(7 September 1876 - 22 June 1938 / Auburn, South Australia)

The Battler

'Could you give me a bite to eat?' said he,
As he tarried by my back door.
And I thought of the dull, lean days that be
As I glanced at the clothes he wore:
Patched in places, and worn and old,
Yet cosy enough to fend the cold.
And I caught the glint of his gay blue eye,
Sure sign of his slogan: 'Never say die'.

'Could you spare me a trifle to eat?' said he;
'For it's tough on a man these days.'
Then, somehow or other it seemed to me,
Some trick of his voice, or ways,
Stirred half lost thought. But I let it go,
As he said that his tea was 'pretty low':
And his sugar-bag, too, was 'well-nigh out'.
'Tho' I'd hate', he added, 'to put you about.'

'Could you do with a couple of chops?' said I.
'Some eggs and a ration of bread?'
'Why, mister, that would be comin' it high!
It's a feed for a king!' he said.
So with this, and a trifle of sugar and tea,
Tucked under his arm: 'Thanks, boss', said he.
'It's hard on the roads when yer out of a job . . .
D'yeh think yeh'd be missin' a couple o' bob?'

'One minute!' I bade him, as memory stirred.
'Have I ever seen you before?'
'Seen me?' said he. 'Why, upon my word!
For the half o' my life or more,
I been comin' round nigh every year.
An' I never yet drawed a blank - not 'ere.
An' I'll say this for yeh: you ain't too bad
As a regular customer - best I've 'ad.'

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