The Limerick Gloves by Maria Edgeworth
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! There's 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. "I'm ready, papa," replied Phoebe; and down she came,
looking so clean, so fresh, and so gay, that her stern father's
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.
Hill's 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 Phoebe's
"Are you blind, Mr. Hill? Don't you see that they are Limerick
"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
"What of that, Mr. Hill! why, don't 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.
"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, you'll 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 can't understand a syllable of what you've been saying to
me this half-hour. In plain English, what is there the matter
about Phoebe's 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 O'Neill."
"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 O'Neill the first time I ever saw him. He's an
Irishman, and that's 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
mother's 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
"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 verger's 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 grocer's and the stationer's
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 O'Neill at first sight, because he was an Irishman,
she could not think it quite reasonable to suspect him of making
away with her father's 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 woman's 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
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 widow's
kitchen was the identical Mr. O'Neill. "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 O'Neill, 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. O'Neill, 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 Phoebe's 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. O'Neill; 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
"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.
"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 O'Neill 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 Hill's, 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
she'll show her generosity and proper spirit by putting them on
"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
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 Hill's 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. O'Neill; 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. O'Neill 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 lady's 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 you'll
never think no more of poor Brian O'Neill and the Limerick gloves."
If he had not been in too great a passion to observe anything, poor
Brian O'Neill 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 perfumer's 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. O'Neill's 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. "Don't 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 O'Neill, Mr. O'Neill's
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. O'Neill 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 Jenny's 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. O'Neill.
We must observe that Phoebe had already told her mother of her
meeting with this gentleman at the poor widow's, 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 perfumer's
daughter might rival and outshine her own. Whilst she had thought
herself sure of Mr. O'Neill's attachment to Phoebe, she had looked
higher, especially as she was persuaded by the perfumer's lady to
think that an Irishman could not but be a bad match; but now she
began to suspect that the perfumer's lady had changed her opinion
of Irishmen, since she did not object to her own Jenny's leading up
the ball at Mr. O'Neill's.
All these thoughts passed rapidly in the mother's 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 I'll go and speak to your father, and bring him
round to our opinion, and then I'll pay the morning visit I owe to
the widow O'Neill 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. O'Neill 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 verger's 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. Hill's 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
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 I'll 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 father's 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 Smith's children. With artless expressions
of gratitude to Phoebe this little girl mixed the praises of
O'Neill, 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 don't 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. O'Neill 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 woman's children, and gave
them to the little girl. It happened that the Limerick gloves had
been thrown into this drawer; and Phoebe's 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. O'Neill, 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.
O'Neill 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. Hill's 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, O'Neill 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. Hill's clerk went to demand payment of the note, O'Neill's
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 clerk's
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
But to proceed with our story. On the night of Mr. O'Neill's grand
ball, as he was seeing his fair partner, the perfumer's daughter,
safe home, he felt himself tapped on the shoulder by no friendly
hand. When he was told that he was the king's prisoner, he
vociferated with sundry strange oaths, which we forbear to repeat.
"No, I am not the king's 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 hay-makers, who, after
returning late from a hard day's 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 O'Neill was just putting out the candles in the ball-room
when this news of her son's 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. O'Neill 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 O'Neill 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, "I'd 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
O'Neill, 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."
O'Neill, 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. O'Neill
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. Hill's 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 enemy's 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 O'Neill, 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-dinner's 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 woman's 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 Hill's hand, commanded him three times,
in a voice as loud as the town-crier's, to have O'Neill 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. Hill's 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 O'Neill, 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 man's 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 O'Neill, 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
"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 majesty's 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 O'Neill to the widow Smith. As this
man, whose name was Paddy M'Cormack, stood at the entrance of the
gipsies' hut, his attention was caught by the name of O'Neill; and
he lost not a word of all that pasted. He had reason to be
somewhat surprised at hearing Bampfylde assert it was O'Neill 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, I'll engage now, than he does of this man's rick of bark
and his dog: so I'll 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
M'Cormack has a tongue and brains."
Now, Paddy M'Cormack had the best reason possible for knowing that
Mr. O'Neill did not pull down Mr. Hill's rick of bark; it was
M'Cormack 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 I'm 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 Marshal's 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 O'Neill, 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. Marshal's 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 can't 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 hay-maker, who had been taken into
custody about an hour before this time. The watch who took Paddy
had called at Mr. Hill's 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 O'Neill
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 honour's 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 jontleman's 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 O'Neill
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 pawnbroker's there, below in
town; for, plase your honour, I was sent late at night (that night
that Mr. O'Neill, long life to him! was arrested) to the
pawnbroker's for a Jew by Mrs. O'Neill, 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--I'll tell you the story, plase your honour, out of
the face--she sent me to the pawnbroker's 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 won't trouble your honour's 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 it's 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
honour's 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. Hill's 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 haymaker's purse was found, which some
of his majesty's 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
"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."
"You'll 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.
O'Neill 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
"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 majesty's 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
"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 Smith's, the poor woman whose house was burnt last winter?
This haymaker, who lodged near her, can show us the way to her
During his examination of Paddy M'Cormack, 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 O'Neill, 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 countryman's 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 O'Neill's 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 father's ear, whose
angry passions had now all subsided.
The benevolent Mr. Marshal seized the moment when he saw Mr. Hill's
heart was touched, and exclaimed, "I must be acquainted with this
Mr. O'Neill. 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, "I've 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 child's 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
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 verger's 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. Marshal's
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,
"I'm glad it's no worse, but there were many in our club who were
of my opinion; and, if they had not suspected O'Neill 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
O'Neill 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. O'Neill 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 verger's prejudices, in a humorous light,
they joined in the good-natured laugh; and O'Neill 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. Marshal's, 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.