C.J. Dennis

I WUS pickin’ gipsy vi’lits fer to try an’ square Doreen.
We ’ad words . . .  about pianners—fer she wants one awful keen—
    ’Igh words, about ’igh-toned idears—an’, like a love-sick fool,
    ’Ere I’m pickin’ gipsy vl’llts when the kid come ’ome frum school.
’E started school a month ago, an’ ain’t got very far;
But, judgin’ be the scraps ’e ’as, ’e’s takin’ after Par.

I tips there’s somethin’ wrong, the way ’e sneaks around the ’ouse.
An’ then I seen ’is eye. Oh, strike! ’E ’ad a bonzer mouse!—
    A reel black-eye, that, in me day, I would ’a’ worn wiv pride.
    But I’m a father now, an’ sez, “’Ere, son, you git inside
An’ show yer mother that there eye. ’Ow did it come about?”
Sez ’e, “A big bloke gimme that. I knocked the beggar out!”

I looks fer ’arf a second at the fambily disgrace,
Then I picks another vi’lit so ’e couldn’t see me face.
    I wus grinnin’ most unfatherlike, an’ feelin’ good inside.
    “You show yer Mar that eye uv yours. I’m ’shamed uv you!” I lied.
I watch ’im creep inside the ’ouse, an’ ’ear ’is mother’s yell.
An’ then I straightens up me face an’ goes inside as well.

’Twus raw beef-steak an’ vinegar, an’ tears, before she’s done.
An’ the sort uv look she gimme sez, “Yeh see ’ow ’e’s begun!”
    I don’t disturb the rites excep’ to give some kind advice.
    In younger days I’ve caught black-eyes, an’ give ’em once or twice.
“That big boy should be punished,” sez Doreen, “’oo ’it our Bill.”
I pats the ’ero’s bandages, an’ answers ’er, “’E will.”

That ev’nin’, down be’ind the shed, near where the scrub grows dense,
I gives young Bill a lesson in the art uv self-defence.
    I teaches ’im an uppercut that Ginger Mick tort me
    In ole days, down in Spadger’s Lane. I gits down on me knee
To show ’im ’ow to time ’is ’it. ’E sneaks beneath me guard
Quite sudden, while I’m yappin’, an’ ’e cracks me one reel ’ard.

Did it please me? Wot do you think? Strike! That kid ’as got the knack!
An’ it pleased me all to pieces ’ow the ole game all came back:
    Left-swings an’ jolts an’ short-arm jabs—the ’ole dash box uv tricks,
    Sich as we used down in the Lane when we wus short uv bricks.
I’m showin’ ’im a fancy ’it, a reel ole ding-dong clout,
When the murderin’ young savage tries to knock me front teeth out!

Uv course, ’e ’urt ’is little ’and, an’ fetches out a yell
That brings Doreen down double quick. An’ then—it wus merry ’ell.
    She grabs the kid up in ’er arms, an’ gives me sich a look
    As I ain’t seen since years ago, when I done—somethin’ crook.
“You’ll ’ave ’im like you wus!” she cries. “I’d sooner see ’im dead!
You want to make ’im  . . . ” “Don’t,” I sez. “We’ll take the rest as said.”

It ’urt to see ’er shieldin’ ’im as tho’ I wus a plague.
An’ ain’t ’e mine as much as ’ers? Yet, I seen, sort o’ vague,
    The woman’s way she looked at it, the picters that she ’ad
    Uv young Bill goin’ to the pack, an’ follerin’ ’is dad.
I tries me ’ardest to ixplain, an’ made some fool ixcuse;
But I’m marri’d to a woman, an’—Aw, wot’s the flamin’ use?

I tells ’er if we’d ’ave young Bill keep up ’is end at school
’E will ’ave to use ’is flippers; but I sez it like a fool.
    I sez it like I wus ashamed to ’ave ’im learn to fight,
    When all the time, down in me ’eart, I knoo that I wus right.
She just gives me another look, an’ goes in wiv the kid.
An’ me? I picks them vi’lits up, not knowin’ wot I did.

I ’as them fool things in me ’and when I lobs in the ’ouse,
An’ makes bets wiv meself about the chances that she’ll rouse.
    But ’er, she comes the calm an’ cold. Think’s I, “’Ere’s where I fall
    Fer a forty-quid pianner, if I want to square it all,
Goo’-bye to forty lovely quid—time-paymint, fifty-three—
Then all at once she smiles an’ sez, “Did you pick those fer me?”

“Did you pick those fer me,” she sez. “Oh, Bill!” ’an then, “Oh, Bill!”
I ’ints I ’ad idears to leave ’em to ’er in me will.
    She grabs them dilly vi’lits, an’ she ’olds ’em to ’er nose.
    “Oh, Bill!” she smiles, “You alwus knoo ’ow fond I wus uv those!
Oh, Bill! You dear!” She ’ugs me then, jist in the same ole way.
’Struth! I’m marri’d to a woman, an’ . . .  I’ll learn young Bill some day!

Doreen - Contents    |     Possum

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