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   Chapter 13 A NEW SCHEME

Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 14326

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Our friend Soapey was now in good feather; he had got a large price for his good-for-nothing horse, with a very handsome bonus for not getting him back, making him better off than he had been for some time. Gentlemen of his calibre are generally extremely affluent in everything except cash. They have bills without end-bills that nobody will touch, and book debts in abundance-book debts entered with metallic pencils in curious little clasped pocket-books, with such utter disregard of method that it would puzzle an accountant to comb them into anything like shape.

It is true, what Mr. Sponge got from Mr. Waffles were bills-but they were good bills, and of such reasonable date as the most exacting of the Jew tribe would 'do' for twenty per cent. Mr. Sponge determined to keep the game alive, and getting Hercules and Multum in Parvo together again, he added a showy piebald hack, that Buckram had just got from some circus people who had not been able to train him to their work.

The question now was, where to man?uvre this imposing stud-a problem that Mr. Sponge quickly solved.

Among the many strangers who rushed into indiscriminate friendship with our hero at Laverick Wells, was Mr. Jawleyford, of Jawleyford Court, in ----shire. Jawleyford was a great humbug. He was a fine, off-hand, open-hearted, cheery sort of fellow, who was always delighted to see you, would start at the view, and stand with open arms in the middle of the street, as though quite overjoyed at the meeting. Though he never gave dinners, nor anything where he was, he asked everybody, at least everybody who did give them, to visit him at Jawleyford Court. If a man was fond of fishing, he must come to Jawleyford Court, he must, indeed; he would take no refusal, he wouldn't leave him alone till he promised. He would show him such fishing-no waters in the world to compare with his. The Shannon and the Tweed were not to be spoken of in the same day as his waters in the Swiftley.

Shooting, the same way. 'By Jove! are you a shooter? Well, I'm delighted to hear it. Well, now, we shall be at home all September, and up to the middle of October, and you must just come to us at your own time, and I will give you some of the finest partridge and pheasant shooting you ever saw in your life; Norfolk can show nothing to what I can. Now, my good fellow, say the word; do say you'll come, and then it will be a settled thing, and I shall look forward to it with such pleasure!'

He was equally magnanimous about hunting, though, like a good many people who have 'had their hunts,' he pretended that his day was over, though he was a most zealous promoter of the sport. So he asked everybody who did hunt to come and see him; and what with his hearty, affable manner, and the unlimited nature of his invitations, he generally passed for a deuced hospitable, good sort of fellow, and came in for no end of dinners and other entertainments for his wife and daughters, of which he had two-daughters, we mean, not wives. His time was about up at Laverick Wells when Mr. Sponge arrived there; nevertheless, during the few days that remained to them, Mr. Jawleyford contrived to scrape a pretty intimate acquaintance with a gentleman whose wealth was reported to equal, if it did not exceed, that of Mr. Waffles himself. The following was the closing scene between them:

Jawleyford of Jawleyford Court

'Mr. Sponge,' said he, getting our hero by both hands in Culeyford's Billiard Room, and shaking them as though he could not bear the idea of separation; 'my dear Mr. Sponge,' added he, 'I grieve to say we're going to-morrow; I had hoped to have stayed a little longer, and to have enjoyed the pleasure of your most agreeable society.' (This was true; he would have stayed, only his banker wouldn't let him have any more money.) 'But, however, I won't say adieu,' continued he; 'no, I won't say adieu! I live, as you perhaps know, in one of the best hunting countries in England-my Lord Scamperdale's-Scamperdale and I are like brothers; I can do whatever I like with him-he has, I may say, the finest pack of hounds in the world; his huntsman. Jack Frostyface, I really believe, cannot be surpassed. Come, then, my dear fellow,' continued Mr. Jawleyford, increasing the grasp and shake of the hands, and looking most earnestly in Sponge's face, as if deprecating a refusal; 'come, then, my dear fellow, and see us; we will do whatever we can to entertain and make you comfortable. Scamperdale shall keep our side of the country till you come; there are capital stables at Lucksford, close to the station, and you shall have a stall for your hack at Jawleyford, and a man to look after him, if you like; so now, don't say nay-your time shall be ours-we shall be at home all the rest of the winter, and I flatter myself, if you once come down, you will be inclined to repeat your visit; at least, I hope so.'

