by F.W.Thomas Everyone had come to Oxford Street. The shops were all aglow, And twenty thousand merry folk went barging to and fro. Another twenty thousand who had nothing else to do, Wishing to go the other way, went barging fro and to. And here and there a motor-bus came creeping through the fog, Its radiator steaming, and its headlamps all agog. Christmas was still a month away, (it falls, I hear, four weeks today) And in the West the windows, dressed in all their best, looked bright and gay. The Stores were full of cotton wool, which made a cold but cheery show, And yet somehow it did not look a little bit like London snow. For snow that falls on London Town is, as you know, a rich dark brown, Not white as sung by wintry bards, or painted on our Christmas cards. Changing the subject, by your leave, how sweet it was that wintry eve, The wind came howling from the East, with two degrees of frost at least. And fog as thick as Yorkshire pood, (the weather, you gather, was not too good). How nice to see the folks in scores, crowding into shops and stores, Grumbling, growling, shoving and scowling, round the bargain basement prowling, Looking for something at one-and-nine, a present for dear Aunt Caroline. A ping-pong bat, a bathroom mat; just the thing for her Kensington Flat. 'And haven’t you anything cheaper than that?' Oh, what an evening of joy and mirth, bubbling over with peace on earth. In spite of my jeers, if you have tears, prepare to shed them now, my dears. Here in my story we come to a throb, so get out your hankies and have a good sob. For see what a woeful and weary sight is casting a blight on this joyful night. Outside a window filled with toys, packed with presents a child enjoys, Rattles and dollies, engines and brollies, and similar follies for girls and boys, There stands an old man as close as he can, emitting at times a lugubrious noise. His eye was moist, and sunk his cheek; his age was ninety-seven last week, His Roman nose was as red as a Rose, from indigestion, I suppose. And, as his face to the glass he pressed, I saw that the seat of his pants was non est. Pushed and pulled by the clamouring crowd, barged and bumped, and thoroughly cowed, Nobody loved him, everyone shoved him, his hat was bent and his head was bowed. But the look in his eyes as he stared through the pane, At a railway train or a working crane, I hope I shall never see it again. They glowed and burned with a deep-set fire, as if he had seen his heart’s desire. And he seemed the days of his youth to view, when his beak had a quite respectable hue. In the midst of his dreams there came to him a tall shop-walker, solemn and slim, Who said in a voice less proper than prim 'Although I don’t wish your pleasure to hinder, Pray take your nose off the plate-glass winder.' This vile rebuff was more than enough, but really he needn’t have been so rough. Yet sorrow had made the old man tough, and he just stood there with a vacant stare, Wiping his tears away with his cuff. And then from the crowd there came one dressed, in tails and topper, and pure white vest, A perfect gent from the roof of his hat, To the soles of his feet, and farther than that. 'Your pardon,' he whispered in accents refined, 'But tell me, I pray you, just what’s on your mind. Your wardrobe, I notice, is somewhat deficient, And, if you are hungry, is tuppence sufficient? Your lachrymose eyes and your nose with its drip - Well, honest to goodness, they give me the pip. And if I present you with tuppence, I fear That you’ll squander best part of that sum upon beer.' The old man sighed and swallowed his pride. 'Please don’t do anything rash,' he replied. 'Believe me, it isn’t for beer that I pine, Though a nice half-a-pint would go down rather fine. But, as I stand here in the hurrying throng, it is for the days of my youth that I long. I see all the joys, the trinkets and toys, that I tried to pinch from the other small boys; The engines and scooters, the lovely pea-shooters, The dear little motors complete with their hooters. For sad though it sounds, I am sorry to say that none of these treasures e’er came my way. I became, sir, an orphan when ever so young, in fact on the day that my daddy was hung. And though the confession may cause you to wince, a poor little orphan I’ve been ever since.' The gent, by his terrible tale seemed struck, And whispered, 'Old chappie, what filthy bad luck! I’m really most frightfully sorry for you. Here’s a threepenny bit, it’s the best I can do.' 'No thanks,' said the tramp, and his eyes flashed fire. 'Believe me, it isn’t your gold I desire. The one thing I want, sir, to tell you the truth, is to try and recapture my long lost youth. I gave you the gist of the joys that I missed, forbearing to mention the worst on the list, That I, by my father had never been kissed. Please buy me an ark and a cow that’ll moo, a cock that will crow and a gander or two, They’re only three shillings, complete with a dove, Quite cheap, sir, as cheap as an orphan’s fond love. Be patient, I beg you, and hark to my plea. Oh, sir, won’t you be a kind daddy to me?' The gentleman twitched at his white dress bow, unmoved by the other one’s tale of woe, 'I know it’s the custom,' he said as he frowned, 'To do some kind deed when Christmas comes round. No doubt you have guessed that I’m very distressed, At your terrible story, but what you suggest, is nought but a foolish, absurd request. To tell you the troof, (he had lost a front tooth), the spirit of Christmas is still under proof. Come back again in a fortnight or so, and I’ll think it over and let you know.' Then from the old josser he borrowed a light, lit a cigar and went into the night. The old man hissed as he shook his fist, 'He’ll soon find out what a treasure he’s missed. Let him go off to guzzle and dine, surrounded by luxury, women and wine. Talk about Christmas and peace on earth!... But I’ve got his pocket-book. What’s it worth?'
The end