Charles Dickens

'How is he now, sir?' she said.

'Who?' cried Jonas, raising his head, and staring at her.

'To be sure!' returned the matron with a smile and a curtsey. 'What am I thinking of! You wasn't here, sir, when he was took so strange. I never see a poor dear creetur took so strange in all my life, except a patient much about the same age, as I once nussed, which his calling was the custom-'us, and his name was Mrs Harris's own father, as pleasant a singer, Mr Chuzzlewit, as ever you heerd, with a voice like a Jew's-harp in the bass notes, that it took six men to hold at sech times, foaming frightful.'

'Chuffey, eh?' said Jonas carelessly, seeing that she went up to the old, clerk, and looked at him. 'Ha!'

'The creetur's head's so hot,' said Mrs Gamp, 'that you might heat a flat-iron at it. And no wonder I am sure, considerin' the things he said!'

'Said!' cried Jonas. 'What did he say?'

Mrs Gamp laid her hand upon her heart, to put some check upon its palpitations, and turning up her eyes replied in a faint voice:

'The awfulest things, Mr Chuzzlewit, as ever I heerd! Which Mrs Harris's father never spoke a word when took so, some does and some don't, except sayin' when he come round, "Where is Sairey Gamp?" But raly, sir, when Mr Chuffey comes to ask who's lyin' dead upstairs, and--'

'Who's lying dead upstairs!' repeated Jonas, standing aghast.

Mrs Gamp nodded, made as if she were swallowing, and went on.

'Who's lying dead upstairs; sech was his Bible language; and where was Mr Chuzzlewit as had the only son; and when he goes upstairs a- looking in the beds and wandering about the rooms, and comes down again a-whisperin' softly to his-self about foul play and that; it gives me sech a turn, I don't deny it, Mr Chuzzlewit, that I never could have kep myself up but for a little drain o' spirits, which I seldom touches, but could always wish to know where to find, if so dispoged, never knowin' wot may happen next, the world bein' so uncertain.'

'Why, the old fool's mad!' cried Jonas, much disturbed.

'That's my opinion, sir,' said Mrs Gamp, 'and I will not deceive you. I believe as Mr Chuffey, sir, rekwires attention (if I may make so bold), and should not have his liberty to wex and worrit your sweet lady as he does.'

'Why, who minds what he says?' retorted Jonas.

'Still he is worritin' sir,' said Mrs Gamp. 'No one don't mind him, but he IS a ill conwenience.'

'Ecod you're right,' said Jonas, looking doubtfully at the subject of this conversation. 'I have half a mind to shut him up.'

Mrs Gamp rubbed her hands, and smiled, and shook her head, and sniffed expressively, as scenting a job.

'Could you--could you take care of such an idiot, now, in some spare room upstairs?' asked Jonas.

'Me and a friend of mine, one off, one on, could do it, Mr Chuzzlewit,' replied the nurse; 'our charges not bein' high, but wishin' they was lower, and allowance made considerin' not strangers. Me and Betsey Prig, sir, would undertake Mr Chuffey reasonable,' said Mrs Gamp, looking at him with her head on one side, as if he had been a piece of goods, for which she was driving a bargain; 'and give every satigefaction. Betsey Prig has nussed a many lunacies, and well she knows their ways, which puttin' 'em right close afore the fire, when fractious, is the certainest and most compoging.'

While Mrs Gamp discoursed to this effect, Jonas was walking up and down the room again, glancing covertly at the old clerk, as he did so. He now made a stop, and said:

'I must look after him, I suppose, or I may have him doing some mischief. What say you?'

'Nothin' more likely!' Mrs Gamp replied. 'As well I have experienged, I do assure you, sir.'

'Well! Look after him for the present, and--let me see--three days from this time let the other woman come here, and we'll see if we can make a bargain of it. About nine or ten o'clock at night, say. Keep your eye upon him in the meanwhile, and don't talk about it. He's as mad as a March hare!'

'Madder!' cried Mrs Gamp.