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Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 11029

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

There is nothing more indicative of real fine people than the easy indifferent sort of way they take leave of their friends. They never seem to care a farthing for parting.

Our friend Jawleyford was quite a man of fashion in this respect. He saw Sponge's preparations for departure with an unconcerned air, and a-'sorry you're going,' was all that accompanied an imitation shake, or rather touch of the hand, on leaving. There was no 'I hope we shall see you again soon,' or 'Pray look in if you are passing our way,' or 'Now that you've found your way here we hope you'll not be long in being back,' or any of those blarneyments that fools take for earnest and wise men for nothing. Jawleyford had been bit once, and he was not going to give Mr. Sponge a second chance. Amelia too, we are sorry to say, did not seem particularly distressed, though she gave him just as much of a sweet look as he squeezed her hand, as said, 'Now, if you should be a man of money, and my Lord Scamperdale does not make me my lady, you may,' &c.

There is an old saying, that it is well to be 'off with the old love before one is on with the new,' and Amelia thought it was well to be on with the new love before she was off with the old. Sponge, therefore, was to be in abeyance.

We mentioned the delight infused into Jawleyford Court by the receipt of Lord Scamperdale's letter, volunteering a visit, nor was his lordship less gratified at hearing in reply that Mr. Sponge was on the eve of departure, leaving the coast clear for his reception. His lordship was not only delighted at getting rid of his horror, but at proving the superiority of his judgement over that of Jack, who had always stoutly maintained that the only way to get rid of Mr. Sponge was by buying his horses.

'Well, that's good,' said his lordship, as he read the letter; 'that's good,' repeated he, with a hearty slap of his thigh. 'Jaw's not such a bad chap after all; worse chaps in the world than Jaw.' And his lordship worked away at the point till he very nearly got him up to be a good chap.

They say it never rains but it pours, and letters seldom come singly; at least, if they do they are quickly followed by others.

As Jack and his lordship were discussing their gin, after a repast of cow-heel and batter-pudding, Baggs entered with the old brown weather-bleached letter-bag, containing a county paper, the second-hand copy of Bell's Life, that his lordship and Frostyface took in between them, and a very natty 'thick cream-laid' paper note.

'That must be from a woman,' observed Jack, squinting ardently at the writing, as his lordship inspected the fine seal.

'Not far wrong,' replied his lordship. 'From a bitch of a fellow, at all events,' said he, reading the words 'Hanby House' in the wax.

'What can old Puffey be wanting now?' inquired Jack.

'Some bother about hounds, most likely,' replied his lordship, breaking the seal, adding, 'the thing's always amusing itself with playing at sportsman. Hang his impudence!' exclaimed his lordship, as he opened the note.

'What's happened now?' asked Jack.

'How d'ye think he begins?' asked his lordship, looking at his friend.

'Can't tell, I'm sure,' said Jack, squinting his eyes inside out.

'Dear Scamp!' exclaimed his lordship, throwing out his arms.

'Dear Scamp!' repeated Jack in astonishment. 'It must be a mistake. It must be dear Frost, not dear Scamp.'

'Dear Scamp is the word,' replied his lordship, again applying himself to the letter. 'Dear Scamp,' repeated he, with a snort, adding, 'the impudent button-maker! I'll dear Scamp him! "Dear Scamp, our friend Sponge!" Bo-o-y the powers, just fancy that! 'exclaimed his lordship, throwing himself back in his chair, as if thoroughly overcome with disgust. 'Our friend Sponge! the man who nearly knocked me into the middle of the week after next-the man who, first and last, has broken every bone in my skin-the man who I hate the sight of, and detest afresh every time I see-the 'bomination of all 'bominations; and then to call him our friend Sponge! "Our friend Sponge,"' continued his lordship, reading, '"is coming on a visit of inspection to my hounds, and I should be glad if you would meet him."'

'Shouldn't wonder!' exclaimed Jack.

'Meet him!' snapped his lordship; 'I'd go ten miles to avoid him.'

'"Glad if you would meet him,"' repeated his lordship, returning to the letter, and reading as follows: '"If you bring a couple of nags or so we can put them up, and you may get a wrinkle or two from Bragg." A wrinkle or two from Bragg! 'exclaimed his lordship, dropping the letter and rolling in his chair with laughter. 'A wrinkle or two from Bragg!-he-he-he-he! The idea of a wrinkle or two from Bragg!-haw-haw-haw-haw!

'That beats cockfightin',' observed Jack, squinting frightfully.

'Doesn't it?' replied his lordship. 'The man who's so brimful of science that he doesn't kill above three brace of foxes in a season.'

'Which Puff calls thirty,' observed Jack.

'Th-i-r-ty!' exclaimed his lordship, adding, 'I'll lay he'll not kill thirty in ten years.'

His lordship then picked the letter from the floor, and resumed where he had left off.

'"I expect you will meet Tom Washball, Lumpleg, and Charley Slapp."'

'A very pretty party,' observed Jack, adding, 'Wouldn't be seen goin' to a bull-bait with any on 'em.'

'Nor I,' replied his lordship.

'Birds of a feather,' observed Jack.

