I am far from being sure that I

might not have astonished our small congregation by resorting to

this extreme measure, but for its being Christmas Day and no


Mr. Wopsle, the clerk at church, was to dine with us; and Mr. Hubble

the wheelwright and Mrs. Hubble; and Uncle Pumblechook (Joe's uncle,

but Mrs. Joe appropriated him), who was a well-to-do corn-chandler

in the nearest town, and drove his own chaise-cart. The dinner hour

was half-past one. When Joe and I got home, we found the table

laid, and Mrs. Joe dressed, and the dinner dressing, and the front

door unlocked (it never was at any other time) for the company to

enter by, and everything most splendid. And still, not a word of

the robbery.

The time came, without bringing with it any relief to my feelings,

and the company came. Mr. Wopsle, united to a Roman nose and a

large shining bald forehead, had a deep voice which he was

uncommonly proud of; indeed it was understood among his

acquaintance that if you could only give him his head, he would

read the clergyman into fits; he himself confessed that if the

Church was "thrown open," meaning to competition, he would not

despair of making his mark in it. The Church not being "thrown

open," he was, as I have said, our clerk. But he punished the

Amens tremendously; and when he gave out the psalm - always giving

the whole verse - he looked all round the congregation first, as

much as to say, "You have heard my friend overhead; oblige me with

your opinion of this style!"

I opened the door to the company - making believe that it was a

habit of ours to open that door - and I opened it first to Mr.

Wopsle, next to Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, and last of all to Uncle

Pumblechook. N.B., I was not allowed to call him uncle, under the

severest penalties.

"Mrs. Joe," said Uncle Pumblechook: a large hard-breathing

middle-aged slow man, with a mouth like a fish, dull staring eyes,

and sandy hair standing upright on his head, so that he looked as

if he had just been all but choked, and had that moment come to;

"I have brought you, as the compliments of the season - I have

brought you, Mum, a bottle of sherry wine - and I have brought you,

Mum, a bottle of port wine."

Every Christmas Day he presented himself, as a profound novelty,

with exactly the same words, and carrying the two bottles like

dumb-bells. Every Christmas Day, Mrs. Joe replied, as she now

replied, "Oh, Un - cle Pum - ble - chook! This IS kind!" Every

Christmas Day, he retorted, as he now retorted, "It's no more than

your merits. And now are you all bobbish, and how's Sixpennorth of

halfpence?" meaning me.

We dined on these occasions in the kitchen, and adjourned, for the

nuts and oranges and apples, to the parlour; which was a change

very like Joe's change from his working clothes to his Sunday

dress. My sister was uncommonly lively on the present occasion, and

indeed was generally more gracious in the society of Mrs. Hubble

than in other company. I remember Mrs. Hubble as a little curly

sharp-edged person in sky-blue, who held a conventionally juvenile

position, because she had married Mr. Hubble - I don't know at what

remote period - when she was much younger than he. I remember Mr

Hubble as a tough high-shouldered stooping old man, of a sawdusty

fragrance, with his legs extraordinarily wide apart: so that in my

short days I always saw some miles of open country between them

when I met him coming up the lane.

Among this good company I should have felt myself, even if I hadn't

robbed the pantry, in a false position. Not because I was squeezed

in at an acute angle of the table-cloth, with the table in my

chest, and the Pumblechookian elbow in my eye, nor because I was

not allowed to speak (I didn't want to speak), nor because I was

regaled with the scaly tips of the drumsticks of the fowls, and

with those obscure corners of pork of which the pig, when living,

had had the least reason to be vain.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

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