She also produced a handful of mustard and cress, a trifle of the herb called dandelion, three bunches of radishes, an onion rather larger than an average turnip, three substantial slices of beetroot, and a short prong or antler of celery; the whole of this garden-stuff having been publicly exhibited, but a short time before, as a twopenny salad, and purchased by Mrs Prig on condition that the vendor could get it all into her pocket. Which had been happily accomplished, in High Holborn, to the breathless interest of a hackney-coach stand. And she laid so little stress on this surprising forethought, that she did not even smile, but returning her pocket into its accustomed sphere, merely recommended that these productions of nature should be sliced up, for immediate consumption, in plenty of vinegar.
'And don't go a-droppin' none of your snuff in it,' said Mrs Prig. 'In gruel, barley-water, apple-tea, mutton-broth, and that, it don't signify. It stimulates a patient. But I don't relish it myself.'
'Why, Betsey Prig!' cried Mrs Gamp, 'how CAN you talk so!'
'Why, ain't your patients, wotever their diseases is, always asneezin' their wery heads off, along of your snuff?' said Mrs Prig.
'And wot if they are!' said Mrs Gamp
'Nothing if they are,' said Mrs Prig. 'But don't deny it, Sairah.'
'Who deniges of it?' Mrs Gamp inquired.
Mrs Prig returned no answer.
'WHO deniges of it, Betsey?' Mrs Gamp inquired again. Then Mrs Gamp, by reversing the question, imparted a deeper and more awful character of solemnity to the same. 'Betsey, who deniges of it?'
It was the nearest possible approach to a very decided difference of opinion between these ladies; but Mrs Prig's impatience for the meal being greater at the moment than her impatience of contradiction, she replied, for the present, 'Nobody, if you don't, Sairah,' and prepared herself for tea. For a quarrel can be taken up at any time, but a limited quantity of salmon cannot.
Her toilet was simple. She had merely to 'chuck' her bonnet and shawl upon the bed; give her hair two pulls, one upon the right side and one upon the left, as if she were ringing a couple of bells; and all was done. The tea was already made, Mrs Gamp was not long over the salad, and they were soon at the height of their repast.
The temper of both parties was improved, for the time being, by the enjoyments of the table. When the meal came to a termination (which it was pretty long in doing), and Mrs Gamp having cleared away, produced the teapot from the top shelf, simultaneously with a couple of wine-glasses, they were quite amiable.
'Betsey,' said Mrs Gamp, filling her own glass and passing the teapot, 'I will now propoge a toast. My frequent pardner, Betsey Prig!'
'Which, altering the name to Sairah Gamp; I drink,' said Mrs Prig, 'with love and tenderness.'
From this moment symptoms of inflammation began to lurk in the nose of each lady; and perhaps, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, in the temper also.
'Now, Sairah,' said Mrs Prig, 'joining business with pleasure, wot is this case in which you wants me?'
Mrs Gamp betraying in her face some intention of returning an evasive answer, Betsey added:
'IS it Mrs Harris?'
'No, Betsey Prig, it ain't,' was Mrs Gamp's reply.
'Well!' said Mrs Prig, with a short laugh. 'I'm glad of that, at any rate.'
'Why should you be glad of that, Betsey?' Mrs Gamp retorted, warmly. 'She is unbeknown to you except by hearsay, why should you be glad? If you have anythink to say contrairy to the character of Mrs Harris, which well I knows behind her back, afore her face, or anywheres, is not to be impeaged, out with it, Betsey. I have know'd that sweetest and best of women,' said Mrs Gamp, shaking her head, and shedding tears, 'ever since afore her First, which Mr Harris who was dreadful timid went and stopped his ears in a empty dog-kennel, and never took his hands away or come out once till he was showed the baby, wen bein' took with fits, the doctor collared him and laid him on his back upon the airy stones, and she was told to ease her mind, his owls was organs.