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   Chapter 65 THE HUNT

Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 33119

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


While the foregoing arrangements were in progress, Mr. Watchorn had desired Slarkey, the knife-boy, to go into the old hay-loft and take the three-legged fox he would find, and put him down among the laurels by the summer-house, where he would draw up to him all 'reg'lar' like. Accordingly, Slarkey went, but the old cripple having mounted the rafters, Slarkey didn't see him, or rather seeing but one fox, he clutched him, with a greater regard to his not biting him than to seeing how many legs he had; consequently he bagged an uncommonly fine old dog fox, that Wiley Tom had just stolen from Lord Scamperdale's new cover at Faggotfurze; and it was not until Slarkey put him down among the bushes, and saw how lively he went, that he found out his mistake. However, there was no help for it, and he had just time to pocket the bag when Watchorn's half-drunken cheer, and the reverberating cracks of ponderous whips on either side of the Dean, announced the approach of the pack.

'He-leu in there!' cried Watchorn to the hounds. ''Ord, dommee, but it's slippy,' said he to himself. 'Have at him. Plunderer, good dog! I wish I may be Cardinal Wiseman for comin',' added he, seeing how his breath showed on the air. 'Ho-o-i-cks! pash 'im hup! I'll be dashed if I shan't be down!' exclaimed he, as his horse slid a long slide. 'He-leu, in! Conqueror, old boy!' continued he, exclaiming loud enough for Mr. Sponge who was drawing near to hear, 'find us a fox that'll give us five and forty minnits!' the speaker inwardly hoping they might chop their bagman in cover. 'Y-o-o-icks! rout him out!' continued he, getting more energetic. 'Y-o-o-icks! wind him! Y-o-o-icks! stir us hup a teaser!'

'No go, I think,' observed George Cheek, ambling up on his leggy weed.

'No go, ye young infidel,' growled Watchorn, 'who taught you to talk about go's, I wonder? ought to be at school larnin' to cipher, or ridin' the globes,' Mr. Watchorn not exactly knowing what the term 'use of the globes,' meant. 'D'ye call that nothin'!' exclaimed he, taking off his cap as he viewed the fox stealing along the gravel walk; adding to himself, as he saw his even action, and full, well-tagged brush, ''Ord rot him, he's got hold of the wrong 'un!'

It was, however, no time for thought. In an instant the welkin rang with the outburst of the pack and the clamour of the field. 'Talli ho!' 'Talli ho!' 'Talli ho!' 'Hoop!' 'Hoop!' 'Hoop!' cried a score of voices, and 'Twang! twang! twang!' went the shrill horn of the huntsman. The whips, too, stood in their stirrups, cracking their ponderous thongs, which sounded like guns upon the frosty air, and contributed their 'Get together! get together, hounds!' 'Hark away!' 'Hark away!' 'Hark away!' 'Hark' to the general uproar. Oh, what a row, what a riot, what a racket! Watchorn being 'in' for it, and recollecting how many saw a start who never thought of seeing a finish, immediately got his horse by the head, and singled himself out from the crowd now pressing at his horse's heels, determining, if the hounds didn't run into their fox in the park, to ride them off the scent at the very first opportunity. The 'chumpine' being still alive within him, in the excitement of the moment he leaped the hand-gate leading out of the shrubberies into the park; the noise the horse made in taking off resembling the trampling on wood-pavement.

'Cuss it, but it's 'ard!' exclaimed he, as the horse slid two or three yards as he alighted on the frozen field.

George Cheek followed him; and Multum-in-Parvo, taking the bit deliberately between his teeth, just walked through the gate, as if it had been made of paper.

'Ah, ye brute!' groaned Mr. Sponge, in disgust, digging the Latchfords into his sides, as if he intended to make them meet in the middle. 'Ah, ye brute!' repeated he, giving him a hearty cropper as he put up his head after trying to kick him off.

'Thank you!' exclaimed Miss Glitters, cantering up; adding, 'you cleared the way nicely for me.'

