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Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 9555

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

If people are inclined to deal, bargains can very soon be struck at idle watering-places, where anything in the shape of occupation is a godsend, and bargainers know where to find each other in a minute. Everybody knows where everybody is.

'Have you seen Jack Sprat?'

'Oh yes; he's just gone into Muddle's Bazaar with Miss Flouncey, looking uncommon sweet.' Or-

'Can you tell me where I shall find Mr. Slowman?'

Answer.-'You'll find him at his lodgings, No. 15, Belvidere Terrace, till a quarter before seven. He's gone home to dress, to dine with Major and Mrs. Holdsworthy, at Grunton Villa, for I heard him order Jenkins's fly at that time.'

Caingey Thornton knew exactly when he would find Mr. Waffles at Miss Lollypop's, the confectioner, eating ices and making love to that very interesting much-courted young lady. True to his time, there was Waffles, eating and eyeing the cherry-coloured ribbons, floating in graceful curls along with her raven-coloured ringlets, down Miss Lollypop's nice fresh plump cheeks.

After expatiating on the great merits of the horse, and the certainty of getting all the money back by steeple-chasing him in the spring, and stating his conviction that Mr. Sponge would not take any part of the purchase-money in pictures or jewellery, or anything of that sort, Mr. Waffles gave his consent to deal, on the terms the following conversation shows.

'My friend will give you your price, if you wouldn't mind taking his cheque and keeping it for a few months till he's into funds,' observed Mr. Thornton, who now sought Mr. Sponge out at the billiard-room.

'Why,' observed Mr. Sponge, thoughtfully, 'you know horses are always ready money.'

'True,' replied Thornton; 'at least that's the theory of the thing; only my friend is rather peculiarly situated at present.'

'I suppose Mr. Waffles is your man?' observed Mr. Sponge, rightly judging that there couldn't be two such flats in the place.

'Just so,' said Mr. Thornton.


'I'd rather take his "stiff" than his cheque,' observed Mr. Sponge, after a pause. 'I could get a bit of stiff done, but a cheque, you see-especially a post-dated one-is always objected to.'

'Well, I dare say that will make no difference,' observed Mr. Thornton, '"stiff," if you prefer it-say three months; or perhaps you'll give us four?'

'Three's long enough, in all conscience,' replied Mr. Sponge, with a shake of the head, adding, 'Bullfrog made me pay down on the nail.'

'Well, so be it, then,' assented Mr. Thornton; 'you draw at three months, and Mr. Waffles will accept, payable at Coutts's.'

After so much liberality, Mr. Caingey expected that Mr. Sponge would have hinted at something handsome for him; but all Sponge said was, 'So be it,' too, as he walked away to buy a bill-stamp.

Mr. Waffles was more considerate, and promised him the first mount on his new purchase, though Caingey would rather have had a ten, or even a five-pound note.

Towards the hour of ten on that eventful day, numerous gaitered, trousered, and jacketed grooms began to ride up and down the High Street, most of them with their stirrups crossed negligently on the pommels of the saddles, to indicate that their masters were going to ride the horses, and not them. The street grew lively, not so much with people going to hunt, as with people coming to see those who were. Tattered Hibernians, with rags on their backs and jokes on their lips; young English chevaliers d'industrie, with their hands ready to dive into anybody's pockets but their own; stablemen out of place, servants loitering on their errands, striplings helping them, ladies'-maids with novels or three-corner'd notes, and a good crop of beggars.

'What, Spareneck, do you ride the grey to-day? I thought you'd done Gooseman out of a mount,' observed Ensign Downley, as a line of scarlet-coated youths hung over the balcony of the Imperial Hotel, after breakfast and before mounting for the day.

Spareneck.-'No, that's for Tuesday. He wouldn't stand one to-day. What do you ride?'

Downley.-'Oh, I've a hack, one of Screwman's, Perpetual Motion they call him, because he never gets any rest. That's him, I believe, with the lofty-actioned hind-legs,' added he, pointing to a weedy string-halty bay passing below, high in bone and low in flesh.

'Who's o' the gaudy chestnut?' asked Caingey Thornton, who now appeared, wiping his fat lips after his second glass of eau de vie.

'That's Mr. Sponge's,' replied Spareneck in a low tone, knowing how soon a man catches his own name.

