‘No, nor that either,’ replied Sponge, with a knowing look; ‘a much more useful work, I assure you,’ added he, pulling the little purple-backed volume out of his pocket, and reading the gilt letters on the back; ‘ ‘‘Mogg’s Ten Thousand Cab Fares, price one shilling!’’ ’

‘Indeed,’ exclaimed Mr Jawleyford, ‘well, I should never have guessed that.’

‘I dare say not,’ replied Sponge, ‘I dare say not; it’s a book I never travel without. It’s invaluable in town, and you may study it to great advantage in the country. With Mogg in my hand, I can almost fancy myself in both places at once. Omnibus guide,’ added he, turning over the leaves, and reading, ‘Acton five, from the end of Oxford Street and the Edger Road -- see Ealing; Edmonton seven, from Shoreditch Church -- ‘‘Green Man and Still,’’ Oxford Street -- Shepherd’s Bush and Starch Green, Bank and Whitechapel -- Tooting -- Totteridge -- Wandsworth; in short, every place near town. Then the cab fares are truly invaluable; you have ten thousand of them here,’ said he, tapping the book, ‘and you may calculate as many more for yourself as ever you like. Nothing to do but sit in an armchair on a wet day like this, and say, If from the Mile End turnpike to the ‘‘Castle’’ on the Kingsland Road is so much, how much should it be to the ‘‘Yorkshire Stingo,’’ or Pineapple Place, Maida Vale? And you measure by other fares till you get as near the place you want as you can, if it isn’t set down in black and white to your hand in the book.’

‘Just so,’ said Jawleyford, ‘just so. It must be a very useful work indeed, very useful work. I’ll get one -- I’ll get one. How much did you say it was -- a guinea? a guinea?’

‘A shilling,’ replied Sponge, adding, ‘you may have mine for a guinea if you like.’

‘By Jove, what a day it is!’ observed Jawleyford, turning the conversation, as the wind dashed the hard sleet against the window like a shower of pebbles. ‘Lucky to have a good house over one’s head, such weather; and, by the way, that reminds me, I’ll show you my new gallery and collection of curiosities -- pictures, busts, marbles, antiques, and so on; there’ll be fires on, and we shall be just as well there as here.’ So saying, Jawleyford led the way through a dark, intricate, shabby passage, to where a much gilded white door, with a handsome crimson curtain over it announced the entrance to something better. ‘Now,’ said Mr Jawleyford, bowing as he threw open the door, and motioned, or rather flourished, his guest to enter --‘now,’ said he, ‘you shall see what you shall see.’

Mr Sponge entered accordingly, and found himself at the end of a gallery fifty feet by twenty, and fourteen high, lighted by skylights and small windows round the top. There were fires in handsome Caenstone chimney-pieced fireplaces on either side, a large timepiece and an organ at the far end, and sundry white basins scattered about, catching the drops from the skylights.

‘Hang the rain!’ exclaimed Jawleyford, as he saw it trickling over a river scene of Van Goyen’s (gentlemen in a yacht, and figures in boats), and drip, drip, dripping on to the head of an infant Bacchus below.

‘He wants an umbrella, that young gentleman,’ observed Sponge, as Jawleyford proceeded to dry him with his handkerchief.

‘Fine thing,’ observed Jawleyford, starting off to a side, and pointing to it; ‘fine thing -- Italian marble -- by Fràere -- cost a vast of money -- was offered three hundred for it. Are you a judge of these things?’ asked Jawleyford; ‘are you a judge of these things?’

‘A little,’ replied Sponge, ‘a little;’ thinking he might as well see what his intended father-in-law’s personal property was like.

‘There’s a beautiful thing!’ observed Jawleyford, pointing to another group. ‘I picked that up for a mere nothing -- twenty guineas -- worth two hundred at least. Lipsalve, the great picture-dealer in Gammon Passage, offered me Murillo’s ‘‘Adoration of the Virgin and Shepherds,’’ for which he shewed me a receipt for a hundred and eightyfive, for it.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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