Having resigned his horse to his servant, Mr Sponge walked in, receiving the marked attention usually paid to a red coat. Mine host left his bar, where he was engaged in the usual occupation of drinking with customers for the ‘good of the house.’ A map of the county, of such liberal dimensions, was speedily produced, as would have terrified anyone unaccustomed to distances and scales on which maps are laid down. For instance, Jawleyford Court, as the crow flies, was the same distance from the crossroads at Dallington Burn as York was from London, in a map of England hanging beside it.

‘It’s a goodish way,’ said Sponge, getting a lighter off the chimney-piece, and measuring the distances. ‘From Jawleyford Court to Billingsborough Rise, say seven miles; from Billingsborough Rise to Downington Wharf, other seven; from Downington Wharf to Shapcot, which seems the nearest point, will be -- say five or six, perhaps -- nineteen or twenty in all. Well, that’s my work,’ he observed, scratching his head, ‘at least, my hack’s; and from here, home,’ he continued, measuring away as he spoke, ‘will be twelve or thirteen. Well, that’s nothing,’ he said. ‘Now for the horse,’ he continued, again applying the lighter in a different direction. ‘From here to Hardington, will be, say eight miles; from Hardington to Bewley, other five; eight and five are thirteen; and there, I should say, he might sleep. That would leave ten or twelve miles for the morning; nothing for a hack hunter; ’specially such a horse as that, and one that’s done nothing for I don’t know how long.’

Altogether, Mr Sponge determined to try it, especially considering that if he didn’t get Tuesday, there would be nothing till Thursday; and he was not the man to keep a hack hunter standing idle.

Accordingly he sought Mr Leather, whom he found busily engaged in the servants’ apartment, with a cold round of beef and a foaming flagon of ale before him.

‘Leather,’ he said, in a tone of authority, ‘I’ll hunt tomorrow -- ride the horse I should have ridden today.’

‘Where at?’ asked Leather, diving his fork into a bottle of pickles, and fishing out an onion.

‘The crossroads,’ replied Sponge.

‘The crossroads be fifty mile from here!’ cried Leather.

‘Nonsense!’ rejoined Sponge; ‘I’ve just measured the distance. It’s nothing of the sort.’

‘How far do you make it, then?’ asked Leather, tucking in the beef.

‘Why, from here to Hardington is about six, and from Hardington to Bewley, four -- ten in all,’ replied Sponge. ‘You can stay at Bewley all night, and then it is but a few miles on in the morning.’

‘And whativer am I to do for clothin’?’ asked Leather, adding, ‘I’ve nothin’ with me -- nothin’ nouther for oss nor man.’

‘Oh, the ostler’ll lend you what you want,’ replied Sponge, in a tone of determination; adding, ‘you can make shift for one night, surely?’

‘One night, surely!’ retorted Leather. ‘D’ye think an oss can’t be ruined in one night? -- humph!’

‘I’ll risk it,’ said Sponge.

‘But I won’t,’ replied Leather, blowing the foam from the tankard, and taking a long swig at the ale. ‘I thinks I knows my duty to my gov’nor better nor that,’ continued he, setting it down. ‘I’ll not see his waluable ’unters stowed away in pigsties -- not I, indeed.’

The fact was, Leather had an invitation to sup with the servants at Jawleyford Court that night, and he was not going to be done out of his engagement, especially as Mr Sponge only allowed him two shillings a day for expenses wherever he was.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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