Rose of Spadgers

Termarter Sorce

C.J. Dennis

IT was n’t kid stakes. I ’ad no crook lurk
      To act deceivin’, or to treat ’er mean.
I’m old enough to know them games don’t work—
      Not with Doreen.
Besides, deceit ain’t in me bag uv tricks.
I got a few; but there is some that sticks.

Sticks in me gizzard. Some blokes sees no wrong
      In workin’ points, an’ thinks it bonzer sport
To trifle with a wife’s belief, so long
      As they ain’t cort.
But, when yeh play the game on dead straight lines,
It ’urts to be accused uv base designs.

It starts this mornin’. I wake with a tooth
      That’s squirmin’ like a basketful uv snakes.
Per’aps I groan a bit, to tell the truth;
      An’ then she wakes,
An’ arsts me wot I’m makin’ faces for.
I glare at ’er, an’ nurse me achin’ jor.

That was no very ’appy mornin’ song.
      I ain’t excusin’ my end uv the joke;
But, after that, things seem to go all wrong.
      She never spoke
One narsty word; but, while the chops she serves,
’Er shrieks uv silence fair got on me nerves.

She might ’ave arst wot ailed me. Spare me days!
      She seen that I was crook. She seen me face
Swelled like a poisoned pup’s. She only says,
      “Please to say grace.”
I mumbles . . . Then, in tones that wakes brute force,
She twitters, “Will yeh take termarter sorce?”

I could n’t eat no breakfast. Just the sight
      Uv sweet things give me tooth a new, worse ache.
Sez she: “You seem to lost yer apetite.
      ’Ave some seed cake.”
Seed cake! Gawstruth! I’m there in agerny,
An’ she, ’oo swore to love, sits mockin’ me.

At last, when our small son gits orf to school,
      I goes an’ sits down sulkin’ on a couch.
“’Ave you a toothache, Bill?” sez she, quite cool,
      “Or jist plain grouch?
Yer face looks funny. P’raps yer gittin’ fat.”
I glare at ’er an’ answer, “Huh!” . . . like that.

That one word, “Huh,” said in a certain way,—
      ’Eart-felt an’ with intention—it can well
Make the beginnin’s uv a perfick day
      A perfick ’ell.
So I sez “Huh!” . . . .  an’ then done my ole trick
(A low-down lurk) uv gittin’ orf-stage quick.

It was a slap-up day. The wattle’s gold
      ’Ad jist began to peep among the green;
An’ dafferdils, commencin’ to unfold,
      They make the scene
A pitcher that—‘Struth! ‘Ow that tooth did ache!
An’, cravin’ symperthy, I git—seed cake!

It was a bonzer day! The thrush’s song
      Rose like a nymn. A touch uv queer remorse
Gits me fer ’arf-a-mo’, then goes all wrong.
      Ter-marter sorce!
Women don’t understand, it’s all too plain.
Termarter sorce, she sez, an’ me in pain!

I dunno ’ow the mornin’ muddled through.
      That naggin’ tooth was gittin’ reel red-’ot.
I ’ad a ’arf a dozen things to do,
      An’ slummed the lot.
Then, jist before I goes fer mornin’ tea,
I start another row with Wally Free.

I tells ’im if that fence ain’t mended—now—
      I’ll summons ’im. But ’e jist stands an’ grins.
’E’s always grinnin’. Silly lookin’ cow!
      An’ fer two pins
I’d go acrost an’ give ’is eye a poke.
’E’s far too ’appy—fer a single bloke.

While I am boilin’ ’ot, Doreen conies out
      To call me fer me mornin’ cup o’ tea.
I turn an’ answer with a savage shout.
      “Dear me!” sez she.
“You seem to be put out this mornin’, Bill.
’E’ll mend the fence, all right. I’m sure ’e will.”

“Aw! It ain’t that,” I sez . . . . Then I let go,
      When once we git inside, an’ ease me mind
By tellin’ ’er some things she ought to know.
      I seemed to find
A lot uv things that ’elped to make me sore;
An’ they remind me uv a ’ole lot more.

I tells ’er that no wife, ’oo was n’t blind,
      Would treat ’er ’usban’ like a block uv wood.
I sez I could n’t understand ’er mind—
      Blowed if I could!
I tells ’er that no woman with a brain
An’ ’eart would smile to see a man in pain.

I sez some wives—some sorts uv wives, uv course,
      If you was lyin’ dead, no more to wake,
Would arst yeh if yeh liked termarter sorse,
      Or else seed cake.
I sez I don’t look for no fond caress,
But symperthy, an’ un’erstandin’? Yes!

I sez, sarcastic, that I ’ave no doubt
      Some wives might think termarters an’ seed cake
Was ’andy sorts uv things to ’ave about
      To stop toothache.
But wot I liked in wives, once in a while,
Was commin-sense. (An’ ’ere, I seen ’er smile).

An’ then I sez: “Gorbli’ me! Ain’t I worked
      Me fingers to the bone, an’ toiled an’ slaved?
Some fellers, if their wives ’ad smiled an’ snouted
      An’ so be’aved” . . . . 
(She pours the tea, an’ ’ands acrost my cup)
“Would lose their tempers, yes, an’ smash things up!”

I sez—Oh, other things in that same strain.
       I ain’t got any fancy to recall.
(That tooth jist ’ad me jumpin’ mad with pain)
      But through it all,
With them fool speeches bubblin’ in me throat,
I saw meself a bleatin’, babblin’ goat.

I gulps me tea; already ’arf ashamed
      Uv more than ’arf I’d said. But is me wife
All ’umble, like a woman ’oo’s been blamed?
      Not on yer life!
She answers me as if she was me mar.
“There, there,” she sez. “Wot a big kid you are!”

I gulps more tea; an’ tells ’er, anyway,
       Me toothache ain’t a thing to joke about;
An’ I will ’ave to go to town to-day
       An’ ’ave it out.
At that, she looks at me with ’er calm eyes
Searchin’ me through an’ through ’fore she replies.

Then, “Bill,” sez she, “tell me the honest truth:
      Does your tooth ache, or is this an excuse?
Why, yesterd’y you ’ad no achin’ tooth . . . . 
      Aw, wot’s the use!
“Excuse! Wot for?” I yells. But she sez, “Oh,
If it’s that bad I s’pose you’ll ’aye to go.”

I knoo. Somewhere inside me silly nob
      I knoo wot thort it is she won’t explain.
She feared, if I got with the old, crook mob
      In Spadgers Lane
That I might miss the step. I’ve never queered
The pitch in eight long years; an’ yet she feared.

“I’ll promise you—” I starts. But she sez, “Don’t!
       Don’t promise wot you might regret some day.
I trust you, Bill; an’ well I know you won’t
       Choose the wrong way.
Women are silly sometimes. Let’s ferget
All that was said . . . . Is that tooth achin’ yet?”

I gives it up! . . . It’s fairly got me beat,
      The twists an’ turin’ uv a woman’s mind.
Nex’ thing, she’s smilin’ up at me so sweet,
      So soft an’ kind
That I—with things still in me mind to tell—
      I melts—jist like I always do. Ah, well!

It was a snodger day! . . . The apple trees
      Was white with bloom. All things seemed good to me
(Except that tooth). Then by the fence I sees
      Poor Wally Free,
Pretendin’ to be happy with ’is plough.
Poor lonely coot! I pity ’im, some’ow.

Rose of Spadgers - Contents    |     A Holy War

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