No; I should not have minded

that, if they would only have left me alone. But they wouldn't

leave me alone. They seemed to think the opportunity lost, if they

failed to point the conversation at me, every now and then, and

stick the point into me. I might have been an unfortunate little

bull in a Spanish arena, I got so smartingly touched up by these

moral goads.

It began the moment we sat down to dinner. Mr. Wopsle said grace

with theatrical declamation - as it now appears to me, something

like a religious cross of the Ghost in Hamlet with Richard the

Third - and ended with the very proper aspiration that we might be

truly grateful. Upon which my sister fixed me with her eye, and

said, in a low reproachful voice, "Do you hear that? Be grateful."

"Especially," said Mr. Pumblechook, "be grateful, boy, to them which

brought you up by hand."

Mrs. Hubble shook her head, and contemplating me with a mournful

presentiment that I should come to no good, asked, "Why is it that

the young are never grateful?" This moral mystery seemed too much

for the company until Mr. Hubble tersely solved it by saying,

"Naterally wicious." Everybody then murmured "True!" and looked at

me in a particularly unpleasant and personal manner.

Joe's station and influence were something feebler (if possible)

when there was company, than when there was none. But he always

aided and comforted me when he could, in some way of his own, and

he always did so at dinner-time by giving me gravy, if there were

any. There being plenty of gravy to-day, Joe spooned into my plate,

at this point, about half a pint.

A little later on in the dinner, Mr. Wopsle reviewed the sermon with

some severity, and intimated - in the usual hypothetical case of

the Church being "thrown open" - what kind of sermon he would have

given them. After favouring them with some heads of that discourse,

he remarked that he considered the subject of the day's homily,

ill-chosen; which was the less excusable, he added, when there were

so many subjects "going about."

"True again," said Uncle Pumblechook. "You've hit it, sir! Plenty of

subjects going about, for them that know how to put salt upon their

tails. That's what's wanted. A man needn't go far to find a

subject, if he's ready with his salt-box." Mr. Pumblechook added,

after a short interval of reflection, "Look at Pork alone. There's

a subject! If you want a subject, look at Pork!"

"True, sir. Many a moral for the young," returned Mr. Wopsle; and I

knew he was going to lug me in, before he said it; "might be

deduced from that text."

("You listen to this," said my sister to me, in a severe

parenthesis.)

Joe gave me some more gravy.

"Swine," pursued Mr. Wopsle, in his deepest voice, and pointing his

fork at my blushes, as if he were mentioning my Christian name;

"Swine were the companions of the prodigal. The gluttony of Swine

is put before us, as an example to the young." (I thought this

pretty well in him who had been praising up the pork for being so

plump and juicy.) "What is detestable in a pig, is more detestable

in a boy."

"Or girl," suggested Mr. Hubble.

"Of course, or girl, Mr. Hubble," assented Mr. Wopsle, rather

irritably, "but there is no girl present."

"Besides," said Mr. Pumblechook, turning sharp on me, "think what

you've got to be grateful for. If you'd been born a Squeaker--"

"He was, if ever a child was," said my sister, most emphatically.

Joe gave me some more gravy.

"Well, but I mean a four-footed Squeaker," said Mr. Pumblechook. "If

you had been born such, would you have been here now? Not you--"

"Unless in that form," said Mr. Wopsle, nodding towards the dish.

"But I don't mean in that form, sir," returned Mr. Pumblechook, who

had an objection to being interrupted; "I mean, enjoying himself

with his elders and betters, and improving himself with their

conversation, and rolling in the lap of luxury.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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