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Title: A Child of the Jago
Author: Morrison, Arthur, 1863-1945
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Child of the Jago" ***

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                                   A CHILD OF THE JAGO

                                   BY ARTHUR MORRISON

                            AUTHOR OF 'TALES OF MEAN STREETS'


    THIRD EDITION

    METHUEN & CO.
    36 ESSEX STREET, W.C.
    LONDON
    1897


                   TO
           ARTHUR OSBORNE JAY
    VICAR OF HOLY TRINITY, SHOREDITCH



    _... Woe unto the foolish prophets, that
     follow their own spirit, and have seen
     nothing!..._

    _Because, even because they have seduced
     my people, saying, Peace; and there
     was no peace; and one built up a
     wall, and lo, others daubed it with
     untempered mortar:_

    _Say unto them which daub it with untempered
     mortar, that it shall fall:
     there shall be an overflowing shower;
     and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall;
     and a stormy wind shall rend it._

    _Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not
     be said unto you, Where is the daubing
     wherewith ye have daubed it?--_


        EZEKIEL xiii. 3 ... 10 12.

       *       *       *       *       *



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION


I am glad to take this, the first available opportunity, to acknowledge
the kindness with which _A Child of the Jago_ has been received: both by
the reading public, from which I have received many gratifying
assurances that what I have tried to say has not altogether failed of
its effect: and by the reviewers, the most of whom have written in very
indulgent terms.

I think indeed, that I am the more gratified by the fact that this
reception has not been unanimous: because an outcry and an opposition,
even from an unimportant minority, are proofs that I have succeeded in
saying, however imperfectly, something that was worth being said. Under
the conditions of life as we know it there is no truth worth telling
that will not interfere with some hearer's comfort. Various objections
have been made to _A Child of the Jago_, and many of them had already
been made to _Tales of Mean Streets_. And it has been the way of the
objectors as well as the way of many among the kindest of my critics, to
call me a 'realist.' The word has been used sometimes, it would seem, in
praise; sometimes in mere indifference as one uses a phrase of
convenient description; sometimes by way of an irremediable reproach. It
is natural, then, not merely that I should wish to examine certain among
the objections made to my work, but that I should feel some interest in
the definition and description of a realist. A matter never made clear
to me.

Now it is a fact that I have never called myself a 'realist,' and I have
never put forth any work as 'realism.' I decline the labels of the
schoolmen and the sophisters: being a simple writer of tales, who takes
whatever means lie to his hand to present life as he sees it; who
insists on no process; and who refuses to be bound by any formula or
literature.

So it happens that when those who use the word 'realist' use it with no
unanimity of intent and with a loose, inapprehensive application, it is
not easy for me, who repudiate it altogether, to make a guess at its
meaning. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the man who is called a
'realist' is one who, seeing things with his own eyes, discards the
conventions of the schools, and presents his matter in individual terms
of art. For awhile the schoolmen abuse him as a realist; and in twenty
years' time, if his work have life in it, he becomes a classic.
Constable was called a realist; so was Corot. Who calls these painters
realists now? The history of Japanese art affords a continuous
illustration. From the day when Iwasa Matahei impudently arose and dared
to take his subjects from the daily life of the people, to the day when
Hiroshigé, casting away the last rag of propriety, adventurously drew a
cast shadow, in flat defiance of all the canons of Tosa and Kano--in all
this time, and through all the crowded history of the School of Ukioyé,
no artist bringing something of his own to his art but was damned for a
realist. Even the classic Harunobu did not escape. Look now at the work
of these men, and the label seems grotesque enough. So it goes through
the making of all art. A man with the courage of his own vision
interprets what he sees in fresh terms, and gives to things a new
reality and an immediate presence. The schoolmen peer with dulled eyes
from amid the heap of precedents and prescriptions about them, and,
distracted by seeing a thing sanctioned neither by precedent nor by
prescription, dub the man realist, and rail against him for that his
work fits none of their pigeon-holes. And from without the schools many
cry out and complain: for truth is strong meat, and the weakling stomach
turns against it, except in minim doses smothered in treacle. Thus we
hear the feeble plea that the function of imagination is the distortion
of fact: the piteous demand that the artist should be shut up in a
flower-garden, and forbidden to peep through the hedge into the world.
And they who know nothing of beauty, who are innately incapable of
comprehending it, mistake it for mere prettiness, and call aloud for
comfits; and among them that cannot understand, such definitions of the
aims of art are bandied, as mean, if they mean anything, that art finds
its most perfect expression in pink lollipops and gilt boxes. But in
the end the truth prevails, if it be well set forth; and the schoolmen,
groaning in their infinite labour, wearily write another prescription,
admit another precedent, and make another pigeon-hole.

I have been asked, in print, if I think that there is no phase of life
which the artist may not touch. Most certainly I think this. More, I
know it. It is the artist's privilege to seek his material where he
pleases, and it is no man's privilege to say him nay. If the community
have left horrible places and horrible lives before his eyes, then the
fault is the community's; and to picture these places and these lives
becomes not merely his privilege, but his duty. It was my fate to
encounter a place in Shoreditch, where children were born and reared in
circumstances which gave them no reasonable chance of living decent
lives: where they were born fore-damned to a criminal or semi-criminal
career. It was my experience to learn the ways of this place, to know
its inhabitants, to talk with them, eat, drink, and work with them. For
the existence of this place, and for the evils it engendered, the
community was, and is, responsible; so that every member of the
community was, and is, responsible in his degree. If I had been a rich
man I might have attempted to discharge my peculiar responsibility in
one way; if I had been a statesman I might have tried another. Being
neither of these things, but a mere writer of fiction, I sought to do my
duty by writing a tale wherein I hoped to bring the conditions of this
place within the apprehension of others. There are those who say that I
should have turned away my eyes and passed by on the other side: on the
very respectable precedent of the priest and the Levite in the parable.

Now, when the tale was written and published it was found, as I have
said, to cause discomfort to some persons. It is needless to say more of
the schoolmen. Needless, too, to say much of the merely genteel: who
were shocked to read of low creatures, as Kiddo Cook and Pigeony Poll,
and to find my pages nowhere illuminated by a marquis. Of such are they
who delight to read of two men in velvet and feathers perforating each
other's stomachs with swords; while Josh Perrott and Billy Leary,
punching each other's heads, present a scene too sickening and brutal to
consider without disgust. And it was in defiance of the maunderings of
such as these that Charles Lamb wrote much of his essay _On the Genius
and Character of Hogarth_. But chiefly this book of mine disturbed those
who had done nothing, and preferred to do nothing, by way of discharging
their responsibility toward the Jago and the people in it. The
consciousness of duty neglected is discomforting, and personal comfort
is the god of their kind. They firmly believe it to be the sole function
of art to minister to their personal comfort--as upholstery does. They
find it comfortable to shirk consideration of the fate of the Jago
children, to shut their eyes to it, to say that all is well and the
whole world virtuous and happy. And this mental attitude they nickname
optimism, and vaunt it--exult in it as a quality. So that they cry out
at the suggestion that it is no more than a selfish vice; and finding
truth where they had looked for the materials of another debauch of
self-delusion, they moan aloud: they protest, and they demand as their
sacred right that the bitter cup be taken from before them. They have
moaned and protested at _A Child of the Jago_, and, craven and
bewildered, any protest seemed good enough to them. And herein they have
not wanted for allies among them that sit in committee-rooms, and
tinker. For your professed philanthropist, following his own spirit, and
seeing nothing, honestly resents the demonstration that his tinkering
profits little. There is a story current in the East End of London, of a
distracted lady who, being assailed with a request for the loan of a
saucepan, defended herself in these words:--'Tell yer mother I can't
lend 'er the saucepan, consekince o' 'avin' lent it to Mrs Brown,
besides which I'm a-usin' of it meself, an' moreover it's gone to be
mended, an' what's more I ain't got one.' In a like spirit of lavish
objection it has been proclaimed in a breath that I transgress:--because
(1) I should not have written of the Jago in all the nakedness of truth;
(2) my description is not in the least like; (3) moreover, it is
exaggerated; (4) though it may be true, it is quite unnecessary, because
the Jago was already quite familiar, and everybody knew all about it;
(5) the Jago houses have been pulled down; and (6) there never was any
such place as the Jago at all.

