― 93 ―

Ben the Stoker

The Albatross sailed to the Southern Seas,
Amidst coral islands and banyan trees,
Where the scent-laden puffs of the torrid breeze
Go up to a hundred and forty degrees.
And the heat in the hole
Where they shovel the coal
To replenish the fires below,
Is exactly the same
As that region of flame
Where unorthodox people go.

Benjamin Buckle was stout and strong,
His hands were horny, his arms were long,
He sang as he shovelled the coals among,
And this was the text of the Stoker's song: -
"Oh, we've shovelled and stoked
And been bothered and smoked
Till you can't tell the coal from us,
We've been frizzled and fried

  ― 94 ―
Till we've each got a hide
Like a Rhino-popotamus.”

But one afternoon, about four o'clock,
The Albatross struck on a sunken rock;
And she struck it with such a tremendous knock
That she broke in halves with the sudden shock.
When she fractured her back,
Ben leaped through the crack,
And struck manfully out for land.
At a quarter to five
He was lying alive -
But alone - on the coral strand.

Now, His Majesty King Kookabudgerie,
The King of the island of Fi-fo-fee,
Was wondering what he would have for tea,
When he spotted Ben, and he danced with glee.
He was tired of yams,
He detested clams,
And had little else to eat,
But Ben was a prize
Of abnormal size,
And the daintiest kind of meat.

So the King gave vent to a cheerful roar,
He called for his cooks and his wives a score;

  ― 95 ―
They gathered up firewood and sticks galore,
And they kindled a fire on the sandy shore.
On the embers then
They lifted Ben,
And so chubby and plump he looked,
That they all agreed
What a splendid feed
He would make them when nicely cooked.

They stirred up the fire till the sun went down,
Then His Majesty frowned with an awful frown,
And the feathers he tore from his royal crown,
For Benjamin hadn't begun to brown.
When they poked up the fire
And the flames shot higher
Ben waked from his sleep and smiled,
And said, “Stupid old joker,
You can't cook a stoker,
He'll neither make roast nor biled.”

"Wot are yer givin' us,” shouted Ben,
"Do you think I'm as soft as a new-laid hen?
I aint a poor beggar wot drives a pen,
I'm one of His Majesty's fire-proof men,
Who have shovelled and stoked,
And smothered and smoked,
Till you can't tell the coal from us,
And we can't be fried

  ― 96 ―
For we've each got a hide
Like a Hippo-Rhinoceros.”

Then the cannibal King, Kookabudgerie,
He welcomed Ben Buckle on bended knee;
"I make you from this very hour,” said he,
"Controller of Customs for Fi-fo-fee.
Since my reign began
I've been seeking a man
This dangerous post to fill,
Who is proof against slaughter
And thrives in hot water,
And you will just fill the bill.