The Ingoldsby Legends, by Thomas Ingoldsby

The Smuggler’s Leap: A Legend of Thanet.

‘Near this hamlet (Acol) is a long-disused chalk-pit of formidable depth, known by the name of “The Smuggler’s Leap.” The tradition of the parish runs, that a riding-officer from Sandwich, called Anthony Gill, lost his life here in the early part of the present (18th) century, while in pursuit of a smuggler. A fog coming on, both parties went over the precipice. The smuggler’s horse only, it is said, was found crushed beneath its rider. The spot has, of course, been haunted ever since.’ — See ‘Supplement to Lewis’s History of Thanet, by the Rev. Samuel Pegge, A.M., Vicar of Gomersham.’ W. Bristow, Canterbury, 1796, p. 127.

The fire-flash shines from Reculver cliff,

And the answering light burns blue in the skiff,

And there they stand,

That smuggling band,

Some in the water and some on the sand,

Ready those contraband goods to land:

The night is dark, they are silent and still,

— At the head of the party is Smuggler Bill!

‘Now lower away! come, lower away!

We must be far ere the dawn of the day.

If Exciseman Gill should get scent of the prey,

And should come, and should catch us here, what would he say?

Come, lower away, lads — once on the hill,

We’ll laugh, ho! ho! at Exciseman Gill!’

The cargo’s lower’d from the dark skiff’s side,

And the tow-line drags the tubs through the tide,

No trick nor flam,

But your real Schiedam.

‘Now mount, my merry men, mount and ride!’

Three on the crupper and one before,

And the led-horse laden with five tubs more;

But the rich point-lace,

In the oil-skin case

Of proof to guard its contents from ill,

The ‘prime of the swag,’ is with Smuggler Bill!

Merrily now in a goodly row,

Away and away those Smugglers go,

And they laugh at Exciseman Gill, ho! ho!

When out from the turn

Of the road to Herne,

Comes Gill, wide awake to the whole concern!

Exciseman Gill, in all his pride,

With his Custom-house officers all at his side!

— They were called Custom-house officers then;

There were no such things as ‘Preventive men.’

Sauve qui peut!

That lawless crew,

Away, and away, and away they flew!

Some dropping one tub, some dropping two; —

Some gallop this way, and some gallop that,

Through Fordwich Level — o’er Sandwich Flat,

Some fly that way, and some fly this,

Like a covey of birds when the sportsmen miss;

These in their hurry

Make for Sturry,

With Custom-house officers close in their rear,

Down Rushbourne Lane, and so by Westbere,

None of them stopping,

But shooting and popping,

And many a Custom-house bullet goes slap

Through many a three-gallon tub like a tap,

And the gin spirts out

And squirts all about,

And many a heart grew sad that day

That so much good liquor was so thrown away.

Sauve qui peut! That lawless crew,

Away, and away, and away they flew!

Some seek Whitstable — some Grove Ferry,

Spurring and whipping like madmen — very —

For the life! for the life! they ride! they ride!

And the Custom-house officers all divide,

And they gallop on after them far and wide!

All, all, save one — Exciseman Gill, —

He sticks to the skirts of Smuggler Bill!

Smuggler Bill is six feet high,

He has curling locks, and a roving eye,

He has a tongue and he has a smile

Trained the female heart to beguile,

And there is not a farmer’s wife in the Isle,

From St. Nicholas quite

To the Foreland Light,

But that eye, and that tongue, and that smile will wheedle her

To have done with the Grocer and make him her Tea-dealer;

There is not a farmer there but he still

Buys gin and tobacco from Smuggler Bill.

Smuggler Bill rides gallant and gay

On his dapple-grey mare, away, and away,

And he pats her neck and he seems to say,

‘Follow who will, ride after who may,

In sooth he had need

Fodder his steed,

In lieu of Lent-corn, with a Quicksilver feed;

— Nor oats, nor beans, nor the best of old hay,

Will make him a match for my own dapple-grey!

