DIGGER SMITH by C.J. Dennis
"Now, be the Hokey Fly!" sez Peter Begg.
"Suppose 'e comes 'ome with a wooden leg.
Suppose 'e isn't fit to darnce at all,
Then, ain't we 'asty fixin' up this ball?
A little tournament at Bridge is my
Idear," sez Peter. "Be the Hokey Fly!"
Ole Peter Begg is gettin' on in years.
'E owns a reel good farm; an' all 'e fears
Is that some girl will land 'im, by an' by,
An' shar it with 'im -- be the Hokey Fly.
That's 'is pet swear-word, an' I dunno wot
'E's meanin', but 'e uses it a lot.
"Darncin'!" growls Begg. We're fixin' up the 'all
With bits uv green stuff for a little ball
To welcome Jim, 'oo's comin' 'ome nex' day.
We're 'angin' flags around to make things gay,
An' shiftin' chairs, an' candle-greasin' floors,
As is our way when blokes comes 'ome from wars.
"A little game uv Bridge," sez Peter Begg.
"Would be more decent like, an' p'r'aps a keg
Uv somethin' if the 'ero's feelin' dry.
But this 'ere darncin'! Be the Hokey Fly,
These selfish women never thinks at all
About the guest; they only wants the ball.
"Now, cards," sez Begg, "amuses ev'ry one.
An' then our soldier guest could 'ave 'is fun
If 'e'd lost both 'is legs. It makes me sick --
'Ere! Don't spread that candle-grease too thick
Yeh're wastin' it; an' us men 'as to buy
Enough for nonsense, be the Hokey Fly!"
Begg, 'e ain't never keen on wastin' much.
"Peter," I sez, "it's you that needs a crutch.
Why don't yeh get a wife, an' settle down?"
'E looks reel fierce, an' answers, with a frown,
"Do you think I am goin' to be rooked
For 'arf me tucker, jist to get it cooked?"
I lets it go at that, an' does me job;
An' when a little later on I lob
Along the 'omeward track, down by Flood's gate
I meet ole Digger Smith, an' stops to state
Me views about the weather an' the war...
'E tells me Jim gets 'ere nex' day, at four.
An' as we talk, I sees along the road
A strange bloke 'umpin' some queer sort uv load.
I points 'im out to Smith an' sez, "Oo's that?
Looks like a soldier, don't 'e, be 'is 'at?"
"Stranger," sez Digger, "be the cut uv 'im."
But, trust a mother's eyes..."It's Jim! My Jim!
My Jim!" I 'ears; an' scootin' up the track
Come Missus Flood, with Flo close at 'er back.
It was a race, for lover an' for son;
They finished neck an' neck; but mother won,
For it was 'er that got the first big 'ug.
(I'm so took back I stands there like a mug.)
Then come Flo's turn; an' Jim an' Digger they
Shake 'ands without no fancy, gran'-stand play.
Yeh'd think they parted yesterd'y them two.
For all the wild 'eroics that they do.
"Yeh done it, lad" sez Jim. "I knoo yeh would."
"You bet," sez Smith; "but I'm all to the good."
Then, uv a sudden, all their tongues is loosed.
They finds me there, an' I am intrajuiced;
An' Jim tells 'ow it was 'e came to land
So soon, while Mar an' Flo each 'olds a 'and.
But, jist as sudden, they all stop an' stare
Down to the 'ouse, at Dad Flood standin' there.
'E's got 'is 'and up shadin' off the sun.
Then 'e starts up to them; but Dad don't run:
'E isn't 'owlin' for 'is lost boy's kiss;
'E's got 'is own sweet way in things like this.
'E wanders up, and' stands an' looks at Jim.
An', spare me days, that look was extra grim!
I seen the mother pluckin' at 'er dress;
I seen the girl's white face an' 'er distress.
An' Digger Smith, 'e looks reel queer to me:
Grinnin' inside 'imself 'e seemed to be.
At last Dad sez - oh, 'e's a tough ole gun! --
"Well, are yeh sorry now for what yeh done?"
Jim gives a start; but answers with a grin,
"Well, Dad, I 'ave been learnin' discipline.
An' tho' I ain't quite sure wot did occur
Way back" -- 'e's grinnin' worse - "I'm sorry, sir."
(It beats me, that, about these soldier blokes:
They're always grinnin', like all things was jokes.)
P'r'aps Dad is gettin' dull in 'is ole age;
But 'e don't seem to see Jim's cammyflage.
P'r'aps 'e don't want to; for, in 'is ole eye,
I seen a twinkle as 'e give reply.
"Nex' week," 'e sez, "we will begin to cart
The taters. Yeh can make another start."
But then 'e grabs Jim's 'and. I seen the joy
In mother's eyes. "Now, welcome 'ome, me boy,"
Sez Dad; an' then 'e adds, "Yeh've made me proud;"
That's all. An' 'e don't add it none too loud.
Dad don't express 'is feelin's in a shout;
It cost 'im somethin' to git that much out.
. . . .
We 'ad the darnce. An', spite uv all Begg's fears,
Jim darnced like 'e could keep it up for years;
Mostly with Flo. We don't let up till three;
An' then ole Peter Begg, Doreen an' me
We walk together 'ome, an' on the way,
Doreen 'as quite a lot uv things to say.
"Did you see Flo?" sez she. "Don't she look grand?
That Jim's the luckiest in all the land-
An' little Smith - that girl uv is, I'm sure,
She'll bring 'im 'appiness that will endure."
She 'ugs my arm, then sez "'Usband or wife,
If it's the right one, is the wealth uv life."
I sneaks a look at Begg, an' answers, "Yes,
Yeh're right, ole girl; that's the reel 'appiness.
An' if ole, lonely growlers was to know
The worth uv 'appy marridge 'ere below,
They'd swap their bank-books for a wife," sez I.
Sez Peter Begg, "Well! Be the -- Hokey -- Fly!"