'Capital stables—excellent stables!' replied the shooter; 'stalls six feet in the clear, by twelve dip (deep), iron racks, oak stall-posts covered with zinc, beautiful oats, capital beans, splendacious hay—won without a shower!'
'Bravo!' exclaimed Sponge, thinking he had lit on his legs, and might snap his fingers at Jog and his hints. He'd take the high hand, and give Jog up.
'I'm your man!' said Sponge, in high glee.
'When will you come?' asked Romford.
'To-morrow!' replied Sponge firmly.
'So be it,' rejoined his proffered host; and, with another hearty swing of the arm, the newly made friends parted.
Charley Romford, or Facey, as he was commonly called, from his being the admitted most impudent man in the country, was a great, round-faced, coarse-featured, prize-fighting sort of fellow, who lived chiefly by his wits, which he exercised in all the legitimate lines of industry—poaching, betting, boxing, horse-dealing, cards, quoits—anything that came uppermost. That he was a man of enterprise, we need hardly add, when he had formed a scheme for doing our Sponge—a man that we do not think any of our readers would trouble themselves to try a 'plant' upon.
This impudent Facey, as if in contradiction of terms, was originally intended for a civil engineer; but having early in life voted himself heir to his uncle, Mr. Gilroy, of Queercove Hill, a great cattle-jobber, with a 'small independence of his own'—three hundred a year, perhaps, which a kind world called six—Facey thought he would just hang about until his uncle was done with his shoes, and then be lord of Queercove Hill.
Now, 'me Oncle Gilroy,' of whom Facey was constantly talking, had a left-handed wife and promising family in the sylvan retirement of St. John's Wood, whither he used to retire after his business in 'Smi'fiel'' was over; so that Facey, for once, was out in his calculations. Gilroy, however, being as knowing as 'his nevvey,' as he called him, just encouraged Facey in his shooting, fishing, and idle propensities generally, doubtless finding it more convenient to have his fish and game for nothing than to pay for them.
Facey, having the apparently inexhaustible sum of a thousand pounds, began life as a fox-hunter—in a very small way, to be sure—more for the purpose of selling horses than anything else; but, having succeeded in 'doing' all the do-able gentlemen, both with the 'Tip and Go' and Cranerfield hounds, his occupation was gone, it requiring an extended field—such as our friend Sponge roamed—to carry on cheating in horses for any length of time. Facey was soon blown, his name in connexion with a horse being enough to prevent any one looking at him. Indeed, we question that there is any less desirable mode of making, or trying to make money, than by cheating or even dealing in horses. Many people fancy themselves cheated, whatever they get; while the man who is really cheated never forgets it, and proclaims it to the end of time. Moreover, no one can go on cheating in horses for any length of time, without putting himself in the power of his groom; and let those who have seen how servants lord it over each other say how they would like to subject themselves to similar treatment.—But to our story.
Facey Romford had now a splendid milk-white horse, well-known in Mr. Nobbington's and Lord Leader's hunts as Mr. Hobler, but who Facey kindly rechristened the 'Nonpareil,' which the now rising price of oats, and falling state of his finances, made him particularly anxious to get rid of, ere the horse performed the equestrian feat of 'eating its head off.' He was a very hunter-like looking horse, but his misfortune consisted in having such shocking seedy toes, that he couldn't keep his shoes on. If he got through the first field with them on, they were sure to be off at the fence. This horse Facey voted to be the very thing for Mr. Sponge, and hearing that he had come into the country to hunt, it occurred to him that it would be a capital thing if he could get him to take Mother Overend's spare bed and lodge with him, twelve shillings a week being more than Facey liked paying for his rooms. Not that he paid twelve shillings for the rooms alone; on the contrary, he had a two-stalled stable, with a sort of kennel for his pointers, and a sty for his pig into the bargain. This pig, which was eaten many times in anticipation, had at length fallen a victim to the butcher, and Facey's larder was uncommonly well found in black-puddings, sausages, spare ribs, and the other component parts of a pig: so that he was in very hospitable circumstances—at least, in his rough and ready idea of what hospitality ought to be. Indeed, whether he had or not, he'd have risked it, being quite as good at carrying things off with a high hand as Mr. Sponge himself.
The invitation came most opportunely; for, worn out with jealousy and watching, Jog had made up his mind to cut to Australia, and when Sponge returned after meeting Facey, Jog was in the act of combing out an advertisement, offering all that desirable sporting residence called Puddingpote Bower, with the coach-house, stables, and offices thereunto belonging, to let, and announcing that the whole of the valuable household furniture, comprising mahogany, dining, loo, card, and Pembroke tables; sofa, couch, and chairs in hair seating; cheffonier, with plate glass; book-case; flower-stands; pianoforte, by Collard and Collard; music-stool and Canterbury; chimney and pier-glasses; mirror; ormolu time-piece; alabaster and wax figures and shades; china; Brussels carpets and rugs; fenders and fire-irons; curtains and cornices; Venetian blinds; mahogany four-post, French, and camp bedsteads; feather beds; hair mattresses; mahogany chests of drawers; dressing-glasses; wash and dressing-tables; patent shower-bath; bed and table-linen; dinner and tea-ware; warming-pans, &c., would be exposed to immediate and unreserved sale.
How gratefully Sponge's inquiry if he knew Mr. Romford fell on his ear, as they sat moodily together after dinner over some very low-priced port.
'Oh yes (puff)—oh yes (wheeze)—oh yes (gasp)! Know Charley Romford—Facey, as they call him. He's (puff, wheeze, gasp) heir to old Mr. Gilroy, of Queercove Hill.'
'Just so,' rejoined Sponge, 'just so; that's the man—stout, square-built fellow, with backward-growing whiskers. I'm going to stay with him to shoot at old Gil's. Where does Charley live?'
'Live!' exclaimed Jog, almost choked with delight at the information; 'live! live!' repeated he, for the third time; 'lives at (puff, wheeze, gasp, cough) Washingforde—yes, at Washingforde; 'bout ten miles from (puff, wheeze) here. When d'ye go?'
'To-morrow,' replied Sponge, with an air of offended dignity.
Jog was so rejoiced that he could hardly sit on his chair.
Mrs. Jog, when she heard it, felt that Gustavus James's chance of independence was gone; for well she knew that Jog would never let Sponge come back to the Bower.
We need scarcely say that Jog was up betimes in the morning, most anxious to forward Mr. Sponge's departure. He offered to allow Bartholomew to convey him and his 'traps' in the phaeton—an offer that Mr. Sponge availed himself of as far as his 'traps' were concerned, though he preferred cantering over on his piebald to trailing along in Jog's jingling chay. So matters were arranged, and Mr. Sponge forthwith proceeded to put his brown boots, his substantial cords, his superfine tights, his cuttey scarlet, his dress blue saxony, his clean linen, his heavy spurs, and though last, not least in importance, his now backless Mogg, into his solid leather portmanteau, sweeping the surplus of his wardrobe into a capacious carpet-bag. While the guest was thus busy upstairs, the host wandered about restlessly, now stirring up this person, now hurrying that, in the full enjoyment of the much-coveted departure. His pleasure was, perhaps, rather damped by a running commentary he overheard through the lattice-window of the stable, from Leather, as he stripped his horses and tried to roll up their clothing in a moderate compass.
''Ord rot your great carcass!' exclaimed he, giving the roll a hearty kick in its bulging-out stomach, on finding that he had not got it as small as he wanted. ''Ord rot your great carcass,' repeated he, scratching his head and eyeing it as it lay; 'this is all the consequence of your nasty brewers' hapron weshins—blowin' of one out, like a bladder!' and, thereupon, he placed his hand on his stomach to feel how his own was. 'Never see'd sich a house, or sich an awful mean man!' continued he, stooping and pommelling the package with his fists. It was of no use, he could not get it as small as he wished—'Must have my jacket out on you, I do believe,' added he, seeing where the impediment was; 'sticks in your gizzard just like a lump of old Puff-and-blow's puddin''; and then he thrust his hand into the folds of the clothing, and pulled out the greasy garment. 'Now,' said he, stooping again, 'I think we may manish ye'; and he took the roll in his arms and hoisted it on to Hercules, whom he meant to make the led horse, observing aloud, as he adjusted it on the saddle, and whacked it well with his hands to make it lie right, 'I wish it was old Jog—wouldn't I sarve him out!' He then turned his horses round in their stalls, tucked his greasy jacket under the flap of the saddle-bags, took his ash-stick from the crook, and led them out of the capacious door. Jog looked at him with mingled feelings of disgust and delight. Leather just gave his old hat flipe a rap with his forefinger as he passed with the horses—a salute that Jog did not condescend to return.
Having eyed the receding horses with great satisfaction, Jog re-entered the house by the kitchens, to have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Sponge off. He found the portmanteau and carpet-bag standing in the passage, and just at the moment the sound of the phaeton wheels fell on his ear, as Bartholomew drove round from the coach-house to the door. Mr. Sponge was already in the parlour, making his adieus to Mrs. Jog and the children, who were all assembled for the purpose.
'What, are you goin'?' (puff) asked Jog, with an air of surprise.
'Yes,' replied Mr. Sponge; adding, as he tendered his hand, 'the best friends must part, you know.'
'Well (puff), but you'd better have your (wheeze) horse round,' observed Jog, anxious to avoid any overture for a return.
'Thankee,' replied Mr. Sponge, making a parting bow; 'I'll get him at the stable.'
'I'll go with you,' said Jog, leading the way.
Leather had saddled, and bridled, and turned him round in the stall, with one of Mr. Jog's blanket-rugs on, which Mr. Sponge just swept over his tail into the manger, and led the horse out.
'Adieu!' said he, offering his hand to his host.
'Good-bye!—good (puff) sport to you,' said Jog, shaking it heartily.
