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Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour
by R. S. Surtees
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'Thank you!' exclaimed Miss Glitters, cantering up; adding, 'you cleared the way nicely for me.'

Nicely he had cleared it for them all; and the pent-up tide of equestrianism now poured over the park like the flood of an irrigated water meadow. Such ponies! such horses! such hugging! such kicking! such scrambling! and so little progress with many!

The park being extensive—three hundred acres or more—there was ample space for the aspiring ones to single themselves out; and as Lady Scattercash and Orlando sat in the pony-phaeton, on the rising ground by the keeper's house, they saw a dark-clad horseman (George Cheek), Old Gingerbread Boots, as they called Mr. Sponge, with Lucy Glitters alongside of him, gradually stealing away from the crowd, and creeping up to Mr. Watchorn, who was sailing away with the hounds.

'What a scrimmage!' exclaimed her ladyship, standing up in the carriage, and eyeing the

Strange confusion in the vale below.

'There's Bob in his old purple,' said she, eyeing her brother hustling along; 'and there's "Fat" in his new Moses and Son; and Bouncey in poor Wax's coat; and there's Harry all legs and wings, as usual,' added she, as her husband was seen flibberty-gibbertying it along.

'And there's Lucy; and where's Miss Howard, I wonder?' observed Orlando, straining his eyes after the scrambling field.

Nothing but the inspiriting aid of 'chumpine,' and the hope that the thing would soon terminate, sustained Mr. Watchorn under the infliction in which he so unexpectedly found himself; for nothing would have tempted him to brave such a frost with the burning scent of a game four-legged fox. The park being spacious, and enclosed by a high plank paling, he hoped the fox would have the manners to confine himself within it; and so long as his threadings and windings favoured the supposition, our huntsman bustled along, yelling and screaming in apparent ecstasy at the top of his voice. The hounds, to be sure, wanted keeping together, for Frantic as usual had shot ahead, while the gorged pigpailers could never extricate themselves from the ponies.

'F-o-o-o-r-r-a-r-d! f-o-o-o-r-r-a-r-d! f-o-o-o-r-r-a-r-d!' elongated Watchorn, rising in his stirrups, and looking back with a grin at George Cheek, who was plying his weed with the whip, exclaiming, 'Ah, you confounded young warmint, I'll give you a warmin'! I'll teach you to jaw about 'untin'!'

As he turned his head straight to look at his hounds, he was shocked to see Frantic falling backwards from a first attempt to leap the park-palings, and just as she gathered herself for a second effort, Desperate, Chatterer, and Galloper, charged in line and got over. Then came the general rush of the pack, attended with the usual success—some over, some back, some a-top of others.

'Oh, the devil!' exclaimed Watchorn, pulling up short in a perfect agony of despair. 'Oh, the devil!' repeated he in a lower tone, as Mr. Sponge approached.

'Where's there a gate?' roared our friend, skating up.

'Gate! there's never a gate within a mile, and that's locked,' replied Watchorn sulkily.

'Then here goes!' replied Mr. Sponge, gathering the chestnut together to give him an opportunity of purging himself of his previous faux pas. 'Here goes!' repeated he, thrusting his hard hat firmly on his head. Taking his horse back a few paces, Mr. Sponge crammed him manfully at the palings, and got over with a rap.

'Well done you!' exclaimed Miss Glitters in delight; adding to Watchorn, 'Now, old Beardey, you go next.'

Beardey was irresolute. He pretended to be anxious to get the tail hounds over.

'Clear the way, then!' exclaimed Miss Glitters, putting her horse back, her bright eyes flashing as she spoke. She took him back as far as Mr. Sponge had done, touched him with the whip, and in an instant she was high in the air, landing safely on the far side.

'Hoo-ray!' exclaimed Captains Quod and Cutitfat, who now came panting up.

'Now, Mr. Watchorn!' cried Captain Seedeybuck, adding, 'You're a huntsman!'

'Yooi over, Prosperous! Yooi over, Buster!' cheered Watchorn, still pretending anxiety about his hounds.

'Let me have a shy,' squeaked George Cheek, backing his giraffe, as he had seen Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters do.

George took his screw by the head, and, giving him a hearty rib-roasting with his whip, ran him full tilt at the palings, and carried away half a rood.

'Hoo-ray!' cried the liberated field.

'I knew how it would be,' exclaimed Mr. Watchorn, in well-feigned disgust as he rode through the gap; adding, 'con-founded young waggabone! Deserves to be well chaste-tized for breakin' people's palin's in that way—lettin' in all the rubbishin' tail.'

The scene then changed. In lieu of the green, though hard, sward of the undulating park, our friends now found themselves on large frozen fallows, upon whose uneven surface the heaviest horses made no impression while the shuffling rats of ponies toiled and floundered about, almost receding in their progress. Mr. Sponge was just topping the fence out of the first one, and Miss Glitters was gathering her horse to ride at it, as Watchorn and Co. emerged from the park. Rounding the turnip-hill beyond, the leading hounds were racing with a breast-high scent, followed by the pack in long-drawn file.

'What a mess!' said Watchorn to himself, shading the sun from his eyes with his hand; when, remembering his role, he exclaimed, 'Y-o-o-n-der they go!' as if in ecstasies at the sight. Seeing a gate at the bottom of the field, he got his horse by the head, and rattled him across the fallow, blowing his horn more in hopes of stopping the pack than with a view of bringing up the tail-hounds. He might have saved his breath, for the music of the pack completely drowned the noise of the horn. 'Dash it!' said he, thumping the broad end against his thigh; 'I wish I was quietly back in my parlour. Hold up, horse!' roared he, as Harkaway nearly came on his haunches in pulling up at the gate. 'I know who's not Cardinal Wiseman,' continued he, stooping to open it.

The gate was fast, and he had to alight and lift it off its hinges. Just as he had done so, and had got it sufficiently open for a horse to pass, George Cheek came up from behind, and slipped through before him.

'Oh, you unrighteous young renegade! Did ever mortal see sich an uncivilized trick?' roared Watchorn; adding, as he climbed on to his horse again, and went spluttering through the frozen turnips after the offender, 'You've no 'quaintance with Lord John Manners, I think!'

'Oh dear!—oh dear!' exclaimed he, as his horse nearly came on his head, 'but this is the most punishin' affair I ever was in at. Puseyism's nothin' to it.' And thereupon he indulged in no end of anathemas at Slarkey for bringing the wrong fox.

'About time to take soundings, and cast anchor, isn't it?' gasped Captain Bouncey, toiling up red-hot on his pulling horse in a state of utter exhaustion, as Watchorn stood craneing and looking at a rasper through which Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters had passed, without disturbing a twig.

'C—a—s—t anchor!' exclaimed Watchorn, in a tone of derision—'not this half-hour yet, I hope!—not this forty minnits yet, I hope;—not this hour and twenty minnits yet, I hope!' continued he, putting his horse irresolutely at the fence. The horse blundered through it, barking Watchorn's nose with a branch.

''Ord rot it, cut off my nose!' exclaimed he, muffling it up in his hand. 'Cut off my nose clean by my face, I do believe,' continued he, venturing to look into his hand for it. 'Well,' said he, eyeing the slight stain of blood on his glove, 'this will be a lesson to me as long as I live. If ever I 'unt again in a frost, may I be ——. Thank goodness! they've checked at last!' exclaimed he, as the music suddenly ceased, and Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters sat motionless together on their panting, smoking steeds.

Watchorn then stuck spurs to his horse, and being now on a flat rushy pasture, with a bridle-gate into the field where the hounds were casting, he hustled across, preparing his horn for a blow as soon as he got there.

'Twang—twang—twang—twang,' he went, riding up the hedgerow in the contrary direction to what the hounds leant. 'Twang—twang—twang,' he continued, inwardly congratulating himself that the fox would never face the troop of urchins he saw coming down with their guns.

'Hang him!—he's never that way!' observed Mr. Sponge, sotto voce, to Miss Glitters. 'He's never that way,' repeated he, seeing how Frantic flung to the right.

'Twang—twang—twang,' went the horn, but the hounds regarded it not.

'Do, Mr. Sponge, put the hounds to me!' roared Mr. Watchorn, dreading lest they might hit off the scent.

Mr. Sponge answered the appeal by turning his horse the way the hounds were feathering, and giving them a slight cheer.

''Ord rot it!' roared Watchorn, 'do let 'em alone! that's a fresh fox! ours is over the 'ill,' pointing towards Bonnyfield Hill.

'Hoop!' hallooed Mr. Sponge, taking off his hat, as Frantic hit off the scent to the right, and Galloper, and Melody, and all the rest scored to cry.

'Oh, you confounded brown-bouted beggar!' exclaimed Mr. Watchorn, returning his horn to its case, and eyeing Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters sailing away with the again breast-high-scent pack. 'Oh, you exorbitant usurer!' continued he, gathering his horse to skate after them. 'Well now, that's the most disgraceful proceedin' I ever saw in the whole course of my life. Hang me, if I'll stand such work! Dash me, but I'll 'quaint the Queen!—I'll tell Sir George Grey! I'll write to Mr. Walpole! Fo-orrard! fo-orrard!' hallooed he, as Bob Spangles and Bouncey popped upon him unexpectedly from behind, exclaiming with well-feigned glee, as he pointed to the streaming pack with his whip, ''Ord dash it, but we're in for a good thing!'

Little Bouncey's horse was still yawning and star-gazing, and Bouncey, being quite unequal to riding him and well-nigh exhausted, 'downed' him against a rubbing-post in the middle of a field, making a 'cannon' with his own and his horse's head, and was immediately the centre of attraction for the panting tail. Bouncey got near a pint of sherry from among them before he recovered from the shock. So anxious were they about him, that not one of them thought of resuming the chase. Even the lagging whips couldn't leave him. George Cheek was presently hors de combat in a hedge, and Watchorn seeing him 'see-sawing,' exclaimed, as he slipped through a gate:

'I'll send your mar to you, you young 'umbug.'

