How Polly Paid For Her Keep

Do I know Polly Brown? Do I know her? Why,
  damme,
 You might as well ask if I know my own name?
It's a wonder you never heard tell of old Sammy,
 Her father, my mate in the Crackenback claim.

He asks if I know little Poll! Why, I nursed her
 As often, I reckon as old Mother Brown
When they lived at the “Flats,” and old Sam
  went a burster
 In Chinaman's Gully, and dropped every crown.

My golden-haired mate, ever brimful of folly
 And childish conceit, and yet ready to rest
Contented beside me, 'twas I who taught Polly
To handle four horses along with the best.

"Twas funny to hear the small fairy discoursing
 Of horses and drivers! I'll swear that she knew
Every one of the nags that I drove to the “Crossing,”
 Their vices, and paces, and pedigrees too.

She got a strange whim in her golden-haired noodle
 That a driver's high seat was a kind of a throne,
I've taken her up there before she could toddle,
 And she'd talk to the nags in a tongue of her own.

Then old Mother Brown got the horrors around her:
 (I think it was pineapple-rum drove her daft)
She cleared out one night, and the next morning they
  found her,
 A mummified mass, in a forty foot shaft.

And Sammy? Well, Sammy was wailing and weeping,
 And raving, and raising the devil's own row;
He was only too glad to give into our keeping
 His motherless babe - we'd have kept her till now

But Jimmy Maloney thought proper to court her,
 Among all the lasses he loved but this one:
She's no longer Polly, our golden-haired daughter,
 She's Mrs Maloney, of Paddlesack Run.

Our little girl Polly's no end of a swell (you
 Must know Jimmy shears fifty thousand odd sheep) -
But I'm clean off the track, I was going to tell you
 The way in which Polly paid us for her keep.

It was this way: My wife's living in Tumbarumba,
 And I'm down at Germanton yards, for a sale,
Inspecting coach-horses (I wanted a number),
 When they flashed down a message that made me
  turn pale.

"Twas from Polly, to say the old wife had fallen
 Down-stairs, and in falling had fractured a bone -
There was no doctor nearer than Tumut to call on,
 So she and the blacksmith had set it alone.

They'd have to come down by the coach in the
  morning,
 As one of the two buggy ponies was lame,
Would I see the old doctor, and give him fair warning
 To keep himself decently straight till they came?

I was making good money those times, and a fiver
 Per week was the wages my deputy got,
A good, honest worker, and out-and-out driver,
 But, like all the rest, a most terrible sot.

So, just on this morning - which made it more sinful,
 With my women on board, the unprincipled skunk
Hung round all the bars till he loaded a skinful
 Of grog, and then started his journey, dead drunk.

Drunk! with my loved ones on board, drunk as Chloe,
 He might have got right by the end of the trip
Had he rested contented and quiet, but no, he
 Must pull up at Rosewood, for one other nip.

That finished him off, quick, and there he sat, dozing
 Like an owl on his perch, half-awake, half-asleep.
Till a lurch of the coach came, when, suddenly losing
 His balance, he fell to the earth all of a heap,

While the coach, with its four frightened horses,
  went sailing
 Downhill to perdition and Carabost “break,”
Four galloping devils, with reins loosely trailing,
 And passengers falling all roads in their wake.

Two bagmen, who sat on the box, jumped together
 And found a soft bed in the mud of the drain;
The barmaid from Murphy's fell light as a feather -
 I think she got off with a bit of a sprain;

While the jock, with his nerves most decidedly
  shaken,
 Made straight for the door, never wasting his
  breath
In farewell apologies; basely forsaken,
 My wife and Poll Brown sat alone with grim
  Death.

While the coach thundered downward, my wife fell
  a-praying;
 But Poll in a fix, now, is dashed hard to beat:
She picked up her skirts, scrambled over the swaying
 High roof of the coach, till she lit on the seat,

And there looked around. In her hand was a pretty,
 Frail
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"How Polly Paid For Her Keep" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 24 Feb. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/4186/how-polly-paid-for-her-keep>.

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