Nicely he had cleared it for them all; and the pent-up tide of equestrianism now poured over the park like the flood of an irrigated water meadow. Such ponies! such horses! such hugging! such kicking! such scrambling! and so little progress with many!

The park being extensive-three hundred acres or more-there was ample space for the aspiring ones to single themselves out; and as Lady Scattercash and Orlando sat in the pony-phaeton, on the rising ground by the keeper's house, they saw a dark-clad horseman (George Cheek), Old Gingerbread Boots, as they called Mr. Sponge, with Lucy Glitters alongside of him, gradually stealing away from the crowd, and creeping up to Mr. Watchorn, who was sailing away with the hounds.

'What a scrimmage!' exclaimed her ladyship, standing up in the carriage, and eyeing the

Strange confusion in the vale below.

'There's Bob in his old purple,' said she, eyeing her brother hustling along; 'and there's "Fat" in his new Moses and Son; and Bouncey in poor Wax's coat; and there's Harry all legs and wings, as usual,' added she, as her husband was seen flibberty-gibbertying it along.

'And there's Lucy; and where's Miss Howard, I wonder?' observed Orlando, straining his eyes after the scrambling field.

Nothing but the inspiriting aid of 'chumpine,' and the hope that the thing would soon terminate, sustained Mr. Watchorn under the infliction in which he so unexpectedly found himself; for nothing would have tempted him to brave such a frost with the burning scent of a game four-legged fox. The park being spacious, and enclosed by a high plank paling, he hoped the fox would have the manners to confine himself within it; and so long as his threadings and windings favoured the supposition, our huntsman bustled along, yelling and screaming in apparent ecstasy at the top of his voice. The hounds, to be sure, wanted keeping together, for Frantic as usual had shot ahead, while the gorged pigpailers could never extricate themselves from the ponies.

'F-o-o-o-r-r-a-r-d! f-o-o-o-r-r-a-r-d! f-o-o-o-r-r-a-r-d!' elongated Watchorn, rising in his stirrups, and looking back with a grin at George Cheek, who was plying his weed with the whip, exclaiming, 'Ah, you confounded young warmint, I'll give you a warmin'! I'll teach you to jaw about 'untin'!'

As he turned his head straight to look at his hounds, he was shocked to see Frantic falling backwards from a first attempt to leap the park-palings, and just as she gathered herself for a second effort, Desperate, Chatterer, and Galloper, charged in line and got over. Then came the general rush of the pack, attended with the usual success-some over, some back, some a-top of others.

'Oh, the devil!' exclaimed Watchorn, pulling up short in a perfect agony of despair. 'Oh, the devil!' repeated he in a lower tone, as Mr. Sponge approached.

'Where's there a gate?' roared our friend, skating up.

'Gate! there's never a gate within a mile, and that's locked,' replied Watchorn sulkily.

'Then here goes!' replied Mr. Sponge, gathering the chestnut together to give him an opportunity of purging himself of his previous faux pas. 'Here goes!' repeated he, thrusting his hard hat firmly on his head. Taking his horse back a few paces, Mr. Sponge crammed him manfully at the palings, and got over with a rap.

'Well done you!' exclaimed Miss Glitters in delight; adding to Watchorn, 'Now, old Beardey, you go next.'

Beardey was irresolute. He pretended to be anxious to get the tail hounds over.

'Clear the way, then!' exclaimed Miss Glitters, putting her horse back, her bright eyes flashing as she spoke. She took him back as far as Mr. Sponge had done, touched him with the whip, and in an instant she was high in the air, landing safely on the far side.

'Hoo-ray!' exclaimed Captains Quod and Cutitfat, who now came panting up.

'Now, Mr. Watchorn!' cried Captain Seedeybuck, adding, 'You're a huntsman!'

'Yooi over, Prosperous! Yooi over, Buster!' cheered Watchorn, still pretending anxiety about his hounds.

