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Chapter 2
It was nearly six years after the departure of Mr. David Faux for the West Indies,
that the vacant shop in the marketplace at Grimworth was understood to have
been let to the stranger with a sallow complexion and a buff cravat, whose first
appearance had caused some excitement in the bar of the Woolpack, where he
had called to wait for the coach.
Grimworth, to a discerning eye, was a good place to set up shopkeeping in.
There was no competition in it at present; the Church-people had their own
grocer and draper; the Dissenters had theirs; and the two or three butchers found
a ready market for their joints without strict reference to religious persuasion--
except that the rector's wife had given a general order for the veal sweet- breads
and the mutton kidneys, while Mr. Rodd, the Baptist minister, had requested that,
so far as was compatible with the fair accommodation of other customers, the
sheep's trotters might be reserved for him. And it was likely to be a growing
place, for the trustees of Mr. Zephaniah Crypt's Charity, under the stimulus of a
late visitation by commissioners, were beginning to apply long- accumulating
funds to the rebuilding of the Yellow Coat School, which was henceforth to be
carried forward on a greatly-extended scale, the testator having left no
restrictions concerning the curriculum, but only concerning the coat.
The shopkeepers at Grimworth were by no means unanimous as to the
advantages promised by this prospect of increased population and trading, being
substantial men, who liked doing a quiet business in which they were sure of
their customers, and could calculate their returns to a nicety. Hitherto, it had been
held a point of honour by the families in Grimworth parish, to buy their sugar and
their flannel at the shop where their fathers and mothers had bought before them;
but, if newcomers were to bring in the system of neck- and-neck trading, and
solicit feminine eyes by gown-pieces laid in fan-like folds, and surmounted by
artificial flowers, giving them a factitious charm (for on what human figure would
a gown sit like a fan, or what female head was like a bunch of China-asters?), or,
if new grocers were to fill their windows with mountains of currants and sugar,
made seductive by contrast and tickets,--what security was there for Grimworth,
that a vagrant spirit in shopping, once introduced, would not in the end carry the
most important families to the larger market town of Cattleton, where, business
being done on a system of small profits and quick returns, the fashions were of
the freshest, and goods of all kinds might be bought at an advantage?
With this view of the times predominant among the tradespeople at Grimworth,
their uncertainty concerning the nature of the business which the sallow-
complexioned stranger was about to set up in the vacant shop, naturally gave
some additional strength to the fears of the less sanguine. If he was going to sell
drapery, it was probable that a pale-faced fellow like that would deal in showy
and inferior articles--printed cottons and muslins which would leave their dye in