
different to those great lumbering roundshouldered English things, that
look like black beer or porter, or something of that sort.” Then Cuddy
ran off for glasses and tumblers and water; and Sir Moses, having taken
a thimble-full of brandy, retired to change his clothes, declaring
he felt chilly; and Cuddy, reigning in his stead, made Billy two such
uncommonly strong brews, that we are sorry to say he had to be put to
bed shortly after.

And when Mr. Bankhead heard that Cuddy Flintoff had been sent to the
cellar instead of him, he declared it was the greatest insult that had
ever been offered to a gentleman of his “order,” and vowed that he would
turn his master off the first thing in the morning.



CHAPTER XXXIX. MR. PRINGLE SUDDENLY BECOMES A MEMBER OF THE H. H. H.

NEXT day being a “dies non” in the hunting way, Sir Moses Mainchance
lay at earth to receive his steward, Mr. Mordecai Nathan, and hear
what sport he had had as well in hunting up arrears of rent as in
the management of the Pangburn Park estate generally. Very sorry the
accounts were, many of the apparent dullard farmers being far more than
a match for the sharp London Jew. Mr. Mordecai Nathan indeed, declared
that it would require a detective policeman to watch each farm, so
tricky and subtile were the occupants. And as Sir Moses listened to the
sad recitals, how Henery Brown & Co. had been leading off their straw
by night, and Mrs. Turnbull selling her hay by day, and Jacky Hindmarch
sowing his fallows without ever taking out a single weed, he vowed that
they were a set of the biggest rogues under the sun, and deserved to be
hung all in a row,—dom’d if they didn’t! And he moved and seconded and
carried a resolution in his own mind, that the man who meddled with land
as a source of revenue was a very great goose. So, charging Mr. Mordecai
Nathan to stick to them for the money, promising him one per cent, more
(making him eleven) on what he recovered, he at length dissolved the
meeting, most heartily wishing he had Pangburn Park in his pocket again.
Meanwhile Messrs. Flintoff and Pringle had yawned away the morning in
the usual dreamy loungy style of guests in country-houses, where the
meals are the chief incidents of the day. Mr. Pringle not choosing to be
tempted with any more “pie,” had slipped away to the stable as soon as
Cuddy produced the dread cigar-case after breakfast, and there had a
conference with Mr. Wetun, the stud-groom, about his horse Napoleon the
Great. The drunkard half laughed when Billy asked “if he thought the
horse would be fit to come out in the morning, observing that he thought
it would be a good many mornins fust, adding that Mr. Fleams the farrier
had bled him, but he didn’t seem any better, and that he was coming back
at two o’clock, when p’raps Mr. Pringle had better see him himself.”
 Whereupon our friend Billy, recollecting Sir Moses’s earnest deprecation
of his having stayed at home for want of a horse the day before, and the
liberal way he had talked of Atalanta and Pegasus, and he didn’t know
what else, now charged Mr. Wetun not to mention his being without a
horse, lest Sir Moses might think it necessary to mount him; which
promise being duly accorded, Billy, still shirking Cuddy, sought the
retirement of his chamber, where he indited an epistle to his anxious
Mamma, telling her all, how he had left Major Yammerton’s and the
dangerous eyes, and had taken up his quarters with Sir Moses Mainchance,
a great fox-hunting Hit-im and Hold-im shire Baronet at Pangburn Park,
expecting she would be very much pleased and struck with the increased
consequence. Instead of which, however, though Mrs. Pringle felt that he
had perhaps hit upon the lesser evil, she wrote him a very loving letter
by return of post, saying she was glad to hear he was enjoying himself,
but cautioning him against “Moses Mainchance” (omitting the Sir), adding
that every man’s character was ticketed in London, and the letters “D.
D.” for “Dirty Dog” were appended to his. She also told him that uncle
Jerry had been inquiring about him, and begging she would call upon
him at an early day on matters of business, all of which will hereafter
“more full and at large appear,” as the lawyers say; meanwhile, we must
back the train of ideas a little to our hero. Just as he was affixing
the great seal of state to the letter, Cuddy Flintoff’s “for-rard on!
for-rard on!” was heard progressing along the passage, followed by a
noisy knock, with an exclamation of “Pringle” at our friend’s door.

“Come in!” cried he; and in obedience to the invitation, Flintoff stood
in the doorway. “Don’t forget,” said he, “that we dine at Hinton to-day,
and the Baronet’s ordered the trap at four,” adding, “I’m going to
dress, and you’d better do the same.” So saying, Cuddy closed the
door, and hunted himself along to his own room at the end of the
passage—“E’leu in there! E’leu in!” oried he as he got to the door.

Hinton, once the second town in Hit-im and Hold-im shire, stands at the
confluence of the Long Brawlinerford and Riplinton brooks, whose united
efforts here succeed in making a pretty respectable stream. It is an
old-fashioned country place, whose component parts may be described as
consisting of an extensive market-place, with a massive church of the
florid Gothic, or gingerbread order of architecture at one end, a quaint
stone-roofed, stone-pillared market cross at the other, the Fox and
Hounds hotel and posting-house on the north side, with alternating shops
and public houses on the south.

Its population, according to a certain “sore subject” topographical
dictionary, was 23,500, whilst its principal trade might have been
described as “fleecing the foxhunters.” That was in its golden days,
when Lord Martingal hunted the country, holding his court at the Fox
and Hounds hotel, where gentlemen stayed with their studs for months and
months together, instead of whisking about with their horses by steam.
Then every stable in the town was occupied at very remunerative rents,
and the inhabitants seemed to think they could never build enough.

Like the natives of most isolated places, the Hintonites were very
self-sufficient, firmly believing that there were no such conjurors
as themselves; and, when the Grumpletin railway was projected, they
resolved that it would ruin their town, and so they opposed it to a man,
and succeeded in driving it several miles off, thus scattering their
trade among other places along the line. Year by year the bonnet and
mantle shops grew less gay, the ribbons less attractive, until shop
after shop lapsed into a sort of store, hardware on one side, and
millinery, perhaps, on the other. But the greatest fall of all was that
of the Fox and Hounds hotel and posting-house. This spacious hostelry
had apparently been built with a view of accommodating everybody; and,
at the time of our story, it loomed in deserted grandeur in the great
grass-grown market-place. In structure it was more like a continental
inn than an English one; quadrangular, entered by a spacious archway,
from whose lofty ceiling hung the crooks, from whence used to dangle the
glorious legs and loins of four-year-old mutton, the home-fed hams, the
geese, the ducks, the game, with not unfrequently a haunch or two of
presentation venison. With the building, however, the similarity ended,
the cobble-stoned courtyard displaying only a few water-casks and a
basket-caged jay, in lieu of the statues, and vases, and fountains, and
flower-stands that grace the flagged courts of the continent. But in
former days it boasted that which in the eye of our innkeeper passes
show, namely, a goodly line of two-horse carriages drawn across its
ample width. In those days county families moved like county families,
in great, caravan-like carriages, with plenty of servants, who, having
drunk the “Park or Hall” allowance, uphold their characters and the
honour of their houses, by topping up the measure of intemperance with
their own money. Their masters and mistresses, too, considered the
claims of the innkeepers, and ate and drank for the good of the house,
instead of sneaking away to pastry-cooks for their lunches at a third of
the price of the inn ones. Not that any landlord had ever made money
at the Fox and Hounds hotel. Oh, no! it would never do to admit that.
Indeed, Mr. Binny used to declare, if it wasn’t “the great regard he
had for Lord Martingal and the gents of his hunt, he’d just as soon
be without their custom;” just as all Binnys decry, whatever they
have—military messes, hunt messes, bar messes, any sort of messes. They
never make anything by them—not they.

Now, however, that the hunt was irrevocably gone, words were inadequate
to convey old Peter the waiter’s lamentations at its loss. “Oh dear,
sir!” he would say, as he showed a stranger the club-room, once the
eighth wonder of the world, “Oh dear, sir! I never thought to see things
come to this pass. This room, sir, used to be occupied night after
night, and every Wednesday we had more company than it could possibly
hold. Now we have nothing but a miserable three-and-sixpence a head
once a month, with Sir Moses in the chair, and a shilling a bottle for
corkage. Formerly we had six shillings a bottle for port and five for
sherry, which, as our decanters didn’t hold three parts, was pretty good
pay.” Then Peter would open the shutters and show the proportions of the
room, with the unrivalled pictures on the walls: Lord Martingal on his
horse, Lord Martingal off his horse; Mr. Customer on his horse, Mr.
Customer off his horse, Mr. Customer getting drunk; Mr. Crasher on his
horse, Mr. Crasher with a hound, &c., all in the old woodeny style
that prevailed before the gallant Grant struck out a fresh light in his
inimitable “Breakfast,” and “Meet of the Stag-hounds.” But the reader
will perhaps accompany us to one of Sir Moses’s “Wednesday evenings;”
 for which purpose they will have the goodness to suppose the Baronet
and Mr. Flintoff arrayed in the dress uniform of the hunt—viz., scarlet
coats with yellow collars and facings, and Mr. Pringle attired in the
height of the fashion, bundling into one of those extraordinary-shaped
vehicles that modern times have introduced. “Right!” cries the footman
from the steps of the door, as Bankhead and Monsieur mount the box of
the carriage, and away the well-muffled party drive to the scene of
action.

The great drawback to the Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt club-room at the
Fox and Hounds hotel and posting-house at Hinton, undoubtedly was, that
there was no ante or reception room. The guests on alighting from their
vehicles, after ascending the broad straight flight of stairs, found
themselves suddenly precipitated into the dazzling dining-room, with
such dismantling accommodation only as a low screen before the door at
the low-end of the room afforded. The effect therefore was much the
or same as if an actor dressed for his part on the stage before the
audience; a fox-hunter in his wraps, and a fox-hunter in his red, being
very distinct and different beings. It was quite destructive of anything
like imposing flourish or effect. Moreover the accumulation of steaming
things on a wet night, which it generally was on a club dinner, added
but little to the fragrance of the room. So much for generalities; we
will now proceed to our particular dinner.



301m


Sir Moses being the great gun of the evening, of course timed himself to
arrive becomingly late—indeed the venerable post-boy who drove him,
knew to a moment when to arrive; and as the party ascended the straight
flight of stairs they met a general buzz of conversation coming down,
high above which rose the discordant notes of the Laughing Hyæna. It
was the first hunt-dinner of the season, and being the one at which Sir
Moses generally broached his sporting requirements, parties thought it
prudent to be present, as well as to hear the prospects of the season as
to protect their own pockets. To this end some twenty or five-and-twenty
variegated guests were assembled, the majority dressed in the red coat
and yellow facings of the hunt, exhibiting every variety of cut, from
the tight short-waisted swallow-tails of Mr. Crasher’s (the contemporary
of George the Fourth) reign, down to the sack-like garment of the
present day. Many of them looked as if, having got into their coats,
they were never to get out of them again, but as pride feels no pain, if
asked about them, they would have declared they were quite comfortable.
The dark-coated gentry were principally farmers, and tradespeople, or
the representatives of great men in the neighbourhood. Mr. Buckwheat,
Mr. Doubledrill, Mr. James Corduroys, Mr. Stephen Broadfurrow; Mr. Pica,
of the “Hit-im and Hold-im shire Herald;” Hicks, the Flying Hatter, and
his shadow Tom Snowdon the draper or Damper, Manford the corn-merchant,
Smith the saddler. Then there was Mr. Mossman, Lord Polkaton’s Scotch
factor, Mr. Squeezeley, Sir Morgan Wildair’s agent, Mr. Lute, on behalf
of Lord Harpsichord, Mr. Stiff representing Sir George Persiflage, &c.,
&c. These latter were watching the proceedings for their employers, Sir
Moses having declared that Mr. Mossman, on a former occasion (see page
188, ante), had volunteered to subscribe fifty pounds to the hounds,
on behalf of Lord Polkaton, and Sir Moses had made his lordship pay it
too—“dom’d if he hadn’t.” With this sketch of the company, let us now
proceed to the entry.

Though the current of conversation had been anything but flattering to
our master before his arrival, yet the reception they now gave him,
as he emerged from behind the screen, might have made a less
self-sufficient man than Sir Moses think he was extremely popular.
Indeed, they rushed at him in a way that none but Briareus himself could
have satisfied. They all wanted to hug him at once. Sir Moses having
at length appeased their enthusiasm, and given his beak a good blow,
proceeded to turn part of their politeness upon Billy, by introducing
him to those around. Mr. Pringle, Mr. Jarperson—Mr. Pringle, Mr. Paul
Straddler—Mr. Pringle, Mr. John Bullrush, and so on.

Meanwhile Cuddy Flintoff kept up a series of view halloas and hunting
noises, as guest after guest claimed the loan of his hand for a shake.
So they were all very hearty and joyful as members of a fox-hunting club
ought to be.



303m


The rules of the Hit-im and Hold-im-shire hunt, like those of many other
hunts and institutions, were sometimes very stringent, and sometimes
very lax—very stringent when an objectionable candidate presented
himself—very lax when a good one was to be obtained. On the present
occasion Sir Moses Mainchance had little difficulty in persuading
the meeting to suspend the salutary rule (No. 5) requiring each new
candidate to be proposed and seconded at one meeting, and his name
placed above the mantelpiece in the club-room, until he was ballotted
for at another meeting, in favour of the nephew of his old friend and
brother Baronet, Sir Jonathan Pringle; whom he described as a most
promising young sportsman, and likely to make a most valuable addition
to their hunt. And the members all seeing matters in that light, Cuddy
Flintoff was despatched for the ballot-box, so that there might be no
interruption to the advancement of dinner by summoning Peter. Meanwhile
Sir Moses resumed the introductory process, Mr. Heslop Mr. Pringle, Mr.
Pringle Mr. Smoothley, Mr. Drew Mr. Pringle, helping Billy to the names
of such faces as he could not identity for want of their hunting caps.
Cleverer fellows than Billy are puzzled to do that sometimes.

Presently Mr. Flintoff returned with the rat-trap-like ballot-box under
his arm, and a willow-pattern soup-plate with some beans in the bottom
of it, in his hand.

“Make way!” cried he, “make way!” advancing up the room with all the
dignity of a mace-bearer. “Where will you have it, Sir Moses?” asked he,
“where will you have it, Sir Moses?”

“Here!” replied the Baronet, seizing a card-table from below the
portrait of Mr. Customer getting drunk, and setting it out a little
on the left of the tire. The ballot-box was then duly deposited on the
centre of the green baize with a composite candle on each side of it.

Sir Moses, then thinking to make up in dignity what he had sacrificed
to expediency, now called upon the meeting to appoint a Scrutineer on
behalf of the club, and parties caring little who they named so long
as they were not kept waiting for dinner, holloaed out “Mr. Flintoff!”
 whereupon Sir Moses put it to them if they were all content to have
Mr. Flintoff appointed to the important and responsible office of
Scrutineer, and receiving a shower of “yes-es!” in reply, he declared
Mr. Flintoff was duly elected, and requested him to enter upon the
duties of his office.

Cuddy, then turning up his red coat wrists, so that there might be no
suspicion of concealed beans, proceeded to open and turn the drawers
of the ballot-box upside down, in order to show that they were equally
dear, and then restoring them below their “Yes” and “No” holes, he took
his station behind the table with the soup-plate in his hand ready to
drop a bean into each member’s hand, as he advanced to receive it. Mr.
Heslop presently led the way at a dead-march-in-Saul sort of pace, and
other members falling in behind like railway passengers at a pay place,
there was a continuous dropping of beans for some minutes, a solemn
silence being preserved as if the parties expected to hear on which side
they fell.

At length the constituency was exhausted, and Mr. Flintoff having
assumed the sand-glass, and duly proclaimed that he should close the
ballot, if no member appeared before the first glass was out, speedily
declared it was run, when, laying it aside, he emptied the soup-plate
of the remaining beans, and after turning it upside down to show the
perfect fairness of the transaction, handed it to Sir Moses to hold for
the result. Drawing out the “Yes” drawer first, he proceeded with great
gravity to count the beans out into the soup-plate—one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven, and so on, up to eighteen, when the inverted
drawer proclaimed they were done.

“Eighteen Ayes,” announced Sir Moses to the meeting, amid a murmur of
applause.

Mr. Flintoff then produced the dread “No,” or black-ball drawer, whereof
one to ten white excluded, and turning it upside down, announced, in a
tone of triumph, “none!”

“Hooray!” cried Sir Moses, seizing our hero by both hands, and hugging
him heartily—“Hooray! give you joy, my boy! you’re a member of the first
club in the world! The Caledonian’s nothing to it;—dom’d if it is.” So
saying, he again swung him severely by the arms, and then handed him
over to the meeting.

And thus Mr. Pringle was elected a member of the Hit-im and Hold-im
shire hunt, without an opportunity of asking his Mamma, for the best of
all reasons, that Sir Moses had not even asked him himself.



CHAPTER XL. THE HUNT DINNER,



307m


CARCELY were the congratulations of the company to our hero, on his
becoming a member of the renowned Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt, over,
ere a great rush of dinner poured into the room, borne by Peter and the
usual miscellaneous attendants at an inn banquet; servants in livery,
servants out of livery, servants in a sort of half-livery, servants in
place, servants out of place, post-boys converted into footmen, “boots”
 put into shoes. Then the carrot and turnip garnished roasts and boils,
and stews were crowded down the table, in a profusion that would
astonish any one who thinks it impossible to dine under a guinea a head.
Rounds, sirloins middles, sucking-pigs, poultry, &c. (for they dispensed
with the formalities of soup and fish ), being duly distributed. Peter
announced the fact deferentially to Sir Moses, as he stood monopolizing
the best place before the fire, whereupon the Baronet, drawing his
hands out of his trowser’s pockets, let fall his yellow lined gloves
and clapping his hands, exclaimed. “DINNER GENTLEMAN!” in a stentorian
voice, adding, “PRINGLE you sit on my right! and CUDDY!” appealing to
our friend Flintoff’. “will you take the vice-chair?”

“With all my heart!” replied Cuddy, whereupon making an imaginary
hunting-horn of his hand, he put it to his mouth, and went blowing and
hooping down the room, to entice a certain portion of the guests after
him. All parties being at length suited with seats, grace was said,
and the assault commenced with the vigorous determination of over-due
appetites.

If a hand-in-the-pocket-hunt-dinner possesses few attractions in the way
of fare, it is nevertheless free from the restraints and anxieties that
pervade private entertainments, where the host cranes at the facetious
as he scowls at his butler, or madame mingles her pleasantries with
prayers for the safe arrival of the creams, and those extremely
capricious sensitive jellies. People eat as if they had come to dine and
not to talk, some, on this occasion, eating with their knives, some with
their forks, some with both occasionally. And so, what with one aid and
another, they made a very great clatter.

The first qualms of hunger being at length appeased, Sir Moses proceeded
to select subjects for politeness in the wine-taking way—men whom he
could not exactly have at his own house, but who might be prevented from
asking for cover-rent, or damages, by a little judicious flattery, or
again, men who were only supposed to be lukewarmly disposed towards the
great Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt.

Sir Moses would rather put his hand into a chimney-sweep’s pocket than
into his own, but so long as anything could be got by the tongue he
never begrudged it. So he “sherried” with Mossman and the army of
observation generally, also with Pica, who always puffed his hunt,
cutting at D’Orsay Davis’s efforts on behalf of the Earl, and with
Buckwheat (whose son he had recently dom’d à la Rowley Abingdon), and
with Corduroys, and Straddler, and Hicks, and Doubledrill—with nearly
all the dark coats, in short—Cuddy Flintoff, too, kept the game a-going
at his end of the table, as well to promote conviviality as to get
as much wine as he could; so altogether there was a pretty brisk
consumption, and some of the tight-clad gentlemen began to look rather
apoplectic. Cannon-ball-like plum-puddings, hip-bath-like apple-pies,
and foaming creams, completed the measure of their uneasiness, and
left little room for any cheese. Nature being at length most abundantly
satisfied throughout the assembly, grace was again said, and the cloth
cleared for action. The regulation port and sherry, with light—very
light—Bordeaux, being duly placed upon the table, with piles of biscuits
at intervals, down the centre, Sir Moses tapped the well-indented
mahogany with his presidential hammer, and proceeded to prepare the
guests for the great toast of the evening, by calling upon them to fill
bumpers to the usual loyal and patriotic ones. These being duly disposed
of, he at length rose for the all-important let off, amid the nudges and
“now then’s,” of such of the party as feared a fresh attempt on their
pockets—Mossman and Co., in particular, were all eyes, ears, and fears.

“Gentlemen!” cries Sir Moses, rising and diving his hands into his
trouser’s pockets—“Gentlemen!” repeated he, with an ominous cough, that
sounded very like cash.

“Hark to the Bar owl!—hark” cheered Cuddy Flintoff from the other end
of the room, thus cutting short a discussion about wool, a bargain for
beans, and an inquiry for snuff in his own immediate neighbourhood, and
causing a tapping of the table further up.

“Gentlemen!” repeated Sir Moses, for the third time, amid cries
of “hear, hear,” and “order, order,”—“I now have the pleasure of
introducing to your notice the toast of the evening—a toast endeared by
a thousand associations, and rendered classical by the recollection of
the great and good men who have given it in times gone by from this very
chair—(applause). I need hardly say, gentlemen, that that toast is the
renowned Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt—(renewed applause)—a hunt second
to none in the kingdom; a hunt whose name is famous throughout the land,
and whose members are the very flower and élite of society—(renewed
applause). Never, he was happy to say, since it was established,
were its prospects so bright and cheering as they were at the present
time—(great applause, the announcement being considered indicative of a
healthy exchequer)—its country was great, its covers perfect, and
thanks to their truly invaluable allies—the farmers—their foxes most
abundant—(renewed applause). Of those excellent men it was impossible to
speak in terms of too great admiration and respect—(applause)—whether he
looked at those he was blessed with upon his own estate—(laughter)—or at
the great body generally, he was lost for words to express his opinion
of their patriotism, and the obligations he felt under to them. So far
from ever hinting at such a thing as damage, he really believed a
farmer would be hooted from the market-table who broached such a
subject—(applause, with murmurs of dissent)—or who even admitted it was
possible that any could be done—(laughter and applause). As for a few
cocks and hens, he was sure they felt a pleasure in presenting them
to the foxes. At all events, he could safely say he had never paid
for any—(renewed laughter). Looking, therefore, at the hunt in all
its aspects—its sport past, present, and to come—he felt that he never
addressed them under circumstances of greater promise, or with feelings
of livelier satisfaction. It only remained for them to keep matters
up to the present mark, to insure great and permanent prosperity. He
begged, therefore, to propose, with all the honours, Success to the
Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt!”—(drunk with three times three and one
cheer more). Sir Moses and Cuddy Flintoff mounting their chairs to mark
time. Flintoff finishing off with a round of view halloas and other
hunting noises.

When the applause and Sir Moses had both subsided, parties who had felt
uneasy about their pockets, began to breathe more freely, and as the
bottles again circulated, Mr. Mossman and others, for whom wine was too
cold, slipped out to get their pipes, and something warm in the bar;
Mossman calling for whiskey, Buckwheat for brandy, Broadfurrow for
gin, and so on. Then as they sugared and flavoured their tumblers,
they chewed the cud of Sir Moses’s eloquence, and at length commenced
discussing it, as each man got seated with his pipe in his mouth and his
glass on his knee, in a little glass-fronted bar.

“What a man he is to talk, that Sir Moses,” observed Buckwheat after a
long respiration.

“He’s a greet economist of the truth, I reckon,” replied Mr. Mossman,
withdrawing his pipe from his mouth, “for I’ve written to him till I’m
tired, about last year’s damage to Mrs. Anthill’s sown grass.”

“He’s right, though, in saying he never paid for poultry,” observed Mr.
Broadfurrow, with a humorous shake of his big head, “but, my word, his
hook-nosed agent has as many letters as would paper a room;” and so
they sipped, and smoked, and talked the Baronet over, each man feeling
considerably relieved at there being no fresh attempt on the pocket.

Meanwhile Sir Moses, with the aid of Cuddy Flintoff, trimmed the table,
and kept the bottles circulating briskly, presently calling on Mr. Paul
Straddler for a song, who gave them the old heroic one, descriptive of a
gallant run with the Hit-im and Hold-im shire hounds, in the days of Mr.
Customer, at which they all laughed and applauded as heartily as if they
had never heard it before. They then drank Mr. Straddler’s health, and
thanks to him for his excellent song.

As it proceeded, Sir Moses intimated quietly to our friend Billy Pringle
that he should propose his health next, which would enable Mr. Pringle
to return the compliment by proposing Sir Moses, an announcement that
threw our hero into a very considerable state of trepidation, but from
which he saw no mode of escape. Sir Moses then having allowed a due
time to elapse after the applause that followed the drinking of Mr.
Straddler’s health, again arose, and tapping the table with his hammer,
called upon them to fill bumpers to the health of his young friend on
his right (applause). “He could not express the pleasure it afforded
him,” he said, “to see a nephew of his old friend and brother Baronet,
Sir Jonathan Pringle, become a member of their excellent hunt, and
he hoped Billy would long live to enjoy the glorious diversion of
fox-hunting,” which Sir Moses said it was the bounden duty of every
true-born Briton to support to the utmost of his ability, for that
it was peculiarly the sport of gentlemen, and about the only one that
defied the insidious arts of the blackleg, adding that Lord Derby was
quite right in saying that racing had got into the hands of parties who
kept horses not for sport, but as mere instruments of gambling, and if
his (Sir Moses’s) young friend, Mr. Pringle, would allow him to counsel
him, he would say, Never have anything to do with the turf (applause).
Stick to hunting, and if it didn’t bring him in money, it would bring
him in health, which was better than money, with which declaration Sir
Moses most cordially proposed Mr. Pringle’s health (drunk with three
times three and one cheer more).

Now our friend had never made a speech in his life, but being, as we
said at the outset, blessed with a great determination of words to the
mouth, he rose at a hint from Sir Moses, and assured the company “how
grateful he was for the honour they had done him as well in electing
him a member of their delightful sociable hunt, as in responding to
the toast of his health in the flattering manner they had, and he could
assure them that nothing should be wanting on his part to promote the
interests of the establishment, and to prove himself worthy of their
continued good opinion,” at which intimation Sir Moses winked knowingly
at Mr. Smoothley, who hemmed a recognition of his meaning.

Meanwhile Mr. Pringle stood twirling his trifling moustache, wishing
to sit down, but feeling there was something to keep him up: still he
couldn’t hit it off. Even a friendly round of applause failed to
help him out; at length, Sir Moses, fearing he might stop altogether,
whispered the words “My health,” just under his nose; at which Billy
perking up, exclaimed, “Oh, aye, to be sure!” and seizing a decanter
under him, he filled himself a bumper of port, calling upon the company
to follow his example. This favour being duly accorded, our friend then
proceeded, in a very limping, halting sort of way, to eulogise a man
with whom he was very little acquainted amid the friendly word-supplying
cheers and plaudits of the party. At length he stopped again, still
feeling that he was not due on his seat, but quite unable to say why he
should not resume it. The company thinking he might have something to
say to the purpose, how he meant to hunt with them, or something of
that sort, again supplied the cheers of encouragement. It was of no use,
however, he couldn’t hit it off. ****

“All the honors!” at length whispered Sir Moses as before.

“O, ah, to be sure! all the honors!” replied Billy aloud, amidst the
mirth of the neighbours. “Gentlemen!” continued he, elevating his voice
to its former pitch, “This toast I feel assured—that is to say, I feel
quite certain. I mean,” stammered he, stamping with his foot, “I, I, I.”

“Aye, two thou’s i’ Watlington goods!” exclaimed the half-drunken Mr.
Corduroys, an announcement that drew forth such a roar of laughter as
enabled Billy to tack the words, “all the honors,” to the end, and so
with elevated glass to continue the noise with cheers. He then sate down
perfectly satisfied with this his first performance, feeling that he had
the germs of oratory within him.

A suitable time having elapsed, Sir Moses rose and returned thanks with
great vigour, declaring that beyond all comparison that was the proudest
moment of his life, and that he wouldn’t exchange the mastership of the
Hit-im and Hold-im shire hounds for the highest, the noblest office in
the world—Dom’d if he would! with which asseveration he drank all their
very good healths, and resumed his seat amidst loud and long continued
applause, the timidest then feeling safe against further demands on
their purses Another song quickly followed, and then according to the
usual custom of society, that the more you abuse a man in private the
more you praise him in public, Sir Moses next proposed the health
of that excellent and popular nobleman the Earl of Ladythorne, whose
splendid pack showed such unrivalled sport in the adjoining county of
Featherbedford; Sir Moses, after a great deal of flattery, concluding
by declaring that he would “go to the world’s end to serve Lord
Ladythorne—Dom’d if he wouldn’t,” a sort of compliment that the noble
Earl never reciprocated; on the contrary, indeed, when he condescended
to admit the existence of such a man as Sir Moses, it was generally in
that well-known disparaging enquiry, “Who is that Sir Aaron Mainchance?
or who is that Sir Somebody Mainchance, who hunts Hit-im and Hold-im
shire?” He never could hit off the Baronet’s Christian or rather Jewish
name. Now, however, it was all the noble Earl, “my noble friend and
brother master,” the “noble and gallant sportsman,” and so on. Sir Moses
thus partly revenging himself on his lordship with the freedom.

When a master of hounds has to borrow a “draw” from an adjoining
country, it is generally a pretty significant hint that his own is
exhausted, and when the chairman of a hunt dinner begins toasting
his natural enemy the adjoining master, it is pretty evident that the
interest of the evening is over. So it was on the present occasion.
Broad backs kept bending away at intervals, thinking nobody saw them,
leaving large gaps unclosed up, while the guests that remained merely
put a few drops in the bottoms of their glasses or passed the bottles
altogether.

Sir Aaron, we beg his pardon—Sir Moses, perceiving this, and knowing the
value of a good report, called on those who were left to “fill a bumper
to the health of their excellent and truly invaluable friend Mr. Pica,
contrasting his quiet habits with the swaggering bluster of a certain
Brummagem Featherbedfordshire D’Orsay.” (Drunk with great applause,
D’Orsay Davis having more than once sneered at the equestrian prowess of
the Hit-im aud Hold-im shire-ites.)

Mr. Pica, who was a fisherman and a very bad one to boot, then arose and
began dribbling out the old stereotyped formula about air we breathe,
have it not we die, &c., which was a signal for a general rise; not all
Sir Moses and Cuddy Flintoff’s united efforts being able to restrain the
balance of guests from breaking away, and a squabble occurring behind
the screen about a hat, the chance was soon irrevocably gone. Mr. Pica
was, therefore, left alone in his glory. If any one, however, can afford
to be indifferent about being heard, it is surely an editor who can
report himself in his paper, and poor Pica did himself ample justice in
the “Hit-im and Hold-im shire Herald” on the Saturday following.



CHAPTER XLI. THE HUNT TEA.—BUSHEY HEATH AND BARE ACRES.



313m


THE 15th rule of the Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt, provides that all
members who dine at the club, may have tea and muffins ad libitum for 6
d. a head afterwards, and certainly nothing can be more refreshing after
a brawling riotous dinner than a little quiet comfortable Bohea. Sir
Moses always had his six-penn’orth, as had a good many of his friends
and followers. Indeed the rule was a proposition of the Baronet’s, such
a thing as tea being unheard of in the reign of Mr. Customer, or any of
Sir Moses’s great predecessors. Those were the days of “lift him up and
carry him to bed.” Thank goodness they are gone! Men can hunt without
thinking it necessary to go out with a headache. Beating a jug in point
of capacity is no longer considered the accomplishment of a gentleman.

Mr. Pica’s eloquence having rather prematurely dissolved the meeting,
Sir Moses and his friends now congregated round the fire all very cheery
and well pleased with themselves—each flattering the other in hopes of
getting a compliment in return. “Gone off amazingly well!” exclaimed
one, rubbing his hands in delight at its being over. “Capital party,”
 observed another. “Excellent speech yours, Sir Moses,” interposed a
third. “Never heard a better,” asserted a fourth. “Ought to ask to
have it printed,” observed a fifth. “O, never fear! Pica’ll do that,”
 rejoined a sixth, and so they went on warding off the awkward thought,
so apt to arise of “what a bore these sort of parties are. Wonder if
they do any good?”

The good they do was presently shown on this occasion by Mr. Smoothley,
the Jackall of the hunt, whose pecuniary obligations to Sir Moses we
have already hinted at, coming bowing and fawning obsequiously up to
our Billy, revolving his hands as though he were washing them, and
congratulating him upon becoming one of them. Mr. Smoothley was what
might be called the head pacificator of the hunt, the gentleman who
coaxed subscriptions, deprecated damage, and tried to make young
gentlemen believe they had had very good runs, when in fact they had
only had very middling ones.

The significant interchange of glances between Sir Moses and him during
Billy’s speech related to a certain cover called Waverley gorse, which
the young Woolpack, Mr. Treadcroft, who had ascertained his inability to
ride, had announced his intention of resigning. The custom of the hunt
was, first to get as many covers as they could for nothing; secondly to
quarter as few on the club funds as possible; and thirdly to get young
gentlemen to stand godfathers to covers, in other words to get them to
pay the rent in return for the compliment of the cover passing by their
names, as Heslop’s spiny, Linch’s gorse, Benson’s banks, and so on.

This was generally an after-dinner performance, and required a skilful
practitioner to accomplish, more particularly as the trick was rather
notorious. Mr. Smoothley was now about to try his hand on Mr. Pringle.
The bowing and congratulations over, and the flexible back straightened,
he commenced by observing that, he supposed a copy of the rules of the
hunt addressed to Pangburn Park, would find our friend.

“Yarse,” drawled Billy, wondering if there would be anything to pay.
“Dash it, he wished there mightn’t? Shouldn’t be surprised if there
was?”



315m


Mr. Smoothley, however, gave him little time for reflection, for taking
hold of one of his own red-coat buttons, he observed, “that as he
supposed Mr. Pringle would be sporting the hunt uniform, he might
take the liberty of mentioning that Garnett the silversmith in the
market-place had by far the neatest and best pattern’d buttons.”

“Oh, Garnett, oh, yarse,” replied Billy, thinking he would get a set for
his pink, instead of the plain ones he was wearing.

“His shop is next the Lion and the Lamb public house,” continued Mr.
Smoothley, “between it and Mrs. Russelton the milliner’s, and by the
way that reminds me,” continued he, though we don’t exactly see how
it could, “and by the way that reminds me that there is an excellent
opportunity for distinguishing yourself by adopting the cover young Mr.
Treadcroft has just abandoned.”

“The w-h-a-at?” drawled Billy, dreading a “do;” his mother having
cautioned him always to be mindful after dinner.

“O, merely the gorse,” continued Mr. Smoothley, in the most affable
matter-of-course way imaginable, “merely the gorse—if you’ll step this
way, I’ll show you,” continued he, leading the way to where a large
dirty board was suspended against the wall below the portrait of Lord
Martingal on his horse.

“Now he’s running into him!” muttered Sir Moses to himself, his keen eye
supplying the words to the action.

“This, you see,” explained Mr. Smoothley, hitching the board off its
brass-headed nail, and holding it to the light—“this, you see, is a list
of all the covers in the country—Screechley, Summer-field, Reddingfield,
Bewley, Lanton Hill, Baxterley, and so forth. Then you see here,”
 continned he, pointing to a ruled column opposite, “are the names of the
owners or patrons—yes” (reading), “owners or patrons—Lord Oilcake, Lord
Polkaton, Sir Harry Fuzball, Mr. Heslop, Lord Harpsichord, Mr. Drew, Mr.
Smith. Now young Mr. Treadcroft, who has had as many falls as he likes,
and perhaps more, has just announced his intention of retiring and
giving up this cover,” pointing to Waverley, with Mr. Treadcroft,
Jun.’s name opposite to it, “and it struck me that it would be a capital
opportunity for you who have just joined us, to take it before anybody
knows, and then it will go by the name of Pringle’s gorse, and you’ll
get the credit of all the fine runs that take place from it.”

“Y-a-r-s-e,” drawled Billy, thinking that that would be a sharp thing to
do, and that it would be fine to rank with the lords.

“Then,” continued Mr. Smoothley, taking the answer for an assent, “I’ll
just strike Treadey’s name ont, and put yours in;” so saying, he darted
at the sideboard, and seizing an old ink-clotted stump of a pen, with
just enough go in it to make the required alteration, and substituted
Mr. Pringle’s name for that of Mr. Treadcroft. And so, what with his
cover, his dinner, and his button, poor Billy was eased of above twenty
pounds.

Just as Sir Moses was blowing his beak, stirring the fire, and chuckling
at the success of the venture, a gingling of cups and tinkling of spoons
was heard in the distance, and presently a great flight of tea-trays
emerged from either side of the screen, conspicuous among the bearers of
which were the tall ticket-of-leave butler and the hirsute Monsieur Jean
Rougier. These worthies, with a few other “gentlemen’s gentlemen,”
 had been regaled to a supper in the “Blenheim,” to which Peter had
contributed a liberal allowance of hunt wine, the consumption of which
was checked by the corks, one set, it was said, serving Peter the
season. That that which is everybody’s business is nobody’s, is well
exemplified in these sort of transactions, for though a member of the
hunt went through the form of counting the cork-tops every evening, and
seeing that they corresponded with the number set down in Peter’s book,
nobody ever compared the book with the cellar, so that in fact Peter
was both check-keeper and auditor. Public bodies, however, are all
considered fair game, and the Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt was no
exception to the rule. In addition to the wine, there had been a
sufficient allowance of spirits in the “Blenheim” to set the drunkards
to work on their own account, and Jack Rogers, who was quite the life of
the party, was very forward in condition when the tea-summons was heard.

“Hush!” cried Peter, holding up his hand, aud listening to an ominous
bell-peal, “I do believe that’s for tea! So it is,” sighed he, as a
second summons broke upon the ear. “Tea at this hour!” ejaculated he,
“who’d ha’ thought it twenty years ago! Why, this is just the time
they’d ha’ been calling for Magnums, and beginnin’ the evening—Tea!
They’d as soon ha’ thought of callin’ for winegar!” added he, with a
bitter sneer. So saying, Peter dashed a tear from his aged eye, and
rising from his chair, craved the assistance of his guests to carry
the degrading beverage up-stairs, to our degenerate party. “A set of
weshenvomen!” muttered he, as the great slop-basin-like-cups stood
ranged on trays along the kitchen-table ready for conveyance. “Sarves us
right for allowing such a chap to take our country,” added he, adopting
his load, and leading the tea-van.

When the soothing, smoking beverage entered, our friend, Cuddy Flintoff,
was “yoicking” himself about the club-room, stopping now at this
picture, now that, holloaing at one, view-holloaing at another, thus
airing his hunting noises generally, as each successive subject recalled
some lively association in his too sensitive hunting imagination.
Passing from the contemplation of that great work of art, Mr. Customer
getting drunk, he suddenly confronted the tea-brigade entering, led by
Peter, Monsieur, and the ticket-of-leave butler.

“Holloa! old Bushey Heath!” exclaimed Cuddy, dapping his hands, as
Mousieur’s frizzed face loomed congruously behind a muffin-towering
tea-tray. “Holloa! old Bushey Heath!” repeated he, louder than before,
“What cheer there?”

“Vot cheer there, Brother Bareacres?” replied Jack in the same familiar
tone, to the great consternation of Cuddy, and the amusement of the
party.

“Dash the fellow! but he’s getting bumptious,” muttered Cuddy, who had
no notion of being taken up that way by a servant. “Dash the fellow! but
he’s getting bumptious,” repeated he, adding aloud to Jack, “That’s not
the way you talked when you tumbled off your horse the other day!”

“Tombled off my ‘oss, sare!” replied Jack, indignantly—“tombled off my
‘oss, sare—nevare, sare!—nevare!”

“What!” retorted Cuddy, “do you mean to say you didn’t tumble off your
horse on the Crooked Billet day?” for Cuddy had heard of that exploit,
but not of Jack’s subsequent performance.

“No, sare, I jomp off,” replied Jack, thinking Cuddy alluded to his
change of horses with the Woolpack.

“Jo-o-m-p off! j-o-omp off!” reiterated Cuddy, “we all jomp off, when
we can’t keep on. Why didn’t old Imperial John take you into the Crooked
Billet, and scrape you, and cherish you, and comfort you, and treat you
as he would his own son?” demanded Cuddy.

“Imperial John, sare, nevare did nothin’ of the sort,” replied Jack,
confidently. “Imperial John and I retired to ‘ave leetle drop drink
together to our better ‘quaintance. I met John there, n’est-ce pas?
Monsieur Sare Moses, Baronet! Vasn’t it as I say?” asked Jack, jingling
his tea-tray before the Baronet.

“Oh yes,” replied Sir Moses,—“Oh yes, undoubtedly; I introduced you
there; but here! let me have some tea,” continued he, taking a cup,
wishing to stop the conversation, lest Lord Lady-thorne might hear he
had introduced his right-hand man, Imperial John, to a servant.

Cuddy, however, wasn’t to be stopped. He was sure Jack had tumbled off,
and was bent upon working him in return for his Bareacres compliment.

“Well, but tell us,” said he, addressing Jack again, “did you come over
his head or his tail, when you jomp off?”

“Don’t, Cuddy! don’t!” now muttered Sir Moses, taking the entire top
tier off a pile of muffins, and filling his mouth as full as it would
hold; “don’t,” repeated he, adding, “it’s no use (munch) bullying a poor
(crunch) beggar because he’s a (munch) Frenchman” (crunch). Sir Moses
then took a great draught of tea.

Monsieur’s monkey, however, was now up, and he felt inclined to tackle
with Flintoff. “I tell you vot, sare Cuddy,” said he, looking him full
in the face, “you think yourself vare great man, vare great ossmaan,
vare great foxer, and so on, bot I vill ride you a match for vot monies
you please.”

“Hoo-ray! well done you! go it, Monsieur! Who’d ha’ thought it! Now for
some fun!” resounded through the room, bringing all parties in closer
proximity.

Flintoff was rather taken aback. He didn’t expect anything of that sort,
and though he fully believed Jack to be a tailor, he didn’t want to test
the fact himself; indeed he felt safer on foot than on horseback, being
fonder of the theory than of the reality of hunting.

“Hut you and your matches,” sneered he, thrusting his hands deep in
his trousers’ pockets, inclining to sheer of, adding, “go and get his
Imperial Highness to ride you one.”

“His Imperial Highness, sare, don’t deal in oss matches. He is not a
jockey, he is a gentlemans—great friend of de great lords vot rules de
oder noisy dogs,” replied Jack.

“Humph, grunted Sir Moses, not liking the language.

“In-deed!” exclaimed Cuddy with a frown, “In-deed! Hark to Monsieur!
Hark!”

