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Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour
by R. S. Surtees
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In the morning she attired herself in her new light blue satin robe, corsage Albanaise, with a sort of three-quarter sleeves, and muslin under ones—something, we believe, out of the last book of fashion. She also had her hair uncommonly well arranged, and sported a pair of clean primrose-coloured gloves. 'Now for victory,' said she, as she took a parting glance at herself in general, and the hot spot in particular.

Judge of her disgust on meeting her mamma on the staircase at learning that his lordship had got up at six o'clock, and had gone to meet his hounds on the other side of the county. That Baggs had boiled his oatmeal porridge in his bedroom, and his lordship had eaten it as he was dressing.

It may be asked, what was the maid about not to tell her.

The fact is, that ladies'-maids are only numb hands in all that relates to hunting, and though Juliana knew that his lordship was up, she thought he had gone to have his hunt before breakfast, just as the young gentlemen in the last place she lived in used to go and have a bathe.



Baggs, we may add, was a married man, and Juliana and he had not had much conversation.



CHAPTER XXXVI

MR. BRAGG'S KENNEL MANAGEMENT

The reader will now have the kindness to consider that Mr. Puffington has undergone his swell huntsman, Dick Bragg, for three whole years, during which time it was difficult to say whether his winter's service or his summer's impudence was most oppressive. Either way, Mr. Puffington had had enough both of him and the honours of hound-keeping. Mr. Bragg was not a judicious tyrant. He lorded it too much over Mr. Puffington; was too fond of showing himself off, and exposing his master's ignorance before the servants, and field. A stranger would have thought that Mr. Bragg, and not 'Mr. Puff,' as Bragg called him, kept the hounds. Mr. Puffington took it pretty quietly at first, Bragg inundating him with what they did at the Duke of Downeybird's, Lord Reynard's, and the other great places in which he had lived, till he almost made Puff believe that such treatment was a necessary consequence of hound-keeping. Moreover, the cost was heavy, and the promised subscriptions were almost wholly imaginary; even if they had been paid, they would not have covered a quarter of the expense Mr. Bragg ran him to; and worst of all, there was an increasing instead of a diminishing expenditure. Trust a servant for keeping things up to the mark.

All things, however, have an end, and Mr. Bragg began to get to the end of Mr. Puff's patience. As Puff got older he got fonder of his five-pound notes, and began to scrutinize bills and ask questions; to be, as Mr. Bragg said, 'very little of the gentleman'; Bragg, however, being quite one of your 'make-hay-while-the-sun-shines' sort, and knowing too well the style of man to calculate on a lengthened duration of office, just put on the steam of extravagance, and seemed inclined to try how much he could spend for his master. His bills for draft hounds were enormous; he was continually chopping and changing his horses, often almost without consulting his master; he had a perfect museum of saddles and bridles, in which every invention and variety of bit was exhibited; and he had paid as much as twenty pounds to different 'valets' and grooms for invaluable recipes for cleaning leather breeches and gloves. Altogether, Bragg overdid the thing; and when Mr. Puffington, in the solitude of a winter's day, took pen, ink, and paper, and drew out a 'balance sheet,' he found that on the average of six brace of foxes to the season, they had cost him about three hundred pounds a head killing. It was true that Bragg always returned five or six and twenty brace; but that was as between Bragg and the public, as between Bragg and his master the smaller figure was the amount.

Mr. Puffington had had enough of it, and he now thought if he could get Mr. Sponge (who he still believed to be a sporting author on his travels) to immortalize him, he might retire into privacy, and talk of 'when I kept hounds,' 'when I hunted the country,' 'when I was master of hounds I did this, and I did that,' and fuss, and be important as we often see ex-masters of hounds when they go out with other packs. It was this erroneous impression with regard to Mr. Sponge that took our friend to the meet of Lord Scamperdale's hounds at Scrambleford Green, when he gave Mr. Sponge a general invitation to visit him before he left the country, an invitation that was as acceptable to Mr. Sponge on his expulsion from Jawleyford Court, as it was agreeable to Mr. Puffington—by opening a route by which he might escape from the penalty of hound-keeping, and the persecution of his huntsman.

The reader will therefore now have the kindness to consider Mr. Puffington in receipt of Mr. Sponge's note, volunteering a visit.

With gay and cheerful steps our friend hurried off to the kennel, to communicate the intelligence to Mr. Bragg of an intended honour that he inwardly hoped would have the effect of extinguishing that great sporting luminary.

Arriving at the kennel, he learned from the old feeder, Jack Horsehide, who, as usual, was sluicing the flags with water, though the weather was wet, that Mr. Bragg was in the house (a house that had been the steward's in the days of the former owner of Hanby House). Thither Mr. Puffington proceeded; and the front door being open he entered, and made for the little parlour on the right. Opening the door without knocking, what should he find but the swell huntsman, Mr. Bragg, full fig, in his cap, best scarlet and leathers, astride a saddle-stand, sitting for his portrait!

'O, dim it!' exclaimed Bragg, clasping the front of the stand as if it was a horse, and throwing himself off, an operation that had the effect of bringing the new saddle on which he was seated bang on the floor. 'O, sc-e-e-use me, sir,' seeing it was his master, 'I thought it was my servant; this, sir,' continued he, blushing and looking as foolish as men do when caught getting their hair curled or sitting for their portraits, 'this, sir, is my friend, Mr. Ruddle, the painter, sir—yes, sir—very talented young man, sir—asked me to sit for my portrait, sir—is going to publish a series of portraits of all the best huntsmen in England, sir.'

'And masters of hounds,' interposed Mr. Ruddle, casting a sheep's eye at Mr. Puffington.

'And masters of hounds, sir,' repeated Mr. Bragg; 'yes, sir, and masters of hounds, sir'; Mr. Bragg being still somewhat flurried at the unexpected intrusion.

'Ah, well,' interrupted Mr. Puffington, who was still eager about his mission, 'we'll talk about that after. At present I'm come to tell you,' continued he, holding up Mr. Sponge's note, 'that we must brush up a little—going to have a visit of inspection from the great Mr. Sponge.'

'Indeed, sir!' replied Mr. Bragg, with the slightest possible touch of his cap, which he still kept on. 'Mr. Sponge, sir!—indeed, sir—Mr. Sponge, sir—pray who may he be, sir?'

'Oh—why—hay—hum—haw—he's Mr. Sponge, you know—been hunting with Lord Scamperdale, you know—great sportsman, in fact—great authority, you know.' 'Indeed—great authority is he—indeed—oh—yes—thinks so p'raps—sc-e-e-use me, sir, but des-say, sir, I've forgot more, sir, than Mr. Sponge ever knew, sir.'

'Well, but you mustn't tell him so,' observed Mr. Puffington, fearful that Bragg might spoil sport.

'Oh, tell him—no,' sneered Bragg, with a jerk of the head; 'tell him—no; I'm not exactly such a donkey as that; on the contrary, I'll make things pleasant, sir—sugar his milk for him, sir, in short, sir.'

'Sugar his milk!' exclaimed Mr. Puffington, who was only a matter-of-fact man; 'sugar his milk! I dare say he takes tea.'

'Well, then, sugar his tea,' replied Bragg, with a smile, adding, 'can 'commodate myself, sir, to circumstances, sir,' at the same time taking off his cap and setting a chair for his master.

'Thank you, but I'm not going to stay,' replied Mr. Puffington; 'I only came up to let you know who you had to expect, so that you might prepare, you know—have all on the square, you know—best horses—best hounds—best appearance in general, you know.'

'That I'll attend to,' replied Mr. Bragg, with a toss of the head—'that I'll attend to,' repeated he, with an emphasis on the I'll, as much as to say, 'Don't you meddle with what doesn't concern you.'

Mr. Puffington would fain have rebuked him for his impertinence, as indeed he often would fain have rebuked him; but Mr. Bragg had so overpowered him with science, and impressed him with the necessity of keeping him—albeit Mr. Puffington was sensible that he killed very few foxes—that, having put up with him so long, he thought it would never do to risk a quarrel, which might lose him the chance of getting rid of him and hounds altogether; therefore, Mr. Puffington, instead of saying, 'You conceited humbug, get out of this,' or indulging in any observations that might lead to controversy, said, with a satisfied, confidential nod of the head:

'I'm sure you will—I'm sure you will,' and took his departure, leaving Mr. Bragg, to remount the saddle-stand and take the remainder of his sitting.



CHAPTER XXXVII

MR. PUFFINGTON'S DOMESTIC ARRANGEMENTS

Perhaps it was fortunate that Mr. Bragg did take the kennel management upon himself, or there is no saying but what with that and the house department, coupled with the usual fussiness of a bachelor, the Sponge visit might have proved too much for our master. The notice of the intended visit was short; and there were invitations to send out, and answers to get, bedrooms to prepare, and culinary arrangements to make—arrangements that people in town, with all their tradespeople at their elbows, can have no idea of the difficulty of effecting in the country. Mr. Puffington was fully employed.

In addition to the parties mentioned as asked in his note to Lord Scamperdale, viz. Washball, Charley Slapp, and Lumpleg, were Parson Blossomnose; Mr. Fossick of the Flat Hat Hunt, who declined—Mr. Crane of Crane Hall; Captain Guano, late of that noble corps the Spotted Horse Marines; and others who accepted. Mr. Spraggon was a sort of volunteer, at all events an undesired guest, unless his lordship accompanied him. It so happened that the least wanted guest was the first to arrive on the all-important day.

Lord Scamperdale, knowing our friend Jack was not over affluent, had no idea of spoiling him by too much luxury, and as the railway would serve a certain distance in the line of Hanby House, he despatched Jack to the Over-shoes-over-boots station with the dog-cart, and told him he would be sure to find a 'bus, or to get some sort of conveyance at the Squandercash station to take him up to Puffington's; at all events, his lordship added to himself, 'If he doesn't, it'll do him no harm to walk, and he can easily get a boy to carry his bag.'