To objections thus handsomely variegated it is not easy to reply with
the tripping brevity wherewith they may be stated; and truly it is
little reply that they call for, except, perhaps, in so far as they may
be taken to impugn the sincerity of my work and the accuracy of my
picture. A few of the objectors have caught up enough of their wits to
strive after a war in my own country. They take hold of my technical
method, and accuse me of lack of 'sympathy'; they claim that if I write
of the Jago I should do so 'even weeping.' Now, my technical method is
my own, and is deliberately designed to achieve a certain result, as is
the method of every man--painter, poet, sculptor, or novelist--who is
not the slave and the plaything of his material. My tale is the tale of
my characters, and I have learned better than to thrust myself and my
emotions between them and my reader. The cant of the charge stares all
too plainly from the face of it. It is not that these good people wish
me to write 'even weeping': for how do they know whether I weep or not?
No: their wish is, not that I shall weep, but that I shall weep
obscenely in the public gaze. In other words, that I shall do their
weeping for them, as a sort of emotional bedesman: that I shall make
public parade of sympathy in their behalf, so that they may keep their
own sympathy for themselves, and win comfort from the belief that they
are eased of their just responsibility by vicarious snivelling.

But the protest, that my picture of the Jago is untrue, is another
thing. For the most part it has found very vague expression, but there
are instances of rash excursion into definiteness. Certain passages have
been denoted as exaggerations--as impossibilities. Now, I must confess
that, foreseeing such adventurous indiscretions, I had, for my own
diversion, set _A Child of the Jago_ with traps. For certain years I
have lived in the East End of London, and have been, not an occasional
visitor, but a familiar and equal friend in the house of the East-Ender
in all his degrees; for, though the steps between be smaller, there are
more social degrees in the East End than ever in the West. In this
experience I have seen and I have heard things that persons sitting in
committee-rooms would call diabolical fable; nevertheless, I have seen
them, and heard them. But it was none of my design to write of extreme
instances: typical facts were all I wanted; these, I knew, would be
met--or shirked--with incredulity; so that, whenever I saw reason to
anticipate a charge of exaggeration--as for instance, in the matter of
faction fighting--I made my typical incident the cold transcript of a
simple fact, an ordinary, easy-going fact, a fact notorious in the
neighbourhood, and capable of any amount of reasonable proof. If I
touched my fact at all, it was to subdue it; that and no more. The traps
worked well. Not one definite charge of exaggeration has been flung but
it has been aimed at one of the normal facts I had provided as a target:
not one. Sometimes the effect has had a humour of its own; as when a
critic in a literary journal, beginning by selecting two of my norms as
instances of 'palpable exaggeration,' went on to assure me that there
was no need to describe such life as the life in the Jago, because it
was already perfectly familiar to everybody.

Luckily I need not vindicate my accuracy. That has been done for me
publicly by independent and altogether indisputable authority. In
particular, the devoted vicar of the parish, which I have called the
Jago, has testified quite unreservedly to the truth of my presentation.
Others also, with special knowledge, have done the same; and though I
refer to them, and am grateful for their support, it is with no
prejudice to the validity of my own authority. For not only have I lived
in the East End of London (which one may do, and yet never see it) but
observation is my trade.

I have remarked in more than one place the expression of a foolish fancy
that because the houses of the Old Jago have been pulled down, the Jago
difficulty has been cleared out of the way. That is far from being the
case. The Jago, as mere bricks and mortar, is gone. But the Jago in
flesh and blood still lives, and is crowding into neighbourhoods already
densely over-populated.

In conclusion: the plan and the intention of my story made it requisite
that, in telling it, I should largely adhere to fact; and I did so. If I
write other tales different in scope and design, I shall adhere to fact
or neglect it as may seem good to me: regardless of anybody's
classification as a realist, or as anything else. For though I have made
a suggestion, right or wrong, as to what a realist may be, whether I am
one or not is no concern of mine; but the concern (if it be anybody's)
of the tabulators and the watersifters.

A. M.

_February 1897._


[Illustration: The Old Jago; Sketch Plan]



A CHILD OF THE JAGO



I


It was past the mid of a summer night in the Old Jago. The narrow street
was all the blacker for the lurid sky; for there was a fire in a farther
part of Shoreditch, and the welkin was an infernal coppery glare. Below,
the hot, heavy air lay, a rank oppression, on the contorted forms of
those who made for sleep on the pavement: and in it, and through it all,
there rose from the foul earth and the grimed walls a close, mingled
stink--the odour of the Jago.

From where, off Shoreditch High Street, a narrow passage, set across
with posts, gave menacing entrance on one end of Old Jago Street, to
where the other end lost itself in the black beyond Jago Row; from
where Jago Row began south at Meakin Street, to where it ended north at
Honey Lane--there the Jago, for one hundred years the blackest pit in
London, lay and festered; and half-way along Old Jago Street a narrow
archway gave upon Jago Court, the blackest hole in all that pit.

A square of two hundred and fifty yards or less--that was all there was
of the Jago. But in that square the human population swarmed in
thousands. Old Jago Street, New Jago Street, Half Jago Street lay
parallel, east and west: Jago Row at one end and Edge Lane at the other
lay parallel also, stretching north and south: foul ways all. What was
too vile for Kate Street, Seven Dials, and Ratcliff Highway in its worst
day, what was too useless, incapable and corrupt--all that teemed in the
Old Jago.

Old Jago Street lay black and close under the quivering red sky; and
slinking forms, as of great rats, followed one another quickly between
the posts in the gut by the High Street, and scattered over the Jago.
For the crowd about the fire was now small, the police was there in
force, and every safe pocket had been tried. Soon the incursion ceased,
and the sky, flickering and brightening no longer, settled to a sullen
flush. On the pavement some writhed wearily, longing for sleep; others,
despairing of it, sat and lolled, and a few talked. They were not there
for lack of shelter, but because in this weather repose was less
unlikely in the street than within doors: and the lodgings of the few
who nevertheless abode at home were marked here and there by the lights
visible from the windows. For in this place none ever slept without a
light, because of three kinds of vermin that light in some sort keeps at
bay: vermin which added to existence here a terror not to be guessed by
the unafflicted: who object to being told of it. For on them that lay
writhen and gasping on the pavement; on them that sat among them; on
them that rolled and blasphemed in the lighted rooms; on every moving
creature in this, the Old Jago, day and night, sleeping and walking, the
third plague of Egypt, and more, lay unceasing.

The stifling air took a further oppression from the red sky. By the
dark entrance to Jago Court a man rose, flinging out an oath, and sat
with his head bowed in his hands.

'Ah--h--h--h,' he said. 'I wish I was dead: an' kep' a cawfy shop.' He
looked aside from his hands at his neighbours; but Kiddo Cook's ideal of
heaven was no new thing, and the sole answer was a snort from a dozing
man a yard away.

Kiddo Cook felt in his pocket and produced a pipe and a screw of paper.
'This is a bleed'n' unsocial sort o' evenin' party, this is,' he said,
'An' 'ere's the on'y real toff in the mob with ardly 'arf a pipeful
left, an' no lights. D' y' 'ear, me lord'--leaning toward the dozing
neighbour--'got a match?'

'Go t' 'ell!'

'O wot 'orrid langwidge! It's shocking, blimy. Arter that y' ought to
find me a match. Come on.'

'Go t' 'ell!'

A lank, elderly man, who sat with his back to the wall, pushed up a
battered tall hat from his eyes, and, producing a box of matches,
exclaimed 'Hell? And how far's that? You're in it!' He flung abroad a
bony hand, and glanced upward. Over his forehead a greasy black curl
dangled and shook as he shuddered back against the wall. 'My God, there
can be no hell after this!'

'Ah,' Kiddo Cook remarked, as he lit his pipe in the hollow of his
hands, 'that's a comfort, Mr Beveridge, any'ow.' He returned the
matches, and the old man, tilting his hat forward, was silent.

A woman, gripping a shawl about her shoulders, came furtively along from
the posts, with a man walking in her tracks--a little unsteadily. He was
not of the Jago, but a decent young workman, by his dress. The sight
took Kiddo Cook's idle eye, and when the couple had passed, he said
meditatively: 'There's Billy Leary in luck ag'in: 'is missis do pick 'em
up, s'elp me. I'd carry the cosh meself if I'd got a woman like 'er.'

Cosh-carrying was near to being the major industry of the Jago. The cosh
was a foot length of iron rod, with a knob at one end, and a hook (or a
ring) at the other. The craftsman, carrying it in his coat sleeve,
waited about dark staircase corners till his wife (married or not)
brought in a well drunken stranger: when, with a sudden blow behind the
head, the stranger was happily coshed, and whatever was found on him as
he lay insensible was the profit on the transaction. In the hands of
capable practitioners this industry yielded a comfortable subsistence
for no great exertion. Most, of course, depended on the woman: whose
duty it was to keep the other artist going in subjects. There were
legends of surprising ingatherings achieved by wives of especial
diligence: one of a woman who had brought to the cosh some
six-and-twenty on a night of public rejoicing. This was, however, a
story years old, and may have been no more than an exemplary fiction,
designed, like a Sunday School book, to convey a counsel of perfection
to the dutiful matrons of the Old Jago.

