Arthur Patchett Martin
My Cousin From Pall Mall
There’s nothing so exasperates a true Australian youth,
Whatever be his rank in life, be he cultured or uncouth,
As the manner of a London swell. Now it chanced, the other day,
That one came out, consigned to me—a cousin, by the way.
As he landed from the steamer at the somewhat dirty pier,
He took my hand; and lispingly remarked, ‘How very queer!
I’m glad, of course, to see you—but you must admit this place,
With all its mixed surroundings, is a national disgrace.’
I defended not that dirty pier, not a word escaped my lips;
I pointed not—though well I might—to the huge three-masted ships;
For, although with patriotic pride my soul was all aglow,
I remembered Trollope’s parting words, ‘Victorians do not blow.’
On the morrow through the city we sauntered, arm in arm;
I strove to do the cicerone—my style was grand and calm.
I showed him all the lions—but I noted with despair
His smile, his drawl, his eye-glass, and his supercilious air.
As we strolled along that crowded street, where Fashion holds proud sway,
He deigned to glance at every thing, but not one word did say;
I really thought he was impressed by its well-deserved renown
Till he drawled, ‘Not bad—not bad at all—for a provincial town.’
Just as he spoke there chanced to pass a most bewitching girl,
And I said, ‘Dear cousin, is she not fit bride for any earl?’
He glanced, with upraised eyebrows and a patronizing smile,
Then lisped, ‘She’s pretty, not a doubt, but what a want of style!’
We paused a moment just before a spacious House of Prayer;
Said he, ‘Dear me! Good gracious! What’s this ugly brick affair—
A second-rate gin-palace?’ ‘Cease, cease,’ I said; ‘you must—
O spare me,’— here my sobs burst forth, I was humbled to the dust.
But, unmindful of my agonies, in the slowest of slow drawls,
He lisped away for hours of the Abbey and St. Paul’s,
Till those grand historic names had for me a hateful sound,
And I wished the noble piles themselves were levelled to the ground,
My young bright life seemed blasted, my hopes were dead and gone,
No blighted lover ever felt so gloomy and forlorn;
I’d reached the suicidal stage—and the reason of it all,
This supercilious London swell, his eye-glass and his drawl.
But, though hidden, still there’s present, in out darkest hour of woe,
A sense of respite and relief, although we may not know
The way that gracious Providence will choose to right the wrong,
So I forthwith ceased my bitter tears—I suffered and was strong.
Then we strolled into the Club, where he again commenced to speak,
But I interrupted saying, ‘Let us leave town for a week.
I see that Melbourne bores you—nay, nay, I know it’s true;
Let us wander ’midst the gum-trees, and observe the kangaroo.’
My words were soft and gentle, and none could have discerned
How, beneath my calm demeanour, volcanic fury burned.
And my cousin straight consented, as his wine he slowly sipped,
To see the gay Marsupial and the gloomy Eucalypt.
Ah! who has ever journeyed on a glorious summer night
Through the weird Australian bush-land without feeling of delight?
The dense untrodden forest, in the moonlight coldly pale,
Brings before our wondering eyes again the scenes of fairy tale.
No sound is heard, save where one treads upon the lonely track;
We lose our dull grey manhood, and to early youth go back—
To scenes and days long passed away, and seem again to greet
Our youthful dreams, so rudely crushed like the grass beneath our feet.
’Twas such a night we wandered forth; we never spoke a word
(I was too full of thought for speech—to him no thought occurred)
When, gazing from the silent earth to the star-lit silent sky,
My cousin in amazement dropped his eye-glass from his eye.
At last, I thought his soul was moved by the grandeur of the scene
(As the most prosaic Colonist’s I’m certain would have been),
Till he replaced his eye-glass, and remarked—‘This may be well,
But one who’s civilized prefers the pavement of Pall Mall.’
I swerved not from that moment from my purpose foul and grim;
I never deigned to speak one word, nor even glanced at him;
But suddenly I seized his throat,…he gave one dreadful groan,
And I, who had gone forth with him, that night returned alone.
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