Bolting the Badger

When a man and his horse differ seriously in public, and the man feels the horse has the best of it, it is wise for the man to appear to accommodate his views to those of the horse, rather than risk a defeat. It is best to let the horse go his way, and pretend it is yours. There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse.

Mr Sponge, having scattered Lord Scamperdale in the summary way described in our last chapter, let the chestnut gallop away, consoling himself with the idea that even if the hounds did hunt, it would be impossible for him to know his horse to advantage on so dark and unfavourable a day. He, therefore, just let the beast gallop till he began to flag, and then he spurred him and made him gallop on his account.

He thus took his change out of him, and arrived at Jawleyford Court a little after luncheon time.

Brief as had been his absence, things had undergone a great change. Certain dark hints respecting his ways and means had worked their way from the servants’ hall to my lady’s chamber, and into the upper regions generally. These had been augmented by Leather’s, the trusty groom’s, overnight visit, in fulfilment of his engagement to sup with the servants. Nor was Mr Leather’s anger abated by the unceremonious way Mr Sponge rode off with the horse, leaving him to hear of his departure from the ostler. Having broken faith with him, he considered it his duty to be ‘upsides’ with him, and tell the servants all he knew about him. Accordingly he let out, in strict confidence of course, to Spigot, that so far from Mr Sponge being a gentleman of ‘fortin,’ as he called it, with a dozen or two hunters planted here and there, he was nothing but the hirer of a couple of hacks, with himself as a job-groom, by the week. Spigot, who was on the best of terms with the ‘cook-housekeeper,’ and had his clothes washed on the sly in the laundry, could not do less than communicate the intelligence to her, from whom it went to the lady’s- maid, and thence circulated in the upper regions.

Juliana, the maid, finding Miss Amelia less indisposed to hear Mr Sponge run down than she expected, proceeded to add her own observations to the information derived from Leather, the groom. ‘Indeed, she couldn’t say that she thought much of Mr Sponge herself; his shirts were coarse, so were his pocket- handkerchiefs; and she never yet saw a real gent without a valet.’

Amelia, without any positive intention of giving up Mr Sponge, at least not until she saw further, had nevertheless got an idea that she was destined for a much higher sphere. Having duly considered all the circumstances of Mr Spraggon’s visit to Jawleyford Court, conned over several mysterious coughs and half-finished sentences he had indulged in, she had about come to the conclusion that the real object of his mission was to negotiate a matrimonial alliance on behalf of Lord Scamperdale. His lordship’s constantly expressed intention of getting married was well calculated to mislead one whose experience of the world was not sufficiently great to know that those men who are always talking about it are the least likely to get married, just as men who are always talking about buying horses are the men who never do buy them. Be that, however, as it may, Amelia was tolerably easy about Mr Sponge. If he had money she could take him, if he hadn’t she could let him alone.

Jawleyford, too, who was more hospitable at a distance, and in imagination than in reality, had had about enough of our friend. Indeed, a man whose talk was of hunting, and his reading Mogg, was not likely to have much in common with a gentleman of taste and elegance, as our friend set up to be. The delicate enquiry that Mrs Jawleyford now made, as to ‘whether he knew Mr Sponge to be a man of fortune,’ set him off at a tangent.

‘Me know he’s a man of fortune! I know nothing of his fortune. You asked him here, not me,’ exclaimed Jawleyford, stamping furiously.

‘No, my dear,’ replied Mrs Jawleyford, mildly; ‘he asked himself, you know; but I thought, perhaps, you might have said something that --’

‘Me say anything!’ interrupted Jawleyford; ‘I never said anything -- at least, nothing that any man with a particle of sense would think anything of,’ continued he, remembering the scene in the billiard-room. ‘It’s

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