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Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 5831

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

'Twere almost superfluous to say that new year's day is always a great holiday. It is a day on which custom commands people to be happy and idle, whether they have the means of being happy and idle or not. It is a day for which happiness and idleness are 'booked,' and parties are planned and arranged long beforehand. Some go to the town, some to the country; some take rail; some take steam; some take greyhounds; some take gigs; while others take guns and pop at all the little dicky-birds that come in their way. The rural population generally incline to a hunt. They are not very particular as to style, so long as there are a certain number of hounds, and some men in scarlet, to blow their horns, halloo, and crack their whips.

The population, especially the rising population about Nonsuch House, all inclined that way. A New Year's Day's hunt with Sir Harry had long been looked forward to by the little Raws, and the little Spooneys, and the big and little Cheeks, and we don't know how many others. Nay, it had been talked of by the elder boys at their respective schools-we beg pardon, academies-Dr. Switchington's, Mr. Latherington's, Mrs. Skelper's, and a liberal allowance of boasting indulged in, as to how they would show each other the way over the hedges and ditches. The thing had long been talked of. Old Johnny Raw had asked Sir Harry to arrange the day so long ago that Sir Harry had forgotten all about it. Sir Harry was one of those good-natured souls who can't say 'No' to any one. If anybody had asked if they might set fire to his house, he would have said:

'Oh (hiccup) certainly, my dear (hiccup) fellow, if it will give you any (hiccup) pleasure.'

Now, for the hiccup day.

It is generally a frost on New Year's Day. However wet and sloppy the weather may be up to the end of the year, it generally turns over a new leaf on that day. New Year's Day is generally a bright, bitter, sunshiny day, with starry ice, and a most decided anti-hunting feeling about it-light, airy, ringy, anything but cheery for hunting.

Thus it was in Sir Harry Scattercash's county. Having smoked and drunk the old year out, the captains and company retired to their couches without thinking about hunting. Mr. Sponge, indeed, was about tired of asking when the hounds would be going out. It was otherwise, however, with the rising generation, who were up betimes, and began pouring in upon Nonsuch House in every species of garb, on every description of steed, by every line and avenue of approach.

'Halloo! what's up now?' exclaimed Lady Scattercash, as she caught view of the first batch rounding the corner to the front of the house.

'Who have we here?' asked Miss Glitters, as a ponderous, parti-coloured clown, on a great, curly-coated cart-horse, brought up the rear.

'Early callers,' observed Captain Seedeybuck, eating away complacently.

'Friends of Mr. Sponge's, most like

ly,' suggested Captain Quod.

'Some of the little Sponges come to see their pa, p'raps,' lisped Miss Howard, pretending to be shocked after she had said it.

'Bravo, Miss Howard!' exclaimed Captain Cutitfat, clapping his hands.

'I said nothing, Captain,' observed the young lady with becoming prudery.

'Here we are again!' exclaimed Captain Quod, as a troop of various-sized urchins, in pea-jackets, with blue noses and red comforters, on very shaggy ponies, the two youngest swinging in panniers over an ass, drew up alongside of the first comers.

'Whose sliding-scale of innocence is that, I wonder!' exclaimed Miss Howard, contemplating the variously sized chubby faces through the window.

'He, he, he! ho, ho, ho!' giggled the guests.

Another batch of innocence now hove in sight.

'Oh, those are the little (hiccup) Raws,' observed Sir Harry, catching sight of the sky-blue collar of the servant's long drab coat. 'Good chap, old Johnny Raw; ask them to (hiccup) in,' continued he, 'and give them some (hiccup) cherry brandy'; and thereupon Sir Harry began nodding and smiling, and making signs to them to come in. The youngsters, however, maintained their position.

'The little stupexes!' exclaimed Miss Howard, going to the window, and throwing up the sash. 'Come in, young gents!' cried she, in a commanding tone, addressing herself to the last comers. 'Come in, and have some toffy and lollypops! D'ye hear?' continued she, in a still louder voice, and motioning her head towards the door.

The boys sat mute.

'You little stupid monkeys,' muttered she in an undertone, as the cold air struck upon her head. 'Come in, like good boys,' added she in a louder key, pointing with her finger towards the door.

'Nor, thenk ye!' at last drawled the elder of the boys.

'Nor, thenk ye!' repeated Miss Howard, imitating the drawl. 'Why not?' asked she sharply.

The boy stared stupidly.

'Why won't you come in?' asked she, again addressing him.

'Don't know!' replied the boy, staring vacantly at his younger brother, as he rubbed a pearl off his nose on the back of his hand.

'Don't know!' ejaculated Miss Howard, stamping her little foot on the Turkey carpet.

'Mar said we hadn't,' whined the younger boy, coming to the rescue of his brother.

'Mar said we hadn't!' retorted the fair interrogator. 'Why not?'

'Don't know,' replied the elder.

'Don't know! you little stupid animal,' snapped Miss Howard, the cold air increasing the warmth of her temper. 'I wonder what you do know. Why did your ma say you were not to come in?' continued she, addressing the younger one.

'Because-because,' hesitated he, 'she said the house was full of trumpets.'

'Trumpets, you little scamp!' exclaimed the lady, reddening up; 'I'll get a whip and cut your jacket into ribbons on your back.' And thereupon she banged down the window and closed the conversation.

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