“Oh, make him a match, Cuddy! make him a match!” now interposed Paul
Straddler, closing up to prevent Cuddy’s retreat. Paul, as we said
before, was a disengaged gentleman who kept a house of call for Bores
at Hinton,—a man who was always ready to deal, or do anything, or go
any where at any body else’s expense. A great judge of a horse, a great
judge of a groom, a great judge of a gig, a gentleman a good deal in
Cuddy Flintoff’s own line in short, and of course not a great admirer of
his. He now thought he saw his way to a catch, for the Woolpack had
told him how shamefully Jack had bucketed his horse, and altogether he
thought Monsieur might be as good a man across country as Mr. Flintoff.
At all events he would like to see.

“Oh, make him a match, Cuddy! make him a match!” now exclaimed he,
adding in Flintoff’s ear, “never let it be said you were afraid of a
Frenchman.”

“Afraid!” sneered Cuddy, “nobody who knows me will think that, I guess.”

“Well then, make him a match!” urged Tommy Heslop, who was no great
admirer of Cuddy’s either; “make him a match, and I’ll go your halves.”

“And I’ll go Monsieur’s,” said Mr. Straddler, still backing the thing
up. Thus appealed to, poor Cuddv was obliged to submit, and before
he knew where he was, the dread pen, ink and paper were produced, and
things began to assume a tangible form. Mr. Paul Straddler, having
seated himself on a chair at the opportune card-table, began sinking his
pen and smoothing out his paper, trying to coax his ideas into order.

“Now, let us see,” said he, “now let us see. Monsieur, what’s his
name—old Bushey-heath as you call him, agrees to ride Mr. Flintoff
a match across country—now for distance, time, and stake! now for
distance, time, and stake!” added he, hitting off the scent.

“Well, but how can you make a match without any horses? how can you
make a match without any horses?” asked Sir Moses, interposing his beak,
adding “I’ll not lend any—dom’d if I will.” That being the first time
Sir Moses was ever known not to volunteer one.

“O, we’ll find horses,” replied Tommy Heslop, “we’ll find horses!”
 thinking Sir Moses’s refusal was all in favor of the match. “Catch
weights, catch horses, catch every thing.”

“Now for distance, time, and stake,” reiterated Mr. Straddler. “Now for
distance, time, and stake, Monsieur!” continued he, appealing to Jack.
“What distance would you like to have it?”

“Vot you please, sare,” replied Monsieur, now depositing his tray on
the sideboard; “vot you please, sare, much or little; ten miles, twenty
miles, any miles he likes.”

“O, the fellow’s mad,” muttered Cuddy, with a jerk of his head, making a
last effort to be off.

“Don’t be in a hurry, Cuddy, don’t be in a hurry,” interposed Heslop,
adding, “he doesn’t understand it—he doesn’t understand it.”

“O, I understands it, nicely, veil enough,” replied Jack, with a shrug
of his shoulders; “put us on to two orses, and see vich gets first to de
money post.”

“Aye, yes, exactly, to be sure, that’s all right,” asserted Paul
Straddler, looking up approvingly at Jack, “and you say you’ll beat Mr.
Flintoff?”

“I say I beat Mr. Flintoff,” rejoined Jack—“beat im dem veil too—beat
his ead off—beat him stupendous!” added he.

“O, dash it all, we can’t stand that, Caddy!” exclaimed Mr. Heslop,
nudging Mr. Flintoff; “honor of the country, honor of the hunt, honor of
England, honor of every thing’s involved.” Cuddy’s bristles were now up
too, and shaking his head and thrusting his hands deep into his trousers
pockets, “he declared he couldn’t stand that sort of language,—shot if
he could.”

“No; nor nobody else,” continued Mr. Heslop, keeping him up to the
indignity mark; “must be taught better manners,” added he with a pout of
the lip, as though fully espousing Caddy’s cause.

“Come along, then! come along!” cried Paul Straddler, flourishing his
dirty pen; “let’s set up a school for grown sportsmen. Now for the
guod boys. Master Bushey-heath says he’ll ride Master Bareacres a match
across country—two miles say—for, for, how much?” asked he, looking up.

This caused a pause, as it often does, even after dinner, and not the
less so in the present instance, inasmuch as the promoters of the match
had each a share in the risk. What would be hundreds in other people’s
cases becomes pounds in our own.

Flintoff and Straddler looked pacifically at each other, as much as to
say, “There’s no use in cutting each other’s throats, you know.”

“Suppose we say,” (exhibiting four fingers and a thumb, slyly to
indicate a five pound note), said Heslop demurely, after a conference
with Cuddy.

“With all my heart,” asserted Straddler, “glad it was no more.”

“And call it fifty,” whispered Heslop.

“Certainly!” assented Straddler, “very proper arrangement.”

“Two miles for fifty pounds,” announced Straddler, writing it down.

“P. P. I s’pose?” observed he, looking up.

“P. P.” assented Heslop.

“Now, what next?” asked Paul, feeling that there was something more
wanted.

“An umpire,” suggested Mr. Smoothley.

“Ah, to be sure, an umpire,” replied Mr. Straddler; “who shall it be?”

“Sir Moses!” suggested several voices.

“Sir Moses, by all means,” replied Straddler.

“Content,” nodded Mr. Heslop.

“It must be on a non-hunting day, then,” observed the Baronet, speaking
from the bottom of his tea-cup.

“Non-hunting day!” repeated Cuddy; “non-hunting day; fear that ‘ill not
do—want to be off to town on Friday to see Tommy White’s horses sold.
Have been above a week at the Park, as it is.”

“You’ve been a fortnight to-morrow, sir,” observed the ticket-of-leave
butler (who had just come to announce the carriage) in a very different
tone to his usual urbane whisper.

“Fortnight to-morrow, have I?” rejoined Cuddy sheepishly; “greater
reason why I should be off.”

“O, never think about that! O, never think about that! Heartily welcome,
heartily welcome,” rejoined Sir Moses, stuffing his mouth full of
muffin, adding “Mr. Pringle will keep you company; Mr. Pringle will keep
you company.” (Hunch, munch, crunch.)

“Mr. Pringle must stop,” observed Mr. Straddler, “unless he goes without
his man.”

“To besure he must,” assented Sir Moses, “to be sure he must,” adding,
“stop as long as ever you like. I’ve no engagement till Saturday—no
engagement till Saturday.”

Now putting off our friend’s departure till Saturday just gave a clear
day for the steeple-chase, the next one, Thursday, being Woolerton by
Heckfield, Saturday the usual make-believe day at the kennels; so of
course Friday was fixed upon, and Sir Moses having named “noon” as the
hour, and Timberlake toll-bar as the rendezvous, commenced a series
of adieus as he beat a retreat to the screen, where having resumed his
wraps, and gathered his tail, he shot down-stairs, and was presently
re-ensconced in his carriage.

The remanets then of course proceeded to talk him and his friends over,
some wishing the Baronet mightn’t be too many for Billy, others again
thinking Cuddy wasn’t altogether the most desirable acquaintance a
young man could have, though there wasn’t one that didn’t think that he
himself was.

That topic being at length exhausted, they then discussed the projected
steeple-chase, some thinking that Cuddy was a muff, others that Jack
was, some again thinking they both were. And as successive relays of
hot brandy and water enabled them to see matters more clearly, the
Englishman’s argument of betting was introduced, and closed towards
morning at “evens,” either jockey for choice.

Let us now take a look at the homeward bound party.

It was lucky for Billy that the night was dark and the road rough with
newly laid whinstones, for both Sir Moses and Cuddy opened upon him most
volubly and vehemently as soon as ever they got off the uneven pavement,
with no end of inquiries about Jack and his antecedents. If he
could ride? If he had ever seen him ride? If he had ever ridden a
steeplechase? Where he got him? How long he had had him?

To most of which questions, Billy replied with his usual monosyllabic
drawling, “yarses,” amid jolts, and grinds, and gratings, and doms from
Sir Moses, and cusses from Cuddy, easing his conscience with regard to
Jack’s service, by saying that he had had him “some time.” Some time!
What a line elastic period that is. We’d back a lawyer to make it cover
a century or a season. Very little definite information, however, did
they extract from Billy with regard to Jack for the best of all reasons,
that Billy didn’t know anything. Both Cuddy and Sir Moses interpreted
his ignorance differently, and wished he mightn’t know more than was
good for them. And so in the midst of roughs and smooths, and jolts and
jumps, and examinings, and cross-examinings, and re-examinings, they at
length reached Pangburn Park Lodges, and were presently at home.

“Breakfast at eight!” said Sir Moses to Bankhead, as he alighted from
the carriage.

“Breakfast at eight, Pringle!” repeated he, and seizing a flat
candlestick from the half-drunken footman in the passage, he hurried
up-stairs, blowing his beak with great vigour to drown any appeal to him
about a horse.

He little knew how unlikely our young friend was to trouble him in that
way.



CHAPTER XLII. MR. GEORDEY GALLON.

CUDDY Flintoff did not awake at all comfortable the next morning, and he
distinctly traced the old copyhead of “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
 in the hieroglyphic pattern of his old chintz bed-hangings. He couldn’t
think how he could ever be so foolish as to lay himself open to such
a catastrophe; it was just the wine being in and the wit being out,
coupled with the fact of the man being a Frenchman, that led him
away—and he most devoutly wished he was well out of the scrape. Suppose
Monsieur was a top sawyer! Suppose he was a regular steeple-chaser!
Suppose he was a second Beecher in disguise! It didn’t follow because he
was a Frenchman that he couldn’t ride. Altogether Mr. Flintoff
repented. It wasn’t nice amusement, steeple-chasing he thought, and the
quicksilver of youth had departed from him; getting called Bareacres,
too, was derogatory, and what no English servant would have done, if
even he had called him Bushy Heath.

Billy Pringle, on the other hand, was very comfortable, and slept
soundly, regardless of clubs, cover rents, over-night consequences,
altogether. Each having desired to be called when the other got up, they
stood a chance of lying in bed all day, had not Mrs. Margerum, fearing
they would run their breakfast, and the servants’-hall dinner together,
despatched Monsieur and the footman with their respective hot-water
cans, to say the other had risen. It was eleven o’clock ere they got
dawdled down-stairs, and Cuddy again began demanding this and that
delicacy in the name of Mr. Pringle: Mr. Pringle wanted Yorkshire pie;
Mr. Pringle wanted potted prawns; Mr. Pringle wanted bantams’ eggs; Mr.
Pringle wanted honey. Why the deuce didn’t they attend to Mr. Pringle?

The breakfast was presently interrupted by the sound of wheels, and
almost ere they had ceased to revolve, a brisk pull at the doorbell
aroused the inmates of both the front and back regions, and brought the
hurrying footman, settling himself into his yellow-edged blue-livery
coat as he came.

It was Mr. Heslop. Heslop in a muffin cap, and so disguised in
heather-coloured tweed, that Mr. Pringle failed to recognise him as he
entered. Cuddy did, though; and greeting him with one of his best view
holloas, he invited him to sit down and partake.

Heslop was an early bird, and had broke his fast hours before: but a
little more breakfast being neither here nor there, he did as he was
requested, though he would much rather have found Cuddy alone. He wanted
to talk to him about the match, to hear if Sir Moses had said anything
about the line of country, what sort of a horse he would like to ride,
and so on.

Billy went munch, munch, munching on, in the tiresome, pertinacious sort
of way people do when others are anxiously wishing them done,—now taking
a sip of tea, now a bit of toast, now another egg, now looking as if he
didn’t know what he would take. Heslop inwardly wished him at Jericho.
At length another sound of wheels was heard, followed by another peal
of the bell; and our hero presently had a visitor, too, in the person of
Mr. Paul Straddler. Paul had come on the same sort of errand as Heslop,
namely, to arrange matters about Monsieur; and Heslop and he, seeing
how the land lay, Heslop asked Cuddy if there was any one in Sir Moses’s
study; whereupon Cuddy arose and led the way to the sunless little
sanctum, where Sir Moses kept his other hat, his other boots, his rows
of shoes, his beloved but rather empty cash-box, and the plans and
papers of the Pangburn Park estate.

Two anxious deliberations then ensued in the study and breakfast-room,
in the course of which Monsieur was summoned into the presence of either
party, and retired, leaving them about as wise as he found them. He
declared he could ride, ride “dem veil too,” and told Paul he could
“beat Cuddy’s head off;” but he accompanied the assertions with such
wild, incoherent arguments, and talked just as he did to Imperial John
before the Crooked Billet, that they thought it was all gasconade. If it
hadn’t been P. P., Pan! would have been off. Cuddy, on the other hand,
gained courage; and as Heslop proposed putting him on his famous horse
General Havelock, the reported best fencer in the country, Cuddy,
who wasn’t afraid of pace, hoped to be able to give a good account of
himself. Indeed, he so far recovered his confidence, as to indulge in a
few hunting noises—“For-rard, on! For-rard on!” cheered he, as if he was
leading the way with the race well in hand.



323m


Meanwhile Monsieur, who could keep his own counsel, communicated by a
certain mysterious agency that prevails in most countries, and seems to
rival the electric telegraph in point of speed, to enlist a confederate
in his service. This was Mr. Geordey Gallon, a genius carrying on the
trades of poacher, pugilist, and publican, under favour of that mistaken
piece of legislation the Beer Act. Geordey, like Jack, had begun life
as a post-boy, and like him had undergone various vicissitudes ere he
finally settled down to the respectable calling we have named. He now
occupied the Rose and Crown beershop at the Four Lane-Ends. on the
Heatherbell Road, some fifteen miles from Pangburn Park, where, in
addition to his regular or irregular calling, he generally kept a
racing-like runaway, that whisked a light spring-cart through the
country by night, freighted with pigeons, poultry, game, dripping—which
latter item our readers doubtless know includes every article of
culinary or domestic use. He was also a purveyor of lead, lead-stealing
being now one of the liberal professions.

Geordey had had a fine time of it, for the Hit-im and Hold-im shire
constables were stupid and lazy, and when the short-lived Superintendent
ones were appointed, it was only a trifle in his way to suborn them. So
he made hay while the sun shone, and presently set up a basket-buttoned
green cutaway for Sundays, in lieu of the baggy pocketed, velveteen
shooting-jacket of week-days, and replaced the fox-skin cap with a
bare shallow drab, with a broad brim, and a black band, encasing his
substantial in cords and mahogany tops, instead of the navvie boot that
laced his great bulging calves into globes. He then called himself a
sporting man.

Not a fair, not a fight, not a fray of any sort, but Geordey’s great
square bull-headed carcase was there, and he was always ready to run his
nag, or trot his nag, or match his nag in any shape or way—Mr. George
Gallon’s Blue Ruin, Mr. George Gallon’s Flower of the West, Mr.
George Gallon’s Honor Bright, will be names familiar to most lovers of
leather-plating. * Besides this, he did business in a smaller way. Being
a pure patriot, he was a great promoter of the sports and pastimes of
the people, and always travelled with a prospectus in his pocket of some
raffle for a watch, some shoot-ing-match for a fat hog, some dog or some
horse to be disposed of in a surreptitious way, one of the conditions
always being, that a certain sum was to be spent by the winner at
Mr. Gallon’s, of the Hose and Crown, at the Four Lane-ends on the
Heatherbell Road.

Such was the worthy selected by Monsieur Rougier to guard his interests
in the matter. But how the communication was made, or what were the
instructions given, those who are acquainted with the wheels within
wheels, and the glorious mystification that prevails in all matters
relating to racing or robbing, will know the impossibility of narrating
Even Sir Moses was infected with the prevailing epidemic, and returned
from hunting greatly subdued in loquacity. He wanted to be on for a £5
or two, but couldn’t for the life of him make out which was to be the
right side. So he was very chary of his wine after dinner, and wouldn’t
let Cuddy have any brandy at bed-time—“Dom’d if he would.”



CHAPTER XLIII. SIR MOSES PERPLEXED—THE RENDEZVOUS FOR THE RACE.

THE great event was ushered in by one of those fine bright autumnal
days that shame many summer ones, and seem inclined to carry the winter
months fairly over into the coming year. The sun rose with effulgent
radiance, gilding the lingering brown and yellow tints, and lighting up
the landscape with searching, inquisitorial scrutiny. Not a nook, not
a dell, not a cot, not a curl of smoke but was visible, and the whole
scene shone with the vigour of a newly burnished, newly varnished
picture. The cattle stood in bold relief against the perennially green
fields, and the newly dipped lambs dotted the hill-sides like white
marbles. A clear bright light gleamed through the stems of the Scotch
fir belt, encircling the brow of High Rays Hill, giving goodly promise
of continued fineness.

* We append one of Mr. Gallon’s advertisements for a horse, which is
very characteristic of the man:—

“A Flash high-stepping SCREW WANTED. Must be very fast, steady in single
harness, and the price moderate. Blemishes no object. Apply, by letter,
real name and address, with full description, to Mr. George Gallon, Rose
and Crown, Four-Lane-ends. Hit-im and Hold-im shire.”

Sir Moses, seeing this harbinger of fair from his window as he dressed,
arrayed himself in his best attire, securing his new blue and white
satin cravat with a couple of massive blood-stone pins, and lacing his
broad-striped vest with a multiplicity of chains and appendant gew-gaws.
He further dared the elements with an extensive turning up of velvet.
Altogether he was a great swell, and extremely well pleased with his
appearance.

The inmates of the Park were all at sixes and sevens that morning,
Monsieur having left Billy to be valeted by the footman, whose services
were entirely monopolised by Cuddy Flintoff and Sir Moses. When he did
at length come, he replied to Billy’s enquiry “how his horse was,” that
he was “quite well,” which was satisfactory to our friend, and confirmed
him in his opinion of the superiority of his judgment over that of Wetun
and the rest. Sir Moses, however, who had made the tour of the stables,
thought otherwise, and telling the Tiger to put the footboard to the
back of the dog-cart, reserved the other place in front for his guest.
A tremendous hurry Sir Moses was in to be off, rushing in every two or
three minutes to see if Billy wasn’t done his breakfast, and at last
ordering round the vehicle to expedite his movements. Then he went to
the door and gave the bell such a furious ring as sounded through the
house and seemed well calculated to last for ever.

Billy then came, hustled along by the ticket-of-leave butler and the
excitable footman, who kept dressing him as he went; and putting his
mits, his gloves, this shawl, cravat, and his taper umbrella into his
hands, they helped him up to the seat by Sir Moses, who forthwith soused
him down, by touching the mare with the whip, and starting off at a
pace that looked like trying to catch an express train. Round flew the
wheels, up shot the yellow mud, open went the lodge gates, bark went the
curs, and they were presently among the darker mud of the Marshfield and
Greyridge Hill Road.

On, on, Sir Moses pushed, as if in extremis.

“Well now, how is it to be?” at length asked he, getting his mare
more by the head, after grinding through a long strip of newly-laid
whinstone: “How is it to be? Can this beggar of yours ride, or can he
not?” Sir Moses looking with a scrutinising eye at Billy as he spoke.

“Yarse, he can ride,” replied Billy, feeling his collar; “rode the other
day, you know.”

Sir Moses. “Ah, but that’s not the sort of riding I mean. Can he ride
across country? Can he ride a steeple-chase, in fact?”

Mr. Pringle. “Yarse, I should say he could,” hesitated our friend.

Sir Moses. “Well, but it won’t do to back a man to do a thing one isn’t
certain he can do, you know. Now, between ourselves,” continued he,
lowering his voice so as not to let the Tiger hear—“Cuddy Flintoff is no
great performer—more of a mahogany sportsman than any thing else, and it
wouldn’t take any great hand to beat him.”

Billy couldn’t say whether Monsieur was equal to the undertaking or not,
and therefore made no reply. This perplexed Sir Moses, who wished that
Billy’s downy face mightn’t contain more mischief than it ought. It
would be a devil of a bore, he thought, to be done by such a boy. So
he again took the mare short by the head, and gave expression to his
thoughts by the whip along her sides. Thus he shot down Walkup Hill at
a pace that carried him half way up the opposing one. Still he couldn’t
see his way—dom’d if he could—and he felt half inclined not to risk his
“fi-pun” note.

In this hesitating mood he came within sight of the now crowd-studded
rendezvous.

Timberlake toll bar, the rendezvous for the race, stands on the summit
of the hog-backed Wooley Hill, famous for its frequent sheep-fairs,
and commands a fine view over the cream of the west side of
Featherbedfordshire, and by no means the worst part of the land of
Jewdea, as the wags of the former country call Hit-im and Hold-im shire.

Sir Moses had wisely chosen this rendezvous, in order that he might give
Lord Ladythorne the benefit of the unwelcome intrusion without exciting
the suspicion of the farmers, who would naturally suppose that the match
would take place over some part of Sir Moses’s own country. In that,
however, they had reckoned without their host. Sir Moses wasn’t the man
to throw a chance away—dom’d if he was.

The road, after crossing the bridge over Bendibus Burn, being all
against collar, Sir Moses dropped his reins, and sitting back in his
seat, proceeded to contemplate the crowd. A great gathering there was,
horsemen, footmen, gigmen, assmen, with here and there a tinkling-belled
liquor-vending female, a tossing pie-man, or a nut-merchant. As yet
the spirit of speculation was not aroused, and the people gathered in
groups, looking as moudy as men generally do who want to get the better
of each other. The only cheerful faces on the scene were those of
Toney Loftus, the pike-man, and his wife, whose neat white-washed,
stone-roofed cottage was not much accustomed to company, save on the
occasion of the fairs. They were now gathering their pence and having a
let-off for their long pent-up gossip.

Sir Moses’s approach put a little liveliness into the scene, and
satisfied the grumbling or sceptical ones that they had not come to the
wrong place. There was then a general move towards the great white gate,
and as he paid his fourpence the nods of recognition and How are ye’s?
commenced amid a vigorous salute of the muffin bells. Tinkle tinkle
tinkle, buy buy buy, toss and try! toss and try! tinkle tinkle tinkle.
Barcelona nuts, crack ‘em and try ‘em, crack ‘em and try ‘em; the
invitation being accompanied with the rattle of a few in the little tin
can.

“Now, where are the jockeys?” asked Sir Moses, straining his eye-balls
over the open downs.

“They’re coomin. Sir Moses, they’re coomin,” replied several voices; and
as they spoke, a gaily-dressed man, on a milk-white horse, emerged from
the little fold-yard of Butterby farm, about half a mile to the west,
followed by two distinct groups of mounted and dismounted companions,
who clustered round either champion like electors round a candidate
going to the hustings.

“There’s Geordey Gallon!” was now the cry, as the hero of the white
horse shot away from the foremost group, and came best pace across
the rush-grown sward of the sheep-walk towards the toll-bar. “There’s
Geordey Gallon! and now we shall hear summut about it;” whereupon the
scattered groups began to mingle and turn in the direction of the coming
man.

It was Mr. Gallon,—Gallon on his famous trotting hack Tippy Tom—a
vicious runaway brute, that required constant work to keep it under, a
want that Mr. Gallon liberally supplied it with. It now came yawning and
boring on the bit, one ear lying one way, the other another, shaking its
head like a terrier with a rat in its mouth, with a sort of air that
as good as said. “Let me go, or I’ll either knock your teeth down your
throat with my head, or come back over upon you.” So Mr. Gallon let
him go, and came careering along at a leg-stuck-out sort of butcher’s
shuffle, one hand grasping the weather-bleached reins, the other a
cutting-whip, his green coat-laps and red kerchief ends Hying out, his
baggy white cords and purple plush waistcoat strings all in a flutter,
looking as if he was going to bear away the gate and house, Toney Loftus
and wife, all before him. Fortunately for the byestanders there was
plenty of space, which, coupled with the deep holding ground and Mr.
Gallon’s ample weight—good sixteen stone—enabled him to bring the white
nag to its bearings; and after charging a flock of geese, and nearly
knocking down a Barcelona-nut merchant, he got him manoeuvred in a
semicircular sort of way up to the gate, just as if it was all right and
plain sailing. He then steadied him with a severe double-handed jerk of
the bit, coupled with one of those deep ominous wh-o-o ah’s that always
preceded a hiding. Tippy Tom dropped his head as if he understood him.

All eyes were now anxiously scrutinising Gallon’s great rubicund
double-chinned visage, for, in addition to his general sporting
knowledge and acquirements, he was just fresh from the scene of action
where he had doubtless been able to form an opinion. Even Sir Moses,
who hated the sight of him, and always declared he “ought to be hung,”
 vouchsafed him a “good morning, Gallon,” which the latter returned with
a familiar nod.

He then composed himself in his capacious old saddle, and taking off his
white shallow began mopping his great bald head, hoping that some
one would sound the key-note of speculation ere the advancing parties
arrived at the gate. They all, however, seemed to wish to defer to Mr.
Gallon—Gallon was the man for their money, Gallon knew a thing or two,
Gallon was up to snuff,—go it, Gallon! ****

“What does onybody say ‘boot it Frenchman?” at length asked he in his
elliptical Yorkshire dialect, looking round on the company.

“What do you say ‘boot it Frenchman, Sir Moses?” asked he, not getting
an answer from any one.

“Faith, I know nothing,” replied the Baronet, with a slight curl of the
lip.

“Nay, yeer tied to know summut, hooever,” replied Gallon, rubbing his
nose across the back of his hand; “yeer tied to know summut, hooever.
Why, he’s a stoppin’ at yeer house, isn’t he?”

“That may all be,” rejoined Sir Moses, “without my knowing anything of
his riding. What do you say yourself? you’ve seen him.”

“Seen him!” retorted Gallon, “why he’s a queer lookin’ chap, ony
hoo—that’s all ar can say: haw, haw, haw.”

“You won’t back him, then?” said Sir Moses, inquiringly.

“Hardly that,” replied Gallon, shaking his head and laughing heartily,
“hardly that, Sir Moses. Ar’ll tell you whatar’ll do, though,” said he,
“just to mak sport luike, ar’ll tak yeer two to one—two croons to one,”
 producing a greasy-looking metallic-pencilled betting-book as he spoke.

Just then a move outside the ring announced an arrival, and presently
Mr. Heslop came steering Cuddy Flintoff along in his wife’s Croydon
basket-carriage, Cuddy’s head docked in an orange-coloured silk cap,
and his whole person enveloped in a blue pilot coat with large
mother-of-pearl buttons. The ominous green-pointed jockey whip was
held between his knees, as with folded arms he lolled carelessly in the
carriage, trying to look comfortable and unconcerned.

“Mornin’, Flintoff’, how are ye?” cried Sir Moses, waving hie hand from
his loftier vehicle, as they drew up.

“Mornin’, Heslop, how goes it? Has anybody seen anything of Monsieur?”
 asked he, without waiting for an answer to either of these important
inquiries.

“He’s coming, Sir Moses,” cried several voices, and presently the
Marseillaise hymn of liberty was borne along on the southerly breeze,
and Jack’s faded black hunting-cap was seen bobbing up and down in the
crowd that encircled him, as he rode along on Paul Straddler’s shooting
pony.

Jack had been at the brandy bottle, and had imbibed just enough to make
him excessively noisy.

“Three cheers for Monsieur Jean Rougier, de next Emperor of de French!”
 cried he, rising in his stirrups, as he approached the crowd, taking off
his old brown hunting-cap, and waving it triumphantly, “Three cheers for
de best foxer, de best fencer, de best fighter in all Europe!” and at a
second flourish of the cap the crowd came into the humour of the thing,
and cheered him lustily. And then of course it was one cheer more for
Monsieur; and one cheer more he got.

“Three cheers for ould England!” then demanded Mr. Gallon on behalf
of Mr. Flintoff, which being duly responded to, he again asked “What
onybody would do ‘boot it Frenchman?”

“Now, gentlemen,” cried Sir Moses, standing erect in his dogcart, and
waving his hand for silence: “Now, gentlemen, listen to me!” Instead of
which somebody roared out, “Three cheers for Sir Moses!” and at it they
went again, Hooray, hooray, hooray, for when an English mob once begins
cheering, it never knows when to stop. “Now, gentlemen, listen to me,”
 again cried he, as soon as the noise had subsided. “It’s one o’clock,
and it’s time to proceed to business. I called you here that there might
be no unnecessary trespass or tampering with the ground, and I think
I’ve chosen a line that will enable you all to see without risk to
yourselves or injury to anyone” (applause, mingled with a tinkling of
the little bells). “Well now,” added he, “follow me, and I’ll show you
the way;” so saying, he resumed his seat, and passing through the gate
turned short to the right, taking the diagonal road leading down the
hill, in the direction of Featherbedfordshire.

“Where can it be?” was then the cry.

“I know,” replied one of the know-everything ones.

“Rainford, for a guinea!” exclaimed Mr. Gallon, fighting with Tippy Tom.
who wanted to be back.

“I say Rushworth!” rejoined Mr. Heslop, cutting in before him.

“Nothin’ o’ the sort!” asserted Mr. Buckwheat; “he’s for Harlingson
green to a certainty.”

The heterogeneous cavalcade then fell into line, the vehicles and
pedestrians keeping the road, while the horsemen spread out on either
side of the open common, with the spirit of speculation divided between
where the race was to be and who was to win.

Thus they descended the hill and joined the broad, once well-kept
turnpike, whose neglected milestones still denoted the distance between
London and Hinton—London so many miles on one side, Hinton so many miles
on the other—things fast passing into the regions of antiquity. Sir
Moses now put on a little quicker, and passing through the village of
Nettleton and clearing the plantation beyond, a long strip of country
lay open to the eye, hemmed in between the parallel lines of the old
road and the new Crumpletin Railway.

He then pulled up on the rising ground, and placing his whip in the
socket, stood up to wait the coming of the combatants, to point them out
the line he had fixed for the race. The spring tide of population
flowed in apace, and he was presently surrounded with horsemen, gigmen,
footmen, and bellmen as before.

“Now, gentlemen!” cried Sir Moses, addressing Mr. Flintoff and Monsieur,
who were again ranged on either side of his dogcart: “Now, gentlemen,
you see the line before you. The stacks, on the right here,” pointing
to a row of wheat stacks in the adjoining field, “are the starting post,
and you have to make your ways as straight as ever you can to Lawristone
Clump yonder,” pointing to a clump of dark Scotch firs standing against
the clear blue sky, on a little round hill, about the middle of a
rich old pasture on Thrivewell Farm, the clump being now rendered
more conspicuous by sundry vehicles clustered about its base, the fair
inmates of which had received a private hint from Sir Moses where to
go to. The Baronet always played up to the fair, with whom he flattered
himself he was a great favourite.

“Now then, you see,” continued he, “you can’t get wrong, for you’ve
nothing to do but to keep between the lines of the rail and the road, on
to neither of which must you come: and now you gentlemen,” continued he.
addressing the spectators generally, “there’s not the slightest occasion
for any of you to go off the road, for you’ll see a great deal better on
it, and save both your own necks and the farmers’ crops; so just let me
advise you to keep where you are, and follow the jockeys field by field
as they go. And now, gentlemen,” continued he, again addressing the
competitors, ‘“having said all I have to say on the subject, I advise
you to get your horses and make a start of it, for though the day is
fine its still winter, you’ll remember, and there are several ladies
waiting for your coming.” So saying, Sir Moses soused down in his seat,
and prepared to watch the proceedings.

Mr. Flintoff was the first to peel; and his rich orange and white silk
jacket, natty doeskins, and paper-like boots, showed that he had got
himself up as well with a due regard to elegance as to lightness. He
even emptied some halfpence out of his pockets, in order that he might
not carry extra weight. He would, however, have been a great deal
happier at home. There was no “yoieks, wind him,” or “yoicks, push ‘im
up,” in him now.

Monsieur did not show to so much advantage as Cuddy; but still he was a
good deal better attired than he was out hunting on the Crooked-Billet
day. He still retained the old brown cap, but in lieu of the shabby
scarlet, pegtop trousers and opera-boots, he sported a red silk jacket,
a pair of old-fashioned broad-seamed leathers, and mahogany boots—the
cap being the property of Sir Moses’s huntsman, Tom Findlater, the other
articles belonging to Mr. George Gallon of the Rose and Crown. And the
sight of them, as Monsieur stripped, seemed to inspirit the lender, for
he immediately broke out with the old inquiry, “What does onybody say
‘boot it Frenchman?”

“What do you say ‘boot it Frenchman, Sir Moses?” asked he.

Sir Moses was silent, for he couldn’t see his way to a satisfactory
investment; so, rising in his seat, he holloaed out to the grooms, who
were waiting their orders outside the crowd, to “bring in the horses.”

“Make way, there! make way, there!” cried he, as the hooded and sheeted
animals approached and made up to their respective riders.

“Takeoff his nightcap! take off his nightcap!” cried Jack, pulling
pettedly at the strings of the hood; “take off his nightcap!” repeated
he, stamping furiously, amid the laughter of the bystanders, many of
whom had never seen a Frenchman, let alone a mounted one, before.

The obnoxious nightcap being removed, and the striped sheet swept over
his tail, Mr. Rowley Abingdon’s grey horse Mayfly Blood showing himself
as if he was in a dealer’s yard, for as yet he had not ascertained what
he was out for. A horse knows when he is going to hunt, or going to
exercise, or going to be shod, or going to the public house, but these
unaccustomed jaunts puzzle him. Monsieur now proceeded to inform him by
clutching at the reins, as he stood preparing for a leg-up on the wrong
side.

“The other side, mun, the other side,” whispered Paul Straddler in his
ear; whereupon Monsieur passed under the horse’s head, and appeared
as he ought. The movement, however, was not lost on Sir Moses, who
forthwith determined to back Cuddy. Cuddy might be bad, but Monsieur
must be worse, he thought.

“I’ll lay an even five on Mr. Flintoff!” cried he in a loud and audible
voice. “I’ll lay an even five on Mr. Flintoff,” repeated he, looking
boldly round. “Gallon, what say you?” asked he, appealing to the hero of
the white horse.

“Can’t be done, Sir Moses, can’t be done,” replied Gallon, grinning from
ear to ear, with a shake of his great bull head. “Tak yeer three to two
if you loike,” added he, anxious to be on.

Sir Moses now shook his head in return.

“Back myself, two pound ten—forty shillin’, to beat dis serene and
elegant Englishman!” exclaimed Jack, now bumping up and down in his
saddle as if to establish a seat.

“Do you owe him any wages?” asked Sir Moses of Billy in an under-tone,
wishing to ascertain what chance there was of being paid if he won.

“Yarse, I owe him some,” replied Billy; but how much he couldn’t say,
not having had Jack’s book lately.

Sir Moses caught at the answer, and the next time Jack offered to back
himself, he was down upon him with a “Done!” adding, “I’ll lay you an
even pund if you like.”

“With all my heart, Sare Moses Baronet,” replied Jack gaily; adding,
“you are de most engagin’, agreeable mans I knows; a perfect beauty
vidout de paint.”

Gallon now saw his time was come, and he went at Sir Moses with a
“Weell, coom, ar’le lay ye an even foive.”

“Done!” cried the Baronet.

“A tenner, if you loike!” continued Gallon, waxing valiant.

Sir Moses shook his head.

“Get me von vet sponge, get me von vet sponge,” now exclaimed Jack,
looking about for the groom.

“Wet sponge! What the deuce do you want with a wet sponge?” demanded Sir
Moses with surprise.

“Yet sponge, just damp my knees leetle—make me stick on better,” replied
Jack, turning first one knee and then the other out of the saddle to get
sponged.

“O dom it, if it’s come to that, I may as well have the ten,” muttered
Sir Moses to himself. So, nodding to Gallon, he said “I’ll make it ten.”

“Done!” said Gallon, with a nod, and the bet was made—Done, and Done,
being enough between gentlemen.

“Now, then,” cried Sir Moses, stepping down from his dogcart, “come into
the field, and I’ll start you.”

Away then the combatants went, and the betting became brisk in the ring.
Mr. Flintoff the favourite at evens.



CHAPTER XLIV. THE RACE ITSELF.



335m


FROM the Nettleton cornstacks to Lawristone Clump was under two miles,
and, barring Bendibus Brook, there was nothing formidable in the
line—nothing at least to a peaceably disposed man pursuing the even
tenor of his way, either on horseback or in his carriage along the
deserted London road.

Very different, however, did the landscape now appear to our friend
Cuddy Flintoff as he saw it stretching away in diminishing perspective,
presenting an alternating course of husbandry stubble after grass,
wheat after stubble, seeds after wheat, with perhaps pasture again after
fallow. Bendibus, too, as its name indicates, seemed to be here, there,
and everywhere; here, as shown by the stone bridge on the road,—there,
as marked by the pollard willows lower down—and generally wherever there
was an inconvenient breadth and irregularity of fence. The more Mr.
Flintoff looked at the landscape, the less he liked it. Still he had a
noble horse under him in General Havelock—a horse that could go through
deep as fast as he could over grass, and that only required holding
together and sitting on to carry him safe over his fences. It was just
that, however, that Cuddy couldn’t master. He couldn’t help fancying
that the horse would let him down, and he didn’t like the idea.

Mayfly, on the other hand, was rather skittish, and began prancing and
capering as soon as he got off the road into the field.

“Get ‘im by de nob! get ‘im by de nob!” cried Jack, setting up his
shoulders. “Swing ‘im round by de tail! swing ‘im round by de tail!”
 continued he, as the horse still turned away from his work.

“Ord dom it, that’s that nasty crazy brute of old Rowley Abingdon’s,
I do declare!” exclaimed Sir Moses, getting out of the now plunging
horse’s way. “Didn’t know the beggar since he was clipped. That’s the
brute that killed poor Cherisher,—best hound in my pack. Take care,
Monsieur! that horse will eat you if he gets you off.”

“Eat me!” cried Jack, pretending alarm; “dat vod be vare unkind.”

Sir Moses. “Unkind or not, he’ll do it, I assure you.”

“Oh, dear! oh! dear!” cried Jack, as the horse laid back his ears, and
gave a sort of wincing kick.

“I’ll tell you what,” cried Sir Moses, emboldened by Jack’s fear, “I’ll
lay you a crown you don’t get over the brook.”

“Crown, sare! I have no crowns,” replied Jack, pulling the horse round.
“I’ll lay ve sovereign—von pon ten, if vou like.”

“Come, I’ll make it ten shillings. I’ll make it ten shillings,” replied
Sir Moses: adding, “Mr. Flintoff is my witness.”

“Done!” cried Monsieur. “Done! I takes the vager. Von pon I beats old
Cuddy to de clomp, ten shillin’ I gets over de brook.”

“All right!” rejoined Sir Moses, “all right! Now,” continued he,
clapping his hands, “get your horses together—one, two, three, and
away!”

Up bounced Mayfly in the air; away went Cuddy amidst the cheers and
shouts of the roadsters—“Flintoff! Flintoff! Flinfoff!! The yaller! the
yaller! the yaller!” followed by a general rush along the grass-grown
Macadamised road, between London and Hinton.

“Oh, dat is your game, is it?” asked Jack as Mayfly, after a series
of minor evolutions, subsided on all fours in a sort of attitude of
attention. “Dat is your game, is it!” saying which he just took him
short by the head, and, pressing his knees closely into the saddle, gave
him such a couple of persuasive digs with his spurs as sent him bounding
away after the General. “Go it, Frenchman!” was now the cry.

“Go it! aye he can go it,” muttered Jack, as the horse now dropped on
the bit, and laid himself out for work. He was soon in the wake of his
opponent.

The first field was a well-drained wheat stubble, with a newly plashed
fence on the ground between it and the adjoining pasture; which,
presenting no obstacle, they both went at it as if bent on contending
for the lead, Monsieur sacréing, grinning, and grimacing, after the
manner of his adopted country; while Mr. Flintoff sailed away in the
true jockey style, thinking he was doing the thing uncommonly well.

Small as the fence was, however, it afforded Jack an opportunity of
shooting into his horse’s shoulders, which Cuddy perceiving, he gave
a piercing view holloa, and spurred away as if bent on bidding him
goodbye. This set Jack on his mettle; and getting back into his seat
he gathered his horse together and set too, elbows and legs, elbows and
legs, in a way that looked very like frenzy.

The feint of a fall, however, was a five-pound note in Mr. Gallon’s
way, for Jack did it so naturally that there was an immediate backing
of Cuddv. “Flintoff! Flintoff! Flintoff! The yaller! the yaller! the
yaller!” was again the cry.

The pasture was sound, and they sped up it best pace, Mr. Flintoff well
in advance.

The fence out was nothing either—a young quick fence set on the ground,
which Cuddy flew in Leicestershire style, throwing up his right arm as
he went. Monsieur was soon after him with a high bucking jump.

They were now upon plough,—undrained plough, too, which the recent rains
bad rendered sticky and holding. General Havelock could have crossed it
at score, but the ragged boundary fence of Thrivewell farm now appearing
in view, Mr. Flintoff held him well together, while he scanned its
rugged irregularities for a place.

“These are the nastiest fences in the world,” muttered Cuddy to himself,
“and I’ll be bound to say there’s a great yawning ditch either on this
side or that. Dash it! I wish I was over,” continued he, looking up
and down for an exit. There was very little choice. Where there weren’t
great mountain ash or alder growers laid into the fence, there were
bristling hazel uprights, which presented little more attraction.
Altogether it was not a desirable obstacle. Even from the road it looked
like something. “Go it, Cuddy! Go it!” cried Sir Moses, now again in his
dogcart, from the midst of the crowd, adding, “It’s nothing of a place!”

“Isn’t it,” muttered Cuddy, still looking up and down, adding, “I wish
you had it instead of me.”

“Ord dom it, go at it like a man!” now roared the Baronet, fearing for
his investments. “Go at it for the honour of the hunt! for the honour of
Hit-im and Hold-im shire!” continued he, nearly stamping the bottom of
his dog-cart out. The mare started forward at the sound, and catching
Tippy Tom with the shafts in the side, nearly upset Geordey Gallon, who,
like Sir Moses, was holloaing on the Frenchman. There was then a mutual
interchange of compliments. Meanwhile Cuddy, having espied a weak
bush-stopped gap in a bend of the hedge, now walks his horse quietly up
to it, who takes it in a matter-of-course sort of way that as good as
says, “What have you been making such a bother about.” He then gathers
himself together, and shoots easily over the wide ditch on the far
side, Cuddy hugging himself at its depth as he lands. Monsieur then
exclaiming, “Dem it, I vill not make two bites of von cherry,” goes
at the same place at the rate of twenty miles an hour, and beat beside
Cuddy ere the latter had well recovered from his surprise at the feat.
“Ord rot it!” exclaimed he, starting round, “what d’ye mean by
following a man that way? If I’d fallen, you’d ha’ been a-top of me to a
certainty.”

“Oh, never fear,” replied Monsieur, grinning and flourishing his whip.
“Oh, never fear, I vod have ‘elped you to pick up de pieces.”

“Pick up the pieces, sir!” retorted Cuddy angrily. “I don’t want to pick
up the pieces. I want to ride the race as it should be.”

