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   Chapter 33 SIR MOSES’S SPREAD.

Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 17655

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


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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 o

ther 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.

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