The latter was the case; for though the station-master assured Jack, on his arrival at Squandercash, that there was a 'bus, or a mail gig, or a something to every other train, there was nothing in connexion with the one that brought him, nor would he undertake to leave his carpet-bag at Hanby House before breakfast-time the next morning.



Jack was highly enraged, and proceeded to squint his eyes inside out, and abuse all railways, and chairmen, and directors, and secretaries, and clerks, and porters, vowing that railways were the greatest nuisances under the sun—that they were a perfect impediment instead of a facility to travelling—and declared that formerly a gentleman had nothing to do but order his four horses, and have them turned out at every stage as he came up, instead of being stopped in the ridicklous manner he then was; and he strutted and stamped about the station as if he would put a stop to the whole line. His vehemence and big talk operated favourably on the Cockney station-master, who, thinking he must be a duke, or some great man, began to consider how to get him forwarded. It being only a thinly populated district—though there was a station equal to any mercantile emergency, indeed to the requirements of the whole county—he ran the resources of the immediate neighbourhood through his mind, and at length was obliged to admit—humbly and respectfully—that he really was afraid Martha Muggins's donkey was the only available article.

Jack fumed and bounced at the very mention of such a thing, vowing that it was a downright insult to propose it; and he was so bumptious that the station-master, who had nothing to gain by the transaction, sought the privacy of the electric telegraph office, and left him to vent the balance of his wrath upon the porters.

Of course they could do nothing more than the king of their little colony had suggested; and finding there was no help for it, Mr. Spraggon at last submitted to the humiliation, and set off to follow young Muggins with his bag on the donkey, in his best top-boots, worn under his trousers—an unpleasant operation to any one, but especially to a man like Jack, who preferred wearing his tops out against the flaps of his friends' saddles, rather than his soles by walking upon them. However, necessity said yes; and cocking his flat hat jauntily on his head, he stuck a cheroot in his mouth, and went smoking and swaggering on, looking—or rather squinting—bumptiously at everybody he met, as much as to say, 'Don't suppose I'm walking from necessity! I've plenty of tin.'

The third cheroot brought Jack and his suite within sight of Hanby House.

Mr. Puffington had about got through all the fuss of his preparations, arranged the billets of the guests and of those scarcely less important personages—their servants, allotted the stables, and rehearsed the wines, when a chance glance through the gaily furnished drawing-room window discovered Jack trudging up the trimly kept avenue.

'Here's that nasty Spraggon,' exclaimed he, eyeing Jack dragging his legs along, adding, 'I'll be bound to say he'll never think of wiping his filthy feet if I don't go to meet him.'

So saying, Puffington rushed to the entrance, and crowning himself with a white wide-awake, advanced cheerily to do so.

Jack, who was more used to 'cold shoulder' than cordial reception, squinted and stared with surprise at the unwonted warmth, so different to their last interview, when Jack was fresh out of his clay-hole in the Brick Fields; but not being easily put out of his way, he just took Puff as Puff took him. They talked of Scamperdale, and they talked of Frostyface, and the number of foxes he had killed, the price of corn, and the difference its price made in the keep of hounds and horses. Altogether they were very 'thick.'

'And how's our friend Sponge?' asked Puffington, as the conversation at length began to flag.

'Oh, he's nicely,' replied Jack, adding, 'hasn't he come yet?'

'Not that I've seen,' answered Puffington, adding, 'I thought, perhaps, you might come together.'

'No,' grunted Jack; 'he comes from Jawleyford's, you know; I'm from Woodmansterne.'

'We'll go and see if he's come,' observed Puffington, opening a door in the garden-wall, into which he had manoeuvred Jack, communicating with the courtyard of the stable.

'Here are his horses,' observed Puffington, as Mr. Leather rode through the great gates on the opposite side, with the renowned hunters in full marching order.

'Monstrous fine animals they are,' said Jack, squinting intently at them.

'They are that,' replied Puffington.

'Mr. Sponge seems a very pleasant, gentlemanly man,' observed Mr. Puffington.

'Oh, he is,' replied Jack.

'Can you tell me—can you inform me—that's to say, can you give me any idea,' hesitated Puffington, 'what is the usual practice—the usual course—the usual understanding as to the treatment of those sort of gentlemen?'

'Oh, the best of everything's good enough for them,' replied Jack, adding, 'just as it is with me.'

'Ah, I don't mean in the way of eating and drinking, but in the way of encouragement—in the way of a present, you know?' adding—'What did my lord do?' seeing Jack was slow at comprehension.

'Oh, my lord bad-worded him well,' replied Jack, adding, 'he didn't get much encouragement from him.'

'Ah, that's the worst of my lord,' observed Puffington; 'he's rather coarse—rather too indifferent to public opinion. In a case of this sort, you know, that doesn't happen every day, or, perhaps, more than once in a man's life, it's just as well to be favourably spoken of as not, you know'; adding, as he looked intently at Jack—'Do you understand me?'

Jack, who was tolerably quick at a chance, now began to see how things were, and to fathom Mr. Puffington's mistake. His ready imagination immediately saw there might be something made of it, so he prepared to keep up the delusion.

'Wh-o-o-y!' said he, straddling out his legs, clasping his hands together, and squinting steadily through his spectacles, to try and see, by Puffington's countenance, how much he would stand. 'W-h-o-o-y!' repeated he, 'I shouldn't think—though, mind, it's mere conjectur' on my part—that you couldn't offer him less than—twenty or five-and-twenty punds; or, say, from that to thirty,' continued Jack, seeing that Puff's countenance remained complacent under the rise.

'And that you think would be sufficient?' asked Puff, adding—'If one does the thing at all, you know, it's as well to do it handsomely.'

'True,' replied Jack, sticking out his great thick lips, 'true. I'm a great advocate for doing things handsomely. Many a row I have with my lord for thanking fellows, and saying he'll remember them instead of giving them sixpence or a shilling; but really I should say, if you were to give him forty or fifty pund—say a fifty—pund note, he'd be—'

The rest of the sentence was lost by the appearance of Mr. Sponge, cantering up the avenue on the conspicuous piebald. Mr. Puffington and Mr. Spraggon greeted him as he alighted at the door.

Sponge was quickly followed by Tom Washball; then came Charley Slapp and Lumpleg, and Captain Guano came in a gig. Mutual bows and bobs and shakes of the hand being exchanged, amid offers of 'anything before dinner' from the host, the guests were at length shown to their respective apartments, from which in due time they emerged, looking like so many bridegrooms.

First came the worthy master of the hounds himself, in his scarlet dress-coat, lined with white satin; Tom Washball, and Charley Slapp also sported Puff's uniform; while Captain Guano, who was proud of his leg, sported the uniform of the Muffington Hunt—a pea-green coat lined with yellow, and a yellow collar, white shorts with gold garters, and black silk stockings.

Spraggon had been obliged to put up with Lord Scamperdale's second best coat, his lordship having taken the best one himself; but it was passable enough by candle light, and the seediness of the blue cloth was relieved by a velvet collar and a new set of the Flat Hat Hunt buttons. Mr. Sponge wore a plain scarlet with a crimson velvet collar, and a bright fox on the frosted ground of a gilt button, with tights as before; and when Mr. Crane arrived he was found to be attired in a dress composed partly of Mr. Puffington's and partly of the Muggeridge Hunt uniform—the red coat of the former surmounting the white shorts and black stockings of the other. Altogether, however, they were uncommonly smart, and it is to be hoped that they appreciated each other.

The dinner was sumptuous. Puff, of course, was in the chair; and Captain Guano coming last into the room, and being very fond of office, was vice. When men run to the 'noble science' of gastronomy, they generally outstrip the ladies in the art of dinner-giving, for they admit of no makeweight, or merely ornamental dishes, but concentrate the cook's energies on sterling and approved dishes. Everything men set on is meant to be eaten. Above all, men are not too fine to have the plate-warmer in the room, the deficiency of hot plates proving fatal to many a fine feast. It was evident that Puff prided himself on his table. His linen was the finest and whitest, his glass the most elegant and transparent, his plate the brightest, and his wines the most costly and recherche. Like many people, however, who are not much in the habit of dinner-giving, he was anxious and fussy, too intent upon making people comfortable to allow of their being so, and too anxious to get victuals and drink down their throats to allow of their enjoying either.

He not only produced a tremendous assortment of wines—Hock, Sauterne, Champagne, Barsack, Burgundy, but descended into endless varieties of sherries and Madeiras. These he pressed upon people, always insisting that the last sample was the best.

In these hospitable exertions Puffington was ably assisted by Captain Guano, who, being fond of wine, came in for a good quantity; first of all by asking everyone to take wine with him, and then in return every one asking him to do the same with them. The present absurd non-asking system was not then in vogue. The great captain, noisy and talkative at all times, began to be boisterous almost before the cloth was drawn.

Puffington was equally promiscuous with his after-dinner wines. He had all sorts of clarets, and 'curious old ports.' The party did not seem to have any objection to spoil their digestions for the next day, and took whatever he produced with great alacrity. Lengthened were the candle examinations, solemn the sips, and sounding the smacks that preceded the delivery of their Campbell-like judgements.

The conversation, which at first was altogether upon wine, gradually diverged upon sporting, and they presently brewed up a very considerable cry. Foremost among the noisy ones was Captain Guano. He seemed inclined to take the shine out of everybody.

