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   Chapter 22 THE F.H.H. AGAIN

Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 19157

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Gentlemen unaccustomed to public hunting often make queer figures of themselves when they go out. We have seen them in all sorts of odd dresses, half fox-hunters half fishermen, half fox-hunters half sailors, with now and then a good sturdy cross of the farmer.

Mr. Jawleyford was a cross between a military dandy and a squire. The green-and-gold Bumperkin foraging-cap, with the letters 'B.Y.C.' in front, was cocked jauntily on one side of his badger-pyed head, while he played sportively with the patent leather strap-now, toying with it on his lip, now dropping it below his chin, now hitching it up on to the peak. He had a tremendously stiff stock on-so hard that no pressure made it wrinkle, and so high that his pointed gills could hardly peer above it. His coat was a bright green cut-away-made when collars were worn very high and very hollow, and when waists were supposed to be about the middle of a man's back, Jawleyford's back buttons occupying that remarkable position. These, which were of dead gold with a bright rim, represented a hare full stretch for her life, and were the buttons of the old Muggeridge hunt-a hunt that had died many years ago from want of the necessary funds (80l.) to carry it on. The coat, which was single-breasted and velvet-collared, was extremely swallow-tailed, presenting a remarkable contrast to the barge-built, roomy roundabouts of the members of the Flat Hat Hunt; the collar rising behind, in the shape of a Gothic arch, exhibited all the stitchings and threadings incident to that department of the garment.

But if Mr. Jawleyford's coat went to 'hare,' his waistcoat was fox and all 'fox.' On a bright blue ground he sported such an infinity of 'heads,' that there is no saying that he would have been safe in a kennel of unsteady hounds. One thing, to be sure, was in his favour-namely, that they were just as much like cats' heads as foxes'. The coat and waistcoat were old stagers, but his nether man was encased in rhubarb-coloured tweed pantaloons of the newest make-a species of material extremely soft and comfortable to wear, but not so well adapted for roughing it across country. These had a broad brown stripe down the sides, and were shaped out over the foot of his fine French-polished paper boots, the heels of which were decorated with long-necked, ringing spurs. Thus attired, with a little silver-mounted whip which he kept flourishing about, he encountered Mr. Sponge in the entrance-hall, after breakfast. Mr. Sponge, like all men who are 'extremely natty' themselves, men who wouldn't have a button out of place if it was ever so, hardly knew what to think of Jawleyford's costume. It was clear he was no sportsman; and then came the question, whether he was of the privileged few who may do what they like, and who can carry off any kind of absurdity. Whatever uneasiness Sponge felt on that score, Jawleyford, however, was quite at his ease, and swaggered about like an aide-de-camp at a review.

'Well, we should be going, I suppose,' said he, drawing on a pair of half-dirty, lemon-coloured kid gloves, and sabreing the air with his whip.

'Is Lord Scamperdale punctual?' asked Sponge.

'Tol-lol,' replied Jawleyford, 'tol-lol.'

'He'll wait for you, I suppose?' observed Sponge, thinking to try Jawleyford on that infallible criterion of favour.

'Why, if he knew I was coming, I dare say he would,' replied Jawleyford slowly and deliberately, feeling it was now no time for flashing. 'If he knew I was coming I dare say he would,' repeated he; 'indeed, I make no doubt he would: but one doesn't like putting great men out of their way; besides which, it's just as easy to be punctual as otherwise. When I was in the Bumperkin-'

'But your horse is on, isn't it?' interrupted Sponge; 'he'll see your horse there, you know.'

'Horse on, my dear fellow!' exclaimed Jawleyford, 'horse on? No, certainly not. How should I get there myself, if my horse was on?'

'Hack, to be sure,' replied Sponge, striking a light for his cigar.

'Ah, but then I should have no groom to go with me,' observed Jawleyford, adding, 'one must make a certain appearance, you know. But come, my dear Mr. Sponge,' continued he, laying hold of our hero's arm, 'let us get to the door, for that cigar of yours will fumigate the whole house; and Mrs. Jawleyford hates the smell of tobacco.'

Spigot, with his attendants in livery, here put a stop to the confab by hurrying past, drawing the bolts, and throwing back the spacious folding doors, as if royalty or Daniel Lambert himself were 'coming out.'

The noise they made was heard outside; and on reaching the top of the spacious flight of steps, Sponge's piebald in charge of a dirty village lad, and Jawleyford's steeds with a sky-blue groom, were seen scuttling under the portoco, for the owners to mount. The Jawleyford cavalry was none of the best; but Jawleyford was pleased with it, and that is a great thing. Indeed, a thing had only to be Jawleyford's, to make Jawleyford excessively fond of it.

