From the same repository she brought forth a night-jacket, in which she also attired herself. Finally, she produced a watchman's coat which she tied round her neck by the sleeves, so that she become two people; and looked, behind, as if she were in the act of being embraced by one of the old patrol.
All these arrangements made, she lighted the rush-light, coiled herself up on her couch, and went to sleep. Ghostly and dark the room became, and full of lowering shadows. The distant noises in the streets were gradually hushed; the house was quiet as a sepulchre; the dead of might was coffined in the silent city.
Oh, weary, weary hour! Oh, haggard mind, groping darkly through the past; incapable of detaching itself from the miserable present; dragging its heavy chain of care through imaginary feasts and revels, and scenes of awful pomp; seeking but a moment's rest among the long-forgotten haunts of childhood, and the resorts of yesterday; and dimly finding fear and horror everywhere! Oh, weary, weary hour! What were the wanderings of Cain, to these!
Still, without a moment's interval, the burning head tossed to and fro. Still, from time to time, fatigue, impatience, suffering, and surprise, found utterance upon that rack, and plainly too, though never once in words. At length, in the solemn hour of midnight, he began to talk; waiting awfully for answers sometimes; as though invisible companions were about his bed; and so replying to their speech and questioning again.
Mrs Gamp awoke, and sat up in her bed; presenting on the wall the shadow of a gigantic night constable, struggling with a prisoner.
'Come! Hold your tongue!' she cried, in sharp reproof. 'Don't make none of that noise here.'
There was no alteration in the face, or in the incessant motion of the head, but he talked on wildly.
'Ah!' said Mrs Gamp, coming out of the chair with an impatient shiver; 'I thought I was a-sleepin' too pleasant to last! The devil's in the night, I think, it's turned so chilly!'
'Don't drink so much!' cried the sick man. 'You'll ruin us all. Don't you see how the fountain sinks? Look at the mark where the sparkling water was just now!'
'Sparkling water, indeed!' said Mrs Gamp. 'I'll have a sparkling cup o' tea, I think. I wish you'd hold your noise!'
He burst into a laugh, which, being prolonged, fell off into a dismal wail. Checking himself, with fierce inconstancy he began to count--fast.
"One, two, buckle my shoe,"' said Mrs Gamp, who was now on her knees, lighting the fire, "three, four, shut the door,"--I wish you'd shut your mouth, young man--"five, six, picking up sticks." If I'd got a few handy, I should have the kettle boiling all the sooner.'
Awaiting this desirable consummation, she sat down so close to the fender (which was a high one) that her nose rested upon it; and for some time she drowsily amused herself by sliding that feature backwards and forwards along the brass top, as far as she could, without changing her position to do it. She maintained, all the while, a running commentary upon the wanderings of the man in bed.
'That makes five hundred and twenty-one men, all dressed alike, and with the same distortion on their faces, that have passed in at the window, and out at the door,' he cried, anxiously. 'Look there! Five hundred and twenty-two--twenty-three--twenty-four. Do you see them?'
'Ah! I see 'em,' said Mrs Gamp; 'all the whole kit of 'em numbered like hackney-coaches, an't they?'
'Touch me! Let me be sure of this. Touch me!'
'You'll take your next draught when I've made the kettle bile,' retorted Mrs Gamp, composedly, 'and you'll be touched then. You'll be touched up, too, if you don't take it quiet.'
'Five hundred and twenty-eight, five hundred and twenty-nine, five hundred and thirty.--Look here!'
'What's the matter now?' said Mrs Gamp.
'They're coming four abreast, each man with his arm entwined in the next man's, and his hand upon his shoulder. What's that upon the arm of every man, and on the flag?'
'Spiders, p'raps,' said Mrs Gamp.