Ho! ho! — ho! ho!’ says Smuggler Bill —

He draws out a flask and he sips his fill,

And he laughs ‘Ho! ho!’ at Exciseman Gill.

Down Chislett Lane, so free and so fleet

Rides Smuggler Bill, and away to Up-street;

Sarre Bridge is won —

Bill thinks it fun;

‘Ho! ho! the old tub-gauging son of a gun —

His wind will be thick, and his breeks be thin,

Ere a race like this he may hope to win!’

Away, away

Goes the fleet dapple-grey,

Fresh as the breeze and free as the wind,

And Exciseman Gill lags far behind.

‘I would give my soul,’ quoth Exciseman Gill,

‘For a nag that would catch that Smuggler Bill! —

No matter for blood, no matter for bone,

No matter for colour, bay, brown or roan,

So I had but one!’ A voice cried ‘Done!’

‘Ay, dun,’ said Exciseman Gill, and he spied

A Custom-house officer close by his side,

On a high-trotting horse with a dun-coloured hide. —

‘Devil take me,’ again quoth Exciseman Gill,

‘If I had but that horse, I’d have Smuggler Bill!’

From his using such shocking expressions, it’s plain

That Exciseman Gill was rather profane.

He was, it is true,

As bad as a Jew,

A sad old scoundrel as ever you knew,

And he rode in his stirrups sixteen stone two.

— He’d just utter’d the words which I’ve mention’d to you,

When his horse coming slap on his knees with him, threw

Him head over heels, and away he flew,

And Exciseman Gill was bruised black and blue.

When he arose

His hands and his clothes

Were as filthy as could be, — he’d pitch’d on his nose,

And roll’d over and over again in the mud,

And his nose and his chin were all cover’d with blood;

Yet he screamed with passion, ‘I’d rather grill

Than not come up with that Smuggler Bill!’

— ‘Mount! Mount!’ quoth the Custom-house officer, ‘get

On the back of my Dun, you’ll bother him yet.

Your words are plain, though they’re somewhat rough,

‘Done and Done’ between gentlemen’s always enough! —

I’ll lend you a lift — there — you’re up on him — so,

He’s a rum one to look at — a devil to go!’

Exciseman Gill

Dash’d up the hill,

And mark’d not, so eager was he in pursuit,

The queer Custom-house officer’s queer-looking boot.

Smuggler Bill rides on amain,

He slacks not girth and he draws not rein,

Yet the dapple-grey mare bounds on in vain,

For nearer now — and he hears it plain —

Sounds the tramp of a horse — ’Tis the Gauger again!’

Smuggler Bill

Dashes round by the mill

That stands near the road upon Monkton Hill, —

‘Now speed, — now speed,

My dapple-grey steed,

Thou ever, my dapple, wert good at need!

O’er Monkton Mead, and through Minster Level,

We’ll baffle him yet, be he gauger or devil!

For Manston Cave, away! away!

Now speed thee, now speed thee, my good dapple-grey,

It shall never be said that Smuggler Bill

Was run down like a hare by Exciseman Gill!’

Manston Cave was Bill’s abode;

A mile to the north of the Ramsgate road.

(Of late they say

It’s been taken away,

That is, levell’d and filled up with chalk and clay,

By a gentleman there of the name of Day,)

Thither he urges his good dapple-grey;

And the dapple-grey steed,

Still good at need,

Though her chest it pants, and her flanks they bleed,

Dashes along at the top of her speed;

But nearer and nearer Exciseman Gill

Cries ‘Yield thee! now yield thee, thou Smuggler Bill!’

Smuggler Bill, he looks behind,

And he sees a Dun horse come swift as the wind,

And his nostrils smoke and his eyes they blaze

Like a couple of lamps on a yellow post-chaise!

Every shoe he has got

Appears red-hot!

And sparks round his ears snap, crackle, and play,

And his tail cocks up in a very odd way;

Every hair in his mane seems a porcupine’s quill,

And there on his back sits Exciseman Gill,

Crying ‘Yield thee! now yield thee, thou Smuggler Bill!’

