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COUNTY LEGENDS.

No. II.

BY THOMAS INGOLDSBY.

THE LAY
OF THE OLD WOMAN CLOTHED IN GREY.

Once there lived, as I've heard people say.
An Old Woman clothed in grey,'

So furrow'd with care,

So haggard her air,
In her eye such a wild supernatural stare,

That all who espied her

Immediately shied her,
And strove to get out of her way.

This fearsome Old Woman was taken ill :
-She sent for the Doctor—he sent her a pill,

And, by way of a trial,

A two-shilling phial
Of green-looking fluid, like laver diluted,
To which I profess an abhorrence most rooted.
One of those draughts they so commonly send us,
Labell’d · Haustus catharticus, mane sumendus ;--

She made a wry face,

But, without saying Grace,
Toss'd it off like a dram-it improved not her case.

- The Leech came again ;

He now open'd a vein,
Still the little old woman continued in pain.
So her · Medical Man,' although loth to distress her,
Conceived it high time that her Father Confessor
Should be sent for to shrive, and assoilize, and bless her,
That she might not slip out of these troublesome scenes
• Unanneal’d and Unhouseled,'—whatever that means.

*

Growing afraid,

He calls to his aid
A bandy-legged neighbour, a 'Tailor by trade, 't

Tells him his fears,
Bids him lay by his shears,

* Alack for poor William Linley to settle the point! His elucidation of Mac. beth's · Hurlyburly' casts a halo around his memory. In him the world lost one of its kindliest spirits, and the Garrick Club its acutest commentator.

† All who are familiar with the Police Reports, and other Records of our courts of Justice, will recollect that every gentleman of this particular profession invariably thus describes himself, in contradistinction to the Bricklayer, whom he probably pre. sumes to be indigenous, and the Shoemaker born a Snob. VOL. VII.

35

His thimble, his goose, and his needle, and hie
With all possible speed to the convent hard by,

Requests him to say,

That he begs they'll all pray,
Viz.: The whole pious brotherhood, Cleric and Lay,
For the soul of an Old Woman clothed in grey,
Who was just at that time in a very bad

way,
And he really believed couldn't last out the day, -

And to state his desire

That some erudite Friar
Would run over at once, and examine, and try her;

For he thought he would find

There was something behind,'
A something that weigh'd on the Old Woman's mind,-
* In fact he was sure, from what fell from her tongue.
That this little Old Woman had done something wrong.'
-Then he wound up the whole with this hint to the man,
‘Mind and pick out as holy a Friar as you can !

Now I'd have you to know

That this story of woe,
Which I'm telling you, happen'd a long time ago ;
I can't say exactly how long, nor, I own,
What particular monarch was then on the throne,
But 'twas here in Old England: and all that one knows is,
It must have preceded the Wars of the Roses.*

Inasmuch as the times

Described in these rhymes,
Were as fruitful in virtues as ours are in crimes;

And if ’mongst the Laity

Unseemly gaiety
Sometimes betray'd an occasional taint or two,

At once all the Clerics

Went into hysterics,
While scarcely a Convent but boasted its Saint or two:
So it must have been long ere the line of the Tudors,

As since then the breed

Of Saints rarely indeed
With their dignified presence have darken’d our pew doors.
-Hence the late Mr. Froude, and the live Mr. Pusey

We moderns consider as each worth a Jew's eye;
Though Wiseman and Dullmant combine against Newman,

With Doctors and Proctors, and say he's no true man.
But this by the way.— The Convent I speak about
Had them in scores-

—they said Mass week and week abou,

"An antient and most pugnacious family," says a learned F. S. A. “ One os their descendants, George Rose, Esq., late M. P. for Christchurch (an elderly gentle. man now defunct), was equally celebrated for his vocal abilities, and his wanton des truction of furniture when in a state of excitement. “Sing, old Rose, and burn the bellows!" has grown into a proverb.

+ The worthy Jesuit's polemical publisher. I am not quite sure as to the ortho. graphy; it's idem sonans, at all events.

