The F. H. H.

NOR WAS SPONGE wrong in his conjecture, for it was a quarter to nine ere Spigot appeared with the massive silver urn, followed by the train-band bold, bearing the heavy implements of breakfast. Then, though the young ladies were punctual, smiling, and affable as usual, Mrs Jawleyford was absent, and she had the keys; so it was nearly nine before Mr Sponge got his fork into his first mutton chop. Jawleyford was not exactly pleased; he thought it didn’t look well for a young man to prefer hunting to the society of his lovely and accomplished daughters. Hunting was all very well occasionally, but it did not do to make a business of it. This, however, he kept to himself.

‘You’ll have a fine day, my dear Mr Sponge,’ said he, extending a hand, as he found our friend brown- booted and red-coated working away at the breakfast.

‘Yes,’ said Sponge, munching away for hard life. In less than ten minutes, he managed to get as much down as, with the aid of a knotch of bread that he pocketed, he thought would last him through the day; and, with a hasty adieu, he hurried off to find the stables, to get his hack. The piebald was saddled, bridled, and turned round in the stall; for all servants that are worth anything like to further hunting operations. With the aid of the groom’s instructions, who accompanied him out of the courtyard, Sponge was enabled to set off at a hard canter, cheered by the groom’s observation, that ‘he thought he would be there in time.’ On, on he went; now speculating on a turn; now pulling a scratch map he had made on a bit of paper out of his waistcoat-pocket; now enquiring the name of any place he saw of any person he met. So he proceeded for five or six miles without much difficulty; the road, though not all turnpike, being mainly over good sound township ones. It was at the village of Swineley, with its chubby-towered church and miserable hut-like cottages, that his troubles were to begin. He had two sharp turns to make -- to ride through a strawyard, and leap over a broken-down wall at the corner of a cottage -- to get into Swaithing Green Lane, and so cut off an angle of two miles. The road then became a bridle one, and was, like all bridle ones, very plain to those who know them, and very puzzling to those who don’t. It was evidently a little-frequented road; and what with looking out for footmarks (now nearly obliterated by the recent rains) and speculating on what queer corners of the fields the gates would be in, Mr Sponge found it necessary to reduce his pace to a very moderate trot. Still he had made good way; and supposing they gave a quarter-of-an-hour’s law, and he had not been deceived as to distance, he thought he should get to the meet about the time. His horse, too, would be there, and perhaps Lord Scamperdale might give a little extra law on that account. He then began speculating on what sort of a man his lordship was, and the probable nature of his reception. He began to wish that Jawleyford had accompanied him, to introduce him. Not that Sponge was shy, but still he thought that Jawleyford’s presence would do him good.

Lord Scamperdale’s hunt was not the most polished in the world. The hounds and the horses were a good deal better bred than the men. Of course his lordship gave the tone to the whole; and being a coarse, broad, barge-built sort of man, he had his clothes to correspond, and looked like a drayman in scarlet. He wore a great round flat-brimmed hat, which being adopted by the hunt generally, procured it the name of the F. H. H., or Flat Hat Hunt. Our readers, we dare say, have noticed it figuring away, in the list of hounds during the winter, along with the H. H. s, V. W. H. s and other initialised packs. His lordship’s clothes were of the large, roomy, baggy, abundant order, with great pockets, great buttons, and lots of strings flying out. Instead of tops, he sported leather leggings, which at a distance gave him the appearance of riding with his trousers up to his knees. These the hunt too adopted; and his ‘particular,’ Jack (Jack Spraggon), the man whom he mounted, and who was made much in his own mould, sported, like his patron, a pair of great broad-rimmed, tortoiseshell spectacles of considerable power. Jack was always at his lordship’s elbow; and it was ‘Jack’ this, ‘Jack’ that, ‘Jack’ something, all day long. But we must return to Mr Sponge, whom we left working his way through the intricate fields. At last he got through them, and into Red Pool Common, which, by leaving the windmill to the right, he cleared pretty cleverly, and entered upon a district still wilder and drearier than any he had traversed. Pewits screamed and hovered over land that seemed to grow little but rushes and water-grasses, with occasional heather. The ground poached and splashed as he went; worst of all, time was nearly up.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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