Mr Puffington's Domestic Arrangements

Perhaps it was fortunate that Mr Bragg did take the kennel management upon himself, or there is no, saying but what with that and the house department, coupled with the usual fussyness of a bachelor, the Sponge visit might have proved too much for our master. The notice of the intended visit was short; and there were invitations to send out, and answers to get, bedrooms to prepare, and culinary arrangements to make -- arrangements that people in town, with all their tradespeople at their elbows, can have no idea of the difficulty of effecting in the country. Mr Puffington was fully employed.

In addition to the parties mentioned as asked in his note to Lord Scamperdale, viz., Washball, Charley Slapp and Lumpleg, were Parson Blossomnose, and Mr Fossick of the Flat Hat Hunt, who declined -- Mr Crane, of Crane Hall, and Captain Guano, late of that noble corps the Spotted Horse Marines, and others who accepted. Mr Spraggon was a sort of volunteer, at all events an undesired guest, unless his lordship accompanied him. It so happened that the least wanted guest was the first to arrive on the all important day.

Lord Scamperdale, knowing our friend Jack was not over affluent, had no idea of spoiling him by too much luxury, and as the railway would serve a certain distance in the line of Hanby House, he despatched Jack to the Over-shoes-over-boots station with the dogcart, and told him he would be sure to find a ’bus, or to get some sort of conveyance at the Squandercash station to take him up to Puffington’s; at all events, his lordship added to himself, ‘If he doesn’t, it’ll do him no harm to walk, and he can easily get a boy to carry his bag.’

The latter was the case; for though the station-master assured Jack, on his arrival at Squandercash, that there was a ’bus, or a mail gig, or a something to every other train, there was nothing in connection with the one that brought him, nor would he undertake to leave his carpet bag at Hanby House before breakfast-time the next morning.

Jack was highly enraged, and proceeded to squint his eye inside out, and abuse all railways, and chairman, and directors, and secretaries, and clerks, and porters, vowing that railways were the greatest nuisances under the sun -- that they were a perfect impediment instead of a facility to travelling -- and declared that formerly a gentleman had nothing to do but order his four horses, and have them turned out at every stage as he came up, instead of being stopped in the ridicklous manner he then was; and he strutted and stamped about the station as if he would put a stop to the whole line.

His vehemence and big talk operated favourably on the cockney station-master, who, thinking he must be a duke, or some great man, began to consider how to get him forwarded. It being only a thinly-populated district -- though there was a station equal to any mercantile emergency, indeed to the requirements of the whole county -- he ran the resources of the immediate neighbourhood through his mind, and at length was obliged to admit -- humbly and respectfully -- that he really was afraid Martha Muggins’s donkey was the only available article.

Jack fumed and bounced at the very mention of such a thing, vowing that it was a downright insult to propose it; and he was so bumptious that the station-master, who had nothing to gain by the transaction, sought the privacy of the electric telegraph office, and left him to vent the balance of his wrath upon the porters.

Of course they could do nothing more than the king of their little colony had suggested; and finding there was no help for it Mr Spraggon at last submitted to the humiliation, and set off to follow young Muggins with his bag on the donkey, in his best topboots, worn under his trousers -- an unpleasant operation to anyone, but especially to a man like Jack, who preferred wearing his tops out against the flaps of his friends’ saddles, rather than his soles by walking upon them. However, necessity said yes; and cocking his flat hat jauntily on his head, he stuck a cheroot in his mouth, and went smoking and swaggering on, looking -- or rather squinting -- bumptiously at everybody he met, as much as to say, ‘Don’t suppose I’m walking from necessity! I’ve plenty of tin.’’

The third cheroot brought Jack and his suite within sight of Hanby House.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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