22 MAY 1993, Page 44


Franklin's tale


IN COMPETITION NO. 1779 you were invited to exemplify, by a story in verse or prose, the truth of Benjamin Franklin's maxim 'Three keep a secret, when two are dead.'

Franklin, the inventor of the lightning- conductor, wrote better prose than verse. Witness his lines on the death of a squirrel:

Here Skugg Lies snug As a bug In a rug.

With you, it proved largely the other way round. The prize-winners this week (who receive £20 each) are all versifiers, with the exception of Ralph Sadler, who takes the bonus bottle of Drummond's Pure Malt Scotch whisky.

To Milford Haven where the Fleet lies and much saddened to hear of the death of sweet Lucy Walters, she that bore the King's boy lately made Duke of Monmouth. But, God forgive me, have great relief in knowing her dead 00 account of a grave secret shared between us which henceforth will be mine alone. For when this poor maid was sorely troubled to 1101 herself with child because of my wantonness i did comfort her and contrived to place her in the, King's bed the while he was notably drunk and much lustful therewith. And at birth was the boy acclaimed a bastard of royal blood, none sus' pecting the truth of the matter. And had it been otherwise I would surely have been taken for high treason. But such grave secrets may be safely shared only with those in a grave, as f now is.

(Ralph Sadler) When Mummy broke to Billy and me The secret of our paternity And where the family money was from And why old Nanny is deaf and dumb And what's in the cellar and why there's no key To the room that was the nursery And the bricked-up stair to the haunted Priory And why Aunt Harriet burned her diary, Seizing Grandpapa's portrait bust (Nanny must go: she doesn't dust), With a left-hand bash and a right-hand blow I re-established the status quo.

Now I know what solitude means; Mummy shouldn't have spilled the beans.

Last of my line, alone, accursed - I couldn't let Billy get in first. (M. R. Haight) New to the village, Rick — he's in PR And drives a Saab — announced to all the bar, `It often takes a stranger's eyes to see A gold-star business opportunity For what it is. I found that old guy Ned Brewing a mixture in his potting shed. I say, "What's that?" and he drawls, "Nettle gin."

That name! I know it's bound to rake cash in From every rural-retro Archers nut.

I need the recipe! But here's the but.

He says it's secret, never known to others Except for him and his two younger brothers. Would those two sell?' No chance,' his neighbour said.

`They drank the ruddy stuff. Now they're both dead.'

(George Simmers) When I was young and reckless I helped to rob a train, And in a secret hideout stashed away my ill-got gain. I told the truth to no one save Bill Brown, my oldest mate, And the girl I hoped to marry, my beloved little Kate.

Now I made them vow and promise and they swore a sacred oath That they'd never spill my secret, and, poor fool, believed them both; But one day I overheard them hatching out a cunning plan To betray me to the rozzers, me being a wanted man.

And the loot they'd carry with them, for 'twould set them up for life, And they'd shack up somewhere cushy and they'd soon be man and wife.

But I spoilt their little party with a bullet to the head, So they'll never blab my secret now they're well and truly dead.

Of course I was arrested, but the tale they heard me tell Made the sympathetic jury say my crime was `passioner, So my sentence wasn't heavy, very soon I was set free, And my secret's safe for ever just with Bill and Kate and me.

(0. Smith)

No. 1782: Polite conversation

You are invited to contrive a conversation composed of clichés (maximum 150 words). Entries to 'Competition No. 1782' by 4 June.