Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

Mc'Clusky's Nell


In Mike Maloney's Nugget bar the hooch was flowin' free,
An' One-eyed Mike was shakin' dice wi' Montreal Maree,
An roarin' rageful warning when the boys got overwild,
When peekin' through the double door he spied a tiny child.
Then Mike Maloney muttered: "Hell! Now ain't that jest too bad;
It's Dud McClusky's orphen Nell a-lookin' for her dad.
An' him in back, a-lushin' wine wi' Violet de Vere-
Three times I've told the lousy swine to keep away from here."
"Pore leetle sing! He leaves her lone, so he go on ze spree:
I feex her yet, zat Violet," said Montreal Maree.
Now I'm accommodatin' when it comes to scented sin
But when I saw that innocent step in our drunken din,
I felt that I would like to crawl an' hide my head in shame.
An' judgin' by their features all them sourdoughs felt the same.
For there they stood like chunks o' wood, forgettin' how to swear,
An' every glass o' likker was suspended in the air.
For with her hair of sunny silk, and big, blue pansy eyes
She looked jest like an angel child stepped outa paradise.
So then Big Mike, paternal like, took her upon his knee.
"Ze pauv' petite! She ees so sweet," said Montreal Maree.

The kid was mighty scared, we saw, an' peaked an' pale an' sad;
She nestled up to One-eyed Mike jest like he was her dad.
Then he got strokin' of her hair an' she began to sob,
An' there was anger in the air of all that plastered mob,
When in a hush so stark an' strained it seemed to stab the ear,
We heard the lush, plunk-parlour laugh o' Violet de Vere.
Then Montreal Maree arose an' vanished from our sight,
An' soon we heard the sound o' blows suggestin' female fight.
An' when she joined the gang again dishevelly was she:
"Jeezecrize! I fix zat Violet," said Montreal Maree.

Then Barman Bill cam forward with what seemed a glass o' milk:
"It's jest an egg-nog Missy, but it's slick an' smooth as silk."
An' as the kiddy slowly sipped wi' gaze o' glad surprise,
Them fifty sozzled sourdoughs uttered fifty happy sighs.
Then Ragtime Joe swung on his stool an' soft began to play
A liltin' tune that made ye think o' daffydills in May;
An' Gumboot Jones in solemn tones said: "You should hear her sing;
They've got the cabin next to mine, an like a bird in Spring,
She fills that tumble-down old shack wi' simple melodee."
"Maybe she sing a song for us," said Montreal Maree.

Now I don't hold wi' mushy stuff, tear-jerkin' ain't my line,
Yet somehow that kid's singin' sent the shivers down my spine;
An' all them salted sourdoughs sighed, an' every eye was dim
For what she sang upon the bar was just a simple hymn;
Somethin' about "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide,"
My Mother used to sing it - say, I listened bleary-eyed.
That childish treble was so sweet, so clear, so tender true,
It seemed to grip you by the heart an' did queer things to you.
It made me think o' childhood days from sin an' sorrow free:
"Zat child, she make me want to cry," said Montreal Maree.

Then up spoke One-eyed Mike: "What can't with us let her abide;
For her dear Mother's sake we gotta send that kid outside.
Ye know this camp's a den o' sin, ye know that Dud's no dice -
Let's stake her to a convent school, an' have her brought up nice."
An' so them bearded sourdoughs crowded round an' on an' all,
Dug down an' flung upon the bar their nuggets great and small.
"I guess we got a thousand bucks," exulted One-eyed Mike;
"You bastards are a credit to the camp of Lucky Strike."
"You see zis leetle silver cross my mozzaire give to me -
Look, boys, I hang it on zee gosse," said Montreal Maree.

Time marches on; that little Nell is now a famous star,
An' yet she got her singin' start on Mike Maloney's bar.
Aye it was back in ninety-eight she made her first dayboo,
An' of that audience to-day are left but only two.
For all them bibulous sourdoughs have bravely passed away.
An' Lucky Strike is jest another ghost town to-day.
But Nell now sings in opera, we saw her in Boheem;
'Twas at a high-toned matinay, an' say! she was a dream.
So also thought the white-haired dame a-sittin' down by me -
My lovin' spouse that once was known as Montreal Maree.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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