It was Sunday morning, and a fine day in autumn; the bells of Hereford Cathedral rang, and all the world, smartly dressed, were flocking to church.
Mrs. Hill! Mrs. Hill! - Phoebe! Phoebe! Theres the cathedral bell, I say, and neither of you ready for church, and I a verger, cried Mr. Hill, the tanner, as he stood at the bottom of his own staircase. Im ready, papa, replied Phoebe; and down she came, looking so clean, so fresh, and so gay, that her stern fathers brows unbent, and he could only say to her, as she was drawing on a new pair of gloves, Child, you ought to have had those gloves on before this time of day.
Before this time of day! cried Mrs. Hill, who was now coming downstairs completely equipped - before this time of day! She should know better, I say, than to put on those gloves at all: more especially when going to the cathedral.
The gloves are very good gloves, as far as I see, replied Mr. Hill. But no matter now. It is more fitting that we should be in proper time in our pew, to set an example, as becomes us, than to stand here talking of gloves and nonsense.
He offered his wife and daughter each an arm, and set out for the cathedral; but Phoebe was too busy in drawing on her new gloves, and her mother was too angry at the sight of them, to accept of Mr. Hills courtesy. What I say is always nonsense, I know, Mr. Hill, resumed the matron: but I can see as far into a millstone as other folks. Was it not I that first gave you a hint of what became of the great dog that we lost out of our tan-yard last winter? And was it not I who first took notice to you, Mr. Hill, verger as you are, of the hole under the foundation of the cathedral? Was it not, I ask you, Mr. Hill?
But, my dear Mrs. Hill, what has all this to do with Phoebes gloves?
Are you blind, Mr. Hill? Dont you see that they are Limerick gloves?
What of that? said Mr. Hill, still preserving his composure, as it was his custom to do as long as he could, when he saw his wife was ruffled.
What of that, Mr. Hill! why, dont you know that Limerick is in Ireland, Mr. Hill?
With all my heart, my dear.
Yes, and with all your heart, I suppose, Mr. Hill, you would see our cathedral blown up, some fair day or other, and your own daughter married to the person that did it; and you a verger, Mr. Hill.
God forbid! cried Mr, Hill; and he stopped short and settled his wig. Presently recovering himself, he added, But, Mrs. Hill, the cathedral is not yet blown up; and our Phoebe is not yet married.
No; but what of that, Mr. Hill? Forewarned is forearmed, as I told you before your dog was gone; but you would not believe me, and you see how it turned out in that case; and so it will in this case, youll see, Mr. Hill.
But you puzzle and frighten me out of my wits, Mrs. Hill, said the verger, again settling his wig. In that case and in this case ! I cant understand a syllable of what youve been saying to me this half-hour. In plain English, what is there the matter about Phoebes gloves?
In plain English, then, Mr. Hill, since you can understand nothing else, please to ask your daughter Phoebe who gave her those gloves. Phoebe, who gave you those gloves?
I wish they were burnt, said the husband, whose patience could endure no longer. Who gave you those cursed gloves, Phoebe?
Papa, answered Phoebe, in a low voice, they were a present from Mr. Brian ONeill.
The Irish glover! cried Mr. Hill, with a look of terror.
Yes, resumed the mother; very true, Mr. Hill, I assure you. Now, you see, I had my reasons.
Take off the gloves directly: I order you, Phoebe, said her father, in his most peremptory tone. I took a mortal dislike to that Mr. Brian ONeill the first time I ever saw him. Hes an Irishman, and thats enough, and too much for me. Off with the gloves, Phoebe! When I order a thing, it must be done.
Phoebe seemed to find some difficulty in getting off the gloves, and gently urged that she could not well go into the cathedral without them. This objection was immediately removed by her mothers pulling from her pocket a pair of mittens, which had once been brown, and once been whole, but which were now rent in sundry places; and which, having been long stretched by one who was twice the size of Phoebe, now hung in huge wrinkles upon her well-turned arms.
But, papa, said Phoebe, why should we take a dislike to him because he is an Irishman? Cannot an Irishman be a good man?
The verger made no answer to this question, but a few seconds after it was put to him observed that the cathedral bell had just done ringing; and, as they were now got to the church door, Mrs. Hill, with a significant look at Phoebe, remarked that it was no proper time to talk or think of good men, or bad men, or Irishmen, or any men, especially for a vergers daughter.
We pass over in silence the many conjectures that were made by several of the congregation concerning the reason why Miss Phoebe Hill should appear in such a shameful shabby pair of gloves on a Sunday. After service was ended, the verger went, with great mystery, to examine the hole under the foundation of the cathedral; and Mrs. Hill repaired, with the grocers and the stationers ladies, to take a walk in the Close, where she boasted to all her female acquaintance, whom she called her friends, of her maternal discretion in prevailing upon Mr. Hill to forbid her daughter Phoebe to wear the Limerick gloves.
In the meantime, Phoebe walked pensively homewards, endeavouring to discover why her father should take a mortal dislike to a man at first sight, merely because he was an Irishman: and why her mother had talked so much of the great dog which had been lost last year out of the tan-yard; and of the hole under the foundation of the cathedral! What has all this to do with my Limerick gloves? thought she. The more she thought, the less connection she could perceive between these things: for as she had not taken a dislike to Mr. Brian ONeill at first sight, because he was an Irishman, she could not think it quite reasonable to suspect him of making away with her fathers dog, nor yet of a design to blow up Hereford Cathedral. As she was pondering upon these matters, she came within sight of the ruins of a poor womans house, which a few months before this time had been burnt down. She recollected that her first acquaintance with her lover began at the time of this fire; and she thought that the courage and humanity he showed, in exerting himself to save this unfortunate woman and her children, justified her notion of the possibility that an Irishman might be a good man.
The name of the poor woman whose house had been burnt down was Smith: she was a widow, and she now lived at the extremity of a narrow lane in a wretched habitation. Why Phoebe thought of her with more concern than usual at this instant we need not examine, but she did; and, reproaching herself for having neglected it for some weeks past, she resolved to go directly to see the widow Smith, and to give her a crown which she had long had in her pocket, with which she had intended to have bought play tickets.
