MoboReader> Literature > Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour

   Chapter 9 THE MEET—THE FIND, AND THE FINISH

Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 37511

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


arly to bed and early to rise being among Mr. Sponge's maxims, he was enjoying the view of the pantiles at the back of his hotel shortly after daylight the next morning, a time about as difficult to fix in a November day as the age of a lady of a 'certain age.' It takes even an expeditious dresser ten minutes or a quarter of an hour extra the first time he has to deal with boots and breeches; and Mr. Sponge being quite a pattern card in his peculiar line, of course took a good deal more to get himself 'up'.

An accustomed eye could see a more than ordinary stir in the streets that morning. Riding-masters and their assistants might be seen going along with strings of saddled and side-saddled screws; flys began to roll at an earlier hour, and natty tigers to kick about in buckskins prior to departing with hunters, good, bad, and indifferent.

Each man had told his partner at Miss Jumpheavy's ball of the capital trick they were going to play the stranger; and a desire to see the stranger, far more than a desire to see the trick, caused many fair ones to forsake their downy couches who had much better have kept them.

The world is generally very complaisant with regard to strangers, so long as they are strangers, generally making them out to be a good deal better than they really are, and Mr. Sponge came in for his full share of stranger credit. They not only brought all the twenty horses Leather said he had scattered about to Laverick Wells, but made him out to have a house in Eaton Square, a yacht at Cowes, and a first-rate moor in Scotland, and some said a peerage in expectancy. No wonder that he 'drew,' as theatrical people say.

Let us now suppose him breakfasted, and ready for a start.

He was 'got up' with uncommon care in the most complete style of the severe order of sporting costume. It being now the commencement of the legitimate hunting season-the first week in November-he availed himself of the privileged period for turning out in everything new. Rejecting the now generally worn cap, he adhered to the heavy, close-napped hat, described in our opening chapter, whose connexion with his head, or back, if it came off, was secured by a small black silk cord, hooked through the band by a fox's tooth, and anchored to a button inside the haven of his low coat-collar. His neck was enveloped in the ample folds of a large white silk cravat, tied in a pointing diamond tie, and secured with a large silver horse-shoe pin, the shoe being almost large enough for the foot of a young donkey.

His low, narrow-collared coat was of the infinitesimal order; that is to say, a coat, and yet as little of a coat as possible-very near a jacket, in fact. The seams, of course, were outside, and were it not for the extreme strength and evenness of the sewing and the evident intention of the thing, an ignorant person might have supposed that he had had his coat turned. A double layer of cloth extended the full length of the outside of the sleeves, much in the fashion of the stage-coachmen's greatcoats in former times; and instead of cuffs, the sleeves were carried out to the ends of the fingers, leaving it to the fancy of the wearer to sport a long cuff or a short cuff, or no cuff at all-just as the weather dictated. Though the coat was single-breasted, he had a hole made on the button side, to enable him to keep it together by means of a miniature snaffle, instead of a button. The snaffle passed across his chest, from whence the coatee, flowing easily back, displayed the broad ridge and furrow of a white cord waistcoat, with a low step collar, the vest reaching low down his figure, with large flap pockets and a nick out in front, like a coachman's. Instead of buttons, the waistcoat was secured with foxes' tusks and catgut loops, while a heavy curb chain, passing from one pocket to the other, raised the impression that there was a watch in one and a bunch of seals in the other. The waistcoat was broadly bound with white binding, and, like the coat, evinced great strength and powers of resistance. His breeches were of a still broader furrow than the waistcoat, looking as if the ploughman had laid two ridges into one. They came low down the leg, and were met by a pair of well-made, well put on, very brown topped boots, a colour then unknown at Laverick Wells. His spurs were bright and heavy, with formidable necks and rowels, whose slightest touch would make a horse wince, and put him on his good behaviour.