Watchorn would gladly have stopped too, for the fumes of the champagne were dead within him, and the riding was becoming every minute more dangerous. He trotted on, hoping each jump of brown boots would be the last, and inwardly wishing the wearer at the devil. Thus he passed through a considerable extent of country, over Harrowdale Lordship, or reputed Lordship, past Roundington Tower, down Sloppyside Banks, and on to Cheeseington Green; the severity of his affliction being alone mitigated by the intervention of accommodating roads and lines of field gates. These, however, Mr. Sponge generally declined, and went crashing on, now over high places, now over low, just as they came in his way, closely followed by the fair Lucy Glitters.

'Well, I never see'd sich a man as that!' exclaimed Watchorn, eyeing Mr. Sponge clearing a stiff flight of rails, with a gap near at hand. 'Nor woman nouther!' added he, as Miss Glitters did the like. 'Well, I'm dashed if it arn't dangerous!' continued he, thumping his hand against his thick thigh, as the white nearly slipped upon landing. 'F-o-r-r-ard! for-rard! hoop!' screeched he, as he saw Miss Glitters looking back to see where he was. 'F-o-r-rard! for-rard!' repeated he; adding, in apparent delight, 'My eyes, but we're in for a stinger! Hold up, horse!' roared he, as his horse now went starring up to the knees through a long sheet of ice, squirting the clayey water into his rider's face. 'Hold up!' repeated he, adding, 'I'm dashed if one mightn't as well be crashin' over the Christial Palace as ridin' over a country froze in this way! 'Ord rot it, how cold it is!' continued he, blowing on his finger-ends; 'I declare my 'ands are quite numb. Well done, old brown bouts!' exclaimed he, as a crash on the right attracted his attention; 'well done, old brown bouts!—broke every bar i' the gate!' adding, 'but I'll let Mr. Buckram know the way his beautiful horses are 'bused. Well,' continued he, after a long skate down the grassy side of Ditchburn Lane, 'there's no fun in this—none whatever. Who the deuce would be a huntsman that could be anything else? Dash it! I'd rayther be a hosier—I'd rayther be a 'atter—I'd rayther be an undertaker—I'd rayther be a Pusseyite parson—I'd rayther be a pig-jobber—I'd rayther be a besom-maker—I'd rayther be a dog's-meat man—I'd rayther be a cat's-meat man—I'd rayther go about a sellin' of chick-weed and sparrow-grass!' added he, as his horse nearly slipped up on his haunches.

'Thank 'eavens there's relief at last!' exclaimed he, as on rising Gimmerhog Hill he saw Farmer Saintfoin's southdowns wheeling and clustering, indicative of the fox having passed; 'thank 'eavens, there's relief at last!' repeated he, reining up his horse to see the hounds charge them.

Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters were now in the bottom below, fighting their way across a broad mill-course with a very stiff fence on the taking-off side.

'Hold up!' roared Mr. Sponge, as, having bored a hole through the fence, he found himself on the margin of the water-race. The horse did hold up, and landed him—not without a scramble—on the far side. 'Run him at it, Lucy!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, turning his horse half round to his fair companion. 'Run him at it, Lucy!' repeated he; and Lucy fortunately hitting the gap, skimmed o'er the water like a swallow on a summer's eve.

'Well done! you're a trump!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, standing in his stirrups, and holding on by the mane as his horse rose the opposing hill.

He just got up in time to save the muttons; another second and the hounds would have been into them. Holding up his hand to beckon Lucy to stop, he sat eyeing them intently. Many of them had their heads up, and not a few were casting sheep's eyes at the sheep. Some few of the line hunters were persevering with the scent over the greasy ground. It was a critical moment. They cast to the right, then to the left, and again took a wider sweep in advance, returning however towards the sheep, as if they thought them the best spec after all.

'Put 'em to me,' said Mr. Sponge, giving Miss Glitters his whip; 'put 'em to me!' said he, hallooing, 'Yor-geot, hounds!—yor-geot!'—which, being interpreted, means, 'here again, hounds!—here again!'

'Oh, the conceited beggar!' exclaimed Mr. Watchorn to himself, as, disappointed of his finish, he sat feeling his nose, mopping his face, and watching the proceedings. 'Oh, the conceited beggar!' repeated he, adding, 'old 'hogany bouts is absolutely a goin' to kest them.'

Cast them, however, he did, proceeding very cautiously in the direction the hounds seemed to lean. They were on a piece of cold scenting ground, across which they could hardly own the scent.

'Don't hurry 'em!' cried Mr. Sponge to Miss Glitters, who was acting whipper-in with rather unnecessary vigour.

As they got under the lee of the hedge, the scent improved a little, and, from an occasional feathering stern, a hound or two indulged in a whimper, until at length they fairly broke out in a cry. 'I'll lose a shoe,' said Watchorn to himself, looking first at the formidable leap before him, and then to see if there was any one coming up behind. 'I'll lose a shoe,' said he. 'No notion of lippin' of a navigable river—a downright arm of the sea,' added he, getting off.

'Forward! forward!' screeched Mr. Sponge, capping the hounds on, when away they went, heads up and sterns down as before.

'Ay, for-rard! for-rard!' mimicked Mr. Watchorn; adding, 'you're for-rard enough, at all events.'

After running about three-quarters of a mile at best pace, Mr. Sponge viewed the fox crossing a large grass field with all the steam up he could raise, a few hundred yards ahead of the pack, who were streaming along most beautifully, not viewing, but gradually gaining upon him. At last they broke from scent to view, and presently rolled him over and over among them.

'WHO-HOOP!' screamed Mr. Sponge, throwing himself off his horse and rushing in amongst them. 'WHO-HOOP!' repeated he, still louder, holding the fox up in grim death above the baying pack.

'Who-hoop!' exclaimed Miss Glitters, reining up in delight alongside the chestnut. 'Who-hoop!' repeated she, diving into the saddle-pocket for her lace-fringed handkerchief.

'Throw me my whip!' cried Mr. Sponge, repelling the attacks of the hounds from behind with his heels. Having got it, he threw the fox on the ground, and clearing a circle, he off with his brush in an instant. 'Tear him and eat him!' cried he, as the pack broke in on the carcass. 'Tear him and eat him!' repeated he, as he made his way up to Miss Glitters with the brush, exclaiming, 'We'll put this in your hat, alongside the cock's feathers.'

The fair lady leant towards him, and as he adjusted it becomingly in her hat, looking at her bewitching eyes, her lovely face, and feeling the sweet fragrance of her breath, a something shot through Mr. Sponge's pull-devil, pull-baker coat, his corduroy waistcoat, his Eureka shirt, Angola vest, and penetrated the very cockles of his heart. He gave her such a series of smacking kisses as startled her horse and astonished a poacher who happened to be hid in the adjoining hedge.

Sponge was never so happy in his life. He could have stood on his head, or been guilty of any sort of extravagance, short of wasting his money. Oh, he was happy! Oh, he was joyous! He was intoxicated with pleasure. As he eyed his angelic charmer, her lustrous eyes, her glowing cheeks, her pearly teeth, the bewitching fulness of her elegant tournure, and thought of the masterly way she rode the run—above all, of the dashing style in which she charged the mill-race—he felt a something quite different to anything he had experienced with any of the buxom widows or lackadaisical misses whom he could just love or not, according to circumstances, among whom his previous experience had lain. Miss Glitters, he knew, had nothing, and yet he felt he could not do without her; the puzzlement of his mind was, how the deuce they should manage matters—'make tongue and buckle meet,' as he elegantly phrased it.

It is pleasant to hear a bachelor's pros and cons on the subject of matrimony; how the difficulties of the gentleman out of love vanish or change into advantages with the one in—'Oh, I would never think of marrying without a couple of thousand a year at the very least!' exclaims young Fastly. 'I can't do without four hunters and a hack. I can't do without a valet. I can't do without a brougham. I must belong to half-a-dozen clubs. I'll not marry any woman who can't keep me comfortable—bachelors can live upon nothing—bachelors are welcome everywhere—very different thing with a wife. Frightful things milliners' bills—fifty guineas for a dress, twenty for a bonnet—ladies' maids are the very devil—never satisfied—far worse to please than their mistresses.' And between the whiffs of a cigar he hums the old saw—

'Needles and pins, needles and pins, When a man marries his sorrow begins.'

Now take him on the other tack—Fast is smitten.

''Ord hang it! a married man can live on very little,' soliloquizes our friend. A nice lovely creature to keep one at home. Hunting's all humbug; it's only the flash of the thing that makes one follow it. Then the danger far more than counterbalances the pleasure. Awful places one has to ride over, to be sure, or submit to be called "slow." Horrible thing to set up for a horseman, and then have to ride to maintain one's reputation. Will be thankful to give it up altogether. The bays will make capital carriage-horses, and one can often pick up a second-hand carriage as good as new. Shall save no end of money by not having to put "B" to my name in the assessed tax-payer. One club's as good as a dozen—will give up the Polyanthus and the Sunflower, and the Refuse and the Rag. Ladies' dresses are cheap enough. Saw a beautiful gown t'other day for a guinea. Will start Master Bergamotte. Does nothing for his wages; will scarce clean my boots. Can get a chap for half what I give him, who'll do double the work. Will make Beans into coachman. What a convenience to have one's wife's maid to sew on one's buttons, and keep one's toes in one's stocking-feet! Declare I lose half my things at the washing for want of marking. Hanged if I won't marry and be respectable—marriage is an honourable state!' And thereupon Tom grows a couple of inches taller in his own conceit.

