2 Catching a convict

By Steve Patterson,2014-06-25 16:27
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2 Catching a convict

    2 Catching a convict

All that morning I was frightened that my sister would discover that I had stolen from

    herbut luckily she was so busy cleaning the houseand roasting the chickens for our

    r that any food was Christmas lunch that she did not notice that I had been outo

    missing(At half-past one our two guests arrived(Mr Wopsle had a large nose and a shiningbald foreheadand was the church clerk(Mr Pumblechook who had a shop in the nearest townwas a fatmiddle-aged man witn a mouth like a fishand staring eyes(He was really Joe's uncle but it was Mrs Joe who called him uncle(Every

    Christmas Day he arrived with two bottles of winehanding them proudly to my sister(

Oh Uncle PumblechookThis is kind?’she always replied(

It's no more than you deserve,’was the answer every time(

Sitting at table with these guests I would have felt uncomfortable even if I hadn't

    robbed my sister(Not only was Pumblechook's elbow in my eyebut I wasn't allowed to speakand they gave me the worst pieces of meat(Even the chickens must have been ashamed of those parts of their bodies when they were alive(And worse than thatthe adults never left me in peace(

Before we eatlet us thank God for the food in front of us,’said Mr Wopslein the

    deep voice he used in church(

Do you hear that;’whispered my sister to me(‘Be grateful?’

    Especially,’said Mr Pumblechook firmly,‘be gratefulboyto those who brought you up by hand(’

Why are the young never grateful;’wondered Mr Wopsle sadly(

    Their characters are naturally bad,’answered Mr Pumblechookand all three looked unpleasantly at me(

    When there were guestsJoe's position was even lower than usualif that was possible!,but he always tried to help me if he could(Sometimes he comforted me by giving me extra gravy(He did that now(

    Just imagineboy,’said Mr Pumblechook,‘if your sister hadn't brought you up—’

You listen to this,’said my sister to me crossly(

Ifas I sayshe hadn't spent her life looking after youwhere would you be now;’

Joe offered me more gravy(

    He was a lot of trouble to youmadam,’Mr Wopsle said sympathetically to my


Trouble;’she cried(‘Trouble;’And then she started on a list of all my illnesses

    accidents and crimeswhile everybody except Joe looked at me with disgust(Joe

    added more gravy to the meat swimming on my plateand I wanted to pull Mr Wopsle's nose(

    In the end Mrs Joe stopped for breathand said to Mr Pumblechook,‘Have a little brandyuncle(There is a bottle al-ready open(’

It had happened at lastNow she would discover I had stolen some brandyand put

    water in the bottle(Mr Pumblechook held his glass up to the lightsmiled importantly at it and drank it(Whenimmediately afterwardshe jumped up and began to rush round the room in a strange wild dancewe all stared at him in great surprise(Was he

    madI wondered if I had murdered himbut if sohowAt last he threw himself gasping into a chaircrying Medicine?’Then I understood(Instead of filling up the brandy bottle with waterI had put Mrs Joe's strongest and most unpleasant medicine

    in by mistake(That was what the big brown bottle contained(

But how could my medicine get into a brandy bottle;’asked my

    sister(Fortunately she had no time to find the answeras Mr Pumblechook was calling for a hot rum to remove the taste of the medicine(‘And now,’she saidwhen the fat man was calmer,‘you must all try Uncle Pumblechook's pre-sent to usA really delicious meat pie?’

That's rightMrs Joe?’said Mr Pumblechooklooking more cheerful now(‘ Bring

    in the pie?’

You shall have somePip,’said Joe kindly(

    I knew what would happen next(I could not sit there any longer(I jumped down from the tableand ran out of the room(

    But at the front door I ran straight into a group of soldiers(Mrs Joe was saying as she came out of the kitchen,‘The pie-has-gone?’but stopped when she saw the soldiers(

    Excuse meladies and gentlemen,’said the officer in charge(‘I'm here in the King's nameand I want the black-smith(’

And why do you want him;’said my sister crossly(

    Madam,’replied the officer Politely,‘speaking for myselfI'd like the pleasure of

     meeting his fine wife(Speaking for the KingI'd like him to repair these handcuffs(’

Ahvery goodvery good?’ said Mr Pumblechookclap-ping(

The soldiers waited in the kitchen while Joe lit the forge fire and started work(I began

    to feel better now that everyone had forgotten the missing pie(

How far are we from the marshes;’asked the officer(

About a mile,’replied Mrs Joe(

That's good(We'll catch them before it's dark(’

    asked Mr Wopsle( Convictsofficer;’

Yestwo escaped convicts out on the marshes(Has anyone here seen them;’

The others all shook their heads(Nobody asked me(When the handcuffs were ready

    Joe suggested we should go with the soldiersand as Mrs Joe was curious to know what happenedshe agreed(So JoeMr wopsle and I walked behind the men through the village and out on to the marshes(

I hope we don't find those poor menJoe,’I whispered(

     I hope not eitherPip,’he whispered back(It was coldwith an east wind blowing from the seaand it was getting dark(

Suddenly we all stopped(We heard shouts in the distance(

This wayRun?’the officer orderedand we all rushed in that direction(The shouts

    became clearer(‘ Murder?’‘Escaped convict?’‘Help?’At last we discovered two men fighting each other(One was my convictand the other was the man who had run away when I had seen him near the shelter(Somehow the soldiers held the men apart and put the hand-cuffs on them(

Here he isI'm holding him for you?’shouted my convict(

    Officerhe tried to murder me?’cried the other man(His face was bleeding and he was clearly very frightened(

     Murder himNo,’said the first,‘ that would be too easy(I want him to suffer moreback on the prison-ship(He's lyingas he did at our trialYou can't trust Compeyson?’

    Just then he noticed me for the first time(I shook my head at himto show that I had not wanted the soldiers to find him(He stared at mebut I did not know if he understood or not(

The prisoners were taken to the riversidewhere a boat was waiting to take them on to

    the prison-ship(Just as he was about to leavemy convict said,‘Officerafter my escapeI stole some foodfrom the blacksmith's house(Breadcheesebrandy and a meat pie(I'm sorry I ate your pieblacksmith(’

I'm glad you did,’replied Joe kindly(‘ We don't know why you're a convictbut

    we wouldn't want you to die of hunger(’

    The man rubbed his eyes with the back of his dirty hand(We watched the small boat carry him out to the middle of the riverwhere the great black prison-ship stood high

    out of the waterheld by its rusty chains(He disappeared into the shipand I thought that was the last I had seen of him(

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