On the present occasion, though I was hungry, I dared not eat my

slice. I felt that I must have something in reserve for my dreadful

acquaintance, and his ally the still more dreadful young man. I

knew Mrs. Joe's housekeeping to be of the strictest kind, and that

my larcenous researches might find nothing available in the safe.

Therefore I resolved to put my hunk of bread-and-butter down the

leg of my trousers.

The effort of resolution necessary to the achievement of this

purpose, I found to be quite awful. It was as if I had to make up

my mind to leap from the top of a high house, or plunge into a

great depth of water. And it was made the more difficult by the

unconscious Joe. In our already-mentioned freemasonry as

fellow-sufferers, and in his good-natured companionship with me, it

was our evening habit to compare the way we bit through our slices,

by silently holding them up to each other's admiration now and then

- which stimulated us to new exertions. To-night, Joe several times

invited me, by the display of his fast-diminishing slice, to enter

upon our usual friendly competition; but he found me, each time,

with my yellow mug of tea on one knee, and my untouched

bread-and-butter on the other. At last, I desperately considered

that the thing I contemplated must be done, and that it had best be

done in the least improbable manner consistent with the

circumstances. I took advantage of a moment when Joe had just

looked at me, and got my bread-and-butter down my leg.

Joe was evidently made uncomfortable by what he supposed to be my

loss of appetite, and took a thoughtful bite out of his slice,

which he didn't seem to enjoy. He turned it about in his mouth much

longer than usual, pondering over it a good deal, and after all

gulped it down like a pill. He was about to take another bite, and

had just got his head on one side for a good purchase on it, when

his eye fell on me, and he saw that my bread-and-butter was gone.

The wonder and consternation with which Joe stopped on the

threshold of his bite and stared at me, were too evident to escape

my sister's observation.

"What's the matter now?" said she, smartly, as she put down her

cup.

"I say, you know!" muttered Joe, shaking his head at me in very

serious remonstrance. "Pip, old chap! You'll do yourself a

mischief. It'll stick somewhere. You can't have chawed it, Pip."

"What's the matter now?" repeated my sister, more sharply than

before.

"If you can cough any trifle on it up, Pip, I'd recommend you to do

it," said Joe, all aghast. "Manners is manners, but still your

elth's your elth."

By this time, my sister was quite desperate, so she pounced on Joe,

and, taking him by the two whiskers, knocked his head for a little

while against the wall behind him: while I sat in the corner,

looking guiltily on.

"Now, perhaps you'll mention what's the matter," said my sister,

out of breath, "you staring great stuck pig."

Joe looked at her in a helpless way; then took a helpless bite, and

looked at me again.

"You know, Pip," said Joe, solemnly, with his last bite in his

cheek and speaking in a confidential voice, as if we two were quite

alone, "you and me is always friends, and I'd be the last to tell

upon you, any time. But such a--" he moved his chair and looked

about the floor between us, and then again at me - "such a most

oncommon Bolt as that!"

"Been bolting his food, has he?" cried my sister.

"You know, old chap," said Joe, looking at me, and not at Mrs. Joe,

with his bite still in his cheek, "I Bolted, myself, when I was

your age - frequent - and as a boy I've been among a many Bolters;

but I never see your Bolting equal yet, Pip, and it's a mercy you

ain't Bolted dead."

My sister made a dive at me, and fished me up by the hair: saying

nothing more than the awful words, "You come along and be dosed."

Some medical beast had revived Tar-water in those days as a fine

medicine, and Mrs.

Charles Dickens
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