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down here, they doos. Always a headerin'
down here, they is. Like one o'clock."

"And at about that hour of the morning, I
suppose?"

"Ah!" said the apparition. " They an't partickler.
Two 'all do for them. Three. All
times o' night. O'ny mind you!" Here the
apparition rested its profile on the bar, and
gurgled in a sarcastic manner. "There must
be somebody comin'. They don't go a headerin'
down here, wen there an't no Bobby nor gen'ral
Cove, fur to hear the splash."

According to my interpretation of these words,
I was myself a General Cove, or member of the
miscellaneous public. In which modest character,
I remarked:

"They are often taken out, are they, and
restored?"

"I dunno about restored," said the apparition,
who, for some occult reason, very much objected
to that word; " they're carried into the werkiss
and put into a 'ot bath, and brought round.
But I dunno about restored," said the apparition;
"blow that!"— and vanished.

As it had shown a desire to become offensive,
I was not sorry to find myself alone, especially
as the "werkiss" it had indicated with a twist
of its matted head, was close at hand. So I left
Mr. Baker's terrible trap (baited with a scum
that was like the soapy rinsing of sooty chimneys),
and made bold to ring at the workhouse
gate, where I was wholly unexpected and quite
unknown.

A very bright and nimble little matron, with
a bunch of keys in her hand, responded to my
request to see the House. I began to doubt
whether the police magistrate was quite right
in his facts, when I noticed her quick active
little figure and her intelligent eyes.

The Traveller (the matron intimated) should
see the worst first. He was welcome to see
everything. Such as it was, there it all was.

This was the only preparation for our entering
"the Foul wards." They were in an old
building squeezed away in a corner of a paved
yard, quite detached from the more modern and
spacious main body of the workhouse. They
were in a building most monstrously behind the
timea mere series of garrets or lofts, with
every inconvenient and objectionable circumstance
in their construction, and only accessible
by steep and narrow staircases, infamously ill
adapted for the passage up-stairs of the sick or
down stairs of the dead.

A-bed in these miserable rooms, here on bedsteads,
there (for a change, as I understood it)
on the floor, were women in every stage of distress
and disease. None but those who have
attentively observed such scenes, can conceive
the extraordinary variety of expression still
latent under the general monotony and uniformity
of colour, attitude, and condition. The
form a little coiled up and turned away, as
though it had turned its back on this world for
ever; the uninterested face at once lead-coloured
and yellow, looking passively upward from the
pillow; the haggard mouth a little dropped, the
hand outside the coverlet, so dull and indifferent,
so light and yet so heavy; these were on every
pallet; but, when I stopped beside a bed, and
said ever so slight a word to the figure lying
there, the ghost of the old character came into
the face, and made the Foul ward as various as
the fair world. No one appeared to care to
live, but no one complained; all who could
speak, said that as much was done for them as
could be done there, that the attendance was
kind and patient, that their suffering was very
heavy, but they had nothing to ask for. The
wretched rooms were as clean and sweet as it is
possible for such rooms to be; they would become
a pest-house in a single week, if they were
ill-kept.

I accompanied the brisk matron up another
barbarous staircase, into a better kind of loft
devoted to the idiotic and imbecile. There was
at least Light in it, whereas the windows in the
former wards had been like sides of schoolboys
birdcages. There was a strong grating over the
fire here, and, holding a kind of state on either
side of the hearth, separated by the breadth of
this grating, were two old ladies in a condition
of feeble dignity, which was surely the very last
and lowest reduction of self-complacency, to be
found in this wonderful humanity of ours. They
were evidently jealous of each other, and passed
their whole time (as some people, do, whose fires
are not grated) in mentally disparaging each
other, and contemptuously watching their neighbours.
One of these parodies on provincial gentlewomen
was extremely talkative, and expressed
a strong desire to attend the service on Sundays,
from which she represented herself to have derived
the greatest interest and consolation when
allowed that privilege. She gossiped so well,
and looked altogether so cheery and harmless,
that I began to think this a case for the Eastern
magistrate, until I found that on the last occasion
of her attending chapel, she had secreted a
small stick, and had caused some confusion in
the responses by suddenly producing it and belabouring
the congregation.

So, these two old ladies, separated by the
breadth of the gratingotherwise they would
fly at one another's capssat all day long, suspecting
one another, and contemplating a world
of fits. For everybody else in the room, had
fits, except the wardswoman: an elderly, able-bodied
pauperess, with a large upper lip, and an
air of repressing and saving her strength, as
she stood with her hands folded before her, and
her eyes slowly rolling, biding her time for catching
or holding somebody. This civil personage (in
whom I regretted to identify a reduced member
of my honourable friend Mrs. Gamp's family)
said, "They has 'em continiwal, sir. They
drops without no more notice than if they was
coach-horses dropped from the moon, sir. And
when one drops, another drops, and sometimes
there'll be as many as four or five on 'em at once,
dear me, a rollin' and a tearin', bless you!—
this young woman, now, has 'em dreadful bad."

She turned up this young woman's face with
her hand as she said it. This young woman was

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