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Ask Mamma By R. S. Surtees Characters: 11481

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

MRS. Margerum having soothed and pressed her beautiful boy to her bosom, ran into the house, and hurrying on the everlasting pheasant-feather bonnet in which she was first introduced to the reader, and a faded red and green tartan cloak hanging under it, emerged at the front door just as Sir Moses and Joe entered at the back one, vowing that she would have redress if it cost her a fi' pun note. Clutching dear Anthony Thom by the waist, she made the best of her way down the evergreen walk, and skirting the gardens, got upon the road near the keeper's lodge. "Come along, my own dear Anthony Thom," cried she, helping him along, "let us leave this horrid wicked hole.-Oh, dear! I wish I'd never set foot in it; but I'll not have my Anthony Thom chastised by any nasty old clothesman-no, that I won't, if it cost me a fifty pun note"-continued she, burning for vengeance. But Anthony Thom had been chastised notwithstanding, so well, indeed, that he could hardly hobble-seeing which, Mrs. Margerum halted, and again pressing him to her bosom, exclaimed, "Oh, my beloved Anthony Thom can't travel; I'll take him and leave him at Mr. Hindmarch's, while I go and consult Mr. Gallon."-So saying, she suddenly changed her course, and crossing Rye-hill green, and the ten-acre field adjoining, was presently undergoing the wow-wow wow-wow of the farmer lawyer'o dog, Towler. The lawyer, ever anxious for his poultry, was roused by the noise; and after a rattle of bolts, and sliding of a sash, presented his cotton night-capped head at an upper window, demanding in a stentorian voice "who was there?"

"Me! Mr. Hindmarch, me! Mrs. Margerum; for pity's sake take us in, for my poor dear boy's been most shemfully beat."

"Beat, has he!" exclaimed the lawyer, recognising the voice, his ready wit jumping to an immediate conclusion; "beat, has he!" repeated he, withdrawing from the window to fulfil her behest, adding to himself as he struck a light and descended the staircase, "that'll ha' summut to do with the dripping, I guess-always thought it would come to mischief at last." The rickety door being unbolted and opened, Mrs. Margerum and her boy entered, and Mrs. Hindmarch having also risen and descended, the embers of the kitchen fire were resuscitated, and Anthony Thom was examined by the united aid of a tallow candle and it. "Oh, see! see!" cried Mrs. Margerum, pointing out the wales on his back,-"was there ever a boy so shemfully beat? But I'll have revenge on that villainous man,-that I will, if it cost me a hundred pun note."-The marks seen, soothed, and deplored, Mr. Hindmarch began inquiring who had done it. "Done it! that nasty old Nosey," replied Mrs. Margerum, her eyes flashing with fire; "but I'll make the mean feller pay for it," added she,-"that I will."

"No, it wasn't old No-No-Nosey, mo-mo-mother," now sobbed Anthony Thom, "it was that nasty Joe Ski-Ski-Skinner."

"Skinner, was it, my priceless jewel," replied Mrs. Margerum, kissing him, "I'll skin him; but Nosey was there, wasn't he, my pet?"

"O, yes, Nosey was there," replied Anthony Thom, "it was him that took me to Ski-Ski-Skinner"-the boy bursting out into a fresh blubber, and rubbing his dirty knuckles into his streaming eyes as he spoke.

"O that Skinner's a bad un," gasped Mrs. Margerum, "always said he was a mischievous, dangerous man; but I'll have satisfaction of both him and old Nosey," continued she, "or I'll know the reason why."

The particulars of the catastrophe being at length related (at least as far as it suited Mrs. Margerum to tell it), the kettle was presently put on the renewed fire, a round table produced, and the usual consolation of the black bottle resorted to. Then as the party sat sipping their grog, a council of war was held as to the best course of proceeding. Lawyer Hindmarch was better versed in the law of landlord and tenant-the best way of a tenant doing his landlord,-than in the more recondite doctrine of master and servant, particularly the delicate part relating to perquisites; and though he thought Sir Moses had done wrong in beating the boy, he was not quite sure but there might be something in the boy being found about the house at an unseasonable hour of the night. Moreover, as farming times were getting dull, and the lawyer was meditating a slope à la Henerey Brown & Co.? he did not wish to get mixed up in a case that might bring him in collision with Sir Moses or his agent, so he readily adopted Mrs. Margerum's suggestion of going to consult Mr. George Gallon. He really thought Mr. Gallon would be the very man for her to see. Geordey was up to everything, and knew nicely what people could stand by, and what they could not; and lawyer Hindmarch was only sorry his old grey gig-mare was lame, or he would have driven her up to George's at once. However, there was plenty of time to get there on foot before morning, and they would take care of Anthony Thom till she came back, only she must be good enough not to return till nightfall; for that nasty suspicious Nathan was always prowling about, and would like nothing better than to get him into mischief with Sir Moses.-And that point being settled, they replenished their glasses, and drank success to the mission; and having seen the belaboured Anthony Thom safe in a shakedown, Mrs. Margerum borrowed Mrs. Hindmarch's second best bonnet, a frilled and beaded black velvet one with an ostrich feather, and her polka jacket, and set off on foot for the Rose and Crown beer-shop, being escorted to their door by her host and hostess, who assured her it wouldn't be so dark when she got away from the house a bit.

And that point being accomplished, lawyer and Mrs. Hindmarch retired to rest, wishing they wer

e as well rid of Anthony Thom, whom they made no doubt had got into a sad scrape, in which they wished they mightn't be involved.