'Let me have a shy,' squeaked George Cheek, backing his giraffe, as he had seen Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters do.

George took his screw by the head, and, giving him a hearty rib-roasting with his whip, ran him full tilt at the palings, and carried away half a rood.

'Hoo-ray!' cried the liberated field.

'I knew how it would be,' exclaimed Mr. Watchorn, in well-feigned disgust as he rode through the gap; adding, 'con-founded young waggabone! Deserves to be well chaste-tized for breakin' people's palin's in that way-lettin' in all the rubbishin' tail.'

The scene then changed. In lieu of the green, though hard, sward of the undulating park, our friends now found themselves on large frozen fallows, upon whose uneven surface the heaviest horses made no impression while the shuffling rats of ponies toiled and floundered about, almost receding in their progress. Mr. Sponge was just topping the fence out of the first one, and Miss Glitters was gathering her horse to ride at it, as Watchorn and Co. emerged from the park. Rounding the turnip-hill beyond, the leading hounds were racing with a breast-high scent, followed by the pack in long-drawn file.

'What a mess!' said Watchorn to himself, shading the sun from his eyes with his hand; when, remembering his r?le, he exclaimed, 'Y-o-o-n-der they go!' as if in ecstasies at the sight. Seeing a gate at the bottom of the field, he got his horse by the head, and rattled him across the fallow, blowing his horn more in hopes of stopping the pack than with a view of bringing up the tail-hounds. He might have saved his breath, for the music of the pack completely drowned the noise of the horn. 'Dash it!' said he, thumping the broad end against his thigh; 'I wish I was quietly back in my parlour. Hold up, horse!' roared he, as Harkaway nearly came on his haunches in pulling up at the gate. 'I know who's not Cardinal Wiseman,' continued he, stooping to open it.

The gate was fast, and he had to alight and lift it off its hinges. Just as he had done so, and had got it sufficiently open for a horse to pass, George Cheek came up from behind, and slipped through before him.

'Oh, you unrighteous young renegade! Did ever mortal see sich an uncivilized trick?' roared Watchorn; adding, as he climbed on to his horse again, and went spluttering through the frozen turnips after the offender, 'You've no 'quaintance with Lord John Manners, I think!'

'Oh dear!-oh dear!' exclaimed he, as his horse nearly came on his head, 'but this is the most punishin' affair I ever was in at. Puseyism's nothin' to it.' And thereupon he indulged in no end of anathemas at Slarkey for bringing the wrong fox.

'About time to take soundings, and cast anchor, isn't it?' gasped Captain Bouncey, toiling up red-hot on his pulling horse in a state of utter exhaustion, as Watchorn stood craneing and looking at a rasper through which Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters had passed, without disturbing a twig.

'C-a-s-t anchor!' exclaimed Watchorn, in a tone of derision-'not this half-hour yet, I hope!-not this forty minnits yet, I hope;-not this hour and twenty minnits yet, I hope!' continued he, putting his horse irresolutely at the fence. The horse blundered through it, barking Watchorn's nose with a branch.

''Ord rot it, cut off my nose!' exclaimed he, muffling it up in his hand. 'Cut off my nose clean by my face, I do believe,' continued he, venturing to look into his hand for it. 'Well,' said he, eyeing the slight stain of blood on his glove, 'this will be a lesson to me as long as I live. If ever I 'unt again in a frost, may I be --. Thank goodness! they've checked at last!' exclaimed he, as the music suddenly ceased, and Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters sat motionless together on their panting, smoking steeds.

Watchorn then stuck spurs to his horse, and being now on a flat rushy pasture, with a bridle-gate into the field where the hounds were casting, he hustled across, preparing his horn for a blow as soon as he got there.

'Twang-twang-twang-twang,' he went, riding up the hedgerow in the contrary direction to what the hounds leant. 'Twang-twang-twang,' he continued, inwardly congratulating himself that the fox would never face the troop of urchins he saw coming down with their guns.

