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THE BODY-DRAGGER'S STORY
by
Edward Kent

“So you’d like me to tell you a story, sir, while you kindly quench my thirst,
Well, you’d better sit down on that chair, sir, I should brush them crumbs off first.
It ain’t a yarn of the sea, sir, or a fireman’s ‘do and dare’
But the tale of an old bath-chairman, for I once drew an old bath-chair
Then It can’t be exciting, you think, sir? yes, that’s what most folk say
Yet ‘twas dragging an old bath-chair, sir, turned my black hair white in a day.

In a distant London suburb I was pulling an invalid
An old gent that was so short-sighted, sir, even Bovril signs he couldn’t read.
He said, “Take me out of the town, John, down the country lanes, let’s go
For one gets much better air there - and I want you to take me slow.”
Well, I did just what he asked me, sir, then over my shoulder to peep
When I saw the dear old gentleman had fallen fast asleep.
Well, I took him as slow as I could, sir, and had trundled him down several lanes
When we come to a level-crossing with a notice “Beware of the Trains”
So I opened the gate very careful, and pulled my old chair through
And just as I’d started to cross the lines, that bloomin’ gate swings to.
Well, not seeing the sign of a train, sir, I’d pulled him across one rail.
When I heard the scream of an engine, and I tell you it turned me pale.
So I draws the chair back ‘gainst the gate, sir, as a down train thundered by
And I held that chair back all I could, sir, and believe me, I thought I should die.
But the handle of my bath-chair swings out, just as the end of the train
Was passing, and somehow or other got caught in the hanging coupling chain.
And the chair shot out of my hands, sir, and I stood there all forlorn
For, the down express, and my old bath-chair, and the invalid had gone.

That’s when my hair turned white, sir, how I felt, well, you can guess
When I thought of my patient rushing along in my chair behind that express.
Then I raced down the line to a station - ‘twas the only thing I could do
And I yells to a porter, “Say, tell me, what was that last train that went through?”
“Why, the non-stop express to Plymouth - Western Scorcher,” he says, quite sweet
And when I heard what he said, sir, I ne’er dropped in a fit at his feet.
“Is there any train gets there before that,” I cried, “Gets to Plymouth, you know?”
“Yes, special pullman from Paddington - but you’ll have to look sharp if you’d go!
As you’ve but thirty minutes to catch it,” he said, so I bolts in the street.
And runs to my Penny Bank, sir, which I think was most discreet.
And I draws out all my savings, ‘twas about nine pounds, I had
Then I jumped in a passing taxi, shouting, “Paddington, drive like mad.”
And when we reached Paddington station, my train was just moving out
But I raced for an open door, sir, how them porters did swear and shout.

Anyway, I caught the train, sir, and I paid the collector the fare.
They charge a good bit for a pullman; but lor, I didn’t care.
For I was bound for Plymouth and would get there before that train
What was tearing along with my poor old gent in the chair on its coupling chain.
But how to pass them hours away, well, there I thought I would drop.
And I walked up and down that pullman, till the others implored me to stop.
It was night when we got into Plymouth, and I thought that my heart would burst.
As I sprang out on to the platform and wondered if I’d got there first.
“Has the non-stop London express come in?” I asked a man standing near.
“Yes, that’s her,” he says, “A-comin’ in now, at the platform over there.”
So I runs to the train he points out, sir, when it draws up, I walks to the end.
And while the folks were all busy a-bustling out, over the buffers I bend.
Then climbs down in the dark to the lines, sir, and I tells yer I feels all a-creep.
Then I sees the bath-chair, sir, all smothered in dust and the invalid fast asleep.

So I undoes the chain round the handle, sir, pulls the chair to the station yard.
Then shook the poor gent, just to wake him - then I shook him again pretty hard.
Still he sat in the chair quite motionless, and I thinks ‘Lor is he dead?’
When he opened his eyes and smiled at me, and said, as he shakes his head.
“You mustn’t go so fast, John, it really is too bad,
Why, you’re the fastest chairman I think I’ve ever had.”
 
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