“Come then, old cock,” cried Monsieur, spurring past, “you shall jomp
‘pon me if you can.” So saying, Jack hustled away over a somewhat swampy
enclosure, and popping through an open bridle-gate, led the way into a
large rich alluvial pasture beyond.

Jack’s feat at the boundary fence, coupled with the manner in which
he now sat and handled his horse, caused a revulsion of feeling on the
road, and Gallon’s stentorian roar of “The Frenchman! the Frenchman!”
 now drowned the vociferations on behalf of Mr. Flintoff and the
“yaller.” Sir Moses bit his lips and ground his teeth with undisguised
dismay. If Flintoff let the beggar beat him, he—-he didn’t know what
he would do. “Flintoff! Flintoff!” shrieked he as Cuddy again took the
lead.

And now dread Rendibus appears in view! There was no mistaking its
tortuous sinuosities, even if the crowd on the bridge had not kept
vociferating, “The bruk! the bruk!”

“The bruk be hanged!” growled Cuddy, hardening his heart for the
conflict. “The bruk be hanged!” repeated he, eyeing its varying
curvature, adding, “if ever I joke with any man under the rank of a duke
again, may I be capitally D’d. Ass that I was,” continued he, “to take
a liberty with this confounded Frenchman, who cares no more for his neck
than a frog. Dashed, if ever I joke with any man under the rank of a
prince of the blood royal,” added he, weaving his eyes up and down the
brook for a place.

“Go at it full tilt!” now roars Sir Moses from the bridge; “go at it
full tilt for the honour of Hit-im and Hold-im shire!”

“Honour of Hit-im and Hold-im shire be hanged!” growled Cuddy; “who’ll
pay for my neck if I break it, I wonder!”

“Cut along, old cock of vax!” now cries Monsieur, grinning up on the
grey. “Cut along, old cock of vax, or I’ll be into your pocket.”

“Shove him along!” roars stentorian-lunged Gallon, standing erect in
his stirrups, and waving Monsieur on with his hat. “Shove him along!”
 repeats he, adding, “he’ll take it in his stride.”

Mayfly defers to the now-checked General, who, accustomed to be ridden
freely, lays back his vexed ears for a kick, as Monsieur hurries up.
Cuddy still contemplates the scene, anxious to be over, but dreading to
go. “Nothing so nasty as a brook,” says he; “never gets less, but may
get larger.” He then scans it attentively. There is a choice of ground,
but it is choice of evils, of which it is difficult to choose the least
when in a hurry.

About the centre are sedgy rushes, indicative of a bad taking off, while
the weak place next the ash involves the chance of a crack of the crown
against the hanging branch, and the cattle gap higher up may be mended
with wire rope, or stopped with some awkward invisible stuff. Altogether
it is a trying position, especially with the eyes of England upon him
from the bridge and road.

“Oh, go at it, mun!” roars Sir Moses, agonised at his hesitation; “Oh,
go at it, mun! It’s nothin’ of a place!”

“Isn’t it,” muttered Cuddy; “wish you were at it instead of me.” So
saying, he gathers his horse together in an undecided sort of way, and
Monsieur charging at the moment, lands Cuddie on his back in the field
and himself in the brook.



339m


Then a mutual roar arose, as either party saw its champion in distress.

“Stick to him, Cuddy! stick to him!” roars Sir Moses.

“Stick to him, Mouncheer! stick to him!” vociferates Mr. Gallon on the
other side.

They do as they are bid; Mr. Flintoff remounting just as Monsieur
scrambles out of the brook, aud Cuddy’s blood now being roused, he
runs the General gallantly at it, and lands, hind legs and all, on the
opposite bank. Loud cheers followed the feat.

It is now anybody’s race, and the vehemence of speculation is intense.

“The red!”—“The yaller! the yaller!”—“The red!” Mr. Gallon is frantic,
and Tippy Tom leads the way along the turnpike as if he, too, was in the
race. Sir Moses’s mare breaks into a canter, and makes the action of
the gig resemble that of a boat going to sea. The crowd rush pell-mell
without looking where they are going; it is a wonder that nobody is
killed.

Lawristone Clump is now close at hand, enlivened with the gay parasols
and colours of the ladies.

There are but three more fences between the competitors and it, and
seeing what he thinks a weak place in the next, Mr. Flintoff races for
it over the sound furrows of the deeply-drained pasture. As he gets
near it begins to look larger, and Cuddy’s irresolute handling makes the
horse swerve.

“Now, then, old stoopid!” cries Jack, in a good London cabman’s accent;
“Now, then, old stoopid! vot are ye stargazing that way for? Vy don’t ye
go over or get out o’ de vay?”

“Go yourself,’” growled Cuddy, pulling his horse round.

“Go myself!” repeated Jack; “‘ow the doose can I go vid your great
carcase stuck i’ the vay!”

“My great carcase stuck i’ the way!” retorted Cuddy, spurring and
hauling at his horse. “My great carcase stuck in the way! Look at your
own, and be hanged to ye!”

“Yell, look at it!” replied Jack, backing his horse for a run, and
measuring his distance, he dapped spurs freely in his sides, and going
at it full tilt, flew over the fence, exclaiming as he lit, “Dere, it is
for you to ‘zarnine.”

“That feller can ride a deuced deal better than he pretends,” muttered
Cuddy, wishing his tailorism mightn’t be all a trick; saying which he
followed Jack’s example, and taking a run he presently landed in the
next field, amidst the cheers of the roadsters. This was a fallow, deep,
wet, and undrained, and his well ribbed-lip horse was more than a match
for Jack’s across it. Feeling he could go. Cuddy set himself home in his
saddle, and flourishing his whip, cantered past, exclaiming, “Come along
old stick in the mud!”

“I’ll stick i’ the mod ye!” replied Jack, hugging and holding his
sobbing horse. “I’ll stick i’ the mod ye! Stop till I gets off dis
birdliming field, and I’ll give you de go-bye, Cuddy, old cock.”

Jack was as good as his word, for the ground getting sounder on the
slope, he spurted up a wet furrow, racing with Cuddy for the now obvious
gap, that afforded some wretched half-starved calves a choice between
the rushes of one field and the whicken grass of the other. Pop, Jack
went over it, looking back and exclaiming to Cuddy, “Bon jour! top of
de mornin’ to you, sare!” as he hugged his horse and scuttled up a
high-backed ridge of the sour blue and yellow-looking pasture.

The money was now in great jeopardy, and the people on the road shouted
and gesticulated the names of their respective favourites with redoubled
energy, as if their eagerness could add impetus to the animals.
“Flintoff! Flintoff! Flintoff!” “The Frenchman! the Frenchman!” as
Monsieur at length dropped his hands and settled into something like a
seat. On, on, they went, Monsieur every now and then looking back to see
that he had a proper space between himself and his pursuer, and,
giving his horse a good dig with his spurs, he lifted him over a stiff
stake-and-rice fence that separated him from the field with the Clump.

“Here they come!” is now the cry on the hill, and fair faces at length
turn to contemplate the galloppers, who come sprawling np the valley in
the unsightly way fore-shortened horses appear to do. The road gate on
the right flies suddenly open, and Tippy Tom is seen running away with
Geordey Gallon, who just manages to manouvre him round the Clump to the
front as Monsieur comes swinging in an easy winner.

Glorious victory for Geordey! Glorious victory for Monsieur! They can’t
have won less than thirty pounds between them, supposing they get paid,
and that Geordey gives Jack his “reglars.” Well may Geordey throw up his
shallow hat and hug the winner. But who shall depict the agony of Sir
Moses at this dreadful blow to his finances? The way he dom’d Cuddy, the
way he dom’d Jack, the way he swung frantically about Lawristone Clump,
declaring he was ruined for ever and ever! After thinking of everybody
at all equal to the task, we are obliged to get, our old friend Echo to
answer “Who!”



CHAPTER XLV. HENEREY BROWN & CO. AGAIN.

THE first paroxysm of rage being over, Sir Moses remounted his dog-cart,
and drove rapidly off, seeming to take pleasure in making his boy-groom
(who was at the mare’s head) run after it as long as he could.

“What’s it Baronet off?” exclaimed Mr. Gallon, staring with astonishment
at the fast-receding vehicle; “what’s it, Baronet off?” repeated he,
thinking he would have to go to Pangburn Park for his money.

“O dear Thom Mothes is gone!” lisped pretty Miss Mechlinton, who wanted
to have a look at our hero, Mr. Pringle, who she heard was frightfully
handsome, and alarmingly rich. And the ladies, who had been too much
occupied with the sudden rush of excited people to notice Sir Moses’s
movements, wondered what had happened that he didn’t come to give
his tongue an airing among them as usual. One said he had got the
tooth-ache; another, the ear-ache; a third, that he had got something
in his eye; while a satirical gentleman said it looked mure like a B. in
his bonnet.

“Ony hoo,” however, as Mr. Gallon would say, Sir Moses was presently out
of the field and on to the hard turnpike again.

We need scarcely say that Mr. Pringle’s ride home with him was not of a
very agreeable character: indeed, the Baronet had seldom been seen to
be so put out of his way, and the mare came in for frequent salutations
with the whip—latitudinally, longitudinally, and horizontally, over the
head and ears, accompanied by cutting commentaries on Flintoff’s utter
uselessness and inability to do anything but drink.

He “never saw such a man—domd if ever he did,” and he whipped the mare
again in confirmation of the opinion.

Nor did matters mend on arriving at home; for here Mr. Mordecai Nathan
met him in the entrance hall, with a very doleful face, to announce that
Henerey Brown & Co., who had long been coddling up their horses, had
that morning succeeded in sloping with them and their stock to Halterley
Fair, and selling them in open market, leaving a note hanging to the key
in the house-door, saying that they had gone to Horseterhaylia where Sir
Moses needn’t trouble to follow them.

“Ond dom it!” shrieked the Baronet, jumping up in the air like a
stricken deer; “ond dom it! I’m robbed! I’m robbed! I’m ruined! I’m
ruined!” and tottering to an arm-chair, he sank, overpowered with the
blow. Henerey Brown & Co. had indeed been too many for him. After a long
course of retrograding husbandry, they seemed all at once to have turned
over a new leaf, if not in the tillage way, at all events in that
still better way for the land, the cattle line,—store stock, with some
symptoms of beef on their bones, and sheep with whole fleeces, going on
all-fours depastured the fields, making Mordecai Nathan think it was all
the fruits of his superior management. Alaek a-day! They belonged to a
friend of Lawyer Hindmarch’s, who thought Henerey Brown & Co. might as
well eat all off the land ere they left. And so they ate it as bare as a
board.

“Ond dom it, how came you to let them escape?” now demanded the Baronet,
wringing his hands in despair; “ond dom it, how came you to let them
escape?” continued he, throwing himself back in the chair.

“Why really, Sir Moses, I was perfectly deceived; I thought they were
beginning to do better, for though they were back with their ploughing,
they seemed to be turning their attention to stock, and I was in hopes
that in time they would pull round.”

“Pull round!” ejaculated the Baronet; “pull round! They’ll flatten me I
know with their pulling;” and thereupon he kicked out both legs before
him as if he was done with them altogether.

His seat being in the line of the door, a rude draught now caught his
shoulder, which making him think it was no use sitting there to take
cold and the rheumatism, he suddenly bounced up, and telling Nathan
to stay where he was, he ran up stairs, and quickly changed his fine
satiney, velvetey, holiday garments, for a suit of dingy old tweeds,
that looked desperately in want of the washing-tub. Then surmounting the
whole with a drab wide-awake, he clutched a knotty dog-whip, and set off
on foot with his agent to the scene of disaster, rehearsing the licking
he would give Henerey with the whip if he caught him, as he went.

Away he strode, as if he was walking a match, down Dolly’s Close, over
the stile, into Farmer Hayford’s fields, and away by the back of the
lodges, through Orwell Plantation and Lowestoff End, into the Rushworth
and Mayland Road.

Doblington farm-house then stood on the rising ground before him. It
was indeed a wretched, dilapidated, woe-begone-looking place; bad enough
when enlivened with the presence of cattle and the other concomitants
of a farm; but now, with only a poor white pigeon, that Henerey Brown
& Co., as if in bitter irony, had left behind them, it looked the very
picture of misery and poverty-stricken desolation.

It was red-tiled and had been rough-cast, but the casting was fast
coming off, leaving fine map-like tracings of green damp on the walls,—a
sort of map of Italy on one side of the door, a map of Africa on the
other, one of Horseterhaylia about the centre, with a perfect battery of
old hats bristling in the broken panes of the windows. Nor was this all;
for, by way of saving coals, Henerey & Humphrey had consumed all the
available wood about the place—stable-fittings, cow-house-fittings,
pig-sty-fittings, even part of the staircase—and acting under the able
advice of Lawyer Hindmarch, had carried away the pot and oven from the
kitchen, and all the grates from the fire-places, under pretence of
having bought them of the outgoing tenant when they entered,—a fact that
the lawyer said “would be difficult to disprove.” If it had not been
that Henerey Brown & Co. had been sitting rent-free, and that the
dilapidated state of the premises formed an excellent subject of
attack for parrying payment when rent came to be demanded, it would be
difficult to imagine people living in a house where they had to wheel
their beds about to get to the least drop-exposed quarter, and where
the ceilings bagged down from the rafters like old-fashioned
window-hangings. People, however, can put up with a great deal when it
saves their own pockets. Master and man having surveyed the exterior
then entered.

“Well,” said Sir Moses, looking round on the scene of desolation,
“they’ve made a clean sweep at all events.”

“They have that,” assented Mr. Mordecai Nathan.

“I wonder it didn’t strike you, when you caught them selling their straw
off at night, that they would be doing something of this sort,” observed
Sir Moses.

“Why, I thought it rather strange,” replied Mr. Nathan; “only they
assured me that for every load of straw they sold, they brought back
double the value in guano, or I certainly should have been more on the
alert.”

“Guano be hanged!” rejoined the Baronet, trying to open the kitchen
window, to let some fresh air into the foul apartment; “guano be hanged!
one ton of guano makes itself into twenty ton with the aid of Kentish
gravel. No better trade than spurious manure-manufacturing; almost as
good as cabbage-cigar making. Besides,” continued he, “the straw goes
off to a certainty, whereas there’s no certainty about the guano coming
back instead of it. Oh, dom it, man,” continued he, knocking some of the
old hats out of the broken panes, after a fruitless effort to open the
window, “I’d have walked the bailiffs into the beggars if I could have
foreseen this.”

“So would I, Sir Moses,” replied Mr. Nathan; “only who could we get to
come in their place?”

That observation of Mr. Mordecai Nathan comprises a great deal, and
accounts for much apparent good landlordism, which lets a bad tenant go
on from year to year with the occasional payment of a driblet of rent,
instead of ejecting him; the real fact being that the landlord knows
there is no one to get to come in his place—no better one at least—and
that fact constitutes one of the principal difficulties of land-owning.
If a landlord is not prepared to take an out-of-order farm into his own
hands, he must either put up with an incompetent non-paying tenant, or
run the risk of getting a worse one from the general body of outlying
incompetence. A farm will always let for something.

There is a regular rolling stock of bad farmers in every country, who
pass from district to district, exercising their ingenuity in extracting
whatever little good their predecessors have left in the land. These men
are the steady, determined enemies to grass. Their great delight is to
get leave to plough out an old pasture-held under pretence of laying it
down better. There won’t be a grass field on a farm but what they will
take some exception to, and ask leave to have “out” as they call it.
Then if they get leave, they take care never to have a good take of
seeds, and so plough on and plough on, promising to lay it down better
after each fresh attempt, just as a thimble-rigger urges his dupe to go
on and go on, and try his luck once more, until land and dupe are
both fairly exhausted. The tenant then marches, and the thimble-rigger
decamps, each in search of fresh fields and flats new.

Considering that all writers on agriculture agree that grass land pays
double, if not treble, what arable land does, and that one is so much
more beautiful to the eye than the other, to say nothing of pleasanter
to ride over, we often wonder that landlords have not turned their
attention more to the increase and encouragement of grass land on their
estates than they have done.

To be sure they have always had the difficulty to contend with we have
named, viz., a constant hankering on the part of even some good tenants
to plough it out. A poor grass-field, like Gay’s hare, seems to have no
friends. Each man proposes to improve it by ploughing it out, forgetful
of the fact, that it may also be improved by manuring the surface. The
quantity of arable land on a farm is what puts landlords so much in the
power of bad farmers. If farms consisted of three parts grass and
one part plough, instead of three parts plough and one part grass, no
landlord need ever put up with an indifferent, incompetent tenant; for
the grass would carry him through, and he could either let the farm off,
field by field, to butchers and graziers, or pasture it himself, or hay
it if he liked. Nothing pays better than hay. A very small capital would
then suffice for the arable land; and there being, as we said before,
a rolling stock of scratching land-starvers always on the look-out for
out-of-order farms, so every landowner should have a rolling stock
of horses and farm-implements ready to turn upon any one that is not
getting justice done it. There is no fear of gentlemen being overloaded
with land; for the old saying, “It’s a good thing to follow the laird,”
 will always insure plenty of applicants for any farm a landlord is
leaving—supposing, of course, that he has been doing it justice himself,
which we must say landlords always do; the first result we see of a
gentleman farming being the increase of the size of his stock-yard, and
this oftentimes in the face of a diminished acreage under the plough.

Then see what a saving there is in grass-farming compared to tillage
husbandry: no ploughs, no harrows, no horses, no lazy leg-dragging
clowns, who require constant watching; the cattle will feed whether
master is at home or polishing St. James’s Street in paper boots and a
tight bearing-rein.

Again, the independence of the grass-farmer is so great. When the wind
howls and the rain beats, and the torrents roar, and John Flail lies
quaking in bed, fearing for his corn, then old Tom Nebuchadnezzar turns
quietly over on his side like the Irish jontleman who, when told the
house was on fire, replied, “Arrah, by Jasus, I’m only a lodger!”
 and says, “Ord rot it, let it rain; it’ll do me no harm! I’m only a
grass-grower!”

But we are leaving Sir Moses in the midst of his desolation, with
nothing but the chilly fog of a winter’s evening and his own bright
thoughts to console him.

“And dom it, I’m off,” exclaimed he, fairly overcome with the impurity
of the place; and hurrying out, he ran away towards home, leaving Mr.
Mordecai Nathan to lock the empty house up, or not, just as he liked.

And to Pangburn Park let us now follow the Baronet, and see what our
friend Billy is about.



CHAPTER XLVI. THE PRINGLE CORRESPONDENCE.

MR. Pringle’s return was greeted with an immense shoal of letters,
one from Mamma, one with “Yammerton Grange” on the seal, two from his
tailors—one with the following simple heading, “To bill delivered,” so
much; the other containing a vast catalogue of what a jury of tailors
would consider youthful “necessaries,” amounting in the whole to a
pretty round sum, accompanied by an intimation, that in consequence
of the tightness of the money-market, an early settlement would be
agreeable—and a very important-looking package, that had required a
couple of heads to convey, and which, being the most mysterious of the
whole, after a due feeling and inspection, he at length opened. It was
from his obsequious friend Mr. Smoothley, and contained a printed copy
of the rules of the Hit-im and Hold-im shire Hunt, done up in a little
red-backed yellow-lined book, with a note from the sender, drawing Mr.
Pringle’s attention to the tenth rule, which stipulated that the annual
club subscription of fifteen guineas was to be paid into Greedy and
Griper’s bank, in Hinton, by Christmas-day in each year at latest, or
ten per cent, interest would be charged on the amount after that.

“Fi-fi-fifteen guineas! te-te-ten per cent.!” ejaculated Billy, gasping
for breath; “who’d ever have thought of such a thing!” and it was some
seconds before he sufficiently recovered his composure to resume his
reading. The rent of the cover he had taken, Mr. Smoothley proceeded to
say, was eight guineas a-year. “Eight guineas a-year!” again ejaculated
Billy; “eight guineas a-year! why I thought it was a mere matter of
form. Oh dear, I can’t stand this!” continued he, looking vacantly about
him. “Surely, risking one’s neck is quite bad enough, without paying for
doing so. Lord Ladythorne never asked me for any money, why should
Sir Moses? Oh dear, oh dear! I wish i’d never embarked in such a
speculation. Nothing to be made by it, but a great deal to be lost.
Bother the thing, I wish I was out of it,” with which declaration he
again ventured to look at Mr. Smoothley’s letter. It went on to say,
that the rent would not become payable until the next season, Mr.
Treadcroft being liable for that year’s rent. “Ah well, come, that’s
some consolation, at all events,” observed our friend, looking up again;
“that’s some consolation, at all events,” adding, “I’ll take deuced good
care to give it up before another year comes round.”

Smoothley then touched upon the more genial subject of the hunt-buttons.
he had desired Garnet, the silversmith, to send a couple of sets off the
last die, one for Billy’s hunting, the other for his dress coat; and he
concluded by wishing our friend a long life of health and happiness to
wear them with the renowned Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt; and assuring
him that he was always his, with great sincerity, John Smoothley.
“Indeed,” said Billy, throwing the letter down; “more happiness if I
don’t wear them,” continued he, conning over his many misfortunes, and
the great difficulty he had in sitting at the jumps. “However,” thought
he, “the dress ones will do for the balls,” with which not uncommon
consolation he broke the red seal of the Yammerton Grange letter.

This was from our friend the Major, all about a wonderful hunt his
“haryers” had had, which he couldn’t resist the temptation of writing to
tell Billy of. The description then sprawled over four sides of letter
paper, going an arrant burst from end to end, there not being a single
stop in the whole, whatever there might have been in the hunt; and the
Major concluded by saying, that it was by far the finest run he had
ever seen during his long mastership, extending over a period of
five-and-thirty years.

Glancing his eye over its contents, how they found at Conksbury Corner,
and ran at a racing pace without a check to Foremark Hill, and down over
the water-meadows at Dove-dale Green to Marbury Hall, turning short at
Fullbrook Folly, and over the race-course at Ancaster Lawn, doubling at
Dinton Dean, and back over the hill past Oakhanger Gorse to Tufton Holt,
where they killed, the account being interwoven, parenthesis within
parenthesis, with the brilliant hits and performances of Lovely, and
Lilter, and Dainty, and Bustler, and others, with the names of the
distinguished party who were out, our old friend Wotherspoon among the
number, Billy came at last to a sly postscript, saying that “his bed
and stall were quite ready for him whenever he liked to return, and they
would all be delighted to see him.” The wording of the Postscript had
taken a good deal of consideration, and had undergone two or three
revisions at the hands of the ladies before they gave it to the Major to
add—one wanting to make it rather stronger, another rather milder, the
Major thinking they had better have a little notice before Mr. Pringle
returned, while Mamma (who had now got all the linen up again) inclined,
though she did not say so before the girls, to treat Billy as one of the
family. Upon a division whether the word “quite” should stand part
of the Postscript or not, the Major was left in a minority, and the
pressing word passed. His bed and stall were “quite ready,” instead
of only “ready” to receive him. Miss Yammerton observing, that “quite”
 looked as if they really wished to have him, while “ready” looked as
if they did not care whether he came or not. And Billy, having pondered
awhile on the Postscript, which he thought came very opportunely,
proceeded to open his last letter, a man always taking those he doesn’t
know first.

This letter was Mamma’s—poor Mamma’s—written in the usual strain of
anxious earnestness, hoping her beloved was enjoying himself, but
hinting that she would like to have him back. Butterfingers was gone,
she had got her a place in Somersetshire, so anxiety on that score was
over. Mrs. Pringle’s peculiar means of information, however, informed
her that the Misses Yammerton were dangerous, and she had already
expressed her opinion pretty freely with regard to Sir Moses. Indeed,
she didn’t know which house she would soonest hear of her son being
at—Sir Moses’s with his plausible pocket-guarding plundering, or Major
Yammerton’s, with the three pair of enterprising eyes, and Mamma’s
mature judgment directing the siege operations. Mrs. Pringle wished he
was either back at Tantivy Castle, or in Curtain Crescent again.

Still she did not like to be too pressing, but observed, as Christmas
was coming, when hunting would most likely be stopped by the weather,
she hoped he would run up to town, where many of his friends, Jack
Sheppard, Tom Brown, Harry Bean, and others, were asking for him,
thinking he was lost. She also said, it would be a good time to go to
Uncle Jerry’s, and try to get a settlement with him, for though she had
often called, sometimes by appointment, she had never been able to meet
with him, as he was always away, either seeing after some chapel he was
building, or attending a meeting for the conversion of the Sepoys, or
some other fanatics.

The letter concluded by saying, that she had looked about in vain for a
groom likely to suit him; for, although plenty had presented themselves
from gentlemen wishing for high wages with nothing to do, down to
those who would garden and groom and look after cows, she had not seen
anything at all to her mind. Mr. Luke Grueler, however, she added, who
had called that morning, had told her of one that he could recommend,
who was just leaving the Honourable Captain Swellington; and being on
his way to town from Doubleimupshire, where the Captain had got to the
end of his tether, he would very possibly call; and, if so, Billy would
know him by his having Mr. Grueler’s card to present. And with renewed
expressions of affection, and urging him to take care of himself, as
well among the leaps as the ladies, she signed herself his most doting
and loving “Mamma.”

“Groom!” (humph) “Swellington!” (humph) muttered Billy, folding up the
letter, and returning it to its highly-musked envelope.

“Wonder what sort of a beggar he’ll be?” continued he, twirling his
mustachios; “Wonder how he’ll get on with Rougier?” and a thought
struck him, that he had about as much as he could manage with Monsieur.
However, many people have to keep what they don’t want, and there is no
reason why such an aspiring youth as our friend should be exempt from
the penance of his station. Talking of grooms, we are not surprised at
“Mamma’s” difficulty in choosing one, for we know of few more difficult
selections to make; and, considering the innumerable books we have on
the choice and management of horses, we wonder no one has written on the
choice and management of grooms. The truth is, they are as various as
the horse-tribe itself; and, considering that the best horse may soon
be made a second-rate one by bad grooming, when a second-rate one may
be elevated to the first class by good management, and that a man’s
neck may be broken by riding a horse not fit to go, it is a matter of
no small importance. Some men can dress themselves, some can dress their
horses; but very few can dress both themselves and their horses.
Some are only fit to strip a horse and starve him. It is not every
baggy-corded fellow that rolls slangily along in top-boots, and hisses
at everything he touches, that is a groom. In truth, there are very
few grooms, very few men who really enter into the feelings and
constitutions of horses, or look at them otherwise than as they would at
chairs or mahogany tables. A horse that will be perfectly furious under
the dressing of one man, will be as quiet as possible in the hands of
another—-a rough subject thinking the more a horse prances aud winces,
the greater the reason to lay on. Some fellows have neither hands, nor
eyes, nor sense, nor feeling, nor anything. We have seen one ride a
horse to cover without ever feeling that he was lame, while a master’s
eye detected it the moment he came in sight. Indeed, if horses could
express their opinions, we fear many of them would have very indifferent
ones of their attendants. The greater the reason, therefore, for masters
giving honest characters of their servants.

Our friend Mr. Pringle, having read his letters, was swinging up and
down the little library, digesting them, when the great Mr. Bankhead
bowed in with a card on a silver salver, and announced, in his usual
bland way, that the bearer wished to speak to him.

“Me!” exclaimed Billy, wondering who it could be; “Me!” repeated he,
taking the highly-glazed thin pasteboard missive off the tray, and
reading, “Mr. Luke Grueler, Half-Moon Street, Piccadilly.”

“Grueler, Grueler!” repeated Billy, frowning and biting his pretty lips;
“Grueler—I’ve surely heard that name before.”

“The bearer, sir, comes from Mr. Grueler, sir,” observed Mr. Bankhead,
in explanation: “the party’s own name, sir, is Gaiters; but he said by
bringing in this card, you would probably know who he is.”

“Ah! to be sure, so I do,” replied Billy, thus suddenly enlightened,
“I’ve just been reading about him. Send him in, will you?”

“If you please, sir,” whispered the bowing Bankhead as he withdrew.

Billy then braced himself up for the coming interview.

A true groom’s knock, a loud and a little one, presently sounded on the
white-over-black painted door-panel, and at our friend’s “Come in,” the
door opened, when in sidled a sleek-headed well put on groomish-looking
man, of apparently forty or five-and-forty years of age. The man bowed
respectfully, which Billy returned, glancing at his legs to see whether
they were knock-kneed or bowed, his Mamma having cautioned him against
the former. They were neither; on the contrary, straight good legs,
well set off with tightish, drab-coloured kerseymere shorts, and
continuations to match. His coat was an olive-coloured cutaway, his
vest a canary-coloured striped toilanette, with a slightly turned-down
collar, showing the whiteness of his well-tied cravat, secured with a
gold flying-fox pin. Altogether he was a most respectable looking man,
and did credit to the recommendation of Mr. Grueler.

Still he was a groom of pretension—that is to say, a groom who wanted to
be master. He was hardly, indeed, satisfied with that, and would turn a
gentleman off who ventured to have an opinion of his own on any matter
connected with his department. Mr. Gaiters considered that his character
was the first consideration, his master’s wishes and inclinations the
second; so if master wanted to ride, say, Rob Roy, and Gaiters meant him
to ride Moonshine, there would be a trial of skill which it should be.

Mr. Gaiters always considered himself corporally in the field, and
speculated on what people would be saying of “his horses.”

Some men like to be bullied, some don’t, but Gaiters had dropped on a
good many who did. Still these are not the lasting order of men, and
Gaiters had at tended the dispersion of a good many studs at the Corner.
Again, some masters had turned him off, while he had turned others
off; and the reason of his now being disengaged was that the Sheriff
of Doubleimupshire had saved him the trouble of taking Captain
Swellington’s horses to Tattersall’s, by selling them off on the spot.
Under these circumstances, Gaiters had written to his once former
master—or rather employer—Mr. Grueler, to announce his retirement, which
had led to the present introduction. Many people will recommend servants
who they wouldn’t take themselves. Few newly married couples but what
have found themselves saddled with invaluable servants that others
wanted to get rid of.

Mutual salutations over, Gaiters now stood in the first position, hat in
front, like a heavy father on the stage.

Our friend not seeming inclined to lead the gallop, Mr. Gaiters, after a
prefatory hem, thus commenced: “Mr. Grueler, sir, I presume, would tell
you, sir, that I would call upon you, sir?”

Billy nodded assent.

“I’m just leaving the Honourable Captain Swellington, of the Royal
Hyacinth Hussars, sir, whose regiment is ordered out to India; and
fearing the climate might not agree with my constitution, I have been
obliged to give him up.”

“Ah!” ejaculated Billy.

“I have his testimonials,” continued Gaiters, putting his hat between
his legs, and diving into the inside pocket of his cutaway as he spoke.
“I have his testimonials,” repeated he, producing a black, steel-clasped
banker or bill-broker’s looking pocket-book, and tedding up a lot of
characters, bills, recipes, and other documents in the pocket. He then
selected Captain Swellington’s character from the medley, written on
the best double-thick, cream-laid note-paper, sealed with the Captain’s
crest—a goose—saying that the bearer John Gaiters was an excellent
groom, and might safely be trusted with the management of hunters.
“You’ll probably know who the Captain is, sir,” continued Mr. Gaiters,
eyeing Billy as he read it, “He’s a son of the Right Honourable Lord
Viscount Flareup’s, of Flareup Castle, one of the oldest and best
families in the kingdom—few better families anywhere,” just as if the
Peer’s pedigree had anything to do with Gaiters’s grooming. “I have
plenty more similar to it,” continued Mr. Gaiters, who had now selected
a few out of the number which he held before him, like a hand at cards.
“Plenty more similar to it,” repeated he, looking them over. “Here is
Sir Rufus Rasper’s, Sir Peter Puller’s, Lord Thruster’s, Mr. Cropper’s,
and others. Few men have horsed more sportsmen than I have done; and
if my principals do not go in the first flight, it is not for want of
condition in my horses. Mr. Grueler was the only one I ever had to give
up for overmarking my horses; and he was so hard upon them I couldn’t
stand it; still he speaks of me, as you see, in the handsomest manner,”
 handing our friend Mr. Grueler’s certificate, couched in much the same
terms as Captain Swellington’s.

“Yarse,” replied Billy, glancing over and then returning it, thinking,
as he again eyed Mr. Gaiters, that a smart lad like Lord Ladythorne’s
Cupid without wings would be more in his way than such a full-sized
magnificent man. Still his Mamma and Mr. Grueler had sent Gaiters, and
he supposed they knew what was right. In truth, Gaiters was one of those
overpowering people that make a master feel as if he was getting hired,
instead of suiting himself with a servant.

This preliminary investigation over, Gaiters returned the characters to
his ample book, and clasping it together, dropped it into his capacious
pocket, observing, as it fell, that he should be glad to endeavour to
arrange matters with Mr. Pringle, if he was so inclined.

Our friend nodded, wishing he was well rid of him.

“It’s not every place I would accept,” continued Mr. Gaiters, growing
grand; “for the fact is, as Mr. Grueler will tell you, my character
is as good as a Bank of England note; and unless I was sure I could do
myself justice, I should not like to venture on an experiment, for it’s
no use a man undertaking anything that he’s not allowed to carry out
his own way; and nothing would be so painful to my feelings as to see a
gentleman not turned out as he should be.”

Mr. Pringle drawled a “yarse,” for he wanted to be turned out properly.

“Well, then,” continued Mr. Gaiters, changing his hat from his right
hand to his left, subsiding into the second position, and speaking
slowly and deliberately, “I suppose you want a groom to take the entire
charge and management of your stable—a stud groom, in short?”

“Yarse, I s’pose so,” replied Billy, not knowing exactly what he wanted,
and wishing his Mamma hadn’t sent him such a swell.

“Well, then, sir,” continued Mr. Gaiters, casting his eyes up to the
dirty ceiling, and giving his chin a dry shave with his disengaged hand;
“Well, then, sir, I flatter myself I can fulfil that office with credit
to myself and satisfaction to my employer.”

“Yarse,” assented Billy, thinking there would be very little
satisfaction in the matter.

“Buy the forage, hire the helpers, do everything appertaining to
the department,—in fact, just as I did with the Honourable Captain
Swellington.”

“Humph,” said Billy, recollecting that his Mamma always told him never
to let servants buy anything for him that he could help.

“Might I ask if you buy your own horses?” inquired Mr. Gaiters, after a
pause.

“Why, yarse, I do,” replied Billy; “at least I have so far.”

“Hum! That would be a consideration,” muttered Gaiters, compressing
his mouth, as if he had now come to an obstacle; “that would be a
consideration. Not that there’s any benefit or advantage to be derived
from buying horses,” continued he, resuming his former tone; “but when a
man’s character’s at stake, it’s agreeable, desirable, in fact, that he
should be intrusted with the means of supporting it. I should like to
buy the horses,” continued he, looking earnestly at Billy, as if to
ascertain the amount of his gullibility.

“Well,” drawled Billy, “I don’t care if you do,” thinking there wouldn’t
be many to buy.

“Oh!” gasped Gaiters, relieved by the announcement; he always thought
he had lost young Mr. Easyman’s place by a similar demand, but still he
couldn’t help making it. It wouldn’t have been doing justice to the Bank
of England note character, indeed, if he hadn’t.

“Oh!” repeated he, emboldened by success, and thinking he had met with
the right sort of man. He then proceeded to sum up his case in his
mind,—forage, helpers, horses, horses, helpers, forage;—he thought that
was all he required; yes, he thought it was all he required, and the
Bank of England note character would be properly supported. He then came
to the culminating point of the cash. Just as he was clearing his throat
with a prefatory “Hre” for this grand consideration, a sudden rush and
banging of doors foreboding mischief resounded through the house, and
something occurred——that we will tell in another chapter.



CHAPTER XLVII. A CATASTROPHE.—A TÊTE-À-TÊTE DINNER

ON, Sir, Sir, please step this way! please step this way!” exclaimed the
delirium tremems footman, rushing coatless into the room where our hero
and Mr. Gaiters were,—his shirt-sleeves tucked up, and a knife in hand,
as if he had been killing a pig, though in reality he was fresh from the
knife-board.

“Oh, Sir, Sir, please step this way!” repeated he, at once demolishing
the delicate discussion at which our friend and Mr. Gaiters had arrived.

“What’s ha-ha-happened?” demanded Billy, turning deadly pale; for his
cares were so few, that he couldn’t direct his fears to any one point in
particular.

“Please, sir, your ‘oss has dropped down in a f-f-fit!” replied the man,
all in a tremble.

“Fit!” ejaculated Billy, brushing past Gaiters, and hurrying out of the
room.

“Fit!” repeated Gaiters, turning round with comfortable composure,
looking at the man as much as to say, what do you know about it?

“Yes, f-f-fit!” repeated the footman, brandishing his knife, and running
after Billy as though he were going to slay him.

Dashing along the dark passages, breaking his shins over one of those
unlucky coal-scuttles that are always in the way, Billy fell into an
outward-bound stream of humanity,—Mrs. Margerum, Barbara the housemaid,
Mary the Lanndrymaid, Jones the gardener’s boy, and others, all hurrying
to the scene of action.

Already there was a ring formed round the door, of bare-armed helpers,
and miscellaneous hangers-on, looking over each other’s shoulders, who
opened a way for Billy as he advanced.

The horse was indeed down, but not in a fit; for he was dying, and
expired just as Billy entered. There lay the glazy-eyed hundred-guinea
Napoleon the Great, showing his teeth, reduced to the mere value of his
skin; so great is the difference between a dead horse and a live one.

“Bad job!” said Wetun, who was on his knees at its head, looking up;
“bad job!” repeated he, trying to look dismal.

“What! is he dead?” demanded Billy, who could hardly realise the fact.

“Dead, ay—he’ll never move more,” replied Wetun, showing his
fast-stiffening neck.

“By Jove! why didn’t you send for the doctor?” demanded Billy.

“Doctor! we had the doctor,” replied Wetun, “but he could do nothin’ for
him.”

“Nothin’ for him!” retorted Billy; “why not?”

“Because he’s rotten,” replied Wetun.

“Rotten! how can that be?” asked our friend, adding, “I only bought him
the other day!”

“If you open ‘im you’ll find he’s as black as ink in his inside,
rejoined the groom, now getting np in the stall and rubbing his knees.

“Well, but what’s that with?” demanded Hilly. “It surely must be owing
to something. Horses don’t die that way for nothing.”

“Owing to a bad constitution—harn’t got no stamina,” replied Wetun,
looking down upon the dead animal.

Billy was posed with the answer, and stood mute for a while.

“That ‘oss ‘as never been rightly well sin he com’d,” now observed
Joe Bates, the helper who looked after him, over the heads of the
door-circle.

“I didn’t like his looks when he com’d in from ‘unting that day,”
 continued Tom Wisp, another helper.

“No, nor the day arter nonther,” assented Jack Strong, who was a capital
hand at finding fault, and could slur over his work with anybody.

Just then Mr. Gaiters arrived; and a deferential entrance was opened for
his broadcloth by the group before the door.

The great Mr. Gaiters entered.

Treating the dirty blear-eyed Wetun more as a helper than an equal, he
advanced deliberately up the stall and proceeded to examine the dead
horse.

He looked first np his nostrils, next at his eye, then at his neck to
see if he had been bled.

“I could have cured that horse if I’d had him in time,” observed he to
Billy with a shake of the head.

“Neither you nor no man under the sun could ha’ done it,” asserted Mr.
Wetun, indignant at the imputation.

“I could though—at least he never should have been in that state,”
 replied Gaiters coolly.

“I say you couldn’t!” retorted Wetun, putting his arms a-kimbo, and
sideling up to the daring intruder, a man who hadn’t even asked leave to
come into his stable.

A storm being imminent, our friend slipped off, and Sir Moses arrived
from Henerey Brown &, Co.’s just at the nick of time to prevent a fight.

So much for a single night in a bad stable, a result that our readers
will do well to remember when they ask their friends to visit them—“Love
me, love my horse,” being an adage more attended to in former times than
it is now.

“Ah, my dear Pringle! I’m so sorry to hear about your horse! go sorry
to hear about your horse!” exclaimed Sir Moses, rushing forward to greet
our friend with a consolatory shake of the hand, as he came sauntering
into the library, flat candlestick in hand, before dinner. “It’s just
the most unfortunate thing I ever knew in my life; and I wouldn’t have
had it happen at my house for all the money in the world—dom’d if I
would,” added he, with a downward blow of his fist.

Billy could only reply with one of his usual monotonous “y-a-r-ses.”

“However,” said the Baronet, “it shall not prevent your hunting
to-morrow, for I’ll mount you with all the pleasure in the world—all the
pleasure in the world,” repeated he, with a flourish of his hand.

“Thank ye,” replied Billy, alarmed at the prospect; “but the fact is,
the Major expects me back at Yammerton Grange, and——”

“That’s nothin!” interrupted Sir Moses; “that’s nothin; hunt, and go
there after—all in the day’s work. Meet at the kennel, find a fox in
five minutes, have your spin, and go to the Grange afterwards.”

“O, indeed, yes, you shall,” continued he, settling it so, “shall have
the best horse in my stable—Pegasus, or Atalanta, or Old Jack, or any of
them—dom’d if you shalln’t—so that matter’s settled.”

“But, but, but,” hesitated our alarmed friend, “I—I—I shall have no way
of getting there after hunting.”

“O, I’ll manage that too,” replied Sir Moses, now in the generous mood.
“I’ll manage that too—shall have the dog-cart—the thing we were in
to-day; my lad shall go with you and bring it back, and that’ll convey
you and your traps ‘and all altogether. Only sorry I can’t ask you to
stay another week, but the fact is I’ve got to go to my friend Lord
Lundyfoote’s for Monday’s hunting at Harker Crag,”—the fact being that
Sir Moses had had enough of Billy’s company and had invited himself
there to get rid of him.

The noiseless Mr. Bankhead then opened the door with a bow, and they
proceeded to a tête-à-tête dinner, Cuddy Flintoff having wisely sent for
his things from Heslop’s house, and taken his departure to town under
pretence, as he told Sir Moses in a note, of seeing Tommy White’s horses
sold.

Cuddy was one of that numerous breed of whom every sportsman knows at
least one—namely, a man who is always wanting a horse, a “do you know
of a horse that will suit me?” sort of a man. Charley Flight, who always
walks the streets like a lamplighter and doesn’t like to be cheeked in
his stride, whenever he sees Cuddy crawling along Piccadilly towards the
Corner, puts on extra steam, exclaiming as he nears him, “How are you,
Cuddy, how are you? I don’t know of a horse that will suit you!” So he
gets past without a pull-up.

But we are keeping the soup waiting—also the fish—cod sounds rather—for
Mrs. Margerum not calculating on more than the usual three days of
country hospitality,—the rest day, the drest day, and the pressed
day,—had run out of fresh fish. Indeed the whole repast bespoke the
exhausted larder peculiar to the end of the week, and an adept in dishes
might have detected some old friends with new faces. Some rechauffers
however are quite as good if not better than the original dishes—hashed
venison for instance—though in this case, when Sir Moses inquired for
the remains of the Sunday’s haunch, he was told that Monsieur had had it
for his lunch—Jack being a safe bird to lay it upon, seeing that he had
not returned from the race. If Jack had been in the way then, the cat
would most likely have been the culprit, or old Libertine, who had the
run of the house.