'Oh! if they could but find a good fox that would give them a run of ten miles—say, ten miles—just ten miles would satisfy him—say, from Barnesley Wold to Chingforde Wood, or from Carleburg Clump to Wetherden Head. He was going to ride his famous horse Jack-a-Dandy—the finest horse that ever was foaled! No day too long for him—no pace too great for him—no fence too stiff for him—no brook too broad for him.'

Tom Washball, too, talked as if wearing a red coat was not the only purpose for which he hunted; and altogether they seemed to be an amazing, sporting, hard-riding set.

When at length they rose to go to bed, it struck each man as he followed his neighbour upstairs that the one before him walked very crookedly.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

A DAY WITH PUFFINGTON'S HOUNDS

Day dawned cheerfully. If there was rather more sun than the strict rules of Beckford prescribe, still sunshine is not a thing to quarrel with under any circumstances—certainly not for a gentleman to quarrel with who wants his place seen to advantage on the occasion of a meet of hounds. Everything at Hanby House was in apple-pie order. All the stray leaves that the capricious wintry winds still kept raising from unknown quarters, and whisking about the trim lawns, were hunted and caught, while a heavy roller passed over the Kensington gravel, pressing out the hoof and wheelmarks of the previous day. The servants were up betimes, preparing the house for those that were in it, and a dejeuner a la fourchette for chance customers, from without.

They were equally busy at the stable. Although Mr. Bragg did profess such indifference for Mr. Sponge's opinion, he nevertheless thought it might perhaps be as well to be condescending to the stranger. Accordingly, he ordered his whips to be on the alert, to tie their ties and put on their boots as they ought to be, and to hoist their caps becomingly on the appearance of our friend. Bragg, like a good many huntsmen, had a sort of tariff of politeness, that he indicated by the manner in which he saluted the field. To a lord, he made a sweep of his cap like the dome of St. Paul's; a baronet came in for about half as much; a knight, to a quarter. Bragg had also a sort of City or monetary tariff of politeness—a tariff that was oftener called in requisition than the 'Debrett' one, in Mr. Puffington's country. To a good 'tip' he vouchsafed as much cap as he gave to a lord; to a middling 'tip' he gave a sort of move that might either pass for a touch of the cap or a more comfortable adjustment of it to his head; a very small 'tip' had a forefinger to the peak; while he who gave nothing at all got a good stare or a good morning! or something of that sort. A man watching the arrival of the field could see who gave the fives, who the fours, who the threes, who the twos, who the ones, and who were the great o's.

But to our day with Mr. Puffington's hounds.

Our over-night friends were not quite so brisk in the morning as the servants and parties outside. Puffington's 'mixture' told upon a good many of them. Washball had a headache, so had Lumpleg; Crane was seedy; and Captain Guano, sea-green. Soda-water was in great request.

There was a splendid breakfast, table and sideboard looking as if Fortnum and Mason or Morel had opened a branch establishment at Hanby House. Though the staying guests could not do much for the good things set out, they were not wasted, for the place was fairly taken by storm shortly before the advertised hour of meeting; and what at one time looked like a most extravagant supply, at another seemed likely to prove a deficiency. Each man helped himself to whatever he fancied, without waiting for the ceremony of an invitation, in the usual style of fox-hunting hospitality.

A few minutes before eleven, a 'gently, Rantaway,' accompanied by a slight crack of a whip, drew the seedy and satisfied parties to the oriel window, to see Mr. Bragg pass along with his hounds. They were just gliding noiselessly over the green sward, Mr. Bragg rising in his stirrups, as spruce as a game-cock, with his thoroughbred bay gambolling and pawing with delight at the frolic of the hounds, some clustering around him, others shooting forward a little, as if to show how obediently they would return at his whistle. Mr. Bragg was known as the whistling huntsman, and was a great man for telegraphing and signalizing with his arms, boasting that he could make hounds so handy that they could do everything, except pay the turnpike-gates. At his appearance the men all began to shuffle to the passage and entrance-hall, to look for their hats and whips; and presently there was a great outpouring of red coats upon the lawn, all straddling and waddling of course. Then Mr. Bragg, seeing an audience, with a slight whistle and wave of his right arm, wheeled his forces round, and trotted gaily towards where our guests had grouped themselves, within the light iron railing that separated the smooth slope from the field. As he reined in his horse, he gave his cap an aerial sweep, taking off perpendicularly, and finishing at his horse's ears—an example that was immediately followed by the whips, and also by Mr. Bragg's second horseman, Tom Stot.

'Good morning, Mister Bragg! Good morning, Mister Bragg!—Good morning, Mister Bragg!' burst from the assembled spectators: for Mr. Bragg was one of those people that one occasionally meets whom everybody 'Misters.' Mister Bragg, rising in his stirrups with a gracious smile, passed a very polite bow along the line.

'Here's a fine morning, Mr. Bragg,' observed Tom Washball, who thought it knowing to talk to servants.

'Yas, sir,' replied Bragg, 'yas,' with a slight inclination to cap; 'r-a-y-ther more san, p'raps, than desirable,' continued he, raising his face towards the heavens; 'but still by no means a bad day, sir—no, sir—by no means a bad day, sir.'

'Hounds looking well,' observed Charley Slapp between the whiffs of a cigar.

'Yas, sir,' said Bragg, 'yas,' looking around them with a self-satisfied smile; adding, 'so they ought, sir—so they ought; if I can't bring a pack out as they should be, don't know who can.'

'Why, here's our old Rummager, I declare!' exclaimed Spraggon, who, having vaulted the iron hurdles, was now among the pack. 'Why, here's our old Rummager, I declare!' repeated he, laying his whip on the head of a solemn-looking black and white hound, somewhat down in the toes, and looking as if he was about done.

'Sc-e-e-use me, sir,' replied Bragg, leaning over his horse's shoulder, and whispering into Jack's ear; 'sc-e-e-use me, sir, but drop that, sir, if you please, sir.'

'Drop what?' asked Jack, squinting through his great tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles up into Bragg's face.

''Bout knowing of that 'ound, sir,' whispered Bragg; 'the fact is, sir—we call him Merryman, sir; master don't know I got him from you, sir.'

'O-o-o,' replied Jack, squinting, if possible, more frightfully than before.

'Ah, that's the hound I offered to Scamperdale,' observed Puffington, seeing the movement, and coming up to where Jack stood; 'that's the hound I offered to Scamperdale,' repeated he, taking the old dog's head between his hands. 'There's no better hound in the world than this,' continued he, patting and smoothing him; 'and no better bred hound either,' added he, rubbing the dog's sides with his whip.

'How is he bred?' asked Jack, who knew the hound's pedigree better than he did his own.

'Why, I got him from Reynard—no, I mean from Downeybird—the Duke, you know; but he was bred by Fitzwilliam—by his Singwell out of Darling. Singwell was by the Rutland Rallywood out of Tavistock Rhapsody; but to make a long story short, he's lineally descended from the Beaufort Justice.'

'Indeed!' exclaimed Jack hardly able to contain himself; 'that's undeniable blood.'

'Well, I'm glad to hear you say so,' replied Puffington. 'I'm glad to hear you say so, for you understand these things—no man better; and I confess I've a warm side to that Beaufort Justice blood.'

'Don't wonder at it,' replied Jack, laughing his waistcoat strings off.

'The great Mr. Warde,' continued Mr. Puffington, 'who was justly partial to his own sort, had never any objection to breeding from the Beaufort Justice.'

'No, nor nobody else that knew what he was about,' replied Jack, turning away to conceal his laughter.

'We should be moving, I think, sir,' observed Bragg, anxious to put an end to the conversation; 'we should be moving, I think, sir,' repeated he, with a rap of his forefinger against his cap peak. 'It's past eleven,' added he, looking at his gold watch, and shutting it against his cheek.

'What do you draw first?' asked Jack.

'Draw—draw—draw,' replied Puffington. 'Oh, we'll draw Rabbitborough Gorse—that's a new cover I've inclosed on my pro-o-r-perty.'

'Sc-e-e-use me, sir,' replied Bragg, with a smile, and another rap of the cap: 'sc-e-e-use me, sir, but I'm going to Hollyburn Hanger first.'

'Ah, well, Hollyburn Hanger,' replied Puffington, complacently; 'either will do very well.'

If Puff had proposed Hollyburn Hanger, Bragg would have said Rabbitborough Gorse.

The move of the hounds caused a rush of gentlemen to their horses, and there was the usual scramblings up, and fidgetings, and funkings, and who-o-hayings and drawing of girths, and taking up of curbs, and lengthening and shortening of stirrups.

Captain Guano couldn't get his stirrups to his liking anyhow. ''Ord hang these leathers,' roared he, clutching up a stirrup-iron; 'who the devil would ever have sent one out a-huntin' with a pair of new stirrup-leathers?'

'Hang you and the stirrup leathers,' growled the groom, as his master rode away; 'you're always wantin' sumfin to find fault with. I'm blowed if it arn't a disgrace to an oss to carry such a man,' added he, eyeing the chestnut fidgeting and wincing as the captain worked away at the stirrups.

Mr. Bragg trotted briskly on with the hounds, preceded by Joe Banks the first whip, and having Jack Swipes the second, and Tom Stot, riding together behind him, to keep off the crowd.

Thus the cavalcade swept down the avenue, crossed the Swillingford turnpike, and took through a well-kept field road, which speedily brought them to the cover—rough, broomy, brushwood-covered banks, of about three acres in extent, lying on either side of the little Hollyburn Brook, one of the tiny streams that in angry times helped to swell the Swill into a river.

'Dim all these foot people!' exclaimed Mr. Bragg, in well-feigned disgust, as he came in view, and found all the Swillingford snobs, all the tinkers and tailors, and cobblers and poachers, and sheep-stealers, all the scowling, rotten-fustianed, baggy-pocketed scamps of the country ranged round the cover, some with dogs, some with guns, some with snares, and all with sticks or staffs. 'Well, I'm dimmed if ever I seed sich a—' The rest of the speech being lost amidst the exclamations of: 'Ah! the hunds! the hunds! hoop! tally-o the hunds!' and a general rush of the ruffians to meet them.