Mr. Sponge then mounted his hack, and cocking out his toe, rode off at a canter.
At the same moment, Bartholomew drove away from the front door; and Jog, having stood watching the phaeton over the rise of Pennypound Hill, scraped his feet, re-entered his house, and rubbing them heartily on the mat as he closed the sash-door, observed aloud to himself, with a jerk of his head:
'Well, now, that's the most (puff) impittent feller I ever saw in my life! Catch me (gasp) godpapa-hunting again.'
THE ADJOURNED DEBATE
The fatal invitation to Mr. Sponge having been sent, the question that now occupied the minds of the assembled sharpers at Nonsuch House, was, whether he was a pigeon or one of themselves. That point occupied their very deep and serious consideration. If he was a 'pigeon,' they could clearly accommodate him, but if, on the other hand, he was one of themselves, it was painfully apparent that there were far too many of them there already. Of course, the subject was not discussed in full and open conclave—they were all highly honourable men in the gross—and it was only in the small and secret groups of those accustomed to hunt together and unburden their minds, that the real truth was elicited.
'What an ass Sir Harry is, to ask this Mr. Sponge,' observed Captain Quod to Captain Seedeybuck, as (cigar in mouth) they paced backwards and forwards under the flagged veranda on the west side of the house, on the morning that Sir Harry had announced his intention of asking him.
'Confounded ass,' assented Seedeybuck, from between the whiffs of his cigar.
'Dash it! one would think he had more money than he knew what to do with,' observed the first speaker, 'instead of not knowing where to lay hands on a halfpenny.'
'Soon be who-hoop,' here observed Quod, with a shake of the head.
'Fear so,' replied Seedeybuck. 'Have you heard anything fresh?'
'Nothing particular. The County Court bailiff was here with some summonses, which, of course, he put in the fire.'
'Ah! that's what he always does. He got tired of papering the smoking-room with them,' replied Seedeybuck.
'Well, it's a pity,' observed Quod, spitting as he spoke; 'but what can you expect, eaten up as he is by such a set of rubbish.'
'Shockin',' replied Seedeybuck, thinking how long he and his friend might have fattened there together.
'Do you know anything of this Mr. Sponge?' asked Captain Quod, after a pause.
'Nothin',' replied Seedeybuck, 'except what we saw of him here; but I'm sure he won't do.'
'Well, I think not either,' replied Quod; 'I didn't like his looks—he seems quite one of the free-and-easy sort.'
'Quite,' observed Seedeybuck, determined to make a set against him, instead of cultivating his acquaintance.
'This Mr. Sponge won't be any great addition to our party, I think,' muttered Captain Bouncey to Captain Cutitfat, as they stood within the bay of the library window, in apparent contemplation of the cows, but in reality conning the Sponge matter over in their minds.
'I think not,' replied Captain Cutitfat, with an emphasis.
'Wonder what made Sir Harry ask him!' whispered Bouncey, adding, aloud, for the bystanders to hear, 'That's a fine cow, isn't it?'
'Very,' replied Cutitfat, in the same key, adding, in a whisper, with a shrug of his shoulders, 'Wonder what made him ask half the people that are here!'
'The black and white one isn't a bad un,' observed Bouncey, nodding his head towards the cows, adding in an undertone, 'Most of them asked themselves, I should think.'
'Admiring the cows. Captain Bouncey?' asked the beautiful and tolerably virtuous Miss Glitters, of the Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, who had come down to spend a few days with her old friend, Lady Scattercash. 'Admiring the cows, Captain Bouncey?' asked she, sidling her elegant figure between our friends in the bay.
'We were just saying how nice it would be to have two or three pretty girls, and a sillabub, under those cedars,' replied Captain Bouncey.
'Oh, charming!' exclaimed Miss Glitters, her dark eyes sparkling as she spoke. 'Harriet!' exclaimed she, addressing herself to a young lady, who called herself Howard, but whose real name was Brown—Jane Brown—'Harriet!' exclaimed she, 'Captain Bouncey is going to give a fete champetre under those lovely cedars.'
'Oh, how nice!' exclaimed Harriet, clapping her hands in ecstasies—theatrical ecstasies at least.
'It must be Sir Harry,' replied the billiard-table man, not fancying being 'let in' for anything.
'Oh! Sir Harry will let us have anything we like, I'm sure,' rejoined Miss Glitters.
'What is it (hiccup)?' asked Sir Harry, who, hearing his name, now joined the party.
'Oh, we want you to give us a dance under those charming cedars,' replied the lady, looking lovingly at him.
'Cedars!' hiccuped Sir Harry, 'where do you see any cedars?'
'Why there,' replied Miss Glitters, nodding towards a clump of evergreens.
'Those are (hiccup) hollies,' replied Sir Harry.
'Well, under the hollies,' rejoined Miss Glitters; adding, 'it was Captain Bouncey who said they were cedars.'
'Ah, I meant those beyond,' observed the captain, nodding in another direction.
'Those are (hiccup) Scotch firs,' rejoined Sir Harry.
'Well, never mind what they are,' resumed the lady; 'let us have a dance under them.'
'Certainly,' replied Sir Harry, who was always ready for anything. 'We shall have plenty of partners,' observed Miss Howard, recollecting how many men there were in the house.
'And another coming,' observed Captain Cutitfat, still fretting at the idea.
'Indeed!' exclaimed Miss Howard, raising her hands and eyebrows in delight; 'and who is he?' asked she, with unfeigned glee.
'Oh such a (hiccup) swell,' replied Sir Harry; 'reg'lar Leicestershire man. A (hiccup) Quornite, in fact.'
'We'll not have the dance till he comes, then,' observed Miss Glitters.
'No more we will,' said Miss Howard, withdrawing from the group.
FACEY ROMFORD AT HOME
We will now suppose our distinguished Sponge entering the village, or what the natives call the town of Washingforde, towards the close of a short December day, on his arrival from Mr. Jog's.
'What sort of stables are there?' asked he, reining up his hack, as he encountered the brandy-nosed Leather airing himself on the main street.
'Stables be good enough—forage, too,' replied the stud groom—'per-wided you likes the sittivation.'
'Oh, the sittivation 'll be good enough,' retorted Sponge, thinking that, groom-like, Leather was grumbling because he hadn't got the best stables.
'Well, sir, as you please,' replied the man.
'Why, where are they?' asked Sponge, seeing there was more in Leather's manner than met the eye.
'Rose and Crown!' replied Leather, with an emphasis.
'Rose and Crown!' exclaimed Sponge, starting in his saddle; 'Rose and Crown! Why, I'm going to stay with Mr. Romford!'
'So he said.' replied Leather; 'so he said. I met him as I com'd in with the osses, and said he to me, said he, "You'll find captle quarters at the Crown!"' 'The deuce!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, dropping the reins on his hack's neck; 'the deuce!' repeated he with a look of disgust. 'Why, where does he live?'
''Bove the saddler's, thonder,' replied Leather, nodding to a small bow-windowed white house a little lower down, with the gilt-lettered words:
OVEREND, SADDLER AND HARNESS-MAKER TO THE QUEEN,
above a very meagrely stocked shop.
'The devil!' replied Mr. Sponge, boiling up as he eyed the cottage-like dimensions of the place.
The dialogue was interrupted by a sledge-hammer-like blow on Sponge's back, followed by such a proffered hand as could proceed from none but his host.
'Glad to see ye!' exclaimed Facey, swinging Sponge's arm to and fro. 'Get off!' continued he, half dragging him down, 'and let's go in; for it's beastly cold, and dinner'll be ready in no time!'
So saying, he led the captive Sponge down street, like a prisoner, by the arm, and, opening the thin house-door, pushed him up a very straight staircase into a little low cabin-like room, hung with boxing-gloves, foils, and pictures of fighters and ballet girls.
'Glad to see ye!' again said Facey, poking the diminutive fire. 'Axed Nosey Nickel and Gutty Weazel to meet you,' continued he, looking at the little 'dinner-for-two' table; 'but Nosey's gone wrong in a tooth, and Gutty's away sweetheartin'. However, we'll be very cosy and jolly together; and if you want to wash your hands, or anything afore dinner, I'll show you your bedroom,' continued he, backing Sponge across the staircase landing to where a couple of little black doors opened into rooms, formed by dividing what had been the duplicate of the sitting-room into two.
'There!' exclaimed Facey, pointing to Sponge's portmanteau and bag, standing midway between the window and door: 'There! there are your traps. Yonder's the washhand-stand. You can put your shavin'-things on the chair below the lookin'-glass 'gainst the wall,' pointing to a fragment of glass nailed against the stencilled wall, all of which Sponge stood eyeing with a mingled air of resignation and contempt; but when Facey pointed to:
'The chest, contrived a double debt to pay— A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day'
and said that was where Sponge would have to curl himself up, our friend shook his head, and declared he could not.
'Oh, fiddle!' replied Facey, 'Jack Weatherley slept in it for months, and he's half a hand higher than you—sixteen hands, if he's an inch.' And Sponge jerked his head and bit his lips, thinking he was 'done' for once.
'W-h-o-y, ar thought you'd been a fox-hunter,' observed Facey, seeing his guest's disconcerted look.
'Well, but bein' a fox-hunter won't enable one to sleep in a band-box, or to shut one's-self up like a telescope,' retorted the indignant Sponge.
''Ord hang it, man! you're so nasty partickler,' rejoined Facey; 'you're so nasty partickler. You'll never do to go out duck-shootin' i' your shirt. Dash it, man! Oncle Gilroy would disinherit me if ar was such a chap. However, look sharp,' continued he, 'if you are goin' to clean yourself; for dinner 'll be ready in no time, indeed, I hear Mrs. End dishin' it up.' So saying, Facey rolled out of the room, and Sponge presently heard him pulling off his clogs of shoes in the adjoining one. Dinner spoke for itself, for the house reeked with the smell of fried onions and roast pork.
