So ends a life, lived to the full alway,
Thro' peace, thro' war, thro' honored peace again,
From youth unto the closing of his day
Lived simply. Yet a giant among men
Today steals quietly to seek his rest
As quietly he lived, yet none his peer.
In service of his land he gave his best
And, in simplicity, found greatness here.
Seeking no honour but his country's thanks,
No man among us won a place more high.
Comrade and leader where the myriad ranks
Stand now with bended heads as John goes by.
Ever a man, a soldier and a friend
In every heart some echo of the knell
That marks his passing throbs for this great end,
Saying in requiem, 'Pass, John, all is well.'
The Warrior King
Albert, King of the Belgians,
Lived for his whole reign thro'
The father and friend of his people,
Soldier and statesman, too.
When his armies rode to the carnage,
'Twas their King who rode at their hear
To battle as great Kings battled...
And Albert the King is dead.
Albert, King of the Belgians,
Looking at doomed Louvain,
Wept for the plight of his people,
Grieved for his country's pain.
But the pride of a King upheld him;
The strength of a true King stayed,
And the love of a wise King triumphed
Thro' the travail, undismayed.
Albert, King of the Belgians,
After the red war's close,
Seeking no rest from his labors,
As a builder now arose;
Lending his life to service,
Turning to tasks anew,
Healing his country's war-wounds
Builder and comforter, too.
Albert, King of the Belgians,
Died as a Man would die,
Prone on earth's broad bosom,
Under the open sky.
To a swift and merciful passing,
Here went, at the end of his span,
A greater that King of his people
A wise and well-loved man.
The Criminal War
I am shocked beyond words!
(Said the statesman. 'Tis crime
That the clamoring herds
Should seek war at this time.
For a criminal war is sheer folly
Subversive to ideals sublime.
There are wars that are nice;
There are wars that are not.
And 'tis seeking with vice
That the nations should plot
World war when my land is unready.
I refuse to consider such rot.
My philosophy's clear;
My morality, too;
Tho' my rivals may sneer
At the things that I do.
If at present, for me, war's illegal It must be illegal for you!
We are human, I trust;
And to decency wed.
Let's have war, if we must;
But at present I dread
What crimes may come out of the carnage,
If blood be illegally shed.
In the past, all along
We have cleaved to our creed:
We shall fight when we're strong
When we're not we still plead
Our revulsion to acts homicidal
Induced by man's envy and greed.
Keep the sword in its sheath;
Seek sweet peace for a time,
Till, all armed to the teeth,
Our meek voices may climb
To sue for the blessings of Heaven
On butchery, purged of all crime.
Old Town Types No27 - Sergeant Mat Mcgillicuddy
King of all the old town, gaoler, censor, too,
Bane of heavy sinners doing things they shouldn't do,
Terror of the cattle-duffers in the northern scrubs,
Keeping watch on criminals, cautioning the pubs
On those brief hours, in old days, when laws forbade their beer,
Looming forth on court-days, a Nemesis severe
Of a martinet and master in the art of keeping peace
Was Matthew Mark McGillicuddy, Sergeant of Police.
How the gleaming metal jingled, how the polished leather shone
When Sergeant Mat. McGillicuddy put his war-paint on:
Skin-tight corded riding breeches, spur and soldier-strap,
Cartridge case, revolver, and a smart, peaked cap,
A black 'imperial' that wagged beneath his stiff moustache
Authority personified - he cut a heavy dash
With his boots and buttons shining and his coat without a crease
Matthew Mark McGillicuddy, Sergeant of Police.
On race-days and show-days, when strangers sought the town,
The Sergeant was a stern man, and terrible his frown.
But he had scant use on off-days for his little goal of tin,
Save when, to keep the town's repute, he ran some roysterer in;
To come the 'morning after' with a foaming pot of beer:
''Tis agin the regulations; but I want no corpses here.
You perishing with heat an' thirst to but a spot of grease.
An' me firewood there needs splittin',' said the Sergeant of Police.
Then they made him an inspector in the city one sad day;
But he had a glorious 'send off' before he went away
One night of wild carousal that gave scandal for a week,
But the man sent to replace him was a truckler and a sneak,
A plague to petty sinners, a peeping Tom in pubs;
But a jest among the cattle-duffers in the northern scrubs.
So we missed the human touch that lurked beneath the bluster
The Bush Veteran
Old Pete Parraday, he toddles up the road,
'Dangin'' things and 'darn in'' things and hefting of his load
For yesterday was pension day, Peter has his goods:
Butcher's meat and groceries and all sorts of foods;
A bit of plug 'tobaker' and a tin of 'jelly Jam,'
'Termatter' sauce and yellow soap, a knuckle-end of ham,
And a little flask of 'special stuff' discreetly tucked away.
'I takes it for me rheumatiz,' says Peter Parraday.
Old Pete Parraday, he lives all on his own.
People say he's getting old and shouldn't be alone.
They talk of institutions where he'd have most kindly care.
'Wot? Me?' says Peter Parraday. 'An' wot would I do there?
Lose me independence, an' be 'umble when they scold,
Eat an' sleep an' dress an' smoke just when an' how I'm told?
Shove ME in an Old Man's 'Ome to rust me life away?
I'd like to see 'em try it on!' says Peter Parraday.
Old Pete Parraday has little time to spare
For a bush hut and a garden are a common source of care.
There's wood to cut and meals to cook - a thousand things to plan
In the little kitchen-garden that 'do fair absorb a man.'
Green peas and radishes, brussels sprouts and beans,
Silver beet and lettuces - all sorts of green.
'Waterin' an' weedin' 'em, the hours they melts away,
An' days ain't halfways long enough,' says Peter Parraday.
Old Peter Parraday, he sits beside his door
To smoke a pipe at day's-end when fussy toil is o'er.
'This world it changes fast like,' says he, 'as time drifts by;
For old days was easy days when I was young an' spry;
An' cash was easy come by, with fortunes flowin' free,
An' many a man growed wealthy wot toed the mark with me.
But me? I seemed to miss the bus. Fair lost me chance, ses they,
Yet that don't seem to grieve me some,' grins Peter Parraday.
Old Town Types
I can not recall his heyday; for I knew him in the day
When his curly hair had thinned a bit, his waxed moustache grown grey.
That he kept the local fruit shop was a trifle in life's plan;
For our Captain Curly Taplin was a military man.
The details of his uniform grow vague now and remote,
All save a pipeclayed helmet and a gaudy scarlet coat.
'Not the Prooshians nor the Rooshians,' Captain Taplin oft averred,
'Shall take this country from us! Harrumph! My Word!'
Our Captain Curly Taplin was the pride of our old town,
Most especially the ladies; for that military frown,
That piercing eye, the gruff command that rumbled in his throat,
The fiercely spiked and waxed moustache, the glowing scarlet coat
Were ideal in the female eye. When our militiamen
Marched out - ah, what a figure was our gallant captain then -
A figure that, in these dull days, might seem a shade absurd,
But - 'My men are drilled and ready, sir! Harrumph! My Word!'
