Betsy Brown.

A True Story.*

All must have heard of Mrs. Brown,1
Who kept the old “ Cod’s Head Hotel,”2
Close to tide-mark in Tangletown,3
Where brightest sea-nymphs love to dwell :4
For in her house, time out of mind,5
Men fond of fish and frolic dined.6
And no one, surely, can forget7
How fishes there of every fin,8
Rushing to table from the net,9
Strove, in all shapes, our smiles to win ;10
Some holding in strange mouths strange tails,11
Like minnows some, and some like whales.12
But ’tis not of the fishes there13
That we would speak—my muse and I ;14

* This story, in all essential points, is, we believe, strictly and literally true ; and
it will probably be thought by most of our readers that it affords a confirmation
of the common saying, that “ truth is stranger than fiction.” It may perhaps be
proper to add, for the sake of some of our readers, that Tangletown has probably
taken its name from the abundance on its shore of that kind of sea-weed often called
Tangle.—Ed. B. M.
For them we have no time to spare15
In fact, we’ve “ other fish to fry :”16
We’ve doings there most strange to show17
Of him of ever-bended bow.18
Good Mrs. Brown had daughters twain19
Such daughters as you oft may see,20
At least may look for not in vain,21
At bar of thriving hostelry :22
Fine rosy women—rather stout23
Better with head-gear than without.24
Were we to say they were not young,25
More than was meant we might express :26
They were—in a politer tongue27
Not in their premiére jeunesse ;28
Yet buxom, blooming women still,29
Killing all round, but hard to kill.30
Betsy, the eldest—and of her31
It is that we are now to speak32
Was, if we do not greatly err,33
Not of a temper the most meek ;34
This was, perhaps, the reason why35
She had not brook’d the marriage-tie.36
But now at last arrived a day,37
When, after some few perverse years,38
Our honest Betsy meant to pay39
The minister all her arrears :40
For from a neighb’ring town there came41
A gallant-sergeant, Jones by name.42
A likely fellow was this Jones43
Six foot and more without his shoes :44
Not with the rugged high cheek-bones45
Of sergeant of the kilt or trews,46
But with the round and ruddy face47
That speaks of well-breech’d Saxon race.48
He looked on Betsy—she on him49
And the thing was as good as done :50
He, with such length and strength of limb,51
She, the whole reg’ment fit to stun :52
Ere word was spoken you might swear53
That words were not much needed there.54
It was the oyster-time, and oft55
To “ The Cod’s Head” Jones found his way ;56
And there he loved with sawder soft57
And shell-fish to beguile the day :58
Dando himself had hid his head,59
To see the life the sergeant led.60
It no doubt always seem’d most strange61
To those who saw him in the bar,62
That worthy Mrs. Brown should change,63
After the thing had gone so far ;64
But, though the reason still is hid,65
Change she unquestionably did.66
And Betsy scarce believes her ears,67
When, just as Jones has “ left” one day,68
She, without word of warning, hears69
Her mother in a mark’d tone say,70
Betsy, no child of his and mine71
Shall marry sergeant of the Line.”72
Says Betsy, “ This is rather late73
We’ve fix’d the day for Monday next.”74
But Mrs. Brown was stern as fate,75
Still holding to the self-same text :76
No daughter of the old “ Cod’s Head77
Should ever with a sergeant wed !78
And when the sergeant came next day,79
Instead of oysters, as before,80
He found, to his no small dismay,81
Only the outside of the door :82
For Mrs. Brown, who “ knew her place,”83
Shut the old “ Cod’s Head” in his face.84
Fish is but fish, and flesh but flesh85
And some things neither well can bear :86
Jones, while “ The Cod’s Head” wound was fresh,87
Lost something of his jaunty air ;88
But after season due of grief,89
He look’d around, and found relief.90
For at “ The Soldier’s Joy” there dwelt91
A maiden like “ the unsunn’d snow ;”92
And Jones now look’d on her, and felt93
What only men like Jones can know :94
He look’d on her by morning sun,95
And in the ev’ning they were One.96
Swift the next morning speeds the news97
To “ The Cod’s Head”—and all that day,98
Though food she might not quite refuse,99
Betsy was in a dreadful way ;100
And oft she cried, and stoutly too,101
Oh, mother, mother, this is you !102
Good Mrs. Brown, what could she say103
No doubt she was right glad at heart,104
Yet she spoke little through the day,105
And doubly plied each household art ;106
But evening came, and then she said,107
Oh, Betsy, Betsy, go to bed !”108
These were the words the mother said :109
And now mark Betsy’s, in reply :—110
My bed to-night will be a bed111
That none among you need envy !112
They thought she spoke of broken rest ;113
But Betsy knew her meaning best.114
The morning dawns—and what a scene !115
What clothes are these all strew’d about ?116
They’re Betsy’s clothes—what does it mean ?117
Naked by night, she has gone out118
She has gone out—it is too clear119
And thrown herself from off the pier !120
And well may some folks now recall121
Those words of hers the night before :122
For now, of course, to one and all123
Their real, dreadful sense they bore :124
The bed that was her bed to be,125
Was at the bottom of the sea !126
Hard things are said of Mrs. Brown,127
Ev’n by her sister, Mrs. Snody :128
Bat the chief thought throughout the town,129
Is now the finding of the body :130
And boats are searching all around,131
And no doubt it will soon be found.132
For days they search, both far and near,133
Bat still the search is all in vain :134
No-Body,” boatmen say, “ is here,135
’Tis useless quite to search again :136
The tide was strong, and it may be,137
Many and many a mile at sea.”138
But now a certain Simon Snipe139
Call’d to inquire for Mrs. Brown :140
A little man, of judgment ripe,141
The oracle of Tangletown :142
A man who might be said to bring143
His beak to bear on ev’rything.144
Snipe with the little servant-maid145
Of “ The Cod’s Head” some converse had ;146
And she, poor Susan, sobbing, said,147
Oh, Mr. Snipe, it’s very sad !148
It really oversets me quite149
I saw Miss Betsy’s ghost last night !”150
Simon a ghost had never seen151
But thought, in his peculiar way,152
If through the night it here has been,153
It can’t be far off through the day :”154
And then he sniff’d about and said,155
Have you look’d into that press-bed ?156
Behind the mangle was that bed157
Behind the mangle, in the wall ;158
And it had enter’d no one’s head159
Ever to think of it at all ;160
But there seem’d something in the air161
That said to Snipe, “ The ghost is there.”162
And now, who will believe my tale ?163
Snipe opens wide the press-bed door,164
And forth there comes, of cheese and ale,165
Fragrance that bed ne’er knew before ;166
And there is Betsy, safe and sound167
There, there she is—the body’s found !168
And what said Betsy ? nothing more169
Than we are now to tell to you :170
She look’d out at the press-bed door,171
And said to Snipe and little Sue,172
Have I not served my mother right ?173
Have I not given her a fright ?”174
Yet afterwards ’twas her delight,175
Among her chosen friends, to tell176
About the ghost that walk’d at night,177
And stored its press-bed pantry well,178
And saw the boats at break of day179
Seeking its body in the bay !180

Years now have pass’d ; and many a change181
We all have seen in all around ;182
But amidst things both new and strange,183
The old “ Cod’s Head” may still be found :184
Old—and old-fashion’d, if you will185
But there it is— “ The Cod’s Head” still.186
And still, when passing by its door,187
We sometimes feel as if the breeze188
Upon its waving pinions bore189
A Something as of ale and cheese,190
Still speaking of the old renown191
Of The Press-Bed and Betsy Brown !192