The man and woman vanished in a doorway near the Jago Row end, where,
for some reason, dossers were fewer than about the portal of Jago Court.
There conversation flagged, and a broken snore was heard. It was a
quiet night, as quietness was counted in the Jago; for it was too hot
for most to fight in that stifling air--too hot to do more than turn on
the stones and swear. Still the last hoarse yelps of a combat of women
came intermittently from Half Jago Street in the further confines.

In a little while something large and dark was pushed forth from the
door-opening near Jago Row which Billy Leary's spouse had entered. The
thing rolled over, and lay tumbled on the pavement, for a time unnoted.
It might have been yet another would-be sleeper, but for its stillness.
Just such a thing it seemed, belike, to two that lifted their heads and
peered from a few yards off, till they rose on hands and knees and crept
to where it lay: Jago rats both. A man it was; with a thick smear across
his face, and about his head the source of the dark trickle that sought
the gutter deviously over the broken flags. The drab stuff of his
pockets peeped out here and there in a crumpled bunch, and his waistcoat
gaped where the watch-guard had been. Clearly, here was an uncommonly
remunerative cosh--a cosh so good that the boots had been neglected,
and remained on the man's feet. These the kneeling two unlaced deftly,
and, rising, prize in hand, vanished in the deeper shadow of Jago Row.

A small boy, whom they met full tilt at the corner, staggered out to the
gutter and flung a veteran curse after them. He was a slight child, by
whose size you might have judged his age at five. But his face was of
serious and troubled age. One who knew the children of the Jago, and
could tell, might have held him eight, or from that to nine.

He replaced his hands in his trousers pockets, and trudged up the
street. As he brushed by the coshed man he glanced again toward Jago
Row, and, jerking his thumb that way, 'Done 'im for 'is boots,' he
piped. But nobody marked him till he reached Jago Court, when old
Beveridge, pushing back his hat once more, called sweetly and silkily,
'Dicky Perrott!' and beckoned with his finger.

The boy approached, and as he did so the man's skeleton
hand suddenly shot out and gripped him by the collar.
'It--never--does--to--see--too--much!' Beveridge said, in a series of
shouts, close to the boy's ear. 'Now go home,' he added, in a more
ordinary tone, with a push to make his meaning plain: and straightway
relapsed against the wall.

The boy scowled and backed off the pavement. His ragged jacket was
coarsely made from one much larger, and he hitched the collar over his
shoulder as he shrank toward a doorway some few yards on. Front doors
were used merely as firewood in the Old Jago, and most had been burnt
there many years ago. If perchance one could have been found still on
its hinges, it stood ever open and probably would not shut. Thus at
night the Jago doorways were a row of black holes, foul and forbidding.

Dicky Perrott entered his hole with caution, for anywhere, in the
passage and on the stairs, somebody might be lying drunk, against whom
it would be unsafe to stumble. He found nobody, however, and climbed and
reckoned his way up the first stair-flight with the necessary regard
for the treads that one might step through and the rails that had gone
from the side. Then he pushed open the door of the first-floor back and
was at home.

A little heap of guttering grease, not long ago a candle end, stood and
spread on the mantel-piece, and gave irregular light from its drooping
wick. A thin-railed iron bedstead, bent and staggering, stood against a
wall, and on its murky coverings a half-dressed woman sat and neglected
a baby that lay by her, grieving and wheezing. The woman had a long
dolorous face, empty of expression and weak of mouth.

'Where 'a' you bin, Dicky?' she asked, rather complaining than asking.
'It's sich low hours for a boy.'

Dicky glanced about the room. 'Got anythink to eat?' he asked.

'I dunno,' she answered listlessly. 'P'raps there's a bit o' bread in
the cupboard. I don't want nothin', it's so 'ot. An' father ain't bin
'ome since tea-time.'

The boy rummaged and found a crust. Gnawing at this, he crossed to
where the baby lay. ''Ullo, Looey,' he said, bending and patting the
muddy cheek. ''Ullo!'

The baby turned feebly on its back, and set up a thin wail. Its eyes
were large and bright, its tiny face was piteously flea-bitten and
strangely old. 'Wy, she's 'ungry, mother,' said Dicky Perrott, and took
the little thing up.

He sat on a small box, and rocked the baby on his knees, feeding it with
morsels of chewed bread. The mother, dolefully inert, looked on and
said: 'She's that backward I'm quite wore out; more 'n ten months old,
an' don't even crawl yut. It's a never-endin' trouble, is children.'

She sighed, and presently stretched herself on the bed. The boy rose,
and carrying his little sister with care, for she was dozing, essayed to
look through the grimy window. The dull flush still spread overhead, but
Jago Court lay darkling below, with scarce a sign of the ruinous back
yards that edged it on this and the opposite sides, and nothing but
blackness between.

The boy returned to his box, and sat. Then he said: 'I don't s'pose
father's 'avin' a sleep outside, eh?'

The woman sat up with some show of energy. 'Wot?' she said sharply.
'Sleep out in the street like them low Ranns an' Learys? I should 'ope
not. It's bad enough livin' 'ere at all, an' me being used to different
things once, an' all. You ain't seen 'im outside, 'ave ye?'

'No, I ain't seen 'im: I jist looked in the court.' Then, after a pause:
'I 'ope 'e's done a click,' the boy said.

His mother winced. 'I dunno wot you mean, Dicky,' she said, but
falteringly. 'You--you're gittin' that low an' an'--'

'Wy, copped somethink, o' course. Nicked somethink. You know.'

'If you say sich things as that I'll tell 'im wot you say, an' 'e'll pay
you. We ain't that sort o' people, Dicky, you ought to know. I was alwis
kep' respectable an' straight all my life, I'm sure, an'--'

'I know. You said so before, to father--I 'eard: w'en 'e brought 'ome
that there yuller prop--the necktie pin. Wy, where did 'e git that? 'E
ain't 'ad a job for munse and munse: where's the yannups come from wot's
bin for to pay the rent, an' git the toke, an' milk for Looey? Think I
dunno? I ain't a kid. I know.'

'Dicky, Dicky! you mustn't say sich things!' was all the mother could
find to say, with tears in her slack eyes. 'It's wicked an'--an' low.
An' you must alwis be respectable an' straight, Dicky, an'
you'll--you'll git on then.'

'Straight people's fools, _I_ reckon. Kiddo Cook says that, an' 'e's as
wide as Broad Street. W'en I grow up I'm goin' to git toffs' clo'es an'
be in the 'igh mob. They does big clicks.'

'They git put in a dark prison for years an' years, Dicky--an'--an' if
you're sich a wicked low boy, father 'll give you the strap--'ard,' the
mother returned, with what earnestness she might. 'Gimme the baby, an'
you go to bed, go on; 'fore father comes.'

Dicky handed over the baby, whose wizen face was now relaxed in sleep,
and slowly disencumbered himself of the ungainly jacket, staring at the
wall in a brown study. 'It's the mugs wot git took,' he said, absently.
'An' quoddin' ain't so bad.' Then, after a pause, he turned and added
suddenly: 'S'pose father'll be smugged some day, eh, mother?'

His mother made no reply, but bent languidly over the baby, with an
indefinite pretence of settling it in a place on the bed. Soon Dicky
himself, in the short and ragged shirt he had worn under the jacket,
burrowed head first among the dingy coverings at the foot, and
protruding his head at the further side, took his accustomed place
crosswise at the extreme end.

The filthy ceiling lit and darkened by fits as the candle-wick fell and
guttered to its end. He heard his mother rise and find another fragment
of candle to light by its expiring flame, but he lay still wakeful.
After a time he asked: 'Mother, why don't you come to bed?'

'Waitin' for father. Go to sleep.'

He was silent for a little. But brain and eyes were wide awake, and soon
he spoke again. 'Them noo 'uns in the front room,' he said. 'Ain't the
man give 'is wife a 'idin' yut?'

'No.'

'Nor yut the boy--'umpty-backed 'un?'

'No.'