It happened that the first person she saw in the poor widows kitchen was the identical Mr. ONeill. I did not expect to see anybody here but you, Mrs. Smith, said Phoebe, blushing.
So much the greater the pleasure of the meeting; to me, I mean, Miss Hill, said ONeill, rising, and putting down a little boy, with whom he had been playing. Phoebe went on talking to the poor woman; and, after slipping the crown into her hand, said she would call again. ONeill, surprised at the change in her manner, followed her when she left the house, and said, It would be a great misfortune to me to have done anything to offend Miss Hill, especially if I could not conceive how or what it was, which is my case at this present speaking. And as the spruce glover spoke, he fixed his eyes upon Phoebes ragged gloves. She drew them up in vain; and then said, with her natural simplicity and gentleness, You have not done anything to offend me, Mr. ONeill; but you are some way or other displeasing to my father and mother, and they have forbid me to wear the Limerick gloves.
And sure Miss Hill would not be after changing her opinion of her humble servant for no reason in life but because her father and mother, who have taken a prejudice against him, are a little contrary.
No, replied Phoebe; I should not change my opinion without any reason; but I have not yet had time to fix my opinion of you, Mr. ONeill.
To let you know a piece of my mind, then, my dear Miss Hill, resumed he, the more contrary they are, the more pride and joy it would give me to win and wear you, in spite of em all; and if without a farthing in your pocket, so much the more I should rejoice in the opportunity of proving to your dear self, and all else whom it may consarn, that Brian ONeill is no fortune-hunter, and scorns them that are so narrow-minded as to think that no other kind of cattle but them there fortune-hunters can come out of all Ireland. So, my dear Phoebe, now we understand one another, I hope you will not be paining my eyes any longer with the sight of these odious brown bags, which are not fit to be worn by any Christian arms, to say nothing of Miss Hills, which are the handsomest, without any compliment, that ever I saw, and, to my mind, would become a pair of Limerick gloves beyond anything: and I expect shell show her generosity and proper spirit by putting them on immediately.
You expect, sir! repeated Miss Hill, with a look of more indignation than her gentle countenance had ever before been seen to assume. Expect! If he had said hope, thought she, it would have been another thing: but expect! what right has he to expect?
Now Miss Hill, unfortunately, was not sufficiently acquainted with the Irish idiom to know that to expect, in Ireland, is the same thing as to hope in England; and, when her Irish admirer said I expect, he meant only, in plain English, I hope. But thus it is that a poor Irishman, often, for want of understanding the niceties of the English language, says the rudest when he means to say the civillest things imaginable.
Miss Hills feelings were so much hurt by this unlucky I expect that the whole of his speech, which had before made some favourable impression upon her, now lost its effect: and she replied with proper spirit, as she thought, You expect a great deal too much, Mr. ONeill; and more than ever I gave you reason to do. It would be neither pleasure nor pride to me to be won and worn, as you were pleased to say, in spite of them all; and to be thrown, without a farthing in my pocket, upon the protection of one who expects so much at first setting out. - So I assure you, sir, whatever you may expect, I shall not put on the Limerick gloves.
Mr. ONeill was not without his share of pride and proper spirit; nay, he had, it must be confessed, in common with some others of his countrymen, an improper share of pride and spirit. Fired by the ladys coldness, he poured forth a volley of reproaches; and ended by wishing, as he said, a good morning, for ever and ever, to one who could change her opinion, point blank, like the weathercock. I am, miss, your most obedient; and I expect youll never think no more of poor Brian ONeill and the Limerick gloves.
If he had not been in too great a passion to observe anything, poor Brian ONeill would have found out that Phoebe was not a weathercock: but he left her abruptly, and hurried away, imagining all the while that it was Phoebe, and not himself, who was in a rage. Thus, to the horseman who is galloping at full speed, the hedges, trees, and houses seem rapidly to recede, whilst, in reality, they never move from their places. It is he that flies from them, and not they from him.
On Monday morning Miss Jenny Brown, the perfumers daughter, came to pay Phoebe a morning visit, with face of busy joy.
So, my dear! said she: fine doings in Hereford! But what makes you look so downcast? To be sure you are invited, as well as the rest of us.
Invited where? cried Mrs. Hill, who was present, and who could never endure to hear of an invitation in which she was not included. Invited where, pray, Miss Jenny?
La! have not you heard? Why, we all took it for granted that you and Miss Phoebe would have been the first and foremost to have been asked to Mr. ONeills ball.
Ball! cried Mrs. Hill; and luckily saved Phoebe, who was in some agitation, the trouble of speaking. Why, this is a mighty sudden thing: I never heard a tittle of it before.
Well, this is really extraordinary! And, Phoebe, have you not received a pair of Limerick gloves?
Yes, I have, said Phoebe, but what then? What have my Limerick gloves to do with the ball?
A great deal, replied Jenny. Dont you know that a pair of Limerick gloves is, as one may say, a ticket to this ball? for every lady that has been asked has had a pair sent to her along with the card; and I believe as many as twenty, besides myself, have been asked this morning.
Jenny then produced her new pair of Limerick gloves, and as she tried them on, and showed how well they fitted, she counted up the names of the ladies who, to her knowledge, were to be at this ball. When she had finished the catalogue, she expatiated upon the grand preparations which it was said the widow ONeill, Mr. ONeills mother, was making for the supper, and concluded by condoling with Mrs. Hill for her misfortune in not having been invited. Jenny took her leave to get her dress in readiness: for, added she, Mr. ONeill has engaged me to open the ball in case Phoebe does not go; but I suppose she will cheer up and go, as she has a pair of Limerick gloves as well as the rest of us.
There was a silence for some minutes after Jennys departure, which was broken by Phoebe, who told her mother that, early in the morning, a note had been brought to her, which she had returned unopened, because she knew, from the handwriting of the direction, that it came from Mr. ONeill.