Though Mr. Sponge's thoughts did not travel in quite such a luxurious first-class train as the foregoing, he, Mr. Sponge, being more of a two-shirts-and-a-dicky sort of man, yet still the future ways and means weighed upon his mind, and calmed the transports of his present joy. Lucy was an angel! about that there was no dispute. He would make her Mrs. Sponge at all events. Touring about was very expensive. He could only counterbalance the extravagance of inns by the rigid rule of giving nothing to servants at private houses. He thought a nice airy lodging in the suburbs of London would answer every purpose, while his accurate knowledge of cab-fares would enable Lucy to continue her engagement at the Royal Amphitheatre without incurring the serious overcharges the inexperienced are exposed to. 'Where one can dine, two can dine,' mused Mr. Sponge; 'and I make no doubt we'll manage matters somehow.'

'Twopence for your thoughts!' cried Lucy, trotting up, and touching him gently on the back with her light silver-mounted riding-whip. 'Twopence for your thoughts!' repeated she, as Mr. Sponge sauntered leisurely along, regardless of the bitter cold, followed by such of the hounds as chose to accompany him.

'Ah!' replied he, brightening up; 'I was just thinking what a deuced good run we'd had.'

'Indeed!' pouted the fair lady.

'No, my darling; I was thinking what a very pretty girl you are,' rejoined he, sidling his horse up, and encircling her neat waist with his arm.

A sweet smile dimpled her plump cheeks, and chased the recollection of the former answer away.

It would not be pretty—indeed, we could not pretend to give even the outline of the conversation that followed. It was carried on in such broken and disjointed sentences, eyes and squeezes doing so much more work than words, that even a reporter would have had to draw largely upon his imagination for the substance. Suffice it to say that, though the thermometer was below zero, they never moved out of a foot's pace; the very hounds growing tired of the trail, and slinking off one by one as the opportunity occurred.

A dazzling sun was going down with a blood-red glare, and the partially softened ground was fast resuming its fretwork of frost, as our hero and heroine were seen sauntering up the western avenue to Nonsuch House, as slowly and quietly as if it had been the hottest evening in summer.

'Here's old Coppertops!' exclaimed Captain Seedeybuck, as, turning round in the billiard-room to chalk his cue, he espied them crawling along. 'And Lucy!' added he as he stood watching them.

'How slowly they come!' observed Bob Spangles, going to the window.

'Must have tired their horses,' suggested Captain Quod.

'Just the sort of man to tire a horse,' rejoined Bob Spangles.

'Hate that Sponge,' observed Captain Cutitfat.

'So do I,' replied Captain Quod.

'Well, never mind the beggar! It's you to play!' exclaimed Bob Spangles to Captain Seedeybuck.

But Lady Scattercash, who was observing our friends from her boudoir window, saw with a woman's eye that there was something more than a mere case of tired horses; and, tripping downstairs, she arrived at the front door just as the fair Lucy dropped smilingly from her horse into Mr. Sponge's extended arms. Hurrying up into the boudoir, Lucy gave her ladyship one of Mr. Sponge's modified kisses, revealing the truth more eloquently than words could convey.

'Oh,' Lady Scattercash was 'so glad!' 'so delighted!' 'so charmed!'

Mr. Sponge was such a nice man, and so rich. She was sure he was rich—couldn't hunt if he wasn't. Would advise Lucy to have a good settlement, in case he broke his neck. And pin-money! pin-money was most useful! no husband ever let his wife have enough money. Must forget all about Harry Dacre and Charley Brown, and the swell in the Blues. Must be prudent for the future. Mr. Sponge would never know anything of the past. Then she reverted to the interesting subject of settlements. 'What had Mr. Sponge got, and what would he do?' This Lucy couldn't tell. 'What! hadn't he told her where is estates were?—'No.' 'Well, was his dad dead?' This Lucy didn't know either. They had got no further than the tender prop. 'Ah! well; would get it all out of him by degrees.' And with the reiteration of her 'so glads,' and the repayment of the kiss Lucy had advanced, her ladyship advised her to get off her habit and make herself comfortable while she ran downstairs to communicate the astonishing intelligence to the party below.

'What d'ye think?' exclaimed she, bursting into the billiard-room, where the party were still engaged in a game at pool, all our sportsmen, except Captain Cutitfat, who still sported his new Moses and Son's scarlet, having divested themselves of their hunting-gear—'What d'ye think?' exclaimed she, darting into the middle of them.

'That Bob don't cannon?' observed Captain Bouncey from below the bandage that encircled his broken head, nodding towards Bob Spangles, who was just going to make a stroke.

'That Wax is out of limbo?' suggested Captain Seedeybuck, in the same breath.

'No. Guess again!' exclaimed Lady Scattercash, rubbing her hands in high glee.

'That the Pope's got a son?' observed Captain Quod.

'No. Guess again!' exclaimed her ladyship, laughing.

'I give it up,' replied Captain Bouncey.

'So do I,' added Captain Seedeybuck.

'That Mr. Sponge is going to be married,' enunciated her ladyship, slowly and emphatically, waving her arms.

'Ho-o-ray! Only think of that!' exclaimed Captain Quod. 'Old 'hogany-tops goin' to be spliced!'

'Did you ever?' asked Bob Spangles.

'No, I never,' replied Captain Bouncey.

'He should be called Spooney Sponge, not Soapey Sponge,' observed Captain Seedeybuck.

'Well, but to whom?' asked Captain Bouncey.

'Ah, to whom indeed! That's the question,' rejoined her ladyship archly.

'I know,' observed Bob Spangles.

'No, you don't.'

'Yes, I do.'

'Who is it, then?' demanded her ladyship.

'Lucy Glitters, to be sure,' replied Bob, who hadn't had his stare out of the billiard-room window for nothing.

'Pity her,' observed Bouncey, sprawling along the billiard-table to play for a cannon.

'Why?' asked Lady Scattercash.

'Reg'lar scamp,' replied Bouncey, vexed at missing his stroke.

'Dare say you know nothing about him,' snapped her ladyship.

'Don't I?' replied Bouncey complacently; adding, 'that's all you know.'

'He'll whop her, to a certainty,' observed Seedeybuck.

'What makes you think that?' asked her ladyship.

'Oh—ha—hem—haw—why, because he whopped his poor horse—whopped him over the ears. Whop his horse, whop his wife; whop his wife, whop his horse. Reg'lar Rule-of-three sum.'

'Make her a bad husband, I dare say,' observed Bob Spangles, who was rather smitten with Lucy himself.

'Never mind; a bad husband's a deal better than none, Bob,' replied Lady Scattercash, determined not to be put out of conceit of her man.

'He, he, he!—haw, haw, haw!—ho, ho, ho! Well done you!' laughed several.

'She'll have to keep him,' observed Captain Cutitfat, whose turn it now was to play.

'What makes you think that?' asked Lady Scattercash, coming again to the charge.

'He has nothing,' replied Fat coolly.

''Deed, but he has—a very good property, too,' replied her ladyship.

'In Airshire, I should think,' rejoined Fat.

'No, in Englandshire,' retorted her ladyship: 'and great expectations from an uncle,' added she.

'Ah—he looks like a man to be on good terms with his uncle,' sneered Captain Bouncey.

'Make no doubt he pays him many a visit,' observed Seedeybuck.

'Indeed! that's all you know,' snapped Lady Scattercash.

'It's not all I know,' replied Seedeybuck.

'Well, then, what else do you know?' asked she.

'I know he has nothing,' replied Seedey.

'How do you know it?'

'I know,' said Seedey, with an emphasis, now settling to his stroke.

'Well, never mind,' retorted her ladyship; 'if he has nothing, she has nothing, and nothing can be nicer.'

So saying, she hurried out of the room.



CHAPTER LXVI

MR. SPONGE AT HOME



Sponge was most warmly congratulated by Sir Harry and all the assembled captains, who inwardly hoped his marriage would have the effect of 'snuffing him out,' as they said, and they had a most glorious jollification on the strength of it. They drank Lucy's and his health nine times over, with nine times nine each time. The consequence was, that the footmen and shutter were in earlier requisition than usual to carry them to their respective apartments. Sponge's head throbbed a good deal the next morning; nor was the pulsation abated by the recollection of his matrimonial engagement, and his total inability to keep the angel who had ridden herself into his affections. However, like all untried men, he was strong in the confidence of his own ability, and the sight of his smiling charmer chased away all prudential considerations as quickly as they arose. He made no doubt there would something turn up.

Meanwhile, he was in good quarters, and Lady Scattercash having warmly espoused his cause, he assumed a considerable standing in the establishment. Old Beardey having ventured to complain of his interference in the kennel, my lady curtly told him he might 'make himself scarce if he liked'; a step that Beardey was quite ready to take, having heard of a desirable public-house at Newington Butts, provided Sir Harry paid him his wages. This not being quite convenient, Sir Harry gave him an order on 'Cabbage and Co.' for three suits of clothes, and acquiesced in his taking a massive silver soup-tureen, on which, beneath the many quartered Scattercash arms, Mr. Watchorn placed an inscription, stating that it was presented to him by Sir Harry Scattercash, Baronet, and the noblemen and gentlemen of his hunt, in admiration of his talents as a huntsman and his character as a man.

Mr. Sponge then became still more at home. It was very soon 'my hounds,' and 'my horses,' and 'my whips'; and he wrote to Jawleyford, and Puffington, and Guano, and Lumpleg, and Washball, and Spraggon, offering to make meets to suit their convenience, and even to mount them if required. His Mogg was quite neglected in favour of Lucy; and it says much for the influence of female charms that, before they had been engaged a fortnight, he, who had been a perfect oracle in cab fares, would have been puzzled to tell the most ordinary fare on the most frequented route. He had forgotten all about them. Nevertheless, Lucy and he went out hunting as often as they could raise hounds, and when they had a good run and killed, he saluted her; and when they didn't kill, why—he just did the same. He headed and tailed the stringing pack, drafted the skirters and babblers (which he sent to Lord Scamperdale, with his compliments), and presently had the uneven kennel in something like shape.



