THE KNIGHT AND THE LADY: A DOMESTIC LEGEND OF THE REIGN OF QUEEN ANNE.
The Knight, the Lady -- and the Husband's Corpse
'Hail, wedded love! mysterious tie!'-- Thomson -- or Somebody.
The Lady Jane was tall and slim,
The Lady Jane was fair,
And Sir Thomas, her Lord, was stout of limb,
But his cough was short, and his eyes were dim,
And he wore green 'specs,' with a tortoiseshell rim,
And his hat was remarkably broad in the brim,
And she was uncommonly fond of him,
And they were a loving pair!--
-- And the name and the fame
Of the Knight and his Dame,
Were ev'rywhere hail'd with the loudest acclaim;
And wherever they went, or wherever they came,
Far and wide,
The people cried,
Huzza! for the Lord of this noble domain,--
Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!-- once again!--
One cheer more!--
-- All sorts of pleasure, and no sort of pain
To Sir Thomas the Good, and the Fair Lady Jane!!
Now Sir Thomas the Good,
Be it well understood,
Was a man of a very contemplative mood --
He would pore by the hour
O'er a weed, or a flower,
Or the slugs that come crawling out after a shower;
Black-beetles, and Bumble-bees,-- Blue-bottle flies,
And Moths were of no small account in his eyes;
An 'Industrious Flea' he'd by no means despise,
While an 'Old Daddy-long-legs,' whose 'long legs' and thighs
Pass'd the common in shape, or in colour, or size,
He was wont to consider an absolute prize.
Nay, a hornet or wasp he could scarce 'keep his paws off'-- he
Gave up, in short,
Both business and sport,
And abandon'd himself, tout entier, to Philosophy.
Now, as Lady Jane was tall and slim,
And Lady Jane was fair,
And a good many years the junior of him,--
And as he,
Look'd less like her Mari,
As he walk'd by her side, than her Père, <1>
There are some might be found entertaining a notion
That such an entire, and exclusive devotion
To that part of science, folks style Entomology,
Was a positive shame,
And, to such a fair Dame,
Really demanded some sort of apology;
-- No doubt, it would vex
One half of the sex
To see their own husband, in horrid green 'specs,'
Instead of enjoying a sociable chat,
Still poking his nose into this and to that,
At a gnat, or a bat, or a cat, or a rat,
Or great ugly things,
All legs and wings,
With nasty long tails arm'd with nasty long stings;
And they'd join such a log of a spouse to condemn,
-- One eternally thinking,
And blinking, and winking
At grubs,-- when he ought to be winking at them.--
But no!-- oh no!
'Twas by no means so
With the Lady Jane Ingoldsby -- she, far discreeter,
And, having a temper more even and sweeter,
Would never object to
Her spouse, in respect to
His poking and peeping
After 'things creeping;'
Much less be still keeping lamenting, and weeping,
Or scolding at what she perceived him so deep in.
Tout au contraire,
No lady so fair
Was e'er known to wear more contented an air;
And,-- let who would call,-- every day she was there,
Propounding receipts for some delicate fare,
Some toothsome conserve, of quince, apple, or pear,
Or distilling strong waters,-- or potting a hare,--
Or counting her spoons and her crockery-ware;--
Or else, her tambour-frame before her, with care
Embroidering a stool or a back for a chair,
With needle-work roses, most cunning and rare,
Enough to make less-gifted visitors stare,
And declare, where'er
They had been, that, 'they ne'er
In their lives had seen aught that at all could compare
With dear Lady Jane's housewifery -- that they would swear.'
Nay more; don't suppose
With such doings as those
This account of her merits must come to a close;
No;-- examine her conduct more closely, you'll find
She by no means neglected improving her mind;
For there, all the while, with air quite bewitching,
She sat herring-boning, tambouring, or stitching,
Or having an eye to affairs of the kitchen,
Close by her side,
Sat her kinsman, MacBride,
Her cousin, fourteen-times-removed,-- as you'll see
If you look at the Ingoldsby family tree,
In 'Burke's Commoners,' vol. xx., page 53.
