"'Ere!  'Ave a 'eart!" 'e sez.  "Why, love a duck!
   A 'uman bein' ain't a choppin' block!
There ain't no call fer you to go an' chuck
   A man about when 'e 'as took the knock.
Gaw!  Do yeh want to bust 'im all apart!
      'Ere!  'Ave a 'eart!

"Aw, 'ave a 'eart!" 'e weeps.  "A fight's a fight;
   But, strike me bandy, this is bloody war!
It's murder!  An' you got no blasted right
   To arst a 'uman man to come fer more.
'E 'ad no chance with you right frum the start.
      Aw, 'ave a 'eart!

"Yeh've pulped 'is dile," 'e whines; "yeh've pinched 'is gun;
   Yeh've bunged 'is eye 'an bashed in 'arf 'is teeth.
'Struth!  Ain't yeh satisfied with wot yeh've done?
   Or are you out to fit 'im fer a wreath?
The man's 'arf dead a'ready!  Wot's yer dart?
      Say, 'ave a 'eart!"

I never did 'ear sich a bloke to squeal
   About a trifle.  This 'ere pal uv Spike's
Don't seem to 'ave the stummick fer a deal
   Uv solid stoush: rough work don't soot 'is likes.
'E ain't done much but blather frum the start,
      "'Ere 'ave a 'eart!"

A rat-face coot 'e is, with rat-like nerves
   That's got all jangled with ixceedin' fright,
While I am 'andin' Spike wot 'e deserves.
   But twice 'e tried to trip me in the fight,
The little skunk, now sobbin' like a tart,
      "Aw, 'ave a 'eart!"

This 'ere's the pretty pitcher in Ah Foo's
   Back privit room: Spite Wegg, well on the floor,
Is bleedin' pretty, with a bonzer bruise
   Paintin' one eye, an' 'arf 'is clobber tore.
While me, the conq'rin' 'ero, stan's above
      'Owlin' me love.

The rat-face mutt is dancin' up an' down;
   Ah Foo is singin' jazz in raw Chinee;
The parson's starin' at me with a frown,
   As if 'e thort sich things could never be;
An' I'm some bloke 'e's but 'arf rekernised
      'E's 'ipnertised.

Foo's furniture is scattered any'ow,
   Artisic like, in bits about the floor.
An' 'arf a dozen blokes, drawn by the row,
   Nosey but nervis, 'overs near the door.
I ain't no pitcher orf no chocklit box.
      I've took some knocks.

I ain't no pitcher.  But -- 0 Glory! -- But
   Ther's dicky-birds awarblin' in me soul!
To think that I ain't lost that upper-cut!
   An' my left-'ook's still with me, good an' whole.
I feared me punch was dead; but I was wrong.
      Me 'eart's all song!

Then, as Spike makes a move, I raised me mits
   Fearin' a foul; an' Rat-face does 'is block.
'E loosens up a string uv epi-tits
   That seem to jolt the parson with a shock.
Filthy an' free they was, make no mistakes.
      Then Snowy wakes.

All through the fight 'e 'ad seemed kind uv dazed,
   Ubsorbin' it like some saint in a dream.
But now 'e straightened up, 'is ole eyes blazed
   An', as the filth flowed in a red-'ot stream,
'Is voice blew in like cool winds frum the south:
      "Shut that foul mouth!"

"Shut your vile mouth, or, by the Lord! -- "'Is 'and
   Went up, an' there was anger on 'is face.
But Rat-face ducked.  'E weren't the man to stand
   Agin that figger uv avengin' grace.
Ducked, or 'e might uv stopped one 'oly smite
      Frum Snowy's right.

"Young friend," 'E turns to me.  An' then I 'ear
   A yell: "The cops!  The cops is in the Lane!
"Parson," I sez, "we are de tropp, I fear.
   Mid 'appier scenes I'll vencher to ixplain.
'Ang to me 'and, an' wave no fond farewell;
      But run like 'ell!"

Some say wrong livin' reaps no good reward.
   Well, I dunno.  If I 'ad not cut loose
In Spadgers, in them days long, long deplored,
   'Ow could I knowed the run uv Foo's caboose?
That back-way entrance, used fer Chiner's friends'
      Un'oly ends.