'Hang him!-he's never that way!' observed Mr. Sponge, sotto voce, to Miss Glitters. 'He's never that way,' repeated he, seeing how Frantic flung to the right.

'Twang-twang-twang,' went the horn, but the hounds regarded it not.

'Do, Mr. Sponge, put the hounds to me!' roared Mr. Watchorn, dreading lest they might hit off the scent.

Mr. Sponge answered the appeal by turning his horse the way the hounds were feathering, and giving them a slight cheer.

''Ord rot it!' roared Watchorn, 'do let 'em alone! that's a fresh fox! ours is over the 'ill,' pointing towards Bonnyfield Hill.

'Hoop!' hallooed Mr. Sponge, taking off his hat, as Frantic hit off the scent to the right, and Galloper, and Melody, and all the rest scored to cry.

'Oh, you confounded brown-bouted beggar!' exclaimed Mr. Watchorn, returning his horn to its case, and eyeing Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters sailing away with the again breast-high-scent pack. 'Oh, you exorbitant usurer!' continued he, gathering his horse to skate after them. 'Well now, that's the most disgraceful proceedin' I ever saw in the whole course of my life. Hang me, if I'll stand such work! Dash me, but I'll 'quaint the Queen!-I'll tell Sir George Grey! I'll write to Mr. Walpole! Fo-orrard! fo-orrard!' hallooed he, as Bob Spangles and Bouncey popped upon him unexpectedly from behind, exclaiming with well-feigned glee, as he pointed to the streaming pack with his whip, ''Ord dash it, but we're in for a good thing!'

Little Bouncey's horse was still yawning and star-gazing, and Bouncey, being quite unequal to riding him and well-nigh exhausted, 'downed' him against a rubbing-post in the middle of a field, making a 'cannon' with his own and his horse's head, and was immediately the centre of attraction for the panting tail. Bouncey got near a pint of sherry from among them before he recovered from the shock. So anxious were they about him, that not one of them thought of resuming the chase. Even the lagging whips couldn't leave him. George Cheek was presently hors de combat in a hedge, and Watchorn seeing him 'see-sawing,' exclaimed, as he slipped through a gate:

'I'll send your mar to you, you young 'umbug.'

Watchorn would gladly have stopped too, for the fumes of the champagne were dead within him, and the riding was becoming every minute more dangerous. He trotted on, hoping each jump of brown boots would be the last, and inwardly wishing the wearer at the devil. Thus he passed through a considerable extent of country, over Harrowdale Lordship, or reputed Lordship, past Roundington Tower, down Sloppyside Banks, and on to Cheeseington Green; the severity of his affliction being alone mitigated by the intervention of accommodating roads and lines of field gates. These, however, Mr. Sponge generally declined, and went crashing on, now over high places, now over low, just as they came in his way, closely followed by the fair Lucy Glitters.

'Well, I never see'd sich a man as that!' exclaimed Watchorn, eyeing Mr. Sponge clearing a stiff flight of rails, with a gap near at hand. 'Nor woman nouther!' added he, as Miss Glitters did the like. 'Well, I'm dashed if it arn't dangerous!' continued he, thumping his hand against his thick thigh, as the white nearly slipped upon landing. 'F-o-r-r-ard! for-rard! hoop!' screeched he, as he saw Miss Glitters looking back to see where he was. 'F-o-r-rard! for-rard!' repeated he; adding, in apparent delight, 'My eyes, but we're in for a stinger! Hold up, horse!' roared he, as his horse now went starring up to the knees through a long sheet of ice, squirting the clayey water into his rider's face. 'Hold up!' repeated he, adding, 'I'm dashed if one mightn't as well be crashin' over the Christial Palace as ridin' over a country froze in this way! 'Ord rot it, how cold it is!' continued he, blowing on his finger-ends; 'I declare my 'ands are quite numb. Well done, old brown bouts!' exclaimed he, as a crash on the right attracted his attention; 'well done, old brown bouts!-broke every bar i' the gate!' adding, 'but I'll let Mr. Buckram know the way his beautiful horses are 'bused. Well,' continued he, after a long skate down the grassy side of Ditchburn Lane, 'ther

