Mrs Gamp resumed:
'Mrs Harris, Betsey--'
'Bother Mrs Harris!' said Betsey Prig.
Mrs Gamp looked at her with amazement, incredulity, and indignation; when Mrs Prig, shutting her eye still closer, and folding her arms still tighter, uttered these memorable and tremendous words:
'I don't believe there's no sich a person!'
After the utterance of which expressions, she leaned forward, and snapped her fingers once, twice, thrice; each time nearer to the face of Mrs Gamp, and then rose to put on her bonnet, as one who felt that there was now a gulf between them, which nothing could ever bridge across.
The shock of this blow was so violent and sudden, that Mrs Gamp sat staring at nothing with uplifted eyes, and her mouth open as if she were gasping for breath, until Betsey Prig had put on her bonnet and her shawl, and was gathering the latter about her throat. Then Mrs Gamp rose--morally and physically rose--and denounced her.
'What!' said Mrs Gamp, 'you bage creetur, have I know'd Mrs Harris five and thirty year, to be told at last that there ain't no sech a person livin'! Have I stood her friend in all her troubles, great and small, for it to come at last to sech a end as this, which her own sweet picter hanging up afore you all the time, to shame your Bragian words! But well you mayn't believe there's no sech a creetur, for she wouldn't demean herself to look at you, and often has she said, when I have made mention of your name, which, to my sinful sorrow, I have done, "What, Sairey Gamp! debage yourself to HER!" Go along with you!'
'I'm a-goin', ma'am, ain't I?' said Mrs Prig, stopping as she said it.
'You had better, ma'am,' said Mrs Gamp.
'Do you know who you're talking to, ma'am?' inquired her visitor.
'Aperiently,' said Mrs Gamp, surveying her with scorn from head to foot, 'to Betsey Prig. Aperiently so. I know her. No one better. Go along with you!'
'And YOU was a-goin' to take me under you!' cried Mrs Prig, surveying Mrs Gamp from head to foot in her turn. 'YOU was, was you? Oh, how kind! Why, deuce take your imperence,' said Mrs Prig, with a rapid change from banter to ferocity, 'what do you mean?'
'Go along with you!' said Mrs Gamp. 'I blush for you.'
'You had better blush a little for yourself, while you ARE about it!' said Mrs Prig. 'You and your Chuffeys! What, the poor old creetur isn't mad enough, isn't he? Aha!'
'He'd very soon be mad enough, if you had anything to do with him,' said Mrs Gamp.
'And that's what I was wanted for, is it?' cried Mrs Prig, triumphantly. 'Yes. But you'll find yourself deceived. I won't go near him. We shall see how you get on without me. I won't have nothink to do with him.'
'You never spoke a truer word than that!' said Mrs Gamp. 'Go along with you!'
She was prevented from witnessing the actual retirement of Mrs Prig from the room, notwithstanding the great desire she had expressed to behold it, by that lady, in her angry withdrawal, coming into contact with the bedstead, and bringing down the previously mentioned pippins; three or four of which came rattling on the head of Mrs Gamp so smartly, that when she recovered from this wooden shower-bath, Mrs Prig was gone.
She had the satisfaction, however, of hearing the deep voice of Betsey, proclaiming her injuries and her determination to have nothing to do with Mr Chuffey, down the stairs, and along the passage, and even out in Kingsgate Street. Likewise of seeing in her own apartment, in the place of Mrs Prig, Mr Sweedlepipe and two gentlemen.
'Why, bless my life!' exclaimed the little barber, 'what's amiss? The noise you ladies have been making, Mrs Gamp! Why, these two gentlemen have been standing on the stairs, outside the door, nearly all the time, trying to make you hear, while you were pelting away, hammer and tongs! It'll be the death of the little bullfinch in the shop, that draws his own water. In his fright, he's been a- straining himself all to bits, drawing more water than he could drink in a twelvemonth.