'There!' exclaimed he, as they reached the third step from the bottom. 'There!' repeated he, seizing Sponge by the arm, 'that's what I call shape. You don't see such an animal as that every day,' pointing to a not badly formed, but evidently worn-out, over-knee'd bay, that stood knuckling and trembling for Jawleyford to mount.

'One of the "has beens," I should say,' replied Sponge, puffing a cloud of smoke right past Jawleyford's nose; adding, 'It's a pity but you could get him four new legs.'

'Faith, I don't see that he wants anything of the sort,' retorted Jawleyford, nettled as well at the smoke as the observation.

'Well, where "ignorance is bliss," &c.,' replied Sponge, with another great puff, which nearly blinded Jawleyford. 'Get on, and let's see how he goes,' added he, passing on to the piebald as he spoke.

Mr. Jawleyford then mounted; and having settled himself into a military seat, touched the old screw with the spur, and set off at a canter. The piebald, perhaps mistaking the portico for a booth, and thinking it was a good place to exhibit it, proceeded to die in the most approved form; and not all Sponge's 'Come-up's' or kicks could induce him to rise before he had gone through the whole ceremony. At length, with a mane full of gravel, a side well smeared, and a 'Wilkinson & Kidd' sadly scratched, the ci-devant actor arose, much to the relief of the village lad, who having indulged in a gallop as he brought him from Lucksford, expected his death would be laid at his door. No sooner was he up, than, without waiting for him to shake himself, Mr. Soapey vaulted into the saddle, and seizing him by the head, let in the Latchfords in a style that satisfied the hack he was not going to canter in a circle. Away he went, best pace; for like all Mr. Sponge's horses, he had the knack of going, the general difficulty being to get them to go the way they were wanted.

Sponge presently overtook Mr. Jawleyford, who had been brought up by a gate, which he was making sundry ineffectual Briggs-like passes and efforts to open; the gate and his horse seeming to have combined to prevent his getting through. Though an expert swordsman, he had never been able to accomplish, the art of opening a gate, especially one of those gingerly balanced spring-snecked things that require to be taken at the nick of time, or else they drop just as the horse gets his nose to them.

'Why aren't you here to open the gate?' asked Jawleyford, snappishly, as the blue boy bustled up as his master's efforts became more hopeless at each attempt.

The lad, like a wise fellow, dropped from his horse, and opening it with his hands, ran it back on foot.

Jawleyford and Sponge then rode through.

Canter, canter, canter, went Jawleyford, with an arm akimbo, head well up, legs well down, toes well pointed, as if he were going to a race, where his work would end on arriving, instead of to a fox-hunt, where it would only begin.

JAWLEYFORD GOING TO THE HUNT

'You are rather hard on the old nag, aren't you?' at length asked Sponge, as, having cleared the rushy, swampy park, they came upon the macadamized turnpike, and Jawleyford selected the middle of it as the scene of his further progression.

'Oh no!' replied Jawleyford, tit-tup-ing along with a loose rein, as if he was on the soundest, freshest-legged horse in the world; 'oh no! my horses are used to it.' 'Well, but if you mean to hunt him,' observed Sponge, 'he'll be blown before he gets to cover.'

'Get him in wind, my dear fellow,' replied Jawleyford, 'get him in wind,' touching the horse with the spur as he spoke.

'Faith, but if he was as well on his legs as he is in his wind, he'd not be amiss,' rejoined Sponge.

So they cantered and trotted, and trotted and cantered away, Sponge thinking he could afford pace as well as Jawleyford. Indeed, a horse has only to become a hack, to be able to do double the work he was ever supposed to be capable of.

But to the meet.

Scrambleford Green was a small straggling village on the top of a somewhat high hill, that divided the vale in which Jawleyford Court was situated from the more fertile one of Farthinghoe, in which Lord Scamperdale lived.

