The Jawleyford Establishment

THE LOUD PEAL of the Jawleyford Court door-bell, announcing Mr Sponge’s arrival, with which we closed the last chapter, found the inhabitants variously engaged preparing for his reception.

Mrs Jawleyford, with the aid of a very indifferent cook, was endeavouring to arrange a becoming dinner; the young ladies, with the aid of a somewhat better sort of maid, were attractifying themselves, each looking with considerable jealousy on the efforts of the other; and Mr Jawleyford was trotting from room to room, eyeing the various pictures of himself, wondering which was now the most like, and watching the emergence of curtains, carpets, and sofas from their brown-holland covers.

A gleam of sunshine seemed to reign throughout the mansion; the long-covered furniture appearing to have gained freshness by its retirement, just as a newly done-up hat surprises the wearer by its goodness; a few days, however, soon restore the defects of either.

All these arrangements were suddenly brought to a close by the peal of the door-bell, just as the little stage-tinkle of a theatre stops preparation, and compels the actors to stand forward as they are. Mrs Jawleyford threw aside her silk apron, and took a hasty glance of her face in the old eagle-topped mirror in the still-room; the young ladies discarded their coarse dirty pocket-handkerchiefs, and gently drew elaborately-fringed ones through their taper fingers to give them an air of use, as they took a hasty review of themselves in the swing mirrors; the housemaid hurried off with a whole armful of brown holland; and Jawleyford threw himself into attitude in an elaborately-carved, richly-cushioned, easy-chair, with a Disraeli’s Life of Lord George Bentinck in his hand. But Jawleyford’s thoughts were far from his book. He was sitting on thorns lest there might not be a proper guard of honour to receive Mr Sponge at the entrance.

Jawleyford, as we said before, was not the man to entertain unless he could do it ‘properly;’ and, as we all have our pitch-notes of propriety up to which we play, we may state that Jawleyford’s note was a butler and two footmen. A butler and two footmen he looked upon as perfectly indispensable to receiving company. He chose to have two footmen to follow the butler, who followed the gentleman to the spacious flight of steps leading from the great hall to the portico, as he mounted his horse. The world is governed a good deal by appearances.

Mr Jawleyford started life with two most unimpeachable Johns. They were nearly six feet high, heads well up, and legs that might have done for models for a sculptor. They powdered with the greatest propriety, and by two o’clock each day were silk-stockinged and pumped in full-dress Jawleyford livery; sky-blue coats with massive silver aiguillettes, and broad silver seams down the front and round their waistcoat- pocket flaps; silver garters at their crimson plush breeches’ knees: and thus attired, they were ready to turn out with the butler to receive visitors, and conduct them back to their carriages. Gradually they came down in style, but not in number, and, when Mr Sponge visited Mr Jawleyford, he had a sort of out-of-door man-of-all-work who metamorphosed himself into a second footman at short notice.

‘My dear Mr Sponge! -- I am delighted to see you!’ exclaimed Mr Jawleyford, rising from his easy-chair, and throwing his Disraeli’s Bentinck aside, as Mr Spigot, the butler, in a deep sonorous voice, announced our worthy friend. ‘This is, indeed, most truly kind of you,’ continued Jawleyford, advancing to meet him; and getting our friend by both hands, he began working his arms up and down like the under man in a saw- pit. ‘This is, indeed, most truly kind,’ he repeated; ‘I assure you I shall never forget it. It’s just what I like -- it’s just what Mrs Jawleyford likes -- it’s just what we all like -- coming without fuss or ceremony. Spigot!’ he added, hailing old Pomposo as the latter was slowly withdrawing, thinking what a humbug his master was -- ‘Spigot!’ he repeated in a louder voice; ‘let the ladies know Mr Sponge is here. Come to the fire, my dear fellow,’ continued Jawleyford, clutching his guest by the arm, and drawing him towards where an ample grate of indifferent coals was crackling and spluttering beneath a magnificent old oak mantelpiece of the richest and costliest carved work. ‘Come to the fire, my dear fellow,’ he repeated, ‘for you feel cold; and I don’t wonder at it, for the day is cheerless and uncomfortable, and you’ve had a long ride. Will you take anything before dinner?’

‘What time do you dine?’ asked Mr Sponge, rubbing his hands as he spoke.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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