A sluggish winter's day was just dragging its lazy self into existence as Mrs. Margerum came within sight of Mr. Gallon's red-topped roof at the four lane ends, from whose dumpy chimney the circling curl of a wood fire was just emerging upon the pure air. As she got nearer, the early-stirring Mr. Gallon himself crossed the road to the stable, attired in the baggy velveteen shooting-jacket of low with the white cords and shining pork-butcher's top-boots of high life. Mr. Gallon was going to feed Tippy Tom before setting off for the great open champion coursing meeting to be held on Spankerley Downs, "by the kind permission of Sir Harry Fuzball, Baronet," it being one of the peculiar features of the day that gentlemen who object to having their game killed in detail, will submit to its going wholesale, provided it is done with a suitable panegyrick. "By the kind permission of Sir Harry Fuzball, Baronet," or "by leave of the lord of the manor of Flatshire," and so on; and thus every idler who can't keep himself is encouraged to keep a greyhound, to the detriment of a nice lady-like amusement, and the encouragement of gambling and poaching.

Mr. Gallon was to be field steward of this great open champion meeting, and had been up betimes, polishing off Tippy Tom; which having done, he next paid a similar compliment to his own person; and now again was going to feed the flash high-stepping screw, ere he commenced with his breakfast.

Mrs. Margerum's "hie Mr. Gallon, hie!" and up-raised hand, as she hurried down the hill towards his house, arrested his progress as he passed to the stable with the sieve, and he now stood biting the oats, and eyeing her approach with the foreboding of mischief that so seldom deceives one.

"O Mr. Gallon! O Mr. Gallon!" cried Mrs. Margerum, tottering up, and dropping her feathered head on his brawny shoulder.

"What's oop? What's oop?" eagerly demanded our sportsman, fearing for his fair character.

"O Mr. Gallon! such mischief! such mischief!"

"Speak, woman! speak!" demanded our publican; "say, has he cotched ye?"

"Yes, Gerge, yes," sobbed Mrs. Margerum, bursting into tears. "To devil he has!" exclaimed Mr. Gallon, stamping furiously with his right foot, "Coom into it hoose, woman; coom into it boose, and tell us'arl aboot it." So saying, forgetting Tippy Toni's wants, he retraced his steps with the corn, and flung frantically into the kitchen of his little two-roomed cottage.

"Here, lassie!" cried he, to a little girl, who was frying a dish of bubble-and-squeak at the fire. "Here, lassie, set doon it pan loike, aud tak this corn to it huss, and stand by while it eats it so saying he handed her the sieve, and following her to the door, closed it upon her.

"Noo," said he to Mrs. Margerum, "sit doon and tell us arl aboot it. Who cotched ye? Nosey, or who?"

"0 it wasn't me! It was Anthony Thom they caught, and they used him most shemful; but I'll have him tried for his life ofore my Lord Size, and transported, if it costs me all I'm worth in the world."

"Anthony Thom was it?" rejoined Mr. Gallon, raising his great eye-brows, and staring wide his saucer eyes, "Anthony Thom was it? but he'd ha' nothin' upon oi 'ope?"

"Nothin', Gerge," replied Mrs. Margerum, "nothin'-less now it might just appen to be an old rag of a night-eap of that nasty, covetous body Cuddy Flintoff; but whether it had a mark upon it or not I really can't say."

"O dear, but that's a bad job," rejoined Mr. Gallon, biting his lips and shaking his great bull-head; "O dear, but that's a bad job. you know I always chairged ye to be careful 'boot unlawful goods."

"You did, Gerge! you did!" sighed Mrs. Margerum; "and if this old rag had a mark, it was a clear oversight. But, O dear!" continued she, bursting into tears, "how they did beat my Anthony Thom!" With this relief she became more composed, and proceeded to disclose all the particulars.

"Ah, this 'ill be a trick of those nasty pollis fellers," observed Mr. Gallon thoughtfully, "oi know'd they'd be the ruin o' trade as soon as ever they came into it country loike-nasty pokin', pryin', mischievous fellers. Hoosomiver it mun be seen to, aud that quickly," continued he. "for it would damage me desp'rate on the Torf to have ony disturbance o' this sorrt, and we mun stop it if we can.

"Here, lassie!" cried he to the little girl who had now returned from the stable, "lay cloth i' next room foike, and then finish the fryin'; and oi'll tell ve what," continued he, laying his huge hand on Mrs. Margerum's shoulder, "oi've got to go to it champion cooursin' meetin', so I'll just put it hus into harness and droive ye round by it Bird-i'-the-Bush, where we'll find Carroty Kebbel, who'll tell us what te do, for oi don't like the noight-cap business some hoo," so saying Mr. Gallon took his silver plated harness down from its peg in the kitchen, and proceeded to caparison Tippy Tom, while the little girl, now assisted by Mrs. Margerum, prepared the breakfast, and set it on the table. Rather a sumptuous repast they had, considering it was only a way-side beer-shop; bubble-and-squeak, reindeer-tongue, potted game, potted shrimps, and tea strikingly like some of Sir Moses's. The whole being surmounted with a glass a-piece of pure British gin, Mr. Gallon finished his toilette, and then left to put the high-stepping screw into the light spring-cart, while Mrs. Margerum reviewed her visage in the glass, and as the openworks clock in the kitchen struck nine, they were dashing down the Heatherbell-road at the rate of twelve miles an hour.

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