Captain Guano, who had now come up, joined in the denunciation, inwardly congratulating himself on the probability that the first cover, at least, would be drawn blank. Tom Washball, who was riding a very troublesome tail-foremost grey, also censured the proceeding.

And Mr. Puffington, still an 'amaaizin' instance of a pop'lar man,' exclaimed, as he rode among them, 'Ah! my good fellows, I'd rather you'd come up and had some ale than disturbed the cover'; a hint that the wily ones immediately took, rushing up to the house, and availing themselves of the absence of the butler, who had followed the hounds, to take a couple of dozen of his best fiddle-handled forks while the footman was drawing them the ale.

The whips being duly signalled by Bragg to their points—Brick to the north corner, Swipes to the south—and the field being at length drawn up to his liking, Mr. Bragg looked at Mr. Puffington for his signal (the only piece of interference he allowed him); at a nod Mr. Bragg gave a wave of his cap, and the pack dashed into cover with a cry.

'Yo-o-icks—wind him! Yo-o-icks—pash him up!' cheered Bragg, standing erect in his stirrups, eyeing the hounds spreading and sniffing about, now this way, now that—now pushing through a thicket, now threading and smelling along a meuse. 'Yo-o-icks—wind him! Yo-o-icks—pash him up!' repeated he, cracking his whip, and moving slowly on. He then varied the entertainment by whistling, in a sharp, shrill key, something like the chirp of a sparrow-hawk.

Thus the hounds rummaged and scrimmaged for some minutes.

'No fox here,' observed Captain Guano, bringing his horse alongside of Mr. Bragg's.

'Not so sure o' that,' replied Mr. Bragg, with a sneer, for he had a great contempt for the captain. 'Not so sure o' that,' replied he, eyeing Thunderer and Galloper feathering up the brook.

'Hang these stirrups!' exclaimed the captain, again attempting to adjust them; adding, 'I declare I have no seat whatever in this saddle.'

'Nor in any other,' muttered Bragg. 'Yo-icks, Galloper! Yo-icks, Thunderer! Ge-e-ntly, Warrior!' continued he, cracking his whip, as Warrior pounced at a bunny.

The hounds were evidently on a scent, hardly strong enough to own, but sufficiently indicated by their feathering, and the rush of their comrades to the spot.

'A fox for a thousand!' exclaimed Mr. Bragg, eyeing them, and looking at his watch.

'Oh, d—mn me! I've got one stirrup longer than another now!' roared Captain Guano, trying the fresh adjustment. 'I've got one stirrup longer than another!' added he in a terrible pucker.



A low snatch of a whimper now proceeded from Galloper, and Bragg cheered him to the echo. In another second a great banging brown fox burst from among the broom, and dashed down the little dean. What noises, what exclamations rent the air! 'Talli-ho! talliho! talliho!' screamed a host of voices, in every variety of intonation, from the half-frantic yell of a party seeing him, down to the shout of a mere partaker of the epidemic. Shouting is very contagious. The horsemen gathered up their reins, pressed down their hats, and threw away their cigar-ends.

''Ord hang it!' roared Captain Guano, still fumbling at the leathers, 'I shall never be able to ride with stirrups in this state.'

'Hang your stirrups!' exclaimed Charley Slapp, shooting past him; adding, 'It was your saddle last time.'

Bragg's queer tootle of his horn, for he was full of strange blows, now sounded at the low end of the cover; and, having a pet line of gaps and other conveniences that he knew how to turn to on the minute, he soon shot so far ahead as to give him the appearance (to the slow 'uns) of having flown. Brick and Swipes quickly had all the hounds after him, and Stot, dropping his elbows, made for the road, to ride the second horse gently on the line. The field, as usual, divided into two parts, the soft riders and the hard ones—the soft riders going by the fields, the hard riders by the road. Messrs. Spraggon, Sponge, Slapp, Quilter, Rasper, Crasher, Smasher, and some half-dozen more, bustled after Bragg; while the worthy master Mr. Puffington, Lumpleg, Washball, Crane, Guano, Shirker, and very many others, came pounding along the lane. There was a good scent, and the hounds shot across the Fleecyhaughwater Meadows, over the hill, to the village of Berrington Roothings, where, the fox having been chased by a cur, the hounds were brought to a check on some very bad scenting-ground, on the common, a little to the left of the village, at the end of a quarter of an hour or so. The road having been handy, the hard riders were there almost as soon as the soft ones; and there being no impediments on the common, they all pushed boldly on among the now stooping hounds.

'Hold hard, gentlemen!' exclaimed Mr. Bragg, rising in his stirrups and telegraphing with his right arm. 'Hold hard!—pray do!' added he, with little better success. 'Dim it, gen'lemen, hold hard!' added he, as they still pressed upon the pack. 'Have a little regard for a huntsman's raputation,' continued he. 'Remember that it rises and falls with the sport he shows'—exhortations that seemed to be pretty well lost upon the field, who began comparing notes as to their respective achievements, enlarging the leaps and magnifying the distance into double what they had been. Puffington and some of the fat ones sat gasping and mopping their brows.

Seeing there was not much chance of the hounds hitting off the scent by themselves, Mr. Bragg began telegraphing with his arm to the whippers-in, much in the manner of the captain of a Thames steamer to the lad at the engine, and forthwith they drove the pack on for our swell huntsman to make his cast. As good luck would have it, Bragg crossed the line of the fox before he had got half-through his circle, and away the hounds dashed, at a pace and with a cry that looked very like killing. Mr. Bragg was in ecstasies, and rode in a manner very contrary to his wont. All again was life, energy, and action; and even some who hoped there was an end of the thing, and that they might go home and say, as usual, 'that they had had a very good run, but not killed,' were induced to proceed.

Away they all went as before.

At the end of eighteen minutes more the hounds ran into their fox in the little green valley below Mountnessing Wood, and Mr. Bragg had him stretched on the green with the pack baying about him, and the horses of the field-riders getting led about by the country people, while the riders stood glorying in the splendour of the thing. All had a direct interest in making it out as good as possible, and Mr. Bragg was quite ready to appropriate as much praise as ever they liked to give.

''Ord dim him,' said he, turning up the fox's grim head with his foot, 'but Mr. Bragg's an awkward customer for gen'lemen of your description.'

'You hunted him well!' exclaimed Charley Slapp, who was trumpeter general of the establishment.

'Oh, sir,' replied Bragg, with a smirk and a condescending bow, 'if Richard Bragg can't kill foxes, I don't know who can.'

Just then 'Puffington and Co.' hove in sight up the valley, their faces beaming with delight as the tableau before them told the tale. They hastened to the spot.

'How many brace is that?' asked Puffington, with the most matter-of-course air, as he trotted up, and reined in his horse outside the circle.

'Seventeen brace, your grace, I mean to say my lord, that's to say sur,' replied Bragg, with a strong emphasis on the sur, as if to say, 'I'm not used to you snobs of commoners.'

'Seventeen brace!' sneered Jack Spraggon to Sponge, adding, in a whisper, 'More like seven foxes.'

'And how many run to ground?' asked Puffington, alighting.

'Four brace,' replied Bragg, stooping to cut off the brush.

We were wrong in saying that Bragg only allowed Puff the privilege of nodding his head to say when he might throw off. He let him lead the 'lie gallop' in the kill department.

Mr. Puffington then presented Mr. Sponge with the brush, and the usual solemnities being observed, the sherry flasks were produced and drained, the biscuits munched, and, amidst the smoke of cigars, the ring broke up in great good-will.



CHAPTER XXXIX

Writing A Run



The first fumes of excitement over, after a run with a kill, the field begin to take things more coolly and veraciously, and ere long some of them begin to pick holes in the affair. The men of the hunt run it up, while those of the next hunt run it down. Added to this there are generally some cavilling, captious fellows in every field who extol a run to the master's face, and abuse it behind his back. So it was on the present occasion. The men of the hunt—Charley Slapp, Lumpleg, Guano, Crane, Washball, and others—lauded and magnified it into something magnificent; while Fossick, Fyle, Wake, Blossomnose, and others of the 'Flat Hat Hunt,' pronounced it a niceish thing—a pretty burst; and Mr. Vosper, who had hunted for five-and-twenty seasons without ever subscribing one farthing to hounds, always declaring that each season was 'his last,' or that he was going to confine himself entirely to some other pack, said it was nothing to make a row about, that he had seen fifty better things with the Tinglebury harriers, and never a word said.

'Well,' said Sponge to Spraggon, between the whiffs of a cigar, as they rode together; 'it wasn't so bad, was it?'

'Bad!—no,' squinted Jack, 'devilish good—for Puff, at least,' adding, 'I question he's had a better this season.'

'Well, we are in luck,' observed Tom Washball, riding up and joining them;' we are in luck to have a satisfactory thing with you great connoisseurs out.'

'A pretty thing enough,' replied Jack, 'pretty thing enough.'

'Oh, I don't mean to say it's equal to many we've had this season,' replied Washball; 'nothing like the Boughton Hill day, nor yet the Hembury Forest one; but still, considering the meet and the state of the country—'

'Hout! the country's good enough,' growled Jack, who hated Washball; adding, 'a good fox makes any country good'; with which observation he sidled up to Sponge, leaving Washball in the middle of the road.

'That reminds me,' said Jack, sotto voce to Sponge, 'that the crittur wants his run puffed, and he thinks you can do it.'

'Me!' exclaimed Sponge, 'what's put that in his head?'

