TRUE TO A MINUTE, the hissing engine drew the swiftly-gliding train beneath the elegant and costly station at Lucksford -- an edifice presenting a rare contrast to the wretched old red-tiled, five-windowed house, called the Red Lion, where a brandy-faced blacksmith of a landlord used to emerge from the adjoining smithy, to take charge of anyone who might arrive per coach for that part of the country. Mr Sponge was quickly on the platform, seeing to the detachment of his horse-box.
Just as the cavalry was about got into marching order, up rode John Watson, a ragamuffin-looking gamekeeper, in a green plush coat, with a very tarnished laced hat, mounted on a very shaggy white pony, whose hide seemed quite impervious to the visitations of a heavily-knotted dogwhip, with which he kept saluting his shoulders and sides.
Please, sir, said he, riding up to Mr Sponge, with a touch of the old hat, Ive got you a capital three- stall stable at the Railway Tavern, here, pointing to a newly-built brick house standing on the rising ground.
Oh! but Im going to Jawleyford Court, responded our friend, thinking the man was the tout of the tavern.
Mr Jawleyford dont take in horses, sir, rejoined the man, with another touch of the hat.
Hell take in mine, observed Mr Sponge, with an air of authority.
Oh, I beg pardon, sir, replied the keeper, thinking he had made a mistake; it was Mr Sponge whose horses I had to bespeak stalls for, touching his hat profusely as he spoke.
Well, this be Mister Sponge, observed Leather, who had been listening attentively to what passed.
Deed! said the keeper, again turning to our hero, with an I beg pardon, sir, but the stable is for you then, sir -- for Mr Sponge, sir.
How do you know that? demanded our friend.
Cause Mr Spigot, the butler, says to me, says he, Mr Watson, says he -- my names Watson, you see, continued the speaker sawing away at his hat, my names Watson, you see, and Im the head gamekeeper. Mr Watson, says he, you must go down to the tavern and order a three-stall stable for a gentleman of the name of Sponge, whose horses are a comin today; and in course Ive come cordingly, added Watson.
A three-stalld stable! observed Mr Sponge, with an emphasis.
A three-stalld stable, repeated Mr Watson.
Confound him, but he said hed take in a hack at all events, observed Sponge, with a sideway shake of the head; and a hack he shall take in, too, he added. Are your stables full at Jawleyford Court? he asked.
Ord bless you, no, sir, replied Watson with a leer; theres nothin in them but a couple of weedy hacks and a pair of old worn-out carriage-horses.
Then I can get this hack taken in, at all events, observed Sponge, laying his hand on the neck of the piebald as he spoke.
Why, as to that, replied Mr Watson, with a shake of the head, I cant say nothin.
I must, though, rejoined Sponge, tartly; he said hed take in my hack, or I wouldnt have come.
Well, sir, observed the keeper, you know best, sir.
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