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
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
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.