'Why, you see,' exclaimed Jack, 'the first time you came out with our hounds at Dundleton Tower, you'll remember—or rather, the first time we saw you, when your horse ran away with you—somebody, Fyle, I think it was, said you were a literary cove; and Puff, catchin' at the idea, has never been able to get rid of it since: and the fact is, he'd like to be flattered—he'd be uncommonly pleased if you were to "soft sawder" him handsomely.'

'Me!' exclaimed Sponge; 'bless your heart, man, I can't write anything—nothing fit to print, at least.'

'Hout, fiddle!' retorted Spraggon, 'you can write as well as any other man; see what lots of fellows write, and nobody ever finds fault.'

'But the spellin' bothers one,' replied Sponge, with a shake of his elbow and body, as if the idea was quite out of the question.

'Hang the spellin',' muttered Jack, 'one can always borrow a dictionary; or let the man of the paper—the editor, as they call him—smooth out the spellin'. You say at the end of your letter, that your hands are cold, or your hand aches with holdin' a pullin' horse, and you'll thank him to correct any inadvertencies—you needn't call them errors, you know.'

'But where's the use of it?' exclaimed Sponge; 'it'll do us no good, you know, praisin' Puff's pack, or himself, or anything about him.'

'That's just the point,' said Jack, 'that's just the point. I can make it answer both our purposes,' said he, with a nudge of the elbow, and an inside-out squint of his eyes.

'Oh, that's another matter,' replied our friend; 'if we can turn the thing to account, well and good—I'm your man for a shy.'

'We can turn it to account,' rejoined Jack; 'we can turn it to account—at least I can; but then you must do it. He wouldn't take it as any compliment from me. It's the stranger that sees all things in their true lights. D'ye understand?' asked he eagerly.

'I twig,' replied Sponge.

'You write the account,' continued Jack, 'and I'll manage the rest.'

'You must help me,' observed Sponge.

'Certainly,' replied Jack; 'we'll do it together, and go halves in the plunder.'

'Humph,' mused Sponge: 'halves,' said he to himself. 'And what will you give me for my half?' asked he.

'Give you!' exclaimed Jack, brightening up. 'Give you! Let me see,' continued he, pretending to consider—'Puff's rich—Puff's a liberal fellow—Puff's a conceited beggar—mix it strong,' said Jack, 'and I'll give you ten pounds.'

'Make it twelve,' replied Sponge, after a pause.

If Jack had said twelve. Sponge would have asked fourteen.

'Couldn't,' said Jack, with a shake of the head; 'it really isn't with (worth) the money.'

The two then rode on in silence for some little distance.

'I'll tell you what I'll do,' said Jack, spurring his horse, and trotting up the space that the other had now shot ahead. 'I'll split the difference with you!'

'Well, give me the sov.,' said Sponge, holding out his hand for earnest.

'Why, I haven't a sov. upon me,' replied Jack; 'but, honour bright, I'll do what I say.'

'Give me eleven golden sovereigns for my chance,' repeated Sponge slowly, in order that there might be no mistake.

'Eleven golden sovereigns for your chance,' repeated Jack.

'Done!' replied Sponge.

'Done!' repeated Jack.

'Let's jog on and do it at once while the thing's fresh in our minds,' said Jack, working his horse into a trot.

Sponge did the same; and the grass-siding of Orlantire Parkwall favouring their design, they increased the trot to a canter. They soon passed the park's bounds, and entering upon one of those rarities—an unenclosed common, angled its limits so as to escape the side-bar, and turning up Farningham Green lane, came out upon the Kingsworth and Swillingford turnpike within sight of Hanby House.

'We'd better pull up and walk the horses gently in, p'raps,' observed Sponge, reining his in.

'Ah! I was only wantin' to get home before the rest,' observed Jack, pulling up too.

They then proceeded more leisurely together.

'We'd better get into one of our bedrooms to do it,' observed Jack, as they passed the lodge. 'Just so,' replied Sponge, adding, 'I dare say we shall want all the quiet we can get.'

'Oh no!' said Jack; 'the thing's simple enough—met at such a place—found at such another—killed at so and so.'

'Well, I hope it will,' said Sponge, riding into the stable-yard, and resigning his steed to the care of his groom.



Jack did the same by Sponge's other horse, which he had been riding, and in reply to Leather's inquiry (who stood with his right hand ready, as if to shake hands with him), 'how the horse had carried him?' replied:

'Cursed ill,' and stamped away without giving him anything.

'Ah, you're a gen'leman, you are,' muttered Leather, as he led the horse away. 'Now, come!' exclaimed Jack to Sponge, 'come! let's get in before any of those bothersome fellows come'; adding, as he dived into a passage, 'I'll show you the back way.'

After passing a scullery, a root-house, and a spacious entrance-hall, upon a table in which stood the perpetual beer-jug and bread-basket, a green baize door let them into the regions of upper service, and passing the dashed carpets of the housekeeper's room and butler's pantry, a red baize door let them into the far-side of the front entrance. Having deposited their hats and whips, they bounded up the richly carpeted staircase to their rooms.

Hanby House, as we have already said, was splendidly furnished. All the grandeur did not run to the entertaining rooms; but each particular apartment, from the state bedroom down to the smallest bachelor snuggery, was replete with elegance and comfort.

Like many houses, however, the bedrooms possessed every imaginable luxury except boot-jacks and pens that would write. In Sponge's room for instance, there were hip-baths, and foot-baths, a shower-bath, and hot and cold baths adjoining, and mirrors innumerable; an eight-day mantel-clock, by Moline of Geneva, that struck the hours, half-hours, and quarters: cut-glass toilet candlesticks, with silver sconces; an elegant zebra-wood cabinet; also a beautiful davenport of zebra-wood, with a plate-glass back, containing a pen rug worked on silver ground, an ebony match box, a blue crystal, containing a sponge pen-wiper, a beautiful envelope-case, a white-cornelian seal, with 'Hanby House' upon it, wax of all colours, papers of all textures, envelopes without end—every imaginable requirement of correspondence except a pen that would write. There were pens, indeed—there almost always are—but they were miserable apologies of things; some were mere crow-quills—sort of cover-hacks of pens, while others were great, clumsy, heavy-heeled, cart-horse sort of things, clotted up to the hocks with ink, or split all the way through—vexatious apologies, that throw a person over just at the critical moment, when he has got his sheet prepared and his ideas all ready to pour upon paper; then splut—splut—splutter goes the pen, and away goes the train of thought. Bold is the man who undertakes to write his letters in his bedroom with country-house pens. But, to our friends. Jack and Sponge slept next door to each other; Sponge, as we have already said, occupying the state-room, with its canopy-topped bedstead, carved and panelled sides, and elegant chintz curtains lined with pink, and massive silk-and-bullion tassels; while Jack occupied the dressing-room, which was the state bedroom in miniature, only a good deal more comfortable. The rooms communicated with double doors, and our friends very soon effected a passage.

'Have you any 'baccy?' asked Jack, waddling in in his slippers, after having sucked off his tops without the aid of a boot-jack.

'There's some in my jacket pocket,' replied Sponge, nodding to where it hung in the wardrobe; 'but it won't do to smoke here, will it?' asked he.

'Why not?' inquired Jack.

'Such a fine room,' replied Sponge, looking around.

'Oh, fine be hanged!' replied Jack, adding, as he made for the jacket, 'no place too fine for smokin' in.'

Having helped himself to one of the best cigars, and lighted it, Jack composed himself cross-legged in an easy, spring, stuffed chair, while Sponge fussed about among the writing implements, watering and stirring up the clotted ink, and denouncing each pen in succession, as he gave it the initiatory trial in writing the word 'Sponge.'

'Curse the pens!' exclaimed he, throwing the last bright crisp yellow thing from him in disgust. 'There's not one among 'em that can go!—all reg'larly stumped up.'

'Haven't you a penknife?' asked Jack, taking the cigar out of his mouth.

'Not I,' replied Sponge.

'Take a razor, then,' said Jack, who was good at an expedient.

'I'll take one of yours,' said Sponge, going into the dressing-room for one. 'Hang it, but you're rather too sharp,' exclaimed Jack, with a shake of his head.

'It's more than your razor 'll be when I'm done with it,' replied Sponge.

Having at length, with the aid of Jack's razor, succeeded in getting a pen that would write, Mr. Sponge selected a sheet of best cream-laid satin paper, and, taking a cane-bottomed chair, placed himself at the table in an attitude for writing. Dipping the fine yellow pen in the ink, he looked in Jack's face for an idea. Jack, who had now got well advanced in the cigar, sat squinting through his spectacles at our scribe, though apparently looking at the top of the bed.

'Well?' said Sponge, with a look of inquiry.

'Well,' replied Jack, in a tone of indifference.

'How shall I begin?' asked Sponge, twirling the pen between his fingers, and spluttering the ink over the paper.

'Begin!' replied Jack, 'begin, oh, begin, just as you usually begin.'

'As a letter?' asked Sponge.

'I 'spose so,' replied Jack; 'how would you think?'

'Oh, I don't know,' replied Sponge. 'Will you try your hand?' added he, holding out the pen.

'Why, I'm busy just now, you see,' said he, pointing to his cigar, 'and that horse of yours' (Jack had ridden the redoubtable chestnut, Multum-in-Parvo, who had gone very well in the company of Hercules) pulled so confoundedly that I've almost lost the use of my fingers,' continued he, working away as if he had got the cramp in both hands; 'but I'll prompt you,' added he, 'I'll prompt you.'

'Why don't you begin then?' asked Sponge.

'Begin!' exclaimed Jack, taking the cigar from his lips; 'begin!' repeated he, 'oh, I'll begin directly—didn't know you were ready.'

