Mr. H.: Ha! Steward, how are you, old boy? How do things go on at home?
Steward: Bad enough, your honour; the magpie’s dead.
H.: Poor Mag! So he’s gone. How came he to die?
S.: Overeat himself, sir.
H.: Did he? A greedy dog; why, what did he get he liked so well?
S.: Horseflesh, sir; he died of eating horseflesh.
H.: How came he to get so much horseflesh?
S.: All your father’s horses, sir.
H.: What! Are they dead, too?
S.: Aye, sir; they died of overwork.
H.: And why were they overworked, pray?
S.: To carry water, sir.
H.: To carry water! And what were they carrying water for?
S.: Sure, sir, to put out the fire.
H.: Fire! What fire?
S.: Oh, sir, your father’s house is burned to the ground.
H.: My father’s house burned down! And how came it to set on fire?
S.: I think, sir, it must have been the torches.
H.: Torches! What torches?
S.: At your mother’s funeral.
H.: My mother dead!
S.: Ah, poor lady! She never looked up, after it.
H.: After what?
S.: The loss of your father.
H.: My father gone, too?
S.: Yes, poor gentleman! He took to his bed as soon as he heard of it.
H.: Heard of what?
S.: The bad news, sir, and please your honour.
H.: What! More miseries! More bad news!
S.: Yes sir; your bank has failed, and your credit is lost, and you are not worth a shilling in the world. I make bold, sir, to wait on you about it, for I thought you would like to hear the news.
–by Anonymous, from A Treasury of the Familiar (1942), ed. Ralph L. Woods.
Another poem from “A Treasury of The Familiar” edited by Ralph L. Woods. My mother had a copy of this book and I quite often picked it up to find Biblical passages, famous speeches (Gettysburg Address), limericks, epic poems, whimsical verse, and other literary tidbits. I have always thought that whoever wrote this must have hoped that he could have this kind of conversation with someone of the rich and famous, just to cut them down to size.