Folks fly to new things; to do so is a propensity inherent in human nature; and Mr. Peckaby’s shop flourished. Not that he was much honoured with the complimentary “Mr.”; his customers brought it out short—“Peckaby’s shop.” Much intimacy had appeared to exist from the first between him and Roy, so that it was surmised they had been previously acquainted. The prices were low, the shop was close at hand, and Clay Lane flocked to it.
New things, however, like new faces, are apt to turn out no better than the old; sometimes not as good. And thus it proved with Peckaby’s shop. From rather underselling the shops of the village, Peckaby’s shop grew to increase its charges until they were higher than those of anybody else; the wares also deteriorated in value. Clay Lane awoke to this by degrees, and would have taken its custom away; but that was more easily contemplated than done. A good many of its families had been allowed to get on Peckaby’s books, and they also found that Roy set his face against their leaving the shop. For Roy to set his face against a measure was a formidable affair, not readily contended with: the labourers did not dare to fly in his face, lest he should make an excuse to take their work from them. He had already discharged several. So Clay Lane, for the most part, found itself tied to Peckaby’s shop, and to paying some thirty per cent. beyond what they would have paid at the old shops; added to which was the grievance of being compelled to put up with very inferior articles. Dissatisfaction at this state of things had long been smouldering. It grew and grew, threatening to break out into open rebellion, perhaps to bloodshed. The neighbourhood cried shame upon Roy, and felt inclined to echo the cry upon Mrs. Verner; while Clay Lane openly avowed their belief that Peckaby’s shop was Roy’s shop, and that the Peckaby’s were only put in to manage it.
One fearfully hot Monday morning, in the beginning of July, Lionel Verner was passing down Clay Lane. In another week he would be away from Deerham. Lady Verner’s illness had commenced near the latter end of April, and it was growing towards the end of June before she began to get better, or would give Lionel leave to depart. Jan, plain-speaking, truth-telling Jan, had at length quietly told his mother that there was nothing the matter with her but “vexing and temper.” Lady Verner went into hysterics at Jan’s unfilial conduct; but, certain it was, from that very time she began to amend. July came in, and Lionel was permitted to fix the day for his departure.
Lionel was walking down Clay Lane. It was a short cut to Lord Elmsley’s house over the hills, a mile or two distant. Not a very suitable day for a walk. Had Lionel been training for a light jockey, without any superfluous weight, he might have dispensed with extra covering in his exercise, and done as effectually without it. A hotter day never was known in our climate; a more intensely burning