Nor was this the only way in which he made himself useful, for Nonsuch House being now supported almost entirely by voluntary contributions—that is to say, by the gullibility of tradesmen—his street and shop knowledge was valuable in determining who to 'do.' With the Post Office Directory and Mr. Sponge at his elbow, Mr. Bottleends, the butler—'delirius tremendous,' as Bottleends called it, having quite incapacitated Sir Harry—wrote off for champagne from this man, sherry from that, turtle from a third, turbot from a fourth, tea from a fifth, truffles from a sixth, wax-lights from one, sperm from another; and down came the things with such alacrity, such thanks for the past and hopes for the future, as we poor devils of the untitled world are quite unacquainted with. Nay, not content with giving him the goods, many of the poor demented creatures actually paraded their folly at their doors in new deal packing-cases, flourishingly directed 'TO SIR HARRY SCATTERCASH, BART., NONSUCH HOUSE, &c. By Express Train.' In some cases they even paid the carriage.

And here, in the midst of love, luxury, and fox-hunting, let us for a time leave our enterprising friend, Mr. Sponge, while we take a look at a species of cruelty that some people call 'sport.' For this purpose we will begin a fresh chapter.



CHAPTER LXVII

HOW THEY GOT UP THE 'GRAND ARISTOCRATIC STEEPLE-CHASE'

There is no saying what advantages railway communication may confer upon a country. But for the Granddiddle Junction, ——shire never would have had a steeple-chase—an 'Aristocratic,' at least—for it is observable that the more snobbish a thing is, the more certain they are to call it aristocratic. When it is too bad for anything, they call it 'Grand.' Well, as we said before, but for the Granddiddle Junction, ——shire would never have had a 'Grand Aristocratic Steeple-Chase.' A few friends or farmers might have got up a quiet thing among themselves, but it would never have seen a regular trade transaction, with its swell mob, sham captains, and all the paraphernalia of odd laying, 'secret tips,' and market rigging. Who will deny the benefit that must accrue to any locality by the infusion of all the loose fish of the kingdom?

Formerly the prize-fights were the perquisite of the publicans. They it was who arranged for Shaggy Tom to pound Harry Billy's nob upon So-and-so's land, the preference being given to the locality that subscribed the most money to the fight. Since the decline of 'the ring,' steeple-chasing, and that still smaller grade of gambling—coursing, have come to their aid. Nine-tenths of the steeple-chasing and coursing-matches are got up by inn-keepers, for the good of their houses. Some of the town publicans, indeed, seem to think that the country was just made for their matches to come off in, and scarcely condescend to ask the leave of the landowners.

We saw an advertisement the other day, where a low publican, in a manufacturing town, assured the subscribers to his coursing-club that he would take care to select open ground, with 'plenty of stout hares,' as if all the estates in the neighbourhood were at his command. Another advertised a steeple-chase in the centre of a good hunting country—'amateur and gentleman riders'—with a half-crown ordinary at the end! Fancy the respectability of a steeple-chase, with a half-crown ordinary at the end!

Our 'Aristocratic' was got up on the good-of-the-house principle. Whatever benefit the Granddiddle Junction conferred upon the country at large, it had a very prejudicial effect upon the Old Duke of Cumberland Hotel and Posting House, which it left, high and dry, at an angle sufficiently near to be tantalized by the whirr and the whistle of the trains, and yet too far off to be benefited by the parties they brought. This once well-accustomed hostelry was kept by one Mr. Viney, a former butler in the Scattercash family, and who still retained the usual 'old and faithful servant' entree of Nonsuch House, having his beefsteak and bottle of wine in the steward's room whenever he chose to call. Viney had done good at the Old Duke of Cumberland; and no one, seeing him 'full fig,' would recognize, in the solemn grandeur of his stately person, the dirty knife-boy who had filled the place now occupied by the still dirtier Slarkey. But the days of road travelling departed, and Viney, who, beneath the Grecian-columned portico of his country-house-looking hotel, modulated the ovations of his cauliflower head to every description of traveller—from the lordly occupant of the barouche-and-four, down to the humble sitter in a gig—was cut off by one fell swoop from all further traffic. He was extinguished like a gaslight, and the pipe was laid on a fresh line.

Fortunately Mr. Viney was pretty warm; he had done pretty well; and having enjoyed the intimacy of the great 'Jeames' of railway times, had got a hint not to engage the hotel beyond the opening of the line. Consequently, he now had the great house for a mere nothing until such times as the owner could convert it into that last refuge for deserted houses—an academy, or a 'young ladies' seminary.' Mr. Viney now, having plenty of leisure, frequently drove his 'missis' (once a lady's maid in a quality family) up to Nonsuch House, as well for the sake of the airing—for the road was pleasant and picturesque—as to see if he could get the 'little trifle' Sir Harry owed him for post-horses, bottles of soda-water, and such trifles as country gentlemen run up scores for at their posting-houses—scores that seldom get smaller by standing. In these excursions Mr. Viney made the acquaintance of Mr. Watchorn; and a huntsman being a character with whom even the landlord of an inn—we beg pardon, hotel and posting-house—may associate without degradation, Viney and Watchorn became intimate. Watchorn sympathized with Viney, and never failed to take a glass in passing, either at exercise or out hunting, to deplore that such a nice-looking house, so 'near the station, too,' should be ruined as an inn. It was after a more than usual libation that Watchorn, trotting merrily along with the hounds, having accomplished three blank days in succession, asked himself, as he looked upon the surrounding vale from the rising ground of Hammercock Hill, with the cream-coloured station and the rose-coloured hotel peeping through the trees, whether something might not be done to give the latter a lift. At first he thought of a pigeon match—a sweepstake open to all England—fifty members say, at two pound ten each, seven pigeons, seven sparrows, twenty-one yards rise, two ounces of shot, and so on. But then, again, he thought there would be a difficulty in getting guns. A coursing match—how would that do? Answer: 'No hares.' The farmers had made such an outcry about the game, that the landowners had shot them all off, and now the farmers were grumbling that they couldn't get a course.

'Dash my buttons!' exclaimed Watchorn; 'it would be the very thing for a steeple-chase! There's old Puff's hounds, and old Scamp's hounds, and these hounds,' looking down on the ill-sorted lot around him; 'and the deuce is in it if we couldn't give the thing such a start as would bring down the lads of the "village," and a vast amount of good business might be done. I'm dashed if it isn't the very country for a steeple-chase!' continued Watchorn, casting his eye over Cloverly Park, round the enclosure of Langworth Grange, and up the rising ground of Lark Lodge.

The more Watchorn thought of it, the more he was satisfied of its feasibility, and he trotted over, the next day, to the Old Duke of Cumberland, to see his friend on the subject. Viney, like most victuallers, was more given to games of skill—billiards, shuttlecock, skittles, dominoes, and so on—than to the rude out-of-door chances of flood and field, and at first he doubted his ability to grapple with the details; but on Mr. Watchorn's assurance that he would keep him straight, he gave Mrs. Viney a key, desiring her to go into the inner cellar, and bring out a bottle of the green seal. This was ninety-shilling sherry—very good stuff to take; and, by the time they got into the second bottle, they had got into the middle of the scheme too. Viney was cautious and thoughtful. He had a high opinion of Watchorn's sagacity, and so long as Watchorn confined himself to weights, and stakes, and forfeits, and so on, he was content to leave himself in the hands of the huntsman; but when Watchorn came to talk of 'stewards,' putting this person and that together, Viney's experience came in aid. Viney knew a good deal. He had not stood twisting a napkin negligently before a plate-loaded sideboard without picking up a good many waifs and strays in the shape of those ins and outs, those likings and dislikings, those hatreds and jealousies, that foolish people let fall so freely before servants, as if for all the world the servants were sideboards themselves; and he had kept up his stock of service-gained knowledge by a liberal, though not a dignity-compromising intercourse—for there is no greater aristocrat than your out-of-livery servant—among the upper servants of all the families in the neighbourhood, so that he knew to a nicety who would pull together, and who wouldn't, whose name it would not do to mention to this person, and who it would not do to apply to before that.

Neither Watchorn nor Viney being sportsmen, they thought they had nothing to do but apply to two friends who were; and after thinking over who hunted in couples, they were unfortunate enough to select our Flat Hat friends, Fyle and Fossick. Fyle was indignant beyond measure at being asked to be steward to a steeple-chase, and thrust the application into the fire; while Fossick just wrote below, 'I'll see you hanged first,' and sent it back without putting even a fresh head on the envelope. Nothing daunted, however, they returned to the charge, and without troubling the reader with unnecessary detail, we think it will be generally admitted that they at length made an excellent selection in Mr. Puffington, Guano, and Tom Washball.



Fortune favoured them also in getting a locality to run in, for Timothy Scourgefield, of Broom Hill, whose farm commanded a good circular three miles of country, with every variety of obstacle, having thrown up his lease for a thirty-per-cent reduction—a giving up that had been most unhandsomely accepted by his landlord—Timothy was most anxious to pay him off by doing every conceivable injury to the farm, than which nothing can be more promising than having a steeple-chase run over it. Scourgefield, therefore, readily agreed to let Viney and Watchorn do whatever they liked, on condition that he received entrance-money at the gate.

The name occupied their attention some time, for it did not begin as the 'Aristocratic.' The 'Great National,' the 'Grand Naval and Military,' the 'Sports-man,' the 'Talli-ho,' the 'Out-and-Outer,' the 'Swell,' were all considered and canvassed, and its being called the 'Aristocratic' at length turned upon whether they got Lord Scamperdale to subscribe or not. This was accomplished by a deferential call by Mr. Viney upon Mr. Spraggon, with a little bill for three pound odd, which he presented, with the most urgent request that Jack wouldn't think of it then—any time that was most convenient to Mr. Spraggon—and then the introduction of the neatly-headed sheet-list. It was lucky that Viney was so easily satisfied, for poor Jack had only thirty shillings, of which he owed his washerwoman eight, and he was very glad to stuff Viney's bill into his stunner jacket-pocket, and apply himself exclusively to the contemplated steeple-chase.