Nor did the great slapping brown horse, Hercules, turn out less imposingly than his master. Leather, though not the man to work himself, had a very good idea of work, and right manfully he made the helpers at the Eclipse livery and bait stables strap and groom his horses. Hercules was a fine animal. It did not require a man to be a great judge of a horse to see that. Even the ladies, though perhaps they would rather have had him a white or a cream colour, could not but admire his nut-brown muzzle, his glossy coat, his silky mane, and the elegant way in which he carried his flowing tail. His step was delightful to look at-so free, so accurate, and so easy. And that reminds us that we may as well be getting Mr. Sponge up-a feat of no easy accomplishment. Few hack hunters are without their little peculiarities. Some are runaways-some kick-some bite-some go tail first on the road-some go tail first at their fences-some rush as if they were going to eat them, others baulk them altogether-and few, very few, give satisfaction. Those that do, generally retire from the public stud to the private one. But to our particular quadruped, 'Hercules.'

Mr. Sponge was not without his misgivings that, regardless of being on his preferment, the horse might exhibit more of his peculiarity than would forward his master's interests, and, independently of the disagreeableness of being kicked off at the cover side, not being always compensated for by falling soft, Mr. Sponge thought, as the meet was not far off, and he did not sport a cover hack, it would look quite as well to ride his horse quietly on as go in a fly, provided always he could accomplish the mount-the mount-like the man walking with his head under his arm-being the first step to everything.

Accordingly, Mr. Leather had the horse saddled and accoutred as quietly as possible-his warm clothing put over the saddle immediately, and everything kept as much in the usual course as possible, so that the noble animal's temper might not be ruffled by unaccustomed trouble or unusual objects. Leather having seen that the horse could not eject Mr. Sponge even in trousers, had little fear of his dislodging him in boots and breeches; still it was desirable to avoid all unseemly contention, and maintain the high character of the stud, by which means Leather felt that his own character and consequence would best be maintained. Accordingly, he refrained from calling in the aid of any of the stable assistants, preferring for once to do a little work himself, especially when the rider was up to the trick, and not 'a gent' to be cajoled into 'trying a horse.' Mr. Sponge, punctual to his time, appeared at the stable, and after much patting, whistling, so-so-ing, my man, and general ingratiation, the redoubtable nag was led out of the stable into a well-littered straw-yard, where, though he might be gored by a bull if he fell, the 'eyes of England' at all events would not witness the floorer. Horses, however, have wonderful memories and discrimination. Though so differently attired to what he was on the occasion of his trial, the horse seemed to recognize Mr. Sponge, and independently of a few snorts as he was led out, and an indignant stamp or two of his foot as it was let down, after Mr. Sponge was mounted he took things very quietly.

'Now,' said Leather, in an undertone, patting the horse's arched neck, 'I'll give you a hint; they're a goin' to run a drag to try what he's made on, so be on the look-out.'

'How do you know?' asked Mr. Sponge, in surprise, drawing his reins as he spoke.

'I know,' replied Mr. Leather with a wink.

Just then the horse began to plunge, and paw, and give symptoms of uneasiness, and not wishing to fret or exhibit his weak points, Mr. Sponge gave him his head, and passing through the side-gate was presently in the street. He didn't exactly understand it, but having full confidence in his horsemanship, and believing the one he was on required nothing but riding, he was not afraid to take his chance.

Not being the man to put his candle under a bushel, Mr. Sponge took the principal streets on his way out of town. We are not sure that he did not go rather out of his way to get them in, but that is neither here nor there, seeing he was a stranger who didn't know the way. What a sensation his appearance created as the gallant brown stepped proudly and freely up Coronation Street, showing his smart, clean, well-put-on head up and down on the unrestrained freedom of the snaffle.

'Oh, d-n it, there he is!' exclaimed Mr. Spareneck, jumping up from the breakfast-table, and nearly sweeping the contents off by catching the cloth with his spur.

'Where?' exclaimed half-a-dozen voices, amid a general rush to the windows.

'What a fright!' exclaimed little Miss Martindale, whispering into Miss Beauchamp's ear: 'I'm sure anybody may have him for me,' though she felt in her heart that he was far from bad looking.

'I wonder how long he's taken to put on that choker,' observed Mr. Spareneck, eyeing him intently, not without an inward qualm that he had set himself a more difficult task than he imagined, to 'cut him down,' especially when he looked at the noble animal he bestrode, and the masterly way he sat him.