Now, Sponge didn't like pork; and there was nothing but pork, or pig in one shape or another. Spare ribs, liver and bacon, sausages, black puddings, &c.—all very good in their way, but which came with a bad grace after the comforts of Jog's, the elegance of Puffington's, and the early splendour of Jawleyford's. Our hero was a good deal put out, and felt as if he was imposed upon. What business had a man like this to ask him to stay with him—a man who dined by daylight, and ladled his meat with a great two-pronged fork?
Facey, though he saw Mr. Sponge wasn't pleased, praised and pressed everything in succession down to a very strong cheese; and as the slip-shod girl whisked away crumbs and all in the coarse tablecloth, he exclaimed in a most open-hearted air, 'Well, now, what shall we have to drink?' adding, 'You smoke, of course—shall it be gin, rum, or Hollands—Hollands, rum, or gin?'
Sponge was half inclined to propose wine, but recollecting what sloe-juice sort of stuff it was sure to be, and that Facey, in all probability, would make him finish it, he just replied, 'Oh, I don't care; 'spose we say gin?'
'Gin be it,' said Facey, rising from his seat, and making for a little closet in the wall, he produced a bottle labelled 'Fine London Spirit'; and, hallooing to the girl to get a few 'Captins' out of the box under his bed, he scattered a lot of glasses about the table, and placed a green dessert-dish for the biscuits against they came.
Night had now closed in—a keen, boisterous, wintry night, making the pocketful of coals that ornamented the grate peculiarly acceptable.
'B-o-y Jove, what a night!' exclaimed Facey, as a blash of sleet dashed across the window as if some one had thrown a handful of pebbles against it. 'B-o-y Jove, what a night!' repeated he, rising and closing the shutters, and letting down the little scanty red curtain. 'Let us draw in and have a hot brew,' continued he, stirring the fire under the kettle, and handing a lot of cigars out of the table-drawer. They then sat smoking and sipping, and smoking and sipping, each making a mental estimate of the other.
'Shall we have a game at cards? or what shall we do to pass the evenin'?' at length asked our host. 'Better have a game at cards, p'raps,' continued he.
'Thank'ee, no; thank'ee, no. I've a book in my pocket,' replied Sponge, diving into his jacket-pocket; adding, as he fished up his Mogg, 'always carry a book of light reading about with me.'
'What, you're a literary cove, are you?' asked Facey, in a tone of surprise.
'Not exactly that,' replied Sponge; 'but I like to improve my mind.' He then opened the valuable work, taking a dip into the Omnibus Guide—'Brentford, 7 from Hyde Park Corner—European Coffee House, near the Bank, daily,' and so worked his way on through the 'Brighton Railway Station, Brixton, Bromley both in Kent and Middlesex, Bushey Heath, Camberwell, Camden Town, and Carshalton,' right into Cheam, when Facey, who had been eyeing him intently, not at all relishing his style of proceeding and wishing to be doing, suddenly exclaimed, as he darted up:
'B-o-y Jove! You've not heard me play the flute! No more you have. Dash it, how remiss!' continued he, making for the little bookshelf on which it lay; adding, as he blew into it and sucked the joints, 'you're musical, of course?'
'Oh, I can stand music,' muttered Sponge, with a jerk of his head, as if a tune was neither here nor there with him.
'By Jingo! you should see me Oncle Gilroy when a'rm playin'! The old man act'ly sheds tears of delight—he's so pleased.'
'Indeed,' replied Sponge, now passing on into Mogg's Cab Fares—'Aldersgate Street, Hare Court, to or from Bagnigge Wells,' and so on, when Facey struck up the most squeaking, discordant, broken-winded
'Jump Jim Crow'
that ever was heard, making the sensitive Sponge shudder, and setting all his teeth on edge.
'Hang me, but that flute of yours wants nitre, or a dose of physic, or something most dreadful!' at length exclaimed he, squeezing up his face as if in the greatest agony, as the laboured:
'Jump about and wheel about'
completely threw Sponge over in his calculation as to what he could ride from Aldgate Pump to the Pied Bull at Islington for.
'Oh no!' replied Facey, with an air of indifference, as he took off the end and jerked out the steam. 'Oh no—only wants work—only wants work,' added he, putting it together again, exclaiming, as he looked at the now sulky Sponge, 'Well, what shall it be?'
'Whatever you please,' replied our friend, dipping frantically into his Mogg.
'Well, then, I'll play you me oncle's favourite tune, "The Merry Swiss Boy,"' whereupon Facey set to most vigorously with that once most popular air. It, however, came off as rustily as 'Jim Crow,' for whose feats Facey evidently had a partiality; for no sooner did he get squeaked through 'me oncle's' tune than he returned to the nigger melody with redoubled zeal, and puffed and blew Sponge's calculations as to what he could ride from 'Mother Redcap's at Camden Town down Liquorpond Street, up Snow Hill, and so on, to the 'Angel' in Ratcliff Highway for, clean out of his head. Nor did there seem any prospect of relief, for no sooner did Facey get through one tune than he at the other again.
'Rot it!' at length exclaimed Sponge, throwing his Mogg from him in despair, 'you'll deafen me with that abominable noise.' 'Bless my heart!' exclaimed Facey, in well-feigned surprise, 'Bless my heart! Why, I thought you liked music, my dear feller!' adding, 'I was playin' to please you.'
'The deuce you were!' snapped Mr. Sponge. 'I wish I'd known sooner: I'd have saved you a deal of wind.'
'Why, my dear feller,' replied Facey, 'I wished to entertain you the best in my power. One must do somethin', you know.'
'I'd rather do anything than undergo that horrid noise,' replied Sponge, ringing his left ear with his forefinger.
'Let's have a game at cards, then,' rejoined Facey soothingly, seeing he had sufficiently agonized Sponge.
'Cards,' replied Mr. Sponge. 'Cards,' repeated he thoughtfully, stroking his hairy chin. 'Cards,' added he, for the third time, as he conned Facey's rotund visage, and wondered if he was a sharper. If the cards were fair, Sponge didn't care trying his luck. It all depended upon that. 'Well,' said he, in a tone of indifference, as he picked up his Mogg, thinking he wouldn't pay if he lost, 'I'll give you a turn. What shall it be?'
'Oh—w-h-o-y—s'pose we say ecarte?' replied Facey, in an off-hand sort of way.
'Well,' drawled Sponge, pocketing his Mogg, preparatory to action.
'You haven't a clean pack, have you?' asked Sponge, as Facey, diving into a drawer, produced a very dirty, thumb-marked set.
'W-h-o-y, no, I haven't,' replied Facey. 'W-h-o-y, no, I haven't: but, honour bright, these are all right and fair. Wouldn't cheat a man, if it was ever so.'
'Sure you wouldn't,' replied Sponge, nothing comforted by the assertion.
They then resumed their seats opposite each other at the little table, with the hot water and sugar, and 'Fine London Spirit' bottle equitably placed between them.
At first Mr. Sponge was the victor, and by nine o'clock had scored eight-and-twenty shillings against his host, when he was inclined to leave off, alleging that he was an early man, and would go to bed—an arrangement that Facey seemed to come into, only pressing Sponge to accompany the gin he was now helping himself to with another cigar. This seemed all fair and reasonable; and as Sponge conned matters over, through the benign influence of the ''baccy,' he really thought Facey mightn't be such a bad beggar after all.
'Well, then,' said he, as he finished cigar and glass together, 'if you'll give me eight-and-twenty bob, I'll be off to Bedfordshire.'
'You'll give me my revenge surely!' exclaimed Facey, in pretended astonishment.
'To-morrow night,' replied Sponge firmly, thinking it would have to go hard with him if he remained there to give it.
'Nay, now!' rejoined Facey, adding, 'it's quite early. Me Oncle Gilroy and I always play much later at Queercove Hill.'
Sponge hesitated. If he had got the money, he would have refused point-blank; as it was, he thought, perhaps the only chance of getting it was to go on. With no small reluctance and misgivings he mixed himself another tumbler of gin and water, and, changing seats, resumed the game. Nor was our discreet friend far wrong in his calculations, for luck now changed, and Facey seemed to have the king quite at command. In less than an hour he had not only wiped off the eight-and-twenty shillings, but had scored three pound fifteen against his guest. Facey would now leave off. Sponge, on the other hand, wanted to go on. Facey, however, was firm. 'I'll cut you double or quits, then,' cried Sponge, in rash despair. Facey accommodated him and doubled the debt.
'Again!' exclaimed Sponge, with desperate energy.
'No! no more, thank ye,' replied Facey coolly. 'Fair play's a jewel.'
'So it is,' assented Mr. Sponge, thinking he hadn't had it.
'Now,' continued Facey, poking into the table-drawer and producing a dirty scrap of paper, with a little pocket ink-case, 'if you'll give me an "I.O.U.," we'll shut up shop.'
'An "I.O.U.!"' retorted Sponge, looking virtuously indignant. 'An "I.O.U.!" I'll give you your money i' the mornin'.'
'I know you will,' replied Facey coolly, putting himself in boxing attitude, exclaiming, as he measured out a distance, 'just feel the biceps muscle of my arm—do believe I could fell an ox. However, never mind,' continued he, seeing Sponge declined the feel. 'Life's uncertain: so you give me an "I.O.U." and we'll be all right and square. Short reckonin's make long friends, you know,' added he, pointing peremptorily to the paper.
'I'd better give you a cheque at once,' retorted Sponge, looking the very essence of chivalry.
'Money, if you please,' replied Facey; muttering, with a jerk of his head, 'don't like paper.'
