‘The ladies drink white wine -- sherry’ -- rejoined Jawleyford, determined to make a last effort to save his port. ‘However, you can have a bottle of port to yourself, you know.’

‘Very well,’ said Sponge.

‘One condition I must attach,’ said Mr Jawleyford, ‘which is, that you finish the bottle. Don’t let us have any waste, you know.’

‘I’ll do my best,’ said Sponge, determined to have it; whereupon Mr Jawleyford growled the word ‘Port’ to the butler, who had been witnessing his master’s efforts to direct attention to the negus. Thwarted in his endeavour, Jawleyford’s headache became worse, and the ladies, seeing how things were going, beat a precipitate retreat, leaving our hero to his fate.

‘I’ll leave a note on my writing-table when I go to bed,’ observed Jawleyford to Spigot, as the latter was retiring after depositing the bottle; ‘and tell Harry to start with it early in the morning, so as to get to Woodmansterne about breakfast -- nine o’clock, or so, at latest,’ added he.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied Spigot, withdrawing with an air.

Sponge then wanted to narrate the adventures of the day; but, independently of Jawleyford’s natural indifference for hunting, he was too much out of humour at being done out of his wine to lend a willing ear; and after sundry ‘hums,’ ‘indeeds,’ ‘sos,’ &c., Sponge thought he might as well think the run over to himself as trouble to put it into words, whereupon a long silence ensued, interrupted only by the tinkling of Jawleyford’s spoon against his glass, and the bumps of the decanter as Sponge helped himself to his wine.

At length Jawleyford, having had as much negus as he wanted, excused himself from further attendance, under the plea of increasing illness, and retired to his study to concoct his letter to Jack.

At first he was puzzled how to address him. If he had been Jack Spraggon, living in old Mother Nipcheese’s lodgings at Starfield, as he was when Lord Scamperdale took him by the hand, he would have addressed him as ‘Dear Sir,’ or perhaps in the third person, ‘Mr Jawleyford presents his compliments to Mr Spraggon,’ &c.; but, as my lord’s right-hand man, Jack carried a certain weight, and commanded a certain influence, that he would never have acquired of himself.

Jawleyford spoilt three sheets of cream-laid satin-wove notepaper (crested and ciphered) before he pleased himself with a beginning. First he had it ‘Dear Sir,’ which he thought looked too stiff; then he had it ‘My dear Sir,’ which he thought looked too loving; next he had it ‘Dear Spraggon,’ which he considered as too familiar; and then he tried ‘Dear Mr Spraggon,’ which he thought would do. Thus he wrote:

Dear Mr Spraggon -- I am sorry to be obliged to put you off; but since I came in from hunting I have been attacked with influenza, which will incapacitate me from the enjoyment of society at least for two or three days. I therefore think the kindest thing I can do is to write to put you off; and, in the hopes of seeing both you and my lord at no distant day,

I remain, dear sir, yours sincerely,

Charles James Jawleyford

To John Spraggon, Esq., §&c. §&c. §&c., Jawleyford Court.

This he sealed with the great seal of Jawleyford Court -- a coat of arms containing innumerable quarterings and heraldic devices. Having then refreshed his memory by looking through a bundle of bills, and selected the most threatening of the lawyers’ letters to answer the next day, he proceeded to keep up the delusion of sickness, by retiring to sleep in his dressing-room.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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