And the two now on duty were each, for their piety, “Second to none' in that holy society,

And well might have borne

Those words which are worn
By our' Nulli Secundus' Club-poor dear lost muttons
Of Guardsmen—on Club days, inscribed on their buttons.-

They would read, write, and speak

Latin, Hebrew, and Greek,
A radish-bunch munch for a lunch, or a leek;

Though scoffers and boobies

Ascribed certain rubies
That garnish'd the nose of the good Father Hilary
To the overmuch use of Canary and Sillery,
-Some said spirituous compounds of viler distillery-

Ah! little reck'd they

That with Friars, who say
Fifty Paters a night, and a hundred a day,
A very slight sustenance goes a great way-
Thus the consequence was that his colleague, Basilius,
Won golden opinions, by looking more bilious,
From all who conceived strict monastical duty
By no means conducive to personal beauty,
And being more meagre, and thinner, and paler,
He was snapt up at once by the bandy-legg'd Tailor.

Or

go

The latter's concern

For a speedy return
Scarce left the Monk time to put on stouter sandals,

round to his shrines, and snuff all his Saint's candles ;
Still less had he leisure to change the hair-shirt he
Had worn the last twenty years-probably thirty,
Which, not being wash'd all that time, had grown dirty.

-It seems there's a sin in

The wearing clean linen,
Which Friars must eschew at their very beginning,
Though it makes them look frowsy, and drowsy, and blowsy,
And—a rhyme modern etiquette never allows ye.-
As for the rest,
E'en if time had not prest,
It didn't much matter how Basil was drest,
Nor could there be any great need for adorning,
The Night being almost at odds with the Morning.

Oh! sweet and beautiful is Night, when the silver Moon is high,
And countless Stars, like clustering gems, hang sparkling in the sky,
While the balmy breath of the summer breeze comes whispering down
And one fond voice alone is heard-oh! Night is lovely then!

the glen,

But when that voice, in feeble moans of sickness and of pain,
But mocks the anxious ear that strives to catch its sounds in vain,-
When silently we watch the bed, by the taper's flickering light,
Where all we love is fading fast—how terrible is Night!!

More terrible yet,

If you happen to get
By an old woman's bedside, who, all her life long,
Has been, what the vulgar call, 'coming it strong'
In all sorts of ways that are naughty and wrong.

As Confessions are sacred, it's not very facile
To ascertain what the old hag said to Basil;

But whatever she said,

It fill'd him with dread,
And made all his hair stand on end on his head,
No great feat to perform, inasmuch as his hair
Being clipp'd

by the tonsure, his crown was left bare, So of course Father Basil had little to spare ;

But the little he had

Seem'd as though 't had gone mad,
Each lock, as by action galvanic, uprears
In the two little tufts on the tops of his ears.--

What the old woman said

That so 'fill'd him with dread,'
We should never have known any more than the dead,
If the bandy-leggd Tailor, his errand thus sped,
Had gone quietly back to his needle and thread,

As he ought; but instead,

Curiosity led, -
A feeling we all deem extremely ill-bred, -
He contrived to secrete himself under the bed!

Not that he heard

One-half, or a third
Of what passed as the Monk and the Patient conferred,
But he here and there managed to pick up a word,

Such as Knife,'

And · Life,'
And he thought she said Wife,'
And ‘Money' that source of all evil and strife* ;
Then he plainly distinguish'd the words Gore,' and 'Gash,'
Whence he deem'd-and I don't think his inference rash-
She had cut some one's throat for the sake of his cash.

Intermix'd with her moans,

And her sighs, and her groans, Enough to have melted the hearts of the stones, Came at intervals Basil's sweet, soft, silver tones, For somehow it happened—I can't tell you whyThe good Friar's indignation,-at first rather high, To judge from the language he used in reply, Ere the Old Woman ceased, had a good deal gone by ; And he gently addrest her in accents of honey, ‘Daughter, don't you despair!_WHAT'S BECOME OF THE

MONEY?

* Effodiuntuz Opos, Irritamontu Malo

LilLr's Grammar.

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