DIGGER SMITH by C.J. Dennis
II. DUMMY BRIDGE
"If I'd 'a' played me Jack on that there Ten"
Sez Peter Begg, "I might 'a' made the lot."
"'Ow could yeh?" barks ole Poole. "'Ow could yeh, when
I 'ad me Queen be'ind?" Sez Begg, "Wot rot!
I slung away me King to take that trick.
Which one! Say, ain't yer 'ead a trifle thick?"
"Now, don't yeh see that when I plays me King
I give yer Queen a chance, an' lost the slam."
But Poole, 'e sez 'e don't see no such thing,
So Begg gits 'ot, an' starts to loose a "Damn."
'E twigs the missus jist in time to check,
An' makes it "Dash," an' gits red down 'is neck.
There's me an' Peter Begg, an' ole man Poole -
Neighbours uv mine, that farm a bit close by -
Jist once a week or so we makes a school,
An' gives this game uv Dummy Bridge a fly.
Doreen, she 'as her sewing be the fire,
The kid's in bed; an' 'ere's me 'eart's desire.
'Ome-comfort, peace, the picter uv me wife
'Appy at work, me neighbours gathered round
All friendly-like -- wot more is there in life?
I've searched a bit, but better I ain't found.
Doreen, she seems content, but in 'er eye
I've seen reel pity when the talk gits 'igh.
This ev'nin' we 'ad started off reel 'ot:
Two little slams, an' Poole, without a score,
Still lookin' sore about the cards 'e'd got --
When, sudden-like, a knock comes to the door.
"A visitor," growls Begg, "to crool our game."
An' looks at me, as though I was to blame.
Jist as Doreen goes out, I seen 'er grin.
"Deal 'em up quick!" I whispers. "Grab yer 'and,
An' look reel occupied when they comes in.
Per'aps they'll 'ave the sense to understand.
If it's a man, maybe 'e'll make a four;
But if" -- Then Missus Flood comes in the door.
'Twas ole Mar Flood, 'er face wrapped in a smile.
"Now, boys," she sez, "don't let me spoil yer game.
I'll jist chat with Doreen a little while;
But if yeh stop I'll be ashamed I came."
An' then she waves a letter in 'er 'and.
Sez she, "Our Jim's a soldier! Ain't it grand?"
"Good boy," sez Poole. "Let's see. I make it 'earts."
"Doubled!" shouts Begg..."An' 'e's been in a fight,"
Sez Missus Flood, "out in them furrin' parts.
French, I suppose. I can't pronounce it right.
'E's been once wounded, somewhere in the leg..."
"'Ere, Bill! Yeh gone to sleep?" asks Peter Begg.
I plays me Queen uv Spades, an' plays 'er bad.
Begg snorts...."My boy," sighs Missus Flood. "My Jim."...
"King 'ere," laughs Poole. "That's the last Spade I 'ad."...
Doreen she smiles: "I'm glad yeh've 'eard from 'im."...
"We're done," groans Begg. "Why did yeh nurse yer Ace?"...
"My Jim!" An' there was sunlight in 'er face.
"I always thought a lot of Jim, I did,"
Sez Begg. "'E does yeh credit. 'Ere, your deal."
"That's so," sez Poole. "'E was an all-right kid.
No trumps? I'm sorry that's the way yeh feel.
'Twill take yeh all yer time to make the book."...
An' then Doreen sends me the wireless look.
I gets the S.O.S.; but Begg is keen.
"My deal," 'e yaps. "Wot rotten cards I get."
Ole Missus Flood sits closer to Doreen.
"The best," she whispers, "I ain't told yeh yet."
I strains me ears, an' leads me King uv Trumps.
"Ace 'ere!" grins Begg. Poole throws 'is Queen -- an' thumps.
"That saves me Jack!" 'owls Begg. "Tough luck ole sport."...
Sez Missus Flood, "Jim's won a medal, too
For doin' somethin' brave at Bullycourt."...
"Play on, play on," growls Begg. "It's up to you."
Then I reneges, an' trumps me partner's Ace,
An' Poole gets sudden murder in 'is face.
"I'm sick of this 'ere game," 'e grunts. "It's tame."
"Righto," I chips. "Suppose we toss it in?"
Begg don't say nothin'; so we sling the game.
On my wife's face I twigs a tiny grin.
"Finished?" sez she, su'prised. "Well, p'r'aps it's right.
It looks to me like 'earts was trumps tonight."
An' so they was. An', say, the game was grand.
Two hours we sat while that ole mother told
About 'er Jim, 'is letter in 'er 'and,
An', on 'er face, a glowing look that rolled
The miles all up that lie 'twixt France an' 'ere,
An' found 'er son, an' brought 'im very near.
A game uv Bridge it was, with 'earts for trumps.
We was the dummies, sittin' silent there.
I knoo the men, like me, was feelin' chumps:
Foolin' with cards while this was in the air.
It took Doreen to shove us in our place;
An' mother 'eld the lot, right from the Ace.
She told us 'ow 'e said 'e'd writ before,
An' 'ow the letters must 'ave gone astray;
An' 'ow the stern ole father still was sore,
But looked like 'e'd be soft'nin', day by day;
'Ow pride in Jim peeps out be'ind 'is frown,
An' 'ow the ole fool 'opes to 'ide it down.
"I knoo," she sez. "I never doubted Jim.
But wot could any mother say or do
When pryin' folks asked wot become uv 'im,
But drop 'er eyes an' say she never knoo.
Now I can lift me 'ead to that sly glance,
An' say, 'Jim's fightin', with the rest, in France.'"
An' when she's gone, us four we don't require
No gossipin' to keep us in imploy.
Ole Poole sits starin' 'ard into the fire.
I guessed that 'e was thinkin' uv 'is boy,
'Oo's been right in it from the very start;
An' Poole was thinkin' uv a father's part.
An' then 'e speaks: "This war 'as turned us 'ard.
Suppose, four year ago, yeh said to me
That I'd sit 'eedless, starin' at a card
While that ole mother -- Good Lord!" sez 'e
"It takes the women for to put us wise
To playin' games in war-time," 'an 'e sighs.
An' 'ere Doreen sets out to put 'im right.
"There's games an' games," she sez. "When women starts
A hand at Bridge like she 'as played tonight
It's Nature teachin' 'em to make it 'earts.
The other suits are yours," she sez; "but then,
That's as it should be, seein' you are men."
"Maybe," sez Poole; an' both gits up to go.
I stands beside the door when they are gone,
Watching their lanterns swingin' to an' fro,
An' 'ears Begg's voice as they goes trudgin' on:
"If you 'ad led that Queen we might 'ave made..."
"Rubbidge!" shouts Poole. "You mucked it with yer Spade!"