Now the Precious Leg while cash was flush,
Or the Count’s acceptance worth a rush,
Had never created dissension;
But no sooner the stocks began to fall,
Than, without any ossification at all,
The limb became what people call
A perfect bone of contention.
For alter’d days brought alter’d ways,
And instead of the complimentary phrase,
So current before her bridal—
The Countess heard, in language low,
That her Precious Leg was precious slow,
A good ’un to look at but bad to go,
And kept quite a sum lying idle.
That instead of playing musical airs,
Like Colin’s foot in going upstairs—
As the wife in the Scottish ballad declares—
It made an infernal stumping.
Whereas a member of cork, or wood,
Would be lighter and cheaper and quite as good,
Without the unbearable thumping.
P’raps she thought it a decent thing
To show her calf to cobbler and king,
But nothing could be absurder—
While none but the crazy would advertise
Their gold before their servants’ eyes,
Who of course some night would make it a prize,
By a Shocking and Barbarous Murder.
But spite of hint, and threat, and scoff,
The Leg kept its situation:
For legs are not to be taken off
By a verbal amputation.
And mortals when they take a whim,
The greater the folly the stiffer the limb
That stand upon it or by it—
So the Countess, then Miss Kilmansegg,
At her marriage refused to stir a peg,
Till the Lawyers had fasten’d on her Leg
As fast as the Law could tie it.
Firmly then—and more firmly yet—
With scorn for scorn, and with threat for threat,
The Proud One confronted the Cruel:
And loud and bitter the quarrel arose,
Fierce and merciless—one of those,
With spoken daggers, and looks like blows,
In all but the bloodshed a duel!
Rash, and wild, and wretched, and wrong,
Were the words that came from Weak and Strong,
Till madden’d for desperate matters,
Fierce as tigress escaped from her den,
She flew to her desk—’twas open’d—and then,
In the time it takes to try a pen,
Or the clerk to utter his slow Amen,
Her Will was in fifty tatters!
But the Count, instead of curses wild,
Only nodded his head and smiled,
As if at the spleen of an angry child;
But the calm was deceitful and sinister!
A lull like the lull of the treacherous sea—
For Hate in that moment had sworn to be
The Golden Leg’s sole Legatee,
And that very night to administer!