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Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 8574

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


ir Harry Scattercash's were only an ill-supported pack of hounds; they were not kept upon any fixed principles. We do not mean to say that they had not plenty to eat, but their management was only of the scrimmaging order. Sir Harry was what is technically called 'going it.' Like our noble friend, Lord Hard-up, now Earl of Scamperdale, he had worked through the morning of life without knowing what it was to be troubled with money; but, unlike his lordship, now that he had unexpectedly come into some, he seemed bent upon trying how fast he could get through it. In this laudable endeavour he was ably assisted by Lady Scattercash, late the lovely and elegant Miss Spangles, of the 'Theatre Royal, Sadler's Wells.' Sir Harry had married her before his windfall made him a baronet, having, at the time, some intention of trying his luck on the stage, but he always declared that he never regretted his choice; on the contrary, he said, if he had gone among the 'duchesses,' he could not have suited himself better. Lady Scattercash could ride-indeed, she used to do scenes in the circle (two horses and a flag)-and she could drive, and smoke, and sing, and was possessed of many other accomplishments. Sir Harry would sometimes drink straight on end for a week, and then not taste wine again for a month; sometimes the hounds hunted, and sometimes they did not; sometimes they were advertized, and sometimes they were not; sometimes they went out on one day, and sometimes on another; sometimes they were fixed to be at such a place, and went to quite a different one. When Sir Harry was on a drinking-bout they were shut up altogether; and the huntsman, Tom Watchorn, late of the 'Camberwell and Balham Hill Union Harriers,' an early acquaintance of Miss Spangles-indeed, some said he was her uncle-used to go away on a drinking excursion too. Altogether, they were what the country people called a very 'promiscuous set.' The hounds were of all sorts and sizes; the horses of no particular stamp; and the men scamps and vagabonds of the first class.

With such a master and such an establishment, we need hardly say that no stranger ever came into the country for the purpose of hunting. Sir Harry's fields were entirely composed of his own choice 'set,' and a few farmers, and people whom he could abuse and do what he liked with. Mr. Jogglebury Crowdey, to be sure, had mentioned Sir Harry approvingly, when he went to Mr. Puffington's, to inveigle Mr. Sponge over to Puddingpote Bower; but what might suit Mr. Jogglebury, who went out to seek gibbey sticks, might not suit a person who went out for the purpose of hunting a fox in order to show off and sell his horses. In fact, Puddingpote Bower was an exceedingly bad hunting quarter, as things turned out. Sir Harry Scattercash, having had the run described in our two preceding chapters, and having just imported a few of the 'sock-and-buskin' sort from town, was not likely to be going out again for a time; while Mr. Puffington, finding where Mr. Sponge had taken refuge, determined not to meet within reach of Puddingpote Bower, if he could possibly help it; and Lord Scamperdale was almost always beyond distance, unless horse and rider lay out over-night-a proceeding always deprecated by prudent sportsmen. Mr. Sponge, therefore, got more of Mr. Jogglebury Crowdey's company than he wanted, and Mr. Crowdey got more of Mr. Sponge's than he desired. In vain Jog took him up into his attics and his closets, and his various holes and corners, and showed him his enormous stock of sticks-some tied in sheaves, like corn; some put up more sparingly; and others, again, wrapped in silver paper, with their valuable heads enveloped in old gloves. Jog would untie the strings of these, and placing the heads in the most favourable position before our friend, just as an artist would a portrait, question him as to whom he thought they were.

'There, now (puff),' said he, holding up one that he thought there could be no mistake about; 'who do you (wheeze) that is?'

'Deaf Burke,' replied Mr. Sponge, after a stare.

'Deaf Burke! (puff),' replied Jog indignantly.

'Who is it, then?' asked Mr. Sponge.

'Can't you see? (wheeze),' replied Jog tartly.

'No,' replied Sponge, after another exam

ination. 'It's not Scroggins, is it?'

'Napoleon (puff) Bonaparte,' replied Jog, with great dignity, returning the head to the glove.