We must observe that Phoebe had already told her mother of her meeting with this gentleman at the poor widows, and of all that had passed between them afterwards. This openness on her part had softened the heart of Mrs. Hill, who was really inclined to be good-natured, provided people would allow that she had more penetration than any one else in Hereford. She was, moreover, a good deal piqued and alarmed by the idea that the perfumers daughter might rival and outshine her own. Whilst she had thought herself sure of Mr. ONeills attachment to Phoebe, she had looked higher, especially as she was persuaded by the perfumers lady to think that an Irishman could not but be a bad match; but now she began to suspect that the perfumers lady had changed her opinion of Irishmen, since she did not object to her own Jennys leading up the ball at Mr. ONeills.
All these thoughts passed rapidly in the mothers mind, and, with her fear of losing an admirer for her Phoebe, the value of that admirer suddenly rose in her estimation. Thus, at an auction, if a lot is going to be knocked down to a lady who is the only person that has bid for it, even she feels discontented, and despises that which nobody covets; but if, as the hammer is falling, many voices answer to the question, Who bids more? then her anxiety to secure the prize suddenly rises, and, rather than be outbid, she will give far beyond its value.
Why, child, said Mrs. Hill, since you have a pair of Limerick gloves; and since certainly that note was an invitation to us to this ball; and since it is much more fitting that you should open the ball than Jenny Brown; and since, after all, it was very handsome and genteel of the young man to say he would take you without a farthing in your pocket, which shows that those were misinformed who talked of him as an Irish adventurer; and since we are not certain twas he made away with the dog, although he said its barking was a great nuisance; there is no great reason to suppose he was the person who made the hole under the foundation of the cathedral, or that he could have such a wicked thought as to blow it up; and since he must be in a very good way of business to be able to afford giving away four or five guineas worth of Limerick gloves, and balls and suppers; and since, after all, it is no fault of his to be an Irishman, I give it as my vote and opinion, my dear, that you put on your Limerick gloves and go to this ball; and Ill go and speak to your father, and bring him round to our opinion, and then Ill pay the morning visit I owe to the widow ONeill and make up your quarrel with Brian. Love quarrels are easy to make up, you know, and then we shall have things all upon velvet again, and Jenny Brown need not come with her hypocritical condoling face to us any more.
After running this speech glibly off, Mrs. Hill, without waiting to hear a syllable from poor Phoebe, trotted off in search of her consort. It was not, however, quite so easy a task as his wife expected, to bring Mr. Hill round to her opinion. He was slow in declaring himself of any opinion; but when once he had said a thing, there was but little chance of altering his notions. On this occasion Mr. Hill was doubly bound to his prejudice against our unlucky Irishman; for he had mentioned with great solemnity at the club which he frequented the grand affair of the hole under the foundation of the cathedral, and his suspicions that there was a design to blow it up. Several of the club had laughed at this idea; others, who supposed that Mr. ONeill was a Roman Catholic, and who had a confused notion that a Roman Catholic must be a very wicked, dangerous being, thought that there might be a great deal in the vergers suggestions, and observed that a very watchful eye ought to be kept upon this Irish glover, who had come to settle at Hereford nobody knew why, and who seemed to have money at command nobody knew how.
The news of this ball sounded to Mr. Hills prejudiced imagination like the news of a conspiracy. Ay! ay! thought he; the Irishman is cunning enough! But we shall be too many for him: he wants to throw all the good sober folks of Hereford off their guard by feasting, and dancing, and carousing, I take it, and so to perpetrate his evil design when it is least suspected; but we shall be prepared for him, fools as he takes us plain Englishmen to be, I warrant.
In consequence of these most shrewd cogitations, our verger silenced his wife with a peremptory nod when she came to persuade him to let Phoebe put on the Limerick gloves and go to the ball. To this ball she shall not go, and I charge her not to put on those Limerick gloves as she values my blessing, said Mr. Hill. Please to tell her so, Mrs. Hill, and trust to my judgment and discretion in all things, Mrs. Hill. Strange work may be in Hereford yet: but Ill say no more; I must go and consult with knowing men who are of my opinion.
He sallied forth, and Mrs. Hill was left in a state which only those who are troubled with the disease of excessive curiosity can rightly comprehend or compassionate. She hied her back to Phoebe, to whom she announced her fathers answer, and then went gossiping to all her female acquaintance in Hereford, to tell them all that she knew, and all that she did not know, and to endeavour to find out a secret where there was none to be found.
There are trials of temper in all conditions, and no lady, in high or low life, could endure them with a better grace than Phoebe. Whilst Mr. and Mrs. Hill were busied abroad, there came to see Phoebe one of the widow Smiths children. With artless expressions of gratitude to Phoebe this little girl mixed the praises of ONeill, who, she said, had been the constant friend of her mother, and had given her money every week since the fire happened. Mammy loves him dearly for being so good-natured, continued the child; and he has been good to other people as well as to us.
To whom? said Phoebe.
To a poor man who has lodged for these few days past next door to us, replied the child; I dont know his name rightly, but he is an Irishman, and he goes out a-haymaking in the daytime along with a number of others. He knew Mr. ONeill in his own country, and he told mammy a great deal about his goodness.
As the child finished these words, Phoebe took out of a drawer some clothes, which she had made for the poor womans children, and gave them to the little girl. It happened that the Limerick gloves had been thrown into this drawer; and Phoebes favourable sentiments of the giver of those gloves were revived by what she had just heard, and by the confession Mrs. Hill had made, that she had no reasons, and but vague suspicious, for thinking ill of him. She laid the gloves perfectly smooth, and strewed over them, whilst the little girl went on talking of Mr. ONeill, the leaves of a rose which she had worn on Sunday.
Mr. Hill was all this time in deep conference with those prudent men of Hereford who were of his own opinion, about the perilous hole under the cathedral. The ominous circumstance of this ball was also considered, the great expense at which the Irish glover lived, and his giving away gloves, which was a sure sign he was not under any necessity to sell them, and consequently a proof that, though he pretended to be a glover, he was something wrong in disguise. Upon putting all these things together, it was resolved by these over-wise politicians that the best thing that could be done for Hereford, and the only possible means of preventing the immediate destruction of its cathedral, would be to take Mr. ONeill into custody. Upon recollection, however, it was perceived that there was no legal ground on which he could be attacked. At length, after consulting an attorney, they devised what they thought an admirable mode of proceeding.
