Robert William Service
The Mystery Of Mister Smith
For supper we had curried tripe.
I washed the dishes, wound the clock;
Then for awhile I smoked my pipe -
Puff! Puff! We had no word of talk.
The Misses sewed - a sober pair;
Says I at last: "I need some air."
A don't know why I acted so;
I had no thought, no plot, no plan.
I did not really mean to go -
I'm such a docile little man;
But suddenly I felt that I
Must change my life or I would die.
A sign I saw: A ROOM TO LET.
It had a musty, dusty smell;
It gloated gloom, it growled and yet
Somehow I felt I liked it well.
I paid the rent a month ahead:
That night I smoked my pipe in bed.
From out my world I disappeared;
My walk and talk changed over-night.
I bought black glasses, grew a beard -
Abysmally I dropped from sight;
Old Tax Collector, Mister Smith
Became a memory, a myth.
I see my wife in widow's weeds;
She's gained in weight since I have gone.
My pension serves her modest needs,
She keeps the old apartment on;
And living just a block away
I meet her nearly every day.
I hope she doesn't mourn too much;
She has a sad and worried look.
One day we passed and chanced to touch,
But as with sudden fear I shook,
So blankly in my face she peered,
I had to chuckle in my beard.
Oh, comfort is a blessed thing,
But forty years of it I had.
I never drank the wine of Spring,
No moon has ever made me mad.
I never clutched the skirts of Chance
Nor daftly dallied with Romance.
And that is why I seek to save
My soul before it is too late,
To put between me and the grave
A few years of fantastic fate:
I've won to happiness because
I've killed the man that once I was.
I've murdered Income Taxer Smith,
And now I'm Johnny Jones to you.
I have no home, no kin, no kith,
I do the things I want to do.
No matter though I've not a friend,
I've won to freedom in the end.
Bohemian born, I guess, was I;
And should my wife her widowhood
By wedlock end I will not sigh,
But pack my grip and go for good,
To live in lands where laws are lax,
And innocent of Income Tax.
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