'E calls me Digger; that's 'ow 'e begins.
'E sez 'e's only 'arf a man; an' grins.
   Judged be 'is nerve, I'd say 'e was worth two
      Uv me an' you.
Then 'e digs 'arf a fag out uv 'is vest,
Borrers me matches, an' I gives 'im best.

The first I 'eard about it Poole told me.
"There is a bloke called Smith at Flood's," sez 'e;
   "Come there this mornin', sez 'e's come to stay,
      An' won't go 'way.
Sez 'e was sent there be a pal named Flood;
An' talks uv contracts sealed with Flanders mud.

"No matter wot they say, 'e only grins,"
Sez Poole. "'E's rather wobbly on 'is pins.
   Seems like a soldier bloke. An' Peter Begg
      'E sez one leg
Works be machinery, but I dunno.
I only know 'e's there an' 'e won't go.

"'E grins," sez Poole, "at ev'rything they say.
Dad Flood 'as nearly 'ad a fit today.
   'E's cursed, an' ordered 'im clean off the place;
      But this cove's face
Jist goes on grinnin', an' he sez, quite carm,
'E's come to do a bit around the farm."

The tale don't sound too good to me at all.
"If 'e's a crook," I sez, "'e wants a fall.
   Maybe 'e's dilly. I'll go round and see.
      'E'll grin at me
When I 'ave done, if 'e needs dealin' with."
So I goes down to interview this Smith.

'E 'ad a fork out in the tater patch.
Sez 'e, "Why 'ello, Digger. Got a match?"
   "Digger?" I sez. "Well, you ain't digger 'ere.
      You better clear.
You ought to know that you can't dig them spuds.
They don't belong to you; they're ole Dad Flood's."

"Can't I?" 'e grins. "I'll do the best I can,
Considerin' I'm only 'arf a man.
   Give us a light. I can't get none from Flood,
      An' mine is dud."
I parts; an' 'e stands grinning at me still;
An' then 'e sez, "'Ave yeh fergot me, Bill?"

I looks, an' seen a tough bloke, short an' thin.
Then, Lord! I remembers that ole grin.
   "It's little Smith!" I 'owls, "uv Collin'wood.
      Lad, this is good!
Last time I seen yer, you an' Ginger Mick
Was 'owling rags, out on yer final kick."  

"Yer on to it," 'e sez. "Nex' day we sailed.
Now 'arf uv me's back 'ome, an' 'arf they nailed.
   An' Mick....Ar, well, Fritz took me down a peg."
      'E waves 'is leg.
"It ain't too bad," 'e sez, with 'is ole smile;
"But when I starts to dig it cramps me style.

But I ain't grouchin'. It wos worth the fun.
We 'ad some picnic stoushin' Brother 'Un-
   The only fight I've 'ad that some John 'Op
      Don't come an' stop.
They pulled me leg a treat, but, all the same,
There's nothing over 'ere to beat the game.

"An' now," 'e sez,  "I'm 'ere to do a job
I promised, if it was me luck to lob
   Back 'ome before me mate," 'e sez, an' then,
      'E grins again.
"As clear as mud," I sez. "But I can't work
Me brains to 'old yer pace. Say, wot's the lurk?"

So then 'e puts me wise. It seems that 'im
An' this 'ere Flood -- I tips it must be Jim --
   Was cobbers up in France, an' things occurred.
      (I got 'is word
Things did occur up there). But, anyway
Seems Flood done somethin' good for 'im one day.

Then Smith 'e promised if he came back 'ome
Before 'is cobber o'er the flamin' foam,
   'E'd see the ole folks 'ere, an' 'e agreed,
      If there was need,
'E'd stay an' do a bit around the farm
So long as 'e had one sound, dinkum arm.

"So, 'ere I am," 'e sez, an' grins again.
"A promise is a promise 'mong us men."
   Sez I, "You come up to the 'ouse.
      Ole Dad won't rouse
When once 'e's got yer strength, an' as for Mar,
She'll kiss yeh when she finds out 'oo yeh are."

So we goes up, an' finds 'em both fair dazed
About this little Smith; they think 'e's crazed.
   I tells the tale in words they understand;
     Then it was grand
To see Dad grab Smith's 'and an' pump it good,
An' Mar, she kissed 'im, like I said she would.

Mar sez 'e must be starved, an' right away
The kettle's on, she's busy with a tray.
   An', when I left, this Digger Smith 'e looked
      Like 'e was booked
For keeps, with tea an' bread an' beef inside.
"Our little Willie's 'ome," 'e grins, "an' dried."

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-06