Soapey Sponge, a nattily dressed young rogue whose career of hunting all winter and talking about it all summer is supported primarily by swindling victims into, and then bailing them out of, bad horse deals and by inviting himself to stay at the country mansions of unsuspecting hunters. At each hunt, he befriends one innocent who foolishly suggests that he stop by if ever in the neighborhood. His hosts soon find that he is nearly impossible to dislodge once entrenched in their households and that they must resort to a variety of tactics to get him to leave. The fine food, drink, and furnishings originally laid out for a man they think is both rich and eligible to serve as a son-in-law or godfather are slowly withdrawn or cut off altogether once Sponge shows himself true to his surname. His given name is more attributable to his moral character; he is not clean but certainly is as slippery as soap. He plays spouses, neighbors, and friends against one another, neatly escaping before they can compare stories. Early in the season, he contracts with a seedy stable owner named Benjamin Buckram, who rents him two beautiful but violently dangerous horses with the option of buying them or selling them to a gullible third party and splitting the profits. Peter Leather, one of Buckram’s stablehands, is hired to keep an eye on Buckram’s horses and act as servant to Sponge. Sponge and Leather agree to work the hunting circuit, giving the impression that Sponge not only owns the horses but also that he is a landed gentleman. Leather will spread the agreed story and manage the difficult horses to make them appealing to potential buyers. Sponge is an excellent rider who controls the animals in public just long enough to get them sold; he then devises various schemes to buy them back or have them returned for free by terrified, embarrassed buyers. After a few...
(The entire section is 784 words.)