Our Irish hero had not that punctuality which English tradesmen usually observe in the payment of bills; he had, the preceding year, run up a long bill with a grocer in Hereford, and, as he had not at Christmas cash in hand to pay it, he had given a note, payable six months after date. The grocer, at Mr. Hills request, made over the note to him, and it was determined that the money should be demanded, as it was now due, and that, if it was not paid directly, ONeill should be that night arrested. How Mr. Hill made the discovery of this debt to the grocer agree with his former notion that the Irish glover had always money at command we cannot well conceive, but anger and prejudice will swallow down the grossest contradictions without difficulty.
When Mr. Hills clerk went to demand payment of the note, ONeills head was full of the ball which he was to give that evening. He was much surprised at the unexpected appearance of the note: he had not ready money by him to pay it; and after swearing a good deal at the clerk, and complaining of this ungenerous and ungentleman-like behaviour in the grocer and the tanner, he told the clerk to be gone, and not to be bothering him at such an unseasonable time: that he could not have the money then, and did not deserve to have it at all.
This language and conduct were rather new to the English clerks mercantile ears: we cannot wonder that it should seem to him, as he said to his master, more the language of a madman than a man of business. This want of punctuality in money transactions, and this mode of treating contracts as matters of favour and affection, might not have damned the fame of our hero in his own country, where such conduct is, alas! too common; but he was now in a kingdom where the manners and customs are so directly opposite, that he could meet with no allowance for his national faults. It would be well for his countrymen if they were made, even by a few mortifications, somewhat sensible of this important difference in the habits of Irish and English traders before they come to settle in England.
But to proceed with our story. On the night of Mr. ONeills grand ball, as he was seeing his fair partner, the perfumers daughter, safe home, he felt himself tapped on the shoulder by no friendly hand. When he was told that he was the kings prisoner, he vociferated with sundry strange oaths, which we forbear to repeat. No, I am not the kings prisoner! I am the prisoner of that shabby, rascally tanner, Jonathan Hill. None but he would arrest a gentleman in this way, for a trifle not worth mentioning.
Miss Jenny Brown screamed when she found herself under the protection of a man who was arrested; and, what between her screams and his oaths, there was such a disturbance that a mob gathered.
Among this mob there was a party of Irish haymakers, who, after returning late from a hard days work, had been drinking in a neighbouring ale-house. With one accord they took part with their countryman, and would have rescued him from the civil officers with all the pleasure in life if he had not fortunately possessed just sufficient sense and command of himself to restrain their party spirit, and to forbid them, as they valued his life and reputation, to interfere, by word or deed, in his defence.
He then despatched one of the haymakers home to his mother, to inform her of what had happened, and to request that she would get somebody to be bail for him as soon as possible, as the officers said they could not let him out of their sight till he was bailed by substantial people, or till the debt was discharged.
The widow ONeill was just putting out the candles in the ball-room when this news of her sons arrest was brought to her. We pass over Hibernian exclamations: she consoled her pride by reflecting that it would certainly be the most easy thing imaginable to procure bail for Mr. ONeill in Hereford, where he had so many friends who had just been dancing at his house; but to dance at his house she found was one thing and to be bail for him quite another. Each guest sent excuses, and the widow ONeill was astonished at what never fails to astonish everybody when it happens to themselves. Rather than let my son be detained in this manner for a paltry debt, cried she, Id sell all I have within half an hour to a pawnbroker. It was well no pawnbroker heard this declaration: she was too warm to consider economy. She sent for a pawnbroker, who lived in the same street, and, after pledging goods to treble the amount of the debt, she obtained ready money for her sons release.
ONeill, after being in custody for about an hour and a half, was set at liberty upon the payment of his debt. As he passed by the cathedral in his way home, he heard the clock strike; and he called to a man, who was walking backwards and forwards in the churchyard, to ask whether it was two or three that the clock struck. Three, answered the man; and, as yet, all is safe.
ONeill, whose head was full of other things, did not stop to inquire the meaning of these last words. He little suspected that this man was a watchman whom the over-vigilant verger had stationed there to guard the Hereford Cathedral from his attacks. ONeill little guessed that he had been arrested merely to keep him from blowing up the cathedral this night. The arrest had an excellent effect upon his mind, for he was a young man of good sense: it made him resolve to retrench his expenses in time, to live more like a glover and less like a gentleman; and to aim more at establishing credit, and less at gaining popularity. He found, from experience, that good friends will not pay bad debts.
On Thursday morning our verger rose in unusually good spirits, congratulating himself upon the eminent service he had done to the city of Hereford by his sagacity in discovering the foreign plot to blow up the Cathedral, and by his dexterity in having the enemy held in custody, at the very hour when the dreadful deed was to have been perpetrated. Mr. Hills knowing friends farther agreed it would be necessary to have a guard that should sit up every night in the churchyard; and that as soon as they could, by constantly watching the enemys motions, procure any information which the attorney should deem sufficient grounds for a legal proceeding, they should lay the whole business before the mayor.
After arranging all this most judiciously and mysteriously with friends who were exactly of his own opinion, Mr. Hill laid aside his dignity of verger, and assuming his other character of a tanner, proceeded to his tan-yard. What was his surprise and consternation, when he beheld his great rick of oak bark levelled to the ground; the pieces of bark were scattered far and wide, some over the close, some over the fields, and some were seen swimming upon the water! No tongue, no pen, no muse can describe the feelings of our tanner at this spectacle - feelings which became the more violent from the absolute silence which he imposed on himself upon this occasion. He instantly decided in his own mind that this injury was perpetrated by ONeill, in revenge for his arrest; and went privately to the attorney to inquire what was to be done, on his part, to secure legal vengeance.
