The Ingoldsby Legends, by Thomas Ingoldsby

Sir Rupert the Fearless: A Legend of Germany.

Sir Rupert the Fearless, a gallant young knight,

Was equally ready to tipple or fight,

Crack a crown, or a bottle,

Cut sirloin, or throttle!

In brief, or, as Hume says, ‘to sum up the tottle,’

Unstain’d by dishonour, unsullied by fear,

All his neighbours pronounced him a preux chevalier.

Despite these perfections, corporeal and mental,

He had one slight defect, viz., a rather lean rental;

Besides, as ’tis own’d there are spots in the sun,

So it must be confessed that Sir Rupert had one;

Being rather unthinking,

He’d scarce sleep a wink in

A night, but addicted himself sadly to drinking,

And what moralists say,

Is as naughty — to play,

To Rouge et Noir, Hazard, Short Whist, Ecarté;

Till these, and a few less defensible fancies

Brought the Knight to the end of his slender finances.

When at length through his boozing,

And tenants refusing

Their rents, swearing ‘times were so bad they were losing,’

His steward said, ‘O, sir, It’s some time ago, sir,

Since aught through my hands reach’d the baker or grocer,

And the tradesmen in general are grown great complainers.’

Sir Rupert the Brave thus address’d his retainers:

‘My friends, since the stock

Of my father’s old hock

Is out, with the Kürchwasser, Barsac, Moselle,

And we’re fairly reduced to the pump and the well,

I presume to suggest,

We shall all find it best

For each to shake hands with his friends ere he goes,

Mount his horse, if he has one, and — follow his nose;

As to me, I opine,

Left sans money or wine,

My best way is to throw myself into the Rhine,

Where pitying trav’llers may sigh, as they cross over,

“Though he lived a roué, yet he died a philosopher.”’

The Knight, having bow’d out his friends thus politely,

Got into his skiff, the full moon shining brightly,

By the light of whose beam,

He soon spied on the stream

A dame, whose complexion was fair as new cream;

Pretty pink silken hose

Cover’d ankles and toes

In other respects she was scanty of clothes;

For, so says tradition, both written and oral,

Her one garment was loop’d up with bunches of coral.

Full sweetly she sang to a sparkling guitar,

With silver chords stretch’d over Derbyshire spar,

And she smiled on the Knight,

Who, amazed at the sight,

Soon found his astonishment merged in delight;

But the stream by degrees

Now rose up to her knees,

Till at length it invaded her very chemise,

While the heavenly strain, as the wave seem’d to swallow her,

And slowly she sank, sounded fainter and hollower;

— Jumping up in his boat

And discarding his coat,

‘Here goes,’ cried Sir Rupert, ‘by jingo I’ll follow her!’

Then into the water he plunged with a souse

That was heard quite distinctly by those in the house.

Down, down, forty fathom and more from the brink,

Sir Rupert the Fearless continues to sink,

And, as downward he goes,

Still the cold water flows

Through his ears, and his eyes, and his mouth, and his nose,

Till the rum and the brandy he’d swallow’d since lunch

Wanted nothing but lemon to fill him with punch;

Some minutes elapsed since he enter’d the flood,

Ere his heels touch’d the bottom, and stuck in the mud.

But oh! what a sight

Met the eyes of the Knight,

When he stood in the depth of the stream bolt upright! —

A grand stalactite hall,

Like the cave of Fingal,

Rose above and about him; — great fishes and small

Came thronging around him, regardless of danger,

And seem’d all agog for a peep at the stranger.

Their figures and forms to describe, language fails —

They’d such very odd heads, and such very odd tails;

Of their genus or species a sample to gain,

You would ransack all Hungerford market in vain;

E’en the famed Mr. Myers,

Would scarcely find buyers,

Though hundreds of passengers doubtless would stop

To stare, were such monsters exposed in his shop.

But little reck’d Rupert these queer-looking brutes,

Or the efts and the newts

That crawled up his boots,

For a sight, beyond any of which I’ve made mention,

In a moment completely absorb’d his attention.

A huge crystal bath, which, with water far clearer

Than George Robins’s filters, or Thorpe’s (which are dearer),

Have ever distill’d,

To the summit was fill’d,

Lay stretch’d out before him, — and every nerve thrill’d

As scores of young women

Were diving and swimming,

Till the vision a perfect quandary put him in; —

All slightly accoutred in gauzes and lawns,

They came floating about him like so many prawns.

Sir Rupert, who (barring the few peccadilloes

Alluded to) ere he lept into the billows

Possessed irreproachable morals, began

To feel rather queer, as a modest young man;

When forth stepp’d a dame, whom he recognised soon

As the one he had seen by the light of the moon,

And lisp’d, while a soft smile attended each sentence,

‘Sir Rupert, I’m happy to make your acquaintance;

My name is Lurline,

And the ladies you’ve seen,

All do me the honour to call me their Queen;

I’m delighted to see you, sir, down in the Rhine here,

And hope you can make it convenient to dine here.’

