Rose of Spadgers


C.J. Dennis

AH, wot’s the use?” she sez. “Lea’ me alone!
      “Why can’t I go to ’ell in my own way?
“I never arst you ’ere to mag an’ moan.
      “Nor yet,” she sez, “to pray.
“I’ll take wot’s comin’, an’ whine no excuse.
                  “So wot’s the use?

“Me life’s me own!” she sez. “You got a nerve—
      “You two—to interfere in my affairs.
“Git out an’ give advise where it may serve:
      “Stay ’ome an’ bleat yer pray’rs.
“Did I come pleadin’ for yer pity? No!
                  “Well, why not go?”

Pride! Dilly pride an’ down-an’-out despair:
      When them two meet there’s somethin’ got to break.
I got that way, to see ’er sittin’ there,
      I felt like I could take
That ’arf-starved frame uv ’er’s by might an’ main,
                  An’ shake ’er sane.

That’s ’ow it is when me an’ parson roam
      Down to the paradise wot Spadgers knows,
To find the ’ovel that she calls ’er ’ome,
      An’ ’ave a word with Rose.
Imgagin’ ’igh-strung cliners in dispute
                  Ain’t my long suit.

“Huh! Rescue work!” she sneers. ’Er eyes is bright;
      ’Er voice is ’ard. “I’m a deservin’ case.
“Me? Fancy! Don’t I look a pretty sight
      “To come to savin’ grace?
“Pity the sinner—Aw, don’t come that trick!
                  “It makes me sick!”

’Isterical she was, or nearly so:
      Too little grub, an’ too much time to fret—
Ingrowin’ grouch sich as few women know,
      Or want to know—an’ yet,
When I glance at the parson, there I see
                  Raw misery.

I’ve knowed ole Snowy since the days uv old;
      Yet never ’ad I got so close to see
A world-wise man ’oo’s ’cart is all pure gold
      An’ ’uman charity.
For, all that girl was suff’rln’, well I knoo,
                  ’E suffered too.

“My child,” ’e sez, “I don’t come ’ere to preach.
      “You’re a good girl; an’ when—” “’Oo sez I ain’t?
“’Oo sez I ain’t?” ’Er voice is near a screech.
      “I’m no hymn-singin’ saint;
“But you’re a bit too previous givin’ me
                  “This third degree.”

An’ then she starts to laugh. I’d ’ate to see
      A woman laugh or look like that again.
She’s in the dinkum ’igh-strikes now; to me
      That’s showin’ pretty plain.
She’s like a torchered thing—’arf crazy—wild . . . . 
                  “Take thort, my child.

“Take thort,” the parson sez. “I only ask
      “Before you risk all for a life uv crime
“You’ll ’esitate. Is that too ’ard to task?
      “May there not come a time—”
“Time? Yes,” I chips. “You’ll git that fer yer pains.
                  “Ar, brush yer brains!”

The parson sighs. “This man,” ’E sez, “this Wegg
      “’Oo dazzles you with tork uv gains frum sin—
“Is ’e dependable? Think well, I beg—”
      “Beg nothin’,” I chips in.
“To beg decoy ducks ain’t the proper tack.
                  “She wants a smack!”

The parson groans. “I’ve offered you,” ’e starts.
      “Offer ’er nothin’! Can’t you pick ’er like?
“No dinkum ’elp is any good to tarts
      “’Oo’d fall fer sich as Spike.
“She’s short uv grit to battle on ’er own,
                  “An’ stand alone.”

That done it. If I’d let the parson gone
      An’ come the mild an’ gentle, sure enough,
She’d ’ad the willies. When the dames take on,
      The game’s to treat ’em rough.
That’s wot I’ve ’eard. It woke Rose up, all right,
                  An’ full uv fight.

“Alone?” she sez. “I’ve stood alone, Gawd knows!
      “Alone an’ honest, battlin’ on the square.
“An’ now—Oh, damn your charity! I’ve chose!
      “I’m down; an’ I don’t care.
“I’m fer the easy life an’ pretty clo’es.
                  “That’s that!” sez Rose.

The cause looks blue. Wot more was to be said?
      An’ then, all on me own, I weaves right there
The bright idear wot after bowed me ’ead
      In sorrer an’ despair.
I didn’t ort to be let out alone.
                  That much I own.

“Ah, well,” I sez, resigned, “if that’s the life,
      “It’s no use sayin’ wot I come to say.
“Which was,” I sez, “a message frum me wife
      “Arstin’ you ’ome to stay.”
“Your wife?” I nods. “If you ’ad cared to come.”
                  She seems struck dumb.

“Your wife?” she sez. “Wot does she know uv me?”
      Then pride an’ ’er suspicions makes ’er flare:
“Is this more pretty schemes fer charity?
      “Why should she arst me there?”
“Why? Well, you ort to know,” I answer, quick.
                  “Account uv Mick.”

Down on ’er folded arms ’er ’ead went, flop.
      At larst our ’oly cause is won, I know.
She sobbed until I thort she’d never stop:
      It ’urt to see ’er so;
Yet I felt glad the way I’d worked me nob—
                  An’ let ’er sob,

“That’s tore it,” I remarks be’ind me ’and.
      The parson nods. ’E’s smilin’ now all gay.
Ten minutes later, an’ the ’ole thing’s planned
      Fer Rose’s ’oliday.
We put the acid on, an’ scold an’ tease
                  Till she agrees.

Once we’re outside the parson takes me ’and.
      “Without your ’elp, your wit, we would ’ave failed.”
“Aw, easy work,” I answer, feelin’ grand,
      Like some ole knight, tin-mailed.
Then, sudden, like a load uv punchered tyres,
                  Me pride ixpires.

“Young friend,” ’e starts . . . . “No, not too young; but old—
      Old with the cares,” I sez, “uv fambly life.
“This might ’ave been dead right when knights was bold;
      “But wot about me wife?
“She don’t know nothin’! I ’ave done me dash
                  “Through actin’ rash.”

“A trifle!” sez ’is rev’rince. “Tut!” sez ’e.
      “I’ll promise you fair sailin’ with Doreen.”
“’Tain’t that so much,” I sez, “wot troubles me.”
      “Trouble? Wot you mean?”
I grins at ’im. “Me conscience,” I reply.
                  “I’ve tole a lie!”

Rose of Spadgers - Contents    |     The Knight’s Return

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