The attorney unluckily - or at least, as Mr. Hill thought, unluckily - had been sent for, half an hour before, by a gentleman at some distance from Hereford, to draw up a will: so that our tanner was obliged to postpone his legal operations.
We forbear to recount his return, and how many times he walked up and down the close to view his scattered bark, and to estimate the damage that had been done to him. At length that hour came which usually suspends all passions by the more imperious power of appetite - the hour of dinner: an hour of which it was never needful to remind Mr. Hill by watch, clock, or dial; for he was blessed with a punctual appetite, and powerful as punctual: so powerful, indeed, that it often excited the spleen of his more genteel or less hungry wife. Bless my stars! Mr. Hill, she would oftentimes say, I am really downright ashamed to see you eat so much; and when company is to dine with us, I do wish you would take a snack by way of a damper before dinner, that you may not look so prodigious famishing and ungenteel.
Upon this hint, Mr. Hill commenced a practice, to which he ever afterwards religiously adhered, of going, whether there was to be company or no company, into the kitchen regularly every day, half an hour before dinner, to take a slice from the roast or the boiled before it went up to table. As he was this day, according to his custom, in the kitchen, taking his snack by way of a damper, he heard the housemaid and the cook talking about some wonderful fortune-teller, whom the housemaid had been consulting. This fortune-teller was no less a personage than the successor to Bampfylde Moore Carew, king of the gipsies, whose life and adventures are probably in many, too many, of our readers hands. Bampfylde, the second king of the gipsies, assumed this title, in hopes of becoming as famous, or as infamous, as his predecessor: he was now holding his court in a wood near the town of Hereford, and numbers of servant-maids and prentices went to consult him - nay, it was whispered that he was resorted to, secretly, by some whose education might have taught them better sense.
Numberless were the instances which our verger heard in his kitchen of the supernatural skill of this cunning man; and whilst Mr. Hill ate his snack with his wonted gravity, he revolved great designs in his secret soul. Mrs. Hill was surprised, several times during dinner, to see her consort put down his knife and fork, and meditate. Gracious me, Mr. Hill! what can have happened to you this day? What can you be thinking of, Mr. Hill, that can make you forget what you have upon your plate?
Mrs. Hill, replied the thoughtful verger, our grandmother Eve had too much curiosity; and we all know it did not lead to good. What I am thinking of will be known to you in due time, but not now, Mrs. Hill; therefore, pray, no questions, or teasing, or pumping. What I think, I think; what I say, I say; what I know, I know; and that is enough for you to know at present: only this, Phoebe, you did very well not to put on the Limerick gloves, child. What I know, I know. Things will turn out just as I said from the first. What I say, I say; and what I think, I think; and this is enough for you to know at present.
Having finished dinner with this solemn speech, Mr. Hill settled himself in his arm-chair, to take his after-dinners nap: and he dreamed of blowing up cathedrals, and of oak bark floating upon the waters; and the cathedral was, he thought, blown up by a man dressed in a pair of womans Limerick gloves, and the oak bark turned into mutton steaks, after which his great dog Jowler was swimming; when, all on a sudden, as he was going to beat Jowler for eating the bark transformed into mutton steaks, Jowler became Bampfylde the Second, king of the gipsies; and putting a horse-whip with a silver handle into Hills hand, commanded him three times, in a voice as loud as the town-criers, to have ONeill whipped through the market-place of Hereford: but just as he was going to the window to see this whipping, his wig fell off, and he awoke.
It was difficult, even for Mr. Hills sagacity, to make sense of this dream: but he had the wise art of always finding in his dreams something that confirmed his waking determinations. Before he went to sleep, he had half resolved to consult the king of the gipsies, in the absence of the attorney; and his dream made him now wholly determined upon this prudent step. From Bampfylde the Second, thought he, I shall learn for certain who made the hole under the cathedral, who pulled down my rick of bark, and who made away with my dog Jowler; and then I shall swear examinations against ONeill, without waiting for attorneys. I will follow my own way in this business: I have always found my own way best.
So, when the dusk of the evening increased, our wise man set out towards the wood to consult the cunning man. Bampfylde the Second, king of the gipsies, resided in a sort of hut made of the branches of trees; the verger stooped, but did not stoop low enough, as he entered this temporary palace, and, whilst his body was almost bent double, his peruke was caught upon a twig. From this awkward situation he was relieved by the consort of the king; and he now beheld, by the light of some embers, the person of his gipsy majesty, to whose sublime appearance this dim light was so favourable that it struck a secret awe into our wise mans soul; and, forgetting Hereford Cathedral, and oak bark, and Limerick gloves, he stood for some seconds speechless. During this time, the queen very dexterously disencumbered his pocket of all superfluous articles. When he recovered his recollection, he put with great solemnity the following queries to the king of the gipsies, and received the following answers: -
Do you know a dangerous Irishman of the name of ONeill, who has come, for purposes best known to himself, to settle at Hereford?
Yes, we know him well.
Indeed! And what do you know of him?
That he is a dangerous Irishman.
Right! And it was he, was it not, that pulled down, or caused to be pulled down, my rick of oak bark?
And who was it that made away with my dog Jowler, that used to guard the tan-yard?
It was the person that you suspect.
And was it the person whom I suspect that made the hole under the foundation of our cathedral?
The same, and no other.
And for what purpose did he make that hole?
For a purpose that must not be named, replied the king of the gipsies, nodding his head in a mysterious manner.
But it may be named to me, cried the verger, for I have found it out, and I am one of the vergers; and is it not fit that a plot to blow up the Hereford Cathedral should be known to me, and through me?
Now, take my word,
Wise men of Hereford,
None in safety may be,
Till the bad man doth flee.
These oracular verses, pronounced by Bampfylde with all the enthusiasm of one who was inspired, had the desired effect upon our wise man; and he left the presence of the king of the gipsies with a prodigiously high opinion of his majestys judgment and of his own, fully resolved to impart, the next morning, to the mayor of Hereford his important discoveries.