Neither the Baronet nor Billy however was in any great humour for
eating, each having cares of magnitude to oppress his thoughts, and it
was not until Sir Moses had imbibed the best part of a pint of champagne
besides sherry at intervals, that he seemed at all like himself. So
he picked and nibbled and dom’d and dirted as many plates as he could.
Dinner being at length over, he ordered a bottle of the green-sealed
claret (his best), and drawing his chair to the fire proceeded to crack
walnuts and pelt the shells at particular coals in the fire with a
vehemence that showed the occupation of his mind. An observing eye
could almost tell which were levelled at Henerey Brown, which at Cuddy
Flintoff, and which again at the impudent owner of Tippy Tom.

At length, having exhausted his spleen, he made a desperate dash at the
claret-jug, and pouring himself out a bumper, pushed it across to our
friend, with a “help yourself,” as he sent it. The ticket-of-leave
butler, who understood wine, had not lost his skill during his long
residence at Portsmouth, and brought this in with the bouquet in great
perfection. The wine was just as it should be, neither too warm nor too
cold; and as Sir Moses quailed a second glass, his equanimity began to
revive.

When not thinking about money, his thoughts generally took a sporting
turn,

Horses and hounds, and the system of kennel, Leicestershire saga, and
the hounds of old Moynell,

as the song says; and the loss of Billy’s horse now obtruded on his
mind.

“How the deuce it had happened he couldn’t imagine; his man, Wetun,—and
there was no better judge—said he seemed perfectly well, and a better
stable couldn’t be than the one he was in; indeed he was standing
alongside of his own favourite mare, Whimpering Kate,—‘faith, he
wished he had told them to take her out, in case it was anything
infectious,—only it looked more like internal disease than anything
else.—Wished he mightn’t be rotten. The Major was an excellent
man,—cute,——” and here he checked himself, recollecting that Billy was
going back there on the morrow. “A young man,” continued he, “should be
careful who he dealt with, for many what were called highly honourable
men were very unscrupulous about horses;” and a sudden thought struck
Sir Moses, which, with the aid of another bottle, he thought he might
try to carry out. So apportioning the remains of the jug equitably
between Billy and himself, he drew the bell, and desired the
ticket-of-leave butler to bring in another bottle and a devilled
biscuit.

“That wine won’t hurt you,” continued he, addressing our friend, “that
wine won’t hurt you, it’s not the nasty loaded stuff they manufacture
for the English market, but pure, unadulterated juice of the grape,
without a headache in a gallon of it so saying, Sir Moses quaffed off
his glass and set it down with evident satisfaction, feeling almost a
match for the owner of Tippy Tom. He then moved his chair a little on
one side, and resumed his contemplation of the fire,—the blue lights
rising among the red,—the gas escaping from the coal,—the clear flame
flickering with the draught. He thought he saw his way,—yes, he thought
he saw his way, and forthwith prevented any one pirating his ideas, by
stirring the fire. Mr. Bankhead then entered with the bottle and the
biscuit, and, placing them on the table, withdrew.

“Come, Pringle!” cried Sir Moses cheerfully, seizing the massive
cut-glass decanter, “let’s drink the healths of the young ladies at——,
you know where,” looking knowingly at our friend, who blushed. “We’ll
have a bumper to that,” continued he, pouring himself out one, and
passing the bottle to Billy.

“The young ladies at Yammerton Grange!” continued Sir Moses, holding
the glass to the now sparkling fire before he transferred its bright
ruby-coloured contents to his thick lips. He then quailed it off with a
smack.

“The young ladies at Yammerton Grange!” faltered Billy, after filling
himself a bumper.

“Nice girls those, dom’d if they’re not,” observed the Baronet, now
breaking the devilled biscuit. “You must take care what you’re about
there, though, for the old lady doesn’t stand any nonsense; the Major
neither.”

Billy said he wasn’t going to try any on——.

“No—but they’ll try it on with you,” retorted Sir Moses; “mark my words
if they don’t.”

“O, but I’m only there for hunting,” observed Billy, timidly.

“I dare say,” replied Sir Moses, with a jerk of his head, “I dare
say,—but it’s very agreeable to talk to a pretty girl when you come in,
and those are devilish pretty girls, let me tell you,—dom’d if they’re
not,—only one talk leads to another talk, and ultimately Mamma talks
about a small gold ring.”

Billy was frightened, for he felt the truth of what Sir Moses said.
They then sat for some minutes in silence, ruminating on their own
affairs,—Billy thinking he would be careful of the girls, and wondering
how he could escape Sir Moses’s offer of a bump on the morrow,—Sir Moses
thinking he would advance that performance a step. He now led the way.

“You’ll be wanting a horse to go with the Major’s harriers,” observed
he; “and I’ve got the very animal for that sort of work; that grey horse
of mine, the Lord Mayor, in the five-stalled stable on the right; the
safest, steadiest animal ever man got on to; and I’ll make you a present
of him, dom’d if I won’t; for I’m more hurt at the loss of yours than
words can express; wouldn’t have had such a thing happen at my house
on any account; so that’s a bargain, and will make all square; for the
grey’s an undeniable good ‘un—worth half-a-dozen of the Major’s—and
will do you some credit, for a young man on his preferment should always
study appearances, and ride handsome horses; and the grey is one of the
handsomest I ever saw. Lord Tootle-ton, up in Neck-and-crop-shire, who
I got him of, gave three ‘under’d for him at the hammer, solely, I
believe, on account of his looks, for he had never seen him out except
in the ring, which is all my eye, for telling you whether a horse is a
hunter or not; but, however, he is a hunter, and no mistake, and you are
most, heartily welcome to him, dom’d if you’re not; and I’m deuced glad
that it occurred to me to give him you, for I shall now sleep quite
comfortable; so help yourself, and we’ll drink Foxhunting,” saying
which. Sir Moses, who had had about enough wine, filled on a liberal
heel-tap, and again passed the bottle to his guest.

Now Billy, who had conned over the matter in his bedroom before dinner,
had come to the conclusion that he had had about hunting enough, and
that the loss of Napoleon the Great afforded a favourable opportunity
for retiring from the chase; indeed, he had got rid of the overpowering
Mr. Gaiters on that plan, and he was not disposed to be cajoled into
a continuance of the penance by the gift of a horse; so as soon as he
could get a word in sideways, he began hammering away at an excuse,
thanking Sir Moses most energetically for his liberality, but expressing
his inability to accept such a magnificent offer.

Sir Moses, however, who did not believe in any one refusing a gift,
adhered pertinaciously to his promise,—“Oh, indeed, he should have him,
he wouldn’t be easy if he didn’t take him,” and ringing the bell he
desired the footman to tell Wetun to see if Mr. Pringle’s saddle would
fit the Lord Mayor, and if it didn’t, to let our friend have one of his
in the morning, and “here!” added he, as the man was retiring, “bring
in tea.”—And Sir Moses being peremptory in his presents, Billy was
compelled to remain under pressure of the horse.—So after a copious
libation of tea the couple hugged and separated for the night, Sir Moses
exclaiming “Breakfast at nine, mind!” as Billy sauntered up stairs,
while the Baronet ran off to his study to calculate what Henerey Brown &
Co. had done him out of.



CHAPTER XLVIII. ROUGIER’S MYSTERIOUS LODGINGS—THE GIFT HORSE.

MR. Gallon’s liberality after the race with Mr. Flintoff was so great
that Monsieur Rougier was quite overcome with his kindness and had to
be put to bed at the last public-house they stopped at, viz.—the sign
of the Nightingale on the Ashworth road. Independently of the brandy not
being particularly good, Jack took so much of it that he slept the clock
round, and it was past nine the next morning ere he awoke. It then
took him good twenty minutes to make out where he was; he first of all
thought he was at Boulogne, then in Paris, next at the Lord Warden Hotel
at Dover, and lastly at the Coal-hole in the Strand.

Presently the recollection of the race began to dawn upon him—the red
jacket—the grey horse, Cuddy in distress, and gradually he recalled the
general outline of the performance, but he could not fill it up so as to
make a connected whole, or to say where he was.

He then looked at his watch, and finding it was half-past four, he
concluded it had stopped,—an opinion that was confirmed on holding it to
his ear; so without more ado, he bounded out of bed in a way that nearly
sent him through the gaping boards of the dry-rotting floor of the
little attic in which they had laid him. He then made his way to the
roof-raised window to see what was outside. A fine wet muddy road shone
below him, along which a straw-cart was rolling; beyond the road was a
pasture, then a turnip field; after which came a succession of green,
brown, and drab fields, alternating and undulating away to the horizon,
varied with here and there a belt or tuft of wood. Jack was no wiser
than he was, but hearing sounds below, he made for the door, and opening
the little flimsy barrier stood listening like a terrier with its ear at
a rat-hole. These were female voices, and he thus addressed them—“I say,
who’s there? Theodosia, my dear,” continued he, speaking down stairs,
“vot’s de time o’ day, my sweet?”

The lady thus addressed as Theodosia was Mrs. Windybank, a very
forbidding tiger-faced looking woman, desperately pitted with the
small-pox, who was not in the best of humours in consequence of the
cat having got to the cream-bowl; so all the answer she made to Jack’s
polite enquiry was, “Most ten.”

“Most ten!” repeated Jack, “most ten! how the doose can that be?”

“It is hooiver,” replied she, adding, “you may look if you, like.”

“No, my dear, I’ll take your word for it,” replied Jack; “but tell me,
Susannah,” continued he, “whose house is this I’m at?”

“Whose house is’t?” replied the voice; “whose house is’t? why, Jonathan
Windybank’s—you knar that as well as I do.”

“De lady’s not pleasant,” muttered Jack to himself; so returning into
the room, he began to array himself in his yesterday’s garments, Mr.
Gallon’s boots and leathers, his own coat with Finlater’s cap, in which
he presently came creaking down stairs and confronted the beauty with
whom he had had the flying colloquy. The interview not being at all to
her advantage, and as she totally denied all knowledge of Pangburn Park,
and “de great Baronet vot kept the spotted dogs,” Monsieur set off on
foot to seek it; and after divers askings, mistakings, and deviations,
he at length arrived on Rossington hill just as the servants’ hall
dinner-bell was ringing, the walk being much to the detriment of Mr.
Gallon’s boots.

In consequence of Monsieur’s laches, as the lawyers would say, Mr.
Pringle was thrown on the resources of the house the next morning; but
Sir Moses being determined to carry out his intention with regard to the
horse, sent the footman to remind Billy that he was going to hunt, and
to get him his things if required. So our friend was obliged to adorn
for the chase instead of retiring from further exertion in that line as
he intended; and with the aid of the footman he made a very satisfactory
toilette,—his smart scarlet, a buff vest, a green cravat, correct
shirt-collar, with unimpeachable leathers and boots.

Though this was the make-believe day of the week, Sir Moses was all
hurry and bustle as usual, and greeted our hero as he came down stairs
with the greatest enthusiasm, promising, of all things in the world! to
show him a run.

“Now bring breakfast! bring breakfast!” continued he, as if they had
got twenty miles to go to cover; and in came urn and eggs, and ham,
and cakes, and tongue, and toast, and buns, all the concomitants of the
meal.—At it Sir Moses went as if he had only ten minutes to eat it in,
inviting his guest to fall-to also.

Just as they were in the midst of the meal a horse was heard to snort
outside, and on looking up the great Lord Mayor was seen passing up the
Park.

“Ah, there’s your horse!” exclaimed Sir Moses, “there’s your horse!
been down to the shop to get his shoes looked to,” though in reality Sir
Moses had told the groom to do just what he was doing, viz.—to pass him
before the house at breakfast-time without his clothing.

The Lord Mayor was indeed a sort of horse that a youngster might well
be taken in with, grey, with a beautiful head and neck, and an elegantly
set-on tail. He stepped out freely and gaily, and looked as lively as a
lark.

He was, however, as great an impostor as Napoleon the Great; for,
independently of being troubled with the Megrims, he was a shocking bad
hack, and a very few fields shut him up as a hunter.

“Well now,” said Sir Moses, pausing in his meal, with the uplifted knife
and fork of admiration, “that, to my mind, is the handsomest horse in
the country,—I don’t care where the next handsomest is.—Just look at his
figure, just look at his action.—Did you ever see anything so elegant?
To my mind he’s as near perfection as possible, and what’s more, he’s as
good as he looks, and all I’ve got to say is, that you are most heartily
welcome to him.”

“O, thank’e,” replied Billy, “thank’e, but I couldn’t think of accepting
him,—I couldn’t think of accepting him indeed.”

“O, but you shall,” said Sir Moses, resuming his eating, “O but you
shall, so there’s an end of the matter.—And now have some more tea,”
 whereupon he proceeded to charge Billy’s cup in the awkward sort of way
men generally do when they meddle with the tea-pot.

Sir Moses, having now devoured his own meal, ran off to his study,
telling Billy he would call him when it was time to go, and our friend
proceeded to dandle and saunter, and think what he would do with his
gift horse. He was certainly a handsome one—handsomer than Napoleon, and
grey was a smarter colour than bay—might not be quite so convenient for
riding across country on, seeing the color was conspicuous, but for a
hot day in the Park nothing could be more cool or delightful. And he
thought it was extremely handsome of Sir Moses giving it to him, more,
he felt, than nine-tenths of the people in the world would have done.

Our friend’s reverie was presently interrupted by Sir Moses darting
back, pen and paper in hand, exclaiming, “I’ll tell ye what, my dear
Pringle! I’ll tell ye what! there shall be no obligation, and you shall
give me fifty puns for the grey and pay for him when you please.
But mark me!” added he, holding up his forefinger and looking most
scrutinisingly at our friend, “Only on one condition, mind! only on one
condition, mind! that you give me the refusal of him if ever you want to
part with him;” and without waiting for an answer, he placed the paper
before our friend, and handing him the pen, said, “There, then, sign
that I. O. U.” And Billy having signed it, Sir Moses snatched it up and
disappeared, leaving our friend to a renewal of his cogitations.



365m


Sir Moses having accomplished the grand “do,” next thought he would back
out of the loan of the dog-cart. For this purpose he again came hurrying
back, pen in hand, exclaiming, “Oh dear, he was so sorry, but it had
just occurred to him that he wanted the mare to go to Lord Lundyfoote’s;
however, I’ll make it all square, I’ll make it all square,” continued
he; “I’ll tell Jenkins, the postman, to send a fly as soon as he gets to
Hinton, which, I make no doubt, will be here by the time we come in from
hunting, and it will take you and your traps all snug and comfortable;
for a dog-cart, after all, is but a chilly concern at this time of year,
and I shouldn’t like you to catch cold going from my house;” and without
waiting for an answer, he pulled-to the door and hurried back to his
den. Billy shook his head, for he didn’t like being put off that way,
and muttered to himself, “I wonder who’ll pay for it though.” However,
on reflection, he thought perhaps he would be as comfortable in a fly
as finding his way across country on horseback; and as he had now
ascertained that Monsieur could ride, whether or not he could drive, he
settled that he might just as well take the grey to Yammerton Grange as
not. This then threw him back on his position with regard to the
horse, which was not so favourable as it at first appeared; indeed, he
questioned whether he had done wisely in signing the paper, his Mamma
having always cautioned him to be careful how he put his name to
anything. Still, he felt he couldn’t have got off without offending Sir
Moses; and after all, it was more like a loan than a sale, seeing that
he had not paid for him, and Sir Moses would take him back if he liked.
Altogether he thought he might be worse off, and, considering that Lord
Tootleton had given three hundred for the horse, he certainly must
be worth fifty. There is nothing so deceiving as price. Only tell a
youngster that a horse has cost a large sum, and he immediately looks
at him, while he would pass him by if he stood at a low figure. Having
belonged to a lord, too, made him so much more acceptable to Billy.

A loud crack of a whip, accompanied by a “Now, Pringle!” presently
resounded through the house, and our friend again found himself called
upon to engage in an act of horsemanship.

“Coming!” cried he, starting from the little mirror above the scanty
grey marble mantel-piece, in which he was contemplating his moustachios;
“Coming!” and away he strode, with the desperate energy of a man bent on
braving the worst. His cap, whip, gloves, and mits, were all laid ready
for him on the entrance hall-table; and seizing them in a cluster,
he proceeded to decorate himself as he followed Sir Moses along the
intricate passages leading to the stable-yard.



CHAPTER XLIX. THE SHAM DAY.

SATURDAY is a very different day in the country to what it is in London.
In London it is the lazy day of the week, whereas it is the busy one
in the country. It is marked in London by the coming of the clean-linen
carts, and the hurrying about of Hansoms with gentlemen with umbrellas
and small carpet-bags, going to the steamers and stations for pleasure;
whereas in the country everybody is off to the parliament of his local
capital on business. All the markets in Hit-im and Hold-im shire were
held on a Saturday, and several in Featherbedfordshire; and as everybody
who has nothing to do is always extremely busy, great gatherings were
the result. This circumstance made Sir Moses hit upon Saturday for his
fourth, or make-believe day with the hounds, inasmuch as Few people
would be likely to come, and if they did, he knew how to get rid
of them. The consequence was, that the court-yard at Pangburn Park
exhibited a very different appearance, on this occasion, to what it
would have done had the hounds met there on any other day of the week.
Two red coats only, and those very shabby ones, with very shady horses
under them—viz., young Mr. Billikins of Red Hill Lodge, and his cousin
Captain Luff of the navy (the latter out for the first time in his
life), were all that greeted our sportsmen; the rest of the field
being attired in shooting-jackets, tweeds, antigropolos and other
anti-fox-hunting looking things.

“Good morning, gentlemen! good morning!” cried Sir Moses, waving his
hand from the steps at the promiscuous throng; and without condescending
to particularise any one, he hurried across for his horse, followed by
our friend. Sir Moses was going to ride Old Jack, one of the horses he
had spoken of for Billy, a venerable brown, of whose age no one’s memory
about the place supplied any information—though when he first came all
the then wiseacres prophesied a speedy decline. Still Old Jack had
gone on from season to season, never apparently getting older, and now
looking as likely to go on as ever. The old fellow having come pottering
out of the stable and couched to his load, the great Lord Mayor came
darting forward as if anxious for the fray. “It’s your saddle, sir,”
 said Wetun, touching his forehead with his finger, as he held on by the
stirrup for Billy to mount. Up then went our friend into the old seat of
suffering. “There!” exclaimed Sir Moses, as he got his feet settled
in the stirrups; “there, you do look well! If Miss ‘um’ sees you,”
 continued he, with a knowing wink, “it’ll be all over with you;” so
saying, Sir Moses touched Old Jack gently with the spur, and proceeded
to the slope of the park, where Findlater and the whips now had the
hounds.

Tom Findlater, as we said before, was an excellent huntsman, but he
had his peculiarities, and in addition to that of getting drunk, he
sometimes required to be managed by the rule of contrary, and made to
believe that Sir Moses wanted him to do the very reverse of what he
really did. Having been refused leave to go to Cleaver the butcher’s
christening-supper at the sign of the Shoulder of Mutton, at Kimberley,
Sir Moses anticipated that this would be one of his perverse days, and
so he began taking measures accordingly.

“Good morning, Tom,” said he, as huntsman and whips now sky-scraped to
his advance—“morning all of you,” added he, waving a general salute to
the hound-encircling group.

“Now, Tom,” said he, pulling up and fumbling at his horn, “I’ve been
telling Mr. Pringle that we’ll get him a gallop so as to enable him to
arrive at Yammerton Grange before dark.”

“Yes, Sir Moses,” replied Tom, with a rap of his cap-peak, thinking he
would take very good care that he didn’t.

“Now whether will Briarey Banks or the Reddish Warren be the likeliest
place for a find?”

“Neither, Sir Moses, neither,” replied Tom confidently, “Tip-thorne’s
the place for us.”

This was just what Sir Moses wanted.

“Tipthorne, you think, do you?” replied he, musingly. “Tipthorne, you
think—well, and where next?”

“Shillington, Sir Moses, and Halstead Hill, and so on to Hatchington
Wood.”

“Good!” replied the Baronet, “Good!” adding, “then let’s be going.”

At a whistle and a waive of his hand the watchful hounds darted up, and
Tom taking the lead, the mixed cavalcade swept after them over the now
yellow-grassed park in a north-easterly direction, Captain Luff working
his screw as if he were bent on treading on the hounds’ stems.

There being no one out to whom Sir Moses felt there would be any
profitable investment of attention, he devoted himself to our hero,
complimenting him on his appearance, and on the gallant bearing of his
steed, declaring that of all the neat horses he had ever set eyes on the
Lord Mayor was out-and-out the neatest. So with compliments to Billy,
and muttered “cusses” at Luff, they trotted down Oxclose Lane, through
the little village of Homerton, past Dewfield Lawn, over Waybridge
Common, shirking Upwood toll-bar, and down Cornforth Bank to Burford,
when Tipthorne stood before them. It was a round Billesdon Coplow-like
hill, covered with stunted oaks, and a nice warm lying gorse sloping
away to the south; but Mr. Tadpole’s keeper having the rabbits, he was
seldom out of it, and it was of little use looking there for a fox.

That being the case, of course it was more necessary to make a great
pretension, so halting noiselessly behind the high red-berried hedge,
dividing the pasture from the gorse, Tom despatched his whips to their
points, and then touching his cap to Sir Moses, said, “P’raps Mr.
Pringle would like to ride in and see him find.”

“Ah, to be sure,” replied Sir Moses, “let’s both go in,” whereupon Tom
opened the bridle-gate, and away went the hounds with a dash that as
good as said if we don’t get a fox we’ll get a rabbit at all events.

“A fox for a guinea!” cried Findlater, cheering them, and looking at his
watch as if he had him up already. “A fox for a guinea!” repeated he,
thinking how nicely he was selling his master.

“Keep your eye on this side,” cried Sir Moses to Billy. “he’ll cross
directly!” Terrible announcement. How our friend did quake.

“Yap, yap, yap,” now went the shrill note of Tartar, the tarrier,
“Yough, yough, yough” followed the deep tone of young Venturesome, close
in pursuit of a bunny.

“Crack!” went a heavy whip, echoing through the air and resounding at
the back of the hill.

All again was still, and Tom advanced up the cover, standing erect in
his stirrups, looking as if half-inclined to believe it was a fox after
all.

“Eloo in! Eloo in!” cried he, capping Talisman and Wonderful across.
“Yoicks wind ‘im! yoicks push him up!” continued he, thinking what a
wonderful performance it would be if they did find.

“Squeak, yap, yell, squeak,” now went the well-known sound of a hound in
a trap. It is Labourer, and a whip goes diving into the sea of gorse to
the rescue.

“Oh, dom those traps,” cries Sir Moses, as the clamour ceases, adding,
“no fox here, I told you so,” adding, “should have gone to the Warren.”

He then took out his box-wood horn and stopped the performance by a most
discordant blast. The hounds came slinking out to the summons, some of
them licking their lips as if they had not been there altogether for
nothing.

“Where to, now, please Sir Moses?” asked Tom, with a touch of his cap,
as soon as he had got them all out.



371m


“Tally-ho!” cries Captain Luff, in a most stentorian strain—adding
immediately, “Oh no! I’m mistaken, It’s a hare!” as half the hounds
break away to his cry.

“Oh, dom you and your noise,” cries Sir Moses, in well-feigned disgust,
adding—“Why don’t you put your spectacles on?”

Luff looks foolish, for he doesn’t know what to say, and the excitement
dies out in a laugh at the Captain’s expense.

“Where to, now, please, Sir Moses?” again asks Tom, chuckling at his
master’s displeasure, and thinking how much better it would have been if
he had let him go to the supper.

“Where you please,” growled the Baronet, scowling at Luff’s nasty rusty
Napoleons—“where you please, you said Shillington, didn’t you—anywhere,
only let us find a fox,” added he, as if he really wanted one.

Tom then got his horse short by the head, and shouldering his whip,
trotted off briskly, as if bent on retrieving the day. So he went
through the little hamlet of Hawkesworth over Dippingham water
meadows, bringing Blobbington mill-race into the line, much to Billy’s
discomfiture, and then along the Hinton and London turnpike to the sign
of the Plough at the blacksmith’s shop at Shillington.

The gorse was within a stone’s throw of the “Public,” so Luff and some
of the thirsty ones pulled up to wet their whistles and light the clay
pipes of gentility.

The gorse was very open, and the hounds ran through it almost before the
sots had settled what they would have, and there being a bye-road at the
far end, leading by a slight détour to Halstead Hill, Sir Moses hurried
them out, thinking to shake off some of them by a trot. They therefore
slipped away with scarcely a crack of the whip, let alone the twang of a
horn.

“Bad work this,” said Sir Moses, spurring and reining up alongside of
Billy, “bad work this; that huntsman of mine,” added he, in an under
tone, “is the most obstinate fool under the sun, and let me give you a
bit of advice,” continued he, laying hold of our friend’s arm, as if to
enforce it. “If ever you keep hounds, always give orders and never ask
opinions. Now, Mister Findlater!” hallooed he, to the bobbing cap in
advance, “Now, Mister Findlater! you’re well called Findlater, by Jove,
for I think you’ll never find at all. Halstead Hill, I suppose, next?”

“Yes, Sir Moses,” replied Tom, with a half-touch of his cap, putting
on a little faster, to get away, as he thought, from the spray of his
master’s wrath. And so with this comfortable game at cross purposes,
master and servant passed over what is still called Lingfield common
(though it now grows turnips instead of gorse), and leaving Cherry-trees
Windmill to the left, sunk the hill at Drovers’ Heath, and crossing the
bridge at the Wellingburn, the undulating form of Halstead Hill stood
full before them. Tom then pulled up into a walk, and contemplated the
rugged intricacies of its craggy bush-dotted face.

“If there’s a fox in the country one would think he’d be here,” observed
he, in a general sort of way, well knowing that Mr. Testyfield’s keeper
took better care of them than that. “Gently hurrying!” hallooed he, now
cracking his whip as the hounds pricked their ears, and seemed inclined
to break away to an outburst of children from the village school below.

Tom then took the hounds to the east end of the hill, where the lying
began, and drew them along the face of it with the usual result, “Nil.”
 Not even a rabbit.

“Well, that’s queer,” said he, with well feigned chagrin, as Pillager,
Petulant, and Ravager appeared on the bare ground to the west, leading
out the rest of the pack on their lines. They were all presently
clustering in view again. A slight twang of the horn brought them
pouring down to the hill to our obstinate huntsman just as Captain Luff
and Co. hove in sight on the Wellingburn Bridge, riding as boldly as
refreshed gentlemen generally do.

There was nothing for it then but Hatchington Wood, with its deep
holding rides and interminable extent.

There is a Hatchington Wood in every hunt, wild inhospitable looking
thickets, that seem as if they never knew an owner’s care, where men
light their cigars and gather in groups, well knowing that whatever
sport the hounds may have, theirs is over for the day. Places in which a
man may gallop his horse’s tail off, and not hear or see half as much as
those do who sit still.

Into it Tom now cheered his hounds, again thinking how much better it
would have been if Sir Moses had let him go to the supper. “Cover hoick!
Cover hoick!” cheered he to his hounds, as they came to the rickety old
gate. “I wouldn’t ha’ got drunk,” added he to himself. “Yoi, wind
him! Yoi, rouse him, my boys! what ‘arm could it do him, my going, I
wonders?” continued he to himself. “Yoi, try for him, Desp’rate, good
lass! Desp’rate bad job my not gettin’, I know,” added he, rubbing
his nose on the back of his hand; and so with cheers to his hounds and
commentaries on Sir Moses’s mean conduct, the huntsman proceeded from
ride to road and from road to ride, varied with occasional dives into
the fern and the rough, to exhort and encourage his hounds to rout out
a fox; not that he cared much now whether he found one or not, for the
cover had long existed on the reputation of a run that took place twelve
years before, and it was not likely that a place so circumstanced would
depart from its usual course on that day.

There is nothing certain, however, about a fox-hunt, but uncertainty;
the worst-favoured days sometimes proving the best, and the
best-favoured ones sometimes proving the worst. We dare say, if our
sporting readers would ransack their memories, they will find that
most of their best days have been on unpromising ones. So it was on the
present occasion, only no one saw the run but Tom and the first whip.
Coming suddenly upon a fine travelling fox, at the far corner of the
cover, they slipped away with him down wind, and had a bona fide five
and thirty minutes, with a kill, in Lord Ladythorne’s country, within
two fields of his famous gorse cover, at Cockmere.

“Ord! rot ye, but ye should ha’ seen that, if you’d let me go to the
supper,” cried Tom, as he threw himself off his lathered tail-quivering
horse to pick up his fox, adding, “I knows when to blow the horn and
when not.”

Meanwhile Sir Moses, having got into a wrangle with Jacky Phillips about
the price of a pig, sate on his accustomed place on the rising ground
by the old tumble-down farm-buildings, wrangling, and haggling, and
declaring it was a “do.” In the midst of his vehemence, Robin Snowball’s
camp of roystering, tinkering besom-makers came hattering past; and
Robin, having a contract with Sir Moses for dog horses, gave his ass
a forwarding bang, and ran up to inform his patron that “the hunds had
gone away through Piercefield plantins iver see lang since:”—a fact that
Robin was well aware of, having been stealing besom-shanks in them at
the time.

“Oh, the devil!” shrieked Sir Moses, as if he was shot. “Oh, the devil!”
 continued he, wringing his hands, thinking how Tom would be bucketing
Crusader now that he was out of sight; and catching up his horse, he
stuck spurs in his sides, and went clattering up the stony cross-road
to the west, as hard as ever the old Jack could lay legs to the ground,
thinking what a wigging he would give Tom if he caught him.

“Hark!” continued he, pulling short up across the road, and nearly
shooting Billy into his pocket with the jerk of his suddenly stopped
horse, “Hark!” repeated he, holding up his hand, “Isn’t that the horn?”

“Oh, dom it! it’s Parker, the postman,” added he,—“what business has the
beggar to make such a row!” for, like all noisy people, Sir Moses had no
idea of anybody making a noise but himself. He then set his horse
agoing again, and was presently standing in his stirrups, tearing up the
wretched, starvation, weed-grown ground outside the cover.

Having gained a sufficient elevation, he again pulled up, and turning
short round, began surveying the country. All was quiet and tranquil.
The cattle had their heads to the ground, the sheep were scattered
freely over the fields, and the teams were going lazily over the
clover-lays, leaving shiny furrows behind them.

“Well, that’s a sell, at all events!” said he, dropping his reins. “Be
b’und to say they are right into the heart of Featherbedfordshire
by this time,—most likely at Upton Moss in Woodberry Yale,—as fine a
country as ever man crossed,—and to think that that wretched deluded man
has it all to himself!—I’d draw and quarter him if I had him, dom’d if
I wouldn’t,” added Sir Moses, cutting frantically at the air with his
thong-gathered whip.

Our friend Billy, on the other hand, was all ease and composure. He had
escaped the greatest punishment that could befall him, and was so
clean and comfortable, that he resolved to surprise his fair friends at
Yammerton Grange in his pink, instead of changing as he intended.

Sir Moses, having strained his eye-balls about the country in vain, at
length dropped down in his saddle, and addressing the few darkly-clad
horsemen around him with, “Well, gentlemen, I’m afraid it’s all over
for the day,” adding, “Come, Pringle, let us be going,” he poked his
way past them, and was presently retracing his steps through the wood,
picking up a lost hound or two as he went. And still he was so loth to
give it up, that he took Forester Hill in his way, to try if he could
see anything of them; but it was all calm and blank as before; and at
length he reached Pangburn Park in a very discontented mood.

In the court-yard stood the green fly that had to convey our friend
back to fairy-land, away from the red coats, silk jackets and other the
persecutions of pleasure, to the peaceful repose of the Major and his
“haryers.” Sir Moses looked at it with satisfaction, for he had had as
much of our friend’s society as he required, and did not know that he
could “do” him much more if he had him a month; so if he could now only
get clear of Monsieur without paying him, that was all he required.

Jack, however, was on the alert, and appeared on the back-steps as Sir
Moses dismounted; nor did his rapid dive into the stable avail him, for
Jack headed him as he emerged at the other end, with a hoist of his hat,
and a “Bon jour, Sare Moses, Baronet!”

“Ah, Monsieur, comment vous portez-vous?” replied the Baronet, shying
off, with a keep-your-distance sort of waive of the hand.

Jack, however, was not to be put off that way, and following briskly up,
he refreshed Sir Moses’s memory with, “Pund, I beat Cuddy, old cock, to
de clomp; ten franc—ten shillin’—I get over de brook; thirty shillin’ in
all, Sare Moses, Baronet,” holding out his hand for the money.

“Oh, ah, true,” replied Sir Moses, pretending to recollect the bets,
adding, “If you can give me change of a fifty-pun note, I can pay ye,”
 producing a nice clean one from his pocket-book that he always kept
ready for cases of emergency like the present.

“Fifty-pun note, Sare Moses!” replied Jack, eyeing it. “Fifty-pun note!
I ‘ave not got such an astonishin’ som about me at present,” feeling his
pockets as he spoke; “bot I vill seek change, if you please.”

“Why, no,” replied Sir Moses, thinking he had better not part with
the decoy-duck. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do, though,” continued he,
restoring it to its case; “I’ll send you a post-office order for the
amount, or pay it to your friend, Mr. Gallon, whichever you prefer.”

“Veil, Sir Moses, Baronet,” replied Jack, considering, “I think de
leetle post-office order vill be de most digestible vay of squarin’
matters.”

“Va-a-ry good,” cried Sir Moses, “Va-a-ry good. I’ll send you one,
then,” and darting at a door in the wall, he slipped through it, and
shot the bolt between Jack and himself.

And our hero, having recruited nature with lunch, and arranged with Jack
for riding his horse, presently took leave of his most hospitable host,
and entered the fly that was to convey him back to Yammerton Grange.
And having cast himself into its ill-stuffed hold he rumbled and jolted
across country in the careless, independent sort of way that a man does
who has only a temporary interest in the vehicle, easy whether he was
upset or not. Let us now anticipate his arrival by transferring our
imaginations to Yammerton Grange.



CHAPTER L. THE SURPRISE.

IT is all very well for people to affect the magnificent, to give
general invitations, and say “Come whenever it suits you; we shall
always be happy to see you,” and so on; but somehow it is seldom safe to
take them at their word. How many houses has the reader to which he can
ride or drive up with the certainty of not putting people “out,” as the
saying is. If there is a running account of company going on, it is all
very well; another man more or less is neither here nor there; but if it
should happen to be one of those solemn lulls that intervene between
one set of guests going and another coming, denoted by the wide-apart
napkins seen by a side glance as he passes the dining-room window, then
it is not a safe speculation. At all events, a little notice is better,
save, perhaps, among fox-hunters, who care less for appearances than
other people.

It was Saturday, as we said before, and our friend the Major had
finished his week’s work:—paid his labourers, handled the heifers that
had left him so in the lurch, counted the sheep, given out the corn,
ordered the carriage for church in case it kept dry, and as day closed
had come into the house, and exchanged his thick shoes for old worsted
worked slippers, and cast himself into a semicircular chair in the
druggeted drawing-room to wile away one of those long winter evenings
that seem so impossible in the enduring length of a summer day, with
that best of all papers, the “Hit-im and Hold-im shire Herald.” The
local paper is the paper for the country gentleman, just as the “Times”
 is the paper for the Londoner. The “Times” may span the globe, tell what
is doing at Delhi and New York, France, Utah, Prussia, Spain, Ireland,
and the Mauritius; but the paper that tells the squire of the flocks
and herds, the hills and dales, the births and disasters of his native
district, is the paper for his money. So it was with our friend the
Major. He enjoyed tearing the half-printed halfwritten envelope off his
“Herald,” and holding its damp sides to the cheerful fire until he got
it as crisp as a Bank of England note, and then, sousing down in his
easy chair to enjoy its contents, conscious that no one had anticipated
them. How he revelled in the advertisements, and accompanied each
announcement with a mental commentary of his own.

We like to see country gentlemen enjoying their local papers.

Ashover farm to let, conjured up recollections of young Mr.

Gosling spurting past in white cords, and his own confident prediction
that the thing wouldn’t last.

Burlinson the auctioneer’s assignment for the benefit of his creditors,
reminded him of his dogs, and his gun, and his manor, and his airified
looks, and drew forth anathemas on Burlinson in particular, and on
pretenders in general.

Then Mr. Napier’s announcement that Mr. Draggleton of Rushworth had
applied for a loan of four thousand pounds from the Lands Improvement
Company for draining, sounded almost like a triumph of the Major’s own
principles, Draggleton having long derided the idea of water getting
into a two-inch pipe at a depth of four feet, or of draining doing any
good.

And the Major chuckled with delight at the thought of seeing the long
pent-up water flow in pure continuous streams off the saturated soil,
and of the clear, wholesome complexion the land would presently assume.
Then the editorial leader on the state of the declining corn markets,
and of field operations (cribbed of course from the London papers) drew
forth an inward opinion that the best thing for the land-owners would be
for corn to keep low and cattle to keep high for the next dozen years or
more, and so get the farmers’ minds turned from the precarious culture
of corn to the land-improving practice of grazing and cattle-feeding.

And thus the Major sat, deeply immersed in the contents of each page;
but as he gradually mastered the cream of their contents, he began
to turn to and fro more rapidly; and as the rustling increased, Mrs.
Yammerton, who was dying for a sight of the paper, at length ventured to
ask if there was anything about the Hunt ball in it.

“Hunt ball!” growled the Major, who was then in the hay and straw
market, wondering whether, out of the twenty-seven carts of hay reported
to have been at Hinton Market on the previous Saturday, there were any
of his tenants there on the sly; “Hunt ball!” repeated he, running
the candle up and down the page; “No, there’s nothin’ about it here,”
 replied he, resuming his reading.

“It’ll be on the front page, my dear,” observed Mrs. Yammerton, “if
there is anything.”

“Well, I’ll give it you presently,” replied the Major, resuming his
reading; and so he wens on into the wool markets, thence to the potato
and hide departments, until at length he found himself floundering among
the Holloway Pills, Revalenta Food, and “Sincere act of gratitude,” &c.,
advertisements; when, turning the paper over with a wisk, and an inward
“What do they put such stuff as that in for?” he handed it to his wife:
while, John Bull like, he now stood up, airing himself comfortably
before the fire.

No sooner was the paper fairly in Mamma’s hands, than there was a
general rush of the young ladies to the spot, and four pairs of eyes
were eagerly glancing up and down the columns of the front page, all
in search of the magical letter “B” for Ball. Education—Fall in Night
Lights—Increased Bate of Interest—Money without Sureties—Iron and
Brass Bedsteads—Glenfield Starch—Deafness Cured—German Yeast—Insolvent
Debtor—Elkington’s Spoons—Boots and Shoes,—but, alas! no Ball.

“Yes, there it is! No it isn’t,” now cried Miss Laura, as her blue eye
caught at the heading of Mrs. Bobbinette the milliner’s advertisement,
in the low corner of the page, Mrs. Bobbinette, like some of her
customers, perhaps, not being a capital payer, and so getting a bad
place. Thus it ran— HIT-IM AND HOLD-IM SHIRE HUNT BALL.

—Mrs. Bobbinette begs to announce to the ladies her return from Paris,
with every novelty in millinery, mantles, embroideries, wreaths, fans,
gloves, &c.

“Mrs. Bobbinette be banged,” growled the Major, who winced under the
very name of milliner; “just as much goes to Paris as I do. Last time
she was there I know she was never out of Hinton, for Paul Straddler
watched her.”

“Well, but she gets very pretty things at all events,” replied Mrs.
Yammerton, thinking she would pay her a visit.

“Aye, and a pretty bill she’ll send in for them,” replied the Major.

“Well, my dear, but you must pay for fashion, you know,” rejoined Mamma.

“Pay for fashion! pay for haystacks!” growled the Major; “never saw such
balloons as the women make of themselves. S’pose we shall have them as
flat as doors next. One extreme always leads to another.”

This discussion was here suddenly interrupted by a hurried “hush!” from
Miss Clara, followed by a “hish!” from Miss Flora; and silence being
immediately accorded, all ears recognised a rumbling sound outside the
house that might have been mistaken for wind, had it not suddenly ceased
before the door.

The whole party was paralysed: each drawing breath, reflecting on his
or her peculiar position:—Mamma thinking of her drawingroom—Miss, of her
hair—Flora, of her sleeves—Harriet, of her shabby shoes—the Major, of
his dinner.

The agony of suspense was speedily relieved by the grating of an iron
step and a violent pull at the door-bell, producing ejaculations of, “It
is, however!”

“Him, to a certainty!” with, “I told you so,—nothing but liver and bacon
for dinner,” from the Major; while Mrs. Yammerton, more composed, swept
three pair of his grey worsted stockings into the well of the ottoman,
and covered the old hearth-rug with a fine new one from the corner, with
a noble antlered stag in the centre. The young ladies hurried out of the
room, each to make a quick revise of her costume.

The shock to the nervous sensibilities of the household was scarcely
less severe than that experienced by the inmates of the parlour; and the
driver of the fly was just going to give the bell a second pull, when
our friend of the brown coat came, settling himself into his garment,
wondering who could be coming at that most extraordinary hour.

“Major at home?” asked our hero, swinging himself out of the vehicle
into the passage, and without waiting for an answer, he began divesting
himself of his muffin-cap, cashmere shawl, and other wraps.

He was then ready for presentation. Open went the door. “Mr. Pringle!”
 announced the still-astonished footman, and host and hostess advanced in
the friendly emulation of cordiality. They were overjoyed to see him,—as
pleased as if they had received a consignment of turtle and there was a
haunch of venison roasting before the fire. The young ladies presently
came dropping in one by one, each “so astonished to find Mr. Pringle
there!” Clara thinking the ring was from Mr..Jinglington, the
pianoforte-tuner; Flora, that it was Mr. Tightlace’s curate; while
Harriet did not venture upon a white lie at all.

Salutations and expressions of surprise being at length over, the
ladies presently turned the weather-conversation upon Pangburn Park, and
inquired after the sport with Sir Moses, Billy being in the full glory
of his pink and slightly soiled leathers and boots, from which they soon
diverged to the Hunt ball, about which they could not have applied to
any better authority than our friend. He knew all about it, and poured
forth the volume of his information most freely.

Though the Major talked about there being nothing but liver and bacon
for dinner, he knew very well that the very fact of there being liver
and bacon bespoke that there was plenty of something else in the
larder. In fact he had killed a south-down,—not one of your modern
muttony-lambs, but an honest, home-fed, four-year-old, with its fine
dark meat and rich gravy; in addition to which, there had been some
minor murders of ugly Cochin-China fowls,—to say nothing of a hunted
hare, hanging by the heels, and several snipes and partridges, suspended
by the neck.

