Flora's Bit

A poem by William Arthur Dunkerley

Flora, with wondrous feathers in her hat,
Rain-soaked, and limp, and feeling very flat,
With flowers of sorts in her full basket, sat,
Back to the railings, there by Charing Cross,
And cursed the weather and a blank day's loss.

"Wevver!" she cried, to P. C. E. 09,--
"Wevver, you calls it?--Your sort then, not mine!
I calls it blanky 'NO.' So there you are,--
Bit of Old Nick's worstest particular.
Wevver indeed! Not much, my little son,
It's just old London's nastiest kind of fun.

"Vi'lets, narcissus, primroses and daffs,--
See how they sits up in their beds an' laughs!
Buy, Pretty Ladies--for your next at 'ome!
Gents!--for the gells now--buy a pretty bloom!

"Gosh!--but them 'buses is a fair disgrace,
Squirting their dirty mud into one's face,
Robert, my son, you a'n't half worth your salt,
Or you'd arrest 'em for a blank assault!

"Primroses, narcissus, daffs and violets,--
First come is first served, and pick o' basket gets.

"Garn then and git! Ain't none o' you no good!
Cawn't spare a copper to'rds a pore gell's food.
Gives one the 'ump it does, to see you all go by,
An' me a-sittin' 'ere all day,
An' none o' you won't buy.
Vi'lets, narcissus,-- ... Blimy! Strike me dumb!
Garn! What's the good o' you?--lot o' dirty scum!
Silly blokes!--stony brokes!--I'm a-goin' 'ome!"

And then, from out the "Corner-House,"
Came two, and two, and two,
Three pretty maids, three little Subs,
Doing as young Subs do,
When four days' leave gives them the chance
Of a little bill and coo.

"What ho!" they cried, as they espied
Flora's bright flower-pot.
"Hi!--you there with the last year's hat!--
Let's see what you have got!
And if they're half as nice as you,
We'll buy the blooming lot."

But, as they stood there chaffering,
Out from the station came
A string of cautious motor-cars,
Packed full of lean, brown men,--
The halt, the maimed, the blind, the lame,--
The wreckage of the wars,--
Their faces pinched and full of pain,
Their eyes still dazed with stress and strain,--
The nation's creditors.

The Subs, the girls, and Flora stood,
There in the pouring rain,
And shouted hearty welcomes to
The broken, lean-faced men.
And when they'd passed, the little Subs
Turned to their fun again.

But the biggest heart among them all
Beat under the feathered hat;--
"Not me!" she cried, and up, and sped
After the boys who had fought and bled,--
"Here's a game worth two o' that!"

She caught the cars, and in she flung
Her wares with lavish hand.
"Narcissus!--vi'lets!--here, you chaps!
Primroses! dafs!--for your rumply caps!
My! Ain't you black-an'-tanned!
Narcissus! vi'lets!--all abloom,--
We're glad to see you back.
Primroses!--dafs! Thenk Gawd you laughs,
If it's on'y crooked smiles.
We're glad, my lads, to see you home,
If your faces are like files."

They thanked her with their crooked smiles,
Their bandaged hands they waved,
Narcissus, vi'lets, prims, and daffs,
They welcomed them with twisted laughs,
Quite proper they behaved.
And one said, "You're a Daisy, dear,
And if you'd stop the 'bus
We'd every one give you a kiss,
And so say all of us.
A Daisy, dear, that's what you are."
And the rest,--"You are! You are!"

Then Flora swung her basket high,
And tossed her feathered head;
To the boys she gave one final wave,
And to herself she said,--
"What kind of a silly old fool am I,
Playin' the goat like that?--
Chuckin' of all my stock awye,
And damaging me 'at?
But them poor lads did look so thin,
I couldn't ha' slept if I 'adn't a-bin
An' gone an' done this foolish thing.
An' it done them good, an' it done me good,
So what's the odds if I does go lean,
For a day or two, till the nibs comes in?
A gell like me can always live,
An' the bit I had I had to give.
An' he called me a Daisy!--aw--'Daisy dear!'
An' I--tell--you, it made me queer,--
With a lump in me throat and a swell right here.
Fust time ever any one called me that,
An', I swear, it's better'n a bran new hat."

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