The Knight blush’d and bow’d,

As he ogled the crowd,

Of subaqueous beauties, then answer’d aloud:

‘Ma’am, you do me much honour, — I cannot express

The delight I shall feel — if you’ll pardon my dress, —

May I venture to say, when a gentleman jumps

In the river at midnight for want of ‘the dumps,’

He rarely puts on his knee-breeches and pumps;

If I could but have guess’d — what I sensibly feel —

Your politeness — I’d not have come en déshabille,

But have put on my silk tights in lieu of my steel.’

Quoth the lady ‘Dear sir, no apologies, pray,

You will take our ‘pot-luck’ in the family way;

We can give you a dish

Of some decentish fish,

And our water’s thought fairish; but here in the Rhine

I can’t say we pique ourselves much on our wine.’

The Knight made a bow more profound than before,

When a Dory-faced page oped the dining-room door,

And said, bending his knee,

‘Madame, on a servi!’

Rupert tender’d his arm, led Lurline to her place,

And a fat little Mer-man stood up and said grace.

What boots it to tell of the viands or how she

Apologised much for their plain water-souchy,

Want of Harvey’s, and Crosse’s,

And Burgess’s sauces?

Or how Rupert, on his side, protested, by Jove, he

Preferr’d his fish plain, without soy or anchovy.

Suffice it the meal

Boasted trout, perch, and eel,

Besides some remarkably fine salmon peel.

The Knight, sooth to say, thought much less of the fishes

Than of what they were served on, the massive gold dishes;

While his eye, as it glanced now and then on the girls,

Was caught by their persons much less than their pearls,

And a thought came across him and caused him to muse,

‘If I could but get hold

Of some of that gold,

I might manage to pay off my rascally Jews?’

When dinner was done, at a sign to the lasses,

The table was clear’d, and they put on fresh glasses;

Then the lady addrest

Her redoubtable guest

Much as Dido, of old, did the pious Eneas,

‘Dear sir, what induced you to come down and see us?’ —

Rupert gave her a glance most bewitchingly tender,

Loll’d back in his chair, put his toes on the fender,

And told her outright

How that he, a young Knight,

Had never been last at a feast or a fight;

But that keeping good cheer,

Every day in the year,

And drinking neat wines all the same as small-beer,

Had exhausted his rent,

And, his money all spent,

How he borrow’d large sums at two hundred per cent.;

How they follow’d — and then,

The once civillest of men,

Messrs. Howard and Gibbs, made him bitterly rue it he

‘d ever raised money by way of annuity;

And, his mortgages being about to foreclose,

How he jump’d in the river to finish his woes!

Lurline was affected, and own’d, with a tear,

That a story so mournful had ne’er met her ear;

Rupert, hearing her sigh, Look’d uncommonly sly,

And said with some emphasis, ‘Ah! miss had I

A few pounds of those metals You waste here on kettles,

Then, Lord once again Of my spacious domain,

A free Count of the Empire once more I might reign,

With Lurline at my side,

My adorable bride,

(For the parson should come, and the knot should be tied;)

No couple so happy on earth should be seen,

As Sir Rupert the Brave and his charming Lurline;

Not that money’s my object — No, hang it! I scorn it —

And as for my rank — but that you’d so adorn it —

I’d abandon it all

To remain your true thrall,

And instead of ‘the Great,’ be call’d ‘Rupert the Small;’

— To gain but your smiles, were I Sardanapalus,

I’d descend from my throne, and be boots at an alehouse.’1

Lurline hung her head

Turn’d pale, and then red,

Growing faint at this sudden proposal to wed,

As though his abruptness, in ‘popping the question’

So soon after dinner, disturb’d her digestion.

Then, averting her eye,

With a lover-like sigh,

‘You are welcome,’ she murmur’d in tones most bewitching,

‘To every utensil I have in my kitchen!’

Up started the Knight,

Half mad with delight,

Round her finely-form’d waist He immediately placed

One arm, which the lady most closely embraced,

Of her lily-white fingers the other made capture,

And he press’d his adored to his bosom with rapture.

‘And, oh!’ he exclaim’d, ‘let them go catch my skiff, I

‘ll be home in a twinkling and back, in a jiffy,

Nor one moment procrastinate longer my journey

Than to put up the banns and kick out the attorney.’

One kiss to her lip, and one squeeze to her hand,

And Sir Rupert already was half-way to land,

For a sour-visaged Triton,

With features would frighten

Old Nick, caught him up in one hand, though no light one,

Sprang up through the waves, popp’d him into his funny,

Which some others already had half fill’d with money;

In fact, ’twas so heavily laden with ore

And pearls, ’twas a mercy he got it to shore:

But Sir Rupert was strong, And while pulling along

Still he heard, faintly sounding, the water-nymphs’ song.

1 ‘Sardanapalus’ and ‘Boots,’ the Zenith and Nadir of human society.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:47