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purvided shamefully. And then she vos al'ays poking her nose into the kitchen, and a-routing out the closet and drawers, and took avay the kitchen-stuff and the doctors' bottles, vich you know al'ays comes rig'lar to the servant."
"Shameful! shameful!" cried the washerwoman, putting her teeth with a feeling of indignation into the hot toast.
"Beats everythink as I ever heerd."
"Vell, at last I vos so 'riled, I up'd and told her her place 'vou'dn't suit-vorn't I right ?"
"I think so, indeed; a sarvant as knows herself cou❜dn't never put up with the like o' that. I really believe as some people think other people ar❜n't made of flesh and blood like theirselves. There's the Cummins's, as I do for, I do think as they 're the nippin'est set in the vorld. There's no need o' cats in that house, I'm sure, for all the mice must die a nat❜ral death by starvation! Of all the people as ever I came a-nigh to, they cut the closest. Sure as ever I go there's a new face; for, vot with the naggin' o' the missus, who's never satisfied, and the horrid wittles,for I never seed nothink but salt beef on the table from one year's end to t'other,—the poor gals have a precious time on it. I'm sure my heart bleeds for 'em. But they're so vell known, thank goodness! that neither the grocer nor the butcher vill send 'em any more sarvants, and they're 'bliged for to go to the register-office and get anythink they can catch. I'm sure I should think it a sin to recommend any
gal to 'em; for they're treated more like beasts o' burden than humane beans, and that's the blessed truth. In course, people as has got to get their living must know on vich side their bread's buttered; and, in course, when Mrs. Cummins rates the gals, I'm obleeged to side with her, and say as she says; for, thof the pay is no great shakes, the vork 's rig'lar, and von's loaf to lose a customer; for, you know, vun person's money's as good as another's, and times is sich as vun can't pick and choose, and ve must take the rough vith the smooth, you know, or starve."
Mary expressed her approval of this political philosophy, and poured out another cup of strong tea. A fit of coughing cut short the volubility of the washerwoman, who, when she had recovered her breath, declared that she believed the nasty fog had got into her "stommick."
"P'r'aps a drop o' gin, or summat, vou'd be agreeable?" observed the maid. The washerwoman, of course, thought that it would; and, if she had it "handy," would accept "jist the smallest drop" of the prescribed remedy.
Mrs. Naggs' tongue, if possible, now ran on more glibly than before; and Mary "did laugh so,” that, if the sanctum wherein the savoury gossip was carried on had not been a "lean-to," the family would inevitably have been aroused from their morning slumbers by the loud and startling cachinnations of the delighted maid, who loudly declared that Mrs. Naggs was the "funniest soul as she ever did come across in all her born days.' Mary was, in truth, an excellent "audience;" and
as in similar cases, the chief actor in the scene was not only flattered by her unbounded applause, but induced in some instances to o'erstep the bounds of veracity, and embellished her narratives with a colouring that certainly did run rather counter to the candour of the oft-quoted
"Nothing extenuate, nor aught set down in malice."
"You knows them 'ere Norris's?" said Mrs. Naggs. "The pork-shop people?" said Mary, pointing her finger to the quarter of the compass in which they dwelt.
"That 's 'em."
"Ha! to be sure! everybody knows little Norris ; the partic'lerist little feller as ever anybody clapped eyes on. He's quite a dandy, and al'ays as neat as ninepence. We buys sassages on 'em sometimes on Saturdays and cleaning-days, vhen ve vant a makeshift. I do think he's the very littlest chap in the neighbourhood!"
"Small as a quartern o' soap a'ter a veek's vash," said the washerwoman.
At this sally Mary was so tickled that she laughed "fit to bu'st her stay-lace," as she elegantly expressed it.
"Vell, I vashed for 'em a matter o' two year or so," continued Mrs. Naggs.
"And I'm sure it does you credit, for I never see'd a tradesman's linen so got up afore."
"Dickeys and collars-nothin' but dickeys and collars, child; them Norris's is all outside show, like a
booth at Bart'lemy Fair. Linen, indeed! vy the principal part o' the vash vas caliker and long-cloth !” "Vell, now, on'y think how deceptious! cried the enlightened Mary; “and sich stuck-up people too! "
"I should only ha' liked you to ha' see'd the dabs and rags. I vos a'most ashamed to hang 'em out, for they vos the colour o' pagles, or saffron; all the b'ilin' in the vorld varn't o' no use, lettin' alone the blue I put in 'em. No 'ooman breathin' ever slaved more nor I did to please 'em ; but, the more vun does for some people, the less vun pleases 'em. And, as for Mother Norris, Lor'-a-mussy! talk o' sperrit-"
"I al'ays said as she vos a wixen."
“A wixen! a downright fury! vonce put her up, and, my goodness! ther' isn't no standin' it."
"Ha! I should be fright'ed out o' my siven sinses. She's sich a strapper, too!"
"She couldn't come over me, though," said Mrs. Naggs, elevating her head, and compressing her lips with a mock dignity that might have done credit to a caricaturist of Mrs. Siddons. "I knows my business; and thof, perhaps, no vun knows better on which side their bread's butter'd than myself, let me tell you, it vou'd take a better 'ooman nor Mrs. Norris to get the upper hand o' me. No; I'd sooner starve outright than lick the shoes of man, 'ooman, or child; and so, vhen she began a-blustering and a-rating o' me about the things, I up'd and told her a bit o' my mind in a twinkling. I said, says I, Mrs. Norris, I'm werry sorry I ain't pleased you,' says I; but, if the truth.
must be spoke, the things ain't vorth the soap they're vash'd in. They're fitterer,' says I, to put in the rag-bag, ma'am,' says I, than the vash-tub.' My gracious! the bu'st o' passion as followed! the blowin' up of a copper-hole is child's play to it. Little Norris put his head in, thinking some dreadful haccident vos the matter; and she, findin' she couldn't do nothink vith me, turned upon the little hop-o'-my-thumb like a tiger-cat. And I heerd 'em at it pell-mell in the parlour-leastways Mrs. Norris-for the poor man dar'n't say as his soul's his own."
"And you left, in course?"
"Di-rectly!" emphatically replied Mrs. Naggs, ay, afore the vash vos got up, too, and left 'em to finish it in the best vay they could; for, thof I am a poor 'ooman, I 'm flesh and blood as vell as Mother Norris, vith all her hairs and graces, and, thank goodness! vhile I've a pair o' hands, I can al'ays arn my livin', and keep the volf from the
"Vell! for the life o' me, I sha'n't soon forget little Norris pokin' his head in!" exclaimed Mary. must ha' bin a funny thing to ha' seen him bolt; but it's a sin, and a pity too, as he cotch'd sich a clapperclawin' for his goodnatur"."
"'Deed, did he," said Mrs. Naggs, "for he shook in his shoes, and hadn't a vord to throw at a dog."
"Vell, if ever I marry, I'll have a man at any rate," said Mary; "but, somehow or another, I don't