e's no fun in this-none whatever. Who the deuce would be a huntsman that could be anything else? Dash it! I'd rayther be a hosier-I'd rayther be a 'atter-I'd rayther be an undertaker-I'd rayther be a Pusseyite parson-I'd rayther be a pig-jobber-I'd rayther be a besom-maker-I'd rayther be a dog's-meat man-I'd rayther be a cat's-meat man-I'd rayther go about a sellin' of chick-weed and sparrow-grass!' added he, as his horse nearly slipped up on his haunches.

'Thank 'eavens there's relief at last!' exclaimed he, as on rising Gimmerhog Hill he saw Farmer Saintfoin's southdowns wheeling and clustering, indicative of the fox having passed; 'thank 'eavens, there's relief at last!' repeated he, reining up his horse to see the hounds charge them.

Mr. Sponge and Miss Glitters were now in the bottom below, fighting their way across a broad mill-course with a very stiff fence on the taking-off side.

'Hold up!' roared Mr. Sponge, as, having bored a hole through the fence, he found himself on the margin of the water-race. The horse did hold up, and landed him-not without a scramble-on the far side. 'Run him at it, Lucy!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, turning his horse half round to his fair companion. 'Run him at it, Lucy!' repeated he; and Lucy fortunately hitting the gap, skimmed o'er the water like a swallow on a summer's eve.

'Well done! you're a trump!' exclaimed Mr. Sponge, standing in his stirrups, and holding on by the mane as his horse rose the opposing hill.

He just got up in time to save the muttons; another second and the hounds would have been into them. Holding up his hand to beckon Lucy to stop, he sat eyeing them intently. Many of them had their heads up, and not a few were casting sheep's eyes at the sheep. Some few of the line hunters were persevering with the scent over the greasy ground. It was a critical moment. They cast to the right, then to the left, and again took a wider sweep in advance, returning however towards the sheep, as if they thought them the best spec after all.

'Put 'em to me,' said Mr. Sponge, giving Miss Glitters his whip; 'put 'em to me!' said he, hallooing, 'Yor-geot, hounds!-yor-geot!'-which, being interpreted, means, 'here again, hounds!-here again!'

'Oh, the conceited beggar!' exclaimed Mr. Watchorn to himself, as, disappointed of his finish, he sat feeling his nose, mopping his face, and watching the proceedings. 'Oh, the conceited beggar!' repeated he, adding, 'old 'hogany bouts is absolutely a goin' to kest them.'

Cast them, however, he did, proceeding very cautiously in the direction the hounds seemed to lean. They were on a piece of cold scenting ground, across which they could hardly own the scent.

'Don't hurry 'em!' cried Mr. Sponge to Miss Glitters, who was acting whipper-in with rather unnecessary vigour.

As they got under the lee of the hedge, the scent improved a little, and, from an occasional feathering stern, a hound or two indulged in a whimper, until at length they fairly broke out in a cry. 'I'll lose a shoe,' said Watchorn to himself, looking first at the formidable leap before him, and then to see if there was any one coming up behind. 'I'll lose a shoe,' said he. 'No notion of lippin' of a navigable river-a downright arm of the sea,' added he, getting off.

'Forward! forward!' screeched Mr. Sponge, capping the hounds on, when away they went, heads up and sterns down as before.

'Ay, for-rard! for-rard!' mimicked Mr. Watchorn; adding, 'you're for-rard enough, at all events.'

After running about three-quarters of a mile at best pace, Mr. Sponge viewed the fox crossing a large grass field with all the steam up he could raise, a few hundred yards ahead of the pack, who were streaming along most beautifully, not viewing, but gradually gaining upon him. At last they broke from scent to view, and presently rolled him over and over among them.

'Who-hoop!' screamed Mr. Sponge, throwing himself off his horse and rushing in amongst them. 'Who-hoop!' repeated he, still louder, holding the fox up in grim death above the baying pack.