All the papers I've read agree,
Too, with the pedigree,
Where, among the collateral branches, appears
'Captain Dugald Mac Bride, Royal Scots Fusileers;'
And I doubt if you'd find in the whole of his clan
A more highly-intelligent, worthy young man;--
And there he'd be sitting,
While she was a-knitting,
Or hemming, or stitching, or darning and fitting,
Or putting a 'gore,' or a 'gusset,' or 'bit' in,
Reading aloud, with a very grave look,
Some very 'wise saw' from some very good book,--
Some such pious divine as
St. Thomas Aquinas:
Or, equally charming,
The works of Bellarmine;
Or else he unravels
The 'voyages and travels'
Of Hackluytz -- (how sadly these Dutch names do sully verse!) --
Purchas's, Hawksworth's, or Lemuel Gulliver's,--
Not to name others, 'mongst whom there are few so
Admired as John Bunyan, and Robinson Crusoe.--
No matter who came,
It was always the same,
The Captain was reading aloud to the Dame,
Till, from having gone through half the books on the shelf,
They were almost as wise as Sir Thomas himself.
Well,-- it happened one day,
-- I really can't say
The particular month;-- but I think 'twas in May,--
'Twas, I know, in the Spring-time,-- when 'Nature looks gay,'
As the Poet observes,-- and on tree-top and spray
The dear little dickey-birds carol away;
When the grass is so green, and the sun is so bright,
And all things are teeming with life and with light,--
That the whole of the house was thrown into affright,
For no soul could conceive what was gone with the Knight!
It seems he had taken
A light breakfast -- bacon,
An egg -- with a little broiled haddock -- at most
A round and a half of some hot butter'd-toast,
With a slice of cold sirloin from yesterday's roast.
And then -- let me see!--
He had two -- perhaps three
Cups (with sugar and cream) of strong Gunpowder tea,
With a spoonful in each of some choice eau de vie,
-- Which with nine out of ten would perhaps disagree.--
-- In fact, I and my son
Mix 'black' with our 'Hyson,'
Neither having the nerves of a bull, or a bison,
And both hating brandy like what some call 'pison.'
No matter for that --
He had call'd for his hat,
With the brim that I've said was so broad and so flat,
And his 'specs' with the tortoiseshell rim, and his cane
With the crutch-handled top, which he used to sustain
His steps in his walks, and to poke in the shrubs
And the grass, when unearthing his worms and his grubs --
Thus arm'd, he set out on a ramble -- alack!
He set out, poor dear Soul?-- but he never came back!
'First dinner-bell' rang
Out its euphonous clang
At five -- folks kept early hours then -- and the 'Last'
Ding-dong'd, as it ever was wont, at half-past,
While Betsey, and Sally,
And Thompson, the Valet,
And every one else was beginning to bless himself,
Wondering the Knight had not come in to dress himself.--
-- Quoth Betsey, 'Dear me! why, the fish will be cold!--
Quoth Sally, 'Good gracious! how 'Missis' will scold!'--
Thompson, the Valet,
Look'd gravely at Sally,
As who should say 'Truth must not always be told!'
Then, expressing a fear lest the Knight might take cold
Thus exposed to the dews,
Lambs'-wool stockings, and shoes,
Of each a fresh pair,
He put down to air,
And hung a clean shirt to the fire on a chair.--
Still the Master was absent -- the Cook came and said, 'he
Much fear'd, as the dinner had been so long ready,
The roast and the boil'd
Would be all of it spoil'd,
And the puddings, her Ladyship thought such a treat,
He was morally sure, would be scarce fit to eat!'
This closed the debate --
''Twould be folly to wait,'
Said the Lady, 'Dish up!-- Let the meal be served straight;
And let two or three slices be put on a plate,
And kept hot for Sir Thomas.-- He's lost sure as fate!
And, a hundred to one, won't be home till it's late!'
-- Captain Dugald MacBride then proceeded to face
The Lady at table,-- stood up, and said grace,--
Then set himself down in Sir Thomas's place.
