Richard Harris Barham

(1788-1845 / England)

'Look at The Clock!' : Patty Morgan The Milkmaid's Story


FYTTE I.

'Look at the Clock!' quoth Winifred Pryce,
As she open'd the door to her husband's knock,
Then paus'd to give him a piece of advice,
'You nasty Warmint, look at the Clock!
Is this the way, you
Wretch, every day you
Treat her who vow'd to love and obey you?
Out all night!
Me in a fright;
Staggering home as it's just getting light!
You intoxified brute! you insensible block!
Look at the Clock!-- Do!-- Look at the Clock!'

Winifred Pryce was tidy and clean,
Her gown was a flower'd one, her petticoat green,
Her buckles were bright as her milking cans,
And her hat was a beaver, and made like a man's;
Her little red eyes were deep set in their socket-holes,
Her gown-tail was turn'd up, and tuck'd through the pocket-holes:
A face like a ferret
Betoken'd her spirit:
To conclude, Mrs. Pryce was not over young,
Had very short legs, and a very long tongue.

Now David Pryce
Had one darling vice;
Remarkably partial to anything nice,
Nought that was good to him came amiss,
Whether to eat, or to drink, or to kiss!
Especially ale --
If it was not too stale
I really believe he'd have emptied a pail;
Not that in Wales
They talk of their Ales;
To pronounce the word they make use of might trouble you,
Being spelt with a C, two Rs, and a W.

That particular day,
As I've heard people say,
Mr. David Pryce had been soaking his clay,
And amusing himself with his pipe and cheroots,
The whole afternoon at the Goat in Boots,
With a couple more soakers,
Thoroughbred smokers,
Both, like himself, prime singers and jokers;
And, long after day had drawn to a close,
And the rest of the world was wrapp'd in repose,
They were roaring out 'Shenkin!' and 'Ar hydd y nos;'
While David himself, to a Sassenach tune,
Sang, 'We've drunk down the Sun, boys! let's drink down the Moon!'
What have we with day to do?
Mrs. Winifred Pryce, 'twas made for you!'--
At length, when they couldn't well drink any more,
Old 'Goat-in-Boots' show'd them the door;
And then came that knock,
And the sensible shock
David felt when his wife cried, 'Look at the Clock!'

For the hands stood as crooked as crooked might be,
The long at the Twelve, and the short at the Three!
This self-same Clock had long been a bone
Of contention between this Darby and Joan;
And often among their pother and rout,
When this otherwise amiable couple fell out,
Pryce would drop a cool hint,
With an ominous squint
At its case, of an 'Uncle' of his, who'd a 'Spout.'
That horrid word 'Spout'
No sooner came out,
Than Winifred Pryce would turn her about,
And with scorn on her lip,
And a hand on each hip,
'Spout' herself till her nose grew red at the tip.
'You thundering willain,
I know you'd be killing
Your wife,-- ay, a dozen of wives,-- for a shilling!
You may do what you please,
You may sell my chemise,
(Mrs. P. was too well-bred to mention her stock,)
But I never will part with my Grandmother's Clock!'

Mrs. Pryce's tongue ran long and ran fast;
But patience is apt to wear out at last,
And David Pryce in temper was quick,
So he stretch'd out his hand, and caught hold of a stick;
Perhaps in its use he might mean to be lenient,
But walking just then wasn't very convenient,
So he threw it, instead,
Direct at her head.
It knock'd off her hat;
Down she fell flat;
Her case, perhaps, was not much mended by that:
But, whatever it was,-- whether rage and pain
Produced apoplexy, or burst a vein,
Or her tumble induced a concussion of brain,
I can't say for certain,-- but this I can,
When, sober'd by fright, to assist her he ran,
Mrs. Winifred Pryce was as dead as Queen Anne!

The fearful catastrophe
Named in my last strophe
As adding to grim Death's exploits such a vast trophy,
Soon made a great noise; and the shocking fatality
Ran over, like wild-fire, the whole Principality.
And then came Mr. Ap Thomas, the Coroner,
With his jury to sit, some dozen or more, on her.
Mr. Pryce to commence
His 'ingenious defence,'
Made a 'powerful appeal' to the jury's 'good sense,'
'The world he must defy
Ever to justify
Any presumption of 'Malice Prepense;'
The unlucky lick
From the end of his stick
He 'deplored,' he was 'apt to be rather too quick;'
But, really, her prating
Was so aggravating:
Some trifling correction was just what he meant; all
The rest, he assured them, was 'quite accidental!'

