XI. BEEF TEA
She never magged; she never said no word; But sat an' looked at me an' never stirred. I could 'a' bluffed it out if she 'ad been Fair narked, an' let me 'ave it wiv 'er tongue; It silence told me 'ow 'er 'eart wus wrung. Poor 'urt Doreen! Gorstruth! I'd sooner fight wiv fifty men Than git one look like that frum 'er agen! She never moved; she never spoke no word; That 'urt look in 'er eyes, like some scared bird: "'Ere is the man I loved," it seemed to say. "'E's mine, this crawlin' thing, an' I'm 'is wife; Tied up fer good; an' orl me joy in life Is chucked away!" If she 'ad bashed me I'd 'a' felt no 'urt! But 'ere she treats me like -- like I wus dirt. 'Ow is a man to guard agen that look? Fer other wimmin, when the'r blokes go crook, An' lobs 'ome wiv the wages uv a jag, They smashes things an' carries on a treat An' 'owls an' scolds an' wakes the bloomin' street Wiv noisy mag. But 'er -- she never speaks; she never stirs ... I drops me bundle ... An' the game is 'ers. Jist two months wed! Eight weeks uv married bliss Wiv my Doreen, an' now it's come to this! Wot wus I thinkin' uv? Gawd! I ain't fit To kiss the place 'er little feet 'as been! 'Er that I called me wife, me own Doreen! Fond dreams 'as flit; Love's done a bunk, an' joy is up the pole; An' shame an' sorrer's roostin' in me soul. 'Twus orl becors uv Ginger Mick -- the cow! (I wish't I 'ad 'im 'ere to deal wiv now! I'd pass 'im one, I would! 'E ain't no man!) I meets 'im Choosdee ev'nin' up the town. "Wot O," 'e chips me. "Kin yeh keep one down?" I sez I can. We 'as a couple; then meets three er four Flash coves I useter know, an' 'as some more. "'Ow are yeh on a little gamble, Kid?" Sez Ginger Mick. "Lars' night I'm on four quid. Come 'round an' try yer luck at Steeny's school. "No," sez me conscience. Then I thinks, 'Why not? An' buy 'er presents if I wins a pot? A blazin' fool I wus. Fer 'arf a mo' I 'as a fight; Then conscience skies the wipe ... Sez I "Orright." Ten minutes later I was back once more, Kip in me 'and, on Steeny Isaac's floor, Me luck was in an' I wus 'eadin' good. Yes, back agen amongst the same old crew! An' orl the time down in me 'eart I knew I never should ... Nex' thing I knows it's after two o'clock -- Two in the morning! An' I've done me block! "Wot odds?" I thinks. "I'm in fer it orright." An' so I stops an' gambles orl the night; An' bribes me conscience wiv the gilt I wins. But when I comes out in the cold, 'ard dawn I know I've crooled me pitch; me soul's in pawn. My flamin' sins They 'its me in a 'eap right where I live; Fer I 'ave broke the solim vow I give. She never magged; she never said no word. An' when I speaks, it seems she never 'eard. I could 'a' sung a nim, I feels so gay! If she 'ad only roused I might 'a' smiled. She jist seems 'urt an' crushed; not even riled. I turns away, An' yanks me carkis out into the yard, Like some whipped pup; an' kicks meself reel 'ard. An' then, I sneaks to bed, an' feels dead crook. Fer golden quids I couldn't face that look -- That trouble in the eyes uv my Doreen. Aw, strike! Wot made me go an' do this thing? I feel jist like a chewed up bit of string, An' rotten mean! Fer 'arf an hour I lies there feelin' cheap; An' then I s'pose, I muster fell asleep.... " 'Ere, Kid, drink this" ... I wakes, an' lifts me 'ead, An' sees 'er standin' there beside the bed; A basin in 'er 'ands; an' in 'er eyes -- (Eyes that wiv unshed tears is shinin' wet) -- The sorter look I never shall ferget, Until I dies. " 'Ere, Kid, drink this," she sez, an' smiles at me. I looks -- an' spare me days! It was beef tea! Beef tea! She treats me like a hinvaleed! Me! that 'as caused 'er lovin' 'eart to bleed. It 'urts me worse than maggin' fer a week! 'Er! 'oo 'ad right to turn dead sour on me, Fergives like that, an' feeds me wiv beef tea ... I tries to speak; An' then -- I ain't ashamed o' wot I did -- I 'ides me face ... an' blubbers like a kid.
This poem was originally published in The Bulletin, 8 April 1915, p47 under the title "The Lapse of the Sentimental Bloke".
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