HOW WE SAVED THE BARGE.
Arthur Helliar & Cuthbert Clarke (1908)
I'm a Captain, that's what I am, sir,
A nautical man by trade,
Though I ain't decked out in a uniform,
With buttons of gold and braid.
I ain't the Captain it's true, Sir,
Of one of these floating hotels,
It's true as I ain't the skipper
Of the Clacton or Yarmouth Belles.
I'm the Captain of this 'ere barge, sir,
Wot's known as the 'Slimy Sal,'
And a faster boat there ain't on the length
Or breadth of the whole canal.
Though I'll own so far as the breadth's concerned
That ain't much praise o' course,
And the number of knots an hour she makes
Has summat to do with a horse.
Have I ever had any adventures,
The same as one meets at sea?
I should rather just think I 'ave, Sir,
Not one but a dozen maybe.
If it wasn't as 'ow my throat's so dry
As to almost stop my breath,
I'd tell yer the way as the missis and me,
Was snatched from the jaws of death.
Her courage it was too as saved us,
'Er courage what pulled us through,
Or I wouldn't be standing here thirsty...
Well thank you, don't mind if I do.
One morning some two or three weeks back,
Our cargo had all been stowed,
We'd eighty odd tons of coal aboard
Which o' course was a fairish load.
We'd got a new 'orse that day, Sir,
Too good for the job a lot,
He'd once been a Derby winner,
Though 'is name I've clean forgot.
He was standing harnessed on to the barge,
The missis and I was aboard.
When all of a sudden we feels a jerk
And he starts of his own accord.
Something or other had startled him,
What it was I never could think,
Though I fancy he'd 'eard some gent like you
Wot 'ad offered to stand me a drink.
I flew like a flash to the rudder,
And I pushes it 'ard to the lee,
And the missus 'ad 'oisted a flag of distress
To the chimbly, I could see.
We 'adn't a fog'orn or whistle aboard
But the missus she yells like two,
But the louder she screamed out "Clear the course!"
The faster the old 'orse flew.
He thought he was back in the days gone by,
An' winning some famous race,
'Twas a race with death for the missus and me...
At that awful 'eadlong pace.
'Ouses and trees went flying by
A mighty splash and a shock,
And we'd passed bang through, without paying too,
The closed up gates of a lock.
Just then, when we'd whizzed through a tunnel,
She yells from the lower deck
And says "If that 'orse ain't pulled up right quick,
I can see as we're in for a wreck.'
We'd only got thirty or forty miles
Till we gets to the end of the course,
It's a case of which 'olds out the longest,
The bloomin' canal or the'orse,
But before I tells 'ow we was saved, sir,
There's one thing I'd like yer to know,
My missus was once in a circus,
As an artiste... I mean, years ago.
She used to perform on the tightrope
And wonderful tricks too she done,
But of course, that's all finished and over,
Her weight being seventeen stone.
Then she stood on the deck where I stood, Sir,
And I sees a gleam in her eye,
She says "It's a chance in a thousand,
But it's one as I'm willing to try!
"The 'eadlong career of the 'orse must be stopped,
It's our last and our only hope.
There's only one way to get at 'im,
I must walk to his back... on the rope!"
She gives me one farewell 'ug, Sir,
Takes an oar for a pole in 'er hands,
Then smiling, as tho' in a circus,
On the towrope a second she stands.
I closed both my eyes after that, Sir,
For the sight would a made me unnerved,
For a 'orrible death 't would be, Sir,
If the barge for a moment had swerved.
But I opens 'em wide for a moment,
For there came a loud kind of a crack,
And I sees that there 'orse all collapsed in a 'eap,
For the missus 'ad broken 'is back.
As soon as the crisis was over,
On the deck in a swoon, Sir, I dropped,
But the barge went on for a mile and a 'arf,
On its own afore it was stopped.
Why didn't we cut thro' the rope, sir,
And let the old horse loose instead?
Just fancy you thinking o' that, Sir...
Why, it never came into my 'ead!