Then came dread news that sent him straight to don his scarlet coat:
Our cables had been severed, and the Russians were afloat!
He, wait for orders? Fiddlesticks! He mobilised his force,
He hung his shop about with flags and yelled till he was hoarse.
He led them out for marches, for parade drills, practice shoots.
Tho, as sergeant Jack McFee remarked, ''Twas awfu' hard on boots.'
But the captain failed to scent a hoax when nothing more occurred;
For, 'We've still to watch them Rooshians, sir! Harrumph! My Word!'
They hurried him, up by the hill, one day long, long ago
With full military honors; and I deem it fitting so.
For this archetype of Diggers, in the fights he was denied,
Would have fallen just as gamely as his grandsons later died;
For he fiercely loved the freedom that this green land offered him,
And, despite his vast vainglory and his posturing so grim,
There was something sacrificial in that eagerness absurd
For - 'One chance to face them Rooshians, sir! Harrumph! My Word!'
Sing a song o' Hempire
Mother's took a fit,
Nasty Germans buildin' ships,
An' never mentioned it.
Buildin' beastly warships,
Quite a tidy few;
Mother's got an awful start
Baby's got it too.
The King was in the Customs House,
But couldn't find a penny ;
The Lords were at their country seats
And didn't offer any;
A millyun paupers mooned about
With nothin' much to eat,
When down comes Australyer
With a Dreadnought fer the fleet.
Sing a song o' Warships,
'Orrid ole Bulow,
Layin' down 'is Dreadnoughts
An' didn't let us know
Didn't advertise it,
Till the Cablegram
Spread the awful tidings
An' the Empire shouted, 'Damn!'
Sing a song o' Hempire,
Mother's up a tree;
But the Melbourne Stock exchange
'As swore to set 'er free.
Does the German caitiff
Build upon the sly?
Then seventeen suburban may'rs
Will know the reason why!
Seventeen suburban may'rs
Of the Bulldog Breed
Fly to succor Hingland
In her hour of need.
What of 'Constant Reader'?
'Pro Bono Publico'?
Will 'Subscriber' see old Hingland
A reeiy, trooly battleship,
With guns an' things galore,
And splendid sails of calico
From MacMillan's store
The Stock Exchange will float it
On a sea of gush.
Wot's two millyun quid to us?
We don't care a rush!
(But - whisper - little mother,
If, later on, some day,
We want ter sorter float a loan,
To 'elp us on our way
Borrer of it back, like
After wot 'as passed,
Don't you go an' crool our pitch,
Like you did the last.)
Sing a song o' Britain's fleet
('Ow the Tories raged!)
That's goin' to guard Australyer
(If not otherwise engaged).
Sing of 'Umpty Dumpty
'Im that 'ad the fall.
Rob Australian Peter
To pay old Hinglish Paul.
Sing o' topsy-turvey;
Sing of inside-out,
Of back-to-front and upside-down
An' t'other way about.
Spend ten bloomin' millyun,
Buy yer ships galore,
An' send them all to Hingland
To guard Australyer's shore.
Sing a song o' Hempire!
We've got ter guard 'the heart.'
If it gets a limb lopped off,
That ain't a vital part.
Learn ter think Imperially
Shriek with courage grim
Fer 'the heart' must be protected
Tho' it's tough if we're the limb.
March Of Memories
Left, right - left, right . . .
We march today for memories (the grizzled Digger said)
Memories of lost dreams and comrades gone ahead
Comrades bloody war took, dreams that men have slain
(Left, right - left, right . . .) Not ours to dream again.
There was Shorty Hall and Len Pratt, Long Joe and Blue,
Skeet and Brolga Houlihan, and Fat and me and you:
Bright lads, the old bunch; eager lads and keen
That first day we marched down thro' this familiar scene.
Dreams were ours, and high hopes went with us overseas.
(Left, right - left, right . . . ) And now 'tis memories.
We march again for memories (the grizzled Digger sighed)
Memories of lost mates, of foolish hopes that died.
First, Shorty got his issue on the beach at Sari Bair.
(Left, right - left, right . . .) The vision of him there
Brought the dawn of disillusion. I needed little more
To blood me to the butchery, the filthiness called war.
Shorty, like a limp rag, slung there anyhow,
Sprawling on the warm sand like I can see him now.
Always was a merry mate, a rare lad for fun.
(Left, right - left, right . . .) And Shorty, that was one.
We march today for memories; and they come crowding fast
As each year adds another page to the story of the past.
Pratt went west at Mena Base; raved of home and peace.
(Left, right - left, right . . . ) His was a kind release.
For a Lone Pine shell-burst got him; and he was less than man.
'Twas a sniper's bullet bore the name of Brolga Houlihan.
We called him Happy Houlihan, the man who took a chance.
Then the Reaper paused and plotted for the rest of them in France -
Except Long Joe, the luckless, a youth ill-shaped for war.
(Left, right - left, right . . .) And Long Joe was four.
We march today for memories. Little else had we
When we marched home as veterans. Blue and you and me.
For Skeet went with a night raid, and none came back alive.
(Left, right - left, right . . .) So Skeet, he tallied five.
Five gone and four to fight; us and Blue and Fat,
Who vowed he was too big to hit; but a whizz-bang settled that.
Yet Fat was lucky to the end - an end that held no pain.
All hell erupted where he stood; and none saw him again.
And Blue marched, and you marched, and I, a war-torn three.
(Left. right - left, right . . . ) Marched with memory.
We march again with memories (the grizzled Digger spake)
One year? Ten years? How soon shall we awake
To glorious reality? For lately it would seem -
(Left, right - left, right . . .) - we march within a dream.
Where Shorty is, and Blue is, and Happy Houlihan,
That seems the only real land, with rest for weary man.
For Blue went out three years ago; and cruel slow to kill
Was the war-god, the grim god who claims victims still.
But you and I, old Digger friend, will soon march with the rest.
(Left, right - left, right . . .) In the Army of the West!
Today we march with memories, and years dull the pain.
But God help the young 'uns, mate, if they must march again,
(Left, right - left, right . . .) For the young must ever dream.
But we march with memories, and ghosts go at our side -
Len Pratt and Long Joe, whom men say have died.
And you walk like a ghost, mate; you do not turn to hear.
Or is it - Did the boys say you passed last year?
Out of this tangled dreaming has your troubled spirit flown?
(Left, right - left, right . . .) And I march alone.
The Boys Out There
'Why do they do it? I dunno,'
Sez Digger Smith. 'Yeh got me beat.
Some uv the yarns yeh 'ear is true,
An' some is rather umptydoo,
An' some is - indiscreet.
But them that don't get to the crowd,
Them is the ones would make you proud.'
With Digger Smith an' other blokes
'Oo 'ave returned it's much the same:
They'll talk uv wot they've seen an' done
When they've been out to 'ave their fun;
But no word uv the game.
On fights an' all the tale uv blood
Their talk, as they remark, is dud.