'What a pair of profligate boots,' observed Captain Whitfield, as our friend now passed his lodgings.

'It would be the duty of a right-thinking man to ride over a fellow in such a pair,' observed his friend, Mr. Cox, who was breakfasting with him.

'Ride over a fellow in such a pair!' exclaimed Whitfield. 'No well-bred horse would face such things, I should think.'

'He seems to think a good deal of himself!' observed Mr. Cox, as Sponge cast an admiring eye down his shining boot.

'Shouldn't wonder,' replied Whitfield; 'perhaps he'll have the conceit taken out of him before night.'

'Well, I hope you'll be in time, old boy!' exclaimed Mr. Waffles to himself, as looking down from his bedroom window, he espied Mr. Sponge passing up the street on his way to cover. Mr. Waffles was just out of bed, and had yet to dress and breakfast.

One man in scarlet sets all the rest on the fidget, and without troubling to lay 'that or that' together, they desert their breakfasts, hurry to the stables, get out their horses and rattle away, lest their watches should be wrong or some arrangement made that they are ignorant of. The hounds too, were on, as was seen as well by their footmarks, as by the bob, bob, bobbing of sundry black caps above the hedges, on the Borrowdon road as the huntsman and whips proceeded at that pleasant post-boy trot, that has roused the wrath of so many riders against horses that they could not get to keep in time.

Now look at old Tom, cocked jauntily on the spicey bay and see what a different Tom he is to what he was last night. Instead of a battered, limping, shabby-looking little old man, he is all alive and rises to the action of his horse, as though they were all one. A fringe of grey hair protrudes beneath his smart velvet cap, which sets off a weather-beaten but keen and expressive face, lit up with little piercing black eyes. See how chirpy and cheery he is; how his right arm keeps rising and falling with his whip, beating responsive to the horse's action with the butt-end against his thigh. His new scarlet coat imparts a healthy hue to his face, and good boots and breeches hide the imperfections of his bad legs. His hounds seem to partake of the old man's gaiety, and gather round his horse or frolic forward on the grassy sidings of the road, till, getting almost out of earshot, a single 'yooi doit!-Arrogant!'-or 'here again, Brusher!' brings them cheerfully back to whine and look in the old man's face for applause. Nor is he chary of his praise. 'G-oood betch!-Arrogant!-g-oood betch!' says he, leaning over his horse's shoulder towards her, and jerking his hand to induce her to proceed forward again. So the old man trots gaily on, now making of his horse, now coaxing a hound, now talking to a 'whip,' now touching or taking off his cap as he passes a sportsman, according to the estimation in which he holds him.

As the hounds reach Whirleypool Windmill, there is a grand rush of pedestrians to meet them. First comes a velveteen-jacketed, leather-legginged keeper, with whom Tom (albeit suspicious of his honesty) thinks it prudent to shake hands; the miller and he, too, greet; and forthwith a black bottle with a single glass make their appearance, and pass current with the company. Then the earth-stopper draws nigh, and, resting a hand on Tom's horse's shoulder, whispers confidentially in his ear. The pedestrian sportsman of the country, too, has something to say; also a horse-breaker; while groups of awe-stricken children stand staring at the mighty Tom, thinking him the greatest man in the world.

Railways and fox-hunting make most people punctual, and in less than five minutes from the halting of the hounds by the Windmill, the various roads leading up to it emit dark-coated grooms, who, dismounting, proceed to brush off the mud sparks, and rectify any little derangement the horses or their accoutrements may have contracted on the journey. Presently Mr. Sponge, and such other gentlemen as have ridden their own horses on, cast up, while from the eminence the road to Laverick Wells is distinctly traceable with scarlet coats and flys, with furs and flaunting feathers. Presently the foremost riders begin to canter up the hill, when

All around is gay, men, horses, dogs,

And in each smiling countenance appears

Fresh blooming health and universal joy.