'Who-hoop!' exclaimed Miss Glitters, reining up in delight alongside the chestnut. 'Who-hoop!' repeated she, diving into the saddle-pocket for her lace-fringed handkerchief.

'Throw me my whip!' cried Mr. Sponge, repelling the attacks of the hounds from behind with his heels. Having got it, he threw the fox on the ground, and clearing a circle, he off with his brush in an instant. 'Tear him and eat him!' cried he, as the pack broke in on the carcass. 'Tear him and eat him!' repeated he, as he made his way up to Miss Glitters with the brush, exclaiming, 'We'll put this in your hat, alongside the cock's feathers.'

The fair lady leant towards him, and as he adjusted it becomingly in her hat, looking at her bewitching eyes, her lovely face, and feeling the sweet fragrance of her breath, a something shot through Mr. Sponge's pull-devil, pull-baker coat, his corduroy waistcoat, his Eureka shirt, Angola vest, and penetrated the very cockles of his heart. He gave her such a series of smacking kisses as startled her horse and astonished a poacher who happened to be hid in the adjoining hedge.

Sponge was never so happy in his life. He could have stood on his head, or been guilty of any sort of extravagance, short of wasting his money. Oh, he was happy! Oh, he was joyous! He was intoxicated with pleasure. As he eyed his angelic charmer, her lustrous eyes, her glowing cheeks, her pearly teeth, the bewitching fulness of her elegant tournure, and thought of the masterly way she rode the run-above all, of the dashing style in which she charged the mill-race-he felt a something quite different to anything he had experienced with any of the buxom widows or lackadaisical misses whom he could just love or not, according to circumstances, among whom his previous experience had lain. Miss Glitters, he knew, had nothing, and yet he felt he could not do without her; the puzzlement of his mind was, how the deuce they should manage matters-'make tongue and buckle meet,' as he elegantly phrased it.

It is pleasant to hear a bachelor's pros and cons on the subject of matrimony; how the difficulties of the gentleman out of love vanish or change into advantages with the one in-'Oh, I would never think of marrying without a couple of thousand a year at the very least!' exclaims young Fastly. 'I can't do without four hunters and a hack. I can't do without a valet. I can't do without a brougham. I must belong to half-a-dozen clubs. I'll not marry any woman who can't keep me comfortable-bachelors can live upon nothing-bachelors are welcome everywhere-very different thing with a wife. Frightful things milliners' bills-fifty guineas for a dress, twenty for a bonnet-ladies' maids are the very devil-never satisfied-far worse to please than their mistresses.' And between the whiffs of a cigar he hums the old saw-

'Needles and pins, needles and pins,

When a man marries his sorrow begins.'

Now take him on the other tack-Fast is smitten.

''Ord hang it! a married man can live on very little,' soliloquizes our friend. A nice lovely creature to keep one at home. Hunting's all humbug; it's only the flash of the thing that makes one follow it. Then the danger far more than counterbalances the pleasure. Awful places one has to ride over, to be sure, or submit to be called "slow." Horrible thing to set up for a horseman, and then have to ride to maintain one's reputation. Will be thankful to give it up altogether. The bays will make capital carriage-horses, and one can often pick up a second-hand carriage as good as new. Shall save no end of money by not having to put "B" to my name in the assessed tax-payer. One club's as good as a dozen-will give up the Polyanthus and the Sunflower, and the Refuse and the Rag. Ladies' dresses are cheap enough. Saw a beautiful gown t'other day for a guinea. Will start Master Bergamotte. Does nothing for his wages; will scarce clean my boots. Can get a chap for half what I give him, who'll do double the work. Will make Beans into coachman. What a convenience to have one's wife's maid to sew on one's buttons, and keep one's toes in one's stocking-feet! Declare I lose half my things at the washing for want of marking. Hanged if I won't marry and be respectable-marriage is an honourable state!' And thereupon Tom grows a couple of inches taller in his own conceit.

