Can you suggest anything else?'
'N-no,' replied the landlord, 'except--'
'Except, who's to pay, I suppose?' said John.
'Why,' hesitated the landlord, 'it would be as well.'
'Quite as well,' said the landlady.
'Not forgetting to remember the servants,' said the chambermaid in a bland whisper.
'It is but reasonable, I fully admit,' said John Westlock. 'At all events, you have the stock in hand to go upon for the present; and I will readily undertake to pay the doctor and the nurses.'
'Ah!' cried Mrs Gamp. 'A rayal gentleman!'
She groaned her admiration so audibly, that they all turned round. Mrs Gamp felt the necessity of advancing, bundle in hand, and introducing herself.
'The night-nurse,' she observed, 'from Kingsgate Street, well beknown to Mrs Prig the day-nurse, and the best of creeturs. How is the poor dear gentleman to-night? If he an't no better yet, still that is what must be expected and prepared for. It an't the fust time by a many score, ma'am,' dropping a curtsey to the landlady, 'that Mrs Prig and me has nussed together, turn and turn about, one off, one on. We knows each other's ways, and often gives relief when others fail. Our charges is but low, sir'--Mrs Gamp addressed herself to John on this head--'considerin' the nater of our painful dooty. If they wos made accordin' to our wishes, they would be easy paid.'
Regarding herself as having now delivered her inauguration address, Mrs Gamp curtseyed all round, and signified her wish to be conducted to the scene of her official duties. The chambermaid led her, through a variety of intricate passages, to the top of the house; and pointing at length to a solitary door at the end of a gallery, informed her that yonder was the chamber where the patient lay. That done, she hurried off with all the speed she could make.
Mrs Gamp traversed the gallery in a great heat from having carried her large bundle up so many stairs, and tapped at the door which was immediately opened by Mrs Prig, bonneted and shawled and all impatience to be gone. Mrs Prig was of the Gamp build, but not so fat; and her voice was deeper and more like a man's. She had also a beard.
'I began to think you warn't a-coming!' Mrs Prig observed, in some displeasure.
'It shall be made good to-morrow night,' said Mrs Gamp 'Honorable. I had to go and fetch my things.' She had begun to make signs of inquiry in reference to the position of the patient and his overhearing them--for there was a screen before the door--when Mrs Prig settled that point easily.
'Oh!' she said aloud, 'he's quiet, but his wits is gone. It an't no matter wot you say.'
'Anythin' to tell afore you goes, my dear?' asked Mrs Gamp, setting her bundle down inside the door, and looking affectionately at her partner.
'The pickled salmon,' Mrs Prig replied, 'is quite delicious. I can partlck'ler recommend it. Don't have nothink to say to the cold meat, for it tastes of the stable. The drinks is all good.'
Mrs Gamp expressed herself much gratified.
'The physic and them things is on the drawers and mankleshelf,' said Mrs Prig, cursorily. 'He took his last slime draught at seven. The easy-chair an't soft enough. You'll want his piller.'
Mrs Gamp thanked her for these hints, and giving her a friendly good night, held the door open until she had disappeared at the other end of the gallery. Having thus performed the hospitable duty of seeing her safely off, she shut it, locked it on the inside, took up her bundle, walked round the screen, and entered on her occupation of the sick chamber.
'A little dull, but not so bad as might be,' Mrs Gamp remarked. 'I'm glad to see a parapidge, in case of fire, and lots of roofs and chimley-pots to walk upon.'
It will be seen from these remarks that Mrs Gamp was looking out of window. When she had exhausted the prospect, she tried the easy-chair, which she indignantly declared was 'harder than a brickbadge.' Next she pursued her researches among the physic-bottles, glasses, jugs, and tea-cups; and when she had entirely satisfied her curiosity on all these subjects of investigation, she untied her bonnet-strings and strolled up to the bedside to take a look at the patient.