'Crape! Black crape! Good God! why do they wear it outside?'
'Would you have 'em carry black crape in their insides?' Mrs Gamp retorted. 'Hold your noise, hold your noise.'
The fire beginning by this time to impart a grateful warmth, Mrs Gamp became silent; gradually rubbed her nose more and more slowly along the top of the fender; and fell into a heavy doze. She was awakened by the room ringing (as she fancied) with a name she knew:
The sound was so distinct and real, and so full of agonised entreaty, that Mrs Gamp jumped up in terror, and ran to the door. She expected to find the passage filled with people, come to tell her that the house in the city had taken fire. But the place was empty; not a soul was there. She opened the window, and looked out. Dark, dull, dingy, and desolate house-tops. As she passed to her seat again, she glanced at the patient. Just the same; but silent. Mrs Gamp was so warm now, that she threw off the watchman's coat, and fanned herself.
'It seemed to make the wery bottles ring,' she said. 'What could I have been a-dreaming of? That dratted Chuffey, I'll be bound.'
The supposition was probable enough. At any rate, a pinch of snuff, and the song of the steaming kettle, quite restored the tone of Mrs Gamp's nerves, which were none of the weakest. She brewed her tea; made some buttered toast; and sat down at the tea-board, with her face to the fire.
When once again, in a tone more terrible than that which had vibrated in her slumbering ear, these words were shrieked out:
'Chuzzlewit! Jonas! No!'
Mrs Gamp dropped the cup she was in the act of raising to her lips, and turned round with a start that made the little tea-board leap. The cry had come from the bed.
It was bright morning the next time Mrs Gamp looked out of the window, and the sun was rising cheerfully. Lighter and lighter grew the sky, and noisier the streets; and high into the summer air uprose the smoke of newly kindled fires, until the busy day was broad awake.
Mrs Prig relieved punctually, having passed a good night at her other patient's. Mr Westlock came at the same time, but he was not admitted, the disorder being infectious. The doctor came too. The doctor shook his head. It was all he could do, under the circumstances, and he did it well.
'What sort of a night, nurse?'
'Restless, sir,' said Mrs Gamp.
'Middling, sir,' said Mrs Gamp.
'Nothing to the purpose, I suppose?'
'Oh bless you, no, sir. Only jargon.'
'Well!' said the doctor, 'we must keep him quiet; keep the room cool; give him his draughts regularly; and see that he's carefully looked to. That's all!'
'And as long as Mrs Prig and me waits upon him, sir, no fear of that,' said Mrs Gamp.
'I suppose,' observed Mrs Prig, when they had curtseyed the doctor out; 'there's nothin' new?'
'Nothin' at all, my dear,' said Mrs Gamp. 'He's rather wearin' in his talk from making up a lot of names; elseways you needn't mind him.'
'Oh, I shan't mind him,' Mrs Prig returned. 'I have somethin' else to think of.'
'I pays my debts to-night, you know, my dear, and comes afore my time,' said Mrs Gamp. 'But, Betsy Prig'--speaking with great feeling, and laying her hand upon her arm--'try the cowcumbers, God bless you!'
AN UNEXPECTED MEETING, AND A PROMISING PROSPECT
The laws of sympathy between beards and birds, and the secret source of that attraction which frequently impels a shaver of the one to be a dealer in the other, are questions for the subtle reasoning of scientific bodies; not the less so, because their investigation would seem calculated to lead to no particular result. It is enough to know that the artist who had the honour of entertaining Mrs Gamp as his first-floor lodger, united the two pursuits of barbering and bird-fancying; and that it was not an original idea of his, but one in which he had, dispersed about the by-streets and suburbs of the town, a host of rivals.
The name of the householder was Paul Sweedlepipe.