Who could repoge in Betsey Prig, arter her words of Mrs Harris, setting in that chair afore my eyes!'
'Quite true,' said John; 'quite. I hope you have time to find another assistant, Mrs Gamp?'
Between her indignation and the teapot, her powers of comprehending what was said to her began to fail. She looked at John with tearful eyes, and murmuring the well-remembered name which Mrs Prig had challenged--as if it were a talisman against all earthly sorrows-- seemed to wander in her mind.
'I hope,' repeated John, 'that you have time to find another assistant?'
'Which short it is, indeed,' cried Mrs Gamp, turning up her languid eyes, and clasping Mr Westlock's wrist with matronly affection. 'To-morrow evenin', sir, I waits upon his friends. Mr Chuzzlewit apinted it from nine to ten.'
'From nine to ten,' said John, with a significant glance at Martin. 'and then Mr Chuffey retires into safe keeping, does he?'
'He needs to be kep safe, I do assure you,' Mrs Gamp replied with a mysterious air. 'Other people besides me has had a happy deliverance from Betsey Prig. I little know'd that woman. She'd have let it out!'
'Let HIM out, you mean,' said John.
'Do I!' retorted Mrs Gamp. 'Oh!'
The severely ironical character of this reply was strengthened by a very slow nod, and a still slower drawing down of the corners of Mrs Gamp's mouth. She added with extreme stateliness of manner after indulging in a short doze:
'But I am a-keepin' of you gentlemen, and time is precious.'
Mingling with that delusion of the teapot which inspired her with the belief that they wanted her to go somewhere immediately, a shrewd avoidance of any further reference to the topics into which she had lately strayed, Mrs Gamp rose; and putting away the teapot in its accustomed place, and locking the cupboard with much gravity proceeded to attire herself for a professional visit.
This preparation was easily made, as it required nothing more than the snuffy black bonnet, the snuffy black shawl, the pattens and the indispensable umbrella, without which neither a lying-in nor a laying-out could by any possibility be attempted. When Mrs Gamp had invested herself with these appendages she returned to her chair, and sitting down again, declared herself quite ready.
'It's a 'appiness to know as one can benefit the poor sweet creetur,' she observed, 'I'm sure. It isn't all as can. The torters Betsey Prig inflicts is frightful!'
Closing her eyes as she made this remark, in the acuteness of her commiseration for Betsey's patients, she forgot to open them again until she dropped a patten. Her nap was also broken at intervals like the fabled slumbers of Friar Bacon, by the dropping of the other patten, and of the umbrella. But when she had got rid of those incumbrances, her sleep was peaceful.
The two young men looked at each other, ludicrously enough; and Martin, stifling his disposition to laugh, whispered in John Westlock's ear,
'What shall we do now?'
'Stay here,' he replied.
Mrs Gamp was heard to murmur 'Mrs Harris' in her sleep.
'Rely upon it,' whispered John, looking cautiously towards her, 'that you shall question this old clerk, though you go as Mrs Harris herself. We know quite enough to carry her our own way now, at all events; thanks to this quarrel, which confirms the old saying that when rogues fall out, honest people get what they want. Let Jonas Chuzzlewit look to himself; and let her sleep as long as she likes. We shall gain our end in good time.'
SURPRISES TOM PINCH VERY MUCH, AND SHOWS HOW CERTAIN CONFIDENCES PASSED BETWEEN HIM AND HIS SISTER
It was the next evening; and Tom and his sister were sitting together before tea, talking, in their usual quiet way, about a great many things, but not at all about Lewsome's story or anything connected with it; for John Westlock--really John, for so young a man, was one of the most considerate fellows in the world--had particularly advised Tom not to mention it to his sister just yet, in case it should disquiet her.