Charles Dickens

He must have thought it was Fire!'

Mrs Gamp had in the meanwhile sunk into her chair, from whence, turning up her overflowing eyes, and clasping her hands, she delivered the following lamentation:

'Oh, Mr Sweedlepipes, which Mr Westlock also, if my eyes do not deceive, and a friend not havin' the pleasure of bein' beknown, wot I have took from Betsey Prig this blessed night, no mortial creetur knows! If she had abuged me, bein' in liquor, which I thought I smelt her wen she come, but could not so believe, not bein' used myself'--Mrs Gamp, by the way, was pretty far gone, and the fragrance of the teapot was strong in the room--'I could have bore it with a thankful art. But the words she spoke of Mrs Harris, lambs could not forgive. No, Betsey!' said Mrs Gamp, in a violent burst of feeling, 'nor worms forget!'

The little barber scratched his head, and shook it, and looked at the teapot, and gradually got out of the room. John Westlock, taking a chair, sat down on one side of Mrs Gamp. Martin, taking the foot of the bed, supported her on the other.

'You wonder what we want, I daresay,' observed John. 'I'll tell you presently, when you have recovered. It's not pressing, for a few minutes or so. How do you find yourself? Better?'

Mrs Gamp shed more tears, shook her head and feebly pronounced Mrs Harris's name.

'Have a little--' John was at a loss what to call it.

'Tea,' suggested Martin.

'It ain't tea,' said Mrs Gamp.

'Physic of some sort, I suppose,' cried John. 'Have a little.'

Mrs Gamp was prevailed upon to take a glassful. 'On condition,' she passionately observed, 'as Betsey never has another stroke of work from me.'

'Certainly not,' said John. 'She shall never help to nurse ME.'

'To think,' said Mrs Gamp, 'as she should ever have helped to nuss that friend of yourn, and been so near of hearing things that--Ah!'

John looked at Martin.

'Yes,' he said. 'That was a narrow escape, Mrs Gamp.'

'Narrer, in-deed!' she returned. 'It was only my having the night, and hearin' of him in his wanderins; and her the day, that saved it. Wot would she have said and done, if she had know'd what I know; that perfeejus wretch! Yet, oh good gracious me!' cried Mrs Gamp, trampling on the floor, in the absence of Mrs Prig, 'that I should hear from that same woman's lips what I have heerd her speak of Mrs Harris!'

'Never mind,' said John. 'You know it is not true.'

'Isn't true!' cried Mrs Gamp. 'True! Don't I know as that dear woman is expecting of me at this minnit, Mr Westlock, and is a- lookin' out of window down the street, with little Tommy Harris in her arms, as calls me his own Gammy, and truly calls, for bless the mottled little legs of that there precious child (like Canterbury Brawn his own dear father says, which so they are) his own I have been, ever since I found him, Mr Westlock, with his small red worsted shoe a-gurglin' in his throat, where he had put it in his play, a chick, wile they was leavin' of him on the floor a-lookin' for it through the ouse and him a-choakin' sweetly in the parlour! Oh, Betsey Prig, what wickedness you've showed this night, but never shall you darken Sairey's doors agen, you twining serpiant!'

'You were always so kind to her, too!' said John, consolingly.

'That's the cutting part. That's where it hurts me, Mr Westlock,' Mrs Gamp replied; holding out her glass unconsciously, while Martin filled it.

'Chosen to help you with Mr Lewsome!' said John. 'Chosen to help you with Mr Chuffey!'

'Chose once, but chose no more,' cried Mrs Gamp. 'No pardnership with Betsey Prig agen, sir!'

'No, no,' said John. 'That would never do.'

'I don't know as it ever would have done, sir,' Mrs Gamp replied, with a solemnity peculiar to a certain stage of intoxication. 'Now that the marks,' by which Mrs Gamp is supposed to have meant mask, 'is off that creetur's face, I do not think it ever would have done. There are reagions in families for keeping things a secret, Mr Westlock, and havin' only them about you as you knows you can repoge in.