Things were changed now out of doors. There was no dissatisfaction, no complaining. Roy was deposed from his petty authority, and all men were at peace, with the exception, possibly, of Mr. Peckaby. Mr. Peckaby did not, find his shop flourish. Indeed, far from flourishing, so completely was it deserted, that he was fain to give up the trade, and accept work at Chuff the blacksmith’s forge, to which employment, it appeared, he had been brought up. A few stale articles remained in the shop, and the counters remained; chiefly for show. Mrs. Peckaby made a pretence of attending to customers; but she did not get two in a week. And if those two entered, they could not be served, for she was pretty sure to be out, gossiping.
This state of things did not please Mrs. Peckaby. In one point of view the failing of the trade pleased her, because it left her less work to do; but she did not like the failing of their income. Whether the shop had been actually theirs, or whether it had been Roy’s, there was no doubt that they had drawn sufficient from it to live comfortably and to find Mrs. Peckaby in smart caps. This source was gone, and all they had now was an ignominious fourteen shillings a week, which Peckaby earned. The prevalent opinion in Clay Lane was that this was quite as much as Peckaby deserved; and that it was a special piece of undeserved good fortune which had taken off the blacksmith’s brother and assistant in the nick of time, Joe Chuff, to make room for him. Mrs. Peckaby, however, was in a state of semi-rebellion; the worse, that she did not know upon whom to visit it, or see any remedy. She took to passing her time in groaning and tears, somewhat after the fashion of Dinah Roy, venting her complaints upon anybody that would listen to her.
Lionel had not said to the men, “You shall leave Peckaby’s shop.” He had not even hinted to them that it might be desirable to leave it. In short, he had not interfered. But, the restraint of Roy being removed from the men, they quitted it of their own accord. “No more Roy; no more Peckaby; no more grinding down—hurrah!” shouted they, and went back to the old shops in the village.
All sorts of improvements had Lionel begun. That is, he had planned them: begun yet, they were not. Building better tenements for the labourers, repairing and draining the old ones, adding whatever might be wanted to make the dwellings healthy: draining, ditching, hedging. “It shall not be said that while I live in a palace, my poor live in pigsties,” said Lionel to Mr. Bitterworth one day. “I’ll do what I can to drive that periodical ague from the place.”
“Have you counted the cost?” was Mr. Bitterworth’s rejoinder.
“No,” said Lionel. “I don’t intend to count it. Whatever the changes may cost, I shall carry them out.”