Jack then threw himself back in his chair, and sticking out his little bandy legs, turned the whites of his eyes up to the ceiling, as if lost in meditation.

'Begin,' said he, after a pause, 'begin, "This splendid pack had a stunning run."'

'But we must put what pack first,' observed Sponge, writing the words 'Mr. Puffington's hounds' at the top of the paper. 'Well,' said he, writing on, 'this stunning pack had a splendid run.'

'No, not stunning pack,' growled Jack, 'splendid pack—"this splendid pack had a stunning run."'

'Stop!' exclaimed Sponge, writing it down; 'well,' said he looking up, 'I've got it.'

'This stunning pack had a splendid run,' repeated Jack, squinting away at the ceiling.

'I thought you said splendid pack,' observed Sponge.

'So I did,' replied Jack.

'You said stunning just now,' rejoined he.

'Ah, that was a slip of the tongue,' said Jack. 'This splendid pack had a stunning run,' repeated Jack, appealing again to his cigar for inspiration; 'well, then,' said he, after a pause, 'you just go on as usual, you know,' continued he, with a flourish of his great red hand.

'As usual!' exclaimed Sponge, 'you don't s'pose one's pen goes of itself.'

'Why, no,' replied Jack, knocking the ashes off his cigar on to the arabesque-patterned tapestry carpet—'why, no, not exactly; but these things, you know, are a good deal matter of course; just describe what you saw, you know, and butter Puff well, that's the main point.'

'But you forget,' replied Sponge, 'I don't know the country, I don't know the people, I don't know anything at all about the run—I never once looked at the hounds.'

'That's nothin',' replied Jack, 'there'd be plenty like you in that respect. However,' continued he, gathering himself up in his chair as if for an effort, 'you can say—let me see what you can say—you can say, "this splendid pack had a stunning run from Hollyburn Hanger, the property of its truly popular master, Mr. Puffington," or—stop,' said Jack, checking himself, 'say, "the property of its truly popular and sporting master, Mr. Puffington." The cover's just as much mine as it's his,' observed Jack; 'it belongs to old Sir Timothy Tensthemain, who's vegetating at Boulogne-sur-Mer, but Puff says he'll buy it when it comes to the hammer, so we'll flatter him by considering it his already, just as we flatter him by calling him a sportsman—sportsman!' added Jack, with a sneer, 'he's just as much taste for the thing as a cow.'

'Well,' said Sponge, looking up, 'I've got "truly popular and sporting master, Mr. Puffington,"' adding, 'hadn't we better say something about the meet and the grand spread here before we begin with the run?'

'True,' replied Jack, after a long-drawn whiff and another adjustment of the end of his cigar; 'say that "a splendid field of well-appointed sportsmen"—'

'A splendid field of well-appointed sportsmen,' wrote Sponge.

'"Among whom we recognized several distinguished strangers and members of Lord Scamperdale's hunt." That means you and I,' observed Jack.

'"Of Lord Scamperdale's hunt—that means you and I"'—read Sponge, as he wrote it.

'But you're not to put in that; you're not to write "that means you and I," my man,' observed Jack.

'Oh, I thought that was part of the sentence,' replied Sponge.

'No, no,' said Jack; 'I meant to say that you and I were the distinguished strangers and members of Lord Scamperdale's hunt; but that's between ourselves, you know.'

'Good,' said Sponge; 'then I'll strike that out,' running his pen through the words 'that means you and I.' 'Now get on,' said he, appealing to Jack, adding, 'we've a deal to do yet.'

'Say,' said Jack, '"after partaking of the well-known profuse and splendid hospitality of Hanby House, they proceeded at once to Hollyburn Hanger, where a fine seasoned fox—though some said he was a bag one—"'

'Did they?' exclaimed Sponge, adding, 'well, I thought he went away rather queerly.'

'Oh, it was only old Bung the brewer, who runs down every run he doesn't ride.'

'Well, never mind,' replied Sponge, 'we'll make the best of it, whatever it was'; writing away as he spoke, and repeating the words 'bag one' as he penned them.

'"Broke away,"' continued Jack:

'"In view of the whole field,"' added Sponge. 'Just so,' assented Jack.

'"Every hound scoring to cry, and making the "—the—the—what d'ye call the thing?' asked Jack.

'Country,' suggested Sponge.

'No,' replied Jack, with a shake of the head.

'Hill and dale?' tried Sponge again.

'Welkin!' exclaimed Jack, hitting it off himself—'"makin' the welkin ring with their melody!" makin' the welkin ring with their melody,' repeated he, with exultation.

'Capital!' observed Sponge, as he wrote it.

'Equal to Littlelegs,'[2] said Jack, squinting his eyes inside out.

'We'll make a grand thing of it,' observed Sponge.

'So we will,' replied Jack, adding, 'if we had but a book of po'try we'd weave in some lines here. You haven't a book o' no sort with you that we could prig a little po'try from?' asked he.

'No,' replied Sponge thoughtfully. 'I'm afraid not; indeed, I'm sure not. I've got nothin' but Mogg's Cab Fares.'

'Ah, that won't do,' observed Jack, with a shake of the head. 'But stay,' said he, 'there are some books over yonder,' pointing to the top of an Indian cabinet, and squinting in a totally different direction. 'Let's see what they are,' added he, rising, and stumping away to where they stood. I Promessi Sposi, read he off the back of one. 'What can that mean! Ah, it's Latin,' said he, opening the volume. Contes a ma Fille, read he off the back of another. 'That sounds like racin',' observed he, opening the volume, 'it's Latin too,' said he, returning it. 'However, never mind, we'll "sugar Puff's milk," as Mr. Bragg would say, without po'try.' So saying, Mr. Spraggon stumped back to his easy-chair. 'Well, now,' said he, seating himself comfortably in it, 'let's see where did we go first? "He broke at the lower end of the cover, and, crossing the brook, made straight for Fleecyhaugh Water Meadows, over which," you may say, "there's always a ravishing scent."' 'Have you got that?' asked Jack, after what he thought a sufficient lapse of time for writing it.

'"Ravishing scent,"' repeated Sponge as he wrote the words.

'Very good,' said Jack, smoking and considering. '"From there,"' continued he, '"he made a bit of a bend, as if inclining for the plantations at Winstead, but, changing his mind, he faced the rising ground, and crossing over nearly the highest part of Shillington Hill, made direct for the little village of Berrington Roothings below."'

'Stop!' exclaimed Sponge, 'I haven't got half that; I've only got to "the plantations at Winstead."' Sponge made play with his pen, and presently held it up in token of being done.

'Well,' pondered Jack, 'there was a check there. Say,' continued he, addressing himself to Sponge, '"Here the hounds came to a check."'

'Here the hounds came to a check,' wrote Sponge. 'Shall we say anything about distance?' asked he.

'P'raps we may as well,' replied Jack. 'We shall have to stretch it though a bit.'

'Let's see,' continued he; 'from the cover to Berrington Roothings over by Shillington Hill and Fleecyhaugh Water Meadows will be—say, two miles and a half or three miles at the most—call it four, well, four miles—say four miles in twelve minutes, twenty miles an hour,—too quick—four miles in fifteen minutes, sixteen miles an hour; no—I think p'raps it'll be safer to lump the distance at the end, and put in a place or two that nobody knows the name of, for the convenience of those who were not out.'

'But those who were out will blab, won't they?' asked Sponge.

'Only to each other,' replied Jack. 'They'll all stand up for the truth of it as against strangers. You need never be afraid of over-eggin' the puddin' for those that were out.'

'Well, then,' observed Sponge, looking at his paper to report progress, 'we've got the hounds to a check. "Here the hounds came to a check,"' read he. 'Ah! now, then,' said Jack, in a tone of disgust, 'we must say summut handsome of Bragg; and of all conceited animals under the sun, he certainly is the most conceited. I never saw such a man! How that unfortunate, infatuated master of his keeps him, I can't for the life of me imagine. Master! faith, Bragg's the master,' continued Jack, who now began to foam at the mouth. 'He laughs at old Puff to his face; yet it's wonderful the influence Bragg has over him. I really believe he has talked Puff into believing that there's not such another huntsman under the sun, and really he's as great a muff as ever walked. He can just dress the character, and that's all.' So saying Jack wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his red coat preparatory to displaying Mr. Bragg upon paper.

'Well, now we are at fault,' said Jack, motioning Sponge to resume; 'we are at fault; now say, "but Mr. Bragg, who had ridden gallantly on his favourite bay, as fine an animal as ever went, though somewhat past mark of mouth—" He is a good horse, at least was,' observed Jack, adding, 'I sold Puff him, he was one of old Sugarlip's,' meaning Lord Scamperdale's.

'Sure to be a good 'un, then,' replied Sponge, with a wink, adding, 'I wonder if he'd like to buy any more?'

'We'll talk about that after,' replied Jack, 'at present let us get on with our run.'

'Well,' said Sponge, 'I've got it: "Mr. Bragg, who had ridden gallantly on his favourite bay, as fine an animal as ever went, though somewhat past mark of mouth—"'

'"Was well up with his hounds,"' continued Jack, '"and with a gently, Rantipole! and a single wave of his arm, proceeded to make one of those scientific casts for which this eminent huntsman is so justly celebrated." Justly celebrated!' repeated Jack, spitting on the carpet with a hawk of disgust; 'the conceited self-sufficient bantam-cock never made a cast worth a copper, or rode a yard but when he thought somebody was looking at him.'

'I've got it,' said Sponge, who had plied his pen to good purpose.

