Of course work goes on downstairs (or is supposed to go on) whether the mistress of a house be asleep or awake. It really was going on that evening in the laundry at Verner’s Pride, whatever it may have been doing in the other various branches and departments. The laundry-maids had had heavy labour on their hands that day, and they were hard at work still, while Mrs. Verner slept.
“Here’s Mother Duff’s Dan a-coming in!” exclaimed one of the women, glancing over her ironing-board to the yard. “What do he want, I wonder?”
“Who?” cried Nancy, the under-housemaid, a tart sort of girl, whose business it was to assist in the laundry on busy days.
“Dan Duff. Just see what he wants, Nancy. He’s got a parcel.”
The gentleman familiarly called Dan Duff was an urchin of ten years old. He was the son of Mrs. Duff, linen-draper-in-ordinary to Deerham—a lady popularly spoken of as “Mother Duff,” both behind her back and before her face. Nancy darted out at the laundry-door and waylaid the intruder in the yard.
“Now, Dan Duff!” cried she, “what do you want?”
“Please, here’s this,” was Dan Duff’s reply, handing over the parcel. “And, please, I want to see Rachel Frost.”
“Who’s it for? What’s inside it?” sharply asked Nancy, regarding the parcel on all sides.
“It’s things as Rachel Frost have been a-buying,” he replied. “Please, I want to see her.”
“Then want must be your master,” retorted Nancy. “Rachel Frost’s not at home.”
“Ain’t she?” returned Dan Duff, with surprised emphasis. “Why, she left our shop a long sight afore I did! Mother says, please, would she mind having some o’ the dark lavender print instead o’ the light, ’cause Susan Peckaby’s come in, and she wants the whole o’ the light lavender for a gownd, and there’s only just enough of it. And, please, I be to take word back.”
“How are you to take word back if she’s not in?” asked Nancy, whose temper never was improved by extra work. “Get along, Dan Duff! You must come along again to-morrow if you want her.”
Dan Duff turned to depart, in meek obedience, and Nancy carried the parcel into the laundry and flung it down on the ironing-board.
“It’s fine to be Rachel Frost,” she sarcastically cried. “Going shopping like any lady, and having her things sent home for her! And messages about her gownds coming up—which will she have, if you please, and which won’t she have! I’ll borror one of the horses to-morrow, and go shopping myself on a side-saddle!”