It is true, there was no fish, for, despite the railroad, Hit-im and
Hold-im shire generally was still badly supplied with fish, but
there was the useful substitute of cod-sounds, and some excellent
mutton-broth; which latter is often better than half the soups one gets.
Altogether there was no cause for despondency; but the Major, having
been outvoted on the question of requiring notice of our friend’s
return, of course now felt bound to make the worst of the
case—especially as the necessary arrangements would considerably retard
his dinner, for which he was quite ready. He had, therefore, to smile at
his guest, and snarl at his family, at one and the same time.—Delighted
to see Mr. Pringle back.—Disgusted at his coming on a Saturday.—Hoped
our hero was hungry.—Could answer for it, he was himself,—with a look at
Madam, as much as to say, “Come, you go and see about things and don’t
stand simpering there.”

But Billy, who had eaten a pretty hearty lunch at Pangburn Park, had not
got jolted back into an appetite by his transit through the country, and
did not enter into the feelings of his half-famished host. A man who has
had half his dinner in the shape of a lunch, is far more than a match
for one who has fasted since breakfast, and our friend chatted first
with one young lady, and then with another, with an occasional word
at Mamma, delighted to get vent for his long pent-up flummery. He was
indeed most agreeable.

Meanwhile the Major was in and out of the room, growling and getting
into everybody’s way, retarding progress by his anxiety to hurry things
on.

At length it was announced that Mr. Pringle’s room was ready; and
forthwith the Major lit him a candle, and hurried him upstairs, where
his uncorded boxes stood ready for the opening keys of ownership.

“Ah, there you are!” cried the Major, flourishing the composite
candle about them; “there you are! needn’t mind much dressing—only
ourselves—only ourselves. There’s the boot-jack,—here’s some hot
water,—and we’ll have dinner as soon as ever you are ready.” So saying,
he placed the candle on the much be-muslined toilette-table, and, diving
into his pocket for the key of the cellar, hurried off to make the final
arrangement of a feast.

Our friend, however, who was always a dawdling leisurely gentleman, took
very little heed of his host’s injunctions, and proceeded to unlock
and open his boxes as if he was going to dress for a ball instead of
a dinner; and the whole party being reassembled, many were the Major’s
speculations and enquiries “what could he be about?” “must have gone
to bed,” “would go up and see,” ere the glad sound of his opening door
announced that he might be expected. And before he descended a single
step of the staircase the Major gave the bell such a pull as proclaimed
most volubly the intensity of his feelings. The ladies of course were
shocked, but a hungry man is bad to hold, and there is no saying but the
long-pealing tongue of the bell saved an explosion of the Major’s. At
all events when our friend came sauntering into the now illuminated
drawing-room, the Major greeted him with, “Heard you coming, rang the
bell, knew you’d be hungry, long drive from Sir Moses’s here;” to which
Billy drawled a characteristic “Yarse,” as he extinguished his candle
and proceeded to ingratiate himself with the now elegantly attired
ladies, looking more lovely from his recent restriction to the male sex.

The furious peal of the bell had answered its purpose, for he had
scarcely got the beauties looked over, and settled in his own mind that
it was difficult to say which was the prettiest, ere the door opened,
the long-postponed dinner was announced to be on the table, and the
Major, having blown out the composites, gladly followed the ladies to
the scene of action.

And his host being too hungry to waste his time in apologies for the
absence of this and that, and the footboy having plenty to do without
giving the dishes superfluous airings, and the gooseberry champagne
being both lively and cool, the dinner passed off as pleasantly as a
luncheon, which is generally allowed to be the most agreeable sociable
meal of the day, simply because of the absence of all fuss and
pretension. And by the time the Major had got to the cheese, he found
his temper considerably improved. Indeed, so rapidly did his spirits
rise, that before the cloth was withdrawn he had well-nigh silenced all
the ladies, with his marvellous haryers,—five and thirty years master of
haryers without a subscription,—and as soon as he got the room cleared,
he inflicted the whole hunt upon Billy that he had written to him
about, an account of which he had in vain tried to get inserted in the
Featherbedfordshire Gazette, through the medium of old ‘Wotherspoon,
who had copied it out and signed himself “A Delighted Stranger.” Dorsay
Davis, however, knew his cramped handwriting, and put his manuscript
into the fire, observing in his notice to correspondents that “A
Delighted Stranger” had better send his currant jelly contributions to
grandmamma, meaning the Hit-im and Hold-im shire Herald. So our friend
was victimised into a viva voce account of this marvellous chase,
beginning at Conksbury corner and the flight up to Foremark Hill and
down over the water meadows to Dove-dale Green, &c., interspersed
with digressions and explanations of the wonderful performance of the
particular members of the pack, until he scarcely knew whether a real
run or the recital of one was the most formidable. At length the Major,
having talked himself into a state of excitement, without making any
apparent impression on his guest’s obdurate understanding, proposed as
a toast “The Merry Haryers,” and intimated that tea was ready in the
drawing room, thinking he never had so phlegmatic an auditor before.
Very different, however, was his conduct amid the general conversation
of the ladies, who thought him just as agreeable as the Major thought
him the contrary. And they were all quite surprised when the clock
struck eleven, and declared they thought it could only be ten, except
the Major, who knew the odd hour had been lost in preparing the dinner.
So he moved an adjournment, and proclaimed that they would breakfast at
nine, which would enable them to get to church in good time. Whereupon
mutual good-nights were exchanged, our friend was furnished with a flat
candlestick, and the elder sisters retired to talk him over in their own
room; for however long ladies may be together during the day, there is
always a great balance of conversation to dispose of at last, and so the
two chatted and talked until midnight.

Next morning they all appeared in looped-up dresses, showing the
party-coloured petticoats of the prevailing fashion, which looked
extremely pretty, and were all very well—a great improvement on the
draggletails—until they came to get into the coach, when it was found,
that large as the vehicle was, it was utterly inadequate for their
accommodation. Indeed the door seemed ludicrously insufficient for the
ingress, and Miss Clara turned round and round like a peacock contending
with the wind, undecided which way to make the attempt. At last she
chose a bold sideways dash, and entered with a squeeze of the petticoat,
which suddenly expanded into its original size, but when the sisters had
followed her example there was no room for the Major, nor would there
have been any for our hero had not Mamma been satisfied with her own
natural size, and so left space to squeeze him in between herself and
the fair Clara. The Major then had to mount the coach box beside old
Solomon, and went growling and grumbling along at the extravagances of
fashion, and wondering what the deuce those petticoats would cost, he
was presently comforted by seeing two similar ones circling over the
road in advance, which on overtaking proved to contain the elegant Miss
Bushels, daughters of his hind at Bonnyrigs farm, whereupon he made a
mental resolution to reduce Bushel’s wages a shilling a week at least.

This speedy influx of fashion and abundance of cheap tawdry finery has
well nigh destroyed the primitive simplicity of country churches. The
housemaid now dresses better—finer at all events—than her mistress
did twenty years ago, and it is almost impossible to recognise working
people when in their Sunday dresses. Gauze bonnets, Marabout feathers,
lace scarfs, and silk gowns usurp the place of straw and cotton print,
while lace-fringed kerchiefs are flourished by those whose parents
scarcely knew what a pocket-handkerchief was. There is a medium in all
things, but this mania for dress has got far beyond the bounds of either
prudence or propriety; and we think the Major’s recipe for reducing it
is by no means a bad one.



385m


We need scarcely say, that our hero’s appearance at church caused no
small sensation in a neighbourhood where the demand for gossip was far
in excess of the supply. Indeed, we fear many fair ladies’ eyes were
oftener directed to Major Yammerton’s pew than to the Reverend Mr.
Tightlace in the pulpit. Wonderful were the stories and exaggerations
that ensued, people always being on the running-up tack until a match
is settled, after which, of course, they assume the running-down
one, pitying one or other victim extremely—wouldn’t be him or her for
anything—Mr. Tightlace thought any of the young ladies might do better
than marry a mere fox-hunter, though we are sorry to add that the
fox-hunter was far more talked of than the sermon. The general opinion
seemed to be that our hero had been away preparing that dread document,
the proposals for a settlement; and there seemed to be very little
doubt that there would be an announcement of some sort in a day or
two—especially when our friend was seen to get into the carriage after
the gay petticoats, and the little Major to remount the box seat.

And when at the accustomed stable stroll our master of haryers found the
gallant grey standing in the place of the bay, he was much astonished,
and not a little shocked to learn the sad catastrophe that had befallen
the bay.

“Well, he never heard anything like that!—dead! What, do you mean to say
he absolutely died on your hands without any apparent cause?” demanded
the Major; “must have been poisoned surely;” and he ran about telling
everybody, and making as much to do as if the horse had still been his
own. He then applied himself to finding out how Billy came by the grey,
and was greatly surprised to learn that Sir Moses had given it him.
“Well, that was queer,” thought he, “wouldn’t have accused him of that.”
 And he thought of the gift of Little Bo-peep, and wondered whether this
gift was of the same order.



CHAPTER LI. MONEY AND MATRIMONY.

MONEY and matrimony! what a fine taking title! If that does not attract
readers, we don’t know what will. Money and matrimony! how different,
yet how essentially combined, how intimately blended! “No money, no
matrimony,” might almost be written above some doors. Certainly money is
an essential, but not so absorbing an essential as some people make it.
Beyond the expenditure necessary for a certain establishment, a woman is
seldom much the better for her husband’s inordinate wealth. We have
seen the wife of a reputed millionaire no better done by than that of a
country squire.

Mr. Prospero Plutus may gild his coach and his harness, and his horses
too, if he likes, but all the lacker in the world will not advance him
a step in society; therefore, what can he do with his surplus cash but
carry it to the “reserve fund,” as some Joint-Stock Bankers pretend to
do. Still there is a money-worship among us, that is not even confined
to the opposite sex, but breaks out in veneration among men, just as if
one man having half a million or a million pieces of gold could be of
any advantage to another man, who only knows the rich man to say “How
d’ye do?” to. A clever foreigner, who came to this country some years
ago for the honestly avowed purpose of marrying an heiress, used to
exclaim, when any one told him that another man had so many thousands
a year, “Vell, my good friend, vot for that to me? I cannot go for be
marry to him!” and we never hear a man recommended to another man for
his wealth alone, without thinking of our foreign friend. What earthly
good can Plutus’s money do us? We can safely say, we never knew a rich
man who was not uncommonly well able to take care of his cash. It is
your poor men who are easy about money. To tell a young lady that a
young gentleman has so many thousands a year is very different; and this
observation leads us to say, that people who think they do a young man
a kindness by exaggerating his means or expectations, are greatly
mistaken. On the contrary, they do him an injury; for, sooner or later,
the lawyers know everything, and disappointment and vexation is the
result.

Since our friend Warren wrote his admirable novel, “Ten Thousand a
Year,” that sum has become the fashionable income for exaggerators.
Nobody that has anything a year has less, though we all know how
difficult a sum it is to realise, and how impossible it is to extract
a five-pound note, or even a sovereign, from the pockets of people who
talk of it as a mere bagatelle. This money mania has increased amazingly
within the last few years, aided, no doubt, by the gigantic sums the
Joint-Stock Banks have enabled penniless people to “go” for.

When Wainwright, the first of the assurance office defrauders by poison,
was in prison, he said to a person who called upon him, “You see with
what respect they treat me. They don’t set me to make my bed, or sweep
the yard, like those fellows,” pointing to his brother prisoners; “no,
they treat me like a gentleman. They think I’m in for ten thousand
pounds.” Ten thousand pounds! What would ten thousand pounds be
nowadays, when men speculate to the extent of a quarter or may be half
a million of money? Why Wainwright would have had to clean out the whole
prison on the present scale of money delinquency. A hundred thousand
pounder is quite a common fellow, hardly worth speaking of. There was a
time when the greediest man was contented with his plum. Now the cry is
“More! more!” until some fine morning the crier is “no more” himself.

This money-craving and boasting is all bad. It deceives young men, and
drives those of moderate income into the London clubs, instead of their
marrying and settling quietly as their fathers did before them. They
hear of nothing but thousands and tens of thousands until they almost
believe in the reality, and are ashamed to encounter the confessional
stool of the lawyers, albeit they may have as much as with prudence
and management would make married life comfortable. Boasting and
exaggeration also greatly misleads and disappoints anxious “Mammas,”
 all ready to believe whatever they like, causing very likely promising
speculations to be abandoned in favour of what turn out great deal worse
ventures. Only let a young man be disengaged, professionally and bodily,
and some one or other will be sure to invest him with a fortune, or with
surprising expectations from an uncle, an aunt, or other near relation.
It is surprising how fond people are of fanning the flame of a match,
and how they will talk about what they really know nothing, until an
unfortunate youth almost appears to participate in their exaggerations.
Could some of these Leviathans of fortune know the fabulous £ s.
d. colours under which they have sailed, they would be wonderfully
astonished at the extent of their innocent imposture. Yet they were not
to blame because people said they had ten thousand a year, were
richest commoners in fact. Many would then understand much unexplained
politeness, and appreciate its disinterestedness at its true value.
Captain Quaver would see why Mrs. Sunnybrow was to anxious that he
should hear Matilda sing; Mr. Grist why Mrs. Snubwell manoeuvred to get
him next Bridget at dinner; and perhaps our “Richest Commoner” why Mrs.
Yammerton was so glad to see him back at the Grange.



CHAPTER LII. A NIGHT DRIVE.

PEOPLE who travel in the winter should remember it isn’t summer, and
time themselves accordingly. Sir Moses was so anxious to see Monsieur
Rougier off the premises, in order to stop any extra hospitality,
that he delayed starting for Lundyfoote Castle until he saw him fairly
mounted on the gift grey and out of the stable-yard; he then had the
mare put to the dog-cart, and tried to make up for lost time by
extra speed upon the road. But winter is an unfavourable season for
expedition; if highways are improving, turnpikes are getting neglected,
save in the matter of drawing the officers’ sinecure salaries, and,
generally speaking, the nearer a turnpike is to a railway, the worse the
turnpike is, as if to show the wonderful advantage of the former. So
Sir Moses went flipping and flopping, and jipping and jerking, through
Bedland and Hawksworth and Washingley-field, but scarcely reached the
confines of his country when he ought to have been nearing the Castle.
It was nearly four o’clock by the great gilt-lettered clock on the
diminutive church in the pretty village of Tidswell, situated on the
banks of the sparkling Lune, when he pulled up at the sign of the
Hold-away Harriers to get his mare watered and fed. It is at these sort
of places that the traveller gets the full benefit of country slowness
and stupidity. Instead of the quick ostler, stepping smartly up to
his horse’s head as he reins up, there is generally a hunt through the
village for old Tom, or young Joe, or some worthy who is either too old
or too idle to work. In this case it was old bow-legged, wiry Tom Brown,
whose long experience of the road did not enable him to anticipate a
person’s wants; so after a good stare at the driver, whom at first he
thought was Mr. Meggison, the exciseman; then Mr. Puncheon, the brewer;
and lastly, Mr. Mossman, Lord Polkaton’s ruler; he asked, with a
bewildered scratch of his head, “What, de ye want her put oop?”

“Oop, yes,” replied Sir Moses; “what d’ye think I’m stopping for? Look
alive; that’s a good fellow,” added he, throwing him the reins, as he
prepared to descend from the vehicle.

“Oh, it’s you, Sir Moses, is it,” rejoined the now enlightened
patriarch, “I didn’t know you without your red coat and cap;” so saying,
he began to fumble at the harness, and, with the aid of the Baronet,
presently had the mare out of the shafts. It then occurred to the old
gentleman that he had forgotten the key of the stable. “A sink,” said
he, with a dash of his disengaged hand, “I’ve left the key i’ the pocket
o’ mar coat, down i’ Willy Wood’s shop, when ar was helpin’ to kill a
pig—run, lad, doon to Willy Wood,” said he to a staring by-standing boy,
“and get me mar coat,” adding to Sir Moses, as the lad slunk unwillingly
away, “he’ll be back directly wi’ it.” So saying, he proceeded to lead
the mare round to the stable at the back of the house.

When the coat came, then there was no pail; and when they got a pail,
then the pump had gone dry; and when they got some water from the well,
then the corn had to be brought from the top of the house; so, what with
one delay and another, day was about done before Sir Moses got the mare
out of the stable again. Night comes rapidly on in the short winter
months, and as Sir Moses looked at the old-fashioned road leading over
the steepest part of the opposite hill, he wished he was well on the far
side of it. He then examined his lamps, and found there were no candles
in them, just as he remembered that he had never been to Lundy-foote
Castle on wheels, the few expeditions he had made there having been
performed on horseback, by those nicks and cuts that fox-hunters are so
famous at making and finding. “Ord dom it,” said he to himself, “I shall
be getting benighted. Tell me,” continued he, addressing the old ostler,
“do I go by Marshfield and Hengrove, or——”

“No, no, you’ve no business at noughter Marshfield nor Hengrove,”
 interrupted the sage; “veer way is straight oop to Crowfield-hall and
Roundhill-green, then to Brackley Moor and Belton, and so on into the
Sandywell-road at Langley. But if ar were you,” continued he, beginning
to make confusion worse confounded, “ar would just gan through Squire
Patterson’s Park here,” jerking his thumb to the left to indicate the
direction in which it lay.

“Is it shorter?” demanded Sir Moses, re-ascending the vehicle.

“W-h-o-y no, it’s not shorter,” replied the man, “but it’s a better road
rayther—less agin collar-like. When ye get to the new lodge ye mun mind
turn to the right, and keep Whitecliffe Law to the left, and Lidney
Mill to the right, you then pass Shimlow tilery, and make straight for
Roundhill Green, and Brackley Moor, and then on to Belton, as ar toll’d
ye afoor—ye can’t miss yeer way,” added he, thinking he could go it in
the dark himself.

“Can’t I?” replied Sir Moses, drawing the reins. He then chucked the man
a shilling, and touching the mare with the point of the whip, trotted
across the bridge over the Lane, and was speedily brought up at a
toll-bar on the far side.

It seems to be one of the ordinances of country life, that the more toll
a man pays the worse road he gets, and Sir Moses had scarcely parted
with his sixpence ere the sound running turnpike which tempted him past
Squire Patterson’s lodge, ran out into a loose, river-stoned track, that
grew worse and worse the higher he ascended the hill. In vain he hissed,
and jerked, and jagged at the mare. The wheels revolved as if they were
going through sea-sand. She couldn’t go any faster.

It is labour and sorrow travelling on wheels, with a light horse and
a heavy load, on woolly winter roads, especially under the depressing
influence of declining day—when a gorgeous sunset has no charms. It
is then that the value of the hissing, hill-rounding, plain-scudding
railway is appreciated. The worst line that ever was constructed, even
one with goods, passengers, and minerals all mixed in one train, is
fifty times better than one of these ploughing, sobbing, heart-breaking
drives. So thought Sir Moses, as, whip in hand, he alighted from the
vehicle to ease the mare up the steep hill, which now ran parallel with
Mr. Patterson’s rather indifferent park wall.

What a commentary on consequence a drive across country affords, One
sees life in all its phases—Cottage, House, Grange, “Imperial John”
 Hall, Park, Tower, Castle, &c. The wall, however, is the true index of
the whole. Show me your wall and I’ll tell you what you have. There
is the five hundred—by courtesy, thousand—a year wall, built of common
stone, well embedded in mortar, extending only a few yards on either
side of the lodgeless green gate. The thousand—by courtesy, fifteen
hundred—a year wall, made of the same material, only the mortar ceases
at the first convenient bend of the road, and the mortared round coping
of the top is afterwards all that holds it together. Then there is the
aspiring block and course wall, leading away with a sweep from either
side of a handsome gateway, but suddenly terminating in hedges. The
still further continued wall, with an abrupt juncture in split oak
paling, that looks as if it had been suddenly nipped by a want-of-cash
frost. We then get to the more successful all-round-the-park alike
efforts of four or five thousand a-year—the still more solid masonry and
ornamental work of “Ten Thousand a Year,” a Warren wall in fact, until
at length we come to one so strong and so high, that none but a man on
a laden wain can see over it, which of course denotes a Ducal residence,
with fifty or a hundred thousand a year. In like manner, a drive across
country enables a man to pick up information without the trouble of
asking for it.

The board against the tree at the corner of the larch plantation,
stating that “Any one trespassing on these grounds, the property of A.
B. C. Sowerby, Esq., will, &c., with the utmost, &c.,” enables one to
jump to the conclusion that the Westmoreland-slated roof we see peering
among the eagle-winged cedars and luxuriant Scotch firs on the green
slope to the left, is the residence of said Sowerby, who doesn’t like
to be trespassed upon. A quick-eyed land-agent would then trace the
boundaries of the Sowerby estate from the rising ground, either by the
size of its trees, its natural sterility, or by the rough, gateless
fences, where it adjoins the neighbouring proprietors.

Again, the sign of the Smith Arms at a wayside public-house, denotes
that some member of that illustrious family either lives or has property
in that immediate neighbourhood, and as everybody has a friend Smith, we
naturally set about thinking whether it is our friend Smith or not. So a
nobleman’s coronet surmounting his many-quartered coat-of-arms, suggests
that the traveller is in the neighbourhood of magnificence; and if his
appearance is at all in his favour, he will, perhaps, come in for a
touch, or a demi-touch, of the hat from the passers-by, the process
being almost mechanical in aristocratic parts. A board at a branch road
with the words “To Lavender Lodge only,” saves one the trouble of asking
the name of the place towards which we see the road bending, while a
great deal of curious nomenclature may be gleaned from shop-fronts,
inn-signs, and cart-shafts.

But we are leaving Sir Moses toiling up the hill alongside of his
dog-cart, looking now at his watch, now at his jaded mare, now at Mr.
Patterson’s fragile park wall, thinking how he would send it over
with his shoulder if he came to it out hunting. The wall was at length
abruptly terminated by a cross-road intersecting the hill along a
favourable fall of the ground, about the middle of it, and the mare and
Sir Moses mutually stopped, the former to ease herself on the piece of
level ground at the junction, the latter to consider whether his course
was up the hill or along the more inviting line to the left.

“Marshfield,” muttered he to himself, “is surely that way, but then
that old buffer said I had no business at Marshfield. Dom the old man,”
 continued he, “I wish I’d never asked him anything about it, for he has
completely bewildered me, and I believe I could have found my way better
without.”

So saying, Sir Moses reconnoitered the scene; the balance of the
fat hill in front, with the drab-coloured road going straight up the
steepest part of it, the diverging lines either way; above all, the fast
closing canopy around. Across the road, to the right, was a paintless,
weather-beaten finger-post, and though our friend saw it had lost two
of its arms, he yet thought the remaining ones might give him some
information. Accordingly, he went over to consult it. Not a word, no,
not a letter was legible. There were some upright marks, but what they
had stood for it was impossible to decipher. Sir Moses was nonplussed.
Just at this critical moment, a rumbling sound proceeded from below, and
looking down the hill, a grey speck loomed in the distance, followed by
a darker one a little behind. This was consoling; for those who know how
soon an agricultural country becomes quiet after once the labourers go
to their homes can appreciate the boon of any stirrers.

Still the carts came very slowly, and the quick falling shades of night
travelled faster than they. Sir Moses stood listening anxiously to their
jolting noises, thinking they would never come up. At the same time, he
kept a sharp eye on the cross-road, to intercept any one passing that
way. A tinker, a poacher, a mugger, the veriest scamp, would have been
welcome, so long as he knew the country. No one, however, came along. It
was an unfrequented line; and old Gilbert Price, who worked by the day.
always retired from raking in the mud ruts on the approach of evening.
So Sir Moses stood staring and listening, tapping his boot with his
whip, as he watched the zig-zag course of the grey up the hill. He
seemed a good puller, and to understand his work, for as yet no guiding
voice had been heard. Perhaps the man was behind. As there is always a
stout pull just before a resting-place, the grey now came to a pause, to
collect his energies for the effort.

Sir Moses looked at his mare, and then at the carts halting below,
wondering whether if he left her she would take off. Just as he
determined to risk it, the grey applied himself vigorously to the
collar, and with a grinding, ploughing rush, came up to where Sir Moses
stood.

The cart was empty, but there was a sack-like thing, with a wide-awake
hat on the top, rolling in the one behind.

“Holloo, my man!” shouted Sir Moses, with the voice of a Stentor.

The wide-awake merely nodded to the motion of the cart.

“Holloo, I say!” roared he, still louder.

An extended arm was thrown over the side of the cart, and the wide-awake
again nodded as before.

“The beggar’s asleep!” muttered Sir Moses, taking the butt-end of his
whip, and poking the somnambulist severely in the stomach.

A loud grunt, and with a strong smell of gin, as the monster changed his
position, was all that answered the appeal.

“The brute’s drunk,” gasped Sir Moses, indignant at having wasted so
much time in waiting for him.

The sober grey then made a well-rounded turn to the right, followed by
the one in the rear, leaving our friend enveloped in many more shades of
darkness than he was when he first designed him coming. Night had indeed
about closed in, and lights began to appear in cottages and farm-houses
that sparsedly dotted the hill side.

“Well, here’s a pretty go,” said Sir Moses, remounting the dogcart, and
gathering up the reins; “I’ll just give the mare her choice,” continued
he, touching her with the whip, and letting her go. The sensible animal
took the level road to the left, and Sir Moses’s liberality was at first
rewarded by an attempted trot along it, which, however, soon relaxed
into a walk. The creaking, labouring vehicle shook and rolled with the
concussion of the ruts.

He had got upon a piece of township road, where each surveyor shuffled
through his year of office as best he could, filling up the dangerous
holes in summer with great boulder stones that turned up like flitches
of bacon in winter. So Sir Moses rolled and rocked in imminent danger of
an upset. To add to his misfortunes, he was by no means sure but that he
might have to retrace his steps: it was all chance.

There are but two ways of circumventing a hill, either by going round it
or over it; and the road, after evading it for some time, at length took
a sudden turn to the right, and grappled fairly with its severity. The
mare applied herself sedulously to her task, apparently cheered by
the increasing lights on the hill. At length she neared them, and the
radiant glow of a blacksmith’s shop cheered the drooping spirit of the
traveller.

“Holloo, my man!” cried Sir Moses, at length, pulling up before it.

“Holloo!” responded the spark-showering Vulcan from within.

“Is this the way to Lord Lundyfoote’s?” demanded Sir Moses, knowing the
weight a nobleman’s name carries in the country.

“Lord Lundyfoote’s!” exclaimed Osmand Hall, pausing in his work; “Lord
Lundyfoote’s!” repeated he; “why, where ha’ you come from?”

“Tidswell,” replied Sir Moses, catting off the former part of the
journey.

“Why, what set ye this way?” demanded the dark man, coming to the
door with a red-hot horse-shoe on a spike, which was nearly all that
distinguished him from the gloom of night; “ye should never ha’ coom’d
this way; ye should ha’ gone by Marshfield and Hengrove.”

“Dom it, I said so!” ejaculated the Baronet, nearly stamping the bottom
of his gig out with vexation. “However, never mind,” continued he,
recollecting himself, “I’m here now, so tell me the best way to
proceed.”

This information being at length accorded, Sir Moses proceeded; and
the rest of the hill being duly surmounted, the dancing and stationary
lights spreading o’er the far-stretching vale now appeared before him,
with a clustering constellation, amid many minor stars scattered around,
denoting the whereabouts of the castle.

It is always cheering to see the far end of a journey, distant though
the haven be, and Sir Moses put on as fast as his lampless condition
would allow him, trusting to his eyes and his ears for keeping on the
road. Very much surprised would he have been had he retraced his steps
the next morning, and seen the steep banks and yawning ditches he had
suddenly saved himself from going over or into by catching at the reins
or feeling either wheel running in the soft.

At length he reached the lodges of the massive variously-windowed
castle, and passing gladly through them, found, on alighting at the
door, that, instead of being late for dinner as he anticipated, his
Lordship, who always ate a hearty lunch, was generally very easy about
the matter, sometimes dining at seven, sometimes at eight, sometimes
in summer even at nine o’clock. The footman, in reply to Sir Moses
inquiring what time his Lordship dined, said he believed it was ordered
at seven, but he didn’t know when it would be on the table.

Being an ardent politician, Lord Lundyfoote received Sir Moses with
the fellow-feeling that makes us wondrous kind cordiality, and dived so
energetically into his subject, as soon as he got the weather disposed
of, as never to wait for an answer to his question, whether his guest
would like to take anything before dinner, the consequence of which
was, that our poor friend was nearly famished with waiting. In vain
the library time-piece ticked, and chimed, and struck; jabber, jabber,
jabber, went his voluble Lordship; in vain the deep-toned castle-clock
reverberated through the walls—on, on he went, without noticing it.
until the butler, in apparent despair, took the gong, and gave it such
a beating just outside the door, that he could scarcely hear himself
speak. Sir Moses then adroitly slipped in the question if that was the
signal for dressing; to which his Lordship having yielded a reluctant
“Yes,” he took a candle from the entering footman, and pioneered the
Baronet up to his bedroom, amid a running commentary on the state of the
country and the stability of the ministry. And when he returned he found
his Lordship distributing his opinions amoung an obsequious circle of
neighbours, who received all he said with the deference due to a liberal
dispenser of venison; so that Sir Moses not only got his dinner in
comparative peace, but warded his Lordship off the greater part of the
evening.



CHAPTER LIII. MASTER ANTHONY THOM.



396m


THE two-penny post used to be thought a great luxury in London, though
somehow great people were often shy of availing themselves of
its advantages, indeed of taking their two-penny-posters in.
“Two-penny-posters,” circulars, and ticketed shops, used to be held in
about equal repugnance by some. The Dons, never thought of sending their
notes or cards of invitation by the two-penny post. John Thomas used
always to be trotted out for the purpose of delivery. Pre-paying a
letter either by the two-penny post or the general used to be thought
little short of an insult. Public opinion has undergone a great change
in these matters. Not paying them is now the offence. We need scarcely
expatiate on the boon of the penny post, nor on the advantage of the
general diffusion of post-offices throughout the country, though we may
observe, that the penny post was one of the few things that came without
being long called for: indeed, so soon as it was practicable to have it,
for without the almost simultaneous establishment of railways it would
have been almost impossible to have introduced the system. The mail
could not have carried the newspaper traffic and correspondence of the
present day. The folded tablecloths of Times, the voluminous Illustrated
News, the Punch’s, the huge avalanches of papers that have broken upon
the country within the last twenty years. Sir Moses Mainchance,
unlike many country gentlemen, always had his letters forwarded to him
where-ever he went. He knew it was only the trouble of writing a line to
the Post-office, saying re-direct my letters to so-and-so, to have what
he wanted, and thus to keep pace with his correspondence. He was never
overpowered with letters when he came home from a visit or tour, as some
of our acquaintance are, thus making writing doubly repugnant to them.

The morning after his arrival at Lundyfoote Castle brought him a great
influx of re-directed letters and papers. One from Mr. Heslop, asking
him to meet at his house on the Friday week following, as he was going
to have a party, one from Signior Quaverini, the eminent musician,
offering his services for the Hunt ball: one from Mr. Isinglass, the
confectioner, hoping to be allowed to supply the ices and refreshment
as usual; another (the fifth), from Mr. Mossman, about the damage to
Mr. Anthill’s sown grass; an envelope, enclosing the card and terms of
Signior Dulcetto, an opposition musician, offering lower terras than
Quaverini; a note from Mr. Paul Straddler, telling him about a horse to
be bought dog cheap; and a “dead letter office” envelope, enclosing
a blue ink written letter, directed to Master Anthony Thom, at the
Inn-in-the-Sands Inn, Beechwood Green, stating that the party was not
known at the address, reintroduces Mr. Geordey Gallon, a gentleman
already known to the reader.

How this letter came to be sent to Sir Moses was as follows:—

When Mr. Geordey Gallon went upon the “Torf,” as he calls it, becoming,
as he considered, the associate of Princes, Prime Ministers, and so
on, he bethought him of turning respectable, and giving up the
stolen-goods-carrying-trade,—a resolution that he was further confirmed
in by the establishment of that troublesome obnoxious corps the
Hit-im-and-Hold-im-shire Rural Police.

To this end, therefore, he gradually reduced the number of his
Tippy-Tom-jaunts through the country by night, intimating to his
numerous patrons that they had better suit themselves elsewhere ere he
ceased travelling altogether.

Among the inconvenienced, was our old friend Mrs. Margerum, long one of
his most regular customers; for it was a very rare thing for Mr. Gallon
not to find a carefully stitched-up bundle in the corner of Lawyer
Hindmarch’s cattle-shed, abutting on the Shillburn road as lie passed in
his spring cart.

To remedy this serious inconvenience, Mrs. Margerum had determined
upon inducting her adopted son, Master Anthony Thom, into the
about-to-be-relinquished business; and Mr. Gallon having made his last
journey, the accumulation of dripping caused by our hero’s visit to
Pangburn Park made it desirable to have a clearing-out as soon as
possible.

To this end, therefore, she had written the letter now sent to Sir
Moses; but, being a very prudent woman, with a slight smattering of law,
she thought so long as she did not sign her surname at the end she was
safe, and that no one could prove that it was from her. The consequence
was, that Anthony Thom not having shifted his quarters as soon as
intended, the letter was refused at the sign of the Sun-in-the-Sands,
and by dint of postmark and contents, with perhaps a little malice
prepense on the part of the Post-master, who had suffered from a
dishonest housekeeper himself, it came into the hands of Sir Moses.
At first our master of the hounds thought it was a begging-letter, and
threw it aside accordingly; but in course of casting about for a fresh
idea wherewith to propitiate Mr. Mossman about the sown grass, his eye
rested upon the writing, which he glanced at, and glanced at, until
somehow he thought he had seen it before. At length he took the letter
up, and read what made him stare very much as he proceeded. Thus it
run:—

“PANGBURN PARK, Thursday Night.

“My own ever dear Anthony Thom,

“I write to you, trusting you will receive this safe, to say that as Mr.
George Gallon has discontinued travelling altogether, I must trust to
you entirely to do what is necessary in futur, but you must be most
careful and watchful, for these nasty Pollis fellers are about every
where, and seem to think they have a right to look into every bodies
basket and bundle. We live in terrible times, I’m sure, my own beloved
Anthony Thom, and if it wasn’t for the hope that I may see you become a
great gentleman, like Mr. George Gallon, I really think I would forswear
place altogether, for no one knows the anxiety and misery of living with
such a nasty, mean, covetous body as Old Nosey.”

“Old Nosey!” ejaculated Sir Moses, stopping short in his reading, and
feeling his proboscis; “Old Nosey! dom it, can that mean me? Do believe
it does—and it’s mother Margerum’s handwriting—dom’d if it isn’t,”
 continued he, holding the letter a little way off to examine and catch
the character of the writing; “What does she mean by calling me a nasty,
covetous body? I that hunt the country, subscribe to the Infirmary,
Agricultural Society, and do everything that’s liberal and handsome.
I’ll Old Nosey her!” continued he, grinding his teeth, and giving a
vigorous flourish of his right fist; “I’ll Old Nosey her! I’ll turn her
out of the house as soon as ever I get home, dom’d if I won’t,” said Sir
Moses quivering with rage as he spoke. At length he became sufficiently
composed to resume his reading—

“-No one knows the anxiety and misery of living with such a nasty, mean,
covetous body as Old Nosey, who is always on the fret about expense, and
thinks everybody is robbing him.”

“Oh, dom it, that means me sure enough!” exclaimed Sir Moses; “that’s on
account of the row I was kicking up t’other day about the tea—declared I
drank a pound a week myself. I’ll tea her!” continued he, again turning
to the letter and reading,—

“-I declare I’d almost as soon live under a mistress as under such a
shocking mean, covetous man.”

“Would you?” muttered Sir Moses; adding, “you shall very soon have a
chance then.” The letter thus continued,—

“-The old feller will be away on Saturday and Sunday, so come afore
lightning on Monday morning, say about four o’clock, and I’ll have
everything ready to lower from my window.”

“Oh the deuce!” exclaimed Sir Moses, slapping his leg; “Oh the deuce!
going to rob the house, I declare!”

“-To lower from my window” read he again, “for it’s not safe trusting
things by the door as we used to do, now that these nasty knavish Pollis
fellers are about; so now my own beloved Anthony Thom, if you will give
a gentle whistle, or throw a little bit of soft dirt up at the window,
where you will see a light burning, I’ll be ready for you, and you’ll be
clear of the place long afore any of the lazy fellers here are up,—for a
set of nastier, dirtier drunkards never were gathered together.”

“Humph!” grunted Sir Moses, “that’s a cut at Mr. Findlater.” The writer
then proceeded to say,—

“—But mind my own beloved Anthony Thom, if any body questions you., say
it’s a parcel of dripping, and tell them they are welcome to look in if
they like, which is the readiest way of stopping them from doing so. We
have had a large party here, including a young gent from that fine old
Lord Ladythorne, who I would dearly like to live with, and also that
nasty, jealous, covetous body Cuddy Flintoff, peeping and prying about
everywhere as usual. He deserves to have a dish-clout pinned to his
tail.”

“He, he, he!” chuckled Sir Moses, as he read it

“-I shall direct this letter by post to you at the sign of the Sun in
the Sands, unless I can get it conveyed by a private hand. I am half in
hopes Mr. Gallon may call, as there is going to be a great steeple match
for an immense sum of money, £200 they say, and they will want his fine
judgment to direct matters. Mr. Gallon is indeed a man of a thousand.”

“Humph!” grunted Sir Moses, adding, “we are getting behind the curtain
now.” He then went on reading,—

“—Oh my own dear darling Anthony Thom! what would I give to see you a
fine gentleman like Mr. George Gallon. I do hope and trust, dearest,
that it may yet come to pass; but we must make money, and take care of
our money when made, for a man is nothing without money. What a noble
example you have before you in Mr. George Gallon! He was once no better
nor you, and now he has everything like a gentleman,—a hunting horse
to ride on, gold studs in his shirt, and goose for his dinner. O my own
beloved Anthony Thom, if I could but see you on a white horse, with
a flowered silk tie, and a cut velvet vest with bright steel buttons,
flourishing a silver-mounted whip, how glad, how rejoiced it would make
me. Then I shouldn’t care for the pryings and grumblings of Old Nosey,
or the jealous watchings of the nasty, waspish set with which one is
surrounded, for I should say my Anthony Thom will revenge and protect
me, and make me comfortable at last. So now my own dearest Anthony Thom,
be careful and guarded in coming about here, for I dread those nasty
lurkin Pollis men more nor can I say, for I never knew suspicious people
what were good for any thing themselves; and how they ever come to
interduce such nasty town pests into the quiet peaceful country, I can’t
for the life of me imagine; but Mr. George Gallon, who is a man of great
intellect, says they are dangerous, and that is partly why he has given
up travelling; so therefore my own dearest Anthony Thom be guarded, and
mind put on your pee jacket and red worsted comforter, for 1 dread these
hoar frosts, and I’ll have everything ready for my darling pet, so that
you won’t be kept waiting a moment; but mind if there’s snow on the
ground you don’t come for fear of the tracks. I think I have littel more
to say this time, my own darling Anthony Thom, except that I am, my own
dear, dear son,

“Your ever loving mother,

“Sarah.”

“B-o-o-y Jove!” exclaimed Sir Moses, sousing himself down in an easy
chair beside the table at which he had been writing “b-o-y Jove, what a
production! Regular robber, dom’d if she’s not. Would give something to
catch Master Anthony Thom, in his red worsted comforter, with his parcel
of dripping. Would see whether I’d look into it or not. And Mr.
Geordey Gallon, too! The impudent fellow who pretended not to know the
Frenchman. Regular plant as ever was made. Will see whether he gets his
money from me. Ten punds the wretch tried to do me ont of by the basest
deceit that ever was heard of. Con-found them, but I’ll see if I can’t
be upsides with them all though,” continued he, writhing for vengeance.
And the whole of that day, and most of that night, and the whole of the
following day when hunting at Harker Crag, he was thinking how he could
manage it. At length, as he was going quietly home with the hounds,
after only an indifferent day’s sport, a thought struck him which he
proceeded to put in execution as soon as he got into the house. He wrote
a note to dear Lord Repartee, saying, if it would be quite convenient to
Lady Repartee and his Lordship, he would be glad to stay all night with
them before hunting Filberton forest; and leaving the unfolded note on
the library table to operate during the night, he wrote a second one in
the morning, inquiring the character of a servant; and putting the first
note into the fire, he sealed the second one, and laid it ostentatiously
on the hall table for the post.

We take it we all have some ambitious feeling to gratify—all have some
one whom we either wish to visit, or who we desire should visit us. We
will candidly state that our ambition is to dine with the Lord Mayor. If
we could but achieve that great triumph, we really think we should rest
satisfied the rest of our life. We know how it would elevate us in
the eyes of such men as Cuddy Flintoff and Paul Straddler, and what an
advantage it would be to us in society being able to talk in a familiar
way of his Lordship (Lordship with a capital L., if you please, Mr.
Printer).

Thus the world proceeds on the aspiring scale, each man looking to the
class a little in advance of his own.

“O knew they but their happiness, of men the happiest” are the sporting
country gentlemen who live at home at ease—unvexed alike with the
torments of the money-maker and the anxieties of the great, and yet
sufficiently informed and refined to be the companions of either—men who
see and enjoy nature in all her moods and varieties, and live unfettered
with the pomp and vexation of keeping up appearances, envying no one,
whoever may envy them. If once a man quits this happy rank to breast the
contending billows of party in hopes of rising to the one above it, what
a harvest of discord he sows for his own reaping. If a man wants to
be thoroughly disgusted with human nature, let him ally himself
unreservedly to a political party. He will find cozening and sneaking
and selfishness in all their varieties, and patriotic false pretences
in their most luxuriant growth. But we are getting in advance of our
subject, our thesis being Mr. and Mrs. Wotherspoon.

Our snuffy friend Spoon was not exempt from the ambitious failings of
lesser men. His great object of ambition was to get Major Yammerton
to visit him—or perhaps to put it more correctly, his great object
of ambition was to visit Major Yammerton. But then, unfortunately, it
requires two parties to these bargains; and Mrs. Yammerton wouldn’t
agree to it, not so much because old Spoon had been a butler, but
because his wife (our pen splutters as it writes the objection) his wife
had been a—a—housekeeper. A handsome housekeeper she was, too, when she
first came into the country; so handsome, indeed, that Dicky Boggledike
had made two excursions over to their neighbour, Farmer Flamstead, to
see her, and had reported upon her very favourably to the noble Earl his
august master.

