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Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 12385

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

We must now back the train a little, and have a look at Jog and Co.

Mr. and Mrs. Jog had had another squabble after Mr. Sponge's departure in the morning, Mr. Jog reproving Mrs. Jog for the interest she seemed to take in Mr. Sponge, as shown by her going to the door to see him amble away on the piebald hack. Mrs. Jog justified herself on the score of Gustavus James, with whom she was quite sure Mr. Sponge was much struck, and to whom, she made no doubt, he would leave his ample fortune. Jog, on the other hand, wheezed and puffed into his frill, and reasserted that Mr. Sponge was as likely to live as Gustavus James, and to marry and to have a bushel of children of his own; while Mrs. Jog rejoined that he was 'sure to break his neck'-breaking their necks being, as she conceived, the inevitable end of fox-hunters. Jog, who had not prosecuted the sport of hunting long enough to be able to gainsay her assertion, though he took especial care to defer the operation of breaking his own neck as long as he could, fell back upon the expense and inconvenience of keeping Mr. Sponge and his three horses, and his saucy servant, who had taught their domestics to turn up their noses at his diet table; above all, at his stick-jaw and undeniable small-beer. So they went fighting and squabbling on, till at last the scene ended, as usual, by Mrs. Jogglebury bursting into tears, and declaring that Jog didn't care a farthing either for her or her children. Jog then bundled off, to try and fashion a most incorrigible-looking, knotty blackthorn into a head of Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst. He afterwards took a turn at a hazel that he thought would make a Joe Hume. Having occupied himself with these till the children's dinner-hour, he took a wandering, snatching sort of meal, and then put on his paletot, with a little hatchet in the pocket, and went off in search of the raw material in his own and the neighbouring hedges.

Evening came, and with it came Jog, laden, as usual, with an armful of gibbeys, but the shades of night followed evening ere there was any tidings of the sporting inmates of his house. At length, just as Jog was taking his last stroll prior to going in for good, he espied a pair of vacillating white breeches coming up the avenue with a clearly drunken man inside them. Jog stood straining his eyes watching their movements, wondering whether they would keep the saddle or come off-whenever the breeches seemed irrevocably gone, they invariably recovered themselves with a jerk or a lurch-Jog now saw it was Leather on the piebald, and though he had no fancy for the man, he stood to let him come up, thinking to hear something of Sponge. Leather in due time saw the great looming outline of our friend and came staring and shaking his head, endeavouring to identify it. He thought at first it was the Squire-next he thought it wasn't-then he was sure it wasn't.

'Oh! it's you, old boy, is it?' at last exclaimed he, pulling up beside the large holly against which our friend had placed himself, 'It's you, old boy, is it?' repeated he, extending his right hand and nearly overbalancing himself, adding as he recovered his equilibrium, 'I thought it was the old Woolpack at first,' nodding his head towards the house. 'Well,' spluttered he, pulling up, and sitting, as he thought, quite straight in the saddle, 'we've had the finest day's sport and the most equitable drink I've enjoyed for many a long day. 'Ord bless us, what a gent that Sir 'Arry is! He's the sort of man that should have money. I'm blowed, if I were queen, but I'd melt all the great blubber-headed fellows like this 'ere Crowdey down, and make one sich man as Sir 'Arry out of the 'ole on 'em. Beer! they don't know wot beer is there! nothin' but the werry strongest hale, instead of the puzzon one gets at this awful mean place, that looks like nothin' but the weshin' o' brewers' haprons. Oh! I 'umbly begs pardon,' exclaimed he, dropping from his horse on to his knees on discovering that he was addressing Mr. Crowdey-'I thought it was Robins, the mole-ketcher.'

'Thought it was Robins, the mole-catcher,' growled Jog; 'what have you to do with (puff) Robins, the (wheeze) mole-catcher?'