It's so with soldiers, I 'ave 'eard,
All times. The things they 'ave done,
War-mad, with blood before their eyes,
An' their ears wild fightin' cries,
They ever after shun.
P'r'aps they forget; or find it well
Not to recall too much uv 'Ell.
An' when they won't loose up their talk
It's 'ard for us to understand
'Ow all those boys we used to know,
Ole Billo, Jim an' Tom an' Joe,
Done things to beat the band.
We knoo they'd fight; but they've became
'Ead ringers at the fightin' game.
Well, wot I've 'eard from Digger Smith
An' other soldier blokes like 'im
I've put together bit by bit,
An' chewed a long time over it;
An' now I've got a dim
An' 'azy notion in me 'ead
Why they is battlers, born an' bred.
Wot did they know uv war first off,
When they joined up? Wot did I know
When I was tossed out on me neck
As if I was a shattered wreck
The time I tried to go?
Flat feet! Me feet 'as len'th and brea'th
Enough to kick a 'Un to death!
They don't know nothing, bein' reared
Out 'ere where war 'as never spread
'A land by bloodless conquest won,'
As some son uv a writin' gun
Sez in a book I read
They don't know nix but wot they're told
At school; an' that sticks till they're old.
Yeh've got to take the kid at school,
Gettin' 'is 'ist'ry lesson learned
Then tales uv Nelson an' uv Drake,
Uv Wellington an' Fightin' Blake.
'Is little 'eart 'as burned
To get right out an' 'ave a go,
An' sock it into some base foe.
Nothin' but glory fills 'is mind;
The British charge is somethin' grand;
The soldier that 'e reads about
Don't 'ave no time for fear an' doubt;
'E's the 'eroic brand.
So, when the boy gets in the game,
'E jist wades in an' does the same.
Not bein' old 'ands at the stunt,
They simply does as they are told;
But, bein' Aussies - Spare me days!
They never thinks uv other ways,
But does it brave an' bold.
That's 'arf; an' for the other part
Yeh got to go back to the start.
Yeh've got to go right back to Dad,
To Gran'dad and the pioneers,
'Oo packed up all their bag uv tricks
An' come out 'ere in fifty-six,
An' battled thro' the years;
Our Gran'dads; and their women, too,
That 'ad the grit to face the new.
It's that old stock; an', more than that,
It's Bill an' Jim an' ev'ry son
Gettin' three good meat meals a day
An' 'eaps uv chance to go an' play
Out in the bonzer sun.
It's partly that; but, don't forget,
When it's all said, there's something yet.
There's something yet; an' there I'm beat.
Crowds uv these lads I've known, but then,
They 'ave got somethin' from this war,
Somethin' they never 'ad before,
That makes 'em better men.
Better? There's no word I can get
To name it right. There's somethin' yet.
We 'ear a lot about reward;
We praise, an' sling the cheers about;
But there was debts we can't repay
Piled up on us one single day
When that first list come out.
There ain't no way to pay that debt.
Do wot we can - there's somethin' yet.
'E sez to me, 'Wot's orl this flamin' war?
The papers torks uv nothin' else but scraps.
An'wot's ole England got snake-'eaded for?
An' wot's the strength uv callin' out our chaps?'
'E sez to me, 'Struth! Don't she rule the sea?
Wot does she want wiv us?' 'e sez to me.
Ole Ginger Mick is loadin' up 'is truck
One mornin' in the markit feelin' sore.
'E sez to me, 'Well, mate, I've done me luck;
An' Rose is arstin', 'Wot about this war?'
I'm gone a tenner at the two-up school;
The game is crook, an' Rose is turnin' cool.
'E sez to me, ''Ow is it fer a beer?'
I tips 'im 'ow I've told me wife, Doreen,
That when I comes down to the markit 'ere
I dodges pubs, an' chucks the tipple, clean.
Wiv 'er an' kid alone up on the farm
She's full uv fancies that I'll come to 'arm.
''Enpecked!' 'e sez. An' then, 'Ar, I dunno.
I wouldn't mind if I wus in yer place.
I've 'arf a mind to give cold tea a go
It's no game, pourin' snake-juice in yer face.
But, lad, I 'ave to, wiv the thirst I got.
I'm goin' over now to stop a pot.'
'E goes acrost to find a pint a 'ome;
An' meets a pal an' keeps another down.
Ten minutes later, when 'e starts to roam
Back to the markit, wiv an ugly frown,
'E spags a soljer bloke 'oo's passin' by,
An' sez 'e'd like to dot 'im in the eye.
'Your sort,' sez Mick, 'don't know yer silly mind!
They lead yeh like a sheep; it's time yeh woke
The 'eads is makin' piles out uv your kind!'
'Aw, git yer 'ead read!' sez the soljer bloke.
'Struth! 'e wus willin' wus that Kharki' chap;
I 'ad me work cut out to stop a scrap.
An 'as the soljer fades acrost the street,
Mick strikes a light an' sits down on 'is truck,
An' chews 'is fag - a sign 'is nerve is beat
An' swears a bit, an' sez 'e's done is luck.
'E grouches there ten minutes, maybe more,
Then sez quite sudden, 'Blarst the flamin'war!'
Jist then a motor car goes glidin' by
Wiv two fat toffs be'ind two fat cigars;
Mick twigs 'em frum the corner uv 'is eye
'I 'ope,' 'e sez, 'the 'Uns don't git my cars.
Me di'mons, too, don't let me sleep a wink…
Ar, 'Struth! I'd fight fer that sort - I don't think.'
'E sits there while I 'arness up me prad,
Chewin' 'is gag an' starin' at the ground.
I tumbles that 'e's got the joes reel bad,
An' don't say nothin' till 'e comes around.
'E sez 'is luck's a nark, an' swears some more.
An' then: 'Wot is the strength uv this 'ere war?'
I tells 'im wot I read about the 'Uns,
An' wot they done in Beljum an' in France,
Wiv drivin' Janes an' kids before their guns,
An' never givin' blokes a stray dawg's chance;
An' 'ow they thing they got the whole world beat.
Sez 'e, 'I'll crack the first Ducth cow I meet!'
Mick listen, while I tell 'im 'ow they starts
Be burnin' pore coves 'omes an' killin' kids,
An' comin' it reel crook wiv decent tarts,
An' fightin' foul, as orl the rules forbids,
Leavin' a string uv stiff-uns in their track.
Sez Mick, 'The dirt cows! They wants a crack!'
'E chews it over soid fer a bit,
Workin' 'is copper-top a double shift.
I don't need specs to see that 'e wus 'it
be somethin' more than Rosie's little rift.
'If they'd done that,' 'e sez, 'out 'ere - Ar, rats!
Why don't ole Eng;and belt 'em in the slats?'
Then Mick gits up an' starts another fag.
'Ar, well,' 'e sez, 'it's no affair uv mine,
If I don't work they'd pinch me on the vag;
But I'm not keen to fight so toffs kin dine
On pickled olives . . . Blarst the flamin' war!
