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up, than, without waiting for him to shake himself, Mr. Soapey vaulted into the saddle, and seizing him by the head, let in the Latchfords in a style that satisfied the hack he was not going to canter in a circle. Away he went, best pace ; for, like all Mr. Soapey's horses, he had the knack of going, the general difficulty being to get them to go the way they were wanted.
Soapey presently overtook Mr. Jawleyford, who had been brought up by a gate, which he was making sundry ineffectual passes and efforts to open ; the gate and his horse seeming to have combined to prevent his getting through. Though an expert swordsman, he had never been able to accomplish the art of opening a gate, especially one of those gingerly-balanced, spring-snecked things that require to be taken at the nick of time, or they just drop to as the horse gets his nose to them.
Why arn't you here to open the gate ?” asked Jawleyford, snappishly, as the blue boy bustled up as his master's efforts became more hopeless at each attempt.
The lad, like a wise fellow, dropped from his horse, and opening it with his hands, ran it back on foot.
Jawleyford and Soapey then rode through.
Canter, canter, canter, Jawleyford went, with an arm a-kimbo, head well up, legs well down, toes well pointed, as if he were going to a race, where his work would end on arriving, instead of to a fox-hunt, where it would only be beginning:
“You are rather hard on the old nag, arn't you?” at length asked Soapey, as, having cleared the rushy, swampy park, they came upon
the macadamised turnpike, and Jawleyford selected the middle of it as the scene of his further progression.
“Oh no!” replied Jawleyford, tit-tup-ing along with a loose rein, as if he was on the soundest, freshest-legged horse in the world; “oh no! my horses are used to it.”
“Well, but if you mean to hunt him," observed Soapey, “he'll be blown before he gets to cover."
“Get him in wind, my dear fellow," replied Jawleyford, “get him in wind,” touching the horse with the spur as he spoke.
“ Faith, but if he was as well on his legs as he is in his wind, he'd not be amiss,” rejoined Soapey.
So they cantered and trotted and trotted and cantered away, Soapey thinking he could afford pace as well as Jawleyford. Indeed, a horse has only to become a hack, to be able to do double the work he was ever supposed to be capable of.
But to the meet.
Scrambleford Green was a small straggling village on the top of a somewhat high hill, that divided the vale in which Jawleyford Court was situated, from the more fertile one of Farthinghoe, in which Lord Scamperdale lived.
It was one of those out-of-the-way places at which the meet of the hounds, and love feast or fair, consisting of two fiddlers (one for eachi public-house), a few unlicensed packmen, three or four gingerbread stalls, a drove of cows and some sheep, form the great events of the year, among a people who are thoroughly happy and contented with that amount of gaiety. Think of that, you " used up" young gentlemen of
twenty, who have exhausted the pleasures of the whole world! The hounds did not come to Scrambleford Green often, for it was not a favourite meet; and when they did come, Frostyface and the men generally had them pretty much to themselves. This day, however, was the exception ; and Old Tom Yarnley, whom age had bent nearly double, and who hobbled along on two sticks, declared, that never in the course of his recollection, a period extending over the best part of a century, had he seen such a “sight of red coats” as mustered that morning at Scranıbleford Green. It seemed as if there had been a sudden rising of sports
What brought them all out?: What brought Mr. Puffington, the master of the Hanby hounds, out? What brought Blossomnose again? What Mr. Wake, Mr. Fossick, Mr. Fyle, who had all been out the day before ?
Reader, the news had spread throughout the country that there was a great writer down ; and they wanted to see what he would
of them—they had come to sit for their portraits, in fact. There was a great gathering, at least for the Flat Hat Hunt, who seldom mustered above a dozen. Tom Washball came, in a fine new coat and new flatfliped hat with a broad binding ; also Mr. Sparks, of Spark Hall ; Major Mayo; Mr. Archer, of Cheam Lodge ; Mr. Reeves, of Coxwell Green ; Mr. Bliss, of Boltonshaw ; Mr. Joyce, of Ebstone ; Dr. Capon, of Calcot; Mr. Dribble, of Hook; Mr. Slade, of Three-Burrow Hill; and several others. Great was the astonishment of each as the other
“ Why, here's Joe Reeves !” exclaimed Blossomnose. - Who'd have thought of seeing you ?”
“And who'd have thought of seeing you ?" rejoined Reeves, shaking hands with the jolly old nose.
“ Here's Tom Washball in time, for once, I declare!" exclaimed Mr. Fyle, as Mr. Washball cantered up in apple-pie order.
“ Wonders will never cease!" observed Fossick, looking Washy
So the field sat in a ring about the hounds, in the centre of which, as usual, were Jack and Lord Scamperdale, looking, with their great tortoiseshell-rimmed spectacles, and short gray whiskers trimmed in a curve up to their noses, like a couple of horned owls in hats.
“ Here's the man on the cow !” exclaimed Jack, as he espied Soapey and Jawleyford rising the hill together, easing their horses by standing in their stirrups and holding on by their manes.
