The Wet Day

WHEN the dirty slipshod housemaid came in the morning with her blacksmith’s-looking tool-box to light Mr Sponge’s fire, a riotous winter’s day was in the full swing of its gloomy, deluging power. The wind howled, and roared, and whistled, and shrieked, playing a sort of æolian harp amongst the towers, pinnacles, and irregular castleisations of the house; while the old casements rattled and shook, as though someone were trying to knock them in.

‘Hang the day!’ muttered Sponge from beneath the bedclothes. ‘What the deuce is a man to do with himself on such a day as this, in the country?’ thinking how much better he would be flattening his nose against the coffee-room window of the Bantam, or strolling through the horse-dealers’ stables in Piccadilly or Oxford Street.

Presently the overnight chair before the fire, with the picture of Jawleyford in the Bumperkin yeomanry, as seen through the parted curtains of the spacious bed, recalled his overnight speculations, and he began to think that perhaps he was just as well where he was. He then ‘backed’ his ideas to where he had left off, and again began speculating on the chances of his position. ‘Deuced fine girls,’ said he, ‘both of ’em: wonder what he’ll give ’em down?’ -- recurring to his overnight speculations, and hitting upon the point at which he had burnt his lips with the end of the cigar -- namely, Jawleyford’s youth, and the possibility of his marrying again if Mrs Jawleyford were to die. ‘It won’t do to raise up difficulties for one’s-self, however,’ mused he; so, kicking off the bedclothes, he raised himself instead, and making for a window, began to gaze upon his expectant territory.

It was a terrible day; the ragged, spongy clouds drifted heavily along, and the lowering gloom was only enlivened by the occasional driving rush of the tempest. Earth and sky were pretty much the same grey, damp, disagreeable hue.

‘Well,’ said Sponge to himself, having gazed sufficiently on the uninviting landscape, ‘it’s just as well it’s not a hunting day -- should have got terribly soused. Must get through the time as well as I can -- girls to talk to -- house to see. Hope I’ve brought my Mogg,’ added he, turning to his portmanteau, and diving for his Ten Thousand Cab Fares. Having found the invaluable volume, his almost constant study, he then proceeded to array-himself in what he considered the most captivating apparel; a new wide-sleeved dock-tail coatee, with outside pockets placed very low, faultless drab trousers, a buff waistcoat, with a cream-coloured once-round silk tie, secured by red cornelian crossbars set in gold, for a pin. Thus attired, with Mogg in his pocket, he swaggered down to the breakfast-room, which he hit off by means of listening at the doors till he heard the sound of voices, within.

Mrs Jawleyford and the young ladies were all smiles and smirks, and there were no symptoms of Miss Jawleyford’s hauteur perceptible. They all came forward and shook hands with our friend most cordially. Mr Jawleyford, too, was all flourish and compliment; now tilting at the weather, now congratulating himself upon having secured Mr Sponge’s society in the house.

That leisurely meal of protracted ease, a country-house breakfast, being at length accomplished, and the ladies having taken their departure, Mr Jawleyford looked out on the terrace, upon which the angry rain was beating the standing water into bubbles, and observing that there was no chance of getting out, asked Mr Sponge if he could amuse himself in the house.

‘Oh, yes,’ replied he, ‘got a book in my pocket.’

‘Ah, I suppose -- the ‘‘New Monthly,’’ perhaps?’ observed Mr Jawleyford.

‘No,’ replied Sponge,

‘Dizzey’s Life of Bentinck, then, I dare say,’ suggested Jawleyford; adding, ‘I’m reading it myself.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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