But that Mrs. Peckaby’s senses were exalted at that moment far above the level of ordinary mortals’, it might have occurred to her to inquire whether the donkey would be endowed with the miraculous power of bearing her over the sea. No such common question presented itself. She asked another.
“Why couldn’t Brother Jarrum have told me this hisself, sir? I have been a’most mad this morning, ever since I found as they had gone.”
The brother—this brother—turned up the whites of his eyes. “When unknown things is revealed to us, and mysterious orders give, they never come to us a minute afore the time,” he replied. “Not till Brother Jarrum was fixing the night of departure, did the vision come to him. It was commanded him that it should be kept from you till the rest were off, and then he were to send back a messenger to tell you—and many a mile I’ve come! Brother Jarrum and me has no doubt that it is meant as a trial of your faith.”
Nothing could be more satisfactory to the mind of Mrs. Peckaby than this explanation. Had any mysterious vision appeared to herself, showing her that it was false, commanding her to disbelieve it, it could not have shaken her faith. If the white donkey arrived at her door that very night, she would be sure to mount him.
“Do you think it’ll be very long, sir, that I shall have to wait?” she resumed, feverishly listening for the answer.
“My impression is that it’ll be very short,” was the reply. “And it’s Brother Jarrum’s also. Any way, you be on the look-out—always prepared. Have a best robe at hand continual, ready to clap on the instant the quadruped appears, and come right away to New Jerusalem.”
In the openness of her heart, Mrs. Peckaby offered refreshment to the brother. The best her house afforded: which was not much. Peckaby should be condemned to go foodless for a week, rather than that he should depart fasting. The brother, however, declined: he appeared to be in a hurry to leave Deerham behind him.
“I’d not disclose this to anybody if I was you,” was his parting salutation. “Leastways, not for a day or two. Let the ruck of ’em embark first at Liverpool. If it gets wind, some of them may be for turning crusty, because they are not favoured with special animals, too.”
Had the brother recommended Susan Peckaby to fill the tub with water, and stand head downwards in it for a day or two, she was in the mood to obey him. Accordingly, when questioned by Mrs. Duff, and the other curious ones, what had been the business of the stranger, she made a great mystery over it, and declined to answer.
“It’s good news, by the signs of your face,” remarked Mrs. Duff.
“Good news!” rapturously repeated Susan Peckaby, “it’s heaven. I say, Mother Duff, I want a new gownd: something of the very best. I’ll pay for it by degrees. There ain’t no time to be lost, neither; so I’ll come down at once and choose it.”