Jog boiled over with indignation. At first he thought of kicking Leather, a feat that his suppliant position made extremely convenient, if not tempting. Prudence, however, suggested that Leather might have him up for the assault. So he stood puffing and wheezing and eyeing the blear-eyed, brandy-nosed old drunkard with, as he thought, a withering look of contempt; and then, though the man was drunk and the night was dark, he waddled off, leaving Mr. Leather on his once white breeches' knees. If Jog had had reasonable time, say an hour or an hour and twenty minutes, to improvise it in, he would have said something uncommonly sharp; as it was he left him with the pertinent inquiry we have recorded-'What have you to do with Robins, the mole-catcher?' We need hardly say that this little incident did not at all ingratiate Mr. Sponge with his host, who re-entered his house in a worse humour than ever. It was insulting a gentleman on his own ter-ri-tory-bearding an Englishman in his own castle. 'Not to be borne (puff),' said Jog.

It was now nearly five o'clock, Jog's dinner hour, and still no Mr. Sponge. Mrs. Jog proposed waiting half an hour, indeed, she had told Susan, the cook, to keep the dinner back a little, to give Mr. Sponge a chance, who could not possibly change his tight hunting things for his evening tights in the short space of time that Jog could drop off his loose-flowing garments, wash his hands, and run the comb through his lank, candle-like hair.

Five o'clock struck, and Jog was just applying his hand to the fat red-and-black worsted bell-pull, when Mrs. Jog announced what she had done.

'Put off the dinner (wheeze)! put off the dinner (puff)!' repeated he, blowing furiously into his clean shirt-frill, which stuck up under his nose like a hand-saw; 'put off the dinner (wheeze)! put off the dinner (puff), I wish you wouldn't do such (wheeze) things without consulting (gasp) me.'

'Well, but, my dear, you couldn't possibly sit down w

ithout him,' observed Mrs. Jog mildly.

'Possibly! (puff), possibly! (wheeze),' repeated Jog. 'There's no possibly in the matter,' retorted he, blowing more furiously into the frill.

Mrs. Jog was silent.

'A man should conform to the (puff) hours of the (wheeze) house,' observed Jog, after a pause.

'Well, but, my dear, you know hunters are always allowed a little law,' observed Mrs. Jog.

'Law! (puff), law! (wheeze),' retorted Jog. 'I never want any law,' thinking of Smiler v. Jogglebury.

Half-past five o'clock came, and still no Sponge; and Mrs. Jog, thinking it would be better to arrange to have something hot for him when he came, than to do further battle with her husband, gave the bell the double ring indicative of 'bring dinner.'

'Nay (puff), nay (wheeze); when you have (gasp)ed so long,' growled Jog, taking the other tack, 'you might as well have (wheez)ed a little longer'-snorting into his frill as he spoke.

Mrs. Jogglebury said nothing, but slipped quietly out, as if after her keys, to tell Susan to keep so-and-so in the meat-screen, and have a few potatoes ready to boil against Mr. Sponge arrived. She then sidled back quietly into the room. Jog and she presently proceeded to that all-important meal. Jog blowing out the company candles on the side-table as he passed.

Jog munched away with a capital appetite; but Mrs. Jog, who took the bulk of her lading in at the children's dinner, sat trifling with the contents of her plate, listening alternately for the sound of horses' hoofs outside, and for nursery squalls in.

Dinner passed over, and the fruity port and sugary sherry soon usurped the places that stick-jaw pudding and cheese had occupied.

'Mr. (puff) Sponge must be (wheeze), I think,' observed Jog, hauling his great silver watch out, like a bucket, from his fob, on seeing that it only wanted ten minutes to seven.

'Oh, Jog!' exclaimed Mrs. Jog, clasping her beautiful hands, and casting her bright beady eyes up to the low ceiling.

'Oh, Jog! What's the matter now? (puff-wheeze-gasp),' exclaimed our friend, reddening up, and fixing his stupid eyes intently on his wife.