Still Mrs. Yammerton wouldn’t visit her. In vain Mrs. Wotherspoon sent
her bantams’ eggs, and guinea fowls’ eggs, and cuttings from their
famous yellow rose-tree; in vain old Spoon got a worn-out horse, and
invested his nether man in white cords and top boots to turn out after
the harriers; in vain he walked a hound in summer, and pulled down gaps,
and lifted gates off their hinges in winter—it all only produced thanks
and politeness. The Yammertons and they were very good How-do-you-do?
neighbours, but the true beef-and-mutton test of British friendship was
wanting. The dinner is the thing that signs and seals the acquaintance.

Thus they had gone on from summer to summer, and from season to season,
until hope deferred had not only made old Spoon’s heart sick, but had
also seen the white cords go at the knees, causing him to retire his
legs into the military-striped cinnamon-coloured tweeds in which he
appears in:



187m


In addition to muffling his legs, he had begun to mutter and talk about
giving up hunting,—getting old,—last season—and so on, which made the
Major think he would be losing one of the most personable of his field.
This made him pause and consider how to avert the misfortune. Hunted
hares he had sent him in more than regular rotation: he had liquored
him repeatedly at the door; the ladies had reciprocated the eggs and
the cuttings, with dahlias, and Sir Harry strawberry runners; and there
really seemed very little left about the place wherewith to propitiate
a refractory sportsman. At this critical juncture, a too confiding hare
was reported by Cicely Bennett, farmer Merry field’s dairymaid, to have
taken up her quarters among some tussuckey brambles at the north-east
corner of Mr. Wotherspoon’s cow pasture—a most unusual, indeed almost
unprecedented circumstance, which was communicated by Wotherspoon in
person to the Major at the next meet of the hounds at Girdle Stone
Green, and received with unfeigned delight by the latter.

“You don’t say so!” exclaimed he, wringing the old dandy’s hand; “you
don’t say so!” repented he, with enthusiasm, for hares were scarce, and
the country good; in addition to which the Major knew all the gaps.

“I do,” replied Spoon, with a confident air, that as good as said, you
may take my word for anything connected with hunting.

“Well, then, I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” rejoined the Major, poking
him familiarly in the ribs with his whip, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do;
we’ll have a turn at her on Tuesday—meet at your house, eh? what say you
to that?”

“With all my heart,” responded the delighted Wotherspoon, adding, in the
excitement of the moment, “S’pose you come to breakfast?”

“Breakfast,” gasped the Major, feeling he was caught. “Dash it, what
would Mrs. Yammerton say? Breakfast!” repeated he, running the matter
through his mind, the wigging of his wife, the walk of his hound, the
chance of keeping the old boy to the fore if he went—go he would. “With
all my heart,” replied he, dashing boldly at the oiler; for it’s of no
use a man saying he’s engaged to breakfast, and the Major felt that if
the worst came to the worst, it would only be to eat two, one at home,
the other with Spoon.

So it was settled, much to Mr. and Mrs. Wotherspoon’s satisfaction,
who were afterwards further delighted to hear that our friend Billy had
returned, and would most likely be of the party. And most assiduously
they applied themselves to provide for this, the great event of their
lives.



CHAPTER LIV. MR. WITHERSPOON’S DEJEUNER À LA FOURCHETTE.



404m


IVY BANK ‘Power (formerly caled Cow gate Hill), the seat of Jeames
Wotherspoon Esquire, stands on a gentle eminence about a stone’s
throw from the Horseheath and Hinton turnpike road, and looks from
the luxuriance of its ivy, like a great Jack-in-the-green. Ivy is a
troublesome thing, for it will either not grow at all or it grows far
too fast, and Wotherspoon’s had rairly overrun the little angular red
brick, red tiled mansion, and helped it to its new name of Ivy Bank
Tower. If the ivy flourished, however, it was the only thing about the
place that did; for Wotherspoon was no farmer, and the 75a,:5r. 18p,
of which the estate consisted, was a very uninviting looking property.
Indeed Wotherspoon was an illustration of the truth of Sydney Smith’s
observation that there are three things which every man thinks he ean
do, namely, drive a gig, edit a newspaper, and farm a small property,
and Spoon bought Cowgate Hill thinking it would “go of itself.” as
they say of a horse, and that in addition to the rent he would get the
farmer’s profit as well, which he was told ought to be equal to the
rent. Though he had the Farmers’ Almanack, he did not attend much to its
instructions, for if Mrs. Wotherspoon wanted the Fe-a-ton, as she called
it, to gad about the country in, John Strong, the plough-boy footman
“loused” his team, and arraying himself in a chocolate-coloured coat,
with a red striped vest and black velveteens, left the other horse
standing idle for the day. So Spoon sometimes caught the season and
sometimes he lost it; and the neighbours used to hope that he hadn’t to
live by his land. If he caught the season he called it good management;
if he didn’t he laid the blame upon the weather, just as a gardener
takes the credit for all the good crops of fruit, and attributes the
failures to the seasons. Still Spoon was not at all sensible of
his deficiencies, and subscribed a couple of guineas a year to the
Harrowford Agricultural Society, in return for which he always had the
toast of the healths of the tenant farmers assigned to him, which he
handled in a very magnificent and condescending way, acknowledging the
obligations the landowners were under to them, and hoping the happy
union would long subsist to their mutual advantage; indeed, if he could
only have got the words out of his mouth as fast as he got the drink
into it, there is no saying but he might some day have filled the
presidential chair. Now, however, a greater honour even than that
awaited him, namely, the honour of entertaining the great Major
Yammerton to breakfast. To this end John Strong was first set to clean
the very dirty windows, then to trim the ivy and polish the brass
knocker at the door, next to dig the border, in which grew the famous
yellow rose, and finally to hoe and rake the carriage-drive up to
the house; while Mrs. Wotherspoon, aided by Sally Brown, her
maid-of-all-work, looked out the best blue and gold china, examined the
linen, selected a tongue, guillotined the poultry, bespoke the eggs, and
arranged the general programme of the entertainment.

The Major thought himself very sly, and that he was doing the thing very
cleverly by nibbling and playing with his breakfast on the appointed
morning, instead of eating voraciously as usual; but ladies often know
a good deal more than they pretend to do, and Mrs. Yammerton had seen
a card from Mrs. Wotherspoon to their neighbour, Mrs. Broadfurrow, of
Blossomfield Farm, inviting Broadfurrow and her to a “déjeuner à la
fourvhette” to meet Major Yammerton and see the hounds. However, Mrs.
Yammerton kept the fact to herself, thinking she would see how her Major
would manoeuvre the matter, and avoid a general acquaintance with the
Wotherspoons. So she merely kept putting his usual viands before him,
to try to tempt him into indulgence; but the Major, knowing the arduous
part he would have to perform at the Tower, kept rejecting all her
insidious overtures for eating, pretending he was not altogether right.
“Almond pudding hadn’t agreed with him,” he thought. “Never did—should
have known better than take it,” and so on.

Our dawdling hero rather discontented his host, for instead of applying
himself sedulously to his breakfast, he did nothing but chatter and
talk to the young ladies, as if there was no such important performance
before them as a hare to pursue, or the unrivalled harriers to display.
he took cup after cup, as though he had lost his reckoning, and also the
little word “no” from his vocabulary. At length the Major got him raised
from the table, by telling him they had two miles farther to go than
they really had, and making for the stable, they found Solomon and
the footman whipper-in ready to turn out with the hounds. Up went our
sportsmen on to their horses, and forth came the hounds wriggling and
frolicking with joy. The cavalcade being thus formed, they proceeded
across the fields, at the back of the house, and were presently passing
up the Hollington Lane. The gift grey was the first object of interest
as soon as they got well under way, and the Major examined him
attentively, with every desire to find fault.

“Neatish horse,” at length observed he, half to himself, half to our
friend; “neatish horse—lightish of bone below the knee, p’raps, but
still by no means a bad shaped ‘un.”

Still though the Major could’nt hit off the fault, he was pretty sure
there was a screw loose somewhere, to discover which he now got Billy to
trot the horse, aud cauter him, and gallop him, successively.

“Humph!” grunted he, as he returned after a brush over the rough ground
of Farthingfield Moor; “he has the use of his legs—gets well away; easy
horse under you, I dessay?” asked he.

Billy said he was, for he could pull him about anywhere; saying which he
put him boldly at a water furrow, and lauded handsomely on the far side.

“Humph!” grunted the Major again, muttering to himself, “May be all
right—but if he is, it’s devilish unlike the Baronet, giving him. Wish
he would take that confounded moon-eyed brute of mine and give me my
forty puns back.”

“And he gave him ye, did he?” asked the Major, with a scrutinising stare
at our friend.

“Why—yarse—no—yarse—not exactly,” replied Billy, hesitating. “The fact
is, he offered to give me him. and I didn’t like taking him, and so,
after a good deal to do, he said I might give him fifty pounds for him,
and pay him when it suited me.”

“I twig,” replied the Major, adding, “then you have to pay fifty pounds
for him, eh?”

“Or return him,” replied Billy, “or return him. He made me promise if
over I wanted to part with him, I would give him the refusal of him
again.”

“Humph!” grunted the Major, looking the horse over attentively. “Fifty
puns,” muttered he to himself,—“must be worth that if he’s sound, and
only eight off. Wouldn’t mind giving fifty for him myself,” thought he;
“must be something wrong about him—certain of that—or Sir Moses
wouldn’t have parted with him;” with which firm conviction, and the
full determination to find out the horse’s weak point, the Major trotted
along the Bodenham Road, through the little hamlet of Maywood, thence
across Faulder the cattle jobber’s farm, into the Heath-field Road
at Gilden Bridge. A quarter of a mile further, and Mr. Wotherspoon’s
residence was full in sight.

The “Tower” never, perhaps, showed to greater advantage than it did on
this morning, for a bright winter’s sun lit up the luxuriant ivy on its
angular, gable-ended walls, nestling myriads of sparrows that flew out
in flocks at the approach of each visitor.

“What place is this?” asked our hero, as, at a jerk of the Major’s head,
Solomon turned off the road through the now propped-open gate of the
approach to the mansion.

“Oh, this is where we meet,” replied the Major; “this is Mr.
Wotherspoon’s, the gentleman you remember out with us the day we had the
famous run when we lost the hare at Mossheugh Law—the farm by the moor,
you know, where the pretty woman was churning—you remember, eh?”

“O, ah!” repeated Billy: “but I thought they called his place a
Tower,—Ivy something Tower,” thinking this was more like two great
sentry boxes placed at right angles, and covered with ivy than anything
else.

“Well, yes; he calls this a Tower,” replied the Major, seeing by Billy’s
face that his friend had not risen in his estimation by the view of his
mansion. “Capital feller Spoon, though,” continued he, “must go in and
pay our respects to him and his lady.” So saying, he turned off the road
upon the closely eaten sward, and, calling to Solomon to stop and let
the hounds have a roll on the grass, he dismounted, and gave his horse
in charge of a fustian-clad countryman, telling him to walk him about
till he returned, and he would remember him for his trouble. Our friend
Billy did the same, and knocking the mud sparks off his boots against
the well pipe-clayed door-steps, prepared to enter the Tower. Before
inducting them, however, let us prepare the inmates for their reception.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Wotherspoon had risen sufficiently early to enable
them to put the finishing stroke to their respective arrangements,
and then to apparel themselves for the occasion. They were gorgeously
attired, vieing with the rainbow in the colour of their clothes. Old
Spoon, indeed, seemed as if he had put all the finery on he could raise,
and his best brown cauliflower wig shone resplendent with Macassar
oil. He had on a light brown coat with a rolling velvet collar, velvet
facings and cuffs, with a magnificent green, blue, and yellow striped
tartan velvet vest, enriched with red cornelian buttons, and crossed
diagonally with a massive Brazilian gold chain, and the broad ribbon of
his gold double-eye-glasses. He sported a light blue satin cravat, an
elaborately worked ruby-studded shirt front, over a pink flannel vest,
with stiff wrist-bands well turned up, showing the magnificence of
his imitation India garnet buttons. On his clumsy fingers he wore a
profusion of rings—a brilliant cluster, a gold and opal, a brilliant and
sapphire, an emerald half-hoop ring, a massive mourning, and a signet
ring,—six in all,—genuine or glass as the case might be, equally
distributed between the dirty-nailed fingers of each hand. His legs were
again encased in the treacherous white cords and woe-begone top-boots
that were best under the breakfast table. He had drawn the thin cords on
very carefully, hoping they would have the goodness to hang together for
the rest of the day.

Mrs. Wotherspoon was bedizened with jewellery and machinery lace. She
wore a rich violet-coloured velvet dress, with a beautiful machinery
lace chemisette, fastened down the front with large Cairngorum buttons,
the whole connected with a diminutive Venetian chain, which contrasted
with the massive mosaic one that rolled and rattled upon her plump
shoulders. A splendid imitation emerald and brilliant brooch adorned
her bust, while her well-rounded arms were encircled with a mosaic gold,
garnet and turquoise bracelet, an imitation rose diamond one, intermixed
with pearl, a serpent armlet with blood-stone eyes, a heavy jet one, and
an equally massive mosaic gold one with a heart’s ease padlock. Though
in the full development of womanhood, she yet distended her figure with
crinoline, to the great contraction of her room.

The two had scarcely entered the little parlour, some twelve feet
square, and Spoon got out his beloved Morning Post, ere Mr. and Mrs.
Broadfurrow were seen wending their way up the road, at the plodding
diligent sort of pace an agricultural horse goes when put into
harness; and forthwith the Wotherspoons dismissed the last anxieties
of preparation, and lapsed into the easy, unconcerned host and hostess.
When John Strong threw open the door, and announced Mr. and Mrs.
Broadfurrow, they were discovered standing over the fire, as if
d’ejeuner à la fourchette giving was a matter of every day’s occurrence
with them. Then, at the summons, they turned and came forward in the
full glow of cordiality, and welcomed their guests with all the fervour
of sincerity; and when Mrs. Wotherspoon mounted the weather for a
trot with Mrs. Broadfurrow, old Spoon out with his engine-turned gold
snuff-box, and offered Broadfurrow a pinch ere he threw his conversation
into the columns of his paper. The offer being accepted, Wotherspoon
replenished his own nose, and then felt ready for anything. He was in
high feather. He sunk his favourite topic, the doings of the House
of Lords, and expatiated upon the Princess Royal’s then approaching
marriage. Oh, dear, he was so glad. He was so glad of it—glad of it on
every account—glad of it on the Princess’s account—glad of it on her
most gracious Majesty’s account. Bless her noble heart! it almost made
him feel like an old man when he remembered the Prince Consort leading
her to the hymeneal altar herself. Well, well, life was life, and he had
seen as much of it as most men; and just as he was going to indulge
in some of his high-flown reminiscences, the crack of a hunting whip
sounded through the house, and farmer Nettlefold’s fat figure, attired
in the orthodox green coat and white cords of the Major Yammerton’s hunt
was seen piled on a substantial brown cob, making his way to the stables
at the back of the Tower. Mr. Nettlefold, who profanely entered by the
back door, was then presently announced, and the same greetings having
been enacted towards him, Wotherspoon made a bold effort to get back to
the marriage, beginning with “As I was observing,” when farmer Rintoul
came trotting up on his white horse, and holloaed out to know if he
could get him put up.

“Oh, certainly,” replied Wotherspoon, throwing up the window, when a
sudden gust of wind nearly blew off his wig, and sadly disconcerted the
ladies by making the chimney smoke.

Just at this moment our friend appeared in sight, and all eyes were then
directed to the now gamboling tongue-throwing hounds, as they spread
frisking over the green.

“What beauties!” exclaimed Mrs. Wotherspoon, pretending to admire them,
though in reality she was examining the Point de Paris lace on Mrs.
Broadfurrow’s mantle—wondering what it would be a yard, thinking it was
very extravagant for a person like her to have it so broad. Old Spoon,
meanwhile, bustled away to the door, to be ready to greet the great men
as they entered.

“Major Yammerton and Mr. Jingle!” announced John Strong, throwing it
open, and the old dandy bent nearly double with his bow.

“How are ye, Wotherspoon?” demanded our affable master, shaking him
heartily by the hand, with a hail-fellow-well-met air of cordiality.
“Mr. Pringle you know,” continued he, drawing our friend forward with
his left hand, while he advanced with his right to greet the radiant
Mrs. Wotherspoon.

The Major then went the round of the party, whole handing Mrs.
Broadfurrow, three fingering her husband, presenting two to old Rintonl,
and nodding to Nettlefold.

“Well, here’s a beautiful morning,” observed he, now
Colossus-of-Rhodesing with his clumsily built legs—“most remarkable
season this I ever remember during the five-and-thirty years that I have
kept haryers—more like summer than winter, only the trees are as bare of
leaves as boot-trees, haw, haw, haw.”

“He, he, he,” chuckled old Wotherspoon, “v-a-a-ry good, Major, v-a-a-ry
good,” drawled he, taking a plentiful replenishment of snuff as he
spoke.

Breakfast was then announced, and the Major making up to the inflated
Mrs. Wotherspoon tendered his arm, and with much difficulty piloted her
past the table into the little duplicate parlour across the passage,
followed by Wotherspoon with Mrs. Broadfurrow and the rest of the party.

And now the fruits of combined science appeared in the elegant
arrangement of the breakfast-table, the highly polished plate vieing
with the snowy whiteness of the cloth, and the pyramidical napkins
encircling around. Then there was the show pattern tea and coffee
services, chased in wreaths and scrolls, presented to Mr. Wotherspoon by
the Duke of Thunderdownshire on his marriage; the Louis Quatorze
kettle presented to Mrs. Wotherspoon by the Duchess, with the
vine-leaf-patterned cake-basket, the Sutherland-patterned toast-rack,
and the tulip-patterned egg-stand, the gifts and testimonials of other
parties.

Nor was the entertainment devoted to mere show, for piles of cakes and
bread of every shape and make were scattered profusely about, while a
couple of covered dishes on the well polished little sideboard denoted
that the fourchette of the card was not a mere matter of form. Best of
all, a group of flat vine-leaf encircling Champagne glasses denoted that
the repast was to be enlivened with the exhilarating beverage.

The party having at length settled into seats, Major Yammerton on
Mrs. Wotherspoon’s right, Mr. Pringle on her left, Mrs. Broadfurrow
on Spoon’s right, her husband on his left, with Rintoul and Nettlefold
filling in the interstices, breakfast began in right earnest, and Mrs.
Wotherspoon having declined the Major’s offer of assisting with the
coffee, now had her hands so full distributing the beverages as to
allow him to apply himself sedulously to his food. This he did most
determinedly, visiting first one detachment of cakes, then another,
and helping himself liberally to both hashed woodcocks and kidneys from
under the covers. His quick eye having detected the Champagne glasses,
and knowing Wotherspoon’s reputed connoisseurship in wines, he declined
Mrs. Wotherspoon’s tea, reserving himself for what was to follow. In
truth, Spoon was a good judge of wine, so much so that he acted as
a sort of decoy duck to a London house, who sent him very different
samples to the wine they supplied to the customers with whom he picked
up. He had had a great deal of experience in wines, never, in the course
of a longish life having missed the chance of a glass, good, bad, or
indifferent. We have seen many men set up for judges without a tithe
of Wotherspoon’s experience. Look at a Club for instance. We see the
footman of yesterday transformed into the butler of to-day, giving his
opinion to some newly joined member on the next, with all the authority
of a professor—talking of vintages, and flavours, and roughs and
smooths, and sweets, and drys, as if he had been drinking wine all his
life. Wotherspoon’s prices were rather beyond the Major’s mark, but
still he had no objection to try his wine, and talk as if he would
like to have some of the same sort. So having done ample justice to the
eatables he turned himself back in his chair and proceeded to criticise
Mrs. Wotherspoon’s now slightly flushed face, and wonder how such a
pretty woman could marry such a snuffy old cock. While this deliberate
scrutiny was going on, the last of the tea-drinkers died out, and at a
pull of the bell, John Strong came in, and after removing as many cups
and saucers as he could clutch, he next proceeded to decorate the
table with Champagne glasses amid the stares and breath-drawings of the
company.

While this interesting operation was proceeding, the old dandy host
produced his snuff-box, and replenishing his nose passed it on to
Broadfurrow to send up the table, while he threw himself back in his
chair and made a mental wager that Strong would make a mistake between
the Champagne and the Sillery. The glasses being duly distributed,
and the Major’s eye at length caught, our host after a prefatory
throat-clearing hem thus proceeded to address him, individually, for the
good of the company generally.

“Major Yammerton,” said he, “I will take the liberty of recommending a
glass of Sillery to you.—The sparkling, I believe, is very good, but
the still is what 1 particularly pride myself upon and recommend to my
friends.”

“Strong!” continued he, addressing the clown, “the Sillery to Major
Yammerton,” looking at Strong as much as to say, “you know it’s the
bottle with the red cord round the neck.”

The Major, however, like many of us, was not sufficiently versed in
the delicacies of Champagne drinking to prefer the Sillery, and to his
host’s dismay called for the sparkling-stuff that Wotherspoon considered
was only fit for girls at a boarding school. The rest of the party,
however, were of the Major’s opinion, and all glasses were eagerly held
for the sparkling fluid, while the Sillery remained untouched to the
master.

It is but justice to Wotherspoon to add, that he showed himself
deserving of the opportunity, for he immediately commenced taking two
glasses to his guest’s one.

That one having been duly sipped and quaffed and applauded, and a
becoming interval having elapsed between, Mr. Wotherspoon next rose from
his chair, and looking especially wise, observed, up the table “that
there was a toast he wished—he had—he had—he wished to propose, which he
felt certain under any—any (panse) circumstances, would be (pause again)
accepted—he meant received with approbation (applause), not only with
approbation, but enthusiasm,” continued he, hitting off the word he at
first intended to use, amid renewed applause, causing a slight “this is
my health,” droop of the head from the Major—“But when,” continued the
speaker, drawing largely on his snuff-box for inspiration, “But when
in addition to the natural and intrinsic (pause) merit of the (hem)
illustrious individual” (“Coming it strong,” thought the Major, who had
never been called illustrious before,) “there is another and a stronger
reason,” continued Wotherspoon, looking as if he wished he was in his
seat again—“a reason that comes ‘ome to the ‘earts and symphonies of
us all (applause). (“Ah, that’s the hounds,” thought the Major, “only
I ‘spose he means sympathies.”) “I feel (pause) assured,” continued Mr.
Wotherspoon, “that the toast will be received with the enthusiasm and
popularity that ever attends the (pause) mention of intrinsic merit,
however (pause) ‘umbly and inadequately the (pause) toast may be (pause)
proposed,” (great applause, with cries of no, no,) during which the
orator again appealed to his snuff-box. He knew he had a good deal more
to say, but he felt he couldn’t get it out. If he had only kept his seat
he thought he might have managed it. “I therefore,” said he, helping
Mrs. Broadfurrow to the sparkling, and passing the bottle to her husband
while he again appealed to the Sillery, “beg to propose, with great
sincerity, the ‘ealth of Her most gracious Majesty The Queen! The Queen!
God bless her!” exclaimed Wotherspoon, holding up a brimming bumper ere
he sunk in his chair to enjoy it.

“With all my heart!” gasped the disgusted Major, writhing with
vexation—observing to Mrs. Wotherspoon as he helped her, and then took
severe toll of the passing bottle himself, “by Jove, your husband ought
to be in Parliament—never heard a man acquit himself better”—the Major
following the now receding bottle with his eye, whose fast diminishing
contents left little hopes of a compliment for himself out of its
contents. He therefore felt his chance was out, and that he had been
unduly sacrificed to Royalty. Not so, however, for Mr. Wotherspoon,
after again charging his nose with snuff, and passing his box round the
table while he collected his scattered faculties for the charge, now
drew the bell-cord again, and tapping with his knife against the empty
bottle as “Strong” entered, exclaimed, “Champagne!” with the air of a
man accustomed to have all the wants of life supplied by anticipation.
There’s nobody gets half so well waited upon as an old servant.

This order being complied with, and having again got up the steam of
his eloquence, Mr. Wotherspoon arose, and, looking as wise as before,
observed, “That there was another toast he had to propose, which he felt
(pause) sure would (pause) would be most agreeable and acceptable to the
meeting,—he meant to say the party, the present party (applause)—under
any circumstances (sniff, snuff, sneeze); he was sure it would be most
(snuff) acceptable, for the great and distinguished (pause), he
had almost said illustrious (sniff), gentleman (pause), was—was
estimable”—”—was estimable (pause) and glorious in every relation of
life.

“This is me, at all events,” thought the Major, again slightly drooping
his too bashful head, as though the shower-bath of compliment was likely
to be too heavy for him. (applause), and keeps a pack of hounds second
to none in the kingdom (great applause, during which the drooping
head descended an inch or two lower). I need not after that (snuff)
expression of your (sniff) feelings (pause), undulate on the advantage
such a character is of to the country, or in promoting (pause) cheerful
hospitality in all its (pause) branches, and drawing society into
sociable communications; therefore I think I shall (pause) offer a toast
most, most heartily acceptable (sniff) to all your (snuff) feelings,
when I propose, in a bumper toast, the health of our most—most
distinguished and—and hospitable host—guest, I mean—Major Yammerton, and
his harriers!” saying which, the old orator filled himself a bumper of
Sillery, and sent the sparkling beverage foaming and creaming on its
tour. He then presently led the charge with a loud, “Major! your very
good health!”

“Major, your very good health!”

“Your very good health, Major!”

“Major, your very good health!” then followed up as quickly as the
glasses could be replenished, and the last explosion having taken place,
the little Major arose, and looked around him like a Bantam cock going
to crow. He was a man who could make what he would call an off-hand
speech, provided he was allowed to begin with a particular word, and
that word was “for.” Accordingly, he now began with,—

“Ladies and gentlemen, For the very distinguished honour you have thus
most unexpectedly done me, I beg to return you my most grateful and
cordial thanks. (Applause.) I beg to assure you, that the ‘steem
and approbation of my perhaps too partial friends, is to me the most
gratifying of compliments; and if during the five-and-thirty years I
have kept haryers, I have contributed in any way to the ‘armony and
good fellowship of this neighbourhood, it is indeed to me a source of
unfeigned pleasure. (Applause.) I ‘ope I may long be spared to continue
to do so. (Renewed applause.) Being upon my legs, ladies and gentlemen,”
 continued he, “and as I see there is still some of this most excellent
and exhilarating beverage in the bottle (the Major holding up a
halfemptied one as he spoke), permit me to conclude by proposing as a
toast the ‘ealth of our inestimable ‘ost and ‘ostess—a truly exemplary
couple, who only require to be known to be respected and esteemed as
they ought to be. (Applause.) I have great pleasure in proposing the
‘ealth of Mr. and Mrs. Wotherspoon! (Applause.) Mrs. Wotherspoon,”
 continued he, bowing very low to his fair hostess, and looking, as
he thought, most insinuating, “your very good ‘ealth! Wotherspoon!”
 continued he, standing erect, and elevating his voice, “Your very good
‘ealth!” saying which he quaffed off his wine, and resumed his seat as
the drinking of the toast became general.

Meanwhile old Wotherspoon had taken a back hand at the Sillery, and
again arose, glass in hand, to dribble out his thanks for the honour the
Major and company had done Mrs. Wother-spoon and himself, which
being the shortest speech he had made, was received with the greatest
applause.

All parties had now about arrived at that comfortable state when the
inward monitor indicates enough, and the active-minded man turns to the
consideration of the “next article, mem,”—as the teasing shop-keepers
say, The Major’s “next article,” we need hardly say, was his haryers,
which were still promenading in front of the ivy-mantled tower, before
an admiring group of pedestrians and a few sorrily mounted horsemen,—old
Duffield, Dick Trail, and one or two others,—who would seem rather to
have come to offer up their cattle for the boiler, than in expectation
of their being able to carry them across country with the hounds. These
are the sort of people who stamp the farmers’ hedges down, and make hare
hunting unpopular.

“Well, sir, what say you to turning out?” now asked our Master, as
Wotherspoon still kept working away at the Sillery, and maundering on to
Mr. Broadfurrow about the Morning Post and high life.

“Well, sir, what you think proper,” replied Spoon, taking a heavy pinch
of snuff, and looking at the empty bottles on the table.

“The hare, you say, is close at hand,” observed our master of hounds.

“Close at hand, close at hand—at the corner of my field, in fact,”
 assented Wotherspoon, as if there was no occasion to be in a hurry.

“Then let’s be at her!” exclaimed the Major rising with wine-inspired
confidence, and feeling that it would require a very big fence to stop
him with the hounds in full cry.

“Well, but we are going to see you, ain’t we?” asked Mrs. Wotherspoon.

“By all means,” replied our Master; adding, “but hadn’t you better get
your bonnet on?”

“Certainly,” rejoined Mrs. Wotherspoon, looking significantly at Mrs.
Broadfurrow; whereupon the latter rose, and with much squeezing, and
pardoning, and thank-you-ing, the two succeeded in effecting a retreat.
The gentlemen then began kicking their legs about, feeling as though
they would not want any dinner that day.



CHAPTER LV. THE COUNCIL OF WAR.—POOR PUSS AGAIN!

WHILE the ladies were absent adorning themselves, the gentlemen held a
council of war as to the most advisable mode of dealing with the hare,
aud the best way of making her face a good country. The Major thought if
they could set her a-going with her head towards Martinfield-heath, they
would stand a good chance of a run; while Broadfurrow feared Borrowdale
brook would be in the way.

“Why not Linacres?” asked Mr. Rintoul, who preferred having the hounds
over any one’s farm but his own.

“Linacres is not a bad line,” assented the Major thoughtfully; “Linacres
is not a bad line, ‘specially if she keeps clear of Minsterfield-wood
and Dowland preserve; but if once she gets to the preserve it’s all U.
P., for we should have as many hares as hounds in five minutes, to say
nothing of Mr. Grumbleton reading the riot act among us to boot.”

“I’ll tell ye how to do, then,” interposed fat Mr. Nettlefold, holding
his coat laps behind him as he protruded his great canary-coloured
stomach into the ring; “I’ll tell you how to do, then. Just crack her
away back over this way, and see if you can’t get her for Witherton
and Longworth. Don’t you mind,” continued he, button-holeing the Major,
“what a hunt we had aboot eighteen years since with a har we put off old
Tommy Carman’s stubble, that took us reet away over Marbury Plot, the
Oakley hill, and then reet down into Woodbury Yale, where we killed?”

“To be sure I do!” exclaimed the delighted Major, his keen eyes
glistening with pleasure at the recollection. “The day Sam Snowball
rode into Gallowfield bog and came out as black as a sweep—I remember it
well. Don’t think I ever saw a better thing. If it had been a—a—certain
somebody’s hounds (he, he, he!), whose name I won’t mention (haw, haw,
haw!), we should never have heard the last of it (he, he, he!).”

While this interesting discussion was going on, old Wotherspoon who had
been fumbling at the lock of the cellaret, at length got it open, and
producing therefrom one of those little square fibre-protected bottles,
with mysterious seals and hieroglyphical labels, the particoloured
letters leaning different ways, now advanced, gold-dotted liquor-glass
in hand, towards the group, muttering as he came, “Major Yammerton, will
you ‘blege me with your ‘pinion of this Maraschino di Zara, which my
wine merchants recommend to me as something very ‘tickler,” pouring out
a glass as he spoke, and presenting it to his distinguished guest.

“With all my heart,” replied the Major, who rather liked a glass
of liquor; adding, “we’ll all give our opinion, won’t we, Pringle?”
 appealing to our hero.

“Much pleasure,” replied Billy, who didn’t exactly know what it was, but
still was willing to take it on trust.

“That’s right,” rejoined old Spoon; “that’s right; then ‘blege me,”
 continued he, “by helping yourselves to glasses from the sideboard,”
 nodding towards a golden dotted brood clustering about a similarly
adorned glass jug like chickens around a speckled hen.

At this intimation a move was made to the point; and all being duly
provided with glasses, the luscious beverage flowed into each in
succession, producing hearty smacks of the lips, and “very goods” from
all.

“Well, I think so,” replied the self-satisfied old dandy; “I think so,”
 repeated he, replenishing his nose with a good pinch of snuff; “Comes
from Steinberger and Leoville, of King Street, Saint Jeames’s—very old
‘quaintance of mine—great house in the days of George the Fourth of
festive memory. And, by the way, that reminds me,” continued he, after
a long-drawn respiration, “that I have forgotten a toast that I feel
(pause) we ought to have drunk, and—”

“Let’s have it now then,” interrupted the Major, presenting his glass
for a second helping.

“If you please,” replied “Wotherspoon, thus cut short in his oration,
proceeding to replenish the glasses, but with more moderate quantities
than before.

“Well, now what’s your toast?” demanded the Major, anxious to be off.

“The toast I was about to propose—or rather, the toast I forgot to
propose,” proceeded the old twaddler, slowly and deliberately, with
divers intermediate sniffs and snuffs, “was a toast that I feel ‘sured
will come ‘ome to the ‘arts and symphonies of us all, being no less
a—a—(pause) toast than the toast of the illustrious (pause), exalted—I
may say, independent—I mean Prince—Royal Highness in fact—who (wheeze)
is about to enter into the holy state of matrimony with our own beloved
and exalted Princess (Hear, hear, hear). I therefore beg to (pause)
propose that we drink the ‘ealth of His Royal (pause) ‘Ighness Prince
(pause) Frederick (snuff) William (wheeze) Nicholas (sniff) Charles!”
 with which correct enunciation the old boy brightened up and drank off
his glass with the air of a man who has made a clean breast of it.

“Drink both their ‘ealths!” exclaimed the Major, holding up his glass,
and condensing the toast into “The ‘ealths of their Royal Highnesses!”
 it was accepted by the company with great applause.

Just as the last of the glasses was drained, and the lip-smacking guests
were preparing to restore them to the sideboard, a slight rustle was
heard at the door, which opening gently, a smart black velvet
bonnet trimmed with cerise-coloured velvet and leaves, and broad
cerise-coloured ribbons, piloted Mrs. Wotherspoon’s pretty face past
the post, who announced that Mrs. Broadfurrow and she were ready to go
whenever they were.

“Let’s be going, then,” exclaimed Major Yammerton, hurrying to the
sideboard and setting down his glass. “How shall it be, then? How shall
it be?” appealing to the company. “Give them a view or put her away
quietly?—give them a view or put her away quietly?”

“Oh, put her away quietly,” responded Mr. Broadfurrow, who had seen many
hares lost by noise and hurry at starting.

“With her ‘ead towards Martinfield?” asked the Major.

“If you can manage it,” replied Broadfurrow, well knowing that these
sort of feats are much easier planned than performed.

“‘Spose we let Mrs. Wotherspoon put her away for us,” now suggested Mr.
Rintonl.

“By all means!” rejoined the delighted Major; “by all means! She knows
the spot, and will conduct us to it. Mrs. Wotherspoon,” continued he,
stumping up to her as she now stood waiting in the little passage,
“allow me to have the honour of offering you my arm;” so saying, the
Major presented it to her, observing confidentially as they passed on to
the now open front door, “I feel as if we were going to have a clipper!”
 lowering the ominous hat-string as he spoke.

“Solomon! Solomon!” cried he, to the patient huntsman, who had been
waiting all this lime with the hounds. “We are going! we are going!”

“Yes, Major,” replied Solomon, with a respectful touch of his cap.

“Now for it!” cried the Major, wheeling sharp round with his fair
charge, and treading on old Wotherspoon’s gouty foot, who was following
too closely behind with Mrs. Broadfurrow on his arm, causing the old
cock to catch up his leg and spin round on the other, thus splitting the
treacherous cords across the knee.



419m


“Oh-o-o-o!” shrieked he, wrinkling his face up like a Norfolk biffin,
and hopping about as if he was dancing a hornpipe.

“Oh-o-o-o!” went he again, on setting it down to try if he could stand.

“I really beg you ten thousand pardons!” now exclaimed the disconcerted
Major, endeavouring to pacify him. “1 really beg you ten thousand
pardons; but I thought you were ever so far behind.”

“So did I, I’m sure,” assented Mrs. Wotherspoon.

“You’re such a gay young chap, and step so smartly, you’d tread on any
body’s heels,” observed the Major jocularly.

“Well, but it was a pincher, I assure you,” observed Wotherspoon, still
screwing up his mouth.

At length he got his foot down again, and the assault party was
reformed, the Major and Mrs. Wotherspoon again leading, old Spoon
limping along at a more respectful distance with Mrs. Broadfurrow, while
the gentlemen brought up the rear with the general body of pedestrians,
who now deserted Solomon and the hounds in order to see poor puss
started from her form. Solomon was to keep out of sight until she was
put away.

Passing through the little American blighted orchard, and what
Spoon magnificently called his kitchen garden, consisting of a dozen
grass-grown gooseberry bushes, and about as many winter cabbages, they
came upon a partially-ploughed fallow, with a most promising crop of
conch grass upon the unturned part, the hungry soil looking as if it
would hardly return the seed.

“Fine country! fine country!” muttered the Major, looking around on the
sun-bright landscape, and thinking he could master it whichever way the
hare went. Up Sandywell Lane for Martinfield Moor, past Woodrow Grange
for Linacres, and through Farmer Fulton’s fold-yard for Witherton.

Oh, yes, he could do it; and make a very good show out of sight of the
ladies.

“Now, where have you her? where have you her?” whispered he, squeezing
Mrs. Wotherspoon’s plump arm to attract her attention, at the same time
not to startle the hare.

“O, in the next field,” whispered she, “in the next field,” nodding
towards a drab-coloured pasture in which a couple of lean and dirty cows
were travelling about in search of a bite. They then proceeded towards
it.

The gallant Major having opened the ricketty gate that intervened
between the fallow and it, again adopted his fair charge, and proceeded
stealthily along the high ground by the ragged hedge on the right,
looking back and holding up his hand for silence among the followers.

At length Mrs. Wotherspoon stopped. “There, you see,” said she, nodding
towards a piece of rough, briary ground, on a sunny slope, in the far
corner of the field.

“I see!” gasped the delighted Major; “I see!” repeated he, “just the
very place for a hare to be in—wonder there’s not one there always.
Now,” continued he, drawing his fair charge a little back, “we’ll see
if we can’t circumvent her, and get her to go to the west. Rintoul!”
 continued he, putting his hand before his mouth to prevent the sound of
what he said being wafted to the hare. “Rintoul! you’ve got a whip—you
go below and crack her away over the hill, that’s a good feller, and
we’ll see if we can’t have something worthy of com-mem-mo-ration”—the
Major thinking how he would stretch out the run for the newspapers—eight
miles in forty minutes, an hour and twenty with only one check—or
something of that sort.

The pause thrilled through the field, and caused our friend Billy to
feel rather uncomfortable, he didn’t appreciate the beauties of the
thing.

Rintoul having now got to his point, and prepared his heavy whip-thong,
the gallant band advanced, in semicircular order, until they came within
a few paces of where the briars began. At a signal from the Major they
all hailed. The excitement was then intense.

“I see her!” now whispered the Major into Mrs. Wotherspoon’s oar. “I
sec her!” repeated he, squeezing her arm, and pointing inwardly with his
thong-gathered whip.

Mrs. Wotherspoon’s wandering eyes showed that she did not participate in
the view.

“Don’t you see the tuft of fern just below the thick red-berried rose
bush a little to the left here?” asked the Major; “where the rushes die
out?”

Mrs. Wotherspoon nodded assent.

“Well, then, she’s just under the broken piece of fern that lies bending
this way. You can see her ears moving at this moment.”

Mrs. Wotherspoon’s eyes brightened as she saw a twinkling something.

“Now then, put her away!” said the Major gaily.

“She won’t bite, will she?” whispered Mrs. Wotherspoon, pretending
alarm.

“Oh, bite, no!” laughed the Major; “hares don’t bite—not pretty women at
least,” whispered he. “Here take my whip and give her a touch behind,”
 handing it to her as he spoke.

Mrs. Wotherspoon having then gathered up her violet-coloured
velvet dress a little, in order as well to escape the frays of the
sharp-toothed brambles as to show her gay red and black striped
petticoat below, now advanced cautiously into the rough sea, stepping
carefully over this tussuck and t’other, avoiding this briar and that,
until she came within whip reach of the fern. She then paused, and
looked back with the eyes of England upon her.

“Up with her!” cried the excitcd Major, as anxious for a view as if he
had never seen a hare in his life.

Mrs. Wotherspoon then advanced half a step farther, and protruding the
Major’s whip among the rustling fern, out sprang—what does the reader
think?—A GREAT TOM CAT!

“Tallyho!” cried Billy Pringle, deceived by the colour.

“Hoop, hoop, hoop!” went old Spoon, taking for granted it was a hare.

Crack! resounded Rintoul’s whip from afar.

“Haw, haw, haw! never saw anything like that!” roared the Major, holding
his sides.

“Why, it’s a cat!” exclaimed the now enlightened Mrs. Wotherspoon,
opening wide her pretty eyes as she retraced her steps towards where he
stood.

“Cat, ay, to be sure, my dear! why, it’s your own, isn’t it?” demanded
our gallant Master.

“No; ours is a grey—that’s a tabby,” replied she, returning him his
whip.

“Grey or tab, it’s a cat,” replied the Major, eyeing puss climbing up a
much-lopped ash-tree in the next hedge.

“Why, Spoon, old boy, don’t you know a cat when you see her?” demanded
he, as his chagrined host now came pottering towards them.

“I thought it was a hare, ‘pon honour, as we say in the Lords,” replied
the old buck, bowing and consoling himself with a copious pinch of
snuff.

“Well, it’s a sell,” said the Major, thinking what a day he had lost.

“D-a-a-vilish likely place for a hare,” continued old Wotherspoon,
reconnoitring it through his double eye-glasses; “D-a-a-vilish likely
place, indeed.”

“Oh, likely enough,” muttered the Major, with a chuck of his chin,
“likely enough,—only it isn’t one, that’s all!”

“Well, I wish it had been,” replied the old boy.

“So do I,” simpered his handsome wife, drawing her fine lace-fringed
kerchief across her lips.

The expectations of the day being thus disappointed, another council
of war was now held, as to the best way of retrieving the misfortune.
Wotherspoon, who was another instance of the truth of the observation,
that a man who is never exactly sober is never quite drunk, was inclined
to get back to the bottle. “Better get back to the house,” said he,
“and talk matters quietly over before the fire;” adding, with a full
replenishment of snuff up his nose, “I’ve got a batch of uncommonly fine
Geisenheimer that I would like your ‘pinion of, Major,” but the Major,
who had had wine enough, and wanted to work it off with a run, refused
to listen to the tempter, intimating, in a whisper to Mrs. Spoon,
who again hung on his arm, that her husband would be much better of a
gallop.

And Mrs. Wotherspoon, thinking from the haziness of the old gentleman’s
voice, and the sapient twinkling of his gooseberry eyes, that he had had
quite enough wine, seconded this view of the matter; whereupon, after
much backing and bowing, and shaking of hands, and showing of teeth, the
ladies and gentlemen parted, the former to the fire, the latter to
the field, where the performance of the pack must stand adjourned for
another chapter.



