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Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 19025

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Mrs. Jogglebury Crowdey was a good deal disconcerted at Gustavus James's irreverence to his intended god-papa, and did her best, both by promises and entreaties, to bring him to a more becoming state of mind. She promised him abundance of good things if he would astonish Mr. Sponge with some of his wonderful stories, and expatiated on Mr. Sponge's goodness in bringing him the nice comfits, though Mrs. Jogglebury could not but in her heart blame them for some little internal inconvenience the wonder had experienced during the night. However, she brought him to breakfast in pretty good form, where he was cocked up in his high chair beside his mamma, the rest of the infantry occupying the position of the previous day, all under good-behaviour orders.

Unfortunately, Mr. Sponge, not having been able to get himself up to his satisfaction, was late in coming down; and when he did make his appearance, the unusual sight of a man in a red coat, a green tie, a blue vest, brown boots, &c., completely upset their propriety, and deranged the order of the young gentleman's performance. Mr. Sponge, too, conscious that he was late, was more eager for his breakfast than anxious to be astonished; so, what with repressing the demands of the youngster, watching that the others did not break loose, and getting Jog and Mr. Sponge what they wanted, Mrs. Crowdey had her hands full. At last, having got them set a-going, she took a lump of sugar out of the basin, and showing it to the wonder, laid it beside her plate, whispering 'Now, my beauty!' into his ear, as she adjusted him in his chair. The child, who had been wound up like a musical snuff-box, then went off as follows:

'Bah, bah, back sheep, have 'ou any 'ool?

Ess, marry, have I, three bags full;

Un for ye master, un for ye dame,

Un for ye 'ittle boy 'ot 'uns about ye 'are.'

But unfortunately, Mr. Sponge was busy with his breakfast, and the prodigy wasted his sweetness on the desert air.

Mrs. Jogglebury, who had sat listening in ecstasies, saw the offended eye and pouting lip of the boy, and attempted to make up with exclamations of 'That is a clever fellow! That is a wonder!' at the same time showing him the sugar.

'A little more (puff) tea, my (wheeze) dear,' said Jogglebury, thrusting his great cup up the table.

'Hush! Jog, hush!' exclaimed Mrs. Crowdey, holding up her forefinger, and looking significantly first at him, and then at the urchin.

'Now, "Obin and Ichard," my darling,' continued she, addressing herself coaxingly to Gustavus James.

'No, not "Obin and Ichard,"' replied the child peevishly.

'Yes, my darling, do, that's a treasure.'

'Well, my (puff) darling, give me some (wheeze) tea,' interposed Jogglebury, knocking with his knuckles on the table.

'Oh dear. Jog, you and your tea!-you're always wanting tea,' replied Mrs. Jogglebury snappishly.

'Well, but, my (puff) dear, you forget that Mr. (wheeze) Sponge and I have to be at (puff) Snobston Green at a (wheeze) quarter to eleven, and it's good twelve (gasp) miles off.'

'Well, but it'll not take you long to get there,' replied Mrs. Jogglebury; 'will it, Mr. Sponge?' continued she, again appealing to our friend.

'Sure I don't know,' replied Sponge, eating away; 'Mr. Crowdey finds conveyance-I only find company.'

Mrs. Jogglebury Crowdey then prepared to pour her husband out another cup of tea, and the musical snuff-box, being now left to itself, went off of its own accord with:

'Diddle, diddle, doubt,

My candle's out.

My 'ittle dame's not at 'ome-

So saddle my hog, and bridle my

And bring my 'ittle dame, 'ome.'

A poem that in the original programme was intended to come in after 'Obin and Ichard,' which was to be the chef-d'?uvre.

Mrs. Jog was delighted, and found herself pouring the tea into the sugar-basin instead of into Jog's cup.

Mr. Sponge, too, applauded. 'Well, that was very clever,' said he, filling his mouth with cold ham.

'"Saddle my dog, and bridle my hog"-I'll trouble you for another cup of tea,' addressing Mrs. Crowdey.

'No, not "saddle my dog," sil-l-e-y man!' drawled the child, making a pet lip: '"saddle my hog."'

'Oh! "saddle my hog," was it?' replied Mr. Sponge, with apparent surprise; 'I thought it was "saddle my dog." I'll trouble you for the sugar, Mrs. Jogglebury'; adding, 'you have devilish good cream here; how many cows have you?'

'Cows (puff), cows (wheeze)?' replied Jogglebury; 'how many cows?' repeated he.

'Oh, two,' replied Mrs. Jogglebury tartly, vexed at the interruption.

'Pardon me (puff),' replied Jogglebury slowly and solemnly, with a full blow into his frill; 'pardon me, Mrs. (puff) Jogglebury (wheeze) Crowdey, but there are three (wheeze).'

