PERCIVAL PROUT
(who Left Things About and was Himself Permanently Mislaid)
by
Lesley Gordon

There are some of you children, without any doubt,
Who share the sad failing of PERCIVAL PROUT,
But I hope and I trust that whatever you do,
What happened to PERCY won't happen to you.
For PERCY, although by his parents adored,
Was a prey to a failing by grown-ups deplored,
And in spite of the protests of poor Mrs. Prout,
Would leave his possessions all lying about.

He'd no use for the tidy, he hated the trim,
A cupboard or drawer had no meaning for him.
His motto, which caused the good lady much pain,
Was, "I'll just put it there, I might want it again."
There were cakes on the mantelpiece, squibs in his boot,
On the window-sill half-eaten portions of fruit;
And poor Mr. Prout was completely unmanned,
To find postage stamps stuck on his wife's baby-grand.

The visitors learned to examine with care
Each sofa they sat on, each cushion and chair,
To avoid the embarrassment caused by reverses
Bespangled with second-hand relics of PERCY'S.
His mother shed many a furrowing tear,
And seventeen maids came and went in a year,
But always the burden of PERCY'S refrain
Was, "I'll just put it there, I might want it again."

Yet when PERCIVAL, having a moment of leisure,
Would hurry off gaily in search of his treasure,
Although he was sure he had parked it with care,
He could never with certainty recollect where.
"I know it is somewhere," he'd say with a frown,
"I seem to remember just putting it down.
I'm sure it is somewhere" he'd sadly complain,
"For I left it out where I could find it again."
And rubbing his head he would add with a stare,
"I know it is somewhere, the question is... WHERE?"

But one evening in June, I've forgotten the date,
But I know that the hour was twenty past eight,
And mother was calling young PERCY to bed,
"I'll hide myself under the sideboard," he said.
"And while they are searching about for a clue
I'll escape to the study, yes, that's what I'll do,
For I'm sure in the corner of father's armchair
I left quite a large piece of chewing-gum there.
And I should be a chump," added PERCIVAL PROUT,
"If I went off to bed while the sun was still out."

So wriggling gingerly under a shelf,
Our light-hearted hero disposed of himself,
And when mother arrived with 'the help,' Mrs. Dean,
Not an atom of PERCY remained to be seen.
They hunted above stairs, they hunted below,
Now cold and now warm, "We've found him!" but no;
They searched in the attic, they scoured the hall
But they saw not a trace of young PERCY at all.
"You can make up your mind that 'e's vanished, mum... clean!
Don't waste no more time," said 'the help,' Mrs. Dean.

When sounds of the chase had at last died away
And silence enfolded the spot where he lay
He would have emerged from his harbouring shelf
But he couldn't think where he had hidden himself."
I know I hid somewhere," he said with a frown,
"For I seem to remember I had to crouch down.
I know I hid somewhere, I'm sure that I did,
But I can't just remember the place where I hid.
Now was it the cupboard, the bath or the stair?

I know I hid SOMEWHERE—the question is, WHERE"
When at next year's spring cleaning the sideboard's pulled out
Someone may discover poor PERCIVAL PROUT,
With a couple of spiders, some fluff and a pin
And I fear he will be Most distressingly Thin.

The end