‘No,’ replied Jogglebury, unconcernedly. ‘No; I’ll leave a (puff) card for him (wheeze),’ added he, fumbling in his wallet behind for his cardcase. ‘My (puff) object is to pay my (wheeze) respects to you,’ observed he, drawing a great carved Indian case from his pocket, and pulling off the top with a noise like the drawing of a cork.

‘Much obliged for the compliment,’ observed Mr Sponge, as Jogglebury fumbled and broke his nails in attempting to get a card out.

‘Do you stay long in this part of the world?’ asked he, as at last he succeeded, and commenced tapping the corners of the card on the table.

‘I really don’t know,’ replied Mr Sponge, as the particulars of his situation flashed across his mind. Could this pudding-headed man be a chap Puffington had got to come and sound him, thought he.

Jogglebury sat silent for a time, examining his feet attentively as if to see they were pairs, and scrutinising the bags of his cinnamon-coloured trousers.

‘I was going to say (hem -- cough -- hem),’ at length observed he, looking up, ‘that’s to say, I was thinking (hem -- wheeze -- cough -- hem), or rather I should say, Mrs Jogglebury Crowdey sent me to say -- I mean to say,’ continued he, stamping one of his ponderous feet against the floor as if to force out his words. ‘Mrs Jogglebury Crowdey and I would be glad -- happy, that’s to say (hem) -- if you would arrange (hem) to (wheeze) pay us a visit (hem).’

‘Most happy, I’m sure!’ exclaimed Mr Sponge, jumping at the offer.

‘Before you go (hem),’ continued our visitor, taking up the sentence where Sponge had interrupted him; ‘I (hem) live about nine miles (hem) from here (hem).’

‘Are there any hounds in your neighbourhood?’ asked Mr Sponge.

‘Oh, yes,’ replied Mr Jogglebury, slowly; ‘Mr Puffington here draws up to Greatacre Gorse within a few (puff -- wheeze) miles -- say, three (puff) -- of my (wheeze) house; and Sir Harry Scattercash (puff) hunts all the (puff -- wheeze) country below, right away down to the (puff -- wheeze) sea.’

‘Well, you’re a devilish good fellow!’ exclaimed Sponge; ‘and I’ll tell you what, as I’m sure you mean what you say, I’ll take you at your word and go at once; and that’ll give our friend here time to come round.’

‘Oh, but (puff -- wheeze -- gasp),’ started Mr Jogglebury, the blood rushing to his great yellow, whiskerless cheeks, ‘I’m not quite (gasp) sure that Mrs (gasp) Jogglebury (puff) Crowdey would be (puff -- wheeze -- gasp) prepared.’

‘Oh, hang preparation!’ interrupted Mr Sponge. ‘I’ll take you as you are. Never mind me. I hate being made company of. Just treat me like one of yourselves, toad-in-the-hole, dog-in-the-blanket, beef-steaks and oyster-sauce, rabbits and onions -- anything; nothing comes amiss to me.’

So saying, and while Jogglebury sat purple and unable to articulate, Mr Sponge applied his hand to the ivory bell-knob and sounded an imposing peal. Mr Jogglebury sat wondering what was going to happen, and thinking what a wigging he would get from Mrs J. if he didn’t manage to shake off his friend. Above all, he recollected that they had nothing but haddocks and hashed mutton for dinner.

‘Tell Leather I want him,’ said Mr Sponge, in a tone of authority, as the footman answered the summons; then, turning to his guest, as the man was leaving the room, he said, ‘Won’t you take something after your drive -- cold meat, glass of sherry, soda-water, bottled porter -- anything in that line?’

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