'Not in milk. Jog-not in milk,' retorted Mrs. Crowdey.

'Three cows, Mrs. (puff) Jogglebury (wheeze) Crowdey, notwithstanding,' rejoined our host.

'Well; but when people talk of cream, and ask how many cows you have, they mean in milk, Mister Jogglebury Crowdey.'

'Not necessarily. Mistress Jogglebury Crowdey,' replied the pertinacious Jog, with another heavy snort. 'Ah, now you're coming your fine poor-law guardian knowledge,' rejoined his wife. Jog was chairman of the Stir-it-stiff Union.

While this was going on, young hopeful was sitting cocked up in his high chair, evidently mortified at the want of attention.

Mrs. Crowdey saw how things were going, and turning from the cow question, endeavoured to re-engage him in his recitations.

'Now, my angel!' exclaimed she, again showing him the sugar; 'tell us about "Obin and Ichard."'

'No-not "Obin and Ichard,"' pouted the child.

'Oh yes, my sweet, do, that's a good child; the gentleman in the pretty coat, who gives baby the nice things, wants to hear it.'

'Come, out with it, young man!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, now putting a large piece of cold beef into his mouth.

'Not a 'ung man,' muttered the child, bursting out a-crying, and extending his little fat arms to his mamma.

'No, my angel, not a 'ung man yet,' replied Mrs. Jogglebury, taking him out of the chair, and hugging him to her bosom.

'He'll be a man before his mother for all that,' observed Mr. Sponge, nothing disconcerted by the noise.

Jog had now finished his breakfast, and having pocketed three buns and two pieces of toast, with a thick layer of cold ham between them, looked at his great warming-pan of a watch, and said to his guest, 'When you're (wheeze), I'm (puff).' So saying he got up, and gave his great legs one or two convulsive shakes, as if to see that they were on.

Mrs. Jogglebury looked reproachfully at him, as much as to say, 'How can you behave so?'

Mr. Sponge, as he eyed Jog's ill-made, queerly put on garments, wished that he had not desired Leather to go to the meet. It would have been better to have got the horses a little way off, and have shirked Jog, who did not look like a desirable introducer to a hunting field.

'I'll be with you directly,' replied Mr. Sponge, gulping down the remains of his tea; adding, 'I've just got to run upstairs and get a cigar.' So saying, he jumped up and disappeared.

Murry Ann, not approving of Sponge's smoking in his bedroom, had hid the cigar-case under the toilet cover, at the back of the glass, and it was some time before he found it.

Mrs. Jogglebury availed herself of the lapse of time, and his absence, to pacify her young Turk, and try to coax him into reciting the marvellous 'Obin and Ichard.'

As Mr. Sponge came clanking downstairs with the cigar-case in his hand, she met him (accidentally, of course) at the bottom, with the boy in her arms, and exclaimed, 'O Mr. Sponge, here's Gustavus James wants to tell you a little story.'

Mr. Sponge stopped-inwardly hoping that it would not be a long one.

'Now, my darling,' said she, sticking the boy up straight to get him to begin.

'Now, then!' exclaimed Mr. Crowdey, in the true Jehu-like style, from the vehicle at the door, in which he had composed himself.

'Coming, Jog! coming!' replied Mrs. Crowdey, with a frown on her brow at the untimely interruption; then appealing again to the child, who was nestling in his mother's bosom, as if disinclined to show off, she said, 'Now, my darling, let the gentleman hear how nicely you'll say it.'

The child still slunk.

'That's a fine fellow, out with it!' said Mr. Sponge, taking up his hat to be off.

'Now, then!' exclaimed his host again.

'Coming!' replied Mr. Sponge.

As if to thwart him, the child then began, Mrs. Jogglebury holding up her forefinger as well in admiration as to keep silence:

'Obin and Ichard, two pretty men,

Lay in bed till 'e clock struck ten;

Up starts Obin, and looks at the sky-'

And then the brat stopped.

'Very beautiful!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge; 'very beautiful! One of Moore's, isn't it? Thank you, my little dear, thank you,' added he, chucking him under the chin, and putting on his hat to be off.

'O, but stop, Mr. Sponge!' exclaimed Mrs. Jogglebury, 'you haven't heard it all-there's more yet.'

Then turning to the child, she thus attempted to give him the cue.

'O, ho! bother-'

'Now, then! time's hup!' again shouted Jogglebury into the passage.

'O dear, Mr. Jogglebury, will you hold your stoopid tongue!' exclaimed she, adding, 'you certainly are the most tiresome man under the sun.' She then turned to the child with:

'O ho! bother Ichard' again.