Out by a green door; down a flight uv stairs;
   Along a passige; up another flight;
Through 'arf a dozen rooms, broadcastin' scares
   To twenty yellow men, pea-green with fright;
Me an' the parson, through that 'eathen land,
      Trips 'and in 'and.

Out uv dark corners, voices 'ere an' there
   Break sudden with a jabberin' sing-song,
Like magpies flutin' on the mornin' air.
   We pays no 'eed to them, but plug along,
Twistin' an' turnin' through them secret ways,
      Like in a maze.

I bust a bolted door.  The parson gasps:
   The air inside is 'eavy with the drug.
A fat Chow goggles at the broken hasps;
   Another dreams un'eedin' on a rug.
Out by the other door-past piles uv fruit --
      'Ow we did scoot!

Red lanterns -- lacquer-work -- brass pots -- strange smells --
   Silk curtains -- slippers -- baskets -- ginger jars --
A squealin' Chinee fiddle-tinklin' bells --
   Queer works uv art -- filth -- fowls -- ducks -- iron bars
To winders - All pass by us in a stream,
      Like 'twuz a dream.

Down to a cellar; up agen, an' out --
   Bananers -- brandy jars -- we rush pell-mell,
Turnin' to left, to right, then round about
   (The parson, after, said it seemed like 'ell)
Through one last orful pong, then up a stair
      Into clean air.

We're in a little yard; no thing to stop
   Our flight to freedom but a fence.  "Now, jump!"
I grabs 'is rev'rince, 'eaves 'im to the top,
   An' bungs me own frame over with a bump.
"Dam!" sez the parson -- or it sounded so --
      But I dunno.

Seems that 'is coat got 'itched up on a nail.
   'E jerks it free an' gently comes to earth.
"Peter the 'ermit's 'ome!" I sez.  "All 'ail!"
   An' makes punk noises indicatin' mirth.
The parson, 'e walks on, as still as death.
      Seems out o' breath.

I walk beside 'im; but 'e sez no word.
   To put it straight, I'm feelin' pretty mean --
Feelin' a bit ashamed uv wot's occurred --
   But still, I never planned to 'ave no scene
With Spike. I didn't start the flamin' row,
      Not any'ow.

I tells 'im so.  But still 'e never spoke.
   I arsts 'im 'ow else could the thing be done.
I tells 'im straight I'd let no flamin' bloke
   Take pot shots at me with no flamin' gun.
'E stops, an' pats me shoulder with 'is 'and:
      "I understand.

"Young friend." 'Is face is orful stern an' grave.
   "The brawl was not your seekin', we'll suppose.
But does it 'elp this girL we wish to save?
   'Ow can sich mad brutality serve Rose?
May be, in anger, you fergot, young friend,
      Our Christian end?"

"Not on yer life!" I tells 'im.  "Spike's in soak,
   Whether the cops 'ave got 'im now or not.
An' that removes one interferin' bloke
   Wot 'ad a mind to queer our 'oly plot.
Tomorrer we'll find Rose, an' work good works
      With gentler lurks."

"Gentler?" 'e sez.  "I 'ope so." Still 'e's grave.
   "The ways uv 'Eaven's strange," 'e sez, "an' yours
Is stranger still.  Yet all may work to save
   One strugglin' soul, if 'Eaven's grace endures."
'E's dreadful solemn.  "I must own I feel
      Grieved a great deal.

"Your face," 'e sez, "is very badly cut --"
   "Now, look," I chips.  "'Old on.  Let's git this right.
'Oo was it tried to stoush that rat-face mutt?
   'Oo was it barracked for me in the fight?
'Oo was it used that word uv evul sense
      Up on that fence?"

"Young friend!" . . . Indignant?  'Struth!  I see 'im try
   To keep reel stern.  But soon I rekernise
The little twinkle stealin' in 'is eye,
   That won't keep out, no matter 'ow 'e tries.
An' then -- 'is twitchin' lips smile wide apart:
      "Aw, 'ave a 'eart!"

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-06