[Illustration: H]Haberdashers, continued my friend the boot, are wonderful people; they make the greatest show out of the smallest stock—whether of brains or ribbons—of any men in the world. A stranger could not pass through the village of Ballybreesthawn without being attracted by a shop which occupied the corner of the Market-square and the main street, with a window looking both ways for custom. In these windows were displayed sundry articles of use and ornament—toys, stationery, perfumery, ribbons, laces, hardware, spectacles, and Dutch dolls.
In a glass-case on the counter were exhibited patent medicines, Birmingham jewellery, court-plaister, and side-combs. Behind the counter might be seen Mr. Matthew Tibbins, quite a precedent for country shop-keepers, with uncommonly fair hair and slender fingers, a profusion of visible linen, and a most engaging lisp. In addition to his personal attractions, Tibbins possessed a large stock of accomplishments, which, like his goods, “might safely challenge competition.” He was an acknowledged wit, and retailed compliments and cotton balls to the young ladies who visited his emporium. As a poet, too, his merits were universally known; for he had once contributed a poetic charade to the Ladies’ Almanack. He, moreover, played delightfully on the Jews’-harp, knew several mysterious tricks in cards, and was an adept in the science of bread and butter-cutting, which made him a prodigious favourite with maiden aunts and side-table cousins. This was the individual whom fate had ordained to cross and thwart Terence in his designs upon the heart of Miss Biddy O’Brannigan, and upon whom that young lady, in sport or caprice, bestowed a large dividend of those smiles which Terence imagined should be devoted solely to himself.
The man of small wares was, in truth, a dangerous rival, from his very insignificance. Had he been a man of spirit or corporal consideration, Terence would have pistolled or thrashed him out of his audacious notions; but the creature was so smiling and submissive that he could not, for the life of him, dirty his fingers with such a contemptible wretch. Thus Tibbins continued flattering and wriggling himself into Miss Biddy’s good graces, while Terence was fighting and kissing the way to her heart, till the poor girl was fairly bothered between them.
Miss Biddy O’Brannigan, I should have told you, sir, was an heiress, valued at one thousand pounds in hard cash, living with an old aunt at Rookawn Lodge, about six miles from Ballybreesthawn; and to this retreat of the loves and graces might the rival lovers be seen directing their course, after mass, every Sunday;—the haberdasher in a green gig with red wheels, and your uncle mounted on a bit of blood, taking the coal off Tibbins’s pipe with the impudence of his air, and the elegant polish of your humble servants.