But the child was mute, and Mr. Sponge fearing, from some ind

istinct growling that proceeded from the carriage, that a storm was brewing, endeavoured to cut short the entertainment by exclaiming:

'Wonderful two-year-old! Pity he's not in the Darby. Dare say he'll tell me the rest when I come back.'

But this only added fuel to the fire of Mrs. Jogglebury's ardour, and made her more anxious that Sponge should not lose a word of it. Accordingly she gave the fat dumpling another jerk up on her arm, and repeated:

'O ho! bother Ichard, the-What's very high?' asked Mrs. Jogglebury coaxingly.

'Sun's very high,'

replied the child.

'Yes, my darling!' exclaimed the delighted mamma. Mrs. Jogglebury then proceeded with:

'Ou go before-'

Child.-'With bottle and bag,'

Mamma.-'And I'll follow after-'

Child.-'With 'ittle Jack Nag.'

'Well now, that is wonderful!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, hurrying on his dog-skin gloves, and wishing both Obin and Ichard farther.

'Isn't it!' exclaimed Mrs. Jogglebury, in ecstasies; then addressing the child, she said, 'Now that is a good boy-that is a fine fellow. Now couldn't he say it all over by himself, doesn't he think?' Mrs. Jogglebury looking at Sponge, as if she was meditating the richest possible treat for him.

'Oh,' replied Mr. Sponge, quite tired of the detention, 'he'll tell me it when I return-he'll tell me it when I return,' at the same time giving the child another parting chuck under the chin. But the child was not to be put off in that way, and instead of crouching, and nestling, and hiding its face, it looked up quite boldly, and after a little hesitation went through 'Obin and Ichard,' to the delight of Mrs. Jogglebury, the mortification of Sponge, and the growling denunciations of old Jog, who still kept his place in the vehicle. Mr. Sponge could not but stay the poem out.

At last they got started, Jog driving. Sponge occupying the low seat, Jog's flail and Sponge's cane whip-stick stuck in the straps of the apron. Jog was very crusty at first, and did little but whip and flog the old horse, and puff and growl about being late, keeping people waiting, over-driving the horse, and so on.

'Have a cigar?' at last asked Sponge, opening the well-filled case, and tendering that olive branch to his companion.

'Cigar (wheeze), cigar (puff)?' replied Jog, eyeing the case; 'why, no, p'raps not, I think (wheeze), thank'e.'

'Do you never smoke?' asked Sponge.

'(Puff-wheeze) Not often,' replied Jogglebury, looking about him with an air of indifference. He did not like to say no, because Springwheat smoked, though Mrs. Springey highly disapproved of it.

'You'll find them very mild,' observed Sponge, taking one out for himself, and again tendering the case to his friend.

'Mild (wheeze), mild (puff), are they?' said Jog, thinking he would try one.

Mr. Sponge then struck a light, and, getting his own cigar well under way, lit one for his friend, and presented it to him. They then went puffing, and whipping, and smoking in silence. Jog spoke first. 'I'm going to be (puff) sick,' observed he, slowly and solemnly.

'Hope not,' replied Mr. Sponge, with a hearty whiff, up into the air.

'I am going to be (puff) sick,' observed Jog, after another pause.

'Be sick on your own side, then,' replied Sponge, with another hearty whiff.

'By the (puff) powers! I am (puff) sick!' exclaimed Jogglebury, after another pause, and throwing away the cigar. 'Oh, dear!' exclaimed he, 'you shouldn't have given me that nasty (puff) thing.'

'My dear fellow, I didn't know it would make you sick,' replied Mr. Sponge.

'Well, but (puff) if they (wheeze) other people sick, in all (puff) probability they'll (wheeze) me. There!' exclaimed he, pulling up again.

The delays occasioned by these catastrophes, together with the time lost by 'Obin and Ichard,' threw our sportsmen out considerably. When they reached Chalkerley Gate it wanted ten minutes to eleven, and they had still three miles to go.

'We shall be late,' observed Sponge inwardly denouncing 'Obin and Ichard.'

'Shouldn't wonder,' replied Jog, adding, with a puff into his frill, 'consequences of making me sick, you see.'

'My dear fellow, if you don't know your own stomach by this time, you did ought to do,' replied Mr. Sponge.

'I (puff) flatter myself I do (wheeze) my own stomach,' replied Jogglebury tartly.

They then rumbled on for some time in silence.

When they came within sight of Snobston Green, the coast was clear. Not a red coat, or hunting indication of any sort, was to be seen.

'I told you so (puff)!' growled Jog, blowing full into his frill, and pulling up short.