Like most of us, Jack had no objection to make a little money; and as he squinted his frightful eyes inside out at the paper, he thought over what horses they had in the stable that were like the thing; and then he sounded Viney as to whether he would put him one up for nothing, if he could induce his lordship to send. This, of course, Viney readily assented to, and again requesting Jack not to think of his little bill till it was perfectly convenient to him—a favour that Jack was pretty sure to accord him—Mr. Viney took his departure, Jack undertaking to write him the result. The next day's post brought Viney the document—unpaid, of course—with a great 'Scamperdale' scrawled across the top; and forthwith it was decided that the steeple-chase should be called the 'Grand Aristocratic.' Other names quickly followed, and it soon assumed an importance. Advertisements appeared in all the sporting and would-be sporting papers, headed with the imposing names of the stewards, secretary, and clerk of the course, Mr. Viney. The 'Grand Aristocratic Stakes,' of 20 sovs. each, half-forfeit, and L5 only if declared, &c. The winner to give two dozen of champagne to the ordinary, and the second horse to save his stake. Gentlemen riders (titled ones to be allowed 3 lb.). Over about three miles of fine hunting country, under the usual steeple-chase conditions.

Then the game of the 'Peeping Toms,' and 'Sly Sams,' and 'Infallible Joes,' and 'Wideawake Jems,' with their tips and distribution of prints began; Tom counselling his numerous and daily increasing clients to get well on to No. 9, Sardanapalus (the Bart., as Watchorn called him), while 'Infallible Joe' recommended his friends and patrons to be sweet on No. 6 (Hercules), and 'Wide-awake Jem' was all for something else. A gentleman who took the trouble of getting tips from half a dozen of them, found that no two of them agreed in any particular. What information to make books upon!

'But what good,' as our excellent friend Thackeray eloquently asks, 'ever came out of, or went into, a betting book? If I could be CALIPH OMAR for a week,' says he, 'I would pitch every one of those despicable manuscripts into the flames; from my-lord's, who is "in" with Jack Snaffle's stable, and is overreaching worse-informed rogues, and swindling greenhorns, down to Sam's, the butcher's boy, who books eighteen-penny odds in the tap-room, and stands to win five-and-twenty bob.' We say ditto to that, and are not sure that we wouldn't hang a 'leg' or a 'list' man or two into the bargain.

Watchorn had a prophet of his own, one Enoch Wriggle, who, having tried his hand unsuccessfully first at tailoring, next as an accountant, then in the watercress, afterwards in the buy ''at-box, bonnet-box,' and lastly in the stale lobster and periwinkle line, had set up as an oracle on turf matters, forwarding the most accurate and infallible information to flats in exchange for half-crowns, heading his advertisements, 'If it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive!' Enoch did a considerable stroke of business, and couched his advice in such dubious terms, as generally to be able to claim a victory whichever way the thing went. So the 'offending soul' prospered; and from scarcely having shoes to his feet, he very soon set up a gig.



CHAPTER LXVIII

HOW THE 'GRAND ARISTOCRATIC' CAME OFF

Steeple-chases are generally crude, ill-arranged things. Few sportsmen will act as stewards a second time; while the victim to the popular delusion of patronizing our 'national sports' considers—like gentlemen who have served the office of sheriff, or church-warden—that once in a lifetime is enough; hence, there is always the air of amateur actorship about them. There is always something wanting or forgotten. Either they forget the ropes, or they forget the scales, or they forget the weights, or they forget the bell, or—more commonly still—some of the parties forget themselves. Farmers, too, are easily satisfied with the benefits of an irresponsible mob careering over their farms, even though some of them are attired in the miscellaneous garb of hunting and racing costume. Indeed, it is just this mixture of two sports that spoils both; steeple-chasing being neither hunting nor racing. It has not the wild excitement of the one, nor the accurate calculating qualities of the other. The very horses have a peculiar air about them—neither hunters nor hacks, nor yet exactly race-horses. Some of them, doubtless, are fine, good-looking, well-conditioned animals; but the majority are lean, lathy, sunken-eyed, woe-begone, iron-marked, desperately-abused brutes, lacking all the lively energy that characterizes the movements of the up-to-the-mark hunter. In the early days of steeple-chasing a popular fiction existed that the horses were hunters; and grooms and fellows used to come nicking and grinning up to masters of hounds at checks and critical times, requesting them to note that they were out, in order to ask for certificates of the horses having been 'regularly hunted'—a species of regularity than which nothing could be more irregular. That nuisance, thank goodness, is abated. A steeple-chaser now generally stands on his own merits; a change for which sportsmen may be thankful.

But to our story.

The whole country was in a commotion about this 'Aristocratic'. The unsophisticated looked upon it as a grand reunion of the aristocracy; and smart bonnets and cloaks, and jackets and parasols were ordered with the liberality incident to a distant view of Christmas. As Viney sipped his sherry-cobler of an evening, he laughed at the idea of a son-of-a-day-labourer like himself raising such a dust. Letters came pouring in to the clerk of the course from all quarters; some asking about beds; some about breakfasts; some about stakes; some about stables; some about this thing, some about that. Every room in the Old Duke of Cumberland was speedily bespoke. Post-horses rose in price, and Dobbin and Smiler, and Jumper and Cappy, and Jessy and Tumbler were jobbed from the neighbouring farmers, and converted for the occasion into posters. At last came the great and important day—day big with the fate of thousands of pounds; for the betting-list vermin had been plying their trade briskly throughout the kingdom, and all sorts of rumours had been raised relative to the qualities and conditions of the horses.

Who doesn't know the chilling feel of an English spring, or rather of a day at the turn of the year before there is any spring? Our gala-day was a perfect specimen of the order—a white frost succeeded by a bright sun, with an east wind, warming one side of the face and starving the other. It was neither a day for fishing, nor hunting, nor coursing, nor anything but farming. The country, save where there were a few lingering patches of turnips, was all one dingy drab, with abundant scalds on the undrained fallows. The grass was more like hemp than anything else. The very rushes were yellow and sickly.

Long before midday the whole country was in commotion. The same sort of people commingled that one would expect to see if there was a balloon to go up, and a man to go down, or be hung at the same place. Fine ladies in all the colours of the rainbow; and swarthy, beady-eyed dames, with their stalwart, big-calved, basket-carrying comrades; gentle young people from behind the counter; Dandy Candy merchants from behind the hedge; rough-coated dandies with their silver-mounted whips; and Shaggyford roughs, in their baggy, poacher-like coats, and formidable clubs; carriages and four, and carriages and pairs; and gigs and dog-carts, and Whitechapels, and Newport Pagnels, and long carts, and short carts, and donkey carts, converged from all quarters upon the point of attraction at Broom Hill.

If Farmer Scourgefield had made a mob, he could not have got one that would be more likely to do damage to his farm than this steeple-chase one. Nor was the assemblage confined to the people of the country, for the Granddiddle Junction, by its connection with the great network of railways, enabled all patrons of this truly national sport to sweep down upon the spot like flocks of wolves; and train after train disgorged a generous mixture of sharps and flats, commingling with coatless, baggy-breeched vagabonds, the emissaries most likely of the Peeping Toms and Infallible Joes, if not the worthies themselves.

'Dear, but it's a noble sight!' exclaimed Viney to Watchorn as they sat on their horses, below a rickety green-baize-covered scaffold, labelled, 'GRAND STAND; admission, Two-and-sixpence,' raised against Scourgefield's stack-yard wall, eyeing the population pouring in from all parts. 'Dear, but it's a noble sight!' said he, shading the sun from his eyes, and endeavouring to identify the different vehicles in the distance. 'Yonder's the 'bus comin' again,' said he, looking towards the station, 'loaded like a market-gardener's turnip-waggon. That'll pay,' added he, with a knowing leer at the landlord of the Hen Angel, Newington Butts. 'And who have we here, with the four horses and sky-blue flunkeys? Jawleyford, as I live!' added he, answering himself; adding, 'The beggar had better pay me what he owes.'

How great Mr. Viney was! Some people, who have never had anything to do with horses, think it incumbent upon them, when they have, to sport top-boots, and accordingly, for the first time in his life, Viney appears in a pair of remarkably hard, tight, country-made boots, above which are a pair of baggy white cords, with the dirty finger-marks of the tailor still upon them. He sports a single-breasted green cutaway coat, with basket-buttons, a black satin roll-collared waistcoat, and a new white silk hat, that shines in the bright sun like a fish-kettle. His blue-striped kerchief is secured by a butterfly brooch. Who ever saw an innkeeper that could resist a brooch?

He is riding a miserable rat of a badly clipped, mouse-coloured pony that looks like a velocipede under him.

His companion, Mr. Watchorn, is very great, and hardly condescends to know the country people who claim his acquaintance as a huntsman. He is a Hotel Keeper—master of the Hen Angel, Newington Butts. Enoch Wriggle stands beside them, dressed in the imposing style of a cockney sportsman. He has been puffing 'Sir Danapalus (the Bart.)' in public, and taking all the odds he can get against him in private. Watchorn knows that it is easier to make a horse lose than win. The restless-looking, lynx-eyed caitiff, in the dirty green shawl, with his hands stuffed into the front pockets of the brown tarriar coat, is their jockey, the renowned Captain Hangallows; he answers to the name of Sam Slick in Mr. Spavin the horse-dealer's yard in Oxford Street, when not in the country on similar excursions to the present. And now in the throng on the principal line are two conspicuous horses—a piebald and a white—carrying Mr. Sponge and Lucy Glitters. Lucy appears as she did on the frosty-day hunt, glowing with health and beauty, and rather straining the seams of Lady Scattercash's habit with the additional embonpoint she has acquired by early hours in the country. She has made Mr. Sponge a white silk jacket to ride in, which he has on under his grey tarriar coat, and a cap of the same colour is in his hard hat. He has discarded the gosling-green cords for cream-coloured leathers, and, to please Lucy, has actually substituted a pair of rose-tinted tops for the 'hogany bouts'. Altogether he is a great swell, and very like the bridegroom.

