He ordered two pints, and then sat down along-side o’ Bill, and in five minutes they was like brothers.
“‘Ave a drop o’ gin in it, Bill,” he ses, taking the bottle out of ’is pocket.
Bill thanked ’im and had a drop, and then, thoughtful-like, he wanted Joe to ‘ave some in his too, but Joe said no, he’d got a touch o’ toothache, and it was bad for it.
“I don’t mind ’aving a drop in my beer, Joe,” ses Peter Lamb.
“Not to-night, mate,” ses Joe; “it’s all for Bill. I bought it on purpose for ’im.”
Bill shook ’ands with him, and when Joe called for another pint and put some more gin in it he said that ’e was the noblest-’arted man that ever lived.
“You wasn’t saying so ’arf an hour ago,” ses Peter Lamb.
“’Cos I didn’t know ’im so well then,” ses Bill Jones.
“You soon change your mind, don’t you?” ses Peter.
Bill didn’t answer ’im. He was leaning back on the bench and staring at the bottle as if ’e couldn’t believe his eyesight. His face was all white and shining, and ’is hair as wet as if it ’ad just been dipped in a bucket o’ water.
“See a ghost, Bill?” ses Peter, looking at ’im.
Bill made a ’orrible noise in his throat, and kept on staring at the bottle till they thought ’e’d gone crazy. Then Jasper Potts bent his ’ead down and began to read out loud wot was on the bottle. “P-o-i— POISON FOR BILL JONES,” he ses, in a voice as if ’e couldn’t believe it.
You might ’ave heard a pin drop. Everybody turned and looked at Bill Jones, as he sat there trembling all over. Then those that could read took up the bottle and read it out loud all over agin.
“Pore Bill,” ses Peter Lamb. “I ’ad a feeling come over me that something was wrong.”
“You’re a murderer,” ses Sam Martin, catching ’old of Joe Barlcomb. “You’ll be ’ung for this. Look at pore Bill, cut off in ’is prime.”
“Run for the doctor,” ses someone.
Two of ’em ran off as ’ard as they could go, and then the landlord came round the bar and asked Bill to go and die outside, because ’e didn’t want to be brought into it. Jasper Potts told ’im to clear off, and then he bent down and asked Bill where the pain was.
“I don’t think he’ll ’ave much pain,” ses Peter Lamb, who always pretended to know a lot more than other people. “It’ll soon be over, Bill.”
“We’ve all got to go some day,” ses Sam Martin. “Better to die young than live to be a trouble to yourself,” ses Bob Harris.
To ’ear them talk everybody seemed to think that Bill Jones was in luck; everybody but Bill Jones ’imself, that is.
“I ain’t fit to die,” he ses, shivering. “You don’t know ’ow bad I’ve been.”
“Wot ’ave you done, Bill?” ses Peter Lamb, in a soft voice. “If it’ll ease your feelings afore you go to make a clean breast of it, we’re all friends here.”