Mr Spraggon at Jawleyford Court

The Spraggons are a most respectable family,’ said he, eyeing himself in the glass. ‘If not very handsome, at all events, very genteel,’ added he, speaking of himself in particular. So saying, he adorned himself with his spectacles and set off to explore his way downstairs. After divers mistakes he at length found himself in the drawing-room, where the rest of the party being assembled, they presently proceeded to dinner.

Jack’s amended costume did not produce any difference in Mr Sponge’s behaviour, who treated him with the utmost indifference. In truth, Sponge had rather a large balance against Jack for his impudence to him in the field. Nevertheless, the fair Amelia continued her attentions, and talked of hunting, occasionally diverging into observations on Lord Scamperdale’s fine riding and manly character and appearance, in the roundabout way ladies send their messages and compliments to their friends.

XSThe dinner was flat. Jawleyford had stopped the champagne tap, though the needle-case glasses stood to tantalise the party till about the time that the beverage ought to have been flowing, when Spigot took them off. The flatness then became flatter. Nevertheless, Jack worked away in his usual carnivorous style, and finished by paying his respects to all the sweets, jellies, and things in succession. He never got any of these, he said, at ‘home,’ meaning at Lord Scamperdale’s -- Amelia thought, if she was ‘my lady,’ he would not get any meat there either.

At length Jack finished; and having discussed cheese, porter, and red herrings, the cloth was drawn, and a hard-featured dessert consisting principally of apples, followed. The wine having made a couple of melancholy circuits, the strained conversation about came to a full stop, and Spigot having considerately placed the little round table, as if to keep the peace between them, the ladies left the male worthies to discuss their port and sherry together. Jack, according to Woodmansterne fashion, unbuttoned his waistcoat, and stuck his legs out before him -- an example that Mr Sponge quickly followed, and each assumed an attitude that as good as said, ‘I don’t care twopence for you.’ A dead silence then prevailed, interrupted only by the snap, snap, snapping of Jack’s toothpick against his chair-edge, when he was not busy exploring his mouth with it. It seemed to be a match which should keep silence longest. Jack sat squinting his eyes inside out at Sponge, while Sponge pretended to be occupied with the fire. The wine being with Sponge, and at length wanting some, he was constrained to make the first move, by passing it over to Jack, who helped himself to port and sherry simultaneously -- a glass of sherry after dinner (in Jack’s opinion) denoting a gentleman. Having smacked his lips over that, he presently turned to the glass of port. He checked his hand in passing it to his mouth, and bore the glass up to his nose.

Corked, by Jove!’ exclaimed he, setting the glass down on the table with a thump of disgust.

It is curious what unexpected turns things sometimes take in the world, and how completely whole trains of well-preconcerted plans are often turned aside by mere accidents such as this. If it hadn’t been for the corked bottle of port, there is no saying but these two worthies would have held a Quakers’ meeting without the ‘spirit’ moving either of them.

Corked, by Jove!’ exclaimed Jack.

‘It is!’ rejoined Sponge, smelling at his half-emptied glass.

‘Better have another bottle,’ observed Jack.

‘Certainly,’ replied Sponge, ringing the bell. ‘Spigot, this wine’s corked,’ observed Sponge, as old Pomposo entered the room.

‘Is it?’ said Spigot, with the most perfect innocence, though he knew it came out of the corked batch. ‘I’ll bring another bottle,’ added he, carrying it off as if he had a whole pipe at command, though in reality he had but another out. This fortunately was less corked than the first; and Jack having given an approving smack of his great thick lips, Mr Sponge took it on his judgement, and gave a nod to Spigot, who forthwith took his departure.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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