Then the ladies mingle with the scene, some on horseback, some in flys, all chatter and prattle as usual, some saying smart things, some trying, all making themselves as agreeable as possible, and of course as captivating. Some were in ecstasies at dear Miss Jumpheavy's ball-she was such a nice creature-such a charming ball, and so well managed, while others were anticipating the delights of Mrs. Tom Hoppey's, and some again were asking which was Mr. Sponge. Then up went the eye-glasses, while Mr. Sponge sat looking as innocent and as killing as he could. 'Dear me!' exclaimed one, 'he's younger than I thought.' 'That's him, is it?' observed another; 'I saw him ride up the street'; while the propriety-playing ones praised his horse, and said it was a beauty.

The hounds, which they all had come to see, were never looked at.

Mr. Waffles, like many men with nothing to do, was most unpunctual. He never seemed to know what o'clock it was, and yet he had a watch, hung in chains, and gewgaws, like a lady's chatelaine. Hunting partook of the general confusion. He did not profess to throw off till eleven, but it was often nearly twelve before he cast up. Then he would come up full tilt, surrounded by 'scarlets,' like a general with his staff; and once at the meet, there was a prodigious hurry to begin, equalled only by the eagerness to leave off. On this auspicious day he hove in sight, coming best pace along the road, about twenty minutes before twelve, with a more numerous retinue than usual. In dress, Mr. Waffles was the light, butterfly order of sportsman-once-round tie, French polish, paper boots, and so on. On this occasion he sported a shirt-collar with three or four blue lines, and then a white space followed by three or more blue lines, the whole terminating in blue spots about the size of fourpenny pieces at the points; a once-round blue silk tie, with white spots and flying ends. His coat was a light, jackety sort of thing, with little pockets behind, something in the style of Mr. Sponge's (a docked dressing-gown), but wanting the outside seaming, back strapping, and general strength that characterized Mr. Sponge's. His waistcoat, of course, was a worked one-heart's-ease mingled with foxes' heads, on a true blue ground, the gift of-we'll not say who-his leathers were of the finest doe-skin, and his long-topped, pointed-toed boots so thin as to put all idea of wet or mud out of the question.

Such was the youth who now cantered up and took off his cap to the rank, beauty, and fashion, assembled at Whirleypool Windmill. He then proceeded to pay his respects in detail. At length, having exhausted his 'nothings,' and said the same thing over again in a dozen different ways to a dozen different ladies, he gave a slight jerk of the head to Tom Towler, who forthwith whistled his hounds together, and attended by the whips, bustled from the scene.

CAPTAIN GREATGUN

Epping Hunt, in its most palmy days could not equal the exhibition that now took place. Some of the more lively of the horses, tired of waiting, perhaps pinched by the cold, for most of them were newly clipped, evinced their approbation of the move, by sundry squeals and capers, which being caught by others in the neighbourhood, the infection quickly spread, and in less than a minute there was such a scene of rocking, and rearing, and kicking, and prancing, and neighing and shooting over heads, and rolling over tails, and hanging on by manes, mingled with such screamings from the ladies in the flys, and such hearty-sounding kicks against splash boards and fly bottoms, from sundry of the vicious ones in harness, as never was witnessed. One gentleman, in a bran-new scarlet, mounted on a flourishing piebald, late the property of Mr. Batty, stood pawing and fighting the air, as if in the saw-dust circle, his unfortunate rider clinging round his neck, expecting to have the beast back over upon him. Another little wiry chestnut, with abundance of rings, racing martingale, and tackle generally, just turned tail on the crowd and ran off home as hard as ever he could lay legs to the ground; while a good steady bay cob, with a barrel like a butt, and a tail like a hearth-brush, having selected the muddiest, dirtiest place he could find, deliberately proceeded to lie down, to the horror of his rider, Captain Greatgun, of the royal navy, who, feeling himself suddenly touch mother earth, thought he was going to be swallowed up alive, and was only awoke from the delusion by the shouts of the foot people, telling him to get clear of his horse before he began to roll.

Hercules would fain have joi

ned the truant set, and, at the first commotion, up went his great back, and down went his ears, with a single lash out behind that meant mischief, but Mr. Sponge was on the alert, and just gave him such a dig with his spurs as restored order, without exposing anything that anybody could take notice of.

