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Tall Tales
 
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TWO THUMPERS
by
Aliph Cheem



In the Dashty-second Crashers was a Major Corker, who
Was remarkable for stories, which were very seldom true
There was also in the regiment a Captain, Goak by name
A rival of the Major’s, for his talents were the same.
When Corker told a cracker which made everybody stare
The Captain told a buster which erected all your hair
And the Major waxing furious at being thus outdone
Came down on his opponent with a truly fearful one.
One evening at the Crasher Mess, a goodly party met
And the statements these romancers made I never shall forget
They’d respectively resolved for once and ever to decide
Who told the taller tales, who more astonishingly lied.
And rooted to their chairs remained a dozen men or so
With their big cheroots and coffee, with their sherry and Bordeaux
While spicy stories circled not unmixed with scandal choice
And loud above the others sounded Major Corker’s voice.
He’d an anecdote astounding a propos of everything
His fancy soared to dizzy heights when once upon the wing
And when they got to ‘tiger’ he was game to make a bet
A certain tiger feat of his had ne’er been equalled yet.
“Perhaps you may have heard,” he said, “the human eye hath power
To make the brute creation quail, the fiercest beast to cower
Well, I’ve - you may have noticed it - a most commanding eye
And I resolved, for science’s sake, its influence to try.”

“Last year, not far from Jaulnah, I was following up a cheetah
When I came upon a tiger, a notorious man-eater
He was munching at the thigh bone of a half-digested figure
I raised my gun to pot him, and my hand was on the trigger.
When I haply recollected that the human eye to test
On a tiger at his lunch would be a thing of interest.
I laid my Purdy down, to my servant’s great surprise
And crossed my arms and calmly stared the tiger in the eyes.
“The monster rose and licked his chops, and flicked his mangy tail
And growled a growl which seemed to say, “You’re dead, sir, as a nail,”
Then crouched to spring, but didn’t spring - and I shall tell you why
My stern mesmeric glance had told - I’d caught his wicked eye.
He blinked and winked, and strove to shirk my steady, stony stare
But still I gazed, and still he crouched with disconcerted air
At last he turned, unable to endure my aspect more
And vanished in the jungle with a half-attempted roar.
“Another day I met this tiger on an open plain
He knew me in a moment, and I fixed his eye again
My stern reproachful look it was again too much for him
And, like a felon caught i’ the act, he shook in every limb.
A little while he strove to bear the horror of my face
Then stuck his tail between his legs and fled at headlong pace
Not far there stood a cavern wild, fit home for jungle elf
I saw him reach that cavern wild, and there he hid himself.
“I followed and I peered within, beyond the reach of day
Upon a rock, all foul with human gore, the tiger lay
Before the cavern’s yawning mouth I gravely sat me down
Resolved to starve the monster out, as Germans do a town.
For ten long days and weary nights I sat before that den
At dawn upon the eleventh morn, I shouted to my men
They came. With lighted torch we stood inside the cave of death
And there we saw the grim man-eater draw his final breath.”

He ceased, and then there came a pause, and Corker looked about
As if to ask if any there were bold enough to doubt
Said Goak, “I’ve done that sort of thing with an elephant instead,
But now I’ll spin a yarn of the sea,” and this is what he said;



“I was coming out to India, round the Cape, three years ago
In the clipper ship Miranda, owned by Messrs Green & Co
We’d been driven to the Southward by a series of gales
And were fairly in the latitude of icebergs and whales
One morn the sun was rising gloomy from his ocean bed
When I heard a noise above me and a cry of ‘Boat ahead’
I seized my big binoculars and hurried up on deck
And far ahead upon the wave I saw a tiny speck.
“We drove before a mighty wind, and soon we made out well
The outline of the tiny speck, as it nearer rose and fell
A minute more, the speck and we were almost side by side
‘Twas nothing but a hen-coop, with a bearded man astride.
A solar hat was on his head, and in his hand an oar
A life-belt round his waist this lonely navigator wore
Of waterproof he also had a tightly-fitting suit
And in his mouth he seemed to suck a half-consumed cheroot.
“Our Captain grasped his speaking trumpet, hove his vessel to
And bellowed from the shrouds ‘Hi - what the blazes! who are you?
Some shipwrecked seaman, I suppose, so come aboard my ship’
The stranger bawled, ‘Thanks very much, but that is not my tip.
No luckless shipwrecked mariner do you behold in me
But just a man of roving tastes and bent upon a spree
I left Bombay a month ago - I’m bound for Liverpool
I’m right as ninepence, only find the nights a little cool.
‘Just cast your eye,’ the stranger said, ‘my little bark within
I’ve got, you see, inside the coop a largish case of tin
For lack of food and liquor I shall never come to grief
It’s full, the case, of Mr Liebig’s concentrated beef.
I’m truly grateful, Captain, but I have no pressing needs
The only thing I want is some Vesuvians for my weeds.’
A box was thrown, the stranger lit his half-consumed cigar
And in our wake we watched him dwindling to a speck afar.
“I subsequently heard that, spite of nights a little cool
This stranger safely worked his hen-coop up to Liverpool
And when he tells the story of his wild seafaring whim
He shows the empty matchbox which the Captain gave to him.”

Now, Captain Goak, he looked around with triumph in his eye
He thought, “Twill take the Major all he knows to top that lie.”
And all the hearers looked at Corker, thinking much the same
But Corker coolly said, “My friends, I know that stranger’s name
And all that Goak has said tonight corroborate I can
I know it, and I ought to know, because I was that man.
‘Twas I who on the hen-coop rode to Liverpool by sea
And here’s the empty matchbox which the Captain gave to me.”
 
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