CHAPTER LVI. A FINE RUN!—THE MAINCHANCE CORRESPONDENCE.



424m


HE worst of these dejeuners à la fourchette, and also of luncheons, is,
that they waste the day, and then send men out half-wild to ride over
the hounds or whatever else comes in their way. The greatest funkers,
too, are oftentimes the boldest under the influence of false courage;
so that the chances of mischief are considerably increased. The mounted
Champagne bottle smoking a cigar, at page 71, is a good illustration of
what we mean. We doubt not Mr. Longneck was very forward in that run.

All our Ivy Tower party were more or less primed, and even old
Wotherspoon felt as if he could ride. Billy, too, mounted the gallant
grey without his usual nervous misgivings, and trotted along between the
Major and Rintoul with an easy Hyde Park-ish sort of air. Rintonl had
intimated that he thought they would find a hare on Mr. Merryweather’s
farm at Swayland, and now led them there by the fields, involving two
or three little obstacles—a wattled hurdle among the rest—which they all
charged like men of resolution. The hurdle wasn’t knocked over till the
dogs’-meatmen came to it.

Arrived at Swayland, the field quickly dispersed, each on his own
separate hare-seeking speculation, one man fancying a fallow, another a
pasture: Rintonl reserving the high hedge near the Mill bridle-road,
out of which he had seen more than one whipped in his time. So they
scattered themselves over the country, flipping and flopping all the
tufts ard likely places, aided by the foot-people with their sticks,
and their pitchings and tossings of stones into bushes and hollows, and
other tempting-looking retreats.

The hounds, too, ranged far and wide, examining critically each likely
haunt, pondering on spots where they thought she had been, but which
would not exactly justify a challenge.

While they were all thus busily employed, Rintoul’s shallow hat in the
air intimated that the longed-for object was discerned, causing each man
to get his horse by the head, and the foot-people to scramble towards
him, looking anxiously forward and hurriedly back, lest any of the
riders should be over them. Rintoul had put her away, and she was now
travelling and stopping, and travelling and stopping, listening and
wondering what was the matter. She had been coursed before but never
hunted, and this seemed a different sort of proceeding.

The terror-striking notes of the hounds, as they pounced upon her empty
form, with the twang of the horn and the cheers of the sportsmen urging
them on, now caused her to start; and, laying back her long ears, she
scuttled away over Bradfield Green and up Ridge Hill as hard as ever she
could lay legs to the ground.

“Come along, Mr. Pringle! come along, Mr. Pringle!” cried the excited
Major, spurring up, adjusting his whip as if he was going to charge into
a solid square of infantry. He then popped through an open gate on the
left.

The bustling beauties of hounds had now fallen into their established
order of precedence, Lovely and Lilter contending for the lead, with
Bustler and Bracelet, and Ruffler and Chaunter, and Ruin and Restless,
and Dauntless and Driver, and Dancer and Flaunter and others striving
after, some giving tongue because they felt the scent, others, because
the foremost gave it.—So they went truthfully up the green and over the
hill, a gap, a gate, and a lane serving the bustling horsemen.

The vale below was not quite so inviting to our “green linnets” as the
country they had come from, the fields being small, with the fences as
irregular as the counties appear on a map of England. There was none of
that orderly squaring up and uniformity of size, that enables a roadster
to trace the line of communication by gates through the country.—All was
zigzag and rough, indicating plenty of blackthorns and briers to tear
out their eyes. However, the Champagne was sufficiently alive in our
sportsmen to prevent any unbecoming expression of fear, though there was
a general looking about to see who was best acquainted with the country.
Rintoul was now out of his district, and it required a man well up in
the lin to work them satisfactorily, that is to say, to keep them
in their saddles, neither shooting them over their horses’ heads nor
swishing them over their tails. Our friend Billy worked away on the
grey, thinking, if anything, he liked him better than the bay He even
ventured to spur him.

The merry pack now swing musically down the steep hill, the chorus
increasing as they reach the greener regions below. The fatties,
and funkers, and ticklish forelegged ones, begin who-a-ing and
g-e-e-ntly-ing to their screws, holding on by the pommels and cantrells,
and keeping their nags’ heads as straight as they can. Old Wotherspoon
alone gets off and leads down. He’s afraid of his horse slipping upon
its haunches. The sight of him doing so emboldens our Billy, who goes
resolutely on, and incautiously dropping his hand too soon, the grey
shot away with an impetus that caused him to cannon off Broadfurrow and
the Major and pocket himself in the ditch at the bottom of the hill.
Great was the uproar! The Richest Commoner in England was in danger! Ten
thousand a-year in jeopardy! “Throw yourself off!”

“Get clear of him!”

“Keep hold of him!”

“Mind he doesn’t strike ye!” resounded from all parts, as first the
horse’s head went up, and then his tail, and then his head again, in his
efforts to extricate himself.

At length Billy, seizing a favourable opportunity, threw himself off on
the green sward, and, ere he could rise, the horse, making a desperate
plunge, got out, and went staling away with his head in the air, looking
first to the right and then to the left, as the dangling reins kept
checking and catching him.



427m


“Look sharp or you’ll loss him!” now cried old Duffield, as after an
ineffectual snatch of the reins by a passing countryman, the horse
ducked his head and went kicking and wriggling and frolicking away to
the left, regardless of the tempting cry of the hounds.

The pace, of course, was too good for assistance—and our friend and the
field were presently far asunder.

Whatever sport the hounds had—and of course they would have a clipper—we
can answer for it Mr. Pringle had a capital run; for his horse led him
a pretty Will-o’-the-wisp sort of dance, tempting him on and on by
stopping to eat whenever his rider—or late rider, rather—seemed inclined
to give up the chase, thus deluding him from field to lane and from lane
to field until our hero was fairly exhausted.—Many were the rushes and
dashes and ventures made at him by hedgers and ditchers and drainers,
but he evaded them all by laying back his ears and turning the battery
of his heels for the contemplation, as if to give them the choice of a
bite or a kick.

At length he turned up the depths of the well-known Love Lane, with its
paved trottoir, for the damsels of the adjoining hamlets of East and
West Woodhay to come dry-shod to the gossip-shop of the well; and here,
dressed in the almost-forgotten blue boddice and red petticoat of former
days, stood pretty Nancy Bell, talking matrimonially to Giles Bacon,
who had brought his team to a stand-still on the higher ground of the
adjoining hedge, on the field above.

Hearing the clatter of hoofs, as the grey tried first the hard and then
the soft of the lane, Bacon looked that way; and seeing a loose horse
he jumped bodily into the lane, extending his arms and his legs and his
eyes and his mouth in a way that was very well calculated to stop even
a bolder animal than a horse. He became a perfect barrier. The grey drew
up with an indignant snort and a stamp of his foot, and turning short
round he trotted back, encountering in due time his agitated and
indignant master, who had long been vowing what a trimming he would give
him when he caught him. Seeing Billy in a hurry,—for animals are very
good judges of mischief, as witness an old cock how he ducks when
one picks up a stone,—seeing Billy in a hurry we say, the horse again
wheeled about, and returned with more leisurely steps towards his first
opponent. Bacon and Nancy were now standing together in the lane; and
being more pleasantly occupied than thinking about loose horses, they
just stood quietly and let him come towards them, when Giles’s soothing
w-ho-o-ays and matter-of-course style beguiled the horse into being
caught.

Billy presently came shuffling up, perspiring profusely, with his feet
encumbered with mud, and stamping the thick of it off while he answered
Bacon’s question as to “hoo it happened,” and so on, in the grumpy
sort of way a man does who has lost his horse, he presented him with a
shilling, and remounting, rode off, after a very fine run of at least
twenty minutes.

The first thing our friend did when he got out of sight of Giles Bacon
and Nancy, was to give his horse a good rap over the head with his whip
for its impudent stupidity in running away, causing him to duck his
head and shake it, as if he had got a pea or a flea in hiss ear.—He then
began wheeling round and round, like a dog wanting to lie down, much
to Billy’s alarm, for he didn’t wish for any more nonsense. That
performance over, he again began ducking and shaking his head, and then
went moodily on, as if indifferent to consequences. Billy wished he
mightn’t have hit him so hard.

When he got home, he mentioned the horse’s extraordinary proceedings
to the Major, who, being a bit, of a vet. and a strong suspector of
Sir Moses’ generosity to boot, immediately set it down to the right
cause—megrims—and advised Billy to return him forthwith, intimating that
Sir Moses was not altogether the thing in the matter of horses; but
our friend, who kept the blow with the whip to himself, thought he had
better wait a day or two and see if the attack would go off.—In this
view he was upheld by Jack Rogers, who thought his old recipe, “leetle
drop gin,” would set him all right, and proceeded to administer it to
himself accordingly. And the horse improved so much that he soon seemed
himself again, whereupon Billy, recollecting Sir Moses’s strenuous
injunctions to give him the refusal of him if ever he wanted to part
with him, now addressed him the following letter:—

“Yammerton Grange.

“Dear Sir Moses,

“As I find I must return to town immediately after the hunt ball, to
which you were so good as invite me, and as the horse you were so good
as give me would be of no use to me there, I write, in compliance with
my promise to offer him back to you if ever I wanted to part with
him, to say that he will be quite at your service after our next day’s
hunting, or before if you like, as I dare say the Major will mount me if
1 require it. He is a very nice horse, and I feel extremely obliged for
your very handsome intentions with regard to him, which, under other
circumstances, 1 should have been glad to accept. Circumstanced as I
am, however, he would be wasted upon me, and will be much better back in
your stud.

“I will, therefore, send him over on hearing from you; and you can
either put my I.O.U. in the fire, or enclose it to me by the Post.

“Again thanking you for your very generous offer, and hoping you are
having good sport, I beg to subscribe myself,

“Dear Sir Moses,

“Yours very truly,

“Wm. PRINGLE

“To Sir Moses Mainchance, Bart.,

“Pangburn Park.”

And having sealed it with the great seal of state, he handed it to
Rougier to give to the postman, without telling his host what he had
done.

The next post brought the following answer:—

“Many, very many thanks to you, my dear Pringle, for your kind
recollection of me with regard to the grey, which I assure you stamps
you in my opinion as a most accurate and excellent young man.—You are
quite right in your estimate of my opinion of the horse; indeed, if
I had not considered him something very far out of the common way, I
should not have put him into your hands; but knowing him to be as good
as he’s handsome, I had very great satisfaction in placing him with you,
as well on your own account as from your being the nephew of my old and
excellent friend and brother baronet, Sir Jonathan Pringle—to whom I beg
you to make my best regards when you write.

“Even were it not so, however, I should be precluded from accepting
your kind and considerate offer for only yesterday I sent Wetun into
Doubleimupshire, to bring home a horse I’ve bought of Tom Toweler, on
Paul Straddler’s recommendation, being, as I tell Paul, the last I’ll
ever buy on his judgment, unless he turns out a trump, as he has let me
in for some very bad ones.

“But, my dear Pringle, ain’t you doing yourself a positive injustice in
saying that you would have no use for the grey in town? Town, my dear
fellow, is the very place for a horse of that colour, figure, and
pretension; and a very few turns in the Park, with you on his back,
before that best of all pennyworths, the chair-sitting swells, might
land you in the highest ranks of the aristocracy—unless, indeed, you are
booked elsewhere, of which, perhaps, I have no business to inquire.

“I may, however, as a general hint, observe to the nephew of my
old friend, that the Hit-im and Hold-imshire Mammas don’t stand any
nonsense, so you will do well to be on your guard. No; take my advice,
my dear fellow, and ride that horse in town.—It will only be sending him
to Tat.’s if you tire of him there, and if it will in any way conduce
to your peace of mind, and get rid of any high-minded feeling of
obligation, you can hand me over whatever you get for him beyond the
£50 —And that reminds me, as life is uncertain, and it is well to do
everything regularly, I’ll send my agent, Mr. Mordecai Nathan, over
with your I.O.U., and you can give me a bill at your own date—say two or
three months—instead, and that will make vs all right and square, and, I
hope, help to maintain the truth of the old adage, that short reckonings
make long friends,—which I assure you is a very excellent one.

“And now, having exhausted both my paper and subject, I shall conclude
with repeating my due appreciation of your kind recollection of my
wishes; and with best remembrances to your host and hostess, not
forgetting their beautiful daughters, whom I hope to see in full feather
at the ball, I remain,

“My dear Pringle.

“Very truly and sincerely, yours,

“Moses Mainchance.

“To Wm. Pringle”

We need scarcely add that Mr. Mordecai Nathan followed quickly on the
heels of the letter, and that the I. 0. U. became a short-winded bill
of exchange, thus saddling our friend permanently with the gallant grey.
And when Major Yammerton heard the result, all the consolation Billy got
from him was, “I told you so,” meaning that he ought to have taken his
advice, and returned the horse as unsound.

With this episode about the horse, let us return to Pangburn Park.



CHAPTER LVII. THE ANTHONY THOM TRAP.

SIR Moses was so fussy about his clothes, sending to the laundry
for this shirt and that, censuring the fold of this cravat and that,
inquiring after his new hunting ties and best boots, that Mrs. Margerum
began to fear the buxom widow, Mrs. Vivian, was going to be at Lord
Repartee’s, and that she might be saddled with that direst of all
dread inflictions to an honest conscientious housekeeper, a teasing,
worreting, meddling mistress. That is a calamity which will be best
appreciated by the sisterhood, and those who watch how anxiously
“widowers and single gentlemen” places are advertised for in the
newspapers, by parties who frequently, not perhaps unaptly, describe
themselves as “thoroughly understanding their business.”

Sir Moses, indeed, carried out the deception well; for not only in the
matter of linen, but in that of clothes also, was he equally particular,
insisting upon having all his first-class daylight things brought out
from their winter quarters, and reviewing them himself as they lay on
the sofa, ere he suffered Mr. Bankhead to pack them.

At length they were sorted and passed into the capacious depths of
an ample brown leather portmanteau, and the key being duly turned and
transferred to the Baronet, the package itself was chucked into the
dog-cart in the unceremonious sort of way luggage is always chucked
about. The vehicle itself then came to the door, and Sir Moses having
delivered his last injunctions about the hounds and the horses, and the
line of coming to cover so as to avoid public-houses, he ascended
and touching the mare gently with the whip, trotted away amid the
hearty—“well shut of yous” of the household. Each then retired to his
or her private pursuits; some to drink, some to gamble, some to write
letters, Mrs. Margerum, of course, to pick up the perquisites. Sir
Moses, meanwhile, bowled away ostentatiously through the lodges,
stopping to talk to everybody he met, and saying he was going away for
the night.

Bonmot Park, the seat of Lord Repartee, stands about the junction of
Hit-im and Hold-imshire, with Featherbedfordshire. Indeed, his great
cover of Tewington Wood is neutral between the hunts, and the best way
to the park on wheels, especially in winter time, is through Hinton
and Westleak, which was the cause of Sir Moses hitting upon it for his
deception, inasmuch as he could drive into the Fox and Hounds Hotel;
and at Hinton, under pretence of baiting his mare without exciting
suspicion, and there make his arrangements for the night. Accordingly,
he took it very quietly after he got clear of his own premises, coveting
rather the shades of evening that he had suffered so much from before,
and as luck would have it by driving up Skinner Lane, instead of through
Nelson Street, he caught a back view of Paul Straddler, as for the
twenty-third time that worthy peeped through the panes of Mrs. Winship,
the straw-bonnet maker’s window in the market-place, at a pretty young
girl she had just got from Stownewton. Seeing his dread acquaintance
under such favourable circumstances, Sir Moses whipped Whimpering Kate
on, and nearly upset himself against the kerb-stone as he hurried up
the archway of the huge deserted house,—the mare’s ringing hoofs alone,
announcing his coming.

Ostler! Ostler! Ostler! cried he in every variety of tone, and at length
the crooked-legged individual filling that and other offices, came
hobbling and scratching his head to the summons. Sir Moses alighting
then, gave him the reins and whip; and wrapper in hand, proceeded to the
partially gas-lit door in the archway, to provide for himself while the
ostler looked after the mare.

Now, it so happened, that what with bottle ends and whole bottles,
and the occasional contributions of the generous, our friend Peter the
waiter was even more inebriated than he appears at page 263; and
the rumbling of gig-wheels up the yard only made him waddle into the
travellers’ room, to stir the fire and twist up a bit of paper to light
the gas, in case it was any of the despised brotherhood of the road.—He
thought very little of bagmen—Mr. Customer was the man for his money.
Now, he rather expected Mr. Silesia, Messrs. Buckram the clothiers’
representative, if not Mr. Jaconette, the draper’s also, about this
time; and meeting Sir Moses hurrying in top-coated and eravated with the
usual accompaniments of the road, he concluded it was one of them; so
capped him on to the commercial room with his dirty duster-holding hand.

“Get me a private room, Peter; get me a private room,” demanded the
Baronet, making for the bottom of the staircase away from the indicated
line of scent.

“Private room,” muttered Peter.

“Why, who is it?”

“Me! me!” exclaimed Sir Moses, thinking Peter would recognise him.

“Well, but whether are ye a tailor or a draper?” demanded Peter, not
feeling inclined to give way to the exclusiveness of either.

“Tailor or draper! you stupid old sinner—don’t you see it’s me—me Sir
Moses Mainchance?”

“Oh, Sir Moses, Sir, I beg your pardon, Sir,” stammered the now
apologising Peter, hurrying back towards the staircase. “I really begs
your pardon, Sir; but my eyes are beginning to fail me, Sir—not so good
as they were when Mr. Customer hunted the country.—Well Sir Moses, Sir,
I hope you’re well, Sir; and whether will you be in the Sun or the Moon?
You can have a fire lighted in either in a minute, only you see we don’t
keep fires constant no ways now, ‘cept in the commercial room.—Great
change, Sir Moses, Sir, since Mr. Customer hunted the country; yes, Sir,
great change—used to have fires in every room, Sir, and brandy and—”

“Well, but,” interrupted Sir Moses, “I can’t sit freezing up stairs till
the fire’s burnt up.—You go and get it lighted, and come to me in the
commercial-room and tell me when it’s ready; and here!” continued he, “I
want some dinner in an hour’s time, or so.”

“By all means, Sir Moses. What would you like to take, Sir Moses?” as if
there was everything at command.

Sir Moses—“Have you any soup?”

Peter—“Soup, Sir Moses. No, I don’t think there is any soup.”

Sir Moses—“Fish; have you any fish?”

Peter—“Why, no; I don’t think there’ll be any fish to-day, Sir Moses.”

Sir Moses—“What have you, then?”

Peter—(Twisting the dirty duster), “Mutton chops—beef steak—beef
steak—mutton chops—boiled fowl, p’raps you’d like to take?”

Sir Moses—“No. I shouldn’t (muttering, most likely got to be caught and
killed yet.) Tell the cook,” continued he, speaking up, “to make on
a wood and coal fire, and to do me a nice dish of mutton chops on the
gridiron; not in the frying-pan mind, all swimming in grease; and to
boil some mealy potatoes.”

Peter—“Yes, Sir Moses; and what would you like to have to follow?”

“Cheese!” said Sir Moses, thinking to cut short the inquiry.

“And hark’e.” continued Sir Moses: Don’t make a great man of me by
bringing out your old battered copper showing-dishes; but tell the
cook to send the chops up hot and hot, between good warm crockery-ware
plates, with ketchup or Harvey sauce for me to use as I like.”

“Yes, Sir Moses,” replied Peter, toddling off to deliver as much of the
order as he could remember.

And Sir Moses having thawed himself at the commercial-room fire, next
visited the stable to see that his mare had been made comfortable,
and told the ostler post-boy boots to be in the way, as he should
most likely want him to take him out in the fly towards night. As he
returned, he met Bessey Bannister, the pretty chambermaid, now in the
full glow of glossy hair and crinoline, whom he enlisted as purveyor
of the mutton into the Moon, in lieu of the antiquated Peter,
whose services he was too glad to dispense with.—It certainly is a
considerable aggravation of the miseries of a country inn to have to
undergo the familiarities of a dirty privileged old waiter.



435m


So thought Sir Moses, as he enjoyed each succeeding chop, and
complimented the fair maiden so on her agility and general appearance,
that she actually dreamt she was about to become Lady Mainchance.



CHAPTER LVIII. THE ANTHONY THOM TAKE.

SIR Moses Mainchance, having fortified himself against the night air
with a pint of club port, and a glass of pale brandy after his tea, at
length ordered out the inn fly, without naming its destination to his
fair messenger. These vehicles, now so generally scattered throughout
the country, are a great improvement on the old yellow post-chaise,
that made such a hole in a sovereign, and such a fuss in getting ready,
holloaing, “Fust pair out!” and so on, to give notice to a smock-frocked
old man to transform himself into a scarlet or blue jacketed post-boy by
pulling off his blouse, and who, after getting a leg-up and a ticket for
the first turnpike-gate, came jingling, and clattering, and cracking his
dog-whip round to the inn door, attracting all the idlers and children
to the spot, to see who was going to get into the “chay.” The fly
rumbles quietly round without noise or pretension, exciting no curiosity
in any one’s mind; for it is as often out as in, and may only be going
to the next street, or to Woodbine Lodge, or Balsam Bower, on
the outskirts of the town, or for an hour’s airing along the
Featherbedfordshire or the old London road. It does not even admit of a
pull of the hair as a hint to remember the ostler as he stands staring
in at the window, the consequence of which is, that the driver is
generally left to open the door for his passenger himself. Confound
those old iniquities of travelling!—a man used never to have his hand
out of his pocket. Let not the rising generation resuscitate the
evil, by contravening the salutary regulation of not paying people on
railways.

Sir Moses hearing the sound of wheels, put on his wraps; and, rug in
hand, proceeded quietly down stairs, accompanied only by the fair Bessy
Bannister, instead of a flight of dirty waiters, holloaing “Coming down!
coming down! now then! look sharp!” and so on.

The night was dark, but the ample cab-lamps threw a gleam over the drab
and red lined door that George Beer the driver held back in his hand to
let his customer in.

“Good night, my dear,” said Sir Moses, now slyly squeezing Miss
Bannister’s hand, wondering why people hadn’t nice clean quiet-stepping
women to wait upon them, instead of stuck-up men, who thought to
teach their masters what was right, who wouldn’t let them have their
plate-warmers in the room, or arrange their tables according to
their own desires.—With these and similar reflections he then dived
head-foremost into the yawning abyss of a vehicle. “Bang” went the door,
and Beer then touched the side of his hat for instructions where to go
to.

“Let me see,” said Sir Moses, adjusting his rug, as if he hadn’t quite
made up his mind. “Let me see—oh, ah! drive me northwards, and I’ll tell
you further when we stop at the Slopewell turnpike-gate:” so saying Sir
Moses drew up the gingling window, Beer mounted the box, and away the
old perpetual-motion horse went nodding and knuckling over the uneven
cobble-stone pavement, varying the motion with an occasional bump and
jump at the open channels of the streets. Presently a smooth glide
announced the commencement of Macadam, and shortly after the last
gas-lamp left the road to darkness and to them. All was starlight and
serene, save where a strip of newly laid gravel grated against the
wheels, or the driver objurgated a refractory carter for not getting
out of his way. Thus they proceeded at a good, steady, plodding sort
of pace, never relaxing into a walk, but never making any very vehement
trot.

At the Slopewell gate Sir Moses told Beer to take a ticket for the
Winterton Burn one; arrived at which, he said, “Now go on and stop at
the stile leading into the plantation, about half a mile on this side of
my lodges,” adding, “I’ll walk across the park from there;” in obedience
to which the driver again plied his whip along the old horse’s ribs,
and in due time the vehicle drew up at the footpath along-side the
plantation.—The door then opened, Sir Moses alighted and stood waiting
while the man turned his fly round and drove off, in order to establish
his night eyes ere he attempted the somewhat intricate passage through
the plantation to his house.

The night, though dark, was a good deal lighter than it appeared among
the gloom of the houses and the glare of the gaslights at Hinton; and if
he was only well through the plantation, Sir Moses thought he should
not have much difficulty with the rest of the way. So conning the matter
over in his mind, thinking whereabouts the boards over the ditch were,
where the big oak stood near which the path led to the left, he got over
the stile, and dived boldly into the wood.

The Baronet made a successful progress, and emerged upon the open space
of Coldnose, just as the night breeze spread the twelve o’clock notes of
his stable clock through the frosty air, upon the quiet country.

“All right,” said he to himself, sounding his repeater to ascertain the
hour, as he followed the tortuous track of the footpath, through cowslip
pasture, over the fallow and along the side of the turnip field; he then
came to the turn from whence in daylight the first view of the house is
obtained.

A faint light glimmered in the distance, about where he thought the
house would be situate.

“Do believe that’s her room,” said Sir Moses, stopping and looking at
the light. “Do believe that’s her signal for beloved Anthony Thom. If I
catch the young scoundrel,” continued he, hurrying on, “I’ll—I’ll—I’ll
break every bone in his skin.” With this determination, Sir Moses put on
as fast as the now darker lower ground would allow, due regard being had
to not missing his way.

At length he came to the cattle hurdles that separated the east side of
the park from the house, climbing over which he was presently among the
dark yews and hollies, and box-bushes of the shrubbery. He then paused
to reconnoitre.—The light was still there.—If it wasn’t Mrs. Margerum’s
room, it was very near it; but he thought it was hers by the angle of
the building and the chimneys at the end. What should he do?—Throw a
pebble at the window and try to get her to lower what she had, or wait
and see if he could take Anthony Thom, cargo and all? The night was
cold, but not sufficiently so, he thought, to stop the young gentleman
from coming, especially if he had his red worsted comforter on; and as
Sir Moses threw his rug over his own shoulders, he thought he would go
for the great haul, at all events; especially as he felt he could not
converse with Mrs. Margerum à la Anthony Thom, should she desire to have
a little interchange of sentiment. With this determination he gathered
his rug around him, and proceeded to pace a piece of open ground among
the evergreens, like the Captain of a ship walking the quarter-deck,
thinking now of his money, now of his horses, now of Miss Bannister, and
now of the next week’s meets of his hounds.—He had not got half through
his current of ideas when a footstep sounded upon the gravel-walk; and,
pausing in his career, Sir Moses distinctly recognised the light patter
of some one coming towards him. He down to charge like a pointer to his
game, and as the sound ceased before the light-showing window, Sir
Moses crept stealthily round among the bushes, and hid behind a thick
ground-sweeping yew, just as a rattle of peas broke upon the panes.

The sash then rose gently, and Sir Moses participated in the following
conversation:—

Mrs. Margerum (from above)—“O, my own dearly beloved Anthony Thom, is
that you, darling! But don’t, dear, throw such big ‘andfulls, or you’ll
be bricking the winder.”

Master Anthony Thom (from below)—“No, mother; only I thought you might
be asleep.”

Mrs. Margerum—“Sleep, darling, and you coming! I never sleep when my own
dear Anthony Thom is coming! Bless your noble heart! I’ve been watching
for you this—I don’t know how long.”

Master Anthony Thom—“Couldn’t get Peter Bateman’s cuddy to come on.”

Mrs. Margerum—“And has my Anthony Thom walked all the way?”

Master Anthony Thom—“No; I got a cast in Jackey Lishman the
chimbley-sweep’s car as far as Burnfoot Bridge. I’ve walked from there.”

Mrs. Margerum—“Bless his sweet heart! And had he his worsted comforter
on?”

Master Anthony Thom—“Yes; goloshes and all.”

Mrs. Margerum—“Ah, goloshes are capital things. They keep the feet,
warm, and prevent your footsteps from being heard. And has my Anthony
Thom got the letter I wrote to him at the Sun in the Sands?”

Master Anthony Thom—“No, never heard nothin’ of it.”

Mrs. Margerum—“No! Why what can ha’ got it?”

Master Anthony Thom—“Don’t know.—Makes no odds.—I got the things all the
same.”

Mrs. Margerum—“O, but my own dear Anthony Thom, but it does. Mr. Gerge
Gallon says it’s very foolish for people to write anything if they can
‘elp it—they should always send messages by word of mouth. Mr. Gallon is
a man of great intellect, and I’m sure what he says is right, and I wish
I had it back.”

Master Anthony Thom—“O, it’ll cast up some day, I’ll be bound.—It’s of
no use to nobody else.”

Mrs. Margerum—“I hope so, my dear. But it is not pleasant to think other
folks may read what was only meant for my own Anthony Thom. However,
it’s no use crying over spilt milk, and we must manish better another
time. So now look out, my beloved, and I’ll lower what I have.”

So saying, a grating of cord against the window-sill announced a
descent, and Master Anthony Thom, grasping the load, presently cried,
“All right!”

Mrs. Margerum,—“It’s not too heavy for you, is it, dear?” Master Anthony
Thom (hugging the package)—“O, no; I can manish it. When shall I come
again, then, mother?” asked he, preparing to be off.

Mrs. Margerum—“Oh, bless your sweet voice, my beloved. When shall you
come again, indeed? I wish I could say very soon; but, dearest, it’s
hardly safe, these nasty pollis fellers are always about, besides which,
I question if old Nosey may be away again before the ball; and as he’ll
be all on the screw for a while, to make up for past expense, I question
it will be worth coming before then. So, my own dear Anthony Thom,
s’pose we say the ball night, dear, about this time o’ night, and get
a donkey to come on as far as the gates, if you can, for I dread the
fatigue; and if you could get a pair of panniers, so much the better,
you’d ride easier, and carry your things better, and might have a few
fire-bricks or hearth-stones to put at the top, to pretend you were
selling them, in case you were stopped—which, however, I hope won’t be
the case, my own dear; but you can’t be too careful, for it’s a sad,
sinful world, and people don’t care what they say of their neighbours.
So now, my own dearest Anthony Thom, good night, and draw your worsted
comforter close round your throat, for colds are the cause of half our
complaints, and the night air is always to be dreaded; and take care
that you don’t overheat yourself, but get a lift as soon as you can,
only mind who it is with, and don’t say you’ve been here, and be back
on the ball night. So good night, my own dearest Anthony Thom, and take
care of yourself whatever you do, for——”

“Good night, mother,” now interrupted Anthony Thom, adjusting the bundle
under his arm, and with repeated “Good night, my own dearest,” from
her, he gave it a finishing jerk, and turning round, set off on his way
rejoicing.

Sir Moses was too good a sportsman to holloa before his game was clear
of the cover; and he not only let Anthony Thom’s footsteps die out on
the gravel-walk, but the sash of Mrs. Margerum’s window descend ere
he withdrew from his hiding-place and set off in pursuit. He then went
tip-toeing along after him, and was soon within hearing of the heavily
laden lad.

“Anthony Thom, my dear! Anthony Thom,” whispered he, coming hastily upon
him as he now turned the corner of the house.

Anthony Thom stopped, and trembling violently exclaimed, “O Mr. Callon.
is it you?”

“Yes, my dear, it’s me,” replied Sir Moses, adding, “you’ve got a great
parcel, my dear; let me carry it for you,” taking it from him as he
spoke.



441m


“Shriek! shriek! scream!” now went the terrified Thom, seeing into whose
hands he had fallen. “O you dom’d young rascal,” exclaimed Sir Moses,
muffling him with his wrapper,—“I’ll draw and quarter you if you make
any noise. Come this way, you young miscreant!” added he, seizing him by
the worsted comforter and dragging him along past the front of the house
to the private door in the wall, through which Sir Moses disappeared
when he wanted to evade Mon s. Rougier’s requirements for his
steeple-chase money.

That passed, they were in the stable-yard, now silent save the
occasional stamp of the foot or roll of the halter of some horse that
had not yet lain down. Sir Moses dragged his victim to the door in
the corner leading to the whipper-in’s bedroom, which, being open, he
proceeded to grope his way up stairs. “Harry! Joe! Joe! Harry!” holloaed
he, kicking at the door.

Now, Harry was away, but Joe was in bed; indeed he was having a hunt in
his sleep, and exclaimed as the door at length yielded to the pressure
of Sir Moses’ foot. “‘Od rot it! Don’t ride so near the hounds, man!”

“Joe!” repeated Sir Moses, making up to the corner from whence the sound
proceeded. “Joe! Joe!” roared he still louder.

“O, I beg your pardon! I’ll open the gate!” exclaimed Joe, now throwing
off the bed-clothes and bounding vigorously on to the floor.

“Holloa!” exclaimed he, awaking and rubbing his eyes. “Holloa! who’s
there?”

“Me,” said Sir Moses, “me,”—adding: “Don’t make a row, but strike a
light as quick as you can; I’ve got a bag fox I want to show you.”

“Bag fox, have you?” replied Joe, now recognising his master’s voice,
making for the mantel-piece and feeling for the box. “Bag fox, have you?
Dreamt we were in the middle of a run from Ripley Coppice, and that I
couldn’t get old Crusader over the brook at no price.” He then hit upon
the box, and with a scrape of a lucifer the room was illuminated.

Having lit a mould candle that stood stuck in the usual pint-bottle
neck, Joe came with it in his hand to receive the instructions of his
master.

“Here’s a dom’d young scoundrel I’ve caught lurking about the house,”
 said Sir Moses, pushing Anthony Thom towards him “and I want you to give
him a good hiding.”

“Certainly, Sir Moses; certainly,” replied Joe, taking Anthony Thom by
the ear as he would a hound, and looking him over amid the whining and
whimpering and beggings for mercy of the boy.

“Why this is the young rascal that stole my Sunday shirt off Mrs.
Saunders’s hedge!” exclaimed Joe, getting a glimpse of Anthony Thom’s
clayey complexioned face.

“No, it’s not,” whined the boy. “No, it’s not. I never did nothin’ o’
the sort.”

“Nothin’ o’ the sort!” retorted Joe, “why there ain’t two hugly
boys with hare lips a runnin’ about the country,” pulling down the
red-worsted comforter, and exposing the deformity as he spoke.

“It’s you all over,” continued he, seizing a spare stirrup leather,
and proceeding to administer the buckle-end most lustily. Anthony Thom
shrieked and screamed, and yelled and kicked, and tried to bite; but Joe
was an able practitioner, and Thom could never get a turn at him.

Having finished one side, Joe then turned him over, and gave him a
duplicate beating on the other side.

“There! that’ll do: kick him down stairs!” at length cried Sir Moses,
thinking Joe had given him enough; and as the boy went bounding head
foremost down, he dropped into his mother’s arms, who, hearing his
screams, had come to the rescue.

Joe and his master then opened the budget and found the following
goods:—

2 lb. of tea, 1 bar of brown soap in a dirty cotton night-cap, marked C.
F.; doubtless, as Sir Moses said, one of Cuddy Flintoff’s.

“Dom all such dripping,” said Sir Moses, as he desired Joe to carry the
things to the house. “No wonder that I drank a great deal of tea,” added
he, as Joe gathered them together.

“Who the deuce would keep house that could help it?” muttered Sir Moses,
proceeding on his way to the mansion, thinking what a trouncing he would
give Mrs. Margerum ere he turned her out of doors.

1 lb. of coffee

3 lb. of brown sugar

3 lb. of starch

1 lb. of currants

1 lb. of rushlights

1 roll of cocoa

2 oz. of nutmegs

1 lb. of mustard

1 bar of pale soap

1 lb. of orange peel

1 bottle of capers

1 quail of split pras



CHAPTER LIX. ANOTHER COUNCIL OF WAR.—MR. GALLON AT HOME.

MRS. Margerum having soothed and pressed her beautiful boy to her bosom,
ran into the house, and hurrying on the everlasting pheasant-feather
bonnet in which she was first introduced to the reader, and a faded red
and green tartan cloak hanging under it, emerged at the front door just
as Sir Moses and Joe entered at the back one, vowing that she would have
redress if it cost her a fi’ pun note. Clutching dear Anthony Thom by
the waist, she made the best of her way down the evergreen walk, and
skirting the gardens, got upon the road near the keeper’s lodge. “Come
along, my own dear Anthony Thom,” cried she, helping him along, “let us
leave this horrid wicked hole.—Oh, dear! I wish I’d never set foot
in it; but I’ll not have my Anthony Thom chastised by any nasty old
clothesman—no, that I won’t, if it cost me a fifty pun note”—continued
she, burning for vengeance. But Anthony Thom had been chastised
notwithstanding, so well, indeed, that he could hardly hobble—seeing
which, Mrs. Margerum halted, and again pressing him to her bosom,
exclaimed, “Oh, my beloved Anthony Thom can’t travel; I’ll take him and
leave him at Mr. Hindmarch’s, while I go and consult Mr. Gallon.”—So
saying, she suddenly changed her course, and crossing Rye-hill green,
and the ten-acre field adjoining, was presently undergoing the wow-wow
wow-wow of the farmer lawyer’o dog, Towler. The lawyer, ever anxious for
his poultry, was roused by the noise; and after a rattle of bolts, and
sliding of a sash, presented his cotton night-capped head at an upper
window, demanding in a stentorian voice “who was there?”

“Me! Mr. Hindmarch, me! Mrs. Margerum; for pity’s sake take us in, for
my poor dear boy’s been most shemfully beat.”

“Beat, has he!” exclaimed the lawyer, recognising the voice, his ready
wit jumping to an immediate conclusion; “beat, has he!” repeated he,
withdrawing from the window to fulfil her behest, adding to himself as
he struck a light and descended the staircase, “that’ll ha’ summut to do
with the dripping, I guess—always thought it would come to mischief at
last.” The rickety door being unbolted and opened, Mrs. Margerum and
her boy entered, and Mrs. Hindmarch having also risen and descended,
the embers of the kitchen fire were resuscitated, and Anthony Thom was
examined by the united aid of a tallow candle and it. “Oh, see! see!”
 cried Mrs. Margerum, pointing out the wales on his back,—“was there
ever a boy so shemfully beat? But I’ll have revenge on that villainous
man,—that I will, if it cost me a hundred pun note.”—The marks seen,
soothed, and deplored, Mr. Hindmarch began inquiring who had done
it. “Done it! that nasty old Nosey,” replied Mrs. Margerum, her eyes
flashing with fire; “but I’ll make the mean feller pay for it,” added
she,—“that I will.”

“No, it wasn’t old No-No-Nosey, mo-mo-mother,” now sobbed Anthony Thom,
“it was that nasty Joe Ski-Ski-Skinner.”

“Skinner, was it, my priceless jewel,” replied Mrs. Margerum, kissing
him, “I’ll skin him; but Nosey was there, wasn’t he, my pet?”

“O, yes, Nosey was there,” replied Anthony Thom, “it was him that took
me to Ski-Ski-Skinner”—the boy bursting out into a fresh blubber, and
rubbing his dirty knuckles into his streaming eyes as he spoke.

“O that Skinner’s a bad un,” gasped Mrs. Margerum, “always said he was
a mischievous, dangerous man; but I’ll have satisfaction of both him and
old Nosey,” continued she, “or I’ll know the reason why.”

The particulars of the catastrophe being at length related (at least as
far as it suited Mrs. Margerum to tell it), the kettle was presently put
on the renewed fire, a round table produced, and the usual consolation
of the black bottle resorted to. Then as the party sat sipping their
grog, a council of war was held as to the best course of proceeding.
Lawyer Hindmarch was better versed in the law of landlord and tenant—the
best way of a tenant doing his landlord,—than in the more recondite
doctrine of master and servant, particularly the delicate part relating
to perquisites; and though he thought Sir Moses had done wrong in
beating the boy, he was not quite sure but there might be something
in the boy being found about the house at an unseasonable hour of the
night. Moreover, as farming times were getting dull, and the lawyer
was meditating a slope à la Henerey Brown & Co.? he did not wish to get
mixed up in a case that might bring him in collision with Sir Moses or
his agent, so he readily adopted Mrs. Margerum’s suggestion of going
to consult Mr. George Gallon. He really thought Mr. Gallon would be the
very man for her to see. Geordey was up to everything, and knew
nicely what people could stand by, and what they could not; and lawyer
Hindmarch was only sorry his old grey gig-mare was lame, or he would
have driven her up to George’s at once. However, there was plenty of
time to get there on foot before morning, and they would take care of
Anthony Thom till she came back, only she must be good enough not to
return till nightfall; for that nasty suspicious Nathan was always
prowling about, and would like nothing better than to get him into
mischief with Sir Moses.—And that point being settled, they replenished
their glasses, and drank success to the mission; and having seen the
belaboured Anthony Thom safe in a shakedown, Mrs. Margerum borrowed Mrs.
Hindmarch’s second best bonnet, a frilled and beaded black velvet one
with an ostrich feather, and her polka jacket, and set off on foot for
the Rose and Crown beer-shop, being escorted to their door by her host
and hostess, who assured her it wouldn’t be so dark when she got away
from the house a bit.

And that point being accomplished, lawyer and Mrs. Hindmarch retired to
rest, wishing they were as well rid of Anthony Thom, whom they made no
doubt had got into a sad scrape, in which they wished they mightn’t be
involved.

A sluggish winter’s day was just dragging its lazy self into existence
as Mrs. Margerum came within sight of Mr. Gallon’s red-topped roof at
the four lane ends, from whose dumpy chimney the circling curl of a
wood fire was just emerging upon the pure air. As she got nearer,
the early-stirring Mr. Gallon himself crossed the road to the stable,
attired in the baggy velveteen shooting-jacket of low with the white
cords and shining pork-butcher’s top-boots of high life. Mr. Gallon was
going to feed Tippy Tom before setting off for the great open champion
coursing meeting to be held on Spankerley Downs, “by the kind permission
of Sir Harry Fuzball, Baronet,” it being one of the peculiar features of
the day that gentlemen who object to having their game killed in detail,
will submit to its going wholesale, provided it is done with a suitable
panegyrick. “By the kind permission of Sir Harry Fuzball, Baronet,” or
“by leave of the lord of the manor of Flatshire,” and so on; and thus
every idler who can’t keep himself is encouraged to keep a greyhound,
to the detriment of a nice lady-like amusement, and the encouragement of
gambling and poaching.

Mr. Gallon was to be field steward of this great open champion meeting,
and had been up betimes, polishing off Tippy Tom; which having done,
he next paid a similar compliment to his own person; and now again was
going to feed the flash high-stepping screw, ere he commenced with his
breakfast.

Mrs. Margerum’s “hie Mr. Gallon, hie!” and up-raised hand, as she
hurried down the hill towards his house, arrested his progress as he
passed to the stable with the sieve, and he now stood biting the oats,
and eyeing her approach with the foreboding of mischief that so seldom
deceives one.

“O Mr. Gallon! O Mr. Gallon!” cried Mrs. Margerum, tottering up, and
dropping her feathered head on his brawny shoulder.

“What’s oop? What’s oop?” eagerly demanded our sportsman, fearing for
his fair character.

“O Mr. Gallon! such mischief! such mischief!”

“Speak, woman! speak!” demanded our publican; “say, has he cotched ye?”