'Seems they're mighty pertickler. Fancy theirselves too good for their
neighbours; I 'eard Pigeony Poll say that; on'y Poll said--'

'You mustn't never listen to Pigeony Poll, Dicky. Ain't you 'eard me say
so? Go to sleep. 'Ere comes father.' There was, indeed, a step on the
stairs, but it passed the landing, and went on to the top floor. Dicky
lay awake, but silent, gazing upward and back through the dirty window
just over his head. It was very hot, and he fidgeted uncomfortably,
fearing to turn or toss lest the baby should wake and cry. There came a
change in the hue of the sky, and he watched the patch within his view,
until the red seemed to gather in spots, and fade a spot at a time. Then
at last there was a tread on the stairs, that stayed at the door; and
father had come home. Dicky lay still, and listened.

'Lor, Josh, where ye bin?' Dicky heard his mother say. 'I'm almost wore
out a-waitin'.'

'Awright, awright'--this in a hoarse grunt, little above a whisper. 'Got
any water up 'ere? Wash this 'ere stick.'

There was a pause, wherein Dicky knew his mother looked about her in
vacant doubt as to whether or not water was in the room. Then a quick,
undertoned scream, and the stick rattled heavily on the floor. 'It's
sticky!' his mother said. 'O my Gawd, Josh, look at that--an' bits o'
'air, too!' The great shadow of an open hand shot up across the ceiling
and fell again. 'O Josh! O my Gawd! You ain't, 'ave ye? Not--not--not
that?'

'Not wot? Gawblimy, not what? Shutcher mouth. If a man fights, you're
got to fight back, ain' cher? Any one 'ud think it was a murder, to look
at ye. I ain't sich a damn fool as that. 'Ere--pull up that board.'

Dicky knew the loose floor-board that was lifted with a slight groaning
jar. It was to the right of the hearth, and he had shammed sleep when it
had been lifted once before. His mother whimpered and cried quietly.
'You'll git in trouble, Josh,' she said. 'I wish you'd git a reg'lar
job, Josh, like what you used--I do--I do.'

The board was shut down again. Dicky Perrott through one opened eye saw
the sky a pale grey above, and hoped the click had been a good one:
hoped also that it might bring bullock's liver for dinner.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out in the Jago the pale dawn brought a cooler air and the chance of
sleep. From the paving of Old Jago Street sad grey faces, open-mouthed,
looked upward as from the Valley of Dry Bones. Down by Jago Row the
coshed subject, with the blood dry on his face, felt the colder air, and
moved a leg.



II


Three-quarters of a mile east of the Jago's outermost limit was the East
End Elevation Mission and Pansophical Institute: such was the amazing
success whereof, that a new wing had been built, and was now to be
declared open by a Bishop of great eminence and industry.

The triumphs of the East End Elevation Mission and Pansophical Institute
were known and appreciated far from East London, by people who knew less
of that part than of Asia Minor. Indeed, they were chiefly appreciated
by these. There were kept, perpetually on tap for the aspiring East
Ender, the Higher Life, the Greater Thought, and the Wider Humanity:
with other radiant abstractions, mostly in the comparative degree,
specifics all for the manufacture of the Superior Person. There were
many Lectures given on still more subjects. Pictures were borrowed and
shown, with revelations to the Uninformed of the morals ingeniously
concealed by the painters. The Uninformed were also encouraged to debate
and to produce papers on literary and political matters, while still
unencumbered with the smallest knowledge thereof: for the Enlargement of
the Understanding and the Embellishment of the Intellect. And there were
classes, and clubs, and newspapers, and games of draughts, and musical
evenings, and a brass band, whereby the life of the Hopeless Poor might
be coloured, and the Misery of the Submerged alleviated. The wretches
who crowded to these benefits were tradesmen's sons, small shop-keepers
and their families, and neat clerks, with here and there a smart young
artisan of one of the especially respectable trades. They freely
patronised the clubs, the musical evenings, the brass band, and the
bagatelle board; and those who took themselves seriously debated and
Mutually-Improved with pomp. Others, subject to savage fits of
wanting-to-know, made short rushes at random evening classes, with
intervals of disgusted apathy. Altogether, a number of decently-dressed
and mannerly young men passed many evenings at the Pansophical Institute
in harmless pleasures, and often with an agreeable illusion of
intellectual advance.

Other young men, more fortunately circumstanced, with the educational
varnish fresh and raw upon them, came from afar, equipped with a foreign
mode of thought and a proper ignorance of the world and the proportions
of things, as Missionaries. Not without some anxiety to their parents,
they plunged into the perilous deeps of the East End, to struggle--for a
fortnight--with its suffering and its brutishness. So they went among
the tradesmen's sons and the shopmen, who endured them as they endured
the nominal subscription; and they came away with a certain relief, and
with some misgiving as to what impression they had made, and what they
had done to make it. But it was with knowledge and authority that they
went back among those who had doubted their personal safety in the dark
region. The East End, they reported, was nothing like what it was said
to be. You could see much worse places up West. The people were quite a
decent sort, in their way: shocking Bounders, of course; but quite clean
and quiet, and very comfortably dressed, with ties and collars and
watches.

But the Missionaries were few, and the subscribers to the Elevation
Mission were many. Most had been convinced, by what they had been told,
by what they had read in charity appeals, and perhaps by what they had
seen in police-court and inquest reports, that the whole East End was a
wilderness of slums: slums packed with starving human organisms without
minds and without morals, preying on each other alive. These subscribers
visited the Institute by twos and threes, on occasions of particular
festivity among the neat clerks, and were astonished at the wonderful
effects of Pansophic Elevation on the degraded classes, their aspect and
their habits. Perhaps it was a concert where nobody was drunk: perhaps a
little dance where nobody howled a chorus, nor wore his hat, nor punched
his partner in the eye. It was a great marvel, whereunto the observers
testified: so that more subscriptions came, and the new wing was built.

The afternoon was bright, and all was promising. A small crowd of idlers
hung about the main door of the Institute, and stared at a string of
flags. Away to the left stood the new wing, a face of fair, clean brick;
the ornamentation, of approved earnestness, in terra-cotta squares at
regular intervals. Within sat many friends and relations of the shopmen
and superior mechanics, and waited for the Bishop; the Eminences of the
Elevation Mission sitting apart on the platform. Without, among the
idlers, waited Dicky Perrott. His notions of what were going on were
indistinct, but he had a belief, imbibed through rumour and tradition,
that all celebrations at such large buildings were accompanied by the
consumption, in the innermost recesses, of cake and tea. Even to be near
cake was something. In Shoreditch High Street was a shop where cake
stood in the window in great slabs, one slab over another, to an
incalculable value. At this window--against it, as near as possible,
his face flattened white--Dicky would stand till the shop-keeper drove
him off: till he had but to shut his eyes to see once more, in the
shifting black, the rich yellow sections with their myriad raisins. Once
a careless errand-boy, who had bought a slice, took so clumsy a bite as
he emerged that near a third of the whole piece broke and fell; and this
Dicky had snatched from the paving and bolted with, ere the owner quite
saw his loss. This was a superior sort of cake, at a penny. But once he
had managed to buy himself a slice of an inferior sort for a halfpenny,
in Meakin Street.

Dicky Perrott, these blessed memories in his brain, stood unobtrusively
near the door, with the big jacket buttoned over as decently as might
be, full of a desperate design: which was to get inside by whatsoever
manner of trick or opportunity he might, and so, if it were humanly
possible, to the cake.

The tickets were being taken at the door by an ardent young
Elevator--one of the missionaries. Him, and all such washed and
well-dressed people, Dicky had learnt to hold in serene contempt when
the business in hand was dodging. There was no hurry: the Elevator might
waste his vigilance on the ticket-holders for some time yet. And Dicky
knew better than to betray the smallest sign of a desire for entrance
while his enemy's attention was awake.

Carriages drew up, and yielded more Eminences: toward the end the Bishop
himself, whom Dicky observed but as a pleasant-looking old gentleman in
uncommon clothes; and on whom he bestowed no more thought than a passing
wonder at what might be the accident to his hat which had necessitated
its repair with string.

But at the spikes of the Bishop's carriage came another; and out of that
there got three ladies, friends of the ticket-receiver, on whom they
closed, greeting and shaking hands; and in a flash Dicky Perrott was
beyond the lobby and moving obscurely along the walls of the inner hall,
behind pillars and in shadow, seeking cake.

The Choral Society sang their lustiest, and there were speeches.
Eminences expressed their surprise and delight at finding the people of
the East End, gathered in the Institute building, so respectable and
clean, thanks to persistent, indefatigable, unselfish Elevation.