The sudden storm was quickly lulled. The spilt ones scrambled up; the loose riders got tighter hold of their horses; the screaming fair ones sank languidly in their carriages; and the late troubled ocean of equestrians fell into irregular line en route for the cover.

Bump, bump, bump; trot, trot, trot; jolt, jolt, jolt; shake, shake, shake; and carriages and cavalry got to Ribston Wood somehow or other. It is a long cover on a hill-side, from which parties, placing themselves in the green valley below, can see hounds 'draw,' that is to say, run through with their noses to the ground, if there are any men foolish enough to believe that ladies care for seeing such things. However, there they were.

'Eu leu, in!' cries old Tom, with a wave of his arm, finding he can no longer restrain the ardour of the pack as they approach, and thinking to save his credit, by appearing to direct. 'Eu leu, in!' repeats he, with a heartier cheer, as the pack charge the rotten fence with a crash that echoes through the wood. The whips scuttle off to their respective points, gentlemen feel their horses' girths, hats are thrust firmly on the head, and the sherry and brandy flasks begin to be drained.

'Tally ho!' cries a countryman at the top of the wood, hoisting his hat on a stick. At the magic sound, fear comes over some, joy over others, intense anxiety over all. What commotion! What indecision! What confusion! 'Which way?-Which way?' is the cry.

'Twang, twang, twang,' goes old Tom's horn at the top of the wood, whither he seems to have flown, so quick has he got there.

A dark-coated gentleman on a good family horse solves the important question-'Which way?'-by diving at once into the wood, crashing along till he comes to a cross-road that leads to the top, when the scene opening to 'open fresh fields and pastures new,' discloses divers other sections struggling up in long drawn files, following other leaders, all puffing, and wheezing and holding on by the manes, many feeling as if they had had enough already-'Quick!' is the word, for the tail-hounds are flying the fence out of the first field over the body of the pack, which are running almost mute at best pace beyond, looking a good deal smaller than is agreeable to the eyes of a sportsman.

'F-o-o-r-rard!' screams old Tom, flying the fence after them, followed by jealous jostling riders in scarlet and colours, some anxious, some easy, some wanting to be at it, some wanting to look as if they did, some wishing to know if there was anything on the far side.

Now Tom tops another fence, rising like a rocket and dropping like a bird; still 'F-o-o-r-rard!' is the cry-away they go at racing pace.

The field draws out like a telescope, leaving the largest portion at the end, and many-the fair and fat ones in particular-seeing the hopelessness of the case, pull up their horses, while yet on an eminence that commands a view. Fifteen or twenty horsemen enter for the race, and dash forward, though the hounds rather gain on old Tom, and the further they go the smaller the point of the telescope becomes. The pace is awful; many would give in but for the ladies. At the end of a mile or so, the determined ones show to the front, and the spirters and 'make-believes' gladly avail themselves of their pioneering powers.

Mr. Sponge, who got well through the wood, has been going at his ease, the great striding brown throwing the large fields behind him with ease, and taking his leaps safely and well. He now shows to the front, and old Tom, who is still 'F-o-o-r-rarding' to his hounds, either rather falls back to the field or the field draws upon him. At all events they get together somehow. A belt of Scotch fir plantation, with a stiffish fence on each side, tries their mettle and the stoutness of their hats: crash they get through it, the noise they make among the thorns and rotten branches resembling the outburst of a fire. Several gentlemen here decline under cover of the trees.

'F-o-o-r-rard!' screams old Tom, as he dives through the stiff fence and lands in the field outside the plantation. He might have saved his breath, for the hounds were beating him as it was. Mr. Sponge bores through the same place, little aided, however, by anything old Tom has done to clear the way for him, and the rest follow in his wake.