“You don't say so !" exclaimed Lord Scamperdale, turning his horse in the direction Jack was looking, and staring for hard life too. there is, I declare!" observed he. " And who the deuce is this with him ?”
“ That ass Jawleyford, as I live !” exclaimed Jack, as the blue boy now hove in sight.
“So it is !" said Lord Scamperdale ; "the confounded humbug!"
“ This boy'll be after one of the young ladies," observed Jack; “ not one of the writing chaps we thought he was.”
“Shouldn't wonder," replied Lord Scamperdale; adding, in an under tone, “I vote we have a rise out of old Jaw. I'll let you in for a good thing-you shall dine with him.”
“Not I,” replied Jack.
“ You shall, though,” replied his lordship, firmly. “ Pray don't !" entreated Jack.
“ By the powers, if you don't,” rejoined his lordship, “ you shall not have a mount out of me for a month."
While this conversation was going on, Jawleyford and Soapey, having risen the hill, had resumed their seats in the saddle, and Jawleyford, setting himself in attitude, tickled his horse with his spur, and proceeded to canter becomingly up to the pack ; Soapey and the groom following a little behind.
“Well, Jawleyford, my dear fellow!" exclaimed Lord Scamperdale, putting his horse on a few steps to meet him as he came flourishing up; * Well
, Jawleyford, my dear fellow, I'm delighted to see you," extending a hand as he spoke. * Jack, here, told me that he saw your flag Aying as he passed, and I said what a pity it was but I'd known before; for Jawleyford, said I, is a real good fellow, and has asked me to dine so often that I'm almost ashamed to meet him; and it would have been such a nice opportunity to have volunteered a visit, the hounds being here, you see.
“Oh, that's so kind of your lordship!” exclaimed Jawleyford, quite delighted—“ that's so kind of your lordship—that's just what I like!— that's just what Mrs. Jawleyford likes !-that's just what we all like ! coming without fuss or ceremony, just as my friend Mr. Sponge, Mr. Soapey Sponge here, does. By-the-way, will your lordship give me leave to introduce my friend Mr. Sponge-Mr. Soapey Sponge, my Lord Scamperdale.” 'Jawleyford suiting the action to the word, and maneuvering the ceremony.
“Ah! I made Mr. Sponge's acquaintance yesterday," observed his lordship drily, giving a sort of servants' touch of his hat as he scrutinised our friend through his formidable glasses ; adding—" To tell you the truth," addressing himself in an under tone to Soapey, “I took you for one of those nasty writing chaps, who I abominate. But," continued his lordship, returning to Jawleyford, “ I'll tell you what I said about the dinner. Jack, here, told me the flag was flying; and I said I only wished I'd known before, and I would certainly have proposed that Jack and I should dine with you, either to-day or to-morrow; but unfortunately I'd engaged myself to my Lord Barker's not five minutes before."
“Ah, my lord !” exclaimed Jawleyford, throwing out his hand and shrugging his shoulders as if in despair, “you tantalise me-you do indeed. You should have come, or said nothing about it. You distress me-you do indeed."
“Well, I'm wrong, perhaps," replied his lordship, patting Jawleyford encouragingly on the shoulder ; but however, I'll tell you what,” said he, “ Jack here's not engaged, and he shall come to you."
“ Most happy to see Mr.-ha-hum-haw-Jack-that's to say, Mr. Spraggon,” replied Jawleyford, bowing very low, and laying his hand on his heart, as if quite overpowered at the idea of the honour.
“ Then that's a bargain, Jack," said his lordship, looking knowingly round at his much disconcerted friend ; "you dine and stay all night at Jawleyford Court to-morrow; and mind,” added he, “ make yourself agreeable to the ladies.”
“Couldn't your lordship arrange it so that we might have the pleasure of seeing you
some future day?" asked Jawleyford, anxious to
avert the Jack calamity, "Say next week,” continued he ; “or suppose you meet at the Court ?”
« Ha-he-hum. Meet at the Court,” mumbled his lordship—"meet at the Court-ha-he-ha-hum—no; that won't do-got no foxes.”
Plenty of foxes, I assure you, my lord!” exclaimed Jawleyford. “ Plenty of foxes!" repeated he.
“We never find them, then, somehow,” observed his lordship, drily; “ at least none but those beggars in the laurels at the back of the stables.”
“Ah! that will be the fault of the hounds," replied Jawleyford ; “they don't take sufficient time to draw-run through the covers too quickly."
“Fault of the hounds be banged!” exclaimed Jack, who was the champion of the pack generally. “There's not a more patient, painstaking pack in the world than his lordship’s.”.
“Ah-well-ah-never mind that,” replied his lordship, “Jawleyford and you can settle that point over your port to-morrow ; meanwhile, if your friend Mr. What's-bis-name here, 'll get his horse,” continued his lordship, addressing himself to Jawleyford, but looking at Soapey, who was still on the piebald, “we'll throw off.” " Thank
you, my lord,” replied Soapey ; “but I'll mount at the cover side.” Soapey not being inclined to let the numerous Flat Hat Hunt field see the difference of inclination that occasionally existed between the gallant brown and himself.