The good Bishop, amid clapping of hands and fluttering of handkerchiefs,
piped cherubically of everything. He rejoiced to see that day, whereon
the helping hand of the West was so unmistakably made apparent in the
East. He rejoiced also to find himself in the midst of so admirably
typical an assemblage--so representative, if he might say so, of that
great East End of London, thirsting and crying out for--for Elevation:
for that--ah--Elevation which the more fortunately circumstanced
denizens of--of other places, had so munificently--laid on. The people
of the East End had been sadly misrepresented--in popular periodicals
and in--in other ways. The East End, he was convinced, was not so black
as it was painted. (Applause.) He had but to look about him. _Etcetera,
etcetera._ He questioned whether so well-conducted, morally-given, and
respectable a gathering could be brought together in any West End parish
with which he was acquainted. It was his most pleasant duty on this
occasion--and so on and so forth.

Dicky Perrott had found the cake. It was in a much smaller room at the
back of the hall, wherein it was expected that the Bishop and certain
Eminences of the platform would refresh themselves with tea after the
ceremony. There were heavy, drooping curtains at the door of this room,
and deep from the largest folds the ratling from the Jago watched. The
table was guarded by a sour-faced man--just such a man as drove him from
the window of the cake shop in Shoreditch High Street. Nobody else was
there yet, and plainly the sour-faced man must be absent or busy ere the
cake could be got at.

There was a burst of applause in the hall: the new wing had been
declared open. Then there was more singing, and after that much
shuffling and tramping, for everybody was free to survey the new rooms
on the way out; and the Importances from the platform came to find the
tea.

Filling the room and standing about in little groups; chatting,
munching, and sipping, while the sour-faced man distractedly floundered
amid crockery: not a soul of them all perceived an inconsiderable small
boy, ducking and dodging vaguely among legs and round skirts, making,
from time to time, a silent snatch at a plate on the table: and
presently he vanished altogether. Then the amiable Bishop, beaming over
the tea-cup six inches from his chin, at two courtiers of the clergy,
bethought him of a dinner engagement, and passed his hand downward over
the rotundity of his waistcoat.

'Dear, dear,' said the Bishop, glancing down suddenly, 'why--what's
become of my watch?'

There hung three inches of black ribbon, with a cut end. The Bishop
looked blankly at the Elevators about him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three streets off, Dicky Perrott, with his shut fist deep in his
breeches pocket, and a gold watch in the fist, ran full drive for the
Old Jago.



III


There was nobody in chase; but Dicky Perrott, excited by his novel
exploit, ran hard: forgetting the lesson first learnt by every child of
the Jago, to avoid, as far as may be, suspicious flight in open streets.
He burst into the Old Jago from the Jago Row corner, by Meakin Street;
and still he ran. A small boy a trifle bigger than himself made a sharp
punch at him as he passed, but he took no heed. The hulking group at the
corner of Old Jago Street, ever observant of weaklings with plunder, saw
him, and one tried to catch his arm, but he had the wit to dodge. Past
the Jago Court passage he scudded, in at the familiar doorway, and up
the stairs. A pale hunchbacked child, clean and wistful, descended, and
him Dicky flung aside and half downstairs with 'Git out, 'ump!'

Josh Perrott sat on the bed, eating fried fish from an oily paper; for
it was tea-time. He was a man of thirty-two, of middle height and
stoutly built, with a hard, leathery face as of one much older. The hair
about his mouth seemed always three days old--never much less nor much
more. He was a plasterer--had, at least, so described himself at
police-courts. But it was long since he had plastered, though he still
walked abroad splashed and speckled, as though from an eruption of
inherent plaster. In moments of pride he declared himself the only
member of his family who had ever learned a trade, and worked at it. It
was a long relinquished habit, but while it lasted he had married a
decent boiler-maker's daughter, who had known nothing of the Jago till
these latter days. One other boast Josh Perrott had: that nothing but
shot or pointed steel could hurt him. And this, too, was near being a
true boast; as he had proved in more than one fight in the local
arena--which was Jago Court. Now he sat peaceably on the edge of the
bed, and plucked with his fingers at the oily fish, while his wife
grubbed hopelessly about the cupboard shelves for the screw of paper
which was the sugar-basin.

Dicky entered at a burst. 'Mother--father--look! I done a click! I got a
clock--a red 'un!'

Josh Perrott stopped, jaw and hand, with a pinch of fish poised in air.
The woman turned, and her chin fell. 'O, Dicky, Dicky,' she cried, in
real distress, 'you're a awful low, wicked boy. My Gawd, Josh, 'e--'e'll
grow up bad: I said so.'

Josh Perrott bolted the pinch of fish, and sucked his fingers as he
sprang to the door. After a quick glance down the stairs he shut it, and
turned to Dicky. 'Where d'je get that, ye young devel?' he asked, and
snatched the watch.

'Claimed it auf a ol' bloke w'en 'e was drinkin' 'is tea,' Dicky
replied, with sparkling eyes. 'Let's 'ave a look at it, father.'

'Did 'e run after ye?'

'No--didn't know nuffin' about it. I cut 'is bit o' ribbin with my
knife.' Dicky held up a treasured relic of blade and handle, found in a
gutter. 'Ain' cher goin' to let's 'ave a look at it?'

Josh Perrott looked doubtfully toward his wife: the children were
chiefly her concern. Of her sentiments there could be no mistake. He
slipped the watch into his own pocket, and caught Dicky by the collar.

'I'll give you somethink, you dam young thief,' he exclaimed, slipping
off his belt. 'You'd like to have us all in stir for a year or two, I
s'pose; goin' thievin' watches like a growed-up man.' And he plied the
belt savagely, while Dicky, amazed, breathless and choking, spun about
him with piteous squeals, and the baby woke and puled in feeble
sympathy.

There was a rip, and the collar began to leave the old jacket. Feeling
this, Josh Perrott released it, and with a quick drive of the fist in
the neck sent Dicky staggering across the room. Dicky caught at the bed
frame, and limped out to the landing, sobbing grievously in the bend of
his sleeve.

It was more than his mother had intended, but she knew better than to
attempt interference. Now that he was gone, she said, with some
hesitation: ''Adn't you better take it out at once, Josh?'

'Yus, I'm goin',' Josh replied, turning the watch in his hand. 'It's a
good 'un--a topper.'

'You--you won't let Weech 'ave it, will ye, Josh? 'E--'e never gives
much.'

'No bloomin' fear. I'm goin' up 'Oxton with this 'ere.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Dicky sobbed his way down the stairs and through the passage to the
back. In the yard he looked for Tommy Rann, to sympathise. But Tommy was
not, and Dicky paused in his grief to reflect that perhaps, indeed, in
the light of calm reason, he would rather cast the story of the watch in
a more heroic mould, for Tommy's benefit, than was compatible with tears
and a belted back. So he turned and squeezed through a hole in the
broken fence, sobbing again, in search of the friend that shared his
inmost sorrows.

The belting was bad--very bad. There was broken skin on his shins where
the strap had curled round, and there was a little sticky blood under
the shirt half way up his back: to say nothing of bruises. But it was
the hopeless injustice of things that shook him to the soul. Wholly
unaided, he had done, with neatness and credit, a click that anybody in
the Jago would have been proud of. Overjoyed, he had hastened to receive
the commendations of his father and mother, and to place the prize in
their hands, freely and generously, though perhaps with some hope of hot
supper by way of celebration. And his reward was this. Why? He could
understand nothing: could but feel the wrong that broke his heart. And
so, sobbing, he crawled through two fences to weep on the shaggy neck of
Jerry Gullen's canary.

Jerry Gullen's canary was no bird, but a donkey: employed by Jerry
Gullen in his occasional intervals of sobriety to drag a cranky shallow,
sometimes stored with glass bottles, rags, and hearth-stone: sometimes
with firewood manufactured from a convenient hoarding, or from the
joinery of an empty house: sometimes with empty sacks covering
miscellaneous property suddenly acquired and not for general inspection.
His vacations, many and long, Jerry Gullen's canary spent, forgotten and
unfed, in Jerry Gullen's back-yard: gnawing desperately at fences, and
harrowing the neighbourhood with his bray. Thus the nickname,
facetiously applied by Kiddo Cook in celebration of his piteous song,
grew into use; and 'Canary' would call the creature's attention as
readily as a mouthful of imprecations.

Jerry Gullen's canary was gnawing, gnawing, with a sound as of a crooked
centre-bit. Everywhere about the foul yard, ten or twelve feet square,
wood was rounded and splintered and bitten white, and as the donkey
turned his heavy head, a drip of blood from his gums made a disc on the
stones. A twitch of the ears welcomed Dicky, grief-stricken as he was;
for it was commonly thus that he bethought him of solace in Jerry
Gullen's back-yard. And so Dicky, his arms about the mangy neck, told
the tale of his wrongs till consolation came in composition of the
heroic narrative designed for Tommy Rann.

