Master Hughie - A spoilt bastard on Grooming The Iron Steed

“What’s his iron horse?” asks Jane. “That’s another name they give them nasty bicycles..... My name is Hugh, I am twenty-five, and stand six feet in my stockings.”” Master Hughie

Master Hughie - the spoilt bastard.

Master Hughie was first published in the London Bicycle Club Gazette in 1880.

Master Hughie Grooms His Iron Steed

I overheard the following conversation take place between our house and parlour maid, and according to the usual fate of listeners, heard no good of myself. Before repeating it I must say a few words in justification of my apparent selfishness. I am only, and therefore, I suppose, a spoilt son. I have no nice sisters to clean my bicycle for me and no time to do it myself, as will be seen when I say that I leave for the city every day at eight and do not return till seven in the evening. Now in summer I like to ride my machine every evening, and as I cannot ride it when dirty, some one, of course, must clean it for me.

My mother, dear old lady, would, I know, at the slightest word of mine polish, oil, and clean, till her back broke ; but, even I, spoilt boy that I am, have not the face to ask my mother to slave for me. The only other person in the house who will perform this office for me is the house maid, a nice elderly party who has been with us ten years, and lately I have, I suppose, been taking advantage of her great good nature and constantly going out in disgustingly dirty weather, always feeling sure that by the next evening my machine would again shine as when new.

Well, to proceed with my story : I was one evening passing the pantry door which stood ajar on my way to the wine-cellar, when I heard the well-known tones of Mary, our housemaid, saying, "Yer know, Jane, Master 'Ughie comes up with his pleasant manners and 'andsome face, and says, 'Mary, my machine is dreadfully dirty, and I can't trust it to anyone except you, to clean. Will you do it for me, you can do it so beautifully? I'm the envy of the club with my splendid kept machine.'" On these words reaching my ears I ought to have gone on and not listened any more, but hearing Mary call me Master 'Ughie made me so angry that I determined to wait till she said it again, and then go in and inquire who she meant by Master 'Ughie. Even the flattering words of "pleasant manners and 'andsome face" did not counterbalance my wrath at the name by which she designated me. My name is Hugh, I am twenty-five, and stand six feet in my stockings. Ought I still to be called Master 'Ughie? For five years I have patiently tried to teach Mary that she must call me Mr. Hugh, and had at last so far succeeded that she invariably addressed me as Mr. 'Ugh ; to find therefore that, after five years of labour, I was still spoken of in pantry by my childish name annoyed me extremely. I waited to hear the name repeated, thinking that if I could suddenly appear in a private conversation between the servants they would be more careful in future. "I pity yer, mary, I does, indeed ; them bicycles is nasty, greasy, dangerous things, they always looks as if they'd kick if they could."

"Well, " said poor Mary, "I shall give warning, for I can't stand it any longer. Every day there's the same dirty job to be gone through. Besides, them young gents is so pertikkler (sic). As soon as Master 'Ughie (Oh dear, there she goes again ; I shan't, however, interrupt her, because I intend to hear the rest of her complaint) sees me as cleaning of his machine, up he comes with twenty different directions. 'Now Mary, take care that you don't use any emery paper to the spokes,' which I've learnt by this time is them spidery-looking things as go out from the middle of the wheel. Then off he goes, but in another minute he's back again, saying, 'Last time, Mary, you didn't take all the rust off, please be very particular about that.' Then he begins to walk off, but afore he's gone many steps he turns round and says. 'If you take great care to oil the machine well, it won't get rusty you know.' This time I think he's really off, and feels 'appy accordin' ; but no, afore five minutes is over back he comes, and says, in a most insiniatin' voice, 'You clean the machine to perfection, Mary, but if you polished up the brass parts a little more, and dusted the paint a little better, and took care that all the steel parts was quite bright, and that there was no mud left anywhere under the saddle or on the treadles, I really almost think it would be an improvement.' The young jackanapes, he's makin' game of me ; I know him." (Here I nearly betrayed myself by a laugh, for the old girl was imitating my manner of voice, with sundry absurd additions of her own.)

"This goes on day after day, and all the thanks I get is this, 'Why, Mary, you look younger and more blooming every time I see you ; cleaning bicycles seems to agree with you. I have a friend with a bicycle coming to stay with me shortly, so then you will have the pleasure of cleaning two machines. My friend, although a very particular man, cannot fail to be satisfied with the way you will clean his iron horse.'"

"What's his iron horse?" asks Jane. "That's another name they give them nasty bicycles. I don't see why; they ain't much like a horse, except as that they's got a saddle, and all horses ain't got that. Lawky, it's no good going on talking, I'm off to give missus warning, so as I may be off affore this other fine gent arrives with his iron horse." Mary brought out these last words with a contemptuous bounce, and was hurrying out of the room when I stepped forward and said, in what Mary would, I suppose, call my insiniatin'voice, "Mary, do stay and listen to reason for one minute, there's a duck. A grand bicycle meet is soon going to be held, and I shan't be able to go because my machine won't be fit to be seen. How will you like to have it said that poor Hugh couldn't come to the meet because his dear old Mary turned crusty, and wouldn't clean her boy's machine. As to my friend, he will only stay here a week. If for that short period you keep his machine clean, he will leave this house once more believing there are angels on this earth. He gave up that belief a short time ago when his sisters refused to clean his bicycle any more for him. You won't go, will you, dear old Mary?" It was a joke to see her altering determination; she loved me to be called her boy, and that helped bring her round a good deal. She was still much too out of breath to speak, after the jump she had given at seeing me suddenly appear, but I felt sure that she intended to stay, so I said, "Thank you so much for staying, and you in return for the great favour I have done you in not allowing you to go, must never again in public or in private call me MASTER 'UGHIE.