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   Chapter 61 NONSUCH HOUSE AGAIN 61

Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 7250

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


he gallant inmates of Nonsuch House had resolved themselves into a committee of speculation, as to whether Mr. Sponge was coming or not; indeed, they had been betting upon it, the odds at first being a hundred to one that he came, though they had fallen a point or two on the arrival of the post without an answer.

'Well, I say Mr. What-d'ye-call-him-Sponge-doesn't come!' exclaimed Captain Seedeybuck, as he lay full length, with his shaggy greasy head on the fine rose-coloured satin sofa, and his legs cocked over the cushion.

'Why not?' asked Miss Glitters, who was beguiling the twilight half-hour before candles with knitting.

'Don't know,' replied Seedeybuck, twirling his moustache, 'don't know-have a presentiment he won't.'

'Sure to come!' exclaimed Captain Bouncey, knocking the ashes off his cigar on to the fine Tournay carpet.

'I'll lay ten to one-ten fifties to one-he does,-a thousand to ten if you like.' If all the purses in the house had been clubbed together, we don't believe they would have raised fifty pounds.

'What sort of a looking man is he?' asked Miss Glitters, now counting her loops.

'Oh-whoy-ha-hem-haw-he's just an ordinary sort of lookin' man-nothin' 'tickler any way,' drawled Captain Seedeybuck, now wetting and twirling his moustache.

'Two legs, a head, a back, and so on, I presume,' observed the lady.

'Just so,' assented Captain Seedeybuck.

'He's a horsey-lookin' sort o' man, I should say,' observed Captain Bouncey, 'walks as if he ought to be ridin'-wears vinegar tops.'

'Hate vinegar tops,' growled Seedeybuck.

Just then, in came Lady Scattercash, attended by Mr. Orlando Bugles, the ladies' attractions having caused that distinguished performer to forfeit his engagement at the Surrey Theatre. Captain Cutitfat, Bob Spangles, and Sir Harry quickly followed, and the Sponge question was presently renewed.

'Who says old brown boots comes?' exclaimed Seedeybuck from the sofa.

'Who's that with his nasty nob on my fine satin sofa?' asked the lady.

'Bob Spangles,' replied Seedeybuck.

'Nothing of the sort,' rejoined the lady; 'and I'll trouble you to get off.'

'Can't-I've got a bone in my leg,' rejoined the captain.

'I'll soon make you,' replied her ladyship, seizing the squab, and pulling it on to the floor.

As the captain was scrambling up, in came Peter-one of the wageless footmen-with candles, which having distributed equitably about the room, he approached Lady Scattercash, and asked, in an independent sort of way, what room Mr. Soapsuds was to have.

'Soapsuds!-Soapsuds!-that's not his name,' exclaimed her ladyship.

'Sponge, you fool! Soapey Sponge,' exclaimed Cutitfat, who had ferreted out Sponge's nomme de Londres.

'He's not come, has he?' asked Miss Glitters eagerly.

'Yes, my lady-that's to say, miss,' replied Peter.

'Come, has he!' chorused three or four voices.

'Well, he must have a (hiccup) room,' observed Sir Harry. 'The green-the one above the billiard-room will do,' added he.

'But I have that, Sir Harry,' exclaimed Miss Howard.

'Oh, it'll hold two well enough,' observed Miss Glitters.

'Then you can be the second,' replied Miss Howard, with a toss of her head.

'Indeed!' sneered Miss Glitters, bridling up. 'I like that.'

'Well, but where's the (hiccup) man to be put?' asked Sir Harry.

'There's Ladofwax's room,' suggested her ladyship.

'The captain's locked the door and taken the key with him,' replied the footman; 'he said he'd be back in a day or two.'

'Back in a (hiccup) or two!' observed Sir Harry. 'Where is he gon


The man smiled.

'Borrowed,' observed Captain Quod, with an emphasis.

'Indeed!' exclaimed Sir Harry, adding, 'well, I thought that was Nabbum's gig with the old grey.'

'He'll not be back in a hurry,' observed Bouncey. 'He'll be like the Boulogne gents, who are always going to England, but never do.'

'Poor Wax!' observed Quod; 'he's a big fool, to give him his due.'

'If you give him his due it's more than he gives other people, it seems.' observed Miss Howard.

'Oh, fie, Miss H.!' exclaimed Captain Seedeybuck.

'Well, but the (hiccup) man must have a (hiccup) bed somewhere,' observed Sir Harry; adding to the footman, 'you'd better (hiccup) the door open, you know.'

'Perhaps you'd better try what one of yours will do,' observed Bob Spangles, to the convulsion of the company.

In the midst of their mirth Mr. Bottleends was seen piloting Mr. Sponge up to her ladyship.

'Mr. Sponge, my lady,' said he in as low and deferential a tone as if he got his wages punctually every quarter-day.

'How do you do. Mr. Sponge?' said her ladyship, tendering him her hand with an elegant curtsey.

'How are you, Mr. (hiccup) Sponge?' asked Sir Harry, offering his; 'I believe you know the (hiccup) company?' continued he, waving his hand around; 'Miss (hiccup) Glitters, Captain (hiccup) Quod, Captain Bouncey, Mr. (hiccup) Bugles, Captain (hiccup) Seedeybuck, and so on'; whereupon Miss Glitters curtsied, the gentlemen bobbed their heads and drew near our hero, who had now stationed himself before the fire.

'Coldish to-night,' said he, stooping, and placing both hands to the bars. 'Coldish,' repeated he, rubbing his hands and looking around.

'It generally is about this time of year, I think,' observed Miss Glitters, who was quite ready to enter for our friend.

'Hope it won't stop hunting,' said Mr. Sponge.

'Hope not,' replied Sir Harry; 'would be a bore if it did.'

'I wonder you gentlemen don't prefer hunting in a frost,' observed Miss Howard; 'one would think it would be just the time you'd want a good warming.'

'I don't agree with you, there,' replied Mr. Sponge, looking at her, and thinking she was not nearly so pretty as Miss Glitters.

'Do you hunt to-morrow?' asked he of Sir Harry, not having been able to obtain any information at the stables.

'(Hiccup) to-morrow? Oh, I dare say we shall,' replied Sir Harry, who kept his hounds as he did his carriages, to be used when wanted. 'Dare say we shall,' repeated he.

But though Sir Harry spoke thus encouragingly of their prospects, he took no steps, as far as Mr. Sponge could learn, to carry out the design. Indeed, the subject of hunting was never once mentioned, the conversation after dinner, instead of being about the Quorn, or the Pytchley, or Jack Thompson with the Atherstone, turning upon the elegance and lighting of the Casinos in the Adelaide Gallery and Windmill Street, and the relative merits of those establishments over the Casino de Venise in High Holborn. Nor did morning produce any change for the better, for Sir Harry and all the captains came down in their usual flashy broken-down player-looking attire, their whole thoughts being absorbed in arranging for a pool at billiards, in which the ladies took part. So with billiards, brandy, and ''baccy,'-''baccy,' brandy, and billiards, varied with an occasional stroll about the grounds, the non-sporting inmates of Nonsuch House beguiled the time, much to Mr. Sponge's disgust, whose soul was on fire and eager for the fray. The reader's perhaps being the same, we will skip Christmas and pass on to New Year's Day.

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