A BACK-WOOD PENANCE
by
Harry Kenneth Wynne &
Cuthbert Clarke (1915)
Billy Bennett
He's away across the Prairie, growing lean and lank and Hairy,
Slinging booze across a counter in some hole that God's forsook;
But the Angel who's recording knows the secret that he's hoarding,
And he's got a credit balance in the Lord Almighty's book

They had followed him from Dover, half the length of Europe over,
Till they thought they had him corner'd near to Barcelona Town.
Then they drew their meshes tighter, but they found he was a fighter,
And he slipped between their fingers, tho' they nearly ran him down.

He had laid his plans so neatly that he disappear'd completely,
And they couldn't spot his hiding, tho' they followed ev'ry clue.
Till, at last, thro' ceaseless working, they'd a hint that he was lurking
Somewhere round the River Niger, not so far from Timbuctoo.

Then they thought that they could find him, for a trail he'd left behind him,
And they traced him back to Turkey, and from there to Aden Bay;
But he dared not cut it finer, so he slunk aboard a liner, 
And I found him, sick and helpless, on the streets of Mandalay.

Then I fed him from my table, and as well as I was able
I nursed him thro' a fever, hiding him the while from sight;
Why he came remained a myst'ry, 'til I chanc'd to learn his hist'ry
As I watched beside his pillow thro' the silent, tropic night.

He spoke in rambling phrases when the fever touch'd his brain
Of a girl he'd lov'd in England; and his suit was not in vain.
But her brother, high in office, had been brib'd, and gave away
A diplomatic secret it was treason to betray.

The girl, of course, knew nothing, so to save her from disgrace
Her lover took the onus in her guilty brother's place;
He fled away from justice, and an outcast he became,
A hunted, homeless wand'rer, with a slur upon his name

I saw, as he grew stronger that I could not keep him longer,
Though I begg'd him not to leave me his brave spirit knew no rest;
A handgrip, then we parted, then, silently, he started
To seek a safer hiding in the backwoods of the West.

So, he's far across the Prairie, growing lean and lank and Hairy,
Slinging booze across a counter in some hole that God's forsook;
But the Angel who's recording knows the secret that he's hoarding,
And he's got a credit balance in the Lord Almighty's book.
The end