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COUNTY LEGENDS.-No. II.
BY THOMAS INGOLDSBY, ESQ.
A TALE OF THE DARK ENTRY.'
THE KING'S SCHOLAR'S STORY.
. From the "Brick Walk" branches off to the right a long narrow vaulted passage paved with flagstones, vulgarly known by the name of the Dark Entry." Its eastern extremity communicates with the cloisters, crypt, and, by a private staircase, with the interior of the Cathedral. On the west it opens into the " Green-Court," forming a communication between it and the portion of the " Precinct" called the "Oaks."-A Walk round Canterbury, &c.
Scene-A back parlour in Mr. Ingoldsby's house in the Precinct.-A blazing fireThe Squire is seated by it in a high-backed easy-chair, twirling his thumbs, and contemplating his list shoe.-Little Tom, the King's Scholar, on a stool opposite, -Mrs. Ingoldsby at the table, busily employed in manufacturing a cabbage-rose, -or cauliflower?-in many-coloured worsteds.-The Squire's meditations are interrupted by the French clock on the mantlepiece. -The Squire prologizeth with vivacity.
'HARK! listen, Mrs. Ingoldsby-the clock is striking nine!
'And bid them go the nearest way, for Mr. Birch has said
'Now, nay, dear Uncle Ingoldsby, now send me not, I pray, Back by that Entry dark, for that you know's the nearest way; I dread that Entry dark with Jane alone at such an hour, It fears me quite-it's Friday night, and then Nell Cook hath pow'r !'
'And, who's Nell Cook, thou silly child?-and what's Nell Cook to thee?
That thou shouldst dread at night to tread with Jane that dark entrée ?'
'Nay, list and hear, mine Uncle dear! such fearsome things they tell
Of Nelly Cook, that few may brook at night to meet with Nell!'
'It was in bluff King Harry's days, and Monks and Friars were then, You know, dear Uncle Ingoldsby, a sort of Clergymen.
They'd coarse stuff gowns, and shaven crowns, no shirts and no cravats ;
And a cord was placed about their waist-they had no shovel hats!
'It was in bluff King Harry's days, while yet he went to shrift,
'The Canon was a portly man-of Latin and of Greek,
'For though within the Priory the fare was scant and thin,
-They all agreed no Clerk had need of such a pretty cook.
'One day-'twas on a Whitsun-Eve-there came a coach and four; It passed the "Green-Court" gate, and stopped before the Canon's door;
The travel-stain on wheel and rein bespoke a weary way—
""Now, welcome! welcome! dearest Niece," -the Canon then did cry,
And to his breast the Lady prest-he had a merry eye
"Now, welcome! welcome! dearest Niece! in sooth thou'rt welcome here,
'Tis many a day since we have met-how fares my Brother dear?"
"Now, thanks, my loving Uncle," that Lady gay replied; "Gramercy for thy benison ;" then "Out, alas!" she sighed; My father dear he is not near; he seeks the Spanish Main; He prays thee give me shelter here till he return again !”
"Now, welcome! welcome! dearest Niece; come lay thy mantle by!"
The Canon kissed her ruby lips-he had a merry eye
But Nelly Cook askew did look-it came into her mind
They were a little less than "kin," and rather more than "kind."
'Three weeks are gone and over-full three weeks and a day,
'And fine upon the Virginals is that gay lady's touch,
And sweet her voice unto the lute, you'll scarce hear any such ; But is it "O Sanctissima!" she sings in dulcet tone?
Or "Angels ever bright and fair ?"-Ah, no!-it's "Bobbing Joan!"
• The Canon's house is lofty and spacious to the view:
'Six weeks were gone and over, full six weeks and a day,
'But where that Lady passed her nights I may not well divine,
And still, at night, by fair moon-light, when all were locked in sleep,
'It was a glorious summer's eve-with beams of rosy red
The Sun went down-all Nature smiled-but Nelly shook her head!
"Now here's to thee, mine Uncle! a health I drink to thee ;
"Tis early dawn--the matin chime rings out for morning prayer;
'They've searched the aisles and Baptistry-they've searched abovearound
The 'Sermon House '-the Audit Room'-the Canon is not found.
"They call for crow-bars-'jemmies' is the modern name they bear: They burst through lock, and bolt, and bar-but what a sight is there!
The Canon's head lies on the bed-his niece lies on the floor!
The livid spot is on his breast, the spot is on his back!
His portly form, no longer warm with life, is swoln and black!
The livid spot is on her cheek; it's on her neck of snow!
And the Prior sighs, and sadly cries, "Well! here's a pretty go!"
'All at the silent hour of night a bell is heard to toll,
'An Uncle-so 'tis whispered now throughout the sacred fane;
But he puts his thumb unto his nose, and he spreads his fingers out!
'And where doth tarry Nelly Cook, that staid and comely lass?
'There is a heavy paving stone fast by the Canon's door,
Where sun or moon-beam never played, or e'en one starry spark.
'That heavy granite stone was moved that night, 'twas darkly said, And the mortar round its sides next morn seemed fresh, and newly
But what within the narrow vault beneath that stone doth lie,
Or if that there be vault or no, I cannot tell, not I!
'But I've been told that moan and groan, and fearful wail and shriek, Came from beneath that paving-stone for nearly half a week:
For three long days and three long nights came forth those sounds of fear;
Then all was o'er-they never more fell on the listening ear.
A hundred years were gone and past since last Nell Cook was seen, When, worn by use, that stone got loose, and they went and told the Dean.
Says the Dean, says he, "My Masons three! now haste and fix it tight;"
And the Masons three peeped down to see, and they saw a fearsome sight.
'Beneath that heavy paving-stone a shocking hole they found!
It was not more than twelve feet deep, and barely twelve feet round; A fleshless, sapless skeleton lay in that horrid well!
But who the deuce 'twas put it there those Masons could not tell.
'And near this fleshless skeleton a pitcher small did lie, And a mouldy piece of "kissing-crust," as from a warden-pie! And Doctor Jones declared the bones were female bones, and, "Zooks!
I should not be surprised," said he, "if these were Nelly Cook's!"
'It was in good Dean Bargrave's days, if I remember right, Those fleshless bones beneath the stones these Masons brought to light;
And you may well in the "Dean's Chapelle" Dean Bargrave's portrait view,
"Who died one night," says old Tom Wright, "in sixteen forty-two!"
'And so two hundred years have passed since that these Masons three,
With curious looks, did set Nell Cook's unquiet spirit free ;
That granite stone had kept her down till then-so some suppose-
'But one thing's clear-that all the year, on every Friday night,
'And though two hundred years have flown, Nell Cook doth still pursue
Her weary walk, and they who cross her path the deed may rue ;
'But all unlike the Simoom's blast, her breath is deadly cold,
No matter who-no matter what condition, age, or sex,
But some 66 get shot," and some "get drowned," and some "get" broken necks;
Some "get run over " by a coach ;—and one beyond the seas
'Those Masons three, who set her free, fell first!-it is averred That two were hanged on Tyburn tree for murdering of the third! Charles Storey,* too, his friend who slew, had ne'er, if truth they tell,
Been gibbetted on Chartham Downs, had they not met with Nell!
In or about the year 1780, a worthy of this name cut the throat of a journeyman paper-maker, was executed on Oaten Hill, and afterwards hung in chains near the scene of his crime. It was to this place, as being the extreme boundary of the City's jurisdiction, that the worthy Mayor with so much naïveté wished to escort Arch. bishop M** on one of his progresses, when he begged to have the honour of "attending his Grace as far as the Gallows."