Charles Dickens

"But dear Mrs. Pocket," said Mrs. Coiler, "after her early

disappointment (not that dear Mr. Pocket was to blame in that),

requires so much luxury and elegance--"

"Yes, ma'am," I said, to stop her, for I was afraid she was going

to cry.

"And she is of so aristocratic a disposition--"

"Yes, ma'am," I said again, with the same object as before.

" - that it is hard," said Mrs. Coiler, "to have dear Mr. Pocket's

time and attention diverted from dear Mrs. Pocket."

I could not help thinking that it might be harder if the butcher's

time and attention were diverted from dear Mrs. Pocket; but I said

nothing, and indeed had enough to do in keeping a bashful watch

upon my company-manners.

It came to my knowledge, through what passed between Mrs. Pocket and

Drummle while I was attentive to my knife and fork, spoon, glasses,

and other instruments of self-destruction, that Drummle, whose

Christian name was Bentley, was actually the next heir but one to a

baronetcy. It further appeared that the book I had seen Mrs. Pocket

reading in the garden, was all about titles, and that she knew the

exact date at which her grandpapa would have come into the book, if

he ever had come at all. Drummle didn't say much, but in his

limited way (he struck me as a sulky kind of fellow) he spoke as

one of the elect, and recognized Mrs. Pocket as a woman and a

sister. No one but themselves and Mrs. Coiler the toady neighbour

showed any interest in this part of the conversation, and it

appeared to me that it was painful to Herbert; but it promised to

last a long time, when the page came in with the announcement of a

domestic affliction. It was, in effect, that the cook had mislaid

the beef. To my unutterable amazement, I now, for the first time,

saw Mr. Pocket relieve his mind by going through a performance that

struck me as very extraordinary, but which made no impression on

anybody else, and with which I soon became as familiar as the rest.

He laid down the carving-knife and fork - being engaged in carving,

at the moment - put his two hands into his disturbed hair, and

appeared to make an extraordinary effort to lift himself up by it.

When he had done this, and had not lifted himself up at all, he

quietly went on with what he was about.

Mrs. Coiler then changed the subject, and began to flatter me. I

liked it for a few moments, but she flattered me so very grossly

that the pleasure was soon over. She had a serpentine way of coming

close at me when she pretended to be vitally interested in the

friends and localities I had left, which was altogether snaky and

fork-tongued; and when she made an occasional bounce upon Startop

(who said very little to her), or upon Drummle (who said less), I

rather envied them for being on the opposite side of the table.

After dinner the children were introduced, and Mrs. Coiler made

admiring comments on their eyes, noses, and legs - a sagacious way

of improving their minds. There were four little girls, and two

little boys, besides the baby who might have been either, and the

baby's next successor who was as yet neither. They were brought in

by Flopson and Millers, much as though those two noncommissioned

officers had been recruiting somewhere for children and had

enlisted these: while Mrs. Pocket looked at the young Nobles that

ought to have been, as if she rather thought she had had the

pleasure of inspecting them before, but didn't quite know what to

make of them.

"Here! Give me your fork, Mum, and take the baby," said Flopson.

"Don't take it that way, or you'll get its head under the table."

Thus advised, Mrs. Pocket took it the other way, and got its head

upon the table; which was announced to all present by a prodigious


"Dear, dear! Give it me back, Mum," said Flopson; "and Miss Jane,

come and dance to baby, do!"

One of the little girls, a mere mite who seemed to have prematurely

taken upon herself some charge of the others, stepped out of her

place by me, and danced to and from the baby until it left off

crying, and laughed.