Our Hero

IT WAS A MURKY OCTOBER DAY that the hero of our tale, Mr Sponge, or Soapey Sponge, as his good-natured friends call him, was seen mizzling along Oxford Street, wending his way to the west. Not that there was anything unusual in Sponge being seen in Oxford Street, for when in town his daily perambulations consist of a circuit, commencing from the Bantam Hotel in Bond Street into Piccadilly, through Leicester Square, and so on to Aldridge’s, in St Martin’s Lane, thence by Moore’s sporting-print shop, and on through some of those ambiguous and tortuous streets that, appearing to lead all ways at once and none in particular, land the explorer, sooner or later, on the south side of Oxford Street.

Oxford Street acts to the north part of London what the Strand does to the south; it is sure to bring one up, sooner or later. A man can hardly get over either of them without knowing it. Well, Soapey having got into Oxford Street, would make his way at a squarey, in-kneed, duck-toed, sort of pace, regulated by the bonnets, the vehicles, and the equestrians he met to criticise; for of women, vehicles, and horses, he had voted himself a consummate judge. Indeed he had fully established in his own mind that Kiddey Downey and he were the only men in London who really knew anything about horses, and fully impressed with that conviction, he would halt, and stand, and stare, in a way that with any other man would have been considered impertinent. Perhaps it was impertinent in Soapey -- we don’t mean to say it wasn’t -- but he had done it so long, and was of so sporting a gait and cut, that he felt himself somewhat privileged. Moreover, the majority of horsemen are so satisfied with the animals they bestride, that they cock up their jibs and ride along with a ‘find any fault with either me or my horse, if you can’ sort of air.

Thus Mr Sponge proceeded leisurely along, now nodding to this man, now jerking his elbow to that, now smiling on a phaëton, now sneering at a ’bus. If he did not look in at Shackell’s, or Bartley’s, or any of the dealers on the line, he was always to be found about half-past five at Cumberland Gate, from whence he would strike leisurely down the Park, and after coming to a long check at Rotten Row rails, from whence he would pass all the cavalry in the Park in review, he would wend his way back to the Bantam, much in the style he had come. This was his summer proceeding.

Mr Sponge had pursued this enterprising life for some ‘seasons’ -- ten at least -- and supposing him to have begun at twenty or one-and-twenty, he would be about thirty at the time we have the pleasure of introducing him to our readers -- a period of life at which men begin to suspect they were not quite so wise at twenty as they thought. Not that Mr Sponge had any particular indiscretions to reflect upon, for he was tolerably sharp, but he felt that he might have made better use of his time, which may be shortly described as having been spent in hunting all the winter, and in talking about it all the summer. With this popular sport he combined the diversion of fortune-hunting, though we are concerned to say that his success, up to the period of our introduction, had not been commensurate with his deserts. Let us, however, hope that brighter days are about to dawn upon him.

Having now introduced our hero to our male and female friends, under his interesting pursuits of fox and fortune-hunter, it becomes us to say a few words as to his qualifications for carrying them on.

Mr Sponge was a good-looking, rather vulgar-looking man. At a distance -- say ten yards -- his height, figure, and carriage gave him somewhat of a commanding appearance, but this was rather marred by a jerky, twitchy, uneasy sort of air, that too plainly showed he was not the natural, or what the lower orders call the real gentleman. Not that Sponge was shy. Far from it. He never hesitated about offering to a lady, after a three days’ acquaintance, or in asking a gentleman to take him a horse in overnight, with whom he might chance to come in contact in the hunting field. And he did it all in such a cool, off-hand, matter-of-course sort of way, that people who would have stared with astonishment if anybody else had hinted at such a proposal, really seemed to come into the humour and spirit of the thing, and to look upon it rather as a matter of course than otherwise. Then his dexterity in getting into people’s houses was only equalled by the difficulty of getting him out again, but this we must waive for the present in favour of his portraiture.

In height, Mr Sponge was about the middle size -- five feet eleven or so -- with a well-borne-up, not badly shaped, closely cropped oval head, a tolerably good, but somewhat receding forehead, bright hazel

  By PanEris using Melati.

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