"No, Sairey Gamp," says she, "you best of hard-working and industrious creeturs as ever was underpaid at any price, which underpaid you are, quite diff'rent. Harris had it done afore marriage at ten and six," she says, "and wore it faithful next his heart "till the colour run, when the money was declined to be give back, and no arrangement could be come to. But he never said it was a angel's, Sairey, wotever he might have thought." If Mrs Harris's husband was here now,' said Mrs Gamp, looking round, and chuckling as she dropped a general curtsey, 'he'd speak out plain, he would, and his dear wife would be the last to blame him! For if ever a woman lived as know'd not wot it was to form a wish to pizon them as had good looks, and had no reagion give her by the best of husbands, Mrs Harris is that ev'nly dispogician!'
With these words the worthy woman, who appeared to have dropped in to take tea as a delicate little attention, rather than to have any engagement on the premises in an official capacity, crossed to Mr Chuffey, who was seated in the same corner as of old, and shook him by the shoulder.
'Rouge yourself, and look up! Come!' said Mrs Gamp. 'Here's company, Mr Chuffey.'
'I am sorry for it,' cried the old man, looking humbly round the room. 'I know I'm in the way. I ask pardon, but I've nowhere else to go to. Where is she?'
Merry went to him.
'Ah!' said the old man, patting her on the check. 'Here she is. Here she is! She's never hard on poor old Chuffey. Poor old Chuff!'
As she took her seat upon a low chair by the old man's side, and put herself within the reach of his hand, she looked up once at Tom. It was a sad look that she cast upon him, though there was a faint smile trembling on her face. It was a speaking look, and Tom knew what it said. 'You see how misery has changed me. I can feel for a dependant NOW, and set some value on his attachment.'
'Aye, aye!' cried Chuffey in a soothing tone. 'Aye, aye, aye! Never mind him. It's hard to hear, but never mind him. He'll die one day. There are three hundred and sixty-five days in the year--three hundred and sixty-six in leap year--and he may die on any one of 'em.'
'You're a wearing old soul, and that's the sacred truth,' said Mrs Gamp, contemplating him from a little distance with anything but favour, as he continued to mutter to himself. 'It's a pity that you don't know wot you say, for you'd tire your own patience out if you did, and fret yourself into a happy releage for all as knows you.'
'His son,' murmured the old man, lifting up his hand. 'His son!'
'Well, I'm sure!' said Mrs Gamp, 'you're a-settlin' of it, Mr Chuffey. To your satigefaction, sir, I hope. But I wouldn't lay a new pincushion on it myself, sir, though you ARE so well informed. Drat the old creetur, he's a-layin' down the law tolerable confident, too! A deal he knows of sons! or darters either! Suppose you was to favour us with some remarks on twins, sir, WOULD you be so good!'
The bitter and indignant sarcasm which Mrs Gamp conveyed into these taunts was altogether lost on the unconscious Chuffey, who appeared to be as little cognizant of their delivery as of his having given Mrs Gamp offence. But that high-minded woman being sensitively alive to any invasion of her professional province, and imagining that Mr Chuffey had given utterance to some prediction on the subject of sons, which ought to have emanated in the first instance from herself as the only lawful authority, or which should at least have been on no account proclaimed without her sanction and concurrence, was not so easily appeased. She continued to sidle at Mr Chuffey with looks of sharp hostility, and to defy him with many other ironical remarks, uttered in that low key which commonly denotes suppressed indignation; until the entrance of the teaboard, and a request from Mrs Jonas that she would make tea at a side-table for the party that had unexpectedly assembled, restored her to herself. She smiled again, and entered on her ministration with her own particular urbanity.