I ain't got nothin' worth the fightin' for.
'So long,' 'e sez. 'I got ter trade me stock;
An' when yeh 'ear I've took a soljer's job
I gave yeh leave to say I've done me block
An' got a flock uv weevils in me knob.'
An' then, orf-'anded-like, 'e arsts me: 'Say,
Wot are they slingin' soljers fer their pay?
I tells 'im; an' 'e sez to me, 'So long.
Some day this rabbit trade will git me beat.'
An' Ginger Mick shoves thro' the markit throng,
An' gits 'is barrer out into the street.
An' as 'e goes, I 'ears 'is gentle roar:
'Rabbee! Wile Rabbee! . . . Blarst the flamin' war!'
He was tall and tough and stringy, with the shoulders of an axeman,
Broad and loose, with greenhide muscles, and a hand shaped to the reins;
He was slow of speech and prudent, something of a nature student,
With the eye of one who gazes long across the saltbush plains.
Smith by name, but long forgotten was his legal patronymic,
In a land where every bushman wears some unbaptismal tag;
And, through frequent repetition of a well worn requisition,
'Smith' had long retired in favor of the title, 'Got-a-Fag.'
Not until the war was waging for a month, or may be longer,
Did the tidings reach the station, blest with quite unfrequent mails;
And, though still a steady grafter, Smith grew restless ever after,
And he pondered long o' evenings, seated on the stockyard rails.
Primed with sudden resolution, he arose one summer morning,
Casually mentioned fighting as he deftly rolled his swag;
Then, in accents almost hearty, bade his mate, 'So long, old Party!
Goin' to do some Square-head huntin'. See you later. Got a fag?'
Six long, sunburned days in saddle, down through spinifex and saltbush,
Then a two-days' railroad journey landed him at last in town,
Charged with an aggressive feeling, heightened by his forthright dealing
With a shrewd but chastened spieler who had sought to take him down.
'Smart and stern' describes the war-lord who presided at recruiting.
To him slouched an apparition, drawling, 'Boss, I've got a nag -
Risin' four. Good prad he's counted. Better shove me in the mounted.
Done a little bit o' shootin' - gun an' rifle. Got afag?'
Two months later, drilled and kneaded to a shape approaching martial,
Yet with hints of that lithe looseness discipline can never kill,
With that keen eye grown yet shrewder, and example to the cruder,
Private Smith (and, later, Sergeant) stinted speech and studied drill.
'Smith,' indeed, but briefly served him; for his former appellation
In its aptness seized the fancy of the regimental wag,
When an apoplectic colonel gasped, 'Of all the dashed infernal'....
As this Private Smith saluted, with 'Ribuck, boss! Got a fag?'
What he thought, or how he marvelled at the familiar customs
Of those ancient and historic lands that met his eyes,
He was never heard to mention; though he voiced one bold contention -
That the absence of wire fences marked a lack of enterprise.
Soon his shrewd resourse, his deftness, won him fame in many places;
Things he did with wire and whipcord moved his Company to brag,
And when aught concerning horses called for knowledge in the forces
Came a hurred, anxious message: 'Hang the vet! Send Got-a-Fag!'
Then, one morning, he was missing, and a soldier who had seen him
Riding for the foe's entrenchments bade his mates abandon hope.
Calm he seemed, but strangely daring: some weird weapons he was bearing
Built of twisted wire and iron, and a dozen yards of rope.
In the morn a startled sentry, through the early morn-mists peering,
Saw a dozen shackled foemen down the sand dunes slowly drag.
Sore they seemed, and quite dejected, while behind them, cool, collected,
Swearing at a busy sheep-dog, rode their drover, Got-a-Fag.
To the Colonel's tent he drove them, bransishing a stockwhip featly,
Bristly calling, 'Heel 'em, Laddie!' While the warrior of rank
Sniffed, and then exclaimed with loathing: 'what's this smell of clothing buring?'
Said the drover: 'Got 'em branded: 'A - Broad Arrow,' off-side flank.'
'A,' he drawled, stan's for Australia, an' the Gov'ment brand's in order.
'Crown - G.R.' upon the shoulder marks 'em for the King an' flag.
Roped the blighters same as how we fix the calves on Kinchacowie.
But it's dead slow sorter must'rin',' he concluded. 'Got afag?'
When the weary war is over, back to his old cattle station,
If luck holds, he'll one day journey, casually dropp his swag,
Drawling, 'Been up yonder - fightin'....Not much doin'....Mostly skitin'....
Gi' me drovin' for excitement...Want rain dreadful....Got a fag?'
But in that historic country, with its store of ancient legend,
When they sit to talk at even, and grey geards begin to wag,
Then among traditions hoary they will count the wondrous story
Of that wild Australian savage known to man as Got-a-Fag.
'Now, be the Hokey Fly!' sez Peter Begg.
'Suppose 'e comes 'ome with a wooden leg.
Suppose 'e isn't fit to darnce at all,
Then, ain't we 'asty fixin' up this ball?
A little tournament at Bridge is my
Idear,' sez Peter. 'Be the Hokey Fly!'
Ole Peter Begg is gettin' on in years.
'E owns a reel good farm; an' all 'e fears
Is that some girl will land 'im, by an' by,
An' shar it with 'im - be the Hokey Fly.
That's 'is pet swear-word, an' I dunno wot
'E's meanin', but 'e uses it a lot.
'Darncin'!' growls Begg. We're fixin' up the 'all
With bits uv green stuff for a little ball
To welcome Jim, 'oo's comin' 'ome nex' day.
We're 'angin' flags around to make things gay,
An' shiftin' chairs, an' candle-greasin' floors,
As is our way when blokes comes 'ome from wars.
'A little game uv Bridge,' sez Peter Begg.
'Would be more decent like, an' p'r'aps a keg
Uv somethin' if the 'ero's feelin' dry.
But this 'ere darncin'! Be the Hokey Fly,
These selfish women never thinks at all
About the guest; they only wants the ball.
'Now, cards,' sez Begg, 'amuses ev'ry one.
An' then our soldier guest could 'ave 'is fun
If 'e'd lost both 'is legs. It makes me sick
'Ere! Don't spread that candle-grease too thick
Yeh're wastin' it; an' us men 'as to buy
Enough for nonsense, be the Hokey Fly!'
Begg, 'e ain't never keen on wastin' much.
'Peter,' I sez, 'it's you that needs a crutch.
Why don't yeh get a wife, an' settle down?'
'E looks reel fierce, an' answers, with a frown,
'Do you think I am goin' to be rooked
For 'arf me tucker, jist to get it cooked?'
I lets it go at that, an' does me job;
An' when a little later on I lob
Along the 'omeward track, down by Flood's gate
I meet ole Digger Smith, an' stops to state
Me views about the weather an' the war…
'E tells me Jim gets 'ere nex' day, at four.
An' as we talk, I sees along the road
A strange bloke 'umpin' some queer sort uv load.
I points 'im out to Smith an' sez, 'Oo's that?