But hark—what a crash! The leaders of Sir Harry Scattercash's drag start at a blind fiddler's dog stationed at the gate leading into the fields, a wheel catches the post, and in an instant the sham captains are scattered about the road: Bouncey on his head, Seedeyhuck across the wheelers, Quod on his back, and Sir Harry astride the gate. Meanwhile, the old fiddler, regardless of the shouts of the men and the shrieks of the ladies, scrapes away with the appropriate tune of 'The Devil among the Tailors!' A rush to the horses' heads arrests further mischief, the dislodged captains are at length righted, the nerves of the ladies composed, and Sir Harry once more essays to drive them up the hill to the stand. That feat being accomplished, then came the unloading, and consternation, and huddling of the tight-laced occupants at the idea of these female women coming amongst them, and the usual peeping and spying, and eyeing of the 'creatures.' 'What impudence!' 'Well, I think!' ''Pon my word!' 'What next!'—exclamations that were pretty well lost upon the fair objects of them amid the noise and flutter and confusion of the scene. But hark again! What's up now?



'Hooray!' 'hooray!' 'h-o-o-o-ray!' 'Three cheers for the Squire! H-o-o-o-ray!' Old Puff as we live! The 'amazin' instance of a pop'lar man' greeted by the Swillingford snobs. The old frost-bitten dandy is flattered by the cheers, and bows condescendingly ere he alights from the well-appointed mail phaeton. See how graciously the ladies receive him, as, having ascended the stairs, he appears among them. 'A man is never too old to marry' is their maxim.

The cry is still, 'They come! they come!' See at a hand-gallop, with his bay pony in a white lather, rides Pacey, grinning from ear to ear, with his red-backed betting-book peeping out of the breast pocket of his brown cutaway. He is staring and gaping to see who is looking at him.

Pacey has made such a book as none but a wooden-headed boy like himself could make. He has been surfeited with tips. Peeping Tom had advised him to back Daddy Longlegs; and, nullus error, Sneaking Joe has counselled him that the 'Baronet' will be 'California without cholera, and gold without danger'; while Jemmy something, the jockey, who advertises that his 'tongue is not for falsehood framed,' though we should think it was framed for nothing else, has urged him to back Parvo to half the amount of the national debt.

Altogether, Pacey has made such a mess that he cannot possibly win, and may lose almost any sum from a thousand pounds down to a hundred and eighty. Mr. Sponge has got well on with him, through the medium of Jack Spraggon.

Pacey is now going to what he calls 'compare'—see that he has got his bets booked right; and, throwing his right leg over his cob's neck, he blobs on to the ground; and, leaving the pony to take care of itself, disappears in the crowd.

What a hubbub! what roarings, and shoutings, and recognizings! 'Bless my heart! who'd have thought of seeing you?' and, 'By jingo! what's sent you here?'

'My dear Waffles,' cries Jawleyford, rushing up to our Laverick Wells friend (who is looking very debauched), 'I'm overjoyed to see you. Do come upstairs and see Mrs. Jawleyford and the dear girls. It was only last night we were talking about you.' And so Jawleyford hurries Mr. Waffles off, just as Waffles is in extremis about his horse.

Looking around the scene there seems to be everybody that we have had the pleasure of introducing to the reader in the course of Mr. Sponge's Tour. Mr. and Mrs. Springwheat in their dog-cart, Mrs. Springey's figure looking as though 'wheat had got above forty, my lord'; old Jog and his handsome wife in the ugly old phaeton, well garnished with children, and a couple of sticks in the rough peeping out of the apron, Gustavus James held up in his mother's arms, with the curly blue feather nodding over his nose. There is also Farmer Peastraw, and faces that a patient inspection enables us to appropriate to Dribble, and Hook, and Capon, and Calcot, and Lumpleg, and Crane of Crane Hall, and Charley Slapp of red-coat times—people look so different in plain clothes to what they do in hunting ones. Here, too, is George Cheek, running down with perspiration, having run over from Dr. Latherington's, for which he will most likely 'catch it' when he gets back; and oh, wonder of wonders, here's Robert Foozle himself!

'Well, Robert, you've come to the steeple-chase?'

'Yes, I've come to the steeple-chase.'

'Are you fond of steeple-chases?'

'Yes, I'm fond of steeple-chases.'

'I dare say you never were at one before,' observes his mother.

'No, I never was at one before,' replies Robert.

And though last not least, here's Facey Romford, with his arm in a sling, on Mr. Hobler, come to look after that sivin-p'und-ten, which we wish he may get.

Hark! there's a row below the stand, and Viney is seen in a state of excitement inquiring for Mr. Washball. Pacey has objected to a gentleman rider, and Guano and Puffington have differed on the point. A nice, slim, well-put-on lad (Buckram's rough rider) has come to the scales and claimed to be allowed 3 lb. as the Honourable Captain Boville. Finding the point questioned, he abandons the 'handle', and sinks into plain Captain Boville. Pacey now objects to him altogether. 'S-c-e-u-s-e me, sir; s-c-e-u-s-e me, sir,' simpers our friend Dick Bragg, sidling up to the objector with a sort of tendency of his turn-back-wristed hand to his hat. 'S-c-e-u-s-e me, sir; s-c-e-u-s-e me,' repeats he, 'but I think you was wrong, sir, in objecting to Captain Boville, sir, as a gen'l'man rider, sir.'

'Why?' demands Pacey, in the full flush of victory.

'Oh, sir—because, sir—in fact, sir—he is a gen'l'man, sir.'

'Is a gentleman! How do you know?' demands Pacey, in the same tone as before.

'Oh, sir, he's a gen'l'man—an undoubted gen'l'man. Everything about him shows that. Does nothing—breeches by Anderson—boots by Bartley; besides which, he drinks wine every day, and has a whole box of cigars in his bedroom. But don't take my word for it, pray,' continued Bragg, seeing Pacey was wavering; 'don't take my word for it, pray. There's a gen'l'man, a countryman of his, somewhere about,' added he, looking anxiously into the surrounding crowd—there's a gen'l'man, a countryman of his, somewhere about, if we could but find him,' Bragg standing on his tiptoes, and exclaiming, 'Mr. Buckram! Mr. Buckram! Has anybody seen anything of Mr. Buckram!'

'Here!' replied a meek voice from behind; upon which there was an elbowing through the crowd, and presently a most respectable, rosy-gilled, grey-haired, hawbuck-looking man, attired in a new brown cutaway, with bright buttons and a velvet collar, with a buff waistcoat, came twirling an ash-stick in one hand, and fumbling the silver in his drab trousers' pocket with the other, in front of the bystanders.

'Oh! 'ere he is!' exclaimed Bragg, appealing to the stranger with a hasty 'You know Captain Boville, don't you?'

'Why, now, as to the matter of that,' replied the gentleman, gathering all the loose silver up into his hand and speaking very slowly, just as a country gentleman, who has all the live-long day to do nothing in, may be supposed to speak—' Why, now, as to the matter of that,' said he, eyeing Pacey intently, and beginning to drop the silver slowly as he spoke, 'I can't say that I've any very 'ticklar 'quaintance with the captin. I knows him, in course, just as one knows a neighbour's son. The captin's a good deal younger nor me,' continued he, raising his new eight-and-sixpenny Parisian, as if to show his sandy grey hair. 'I'm a'most sixty; and he, I dare say, is little more nor twenty,' dropping a half-crown as he said it. 'But the captin's a nice young gent—a nice young gent, without any blandishment, I should say; and that's more nor one can say of all young gents nowadays,' said Buckram, looking at Pacey as he spoke, and dropping two consecutive half-crowns.

'Why, but you live near him, don't you?' interrupted Bragg.

'Near him,' repeated Buckram, feeling his well-shaven chin thoughtfully. 'Why, yes—that's to say, near his dad. The fact is,' continued he, 'I've a little independence of my own,' dropping a heavy five-shilling piece as he said it,' and his father—old Bo, as I call him—adjoins me; and if either of us 'appen to have a battue, or a 'aunch of wenzun, and a few friends, we inwite each other, and wicey wersey, you know,' letting off a lot of shillings and sixpences. And just at the moment the blind fiddler struck up 'The Devil among the Tailors,' when the shouts and laughter of the mob closed the scene.

And now gentlemen, who heretofore have shown no more of the jockey than Cinderella's feet in the early part of the pantomime disclose of her ball attire, suddenly cast off the pea-jackets and bearskin wraps, and shawls and overcoats of winter, and shine forth in all the silken flutter of summer heat.

We know of no more humiliating sight than misshapen gentlemen playing at jockeys. Playing at soldiers is bad enough, but playing at jockeys is infinitely worse—above all, playing at steeple-chase jockeys, combining, as they generally do, all the worst features of the hunting-field and racecourse—unsympathizing boots and breeches, dirty jackets that never fit, and caps that won't keep on. What a farce to see the great bulky fellows go to scale with their saddles strapped to their backs, as if to illustrate the impossibility of putting a round of beef upon a pudding plate!

But the weighed-in ones are mounting. See, there's Jack Spraggon getting a hoist on to Daddy Longlegs! Did ever mortal see such a man for a jockey? He has cut off the laps of a stunner tartan jacket, and looks like a great backgammon-board. He has got his head into an old gold-banded military foraging-cap, which comes down almost on to the rims of his great tortoise-shell spectacles. Lord Scamperdale stands with his hand on the horse's mane, talking earnestly to Jack, doubtless giving him his final instructions. Other jockeys emerge from various parts of the farm-buildings; some out of stables; some out of cow-houses; others from beneath cart-sheds. The scene becomes enlivened with the varied colours of the riders—red, yellow, green, blue, violet, and stripes without end. Then comes the usual difficulty of identifying the parties, many of whose mothers wouldn't know them.