The renowned Sponge, for once, was posed. He had the money, but he didn't like to part with it. So he gave the 'I.O.U.' and, lighting a twelve-to-the-pound candle, sulked off to undress and crawl into the little impossibility of a bed.
Night, however, brought no relief to our distinguished friend; for, little though the bed was, it was large enough to admit lodgers, and poor Sponge was nearly worried by the half-famished vermin, who seemed bent on making up for the long fast they had endured since the sixteen-hands-man left. Worst of all, as day dawned, the eternal 'Jim Crow' recommenced his saltations, varied only with the:
'Come, arouse ye, arouse ye, my merry Swiss boy'
of 'me Oncle Gilroy.'
'Well, dash my buttons!' groaned Sponge, as the discordant noise shot through his aching head, 'but this is the worst spec I ever made in my life. Fed on pork, fluted deaf, bit with bugs, and robbed at cards—fairly, downrightly robbed. Never was a more reg'ler plant put on a man. Thank goodness, however, I haven't paid him—never will, either. Such a confounded, disreputable scoundrel deserves to be punished—big, bad, blackguard-looking fellow! How the deuce I could ever be taken in by such a fellow! Believe he's nothing but a great poaching blackleg. Hasn't the faintest outlines of a gentleman about him—not the slightest particle—not the remotest glimmerin'.'
These and similar reflections were interrupted by a great thump against the thin lath-and-plaster wall that separated their rooms, or rather closets, accompanied by an exclamation of:
'HALLOO, OLD BOY! HOW GOES IT?'—an inquiry to which our friend deigned no answer.
''Ord rot ye! you're awake,' muttered Facey to himself, well knowing that no one could sleep after such a 'Jim-Crow-ing' and 'Swiss-boy-ing' as he had given him. He therefore resumed his battery, thumping as though he would knock the partition in.
'HALLOO!' at last exclaimed Mr. Sponge, 'who's there?'
'Well, old Sivin-Pund-Ten, how goes it?' asked Facey, in a tone of the keenest irony.
'You be ——!' growled Mr. Sponge, in disgust.
'Breakfast in half an hour!' resumed Facey. 'Pigs'-puddin's and sarsingers—all 'ot—pipin' 'ot!' continued our host.
'Wish you were pipin' 'ot,' growled Mr. Sponge, as he jerked himself out of his little berth.
Though Facey pumped him pretty hard during this second pig repast, he could make nothing out of Sponge with regard to his movements—our friend parrying all his inquiries with his Mogg, and assurances that he could amuse himself. In vain Facey represented that his Oncle Gilroy would be expecting them; that Mr. Hobler was ready for him to ride over on; Sponge wasn't inclined to shoot, but begged Facey wouldn't stay at home on his account. The fact was, Sponge meditated a bolt, and was in close confab with Leather, in the Rose and Crown stables, arranging matters, when the sound of his name in the yard caused him to look out, when—oh, welcome sight!—a Puddingpote Bower messenger put Sir Harry's note in his hand, which had at length arrived at Jog's through their very miscellaneous transit, called a post. Sponge, in the joy of his heart, actually gave the lad a shilling! He now felt like a new man. He didn't care a rap for Facey, and, ordering Leather to give him the hack and follow with the hunters, he presently cantered out of town as sprucely as if all was on the square.
When, however, Facey found how matters stood, he determined to stop Sponge's things, which Leather resisted; and, Facey showing fight, Leather butted him with his head, sending him backwards downstairs and putting his shoulder out. Leather than marched off with the kit, amid the honours of war.
NONSUCH HOUSE AGAIN
The gallant inmates of Nonsuch House had resolved themselves into a committee of speculation, as to whether Mr. Sponge was coming or not; indeed, they had been betting upon it, the odds at first being a hundred to one that he came, though they had fallen a point or two on the arrival of the post without an answer.
'Well, I say Mr. What-d'ye-call-him—Sponge—doesn't come!' exclaimed Captain Seedeybuck, as he lay full length, with his shaggy greasy head on the fine rose-coloured satin sofa, and his legs cocked over the cushion.
'Why not?' asked Miss Glitters, who was beguiling the twilight half-hour before candles with knitting.
'Don't know,' replied Seedeybuck, twirling his moustache, 'don't know—have a presentiment he won't.'
'Sure to come!' exclaimed Captain Bouncey, knocking the ashes off his cigar on to the fine Tournay carpet.
'I'll lay ten to one—ten fifties to one—he does,—a thousand to ten if you like.' If all the purses in the house had been clubbed together, we don't believe they would have raised fifty pounds.
'What sort of a looking man is he?' asked Miss Glitters, now counting her loops.
'Oh—whoy—ha—hem—haw—he's just an ordinary sort of lookin' man—nothin' 'tickler any way,' drawled Captain Seedeybuck, now wetting and twirling his moustache.
'Two legs, a head, a back, and so on, I presume,' observed the lady.
'Just so,' assented Captain Seedeybuck.
'He's a horsey-lookin' sort o' man, I should say,' observed Captain Bouncey, 'walks as if he ought to be ridin'—wears vinegar tops.'
'Hate vinegar tops,' growled Seedeybuck.
Just then, in came Lady Scattercash, attended by Mr. Orlando Bugles, the ladies' attractions having caused that distinguished performer to forfeit his engagement at the Surrey Theatre. Captain Cutitfat, Bob Spangles, and Sir Harry quickly followed, and the Sponge question was presently renewed.
'Who says old brown boots comes?' exclaimed Seedeybuck from the sofa.
'Who's that with his nasty nob on my fine satin sofa?' asked the lady.
'Bob Spangles,' replied Seedeybuck.
'Nothing of the sort,' rejoined the lady; 'and I'll trouble you to get off.'
'Can't—I've got a bone in my leg,' rejoined the captain.
'I'll soon make you,' replied her ladyship, seizing the squab, and pulling it on to the floor.
As the captain was scrambling up, in came Peter—one of the wageless footmen—with candles, which having distributed equitably about the room, he approached Lady Scattercash, and asked, in an independent sort of way, what room Mr. Soapsuds was to have.
'Soapsuds!—Soapsuds!—that's not his name,' exclaimed her ladyship.
'Sponge, you fool! Soapey Sponge,' exclaimed Cutitfat, who had ferreted out Sponge's nomme de Londres.
'He's not come, has he?' asked Miss Glitters eagerly.
'Yes, my lady—that's to say, miss,' replied Peter.
'Come, has he!' chorused three or four voices.
'Well, he must have a (hiccup) room,' observed Sir Harry. 'The green—the one above the billiard-room will do,' added he.
'But I have that, Sir Harry,' exclaimed Miss Howard.
'Oh, it'll hold two well enough,' observed Miss Glitters.
'Then you can be the second,' replied Miss Howard, with a toss of her head.
'Indeed!' sneered Miss Glitters, bridling up. 'I like that.'
'Well, but where's the (hiccup) man to be put?' asked Sir Harry.
'There's Ladofwax's room,' suggested her ladyship.
'The captain's locked the door and taken the key with him,' replied the footman; 'he said he'd be back in a day or two.'
'Back in a (hiccup) or two!' observed Sir Harry. 'Where is he gone?'
The man smiled.
'Borrowed,' observed Captain Quod, with an emphasis.
'Indeed!' exclaimed Sir Harry, adding, 'well, I thought that was Nabbum's gig with the old grey.'
'He'll not be back in a hurry,' observed Bouncey. 'He'll be like the Boulogne gents, who are always going to England, but never do.'
'Poor Wax!' observed Quod; 'he's a big fool, to give him his due.'
'If you give him his due it's more than he gives other people, it seems.' observed Miss Howard.
'Oh, fie, Miss H.!' exclaimed Captain Seedeybuck.
'Well, but the (hiccup) man must have a (hiccup) bed somewhere,' observed Sir Harry; adding to the footman, 'you'd better (hiccup) the door open, you know.'
'Perhaps you'd better try what one of yours will do,' observed Bob Spangles, to the convulsion of the company.
In the midst of their mirth Mr. Bottleends was seen piloting Mr. Sponge up to her ladyship.
'Mr. Sponge, my lady,' said he in as low and deferential a tone as if he got his wages punctually every quarter-day.
'How do you do. Mr. Sponge?' said her ladyship, tendering him her hand with an elegant curtsey.
'How are you, Mr. (hiccup) Sponge?' asked Sir Harry, offering his; 'I believe you know the (hiccup) company?' continued he, waving his hand around; 'Miss (hiccup) Glitters, Captain (hiccup) Quod, Captain Bouncey, Mr. (hiccup) Bugles, Captain (hiccup) Seedeybuck, and so on'; whereupon Miss Glitters curtsied, the gentlemen bobbed their heads and drew near our hero, who had now stationed himself before the fire.
'Coldish to-night,' said he, stooping, and placing both hands to the bars. 'Coldish,' repeated he, rubbing his hands and looking around.
'It generally is about this time of year, I think,' observed Miss Glitters, who was quite ready to enter for our friend.
'Hope it won't stop hunting,' said Mr. Sponge.
'Hope not,' replied Sir Harry; 'would be a bore if it did.'
'I wonder you gentlemen don't prefer hunting in a frost,' observed Miss Howard; 'one would think it would be just the time you'd want a good warming.'
'I don't agree with you, there,' replied Mr. Sponge, looking at her, and thinking she was not nearly so pretty as Miss Glitters.
'Do you hunt to-morrow?' asked he of Sir Harry, not having been able to obtain any information at the stables.
'(Hiccup) to-morrow? Oh, I dare say we shall,' replied Sir Harry, who kept his hounds as he did his carriages, to be used when wanted. 'Dare say we shall,' repeated he.