'Justly celebrated,' repeated Jack, with a snort. 'Well, then, say, "Hitting off the scent like a workman"—big H, you know, for a fresh sentence—"they went away again at score, and passing by Moorlinch farm buildings, and threading the strip of plantation by Bexley Burn, he crossed Silverbury Green, leaving Longford Hutch to the right, and passing straight on by the gibbet at Harpen." Those are all bits of places, observed Jack, 'that none but the country folks know' indeed, I shouldn't have known them but for shootin' over them when old Bloss lived at the Green. Well, now, have you got all that?' asked he.

'"Gibbet at Harpen,"' read Sponge, as he wrote it.

'"Here, then, the gallant pack, breaking from scent to view,"' continued Jack, speaking slowly, '"ran into their fox in the open close upon Mountnessing Wood, evidently his point from the first, and into which a few more strides would have carried him. It was as fine a run as ever was seen, and the hunting of the hounds was the admiration of all who saw it. The distance couldn't have been less than"—than—what shall we say?' asked Jack.

'Ten, twelve miles, as the crow flies,' suggested Sponge.

'No,' said Jack,' that would be too much. Say ten'; adding, 'that will be four miles more than it was.'

'Never mind,' said Sponge, as he wrote it; 'folks like good measure with runs as well as ribbons.'

'Now we must butter old Puff,' observed Spraggon.

'What can we say for him?' asked Sponge; 'that he never went off the road?'

'No, by Jove!' said Jack; 'you'll spoil all if you do that: better leave it alone altogether than do that. Say, "the justly popular owner of this most celebrated pack, though riding good fourteen stone" (he rides far more,' observed Jack; 'at least sixteen; but it'll please him to make out that he can ride fourteen), "led the welters, on his famous chestnut horse, Tappey Lappey."'

'What shall we say about the rest?' asked Sponge; 'Lumpleg, Slapp, Guano, and all those?'



'Oh, say nothin',' replied Jack; 'we've nothin' to do with nobody but Puff, and we couldn't mention them without bringin' in our Flat Hat men too—Blossomnose, Fyle, Fossick, and so on. Besides, it would spoil all to say that Guano was up—people would say directly it couldn't have been much of a run if Guano was there. You might finish off,' observed Jack, after a pause, 'by saying that "after this truly brilliant affair, Mr. Puffington, like a thorough sportsman, and one who never trashes his hounds unnecessarily—unlike some masters," you may say, "who never know when to leave off" (that will be a hit at Old Scamp,' observed Jack, with a frightful squint), '"returned to Hanby House, where a distinguished party of sportsmen—" or, say, "a distinguished party of noblemen and gentlemen"—that'll please the ass more—"a large party of noblemen and gentlemen were partaking of his"—his—what shall we call it?'

'Grub!' said Sponge.

'No, no—summut genteel—his—his—his—"splendid hospitality!"' concluded Jack, waving his arm triumphantly over his head.

'Hard work, authorship!' exclaimed Sponge, as he finished writing, and threw down the pen.

'Oh, I don't know,' replied Jack, adding, 'I could go on for an hour.'

'Ah, you!—that's all very well,' replied Sponge, 'for you, squatting comfortably in your arm-chair: but consider me, toiling with my pen, bothered with the writing, and craning at the spelling.'

'Never mind, we've done it,' replied Jack, adding, 'Puff'll be as pleased as Punch. We've polished him off uncommon. That's just the sort of account to tickle the beggar. He'll go riding about the country, showing it to everybody, and wondering who wrote it.'

'And what shall we send it to?—the Sporting Magazine, or what?' asked Sponge.

'Sporting Magazine!—no,' replied Jack; 'wouldn't be out till next year—quick's the word in these railway times. Send it to a newspaper—Bell's Life, or one of the Swillingford papers. Either of them would be glad to put it in.'

'I hope they'll be able to read it,' observed Sponge, looking at the blotched and scrawled manuscript.

'Trust them for that,' replied Jack, adding, 'If there's any word that bothers them, they've nothing to do but look in the dictionary—these folks all have dictionaries, wonderful fellows for spellin'.'

Just then a little buttony page, in green and gold, came in to ask if there were any letters for the post; and our friends hastily made up their packet, directing it to the editor of the Swillingford 'GUIDE TO GLORY AND FREEMAN'S FRIEND'; words that in the hurried style of Mr. Sponge's penmanship looked very like 'GUIDE TO GROG, AND FREEMAN'S FRIEND.'



CHAPTER XL

A LITERARY BLOOMER

Time was when the independent borough of Swillingford supported two newspapers, or rather two editors, the editor of the Swillingford Patriot, and the editor of the Swillingford Guide to Glory; but those were stirring days, when politics ran high and votes and corn commanded good prices. The papers were never very prosperous concerns, as may be supposed when we say that the circulation of the former at its best time was barely seven hundred, while that of the latter never exceeded a thousand.

They were both started at the reform times, when the reduction of the stamp-duty brought so many aspiring candidates for literary fame into the field, and for a time they were conducted with all the bitter hostility that a contracted neighbourhood, and a constant crossing by the editors of each other's path, could engender. The competition, too, for advertisements, was keen, and the editors were continually taunting each other with taking them for the duty alone. AEneas M'Quirter was the editor of the Patriot, and Felix Grimes that of the Guide to Glory.

M'Quirter, we need hardly say, was a Scotsman—a big, broad-shouldered Sawney—formidable in 'slacks,' as he called his trousers, and terrific in kilts; while Grimes was a native of Swillingford, an ex-schoolmaster and parish clerk, and now an auctioneer, a hatter, a dyer and bleacher, a paper-hanger, to which the wits said when he set up his paper, he added the trade of 'stainer.'

At first the rival editors carried on a 'war to the knife' sort of contest with one another, each denouncing his adversary in terms of the most unmeasured severity. In this they were warmly supported by a select knot of admirers, to whom they read their weekly effusions at their respective 'houses of call' the evening before publication. Gradually the fire of bitterness began to pale, and the excitement of friends to die out; M'Quirter presently put forth a signal of distress. To accommodate 'a large and influential number of its subscribers and patrons,' he determined to publish on a Tuesday instead of on a Saturday as heretofore, whereupon Mr. Grimes, who had never been able to fill a single sheet properly, now doubled his paper, lowered his charge for advertisements, and hinted at his intention of publishing an occasional supplement.

However exciting it may be for a time, parties soon tire of carrying on a losing game for the mere sake of abusing each other, and AEneas M'Quirter not being behind the generality of his countrymen in 'canniness' and shrewdness of intellect, came to the conclusion that it was no use doing so in this case, especially as the few remaining friends who still applauded would be very sorry to subscribe anything towards his losses. He therefore very quietly negotiated the sale of his paper to the rival editor, and having concluded a satisfactory bargain, he placed the bulk of his property in the poke of his plaid, and walked out of Swillingford just as if bent on taking the air, leaving Mr. Grimes in undisputed possession of both papers, who forthwith commenced leading both Whig and Tory mind, the one on the Tuesday, the other on the Saturday.

The pot and pipe companions of course saw how things were, but the majority of the readers living in the country just continued to pin their faith to the printed declarations of their oracles, while Grimes kept up the delusion of sincerity by every now and then fulminating a tremendous denunciation against his trimming, vacillating, inconsistent opponent on the Tuesday, and then retaliating with equal vigour upon himself on the Saturday. He wrote his own 'leaders,' both Whig and Tory, the arguments of one side pointing out answers for the other. Sometimes he led the way for a triumphant refutal, while the general tone of the articles was quite of the 'upset a ministry' style. Indeed, Grimes strutted and swaggered as if the fate of the nation rested with him.

The papers themselves were not very flourishing-looking concerns, the wide-spread paragraphs, the staring type, the catching advertisements, forming a curious contrast to the close packing of The Times. The 'Gutta Percha Company,' 'Locock's Female Pills,' 'Keating's Cough Lozenges,' and the 'Triumphs of Medicine,' all with staring woodcuts and royal arms, occupied conspicuous places in every paper. A new advertisement was a novelty. However, the two papers answered a great deal better than either did singly, and any lack of matter was easily supplied from the magazines and new books. In this department, indeed, in the department of elegant light literature generally, Mr. Grimes was ably assisted by his eldest daughter, Lucy, a young lady of a certain age—say liberal thirty—an ardent Bloomer—with a considerable taste for sentimental poetry, with which she generally filled the poet's corner. This assistance enabled Grimes to look after his auctioneering, bleaching, and paper-hanging concerns, and it so happened that when the foregoing run arrived at the office he, having seen the next paper ready for press, had gone to Mr. Vosper's, some ten miles off, to paper his drawing-room, consequently the duties of deciding upon its publication devolved on the Bloomer. Now, she was a most refined, puritanical young woman, full of sentiment and elegance, with a strong objection to what she considered the inhumanities of the chase. At first she was for rejecting the article altogether, and had it been a run with the Tinglebury Harriers, or even, we believe, with Lord Scamperdale's hounds, she would have consigned it to the 'Balaam box,' but seeing it was with Mr. Puffington's hounds, whose house they had papered, and who advertised with them, she condescended to read it; and though her delicacy was shocked at encountering the word 'stunning' at the outset, and also at the term 'ravishing scent' farther on, she nevertheless sent the manuscript to the compositors, after making such alterations and corrections as she thought would fit it for eyes polite. The consequence was that the article appeared in the following form, though whether all the absurdities were owing to Miss Lucy's corrections, or the carelessness of the writer, or the printers, had anything to do with it, we are not able to say. The errors, some of them arising from the mere alteration or substitution of a letter, will strike a sporting more than a general reader. Thus it appeared in the middle of the third sheet of the Swillingford Patriot:

SPLENDID RUN WITH MR. PUFFINGTON'S HOUNDS.

