Virginia Barton

5 September 2015: The Master, unravelled


5 September 2015


Master of All MastersBH was not the only person to be foxed by the fragment of fairy tale I quoted last week. Several intelligent persons, with university degrees no less, have told me it’s a teaser too far. So, this is what faced the little maid on her first day at work.


The eccentric old boy who hired her insisted on the use of his own invented language at home — how tiresome, she must have been desperate for the work. He wouldn’t get away with it these days of gender equality, minimum wage, and anti-discrimination.

“I am to be called Master of all Masters,” he announced, “and my house is to be known as high topper mountain. My bed is my barnacle and my trousers squibs and crackers.”


The little maid, who was of course illiterate, nonetheless had an excellent memory which was just as well.

“You shall call fire hot cockalorum and water cold pandalorum.”

By now Molly (for such, I fancy, was her name, or possibly Janet) was in a cold sweat and wishing she had paid more attention to her letters at Dame school.

“My cat is called neither Tiddles nor Puss nor Fluff. Her name is white faced simminy. Have you taken that in, child?”

“Yes sir.”

“No! ” he shrieked, “Master of masters!”

“Beg pardon, Master of all masters”, said Molly (or Janet) with that sinking feeling.


The Master went off to bed and Molly fed white faced simminy and left her in her basket by the dying embers of hot cockalorum. Then she unpacked her traps (no squibs and crackers for her, in those days), splashed her face with cold pandalorum, and got into her barnacle up in the roof, no doubt, of high topper mountain.

Just as she was drifting off to sleep she smelled burning, leapt out of her barnacle, and tumbled down the stairs. Poor old WFS was tearing round the kitchen with her tail ablaze!

THAT’S when Molly (or was it Janet?) rushed up the stairs, yelling:


“Master of all Masters, jump out of your barnacle!

Put on your squibs and crackers,

for white faced simminy caught a spark
of hot cockalorum on her tail

and if you don’t fetch some pandalorum

high topper mountain will be all hot cockalorum!”





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