Mrs. Duff was dragged down with him. She soon extricated herself, and stared at the boy in very astonishment. However inclined to play tricks out of doors, Mr. Dan never ventured to play them, in. Polly Dawson stared. Susan Peckaby, forgetting New Jerusalem for once, sprang off her stool and stared. But that his terror was genuine, and Mrs. Duff saw that it was, Dan had certainly been treated then to that bugbear of his domestic life—a “basting.”
“What has took you now?” sharply demanded Mrs. Duff, partly in curiosity, partly in wrath.
“I see’d a dead man,” responded Dan, and he forthwith fell into convulsions.
They shook him, they pulled him, they pinched him. One laid hold of his head, another of his feet; but, make nothing of him, could they. The boy’s face was white, his hands and arms were twitching, and froth was gathering on his lips. By this time the shop was full.
“Run across, one of you,” cried the mother, turning her face to the crowd, “and see if you can find Mr. Jan Verner.”
“I SEE’D A DEAD MAN!”
Jan Verner was turning in at his own door—the surgery—at a swinging pace. Jan’s natural pace was a deliberate one; but Jan found so much to do, now he was alone in the business, that he had no resource but to move at the rate of a steam engine. Otherwise he would never have got through his day’s work. Jan had tried one assistant, who had proved to be more plague than profit, and Jan was better without him. Master Cheese, promoted now to tail-coats and turn-up collars, was coming on, and could attend to trifling cases. Master Cheese wished to be promoted also to “Mister” Cheese; but he remained obstinately excessively short, and people would still call him “Master.” He appeared to grow in breadth instead of height, and underwent, in consequence, a perpetual inward mortification. Jan would tell him he should eat less and walk more; but the advice was not taken.
Jan Verner was turning into the surgery at a swinging pace, and came in violent contact with Master Cheese, who was coming out at another sharp pace. Jan rubbed his chest, and Cheese his head.
“I say, Jan,” said he, “can’t you look where your going?”
“Can’t you look?” returned Jan. “Where are you off to?”
“There’s something the matter at Duff’s. About a dozen came here in a body, wanting you. Bob says Dan Duff was dying.”
Jan turned his eyes on Bob, the surgery-boy. Bob answered the look—
“It’s what they said, sir. They said as Dan Duff was a-dying and a-frothing at the mouth. It’s about five minutes ago, sir.”
“Did you go over?” asked Jan of Cheese. “I saw a crowd round Mrs. Duff’s door.”
“No, I didn’t. I am going now. I was indoors, having my supper.”
“Then you need not trouble yourself,” returned Jan. “Stop where you are, and digest your supper.”