2. BALLS & CO.

2. BALLS & CO.

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



It was a wet Wednesday when Farmer Jack Mullins received notification that there was to be a fancy dress ball on the rear lawns of Swanspottle Manor, and he sniggered to his wife, the renowned and very lovely Sophia Muggins who was busy washing her long blonde hair in the kitchen sink.

What’s got into you, our Jack?” she asked.

That Lord Absinthe bloke,” he began.

He’s no Lord jack, as you know well. He’s a Sir, got it for inventing something to do with computers or such like,” she replied, smiling into her suds.

Well I dunno. It’s all beyond me,” he said in his best thickie agricultural worker voice, which fooled no-on, least of all Sophia who often had long debates with him on such esoteric subjects as the meaning of life and the history of religion when they were snuggling up together in bed and might have turned their minds to more personal things if they hadn’t already done so and got them out of the way.

Well, what’s he got up to now?” asked Sophia.

He’s only going to have a fancy dress do in his garden!” exclaimed her husband, not wanting to seem keen on the idea even though something inside him was exactly that.

Dorothy Pippins told me that days ago!” she replied, smiling through the suds, “you know Dorothy who works in the Manorial kitchen three days a week? Apparently it was her ladyship’s idea and because Sir Jeffrey cocked a snoot at it Dottie said what a good idea it was and asked Sir Jef what he was going to go as!”

Oh, did she, then? And what did he say, beggin’ your pardon?”

There’s no need to go all country bumpkin to me, Jack Muggins! You can save that for those who might get impressed when they discover you can add two and two together and come to the right answer! And he said that there’s no way he’s going to make a laughing stock of himself in front of all his neighbours and that he’d rather the world opened up and swallowed him into it if he had to!”

You’d look nice as an Edwardian dandy,” she smiled at him, squeezing the last drops of water out of her hair and wrapping it up in a towel, “I can just see you like that! Top hat and spats, hairy sideburns and carrying a brolly even on a summer’s day. Yes, and sporting a goatee beard and Poirot moustache to complete the picture!”

And what would you go as? A witch from the sixteenth century complete with broomstick and black cat?” asked Jack, “and why are you doing your hair in the kitchen? Haven’t we got a bathroom?”

I wanted to talk to my ever loving and handsome husband as I washed it,” she smiled, “and it’s the same water even if it does come out of a different tap!”

I’ll have you over this table, woman, if I have any more cheek out of you!” he muttered in pseudo anger.

Oh, master, don’t ‘ee do that or l’il Ella might come in and catch you at it,” she replied, shivering.

L’il Ella’s at school as you well know and won’t catch either of us at any such thing!” he threatened with a smile.

Then wait for my hair to dry,” she simpered, “while I round up a black cat and try to find enough twigs to make a broomstick out of.”

Wait! Before you steal Tomkins’ cat again, I see you more as a lady with a fine crinoline gown on and a huge feathered hat that gets up everyone’s nose,” he snorted. “That’s you and your place in the world, woman, not a country wench waiting for her man by lying on the kitchen table and getting bread crumbs in your undies!”

You’d make a nice old fashioned bobby,” smiled Sophia, “with his helmet and truncheon...”

That’s enough of that kind of talk or you’ll turn me into a wild beast ready to devour your pink and perfect flesh,” he said, “helmets and truncheons indeed!”

I know,” she grinned, “let’s nip into town seeing as it’s raining and you can’t find much to do in the rain, and nip into Balls’s theatrical costumiers little shop. That might give us the kind of ideas that mean you can put your truncheon away!”

You’re rude, you are!”

But don’t you like it! Let me get my hair three-quarters dry and we could be off. And, Jack Muggins, play your cards right and I’ll treat you to fish and chips at the Nag’s Head.”

You’re too good to me, m’lady. With salt and vinegar? Pretty please?”

Just get some decent trousers on. Ella’ll be home from school before you’re ready to go anywhere decent! And feel this: my hair’s almost dry already.”

Jack Muggins ran up the stairs and she could hear him banging around as he sorted out a pair of trousers that were half way decent. She gave her hair one last rub, pulled a brush through it until it hung just right and called out that she was ready and did it take all week for a man to put some trousers on?


Balls and Co had been theatrical costumiers long before both Balls and whoever Co was had departed this life, and was now, under the same name, in the hands of partners Cedric Stitch and Tony Dingle. It was a quiet little business and had it not been for the fact that the two owners were partners in more ways than the one it might not have provided sufficient income for two households. But the flat above the shop was big enough for the two co-owners of Balls and Co, and one peculiarity.

There had been a time, when he’d been young and fancy free, that Tony Dingle had discovered that he had needs. First and foremost among those needs was the one to escape the claustrophobic home he had lived in, with two parents so devoted to him that either one or the other of them even wiped his nose when he was in his teens. There had been nothing they wouldn’t do for him, and that cosseting sent him straight into the arms of Winnie

Winnie was a lovely girl. And, being lovely, he soon discovered that he had eyes for nobody else, and somehow they ended u married, whilst still in their dizzy teens. He was freed from claustrophobia-inducing parents and she had a boy she could love for ever and ever. Until, that is, Tony set eyes on Cedric Stitch.

The lovely Winnie soon twigged that not everything was normal when she caught the two young men in the closest imaginable embrace and actually kissing in the kind of way that showed they must surely be a little bit more than friends, and when challenged both Cedric and Tony admitted there could be no doubt that their love would last for ever. But Winnie was two things: she was a realist, meaning she could see real things happening, and she was patient.

Well then,” she said to her husband Tony sweetly, “I can see the way things are and that you adore Cedric, and I must accept that. But I know you will return to me, and I will wait for you to do just that.”

When Cedric’s parents both passed away within a few days of each other he inherited a considerable number of strange objects from them, heirlooms from an age before heirlooms were popular. They were mostly toys that predated most toys, bought at auctions over many years in the fond hope that their son would treasure them and play with them.

He did neither, but he did sell them to a wealthy collector and for so much money that he could afford to buy, outright, Balls and Co, theatrical costumiers, and he continued the business along with his partner Tony who was still in possession of a loving wife who was prepared to bide her time until he returned to her, and until that day came had the spare bedroom above the shop.

And it was into that shop that Jack and Sophie Muggins went to see what might suit them at a fancy dress ball.

© Peter Rogerson 18.07.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on July 18, 2020
Last Updated on July 18, 2020
Tags: farmer, farmer's wife, costumier


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..