Treasure Island

David Lewis Paget

(22.11.1944 / Nottingham, England/live in Australia)

The Mudlarks


He crept on out of the ginnel, and
He whispered: ‘Follow me,
The tide is down in the river, so
We’ll see what we can see.
We might pick up a penny or two,
A bundle of fishing twine,
Or maybe even a sovereign, Nat,
But if we do, it’s mine! ’

Young Godby, he was a Mudlark,
He was only eight or nine,
But he’d been foraging through the mud
Since 1869,
His Dad had gone with a steamer
All the way down to the Cape,
But if you looked at his mother,
You could see, he’d just escaped.

So Godby went on a daily sludge
Each time that the tide was out,
Out where the Thames receded when
His Mother began to shout,
He told me that he would show me
All the tricks to find the gilt,
Buried beneath the slimy mud
And deep down in the silt.

He wasn’t the only Mudlark there
We passed by Mary Ann,
She was covered in mud, but grinned,
She’d found a frying pan,
We traipsed out further toward the stream
That lapped beside the mud,
‘This is the place you find the stuff,
It’s mucky, but it’s good! ’

I picked up a box and wiped it off,
He said, ‘Hey, that’s Japanned,
You’ll probably get a bob for that
If you take it to Wheezy Dan.’
He dug around and he found some brass
And some copper fender ware,
He said, ‘You ‘elp me carry it back,
And whatever I get, I’ll share! ’

The sun was down, it was almost dusk
And the cold, so cold it hurt,
Suddenly Godby tripped and fell
His foot caught up in a skirt,
The woman lay buried in slimy mud
Her face as black as pitch,
‘Here’s one, ’ he said, ‘has slung her ‘ook,
Has jumped off London Bridge! ’

He said he’d seen them a lot before
So he didn’t appear upset,
‘You get what yer can, ’ he said to me
As he fumbled around her neck,
He pulled off a tiny golden chain
With a locket, covered in mud,
Then fumbled around for her hands, I said,
‘I don’t really think you should! ’

He took two rings from her fingers, but
The third it was on too tight,
He strained, and snapped off the finger,
Took the ring on that dreadful night,
I never went back to the river bank,
To me, the place was cursed,
For there in the locket, a tiny snap
Of her, and my Uncle Perce!

28 April 2013

Submitted: Sunday, April 28, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, September 24, 2013

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