He showed several others, with little better success, Mr. Sponge seeming rather to take a pleasure in finding ridiculous likenesses, instead of helping his host out in his conceits. The stick-mania was a failure, as far as Mr. Sponge was concerned. Neither were the peregrinations about the farms, or ter-ri-to-ry, as Jog called his estate, more successful; a man's estate, like his children, being seldom of much interest to any but himself.

Jog and Sponge were soon most heartily sick of each other. Nor did Mrs. Jog's charms, nor the voluble enunciation of 'Obin and Ichard,' followed by 'Bah, bah, black sheep,' &c., from that wonderful boy, Gustavus James, mend matters; for the young rogue having been in Mr. Sponge's room while Murry Ann was doing it out, had torn the back off Sponge's Mogg, and made such a mess of his tooth-brush, by cleaning his shoes with it, as never was seen.

Mr. Sponge soon began to think it was not worth while staying at Puddingpote Bower for the mere sake of his keep, seeing there was no hunting to be had from it, and it did not do to keep hack hunters idle, especially in open weather. Leather and he, for once, were of the same opinion, and that worthy shook his head, and said Mr. Crowdey was 'awful mean,' at the same time pulling out a sample of bad ship oats, that he had got from a neighbouring ostler, to show the 'stuff' their 'osses' were a eatin' of. The fact was, Jog's beer was nothing like so strong as Mr. Puffington's; added to which, Mr. Crowdey carried the principles of the poor-law union into his own establishment, and dieted his servants upon certain rules. Sunday, roast beef, potatoes, and pudding under the meat; Monday, fried beef, and stick-jaw (as they profanely called a certain pudding); Wednesday, leg of mutton, and so on. The allowance of beer was a pint and a half per diem to Bartholomew, and a pint to each woman; and Mr. Crowdey used to observe from the head of the servants' dinner-table on the arrival of each cargo, 'Now this (puff) beer is to (wheeze) a month, and, if you choose to drink it in a (gasp) day, you'll go without any for the rest of the (wheeze) time'; an intimation that had a very favourable effect upon the tap. Mr. Leather, however, did not like it. 'Puffington's servants,' he said, 'had beer whenever they chose,' and he thought it 'awful mean' restricting the quantity. Mr. Jog, however, was not to be moved. Thus time crawled heavily on.

Mr. and Mrs. Jog had a long confab one night on the expediency of getting rid of Mr. Sponge. Mrs. Jog wanted to keep him on till after the christening; while Jog combated her reasons by representing the improbability of its doing Gustavus James any good having him for a godpapa, seeing Sponge's age, and the probability of his marrying himself. Mrs. Jog, however, was very determined; rather too much so, indeed, for she awakened Jog's jealousy, who lay tossing and tumbling about all through the night.

He was up very early, and as Mrs. Jog was falling into a comfortable nap, she was aroused by his well-known voice hallooing as loud as he could in the middle of the entrance-passage.

'Bartholo-me-e-w!' the last syllable being pronounced or prolonged like a mew of a cat. 'Bartholo-me-e-w!' repeated he, not getting an answer to the first shout.

'Murry Ann!' shouted he, after another pause.

'Murry Ann!' exclaimed he, still louder.

Just then, the iron latch of a door at the top of the house opened, and a female voice exclaimed hurriedly over the banisters:

'Yes, sir! here, sir! comin' sir! comin'!'

'Oh, Murry Ann (puff), that's (wheeze) you, is it?' asked Jog, still speaking at the top of his voice.

'Yes, sir,' replied Mary Ann.

'Oh! then, Murry Ann, I wanted to (puff)-that you'd better get the (puff) breakfast ready early. I think Mr. (gasp)-Sponge will be (wheezing) away to-day.'

'Yes, sir,' replied Mary Ann.

All this was said in such a tone as could not fail to be heard all over the house; certainly into Mr. Sponge's room, which was midway between the speakers.

What prevented Mr. Sponge wheezing away, will appear in the next chapter.

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