'A deuced fine horse he is, too,' observed Caingey, in a louder key; adding, 'Sponge has the finest lot of horses of any man in England-in the world, I may say.'

Mr. Sponge himself n

ow rose from the breakfast table, and was speedily followed by Mr. Waffles and the rest of the party, some bearing sofa-pillows and cushions to place on the balustrades, to loll at their ease, in imitation of the Coventry Club swells in Piccadilly. Then our friends smoked their cigars, reviewed the cavalry, and criticised the ladies who passed below in the flys on their way to the meet.

'Come, old Bolter!' exclaimed one, 'here's Miss Bussington coming to look after you-got her mamma with her, too-so you may as well knock under at once, for she's determined to have you.'

'A devil of a woman the old un is, too,' observed Ensign Downley; 'she nearly frightened Jack Simpers of ours into fits, by asking what he meant after dancing three dances with her daughter one night.'

'My word, but Miss Jumpheavy must expect to do some execution to-day with that fine floating feather and her crimson satin dress and ermine,' observed Mr. Waffles, as that estimable lady drove past in her Victoria phaeton. 'She looks like the Queen of Sheba herself. But come, I suppose,' he added, taking a most diminutive Geneva watch out of his waistcoat-pocket, 'we should be going. See! there's your nag kicking up a shindy,' he said to Caingey Thornton, as the redoubtable brown was led down the street by a jean-jacketed groom, kicking and lashing out at everything he came near.

'I'll kick him,' observed Thornton, retiring from the balcony to the brandy-bottle, and helping himself to a pretty good-sized glass. He then extricated his large cutting whip from the confusion of whips with which it was mixed, and clonk, clonk, clonked downstairs to the door.

'Multum in Parvo' stopped the doorway, across whose shoulder Leather passed the following hints, in a low tone of voice, to Mr. Sponge, as the latter stood drawing on his dogskin gloves, the observed, as he flattered himself, of all observers.

'Mind now,' said Leather, 'this oss as a will of his own; though he seems so quiet like, he's not always to be depended on; so be on the look-out for squalls.'

Sponge, having had a glass of brandy, just mounted with the air of a man thoroughly at home with his horse, and drawing the rein, with a slight feel of the spur, passed on from the door to make way for the redoubtable Hercules. Hercules was evidently not in a good humour. His ears were laid back, and the rolling white eye showed mischief. Sponge saw all this, and turned to see whether Thornton's clumsy, wash-ball seat, would be able to control the fractious spirit of the horse.

'Whoay!' roared Thornton, as his first dive at the stirrup missed, and was answered by a hearty kick out from the horse, the 'whoay' being given in a very different tone to the gentle, coaxing style of Mr. Buckram and his men. Had it not been for the brandy within and the lookers-on without, there is no saying but Caingey would have declined the horse's further acquaintance. As it was, he quickly repeated his attempt at the stirrup with the same sort of domineering 'whoay,' adding, as he landed in the saddle and snatched at the reins, 'Do you think I stole you?'

Whatever the horse's opinion might be on that point, he didn't seem to care to express it, for finding kicking alone wouldn't do, he immediately commenced rearing too, and by a desperate plunge, broke away from the groom, before Thornton had either got him by the head or his feet in the stirrups. Three most desperate bounds he gave, rising at the bit as though he would come back over if the hold was not relaxed, and the fourth effort bringing him to the opposite kerb-stone, he up again with such a bound and impetus that he crashed right through Messrs. Frippery and Flummery's fine plate-glass window, to the terror and astonishment of their elegant young counter-skippers, who were busy arranging their ribbons and finery for the day. Right through the window Hercules went, switching through book muslins and barèges as he would through a bullfinch, and attempting to make his exit by a large plate-glass mirror against the wall of the cloak-room beyond, which he dashed all to pieces with his head. Worse remains to be told. 'Multum in Parvo,' seeing his old comrade's hind-quarters disappearing through the window, just took the bit between his teeth, and followed, in spite of Mr. Sponge's every effort to turn him; and when at length he got him hauled round, the horse was found to have decorated himself with a sky-blue visite trimmed with Honiton lace, which he wore like a charger on his way to the Crusades, or a steed bearing a knight to the Eglinton tournament.

Quick as it happened, and soon as it was over, all Laverick Wells seemed to have congregated in the street as our heroes rode out of the folding glass-doors.

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