[Dedicated With very kind regards to old Mr. John Taylor, Who “thinks he might pass as a dormouse,” (Three years in bed and never a grumble!).]
Once upon a time there was a village shop. The name over the window was “Ginger and Pickles.”
It was a little small shop just the right size for Dolls– Lucinda and Jane Doll-cook always bought their groceries at Ginger and Pickles.
The counter inside was a convenient height for rabbits. Ginger and Pickles sold red spotty pocket handkerchiefs at a penny three farthings.
They also sold sugar, and snuff and galoshes.
In fact, although it was such a small shop it sold nearly everything–except a few things that you want in a hurry–like bootlaces, hair- pins and mutton chops.
Ginger and Pickles were the people who kept the shop. Ginger was a yellow tomcat, and Pickles was a terrier.
The rabbits were always a little bit afraid of Pickles.
The shop was also patronized by mice–only the mice were rather afraid of Ginger.
Ginger usually requested Pickles to serve them, because he said it made his mouth water.
“I cannot bear,” said he, “to see them going out at the door carrying their little parcels.”
“I have the same feeling about rats,” replied Pickles, “but it would never do to eat our customers; they would leave us and go to Tabitha Twitchit’s.”
“On the contrary, they would go nowhere,” replied Ginger gloomily.
(Tabitha Twitchit kept the only other shop in the village. She did not give credit.)
But there is no money in what is called the “till.”
Ginger and Pickles gave unlimited credit.
Now the meaning of “credit” is this–when a customer buys a bar of soap, instead of the customer pulling out a purse and paying for it –she says she will pay another time.
And Pickles makes a low bow and says, “With pleasure, madam,” and it is written down in a book.
The customers come again and again, and buy quantities, in spite of being afraid of Ginger and Pickles.
The customers came in crowds every day and bought quantities, especially the toffee customers. But there was always no money; they never paid for as much as a penny- worth of peppermints.
But the sales were enormous, ten times as large as Tabitha Twitchit’s.
As there was always no money, Ginger and Pickles were obliged to eat their own goods.
Pickles ate biscuits and Ginger ate a dried haddock.
They ate them by candle- light after the shop was closed.
“It is very uncomfortable, I am afraid I shall be summoned. I have tried in vain to get a license upon credit at the Post Office;” said Pickles. “The place is full of policemen. I met one as I was coming home.
“Let us send in the bill again to Samuel Whiskers, Ginger, he owes 22/9 for bacon.”
“I do not believe that he intends to pay at all,” replied Ginger.
When it came to Jan. 1st there was still no money, and Pickles was unable to buy a dog license.
“It is very unpleasant, I am afraid of the police,” said Pickles.
“It is your own fault for being a terrier; I do not require a license, and neither does Kep, the Collie dog.”
“And I feel sure that Anna Maria pockets things–
“Where are all the cream crackers?”
“You have eaten them yourself.” replied Ginger.
Ginger and Pickles retired into the back parlor.
They did accounts. They added up sums and sums, and sums.
“Samuel Whiskers has run up a bill as long as his tail; he has had an ounce and three- quarters of snuff since October.
“What is seven pounds of butter at 1/3, and a stick of sealing wax and four matches?”
“Send in all the bills again to everybody with compliments,'” replied Ginger.
Pickles nearly had a fit, he barked and he barked and made little rushes.
“Bite him, Pickles! bite him!” spluttered Ginger behind a sugar barrel, “he’s only a German doll!”
The policeman went on writing in his notebook; twice he put his pencil in his mouth, and once he dipped it in the treacle.