Though Mr. Sponge's thoughts did not travel in quite such a luxurious first-class train as the foregoing, he, Mr. Sponge, being more of a two-shirts-and-a-dicky sort of man, yet still the future ways and means weighed upon his mind, and calmed the transports of his present joy. Lucy was an angel! about that there was no dispute. He would make her Mrs. Sponge at all events. Touring about was very expensive. He could only counterbalance the extravagance of inns by the rigid rule of giving nothing to servants at private houses. He thought a nice airy lodging in the suburbs of London would answer every purpose, while his accurate knowledge of cab-fares would enable Lucy to continue her engagement at the Royal Amphitheatre without incurring the serious overcharges the inexperienced are exposed to. 'Where one can dine, two can dine,' mused Mr. Sponge; 'and I make no doubt we'll manage matters somehow.'

'Twopence for your thoughts!' cried Lucy, trotting up, and touching him gently on the back with her light silver-mounted riding-whip. 'Twopence for your thoughts!' repeated she, as Mr. Sponge sauntered leisurely along, regardless of the bitter cold, followed by such of the hounds as chose to accompany him.

'Ah!' replied he, brightening up; 'I was just thinking what a deuced good run we'd had.'

'Indeed!' pouted the fair lady.

'No, my darling; I was thinking what a very pretty girl you are,' rejoined he, sidling his horse up, and encircling her neat waist with his arm.

A sweet smile dimpled her plump cheeks, and chased the recollection of the former answer away.

It would not be pretty-indeed, we could not pretend to give even the outline of the conversation that followed. It was carried on in such broken and disjointed sentences, eyes and squeezes doing so much more work than words, that even a reporter would have had to draw largely upon his imagination for the substance. Suffice it to say that, though the thermometer was below zero, they never moved out of a foot's pace; the very hounds growing tired of the trail, and slinking off one by one as the opportunity occurred.

A dazzling sun was going down with a blood-red glare, and the partially softened ground was fast resuming its fretwork of frost, as our hero and heroine were seen sauntering up the western avenue to Nonsuch House, as slowly and quietly as if it had been the hottest evening in summer.

'Here's old Coppertops!' exclaimed Captain Seedeybuck, as, turning round in the billiard-room to chalk his cue, he espied them crawling along. 'And Lucy!' added he as he stood watching them.

'How slowly they come!' observed Bob Spangles, going to the window.

'Must have tired their horses,' suggested Captain Quod.

'Just the sort of man to tire a horse,' rejoined Bob Spangles.

'Hate that Sponge,' observed Captain Cutitfat.

'So do I,' replied Captain Quod.

'Well, never mind the beggar! It's you to play!' exclaimed Bob Spangles to Captain Seedeybuck.

But Lady Scattercash, who was observing our friends from her boudoir window, saw with a woman's eye that there was something more than a mere case of tired horses; and, tripping downstairs, she arrived at the front door just as the fair Lucy dropped smilingly from her horse into Mr. Sponge's extended arms. Hurrying up into the boudoir, Lucy gave her ladyship one of Mr. Sponge's modified kisses, revealing the truth more eloquently than words could convey.

'Oh,' Lady Scattercash was 'so glad!' 'so delighted!' 'so charmed!'

Mr. Sponge was such a nice man, and so rich. She was sure he was rich-couldn't hunt if he wasn't. Would advise Lucy to have a good settlement, in case he broke his neck. And pin-money! pin-money was most useful! no husband ever let his wife have enough money. Must forget all about Harry Dacre and Charley Brown, and the swell in the Blues. Must be prudent for the future. Mr. Sponge would never know anything of the past. Then she reverted to the interesting subject of settlements. 'What had Mr. Sponge got, and what would he do?' This Lucy couldn't tell. 'What! hadn't he told her where is estates were?-'No.' 'Well, was his dad dead?' This Lucy didn't know either. They had got no further than the tender prop. 'Ah! well; would get it all out of him by degrees.' And with the reiteration of her 'so glads,' and the repayment of the kiss Lucy had advanced, her ladyship advised her to get off her habit and make herself comfortable while she ran downstairs to communicate the astonishing intelligence to the party below.

