Old trick that, observed Jack, with a shake of the head, as Spigot shut the door.
Is it? observed Mr Sponge, taking up the observation, though in reality it was addressed to the fire.
Noted for it, replied Jack, squinting at the sideboard, though he was staring intently at Sponge to see how he took it.
Well, I thought we had a bottle with a queer smatch the other night, observed Sponge.
Old Blossomnose corked half a dozen in succession one night, replied Jack.
(He had corked three, but Jawleyford recorked them, and Spigot was now reproducing them to our friends.)
Although they had now got the ice broken, and entered into something like a conversation, it nevertheless went on very slowly, and they seemed to weigh each word before it was uttered. Jack, too, had time to run his peculiar situation through his mind, and ponder on his mission from Lord Scamperdale -- on his lordships detestation of Mr Sponge, his anxiety to get rid of him, his promised corner in his will, and his lordships hint about buying Sponges horses if he could not get rid of him in any other way.
Sponge, on his part, was thinking if there was any possibility of turning Jack to account.
It may seem strange to the uninitiated that there should be prospect of gain to a middle-man in the matter of a horse-deal, save in the legitimate trade of auctioneers and commission stable-keepers; but we are sorry to say we have known men calling themselves gentlemen, who have not thought it derogatory to accept a trifle for their good offices in the cause. I can buy cheaper than you, they say, and we may as well divide the trifle between us.
That was Mr Spraggons principle, only that the word trifle inadequately conveys his opinion on the point; Jacks notion being that a man was entitled to five per cent as of right, and as much more as he could get.
It was not often that Jack got a bite at my lord, which, perhaps, made him think it the more incumbent on him not to miss an opportunity. Having been told, of course he knew exactly the style of man he had to deal with in Mr Sponge -- a style of men of whom there is never any difficulty in asking if they will sell their horses, price being the only consideration. They are, indeed, a sort of unlicensed horse-dealers, from whose presence few hunts are wholly free. Mr Spraggon thought, if he could get Sponge to make it worth his while to get my lord to buy his horses, the -- whatever he might get -- would come in very comfortably to pay his Christmas bills.
By the time the bottle drew to a close, our friends were rather better friends, and seemed more inclined to fraternise. Jack had the advantage of Sponge, for he could stare, or rather squint, at him without Sponge knowing it. The pint of wine apiece -- at least as near a pint apiece as Spigot could afford to let them have -- somewhat strung Jacks nerves as well as his eyes, and he began to show more of the pupils and less of the whites than he did. He buzzed the bottle with such a hearty good will as settled the fate of another, which Sponge rang for as a matter of course. There was but the rejected one, which, however, Spigot put into a different decanter, and brought in with such an air as precluded either of them saying a word in disparagement of it.
Where are the hounds next week? asked Sponge, sipping away at it.
Monday, Larkhall Hill; Tuesday, the crossroads by Dallington Burn; Thursday, the Toll Bar at Whitburrow Green; Saturday, the kennels, replied Jack.
Good places? asked Sponge.
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