Looks like a soldier, don't 'e, be 'is 'at?'
'Stranger,' sez Digger, 'be the cut uv 'im.'
But, trust a mother's eyes…'It's Jim! My Jim!
My Jim!' I 'ears; an' scootin' up the track
Come Missus Flood, with Flo close at 'er back.
It was a race, for lover an' for son;
They finished neck an' neck; but mother won,
For it was 'er that got the first big 'ug.
(I'm so took back I stands there like a mug.)
Then come Flo's turn; an' Jim an' Digger they
Shake 'ands without no fancy, gran'-stand play.
Yeh'd think they parted yesterd'y them two.
For all the wild 'eroics that they do.
'Yeh done it, lad' sez Jim. 'I knoo yeh would.'
'You bet,' sez Smith; 'but I'm all to the good.'
Then, uv a sudden, all their tongues is loosed.
They finds me there, an' I am intrajuiced;
An' Jim tells 'ow it was 'e came to land
So soon, while Mar an' Flo each 'olds a 'and.
But, jist as sudden, they all stop an' stare
Down to the 'ouse, at Dad Flood standin' there.
'E's got 'is 'and up shadin' off the sun.
Then 'e starts up to them; but Dad don't run:
'E isn't 'owlin' for 'is lost boy's kiss;
'E's got 'is own sweet way in things like this.
'E wanders up, and' stands an' looks at Jim.
An', spare me days, that look was extra grim!
I seen the mother pluckin' at 'er dress;
I seen the girl's white face an' 'er distress.
An' Digger Smith, 'e looks reel queer to me:
Grinnin' inside 'imself 'e seemed to be.
At last Dad sez - oh, 'e's a tough ole gun! -
'Well, are yeh sorry now for what yeh done?'
Jim gives a start; but answers with a grin,
'Well, Dad, I 'ave been learnin' discipline.
An' tho' I ain't quite sure wot did occur
Way back' - 'e's grinnin' worse - 'I'm sorry, sir.'
(It beats me, that, about these soldier blokes:
They're always grinnin', like all things was jokes.)
P'r'aps Dad is gettin' dull in 'is ole age;
But 'e don't seem to see Jim's cammyflage.
P'r'aps 'e don't want to; for, in 'is ole eye,
I seen a twinkle as 'e give reply.
'Nex' week,' 'e sez, 'we will begin to cart
The taters. Yeh can make another start.'
But then 'e grabs Jim's 'and. I seen the joy
In mother's eyes. 'Now, welcome 'ome, me boy,'
Sez Dad; an' then 'e adds, 'Yeh've made me proud;'
That's all. An' 'e don't add it none too loud.
Dad don't express 'is feelin's in a shout;
It cost 'im somethin' to git that much out.
We 'ad the darnce. An', spite uv all Begg's fears,
Jim darnced like 'e could keep it up for years;
Mostly with Flo. We don't let up till three;
An' then ole Peter Begg, Doreen an' me
We walk together 'ome, an' on the way,
Doreen 'as quite a lot uv things to say.
'Did you see Flo?' sez she. 'Don't she look grand?
That Jim's the luckiest in all the land
An' little Smith - that girl uv is, I'm sure,
She'll bring 'im 'appiness that will endure.'
She 'ugs my arm, then sez ''Usband or wife,
If it's the right one, is the wealth uv life.'
I sneaks a look at Begg, an' answers, 'Yes,
Yeh're right, ole girl; that's the reel 'appiness.
An' if ole, lonely growlers was to know
The worth uv 'appy marridge 'ere below,
They'd swap their bank-books for a wife,' sez I.
Sez Peter Begg, 'Well! Be the - Hokey - Fly!'
A War March
Ow! Wow! Wow!
(Funeral note sustained by flutes, suggesting a long-bodied,
short-legged, large-headed dog in anguish.)
We are the people who make the row;
We are the nation that skites and brags;
Marching the goose-step; waving the falgs.
We talk too much, and we lose our block,
We scheme and spy; we plot, we lie
To blow the whoe world into the sky.
The Kaiser spouts, and the Junkers rave.
Hoch! for the Superman, strong and brave!
But what is the use of a Superman,
With 'frightfulness' for his darling plan,
If he has no cities to burn and loot,
No women to ravish, no babies to shoot?
Shall treaties bind us against our wish?
(Violins: Tearing noise as of scraps of paper being destroyed.)
Now at last shall the whole world learn
Of the cult of the Teuton, strong and stern!
Ho! for the Superman running amok!
Um - ta, um - ta, tiddley - um - tum!
(Uncertain note, as of a German band that has been told to move on.)
Pompety - pom pom - tiddeley - um - tum!
Way for the 'blond beasts!' Here they come!
While big guns thunder the nations' doom.
Room for the German! A place in the sun!
He'll play the Devil now he's begun!
(Drums: Noise of an exploding cathedral.)
Ho, the gaping wound and the bleeding stump!
Watch the little ones how they jump!
While we shoot and stab, and plunder and grab,
Spurred by a Kaiser's arrogant gab;
While the Glorious Junker
And drunker, on blood.
Sword or cannon or fire or flood,
Never shall stay our conquering feet -
On through city and village street -
Feet that savagely, madly tread,
Over the living; over the dead.
Burn and pillage and slay and loot!
To the sound of our guns shall the whole world rock!
(Flutes, piccolos and trombones render, respectively, the cries of
children, shrieks of women and groans of tortured non-cambatants.
Violins wail mournfully.)
Hoch der Kaiser! The whole land reeks
With tales of torture and savage rape,
Of fiends and satyrs in human shape;
Fat hands grabbing where white flesh shrinks;
And murdered age to the red earth sinks.
Now at length shall we gorge our fill,
And all shall bow to the German will!
By the maids we ravish our lust to slake,
By the smoking ruin that mark our wake,
By the blood we spill,and the hearths we blast....
This is The Day! The Day at last!....
Praise to God! On our bended knees,
We render thaks for boons like these.
For God and the Kaiser our cohorts flock!
(Scrap of German hymn-tune interpolated here.)
Ach! Donnerwelter! Himmel! Ach!
(Medley of indescribable noises rendered by full orchestra, symbolic,
partly of a German band that is being severely kicked by an irate householder,
and partly innumerable blutwursts suddenly arrested in mid-career.)
'Dot vos not fair to shoot in der back!'
Who is this that as dared to face
Our hosts unconquered, and, pace by pace,
Presses us backward, and ever back.
Over the blasted, desolate rack?
What of the plans we planned so well?
We looked for victory - this is Hell!
Mark the heaps of our comrades bold;
Look on the corpses of Culture's sons -
Martyrs slain by a savage's guns.
Respite now, in this feast of death!
Time! An Armistice! Give us breath!
Nay? Then we cry to the whole wide world,
Shame on our foe for a plea denied!
Savages! Brutes! Barbarians all!
Here shall we fight with our backs to the wall!
Boom! Boom! Boom!
(Ten more thousands gone to their doom.)
