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Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 8116

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

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.

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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.

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