ERE the steamer bore him Eastward, Sleary was engaged to marry|
An attractive girl at Tunbridge, whom he called “my little Carrie.”
Sleary’s pay was very modest; Sleary was the other way.
Who can cook a two-plate dinner on eight poor rupees a day?
Long he pondered o’er the question in his scantly furnished quarters—
Then proposed to Minnie Boffkin, eldest of Judge Boffkin’s daughters.
Certainly an impecunious Subaltern was not a catch,
But the Boffkins knew that Minnie mightn’t make another match.
So they recognised the business and, to feed and clothe the bride,
Got him made a Something Something somewhere on the Bombay side.
Anyhow, the billet carried pay enough for him to marry—
As the artless Sleary put it:—“Just the thing for me and Carrie.”
Did he, therefore, jilt Miss Boffkin—impulse of a baser mind?
No! He started epileptic fits of an appalling kind.
[Of his modus operandi only this much I could gather:—
“Pears's shaving sticks will give you little taste and lots of lather.”]
Frequently in public places his affliction used to smite
Sleary with distressing vigour—always in the Boffkins’ sight.
Ere a week was over Minnie weepingly returned his ring,
Told him his “unhappy weakness” stopped all thought of marrying.
Sleary bore the information with a chastened holy joy,—
Epileptic fits don’t matter in Political employ,—
Wired three short words to Carrie—took his ticket, packed his kit—
Bade farewell to Minnie Boffkin in one last, long, lingering fit.
Four weeks later, Carrie Sleary read—and laughed until she wept—
Mrs. Boffkin’s warning letter on the “wretched epilept.” . . .
Year by year, in pious patience, vengeful Mrs. Boffkin sits
Waiting for the Sleary babies to develop Sleary’s fits.