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   Chapter 55 THE TRIGGER

Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 15021

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Jog slept badly again, and arose next morning full of projects for getting rid of his impudent, unceremonious, free-and-easy guest.

Having tried both an up and a downstairs shout, he now went out and planted himself immediately under Mr. Sponge's bedroom window, and, clearing his voice, commenced his usual vociferations.

'Bartholo-m-e-w!' whined he. 'Bartholo-m-e-w!' repeated he, somewhat louder. 'Bar-tholo-m-e-w!' roared he, in a voice of thunder.

Bartholomew did not answer.

'Murry Ann!' exclaimed Jog, after a pause. 'Murry Ann!' repeated he, still louder. 'Murray Ann!' roared he, at the top of his voice.

'Comin', sir! comin'!' exclaimed Mary Ann, peeping down upon him from the garret-window.

'Oh, Murry Ann,' cried Mr. Jog, looking up, and catching the ends of her blue ribbons streaming past the window-frame, as she changed her nightcap for a day one, 'oh, Murry Ann, you'd better be (puff)in' forrard with the (gasp) breakfast; Mr. Sponge'll most likely be (wheeze)in' away to-day.'

'Yes, sir,' replied Mary Ann, adjusting the cap becomingly.

'Confounded, puffing, wheezing, gasping, broken-winded old blockhead it is!' growled Mr. Sponge, wishing he could get to his former earth at Puffington's, or anywhere else. When he got down he found Jog in a very roomy, bright, green-plush shooting-jacket, with pockets innumerable, and a whistle suspended to a button-hole. His nether man was encased in a pair of most dilapidated white moleskins, that had been degraded from hunting into shooting ones, and whose cracks and darns showed the perils to which their wearer had been exposed. Below these were drab, horn-buttoned gaiters, and hob-nailed shoes.

'Going a-gunning, are you?' asked Mr. Sponge, after the morning salutation, which Jog returned most gruffly.

'I'll go with you,' said Mr. Sponge, at once dispelling the delusion of his wheezing away.

'Only going to frighten the (puff) rooks off the (gasp) wheat,' replied Jog carelessly, not wishing to let Sponge see what a numb hand he was with a gun.

'I thought you told me you were going to get me a hare,' observed Mrs. Jog; adding, 'I'm sure shooting is a much more rational amusement than tearing your clothes going after the hounds,' eyeing the much dilapidated moleskins as she spoke.

Mrs. Jog found shooting more useful than hunting.

'Oh, if a (puff) hare comes in my (gasp) way, I'll turn her over,' replied Jog carelessly, as if turning them over was quite a matter of course with him; adding, 'but I'm not (wheezing) out for the express purpose of shooting one.'

'Ah, well,' observed Sponge, 'I'll go with you, all the same.'

'But I've only got one gun,' gasped Jog, thinking it would be worse to have Sponge laughing at his shooting than even leaving him at home.

'Then, we'll shoot turn and turn about,' replied the pertinacious guest.

Jog did his best to dissuade him, observing that the birds were (puff) scarce and (wheeze) wild, and the (gasp) hares much troubled with poachers; but Mr. Sponge wanted a walk, and moreover had a fancy for seeing Jog handle his gun.

Having cut himself some extremely substantial sandwiches, and filled his 'monkey' full of sherry, our friend Jog slipped out the back way to loosen old Ponto, who acted the triple part of pointer, house-dog, and horse to Gustavus James. He was a great fat, black-and-white brute, with a head like a hat-box, a tail like a clothes-peg, and a back as broad as a well-fed sheep's. The old brute was so frantic at the sight of his master in his green coat, and wide-awake to match, that he jumped and bounced, and barked, and rattled his chain, and set up such yells, that his noise sounded all over the house, and soon brought Mr. Sponge to the scene of action, where stood our friend, loading his gun and looking as consequential as possible.

'I shall only just take a (puff) stroll over moy (wheeze) ter-ri-to-ry,' observed Jog, as Mr. Sponge emerged at the back door.


Jog's pace was about two miles and a half an hour, stoppages included, and he thought it advisable to prepare Mr. Sponge for the trial. He then shouldered his gun and waddled away, first over the stile into Farmer Stiffland's stubble, round which Ponto ranged in the most riotous, independent way, regardless of Jog's whistles and rates and the crack of his little knotty whip. Jog then crossed the old pasture into Mr. Lowland's turnips, into which Ponto dashed in the same energetic way, but these impediments to travelling soon told on his great buttermilk carcass, and brought him to a more subdued pace; still, the dog had a good deal more energy than his master. Round he went, sniffing and hunting, then dashing right through the middle of the field, as if he was out on his own account alone, and had nothing whatever to do with a master.

