The landlord now busied himself in laying the cloth, in which process Mr Codlin obligingly assisted by setting forth his own knife and fork in the most convenient place and establishing himself behind them. When everything was ready, the landlord took off the cover for the last time, and then indeed there burst forth such a goodly promise of supper, that if he had offered to put it on again or had hinted at postponement, he would certainly have been sacrificed on his own hearth.
However, he did nothing of the kind, but instead thereof assisted a stout servant girl in turning the contents of the cauldron into a large tureen; a proceeding which the dogs, proof against various hot splashes which fell upon their noses, watched with terrible eagerness. At length the dish was lifted on the table, and mugs of ale having been previously set round, little Nell ventured to say grace, and supper began.
At this juncture the poor dogs were standing on their hind legs quite surprisingly; the child, having pity on them, was about to cast some morsels of food to them before she tasted it herself, hungry though she was, when their master interposed.
‘No, my dear, no, not an atom from anybody’s hand but mine if you please. That dog,’ said Jerry, pointing out the old leader of the troop, and speaking in a terrible voice, ‘lost a halfpenny to-day. He goes without his supper.’
The unfortunate creature dropped upon his fore-legs directly, wagged his tail, and looked imploringly at his master.
‘You must be more careful, Sir,’ said Jerry, walking coolly to the chair where he had placed the organ, and setting the stop. ‘Come here. Now, Sir, you play away at that, while we have supper, and leave off if you dare.’
The dog immediately began to grind most mournful music. His master having shown him the whip resumed his seat and called up the others, who, at his directions, formed in a row, standing upright as a file of soldiers.
‘Now, gentlemen,’ said Jerry, looking at them attentively. ‘The dog whose name’s called, eats. The dogs whose names an’t called, keep quiet. Carlo!’
The lucky individual whose name was called, snapped up the morsel thrown towards him, but none of the others moved a muscle. In this manner they were fed at the discretion of their master. Meanwhile the dog in disgrace ground hard at the organ, sometimes in quick time, sometimes in slow, but never leaving off for an instant. When the knives and forks rattled very much, or any of his fellows got an unusually large piece of fat, he accompanied the music with a short howl, but he immediately checked it on his master looking round, and applied himself with increased diligence to the Old Hundredth.