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Bedfordshire Ballad - III

Fred And Bill.


  Two twins were once born in a Bedfordshire home;
  Such events in the best managed households may come;
  Tho', as Tomkins remarked in a voice rather gruff,
  "One child at a time for poor folks is enough."

  But it couldn't be helped, so his wife did her best;
  The children were always respectably drest;
  Went early to school; were put early to bed;
  And had plenty of taters and bacon and bread.

  Now we all should suppose that the two, being twins,
  Resembled each other as much as two pins:
  But no--they as little resembled each other
  As the man in the moon is "a man and a brother."

  Fred's eyes were dark brown, and his hair was jet black;
  He was supple in body, and straight in the back,
  Learnt his lessons without any trouble at all;
  And was lively, intelligent, comely, and tall.

  But Willy was thick-set; and freckled and fair;
  Had eyes of light blue, and short curly red hair;
  And, as I should like you the whole truth to know,
  The schoolmaster thought him "decidedly slow."

  But the Parson, who often came into the school,
  Had discovered that Willy was far from a fool,
  And that tho' he was not very quick in his pace,
  In the end "slow and steady" would win in the race.

  Years passed--Fred grew idle and peevish and queer;
  Took to skittles, bad language, tobacco, and beer:
  Grew tired of his work, when it scarce was begun;
  Was Jack of all trades and the master of none.

  He began as a labourer, then was a clerk;
  Drove a hansom in London by way of a "lark;"
  Enlisted, deserted, and finally fled
  Abroad, and was thought by his friends to be dead.

  But Willy meanwhile was content with his lot;
  He was slow, but he always was found on the spot;
  He wasted no money on skittles and ale,
  But put by his pence, when he could, without fail.

  To the Penny Bank weekly his savings he took,
  And soon had a pretty round sum in his book:
  No miser was he, but he thought it sound sense
  In the days of his youth to put by a few pence.

  And so he got on; he was no millionaire,
  But he always had money enough and to spare;
  Could help a poor friend; pay his rent and his rate;
  And always put silver at church in the plate.

  His brother, meantime, who was thought to be dead,
  Had across the Atlantic to Canada fled;
  Then had gone to New York; then New Zealand had tried;
  But always had failed thro' perverseness and pride.

  He might have done well, but wherever he went,
  As soon as his money came in, it was spent;
  As of old he tried all trades, and prospered in none,
  For he thought that hard work was "a poor sort of fun."

  Then he heard of "the diggings," and there tried his luck;
  He was never deficient in smartness and pluck;
  And by means of some work, and more luck, in a year
  He managed to make fifteen hundred pounds clear.

  Then he thought of old England and Bedfordshire chums,
  So back to his parish in triumph he comes;
  And need I remark he found many a friend
  Right willing to help him his nuggets to spend?

  He turned up his nose at his poor brother Bill,
  Who was always content to be plodding up hill;
  Hard work he disliked, he despised peace and quiet,
  So he spent all his time and his money in riot.

  There was never a horse-race but Fred he was there;
  He went to each meet, meeting, marker and fair;
  In a few words, his candle he burnt to the socket,
  Till he found one fine day not a rap in His pocket.

  Then his poor brother Bill came and lent him a hand;
  Gave him work and a share of his own bit of land;
  If he means to keep steady I cannot surmise--
  Let us hope that at length Fred has learnt to be wise.

  But one thing is plain, if you mean to get on,
  You will find that success must by patience be won;
  In the battle of life do not trust to your luck,
  But to honest hard work, perseverance, and pluck.

  Don't turn up your nose at a hard-working chap,
  For pride soon or later must meet with mishap;
  And wherever your lot in the world may be cast,
  "Slow and steady" goes safer than "foolish and fast."

  Take warning by Fred, and avoid for a friend
  The man who would tempt you your savings to spend;
  Don't waste your spare money in riotous pranks,
  But put it in Penny, or Post-office Banks.