'Just so,' said his lordship, resuming his reading.


think I have a hound that may be useful to you-" The devil you have!' exclaimed his lordship, grinding his teeth with disgust. 'Useful to me, you confounded haberdasher!-you hav'n't a hound in your pack that I'd take. "I think I have a hound that may be useful to you-"' repeated his lordship.

'A Beaufort Justice one, for a guinea!' interrupted Jack, adding, 'He got the name into his head at Oxford, and has been harping upon it ever since.'

'"I think I have a hound that may be useful to you-"' resumed his lordship, for the third time. '"It is Old Merriman, a remarkably stout, true line hunting hound; but who is getting slow for me-" Slow for you, you beggar!' exclaimed his lordship; 'I should have thought nothin' short of a wooden 'un would have been too slow for you. "He's a six-season hunter, and is by Fitzwilliam's Singwell out of his Darling. Singwell was by the Rutland Rallywood out of Tavistock's Rhapsody. Rallywood was by Old Lonsdale's-" Old Lonsdale's!-the snob!' sneered Lord Scamperdale-'"Old Lonsdale's Palafox, out of Anson's-" Anson's!-curse the fellow,' again muttered his lordship-'"out of Anson's Madrigal. Darling was by old Grafton's Bolivar, out of Blowzy. Bolivar was by the Brocklesby; that's Yarborough's-" That's Yarborough's!' sneered his lordship, 'as if one didn't know that as well as him-"by the Brocklesby; that's Yarborough's Marmion out of Petre's Matchless; and Marmion was by that undeniable hound, the-" the-what?' asked his lordship.

'Beaufort Justice, to be sure!' replied Jack.

'"The Beaufort Justice!"' read his lordship, with due emphasis.

'Hurrah!' exclaimed Jack, waving the dirty, egg-stained, mustardy copy of Bell's Life over his head. 'Hurrah! I told you so.'

'But hark to Justice!' exclaimed his lordship, resuming his reading. '"I've always been a great admirer of the Beaufort Justice blood-"'

'No doubt,' said Jack; 'it's the only blood you know.'

'"It was in great repute in the Badminton country in old Beaufort's time, with whom I hunted a great deal many years ago, I'm sorry to say. The late Mr. Warde, who, of course, was very justly partial to his own sort, had never any objection to breeding from this Beaufort Justice. He was of Lord Egremont's blood, by the New Forest Justice; Justice by Mr. Gilbert's Jasper; and Jasper bred by Egremont-" Oh, the hosier!' exclaimed his lordship; 'he'll be the death of me.'

'Is that all?' asked Jack, as his lordship seemed lost in meditation.

'All?-no!' replied he, starting up, adding, 'here's something about you.'

'Me!' exclaimed Jack.

'"If Mr. Spraggon is with you, and you like to bring him, I can manage to put him up too,"' read his lordship. 'What think you of that?' asked his lordship, turning to our friend, who was now squinting his eyes inside out with anger.

'Think of it!' retorted Jack, kicking out his legs-'think of it!-why, I think he's a dim'd impittant feller, as Bragg would say.'

'So he is,' replied his lordship; 'treating my friend Jack so.'

'I've a good mind to go,' observed Jack, after a pause, thinking he might punish Puff, and try to do a little business with Sponge. 'I've a good mind to go,' repeated he; 'just by way of paying Master Puff off. He's a consequential jackass, and wants taking down a peg or two.'

'I think you may as well go and do it,' replied his lordship, after thinking the matter over; 'I think you may as well go and do it. Not that he'll be good to take the conceit out of, but you may vex him a bit; and also learn something of the movements of his friend Sponge. If he sarves Puff out as he's sarved me,' continued his lordship, rubbing his ribs with his elbows, 'he'll very soon have enough of him.'

'Well,' said Jack, 'I really think it will be worth doing. I've never been at the beggar's shop, and they say he lives well.'

'Well, aye!' exclaimed his lordship; 'fat o' the land-dare say that man has fish and soup every day.'

'And wax-candles to read by, most likely,' observed Jack, squinting at the dim mutton-fats that Baggs now brought in.

'Not so grand as that,' observed his lordship, doubting whether any man could be guilty of such extravagance; 'composites, p'raps.'

It being decided that Jack should answer Mr. Puffington's invitation as well and saucily as he could, and a sheet of very inferior paper being at length discovered in the sideboard drawer, our friends forthwith proceeded to concoct it. Jack having at length got all square, and the black-ink lines introduced below, dipped his pen in the little stone ink-bottle, and, squinting up at his lordship, said:

'How shall I begin?'

'Begin?' replied he. 'Begin-oh, let's see-begin-begin, "Dear Puff," to be sure.'

'That'll do,' said Jack, writing away.

('Dear Puff!' sneered our friend, when he read it; 'the idea of a fellow like that writing to a man of my p-r-o-r-perty that way.')

'Say "Scamp,"' continued his lordship, dictating again, '"is engaged, but I'll be with you at feeding-time."'

('Scamp's engaged,' read Puffington, with a contemptuous curl of the lip, ''Scamp's engaged: I like the impudence of a fellow like that calling noblemen nicknames.')

The letter concluded by advising Puffington to stick to the Beaufort Justice blood, for there was nothing in the world like it. And now, having got both our friends booked for visits, we must yield precedence to the nobleman, and accompany him to Jawleyford Court.


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