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By Birth a Lady   By: (1831-1909)

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Volume 1, Chapter I.


"He mustn't have so much corn, Joseph," said Mr Tiddson, parish doctor of Croppley Magna, addressing a grinning boy of sixteen, who, with his smock frock rolled up and twisted round his waist, was holding the bridle of a very thin, dejected looking pony, whose mane and tail seemed to have gone to the cushion maker's, leaving in their places a few strands that had missed the shears. The pony's eyes were half shut, and his nose hung low; but, as if attending to his master's words, one ear was twitched back, while the other pointed forward; and no sooner had his owner finished speaking than the poor little beast whinnied softly and shook its evidently remonstrating head. "He mustn't have so much corn, Joseph," said Mr Tiddson importantly. "He's growing wild and vicious, and it was as much as I could do this morning to hold him."

"What did he do, zir ?" said the boy, grinning a wider grin.

"Do, Joseph? He wanted to go after the hounds, and took the bit in his teeth, and kicked when they crossed the road. I shall have to diet him. Give him some water, Joseph, but no corn."

The poor pony might well shake his head, for it was a standing joke in Croppley that the doctor tried experiments on that pony: feeding him with chaff kept in an oaty bag, and keeping him low and grey hound like of rib, for the sake of speed when a union patient was ill.

But the pony had to be fetched out again before Joseph had removed his saddle; for just as Mr Tiddson was taking off his gloves and overcoat, a man came running up to the door, and tore at the bell, panting the while with his exertions.

"Well, what now? Is Betty Starger worse?"

"No," puff "no, sir;" puff "it's it's "

"Well? Why don't you speak, man?"

"Breath, sir!" puff. "Run all way! puff."

"Yes, yes," said Mr Tiddson. "And now what is it?"

"Hax haxiden, sir," puffed the messenger.

"Bless my soul, my good man! Where?" exclaimed the doctor, rubbing his hands.

"Down by Crossroads, sir; and they war takin' a gate off the hinges to lay him on, and carry him to the Seven Bells, when I run for you, sir."

"And how was it? and who is it?" said the doctor.

"Gent, sir; along o' the hounds."

"Here, stop a minute," exclaimed the doctor, ringing furiously till a servant came. "Jane, tell Joseph to bring Peter round directly; I'm wanted. Now go on, my good man," he continued.

"See him comin' myself, sir. Dogs had gone over the fallows, givin' mouth bea u u tiful, when he comes this gent, you know full tear, lifts his horse, clears the hedge, and drops into the lane Rugley lane, you know, sir, where the cutting is, with the sand martins' nestes in the bank. Well, sir, he comes down nice as could be, and then put his horse at t'other bank, as it couldn't be expected to get up, though it did try; and then, before you know'd it, down it come back'ards, right on to the poor gent, and rolled over him, so that when three or four on us got up he was as white and still as your 'ankychy, sir, that he war; and so I come off arter you. And you ain't got sech a thing as a drop o' beer in the house, have you, sir?"

"No, my man, I have not," said Mr Tiddson, mounting his steed, which had just been brought round to the front; "but if you will call at my surgery when I return, I daresay I can find you a glass of something. Go on, Peter."

But Peter did not seem disposed to go on; and it was not until his bare ribs had been drummed by the doctor's heels, and he had been smitten between the ears by the doctor's umbrella, that he condescended to shuffle off in a shambling trot a pace that put the messenger to no inconvenience to keep alongside, since it was only about half the rate at which he had brought the news.

To have seen Mr., or, as he was generally called, Dr. Tiddson ride, any one would have called to mind the printed form upon his medicine labels "To be well shaken;" for he was well shaken in the process, and had at short intervals to push forward his hat, which made a point of getting down over his ears... Continue reading book >>

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