Among tales of awe and weird mystery stands out the story of the adventures of Peter Priestly, clerk, sexton, and gravestone cutter, of Wakefield, who flourished at the end of the eighteenth century. He was an old and much respected inhabitant of the town, and not at all given to superstitious fears. One Saturday evening he went to the church to finish the epitaph on a stone which was to be in readiness for removal before Sunday. Arrived at the church, where he had his workshop, he set down his lantern and lighted his other candle, which was set in a primitive candlestick formed out of a potato. The church clock struck eleven, and still some letters remained unfinished, when he heard a strange sound, which seemed to say “Hiss!” “Hush!” He resumes his work undaunted. Again that awful voice breaks in once more. He lights his lantern and searches for its cause. In vain his efforts. He resolves to leave the church, but again remembers his promise and returns to his work. The mystic hour of midnight strikes. He has nearly finished, and bends down to examine the letters on the stone. Again he hears a louder “Hiss!” He now stands appalled. Terror seizes him. He has profaned the Sabbath, and the sentence of death has gone forth. With tottering steps Peter finds his way home and goes to bed. Sleep forsakes him. His wife ministers to him in vain. As morning dawns the good woman notices Peter’s wig suspended on the great chair. “Oh, Peter,” she cries, “what hast thou been doing to burn all t’ hair off one side of thy wig?” “Ah! bless thee,” says the clerk, “thou hast cured me with that word.” The mysterious “hiss” and “hush” were sounds from the frizzling of Peter’s wig by the flame of the candle, which to his imperfect sense of hearing imported things horrible and awful. Such is the story which a writer in Hone’s Year Book tells, and which is said to have afforded Peter Priestly and the good people of merry Wakefield many a joke.
The Year Book is always full of interest, and in the same volume I find an account of a most worthy representative of the profession, one John Kent, the parish clerk of St. Albans, who died in 1798, aged eighty years. He was a very venerable and intelligent man, who did service in the old abbey church, long before the days when its beauties were desecrated by Grimthorpian restoration, or when it was exalted to cathedral rank. For fifty-two years Kent was the zealous clerk and custodian of the minster, and loved to describe its attractions. He was the