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النشر الإلكتروني

COUNTY LEGENDS.

No. III.

BY THOMAS INGOLDSBY.

THE LAY
OF THE OLD WOMAN CLOTHED IN GREY.

CANTO II.

Now it seems there's a place they call Purgatry—50
I must write it, my verse not admitting the O-
But as for the Venue, I vow I'm perplext
To

say if it's in this world, or if in the next-
Or whether in both—for 'tis very well known
That St. Patrick, at least, has got one of his own
In a tight little Island' that stands in a Lake
Called Lough-dearg'--that's “The Red Lake, unless I mis-

take,In Fermanagh—or Antrim—or Donegal—which

I declare I can't tell,

But I know very well
It's in latitude 54, nearly their pitch :
(At Tappington, now, I could look in the Gazetteer,
But I'm out on a visit, and nobody has it here.)

There are some, I'm aware,

Who don't stick to declare There's ' no differ' at all 'twixt this here and that there.' That it's all the same place, but the Saint reserves his entry For the separate use of the 'finest of pisentry,'

And that his is no more

Than a mere private door From the rez-de-chaussée—as some call the ground-floor,To the one which the Pope had found out just before.

But no matter_lay

The locale where you may ;
-And where it is no one exactly can say-
There's one thing, at least, which is known very well,
That it acts as a Tap-room to Satan's Hotel.

Entertainment's' there worse
Both for “Man and for Horse ;'-
For broiling the souls

They use Lord Mayor's coals ;-
Then the sulphur's inferior, and boils up much slower
Than the fine fruity brimstone they give you down lower,

It's by no means so strong

Mere sloe-leaves to Souchong ;
The 'prokers' are not half so hot, or so long,
By an inch or two, either in handle or prong ;

The Vipers and Snakes are less sharp in the tooth,
And the Nondescript Monsters not near so uncouth ;-
In short, it's a place the good Pope, its creator,
Made for what's called by Cockneys a 'Minor The-atre.'
Better suited, of course, for a 'minor performer,'
Than the · House,' that's so much better lighted and warmer,
Below, in that queer place which nobody mentions-

-You understand where

I don't question-down there
Where, in lieu of wood blocks, and such modern inventions,
The Paving Commissioners use. Good Intentions,
Materials which here would be thought on by few men,
With so many founts of Asphaltic bitumen
At hand, at the same time to pave and illumine.

To go on with my story,

This same Purga-tory, (There ! I've got in the O, to my Muse's great glory,) Is close locked, and the Pope keeps the keys of it—that I can Boldly affirm-in his desk in the Vatican;

-Not those of St. Peter

These, of which I now treat, are
A bunch by themselves, and much smaller and neater-
And so cleverly made, Mr. Chubb could not frame a
Key better contrived for its purpose—nor Bramah.

Now it seems that by these

Most miraculous keys
Not only the Pope, but his' clargy,' with ease
Can let people in and out just as they please ;
And-provided you make it all right about fees,-
There is not a friar, Dr. Wiseman will own, of them,
But can always contrive to obtain a short loan of them ;

And Basil, no doubt,

Had brought matters about,
If the little old woman would but have spoke out,'
So far as to get for her one of those tickets,
Or passes which clear both the great gates and wickets ;

So that after a grill,

Or short turn on the Mill,
And with no worse a singeing, to purge her iniquity,
Than a Freemason gets in 'The Lodge of Antiquity,'

She'd have rubbed off old scores,

Popped out of doors, And sheered off at once for a happier port, Like a white-washed Insolvent that's gone through the Court.'

But Basil was one

Who was not to be done
By any one, either in earnest or fun ;-
The cunning old beads-telling son of a gun,
In all bargains, unless he'd his quid for his quo,
Would shake his bald pate, and pronounce it . No Go.'

So, unless you're a dunce,

You'll see clearly at once,
When you come to consider the facts of the case, he,
Of course, never gave her his Vade in pace ;
And the consequence was, when the last mortal throe
Released her pale Ghost from these regions of woe,
The little old Woman had nowhere to go!

For what could she do?

She very well knew If she went to the gates I have mentioned to you, Without Basil's, or some other passport to show, The Cheque-takers never would let her go through; While, as to the other place, e'en had she tried it, And really had wished it as much as she shied it, (For no one who knows what it is can abide it,) Had she knocked at the portal with ne'er so much din, Though she'd died in what folks at Rome call • Mortal sin,' Yet Old Nick, for the life of him, daren't take her inAs she'd not been turned formally out of the pale,' So much the bare name of the Pope made him quail In the times that I speak of, his courage would fail Of Rome's vassals the lowest and worst to assail, Or e'en touch with so much as the end of his tail ;

Though, now he's grown older,

They say he's much bolder, And his Holiness not only gets the cold shoulder, But Nick rumps him completely, and don't seem to care a Dump-that's the word-for his triple tiara.

