"Carry your suitcase, Sir?" he said.
I turned away to hide a grin,
For he was shorter by a head
Than I and pitiably thin.
I could have made a pair of him,
So with my load I stoutly legged;
But his tenacity was grim:
"Please let me help you, sir," he begged.
I could not shake the fellow off,
So let him shoulder my valise;
He tottered with a racking cough
That did not give him any peace.
He lagged so limply in my wake
I made him put the burden down,
Saying: "A taxi I will take,"
And grimly gave him half-a-crown.
Poor devil! I am sure he had
Not eaten anything that day;
His eyes so hungrily were glad,
Although his lips were ashen grey.
He vanished in the callous crowd,
Then when he was no more around,
I lugged my bag and thought aloud:
"I wish I'd given him a pound."
And strangely I felt sore ashamed,
As if somehow I had lost face;
And not only myself I blamed
But all the blasted human race;
And all this life of battle where
The poor are beaten to their knees,
And while the weak the burdens bear,
Fat fools like me can stroll at ease.
Robert William Service