Jim of the Hills

Red Robin

C.J. Dennis

HI, it’s a funny world! This mornin’ when I woke
I saw red robin on the fence, an’ heard the words he spoke.
    Red robin, he’s a perky chap, an’ this was his refrain:
    “Dear, it’s a pity that poor Jenny is so plain.”

To talk like that about his wife! It had me scandalized.
I’d heard him singin’ so before, but never recognised
    The meaning of his chatter, or that he could be so vain:
    “Dear, it’s a pity that poor Jenny is so plain.”

I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but this reminded me
I was promised to the widow for this Sunday night to tea.
    I’d promised her for weeks an’ weeks, until she pinned me down.
    I recollects this is the day, an’ gets up with a frown.

I was thinkin’ of the widow while I gets me clobber on—
Like a feller will start thinkin’ of the times that’s past an’ gone.
    An’, while my thoughts is runnin’ so, that bird chips in again:
    “Dear, it’s a pity that poor Jenny is so plain.”

Now, the widow’s name is Jenny, an’ it strikes me sort of queer
That my thoughts should be upon her when that robin’s song I hear.
    She ain’t so homely neither; but she never could compare
    With a certain bonzer vision with the sunlight in her hair.

When I wander down that evenin’, she come smilin’ to the gate,
An’ her look is calculatin’, as she scolds because I’m late.
    She takes my hat an’ sits me down an’ heaves a little sigh.
    But I get a queer sensation from that glimmer in her eye.

She starts to talk about the mill, an’ then about the strike,
An’ then she digs Ben Murray up an’ treats him nasty-like;
    She treats him crool an’ cattish, as them soft, sweet women can.
    But I ups an’ tells her plainly that I think Ben is a man.

First round to me. But she comes back, an’ says Ben is a cad
Who’s made a laughin’-stock of her, an’ treated her reel bad.
    I twig she’s out for sympathy; so counters that, an’ says
    That Ben’s a broken-hearted man about the mill these days.

The second round to me on points; an’ I was havin’ hopes.
(I might have known that widows were familiar with the ropes.)
    “But he’d never make a husband!” says the widow, with a sigh.
    An’ again I gets a warnin’ from that glimmer in her eye.

I says I ain’t no judge of that; an’ treats it with a laugh.
But she keeps the talk on ’usbands for a minute an’ a half.
    I can’t do much but spar a bit, an’ keep her out of range;
    So the third round is the widow’s; an’ the fight takes on a change.

I’m longin’ for a breather, for I’ve done my nerve a lot,
When suddenly she starts on “Love,” an’ makes the pace reel hot.
    In half a jiff she has me on the ropes, an’ breathin’ hard,
    With not a fight inside me—I can only duck an’ guard.

She uppercuts me with a sigh, an’ jabs me with a glance.
(When a widow is the fighter, has a single bloke a chance?)
    Her short-arm blows are amorous, most lovin’ is her lunge;
    Until it’s just a touch an’ go I don’t throw up the sponge.

I use my head-piece here a bit to wriggle from the fix;
For the widow is a winner ’less I fluke a win by tricks.
    An’ I lets a reel mean notion (that I don’t seek to excuse),
    When I interrupts her rudely with, “But have you heard the news?”

Now, to a woman, that’s a lead dead certain of a score,
An’ a question that the keenest is unable to ignore.
    An’ good old Curiosity comes in to second me,
    As I saw her struggle hopeless, an’ “What news is that?” says she.

An’ here I spins a lovely yarn, a gloomy hard-luck tale
Of how I’ve done my money in, an’ I’m about to fail,
    How my house an’ land is mortgaged, how I’ve muddled my affairs
    Through foolin’ round with racin’ bets and rotten minin’ shares.

I saw the fight was easy mine the minute I begun;
An’, after half a dozen words, the time-keep counted “One.”
    An’ when I finish that sad tale there ain’t the slightest doubt
    I am winner of the contest, an’ the widow’s down an’ out.

But not for long. Although she’s lost, the widow is dead game:
“I’m sorry, Mister Jim,” says she, “for both your loss an’ shame.
    All things is changed between us now, of course; the past is dead.
    An’ what you were about to say you please will leave unsaid.”

.     .     .     .     .

I was thinkin’ in the evenin’ over how I had escaped,
An’ how the widow took it all—the way she stared an’ gaped.
    She looked her plainest at that time; but that don’t matter now;
    For, plain or fair, I know of one who’s fairer, anyhow.

I tells meself that beauty ain’t a thing to count with man,
An’ I would never choose a wife on that unthinkin’ plan.
    No robin was awake, I swear; but still I heard that strain;
    “Dear, it’s a pity that poor Jenny is so plain.”

Jim of the Hills - Contents    |     Murray’s Ride

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