There are two common sayings; one, 'that birds of a feather flock together'; the other, 'that two of a trade never agree'; which often seem to us to contradict each other in the actual intercourse of life. Humbugs certainly have the knack of drawing together, and yet they are always excellent friends, and will vouch for the goodness of each other in a way that few straight-forward men think it worth their while to adopt with regard to indifferent people. Indeed, humbugs are not always content to defend their absent brother humbugs when they hear them abused, but they will frequently lug each other in neck and crop, apparently for no other purpose than that of proclaiming what excellent fellows they are, and see if anybody will take up the cudgels against them.

Mr. Sponge, albeit with a considerable cross of the humbug himself, and one who perfectly understood the usual worthlessness of general invitations, was yet so taken with Mr. Jawleyford's hail-fellow-well-met, earnest sort of manner, that, adopting the convenient and familiar solution in such matters, that there is no rule without an exception, concluded that Mr. Jawleyford was the exception, and really meant what he said.

Independently of the attractions offered by hunting, which were both strong and cogent, we have said there were two young ladies, to whom fame attached the enormous fortunes common in cases where there is a large property and no sons. Still Sponge was a wary bird, and his experience of the worthlessness of most general invitations made him think it just possible that it might not suit Mr. Jawleyford to receive him now, at the particular time he wanted to go; so after duly considering the case, and also the impressive nature of the invitation, so recently given, too, he determined not to give Jawleyford the chance of refusing him, but just to say he was coming, and drop down upon him before he could say 'no.' Accordingly, he penned the following epistle:



'I purpose being with you to-morrow, by the express train, which I see, by Bradshaw, arrives at Lucksford a quarter to three. I shall only bring two hunters and a hack, so perhaps you could oblige me by taking them in for t

he short time I shall stay, as it would not be convenient for me to separate them. Hoping to find Mrs. Jawleyford and the young ladies well, I remain, dear sir,'

'Yours very truly,


'To-jawleyford, Esq., Jawleyford Court, Lucksford.'

'Curse the fellow!' exclaimed Jawleyford, nearly choking himself with a fish bone, as he opened and read the foregoing at breakfast. 'Curse the fellow!' he repeated, stamping the letter under foot, as though he would crush it to atoms. 'Who ever saw such a piece of impudence as that!'

'What's the matter, my dear?' inquired Mrs. Jawleyford, alarmed lest it was her dunning jeweller writing again.

'Matter!' shrieked Jawleyford, in a tone that sounded through the thick wall of the room, and caused the hobbling old gardener on the terrace to peep in at the heavy-mullioned window. 'Matter!' repeated he, as though he had got his coup de grace; 'look there,' added he, handing over the letter.

'Oh, my dear,' rejoined Mrs. Jawleyford soothingly, as soon as she saw it was not what she expected. 'Oh, my dear, I'm sure there's nothing to make you put yourself so much out of the way.' 'No!' roared Jawleyford, determined not to be done out of his grievance. 'No!' repeated he; 'do you call that nothing?'

'Why, nothing to make yourself unhappy about,' replied Mrs. Jawleyford, rather pleased than otherwise; for she was glad it was not from Rings, the jeweller, and, moreover, hated the monotony of Jawleyford Court, and was glad of anything to relieve it. If she had had her own way, she would have gadded about at watering-places all the year round.

'Well,' said Jawleyford, with a toss of the head and a shrug of resignation, 'you'll have me in gaol; I see that.'

'Nay, my dear J.,' rejoined his wife, soothingly; 'I'm sure you've plenty of money.'

'Have I!' ejaculated Jawleyford. 'Do you suppose, if I had, I'd have left Laverick Wells without paying Miss Bustlebey, or given a bill at three months for the house-rent?'

'Well, but, my dear, you've nothing to do but tell Mr. Screwemtight to get you some money from the tenants.'

