And while Hepzibah was doing her utmost to digest the hard little

pellets of his already uttered wisdom, he gave vent to his final, and

what he declared to be his all-important advice, as follows:-"Put on a bright face for your customers, and smile pleasantly as you

hand them what they ask for! A stale article, if you dip it in a good,

warm, sunny smile, will go off better than a fresh one that you've

scowled upon."

To this last apothegm poor Hepzibah responded with a sigh so deep and

heavy that it almost rustled Uncle Venner quite away, like a withered

leaf,--as he was,--before an autumnal gale. Recovering himself,

however, he bent forward, and, with a good deal of feeling in his

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ancient visage, beckoned her nearer to him.

"When do you expect him home?" whispered he.

"Whom do you mean?" asked Hepzibah, turning pale.

"Ah!--You don't love to talk about it," said Uncle Venner. "Well,

well! we'll say no more, though there's word of it all over town. I

remember him, Miss Hepzibah, before he could run alone!"

During the remainder of the day, poor Hepzibah acquitted herself even

less creditably, as a shop-keeper, than in her earlier efforts. She

appeared to be walking in a dream; or, more truly, the vivid life and

reality assumed by her emotions made all outward occurrences

unsubstantial, like the teasing phantasms of a half-conscious slumber.

She still responded, mechanically, to the frequent summons of the

shop-bell, and, at the demand of her customers, went prying with vague

eyes about the shop, proffering them one article after another, and

thrusting aside--perversely, as most of them supposed--the identical

thing they asked for. There is sad confusion, indeed, when the spirit

thus flits away into the past, or into the more awful future, or, in

any manner, steps across the spaceless boundary betwixt its own region

and the actual world; where the body remains to guide itself as best it

may, with little more than the mechanism of animal life. It is like

death, without death's quiet privilege,--its freedom from mortal care.

Worst of all, when the actual duties are comprised in such petty

details as now vexed the brooding soul of the old gentlewoman. As the

animosity of fate would have it, there was a great influx of custom in

the course of the afternoon. Hepzibah blundered to and fro about her

small place of business, committing the most unheard-of errors: now

stringing up twelve, and now seven, tallow-candles, instead of ten to

the pound; selling ginger for Scotch snuff, pins for needles, and

needles for pins; misreckoning her change, sometimes to the public

detriment, and much oftener to her own; and thus she went on, doing her

utmost to bring chaos back again, until, at the close of the day's

labor, to her inexplicable astonishment, she found the money-drawer

almost destitute of coin. After all her painful traffic, the whole

proceeds were perhaps half a dozen coppers, and a questionable

ninepence which ultimately proved to be copper likewise.