'O, Canary, it is a blasted shame!'



IV


When Dicky Perrott came running into Jago Row with the Bishop's watch in
his pocket, another boy punched a fist at him, and at the time Dicky was
at a loss to guess the cause--unless it were a simple caprice--but
stayed neither to inquire nor to retaliate. The fact was that the Ranns
and the Learys were coming out, fighting was in the air, and the small
boy, meeting another a trifle smaller, punched on general principles.
The Ranns and the Learys, ever at war or in guarded armistice, were the
great rival families--the Montagues and the Capulets--of the old Jago.
The Learys indeed, scarce pretended to rivalry--rather to factious
opposition. For the Ranns gloried in the style and title of the 'Royal
Family,' and dominated the Jago; but there were mighty fighters, men
and women, among the Learys, and when a combat arose it was a hard one
and an animated. The two families ramified throughout the Jago; and
under the Rann standard, whether by kin or by custom, were the Gullens,
the Fishers, the Spicers, and the Walshes; while in the Leary train came
Dawsons, Greens, and Harnwells. So that near all the Jago was wont to be
on one side or the other, and any of the Jago which was not, was apt to
be the worse for it; for the Ranns drubbed all them that were not of
their faction in the most thorough and most workmanlike manner, and the
Learys held by the same practice; so that neutrality meant double
drubbing. But when the Ranns and Learys combined, and the Old Jago
issued forth in its entire might against Dove Lane, then the battle was
one to go miles to see.

This, however, was but a Rann and Leary fight; and it was but in its
early stages when Dicky Perrott, emerging from Jerry Gullen's back-yard,
made for Shoreditch High Street by way of the 'Posties'--the passage
with posts at the end of Old Jago Street. His purpose was to snatch a
handful of hay from some passing waggon, or of mixed fodder from some
unguarded nosebag, wherewith to reward the sympathy of Jerry Gullen's
canary. But by the 'Posties,' at the Edge Lane corner, Tommy Rann,
capless, and with a purple bump on his forehead, came flying into his
arms, breathless, exultant, a babbling braggart. He had fought Johnny
Leary and Joe Dawson, he said, one after the other, and pretty nigh
broke Johnny Leary's blasted neck; and Joe's Dawson's big brother was
after him now with a bleed'n' shovel. So the two children ran on
together, and sought the seclusion of their own back yard; where the
story of Johnny Rann's prowess, with scowls and the pounding of
imaginary foes, and the story of the Bishop's watch, with suppressions
and improvements, mingled and contended in the thickening dusk. And
Jerry Gullen's canary went forgotten and unrequited.

That night fighting was sporadic and desultory in the Jago. Bob the
Bender was reported to have a smashed nose, and Sam Cash had his head
bandaged at the hospital. At the Bag of Nails in Edge Lane, Snob Spicer
was knocked out of knowledge with a quart pot, and Cocko Harnwell's
missis had a piece bitten off of one ear. As the night wore on, taunts
and defiances were bandied from window to door, and from door to window,
between those who intended to begin fighting to-morrow; and shouts from
divers corners gave notice of isolated scuffles. Once a succession of
piercing screams seemed to betoken that Sally Green had begun. There was
a note in the screams of Sally Green's opposites which the Jago had
learned to recognise. Sally Green, though of the weaker faction, was the
female champion of the Old Jago: an eminence won and kept by fighting
tactics peculiar to herself. For it was her way, reserving teeth and
nails, to wrestle closely with her antagonist, throw her by a dexterous
twist on her face, and fall on her, instantly seizing the victim's nape
in her teeth, gnawing and worrying. The sufferer's screams were audible
afar, and beyond their invariable eccentricity of quality--a quality a
vaguely suggestive of dire surprise--they had mechanical persistence, a
pump-like regularity, that distinguished them, in the accustomed ear,
from other screams.

Josh Perrott had not been home all the evening: probably the Bishop's
watch was in course of transmutation into beer. Dicky, stiff and
domestically inclined, nursed Looey and listened to the noises without
till he fell asleep, in hopeful anticipation of the morrow. For Tommy
Rann had promised him half of a broken iron railing wherewith to fight
the Learys.



V


Sleep in the Jago was at best a thing of intermission, for
reasons--reasons of multitude--already denoted; nevertheless Dicky slept
well enough to be unconscious of his father's homecoming. In the
morning, however, there lay Josh Perrott, snoring thunderously on the
floor, piebald with road-dust. This was not a morning whereon father
would want breakfast--that was plain: he would wake thirsty and savage.
So Dicky made sure of a crust from the cupboard, and betook himself in
search of Tommy Rann. As to washing, he was never especially fond of it,
and in any case there were fifty excellent excuses for neglect. The only
water was that from the little tap in the back yard. The little tap was
usually out of order, or had been stolen bodily by a tenant; and if it
were not, there was no basin there, nor any soap, nor towel; and
anything savouring of moderate cleanliness was resented in the Jago as
an assumption of superiority.

Fighting began early, fast and furious. The Ranns got together soon, and
hunted the Learys up and down, and attacked them in their houses: the
Learys' chances only coming when straggling Ranns were cut off from the
main body. The weapons in use, as was customary, rose in effectiveness
by a swiftly ascending scale. The Learys, assailed with sticks, replied
with sticks torn from old packing-cases, with protruding nails. The two
sides bethought them of coshes simultaneously, and such as had no
coshes--very few--had pokers and iron railings. Ginger Stagg, at bay in
his passage, laid open Pud Palmer's cheek with a chisel; and, knives
thus happily legitimised with the least possible preliminary form,
everybody was free to lay hold of whatever came handy.

In Old Jago Street, half way between Jago Court and Edge Lane, stood the
Feathers, the grimiest and vilest of the four public-houses in the
Jago. Into the Feathers some dozen Learys were driven, and for a while
they held the inner bar and the tap-room against the Ranns, who swarmed
after them, chairs, bottles, and pewter pots flying thick, while Mother
Gapp, the landlady, hung hysterical on the beer-pulls in the bar,
supplicating and blubbering aloud. Then a partition came down with a
crash, bringing shelves and many glasses with it, and the Ranns rushed
over the ruin, beating the Learys down, jumping on them, heaving them
through the back windows. Having thus cleared the house of the intruding
enemy, the Ranns demanded recompense of liquor, and took it, dragging
handles off beer-engines, seizing bottles, breaking into the cellar, and
driving in bungs. Nobody better than Mother Gapp could quell an ordinary
bar riot--even to knocking a man down with a pot; but she knew better
than to attempt interference now. Nothing could have made her swoon, but
she sat limp and helpless, weeping and blaspheming.

The Ranns cleared off, every man with a bottle or so, and scattered, and
this for a while was their undoing. For the Learys rallied and hunted
the Ranns in their turn: a crowd of eighty or a hundred sweeping the
Jago from Honey Lane to Meakin Street. Then they swung back through Edge
Lane to Old Jago Street, and made for Jerry Gullen's--a house full of
Ranns. Jerry Gullen, Bill Rann, and the rest took refuge in the upper
floors and barricaded the stairs. Below, the Learys broke windows and
ravaged the rooms, smashing whatsoever of furniture was to be found.
Above, Pip Walsh, who affected horticulture on his window-sill, hurled
down flower-pots. On the stairs, Billy Leary, scaling the barricade, was
flung from top to bottom, and had to be carried home. And then Pip
Walsh's missis scattered the besiegers on the pavement below with a
kettleful of boiling water.

There was a sudden sortie of Ranns from Jago Court, but it profited
nothing; for the party was small, and, its advent being unexpected,
there was a lack of prompt co-operation from the house. The Learys held
the field.

Down the middle of Old Jago Street came Sally Green: red faced,
stripped to the waist, dancing, hoarse and triumphant. Nail-scores wide
as the finger striped her back, her face, and her throat, and she had a
black eye; but in one great hand she dangled a long bunch of clotted
hair, as she whooped defiance to the Jago. It was a trophy newly rent
from the scalp of Norah Walsh, champion of the Rann womankind, who had
crawled away to hide her blighted head, and be restored with gin. None
answered Sally's challenge, and, staying but to fling a brickbat at Pip
Walsh's window, she carried her dance and her trophy into Edge Lane.

