JIM OF THE HILLS by C.J. Dennis
IV. A FREAK OF SPRING
At any other time of year
It might have passed, but Spring is queer.
He says somethin' - I dunno -
Somethin' nasty. I says, "Ho!"
"Ho, yourself!" he says, an' glares.
I says nothin' - only stares.
"Coot!" says he . . . Then up she goes!
An' I land him on the nose.
It was Spring, Spring, Spring! Just to hear the thrushes sing
Would make a fellow laugh, or love, or fight like anything.
Which mood called I wasn't carin'; I was feelin' fine an' darin';
So I fetches him a beauty with a lovely left-arm swing.
Ben Murray staggered back a bit an' howled a wicked word
Which gave me feelin's of great joy . . . An' that's how it occurred.
"On the sawdust!" yells old Pike,
Gloatin' and bloodthirsty-like.
"On the sawdust with yeh both!
Truth to tell, I'm nothin' loth.
I peel off my coat an' vest.
Murray, with his rage suppressed,
Comes up eager, pale with spite.
"Glory!" shouts old Pike. "A fight!"
It was Spring, glad Spring, an' the swallows on the wing
Made a man feel kind an' peaceful with their cheery twittering.
As I watched their graceful wheelin' with a pleasant sort of feelin'
Old man Pike pulled out his ticker, an' the mill-hands made a ring.
There was gold upon the wattle an' the blackwood was in bud,
An' I felt the call for action fairly sizzin' in my blood.
Murray comes on like a bull;
Both his eyes with spleen are full.
Let him have it - left an' right. . . .
Pike is bustin' with delight. . . .
Right eye once and left eye twice -
Then he grabs me like a vice. . . .
Down into the dust we go -
Bull-dog grip and short-arm blow.
It was Spring! Mad Spring! Just to feel him clutch an' cling
Told me plain that life was pelendid an' my strength a precious thing.
On the sawdust heap we scrambled, while the fellows yelled an' gambled
On the fight; an' Ben loosed curse-words in a never-endin' string.
Oh, I glimpsed the soft sky shinin' and I smelled the fresh-cut wood;
An' as we rolled I pummelled him, an' knew the world was good.
"'Tain't a dog-fight!" shouts Bob Blair.
"Stand up straight an' fight it fair."
I get end-up with a grin.
"Time!" yells Pike, an' bangs a tin.
"Corners, boys. A minute's spell."
"Good lad, Jim! You're doin' well,"
Says the little Dusty, Dick. . . .
Murray's eye is closin' quick.
It was Spring, sweet Spring, an' a man must have his fling:
Healthy men must be respondin' to the moods the seasons bring.
That sweet air, with scrub scents laden, all my body was invadin',
Till each breath I drew within me made me feel I was king.
'Twas the season to be doin' - fondlin' maids, or fightin' men -
An' I felt my spirit yearnin' for another crack at Ben.
Pike bangs on his tin again.
"Time!" he roars. "Get to it, men!"
I come eager, fit to dance;
Ben spars cautious for a chance.
With a laugh I flick him light;
Then - like lightin' comes his right
Full an' fair upon the jaw -
Lord, the purple stars I saw!
It was Spring, wild Spring! When I felt the sudden sting
Of a clout all unexpected, I was just a maddened thing -
Just a savage male thing ragin'; battle all my wits engagin'.
Instant I was up an' at him, an' I punched him round the ring.
I forgot the scents an' season; I lost count of time an' place;
An' my only aim an' object was to batter Murray's face.
Pike is dancin' wild with joy;
Dusty Dick howls, "At him, boy!"
I am at him, fast an' hard.
Then, as Murray drops his guard,
I get in one, strong an' straight,
Full of emnity an' weight.
Down he goes; the fellows shout.
"One!" starts Pike, then. . . "Ten - an' out!"
It was Spring, gay Spring. Still were swallows on the wing,
An', on a sudden, once again I heard the thrushes sing.
There was gold upon the wattle, an' my recent wish to throttle
Murray, as he lay there groain', was a far-forgotten thing.
In the soft blue sky were sailin' little clouds as fine as fluff.
"Wantin' more?" I asked him gently; but Ben Murray said, "Enough."
"Well done, Jim," says old Bob Blair.
"'Tis the brave deserves the fair."
An' he laughs an' winks at Pike
In a way that I don't like.
"Widders," grins young Dusty Dick,
"Likes a bloke whose hands is quick.
Now poor Ben can take the sack."
But I frowns, an' turns my back.
It was Spring, the fickle Spring; an' a most amazin' thing
Came upon me sudden-like an' set me marvellin'.
For no longer was I lookin' for a wife to do my cookin',
But for somethin' sweet and tender of the kind that kiss an' cling.
Oh, for such a one I'd battle, an' I'd win by hook or crook;
But it did seem sort of foolish to go fightin' for a cook.
Standin' on the sawdust heap
I feel mean an' rather cheap,
Widows? Let the widow go!
What we fought for I don't know.
Murray offers me his hand:
"Jim, you've won; so understand,
I don't mean to block your road . . ."
But I answer, "That be blowed!"
"Why, it's Spring, man, Spring!" (An' I gave his fist a wring)
"If you reckoned me your rival, give up thinkin' such a thing.
I just fought for fun an' frolic, so don't you get melancholic;
An', if you have notions yonder, why, buck up an' buy the ring!
Put some beefsteak on your eye, lad, an' learn how to keep your guard."
Then I put my coat an' vest on, an' walked homeward . . . thinkin' hard.