But though Sir Harry spoke thus encouragingly of their prospects, he took no steps, as far as Mr. Sponge could learn, to carry out the design. Indeed, the subject of hunting was never once mentioned, the conversation after dinner, instead of being about the Quorn, or the Pytchley, or Jack Thompson with the Atherstone, turning upon the elegance and lighting of the Casinos in the Adelaide Gallery and Windmill Street, and the relative merits of those establishments over the Casino de Venise in High Holborn. Nor did morning produce any change for the better, for Sir Harry and all the captains came down in their usual flashy broken-down player-looking attire, their whole thoughts being absorbed in arranging for a pool at billiards, in which the ladies took part. So with billiards, brandy, and ''baccy,'—''baccy,' brandy, and billiards, varied with an occasional stroll about the grounds, the non-sporting inmates of Nonsuch House beguiled the time, much to Mr. Sponge's disgust, whose soul was on fire and eager for the fray. The reader's perhaps being the same, we will skip Christmas and pass on to New Year's Day.
A FAMILY BREAKFAST
'Twere almost superfluous to say that NEW YEAR'S DAY is always a great holiday. It is a day on which custom commands people to be happy and idle, whether they have the means of being happy and idle or not. It is a day for which happiness and idleness are 'booked,' and parties are planned and arranged long beforehand. Some go to the town, some to the country; some take rail; some take steam; some take greyhounds; some take gigs; while others take guns and pop at all the little dicky-birds that come in their way. The rural population generally incline to a hunt. They are not very particular as to style, so long as there are a certain number of hounds, and some men in scarlet, to blow their horns, halloo, and crack their whips.
The population, especially the rising population about Nonsuch House, all inclined that way. A New Year's Day's hunt with Sir Harry had long been looked forward to by the little Raws, and the little Spooneys, and the big and little Cheeks, and we don't know how many others. Nay, it had been talked of by the elder boys at their respective schools—we beg pardon, academies—Dr. Switchington's, Mr. Latherington's, Mrs. Skelper's, and a liberal allowance of boasting indulged in, as to how they would show each other the way over the hedges and ditches. The thing had long been talked of. Old Johnny Raw had asked Sir Harry to arrange the day so long ago that Sir Harry had forgotten all about it. Sir Harry was one of those good-natured souls who can't say 'No' to any one. If anybody had asked if they might set fire to his house, he would have said:
'Oh (hiccup) certainly, my dear (hiccup) fellow, if it will give you any (hiccup) pleasure.'
Now, for the hiccup day.
It is generally a frost on New Year's Day. However wet and sloppy the weather may be up to the end of the year, it generally turns over a new leaf on that day. New Year's Day is generally a bright, bitter, sunshiny day, with starry ice, and a most decided anti-hunting feeling about it—light, airy, ringy, anything but cheery for hunting.
Thus it was in Sir Harry Scattercash's county. Having smoked and drunk the old year out, the captains and company retired to their couches without thinking about hunting. Mr. Sponge, indeed, was about tired of asking when the hounds would be going out. It was otherwise, however, with the rising generation, who were up betimes, and began pouring in upon Nonsuch House in every species of garb, on every description of steed, by every line and avenue of approach.
'Halloo! what's up now?' exclaimed Lady Scattercash, as she caught view of the first batch rounding the corner to the front of the house.
'Who have we here?' asked Miss Glitters, as a ponderous, parti-coloured clown, on a great, curly-coated cart-horse, brought up the rear.
'Early callers,' observed Captain Seedeybuck, eating away complacently.
'Friends of Mr. Sponge's, most likely,' suggested Captain Quod.
'Some of the little Sponges come to see their pa, p'raps,' lisped Miss Howard, pretending to be shocked after she had said it.
'Bravo, Miss Howard!' exclaimed Captain Cutitfat, clapping his hands.
'I said nothing, Captain,' observed the young lady with becoming prudery.
'Here we are again!' exclaimed Captain Quod, as a troop of various-sized urchins, in pea-jackets, with blue noses and red comforters, on very shaggy ponies, the two youngest swinging in panniers over an ass, drew up alongside of the first comers.
'Whose sliding-scale of innocence is that, I wonder!' exclaimed Miss Howard, contemplating the variously sized chubby faces through the window.
'He, he, he! ho, ho, ho!' giggled the guests.
Another batch of innocence now hove in sight.
'Oh, those are the little (hiccup) Raws,' observed Sir Harry, catching sight of the sky-blue collar of the servant's long drab coat. 'Good chap, old Johnny Raw; ask them to (hiccup) in,' continued he, 'and give them some (hiccup) cherry brandy'; and thereupon Sir Harry began nodding and smiling, and making signs to them to come in. The youngsters, however, maintained their position.
'The little stupexes!' exclaimed Miss Howard, going to the window, and throwing up the sash. 'Come in, young gents!' cried she, in a commanding tone, addressing herself to the last comers. 'Come in, and have some toffy and lollypops! D'ye hear?' continued she, in a still louder voice, and motioning her head towards the door.
The boys sat mute.
'You little stupid monkeys,' muttered she in an undertone, as the cold air struck upon her head. 'Come in, like good boys,' added she in a louder key, pointing with her finger towards the door.
'Nor, thenk ye!' at last drawled the elder of the boys.
'Nor, thenk ye!' repeated Miss Howard, imitating the drawl. 'Why not?' asked she sharply.
The boy stared stupidly.
'Why won't you come in?' asked she, again addressing him.
'Don't know!' replied the boy, staring vacantly at his younger brother, as he rubbed a pearl off his nose on the back of his hand.
'Don't know!' ejaculated Miss Howard, stamping her little foot on the Turkey carpet.
'Mar said we hadn't,' whined the younger boy, coming to the rescue of his brother.
'Mar said we hadn't!' retorted the fair interrogator. 'Why not?'
'Don't know,' replied the elder.
'Don't know! you little stupid animal,' snapped Miss Howard, the cold air increasing the warmth of her temper. 'I wonder what you do know. Why did your ma say you were not to come in?' continued she, addressing the younger one.
'Because—because,' hesitated he, 'she said the house was full of trumpets.'
'Trumpets, you little scamp!' exclaimed the lady, reddening up; 'I'll get a whip and cut your jacket into ribbons on your back.' And thereupon she banged down the window and closed the conversation.
THE RISING GENERATION
The lull that prevailed in the breakfast-room on Miss Howard's return from the window was speedily interrupted by fresh arrivals before the door. The three Master Baskets in coats and lay-over collars, Master Shutter in a jacket and trousers, the two Master Bulgeys in woollen overalls with very large hunting whips, Master Brick in a velveteen shooting-jacket, and the two Cheeks with their tweed trousers thrust into fiddle-case boots, on all sorts of ponies and family horses, began pawing and disordering the gravel in front of Nonsuch House.
George Cheek was the head boy at Mr. Latherington's classical and commercial academy, at Flagellation Hall (late the Crown and Sceptre Hotel and Posting House, on the Bankstone road), where, for forty pounds a year, eighty young gentlemen were fitted for the pulpit, the senate, the bar, the counting-house, or anything else their fond parents fancied them fit for.
George was a tall stripling, out at the elbows, in at the knees, with his red knuckled hands thrust a long way through his tight coat. He was just of that awkward age when boys fancy themselves men, and men are not prepared to lower themselves to their level. Ladies get on better with them than men: either the ladies are more tolerant of twaddle, or their discerning eyes see in the gawky youth the germ of future usefulness. George was on capital terms with himself. He was the oracle of Mr. Latherington's school, where he was not only head boy and head swell, but a considerable authority on sporting matters. He took in Bell's Life, which he read from beginning to end, and 'noted its contents,' as they say in the city.
'I'll tell you what all these little (hiccup) animals will be wanting,' observed Sir Harry, as he cayenne-peppered a turkey's leg; 'they'll be come for a (hiccup) hunt.'
'Wish they may get it,' observed Captain Seedeybuck; adding, 'why, the ground's as hard as iron.'
'There's a big boy,' observed Miss Howard, eyeing George Cheek through the window.
'Let's have him in, and see what he's got to say for himself,' said Miss Glitters.
'You ask him, then,' rejoined Miss Howard, who didn't care to risk another rub.
'Peter,' said Lady Scattercash to the footman, who had been loitering about, listening to the conversation,—'Peter, go and ask that tall boy with the blue neckerchief and the riband round his hat to come in.'
'Yes, my lady,' replied Peter.
'And the (hiccup) Spooneys, and the (hiccup) Bulgeys, and the (hiccup) Raws, and all the little (hiccup) rascals,' added Sir Harry.
'The Raws won't come. Sir H.,' observed Miss Howard soberly.
'Bigger fools they,' replied Sir Harry.
Presently Peter returned with a tail, headed by George Cheek, who came striding and slouching up the room, and stuck himself down on Lady Scattercash's right. The small boys squeezed themselves in as they could, one by Captain Seedeybuck, another by Captain Bouncey, one by Miss Glitters, a fourth by Miss Howard, and so on. They all fell ravenously upon the provisions.
Gobble, gobble, gobble was the order of the day.
'Well, and how often have you been flogged this half?' asked Lady Scattercash of George Cheek, as she gave him a cup of coffee.
Her ladyship hadn't much liking for youths of his age, and would just as soon vex them as not.
'Well, and how often have you been flogged this half?' asked she again, not getting an answer to her first inquiry.
'Not at all,' growled Cheek, reddening up.
'Oh, flogged!' exclaimed Miss Glitters. 'You wouldn't have a young man like him flogged; it's only the little boys that get that—is it, Mister Cheek?'
'To be sure not,' assented the youth.
'Mister Cheek's a man,' observed Miss Glitters, eyeing him archly, as he sat stuffing his mouth with currant-loaf plentifully besmeared with raspberry-jam. 'He'll be wanting a wife soon,' added she, smiling across the table at Captain Seedeybuck.
'I question but he's got one,' observed the captain.
'No, ar haven't,' replied Cheek, pleased at the imputation.
