XIII. THE KID
My son! ... Them words, jist like a blessed song, Is singin' in me 'eart the 'ole day long; Over an' over; while I'm scared I'll wake Out of a dream, to find it all a fake. My son! Two little words, that, yesterdee, Wus jist two simple, senseless words to me; An' now -- no man, not since the world begun, Made any better pray'r than that.... My son! My son an' bloomin' 'eir ... Ours! ... 'Ers an' mine! The finest kid in -- Aw, the sun don't shine -- Ther' ain't no joy fer me beneath the blue Unless I'm gazin' lovin' at them two. A little while ago it was jist "me" -- A lonely, longin' streak o' misery. An' then 'twas "'er an' me" -- Doreen, my wife! An' now it's "'im an' us" an' -- sich is life. But 'struth! 'E is king-pin! The 'ead serang! I mustn't tramp about, or talk no slang; I mustn't pinch 'is nose, or make a face, I mustn't -- Strike! 'E seems to own the place! Cunning? Yeh'd think, to look into 'is eyes, 'E knoo the game clean thro'; 'e seems that wise. Wiv 'er 'an nurse 'e is the leadin' man, An' poor ole dad's amongst the "also ran." "Goog, goo," 'e sez, and curls 'is cunnin' toes. Yeh'd be su'prised the 'eaps o' things 'e knows. I'll swear 'e tumbles I'm 'is father, too; The way 'e squints at me, an' sez "Goog, goo." Why! 'smornin' 'ere 'is lordship gits a grip Fair on me finger -- give it quite a nip! An' when I tugs, 'e won't let go 'is hold! 'Angs on like that! An' 'im not three weeks old! "Goog, goo," 'e sez. I'll swear yeh never did In all yer natcheril, see sich a kid. The cunnin' ways 'e's got; the knowin' stare -- Ther' ain't a youngster like 'im anywhere! An', when 'e gits a little pain inside, 'Is dead straight griffin ain't to be denied. I'm sent to talk sweet nuffin's to the fowls; While nurse turns 'and-springs ev'ry time 'e 'owls. But say, I tell yeh straight ... I been thro 'ell! The things I thort I wouldn't dare to tell Lest, in the tellin' I might feel again One little part of all that fear an' pain. It come so sudden that I lorst me block. First, it was, 'Ell-fer-leather to the doc., 'Oo took it all so calm 'e made me curse -- An' then I sprints like mad to get the nurse. By gum; that woman! But she beat me flat! A man's jist putty in a game like that. She owned me 'appy 'ome almost before She fairly got 'er nose inside me door. Sweatin' I was! but cold wiv fear inside -- An' then, to think a man could be denied 'Is wife an' 'ome an' told to fade away By jist one fat ole nurse 'oo's in 'is pay! I wus too weak wiv funk to start an' rouse. 'Struth! Ain't a man the boss in 'is own 'ouse? "You go an' chase yerself!" she tips me straight. There's nothin' now fer you to do but -- wait." Wait? ... Gawd! ... I never knoo wot waitin' meant. In all me life till that day I was sent To loaf around, while there inside -- Aw, strike! I couldn't tell yeh wot that hour was like! Three times I comes to listen at the door; Three times I drags meself away once more; 'Arf dead wiv fear; 'arf dead wiv tremblin' joy ... An' then she beckons me, an' sez -- "A boy!" "A boy!" she sez. "An' bofe is doin' well!" I drops into a chair, an' jist sez -- "'Ell!" It was a pray'r. I feels bofe crook an' glad.... An' that's the strength of bein' made a dad. I thinks of church, when in that room I goes, 'Oldin' me breaf an' walkin' on me toes. Fer 'arf a mo' I feared me nerve 'ud fail To see 'er Iying there so still an' pale. She looks so frail, at first, I dursn't stir. An' then, I leans acrost an' kisses 'er; An' all the room gits sorter blurred an' dim ... She smiles, an' moves 'er 'ead. "Dear lad! Kiss 'im." Near smothered in a ton of snowy clothes, First thing, I sees a bunch o' stubby toes, Bald 'ead, termater face, an' two big eyes. "Look, Kid," she smiles at me. "Ain't 'e a size?" 'E didn't seem no sorter size to me; But yet, I speak no lie when I agree; "'E is," I sez, an' smiles back at Doreen, 'The biggest nipper fer 'is age I've seen." She turns away; 'er eyes is brimmin' wet. "Our little son!" she sez. "Our precious pet!" An' then, I seen a great big drop roll down An' fall -- kersplosh! -- fair on 'is nibs's crown. An' still she smiles. "A lucky sign," she said. "Somewhere, in some ole book, one time I read, 'The child will sure be blest all thro' the years Who's christened wiv 'is mother's 'appy tears."' "Kiss 'im," she sez. I was afraid to take Too big a mouthful of 'im, fear 'e'd break. An' when 'e gits a fair look at me phiz 'E puckers up 'is nose, an' then -- Geewhizz! 'Ow did 'e 'owl! In 'arf a second more Nurse 'ad me 'ustled clean outside the door. Scarce knowin' 'ow, I gits out in the yard, An' leans agen the fence an' thinks reel 'ard. A long, long time I looks at my two lands. "They're all I got," I thinks, "they're all that stands Twixt this 'ard world an' them I calls me own. An' fer their sakes I'll work 'em to the bone." Them vows an' things sounds like a lot o' guff. Maybe, it's foolish thinkin' all this stuff -- Maybe, it's childish-like to scheme an' plan; But -- I dunno -- it's that way wiv a man. I only know that kid belongs to me! We ain't decided yet wot 'e's to be. Doreen, she sez 'e's got a poit's eyes; But I ain't got much use fer them soft guys. I think we ort to make 'im something great -- A bookie, or a champeen 'eavy-weight: Some callin' that'll give 'im room to spread. A fool could see 'e's got a clever 'ead. I know 'e's good an' honest; for 'is eyes Is jist like 'ers; so big an' lovin'-wise; They carries peace an' trust where e'er they goes An', say, the nurse she sez 'e's got my nose! Dead ring fer me ole conk, she sez it is. More like a blob of putty on 'is phiz, I think. But 'e's a fair 'ard case, all right. I'll swear I thort 'e wunk at me last night! My wife an' fam'ly! Don't it sound all right! That's wot I whispers to meself at night. Some day, I s'pose, I'll learn to say it loud An' careless; kiddin' that I don't feel proud. My son! ... If there's a Gawd 'Oos leanin' near To watch our dilly little lives down 'ere, 'E smiles, I guess, if 'E's a lovin' one -- Smiles, friendly-like, to 'ear them words -- My son.
This poem was originally published in The Bulletin, 15 April 1915, p43, under the title "The Sentimental Bloke Becomes a Father", without the second verse shown here.
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-08|