Then he called Mr. Jones,
Who deposed to her tones,
And her gestures, and hints about 'breaking his bones.'
While Mr. Ap Morgan, and Mr. Ap Rhys
Declared the Deceased
Had styled him 'a Beast,'
And swore they had witness'd, with grief and surprise,
The allusions she made to his limbs and his eyes.
The jury, in fine, having sat on the body
The whole day, discussing the case, and gin-toddy,
Return'd about half-past eleven at night
The following verdict, 'We find, Sarve her right!'
Mr. Pryce, Mrs. Winifred Pryce being dead,
Felt lonely, and moped; and one evening he said
He would marry Miss Davis at once in her stead.

Not far from his dwelling,
From the vale proudly swelling,
Rose a mountain; it's name you'll excuse me from telling,
For the vowels made use of in Welsh are so few
That the A and the E, the I, O, and the U,
Have really but little or nothing to do;
And the duty, of course, falls the heavier by far
On the L, and the H, and the N, and the R.
Its first syllable, 'Pen,'
Is pronounceable;-- then
Come two L Ls, and two H Hs, two F Fs, and an N;
About half a score Rs, and some Ws follow,
Beating all my best efforts at euphony hollow:
But we shan't have to mention it often, so when
We do, with your leave, we'll curtail it to 'Pen.'

Well,-- the moon shone bright
Upon 'Pen' that night,
When Pryce, being quit of his fuss and his fright,
Was scaling its side
With that sort of stride
A man puts out when walking in search of a bride,
Mounting higher and higher,
He began to perspire,
Till, finding his legs were beginning to tire,
And feeling opprest
By a pain in his chest,
He paused, and turn'd round to take breath, and to rest;
A walk all up hill is apt, we know,
To make one, however robust, puff and blow,
So he stopp'd, and look'd down on the valley below.

O'er fell, and o'er fen,
Over mountain and glen,
All bright in the moonshine, his eye roved, and then
All the Patriot rose in his soul, and he thought
Of Wales, and her glories, and all he'd been taught
Of her Heroes of old,
So brave and so bold,--
Of her Bards with long beards, and harps mounted in gold;
Of King Edward the First,
Of memory accurst;
And the scandalous manner in which he behaved,
Killing Poets by dozens,
With their uncles and cousins,
Of whom not one in fifty had ever been shaved.
Of the Court Ball, at which by a lucky mishap,
Owen Tudor fell into Queen Katherine's lap;
And how Mr. Tudor
Successfully woo'd her
Till the Dowager put on a new wedding ring,
And so made him Father-in-law to the King.

He thought upon Arthur, and Merlin of yore,
On Gryffth ap Conan, and Owen Glendour;
On Pendragon, and Heaven knows how many more.
He thought of all this, as he gazed, in a trice,
And on all things, in short, but the late Mrs. Pryce;
When a lumbering noise from behind made him start,
And sent the blood back in full tide to his heart,
Which went pit-a-pat
As he cried out, 'What's that?'--
That very queer sound?
Does it come from the ground?
Or the air,-- from above or below, or around?
It is not like Talking,
It is not like Walking,
It's not like the clattering of pot or of pan,
Or the tramp of a horse,-- or the tread of a man,--
Or the hum of a crowd,-- or the shouting of boys,--
It's really a deuced odd sort of a noise!
Not unlike a Cart's,-- but that can't be; for when
Could 'all the King's horses and all the King's men,'
With Old Nick for a waggoner, drive one up 'Pen?'

Pryce, usually brimful of valour when drunk,
Now experienced what schoolboys denominate 'funk.'
In vain he look'd back
On the whole of the track
He had traversed; a thick cloud, uncommonly black,
At this moment obscured the broad disc of the moon,
And did not seem likely to pass away soon;
While clearer and clearer,
'Twas plain to the hearer,
Be the noise what it might, it drew nearer and nearer,
And sounded, as Pryce to this moment declares,
Very much 'like a Coffin a-walking up stairs.'

