Rose of Spadgers


C.J. Dennis

I’M standin’ at the corner uv the Lane—
      The Land called Spadgers—waiting fer ’is jills.
The night’s come chilly, an’ a drizzlin’ rain
      Falls steady where a near-by street lamp spills
A gastly yeller light on stones all wet,
An’ makes the darkest corners darker yet.

Them darkest corners! ’Struth! Wot ain’t I ’eard
      Uv dark deeds done there in the olden days,
When crooks inticed some silly sozzled bird
      Upstage, an’ dealt with ’im in unkind ways—
Bashed ’im with bottles, woodened ’im with boots.
Spadgers was rood to flush an’ festive coots.

If you are flush in Spadgers, ’tain’t good form
      To git too festive, if you valyer thrift.
To flash yer gilt an’ go the pace too warm
      Might make the Lane regard yeh as a gift.
Ther’s nothin’ loose they’re likely to ferget;
An’ all yeh’ve left is ’eadache an’ regret.

Lestwise, that’s ’ow it used to be. They say
      The Lane’s reformed, an’ took to honest trade.
An’ so yeh’d think, to see it uv a day,
      All prim an’ proper. But when ev’nin’s shade
Comes down, an’ fools as stacks uv beans to spill,
Why, ’umin nacher’s ’urnin nacher still.

Don’t git me wrong. An’ jist in case you might
      Misjudge the gents ’oo plys their callin’ there,
In Spadgers darkest corners uv a night,
      Wot time a shikkered mug ’as gonce to spare,
I’d jist ixplain they takes their point uv view
Frum diff’rint angles to sich birds as you.

F’rinstance, s’posin’ blokes like me an’ you
      (’Oo is raspectabil, I ’ope) should see
Some prodigal all ’eadin’ fer to do
      A one-ack “Road to Ruin” tragedy,
Would we jist let ’im flop before our eyes
Or, bein’ decint ’umins, put ’im wise?

Would we not try to ’alt the wayward feet
      Uv this ’ere errin’ brother with a word
Before ’is moril knock-out was complete?
      O’ course we would. Advice is cheap, I’ve ’eard.
When sinners miss the step ther’s few men ain’t
Itchin’ like ’ell to preach, an’ be a saint.

Well, s’pose again, the Lane should see a bloke
      Dead keen to splash around ’is surplis wealth
On rapid livin’ till ’e’s bust an’ broke
      An’ rooned in repitation an’ in ’ealth,
Do they tork empty words, an’ let ’im go,
Jist for a chance to say, “I tole yeh so!”

Not them. They say, “’Ere is a wasteful coot
      ’Oo will be sorry ere tamorrer’s sun.”
Per meejim, then, uv bottle or uv boot
      They learn ’im wisdom, an’ ’is sinful fun
Is ended. An’, for quick results, their style
’As all yer preachin’ beaten be a mile.

Quick-action missionaries, you might say.
      When they sees some stray sheep inclined to roam
An’ chuck ’is ’ealth an’ character away,
      They takes stern measures for to lead ’im ’ome.
An’, if they reaps some profits at the game,
Well, ’oo are me an’ you to sling ’em blame?

I’m standin’ at the corner uv the Lane
      Toyin’ with sich thorts idly, when I spys
A furtive coot come sloushin’ through the rain
      An’ stop to size me up with sidelong eyes.
An’ then ’e chats me, with the punkest tale
That ever got a bad man into jail.

I s’pose me face ain’t clear in that ’arf-dark,
      Or else ’e was near-sighted. An’ I s’pose
I mighter seemed to ’im a easy mark—
      Me in me farmer’s ’at an’ country clo’es.
But, strike, it ’urt me pride to think that ’e
Would try to ring that old, old dope on me.

On me! ’Is make-up fairly yelled ’is trade,
      Brandin’ ’im plain a low-down city gun.
The simple country mug was never made
      ’Oo’d wear sich duds. It was all overdone:
’Is moleskin pants, ’is carpet-bag, ’is beard—
Like some cheap stage comeejin ’e appeared.

“Hey, mate,” ’e w’ispers. “Could yeh do a bloke
      “A little favor? Listen—on the square—
“I’ve done me tin. I’m bottle-green, dead broke,
      “An’ can’t git ’ome. I ’aven’t got me fare.
“But ’ere’s me watch—reel gold—belong to Dad.
“Lend us a fiver on it, will yeh, lad?”

A reel gold watch! Oh, ’elp! They worked that lay
      When I was jist a barefoot kid. ’Twas old
When cheap-jacks sweated for their ’ard-earned pay
      At country shows. I knoo the sort of gold—
Priced in the brumy shops four an’ a zac;
An’ ’fore you git’ ’em ’ome the gold’s gone black.