“Yes, Gerge, yes,” sobbed Mrs. Margerum, bursting into tears. “To devil
he has!” exclaimed Mr. Gallon, stamping furiously with his right foot,
“Coom into it hoose, woman; coom into it boose, and tell us’arl aboot
it.” So saying, forgetting Tippy Toni’s wants, he retraced his steps
with the corn, and flung frantically into the kitchen of his little
two-roomed cottage.

“Here, lassie!” cried he, to a little girl, who was frying a dish of
bubble-and-squeak at the fire. “Here, lassie, set doon it pan loike,
aud tak this corn to it huss, and stand by while it eats it so saying he
handed her the sieve, and following her to the door, closed it upon her.

“Noo,” said he to Mrs. Margerum, “sit doon and tell us arl aboot it. Who
cotched ye? Nosey, or who?”

“0 it wasn’t me! It was Anthony Thom they caught, and they used him most
shemful; but I’ll have him tried for his life ofore my Lord Size, and
transported, if it costs me all I’m worth in the world.”

“Anthony Thom was it?” rejoined Mr. Gallon, raising his great eye-brows,
and staring wide his saucer eyes, “Anthony Thom was it? but he’d ha’
nothin’ upon oi ‘ope?”

“Nothin’, Gerge,” replied Mrs. Margerum, “nothin’—less now it might just
appen to be an old rag of a night-eap of that nasty, covetous body Cuddy
Flintoff; but whether it had a mark upon it or not I really can’t say.”

“O dear, but that’s a bad job,” rejoined Mr. Gallon, biting his lips and
shaking his great bull-head; “O dear, but that’s a bad job. you know I
always chairged ye to be careful ‘boot unlawful goods.”

“You did, Gerge! you did!” sighed Mrs. Margerum; “and if this old rag
had a mark, it was a clear oversight. But, O dear!” continued she,
bursting into tears, “how they did beat my Anthony Thom!” With this
relief she became more composed, and proceeded to disclose all the
particulars.

“Ah, this ‘ill be a trick of those nasty pollis fellers,” observed Mr.
Gallon thoughtfully, “oi know’d they’d be the ruin o’ trade as soon as
ever they came into it country loike—nasty pokin’, pryin’, mischievous
fellers. Hoosomiver it mun be seen to, aud that quickly,” continued he.
“for it would damage me desp’rate on the Torf to have ony disturbance o’
this sorrt, and we mun stop it if we can.

“Here, lassie!” cried he to the little girl who had now returned from
the stable, “lay cloth i’ next room foike, and then finish the fryin’;
and oi’ll tell ve what,” continued he, laying his huge hand on Mrs.
Margerum’s shoulder, “oi’ve got to go to it champion cooursin’
meetin’, so I’ll just put it hus into harness and droive ye round by it
Bird-i’-the-Bush, where we’ll find Carroty Kebbel, who’ll tell us what
te do, for oi don’t like the noight-cap business some hoo,” so saying
Mr. Gallon took his silver plated harness down from its peg in the
kitchen, and proceeded to caparison Tippy Tom, while the little girl,
now assisted by Mrs. Margerum, prepared the breakfast, and set it on
the table. Rather a sumptuous repast they had, considering it was only
a way-side beer-shop; bubble-and-squeak, reindeer-tongue, potted game,
potted shrimps, and tea strikingly like some of Sir Moses’s. The whole
being surmounted with a glass a-piece of pure British gin, Mr. Gallon
finished his toilette, and then left to put the high-stepping screw into
the light spring-cart, while Mrs. Margerum reviewed her visage in the
glass, and as the openworks clock in the kitchen struck nine, they were
dashing down the Heatherbell-road at the rate of twelve miles an hour.



CHAPTER LX. MR. CARROTY KEBBEL.

MR. Carroty Kebbel was a huge red-haired, Crimean-bearded, peripatetic
attorney, who travelled from petty sessions to petty sessions, spending
his intermediate time at the public houses, ferreting out and getting up
cases. He was a roistering ruffian, who contradicted everybody, denied
everything, and tried to get rid of what he couldn’t answer with a
horse-laugh. He was in good practice, for he allowed the police a
liberal per-centage for bringing him prosecutions, while his bellowing
bullying insured him plenty of defences on his own account. He was
retained by half the ragamuffins in the country. He had long been what
Mr. Gallon not inaptly called his “liar,” and had done him such good
service as to earn free quarters at the Rose and Crown whenever he liked
to call. He had been there only the day before, in the matter of an
alibi he was getting up for our old hare-finding friend Springer,
who was most unhandsomely accused of night-poaching in Lord Oilcake’s
preserves, and that was how Mr. Gallon knew where to find him. The
Crumpletin railway had opened out a fine consecutive line of petty
sessions, out of which Carrots had carved a “home circuit” of his own.
He was then on his return tour.

With the sprightly exertions of Tippy Tom, Gallon and Mrs. Margerum were
soon within sight of the Bird-in-the-Bush Inn, at which Gallon drew up
with a dash. Carrots, however, had left some half-hour before, taking
the road for Farningford, where the petty sessions were about to be
held; and though this was somewhat out of Gallon’s way to Spankerley
Downs, yet the urgency of the case determined him to press on in
pursuit, and try to see Carrots. Tippy Tom, still full of running, went
away again like a shot, and bowling through Kimberley toll-bar with the
air of a man who was free, Gallon struck down the Roughfield road to the
left, availing himself of the slight fall of the ground to make the cart
run away with the horse, as it were, and so help him up the opposing
hill. That risen, they then got upon level ground; and, after bowling
along for about a mile or so, were presently cheered with the sight of
the black wide-awake crowned lawyer striding away in the distance.

Carrots was a disciple of the great Sir Charles Napier, who said that a
change of linen, a bit of soap, and a comb were kit enough for any one;
and being only a two-shirts-a-week man, he generally left his “other”
 one at such locality as he was likely to reach about the middle of it,
so as to apportion the work equally between them. This was clean-shirt
day with him, and he was displaying his linen in the ostentatious way
of a man little accustomed to the luxury. With the exception of a
lavender-and-white coloured watch-ribbon tie, he was dressed in a
complete suit of black-grounded tweed, with the purple dots of an
incipient rash, the coat having capacious outside pockets, and the
trousers being now turned np at the bottoms to avoid the mud; “showing”
 rhinoceros hide-like shoes covering most formidable-looking feet. Such
was the monster who was now swinging along the highway at the rate of
five miles an hour, in the full vigour of manhood, and the pride of the
morning. At the sight of him in advance, Mr. Gallon just touched Tippy
Tom with the point of the whip, which the animal resented with a dash at
the collar and a shake of the head, that as good as said, “You’d better
not do that again, master, unless you wish to take your vehicle home in
a sack.” Mr. Gallon therefore refrained, enlisting the aid of his
voice instead, and after a series of those slangey-whiney yaah-hoo!
yaah-hoo’s! that the swell-stage-coachmen, as they called the Snobs,
used to indulge in to clear the road or attract attention, Mr. Gallon
broke out into a good downright “Holloa, Mr. Kebbel! Holloa!”

At the sound of his name, Carrots, who was spouting his usual
exculpatory speech, vowing he felt certain no bench of Justices would
convict on such evidence, and so on, pulled up; and Mr. Gallon, waving
his whip over his head, he faced about, and sat down on a milestone to
wait his coming. The vehicle was presently alongside of him.

“Holloa, George!” exclaimed Carrots, rising and shaking hands with his
client. “Holloa! What’s up? Who’s this you’ve got?” looking intently at
Mrs. Margerum.

“I’ll tell you,” said George, easing the now quivering-tailed Tippy
Tom’s head; “this is Mrs. Margerum you’ve heard me speak ‘boot; and
she’s loike to get into a little trooble loike; and I tell’d her she’d
best see a ‘liar’ as soon as she could.”

“Just so,” nodded Kebbel, anticipating what had happened. “You see,”
 continued Mr. Gallon, winding his whip thong round the stick as he spoke
“in packing up some little bit things in a hurry loike, she put up a
noight cap, and she’s not quoite sure whether she can stand by it or
not, ye know.”

“I see,” assented Carrots; “and they’ve got it, I ‘spose?”

“I don’t know that they got it,” now interposed Mrs. Margerum; “but they
got my Anthony Thom, and beat him most shameful. Can’t I have redress
for my Anthony Thom?”

“We’ll see,” said Carrots, resuming his seat on the milestone, and
proceeding to elicit all particulars, beginning with the usual important
inquiry, whether Anthony Thom had said anything or not. Finding he had
not, Carrots took courage, and seemed inclined to make light of the
matter. “The groceries you bought, of course,” said he, “of Roger
Rounding the basket-man—Roger will swear anything for me; and as for
the night-cap, why say it was your aunt’s, or your niece’s, or your
sister’s—Caroline Somebody’s—Caroline Frazer’s, Charlotte Friar’s,
anybody’s whose initials are C. F.”

“O! but it wasn’t a woman’s night-cap, sir, it was a man’s; the sort of
cap they hang folks in; and I should like to hang Old Mosey for beating
my Anthony Thom,” rejoined Mrs. Margerum.

“I’m afraid we can’t hang him for that,” replied Mr. Kebbel, laughing.
“Might have him up for the assault, perhaps.”

“Well, have him up for the assault,” rejoined Mrs. Margerum; “have him
up for the assault. What business had he to beat my Anthony Thom?”

“Get him fined a shilling, and have to pay your own costs, perhaps,”
 observed Mr. Kebbel; “better leave that alone, and stick to the parcel
business—better stick to the parcel business. There are salient points
in the case. The hour of the night is an awkward part,” continued
he, biting his nails; “not but that the thing is perfectly capable of
explanation, only the Beaks don’t like that sort of work, it won’t do
for us to provoke an inquiry into the matter.”

“Just so,” assented Mr. Gallon, who thought Mrs. Margerum had better be
quiet.

“Well, but it’s hard that my Anthony Thom’s to be beat, and get no
redress!” exclaimed Mrs. Margerum, bursting into tears.

“Hush, woman! hush!” muttered Mr. Gallon, giving her a dig in the ribs
with his elbow; adding, “ye mun de what it liar tells ye.”

“I’ll tell you what I can do,” continued Mr. Kebbel, after a pause.
“They’ve got my old friend Mark Bull, the ex-Double-im-up-shire Super,
into this force, and think him a great card. I’ll get him to go to Sir
Moses about the matter; and if Mark finds we are all right about the
cap, he’s the very man to put Mosey up to a prosecution, and then we
shall make a rare harvest out of him,” Carrots rubbing his hands with
glee at the idea of an action for a malicious prosecution.

“Ay, that’ll be the gam,” said Mr. Gallon, chuckling,—“that’ll be the
gam; far better nor havin’ of him oop for the ‘sult.”

“I think so,” said Mr. Kebbel, “1 think so; at all events I’ll consider
the matter; and if I send Mark to Sir Moses, I’ll tell him to come round
by your place and let you know what he does; but, in the meantime,”
 continued Kebbel, rising and addressing Mrs. Margerum earnestly, “don’t
you answer any questions to anybody, and tell Anthony Thom to hold his
tongue too, and I’ve no doubt Mr. Gallon and I’ll make it all right;”
 so saying, Mr. Kebbel shook hands with them both, and stalked on to his
petty-sessional practice.

Gallon then coaxed Tippy Turn round, and, retracing his steps as far as
Kimberley gate, paid the toll, and shot Mrs. Margerum out, telling her
to make the best of her way back to the Rose and Crown, and stay there
till he returned. Gallon then took the road to the right, leading on to
the wide-extending Spankerley Downs; where, unharnessing Tippy Tom under
lea of a secluded plantation, he produced a saddle and bridle from the
back of the cart, which, putting on, he mounted the high-stepping white,
and was presently among the coursers, the greatest man at the meeting,
some of the yokels, indeed, taking him for Sir Harry Fuzball himself.

But when Mr. Mark Bull arrived at Sir Moses’s, things had taken another
turn, for the Baronet, in breaking open what he thought was one of Mrs.
Margerum’s boxes, had in reality got into Mr. Bankhead’s, where, finding
his ticket of leave, he was availing himself of that worthy’s absence to
look over the plate prior to dismissing him, and Sir Moses made so light
of Anthony Thom’s adventure that the Super had his trouble for nothing.
Thus the heads of the house—the Mr. and Mrs. in fact, were cleared
out in one and the same day, by no means an unusual occurrence in an
establishment, after which of course Sir Moses was so inundated with
stories against them, that he almost resolved to imitate his great
predecessor’s example and live at the Fox and Hounds Hotel at Hinton in
future. To this place his mind was now more than ordinarily directed
in consequence of the arrangements that were then making for the
approaching Hunt Ball, to which long looked-for festival we will now
request the company of the reader.



CHAPTER LXI. THE HUNT BALL.—MISS DE GLANCEY’S REFLECTIONS.



452m


THE Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt balls had long been celebrated for
their matrimonial properties, as well for settling ripe flirtations, as
for bringing to a close the billing and cooing of un-productive love,
and opening fresh accounts with the popular firm of “Cupid and Co.” They
were the greenest spot on the memory’s waste of many, on the minds of
some whose recollections carried them back to the romping, vigorous Sir
Roger de Coverley dances of Mr. Customer’s time,—of many who remembered
the more stately glide of the elegant quadrille of Lord Martingal’s
reign, down to the introduction of the once scandalising waltz and polka
of our own. Many “Ask Mamma’s” had been elicited by these balls, and
good luck was said to attend all their unions.

Great had been the changes in the manners and customs of the country,
but the one dominant plain gold ring idea remained fixed and immutable.
The Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt ball was expected to furnish a great
demand for these, and Garnet the silversmith always exhibited an elegant
white satin-lined morocco case full in his window, in juxtaposition
with rows of the bright dress-buttons of the hunt, glittering on beds of
delicate rose-tinted tissue paper.

All the milliners far and wide used to advertise their London and
Parisian finery for the occasion, like our friend Mrs. Bobbinette,—for
the railway had broken through the once comfortable monopoly that Mrs.
Russelton and the Hinton ones formerly enjoyed, and had thrown crinoline
providing upon the country at large. Indeed, the railway had deranged
the old order of things; for whereas in former times a Doubleimnpshire
or a Neck-and-Crop shire sportsman was rarely to be seen at the
balls, aud those most likely under pressure of most urgent “Ask Mamma”
 circumstances, now they came swarming down like swallows, consuming a
most unreasonable quantity of Champagne—always, of course, returning and
declaring it was all “gusberry.” Formerly the ball was given out of
the Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt funds; but this unwonted accession
so increased the expense, that Sir Moses couldn’t stand it, dom’d of he
could; and he caused a rule to be passed, declaring that after a
certain sum allowed by the club, the rest should be paid by a tax on the
tickets, so that the guest-inviting members might pay for their friends.
In addition to this, a sliding-seale of Champagne was adopted, beginning
with good, and gradually relaxing in quality, until there is no saying
but that some of the late sitters might get a little gooseberry. Being,
however, only a guest, we ought not perhaps to be too critical in
the matter, so we will pass on to the more general features of the
entertainment.

We take it a woman’s feelings and a man’s feelings with regard to a ball
are totally different and distinct.

Men—unmarried men, at least—know nothing of the intrinsic value of
a dress, they look at the general effect on the figure. Piquant
simplicity, something that the mind grasps at a glance and retains—such
as Miss Yammerton’s dress in the glove scene—is what they like. Many
ladies indeed seem to get costly dresses in order to cover them over
with something else, just as gentlemen build handsome lodges to their
gates, and then block them out of sight by walls.

But even if ball-dresses were as attractive to the gentlemen as the
ladies seem to think them, they must remember the competition they have
to undergo in a ball-room, where great home beauties may be suddenly
eclipsed by unexpected rivals, and young gentlemen see that there are
other angels in the world besides their own adored ones. Still balls are
balls, and fashion is fashion, and ladies must conform to it, or what
could induce them to introduce the bits of black of the present day into
their coloured dresses, as if they were just emerging from mourning.
Even our fair friends at Yammerton Grange conformed to the fashion, and
edged the many pink satin-ribboned flounces of their white tulle dresses
with narrow black lace—though they would have looked much prettier
without.

Of all the balls given by the members of the Hit-im and Hold-im shire
hunt, none had perhaps excitcd greater interest than the one about to
take place, not only on account of its own intrinsic merits as a ball,
but because of the many tender emotions waiting for solutions on that
eventful evening. Among others it may be mentioned that our fat friend
the Woolpack, whose portrait adorns page 241, had confided to Mrs.
Rocket Larkspur, who kept a sort of register-office for sighers, his
admiration of the fair auburn-haired Flora Yammerton; and Mrs. Rocket
having duly communicated the interesting fact to the young lady,
intimating, of course, that he would have the usual “ten thousand a
year,” Flora had taken counsel with herself whether she had not better
secure him, than contend with her elder sister either for Sir Moses or
Mr. Pringle, especially as she did not much fancy Sir Moses, and Billy
was very wavering in his attentions, sometimes looking extremely sweet
at her, sometimes equally so at Clara, and at other times even smiling
on that little childish minx Harriet. Indeed Mrs. Rocket Larkspur, in
the multiplicity of her meddling, had got a sort of half-admission from
that young owl, Rowley Abingdon, that he thought Harriet very pretty,
and she felt inclined to fan the flame of that speculation too.

Then Miss Fairey, of Yarrow Court, was coming, and it was reported that
Miss de Glancey had applied for a ticket, in order to try and cut her
out with the elegant Captain Languisher, of the Royal Hollyhock Hussars.
Altogether it was expected to be a capital ball, both for dancers and
lookers-on.

People whose being’s end and aim is gaiety, as they call converting
night into day, in rolling from party to party, with all the means and
appliances of London, can have little idea of the up-hill work it is
in the country, getting together the ingredients of a great ball. The
writing for rooms, the fighting for rooms—the bespeaking of horses, the
not getting horses—the catching the train, the losing the train—above
all, the choosing and ordering those tremendous dresses, with the dread
of not getting those tremendous dresses, of their being carried by in
the train, or not fitting when they come. Nothing but the indomitable
love of a ball, as deeply implanted in a woman’s heart as the love of a
hunt is in that of a man, can account for the trouble and vexation they
undergo.

But if ‘tis a toil to the guests, what must it be to the givers, with no
friendly Grange or Gunter at hand to supply everything, guests included,
if required, at so much per head! Youth, glorious youth, comes to the
aid, aud enters upon the labour with all the alacrity that perhaps
distinguished their fathers.

Let us now suppose the absorbing evening come; and that all-important
element in country festivities, the moon shining with silvery dearness
as well on the railway gliders as on the more patient plodders by the
road. What a converging there was upon the generally quiet town of
Hinton; reminding the older inhabitants of the best days of Lord
Martingal and Mr. Customer’s reigns. What a gathering up there was of
shining satins and rustling silks and moire antiques, white, pink, blue,
yellow, green, to say nothing of clouds of tulle; what a compression of
swelling eider-down and watch-spring petticoats; and what a bolt-upright
sitting of that happy pride which knows no pain, as party after party
took up and proceeded to the scene of hopes and fears at the Fox and
Hounds Hotel and Posting House.

The ball-room was formed of the entire suite of first-floor front
apartments, which, on ordinary occasions, did duty as private
rooms—private, at least, as far as thin deal partitions could make them
so—and the supper was laid out in our old acquaintance the club-room,
connected by a sort of Isthmus of Suez, with a couple of diminutive
steps towards the end to shoot the incautious becomingly, headforemost,
into the room.

Carriages set down under the arched doorway, and a little along the
passage the Blenheim was converted into a cloak-room for the ladies,
where the voluminous dresses were shook out, and the last hurried
glances snatched amid anxious groups of jostling arrivals. Gentlemen
then emerging from the commercial room rejoined their fair friends in
the passage, and were entrusted with fans and flowers while, with both
hands, they steered their balloon-like dresses up the red druggetted
staircase.



455m


Gentlemen’s balls have the advantage over those given by ladies,
inasmuch as the gentlemen must be there early to receive their fair
guests; and as a ball can always begin as soon as there are plenty of
gentlemen, there are not those tedious delays and gatherings of nothing
but crinoline that would only please Mr. Spurgeon.

The large highly-glazed, gilt-lettered, yellow card of invitation,
intimated nine o’clock as the hour; by which time most of the Hinton
people were ready, and all the outlying ones were fast drawing towards
the town. Indeed, there was nothing to interfere with the dancing
festivities, for dinner giving on a ball night is not popular with the
ladies—enough for the evening being the dance thereof. Country ladies
are not like London ones, who can take a dinner, an opera, two balls,
and an at-home in one and the same night. As to the Hinton gentlemen,
they were very hospitable so long as nobody wanted anything from them;
if they did, they might whistle a long time before they got it. If, for
instance, that keeper of a house of call for Bores, Paul Straddler, saw
a mud-sparked man with a riding-whip in his hand, hurrying about the
town, he would after him, and press him to dine off, perhaps, “crimped
cod and oyster sauce, and a leg of four year old mutton, with a dish of
mince pies or woodcocks, whichever he preferred;” but on a ball night,
when it would be a real convenience to a man to have a billet, Paul
never thought of asking any one, though when he met his friends in the
ball, and heard they had been uncomfortable at the Sun or the Fleece, he
would exclaim, with well-feigned reproach, “Oh dash it, man, why didn’t
you come to me?”

But let us away to the Fox and Hounds, and see what is going on.

To see the repugnance people have to being early at a ball, one would
wonder how dancing ever gets begun. Yet somebody must be there first,
though we question whether any of our fair readers ever performed the
feat; at all events, if ever they did, we will undertake to say they
have taken very good care not to repeat the performance.

The Blurkinses were the first to arrive on this occasion, having only
themselves to think about, and being anxious, as they said, to see as
much as they could for their money. Then having been duly received by
Sir Moses and the gallant circle of fox-hunters, and passed inwardly,
they took up a position so as to be able to waylay those who came after
with their coarse compliments, beginning with Mrs. Dotherington, who,
Blurkins declared, had worn the grey silk dress she then had on, ever
since he knew her.

Jimmy Jarperson, the Laughing Hyæna, next came under his notice,
Blurkins telling him that his voice grated on his ear like a file;
asking if any body else had ever told him so.

Mrs. Rocket Larkspur, who was duly distended in flaming red satin, was
told she was like a full-blown peony; and young Treadcroft was asked if
he knew that people called him the Woolpack.

Meanwhile Mrs. Blurkins kept pinching and feeling the ladies’ dresses
as they passed, making a mental estimate of their cost. She told Miss
Yammerton she had spoilt her dress by the black lace.

A continuously ascending stream of crinoline at length so inundated
the room, that by ten o’clock Sir Moses thought it was time to open the
ball; so deputing Tommy Heslop to do the further honours at the door,
he sought Lady Fuzball, and claimed the favour of her hand for the first
quadrille.

This was a signal for the unmated ones to pair; and forthwith there was
such a drawing on of gloves, such a feeling of ties, such a rising on
tiptoes, and straining of eyes, and running about, asking for Miss This,
and Miss That, and if anybody had seen anything of Mrs. So-and-so.

At length the sought ones were found, anxiety abated, and the glad
couples having secured suitable vis-à-vis, proceeded to take up
positions.

At a flourish of the leader’s baton, the enlivening “La Traviata” struck
up, and away the red coats and black coats went sailing and sinking, and
rising and jumping, and twirling with the lightly-floating dresses of
the ladies.

The “Pelissier Galop” quickly followed, then the “Ask Mamma Polka,”
 and just as the music ceased, and the now slightly-flushed couples were
preparing for a small-talk promenade, a movement took place near the
door, and the elegant swan-like de Glancey was seen sailing into the
room with her scarlet-geranium-festooned dress set off with eight
hundred yards of tulle! Taking her chaperone Mrs. Roseworth’s arm, she
came sailing majestically along, the men all alive for a smile, the
ladies laughing at what they called her preposterous dimensions.

But de Glancey was not going to defeat her object by any premature
condescension; so she just met the men’s raptures with the slightest
recognition of her downcast eyes, until she encountered the gallant
Captain Languisher with lovely Miss Fairey on his arm, when she gave him
one of her most captivating smiles, thinking to have him away from Miss
Fairey in no time.

But Miss de Glancey was too late! The Captain had just “popped the
question,” and was then actually on his way to “Ask Mamma,” and so
returned her greeting with an air of cordial indifference, that as good
as said, “Ah, my dear, you’ll not do for me.”

Miss de Glancey was shocked. It was the first time in her life that she
had ever missed her aim. Nor was her mortification diminished by the
cool way our hero, Mr. Pringle, next met her advances. She had been so
accustomed to admiration, that she could ill brook the want of it, and
the double blow was too much for her delicate sensibilities. She felt
faint, and as soon as she could get a fly large enough to hold herself
and her chaperone, she withdrew, the mortification of this evening far
more than counterbalancing all the previous triumphs of her life.

One person more or less at a ball, however, is neither here nor there,
and the music presently struck np again, and the whirling was resumed,
just as if there was no such person as Miss de Glancey in existence. And
thus waltz succeeded polka, and polka succeeded quadrille, with
lively rapidity—every one declaring it was a most delightful ball, and
wondering when supper would be.

At length there was a lull, and certain unmistakeable symptoms announced
that the hour for that superfluous but much talked of meal had arrived,
whereupon there was the usual sorting of consequence to draw to the
cross table at the top of the room, with the pairing off of eligible
couples who could be trusted alone, and the shirking of Mammas by those
who were not equally fortunate. Presently a movement was made towards
the Isthmus of Suez, on reaching which the rotund ladies had to abandon
their escorts to pilot their petticoats through the straits amid the
cries of “take care of the steps!” “mind the steps at the end!” from
those who knew the dangers of the passage. And thus the crinoline
came circling into the supper room—each lady again expanding with the
increased space, and reclaiming her beau. Supper being as we said before
a superfluous meal, it should be light and airy, something to please the
eye and tempt the appetite; not composed of great solid joints that
look like a farmer’s ordinary, or a rent-day dinner with “night mare”
 depicted on every dish. The Hit-im and Hold-im shire hunt balls had
always been famous for the elegance of their supper, Lord Ladythorne
kindly allowing his Italian confectioner, Signor Massaniello, to
superintend the elegancies, that excited such admiration from the ladies
as they worked their ways or wedged themselves in at the tables, but
whose beauty did not save them from destruction as the evening advanced.
At first of course the solids were untouched, the tongues, the hams, the
chickens, the turkeys, the lobster salads, the nests of plover eggs, the
clatter patter being relieved by a heavy salvo of Champagne artillery.
Brisk was the demand for it at starting, for the economical arrangement
was as well known as if it had been placarded about the room. When the
storm of corks had subsided and clean plates been supplied, the sweets,
the jellies, the confectionery were attacked, and occasional sly sorties
were made against the flower sugar vases and ornaments of the table.
Then perspiring waiters came panting in with more Champagne fresh out
of the ice, and again arm-extended the glasses hailed its coming, though
some of the Neck-and-Crop-shire gentlemen smacked their lips after
drinking it, and pronounced it to be No. 2. Nevertheless they took some
more when it came round again. At length the most voracious cormorant
was appeased, and all eyes gradually turned towards the sporting
president in the centre of the cross table.

We have heard it said that the House of Commons is the most appalling
and critical assembly in the world to address, but we confess we think
a mixed party of ladies and gentlemen at a sit-down supper a more
formidable audience.

We don’t know anything more painful than to hear a tongue-tied country
gentleman floundering for words and scrambling after an idea that the
quick-witted ladies have caught long before he comes within sight of
his subject. Theirs is like the sudden dart of the elastic greyhound
compared to the solemn towl of the old slow-moving “southern” hound
after its game.

Sir Moses, however, as our readers know, was not one of the tongue-tied
sort—on the contrary, he had a great flow of words and could palaver
the ladies as well as the gentlemen. Indeed he was quite at home in that
room where he had coaxed and wheedled subscriptions, promised wonders,
and given away horses without the donees incurring any “obligation.”
 Accordingly at the fitting time he rose from his throne, and with one
stroke of his hammer quelled the remaining conversation which had been
gradually dying out in anticipation of what was coming. He then called
for a bumper toast, and after alluding in felicitous terms to the happy
event that so aroused the “symphonies” of old Wotherspoon, he concluded
by proposing the health of her Majesty the Queen, which of course was
drunk with three times three and one cheer more. The next toast, of
course, was the ladies who had honoured the Ball with their presence,
and certainly if ever ladies ought to be satisfied with the compliments
paid them, it was on the present occasion, for Sir Moses vowed and
protested that of all beauties the Hit-im and Hold-im shire beauties
were the fairest, the brightest, and the best; and he said it would be
a downright reflection upon the rising generation if they did not follow
the Crown Prince of Prussia’s excellent example, and make that ball to
be the most blissful and joyous of their recollections. This toast being
heartily responded to, Sir Moses leading the cheers, Sir Harry Fuzball
rose to return thanks on behalf of the ladies, any one of whom could
have done it a great deal better; after which old Sir George Persiflage,
having arranged his lace-tipped tie, proposed the health of Sir Moses,
and spoke of him in very different terms to what Sir Moses did of Sir
George at the hunt dinner, and this, answer affording Sir Moses another
opportunity—the good Champagne being exhausted—he renewed his former
advice, and concluded by moving an adjournment to the ball-room. Then
the weight of oratory being off, the school broke loose as it were, and
all parties paired off as they liked. Many were the trips at the steps
as they returned by the narrow passage to the ball-room. The “Ask Mamma”
 Polka then appropriately struck up, but polking being rather beyond our
Baronet’s powers he stood outside the ring rubbing his nose and eyeing
the gay twirlers, taking counsel within himself what he should do. The
state of his household had sorely perplexed him, aud he had about
come to the resolution that he must either marry again or give up
housekeeping and live at Hinton. Then came the question whom he
should take? Now Mrs. Yammerton was a noted good manager, and in the
inferential sort of way that we all sometimes deceive ourselves, he came
to the conclusion that her daughters would be the same. Clara was very
pretty—dom’d if she wasn’t—She would look very well at the head of his
table, and just at the moment she came twirling past with Billy Pringle,
the pearl loops of her pretty pink wreath dancing on her fair forehead.
The Baronet was booked; “he would have her, dom’d if he wouldn’t,” and
taking courage within himself as the music ceased, he claimed her
hand for the next quadrille, and leading her to the top of the dance,
commenced joking her about Billy, who he said would make a very pretty
girl, and then commenced praising herself. He admired her and everything
she had on, from the wreath to her ribbon, and was so affectionate that
she felt if he wasn’t a little elevated she would very soon have an
offer. Then Mammas, and Mrs. Rocket Larkspurs, and Mrs. Dotherington,
and Mrs. Impelow, and many other quick-eyed ladies followed their
movements, each thinking that they saw by the sparkle of Clara’s eyes,
and the slight flush of her pretty face, what was going on. But they
were prématuré. Sir Moses did not offer until he had mopped his brow
in the promenade, when, on making the second slow round of the room, a
significant glance with a slight inclination of her handsome head as she
passed her Mamma announced that she was going to be Lady Mainchance!



463m


Hoo-ray for the Hunt Ball!

Sold again and the money paid! as the trinket-sellers say at a fair.

Another offer and accepted say we. Captain and Mrs. Languisher, Sir
Moses and Lady Mainchance. Who wouldn’t go to a Hit-im-and-Hold-im-shire
hunt ball?

Then when the music struck up again, instead of fulfilling her
engagements with her next partner. Clara begged to be excused—had got
a little headache, and went and sat down between her Mamma and her
admiring intended; upon which the smouldering fire of surmise broke out
into downright assertion, and it ran through the room that Sir Moses had
offered to Miss Yammerton. Then the indignant Mammas rose hastily from
their seats and paraded slowly past, to see how the couple looked,
pitying the poor creature, and young gentlemen joked with each other,
saying—“Go thou and do likewise.” and paired off to the supper room to
acquire courage from the well iced but inferior Champagne.

And so the ardent ball progressed, some laying the foundations for
future offers, some advancing their suits a step, others bringing them
to we hope, a happy termination. Never was a more productive hunt ball
known, and it was calculated that the little gentleman who rides so
complacently on our first page exhausted all his arrows o the occasion.



465m


When the mortified Miss de Glancey returned to her lodgings at Mrs.
Sarsnet the milliner’s, in Verbena Crescent, she bid Mrs. Roseworth
good-night, and dismissing her little French maid to bed, proceeded
to her own apartment, where, with the united aid of a chamber and two
toilette-table candles, she instituted a most rigid examination, as well
of her features as her figure, in her own hand-mirror and the various
glasses of the room, and satisfied herself that neither her looks nor
her dress were any way in fault for the indifference with which she had
been received. Indeed, though she might perhaps be a little partial, she
thought she never saw herself looking better, and certainly her dress
was as stylish and looming as any in the ball-room.

Those points being satisfactorily settled, she next unclasped the single
row of large pearls that fastened the bunch of scarlet geraniums into
her silken brown hair; and taking them off her exquisitely modelled
head, laid them beside her massive scarlet geranium bouquet and delicate
kid gloves upon the toilette-table. She then stirred the fire; and
wheeling the easy-chair round to the front of it, took the eight hundred
yards of tulle deliberately in either hand and sunk despondingly into
the depths of the chair, with its ample folds before her. Drawing her
dress up a little in front, she placed her taper white-satined feet on
the low green fender, and burying her beautiful face in her lace-fringed
kerchief, proceeded to take an undisturbed examination of what had
occurred. How was it that she, in the full bloom of her beauty and the
zenith of her experience, had failed in accomplishing what she used so
easily to perform? How was it that Captain Langnisher seemed so cool,
and that supercilious Miss eyed her with a side-long stare, that left
its troubled mark behind, like the ripple of the water after a boat. And
that boy Pringle, too, who ought to have been proud and flattered by her
notice, instead of grinning about with those common country Misses?

All this hurt and distressed our accomplished coquette, who was unused
to indifference and mortification. Then from the present her mind
reverted to the past; aud stirring the fire, she recalled the glorious
recollections of her many triumphs, beginning with her school-girl days,
when the yeomanry officers used to smile at her as they met the girls
out walking, until Miss Whippey restricted them to the garden during
the eight days that the dangerous danglers were on duty. Next, how the
triumph of her first offer was enhanced by the fact that she got her
old opponent Sarah Snowball’s lover from her—who, however, she quickly
discarded for Captain Capers—who in turn yielded to Major Spankley.

Dicer, and the grave Mr. Woodhouse all in tow together, each thinking
himself the happy man and the others the cat’s-paw, until the rash
Hotspur Smith exploded amongst them, and then suddenly dwindled from a
millionaire into a mouse. Other names quickly followed, recalling the
recollections of a successful career. At last she came to that dread,
that fatal day, when, having exterminated Imperial John, and with the
Peer well in hand, she was induced, much against her better judgment, to
continue the chase, and lose all chance of becoming a Countess. Oh,
what a day was that! She had long watched the noble Earl’s increasing
fervour, and marked his admiring eye, as she sat in the glow of beauty
and the pride of equestrianism; and she felt quite sure, if the chase
had ended at the check caused by the cattle-drover’s dog, he would have
married her. Oh, that the run should ever have continued! Oh, that she
should ever have been lured on to her certain destruction! Why didn’t
she leave well alone? And at the recollection of that sad, that watery
day, she burst into tears and sobbed convulsively. Her feelings being
thus relieved, and the fire about exhausted, she then got out of her
crinoline and under the counterpane.



CHAPTER LXII. LOVE AT SECOND SIGHT.—CUPID’S SETTLING DAY.

A sudden change now came over the country.—The weather, which had been
mild and summer-like throughout, changed to frost, binding all nature up
in a few hours. The holes in the streets which were shining with water
in the gas-lights when Miss de Glancey retired to bed, had a dull
black-leaded sort of look in the morning, while the windows of her
room glistened with the silvery spray of ferns and heaths and fancy
flowers.—The air was sharp and bright, with a clear blue sky overhead,
all symptomatic of frost, with every appearance of continuing.—That,
however, is more a gentleman’s question than a lady’s, so we will return
within doors.

Flys being scarce at Hinton, and Miss de Glancey wishing to avoid the
gape and stare of the country town, determined to return by the 11.30
train; so arose after a restless night, and taking a hurried breakfast,
proceeded, with the aid of her maid, to make one of those exquisite
toilettes for which she had so long been justly famous. Her sylph-like
figure was set off in a bright-green terry-velvet dress, with a
green-feathered bonnet of the same colour and material, trimmed with
bright scarlet ribbons, and a wreath of scarlet flowers inside.—A
snow-white ermine tippet, with ermine cuffs and muff, completed her
costume. Having surveyed herself in every mirror, she felt extremely
satisfied, and only wished Captain Languisher could see her. With that
exact punctuality which constant practice engenders, but which sometimes
keeps strangers sadly on the fret, the useful fly was at length at the
door, and the huge box containing the eight hundred yards of tulle being
hoisted on to the iron-railed roof, the other articles were huddled
away, and Miss de Glancey ascending the steps, usurped the seat of
honour, leaving Mrs. Roseworth and her maid to sit opposite to her. A
smile with a half-bow to Mrs. Sarsnet, as she now stood at the door,
with a cut of the whip from the coachman, sent our party lilting and
tilting over the hard surface of the road to the rail.

The line ran true and smooth this day, and the snorting train stopped at
the pretty Swiss cottage station at Fairfield just as Mrs. Roseworth
saw the last of the parcels out of the fly, while Miss de Glancey took a
furtive peek at the passengers from an angle of the bay window, at which
she thought she herself could not be seen.

Now, it so happened that the train was in charge of the well-known Billy
Bates, a smart young fellow, whose good looks had sadly stood in the
way of his preferment, for he never could settle to anything; and after
having been a footman, a whipper-in, a watcher, a groom, and a grocer,
he had now taken up with the rail, where he was a great favourite
with the fair, whom he rather prided himself upon pairing with what he
considered appropriate partners. Seeing our lovely coquette peeping out,
it immediately occurred to him, that he had a suitable vis-à-vis for
her—a dashing looking gent., in a red flannel Emperor shirt, a blue
satin cravat, a buff vest, aud a new bright-green cut-away with fancy
buttons; altogether a sort of swell that isn’t to be seen every day.

“This way, ladies!” now cried Billy, hurrying into the first-class
waiting-room, adjusting the patent leather pouch-belt of his smart
grcen-and-red uniform as he spoke. “This way, ladies, please!” waving
them on with his clean white doeskin-gloved hand towards the door;
whereupon Miss de Glancey, drawing herself up, and primming her
features, advanced on to the platform, like the star of the evening
coming on to the stage of a theatre.

Billy then opened the frosty-windowed door of a carriage a few paces up
the line; whereupon a red railway wrapper-rug with brown foxes’ heads
being withdrawn, a pair of Bedford-corded legs dropped from the opposite
seat, and a dogskin gloved hand was protruded to assist the ascent of
the enterer. A pretty taper-fingered primrose-kidded one was presently
inside it; but ere the second step was accomplished, a convulsive thrill
was felt, and, looking up, Miss de Glancey found herself in the grasp of
her old friend Imperial John!

“O Mr. Hybrid!” exclaimed she, shaking his still retained hand with the
greatest cordiality; “O Mr. Hybrid! I’m so glad to see you! I’m so glad
to meet somebody I know!” and gathering herself together, she entered
the carriage, and sat down opposite him.

Mrs. Roseworth then following, afforded astonished John a moment to
collect his scattered faculties, yet not sufficient time to compare the
dread. “Si-r-r-r! do you mean to insult me!” of their former meeting,
with the cordial greeting of this. Indeed, our fair friend felt that
she had a great arrear of politeness to make up, and as railway time is
short, she immediately began to ply her arts by inquiring most kindly
after His Highness’s sister Mrs. Poppeyfield and her baby, who she heard
was such a sweet boy; and went on so affably, that before Billy Bates
arrived with the tickets, which Mrs. Roseworth had forgotten to take,
Imperial John began to think that there must have been some mistake
before, and Miss de Glancey couldn’t have understood him. Then, when
the train was again in motion, she applied the artillery of her eyes
so well—for she was as great an adept in her art as the Northumberland
horse-tamer is in his—that ere they stopped at the Lanecroft station,
she had again subjugated Imperial John;—taken his Imperial reason
prisoner! Nay more, though he was going to Bowerbank to look at a
bull, she actually persuaded him to alight and accompany her to Mrs.
Roseworth’s where we need scarcely say he was presently secured, and
in less than a week she had him so tame that she could lead him about,
anywhere.

The day after the ball was always a busy one in
Hit-im-and-Hold-em-shire. It was a sort of settling day, only the
parties scattered about the country instead of congregating at the
“corner.” Those who had made up their minds overnight, came to “Ask
Mamma” in the morning, and those who had not mustered sufficient
courage, tried what a visit to inquire how the young lady was after the
fatigue of the ball would do to assist them. Those who had got so far
on the road as to have asked both the young lady and “Mamina,” then got
handed over to the more business-like inquiries of Papa—when Cupid oft
“spreads his light wings and in a moment flies.” Then it is that the
tenable money exaggerations come out—the great expectations dwindling
away, and the thousands a-year becoming hundreds. We never knew a
reputed Richest Commoner’s fortune that didn’t collapse most grievously
under the “what have you got, and what will you do?” operation. But
if it passes Papa, the still more dread ordeal of the lawyer has to be
encountered when one being summoned on either side, a hard money-driving
bargain ensues, one trying how much he can get, the other how little he
can give—until the whole nature and character of the thing is changed.
Money! money! money! is the cry, as if there was nothing in the world
worth living for but those eternal bits of yellow coin. But we are
getting in advance of our subject, our suitor not having passed the
lower, or “Ask-Mamma” house.

Among the many visited on this auspicious day were our fair friends at
Yammaerton Grange, our Richest Commoner having infused a considerable
degree of activity into the matrimonial market. There is nothing like
a little competition for putting young gentlemen on the alert. First to
arrive was our friend Sir Moses Mainchance, who dashed up to the door
in his gig with the air of a man on safe ground, saluting Mamma whom
he found alone in the drawing-room, and then the young ladies as they
severally entered in succession. Having thus sealed and delivered
himself into the family, as it were, he enlarged on the delights of the
ball—the charming scene, the delightful music, the excellent dancing,
the sudden disappearance of de Glancey and other the incidents of the
evening. These topics being duly discussed, and cake and wine produced,
“Mamma” presently withdrew, her example being followed at intervals by
Flora and Harriet.

Scarcely had she got clear of the door ere the vehement bark of the
terrier called her attention to the front of the house, where she saw
our fat friend the Woolpack tit-tup-ing up on the identical horse Jack
Rogers so unceremoniously appropriated on the Crooked Billet day. There
was young Treadcroft with his green-liveried cockaded groom behind him,
trying to look as unconcerned as possible, though in reality he was
in as great a fright as it was well possible for a boy to be.
Hav