Mr. Pryce had begun
To 'make up' for a run,
As in such a companion he saw no great fun,
When a single bright ray
Shone out on the way
He had pass'd, and he saw, with no little dismay,
Coming after him, bounding o'er crag and o'er rock,
The deceased Mrs. Winifred's 'Grandmother's Clock!!'
'Twas so!-- it had certainly moved from its place,
And come, lumbering on thus, to hold him in chase;
'Twas the very same Head, and the very same Case,
And nothing was alter'd at all -- but the Face!
In that he perceived, with no little surprise,
The two little winder-holes turn'd into eyes
Blazing with ire,
Like two coals of fire;
And the 'Name of the Maker' was changed to a Lip,
And the Hands to a Nose with a very red tip.
No!-- he could not mistake it,--' twas She to the life!
The identical Face of his poor defunct Wife!

One glance was enough,
Completely 'Quant. suff.'
As the doctors write down when they send you their 'stuff,'--
Like a Weather-cock whirl'd by a vehement puff,
David turn'd himself round;
Ten feet of ground
He clear'd, in his start, at the very first bound!

I've seen people run at West-End Fair for cheeses,
I've seen Ladies run at Bow Fair for chemises,
At Greenwich Fair twenty men run for a hat,
And one from a Bailiff much faster than that;
At foot-ball I've seen lads run after the bladder,
I've seen Irish Bricklayers run up a ladder,
I've seen little boys run away from a cane,
And I've seen (that is, read of) good running in Spain;
But I never did read
Of, or witness, such speed
As David exerted that evening.-- Indeed
All I ever have heard of boys, women, or men,
Falls far short of Pryce, as he ran over 'Pen!'

He reaches its brow,--
He has past it, and now
Having once gain'd the summit, and managed to cross it, he
Rolls down the side with uncommon velocity;
But, run as he will,
Or roll down the hill,
That bugbear behind him is after him still!
And close at his heels, not at all to his liking,
The terrible Clock keeps on ticking and striking,
Till, exhausted and sore,
He can't run any more,
But falls as he reaches Miss Davis's door,
And screams when they rush out, alarm'd at his knock,
'Oh! Look at the Clock!-- Do!-- Look at the Clock!!'

Miss Davis look'd up, Miss Davis look'd down,
She saw nothing there to alarm her;-- a frown
Came o'er her white forehead,
She said, 'It was horrid
A man should come knocking at that time of night,
And give her Mamma and herself such a fright;
To squall and to bawl
About nothing at all,
She begg'd 'he'd not think of repeating his call,
His late wife's disaster
By no means had past her,'
She'd 'have him to know she was meat for his Master!'
Then, regardless alike of his love and his woes,
She turn'd on her heel and she turned up her nose.

Poor David in vain
Implored to remain,
He 'dared not,' he said, 'cross the mountain again.'
Why the fair was obdurate
None knows,-- to be sure, it
Was said she was setting her cap at the Curate;--
Be that as it may, it is certain the sole hole
Pryce could find to creep into that night was the Coal-hole!
In that shady retreat,
With nothing to eat,
And with very bruised limbs, and with very sore feet,
All night close he kept;
I can't say he slept;
But he sigh'd, and he sobb'd, and he groan'd, and he wept,
Lamenting his sins
And his two broken shins,
Bewailing his fate with contortions and grins,
And her he once thought a complete Rara Avis,
Consigning to Satan,-- viz. cruel Miss Davis!

Mr. David has since had a 'serious call,'
He never drinks ale, wine, or spirits, at all,
And they say he is going to Exeter Hall
To make a grand speech,
And to preach, and to teach
People that 'they can't brew their malt-liquor too small!'
That an ancient Welsh Poet, one Pyndar ap Tudor,
Was right in proclaiming 'Ariston men Udor!'
Which means 'The pure Element
Is for the belly meant!'
And that Gin's but a Snare of Old Nick the deluder!

And 'still on each evening when pleasure fills up,'
At the old Goat-in-Boots, with Metheglin, each cup,
Mr Pryce, if he's there,
Will get into 'the Chair,'

And make all his quondam associates stare
By calling aloud to the landlady's daughter,
'Patty! bring a cigar, and a glass of Spring Water!'
The dial he constantly watches; and when
The long hand's at the 'XII,' and the short at the 'X,'
He gets on his legs,
Drains his glass to the dregs,
Takes his hat and great-coat off their several pegs,
With his President's hammer bestows his last knock,
And says solemnly,--'Gentlemen!
'Look at the Clock!!!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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