"Do not trouble yourself, dear cousin!" cried Phoebe, starting lightly

up. "I am shop-keeper to-day."

"You, child!" exclaimed Hepzibah. "What can a little country girl know

of such matters?"

"Oh, I have done all the shopping for the family at our village store,"

said Phoebe. "And I have had a table at a fancy fair, and made better

sales than anybody. These things are not to be learnt; they depend

upon a knack that comes, I suppose," added she, smiling, "with one's

mother's blood. You shall see that I am as nice a little saleswoman as

I am a housewife!"

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The old gentlewoman stole behind Phoebe, and peeped from the passageway

into the shop, to note how she would manage her undertaking. It was a

case of some intricacy. A very ancient woman, in a white short gown

and a green petticoat, with a string of gold beads about her neck, and

what looked like a nightcap on her head, had brought a quantity of yarn

to barter for the commodities of the shop. She was probably the very

last person in town who still kept the time-honored spinning-wheel in

constant revolution. It was worth while to hear the croaking and

hollow tones of the old lady, and the pleasant voice of Phoebe,

mingling in one twisted thread of talk; and still better to contrast

their figures,--so light and bloomy,--so decrepit and dusky,--with only

the counter betwixt them, in one sense, but more than threescore years,

in another. As for the bargain, it was wrinkled slyness and craft

pitted against native truth and sagacity.

"Was not that well done?" asked Phoebe, laughing, when the customer was

gone.

"Nicely done, indeed, child!" answered Hepzibah. "I could not have

gone through with it nearly so well. As you say, it must be a knack

that belongs to you on the mother's side."

It is a very genuine admiration, that with which persons too shy or too

awkward to take a due part in the bustling world regard the real actors

in life's stirring scenes; so genuine, in fact, that the former are

usually fain to make it palatable to their self-love, by assuming that

these active and forcible qualities are incompatible with others, which

they choose to deem higher and more important. Thus, Hepzibah was well

content to acknowledge Phoebe's vastly superior gifts as a

shop-keeper'--she listened, with compliant ear, to her suggestion of

various methods whereby the influx of trade might be increased, and

rendered profitable, without a hazardous outlay of capital. She

consented that the village maiden should manufacture yeast, both liquid

and in cakes; and should brew a certain kind of beer, nectareous to the

palate, and of rare stomachic virtues; and, moreover, should bake and

exhibit for sale some little spice-cakes, which whosoever tasted would

longingly desire to taste again. All such proofs of a ready mind and

skilful handiwork were highly acceptable to the aristocratic

hucksteress, so long as she could murmur to herself with a grim smile,

and a half-natural sigh, and a sentiment of mixed wonder, pity, and

growing affection:-"What a nice little body she is! If she only could be a lady; too--but

that's impossible! Phoebe is no Pyncheon. She takes everything from

her mother!"