'Why, your dog'll spring all the birds out of shot,' observed Mr. Sponge; and, just as he spoke, whirr! rose a covey of partridges, eleven in number, quite at an impossible distance, but Jog blazed away all the same.

''Ord rot it, man! if you'd only held your (something) tongue,' growled Jog, as he shaded the sun from his eyes to mark them down, 'I'd have (wheezed) half of them over.'

'Nonsense, man!' replied Mr. Sponge. 'They were a mile out of shot.'

'I think I should know my (puff) gun better than (wheeze) you,' replied Jog, bringing it down to load.

'They're down!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, who, having watched them till they began to skim in their flight, saw them stop, flap their wings, and drop among some straggling gorse on the hill before them. 'Let's break the covey; we shall bag them better singly.'

'Take time (puff), replied Jog, snorting into his frill, and measuring out his powder most leisurely. 'Take time (wheeze),' repeated he; 'they're just on the bounds of moy ter-ri-to-ry.'

Jog had had many a game at romps with these birds, and knew their haunts and habits to a nicety. The covey consisted of thirteen at first, but by repeated blazings into the 'brown of 'em,' he had succeeded in knocking down two. Jog was not one of your conceited shots, who never fired but when he was sure of killing; on the contrary, he always let drive far or near; and even if he shot a hare, which he sometimes did, with the first barrel, he always popped the second into her, to make sure. The chairman's shooting afforded amusement to the neighbourhood. On one occasion a party of reapers, having watched him miss twelve shots in succession, gave him three cheers on coming to the thirteenth-but to our day. Jog had now got his gun reloaded with mischief, the cap put on, and all ready for a fresh start. Ponto, meanwhile, had been ranging, Jog thinking it better to let him take the edge off his ardour than conform to the strict rules of lying down or coming to heel. 'Now, let's on,' cried Mr. Sponge, stepping out quickly.

'Take time (puff), take time (wheeze),' gasped Jog, waddling along; 'better let 'em settle a little (puff). Better let 'em settle a little (gasp),' added he, labouring on.

'Oh no, keep them moving,' replied Mr. Sponge, 'keep them moving. Only get at 'em on the hill, and drive 'em into the fields below, and we shall have rare fun.'

'But the (puff) fields below are not mine,' gasped Jog.

'Whose are they?' asked Mr. Sponge.

'Oh (puff), Mrs. Moses's,' gasped Jog. 'My stoopid old uncle,' continued he, stopping, and laying hold of Mr. Sponge's arm, as if to illustrate his position,

but in reality to get breath, 'my stoopid old uncle (puff) missed buying that (wheeze) land when old Harry Griperton died. I only wanted that to make moy (wheeze) ter-ri-to-ry extend all the (gasp) way up to Cockwhistle Park there,' continued he, climbing on to a stile they now approached, and setting aside the top stone. 'That's Cockwhistle Park, up there-just where you see the (puff) windmill-then (puff) moy (wheeze) ter-ri-to-ry comes up to the (wheeze) fallow you see all yellow with runch; and if my old (puff) uncle (wheeze) Crowdey had had the sense of a (gasp) goose, he'd have (wheezed) that when it was sold. Moy (puff) name was (wheeze) Jogglebury,' added he, 'before my (gasp) uncle died.'

'Well, never mind about that,' replied Mr. Sponge; 'let us go on after these birds.'

'Oh, we'll (puff) up to them presently,' observed Jog, labouring away, with half a ton of clay at each foot, the sun having dispelled the frost where it struck, and made the land carry.

'Presently!' retorted Mr. Sponge. 'But you should make haste, man.'

'Well, but let me go my own (puff) pace,' snapped Jog, labouring away.

'Pace!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, 'your own crawl, you should say.'

'Indeed!' growled Jog, with an angry snort.

They now got through a well-established cattle-gap into a very rushy, squashy, gorse-grown pasture, at the bottom of the rising ground on which Mr. Sponge had marked the birds. Ponto, whose energetic exertions had been gradually relaxing, until he had settled down to a leisurely hunting-dog, suddenly stood transfixed, with the right foot up, and his gaze settled on a rushy tuft.

'P-o-o-n-to!' ejaculated Jog, expecting every minute to see him dash at it. 'P-o-o-n-to!' repeated he, raising his hand.

Mr. Sponge stood on the tip-toe of expectation; Jog raised his wide-awake hat from his eyes and advanced cautiously with the engine of destruction cocked. Up started a great hare; bang! went the gun, with the hare none the worse. Bang! went the other barrel, which the hare acknowledged by two or three stotting bounds and an increase of pace.

'Well missed!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge.

Away went Ponto in pursuit.

'P-o-o-n-to!' shrieked Jog, stamping with rage.

'I could have wiped your nose,' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, covering the hare with a hedge-stake placed to his shoulder like a gun.

