“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!”
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?”