For the time being at least, I was

saved. I still held on to the leg of the table, but clutched it now

with the fervour of gratitude.

By degrees, I became calm enough to release my grasp and partake of

pudding. Mr. Pumblechook partook of pudding. All partook of pudding.

The course terminated, and Mr. Pumblechook had begun to beam under

the genial influence of gin-and-water. I began to think I should

get over the day, when my sister said to Joe, "Clean plates -

cold."

I clutched the leg of the table again immediately, and pressed it

to my bosom as if it had been the companion of my youth and friend

of my soul. I foresaw what was coming, and I felt that this time I

really was gone.

"You must taste," said my sister, addressing the guests with her

best grace, "You must taste, to finish with, such a delightful and

delicious present of Uncle Pumblechook's!"

Must they! Let them not hope to taste it!

"You must know," said my sister, rising, "it's a pie; a savoury

pork pie."

The company murmured their compliments. Uncle Pumblechook, sensible

of having deserved well of his fellow-creatures, said - quite

vivaciously, all things considered - "Well, Mrs. Joe, we'll do our

best endeavours; let us have a cut at this same pie."

My sister went out to get it. I heard her steps proceed to the

pantry. I saw Mr. Pumblechook balance his knife. I saw re-awakening

appetite in the Roman nostrils of Mr. Wopsle. I heard Mr. Hubble

remark that "a bit of savoury pork pie would lay atop of anything

you could mention, and do no harm," and I heard Joe say, "You shall

have some, Pip." I have never been absolutely certain whether I

uttered a shrill yell of terror, merely in spirit, or in the bodily

hearing of the company. I felt that I could bear no more, and that

I must run away. I released the leg of the table, and ran for my

life.

But, I ran no further than the house door, for there I ran head

foremost into a party of soldiers with their muskets: one of whom

held out a pair of handcuffs to me, saying, "Here you are, look

sharp, come on!"

Chapter 5

The apparition of a file of soldiers ringing down the butt-ends of

their loaded muskets on our door-step, caused the dinner-party to

rise from table in confusion, and caused Mrs. Joe re-entering the

kitchen empty-handed, to stop short and stare, in her wondering

lament of "Gracious goodness gracious me, what's gone - with the -

pie!"

The sergeant and I were in the kitchen when Mrs. Joe stood staring;

at which crisis I partially recovered the use of my senses. It was

the sergeant who had spoken to me, and he was now looking round at

the company, with his handcuffs invitingly extended towards them in

his right hand, and his left on my shoulder.

"Excuse me, ladies and gentleman," said the sergeant, "but as I

have mentioned at the door to this smart young shaver" (which he

hadn't), "I am on a chase in the name of the king, and I want the

blacksmith."

"And pray what might you want with him?" retorted my sister, quick

to resent his being wanted at all.

"Missis," returned the gallant sergeant, "speaking for myself, I

should reply, the honour and pleasure of his fine wife's

acquaintance; speaking for the king, I answer, a little job done."

This was received as rather neat in the sergeant; insomuch that Mr

Pumblechook cried audibly, "Good again!"

"You see, blacksmith," said the sergeant, who had by this time

picked out Joe with his eye, "we have had an accident with these,

and I find the lock of one of 'em goes wrong, and the coupling

don't act pretty. As they are wanted for immediate service, will

you throw your eye over them?"

Joe threw his eye over them, and pronounced that the job would

necessitate the lighting of his forge fire, and would take nearer

two hours than one, "Will it? Then will you set about it at once,

blacksmith?" said the off-hand sergeant, "as it's on his Majesty's

service.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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