'Nothing in the world, sir.'
'Nothing in the world,' repeated Mr Mould. 'You are right, Mrs.Gamp. Why do people spend more money'--here he filled his glass again--'upon a death, Mrs Gamp, than upon a birth? Come, that's in your way; you ought to know. How do you account for that now?'
'Perhaps it is because an undertaker's charges comes dearer than a nurse's charges, sir,' said Mrs Gamp, tittering, and smoothing down her new black dress with her hands.
'Ha, ha!' laughed Mr Mould. 'You have been breakfasting at somebody's expense this morning, Mrs Gamp.' But seeing, by the aid of a little shaving-glass which hung opposite, that he looked merry, he composed his features and became sorrowful.
'Many's the time that I've not breakfasted at my own expense along of your recommending, sir; and many's the time I hope to do the same in time to come,' said Mrs Gamp, with an apologetic curtsey.
'So be it,' replied Mr Mould, 'please Providence. No, Mrs Gamp; I'll tell you why it is. It's because the laying out of money with a well-conducted establishment, where the thing is performed upon the very best scale, binds the broken heart, and sheds balm upon the wounded spirit. Hearts want binding, and spirits want balming when people die; not when people are born. Look at this gentleman to- day; look at him.'
'An open-handed gentleman?' cried Mrs Gamp, with enthusiasm.
'No, no,' said the undertaker; 'not an open-handed gentleman in general, by any means. There you mistake him; but an afflicted gentleman, an affectionate gentleman, who knows what it is in the power of money to do, in giving him relief, and in testifying his love and veneration for the departed. It can give him,' said Mr Mould, waving his watch-chain slowly round and round, so that he described one circle after every item; 'it can give him four horses to each vehicle; it can give him velvet trappings; it can give him drivers in cloth cloaks and top-boots; it can give him the plumage of the ostrich, dyed black; it can give him any number of walking attendants, dressed in the first style of funeral fashion, and carrying batons tipped with brass; it can give him a handsome tomb; it can give him a place in Westminster Abbey itself, if he choose to invest it in such a purchase. Oh! do not let us say that gold is dross, when it can buy such things as these, Mrs Gamp.'
'But what a blessing, sir,' said Mrs Gamp, 'that there are such as you, to sell or let 'em out on hire!'
'Aye, Mrs Gamp, you are right,' rejoined the undertaker. 'We should be an honoured calling. We do good by stealth, and blush to have it mentioned in our little bills. How much consolation may I--even I,' cried Mr Mould, 'have diffused among my fellow-creatures by means of my four long-tailed prancers, never harnessed under ten pund ten!'
Mrs Gamp had begun to make a suitable reply, when she was interrupted by the appearance of one of Mr Mould's assistants--his chief mourner in fact--an obese person, with his waistcoat in closer connection with his legs than is quite reconcilable with the established ideas of grace; with that cast of feature which is figuratively called a bottle nose; and with a face covered all over with pimples. He had been a tender plant once upon a time, but from constant blowing in the fat atmosphere of funerals, had run to seed.
'Well, Tacker,' said Mr Mould, 'is all ready below?'
'A beautiful show, sir,' rejoined Tacker. 'The horses are prouder and fresher than ever I see 'em; and toss their heads, they do, as if they knowed how much their plumes cost. One, two, three, four,' said Mr Tacker, heaping that number of black cloaks upon his left arm.
'Is Tom there, with the cake and wine?' asked Mr Mould.
'Ready to come in at a moment's notice, sir,' said Tacker.
'Then,' rejoined Mr Mould, putting up his watch, and glancing at himself in the little shaving-glass, that he might be sure his face had the right expression on it; 'then I think we may proceed to business. Give me the paper of gloves, Tacker.