(Bass drums only, for 679,358 bars, symbolising a prolonged artillery war.
Into this there breaks suddenly the frenzied howl of the long-bodied,
short-legged, large-deaded dog already mentioned.)
Hate! Hate! Hate! Hate!
We spit on the British here at our gate!
Foe of humanity! Curst of the world!
On him alone let our hate be hurled!
For his smiling sneers at the Junkers' creed,
For his cold rebuke to a Kaiser's greed;
For his calm disdain of our noble race,
We fling our spite in his scornful face.
Under the sea and high in the air,
Death shall seek for him everywhere;
The lurking death in the submarine,
The swooping death in the air machine,
Alone of them all he had sealed our fate!
Hate! Hate! HATE!
(Prolonged discord, followed by deep, mysterious silence - imposed by censor -
for 793 bars.)
(Deep staccato note as of a bursting blutwurst.)
Ow! Wow! Wow!
(Dying howl of a stricken hound. Silence again for an indefinite number of
bars. Then, in countless bars, saloons, tea-shops, coffee-houses, cafes and
restaurants throughout the British Empire and most of Europe, a sudden, loud,
triumphant chorus, toned by a note of relief, and dominated by 'The Marseillaise'
and 'Tipperary.' A somewhat uncertain but distinctly nasal cheer is heard from
the direction of New York.)
At last the sounds of the big guns cease;
At last the beast is chased to his lair,
And we breathe again of the good, clean air.
The gates have fallen! The Allies win!
And the boys are macrhing about Berlin!
The Kaiser's down; and the story goes
A British Tommy has pulled his nose.
The German eagle has got the pip:
Vive les Allies!...Hooroo!...Hip! Hip!...
A Holy War
'Young friend!' . . . I tries to duck, but miss the bus.
'E sees me first, an' 'as me by the 'and.
'Young friend!' 'e sez; an' starts to make a fuss
At meetin' me. 'Why, this,' 'e sez, 'is grand!
Events is workin' better than I planned.
It's Providence that I should meet you thus.
You're jist the man,' 'e sez, 'to make a stand,
An' strive for us.
'Young friend,' 'e sez, 'allow me to explain
But wot 'e 'as to say too well I knows.
I got the stren'th uv it in Spadgers Lane
Not 'arf an hour before'and, when I goes
To see if I could pick up news uv Rose,
After that dentist let me off the chain.
('Painless,' 'e's labelled. So 'e is, I s'pose.
I 'ad the pain.)
'Young friend,' 'e sez. I let 'im 'ave 'is say;
Though I'm already wise to all 'e said
The queer old parson, with 'is gentle way
('E tied Doreen an' me when we was wed)
I likes 'im, from 'is ole soft, snowy 'ead
Down to 'is boots. 'E ain't the sort to pray
When folks needs bread.
Yeh'd think that 'e was simple as a child;
An' so 'e is, some ways; but, by and by,
While 'e is talkin' churchy-like an' mild,
Yeh catch a tiny twinkle in 'is eye
Which gives the office that 'e's pretty fly
To cunnin' lurks. 'E ain't to be beguiled
With fairy tales. An' when I've seen 'em try
'E's only smiled.
'Young friend,' 'e sez, 'I am beset by foes.
The Church,' 'e sez, 'is in a quandary.'
An' then 'e takes an' spills out all 'is woes,
An' 'ints that this 'ere job is up to me.
'Yer aid - per'aps yer strong right arm,' sez 'e,
'Is needed if we are to rescue Rose
From wot base schemes an' wot iniquity
Gawd only knows.'
This is the sorry tale. Rose, sick, an' low
In funds an' frien's, an' far too proud to beg,
Is gittin' sorely tempted fer to go
Into the spielin' trade by one Spike Wegg.
I knoo this Spike uv old; a reel bad egg,
'0o's easy livin' is to git in tow
Some country mug, an' pull 'is little leg
Fer all 'is dough.
A crooked crook is Spike amongst the crooks,
A rat, 'oo'd come the double on 'is friends;
Flash in 'is ways, but innercint in looks
Which 'e works well fer 'is un'oly ends.
'It's 'ard to know,' sez Snowy, 'why Fate sends
Sich men among us, or why justice brooks
Their evil ways, which they but seldom mends
Except in books.
'Young friend,' 'e sez, 'You're known in Spadgers Lane.
You know their ways. We must seek out this man.
With 'er, pray'r an' persuasion 'ave been vain.
I've pleaded, but she's bound to 'is vile plan.
I'd 'ave you treat 'im gently, if you can;
But if you can't, well - I need not explain.'
('E twinkles 'ere) 'I'm growin' partisan;
I must refrain.'
'Do you mean stoush?' I sez. 'Fer if yeh do
I warn yeh that a scrap might put me queer.'
'Young friend,' sez 'e, 'I leave the means to you.
Far be it from the Church to interfere
With noble works.' But I sez, 'Now, look 'ere,
I got a wife at 'ome; you know 'er, too.
Ther's certin things I never could make clear
If once she knoo.
'I got a wife,' I sez, 'an' loves 'er well,
Like I loves peace an' quite. An' if I goes
Down into Spadgers, raisin' merry 'ell,
Breakin' the peace an' things account uv Rose,
Where that might land me goodness only knows.
'Ow women sees these things no man can tell.
I've done with stoush,' I sez. ''Ard knocks an' blows
'Ave took a spell.
'I've done with stoush,' I sez. But in some place
Deep in me 'eart a voice begun to sing;
A lurin' little voice, with motives base…
It's ten long years since I was in a ring,
Ten years since I gave that left 'ook a swing.
Ten weary years since I pushed in a face;
An' 'ere's a chance to 'ave a little fling
With no disgrace.
'Stoush? Stoush, young friend?' 'e sez. 'Where 'ave I 'eard
That term? I gather it refers to strife.
But there,' 'e sez, 'why quarrel with a word?
As you 'ave said, indeed, I know yer wife;
An' should she 'ear you went where vice is rife
To battle fer the right - But it's absurd
To look fer gallantry in modrin life.
It's a rare bird.
'Young friend,' 'e sez. An' quicker than a wink
'Is twinklin' eyes grew sudden very grave.
'Young friend,' 'e sez, 'I know jist wot yeh think
Uv 'ow us parsons blather an' be'ave.
But I 'ave 'ere a woman's soul to save
A lonely woman, tremblin' on the brink
Uv black perdition, blacker than the grave.
An' she must sink.
'Yes, she must sink,' 'e sez. 'For I 'ave done
All that a man uv my poor parts can do.
An' I 'ave failed! There was not anyone
That I could turn to, till I met with you.
But now that 'ope 'as gone - an' 'er 'ope too.'
''Old on,' I sez. 'Just let me think for one
Brief 'alf-a-mo. I'd love a crack or two
At this flash gun.'
'Righto,' I sez (an' turns me back on doubt)
'I'm with yeh, parson. I go down to-night
To Spadgers, an' jist looks this Spike Wegg out.'
