The Terrible Tale.

A poem by William Schwenck Gilbert

"'Tis now some thirty-seven years ago
Since first began the plot that I'm revealing,
A fine young woman, whom you ought to know,
Lived with her husband down in Drum Lane, Ealing.
Herself by means of mangling reimbursing,
And now and then (at intervals) wet-nursing.

"Two little babes dwelt in their humble cot:
One was her own--the other only lent to her:
Her own she slighted. Tempted by a lot
Of gold and silver regularly sent to her,
She ministered unto the little other
In the capacity of foster-mother.

"I was her own. Oh! how I lay and sobbed
In my poor cradle--deeply, deeply cursing
The rich man's pampered bantling, who had robbed
My only birthright--an attentive nursing!
Sometimes in hatred of my foster-brother,
I gnashed my gums--which terrified my mother.

"One day--it was quite early in the week -
I in my cradle having placed the bantling -
Crept into his! He had not learnt to speak,
But I could see his face with anger mantling.
It was imprudent--well, disgraceful maybe,
For, oh! I was a bad, blackhearted baby!

"So great a luxury was food, I think
No wickedness but I was game to try for it.
NOW if I wanted anything to drink
At any time, I only had to cry for it!
ONCE, if I dared to weep, the bottle lacking,
My blubbering involved a serious smacking!

"We grew up in the usual way--my friend,
My foster-brother, daily growing thinner,
While gradually I began to mend,
And thrived amazingly on double dinner.
And every one, besides my foster-mother,
Believed that either of us was the other.

"I came into his wealth--I bore his name,
I bear it still--his property I squandered -
I mortgaged everything--and now (oh, shame!)
Into a Somers Town shake-down I've wandered!
I am no Paley--no, Vollaire--it's true, my boy!
The only rightful Paley V. is you, my boy!

"And all I have is yours--and yours is mine.
I still may place you in your true position:
Give me the pounds you've saved, and I'll resign
My noble name, my rank, and my condition.
So far my wickedness in falsely owning
Your vasty wealth, I am at last atoning!"

* * * * * * *

Frederick he was a simple soul,
He pulled from his pocket a bulky roll,
And gave to Paley his hard-earned store,
A hundred and seventy pounds or more.

Paley Vollaire, with many a groan,
Gave Frederick all that he called his own, -
Two shirts and a sock, and a vest of jean,
A Wellington boot and a bamboo cane.

And Fred (entitled to all things there)
He took the fever from Mr. Vollaire,
Which killed poor Frederick West. Meanwhile
Vollaire sailed off to Madeira's isle.

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