This splendid pack had a superb run from Hollyburn Hanger, the property of its truly popular and sporting owner, Mr. Puffington. A splendid field of well-appointed sportsmen, among whom we recognized several distinguished strangers, and members of Lord Scamperdale's hunt, were present. After partaking of the well-known profuse and splendid hospitality of Hanby House, they proceeded at once to Hollyburn Hanger, where a fine seasonal fox, though some said he was a bay one, broke away in view of the whole pack, every hound scorning to cry, and making the welkin ring with their melody. He broke at the lower end of the cover, and crossing the brook, made straight for Fleecyhaugh Water Meadows, over which there is always an exquisite perfume; from there he made a slight bend, as if inclining for the plantations at Winstead, but changing his mind, he faced the rising ground, and crossing over nearly the highest point of Shillington Hill, made direct for the little village of Berrington Roothings below. Here the hounds came to a check, but Mr. Bragg, who had ridden gallantly on his favourite bay, as fine an animal as ever went, though somewhat past work of mouth, was well up with his hounds, and with a 'gentle rantipole!' and a single wave of his arm, proceeded to make one of those scientific rests for which this eminent huntsman is so justly celebrated. Hitting off the scent like a coachman, they went away again at score, and passing by Moorlinch Farm buildings, and threading the strip of plantation by Bexley Burn, he crossed Silverbury Green, leaving Longford Hutch to the right, and passing straight on by the gibbet at Harpen. Here, then, the gallant pack, breaking from scent to view, ran into their box in the open close upon Mountnessing Wood, evidently his point from the first, and into which a few more strides would have carried him. It was as fine a run as ever was seen, and the grunting of the hounds was the admiration of all who heard it. The distance could not have been less than ten miles as a cow goes. The justly popular owner of this most celebrated pack, though riding good fourteen stones, led the Walters on his famous chestnut horse Tappy Lappey. After this truly brilliant affair, Mr. Puffington, like a thorough sportsman, and one who never thrashes his hounds unnecessarily—unlike some masters who never know when to leave off—returned to Hanby House, where a distinguished party of noblemen and gentlemen partook of his splendid hospitality.

And the considerate Bloomer added of her own accord, 'We hope we shall have to record many such runs in the imperishable columns of our paper.'



CHAPTER XLI

A DINNER AND A DEAL

Another grand dinner, on a more extensive scale than its predecessor, marked the day of this glorious run.

'There's goin' to be a great blow-out,' observed Mr. Spraggon to Mr. Sponge, as, crossing his hands and resting them on the crown of his head, he threw himself back in his easy-chair, to recruit after the exertion of concocting the description of the run.

'How d'ye know?' asked Sponge.

'Saw by the dinner table as we passed,' replied Jack, adding, 'it reaches nearly to the door.'

'Indeed,' said Sponge, 'I wonder who's coming?'

'Most likely Guano again; indeed, I know he is, for I asked his groom if he was going home, and he said no; and Lumpleg, you may be sure, and possibly old Blossomnose, Slapp, and, very likely, young Pacey.'

'Are they chaps with any "go" in them?—shake their elbows, or anything of that sort?' asked Sponge, working away as if he had the dice-box in his hand.

'I hardly know,' replied Jack thoughtfully. 'I hardly know. Young Pacey, I think, might be made summut on; but his uncle, Major Screw, looks uncommon sharp after him, and he's a minor.'

'Would he pay?' asked Sponge, who, keeping as he said, 'no books,' was not inclined to do business on 'tick.'

'Don't know,' replied Jack, squinting at half-cock; 'don't know—would depend a good deal, I should say, upon how it was done. It's a deuced unhandsome world this. If one wins a trifle of a youngster at cards, let it be ever so openly done, it's sure to say one's cheated him, just because one happens to be a little older, as if age had anything to do with making the cards come right.'

'It's an ungenerous world,' observed Sponge, 'and it's no use being abused for nothing. What sort of a genius is Pacey? Is he inclined to go the pace?'

'Oh, quite,' replied Jack; 'his great desire is to be thought a sportsman.'

'A sportsman or a sporting man?' asked Sponge.

'W-h-o-y! I should say p'raps a sportin' man more than the sportsman,' replied Jack. 'He's a great lumberin' lad, buttons his great stomach into a Newmarket cutaway, and carries a betting-book in his breast pocket.'

'Oh, he's a bettor, is he!' exclaimed Sponge, brightening up.

'He's a raw poult of a chap,' replied Jack; 'just ready for anything—in a small way, at least—a chap that's always offering two to one in half-crowns. He'll have money, though, and can't be far off age. His father was a great spectacle-maker. You have heard of Pacey's spectacles?'

'Can't say as how I have,' replied Sponge, adding, 'they are more in your line than mine.'

The further consideration of the youth was interrupted by the entrance of a footman with hot water, who announced that dinner would be ready in half an hour.

'Who's there coming?' asked Jack.

'Don't know 'xactly, sir,' replied the man; 'believe much the same party as yesterday, with the addition of Mr. Pacey; Mr. Miller, of Newton; Mr. Fogo, of Bellevue; Mr. Brown, of the Hill; and some others whose names I forget.'

'Is Major Screw coming?' asked Sponge.

'I rayther think not, sir. I think I heard Mr. Plummey, the butler, say he declined.'

'So much the better,' growled Jack, throwing off his purple-lapped coat in commencement of his toilette. As the two dressed they discussed the point how Pacey might be done.

When our friends got downstairs it was evident there was a great spread. Two red-plushed footmen stood on guard in the entrance, helping the arrivers out of their wraps, while a buzz of conversation sounded through the partially opened drawing-room door, as Mr. Plummey stood, handle in hand, to announce the names of the guests. Our friends, having the entree, of course passed in as at home, and mingled with the comers and stayers. Guest after guest quickly followed, almost all making the same observation, namely, that it was a fine day for the time of year, and then each sidled off, rubbing his hands, to the fire. Captain Guano monopolized about one-half of it, like a Colossus of Rhodes, with a coat-lap under each arm. He seemed to think that, being a stayer, he had more right to the fire than the mere diners.

Mr. Puffington moved briskly among the motley throng, now expatiating on the splendour of the run, now hoping a friend was hungry, asking a third after his wife, and apologizing to a fourth for not having called on his sister. Still his real thoughts were in the kitchen, and he kept counting noses and looking anxiously at the timepiece. After the door had had a longer rest than usual, Blossomnose at last cast up: 'Now we're all here surely!' thought he, counting about; 'one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, thirteen, fourteen, myself fifteen—fifteen, fifteen, must be another—sixteen, eight couple asked. Oh, that Pacey's wanting; always comes late, won't wait'—so saying, or rather thinking, Mr. Puffington rang the bell and ordered dinner. Pacey then cast up.

He was just the sort of swaggering youth that Jack had described; a youth who thought money would do everything in the world—make him a gentleman, in short. He came rolling into the room, grinning as if he had done something fine in being late. He had both his great red hands in his tight trouser pockets, and drew the right one out to favour his friends with it 'all hot.'

'I'm late, I guess,' said he, grinning round at the assembled guests, now dispersed in the various attitudes of expectant eaters, some standing ready for a start, some half-sitting on tables and sofa ends, others resigning themselves complacently to their chairs, abusing Mr. Pacey and all dinner delayers.

'I'm late, I guess,' repeated he, as he now got navigated up to his host and held out his hand.

'Oh, never mind,' replied Puffington, accepting as little of the proffered paw as he could; 'never mind,' repeated he, adding, as he looked at the French clock on the mantelpiece now chiming a quarter past six, 'I dare say I told you we dined at half-past five.'

'Dare say you did, old boy,' replied Pacey, kicking out his legs, and giving Puffington what he meant for a friendly poke in the stomach, but which in reality nearly knocked his wind out; 'dare say you did, old boy, but so you did last time, if you remember, and deuce a bite did I get before six; so I thought I'd be quits with you this—he—he—he—haw—haw—haw,' grinning and staring about as if he had done something very clever.



Pacey was one of those deplorable beings—a country swell. Tomkins and Hopkins, the haberdashers of Swillingford, never exhibited an ugly out-of-the-way neckcloth or waistcoat with the words 'patronized by the Prince,' 'very fashionable,' or 'quite the go,' upon them, but he immediately adorned himself in one. On the present occasion he was attired in a wide-stretching, lace-tipped, black Joinville, with recumbent gills, showing the heavy amplitude of his enormous jaws, while the extreme scooping out of a collarless, flashy-buttoned, chain-daubed, black silk waistcoat, with broad blue stripes, afforded an uninterrupted view of a costly embroidered shirt, the view extending, indeed, up to a portion of his white satin 'forget-me-not' embroidered braces. His coat was a broad-sterned, brass-buttoned blue, with pockets outside, and of course he wore a pair of creaking highly varnished boots. He was apparently, about twenty; just about the age when a youth thinks it fine to associate with men, and an age at which some men are not above taking advantage of a youth. Perhaps he looked rather older than he was, for he was stiff built and strong, with an ample crop of whiskers extending from his great red docken ears round his harvest moon of a face. He was lumpy, and clumsy, and heavy all over. Having now got inducted, he began to stare round the party, and first addressed our worthy friend Mr. Spraggon.

'Well, Sprag, how are you?' asked he.

'Well, Specs' (alluding to his father's trade), 'how are you?' replied Jack, with a growl, to the evident satisfaction of the party, who seemed to regard Pacey as the common enemy.

Fortunately just at the moment Mr. Plummey restored harmony by announcing dinner; and after the usual backing and retiring of mock modesty, Mr. Puffington said he would 'show them the way,' when there was as great a rush to get in, to avoid the bugbear of sitting with their backs to the fire, as there had been apparent disposition not to go at all. Notwithstanding the unfavourable aspect of affairs, Mr. Spraggon placed himself next Mr. Pacey, who sat a good way down the table, while Mr. Sponge occupied the post of honour by our host.

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