‘Is it a frost?’ repeated Mr Leather, thoughtfully; ‘is it a frost? Vy, no; I should say it isn’t a frost -- at least, not a frost to ’urt; there may be a little rind on the ground and a little rawness in the hair, but the general concatenation --’

Hout, tout!’ exclaimed Mr Sponge, ‘let’s have none of you dictionary words.’

Mr Leather stood silent, twisting his hat about.

The consequence of all this was, that Mr Sponge determined to ride over to Nonsuch House to breakfast, which would give his horse half an hour in the stable to eat a feed of corn. Accordingly, he desired Leather to bring him his shaving-water, and have the horse ready in the stable in half an hour, whither, in due time, Mr Sponge emerged by the back door, without encountering any of the family. The ambling piebald looked so crestfallen and woebegone in all the swaddling-clothes in which Leather had got him enveloped, that Mr Sponge did not care to look at the gallant Hercules, who occupied a temporary loose box at the far end of the dark stable, lest he might look worse. He, therefore, just mounted Multum in Parvo as Leather led him out at the door, and set off without a word.

‘Well, hang me but you are a good judge of weather,’ exclaimed Sponge to himself, as he got into the field at the back of the house, and found the horse made little impression on the grass. ‘No frost!’ repeated he, breathing into the air; ‘why, it’s freezing now, out of the sun.’

On getting into Marygold Lane, our friend drew rein, and was for turning back, but the resolute chestnut took the bit between his teeth and shook his head, as if determined to go on.

‘Oh, you brute!’ growled Mr Sponge, letting the spurs into his sides with a hearty good-will, which caused the animal to kick, as if he meant to stand on his head. ‘Ah, you will, will ye?’ exclaimed Mr Sponge, letting the spurs in again as the animal replaced his legs on the ground. Up they went again, if possible higher than before.

The brute was clearly full of mischief, and even if the hounds did not throw off, which there was little prospect of their doing from the appearance of the weather, Mr Sponge felt that it would be well to get some of the nonsense taken out of him; and, moreover, going to Nonsuch House, would give him a chance of establishing a billet there -- a chance that he had been deprived of by Sir Harry’s abrupt departure from Farmer Peastraw’s. So saying, our friend gathered his horse together, and settling himself in his saddle, made his sound hooves ring upon the hard road.

‘He may hunt,’ thought Mr Sponge, as he rattled along; ‘such a rum beggar as Sir Harry may think it fun to go out in a frost. It’s hard, too,’ said he, as he saw the poor turnip pullers enveloped in their thick shawls, and watched them thumping their arms against their sides to drive the cold from their finger ends.

Multum in Parvo was a good sound-constitutioned horse, hard and firm as a cricket-ball, a horse that would not turn a hair for a trifle even on a hunting morning, let alone on such a thorough chiller as this one was; and Mr Sponge, after going along at a good round pace, and getting over the ground much quicker than he did when the road was all new to him, and he had to ask his way, at length drew in to see what o’clock it was. It was only half-past nine, and already in the far distance he saw the encircling woods of Nonsuch House.

‘Shall be early,’ said Mr Sponge, returning his watch to his waistcoat-pocket, and diving into his cutty coat-pocket for the cigarcase. Having struck a light, he now laid the rein on the horse’s neck and proceeded leisurely along, the animal stepping gaily and throwing its head about as if he was the quietest, most trustworthy nag in the world. If he got there at half-past ten Mr Sponge calculated he would have plenty of time to see after his horse, get his own breakfast, and see how the land lay for a billet.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.