'What d'ye think?' exclaimed she, bursting into the billiard-room, where the party were still engaged in a game at pool, all our sportsmen, except Captain Cutitfat, who still sported his new Moses and Son's scarlet, having divested themselves of their hunting-gear-'What d'ye think?' exclaimed she, darting into the middle of them.

'That Bob don't cannon?' observed Captain Bouncey from below the bandage that encircled his broken head, nodding towards Bob Spangles, who was just going to make a stroke.

'That Wax is out of limbo?' suggested Captain Seedeybuck, in the same breath.

'No. Guess again!' exclaimed Lady Scattercash, rubbing her hands in high glee.

'That the Pope's got a son?' observed Captain Quod.

'No. Guess again!' exclaimed her ladyship, laughing.

'I give it up,' replied Captain Bouncey.

'So do I,' added Captain Seedeybuck.

'That Mr. Sponge is going to be married,' enunciated her ladyship, slowly and emphatically, waving her arms.

'Ho-o-ray! Only think of that!' exclaimed Captain Quod. 'Old 'hogany-tops goin' to be spliced!'

'Did you ever?' asked Bob Spangles.

'No, I never,' replied Captain Bouncey.

'He should be called Spooney Sponge, not Soapey Sponge,' observed Captain Seedeybuck.

'Well, but to whom?' asked Captain Bouncey.

'Ah, to whom indeed! That's the question,' rejoined her ladyship archly.

'I know,' observed Bob Spangles.

'No, you don't.'

'Yes, I do.'

'Who is it, then?' demanded her ladyship.

'Lucy Glitters, to be sure,' replied Bob, who hadn't had his stare out of the billiard-room window for nothing.

'Pity her,' observed Bouncey, sprawling along the billiard-table to play for a cannon.

'Why?' asked Lady Scattercash.

'Reg'lar scamp,' replied Bouncey, vexed at missing his stroke.

'Dare say you know nothing about him,' snapped her ladyship.

'Don't I?' replied Bouncey complacently; adding, 'that's all you know.'

'He'll whop her, to a certainty,' observed Seedeybuck.

'What makes you think that?' asked her ladyship.

'Oh-ha-hem-haw-why, because he whopped his poor horse-whopped him over the ears. Whop his horse, whop his wife; whop his wife, whop his horse. Reg'lar Rule-of-three sum.'

'Make her a bad husband, I dare say,' observed Bob Spangles, who was rather smitten with Lucy himself.

'Never mind; a bad husband's a deal better than none, Bob,' replied Lady Scattercash, determined not to be put out of conceit of her man.

'He, he, he!-haw, haw, haw!-ho, ho, ho! Well done you!' laughed several.

'She'll have to keep him,' observed Captain Cutitfat, whose turn it now was to play.

'What makes you think that?' asked Lady Scattercash, coming again to the charge.

'He has nothing,' replied Fat coolly.

''Deed, but he has-a very good property, too,' replied her ladyship.

'In Airshire, I should think,' rejoined Fat.

'No, in Englandshire,' retorted her ladyship: 'and great expectations from an uncle,' added she.

'Ah-he looks like a man to be on good terms with his uncle,' sneered Captain Bouncey.

'Make no doubt he pays him many a visit,' observed Seedeybuck.

'Indeed! that's all you know,' snapped Lady Scattercash.

'It's not all I know,' replied Seedeybuck.

'Well, then, what else do you know?' asked she.

'I know he has nothing,' replied Seedey.

'How do you know it?'

'I know,' said Seedey, with an emphasis, now settling to his stroke.

'Well, never mind,' retorted her ladyship; 'if he has nothing, she has nothing, and nothing can be nicer.'

So saying, she hurried out of the room.

* * *

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