The scrimmage on Jerry Gullen's stairs was thundering anew, and parties
of Learys were making for other houses in the street, when there came a
volley of yells from Jago Row, heralding a scudding mob of Ranns. The
defeated sortie-party from Jago Court, driven back, had gained New Jago
Street by way of the house-passages behind the Court, and set to
gathering the scattered faction. Now the Ranns came, drunk, semi-drunk,
and otherwise, and the Learys, leaving Jerry Gullen's, rushed to meet
them. There was a great shock, hats flew, sticks and heads made a wooden
rattle, and instantly the two mobs were broken into an uproarious
confusion of tangled groups, howling and grappling. Here a man crawled
into a passage to nurse a broken head; there a knot gathered to kick a
sprawling foe. So the fight thinned out and spread, resolving into many
independent combats, with concerted rushes of less and less frequency,
till once again all through the Jago each fought for his own hand. Kiddo
Cook, always humorous, ran hilariously through the streets, brandishing
a long roll of twisted paper, wherewith he smacked the heads of Learys
all and sundry, who realised too late that the paper was twisted round a
lodging-house poker.

Now, of the few neutral Jagos: most lay low. Josh Perrott, however, hard
as nails and respected for it, feared neither Rann nor Leary, and
leaving a little money with his missis, carried his morning mouth in
search of beer. Pigeony Poll, harlot and outcast, despised for that she
neither fought nor kept a cosh-carrier, like a respectable married
woman, slunk and trembled in corners and yards, and wept at the sight of
bleeding heads. As for old Beveridge, the affair so grossly excited him
that he neglected business (he cadged and wrote begging screeves) and
stayed in the Jago, where he strode wildly about the streets, lank and
rusty, stabbing the air with a carving knife, and incoherently defying
'all the lot' to come near him. Nobody did.

Dicky Perrott and Tommy Rann found a snug fastness in Jago Row. For
there was a fence with a loose board, which, pushed aside, revealed a
hole where-through a very small boy might squeeze; and within were
stored many barrows and shallows, mostly broken, and of these one,
tilted forward and bottom up, made a hut or den, screened about with
fence and barrows. Here they hid while the Learys swept the Jago, and
hence they issued from time to time to pound such youngsters of the
other side as might come in sight. The bits of iron railing made
imposing weapons, but were a trifle too big and heavy for rapid use in
their puny hands. Still, Dicky managed to double up little Billy Leary
with a timely lunge in the stomach, and Tommy Rann made Bobby Harnwell's
nose bleed very satisfactorily. On the other hand, the bump on Tommy
Rann's forehead was widened by the visitation of a stick, and Dicky
Perrott sustained a very hopeful punch in the eye, which he cherished
enthusiastically with a view to an honourable blackness. In the snuggery
intervals they explained their prowess one to another, and Dicky alluded
to his intention, when he was a man, to buy a very long sword wherewith
to cut off the Learys' heads: Tommy Rann inclining, however, to a gun,
with which one might also shoot birds.

The battle flagged a little toward mid-day, but waxed lively again as
the afternoon began. It was then that Dicky Perrott, venturing some way
from the retreat, found himself in a scrimmage, and a man snatched away
his piece of iron and floored a Leary with it. Gratifying as was the
distinction of aiding in the exploit, Dicky mourned the loss of the
weapon almost unto tears, and Tommy Rann would not go turn-about with
the other, but kept it wholly for himself; so Dicky was fain to hunt
sorrowfully for a mere stick. Even a disengaged stick was not easy to
find just then. So Dicky, emerging from the Jago, tried Meakin Street,
where there were shops, but unsuccessfully, and so came round by Luck
Row, a narrow way from Meakin Street by Walker's cook shop, up through
the Jago.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dicky's mother, left with the baby, fastened the door as well as she
might, and trembled. Indeed she had reason. The time of Josh Perrott's
return was a matter of doubt, but when he did come he would want
something to eat; it was for that he had left the money. But Dicky was
out, and there was nothing in the cupboard. From the window she saw
divers fights in Jago Court; and a man lay for near two hours on the
stones with a cut on his temple. As for herself, she was no favourite in
the neighbourhood at any time. For one thing, her husband did not carry
the cosh. Then she was an alien who had never entirely fallen into Jago
ways; she had soon grown sluttish and dirty, but she was never drunk,
she never quarrelled, she did not gossip freely. Also her husband beat
her but rarely, and then not with a chair nor a poker. Justly irritated
by such superiorities as these, the women of the Jago were ill-disposed
to brook another: which was, that Hannah Perrott had been married in
church. For these reasons she was timid at the most peaceful of times,
but now, with Ranns and Learys on the war-path, and herself obnoxious to
both, she trembled. She wished Dicky would come and do her errand. But
there was no sign of him, and mid-day wore into afternoon. It was late
for Josh as it was, and he would be sure to come home irritable: it was
his way when a bad head from overnight struggled with morning beer. If
he found nothing to eat there would be trouble.

At length she resolved to go herself. There was a lull in the outer din,
and what there was seemed to come from the farther parts of Honey Lane
and Jago Row. She would slip across by Luck Row to Meakin Street and be
back in five minutes. She took up little Looey and went.

And as Dicky, stickless, turned into Luck Row, there arose a loud shriek
and then another, and then in a changed voice a succession of long
screams with a regular breath-pause. Sally Green again! He ran, turned
into Old Jago Street, and saw.

Sprawled on her face in the foul road lay a writhing woman and screamed;
while squeezed under her arm was a baby with mud in its eyes and a cut
cheek, crying weakly; and spread over all, clutching her prey by hair
and wrist, Sally Green hung on the nape like a terrier, jaws clenched,
head shaking.

Thus Dicky saw it in a flash, and in an instant he had flung himself on
Sally Green, kicking, striking, biting and crying, for he had seen his
mother and Looey. The kicks wasted themselves among the woman's
petticoats, and the blows were feeble; but the sharp teeth were meeting
in the shoulder-flesh, when help came.

Norah Walsh, vanquished champion, now somewhat recovered, looked from a
window, saw her enemy vulnerable, and ran out armed with a bottle. She
stopped at the kerb to knock the bottom off the bottle, and then, with
an exultant shout, seized Sally Green by the hair and stabbed her about
the face with the jagged points. Blinded with blood, Sally released her
hold on Mrs Perrott and rolled on her back, struggling fiercely; but to
no end, for Norah Walsh, kneeling on her breast, stabbed and stabbed
again, till pieces of the bottle broke away. Sally's yells and plunges
ceased, and a man pulled Norah off. On him she turned, and he was fain
to run, while certain Learys found a truck which might carry Sally to
the hospital.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hannah Perrott was gone indoors, hysterical and helpless. She had scarce
crossed the street on her errand when she had met Sally Green in quest
of female Ranns. Mrs Perrott was not a Rann, but she was not a Leary, so
it came to the same thing. Moreover, there was her general
obnoxiousness. She had tried to run, but that was useless; and now,
sobbing and bleeding, she was merely conscious of being gently led,
almost carried, indoors and upstairs. She was laid back on the bed, and
somebody loosened her hair and wiped her face and neck, giving her
hoarse, comforting words. Then she saw the face--scared though coarse
and pitted, and red about the eyes--that bent over her. It was Pigeony
Poll's.

Dicky had followed her in, no longer the hero of the Jago Row retreat,
but with his face tearful and distorted, carrying the baby in his arms,
and wiping the mud from her eyes. Now he sat on the little box and
continued his ministrations, with fear in his looks as he glanced at his
mother on the bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Without, the fight rallied once more. The Learys ran to avenge Sally
Green, and the Ranns met them with a will. Down by the Bag of Nails a
party of Ranns was driven between the posts and through the gut into
Shoreditch High Street, where a stand was made until Fag Dawson dropped,
with a shoemaker's knife sticking under his arm-pit. Then the Ranns
left, with most of the Learys after them, and Fag Dawson was carried to
a chemist's by the police, never to floor a Rann again. For he was
chived in the left lung.

Thus the fight ended. For a faction fight in the Jago, with a few broken
heads and ribs and an odd knife wound here and there--even with a death
in the hospital from kicks or what not--was all very well; but when it
came to homicide in the open High Street, the police drew the line, and
entered the Jago in force. Ordinarily, a peep now and again from a
couple of policemen between the 'Posties' was all the supervision the
Jago had, although three policemen had been seen to walk the length of
Old Jago Street together, and there were raids in force for special
captures. There was a raid in force now, and the turmoil ceased. Nothing
would have pleased both Ranns and Learys better than to knock over two
or three policemen, for kicking-practice; but there were too many for
the sport, and for hours they patrolled the Jago's closest passages. Of
course nobody knew who chived Fag Dawson. No inquiring policeman ever
found anybody in the Old Jago who knew anything, even to the harm of
his bitterest foe. It was the sole commandment that ran there:--'Thou
shalt not nark.'