The field is now reduced to six, and two of the number, Mr. Spareneck and Caingey Thornton, become marked in their attention to our hero. Thornton is riding Mr. Waffles' crack steeple-chaser 'Dare-Devil,' and Mr. Spareneck is on a first-rate hunter belonging to the same gentleman, but they have not been able to get our friend Sponge into grief. On the contrary, his horse, though lathered goes as strong as ever, and Mr. Sponge, seeing their design, is as careful of him as possible, so as not to lose ground. His fine, strong, steady seat, and quiet handling, contrasts well with Thornton's rolling bucketing style, who has already begun to ply a heavy cutting whip, in aid of his spurs at his fences, accompanied with a half frantic 'g-u-r-r-r along!' and inquires of the horse if he thinks he stole him?

The three soon get in front; fast as they go, the hounds go faster, and fence after fence is thrown behind them, just as a girl throws her skipping-rope.

Tom and the whips follow, grinning with their tongues in their cheeks, Tom still screeching 'F-o-o-o-rard!-F-o-o-o-rard!' at intervals.

A big stone wall, built with mortar, and coped with heavy blocks of stone, is taken by the three abreast, for which they are rewarded by a gallop up Stretchfurrow pasture, from the summit of which they see the hounds streaming away to a fine grass country below, with pollard willows dotted here and there in the bottom.

'Water!' says our friend Sponge to himself, wondering whether Hercules would face it. A desperate black bullfinch, so thick that they could hardly see through it, is shirked by consent, for a gate which a countryman opens, and another fence or two being passed, the splashing of some hounds in the water, and the shaking of others on the opposite bank, show that, as usual, the willows are pretty true prophets.

Caingey, grinning his coarse red face nearly double, and getting his horse well by the head, rams in the spurs, and flourishes his cutting whip high in air, with a 'g-u-u-ur along! do you think I'-the 'stole you' being lost under water just as Sponge clears the brook a little lower down. Spareneck then pulls up.

When Nimrod had Dick Christian under water in the Whissendine in his Leicestershire run, and someone more humane than the rest of the field observed, as they rode on,

'But he'll be drowned.'

'Shouldn't wonder,' exclaimed another.

'But the pace,' Nimrod added, 'was too good to inquire.'

Such, however, was not the case with our watering-place cock, Mr. Sponge. Independently of the absurdity of a man risking his neck for the sake of picking up a bunch of red herrings, Mr. Sponge, having beat everybody, could afford a little humanity, more especially as he rode his horse on sale, and there was now no one left to witness the further prowess of the steed. Accordingly, he availed himself of a heavy, newly-ploughed fallow, upon which he landed as he cleared the brook, for pulling up, and returned just as Mr. Spareneck, assisted by one of the whips, succeeded in landing Caingey on the taking-off side. Caingey was not a pretty boy at the best of times-none but the most partial parents could think him one-and his clumsy-featured, short, compressed face, and thick, lumpy figure, were anything but improved by a sort of pea-green net-work of water-weeds with which he arose from his bath. He was uncommonly well soaked, and had to be held up by the heels to let the water run out of his boots, pockets, and clothes. In this undignified position he was found by Mr. Waffles and such of the field as had ridden the line.

'Why, Caingey, old boy! you look like a boiled porpoise with parsley sauce!' exclaimed Mr. Waffles, pulling up where the unfortunate youth was spluttering and getting emptied like a jug. 'Confound it!' added he, as the water came gurgling out of his mouth, 'but you must have drunk the brook dry.'

Caingey would have censured his inhumanity, but knowing the imprudence of quarrelling with his bread and butter, and also aware of the laughable, drowned-rat figure he must then be cutting, he thought it best to laugh, and take his change out of Mr. Waffles another time. Accordingly, he chuckled and laughed too, though his jaws nearly refused their office, and kindly transferred the blame of the accident from the horse to himself.

MR. CAINGEY THORNTON DOESN'T 'PUT ON STEAM ENOUGH'

'He didn't put on steam enough,' he said.

Meanwhile, old Tom, who had gone on with the hounds, having availed himself of a well-known bridge, a little above where Thornton went in, for getting over the brook, and having allowed a sufficient time to elapse for the proper completion of the farce, was now seen rounding the opposite hill, with his hounds clustered about his horse, with his mind conning over one of those imaginary runs that experienced huntsmen know so well how to tell, when there is no one to contradict them.