'Could you?' growled Jog; ''spose you wipe your own,' added he, not understanding the meaning of the term.

Meanwhile, old Ponto went rolling away most energetically, the farther he went the farther he was left behind, till the hare having scuttled out of sight, he wheeled about and came leisurely back, as if he was doing all right.

Jog was very wroth, and vented his anger on the dog, which, he declared, had caused him to miss, vowing, as he rammed away at the charge, that he never missed such a shot before. Mr. Sponge stood eyeing him with a look of incredulity, thinking that a man who could miss such a shot could miss anything. They were now all ready for a fresh start, and Ponto, having pocketed his objurgation, dashed forward again up the rising ground over which the covey had dropped.

Jog's thick wind was a serious impediment to the expeditious mounting of the hill, and the dog seemed aware of his infirmity, and to take pleasure in aggravating him.

'P-o-o-n-to!' gasped Jog, as he slipped, and scrambled, and toiled, sorely impeded by the encumbrance of his gun.

But P-o-o-n-to heeded him not. He knew his master couldn't catch him, and if he did, that he durstn't flog him.

'P-o-o-n-to!' gasped Jog again, still louder, catching at a bush to prevent his slipping back. 'T-o-o-h-o-o! P-o-o-n-to!' wheezed he; but the dog just rolled his great stern, and bustled about more actively than ever.

'Hang ye! but I'd cut you in two if I had you!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, eyeing his independent proceedings.

'He's not a bad (puff) dog,' observed Jog, mopping the perspiration from his brow.

'He's not a good 'un,' retorted Mr. Sponge.

'D'ye think not (wheeze)?' asked Jog.

'Sure of it,' replied Sponge.

'Serves me,' growled Jog, labouring up the hill.

'Easy served,' replied Mr. Sponge, whistling, and eyeing the independent animal.

'T-o-o-h-o-o! P-o-o-n-t-o!' gasped Jog, as he dashed forward on reaching level ground more eagerly than ever.

'P-o-o-n-to! T-o-o-h-o-o!' repeated he, in a still louder tone, with the same success.

'You'd better get up to him,' observed Mr. Sponge, 'or he'll spring all the birds.'

Jog, however, blundered on at his own pace, growling:

'Most (puff) haste, least (wheeze) speed.'

The dog was now fast drawing upon where the birds lit; and Mr. Sponge and Jog having reached the top of the hill, Mr. Sponge stood still to watch the result.

Up whirred four birds out of a patch of gorse behind the dog, all presenting most beautiful shots. Jog blazed a barrel at them without touching a feather, and the report of the gun immediately raised three brace more into the thick of which he fired with similar success. They all skimmed away unhurt.

'Well missed!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge again. 'You're what they call a good shooter but a bad hitter.'

'You're what they call a (wheeze) fellow,' growled Jog.

He meant to say 'saucy,' but the word wouldn't rise. He then commenced reloading his gun, and lecturing P-o-o-n-to, who still continued his exertions, and inwardly anathematizing Mr. Sponge. He wished he had left him at home. Then recollecting Mrs. Jog, he thought perhaps he was as well where he was. Still his presence made him shoot worse than usual, and there was no occasion for that.

'Let me have a shot now,' said Mr. Sponge.

'Shot (puff)-shot (wheeze); well, take a shot if you choose,' replied he.

Just as Mr. Sponge got the gun, up rose the eleventh bird, and he knocked it over.


'That's the way to do it!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, as the bird fell dead before Ponto.

The excited dog, unused to such descents, snatched it up and ran off. Just as he was getting out of shot, Mr. Sponge fired the other barrel at him, causing him to drop the bird and run yelping and howling away. Jog was furious. He stamped, and gasped, and fumed, and wheezed, and seemed like to burst with anger and indignation. Though the dog ran away as hard as he could lick, Jog insisted that he was mortally wounded, and would die. 'He never saw so (wheeze) a thing done. He wouldn't have taken twenty pounds for the dog. No, he wouldn't have taken thirty. Forty wouldn't have bought him. He was worth fifty of anybody's money,' and so he went on, fuming and advancing his value as he spoke.

Mr. Sponge stole away to where the dog had dropped the bird; and Mr. Jog, availing himself of his absence, retraced his steps down the hill, and struck off home at a much faster pace than he came. Arrived there, he found the dog in the kitchen, somewhat sore from the visitation of the shot, but not sufficiently injured to prevent his enjoying a most liberal plate of stick-jaw pudding supplied by a general contribution of the servants. Jog's wrath was then turned in another direction, and he blew up for the waste and extravagance of the act, hinting pretty freely that he knew who it was that had set them against it. Altogether he was full of troubles, vexations, and annoyances; and after spending another most disagreeable evening with our friend Sponge, went to bed more determined than ever to get rid of him.

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