The Cooks that Come and Go by Max A

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Within my boarding-house select,
  There pass along the passage~way
Women in strange apparel decked,
   Who seldom for a fortnight stay,
I see them from the cab descend;
   A perfume gathers as of beer;
Then kitchenward their way they wend ---
   But in a week they reappear.

   They are not hoarders --- oh, dear, no!
   They are the cooks that come and go.

The widow-dame, whose punctual hand
   Each week my hard-earned cash receives,
Smiles on the world with visage bland --
   Except on days when cooky leaves;
Then in the kitchen battle roars,
   And kettles spill, and tongues grow bold,
And broken saucers dot the floors,
   And dinner is a banquet cold.

   No need upon your hash to blow,
   When cook makes up her mind to go!

How many of them I have seen -
   Engaged one week, and gone the next!
Some short and stout, some long and lean,
   Some cheery, some with visage vexed,
Some clean (but these were very few),
   Some sober (these were fewer yet),
Some on whose faces whiskers grew --
   Not one whose face you could forget.

   They pass in weird procession slow
   The cooks --- the cooks who come and go.

Jane was a creature long and hard --
   Bones like a horse, face like an owl;
The butcher saw her in the yard,
   And dropped the meat with awful howl.
The baker viewed her face with fear,
   The milkman wouldn't cross the lane;
I fancy no one shed a tear
   The day the bobby called for Jane.

   She had escaped from Kew, you know;
   That's why poor Janie had to go.

Kate was an Irish matron, who
   Sought for a husband who had fled;
Her eyes were an unholy blue,
   Her hair a most unholy red.
And though she shunned a stranger's stare
   (The kitchen was her constant coop);
We knew the colour of her hair
   From wisps that floated in the soup.

   But hairpins came as well, and so
   We swore that Kate would have to go.

Mord had a voice --- you hardly knew,
   when curses drifted through the air,
Whether it was a cockatoo
   Or Mord, who had begun to swear.
We used to blame that harmless bird,
   And chide him for the oaths he screamed,
Until the scullery-maid averred
   She could not sleep when Mord blasphemed.

   Then Mord, with language very low
   Rejoined the ranks that come and go.

And there were others --- Gwendoline
   (Dry gin was Gwenny's heart's desire);
Gertrude, who drank the kerosene,
   And Ann, who set the house on fire;
Bridget, who stole the boarders' hats,
   Bought gloves and ribbons with the loot;
Bess (with no teeth), and Lize (with rats)
   Were other cooks who "didn't suit."

   They swelled the melancholy row
   Of lady cooks that come and go.

Through servants' agencies galore
   My much-distressed landlady seeks;
Her tale of woe she will out-pour
   (If once she gets a start) for weeks.
But 'tis an ancient tale, indeed;
   You may, if so your wish occurs,
In "Situations Vacant" read
   A thousand tragedies like hers.

   Newspaper columns overflow
   With tales of cooks that come and go.

First published
in Melbourne Punch, 31 May 1906

Author reference site: Austlit

See also.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on May 31, 2012 9:01 AM.

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