Having quartered his ground to get at his old friend the bridge again, he just trotted up with well-assumed gaiety as Caingey Thornton spluttered the last piece of green weed out from between his great thick lips.

'Well, Tom!' exclaimed Mr. Waffles, 'what have you done with him?'

'Killed him, sir,' replied Tom, with a slight touch of his cap, as though 'killing' was a matter of every-day occurrence with them.

'Have you, indeed!' exclaimed Mr. Waffles, adopting the lie with avidity.

'Yes, sir,' said Tom gravely; 'he was nearly beat afore he got to the brook. Indeed, I thought Vanquisher would have had him in it; but, however, he got through, and the scent failed on the fallow, which gave him a chance; but I held them on to the hedgerow beyond, where they hit it off like wildfire, and they never stopped again till they tumbled him over at the back of Mr. Plummey's farm-buildings, at Shapwick. I've got his brush,' added Tom, producing a much tattered one from his pocket, 'if you'd like to have it?'

'Thank you, no-yes-no,' replied Waffles, not wanting to be bothered with it; 'yet stay,' continued he, as his eye caught Mr. Sponge, who was still on foot beside his vanquished friend; 'give it to Mr. What-de-ye-call-'em,' added he, nodding towards our hero.

'Sponge,' observed Tom, in an undertone, giving the brush to his master.

'Mr. Sponge, will you do me the favour to accept the brush?' asked Mr. Waffles, advancing with it towards him; adding, 'I am sorry this unlucky bather should have prevented your seeing the end.'

Mr. Sponge was a pretty good judge of brushes, and not a bad one of camphire; but if this one had smelt twice as strong as it did-indeed, if it had dropped to pieces in his hand, or the moths had flown up in his face, he would have pocketed it, seeing it paved the way to what he wanted-an introduction.

'I'm very much obliged, I'm sure,' observed he, advancing to take it-'very much obliged, indeed; been an extremely good run, and fast.'

'Very fair-very fair,' observed Mr. Waffles, as though it were nothing in their way; 'seven miles in twenty minutes, I suppose, or something of that sort.'

'One-and-twenty,' interposed Tom, with a laudable anxiety for accuracy.

'Ah! one-and-twenty,' rejoined Mr. Waffles. 'I thought it would be somewhere thereabouts. Well, I suppose we've all had enough,' added he, 'may as well go home and have some luncheon, and then a game at billiards, or rackets, or something. How's the old water-rat?' added he, turning to Thornton, who was now busy emptying his cap and mopping the velvet.

The water-rat was as well as could be expected, but did not quite like the new aspect of affairs. He saw that Mr. Sponge was a first-rate horseman, and also knew that nothing ingratiated one man with another so much as skill and boldness in the field. It was by that means, indeed, that he had established himself in Mr. Waffles' good graces-an ingratiation that had been pretty serviceable to him, both in the way of meat, drink, mounting, and money. Had Mr. Sponge been, like himself, a needy, penniless adventurer, Caingey would have tried to have kept him out by some of those plausible, admonitory hints, that poverty makes men so obnoxious to; but in the case of a rich, flourishing individual, with such an astonishing stud as Leather made him out to have, it was clearly Caingey's policy to knock under and be subservient to Mr. Sponge also. Caingey, we should observe, was a bold, reckless rider, never seeming to care for his neck, but he was no match for Mr. Sponge, who had both skill and courage.

Caingey being at length cleansed from his weeds, wiped from his mud, and made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, was now hoisted on to the renowned steeple-chase horse again, who had scrambled out of the brook on the taking-off side, and, after meandering the banks for a certain distance, had been caught by the bridle in the branch of a willow-Caingey, we say, being again mounted, Mr. Sponge also, without hindrance from the resolute brown horse, the first whip put himself a little in advance, while old Tom followed with the hounds, and the second whip mingled with the now increasing field, it being generally understood (by the uninitiated, at least) that hounds have no business to go home so long as any gentleman is inclined for a scurrey, no matter whether he has joined early or late. Mr. Waffles, on the contrary, was very easily satisfied, and never took the shine off a run with a kill by risking a subsequent defeat. Old Tom, though keen when others were keen, was not indifferent to his comforts, and soon came into the way of thinking that it was just as well to get home to his mutton-chops at two or three o'clock, as to be groping his way about bottomless bye-roads on dark winter nights.