It was one of those out-of-the-way places at which the meet of the hounds, and a love feast or fair, consisting of two fiddlers (one for each public-house), a few unlicensed packmen, three or four gingerbread stalls, a drove of cows and some sheep, form the great events of the year among a people who are thoroughly happy a

nd contented with that amount of gaiety. Think of that, you 'used up' young gentlemen of twenty, who have exhausted the pleasures of the world! The hounds did not come to Scrambleford Green often, for it was not a favourite meet; and when they did come, Frosty and the men generally had them pretty much to themselves. This day, however, was the exception; and Old Tom Yarnley, whom age had bent nearly double, and who hobbled along on two sticks, declared that never in the course of his recollection, a period extending over the best part of a century, had he seen such a 'sight of red coats' as mustered that morning at Scrambleford Green. It seemed as if there had been a sudden rising of sportsmen. What brought them all out? What brought Mr. Puffington, the master of the Hanby hounds, out? What brought Blossomnose again? What Mr. Wake, Mr. Fossick, Mr. Fyle, who had all been out the day before? Reader, the news had spread throughout the country that there was a great writer down; and they wanted to see what he would say of them-they had come to sit for their portraits, in fact. There was a great gathering, at least for the Flat Hat Hunt, who seldom mustered above a dozen. Tom Washball came, in a fine new coat and new flat-fliped hat with a broad binding; also Mr. Sparks, of Spark Hall; Major Mark; Mr. Archer, of Cheam Lodge; Mr. Reeves, of Coxwell Green; Mr. Bliss, of Boltonshaw; Mr. Joyce, of Ebstone; Dr. Capon, of Calcot; Mr. Dribble, of Hook; Mr. Slade, of Three-Burrow Hill; and several others. Great was the astonishment of each as the other cast up.

'Why, here's Joe Reeves!' exclaimed Blossomnose. 'Who'd have thought of seeing you?'

'And who'd have thought of seeing you?' rejoined Reeves, shaking hands with the jolly old nose.

'Here's Tom Washball in time for once, I declare!' exclaimed Mr. Fyle, as Mr. Washball cantered up in apple-pie order.

'Wonders will never cease!' observed Fossick, looking Washy over.

So the field sat in a ring about the hounds in the centre of which, as usual, were Jack and Lord Scamperdale, looking with their great tortoise-shell-rimmed spectacles, and short grey whiskers trimmed in a curve up to their noses, like a couple of horned owls in hats.

'Here's the man on the cow!' exclaimed Jack, as he espied Sponge and Jawleyford rising the hill together, easing their horses by standing in their stirrups and holding on by their manes.

'You don't say so!' exclaimed Lord Scamperdale, turning his horse in the direction Jack was looking, and staring for hard life too. 'So there is, I declare!' observed he.' And who the deuce is this with him?'

'That ass Jawleyford, as I live!' exclaimed Jack, as the blue-coated servant now hove in sight.

'So it is!' said Lord Scamperdale; 'the confounded humbug!'

'This boy'll be after one of the young ladies,' observed Jack; 'not one of the writing chaps we thought he was.'

'Shouldn't wonder,' replied Lord Scamperdale; adding, in an undertone, 'I vote we have a rise out of old Jaw. I'll let you in for a good thing-you shall dine with him.'

'Not I,' replied Jack.

'You shall, though,' replied his lordship firmly.

'Pray don't!' entreated Jack.

'By the powers, if you don't,' rejoined his lordship, 'you shall not have a mount out of me for a month.'

While this conversation was going on, Jawleyford and Sponge, having risen the hill, had resumed their seats in the saddle, and Jawleyford, setting himself in attitude, tickled his horse with his spur, and proceeded to canter becomingly up to the pack; Sponge and the groom following a little behind.

'Ah, Jawleyford, my dear fellow!' exclaimed Lord Scamperdale, putting his horse on a few steps to meet him as he came flourishing up. 'Ah, Jawleyford, my dear fellow, I'm delighted to see you,' extending a hand as he spoke. 'Jack, here, told me that he saw your flag flying as he passed, and I said what a pity it was but I'd known before; for Jawleyford, said I, is a real good fellow, one of the best fellows I know, and has asked me to dine so often that I'm almost ashamed to meet him; and it would have been such a nice opportunity to have volunteered a visit, the hounds being here, you see.'

'Oh, that's so kind of your lordship!' exclaimed Jawleyford, quite delighted-'that's so kind of your lordship-that's just what I like!-that's just what Mrs. Jawleyford likes!-that's just what we all like!-coming without fuss or ceremony, just as my friend Mr. Sponge, here, does. By the way, will your lordship give me leave to introduce my friend Mr. Sponge-my Lord Scamperdale.' Jawleyford suiting the action to the word, and man?uvring the ceremony.

