'I wouldn't,' said Mrs Gamp, 'I wouldn't be a man and have such a think upon my mind!--but nobody as owned the name of man, could do it!'
Tom and his sister glanced at each other; and Ruth, after a moment's hesitation, asked Mrs Gamp what troubled her so much.
'My dear,' returned that lady, dropping her voice, 'you are single, ain't you?'
Ruth laughed blushed, and said 'Yes.'
'Worse luck,' proceeded Mrs Gamp, 'for all parties! But others is married, and in the marriage state; and there is a dear young creetur a-comin' down this mornin' to that very package, which is no more fit to trust herself to sea, than nothin' is!'
She paused here to look over the deck of the packet in question, and on the steps leading down to it, and on the gangways. Seeming to have thus assured herself that the object of her commiseration had not yet arrived, she raised her eyes gradually up to the top of the escape-pipe, and indignantly apostrophised the vessel:
'Oh, drat you!' said Mrs Gamp, shaking her umbrella at it, 'you're a nice spluttering nisy monster for a delicate young creetur to go and be a passinger by; ain't you! YOU never do no harm in that way, do you? With your hammering, and roaring, and hissing, and lamp-iling, you brute! Them Confugion steamers,' said Mrs Gamp, shaking her umbrella again, 'has done more to throw us out of our reg'lar work and bring ewents on at times when nobody counted on 'em (especially them screeching railroad ones), than all the other frights that ever was took. I have heerd of one young man, a guard upon a railway, only three years opened--well does Mrs Harris know him, which indeed he is her own relation by her sister's marriage with a master sawyer--as is godfather at this present time to six-and-twenty blessed little strangers, equally unexpected, and all on 'um named after the Ingeines as was the cause. Ugh!' said Mrs Gamp, resuming her apostrophe, 'one might easy know you was a man's inwention, from your disregardlessness of the weakness of our naturs, so one might, you brute!'
It would not have been unnatural to suppose, from the first part of Mrs Gamp's lamentations, that she was connected with the stage-coaching or post-horsing trade. She had no means of judging of the effect of her concluding remarks upon her young companion; for she interrupted herself at this point, and exclaimed:
'There she identically goes! Poor sweet young creetur, there she goes, like a lamb to the sacrifige! If there's any illness when that wessel gets to sea,' said Mrs Gamp, prophetically, 'it's murder, and I'm the witness for the persecution.'
She was so very earnest on the subject, that Tom's sister (being as kind as Tom himself) could not help saying something to her in reply.
'Pray, which is the lady,' she inquired, 'in whom you are so much interested?'
'There!' groaned Mrs Gamp. 'There she goes! A-crossin' the little wooden bridge at this minute. She's a-slippin' on a bit of orangepeel!' tightly clutching her umbrella. 'What a turn it give me.'
'Do you mean the lady who is with that man wrapped up from head to foot in a large cloak, so that his face is almost hidden?'
'Well he may hide it!' Mrs Gamp replied. 'He's good call to be ashamed of himself. Did you see him a-jerking of her wrist, then?'
'He seems to be hasty with her, indeed.'
'Now he's a-taking of her down into the close cabin!' said Mrs Gamp, impatiently. 'What's the man about! The deuce is in him, I think. Why can't he leave her in the open air?'
He did not, whatever his reason was, but led her quickly down and disappeared himself, without loosening his cloak, or pausing on the crowded deck one moment longer than was necessary to clear their way to that part of the vessel.
Tom had not heard this little dialogue; for his attention had been engaged in an unexpected manner. A hand upon his sleeve had caused him to look round, just when Mrs Gamp concluded her apostrophe to the steam-engine; and on his right arm, Ruth being on his left, he found their landlord, to his great surprise.