Mr Spraggon's Embassy

When Mr Sponge returned, all dirtied and stained, from the chase, he found his host sitting in an armchair over the study fire, dressing-gowned and slippered, with a pocket-handkerchief tied about his head, shamming illness, preparatory to putting off Mr Spraggon. To be sure he played rather a better knife and fork at dinner than is usual with persons with that peculiar ailment; but Mr Sponge, being very hungry, and well attended to by the fair -- moreover, not suspecting any ulterior design -- just ate and jabbered away as usual, with the exception of omitting his sick papa-in-law in the round of his observations. So the dinner passed over.

‘Bring me a tumbler and some hot water and sugar;’ said Mr Jawleyford, pressing his head against his hand, as Spigot, having placed some bottle ends on the table, and reduced the glare of light, was preparing to retire. ‘Bring me some hot water and sugar,’ said he; ‘and tell Harry he will have to go over to Lord Scamperdale’s, with a note, the first thing in the morning.’

The young ladies looked at each other, and then at mamma, who, seeing what was wanted, looked at papa, and asked ‘if he was going to ask Lord Scamperdale over?’ Amelia, among her many ‘presentiments,’ had long enjoyed one that she was destined to be Lady Scamperdale.

‘No -- over -- no,’ snapped Jawleyford; ‘what should put that in your head?’

‘Oh, I thought as Mr Sponge was here, you might think it a good time to ask him.’

‘His lordship knows he can come when he likes,’ replied Jawleyford; adding, ‘it’s to put that Mr John Spraggon off, who thinks he may do the same.’

‘Mr Spraggon!’ exclaimed both the young ladies. ‘Mr Spraggon! -- what should set him here?’

‘What, indeed?’ asked Jawleyford.

‘Poor man! I dare say there’s no harm in him,’ observed Mrs Jawleyford, who was always ready for anybody.

‘No good either,’ replied Jawleyford -- ‘at all events, we’ll be just as well without him. You know him, don’t you?’ added he, turning to Sponge -- ‘great coarse man in spectacles.’

‘Oh yes, I know him,’ replied Sponge; ‘a great ruffian he is, too,’ added he.

‘One ought to be in robust health to encounter such a man,’ observed Jawleyford, ‘and have time to get a man or two of the same sort to meet him. We can do nothing with such a man. I can’t understand how his lordship puts up with such a fellow.’

‘Finds him useful, I suppose,’ observed Mr Sponge.

Spigot presently appeared with a massive silver salver, bearing tumblers, sugar, lemon, nutmeg, and other implements of negus.

‘Will you join me in a little wine-and-water?’ asked Jawleyford, pointing to the apparatus and bottle ends, ‘or will you have a fresh bottle? -- plenty in the cellar,’ added he, with a flourish of his hand, though he kept looking steadfastly at the negus-tray.

‘Oh -- why -- I’m afraid -- I doubt -- I think I should hardly be able to do justice to a bottle single-handed,’ replied Sponge.

‘Then have negus,’ said Jawleyford; ‘you’ll find it very refreshing; medical men recommend it after violent exercise in preference to wine. But pray have wine if you prefer it.’

‘Ah -- well, I’ll finish it off with a little negus, perhaps,’ replied Sponge; adding, ‘meanwhile the ladies, I dare say, would like a little wine.’

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