a Ballad of the Fleeter

Two lovers to one maid. Aye! It was so.
    O aye! Aye O! Two knights to one ladye. 
Two lovers—for the world is managed so
    On principles of curst economy:
And sometimes it is two and sometimes three,
Four, five, six, seven, as the case may be.

Number  ONE ne'er told his passion, 
    But it simmered in his breast:
Number Two (whom she most favoured)
    Both with brass and brass was blessed;
And they bukhed in friendly fashion 
as the sun sank down to rest.

For they talked of station scandal,
    And they touched on woman's guile,
And they puffed the acrid Burma,
    And they sipped a 'peg' meanwhile;
And they beamed on one another 
with a Damon-Pythias smile.

Rose the Second from his chair then, 
    As they raved of Lola Hawke,
Of her merits and her beauties,
    Cutting short the friendly talk:—
'By the way I think her house lies hence 
a scant ten minutes walk.

I propose ek dum, or sooner—
    Thanks, no, not another weed.'
Came a sudden inspiration
    To the First One in his need:
'Seek her hand in dusty highlows!  Never! 
    Mount my bounding steed!'

Now there stood an old grey stallion 
    That had come from Krab Bokhar
(Five miles off) within ONE's compound, 
    'Neath the Colonel Sahib's sowar;
And ONE knew the old grey stallion 
was a beast of wrath and war.

Ah me! my pen to sully 
    With breach of faith so black; 
But ONE slipped an English saddle
    On the gallant grey his back,
And murmured, 'Dear old chappie, 
take this most superior hack.

Scarce two minutes easy amble
    Lies her threshold from this door, 
And the gallant grey will bear you
    As you ne'er were borne before,
You have raised my bluff (I loved her) 
and the hand is yours therefore.'

Full five miles off the stables 
    Where lived the gallant grey;
What wonder for those stables 
    The hungry beast made play,
As sweeps the gale cyclonic 
across Bengala's bay?

Oh! 'tis rattle o'er the pukka, 
    And 'tis lope along the plain,
With a double-actioned buck-jump,
    When the Rider pulled the rein ...
One went forth, proposed, 
and won her, with a conscience free from stain.
             *      *      *         

Men say that in the evening
    They heard the stallion neigh;
They heard the troopers snigger 
    As the Rider drove away
From the Krab Bokhar Cantonments 
in a sober ticca 'shay'.

Love came down that night in glory 
    To the City of Minars;
While the Rider cursed the Rival 
    Underneath the silent stars,
And patched his tattered raiment, 
and coldly creamed his scars.

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