'Then there's a chance for you. Miss G.,' retorted the captain. 'Mrs. George Cheek would look well on a glazed card with gilt edges.'
'What a cub!' exclaimed Miss Howard, in disgust.
'You're another,' replied Master Cheek, amidst a roar of laughter from the party.
'Well, but you ask your master if you mayn't have a wife next half, and we'll see if we can't arrange matters,' observed Miss Glitters.
'Noo, ar sharn't,' replied George, stuffing his mouth full of preserved apricot.
'Why not?' asked Miss Howard, 'Because—because—ar'll have somethin' younger,' replied George.
'Bravo, young Chesterfield!' exclaimed Miss Howard; adding, 'what it is to be thick with Lord John Manners!'
'Ar'm not,' growled the boy, amidst the mirth of the company.
'Well, but what must we do with these little (hiccup)?' asked Sir Harry, at last rising from the breakfast-table, and looking listlessly round the company for an answer.
'Oh! liquor them well, and send them home to their mammas,' suggested Captain Bouncey, who was all for the drink.
'But they won't take their (hiccup),' replied Sir Harry, holding up a Curacao bottle to show how little had disappeared.
'Try them with cherry brandy,' suggested Captain Seedeybuck; adding, 'it's sweeter. Now, young man,' continued he, addressing George Cheek, as he poured him out a wineglassful, 'this is the real Daffy's elixir that you read of in the papers. It's the finest compound that ever was known. It will make your hair curl, your whiskers grow, and you a man before your mother.'
'N-o-a, n-o-ar, don't want any more,' growled the young gentleman, turning away in disgust. 'Ar won't drink any more.'
'Well, but be sociable,' observed Miss Howard, helping herself to a glass.
'N-o-a, no, ar don't want to be sociable,' growled he, diving into his trouser-pockets, and wriggling about on his chair.
'Well, then, what will you do?' asked Miss Howard.
'Hunt,' replied the youth.
'Hunt!' exclaimed Bob Spangles; 'why, the ground's as hard as bricks.'
'N-o-a, it's not,' replied the youth.
'What a whelp!' exclaimed Miss Howard, rising from the table in disgust.
'My Uncle Jellyboy wouldn't let such a frost stop him, I know,' observed the boy.
'Who's your Uncle Jellyboy?' asked Miss Glitters.
'He's a farmer, and keeps a few harriers at Scutley,' observed Bob Spangles, sotto voce.
'And is that your extraordinary horse with all the legs?' asked Miss Howard, putting her glass to her eye, and scrutinizing a lank, woolly-coated weed, getting led about by a blue-aproned gardener. 'Is that your extraordinary horse, with all the legs?' repeated she, following the animal about with her glass.
'Hoots, it hasn't more legs than other people's,' growled George.
'It's got ten, at all events,' replied Miss Howard, to the astonishment of the juveniles.
'Nor, it hasn't,' replied George.
'Yes, it has,' rejoined the lady.
'Nor, it hasn't,' repeated George.
'Come and see,' said the lady; adding, 'perhaps it's put out some since you got off.'
George slouched up to where she stood at the window.
'Now,' said he, as the gardener turned the horse round, and he saw it had but four, 'how many has it?'
'Ten!' replied Miss Howard.
'Hoots,' replied George, 'you think it's April Fool's Day, I dare say.'
'No, I don't,' replied Miss Howard; 'but I maintain your horse has ten legs. See, now!' continued she, 'what do you call these coming here?'
'His two forelegs,' replied George.
'Well, two fours—twice four's eight, eh? and his two hind ones make ten.'
'Hoots,' growled George, amidst the mirth of his comrades, 'you're makin' a fool o' one.'
'Well, but what must I do with all these little (hiccup) creatures?' asked Sir Harry again, seeing the plot still thickening outside.
'Turn them out a bagman?' suggested Mr. Sponge, in an undertone; adding, 'Watchorn has a three-legged 'un, I know, in the hay-loft.'
'Oh, Watchorn wouldn't (hiccup) on such a day as this,' replied Sir Harry. 'New Year's Day, too—most likely away, seeing his young hounds at walk.'
'We might see, at all events,' observed Mr. Sponge.
'Well,' assented Sir Harry, ringing the bell. 'Peter,' said he, as the servant answered the summons, 'I wish you would (hiccup) to Mr. Watchorn's, and ask if he'll have the kindness to (hiccup) down here.' Sir Harry was obliged to be polite, for Watchorn, too, was on the 'free' list as Miss Glitters called it.
'Yes, Sir Harry,' replied Peter, leaving the room.
Presently Peter's white legs were seen wending their way among the laurels and evergreens, in the direction of Mr. Watchorn's house; he having a house and grass for six cows, all whose milk, he declared, went to the puppies and young hounds. Luckily, or unluckily perhaps, Mr. Watchorn was at home, and was in the act of shaving as Peter entered. He was a square-built dark-faced, dark-haired, good-looking, ill-looking fellow who cultivated his face on the four-course system of husbandry. First, he had a bare fallow—we mean a clean shave; that of course was followed by a full crop of hair all over, except on his upper lip; then he had a soldier's shave, off by the ear; which in turn was followed by a Newgate frill. The latter was his present style. He had now no whiskers, but an immense protuberance of bristly black hair, rising like a wave above his kerchief. Though he cared no more about hunting than his master, he was very fond of his red coat, which he wore on all occasions, substituting a hat for a cap when 'off duty,' as he called it. Having attired himself in his best scarlet, of which he claimed three a year—one for wet days, one for dry days, another for high days—very natty kerseymere shorts and gaiters, with a small-striped, standing-collar, toilenette waistcoat, he proceeded to obey the summons.
'Watchorn,' said Sir Harry, as the important gentleman appeared at the breakfast-room door—'Watchorn, these young (hiccup) gentlemen want a (hiccup) hunt.'
'Oh! want must be their master, Sir 'Arry,' replied Watchorn, with a broad grin on his flushed face, for he had been drinking all night, and was half drunk then.
'Can't you manage it?' asked Sir Harry, mildly.
''Ow is't possible. Sir 'Arry,' asked the huntsman, ''ow is't possible? No man's fonder of 'untin' than I am, but to turn out on sich a day as this would be a daring—a desperate violation of all the laws of registered propriety. The Pope's bull would be nothin' to it!'
'How so?' asked Sir Harry, puzzled with the jumble.
'How so?' repeated Watchorn; 'how so? Why, in the fust place, it's a mortal 'ard frost, 'arder nor hiron; in the second place, I've got no arrangements made—you can't turn out a pack of 'igh-bred fox-'ounds as you would a lot of "staggers" or "muggers"; and, in the third place, you'll knock all your nags to bits, and they are a deal better in their wind than they are on their legs, as it is. No, Sir 'Arry—no,' continued he, slowly and thoughtfully. 'No, Sir 'Arry, no. Be Cardinal Wiseman, for once. Sir 'Arry; be Cardinal Wiseman for once, and don't think of it.'
'Well,' replied Sir Harry, looking at George Cheek, 'I suppose there's no help for it.'
'It was quite a thaw where I came from,' observed Cheek, half to Sir Harry and half to the huntsman.
''Deed, sir, 'deed,' replied Mr. Watchorn, with a chuck of his fringed chin, 'it generally is a thaw everywhere but where hounds meet.'
'My Uncle Jollyboy wouldn't be stopped by such a frost as this,' observed Cheek.
''Deed, sir, 'deed,' replied Watchorn, 'your Uncle Jellyboy's a very fine feller, I dare say—very fine feller; no such conjurers in these parts as he is. What man dare, I dare; he who dares more, is no man,' added Watchorn, giving his fat thigh a hearty slap.
'Well done, old Talliho!' exclaimed Miss Glitters. 'We'll have you on the stage next.'
'What will you wet your whistle with after your fine speech?' asked Lady Scattercash.
'Take a tumbler of chumpine, if there is any,' replied Watchorn, looking about for a long-necked bottle.
'Fear you'll come on badly,' observed Captain Seedeybuck, holding up an empty one, 'for Bouncey and I have just finished the last'; the captain chucking the bottle sideways on to the floor, and rolling it towards its companion in the corner.
'Have a fresh bottle,' suggested Lady Scattercash, drawing the bell-string at her chair.
'Champagne,' said her ladyship, as the footman answered the summons.
'Two on 'em!' exclaimed Captain Bouncey.
'Three!' shouted Sir Harry.
'We'll have a regular set-to,' observed Miss Howard, who was fond of champagne.
'New Year's Day,' replied Bouncey, 'and ought to be properly observed.'
Presently, Fiz—z,—pop,—bang! Fiz—z,—pop,—bang! went the bottles; and, as the hissing beverage foamed over the bottle-necks, glasses were sought and held out to catch the creaming contents.
'Here's a (hiccup) happy new year to us all!' exclaimed Sir Harry, drinking off his wine. 'H-o-o-ray!' exclaimed the company in irregular order, as they drank off theirs.
'We'll drink Mr. Watchorn and the Nonsuch hounds!' exclaimed Bob Spangles, as Watchorn, having drained off his tumbler, replaced it on the sideboard.
'With all the honours!' exclaimed Captain Cutitfat, filling his glass and rising to give the time; 'Watchorn, your good health!' 'Watchorn, your good health!' sounded from all parts, which Watchorn kept acknowledging, and looking about for the means to return the compliment, his friends being more intent upon drinking his health than upon supplying him with wine. At last he caught the third of a bottle of 'chumpine,' and, emptying it into his tumbler, held it up while he thus addressed them:
'Gen'lemen all!' said he, 'I thank you most 'ticklarly for this mark of your 'tention (applause); it's most gratifying to my feelins to be thus remembered (applause). I could say a great deal more, but the liquor won't wait.' So saying, he drained off his glass while the wine effervesced.
