+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

part of the house to have boarded in, would
have been the kitchenalways supposing; the
boarder capable of self-defence, for, before I
had been there a week, a neighbouring lady
with whom the family were personally
unacquainted, wrote in to say that she had seen
Millers slapping the baby. This greatly
distressed Mrs. Pocket, who burst into tears on
receiving the note, and said it was an extraordinary
thing that the neighbours couldn't mind
their own business.

By degrees I learnt, and chiefly from Herbert,
that Mr. Pocket had been educated at Harrow
and at Cambridge, where he had distinguished
himself; but that when he had had the happiness
of marrying Mrs. Pocket very early in life, he had
impaired his prospects and taken up the calling
of a Grinder. After grinding a number of dull
bladesof whom it was remarkable that their
fathers, when influential, were always going
to help him to preferment, but always forgot
to do it when the blades had left the
Grindstonehe had wearied of that poor work and
had come to London. Here, after gradually
failing in loftier hopes, he had "read" with
divers who had lacked opportunities or neglected
them, and had refurbished divers others for
special occasions, and had turned his acquirements
to the account of literary compilation
and correction, and on such means, added to
some very moderate private resources, still
maintained the house I saw.

Mr. and Mrs. Pocket had a toady neighbour;
a widow lady of that highly sympathetic nature
that she agreed with everybody, blessed everybody,
and shed smiles and tears on everybody
according to circumstances. This lady's
name was Mrs. Coiler, and I had the honour
of taking her down to dinner on the day of my
installation. She gave me to understand on the
stairs, that it was a blow to dear Mrs. Pocket
that dear Mr. Pocket should be under the
necessity of receiving gentlemen to read with
him. That did not extend to Me, she told me,
in a gush of love and confidence (at that time,
I had known her something less than five
minutes); if they were all like Me, it would be
quite another thing.

"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," said I, 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 recognised 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 forkbeing engaged in carving at the
momentput 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
snakey 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 legsa 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 non-commissioned
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