Towards the hour of ten on that eventful day, numerous gaitered, trousered, and jacketed grooms began to ride up and down the High Street, most of them with their stirrups crossed negligently on the pommels of the saddles, to indicate that their masters were going to ride the horses, and not them. The street grew lively, not so much with people going to hunt, as with people coming to see those who were. Tattered Hibernians, with rags on their backs and jokes on their lips; young English chevaliers d’industrie, with their hands ready to dive into anybody’s pockets but their own; stablemen out of place, servants loitering on their errands, striplings helping them, ladies’-maids with novels or three-corner’d notes, and a good crop of beggars.

‘What, Spareneck, do you ride the grey today? I thought you’d done Gooseman out of a mount,’ observed Ensign Downley, as a line of scarlet-coated youths hung over the balcony of the Imperial Hotel, after breakfast and before mounting for the day.

Spareneck -- ‘No, that’s for Tuesday. He wouldn’t stand one today. What do you ride?’

Downley -- ‘Oh, I’ve a hack, one of Screwman’s, Perpetual Motion they call him, because he never gets any rest. That’s him, I believe, with the lofty-actioned hind-legs,’ added he, pointing to a weedy string- halty bay passing below, high in bone and low in flesh.

‘Who’s o’ the gaudy chestnut?’ asked Caingey Thornton, who now appeared, wiping his fat lips after his second glass of eau de vie.

‘That’s Mr Sponge’s,’ replied Spareneck, in a low tone, knowing how soon a man catches his own name.

‘A deuced fine horse he is, too,’ observed Caingey, in a louder key; adding, ‘Sponge has the finest lot of horses of any man in England -- in the world, I may say.’

Mr Sponge himself now rose from the breakfast table, and was speedily followed by Mr Waffles and the rest of the party, some bearing sofa-pillows and cushions to place on the balustrades, to loll at their ease, in imitation of the Coventry Club swells in Piccadilly. Then our friends smoked their cigars, reviewed the cavalry, and criticised the ladies who passed below in the flys on their way to the meet.

‘Come, old Bolter!’ exclaimed one, ‘here’s Miss Bussington coming to look after you -- got her mamma with her, too -- so you may as well knock under at once, for she’s determined to have you.’

‘A devil of a woman the old un is, too,’ observed Ensign Downley; ‘she nearly frightened Jack Simpers of ours into fits, by asking what he meant after dancing three dances with her daughter one night.’

‘My word, but Miss Jumpheavy must expect to do some execution today with that fine floating feather and her crimson satin dress and ermine,’ observed Mr Waffles, as that estimable lady drove past in her Victoria phaeton. ‘She looks like the Queen of Sheba herself. But come, I suppose,’ he added, taking a most diminutive Geneva watch out of his waistcoat-pocket, ‘we should be going. See! there’s your nag kicking up a shindy,’ he said to Caingey Thornton, as the redoubtable brown was led down the street by a jean-jacketed groom, kicking and lashing out at everything he came near.

‘I’ll kick him,’ observed Thornton, retiring from the balcony to the brandy-bottle, and helping himself to a pretty good-sized glass. He then extricated his large cutting whip from the confusion of whips with which it was mixed, and clonk, clonk, clonked downstairs to the door.

Multum in Parvo stopped the doorway, across whose shoulder Leather passed the following hints, in a low tone of voice, to Mr Sponge, as the latter stood drawing on his dog-skin gloves, the observed, as he flattered himself, of all observers.

‘Mind, now,’ said Leather, ‘this oss as a will of his own; though he seems so quiet like, he’s not always to be depended on: so be on the look-out for squalls.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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