'Well, and what d'ye (hiccup) of the weather now?' asked Sir Harry, as his huntsman again deposited his tumbler on the sideboard.
'Pon my soul! Sir 'Arry,' replied Watchorn, quite briskly, 'I really think we might 'unt—we might try, at all events. The day seems changed, some'ow,' added he, staring vacantly out of the window on the bright sunny landscape, with the leafless trees dancing before his eyes.
'I think so,' said Sir Harry. 'What do you think, Mr. Sponge?' added he, appealing to our hero.
'Half an hour may make a great difference,' observed Mr. Sponge. 'The sun will then be at its best.'
'We'll try, at all events,' observed Sir Harry.
'That's right,' exclaimed George Cheek, waving a scarlet bandana over his head.
'I shall expect you to ride up to the 'ounds, young gent,' observed Watchorn, darting an angry look at the speaker.
'Won't I, old boy!' exclaimed George; 'ride over you, if you don't get out of the way.'
''Deed,' sneered the huntsman, whisking about to leave the room; muttering, as he passed behind the large Indian screen at the door, something about 'jawing jackanapes, well called Cheek.'
''Unt in 'alf an hour!' exclaimed Watchorn, from the steps of the front door; an announcement that was received by the little Raws, and little Spooneys, and little Baskets, and little Bulgeys, and little Bricks, and little others, with rapturous applause.
All was now commotion and hurry-scurry inside and out; glasses were drained, lips wiped, and napkins thrown hastily away, while ladies and gentlemen began grouping and talking about hats and habits, and what they should ride.
'You go with me, Orlando,' said Lady Scattercash to our friend Bugles, recollecting the quantity of diachylon plaster it had taken to repair the damage of his former equestrian performance. 'You go with me, Orlando,' said she, 'in the phaeton; and I'll lend Lucy,' nodding towards Miss Glitters, 'my habit and horse.'
'Who can lend me a coat?' asked Captain Seedeybuck, examining the skirts of a much frayed invisible-green surtout.
'A coat!' replied Captain Quod; 'I can lend you a Joinville, if that will do as well,' the captain feeling his own extensive one as he spoke.
'Hardly,' said Seedeybuck, turning about to ask Sir Harry.
'What!—you are going to give Watchorn a tussle, are you?' asked Captain Cutitfat of George Cheek, as the latter began adjusting the fox-toothed riband about his hat.
'I believe you,' replied George, with a knowing jerk of his head; adding, 'it won't take much to beat him.'
'What! he's a slow 'un, is he?' asked Cutitfat, in an undertone.
'Slowest coach I ever saw,' growled George.
'Won't ride, won't he?' asked the Captain.
'Not if he can help it,' replied George, adding, 'but he's such a shocking huntsman—never saw such a huntsman in all my life.'
George's experience lay between his Uncle Jellyboy, who rode eighteen stone and a half, Tom Scramble, the pedestrian huntsman of the Slowfoot hounds, near Mr. Latherington's, and Mr. Watchorn. But critics, especially hunting ones, are all ready made, as Lord Byron said.
'Well, we'd better disperse and get ready,' observed Bob Spangles, making for the door; whereupon the tide of population flowed that way, and the room was presently cleared.
George Cheek and the juveniles then returned to their friends in the front; and George got up pony races among the Johnny Raws, the Baskets, the Bulgeys, and the Spooneys, thrice round the carriage ring and a distance, to the detriment of the gravel and the discomfiture of the flower-bed in the centre.
THE KENNEL AND THE STUD
We will now accompany Mr. Watchorn to the stable, whither his resolute legs carried him as soon as the champagne wrought the wonderful change in his opinion of the weather, though, as he every now and then crossed a spangled piece of ground upon which the sun had not struck, or stopped to crack a piece of ice with his toe, he shook his heated head and doubted whether he was Cardinal Wiseman for making the attempt. Nothing but the fact of his considering it perfectly immaterial whether he was with his hounds or not encouraged him in the undertaking. 'Dash them!' said he, 'they must just take care of themselves.' With which laudable resolution, and an inward anathema at George Cheek, he left off trying the ground and tapping the ice.
Watchorn's hurried, excited appearance produced little satisfaction among the grooms and helpers at the stables, who were congratulating themselves on the opportune arrival of the frost, and arranging how they should spend their New Year's Day.
'Look sharp, lads! look sharp!' exclaimed he, clapping his hands as he ran up the yard. 'Look sharp, lads! look sharp!' repeated he, as the astonished helpers showed their bare arms and dirty shirts at the partially opened doors, responsive to the sound. 'Send Snaffle here, send Brown here, send Green here, send Snooks here,' exclaimed he, with the air of a man in authority.
Now Snaffle was the stud-groom, a personage altogether independent of the huntsman, and, in the ordinary course of nature, Snaffle had just as much right to send for Watchorn as Watchorn had to send for him; but Watchorn being, as we said before, some way connected with Lady Scattercash, he just did as he liked among the whole of them, and they were too good judges to rebel.
'Snaffle,' said he, as the portly, well-put-on personage waddled up to him; 'Snaffle,' said he, 'how many sound 'osses have you?'
'None, sir,' replied Snaffle confidently.
'How many three-legged 'uns have you that can go, then?'
'Oh! a good many,' replied Snaffle, raising his hands to tell them off on his fingers. 'There's Hop-the-twig, and Hannah Bell (Hannibal), and Ugly Jade, and Sir-danapalis—the Baronet as we calls him—and Harkaway, and Hit-me-hard, and Single-peeper, and Jack's-alive, and Groggytoes, and Greedyboy, and Puff-and-blow; that's to say two and three-legged 'uns, at least,' observed Snaffle, qualifying his original assertion.
'Ah, well!' said Watchorn, 'that'll do—two legs are too many for some of the rips they'll have to carry—Let me see,' continued he thoughtfully, 'I'll ride 'Arkaway.'
'Yes, sir,' said Snaffle.
'Sir 'Arry, 'It-me-'ard.'
'Won't you put him on Sir-danapalis?' asked Snaffle.
'No,' replied Watchorn, 'no; I wants to save the Bart.—I wants to save the Bart. Sir 'Arry must ride 'It-me-'ard.'
'Is her ladyship going?' asked Snaffle.
'Her ladyship drives,' replied Watchorn. 'And you. Snooks,' addressing a bare-armed helper, 'tell Mr. Traces to turn her out a pony phaeton and pair, with fresh rosettes and all complete, you know.'
'Yes sir,' said Snooks, with a touch of his forelock.
'And you'd better tell Mr. Leather to have a horse for his master,' observed Watchorn to Snaffle, 'unless as how you wish to put him on one of yours.'
'Not I,' exclaimed Snaffle; 'have enough to mount without him. D'ye know how many'll be goin'?' asked he.
'No,' replied Watchorn, hurrying off; adding, as he went, 'oh, hang 'em, just saddle 'em all, and let 'em scramble for 'em.'
The scene then changed. Instead of hissing helpers pursuing their vocations in stable or saddle-room, they began bustling about with saddles on their heads and bridles in their hands, the day of expected ease being changed into one of unusual trouble. Mr. Leather declared, as he swept the clothes over Multum-in-Parvo's tail, that it was the most unconscionable proceeding he had ever witnessed; and muttered something about the quiet comforts he had left at Mr. Jogglebury Crowdey's, hinting his regret at having come to Sir Harry's, in a sort of dialogue with himself as he saddled the horse. The beauties of the last place always come out strong when a servant gets to another. But we must accompany Mr. Watchorn.
Though his early career with the Camberwell and Balham Hill Union harriers had not initiated him much into the delicacies of the chase, yet, recollecting the presence of Mr. Sponge, he felt suddenly seized with a desire of 'doing things as they should be'; and he went muttering to the kennel, thinking how he would leave Dinnerbell and Prosperous at home, and how the pack would look quite as well without Frantic running half a field ahead, or old Stormer and Stunner bringing up the rear with long protracted howls. He doubted, indeed, whether he would take Desperate, who was an incorrigible skirter; but as she was not much worse in this respect than Chatterer or Harmony, who was also an inveterate babbler, and the pack would look rather short without them, he reserved the point for further consideration, as the judges say.
His speculations were interrupted by arriving at the kennel, and finding the door fast, he looked under the slate, and above the frame, and inside the window, and on the wall, for the key; and his shake, and kick, and clatter were only answered by a full chorus from the excited company within.
'Hang the feller! what's got 'im!' exclaimed he, meaning Joe Haggish, the feeder, whom he expected to find there.
Joe, however, was absent; not holiday-making, but on a diplomatic visit to Mr. Greystones, the miller, at Splashford, who had positively refused to supply any more meal, until his 'little bill' (L430) for the three previous years was settled; and flesh being very scarce in the country, the hounds were quite light and fit to go. Joe had gone to try and coax Greystones out of a ton or two of meal, on the strength of its being New Year's Day.
'Dash the feller! wot's got'im?' exclaimed Watchorn, seizing the latch, and rattling it furiously. The melody of the hungry pack increased. ''Ord rot the door!' exclaimed the infuriated huntsman, setting his back against it; at the first push, open it flew. Watchorn fell back, and the astonished pack poured over his prostrate body, regardless alike of his holiday coat, his tidy tie, and toilenette vest. What a scrimmage! What a kick-up was there! Away the hounds scampered, towling and howling, some up to the fleshwheel, to see if there was any meat; some to the bone heap, to see if there was any there; others down to the dairy, to try and effect an entrance in it; while Launcher, and Lightsome, and Burster, rushed to the backyard of Nonsuch House, and were presently over ears in the pig-pail.
