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Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 11568

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

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.

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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.

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