"The Story of Ruthless Mike and Reckless John"
written by Jan Struther for her twin nephews Michael and John Maxtone-Graham.
Originally published in "Punch" c.1933.
( from - "The Modern Struwwelpeter" - illustrated by Ernest Shepard, 1936.)
Contributed to this page by Jan Struther's son, Robert Maxtone Graham, May 2000
As John and Michael did not like
Their governess, Miss Marlinespike,
They did their utmost every day
To drive that worthy soul away.
They perched wet sponges on the door;
They sprinkled tin-tacks on the floor;
They smeared her spectacles with soap,
Lassoed her with a skipping-rope,
And placed a hedgehog, lately dead,
Right in the middle of her bed.
I shudder to report the sins
Devised by these ingenious twins:
But still, undaunted, undismayed,
Miss Marlinespike just stayed and stayed.
Says Ruthless Mike to Reckless John:
"These gentle hints must not go on."
Says Reckless John to Ruthless Mike:
"We must bump off Miss Marlinespike."
(This horrid phrase, I fear, had been
Picked up from gangsters on the screen.)
"But how?" says Mike. "We have no gat,"
(No gun was what he meant by that),
"And stainless nursery table-knives
Are not much use for taking lives."
"I know!" cries John. "We'll have to give her
A good hard push into the river."
But Michael quickly crushes him:
"You fool -- Miss Marlinspike can swim."
One day their dear mamma was sent,
By way of an advertisement,
A sample tube of "Kreemidew"
Which on the floor she idly threw.
Michael and John with one accord
Retrieved it for their private hoard,
And oh! their triumph as they read ...
"VANISHING CREAM" was what it said ...
At last -- or so it seemed to them --
They would get rid of poor Miss M.
And though quite dead they'd have preferred her,
Perhaps 'twas best to do no murder.
                      Illustration by Ernest Shepard, 1936
At tea-time they contrived to spread
The stuff in secret on some bread,
Then passed their governess the plate
And watched in silence while she ate.
Miss M. had scarcely time to mutter
"There's something queer about this butter ..."
Before her voice grew thin and small
Till it was hardly heard at all,
While gradually her hands and face
Both vanished into empty space;
Soon all the rest dissolved as well --
Until, miraculous to tell,
There was nobody to be seen
Where poor Miss Marlinespike had been.
Cries Ruthless Mike to Reckless John:
"Hip! Hip! Hooray! She's really gone!"
Cries Reckless John to Ruthless Mike:
"Now we can do just what we like!"
"Oh, no, you can't," a whisper said
From somewhere just above his head;
And then he shed unmanly tears
For unseen hands had boxed his ears;
While Mike, across a ghostly knee
Was soon as sore as sore could be.
A wretched life from that time on
Led Hapless Mike and Luckless John:
For unexpected prods and slaps
And cuffs and clouts and tweaks and raps
Were showered all day from empty air
Upon the miserable pair,
While always the reproachful sound
Of whispering followed them around.
Children, pray be warned by them --
Make the best of your Miss M.
Better one you do not love
Than a disembodied gov.