'That's Captain Tongs,' observes Miss Simperley, 'in the blue. I remember dancing with him at Bath, and he did nothing but talk about steeple-chasing.'

'And who's that in yellow?' asks Miss Hardy.

'That's Captain Gander,' replies the gentleman on her left.

'Well, I think he'll win,' replies the lady.

'I'll bet you a pair of gloves he doesn't,' snaps Miss Moore, who fancies Captain Pusher, in the pink.

'What a squat little jockey!' exclaims Miss Hamilton, as a little dumpling of a man in Lincoln green is led past the stand on a fine bay horse, some one recognizing the rider as our old friend Caingey Thornton.

'And look who comes here?' whispers Miss Jawleyford to her sister, as Mr. Sponge, having accomplished a mount without derangement of temper, rides Hercules quietly past the stand, his whip-hand resting on his thigh, and his head turned to his fair companion on the white.

'Oh, the wretch!' sneers Miss Amelia; and the fair sisters look at Lucy and then at him with the utmost disgust.

Mr. Sponge may now be doubled up by half a dozen falls ere either of them would suggest the propriety of having him bled.

Lucy's cheeks are rather blanched with the 'pale cast of thought,' for she is not sufficiently initiated in the mysteries of steeple-chasing to know that it is often quite as good for a man to lose as to win, which it had just been quietly arranged between Sponge and Buckram should be the case on this occasion, Buckram having got uncommonly 'well on' to the losing tune. Perhaps, however, Lucy was thinking of the peril, not the profit of the thing.

The young ladies on the stand eye her with mingled feelings of pity and disdain, while the elderly ones shake their heads, call her a bold hussy—declare she's not so pretty—adding that they 'wouldn't have come if they'd known,' &c. &c.

But it is half-past two (an hour and a half after time), and there is at last a disposition evinced by some of the parties to go to the post. Broad-backed parti-coloured jockeys are seen converging that way, and the betting-men close in, getting more and more clamorous for odds. What a hubbub! How they bellow! How they roar! A universal deafness seems to have come over the whole of them. 'Seven to one 'gain the Bart.!' screams one—'I'll take eight!' roars another. 'Five to one agen Herc'les!' cries a third—'Done!' roars a fourth. 'Twice over!' rejoins the other—'Done!' replies the taker. 'Ar'll take five to one agin the Daddy!'—'I'll lay six!' 'What'll any one lay 'gin Parvo?' And so they raise such an uproar that the squeak, squeak, squeak of the

'Devil among the tailors'

is hardly heard.

Then, in a partial lull, the voice of Lord Scamperdale rises, exclaiming, 'Oh, you hideous Hobgoblin, bull-and-mouth of a boy! you think, because I'm a lord, and can't swear, or use coarse language—' And again the hubbub, led on by the

'Devil among the tailors,'

drowns the exclamations of the speaker. It's that Pacey again; he's accusing the virtuous Mr. Spraggon of handing his extra weight to Lord Scamperdale; and Jack, in the full consciousness of injured guilt, intimates that the blood of the Spraggons won't stand that—that there's 'only one way of settling it, and he'll be ready for Pacey half an hour after the race.'

At length the horses are all out—one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen—fifteen of them, moving about in all directions: some taking an up-gallop, others a down; some a spicy trot, others walking to and fro; while one has still his muzzle on, lest he should unship his rider and eat him; and another's groom follows, imploring the mob to keep off his heels if they don't want their heads in their hands. The noisy bell at length summons the scattered forces to the post, and the variegated riders form into as good a line as circumstances will allow. Just as Mr. Sponge turns his horse's head Lucy hands him her little silver sherry-flask, which our friend drains to the dregs. As he returns it, with a warm pressure of her soft hand, a pent-up flood of tears burst their bounds, and suffuse her lustrous eyes. She turns away to hide her emotion; at the same instant a wild shout rends the air—'W-h-i-r-r! They're off!'

Thirteen get away, one turns tail, and our friend in the Lincoln green is left performing a pas seul, asking the rearing horse, with an oath, if he thinks 'he stole him'? while the mob shout and roar; and one wicked wag, in coaching parlance, advises him to pay the difference, and get inside.

But what a display of horsemanship is exhibited by the flyers! Tongs comes off at the first fence, the horse making straight for a pond, while the rest rattle on in a mass. The second fence is small, but there's a ditch on the far side, and Pusher and Gander severally measure their lengths on the rushy pasture beyond. Still there are ten left, and nobody ever reckoned upon these getting to the far end.

'Master wins, for a 'undr'd!' exclaims Leather, as, getting into the third field, Mr. Sponge takes a decided lead; and Lucy, encouraged by the sound, looks up, and sees her 'white jacket' throwing the dry fallow in the faces of the field.

'Oh, how I hope he will!' exclaims she, clasping her hands, with upturned eyes; but when she ventures on another look, she sees old Spraggon drawing upon him, Hangallows's flaming red jacket not far off, and several others nearer than she liked. Still the tail was beginning to form. Another fence, and that a big one, draws it out. A striped jacket is down, and the horse, after a vain effort to rise, sinks lifeless on the ground. On they go all the same!

Loud yells of exciting betting burst from the spectators, and Buckram gets well on for the cross.

There are now five in front—Sponge, Spraggon, Hangallows, Boville, and another; and already the pace begins to tell. It wasn't possible to run it at the rate they started. Spraggon makes a desperate effort to get the lead; and Sponge, seeing Boville handy, pulls his horse, and lets the light-weight make play over a rough, heavy fallow with the chestnut. Jack spurs and flogs, and grins and foams at the mouth. Thus they get half round the oval course. They are now directly in front of the hill, and the spectators gaze with intense anxiety;—now vociferating the name of this horse, now of that; now shouting 'Red jacket!' now 'White!' while the blind fiddler perseveres with the old melody of—'The Devil among the Tailors.'

'Now they come to the brook!' exclaims Leather, who has been over the ground; and as he speaks, Lucy distinctly sees Mr. Sponge's gather an effort to clear it; and—oh, horror!—the horse falls—he's down—no, he's up!—and her lover's in his seat again; and she flatters herself it was her sherry that saved him. Splash!—a horse and rider duck under; three get over; two go in; now another clears it, and the rest turn tail.

What splashing and screaming, and whipping and spurring, and how hopeless the chance of any of them to recover their lost ground. The race is now clearly between five. Now for the wall! It's five feet high, built of heavy blocks, and strong in the staked-out part. As he nears it, Jack sits well back, getting Daddy Longlegs well by the head, and giving him a refresher with the whip. It is Jack's last move! His horse comes, neck and croup over, rolling Jack up like a ball of worsted on the far side. At the same moment, Multum-in-Parvo goes at it full tilt; and, not rising an inch, sends Captain Boville flying one way, his saddle another, himself a third, and the stones all ways. Mr. Sponge then slips through, closely followed by Hangallows and a jockey in yellow, with a tail of three after them. They then put on all the steam they can raise over the twenty-acre pasture that follows.

The white!—the red!—the yaller! The red!—the white!—the yaller! and anybody's race! A sheet would cover them!—crack! whack! crack! how they flog! Hercules springs at the sound.

Many of the excited spectators begin hallooing, and straddling, and working their arms as if their gestures and vociferations would assist the race. Lord Scamperdale stands transfixed. He is staring through his silver spectacles at the awkwardly lying ball that represents poor Spraggon.

'By Heavens!' exclaims he, in an undertone to himself, 'I believe he's killed!' And thereupon he swung down the stand-stairs, rushed to his horse, and, clapping spurs to his sides, struck across the country to the spot.

Long before he got there the increased uproar of the spectators announced the final struggle; and looking over his shoulder, he saw white jacket hugging his horse home, closely followed by red, and shooting past the winning-post.

'Dash that Mr. Sponge!' growled his lordship, as the cheers of the winners closed the scene.

'The brute's won, in spite of him!' gasped Buckram, turning deadly pale at the sight.



CHAPTER LXIX

HOW OTHER THINGS CAME OFF

'Twere hard to say whether Lucy's joy at Sponge's safety, or Lord Scamperdale's grief at poor Spraggon's death, was most overpowering. Each found relief in a copious flood of tears. Lucy sobbed and laughed, and sobbed and laughed again; and seemed as if her little heart would burst its bounds. The mob, ever open to sentiment—especially the sentiment of beauty—cheered and shouted as she rode with her lover from the winning to the weighing-post.

'A', she's a bonny un!' exclaimed a countryman, looking intently up in her face.

'She is that!' cried another, doing the same.

'Three cheers for the lady!' shouted a tall Shaggyford rough, taking off his woolly cap, and waving it.

'Hoo-ray! hoo-ray! hoo-ray!' shouted a group of flannel-clad navvies.

'Three for white jacket!' then roared a blue-coated butcher, who had won as many half-crowns on the race.—Three cheers were given for the unwilling winner.

'Oh, my poor dear Jack!' exclaimed his lordship, throwing himself off his horse, and wringing his hands in despair, as a select party of thimble-riggers, who had gone to Jack's assistance, raised him up, and turned his ghastly face, with his eyes squinting inside out, and the foam still on his mouth, full upon him. 'Oh, my poor dear Jack!' repeated his lordship, sinking on his knees beside him, and grasping his stiffening hand as he spoke. His lordship sank overpowered upon the body.

The thimble-riggers then availed themselves of the opportunity to ease his lordship and Jack of their watches and the few shillings they had about them, and departed.

