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   Chapter 18 THE EVENING'S REFLECTIONS

Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 7287

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


'Well, I think he'll do,' said our friend to himself, as having reached his bedroom, in accordance with modern fashion, he applied a cedar match to the now somewhat better burnt-up fire, for the purpose of lighting a cigar-a cigar! in the state-bedroom of Jawleyford Court. Having divested himself of his smart blue coat and white waistcoat, and arrayed himself in a grey dressing-gown, he adjusted the loose cushions of a recumbent chair, and soused himself into its luxurious depths for a 'think over.'

'He has money,' mused Sponge, between the copious whiffs of the cigar, 'splendid style he lives in, to be sure' (puff), continued he, after another long draw, as he adjusted the ash at the end of the cigar. 'Two men in livery' (puff), 'one out, can't be done for nothing' (puff). 'What a profusion of plate, too!' (whiff)-'declare I never' (puff) 'saw such' (whiff, puff) 'magnificence in the whole course of my' (whiff, puff) 'life.'

The cigar being then well under way, he sucked and puffed and whiffed in an apparently vacant stupor, his legs crossed, and his eyes fixed on a projecting coal between the lower bars, as if intent on watching the alternations of flame and gas; though in reality he was running all the circumstances through his mind, comparing them with his past experience, and speculating on the probable result of the present adventure.

He had seen a good deal of service in the matrimonial wars, and was entitled to as many bars as the most distinguished peninsular veteran. No woman with money, or the reputation of it, ever wanted an offer while he was in the way, for he would accommodate her at the second or third interview: and always pressed for an immediate fulfilment, lest the 'cursed lawyers' should interfere and interrupt their felicity. Somehow or other, the 'cursed lawyers' always had interfered; and as sure as they walked in, Mr. Sponge walked out. He couldn't bear the idea of their coarse, inquisitive inquiries. He was too much of a gentleman!

Love, light as air, at sight of human ties

Spreads his light wings and in a moment flies.

So Mr. Sponge fled, consoling himself with the reflection that there was no harm done, and hoping for 'better luck next time.'

He roved from flower to flower like a butterfly, touching here, alighting there, but always passing away with apparent indifference. He knew if he couldn't square matters at short notice, he would have no better chance with an extension of time; so, if he saw things taking the direction of inquiry he would just laugh the offer off, pretend he was only feeling his way-saw he was not acceptable-sorry for it-and away he would go to somebody else. He looked upon a woman much in the light of a horse; if she didn't suit one man, she would another, and there was no harm in trying. So he puffed and smoked, and smoked and puffed-gliding gradually into wealth and prosperity.

MR. SPONGE AS HE APPEARED IN THE BEST BEDROOM

A second cigar assisted his comprehension considerably-just as a second bottle of wine not only helps men through their difficulties, but shows them the way to unbounded wealth. Many of the bright railway schemes of former days, we make no doubt, were concocted under the inspiring influence of the bottle. Sponge now saw everything as he wished. All the errors of his former days were apparent to him. He saw how indiscreet it was confiding in Miss Trickery's cousin, the major; why the rich widow at Chesterfield had chasséed him; and how he was done out of the beautiful Miss Rainbow, with her beautiful estate, with its lake, its heronry, and its perpetual advowson. Other mishaps he

also considered.

Having disposed of the past, he then turned his attention to the future. Here were two beautiful girls apparently full of money, between whom there wasn't the toss-up of a halfpenny for choice. Most exemplary parents, too, who didn't seem to care a farthing about money.

He then began speculating on what the girls would have. 'Great house-great establishment-great estate, doubtless. Why, confound it,' continued he, casting his heavy eye lazily around, 'here's a room as big as a field in a cramped country! Can't have less than fifty thousand a-piece, I should say, at the least. Jawleyford, to be sure, is young,' thought he; 'may live a long time' (puff). 'If Mrs. J. were to die (Curse-the cigar's burnt my lips'), added he, throwing the remnant into the fire, and rolling out of the chair to prepare for turning into bed.

If any one had told Sponge that there was a rich papa and mamma on the look-out merely for amiable young men to bestow their fair daughters upon, he would have laughed them to scorn, and said, 'Why, you fool, they are only laughing at you'; or 'Don't you see they are playing you off against somebody else?' But our hero, like other men, was blind where he himself was concerned, and concluded that he was the exception to the general rule.

Mr. and Mrs. Jawleyford had their consultation too.

'Well,' said Mr. Jawleyford, seating himself on the high wire fender immediately below a marble bust of himself on the mantelpiece; 'I think he'll do.'

'Oh, no doubt,' replied Mrs. Jawleyford, who never saw any difficulty in the way of a match; 'I should say he is a very nice young man,' continued she.

'Rather brusque in his manner, perhaps,' observed Jawleyford, who was quite the 'lady' himself. 'I wonder what he was?' added he, fingering away at his whiskers.

'He's rich, I've no doubt,' replied Mrs. Jawleyford.

'What makes you think so?' asked her loving spouse.

'I don't know,' replied Mrs. Jawleyford; 'somehow I feel certain he is-but I can't tell why-all fox-hunters are.'

'I don't know that,' replied Jawleyford, who knew some very poor ones. 'I should like to know what he has,' continued Jawleyford musingly, looking up at the deeply corniced ceiling as if he were calculating the chances among the filagree ornaments of the centre.

'A hundred thousand, perhaps,' suggested Mrs. Jawleyford, who only knew two sums-fifty and a hundred thousand.

'That's a vast of money,' replied Jawleyford, with a slight shake of the head.

'Fifty at least, then,' suggested Mrs. Jawleyford, coming down half-way at once.

'Well, if he has that, he'll do,' rejoined Jawleyford, who also had come down considerably in his expectations since the vision of his railway days, at whose bright light he had burnt his fingers.

'He was said to have an immense fortune-I forget how much-at Laverick Wells,' observed Mrs. Jawleyford.

'Well, we'll see,' said Jawleyford, adding, 'I suppose either of the girls will be glad enough to take him?'

'Trust them for that,' replied Mrs. Jawleyford, with a knowing smile and nod of the head: 'trust them for that,' repeated she. 'Though Amelia does turn up her nose and pretend to be fine, rely upon it she only wants to be sure that he's worth having.'

'Emily seems ready enough, at all events,' observed Jawleyford.

'She'll never get the chance,' observed Mrs. Jawleyford. 'Amelia is a very prudent girl, and won't commit herself, but she knows how to manage the men.'

'Well, then,' said Jawleyford, with a hearty yawn, 'I suppose we may as well go to bed.'

So saying, he took his candle and retired.

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