‘ ’Ord rot you, you belong to that old ruffian, do you?’ said Mr Sponge, riding and cutting at one with his whip, exclaiming, ‘Get away to him, ye beggar, or I’ll tuck you up short.’

He now, for the first time, saw them together in anything like numbers, and was struck with the queerness and inequality of the whole. They were of all sorts and sizes, from the solemn towering calf-like fox- hound down to the little wriggling harrier. They seemed, too, to be troubled with various complaints and infirmities. Some had the mange; some had blear eyes; some had but one; many were out at the elbows; and not a few down at the toes. However, they had killed a fox, and ‘Handsome is that handsome does,’ said Mr Sponge, as, with his horse surrounded by them, he moved on in quest of his way home.

At first, he thought to retrace his steps by the marks of his horse’s hooves, and succeeded in getting back to the dean, where Sir Harry’s hounds changed foxes with Lord Scamperdale’s; but he got confused with the imprints of the other horses, and very soon had to trust entirely to chance. Chance, we are sorry to say, did not befriend him; for, after wandering over the wide-extending downs, he came upon the little hamlet of Tinkler Hatch, and was informed that he had been riding in a semicircle.

He there got some gruel for his horse, and, with day closing in, now set off, as directed, on the Ribchester Road, with the assurance that he ‘couldn’t miss his way.’ Some of the hounds here declined following him any further, and slunk into cottages and outhouses as they passed along. Mr Sponge, however, did not care for their company.

Having travelled musingly along two or three miles of road, now thinking over the glorious run -- now of the gallant way in which Hercules had carried him -- now of the pity it was that there was nobody there to see -- now of the encounter with Lord Scamperdale, just as he passed a well-filled stackyard, that had shut out the view of a flaming red brick house with a pea-green door and windows, an outburst of ‘hoo-- rays!’ followed by one cheer more -- ‘hooo--ray!’ made the remaining wild hounds prick up their ears, and our friend rein in his horse, to hear what was ‘up.’ A bright fire in a room on the right of the door overpowered the clouds of tobacco-smoke with which the room was enveloped, and revealed sundry scarlet coats in the full glow of joyous hilarity. It was Sir Harry and friends recruiting at Farmer Peastraw’s after their exertions; for, though they could not make much of hunting, they were always ready to drink. They were having a rare set-to -- rashers of bacon, wedges of cheese, with oceans of malt-liquor. It was the appearance of a magnificent cold round of home-fed beef, red with saltpetre and flaky with white fat, borne on high by their host, that elicited the applause and the one cheer more that broke on Mr Sponge’s ear as he was passing -- applause that was renewed as they caught a glimpse of his red coat, not on account of his safety or that of the hounds, but simply because being in the cheering mood, they were ready to cheer anything.

‘Hil-loo! there’s Mr What’s-his-name! exclaimed brother Bob Spangles, as he caught view of Sponge and the hounds passing the window.

‘So there is!’ roared another; ‘Hoo-ray!’

Hoo-ray!’ yelled two or three more.

‘Stop him!’ cried another.

‘Call him in,’ roared Sir Harry, ‘and let’s liquor him.’

‘Hilloo Mister What’s-your-name!’ exclaimed the other Spangles, throwing up the window. ‘Hilloo, won’t you come in and have some refreshment?’

‘Who’s there?’ asked Mr Sponge, reining in the brown.

‘Oh, we’re all here,’ shouted brother Bob Spangles, holding up a tumbler of hot brandy-and-water, ‘we’re all here -- Sir Harry and all,’ added he.

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