Well-what shall she do ?

What's the course to pursue Try St. Peter ?—the step is a bold one to take ; For the Saint is, there can't be a doubt,“ wide awake;"

But then there's a quaint

Old Proverb says “Faint
Heart ne'er won fair Lady," then how win a saint ;-

I've a great mind to try

One can but apply ;
If things come to the worst why he can but deny-

The sky

's rather high

To be sure—but, now I That cumbersome carcass of clay have laid by, I am just in the “order” which some folks—though why I am sure I can't tell you-would call “ Apple-pie.”

Then“ never say die!"

It won't do to be shy, So I'll tuck up my shroud, and-here goes for a fly !--So said and so done-she was off like a shot, And kept on the whole way at a pretty smart trot.

When she drew so near

That St. Peter could see her,
The Saint in a moment began to look queer,
And scarce would allow her to make her case clear,
Ere he pursed up his mouth 'twixt a sneer and a jeer,
With It's all very well,- but you do not lodge here !:-
Then, calling her everything but “My dear !!
He applied his great toe with some force au derrière,
And dismissed her at once with a flea in her ear.

Alas! poor Ghost !'

It's a doubt which is most To be pitied-one doom'd to fry, broil, boil, and roast, Or one banded about thus from pillar to post,To be all abroad'-to be 'stump’d'-not to know where

To go-so disgraced

As not to be placed,' Or, as Crocky would say to Jem Bland, to be No-where.'—

However that be,

The affaire was finie,
And the poor wretch rejected by all, as you see !

Mr. Oliver Goldsmith observes not the Jew-
That the Hare whom the hounds and the huntsmen pursue,'
Having no other sort of asylum in view,
' Returns back again to the place whence she flew,'
A fact which experience has proved to be true.-
Mr. Gray-in opinion with whom Johnson clashes -
Declares that our 'wonted fires live in our ashes.'*
These motives combined, perhaps, brought back the hag,
The first to her mansion, the last to her bag,
When only conceive her dismay and surprise,
As a Ghost how she open’d her cold stony eyes,
When there,-on the spot where she'd hid her supplies,'—
In an underground cellar of very small size,

Working hard with a spade,

All at once she survey'd
That confounded old bandy-legged • Tailor by trade.'

Fancy the tone
Of the half moan,

half

groan, Which burst from the breast of the Ghost of the crone ! As she stood there,-a figure 'twixt moonshine and stone,– Only fancy the glare in her eyeballs that shone ! Although, as Macbeth says, 'they'd no speculation,'

While she utter'd that word,

Which American Bird,
Or John Fenimore Cooper, would render · Tarnation !!

* " E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires !'-GRAY. * A position at which Experience revolts, Credulity hesitates, and even Fancy stares !'-JOHNSON,

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At the noise which she made

Down went the spade ! And up jump'd the bandy-legg'd' Tailor by trade, (Who had shrewdly conjectured, from something that fell, her Deposit was somewhere conceal'd in the cellar ;)

Turning round at a sound

So extremely profound,
The moment her shadowy form met his view
He gave vent to a sort of a lengthen'd 'B0-0-ho-o!'-
With a countenance Keeley alone could put on,
Made one grasshopper spring to the door—and was gone !

Erupit ! Evasit !
As at Rome they would phrase it
His flight was so swift, the eye scarcely could trace it,
Though elderly, bandy-legg'd, meagre, and sickly,
I doubt if the Ghost could have vanish'd more quickly ;-
He reach'd his own shop, and then fell into fits,
And it's said never rightly recover'd his wits,
While the chuckling old Hag takes his place, and there sits !

I'll venture to say,

She'd sat there to this day,
Brooding over what Cobbett calls vile yellow clay,'
Like a Vulture, or other obscene bird of prey,
O’er the nest-full of eggs she has managed to lay,
If, as legends relate, and I think we may trust 'em, her
Stars had not brought her another guess customer-

'Twas Basil himself!

Come to look for her pelf ;
But not, like the Tailor, to dig, delve, and grovel,
And grub in the cellar with pickaxe and shovel ;-

Full well he knew

Such tools would not do,-
Far other the weapons he brought into play,
Viz. a Wax-taper hallow'd on Candlemas-day,'

To light to her ducats,

Holy Water, two buckets, (Made with salt-half a peck to four gallonswhich brews a Štrong triple X 'strike,'--see Jacobus de Chusa.)

With these, too, he took

His bell and his book Not a nerve ever trembled, -his hand never shook As he boldly marched up where she sat in her nook, Glow'ring round with that wild indescribable look, Which some may have read of, perchance, in . Nell Cooke, ** All, in • Martha the Gipsy' by Theodore Hook. And for the reason

I

gave you before, Of what pass'd then and there I can tell you no more, As no Tailor was near with his ear at the door ;

now,

* See Miscellany, January, 1841.

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