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Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 11034

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

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 ru

n, 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 go?t, 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?"

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