'Get me my horn! get me my whop!—get me my cap!—get me my bouts!' exclaimed Watchorn, as he recovered his legs, and saw his wife eyeing the scene from the door. 'Get me my bouts!—get me my cap!—get me my whop!—get me my horn, woman!' continued he, reversing the order of things, and rubbing the hounds' feetmarks off his clothes as he spoke.
Mrs. Watchorn was too well drilled to dwell upon orders, and she met her lord and master in the passage with the enumerated articles in her hand. Watchorn having deposited himself on an entrance-hall chair—for it was a roomy, well-furnished house, having been the steward's while there was anything to take care of—Mrs. Watchorn proceeded to strip off his gaiters while he drew on his boots and crowned himself with his cap. Mrs. Watchorn then buckled on his spurs, and he hurried off, horn in hand, desiring her to have him a basin of turtle-soup ready against he came in; adding, 'She knew where to get it.' The frosty air then resounded with the twang, twang, twang of his horn, and hounds began drawing up from all quarters, just as sportsmen cast up at a meet from no one knows where.
'He-here, hounds—he-here, good dogs!' cried he, coaxing and making much of the first-comers: 'he-here. Galloper, old boy!' continued he, diving into his coat-pocket, and throwing him a bit of biscuit. The appearance of food had a very encouraging effect, for forthwith there was a general rush towards Watchorn, and it was only by rating and swinging his 'whop' about that he prevented the pack from pawing, and perhaps downing him. At length, having got them somewhat tranquillized, he set off on his return to the stables, coaxing the shy hounds, and rating and rapping those that seemed inclined to break away. Thus he managed to march into the stable-yard in pretty good order, just as the house party arrived in the opposite direction, attired in the most extraordinary and incongruous habiliments. There was Bob Spangles, in a swallow-tailed, mulberry-coloured scarlet, that looked like an old pen-wiper, white duck trousers, and lack-lustre Napoleon boots; Captain Cutitfat, in a smart new 'Moses and Son's' straight-cut scarlet, with bloodhound heads on the buttons, yellow-ochre leathers, and Wellington boots with drab knee-caps; little Bouncey in a tremendously baggy long-backed scarlet, whose gaping outside-pockets showed that they had carried its late owner's hands as well as his handkerchief; the clumsy device on the tarnished buttons looking quite as much like sheep's-heads as foxes'. Bouncey's tight tweed trousers were thrust into a pair of wide fisherman's boots, which, but for his little roundabout stomach, would have swallowed him up bodily. Captain Quod appeared in a venerable dresscoat of the Melton Hunt, made in the popular reign of Mr. Errington, whose much-stained and smeared silk facings bore testimony to the good cheer it had seen. As if in contrast to the light airiness of this garment, Quod had on a tremendously large shaggy brown waistcoat, with horn buttons, a double tier of pockets, and a nick out in front. With an unfair partiality his nether man was attired in a pair of shabby old black, or rather brown, dress trousers, thrust into long Wellington boots with brass heel spurs. Captain Seedeybuck had on a spruce swallow-tailed green coat of Sir Harry's, a pair of old tweed trousers of his own, thrust into long chamois-leather opera-boots, with red morocco tops, giving the whole a very unique and novel appearance. Mr. Orlando Bugles, though going to drive with my lady, thought it incumbent to put on his jack-boots, and appeared in kerseymere shorts, and a highly frogged and furred blue frock-coat, with the corner of a musked cambric kerchief acting the part of a star on his breast.
"Here comes old sixteen-string'd Jack!" exclaimed Bob Spangles, as his brother-in-law, Sir Harry, came hitching and limping along, all strings, and tapes, and ends, as usual, followed by Mr. Sponge in the strict and severe order of sporting costume; double-stitched, back-stitched, sleeve-strapped, pull-devil, pull-baker coat, broad corduroy vest with fox-teeth buttons, still broader corded breeches, and the redoubtable vinegar tops. "Now we're all ready!" exclaimed Bob, working his arms as if anxious to be off, and giving a shrill shilling-gallery whistle with his fingers, causing the stable-doors to fly open, and the variously tackled steeds to emerge from their stalls.
"A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!" exclaimed Miss Glitters, running up as fast as her long habit, or rather Lady Scattercash's long habit, would allow her. "A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!" repeated she, diving into the throng.
'White Surrey is saddled for the field,' replied Mr. Orlando Bugles, drawing himself up pompously, and waving his right hand gracefully towards her ladyship's Arab palfrey, inwardly congratulating himself that Miss Glitters was going to be bumped upon it instead of him.
'Give us a leg up, Seedey!' exclaimed Lucy Glitters to the 'gent' of the green coat, fearing that Miss Howard, who was a little behind, might claim the horse.
Captain Seedeybuck seized her pretty little uplifted foot and vaulted her into the saddle as light as a cork. Taking the horse gently by the mouth, she gave him the slightest possible touch with the whip, and moved him about at will, instead of fretting and fighting him as the clumsy, heavy-handed Bugles had done. She looked beautiful on horseback, and for a time riveted the attention of our sportsmen. At length they began to think of themselves, and then there were such climbings on, and clutchings, and catchings, and clingings, and gently-ings, and who-ho-ings, and who-ah-ings, and questionings if 'such a horse was quiet?' if another 'could leap well?' if a third 'had a good mouth?' and whether a fourth 'ever ran away?'
'Take my port-stirrup up two 'oles!' exclaimed Captain Bouncey from the top of high Hop-the-twig, sticking out a leg to let the groom do it.
The captain had affected the sea instead of the land service, while a betting-list keeper, and found the bluff sailor character very taking.
'Avast there!' exclaimed he, as the groom ran the buckle up to the desired hole. 'Now,' said he, gathering up the reins in a bunch, 'how many knots an hour can this 'orse go?'
'Twenty,' replied the man, thinking he meant miles.
'Let her go, then!' exclaimed the captain, kicking the horse's sides with his spurless heels.
Mr. Watchorn now mounted Harkaway; Sir Harry scrambled on to Hit-me-hard; Miss Howard was hoisted on to Groggytoes, and all the rest being 'fit' with horses of some sort or other, and the races in the front being over the juveniles poured into the yard. Lady Scattercash's pony-phaeton turned out, and our friends were at length ready for a start.
While the foregoing arrangements were in progress, Mr. Watchorn had desired Slarkey, the knife-boy, to go into the old hay-loft and take the three-legged fox he would find, and put him down among the laurels by the summer-house, where he would draw up to him all 'reg'lar' like. Accordingly, Slarkey went, but the old cripple having mounted the rafters, Slarkey didn't see him, or rather seeing but one fox, he clutched him, with a greater regard to his not biting him than to seeing how many legs he had; consequently he bagged an uncommonly fine old dog fox, that Wiley Tom had just stolen from Lord Scamperdale's new cover at Faggotfurze; and it was not until Slarkey put him down among the bushes, and saw how lively he went, that he found out his mistake. However, there was no help for it, and he had just time to pocket the bag when Watchorn's half-drunken cheer, and the reverberating cracks of ponderous whips on either side of the Dean, announced the approach of the pack.
'He-leu in there!' cried Watchorn to the hounds. ''Ord, dommee, but it's slippy,' said he to himself. 'Have at him. Plunderer, good dog! I wish I may be Cardinal Wiseman for comin',' added he, seeing how his breath showed on the air. 'Ho-o-i-cks! pash 'im hup! I'll be dashed if I shan't be down!' exclaimed he, as his horse slid a long slide. 'He-leu, in! Conqueror, old boy!' continued he, exclaiming loud enough for Mr. Sponge who was drawing near to hear, 'find us a fox that'll give us five and forty minnits!' the speaker inwardly hoping they might chop their bagman in cover. 'Y-o-o-icks! rout him out!' continued he, getting more energetic. 'Y-o-o-icks! wind him! Y-o-o-icks! stir us hup a teaser!'
'No go, I think,' observed George Cheek, ambling up on his leggy weed.
'No go, ye young infidel,' growled Watchorn, 'who taught you to talk about go's, I wonder? ought to be at school larnin' to cipher, or ridin' the globes,' Mr. Watchorn not exactly knowing what the term 'use of the globes,' meant. 'D'ye call that nothin'!' exclaimed he, taking off his cap as he viewed the fox stealing along the gravel walk; adding to himself, as he saw his even action, and full, well-tagged brush, ''Ord rot him, he's got hold of the wrong 'un!'
It was, however, no time for thought. In an instant the welkin rang with the outburst of the pack and the clamour of the field. 'Talli ho!' 'Talli ho!' 'Talli ho!' 'Hoop!' 'Hoop!' 'Hoop!' cried a score of voices, and 'Twang! twang! twang!' went the shrill horn of the huntsman. The whips, too, stood in their stirrups, cracking their ponderous thongs, which sounded like guns upon the frosty air, and contributed their 'Get together! get together, hounds!' 'Hark away!' 'Hark away!' 'Hark away!' 'Hark' to the general uproar. Oh, what a row, what a riot, what a racket! Watchorn being 'in' for it, and recollecting how many saw a start who never thought of seeing a finish, immediately got his horse by the head, and singled himself out from the crowd now pressing at his horse's heels, determining, if the hounds didn't run into their fox in the park, to ride them off the scent at the very first opportunity. The 'chumpine' being still alive within him, in the excitement of the moment he leaped the hand-gate leading out of the shrubberies into the park; the noise the horse made in taking off resembling the trampling on wood-pavement.
'Cuss it, but it's 'ard!' exclaimed he, as the horse slid two or three yards as he alighted on the frozen field.
George Cheek followed him; and Multum-in-Parvo, taking the bit deliberately between his teeth, just walked through the gate, as if it had been made of paper.
'Ah, ye brute!' groaned Mr. Sponge, in disgust, digging the Latchfords into his sides, as if he intended to make them meet in the middle. 'Ah, ye brute!' repeated he, giving him a hearty cropper as he put up his head after trying to kick him off.