'Ah, I made Mr. Sponge's acquaintance yesterday,' observed his lordship drily, giving a sort of servants' touch of his hat as he scrutinized our friend through his formidable glasses, adding, 'To tell you the truth,' addressing himself in an underone to Sponge, 'I took you for one of those nasty writing chaps, who I 'bominate. But,' continued his lordship, returning to Jawleyford. 'I'll tell you what I said about the dinner. Jack, here, told me the flag was flying; and I said I only wished I'd known before, and I would certainly have proposed that Jack and I should dine with you, either to-day or to-morrow; but unfortunately I'd engaged myself to my Lord Barker's not five minutes before.'

'Ah, my lord!' exclaimed Jawleyford, throwing out his hand and shrugging his shoulders as if in despair, 'you tantalize me-you do indeed. You should have come, or said nothing about it. You distress me-you do indeed.'

'Well, I'm wrong, perhaps,' replied his lordship, patting Jawleyford encouragingly on the shoulder; 'but, however, I'll tell you what,' said he, 'Jack here's not engaged, and he shall come to you.'

'Most happy to see Mr.-ha-hum-haw-Jack-that's to say, Mr. Spraggon,' replied Jawleyford, bowing very low, and laying his hand on his heart, as if quite overpowered at the idea of the honour.

'Then, that's a bargain. Jack,' said his lordship, looking knowingly round at his much disconcerted friend; 'you dine and stay all night at Jawleyford Court to-morrow! and mind,' added he, 'make yourself 'greeable to the girls-ladies, that's to say.'

'Couldn't your lordship arrange it so that we might have the pleasure of seeing you both on some future day?' asked Jawleyford, anxious to avert the Jack calamity. 'Say next week,' continued he; 'or suppose you meet at the Court?'

'Ha-he-hum. Meet at the Court,' mumbled his lordship-'meet at the Court-ha-he-ha-hum-no;-got no foxes.'

'Plenty of foxes, I assure you, my lord!' exclaimed Jawleyford. 'Plenty of foxes!' repeated he.

'We never find them, then, somehow,' observed his lordship, drily; 'at least, none but those three-legged beggars in the laurels at the back of the stables.'

'Ah! that will be the fault of the hounds,' replied Jawleyford; 'they don't take sufficient time to draw-run through the covers too quickly.'

'Fault of the hounds be hanged!' exclaimed Jack, who was the champion of the pack generally. 'There's not a more patient, painstaking pack in the world than his lordship's.'

'Ah-well-ah-never mind that,' replied his lordship, 'Jaw and you can settle that point over your wine to-morrow; meanwhile, if your friend Mr. What's-his-name here, 'll get his horse,' continued his lordship, addressing himself to Jawleyford, but looking at Sponge, who was still on the piebald, 'we'll throw off.'

'Thank you, my lord,' replied Sponge; 'but I'll mount at the cover side. Sponge not being inclined to let the Flat Hat Hunt field see the difference of opinion that occasionally existed between the gallant brown and himself.

'As you please,' rejoined his lordship, 'as you please,' jerking his head at Frostyface, who forthwith gave the office to the hounds; whereupon all was commotion. Away the cavalcade went, and in less than five minutes the late bustling village resumed its wonted quiet; the old man on sticks, two crones gossiping at a door, a rag-or-anything-else-gatherer going about with a donkey, and a parcel of dirty children tumbling about on the green, being all that remained on the scene. All the able-bodied men had followed the hounds. Why the hounds had ever climbed the long hill seemed a mystery, seeing that they returned the way they came.

Jawleyford, though sore disconcerted at having 'Jack' pawned upon him, stuck to my lord, and rode on his right with the air of a general. He felt he was doing his duty as an Englishman in thus patronizing the hounds-encouraging a manly spirit of independence, and promoting our unrivalled breed of horses. The post-boy trot at which hounds travel, to be sure, is not well adapted for dignity; but Jawleyford nourished and vapoured as well as he could under the circumstances, and considering they were going down hill. Lord Scamperdale rode along, laughing in his sleeve at the idea of the pleasant evening Jack and Jawleyford would have together, occasionally complimenting Jawleyford on the cut and condition of his horse, and advising him to be careful of the switching raspers with which the country abounded, and which might be fatal to his nice nutmeg-coloured trousers. The rest of the 'field' followed, the fall of the ground enabling them to see 'how thick Jawleyford was with my lord.' Old Blossomnose, who, we should observe, had slipped away unperceived on Jawleyford's arrival, took a bird's-eye view from the rear. Naughty Blossom was riding the horse that ought to have gone in the 'chay' to Jawleyford Court.

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