Now it happened that, during the time Mr. Hill was putting the foregoing queries to Bampfylde the Second, there came to the door or entrance of the audience chamber an Irish haymaker who wanted to consult the cunning man about a little leathern purse which he had lost whilst he was making hay in a field near Hereford. This haymaker was the same person who, as we have related, spoke so advantageously of our hero ONeill to the widow Smith. As this man, whose name was Paddy MCormack, stood at the entrance of the gipsies hut, his attention was caught by the name of ONeill; and he lost not a word of all that pasted. He had reason to be somewhat surprised at hearing Bampfylde assert it was ONeill who had pulled down the rick of bark. By the holy poker! said he to himself, the old fellow now is out there. I know more o that matter than he does - no offence to his majesty; he knows no more of my purse, Ill engage now, than he does of this mans rick of bark and his dog: so Ill keep my tester in my pocket, and not be giving it to this king o the gipsies, as they call him: who, as near as I can guess, is no better than a cheat. But there is one secret which I can be telling this conjuror himself: he shall not find it such an easy matter to do all what he thinks; he shall not be after ruining an innocent countryman of my own whilst Paddy MCormack has a tongue and brains.
Now, Paddy MCormack had the best reason possible for knowing that Mr. ONeill did not pull down Mr. Hills rick of bark; it was MCormack himself who, in the heat of his resentment for the insulting arrest of his countryman in the streets of Hereford, had instigated his fellow haymakers to this mischief; he headed them, and thought he was doing a clever, spirited action.
There is a strange mixture of virtue and vice in the minds of the lower class of Irish: or rather, a strange confusion in their ideas of right and wrong, from want of proper education. As soon as poor Paddy found out that his spirited action of pulling down the rick of bark was likely to be the ruin of his countryman, he resolved to make all the amends in his power for his folly - he went to collect his fellow haymakers, and persuaded them to assist him this night in rebuilding what they had pulled down.
They went to this work when everybody except themselves, as they thought, was asleep in Hereford. They had just completed the stack, and were all going away except Paddy, who was seated at the very top, finishing the pile, when they heard a loud voice cry out, Here they are! Watch! Watch!
Immediately all the haymakers who could, ran off as fast as possible. It was the watch who had been sitting up at the cathedral who gave the alarm. Paddy was taken from the top of the rick and lodged in the watch-house till morning. Since Im to be rewarded this way for doing a good action, sorrow take me, said he, if they catch me doing another the longest day ever I live.
Happy they who have in their neighbourhood such a magistrate as Mr. Marshal! He was a man who, to an exact knowledge of the duties of his office, joined the power of discovering truth from the midst of contradictory evidence, and the happy art of soothing or laughing the angry passions into good-humour. It was a common saying in Hereford that no one ever came out of Justice Marshals house as angry as he went into it.
Mr. Marshal had scarcely breakfasted when he was informed that Mr. Hill, the verger, wanted to speak to him on business of the utmost importance. Mr. Hill, the verger, was ushered in; and, with gloomy solemnity, took a seat opposite to Mr. Marshal.
Sad doings in Hereford, Mr. Marshal! Sad doings, sir.
Sad doings? Why, I was told we had merry doings in Hereford. A ball the night before last, as I heard.
So much the worse, Mr. Marshal - so much the worse: as those think with reason that see as far into things as I do.
So much the better, Mr. Hill, said Mr. Marshal, laughing, so much the better: as those think with reason that see no farther into things than I do.
But, sir, said the verger, still more solemnly, this is no laughing matter, nor time for laughing, begging your pardon. Why, sir, the night of that there diabolical ball our Hereford Cathedral, sir, would have been blown up - blown up from the foundation, if it had not been for me, sir!
Indeed, Mr. Verger! And pray how, and by whom, was the cathedral to be blown up? and what was there diabolical in this ball?
Here Mr. Hill let Mr. Marshal into the whole history of his early dislike to ONeill, and his shrewd suspicions of him the first moment he saw him in Hereford: related in the most prolix manner all that the reader knows already, and concluded by saying that, as he was now certain of his facts, he was come to swear examinations against this villanous Irishman, who, he hoped, would be speedily brought to justice, as he deserved.
To justice he shall be brought, as he deserves, said Mr. Marshal; but before I write, and before you swear, will you have the goodness to inform me how you have made yourself as certain, as you evidently are, of what you call your facts?
Sir, that is a secret, replied our wise man, which I shall trust to you alone; and he whispered into Mr. Marshals ear that, his information came from Bampfylde the Second, king of the gipsies.
Mr. Marshal instantly burst into laughter; then composing himself, said: My good sir, I am really glad that you have proceeded no farther in this business; and that no one in Hereford, beside myself, knows that you were on the point of swearing examinations against a man on the evidence of Bampfylde the Second, king of the gipsies. My dear sir, it would be a standing joke against you to the end of your days. A grave man like Mr. Hill! and a verger too! Why you would be the laughing-stock of Hereford!
Now Mr. Marshal well knew the character of the man to whom he was talking, who, above all things on earth, dreaded to be laughed at. Mr. Hill coloured all over his face, and, pushing back his wig by way of settling it, showed that he blushed not only all over his face, but all over his head.
Why, Mr. Marshal, sir, said he, as to my being laughed at, it is what I did not look for, being, as there are, some men in Hereford to whom I have mentioned that hole in the cathedral, who have thought it no laughing matter, and who have been precisely of my own opinion thereupon.
But did you tell these gentlemen that you had been consulting the king of the gipsies?
No, sir, no: I cant say that I did.
Then I advise you, keep your own counsel, as I will.
Mr. Hill, whose imagination wavered between the hole in the cathedral and his rick of bark on one side, and between his rick of bark and his dog Jowler on the other, now began to talk of the dog, and now of the rick of bark; and when he had exhausted all he had to say upon these subjects, Mr. Marshal gently pulled him towards the window, and putting a spy-glass into his hand, bade him look towards his own tan-yard, and tell him what he saw. To his great surprise, Mr. Hill saw his rick of bark re-built. Why, it was not there last night, exclaimed he, rubbing his eyes. Why, some conjuror must have done this.
