Digger Smith


Half a Man

C.J. Dennis

“I WASH me ’ands uv ’im,” I tells ’em, straight.
    “You women can do wot yeh dash well like.
I leave this ’arf a man to ’is own fate;
    I’ve done me bit, an’ now I’m gone on strike.
Do wot yeh please; but don’t arsk ’elp from me;
’E’s give me nerves; so now I’ll let ’im be.”

Doreen an’ ole Mar Flood ’as got a scheme.
    They’ve been conspirin’ for a week or more
About this Digger Smith, an’ now they dream
    They’ve got ’is fucher waitin’ in cool store
To ’and ’im out, an’ fix ’im up for life.
But they’ve got Buckley’s, as I tells me wife.

I’ve seen ’em whisperin’ up in our room.
    Now they wants me to join in the debate;
But, “Nix,” I tells ’em. “I ain’t in the boom,
    An’ Digger Smith ain’t risin’ to me bait;
’E’s fur too fly a fish for me to catch,
An’ two designin’ women ain’t ’is match.”

I puts me foot down firm, an’ tells ’em, No!
    Their silly plan’s a thing I wouldn’t touch.
An’ then me wife, for ’arf an hour or so,
    Talks to me confident, of nothin’ much;
Then, ’fore I know it, I am all red ’ot
Into the scheme, an’ leader uv the plot.

’Twas Mar Flood starts it. She got ’old uv ’im—
    You know the way they ’ave with poor, weak men—
She drops a tear or two concernin’ Jim;
    Tells ’im wot women ’ave to bear; an’ then
She got ’im talkin’, like a woman can.
’E never would ’ave squeaked to any man.

She leads ’im on—It’s crook the way they scheme
    To talk about this girl ’e’s left be’ind.
Not that she’s pryin’! Why, she wouldn’t dream!—
    But speakin’ uv it might jist ease ’is mind.
Then, ’fore ’e knows, ’e’s told, to ’is su’prise,
Name an’ address—an’ colour uv ’er eyes!

An’ then she’s off ’ere plottin’ with Doreen—
    Bustin’ a confidence, I tells ’em, flat.
But all me roustin’ leaves ’em both serene
    Women don’t see a little thing like that.
An’ I ain’t cooled off yet before they’ve got
Me workin’ for ’em in this crooked plot.

Nex’ day Mar Flood she takes ’er Sund’y dress
    An’ ’er best little bonnet up to town.
’Er game’s to see the girl at this address
    An’ word ’er in regard to comin’ down
To take Smith be su’prise. My part’s to fix
A meetin’ so there won’t be any mix.

I tips, some’ow, that girl won’t ’esitate.
    She don’t. She comes right back with Mar nex’ day,
All uv a fluster. When I seen ’er state
    I thinks I’d best see Digger straight away;
’Cos, if I don’t, ’e’s bound to ’ear the row,
With ’er: “Where is ’e? Can’t I see ’im now?”

I finds ’im in the paddick down at Flood’s.
    I ’ums an’ ’ars a bit about the crops.
’E don’t say nothin’: goes on baggin’ spuds.
    “’Ow would yeh like,” I sez to ’im, an’ stops.
“’Ow would it be” . . .  ’E stands an’ looks at me
“Now, wot the ’Ell’s got into you?” sez ’e.

That don’t restore me confidence a bit.
    The drarmer isn’t goin’ as I tipped.
I corfs, an’ makes another shot at it;
    While ’e looks at me like ’e thinks I’m dipped.
“Well—jist suppose,” I sez; an’ then I turn
An’ see ’er standin’ there among the fern.

She don’t want no prelimin’ries, this tart;
    She’s broke away before they rung the bell;
She’s beat the gun, an’ got a flyin’ start.
    Smith makes a funny noise, an’ I sez, “’Ell”
Because I tumbles that I’m out uv place:
But, as I went, I caught sight uv ’er face.

That’s all I want to know. An’, as I ran,
    I ’ears ’er cry, “My man! Man an’ a ’arf!
Don’t fool me with yer talk uv ’arf a man!”. . . . 
    An’ then I ’ears ole Digger start to larf.
It was a funny larf, so ’elp me bob:
Fair in the middle uv it come a sob. . . . 

I don’t see Digger till the other night.
    “Well, ’Arf-a-man,” I sez. “’Ow goes it now?”
“Yes, ’arf a man,” sez ’e. “Yeh got it right;
    I can’t change that, alone, not any’ow.
But she is mendin’ things.” ’E starts to larf.
“Some day,” ’e sez, “she’ll be the better ’arf.”

Digger Smith - Contents    |     XI - Sawin’ Wood

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