“But it didn’t last; it didn’t last,” repeated Mrs. Peckaby. “Thanks be offered up for it, it didn’t last, or I should ha’ been in my coffin afore the day were out! A gentleman came to me: a Brother he were, sent express by Brother Jarrum; and had walked afoot all the way from Heartburg. It had been revealed to Brother Jarrum, he said, that they were to start that partic’lar night, and that I was to be left behind special. A higher mission was—What was the word? resigned?—no—reserved—reserved for me, and I was to be conveyed special on a quadruple, which was a white donkey. I be to keep myself in readiness, sir, always a-looking out for the quadruple’s coming and stopping afore the door.”
Lionel leaned against the counter, and went into a burst of laughter. The woman told it so quaintly, with such perfect good faith in the advent of the white donkey! She did not much like the mirth. As to that infidel Peckaby, he indulged in sundry mocking doubts, which were, to say the least of them, very mortifying to a believer.
“What’s your opinion, sir?” she suddenly asked of Lionel.
“Well,” said Lionel, “my opinion—as you wish for it—Would incline to the suspicion that your friend, Brother Jarrum, deceived you. That he invented the fable of the white donkey to keep you quiet while he and the rest got clear off.”
Mrs. Peckaby Went into a storm of shrieking sobs. “It couldn’t be! it couldn’t be! Oh, sir, you be as cruel as the rest! Why should Brother Jarrum take the others, and not take me?”
“That is Brother Jarrum’s affair,” replied Lionel. “I only say it looks like it.”
“I telled Brother Jarrum, the very day afore the start took place, that if he took off my wife, I’d follor him on and beat every bone to smash as he’d got in his body,” interposed Peckaby, glancing at Lionel with a knowing smile. “I did, sir. Her was out”—jerking his black thumb at his wife—“and I caught Brother Jarrum in his own room and shut the door on us both, and there I telled him. He knew I meant it, too, and he didn’t like the look of a iron bar I happened to have in my hand. I saw that. Other wives’ husbands might do as they liked; but I warn’t a-going to have mine deluded off by them Latter Day Saints. Were I wrong, sir?”
“I do not think you were,” answered Lionel.
“I’d Latter Day ’em! and saint ’em too, if I had my will!” continued wrathful Peckaby. “Arch-deceiving villuns!”
“Well, good-day, Mrs. Peckaby,” said Lionel, moving to the door. “I would not spend too much time were I you, looking out for the white donkey.”
“It’ll come! it’ll come!” retorted Mrs. Peckaby, in an ecstasy of joy, removing her hands from her ears, where she had clapped them during Peckaby’s heretical speech. “I am proud, sir, to know as it’ll come, in spite of opinions contrairey and Peckaby’s wickedness; and I’m proud to be always a-looking out for it.”