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The Grandmothers Tale [Eclogue]
by [?]


JANE.
Harry! I’m tired of playing. We’ll draw round
The fire, and Grandmamma perhaps will tell us
One of her stories.

HARRY.
Aye–dear Grandmamma!
A pretty story! something dismal now;
A bloody murder.

JANE.
Or about a ghost.

GRANDMOTHER.
Nay, nay, I should but frighten you. You know
The other night when I was telling you
About the light in the church-yard, how you trembled
Because the screech-owl hooted at the window,
And would not go to bed.

JANE.
Why Grandmamma
You said yourself you did not like to hear him.
Pray now! we wo’nt be frightened.

GRANDMOTHER.
Well, well, children!
But you’ve heard all my stories. Let me see,–
Did I never tell you how the smuggler murdered
The woman down at Pill?

HARRY.
No–never! never!

GRANDMOTHER.
Not how he cut her head off in the stable?

HARRY.
Oh–now! do tell us that!

GRANDMOTHER.
You must have heard
Your Mother, children! often tell of her.
She used to weed in the garden here, and worm
Your uncle’s dogs [1], and serve the house with coal;
And glad enough she was in winter time
To drive her asses here! it was cold work
To follow the slow beasts thro’ sleet and snow,
And here she found a comfortable meal
And a brave fire to thaw her, for poor Moll
Was always welcome.

HARRY.
Oh–’twas blear-eyed Moll
The collier woman,–a great ugly woman,
I’ve heard of her.

GRANDMOTHER.
Ugly enough poor soul!
At ten yards distance you could hardly tell
If it were man or woman, for her voice
Was rough as our old mastiff’s, and she wore
A man’s old coat and hat,–and then her face!
There was a merry story told of her,
How when the press-gang came to take her husband
As they were both in bed, she heard them coming,
Drest John up in her night-cap, and herself
Put on his clothes and went before the Captain.

JANE.
And so they prest a woman!

GRANDMOTHER.
‘Twas a trick
She dearly loved to tell, and all the country
Soon knew the jest, for she was used to travel
For miles around. All weathers and all hours
She crossed the hill, as hardy as her beasts,
Bearing the wind and rain and winter frosts,
And if she did not reach her home at night
She laid her down in the stable with her asses
And slept as sound as they did.

HARRY.
With her asses!

GRANDMOTHER.
Yes, and she loved her beasts. For tho’ poor wretch
She was a terrible reprobate and swore
Like any trooper, she was always good
To the dumb creatures, never loaded them
Beyond their strength, and rather I believe
Would stint herself than let the poor beasts want,
Because, she said, they could not ask for food.
I never saw her stick fall heavier on them
Than just with its own weight. She little thought
This tender-heartedness would be her death!
There was a fellow who had oftentimes,
As if he took delight in cruelty.
Ill-used her Asses. He was one who lived
By smuggling, and, for she had often met him
Crossing the down at night, she threatened him,
If he tormented them again, to inform
Of his unlawful ways. Well–so it was–
‘Twas what they both were born to, he provoked her,
She laid an information, and one morn
They found her in the stable, her throat cut
From ear to ear,’till the head only hung
Just by a bit of skin.