'They be gone to Hackberry Dean,' said an old man, breaking stones by the roadside.

'Hackberry Dean (puff)-Hackberry Dean (wheeze)!' replied Jog thoughtfully; 'then we must (puff) by Tollarton Mill, and through the (wheeze) village to Stewley?' 'Y-e-a-z,' drawled the man.

Jog then drove on a few paces, and turned up a lane to the left, whose finger-post directed the road 'to Tollarton.' He seemed less disconcerted than Sponge, who kept inwardly anathematizing, not only 'Obin and Ichard,' but 'Diddle, diddle, doubt'-'Bah, bah, black sheep'-the whole tribe of nursery ballads, in short.

The fact was, Jog wanted to be into Hackberry Dean, which was full of fine, straight hollies, fit either for gibbeys or whip-sticks, and the hounds being there gave him the entrée. It was for helping himself there, without this excuse, that he had been 'county-courted,' and he did not care to renew his acquaintance with the judge. He now whipped and jagged the old nag, as if intent on catching the hounds. Mr. Sponge liberated his whip from the apron-straps, and lent a hand when Jog began to flag. So they rattled and jingled away at an amended pace. Still it seemed to Mr. Sponge as if they would never get there. Having passed through Tollarton, and cleared the village of Stewley, Mr. Sponge strained his eyes in every direction where there was a bit of wood, in hopes of seeing something of the hounds. Meanwhile Jog was shuffling his little axe from below the cushion of the driving-seat into the pocket of his great-coat. All of a sudden he pulled up, as they were passing a bank of wood (Hackberry Dean), and handing the reins to his companion, said:

'Just lay hold for a minute whilst I (puff) out.'

'What's happened?' asked Sponge. 'Not sick again, are you?'

'No (puff), not exactly (wheeze) sick, but I want to be out all the (puff) same.'

So saying, out he bundled, and, crushing through the fern-grown woodbiney fence, darted into the wood in a way that astonished our hero. Presently the chop, chop, chop of the axe revealed the mystery.

'By the powers, the fool's at his sticks!' exclaimed Sponge, disgusted at the contretemps. 'Mister Jogglebury!' roared he, 'Mister Jogglebury, we shall never catch up the hounds at this rate!'

But Jog was deaf-chop, chop, chop was all the answer Mr. Sponge got.

'Well, hang me if ever I saw such a fellow!' continued Sponge, thinking he would drive on if he only knew the way.

'Chop, chop, chop,' continued the axe.

'Mister Jogglebury! Mister Jogglebury Crowdey a-hooi!' roared Sponge, at the top of his voice.


The axe stopped. 'Anybody comin'?' resounded from the wood.

'You come,' replied Mr. Sponge.

'Presently,' was the answer; and the chop, chop, chopping was resumed.

'The man's mad,' muttered Mr. Sponge, throwing himself back in the seat. At length Jog appeared brushing and tearing his way out of the wood, with two fine hollies under his arm. He was running down with perspiration, and looked anxiously up and down the road as he blundered through the fence to see if there was any one coming.

'I really think (puff) this will make a four-in-hander (wheeze),' exclaimed he, as he advanced towards the carriage, holding a holly so as to show its full length-'not that I (puff, wheeze, gasp) do much in that (puff, wheeze) line, but really it is such a (puff, wheeze) beauty that I couldn't (puff, wheeze, gasp) resist it.'

'Well, but I thought we were going to hunt,' observed Mr. Sponge dryly.

'Hunt (puff)! so we are (wheeze); but there are no hounds (gasp). My good (puff) man,' continued he, addressing a smock-frocked countryman, who now came up, 'have you seen anything of the (wheeze) hounds?'

'E-e-s,' replied the man. 'They be gone to Brookdale Plantin'.'

'Then we'd better (puff) after them,' said Jog, running the stick through the apron-straps, and bundling into the phaeton with the long one in his hand.

Away they rattled and jingled as before.

'How far is it?' asked Mr. Sponge, vexed at the detention.

'Oh (puff), close by (wheeze),' replied Jog.

'Close by,' as most of our sporting readers well know to their cost, is generally anything but close by. Nor was Jog's close by, close by on this occasion.

'There,' said Jog, after they had got crawled up Trampington Hill; 'that's it (puff) to the right, by the (wheeze) water there,' pointing to a plantation about a mile off, with a pond shining at the end.

Just as Mr. Sponge caught view of the water, the twang of a horn was heard, and the hounds came pouring, full cry, out of cover, followed by about twenty variously clad horsemen, and our friend had the satisfaction of seeing them run clean out of sight, over as fine a country as ever was crossed. Worst of all, he thought he saw Leather pounding away on the chestnut.

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