That fatal morning when I called!
Consider, Peter, what you do!
You won’t be richer when you’re bald!
Think you, by rending curls away,
To make your difficulties less?
Forbear this violence, I pray:
You do but add to my distress!’
[Image…’Poor peter shuddered in despair’]
‘Not willingly would I inflict,’
Said Peter, ‘on that noble heart
One needless pang. Yet why so strict?
Is this to act a friendly part?
However legal it may be
To pay what never has been lent,
This style of business seems to me
‘No Nobleness of soul have I,
Like some that in this Age are found!’
(Paul blushed in sheer humility,
And cast his eyes upon the ground)
‘This debt will simply swallow all,
And make my life a life of woe!’
‘Nay, nay, nay Peter!’ answered Paul.
‘You must not rail on Fortune so!
‘You have enough to eat and drink:
You are respected in the world:
And at the barber’s, as I think,
You often get your whiskers curled.
Though Nobleness you ca’n’t attain
To any very great extent–
The path of Honesty is plain,
“Tis true, ‘said Peter,’ I’m alive:
I keep my station in the world:
Once in the week I just contrive
To get my whiskers oiled and curled.
But my assets are very low:
My little income’s overspent:
To trench on capital, you know,
Is always inconvenient!’
‘But pay your debts!’ cried honest Paul.
‘My gentle Peter, pay your debts!
What matter if it swallows all
That you describe as your “assets”?
Already you’re an hour behind:
Yet Generosity is best.
It pinches me–but never mind!
I WILL NOT CHARGE YOU INTEREST!’
‘How good! How great!’ poor Peter cried.
‘Yet I must sell my Sunday wig–
The scarf-pin that has been my pride–
My grand piano–and my pig!’
Full soon his property took wings:
And daily, as each treasure went,
He sighed to find the state of things
Grow less and less convenient.
Weeks grew to months, and months to years:
Peter was worn to skin and bone:
And once he even said, with tears,
‘Remember, Paul, that promised Loan!’
Said Paul’ I’ll lend you, when I can,
All the spare money I have got–
Ah, Peter, you’re a happy man!
Yours is an enviable lot!
[Image…Such boots as these you seldom see]
‘I’m getting stout, as you may see:
It is but seldom I am well:
I cannot feel my ancient glee
In listening to the dinner-bell:
But you, you gambol like a boy,
Your figure is so spare and light:
The dinner-bell’s a note of joy
To such a healthy appetite!’
Said Peter ‘I am well aware
Mine is a state of happiness:
And yet how gladly could I spare
Some of the comforts I possess!
What you call healthy appetite
I feel as Hunger’s savage tooth:
And, when no dinner is in sight,
The dinner-bell’s a sound of ruth!
‘No scare-crow would accept this coat:
Such boots as these you seldom see.
Ah, Paul, a single five-pound-note
Would make another man of me!’
Said Paul ‘It fills me with surprise
To hear you talk in such a tone:
I fear you scarcely realise
The blessings that are all your own!
‘You’re safe from being overfed:
You’re sweetly picturesque in rags:
You never know the aching head
That comes along with money-bags:
And you have time to cultivate
That best of qualities, Content–
For which you’ll find your present state
Said Peter ‘Though I cannot sound
The depths of such a man as you,
Yet in your character I’ve found
An inconsistency or two.
You seem to have long years to spare
When there’s a promise to fulfil:
And yet how punctual you were
In calling with that little bill!’
‘One can’t be too deliberate,’
Said Paul, ‘in parting with one’s pelf.
With bills, as you correctly state,
I’m punctuality itself:
A man may surely claim his dues:
But, when there’s money to be lent,
A man must be allowed to choose
Such times as are convenient!’
It chanced one day, as Peter sat
Gnawing a crust–his usual meal–
Paul bustled in to have a chat,
And grasped his hand with friendly zeal.