in hundreds and thousands, who will do almost anything for a five-pound note. We have known men pretending to hunt countries at their own expense, and yet actually ‘living out of the hounds.’ Next to the accomplishment of that -- apparently almost impossible feat -- comes the dexterity required for living by horse-dealing.

A little lower down in the scale comes the income derived from the profession of a ‘go-between’ -- the gentleman who can buy the horse cheaper than you can. This was Caingey Thornton’s trade. He was always lurking about people’s stables talking to grooms and worming out secrets -- whose horse had a cough, whose was a wind-sucker, whose was lame after hunting, and so on -- and had a price current of every horse in the place -- knew what had been given, what the owners asked, and had a pretty good guess what they would take.

Waffles would have been an invaluable customer to Thornton if the former’s groom, Mr Figg, had not been rather too hard with his ‘reg’lars.’ He insisted on Caingey dividing whatever he got out of his master with him. This reduced profits considerably; but still, as it was a profession that did not require any capital to set up with, Thornton could afford to be liberal, having only to tack on to one end to cut off at the other.

After the opening Sponge gave as they rode home with the hounds, Thornton had no difficulty in sounding him on the subject.

‘You’ll not think me impertinent, I hope,’ observed Caingey, in his most deferential style, to our hero, when they met at the Newsroom the next day -- ‘you’ll not think me impertinent, I hope; but I think you said as we rode home, yesterday, that you didn’t altogether like the brown horse you were on?’

Did I?’ replied Mr Sponge, with apparent surprise; ‘I think you must have misunderstood me.’

‘Why, no; it wasn’t exactly that,’ rejoined Mr Thornton, ‘but you said you liked him better than you did, I think?

‘Ah! I believe I did say something of the sort, replied Sponge, casually -- ‘I believe I did say something of the sort, but he carried me so well that I thought better of him. The fact was,’ continued Mr Sponge, confidentially, ‘I thought him rather too light-mouthed; I like a horse that bears more on the hand.’

‘Indeed!’ observed Mr Thornton; ‘most people think a light mouth a recommendation.’

‘I know they do,’ replied Mr Sponge, ‘I know they do; but I like a horse that requires a little riding. Now this is too much of a made horse -- too much of what I call an old man’s horse, for me. Bullfrog, whom I bought him of, is very fat -- eats a great deal of venison and turtle -- all sorts of good things, in fact -- and can’t stand much tewing in the saddle; now, I rather like to feel that I am on a horse, and not in an armchair.’

‘He’s a fine horse,’ observed Mr Thornton.

‘So he ought,’ replied Mr sponge; ‘I gave a hatful of money for him -- two hundred and fifty golden sovereigns, and not a guinea back. Bullfrog’s the biggest screw I ever dealt with.’

That latter observation was highly encouraging to Thornton. It showed that Mr Sponge was not one of your tight-laced dons, who take offence at the mere mention of ‘drawbacks,’ but, on the contrary, favoured the supposition that he would do the ‘genteel,’ should he happen to be a seller.

‘Well, if you should feel disposed to part with him, perhaps you will have the kindness to let me know,’ observed Mr Thornton, adding, ‘he’s not for myself, of course, but I think I know a man he would suit, and who would be inclined to give a good price for him.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.