'Oh, nothing,' replied Mrs. Jog, unclasping her hands, and bringing down her eyes.

'Oh, nothin'!' retorted Jog. 'Nothin'!' repeated he. 'Ladies don't get into such tantrums for nothin'.'

'Well, then, Jog, I was thinking if anything should have ha-ha-happened Mr. Sponge, how Gustavus Ja-Ja-James will have lost his chance.' And thereupon she dived for her lace-fringed pocket-handkerchief, and hurried out of the room.

But Mrs. Jog had said quite enough to make the caldron of Jog's jealousy boil over, and he sat staring into the fire, imagining all sorts of horrible devices in the coals and cinders, and conjuring up all sorts of evils, until he felt himself possessed of a hundred and twenty thousand devils.

'I'll get shot of this chap at last,' said he, with a knowing jerk of his head and a puff into his frill, as he drew his thick legs under his chair, and made a semi-circle to get at the bottle. 'I'll get shot of this chap,' repeated he, pouring himself out a bumper of the syrupy port, and eyeing it at the composite candle. He drained off the glass, and immediately filled another. That, too, went down; then he took another, and another, and another; and seeing the bottle get low, he thought he might as well finish it. He felt better after it. Not that he was a bit more reconciled to our friend Mr. Sponge, but he felt more equal to cope with him-he even felt as if he could fight him. There did not, however, seem to be much likelihood of his having to perform that ceremony, for nine o'clock struck and no Mr. Sponge, and at half-past Mr. Crowdey stumped off to bed.

Mrs. Crowdey, having given Bartholomew and Susan a dirty pack of cards to play with to keep them awake till Mr. Sponge arrived, went to bed, too, and the house was presently tranquil.

It, however, happened that that amazing prodigy, Gustavus James, having been out on a sort of eleemosynary excursion among the neighbouring farmers and people, exhibiting as well his fine blue-feathered hat, as his astonishing proficiency in 'Bah! bah! black sheep,' and 'Obin and Ichard,' getting seed-cake from one, sponge cake from another, and toffy from a third, was troubled with a very bad stomach-ache during the night, of which he soon made the house sensible by his screams and his cries. Jog and his wife were presently at him; and, as Jog sat in his white cotton nightcap and flowing flannel dressing-gown in an easy chair in the nursery, he heard the crack of the whip, and the prolonged yeea-yu-u-p of Mr. Sponge's arrival. Presently the trampling of a horse was heard passing round to the stable. The clock then struck one.


'Pretty hour for a man to come home to a strange house!' observed Mr. Jog, for the nurse, or Murry Ann, or Mrs. Jog, or any one that liked, to take up.

Mrs. Jog was busy with the rhubarb and magnesia, and the others said nothing. After the lapse of a few minutes, the clank, clank, clank of Mr. Sponge's spurs was heard as he passed round to the front, and Mr. Jog stole out on to the landing to hear how he would get in.

Thump! thump! thump! went Mr. Sponge at the door; rap-tap-tap he went at it with his whip.

'Comin', sir! comin'!' exclaimed Bartholomew from the inside.

Presently the shooting of bolts, the withdrawal of bands, and the opening of doors, were heard.

'Not gone to bed yet, old boy?' said Mr. Sponge, as he entered.

'No, thir!' snuffled the boy, who had a bad cold, 'been thitten up for you.'

'Old puff-and-blow gone?' asked Mr. Sponge, depositing his hat and whip on a chair.

The boy gave no answer.

'Is old bellows-to-mend gone to bed?' asked Mr. Sponge in a louder voice.

'The charman's gone,' replied the boy, who looked upon his master-the chairman of the Stir-it-stiff Union-as the impersonification of all earthly greatness.

'Dash your impittance,' growled Jog, slinking back into the nursery; 'I'll pay you off! (puff),' added he, with a jerk of his white night-capped head, 'I'll bellows-to-mend you! (wheeze).'

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