A Report From Below

As Mister B. and Mistress B.
One night were sitting down to tea,
With toast and muffins hot —
They heard a loud and sudden bounce,
That made the very china flounce,
They could not for a time pronounce
If they were safe or shot —
For Memory brought a deed to match
At Deptford done by night —
Before one eye appeared a Patch
In t'other eye a Blight!

To be belaboured out of life,
Without some small attempt at strife,
Our nature will not grovel;
One impulse moved both man and dame,
He seized the tongs — she did the same,
Leaving the ruffian, if he came,
The poker and the shovel.

Suppose the couple standing so,
When rushing footsteps from below
Made pulses fast and fervent,
And first burst in the frantic cat,
All steaming like a brewer's rat,
And then — as white as my cravat —
Poor Mary May, the servant!

Lord, how the couple's teeth did chatter,
Master and Mistress both flew at her,
" Speak! Fire? or Murder? What's the matter? "
Till Mary getting breath,
Upon her tale began to touch
With rapid tongue, full trotting, such
As if she thought she had too much
To tell before her death: —
" We was both, Ma'am, in the wash-house, Ma'am, a-standing at our tubs,
And Mrs. Round was seconding what little things I rubs;
" Mary," says she to me, " I say" — and there she stops for coughin',
" That dratted copper flue has took to smokin" very often,
But please the pigs,' — for that's her way of swearing in a passion,
" I'll blow it up, and not be set a coughin' in this fashion!"
Well, down she takes my master's horn — I mean his horn for loading,
And empties every grain alive for to set the flue exploding.
Lawk, Mrs. Round! says I, and stares, that quantum is unproper.
I'm sartin sure it can't not take a pound to sky a copper;
You'll powder both our heads off, so I tells you, with its puff,
But she only dried her fingers, and she takes a pinch of snuff.
Well, when the pinch is over — " Teach your grandmother to suck
A powder-horn," says she — Well, says I, I wish you luck.
Them words sets up her back, so with her hands upon her hips,
" Come," says she, quite in a huff, " come, keep your tongue inside your lips;
Afore ever you was born, I was well used to things like these;
I shall put it in the grate, and let it burn up by degrees.
So in it goes, and Bounce — O Lord! it gives us such a rattle,
I thought we both were canonized, like Sogers in a battle!
Up goes the copper like a squib, and us on both our backs,
And bless the tubs, they bundled off, and split all into cracks.
Well, there I fainted dead away, and might have been cut shorter,
But Providence was kind, and brought me to with scalding water.
I first looks round for Mrs. Round, and sees her at a distance,
As stiff as starch, and looked as dead as any thing in existence;
All scorched and grimed, and more than that, I sees the copper slap
Right on her head, for all the world like a percussion copper cap.
Well, I crooks her little fingers, and crumps them well up together,
As humanity pints out, and burnt her nostrums with a feather:
But for all as I can do, to restore her to her mortality,
She never gives a sign of a return to sensuality.
Thinks I, well there she lies, as dead as my own late departed mother,
Well, she'll wash no more in this world, whatever she does in t'other.
So I gives myself to scramble up the linens for a minute,
Lawk, sich a shirt! thinks I, it's well my master wasn't in it;
Oh! I never, never, never, never, never, see a sight so shockin'
Here lays a leg, and there a leg — I mean, you know, a stocking —
Bodies all slit and torn to rags, and many a tattered skirt,
And arms burnt off, and sides and backs and scotched and black with dirt;
But as nobody was in 'em — none but — nobody was hurt
Well, there I am, a-scrambling up the things, all in a lump,
When, mercy on us! such a groan mas makes my heart jump.
And there she is, a-lying with a crazy sort of eye,
A-staring at the wash-house roof, laid open to the sky:
Then she beckons with a finger, and so down to her I reaches,
And puts my ear agin her mouth to hear her dying speeches,
For, poor soul! she has a husband and young orphans, as I knew
Well, Ma'am, you won't believe it, but it't Gospel fact and true,
But these words is all she whispered — — " Why, where is the powder blew?" "
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