The Story of Tommy



This is the story of Tommy, aged twenty and drunk in his cot;
Marvellous drunk was Tommy, and the night was marvellous hot;
And the fever had held him all day, till Tommy was told by his 'chum'
That the worst of fevers would yield to a couple of 'goes' of rum.—
So he drank till the bare plain rocked 'neath his regulation boots,
And kept the liquor in place with a dozen hazar cheroots.

Marvellous hot was the night (hot as they make 'em in June),
Merrily came the mosquito and cheered his soul with a tune,
Over the nose of Tommy softly the punkah swept,
But coolies are only human, and somehow that coolie slept—
Sweating and swearing profusely, dizzy and dazed with his smoke—
Mad with the drink and the fever, Tommy, aged twenty, awoke.

'Zor se kencho you soor!' Never an answering wrench,
Peacefully slumbered the coolie, 'Kencho you budzart, kench!'
Three times Tommy had called him; gaily he slumbered on.
In at the barrack-room windows softly the moonbeams shone.
Gleamed on a polished belt-jag—gleamed on a barrel brown,
Stuck in a rack, and inviting Tommy to take 'em down.

Only an arm's length away, swaddled in paper and twine,
Ten regulation 'pickets'—if you subtract one, nine.
Tommy has settled that question as 'Little Jack Horner' of yore,
Clutches the smooth brown barrel, staggers across the floor.
Only a tug at the lever, only a jerk of the thumb,
Now for the last temptation. Query. Will Tommy succumb?

Mistily muses Tommy—finger laid on the trigger:—
'Ain't it a bloomin' lark to frighten a blasted nigger?
Now for to wake up the soor!' Never a sign from the coolie.
Tommy has shouldered the rifle—strives to present it duly.
Little night-owls are chuckling. Loudly the coolie respires,
Laughing aloud as he does so, Tommy, aged twenty, fires.

Merrily hiccupped Tommy when they locked him up in the dark.
Tried to explain to the Guard how it was only a 'lark'.
Didn't remember at trial aught that he did or said,
Wherefore was justly ordained to be 'hanged by the neck till dead'.
Waited a couple of weeks, while the padris came and harangued,
Then, in the Central Jail, Tommy, aged twenty; was hanged.