‘Ah, but then I should have no groom to go with me,’ observed Jawleyford; adding, ‘one must make a certain appearance, you know. But come, my dear Mr Sponge,’ continued he, laying hold of our hero’s arm, ‘let us get to the door, for that cigar of yours will fumigate the whole house; and Mrs Jawleyford hates the smell of tobacco.’

Spigot, with his attendants in livery, here put a stop to the confab by hurrying past, drawing the bolts, and throwing back the spacious folding doors, as if royalty or Daniel Lambert himself were ‘coming out.’

The noise they made was heard outside; and on reaching the top of the spacious flight of steps, Sponge’s piebald in charge of a dirty village lad, and Jawleyford’s steeds with a sky-blue groom, were seen scuttling under the portico, for the owners to mount. The Jawleyford cavalry was none of the best; but Jawleyford was pleased with it, and that is a great thing. Indeed, a thing had only to be Jawleyford’s, to make Jawleyford excessively fond of it.

‘There!’ exclaimed he, as they reached the third step from the bottom. ‘There!’ repeated he, seizing Sponge by the arm, ‘that’s what I call shape. You don’t see such an animal as that every day,’ pointing to a not badly-formed, but evidently worn-out, over-knee’d bay, that stood knuckling and trembling for Jawleyford to mount.

‘One of the ‘‘has beens,’’ I should say,’ replied Sponge, puffing a cloud of smoke right past Jawleyford’s nose; adding, ‘It’s a pity but you could get him four new legs.’

‘Faith, I don’t see that he wants anything of the sort,’ retorted Jawleyford, nettled as well at the smoke as the observation.

‘Well, where ‘‘ignorance is bliss,’’ &c.,’ replied Sponge, with another great puff, which nearly blinded Jawleyford. ‘Get on, and let’s see how he goes,’ added he, passing on to the piebald as he spoke.

Mr Jawleyford then mounted; and having settled himself into a military seat, touched the old screw with the spur, and set of at a canter. The piebald, perhaps mistaking the portico for a booth, and thinking it was a good place to exhibit in, proceeded to die in the most approved form; and not all Sponge’s ‘Come- up’s’ or kicks could induce him to rise before he had gone through the whole ceremony. At length, with a mane full of gravel, a side well smeared, and a ‘Wilkinson & Kidd’ sadly scratched, the ci-devant actor arose, much to the relief of the village lad, who having indulged in a gallop as he brought him from Lucksford, expected his death would be laid to his door. No sooner was he up, than, without waiting for him to shake himself, Mr Soapey vaulted into the saddle, and seizing him by the head, let in the Latchfords in a style that satisfied the hack he was not going to canter in a circle. Away he went, best pace; for like all Mr Sponge’s horses, he had the knack of going, the general difficulty being to get them to go the way they were wanted.

Sponge presently overtook Mr Jawleyford, who had been brought up by a gate, which he was making sundry ineffectual Briggs-like passes and efforts to open; the gate and his horse seeming to have combined to prevent his getting through. Though an expert swordsman, he had never been able to accomplish, the art of opening a gate, especially one of those gingerly-balanced spring-snecked things that require to be taken at the nick of time, or else they drop just as the horse gets his nose to them.

‘Why aren’t you here to open the gate?’ asked Jawleyford, snappishly, as the blue boy bustled up as his master’s efforts became more hopeless at each attempt.

The lad, like a wise fellow, dropped from his horse, and opening it with his hands, ran it back on foot.

Jawleyford and Sponge then rode through.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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