'Young friend,' 'e sez, 'be sure you've chosen right.
Remember, I do not desire a fight.
But if - ' 'Now don't you fret,' I sez, 'about
No vi'lince. If I'm forced, it will be quite
A friendly clout.'
'Young friend,' 'e sez, 'if you go, I go too.
Maybe, by counsel, I may yet injuce
This evil man - ' 'It ain't no game for you,'
I argues with 'im. But it ain't no use.
'I go!' 'e sez, an' won't take no ixcuse.
So that's all fixed. An' us crusaders two
Goes down to-night to Spadgers, to cut loose
Till all is blue.
'Ow can Doreen make trouble or git sore?
(Already I can 'ear 'er scold an' so
But this ain't stoushin'. It's a 'oly war!
The blessin' uv the Church is on the job.
I'm a church-worker, with full leave to lob
A sacrid left on Spike Wegg's wicked jor.
Jist let me! Once! An' after, s'elp me bob,
Never no more!
Before The War
'Before the war,' she sighs. 'Before the war.'
Then blinks 'er eyes, an' tries to work a smile.
'Ole scenes,' she sez, 'don't look the same no more.
Ole ways,' she sez, 'seems to 'ave changed their style.
The pleasures that we had don't seem worth while
Them simple joys that passed an hour away
An' troubles, that we used to so revile,
'Ow small they look', she sez. ''Ow small today.
'This war!' sighs ole Mar Flood. An' when I seen
The ole girl sittin' in our parlour there,
Tellin' 'er troubles to my wife Doreen.
As though the talkin' eased 'er load 'uv care,
I thinks uv mothers, 'ere and everywhere,
Smilin' a bit while they are grievin' sore
For grown-up babies, fightin' Over There;
An' then I 'ears 'em sigh, 'Before the war.'
My wife 'as took the social 'abit bad.
I ain't averse - one more new word I've learned
Averse to tea, when tea is to be 'ad;
An' when it comes I reckon that it's earned.
It's jist a drink, as fur as I'm concerned,
Good for a bloke that toilin' on the land;
But when a caller comes, 'ere am I turned
Into a social butterfly, off-'and.
Then drinkin' tea becomes a 'oly rite.
So's I won't bring the family to disgrace
I guts a bit 'uv coachin' overnight
On ridin' winners in this bun-fed race.
I 'ave to change me shirt, an' wash me face,
An' look reel neat, from me waist up at least,
An sling remarks in at the proper place,
An' not makes noises drinkin', like a beast.
''Ave some more cake. Another slice, now do.
An' won't yeh 'ave a second cup uv tea?
'Ow is the children?' Ar, it makes me blue!
This boodoor 'abit ain't no good to me.
I likes to take me tucker plain an' free:
Tea an' a chunk out on the job for choice,
So I can stoke with no one there to see.
Besides, I 'aven't got no comp'ny voice.
Uv course, I've 'ad it all out with the wife.
I argues that there's work that must be done.
An' tells 'er that I 'ates this tony life.
She sez there's jooties that we must not shun.
You bet that ends it; so I joins the fun,
An' puts 'em all at ease with silly grins
Slings bits uv repartee like ''Ave a bun,'
An' passes bread an' butter, for my sins.
Since I've been marri'd, say, I've chucked some things,
An' learned a whole lot more to fill the space.
I've slung all slang; crook words 'ave taken wings,
An' I 'ave learned to entertain with grace.
But when ole Missus Flood comes round our place
I don't object to 'er, for all 'er sighs;
Becos I likes 'er ways, I likes 'er face,
An', most uv all, she 'as them mother's eyes.
'Before the war,' she sighs, the poor ole girl.
'Er talk it gets me thinkin' in between,
While I'm assistin' at this social whirl. . . .
She comes across for comfort to Doreen,
To talk about the things that might 'ave been
If Syd 'ad not been killed at Suvla Bay,
Or Jim had not done a bunk at seventeen,
An' not been heard uv since 'e went away.
They 'ave a little farm right next to us
'Er and 'er husband - where they live alone.
Spite uv 'er cares, she ain't the sort to fuss
Or serve up sudden tears an' sob an' moan,
An' since I've known 'er some'ow I 'ave grown
To see in 'er, an' all the grief she's bore,
A million brave ole mothers 'oo 'ave known
Deep sorrer since them days before the war.
'Before the war,' she sez. 'Yeh mind our Syd?
Poor lad. . . . But then, yeh never met young Jim
'Im 'oo was charged with things 'e never did.
Ah, both uv you'd 'ave been reel chums with 'im.
'Igh-spirited 'e was, a perfect limb.
It's six long years now since 'e went away
Ay, drove away.' 'Er poor ole eyes git dim.
'That was,' she sighs, 'that was me blackest day.
'Me blackest day! Wot am I sayin' now?
That was the day the parson came to tell
The news about our Syd. . . . An', yet, some'ow . . . .
My little Jim!' She pauses for a spell. . . .
'Your 'olly'ocks is doin' reely well,'
She sez, an' battles 'ard to brighten up.
'An' them there pinks uv yours, 'ow sweet they smell.
An' - Thanks! I think I will 'ave one more cup.'
As fur as I can get the strength uv it,
Them Floods 'ave 'ad a reel tough row to how.
First off, young Jim, 'oo plays it high a bit,
Narks the ole man a treat, an' slings the show.
The come the war, an' Syd 'e 'as to go.
'E run 'is final up at Suvla Bay
One uv the Aussies I was proud to know.
An' Jim's cracked 'ardy since 'e went away.
'Er Jim! These mothers! Lord, they're all the same.
I wonders if Doreen will be that kind.
Syd was the son 'oo played the reel man's game;
But Jim 'oo sloped an' left no word be'ind,
His is the picter shinin' in 'er mind.
'Igh-spirited! I've 'eard that tale before.
I sometimes think she'd take it rather kind
To 'ear that 'is 'igh spirits run to war.
'Before the war,' she sez. 'Ah, times was good.
The little farm out there, an' jist us four
Workin' to make a decent liveli'ood.
Our Syd an' Jim! . . . Poor Jim! I grieves me sore;
For Dad won't 'ave 'im mentioned 'ome no more.
'E's 'urt, I know, cos 'e thinks Jim 'urt me.
As if 'e could, the bonny boy I bore. . . .
But I must off 'ome now, an' git Dad's tea.'
I seen 'er to the gate. (Take it frum me,
I'm some perlite.) She sez, 'Yeh mustn't mind
Me talkin' uv Jim, but when I see
Your face it brings 'im back; 'e's jist your kind.
Not quite so 'an'some, p'r'aps, nor so refined.
I've got some toys uv 'is,' she sez. 'But there
This is ole woman's talk, an' you be'ind
With all yer work, an' little time to spare.
She gives me 'and a squeeze an' turns away,
Sobbin', I thort; but then she looks be'ind,
Smilin', an' wavin', like she felt reel gay,
I wonders 'ow the women work that blind,
An' jist waves back; then goes inside to find
A lookin'-glass, an' takes a reel good look. . . .
