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   Chapter 69 HOW OTHER THINGS CAME OFF

Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour By Robert Smith Surtees Characters: 5496

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


'Twere hard to say whether Lucy's joy at Sponge's safety, or Lord Scamperdale's grief at poor Spraggon's death, was most overpowering. Each found relief in a copious flood of tears. Lucy sobbed and laughed, and sobbed and laughed again; and seemed as if her little heart would burst its bounds. The mob, ever open to sentiment-especially the sentiment of beauty-cheered and shouted as she rode with her lover from the winning to the weighing-post.

'A', she's a bonny un!' exclaimed a countryman, looking intently up in her face.

'She is that!' cried another, doing the same.

'Three cheers for the lady!' shouted a tall Shaggyford rough, taking off his woolly cap, and waving it.

'Hoo-ray! hoo-ray! hoo-ray!' shouted a group of flannel-clad navvies.

'Three for white jacket!' then roared a blue-coated butcher, who had won as many half-crowns on the race.-Three cheers were given for the unwilling winner.

'Oh, my poor dear Jack!' exclaimed his lordship, throwing himself off his horse, and wringing his hands in despair, as a select party of thimble-riggers, who had gone to Jack's assistance, raised him up, and turned his ghastly face, with his eyes squinting inside out, and the foam still on his mouth, full upon him. 'Oh, my poor dear Jack!' repeated his lordship, sinking on his knees beside him, and grasping his stiffening hand as he spoke. His lordship sank overpowered upon the body.

The thimble-riggers then availed themselves of the opportunity to ease his lordship and Jack of their watches and the few shillings they had about them, and departed.

When a lord is in distress, consolation is never long in coming; and Lord Scamperdale had hardly got over the first paroxysms of grief, and gathered up Jack's cap, and the fragments of his spectacles, ere Jawleyford, who had noticed his abrupt departure from the stand and scurry across the country, arrived at the spot. His lordship was still in the full agony of woe; still grasping and bedewing Jack's cold hand with his tears.

'Oh, my dear Jack! Oh, my dear Jawleyford! Oh, my dear Jack! 'sobbed he, as he mopped the fast-chasing tears from his grizzly cheeks with a red cotton kerchief. 'Oh, my dear Jack! Oh, my dear Jawleyford! Oh, my dear Jack! 'repeated he, as a fresh flood spread o'er the rugged surface. 'Oh, what a tr-reasure, what a tr-tr-trump he was. Shall never get such another. Nobody could s-s-lang a fi-fi-field as he could; no hu-hu-humbug 'bout him-never was su-su-such a fine natural bl-bl-blackguard'; and then his feelings wholly choked his utterance as he recollected how easily Jack was satisfied; how he could dine off tripe and cow-heel, mop up fat porridge for breakfast, and never grumbled at being put on a bad horse.

The ne

ws of a man being killed soon reached the hill, and drew the attention of the mob from our hero and heroine, causing such a spread of population over the farm as must have been highly gratifying to Scourgefield, who stood watching the crashing of the fences and the demolition of the gates, thinking how he was paying his landlord off.

Seeing the rude, unmannerly character of the mob, Jawleyford got his lordship by the arm, and led him away towards the hill, his lordship reeling, rather than walking, and indulging in all sorts of wild, incoherent cries and lamentations.

'Sing out. Jack! sing out!' he would exclaim, as if in the agony of having his hounds ridden over; then, checking himself, he would shake his head and say, 'Ah, poor Jack, poor Jack! shall never look upon his like again-shall never get such a man to read the riot act, and keep all square.' And then a fresh gush of tears suffused his grizzly face.

The minor casualties of those few butchering spasmodic moments may be briefly dismissed, though they were more numerous than most sportsmen see out hunting in a lifetime.

One horse broke his back, another was drowned, Multum-in-Parvo was cut all to pieces, his rider had two ribs and a thumb broken, while Farmer Slyfield's stackyard was fired by some of the itinerant tribe, and all its uninsured contents destroyed-so that his landlord was not the only person who suffered by the grand occasion.

Nor was this all, for Mr. Numboy, the coroner, hearing of Jack's death, held an inquest on the body; and, having empanelled a matter-of-fact jury-men who did not see the advantage of steeple-chasing, either in a political, commercial, agricultural, or national point of view, and who, having surveyed the line, and found nearly every fence dangerous, and the wall and brook doubly so, returned a verdict of manslaughter against Mr. Viney for setting it out, who was forthwith committed to the county gaol of Limbo Castle for trial at the ensuing assizes, from whence let us join the benevolent clerk of arraigns in wishing him a good deliverance.

Many of the hardy 'tips' sounded the loud trump of victory, proclaiming that their innumerable friends had feathered their nests through their agency; but Peeping Tom and Infallible Joe, and Enoch Wriggle, 'the offending soul,' &c., found it convenient to bolt from their respective establishments, carrying with them their large fire-screens, camp-stools, and boards for posting up their lists, and setting up in new names in other quarters; while the Hen Angel was shortly afterwards closed, and the presentation-tureen made into 'white soup.'

So much for the 'small deer.' We will now devote a concluding chapter to the 'great guns' of our story.

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