When a lord is in distress, consolation is never long in coming; and Lord Scamperdale had hardly got over the first paroxysms of grief, and gathered up Jack's cap, and the fragments of his spectacles, ere Jawleyford, who had noticed his abrupt departure from the stand and scurry across the country, arrived at the spot. His lordship was still in the full agony of woe; still grasping and bedewing Jack's cold hand with his tears.

'Oh, my dear Jack! Oh, my dear Jawleyford! Oh, my dear Jack! 'sobbed he, as he mopped the fast-chasing tears from his grizzly cheeks with a red cotton kerchief. 'Oh, my dear Jack! Oh, my dear Jawleyford! Oh, my dear Jack! 'repeated he, as a fresh flood spread o'er the rugged surface. 'Oh, what a tr-reasure, what a tr—tr—trump he was. Shall never get such another. Nobody could s—s—lang a fi—fi—field as he could; no hu—hu—humbug 'bout him—never was su—su—such a fine natural bl—bl—blackguard'; and then his feelings wholly choked his utterance as he recollected how easily Jack was satisfied; how he could dine off tripe and cow-heel, mop up fat porridge for breakfast, and never grumbled at being put on a bad horse.

The news of a man being killed soon reached the hill, and drew the attention of the mob from our hero and heroine, causing such a spread of population over the farm as must have been highly gratifying to Scourgefield, who stood watching the crashing of the fences and the demolition of the gates, thinking how he was paying his landlord off.

Seeing the rude, unmannerly character of the mob, Jawleyford got his lordship by the arm, and led him away towards the hill, his lordship reeling, rather than walking, and indulging in all sorts of wild, incoherent cries and lamentations.

'Sing out. Jack! sing out!' he would exclaim, as if in the agony of having his hounds ridden over; then, checking himself, he would shake his head and say, 'Ah, poor Jack, poor Jack! shall never look upon his like again—shall never get such a man to read the riot act, and keep all square.' And then a fresh gush of tears suffused his grizzly face.

The minor casualties of those few butchering spasmodic moments may be briefly dismissed, though they were more numerous than most sportsmen see out hunting in a lifetime.

One horse broke his back, another was drowned, Multum-in-Parvo was cut all to pieces, his rider had two ribs and a thumb broken, while Farmer Slyfield's stackyard was fired by some of the itinerant tribe, and all its uninsured contents destroyed—so that his landlord was not the only person who suffered by the grand occasion.

Nor was this all, for Mr. Numboy, the coroner, hearing of Jack's death, held an inquest on the body; and, having empanelled a matter-of-fact jury—men who did not see the advantage of steeple-chasing, either in a political, commercial, agricultural, or national point of view, and who, having surveyed the line, and found nearly every fence dangerous, and the wall and brook doubly so, returned a verdict of manslaughter against Mr. Viney for setting it out, who was forthwith committed to the county gaol of Limbo Castle for trial at the ensuing assizes, from whence let us join the benevolent clerk of arraigns in wishing him a good deliverance.

Many of the hardy 'tips' sounded the loud trump of victory, proclaiming that their innumerable friends had feathered their nests through their agency; but Peeping Tom and Infallible Joe, and Enoch Wriggle, 'the offending soul,' &c, found it convenient to bolt from their respective establishments, carrying with them their large fire-screens, camp-stools, and boards for posting up their lists, and setting up in new names in other quarters; while the Hen Angel was shortly afterwards closed, and the presentation-tureen made into 'white soup.'

So much for the 'small deer.' We will now devote a concluding chapter to the 'great guns' of our story.



CHAPTER LXX

HOW LORD SCAMPERDALE AND CO. CAME OFF

Our noble master's nerves were so dreadfully shattered by the lamentable catastrophe to poor Jack, that he stepped, or rather was pushed, into Jawleyford's carriage almost insensibly, and driven from the course to Jawleyford Court.

There he remained sufficiently long for Mrs. Jawleyford to persuade him that he would be far better married, and that either of her amiable daughters would make him a most excellent wife. His lordship, after very mature consideration, and many most scrutinizing stares at both of them through his formidable spectacles, wondering which would be the least likely to ruin him—at length decided upon taking Miss Emily, the youngest, though for a long time the victory was doubtful, and Amelia practised her 'Scamperdale' singing with unabated ardour and confidence up to the last. We believe, if the truth were known, it was a slight touch of rouge, that Amelia thought would clench the matter, that decided his lordship against her. Emily, we are happy to say, makes him an excellent wife, and has not got her head turned by becoming a countess. She has improved his lordship amazingly, got him smart new clothes, and persuaded him to grow bushy whiskers right down under his chin, and is now feeling her way to a pair of moustaches.

Woodmansterne is quite another place. She has marshalled a proper establishment, and got him coaxed into the long put-a-way company rooms. Though he still indulges in his former cow-heel and other delicacies, they do not appear upon table; while he sports his silver-mounted specs on all occasions. The fruit and venison are freely distributed, and we have come in for a haunch in return for our attentions.

Best of all, Lady Scamperdale has got his lordship to erect a handsome marble monument to poor Jack, instead of the cheap country stone he intended. The inscription states that it was erected by Samuel, Eighth Earl of Scamperdale, and Viscount Hardup, in the Peerage of Ireland, to the Memory of John Spraggon, Esquire, the best of Sportsmen, and the firmest of Friends. Who or what Jack was, nobody ever knew, and as he only left a hat and eighteen pence behind him, no next of kin has as yet cast up.

Jawleyford has not stood the honour of the Scamperdale alliance quite so well as his daughter; and when our 'amaazin' instance of a pop'lar man,' instigated perhaps by the desire to have old Scamp for a brother-in-law, offered to Amelia, Jaw got throaty and consequential, hemmed and hawed, and pretended to be stiff about it. Puff, however, produced such weighty testimonials, as soon exercised their wonted influence. In due time Puff very magnanimously proposed uniting his pack with Lord Scamperdale's, dividing the expense of one establishment between them, to which his lordship readily assented, advising Puff to get rid of Bragg by giving him the hounds, which he did; and that great sporting luminary may be seen 's-c-e-u-s-e'-ing himself, and offering his service to masters of hounds any Monday at Tattersall's—though he still prefers a 'quality place.'

Benjamin Buckram, the gentleman with the small independence of his own, we are sorry to say has gone to the 'bad.' Aggravated by the loss he sustained by his horse winning the steeple-chase, he made an ill-advised onslaught on the cash-box of the London and Westminster Bank; and at three score years and ten this distinguished 'turfite,' who had participated with impunity in nearly all the great robberies of the last forty years, was doomed to transportation. And yet we have seen this cracksman captain—for he, too, was a captain at times—jostling and bellowing for odds among some of the highest and noblest of the land!

Leather has descended to the cab-stand, of which he promises to be a distinguished ornament. He haunts the Piccadilly stands, and has what he calls ''stablish'd a raw' on Mr. Sponge to the extent of three-and-six-pence a week, under threats of exposing the robbery Sponge committed on our friend Mr. Waffles. That volatile genius, we are happy to add, is quite well, and open to the attentions of any young lady who thinks she can tame a wild young man. His financial affairs are not irretrievable.

And now for the hero and heroine of our tale. The Sponges—for our friend married Lucy shortly after the steeple-chase—stayed at Nonsuch House until the bailiffs walked in. Sir Harry then bolted to Boulogne, where he shortly afterwards died, and Bugles very properly married my lady. They are now living at Wandsworth; Mr. Bugles and Lady Scattercash, very 'much thought of'—as Bugles says.

Although Mr. Sponge did not gain as much by winning the steeple-chase as he would have done had Hercules allowed him to lose it, he still did pretty well; and being at length starved out of Nonsuch House, he arrived at his old quarters, the Bantam, in Bond Street, where he turned his attention very seriously to providing for Lucy and the little Sponge, who had now issued its prospectus. He thought over all the ways and means of making money without capital, rejecting Australia and California as unfit for sportsmen and men fond of their Moggs. Professional steeple-chasing Lucy decried, declaring she would rather return to her flag-exercises at Astley's, as soon as she was able, than have her dear Sponge risking his neck that way. Our friend at length began to fear fortune-making was not so easy as he thought—indeed, he was soon sure of it.

One day as he was staring vacantly out of the Bantam coffee-room window, between the gilt labels, 'Hot Soups' and 'Dinners,' he was suddenly seized with a fit of virtuous indignation at the disreputable frauds practised by unprincipled adventurers on the unwary public, in the way of betting offices, and resolved that he would be the St. George to slay this great dragon of abuse. Accordingly, after due consultation with Lucy, he invested his all in fitting up and decorating the splendid establishment in Jermyn Street, St. James's, now known as the SPONGE AND CIGAR BETTING ROOMS, whose richness neither pen nor pencil can do justice to.

We must, therefore, entreat our readers to visit this emporium of honesty, where, in addition to finding lists posted on all the great events of the day, they can have the use of a Mogg while they indulge in one of Lucy's unrivalled cigars; and noblemen, gentlemen, and officers in the household troops may be accommodated with loans on their personal security to any amount. We see by Mr. Sponge's last advertisements that he has L116,300 to lend at three and a half per cent.!

'What a farce,' we fancy we hear some enterprising youngster exclaim—'what a farce, to suppose that such a needy scamp as Mr. Sponge, who has been cheating everybody, has any money to lend, or to pay bets with if he loses!' Right, young gentleman, right; but not a bit greater farce than to suppose that any of the plausible money-lenders, or infallible 'tips' with whom you, perhaps, have had connection have any either, in case it's called for. Nay, bad as he is, we'll back old Soapey to be better than any of them,—with which encomium we most heartily bid him ADIEU.



FOOTNOTES:

[1] Query, 'snob'?—Printer's Devil.

[2] The Poetical Recorder of the Doings of the Dublin Garrison dogs, in Bell's Life.

[3] Vide 'Barnwell and Alderson's Reports.'

[4] 'S,' for Scamperdale, showing they were his lordship's.

THE END

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