The Witching of Ambrose Crudd

Ambrose Crudd was a little man
Blessed with an evil mind,
He’d roam the backstreet alleys to seek
Such gossip as he could find,
He’d peer through villagers window panes
Under the cloak of night,
Then tell his secrets to Widow Staines
To set off a stream of spite.

The villagers lived in terror there
In the village of Quaking Vale,
The men would sit in the pub at night
Sipping their pale brown ale.
‘Have you heard the gossip on Mrs. Hale,
She washes her clothes in mud!’
‘Oh yes, and Harriet Steele’s a male,
According to Ambrose Crudd!’

They’d laugh, but none of the women did,
Their friends were frightened and few,
For each of them sat there wondering
If all this gossip was true.
They’d look away in the marketplace
And they’d cut each other dead,
They didn’t want to be seen with those
Because Ambrose Crudd had said…

The girl at the Manse was fair of face,
An adopted girl, for sure,
The vicar found her out in a basket
Outside the old Manse door,
He’d named the little girl Isobel
And had brought her up as his own,
She was pure delight in the vicar’s sight,
More beautiful as she’d grown.

Her hair was black as a raven as
It floated wide in the breeze,
Her eyes were pools of enchantment, and
They said that she was a tease.
She wouldn’t look twice at the village lads,
But said she loved to be free,
She’d roam the woods, sing to the birds
And hug her favourite tree.

Ambrose Crudd had followed her there
To spy on the girl’s concerns,
He hid himself in the undergrowth,
Behind the trees and the ferns,
‘There’s something wrong with that Isobel,’
He whispered to Widow Staines,
‘The birds fly on to her shoulders, then
She waves her hands, and it rains!’

The Widow Staines had a flapping mouth
And was widely known as a bitch,
It wasn’t long and her evil tongue
Had labelled the girl a witch.
The slander travelled from mouth to mouth
And the women looked askance,
‘Til one told Isobel, ‘Ambrose Crudd,
Said you do the witches dance!’

Isobel stopped, and darkened her brow,
And set her lips in a line,
‘It’s time that somebody shut his mouth,
For what he says is a crime!’
She wandered into the wood at dusk
And broke off a willow wand,
Found Ambrose hiding under a tree
And conjured a lily pond.

‘You have two choices that I can see,
To drown right there in the mud,
Or I can turn you to anything
That I feel like, Ambrose Crudd.’
The water rose on up to his neck
As he sank in a muddy hole,
‘You’re always digging up secrets, so
I’ll turn you into a mole!’

A twitch of the wand, and he was gone,
Deep burrowing underground,
And if you should look for Ambrose Crudd
You know he’ll never be found.
The Widow Staines was dead in her chair
All gagged, and tied and bound,
You’ll not hear the tale in Quaking Vale
For Isobel’s still around!

David Lewis Paget