The Meet

EARLY TO BED and early to rise being among Mr Sponge’s maxims, he was enjoying the view of the pantiles at the back of his hotel shortly after daylight the next morning, a time about as difficult to fix in a November day as the age of a lady of a ‘certain age.’ It takes even an expeditious dresser ten minutes or a quarter of an hour extra the first time he has to deal with boots and breeches; and Mr Sponge being quite a pattern card in his peculiar line, of course took a good deal more to get himself ‘up.’

An accustomed eye could see a more than ordinary stir in the streets that morning. Riding-masters and their assistants might be seen going along with strings of saddled and side-saddled screws; flys began to roll at an earlier hour, and natty tigers to kick about in buckskins prior to departing with hunters, good, bad, and indifferent.

Each man had told his partner at Miss Jumpheavy’s ball of the capital trick they were going to play the stranger; and a desire to see the stranger, far more than a desire to see the trick, caused many fair ones to forsake their downy couches who had much better have kept them.

The world is generally very complacent with regard to strangers, so long as they are strangers, generally making them out to be a good deal better than they really are, and Mr Sponge came in for his full share of stranger credit. They not only brought all the twenty horses Leather said he had scattered about to Laverick Wells, but made him out to have a house in Eaton Square, a yacht at Cowes, and a first-rate moor in Scotland, and some said a peerage in expectancy. No wonder that he ‘drew,’ as theatrical people say.

Let us now suppose him breakfasted, and ready for a start.

He was ‘got up’ with uncommon care in the most complete style of the severe order of sporting costume. It being now the commencement of the legitimate hunting season -- the first week in November -- he availed himself of the privileged period for turning out in everything new. Rejecting the now generally worn cap, he adhered to the heavy, close-napped hat, described in our opening chapter, whose connection with his head, or back, if it came off, was secured by a small black silk cord, hooked through the band by a fox’s tooth, and anchored to a button inside the haven of his low coat-collar. His neck was enveloped in the ample folds of a large white silk cravat, tied in a pointing diamond tie, and secured with a large silver horseshoe pin, the shoe being almost large enough for the foot of a young donkey.

His low, narrow-collared coat was of infinitesimal order; that is to say, a coat, and yet as little of a coat as possible -- very near a jacket, in fact. The seams, of course, were outside, and were it not for the extreme strength and evenness of the sewing and the evident intention of the thing, an ignorant person might have supposed that he had had his coat turned. A double layer of cloth extended the full length of the outside of the sleeves, much in the fashion of the stage-coachmen’s greatcoats in former times; and instead of cuffs, the sleeves were carried out to the ends of the fingers, leaving it to the fancy of the wearer to sport a long cuff, or no cuff at all -- just as the weather dictated. Though the coat was single- breasted, he had a hole made on the button side, to enable him to keep it together by means of a miniature snaffle, instead of a button. The snaffle passed across his chest, from whence the coatee, flowing easily back, displayed the broad ridge and furrow of a white cord waistcoat, with a low step collar, the vest reaching low down his figure, with large flap pockets and a nick out in front, like a coachman’s. Instead of buttons, the waistcoat was secured with foxes’ tusks and catgut loops, while a heavy curb chain, passing from one pocket to the other, raised the impression that there was a watch in one and a bunch of seals in the other. The waistcoat was broadly bound with white binding, and, like the coat, evinced great strength and powers of resistance. His breeches were of a still broader furrow than the waistcoat, looking as if the ploughman had laid two ridges into one. They came low down the leg, and were met by a pair of well-made, well put on, very brown topped boots, a colour then unknown in Laverick Wells. His spurs were bright and heavy, with formidable necks and rowels, whose slightest touch would make a horse wince, and put him on his good behaviour.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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