The ’bus they waited for came up, and they went on their way. On reaching the neighbourhood of Peckham, they struck off through a complex of small new streets, apparently familiar to Waymark, and came at length to a little shop, also very new, the windows of which displayed a fresh-looking assortment of miscellaneous goods. There was half a large cheese, marked by the incisions of the tasting-knife; a boiled ham, garlanded; a cone of brawn; a truncated pyramid of spiced beef, released from its American tin; also German sausage and other dainties of the kind. Then there were canisters of tea and coffee, tins of mustard, a basket of eggs, some onions, boxes of baking-powder and of blacking; all arranged so as to make an impression on the passers-by; everything clean and bright. Above the window stood in imposing gilt letters the name of the proprietor: O’Gree.
They entered. The shop was very small and did not contain much stock. The new shelves showed a row of biscuit-tins, but little else, and from the ceiling hung balls of string. On the counter lay an inviting round of boiled beef. Odours of provisions and of fresh paint were strong in the air. Every thing gleamed from resent scrubbing and polishing; the floor only emphasised its purity by a little track where a child’s shoes had brought in mud from the street; doubtless it had been washed over since the Sunday morning’s custom had subsided. Wherever the walls would have confessed their bareness the enterprising tradesman had hung gorgeous advertising cards. At the sound of the visitors’ footsteps, the door leading out of the shop into the parlour behind opened briskly, a head having previously appeared over the red curtain, and Mr. O’Gree, in the glory of Sunday attire, rushed forward with eager hands. His welcome was obstreperous.
“Waymark, you’re a brick! Mr. Casti, I’m rejoiced to receive you in my establishment! You’re neither a minute too soon nor a minute too late. Mrs. O’Gree only this moment called out from the kitchen that the kettle was boiling and the crumpets at the point of perfection! I knew your punctuality of old, Waymark. Mr. Casti, how does it strike you? Roaring trade, Waymark! Done two shillings and threepence three farthings this Sunday morning. Look here, me boy, —ho, ho!”
He drew out the till behind the counter, and jingled his hand in coppers. Then he rushed about in the wildest fervour from object to object, opening tins which he had forgotten were empty, making passes at the beef and the ham with a formidable carving-knife, demonstrating the use of a sugar-chopper and a coffee-grinder, and, lastly, calling attention with infinite glee to a bad halfpenny which he had detected on the previous afternoon, and had forthwith nailed down to the counter, in terrorem. Then he lifted with much solemnity a hinged portion of the counter, and requested his visitors to pass into the back-parlour. Here there was the same perfect cleanliness, though the furniture was scant and very simple. The round table was laid for tea, with a spotless cloth, plates of a very demonstrative pattern, and knives and forks which seemed only just to have left the ironmonger’s shop.