Wearily, wearily, all that night,
That live-long night, did the hours go by;
And the Lady Jane,
In grief and in pain,
She sat herself down to cry!--
And Captain MacBride,
Who sat by her side,
Though I really can't say that he actually cried,
At least had a tear in his eye!--
As much as can well be expected, perhaps,
From very 'young fellows' for very 'old chaps;'
And if he had said
What he'd got in his head,
'Twould have been 'Poor old Buffer! he's certainly dead!'
The morning dawn'd,-- and the next,-- and the next,
And all in the mansion were still perplex'd;
No watch-dog 'bay'd a welcome home,' as
A watch-dog should, to the 'Good Sir Thomas;'
No knocker fell
His approach to tell,
Not so much as a runaway ring at the bell --
The Hall was silent as Hermit's cell.
Yet the sun shone bright upon tower and tree,
And the meads smiled green as green may be,
And the dear little dickey-birds caroll'd with glee,
And the lambs in the park skipp'd merry and free --
-- Without, all was joy and harmony!
'And thus 'twill be,-- nor long the day,--
Ere we, like him, shall pass away!
Yon Sun, that now our bosoms warms,
Shall shine,-- but shine on other forms;--
Yon Grove, whose choir so sweetly cheers
Us now, shall sound on other ears,--
The joyous Lamb, as now, shall play,
But other eyes its sports survey,--
The Stream we loved shall roll as fair,
The flowery sweets, the trim Parterre
Shall scent, as now, the ambient air,--
The Tree, whose bending branches bear
The One loved name -- shall yet be there;--
But where the hand that carved it?-- Where?'--
These were hinted to me as
The very ideas
Which passed through the mind of the fair Lady Jane,
Her thoughts having taken a sombre-ish train,
As she walk'd on the esplanade, to and again,
With Captain MacBride,
Of course, at her side,
Who could not look quite so forlorn,-- though he tried,
-- An 'idea,' in fact, had got into his head,
That if 'poor dear Sir Thomas' should really be dead,
It might be no bad 'spec.' to be there in his stead,
And, by simply contriving, in due time, to wed
A Lady who was young and fair,
A Lady slim and tall,
To set himself down in comfort there
The Lord of Tapton <2> Hall.--
Thinks he, 'We have sent
Half over Kent
And nobody knows how much money's been spent,
Yet no one's been found to say which way he went!--
The groom, who's been over
To Folkstone and Dover,
Can't get any tidings at all of the rover!
-- Here's a fortnight and more has gone by, and we've tried
Every plan we could hit on -- the whole country-side,
Upon all its dead walls, with placards we've supplied,--
And we've sent out the Crier, and had him well cried --
Stolen, or stray'd,
Lost, or mislaid,
A GENTLEMAN;-- middle-aged, sober, and staid;--
Stoops slightly;-- and when he left home was array'd
In a sad-coloured suit, somewhat dingy and fray'd;--
Had spectacles on with a tortoiseshell rim,
And a hat rather low-crown'd, and broad in the brim.--
Or shall send him with care,
(Right side uppermost) home;-- or shall give notice where
The said middle-aged GENTLEMAN is;-- or shall state
Any fact, that may tend to throw light on his fate,
To the man at the turnpike, called TAPPINGTON GATE,
Shall receive a Reward of FIVE POUNDS for his trouble,--
(N.B.-- If defunct the REWARD will be double!!)'
'Had he been above ground
He must have been found.
No; doubtless he's shot,-- or he's hang'd,-- or he's drown'd!--
Then his Widow -- ay! ay!--
But, what will folks say?--
To address her at once -- at so early a day!
Well -- what then?-- who cares?-- let 'em say what they may --
A fig for their nonsense and chatter!-- suffice it, her
Charms will excuse one for casting sheep's eyes at her!'
When a man has decided
As Captain MacBride did,
And once fully made up his mind on the matter, he
Can't be too prompt in unmasking his battery.
He began on the instant, and vow'd that 'her eyes
Far exceeded in brilliance the stars in the skies,--
That her lips were like roses -- her cheeks were like lilies --
Her breath had the odour of daffy-down-dillies!'--
With a thousand more compliments equally true,
And expressed in similitudes equally new!
