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Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 7491

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

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 follow

ed 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."

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Original Size

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.

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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.

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