No, replied Mr. Marshal, no conjuror did it: but your friend Bampfylde the Second, king of the gipsies, was the cause of its being re-built; and here is the man who actually pulled it down, and who actually re-built it.
As he said these words Mr. Marshal opened the door of an adjoining room and beckoned to the Irish haymaker, who had been taken into custody about an hour before this time. The watch who took Paddy had called at Mr. Hills house to tell him what had happened, but Mr. Hill was not then at home.
It was with much surprise that the verger heard the simple truth from this poor fellow; but no sooner was he convinced that ONeill was innocent as to this affair, than he recurred to his other ground of suspicion, the loss of his dog.
The Irish haymaker now stepped forward, and, with a peculiar twist of the hips and shoulders, which those only who have seen it can picture to themselves, said, Plase your honours honour, I have a little word to say too about the dog.
Say it, then, said Mr. Marshal.
Plase your honour, if I might expect to be forgiven, and let off for pulling down the jontlemans stack, I might be able to tell him what I know about the dog.
If you can tell me anything about my dog, said the tanner, I will freely forgive you for pulling down the rick: especially as you have built it up again. Speak the truth, now: did not ONeill make away with the dog?
Not at all, at all, plase your honour, replied the haymaker: and the truth of the matter is, I know nothing of the dog, good or bad; but I know something of his collar, if your name, plase your honour, is Hill, as I take it to be.
My name is Hill: proceed, said the tanner, with great eagerness. You know something about the collar of my dog Jowler?
Plase your honour, this much I know, any way, that it is now, or was the night before last, at the pawnbrokers there, below in town; for, plase your honour, I was sent late at night (that night that Mr. ONeill, long life to him! was arrested) to the pawnbrokers for a Jew by Mrs. ONeill, poor creature! She was in great trouble that same time.
Very likely, interrupted Mr. Hill: but go on to the collar; what of the collar?
She sent me - Ill tell you the story, plase your honour, out of the face - she sent me to the pawnbrokers for the Jew; and, it being so late at night, the shop was shut, and it was with all the trouble in life that I got into the house any way: and, when I got in, there was none but a slip of a boy up; and he set down the light that he had in his hand, and ran up the stairs to waken his master: and, whilst he was gone, I just made bold to look round at what sort of a place I was in, and at the old clothes and rags and scraps; there was a sort of a frieze trusty.
A trusty! said Mr. Hill; what is that, pray?
A big coat, sure, plase your honour: there was a frieze big coat lying in a corner, which I had my eye upon, to trate myself to: I having, as I then thought, money in my little purse enough for it. Well, I wont trouble your honours honour with telling of you now how I lost my purse in the field, as I found after; but about the big coat - as I was saying, I just lifted it off the ground to see would it fit me; and, as I swung it round, something, plase your honour, hit me a great knock on the shins: it was in the pocket of the coat, whatever it was, I knew; so I looks into the pocket to see what was it, plase your honour, and out I pulls a hammer and a dog-collar: it was a wonder, both together, they did not break my shins entirely: but its no matter for my shins now; so, before the boy came down, I just out of idleness spelt out to myself the name that was upon the collar: there were two names, plase your honour, and out of the first there were so many letters hammered out I could make nothing of it at all, at all; but the other name was plain enough to read, any way, and it was Hill, plase your honours honour, as sure as life: Hill, now.
This story was related in tones and gestures which were so new and strange to English ears and eyes, that even the solemnity of our verger gave way to laughter.
Mr. Marshal sent a summons for the pawnbroker, that he might learn from him how he came by the dog-collar. The pawnbroker, when he found from Mr. Marshal that he could by no other means save himself from being committed to prison, confessed that the collar had been sold to him by Bampfylde the Second, king of the gipsies.
A warrant was immediately despatched for his majesty; and Mr. Hill was a good deal alarmed by the fear of its being known in Hereford that he was on the point of swearing examinations against an innocent man upon the evidence of a dog-stealer and a gipsy.
Bampfylde the Second made no sublime appearance when he was brought before Mr. Marshal, nor could all his astrology avail upon this occasion. The evidence of the pawnbroker was so positive as to the fact of his having sold to him the dog-collar, that there was no resource left for Bampfylde but an appeal to Mr. Hills mercy. He fell on his knees, and confessed that it was he who stole the dog, which used to bark at him at night so furiously, that he could not commit certain petty depredations by which, as much as by telling fortunes, he made his livelihood.
And so, said Mr. Marshal, with a sternness of manner which till now he had never shown, to screen yourself, you accused an innocent man; and by your vile arts would have driven him from Hereford, and have set two families for ever at variance, to conceal that you had stolen a dog.
The king of the gipsies was, without further ceremony, committed to the house of correction. We should not omit to mention that, on searching his hat, the Irish haymakers purse was found, which some of his majestys train had emptied. The whole set of gipsies decamped upon the news of the apprehension of their monarch.
Mr. Hill stood in profound silence, leaning upon his walking-stick, whilst the committal was making out for Bampfylde the Second. The fear of ridicule was struggling with the natural positiveness of his temper. He was dreadfully afraid that the story of his being taken in by the king of the gipsies would get abroad; and, at the same time, he was unwilling to give up his prejudice against the Irish glover.
But, Mr. Marshal, cried he, after a long silence, the hole under the foundation of the cathedral has never been accounted for - that is, was, and ever will be, an ugly mystery to me; and I never can have a good opinion of this Irishman till it is cleared up, nor can I think the cathedral in safety.
What! said Mr. Marshal, with an arch smile, I suppose the verses of the oracle still work upon your imagination, Mr. Hill. They are excellent in their kind. I must have them by heart, that when I am asked the reason why Mr. Hill has taken an aversion to an Irish glover, I may be able to repeat them:
|Now, take my word,
Wise men of Hereford,
None in safety may be,
Till the bad man doth flee.
Youll oblige me, sir, said the verger, if you would never repeat those verses, sir, nor mention, in any company, the affair of the king of the gipsies.