“Send I may live!” I sez. “You got a nerve!
      “That tale’s got w’iskers longer than your own.
“A slice of cold, ’ard quod’s wot you deserve
      “For springin’ duds like that! Lea’ me alone;
“An’ try some kindergarten with that lurk.
“A man’s a right to crack you! Aw, git work!”

But ’e won’t take a ’int nor ’old ’is jaw,
      This amacher in crime with brums to sell,
But breasts right up to me an’ starts to paw.
      Now, likewise, that’s a game I know too well:
Pawin’ with one ’and while the other dips
Into yer—“Back!” I yell, an’ come to grips.

I grab ’im be the throat an’ shake ’im good,
      Ixpectin’ ’is fake w’iskers to come loose.
“A rotten way to earn yer livli’ood!”
      I growl . . . ’E grunts . . . ’Is face is goin’ puce.
“You imitation crook!” I sez agen.
“Wot do yeh mean by swin’lin’ honest men?”

I shake ’im ’ard once more. “The first John ’Op
      “That comes,” I sez, “can ’ave you for a gift!”
Me late idears uv thugs ’as all gone flop:
      Me point uv view, some’ow,’ ’as seemed to shift;
’Tain’t philosophic, like it used to be,
Now someone’s took a fly at thuggin’ me.

’E’s gurglin’ nicely—clawin’ at the air.
      “You pest!” I sez. “You scum! You sewer rat!
“Why can’t yeh earn yer livin’ on the square,
      “An’ be raspectabil?” I’m gettin’ that
Right-thinkin’ I am all one virchus glow.
“Leg—gug—” ’e gurgles, musical. “Leggo!”

We made a pretty pitcher standin’ there—
      Nocturne, as artists sez. I felt, some’ow,
That, underneath the yeller lamp-light’s glare,
      ’Is upturned face (It’s gittin’ purple now)
Was sumpthin’ painters would admire no end . . . . 
Then a sharp voice be’ind me yelps, “Young friend!”

“Young friend,” ’e sez, su’prised, “wot-wot’s amiss?
      Yes; my ole parson friend. I drops the crook.
“You are nustook, young friend,” ’e sez; “for this
      “Is not the man for ’oo we’ve come to look.”
Then ’e stares closer at the gaspin’ gun.
“Why! Bless me ’eart!” ’e chirps. “It’s Daniel Dunn!”

“It’s Mister Dunn,” ’e sez, “from Bungaroo!
      “My farmer friend!” (’Ere was a flamin’ mess!)
“Is this ’ere coot,” I arsts, “well knowed to you?”
      The parson takes another gig. “Why, yes.
“You’re Mister Dunn?” An’ Whiskers answers “’Ick!”
I notice then that Daniel’s partly shick.

A dinkum farmer! Strike! I’m in all wrong!
      “Sorry,” I sez. “My fault. ’Ow could I tell?
“I acted nervis when ’e come along.
      “But, if you’re sure, it might be jist as well
“To intrajuice us, ’coz it would appear
“Ther’s been some slight misun’erstandin’ ’ere.”

Then Snowy twinkles, an’ pufforms the rite.
      (W’iskers ’as got ’is wind back with the spell)
“’Appy to meet yeh, sir,” ’e sez, perlite.
      “Don’t mention it,” sez me. “I ’ope you’re well?’
“Not bad, consid’rin’,” ’e remarks (an’ takes
Me ’and) “the narsty weather.” So we shakes.

Then I ixplain; an’ W’iskers spills ’is tale—
      The old yarn uv the mug ’oo puts ’is trust
In nice new city frien’s uv ’is ’oo fail
      To keep appointments, an’ ’e wakes up bust.
We spring a overdraft, an’ leave ’im there,
Bristlin’ with gratiehood in every ’air.

“Jist goes to show,” I sez to Snowy then.
      ““If I ’ad not—well, not detained yer friend,
“’E mighter fallen in with reel rough men
      “An’ ended up all narsty in the end.
“I feel to-night, some’ow, me luck’s dead in,
“An’ I could give some crook a rotten spin.”

“Young friend,” sez Snowy, solemn, “should we meet
      “This man we seek to-night—this feller Wegg,
“Try to be diplermatic an’ discreet;
      “Reason with ’im; no vi’lince, friend, I beg.”
“Wot? Vi’lince? Me?” I chirps. (I’m bublin’ now)
“Wot do yeh know bout that? I’ll kiss the cow!”

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