I’ve paid for your sickest fancies; I’ve humoured your crackedest whim –
Dick, it’s your daddy, dying; you’ve got to listen to him!
Good for a fortnight, am I? The doctor told you? He lied.
I shall go under by morning, and – Put that nurse outside.
‘Never seen death yet, Dickie? Well, now is your time to learn,
And you’ll wish you held my record before it comes to your turn.
Not counting the Line and the Foundry, the yards and the village, too,
I’ve made myself and a million; but I’m damned if I made you.
Master at two-and-twenty, and married at twenty-three –
Ten thousand men on the pay-roll, and forty freighters at seal
Fifty years between’em, and every year of it fight,
And now I’m Sir Anthony Gloster, dying, a baronite:
For I lunched with his Royal ‘Ighness – what was it the papers had?
“Not the least of our merchant-princes.” Dickie, that’s me, your dad!
I didn’t begin with askings. I took my job and I stuck;
I took the chances they wouldn’t, an’ now they’re calling it luck.
Lord, what boats I’ve handled – rotten and leaky and old –
Ran ’em, or – opened the bilge-cock, precisely as I was told.
Grub that ‘ud bind you crazy, and crews that ‘ud turn you grey,
And a big fat lump of insurance to cover the risk on the way.
The others they dursn’t do it; they said they valued their life
(They’ve served me since as skippers). I went, and I took my wife.
Over the world I drove ’em, married at twenty-three,
And your mother saving the money and making a man of me.
I was content to be master, but she said there was better behind;
She took the chances I wouldn’t, and I followed your mother blind.
She egged me to borrow the
money, an’ she helped me to clear the loan,
When we bougnt half-shares in a cheap ‘un and hoisted a flag of our own.
Patching and coaling on credit, and living the Lord knew how,
We started the Red Ox freighters – we’ve eight-and-thirty now.
And those were the days of clippers, and the freights were clipper-freights,
And we knew we were making our fortune, but she died in Macassar Straits –
By the Little Patemosters, as you come to the Union Bank –
And we dropped her in fourteen fathom: I pricked it off where she sank.
Owners we were, full owners, and the boat was christened for her,
And she died in the Mary Gloster. My heart; how young we were!
So I went on a spree round Java and well-nigh ran her ashore,
But your mother came and warned me and I would’t liquor no more:
Strict I stuck to my business, afraid to stop or I’d think,
Saving the money (she warned me), and letting the other men drink.
And I met M’Cullough in London (I’d saved five ‘undred then ),
And ‘tween us we started the Foundry – three forges and twenty men.
Cheap repairs for the cheap ‘uns. It paid, and the business grew;
For I bought me a steam-lathe patent, and that was a gold mine too.
“Cheaper to build ’em than buy ’em;” I said, but M’Cullough he shied,
And we wasted a year in talking before we moved to the Clyde.
And the Lines were all beginning, and we all of us started fair,
Building our engines like houses and staying the boilers square.
But M’Cullough ‘e wanted cabins with marble and maple and all,
And Brussels an’ Utrecht velvet, and baths and a Social Hall,
And pipes for closets all over, and cutting the frames too light,
But M’Cullough he died in the Sixties, and – – Well, I’m dying to-night…
I knew – I knew what was coming, when we bid on the Byfleet’s keel –
They piddled and piffled with iron, I’d given my orders for steel!