Holgrave took his departure, leaving her, for the moment, with spirits
not quite so much depressed. Soon, however, they had subsided nearly
to their former dead level. With a beating heart, she listened to the
footsteps of early passengers, which now began to be frequent along the
street. Once or twice they seemed to linger; these strangers, or
neighbors, as the case might be, were looking at the display of toys
and petty commodities in Hepzibah's shop-window. She was doubly
tortured; in part, with a sense of overwhelming shame that strange and
unloving eyes should have the privilege of gazing, and partly because
the idea occurred to her, with ridiculous importunity, that the window
was not arranged so skilfully, nor nearly to so much advantage, as it
might have been. It seemed as if the whole fortune or failure of her
shop might depend on the display of a different set of articles, or
substituting a fairer apple for one which appeared to be specked. So
she made the change, and straightway fancied that everything was
spoiled by it; not recognizing that it was the nervousness of the
juncture, and her own native squeamishness as an old maid, that wrought
all the seeming mischief.
Anon, there was an encounter, just at the door-step, betwixt two
laboring men, as their rough voices denoted them to be. After some
slight talk about their own affairs, one of them chanced to notice the
shop-window, and directed the other's attention to it.
"See here!" cried he; "what do you think of this? Trade seems to be
looking up in Pyncheon Street!"
"Well, well, this is a sight, to be sure!" exclaimed the other. "In
the old Pyncheon House, and underneath the Pyncheon Elm! Who would have
thought it? Old Maid Pyncheon is setting up a cent-shop!"
"Will she make it go, think you, Dixey?" said his friend. "I don't
call it a very good stand. There's another shop just round the corner."
"Make it go!" cried Dixey, with a most contemptuous expression, as if
the very idea were impossible to be conceived. "Not a bit of it! Why,
her face--I've seen it, for I dug her garden for her one year--her face
is enough to frighten the Old Nick himself, if he had ever so great a
mind to trade with her. People can't stand it, I tell you! She scowls
dreadfully, reason or none, out of pure ugliness of temper."
"Well, that's not so much matter," remarked the other man. "These
sour-tempered folks are mostly handy at business, and know pretty well
what they are about. But, as you say, I don't think she'll do much.
This business of keeping cent-shops is overdone, like all other kinds
of trade, handicraft, and bodily labor. I know it, to my cost! My wife
kept a cent-shop three months, and lost five dollars on her outlay."