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by [?]

So as early as possible I crept downstairs to the pantry and secured some bread, some rind of cheese, half a jar of mincemeat, some brandy from a stone bottle which I poured into a bottle of my own and then filled the stone one up with water. I also took a meat bone and a beautiful pork pie. Then I got a file from among Joe’s tools, and with this and my other plunder made my way with all dispatch along the river-side. Presently I came upon what I supposed was the man I was searching for, for he too was dressed in coarse gray and had a great iron on his leg, but his face was different.

“It’s the young man,” I thought, feeling my heart beat fast at the idea. He swore at me as I passed, and tried in a weak way to hit me, but then he ran away and I continued my trip to the Battery, and there was the right man in a ravenous condition. He was gobbling mincemeat, meat-bone, bread, cheese, and pork pie all at once, when he turned suddenly and said:

“You’re not a deceiving imp? You brought no one with you?” I answered no, and he resumed his meal, snapping at the food as a dog would do. While he was eating, I ventured to remark that I had met the young man he spoke of, at which the man showed the greatest surprise, and became so violently excited that I was very much afraid of him. I was also afraid of remaining away from home any longer. I told him I must go, but he took no notice, so I thought the best thing I could do was to slip off, which I did.

“And where the deuce ha’ you been?” was Mrs. Joe’s Christmas salutation.

I said I had been down to hear the carols. “Ah well,” observed Mrs. Joe, “you might ha’ done worse,” and then went on with her work as we were to have company for dinner, and the feast was to be one that occasioned extensive arrangements. My sister had too much to do to go to church, but Joe and I went, arrayed in our Sunday best. When we reached home we found the table laid, Mrs. Joe dressed and the front door unlocked–(it never was at any other time) and everything most splendid. And still not a word about the robbery. The company arrived; Mr. Wopsle, Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, and Uncle Pumblechook, Joe’s uncle, who lived in the nearest town and drove his own chaise cart.

Dinner was a brilliant success, but so rich that Uncle Pumblechook was entirely overcome, and was obliged to call for brandy. Oh heavens! he would say it was weak, and I should be lost! I held tight to the leg of the table and awaited my fate. The brandy was poured out and Uncle Pumblechook drank it off. Instantly he sprang to his feet, turned round several times in an appalling, spasmodic whooping-cough dance, and rushed out at the door to the great consternation of the company. Mrs. Joe and Joe ran out and brought him back, and as he sank into his chair he gasped the one word, “Tar!” I had filled up the bottle from the tar-water jug! Oh misery! I knew he would be worse by and by!

“Tar?” cried my sister. “Why how ever could tar come there?” Fortunately at that moment. Uncle Pumblechook called for hot gin and water, and my sister had to employ herself actively in getting it. For the time at least, I was saved. By degrees I became calmer and able to partake of pudding, and was beginning to think I should get over the day, when my sister said, “You must finish with such a delicious present of Uncle Pumblechook’s, a savoury pork pie!” She went out to the pantry to get it. I am not certain whether I uttered a shrill yell of terror merely in spirit or in the hearing of the company. I felt that I must run away, so I released the leg of the table and ran for my life. But at the door, I ran head foremost into a party of soldiers ringing down the butt-ends of their muskets on our doorstep. This apparition caused the dinner party to rise hastily, while Mrs. Joe who was re-entering the kitchen, empty-handed, stopped short in her lament of “Gracious goodness, gracious me, what’s gone–with the–pie!” and stared at the visitors.