Smuggler Bill from his holster drew

A large horse-pistol, of which he had two!

Made by Nock;

He pull’d back the cock

As far as he could to the back of the lock;

The trigger he touch’d, and the welkin rang

To the sound of the weapon, it made such a bang;

Smuggler Bill ne’er missed his aim,

The shot told true on the Dun — but there came

From the hole where it enter’d — not blood, — but flame,

— He changed his plan,

And fired at the man;

But his second horse-pistol flashed in the pan!

And Exciseman Gill with a hearty good will,

Made a grab at the collar of Smuggler Bill.

The dapple-grey mare made a desperate bound

When that queer Dun horse on her flank she found,

Alack! and alas! on what dangerous ground!

It’s enough to make one’s flesh to creep

To stand on that fearful verge, and peep

Down the rugged sides so dreadfully steep,

Where the chalk-hole yawns full sixty feet deep,

O’er which that steed took that desperate leap!

It was so dark then under the trees,

No horse in the world could tell chalk from cheese —

Down they went — o’er that terrible fall, —

Horses, Exciseman, Smuggler, and all!!

Below were found

Next day on the ground

By an elderly Gentleman walking his round,

(I wouldn’t have seen such a sight for a pound,)

All smash’d and dash’d, three mangled corses,

Two of them human, — the third was a horse’s —

That good dapple-grey, and Exciseman Gill

Yet grasping the collar of Smuggler Bill!

But where was the Dun? that terrible Dun?

From that terrible night he was seen by none! —

There are some people think, though I am not one,

That part of the story all nonsense and fun,

But the country-folks there,

One and all declare,

When the ‘Crowner’s ‘Quest’ came to sit on the pair,

They heard a loud Horse-laugh up in the air! —

— If in one of the trips

Of the steam-boat Eclipse

You should go down to Margate to look at the ships,

Or to take what the bathing-room people call ‘Dips,’

You may hear old folks talk

Of that quarry of chalk:

Or go over — it’s rather too far for a walk,

But a three-shilling drive will give you a peep

At that fearful chalk-pit — so awfully deep,

Which is call’d to this moment ‘The Smuggler’s Leap!’

Nay more, I am told, on a moonshiny night,

If you’re ‘plucky,’ and not over subject to fright,

And go and look over that chalk-pit white,

You may see, if you will,

The Ghost of Old Gill

Grappling the Ghost of Smuggler Bill,

And the Ghost of the dapple-grey lying between ’em. —

I’m told so — I can’t say I know one who’s seen ’em!

Moral.

And now, gentle Reader, one word ere we part,

Just take a friend’s counsel, and lay it to heart.

Imprimis, don’t smuggle! — if bent to please Beauty

You must buy French lace, — purchase what has paid duty

Don’t use naughty words, in the next place, — and ne’er in

Your language adopt a bad habit of swearing!

Never say ‘Devil take me!’

Or ‘shake me!’ — or ‘bake me!’

Or such-like expressions — Remember Old Nick

To take folks at their word is remarkably quick.

Another sound maxim I’d wish you to keep,

Is, ‘Mind what you’re after, and — Look ere you Leap!’

Above all, to my last gravest caution attend —

NEVER BORROW A HORSE YOU DON’T KNOW OF A FRIEND!!!

For the story which succeeds I am indebted to Mrs. Botherby. She is a Shropshire lady by birth, and I overheard her, a few weeks since, in the nursery ehaunting the following, one of the Legends peculiar to her native county, for the amusement and information of Seaforth’s little boy, who was indeed ‘all ears.’ As Ralph de Diceto, who alludes to the main facts, was Dean of St. Paul’s in 1183, about the time that the Temple Church was consecrated, the history is evidently as ancient as it is authentic, though the author of the present paraphrase has introduced many unauthorized, as well as anachronismatical interpolations. — For the interesting note on the ancient family of Ketch, I need scarcely say, I am obliged to the Simpkinson.

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