'And what's your news, Mrs Gamp?' asked Mould again, as that lady wiped her lips upon her shawl, and nibbled a corner off a soft biscuit, which she appeared to carry in her pocket as a provision against contingent drams. 'How's Mr Chuffey?'
'Mr Chuffey, sir,' she replied, 'is jest as usual; he an't no better and he an't no worse. I take it very kind in the gentleman to have wrote up to you and said, "let Mrs Gamp take care of him till I come home;" but ev'rythink he does is kind. There an't a many like him. If there was, we shouldn't want no churches.'
'What do you want to speak to me about, Mrs Gamp?' said Mould, coming to the point.
'Jest this, sir,' Mrs Gamp returned, 'with thanks to you for asking. There IS a gent, sir, at the Bull in Holborn, as has been took ill there, and is bad abed. They have a day nurse as was recommended from Bartholomew's; and well I knows her, Mr Mould, her name bein' Mrs Prig, the best of creeturs. But she is otherways engaged at night, and they are in wants of night-watching; consequent she says to them, having reposed the greatest friendliness in me for twenty year, "The soberest person going, and the best of blessings in a sick room, is Mrs Gamp. Send a boy to Kingsgate Street," she says, "and snap her up at any price, for Mrs Gamp is worth her weight and more in goldian guineas." My landlord brings the message down to me, and says, "bein' in a light place where you are, and this job promising so well, why not unite the two?" "No, sir," I says, "not unbeknown to Mr Mould, and therefore do not think it. But I will go to Mr Mould," I says, "and ast him, if you like."' Here she looked sideways at the undertaker, and came to a stop.
'Night-watching, eh?' said Mould, rubbing his chin.
'From eight o'clock till eight, sir. I will not deceive you,' Mrs Gamp rejoined.
'And then go back, eh?' said would.
'Quite free, then, sir, to attend to Mr Chuffey. His ways bein' quiet, and his hours early, he'd be abed, sir, nearly all the time. I will not deny,' said Mrs Gamp with meekness, 'that I am but a poor woman, and that the money is a object; but do not let that act upon you, Mr Mould. Rich folks may ride on camels, but it an't so easy for 'em to see out of a needle's eye. That is my comfort, and I hope I knows it.'
'Well, Mrs Gamp,' observed Mould, 'I don't see any particular objection to your earning an honest penny under such circumstances. I should keep it quiet, I think, Mrs Gamp. I wouldn't mention it to Mr Chuzzlewit on his return, for instance, unless it were necessary, or he asked you pointblank.'
'The very words was on my lips, sir,' Mrs Gamp rejoined. 'Suppoging that the gent should die, I hope I might take the liberty of saying as I know'd some one in the undertaking line, and yet give no offence to you, sir?'
'Certainly, Mrs Gamp,' said Mould, with much condescension. 'You may casually remark, in such a case, that we do the thing pleasantly and in a great variety of styles, and are generally considered to make it as agreeable as possible to the feelings of the survivors. But don't obtrude it, don't obtrude it. Easy, easy! My dear, you may as well give Mrs Gamp a card or two, if you please.'
Mrs Gamp received them, and scenting no more rum in the wind (for the bottle was locked up again) rose to take her departure.
'Wishing ev'ry happiness to this happy family,' said Mrs Gamp 'with all my heart. Good arternoon, Mrs Mould! If I was Mr would I should be jealous of you, ma'am; and I'm sure, if I was you, I should be jealous of Mr Mould.'
'Tut, tut! Bah, bah! Go along, Mrs Gamp!' cried the delighted undertaker.
'As to the young ladies,' said Mrs Gamp, dropping a curtsey, 'bless their sweet looks--how they can ever reconsize it with their duties to be so grown up with such young parents, it an't for sech as me to give a guess at.'
'Nonsense, nonsense. Be off, Mrs Gamp!' cried Mould. But in the height of his gratification he actually pinched Mrs Mould as he said it.
'I'll tell you what, my dear,' he observed, when Mrs Gamp had at last withdrawn and shut the door, 'that's a ve-ry shrewd woman. That's a woman whose intellect is immensely superior to her station in life.