My Chinee Cook (1873)
by James Brunton Stephens
2025857My Chinee Cook1873James Brunton Stephens

They who say the bush is dull are not so very far astray,
For this eucalyptic cloisterdom is anything but gay;
But its uneventful dulness I contentedly could brook,
If I only could get back my lost, lamented Chinee cook.

We had tried them without number—cooks, to wit — my wife and I;
One a week, then three a fortnight, as my wife can testify;
But at last we got the right one; I may say 'twas by a fluke,
For he dropped in miscellaneous-like, that handy Chinee cook.

He found the kitchen empty, laid his swag down, and commenced;
My wife, surprised, found nothing to say anything against;
But she asked him for how much a year the work he undertook —
“Me workee for me ration,” said that noble Chinee cook.

Then right off from next to nothing such a dinner he prepared,
That the Governor I'm certain less luxuriously fared;
And he waited, too, in spotless white, with such respectful look,
And bowed his head when grace was said, that pious Chinee cook.

He did the work of man and maid—made beds and swept out rooms;
Nor cooled he in his zeal, as is the manner of new brooms:
Oh, he shed celestial brightness on the most sequestered nook,
For his mop and pail were everywhere — my cleanly Chinee cook.

We got fat upon his cooking; we were happy in those days,
For he tickled up our palates in a thousand pleasant ways.
Oh his dinners! Oh his dinners! they were fit for any duke!
Oh delectable Mongolian! Oh celestial Chinee cook!

There was nothing in creation that he didn't put to use,
And the less he got to cook with, all the more he could produce.
All nature was his kitchen range, likewise his cook'ry book —
Neither Soyer nor Meg Dod could teach that knowing Chinee cook.

And day by day upon my wife and me the mystery grew,
How his virtues were so many and his earnings were so few;
And we laid our heads together to find out by hook or crook,
The secret of the cheapness of that priceless Chinee cook.

And still the sense of mystery grew on us day by day,
Till it came to be a trouble, and we wished him well away;
But we could not find a fault in one so far above rebuke —
Ah, we didn't know the value of that valuable cook.

But one day when I was out he brought my wife a lot of things,
Turquoise earrings, opal bracelets, ruby brooches, diamond rings,
And he ran their various prices o'er as glibly as a book,
And dirt cheap, too, were the jewels of that jewel of a cook.

I returned, and just in time to stop the purchase of the lot,
And to ask him where on earth those costly jewels he had got,
And when I looked him in the face, good gracious how he shook!
And he says, says he, “Me bought him”—did that trembling Chinee cook.

And I a justice of the peace! O Fortune! how unkind!
For a certain Sydney robbery came rushing to my mind.
“You bought them! Ah, I fear me, John, you paid them with a hook!
I am bound to apprehend you, oh unhappy Chinee cook!”

So the mystery was solved at length; the secret now we saw;
John had used us as a refuge from the clutches of the law;
And now, alas, too late would I his frailty over-look!
He is gone, and I am left without my skilful Chinee cook.

Oh, could I taste again of those delicious luscious things,
I could pardon him the robbery of other people's rings;
I exaggerated principle, my duty I mistook,
When I handed over to the law my peerless Chinee cook.

What would I give just now for one of his superb ragouts,
His entremets, his entrées, his incomparable stews?
Oh, art and taste and piquancy my happy board forsook,
When I came the J.P. over my lamented Chinee cook.

Take away the hated letters. 'Twas my “justice” robbed my “peace”;
Take my name from the commission, and my matchless cook release.
But I fear my Johnny's dead, for I am haunted by a spook,
With oblique eyes and a pigtail, like my lost, my Chinee cook.

This work is in the public domain in Australia because it was created in Australia and the term of copyright has expired. According to Australian Copyright Council - Duration of Copyright, the following works are public domain:

  • published non-government works whose author died before January 1, 1955,
  • anonymous or pseudonymous works and photographs published before January 1, 1955, and
  • government works published more than 50 years ago (before January 1, 1974).

This work is also in the public domain in the United States because it was first published outside the United States (and not published in the U.S. within 30 days), and it was first published before 1989 without complying with U.S. copyright formalities (renewal and/or copyright notice) and it was in the public domain in Australia on the URAA date (January 1, 1996). This is the combined effect of Australia having joined the Berne Convention in 1928, and of 17 USC 104A with its critical date of January 1, 1996.

Because the Australian copyright term in 1996 was 50 years, the critical date for copyright in the United States under the URAA is January 1, 1946.

This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

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This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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