As he retraced his steps homeward, and overtook the scattered field of the morning, his talent for invention, or rather stretching, was again called into requisition.

'What have you done with him, Tom?' asked Major Bouncer, eagerly bringing his sturdy collar-marked cob alongside of our huntsman.

'Killed him, sir,' replied Tom, with the slightest possible touch of the cap. (Bouncer was no tip.)

'Indeed!' exclaimed Bouncer, gaily, with that sort of sham satisfaction that most people express about things that can't concern them in the least. 'Indeed! I'm deuced glad of that! Where did you kill him?'

'At the back of Mr. Plummey's farm-buildings, at Shapwick,' replied Tom; adding, 'but, my word, he led us a dance afore we got there-up to Ditchington, down to Somerby, round by Temple Bell Wood, cross Goosegreen Common, then away for Stubbington Brooms, skirtin' Sanderwick Plantations, but scarce goin' into 'em, then by the round hill at Camerton leavin' great Heatherton to the right, and so straight on to Shapwick, where we killed, with every hound up-'

'God bless me!' exclaimed Bouncer, apparently lost in admiration, though he scarcely knew the country; 'God bless me!' repeated he, 'what a run! The finest run that ever was seen.'

'Nine miles in twenty-five minutes,' replied Tom, tacking on a little both for time and distance.

'B-o-y jove!' exclaimed the major.

Having shaken hands with, and congratulated Mr. Waffles most eagerly and earnestly, the major hurried off to tell as much as he could remember to the first person he met, just as the cheese-bearer at a christening looks out for some one to give the cheese to. The cheese-getter on this occasion was Doctor Lotion, who was going to visit old Jackey Thompson, of Woolleyburn. Jackey being then in a somewhat precarious state of health, and tolerably advanced in life, without any very self-evident heir, was obnoxious to the attentions of three distinct litters of cousins, some one or other of whom was constantly 'baying him.' Lotion, though a sapient man, and somewhat grinding in his practice, did not profess to grind old people young again, and feeling he could do very little for the body corporate, directed his attention to amusing Jackey's mind, and anything in the shape of gossip was extremely acceptable to the doctor to retail to his patient. Moreover, Jackey had been a bit of a sportsman, and was always extremely happy to see the hounds-on anybody's land but his own.

So Lotion got primed with the story, and having gone through the usual routine of asking his patient how he was, how he had slept, looking at his tongue, and reporting on the weather, when the old posing question, 'What's the news?' was put, Lotion replied, as he too often had to reply, for he was a very slow hand at picking up information.

'Nothin' particklar, I think, sir,' adding, in an off-hand sort of way, 'you've heard of the greet run, I s'pose, sir?'

'Great run!' exclaimed the octogenarian, as if it was a matter of the most vital importance to him; 'great run, sir; no, sir, not a word!'

The doctor then retailed it.

Old Jackey got possessed of this one idea-he thought of nothing else. Whoever came, he out with it, chapter and verse, with occasional variations. He told it to all the 'cousins in waiting'; Jackey Thompson, of Carrington Ford; Jackey Thompson, of Houndesley; Jackey Thompson, of the Mill; and all the Bobs, Bills, Sams, Harrys, and Peters, composing the respective litters;-forgetting where he got it from, he nearly told it back to Lotion himself. We sometimes see old people affected this way-far more enthusiastic on a subject than young ones. Few dread the aspect of affairs so much as those who have little chance of seeing how they go.

But to the run. The cousins reproduced the story according to their respective powers of exaggeration. One tacked on two miles, another ten, and so it went on and on, till it reached the ears of the great Mr. Seedeyman, the mighty WE of the country, as he sat in his den penning his 'stunners' for his market-day Mercury. It had then distanced the great sea-serpent itself in length, having extended over thirty-three miles of country, which Mr. Seedeyman reported to have been run in one hour and forty minutes.

Pretty good going, we should say.

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