‘A convenient sort of gentleman,’ observed Mr Sponge, thinking he, too, might accommodate him.

The fly-man now touched his hat, indicative of a wish to be off, having a fare waiting elsewhere. Mr Sponge directed him to proceed to the Brunswick Hotel, while, accompanied by Leather, he proceeded on foot to the stables.

Mr Leather, of course, had the valuable stud under lock and key, with every crevice and air-hole well stuffed with straw, as if they had been the most valuable horses in the world. Having produced the ringkey from his pocket, Mr Leather opened the door, and having got his master in, speedily closed it, lest a breath of fresh air might intrude. Having lighted a lucifer, he turned on the gas, and exhibited the blooming- coated horses, well littered in straw, showing that he was not the man to pay four-and-twenty shillings a week for nothing. Mr Sponge stood eyeing them for some seconds with evident approbation.

‘If anyone asks you about the horses, you can say they are mine, you know,’ at length observed he, casually, with an emphasis on the mine.

In course,’ replied Leather.

‘I mean, you needn’t say anything about their being jobs,’ observed Sponge, fearing Leather mightn’t exactly ‘take.’

You trust me,’ replied Leather, with a knowing wink and a jerk of his elbow against his master’s side; ‘you trust me,’ repeated he, with a look as much as to say, ‘we understand each other.’

‘I’ve hadded a few to them, indeed,’ continued Leather, looking to see how his master took it.

‘Have you?’ observed Mr Sponge, enquiringly.

‘I’ve made out that you’ve as good as twenty, one way or another,’ observed Leather; ‘some ’ere, some there, all over in fact, and that you jest run about the country, and ’unt with ’oever comes h’uppermost.’

‘Well, and what’s the upshot of it all?’ enquired Mr Sponge, thinking his groom seemed wonderfully enthusiastic in his interest.

‘Why, the hupshot of it is,’ replied Leather, ‘that the men are all mad, and the women all wild to see you. I hear at my club, the Mutton Chop and Mealy Potato Club, which is frequented by flunkies as well as grums, that there’s nothin’ talked of at dinner or tea, but the terrible rich stranger that’s a comin’, and the gals are all pulling caps, who’s to have the first chance.’

‘Indeed,’ observed Mr Sponge, chuckling at the sensation he was creating.

‘The Miss Shapsets, there be five on ’em, have had a game at fly loo for you,’ continued Leather, ‘at least so their little maid tells me.’

Fly what?’ enquired Mr Sponge.

‘Fly loo,’ repeated Leather, ‘fly loo.’

Mr Sponge shook his head. For once he was not ‘fly.’

‘You see,’ continued Leather, in explanation, ‘their father is one of them tight-laced candlestick priests wot abhors all sorts of wice and himmorality, and won’t stand card playin’, or gamblin’, or nothin’ o’ that sort, so the young ladies when they want to settle a point, who’s to be married first, or who’s to have the richest ’usband, play fly loo. ’Sposing it’s at breakfast time, they all sit quiet and sober like round the table, lookin’ as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, and each has a lump o’ sugar on her plate,

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