'Money from the tenants!' replied Mr. Jawleyford. 'Screwemtight tells me he can't get another farthing from any man on the estate.'

'Oh, pooh!' said Mrs. Jawleyford; 'you're far too good to them. I always say Screwemtight looks far more to their interest than he does to yours.'

Jawleyford, we may observe, was one of the rather numerous race of paper-booted, pen-and-ink landowners. He always dressed in the country as he would in St. James's Street, and his communications with his tenantry were chiefly confined to dining with them twice a year in the great entrance-hall, after Mr. Screwemtight had eased them of their cash in the steward's room. Then Mr. Jawleyford would shine forth the very impersonification of what a landlord ought to be. Dressed in the height of the fashion, as if by his clothes to give the lie to his words, he would expatiate on the delights of such meetings of equality; declare that, next to those spent with his family, the only really happy moments of his life were those when he was surrounded by his tenantry; he doated on the manly character of the English farmer. Then he would advert to the great antiquity of the Jawleyford family, many generations of whom looked down upon them from the walls of the old hall; some on their war-steeds, some armed cap-à-pie, some in court-dresses, some in Spanish ones, one in a white dress with gold brocade breeches and a hat with an enormous plume, old Jawleyford (father of the present one) in the Windsor uniform, and our friend himself, the very prototype of what then stood before them. Indeed, he had been painted in the act of addressing his hereditary chawbacons in the hall in which the picture was suspended. There he stood, with his bright auburn hair (now rather badger-pied, perhaps, but still very passable by candlelight)-his bright auburn hair, we say, swept boldly off his lofty forehead, his hazy grey eyes flashing with the excitement of drink and animation, his left hand reposing on the hip of his well-fitting black pantaloons, while the right one, radiant with rings, and trimmed with upturned wristband, sawed the air, as he rounded off the periods of the well-accustomed saws.

Jawleyford, like a good many people, was very hospitable when in full fig-two soups, two fishes, and the necessary concomitants; but he would see any one far enough before he would give him a dinner merely because he wanted one. That sort of ostentatious banqueting has about brought country society in general to a deadlock. People tire of the constant revision of plate, linen, and china.

Mrs. Jawleyford, on the other hand, was a very rough-and-ready sort of woman, never put out of her way; and though she constantly preached the old doctrine that girls 'are much better single than married,' she was always on the look-out for opportunities of contradicting her assertions.

She was an Irish lady, with a pedigree almost as long as Jawleyford's, but more compressible pride, and if she couldn't get a duke, she would take a marquis or an earl, or even put up with a rich commoner.

The perusal, therefore, of Sponge's letter, operated differently upon her to what it did upon her husband, and though she would have liked a little more time, perhaps, she did not care to take him as they were. Jawleyford, however, resisted violently. It would be most particularly inconvenient to him to receive company at that time. If Mr. Sponge had gone through the whole three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, he could not have hit upon a more inconvenient one for him. Besides, he had no idea of people writing in that sort of a way, saying they were coming, without giving him the chance of saying no. 'Well, but, my dear, I dare say you asked him,' observed Mrs. Jawleyford.

Jawleyford was silent, the scene in the billiard-room recurring to his mind.

'I've often told you, my dear,' continued Mrs. Jawleyford, kindly, 'that you shouldn't be so free with your invitations if you don't want people to come; things are very different now to what they were in the old coaching and posting days, when it took a day and a night and half the next day to get here, and I don't know how much money besides. You might then invite people with safety, but it is very different now, when they have nothing to do but put themselves into the express train and whisk down in a few hours.'

'Well, but, confound him, I didn't ask his horses,' exclaimed Jawleyford; 'nor will I have them either,' continued he, with a jerk of the head, as he got up and rang the bell, as though determined to put a stop to that at all events.

'Samuel,' said he, to the dirty page of a boy who answered the summons, 'tell John Watson to go down to the Railway Tavern directly, and desire them to get a three-stalled stable ready for a gentleman's horses that are coming to-day-a gentleman of the name of Sponge,' added he, lest any one else should chance to come and usurp them-'and tell John to meet the express train, and tell the gentleman's groom where it is.'

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