"As you please," rejoined his lordship, “as you please," jerking his head at Frostyface, who forthwith gave the office to the hounds ; whereupon all was commotion. Away the cavalcade went, and in less than five minutes the late bustling village resumed its wonted quiet ; the old man on sticks, two crones gossiping at a door, a rag-or-anythingelse-gatherer going about with a donkey, and a parcel of
dirty children tumbling about on the green, being all that remained on the scene. All the able-bodied men had followed the hounds. Why the hounds had ever climbed the long hill seemed a mystery, seeing that they returned the
way they came. Jawleyford, though sore disconcerted at having. "Jack" pawned upon him, stuck to my lo
and rode on his right with the air of a general. He felt he was doing his duty as an Englishman in thus patronising the hounds—encouraging a manly spirit of independence, and promoting our unrivalled breed of horses. The post-boy trot at which hounds travel
, to be sure, is not well adapted for dignity ; but Jawleyford flourished and vapoured as well as he could under the circumstances, and considering they were going down hill. Lord Scamperdale rode along, laughing in his sleeve at the idea of the pleasant evening Jack and Jawleyford would have together, occasionally complimenting Jawleyford on the cut and condition of his horse, and advising him to be careful of the switching raspers with which the country abounded, and which might be fatal to his nice nutmeg-coloured trousers. The rest of the “field” followed, the fall of the ground enabling them to see how thick Jawleyford was with my lord.” Old Blossomnose, who, we should observe, had slipped away unperceived on Jawleyford's arrival, took a bird's-eye view from the rear. Naughty Blossom was riding the horse that ougħt to have gone in the "chay" to Jawleyford Court,
Soapey having inveigled the brown under lee of an outhouse as the field moved along, was fortunate enough to achieve the saddle without disclosing the secrets of the stable; and as he rejoined the throng in all the pride of shape, action, and well-groomed condition, even the topsawyers, Fossick, Fyle, Bliss, Archer, and others, admitted that he was not a bad-looking horse; while the humbler-minded ones eyed Soapey with a mixture of awe and envy, thinking that literature must be an uncommon good trade to stand such a horse. “ Is
your friend What's-his-name, there, a workman?" asked Lord Scamperdale, nodding towards Soapey as he trotted Hercules gently past on the turf by the side of the road along which they were riding.
“Oh, no," replied Jawleyford, tartly. “Oh, no--gentleman ; man of property-large property.”
"I did not mean was he a mechanic,” explained his lordship drily, “ but a workman; a good ’un across country, in fact." His Iordship working his arms as if he was going to set-to for a tussle.
“A first-rate man!- first-rate man!” replied Jawleyford ; “ beat them all at Laverick Wells."
“I thought so,” observed his lordship; adding to himself, “then Jack shall take the conceit out of him."
“ Jack !" holloaed he over his shoulder to his friend, who was jogging a little behind ; " Jack !" repeated he, “that Mr. Soapey Something
Sponge !" observed Jawleyford, with an emphasis. “That Mr. Soapey Sponge, continued his lordship, " is a stranger in the country: have the kindness to take care of him. You know what I mean?"
“ Just so," replied Jack; “ I'll take care of him.”
“Most polite of your lordship, I'm sure,” said Jawleyford, with a low bow, and laying his hand on his breast. “I can assure you I shall never forget the marked attention I have received from your lordship this day.”
** Thank you for nothing;” grunted his lordship to himself.
They had now got to the cover, Tickler Gorse, and ere the last horsemen had reached the last angle of the long hill, Frostyface was rolling about on foot in the luxuriant evergreen; now wholly visible, now all but overhead, like a man buffeting among the waves of the sea. Save Frosty's cheery voice encouraging the invisible pack to “ wind him!” and rout him out!" an injunction that the shaking of the gorse showed they willingly obeyed, and an occasional exclamation from Jawleyford, of - Beautiful ! beautiful!-never saw better hounds !-can't be a finer pack!" not a sound disturbed the stillness of the scene.
The waggoners on the road stopped their wains, the late noisy ploughmen leaned vacantly on their stilts, the turnip-pullers stood erect in air, and the shepherds boys deserted the bleating flocks ;-all was life and joy and liberty-“ Liberty, equality, and foxhunt-ity!"
“ Yo-i-cks, wind him! Y-0-0-icks ! rout him out!" went Frosty : occasionally varying the entertainment with a loud crack of his heavy whip, when he could get upon a piece of rising ground to clear the thong.
“ Tally-ho !" screamed Jawleyford, hoisting the Bumperkin Yeomanry cap in the air.“ Tally-ho!" repeated he, looking triumphantly round, as much as to say,
“What a clever boy am I!”