“Wrap ’em up,” curtly returned Miss Polly Dawson.
Mrs. Duff was proceeding to do so, when some tall thin form, bearing a large bundle, entered the shop in a fluster. It was Mrs. Peckaby. She sat herself down on the only stool the shop contained, and let the bundle slip to the floor.
“Give a body leave to rest a bit, Mother Duff! I be turned a’most inside out.”
“What’s the matter?” asked Mrs. Duff, while Polly Dawson surveyed her with a stare.
“There’s a white cow in the pound. I can’t tell ye the turn it give me, coming sudden upon it. I thought nothing less, at first glance, but it was the white quadruple.”
“What! hasn’t that there white donkey come yet?” demanded Polly Dawson; who, in conjunction with sundry others of her age and sex in the village, was not sparing of her free remarks to Mrs. Peckaby on the subject, thereby aggravating that lady considerably.
“You hold your tongue, Polly Dawson, and don’t be brazen, if you can help it,” rebuked Mrs. Peckaby. “I was so took aback for the minute, that I couldn’t neither stir nor speak,” she resumed to Mrs. Duff. “But when I found it was nothing but a old strayed wretch of a pounded cow, I a’most dropped with the disappointment. So I thought I’d come back here and take a rest. Where’s Dan?”
“Dan’s out,” answered Mrs. Duff.
“Is he? I thought he might have took this parcel down to Sykes’s, and saved me the sight o’ that pound again and the deceiver in it. It’s just my luck!”
“Dan’s gone up to Verner’s Pride,” continued Mrs. Duff. “That fine French madmizel, as rules there, come down for some trifles this evening, and took him home with her to carry the parcel. It’s time he was back, though, and more nor time. ’Twasn’t bigger, neither, nor a farthing bun, but ’twas too big for her. Isn’t it a-getting the season for you to think of a new gownd, Mrs. Peckaby?” resumed Mother Duff, returning to business. “I have got some beautiful winter stuffs in.”
“I hope the only new gownd as I shall want till I gets to New Jerusalem, is the purple one I’ve got prepared for it,” replied Mrs. Peckaby. “I don’t think the journey’s far off. I had a dream last night as I saw a great crowd o’ people dressed in white, a-coming out to meet me. I look upon it as it’s a token that I shall soon be there.”
“I wouldn’t go out to that there New Jerusalem if ten white donkeys come to fetch me!” cried Polly Dawson, tossing her head with scorn. “It is a nice place, by all that I have heard! Them saints—”
A most appalling interruption. Snorting, moaning, sobbing, his breath coming in gasps, his hair standing up on end, his eyes starting, and his face ghastly, there burst in upon them Master Dan Duff. That he was in the very height of terror, there could be no mistaking. To add to the confusion, he flung his arms out as he came in, and his hand caught one of the side panes of glass in the bow window and shattered it, the pieces falling amongst the displayed wares. Dan leaped in, caught hold of his mother with a spasmodic howl, and fell down on some bundles in a corner of the small shop.