-- Then his left arm he placed
Round her jimp, taper waist --
-- Ere she'd fix'd to repulse, or return, his embrace,
Up came running a man, at a deuce of a pace,
With that very peculiar expression of face
Which always betokens dismay or disaster,
Crying out --' twas the Gardener,--' Oh, Ma'am! we've found Master!'--
--' Where? where?' scream'd the lady; and Echo scream'd --' Where?'--
-- The man couldn't say 'There!'
He had no breath to spare,
But, gasping for air, he could only respond
By pointing -- he pointed, alas!-- TO THE POND!!
--' Twas e'en so -- poor dear Knight!-- with his 'specs' and his hat
He'd gone poking his nose into this and to that;
When, close to the side
Of the bank, he espied
An 'uncommon fine' Tadpole, remarkably fat!
He stooped;-- and he thought her
His own;-- he had caught her!
Got hold of her tail,-- and to land almost brought her,
When -- he plump'd head and heels into fifteen feet water!
The Lady Jane was tall and slim,
The Lady Jane was fair,
Alas, for Sir Thomas!-- she grieved for him,
As she saw two serving-men, sturdy of limb,
His body between them bear.
She sobb'd, and she sigh'd; she lamented, and cried,
For of sorrow brimful was her cup;
She swoon'd, and I think she'd have fall'n down and died,
If Captain MacBride
Had not been by her side,
With the Gardener; they both their assistance supplied,
And managed to hold her up.--
But, when she 'comes to,'
Oh! 'tis shocking to view
The sight which the corpse reveals!
Sir Thomas's body,
It look'd so odd -- he
Was half eaten up by the eels!
His waistcoat and hose, and the rest of his clothes
Were all gnaw'd through and through;
And out of each shoe
An eel they drew;
And from each of his pockets they pull'd out two!
And the Gardener himself had secreted a few,
As well we may suppose;
For, when he came running to give the alarm,
He had six in the basket that hung on his arm.
Good Father John <3>
Was summon'd anon;
Holy water was sprinkled,
And little bells tinkled,
And tapers were lighted,
And incense ignited,
And masses were sung, and masses were said,
All day, for the quiet repose of the dead,
And all night no one thought about going to bed.
But Lady Jane was tall and slim,
And Lady Jane was fair,--
And, ere morning came, that winsome dame
Had made up her mind -- or, what's much the same,
Had thought about -- once more 'changing her name,'
And she said, with a pensive air,
To Thompson, the valet, while taking away,
When supper was over, the cloth and the tray,--
'Eels a many
I've ate; but any
So good ne'er tasted before!--
They're a fish, too, of which I'm remarkably fond.--
Go -- pop Sir Thomas again in the Pond --
'Poor dear!-- HE'LL CATCH US SOME MORE!!
All middle-aged Gentlemen let me advise,
If you're married, and have not got very good eyes,
Don't go poking about after blue-bottle flies!--
If you've spectacles, don't have a tortoiseshell rim,
And don't go near the water,-- unless you can swim!
Married Ladies, especially such as are fair,
Tall, and slim, I would next recommend to beware
How, on losing one spouse, they give way to despair;
But let them reflect, 'There are fish, and no doubt on't --
As good in the river as ever came out on't!'
Should they light on a spouse who is given to roaming
In solitude -- raison de plus, in the 'gloaming,'--
Let them have a fix'd time for said spouse to come home in!
And if, when 'last dinner-bell''s rung, he is late,
To insure better manners in future -- Don't wait!--
If of husband or children they chance to be fond,
Have a stout iron-wire fence put all round the pond!
One more piece of advice, and I close my appeals --
That is -- if you chance to be partial to eels,
Then -- Crede experto -- trust one who has tried --
Have them spitch-cock'd,-- or stew'd -- they're too oily when fried!
1. My friend, Mr. Hood;
In his comical mood,
Would have probably styled the good Knight and his Lady
Him --'Stern-old and Hopkins,' and her 'Tête and Braidy.' Back.
2. The familiar abbreviation for Tappington Everard still in use among the tenantry. Back.
3. For some account of Father John Ingoldsby, to whose papers I am so much beholden, vide introduction to The Jackdaw of Rheims. This was the last ecclesiastical act of his long and valuable life. Back.
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