I will oblige you, replied Mr. Marshal, if you will oblige me. Will you tell me honestly whether, now that you find this Mr. ONeill is neither a dog-killer nor a puller-down of bark-ricks, you feel that you could forgive him for being an Irishman, if the mystery, as you call it, of the hole under the cathedral was cleared up?
But that is not cleared up, I say, sir, cried Mr. Hill, striking his walking-stick forcibly upon the ground with both his hands. As to the matter of his being an Irishman, I have nothing to say to it; I am not saying anything about that, for I know we all are born where it pleases God, and an Irishman may be as good as another. I know that much, Mr. Marshal, and I am not one of those illiberal-minded, ignorant people that cannot abide a man that was not born in England. Ireland is now in his majestys dominions. I know very well, Mr. Marshal; and I have no manner of doubt, as I said before, that an Irishman born may be as good, almost, as an Englishman born.
I am glad, said Mr. Marshal, to hear you speak - almost as reasonably as an Englishman born and every man ought to speak; and I am convinced that you have too much English hospitality to persecute an inoffensive stranger, who comes amongst us trusting to our justice and good nature.
I would not persecute a stranger, God forbid! replied the verger, if he was, as you say, inoffensive.
And if he was not only inoffensive, but ready to do every service in his power to those who are in want of his assistance, we should not return evil for good, should we?
That would be uncharitable, to be sure; and, moreover, a scandal, said the verger.
Then, said Mr. Marshal, will you walk with me as far as the Widow Smiths, the poor woman whose house was burnt last winter? This haymaker, who lodged near her, can show us the way to her present abode.
During his examination of Paddy MCormack, who would tell his whole history, as he called it, out of the face , Mr. Marshal heard several instances of the humanity and goodness of ONeill, which Paddy related to excuse himself for that warmth of attachment to his cause that had been manifested so injudiciously by pulling down the rick of bark in revenge for the rest. Amongst other things, Paddy mentioned his countrymans goodness to the Widow Smith. Mr. Marshal was determined, therefore, to see whether he had, in this instance, spoken the truth; and he took Hill with him, in hopes of being able to show him the favourable side of ONeills character.
Things turned out just as Mr. Marshal expected. The poor widow and her family, in the most simple and affecting manner, described the distress from which they had been relieved by the good gentleman; and lady - the lady was Phoebe Hill; and the praises that were bestowed upon Phoebe were delightful to her fathers ear, whose angry passions had now all subsided.
The benevolent Mr. Marshal seized the moment when he saw Mr. Hills heart was touched, and exclaimed, I must be acquainted with this Mr. ONeill. I am sure we people of Hereford ought to show some hospitality to a stranger who has so much humanity. Mr. Hill, will you dine with him to-morrow at my house?
Mr. Hill was just going to accept of this invitation, when the recollection of all he had said to his club about the hole under the cathedral came across him, and, drawing Mr. Marshal aside, he whispered, But, sir, sir, that affair of the hole under the cathedral has not been cleared up yet.
At this instant the Widow Smith exclaimed, Oh! here comes my little Mary (one of her children, who came running in); this is the little girl, sir, to whom the lady has been so good. Make your curtsey, child. Where have you been all this while?
Mammy, said the child, Ive been showing the lady my rat.
Lord bless her! Gentlemen, the child has been wanting me this many a day to go to see this tame rat of hers; but I could never get time, never - and I wondered, too, at the childs liking such a creature. Tell the gentlemen, dear, about your rat. All I know is that, let her have but never such a tiny bit of bread for breakfast or supper, she saves a little of that little for this rat of hers; she and her brothers have found it out somewhere by the cathedral.
It comes out of a hole under the wall of the cathedral, said one of the older boys; and we have diverted ourselves watching it, and sometimes we have put victuals for it - so it has grown, in a manner, tame-like.
Mr. Hill and Mr. Marshal looked at one another during this speech; and the dread of ridicule again seized on Mr. Hill, when he apprehended that, after all he had said, the mountain might at last bring forth - a rat. Mr. Marshal, who instantly saw what passed in the vergers mind, relieved him from this fear by refraining even from a smile on this occasion. He only said to the child, in a grave manner, I am afraid, my dear, we shall be obliged to spoil your diversion. Mr. Verger, here, cannot suffer rat-holes in the cathedral; but, to make you amends for the loss of your favourite, I will give you a very pretty little dog, if you have a mind.
The child was well pleased with this promise; and, at Mr. Marshals desire, she then went along with him and Mr. Hill to the cathedral, and they placed themselves at a little distance from that hole which had created so much disturbance. The child soon brought the dreadful enemy to light; and Mr. Hill, with a faint laugh, said, Im glad its no worse, but there were many in our club who were of my opinion; and, if they had not suspected ONeill too, I am sure I should never have given you so much trouble, sir, as I have done this morning. But I hope, as the club know nothing about that vagabond, that king of the gipsies, you will not let any one know anything about the prophecy, and all that? I am sure I am very sorry to have given you so much trouble, Mr. Marshal.
Mr. Marshal assured him that he did not regret the time which he had spent in endeavouring to clear up all those mysteries and suspicions; and Mr. Hill gladly accepted his invitation to meet ONeill at his house the next day. No sooner had Mr. Marshal brought one of the parties to reason and good humour than he went to prepare the other for a reconciliation. ONeill and his mother were both people of warm but forgiving tempers - the arrest was fresh in their minds; but when Mr. Marshal represented to them the whole affair, and the vergers prejudices, in a humorous light, they joined in the good-natured laugh; and ONeill declared that, for his part, he was ready to forgive and to forget everything if he could but see Miss Phoebe in the Limerick gloves.
Phoebe appeared the next day, at Mr. Marshals, in the Limerick gloves; and no perfume ever was so delightful to her lover as the smell of the rose-leaves in which they had been kept.
Mr. Marshal had the benevolent pleasure of reconciling the two families. The tanner and the glover of Hereford became, from bitter enemies, useful friends to each other; and they were convinced by experience that nothing could be more for their mutual advantage than to live in union.