''Not quite so 'an'some, p'r'aps, nor so refined!'
Gawd 'elp yeh, Jim,' I thinks. 'Yeh must be crook.'
'If I'd 'a' played me Jack on that there Ten'
Sez Peter Begg, 'I might 'a' made the lot.'
''Ow could yeh?' barks ole Poole. ''Ow could yeh, when
I 'ad me Queen be'ind?' Sez Begg, 'Wot rot!
I slung away me King to take that trick.
Which one! Say, ain't yer 'ead a trifle thick?'
'Now, don't yeh see that when I plays me King
I give yer Queen a chance, an' lost the slam.'
But Poole, 'e sez 'e don't see no such thing,
So Begg gits 'ot, an' starts to loose a 'Damn.'
'E twigs the missus jist in time to check,
An' makes it 'Dash,' an' gits red down 'is neck.
There's me an' Peter Begg, an' ole man Poole
Neighbours uv mine, that farm a bit close by
Jist once a week or so we makes a school,
An' gives this game uv Dummy Bridge a fly.
Doreen, she 'as her sewing be the fire,
The kid's in bed; an' 'ere's me 'eart's desire.
'Ome-comfort, peace, the picter uv me wife
'Appy at work, me neighbours gathered round
All friendly-like - wot more is there in life?
I've searched a bit, but better I ain't found.
Doreen, she seems content, but in 'er eye
I've seen reel pity when the talk gits 'igh.
This ev'nin' we 'ad started off reel 'ot:
Two little slams, an' Poole, without a score,
Still lookin' sore about the cards 'e'd got
When, sudden-like, a knock comes to the door.
'A visitor,' growls Begg, 'to crool our game.'
An' looks at me, as though I was to blame.
Jist as Doreen goes out, I seen 'er grin.
'Deal 'em up quick!' I whispers. 'Grab yer 'and,
An' look reel occupied when they comes in.
Per'aps they'll 'ave the sense to understand.
If it's a man, maybe 'e'll make a four;
But if' - Then Missus Flood comes in the door.
'Twas ole Mar Flood, 'er face wrapped in a smile.
'Now, boys,' she sez, 'don't let me spoil yer game.
I'll jist chat with Doreen a little while;
But if yeh stop I'll be ashamed I came.'
An' then she waves a letter in 'er 'and.
Sez she, 'Our Jim's a soldier! Ain't it grand?'
'Good boy,' sez Poole. 'Let's see. I make it 'earts.'
'Doubled!' shouts Begg...'An' 'e's been in a fight,'
Sez Missus Flood, 'out in them furrin' parts.
French, I suppose. I can't pronounce it right.
'E's been once wounded, somewhere in the leg...'
''Ere, Bill! Yeh gone to sleep?' asks Peter Begg.
I plays me Queen uv Spades, an' plays 'er bad.
Begg snorts....'My boy,' sighs Missus Flood. 'My Jim.'...
'King 'ere,' laughs Poole. 'That's the last Spade I 'ad.'...
Doreen she smiles: 'I'm glad yeh've 'eard from 'im.'...
'We're done,' groans Begg. 'Why did yeh nurse yer Ace?'...
'My Jim!' An' there was sunlight in 'er face.
'I always thought a lot of Jim, I did,'
Sez Begg. ''E does yeh credit. 'Ere, your deal.'
'That's so,' sez Poole. ''E was an all-right kid.
No trumps? I'm sorry that's the way yeh feel.
'Twill take yeh all yer time to make the book.'...
An' then Doreen sends me the wireless look.
I gets the S.O.S.; but Begg is keen.
'My deal,' 'e yaps. 'Wot rotten cards I get.'
Ole Missus Flood sits closer to Doreen.
'The best,' she whispers, 'I ain't told yeh yet.'
I strains me ears, an' leads me King uv Trumps.
'Ace 'ere!' grins Begg. Poole throws 'is Queen - an' thumps.
'That saves me Jack!' 'owls Begg. 'Tough luck ole sport.'...
Sez Missus Flood, 'Jim's won a medal, too
For doin' somethin' brave at Bullycourt.'...
'Play on, play on,' growls Begg. 'It's up to you.'
Then I reneges, an' trumps me partner's Ace,
An' Poole gets sudden murder in 'is face.
'I'm sick of this 'ere game,' 'e grunts. 'It's tame.'
'Righto,' I chips. 'Suppose we toss it in?'
Begg don't say nothin'; so we sling the game.
On my wife's face I twigs a tiny grin.
'Finished?' sez she, su'prised. 'Well, p'r'aps it's right.
It looks to me like 'earts was trumps tonight.'
An' so they was. An', say, the game was grand.
Two hours we sat while that ole mother told
About 'er Jim, 'is letter in 'er 'and,
An', on 'er face, a glowing look that rolled
The miles all up that lie 'twixt France an' 'ere,
An' found 'er son, an' brought 'im very near.
A game uv Bridge it was, with 'earts for trumps.
We was the dummies, sittin' silent there.
I knoo the men, like me, was feelin' chumps:
Foolin' with cards while this was in the air.
It took Doreen to shove us in our place;
An' mother 'eld the lot, right from the Ace.
She told us 'ow 'e said 'e'd writ before,
An' 'ow the letters must 'ave gone astray;
An' 'ow the stern ole father still was sore,
But looked like 'e'd be soft'nin', day by day;
'Ow pride in Jim peeps out be'ind 'is frown,
An' 'ow the ole fool 'opes to 'ide it down.
'I knoo,' she sez. 'I never doubted Jim.
But wot could any mother say or do
When pryin' folks asked wot become uv 'im,
But dropp 'er eyes an' say she never knoo.
Now I can lift me 'ead to that sly glance,
An' say, 'Jim's fightin', with the rest, in France.''
An' when she's gone, us four we don't require
No gossipin' to keep us in imploy.
Ole Poole sits starin' 'ard into the fire.
I guessed that 'e was thinkin' uv 'is boy,
'Oo's been right in it from the very start;
An' Poole was thinkin' uv a father's part.
An' then 'e speaks: 'This war 'as turned us 'ard.
Suppose, four year ago, yeh said to me
That I'd sit 'eedless, starin' at a card
While that ole mother - Good Lord!' sez 'e
'It takes the women for to put us wise
To playin' games in war-time,' 'an 'e sighs.
An' 'ere Doreen sets out to put 'im right.
'There's games an' games,' she sez. 'When women starts
A hand at Bridge like she 'as played tonight
It's Nature teachin' 'em to make it 'earts.
The other suits are yours,' she sez; 'but then,
That's as it should be, seein' you are men.'
'Maybe,' sez Poole; an' both gits up to go.
I stands beside the door when they are gone,
Watching their lanterns swingin' to an' fro,
An' 'ears Begg's voice as they goes trudgin' on:
'If you 'ad led that Queen we might 'ave made...'
'Rubbidge!' shouts Poole. 'You mucked it with yer Spade!'