That night it was known that there would be a fight between Josh Perrott
and Billy Leary, once the latter grew well. For Josh Perrott came home,
saw his wife, and turned Rann on the spot. But for the police in the
Jago that night, there would have been many a sore head, if no worse,
among the Learys, by visitation of Josh Perrott. Sally Green's husband
had fled years ago, and Billy Leary, her brother, was the obvious mark
for Josh's vengeance. He was near as eminent a fighter among the men as
his sister among the women, and a charming scrap was anticipated. It
would come off, of course, in Jago Court one Sunday morning, as all
fights of distinction did; and perhaps somebody in the High Mob would
put up stakes.



VI


In the morning the police still held the Jago. Their presence
embarrassed many, but none more than Dicky Perrott, who would always
take a turning, or walk the other way, at sight of a policeman. Dicky
got out of Old Jago Street early, and betook him to Meakin Street, where
there were chandlers' shops with sugar in their windows, and cook-shops
with pudding. He designed working through by these to Shoreditch High
Street, there to crown his solace by contemplation of the cake-shop.
But, as he neared Weech's coffee-shop, scarce half through Meakin
Street, there stood Weech himself at the door, grinning and nodding
affably, and beckoning him. He was a pleasant man, this Mr Aaron Weech,
who sang hymns aloud in the back parlour, and hummed the tunes in the
shop: a prosperous, white-aproned, whiskered, half-bald, smirking
tradesman, who bent and spoke amiably to boys, looking sharply in their
eyes, but talked to a man mostly with his gaze on the man's waistcoat.

Indeed, there seemed to be something about Mr Aaron Weech especially
attractive to youth. Nearly all his customers were boys and girls,
though not boys and girls who looked likely to pay a great deal in the
way of refreshment, much as they took. But he was ever indulgent, and at
all times accessible to his young clients. Even on Sunday (though, of
course, his shutters were kept rigidly up on the Day of Rest) a
particular tap would bring him hot-foot to the door: not to sell coffee,
for Mr Weech was no Sabbath-breaker.

Now he stood at his door, and invited Dicky with nods and becks. Dicky,
all wondering, and alert to dodge in case the thing were a mere device
to bring him within striking distance, went.

'W'y Dicky Perrott,' quoth Mr Weech in a tone of genial surprise, 'I
b'lieve you could drink a cup o' cawfy!'

Dicky, wondering how Mr Weech had learnt his name, believed he could.

'An' eat a slice o' cake too, I'll be bound,' Mr Weech added.

Dicky's glance leapt. Yes, he could eat a slice of cake too.

'Ah, I knew it,' said Mr Weech, triumphantly; 'I can always tell.' He
rubbed Dicky's cap about his head, and drew him into the shop, at this
hour bare of customers. At the innermost compartment they stopped, and
Mr Weech, with a gentle pressure on the shoulders, seated Dicky at the
table.

He brought the coffee, and not a single slice of cake, but two. True, it
was not cake of Elevation Mission quality, nor was it so good as that
shown at the shop in High Street: it was of a browner, dumpier, harder
nature, and the currants were gritty and few. But cake it was, and to
consider it critically were unworthy. Dicky bolted it with less comfort
than he might, for Mr Weech watched him keenly across the table. And,
indeed, from some queer cause, he felt an odd impulse to cry. It was
the first time that he had ever been given anything, kindly and
ungrudgingly.

He swallowed the last crumb, washed it down with the dregs of his cup,
and looked sheepishly across at Mr Weech.

'Goes down awright, don't it?' that benefactor remarked. 'Ah, I like to
see you enjoyin' of yerself. I'm very fond o' you young 'uns: 'specially
clever 'uns like you.'

Dicky had never been called clever before, so far as he could recollect,
and he wondered at it now. Mr Weech, leaning back, contemplated him
smilingly for some seconds, and then proceeded. 'Yus,' he said, 'you're
the sort o' boy as can 'ave cawfy and cake w'enever you want it, you
are.'

Dicky wondered more, and his face said as much. 'You know,' Mr Weech
pursued, winking again, grinning and nodding. 'That was a fine watch you
found the other day. Y'ought to 'a' brought it to me.'

Dicky was alarmed. How did Mr Weech learn about the watch? Perhaps he
was a friend of the funny old man who lost it. Dicky half rose, but his
affable patron leaned across and pushed him back on the seat. 'You
needn't be frightened,' he said. 'I ain't goin' to say nothink to
nobody. But I know all about it, mind, an' I could if I liked. You found
the watch, an' it was a red 'un, on a bit o' ribbin. Well, then you went
and took it 'ome, like a little fool. Wot does yer father do? W'y 'e ups
an' lathers you with 'is belt, an' 'e keeps the watch 'isself. That's
all you git for yer pains. See--I know all about it.' And Mr Weech gazed
on Dicky Perrott with a fixed grin.

''Oo toldjer?' Dicky managed to ask at last.

'Ah!'--this with a great emphasis and a tapping of the forefinger beside
the nose--'I don't want much tellin': it ain't much as goes on 'ereabout
I don't know of. Never mind 'ow. P'raps I got a little bird as
w'ispers--p'raps I do it some other way. Any'ow I know. It ain't no good
any boy tryin' to do somethink unbeknownst to me, mindjer.'

Mr Weech's head lay aside, his grin widened, his glance was sidelong,
his forefinger pointed from his temple over Dicky's head, and
altogether he looked so very knowing that Dicky shuffled in his seat. By
what mysterious means was this new-found friend so well informed? The
doubt troubled him, for Dicky knew nothing of Mr Aaron Weech's
conversation, an hour before, with Tommy Rann.

'But it's awright, bless yer,' Mr Weech went on presently. 'Nobody's
none the wuss for me knowin' about 'em.... Well, we was a-talkin' about
the watch, wasn't we? All you got after sich a lot o' trouble was a
woppin' with a belt. That was too bad.' Mr Weech's voice was piteous and
sympathetic. 'After you a-findin' sich a nice watch--a red 'un an'
all!--you gits nothink for yerself but a beltin'. Never mind, you'll do
better next time--I'll take care o' that. I don't like to see a clever
boy put upon. You go an' find another, or somethink else--anythink
good--an' then you bring it 'ere.'

Mr Weech's friendly sympathy extinguished Dicky's doubt. 'I didn't find
it,' he said, shy but proud. 'It was a click--I sneaked it.'

'Eh?' ejaculated Mr Weech, a sudden picture of blank incomprehension.
'Eh? What? Click? Wot's a click? Sneaked? Wot's that? I dunno nothink
about no talk o' that sort, an' I don't want to. It's my belief it means
somethink wrong--but I dunno, an' I don't want to. 'Ear that? Eh? Don't
let me 'ave no more o' that, or you'd better not come near me agin. If
you _find_ somethink, awright: you come to me an' I'll give ye somethink
for it, if it's any good. It ain't no business of anybody's _where_ you
find it, o' course, an' I don't want to know. But clicks and
sneaks--them's Greek to me, an' I don't want to learn 'em. Unnerstand
that? Nice talk to respectable people, with yer clicks an' sneaks!'

Dicky blushed a little, and felt very guilty without in the least
understanding the offence. But Mr Weech's virtuous indignation subsided
as quickly as it had arisen, and he went on as amiably as ever.

'When you _find_ anythink,' he said, 'jist like you found that watch,
don't tell nobody, an' don't let nobody see it. Bring it 'ere quiet,
when there ain't any p'liceman in the street, an' come right through to
the back o' the shop, an' say, "I come to clean the knives." Unnerstand?
"I come to clean the knives." There ain't no knives to clean--it's on'y
a way o' tellin' me you got somethink without other people knowin'. An'
then I'll give you somethink for it--money p'raps, or p'raps cake or wot
not. Don't forgit. "I come to clean the knives." See?'

Yes, Dicky understood perfectly; and Dicky saw a new world of dazzling
delights. Cake--limitless cake, coffee, and the like whenever he might
feel moved thereunto; but more than all, money--actual money. Good broad
pennies, perhaps whole shillings--perhaps even more still: money to buy
bullock's liver for dinner, or tripe, or what you fancied: saveloys,
baked potatoes from the can on cold nights, a little cart to wheel Looey
in, a boat from a toy-shop with sails!

'There's no end o' things to be found all over the place, an' a sharp
boy like you can find 'em every day. If you don't find 'em, someone
else will; there's plenty on 'em about on the look-out, an' you got jist
as much right as them. On'y mind!'--Mr Weech was suddenly stern and
serious, and his forefinger was raised impressively--'you know you can't
do anythink without I know, an' if you say a word--if you say a word,'
his fist came on the table with a bang, 'somethink 'll happen to you.
Somethink bad.'

Mr Weech rose, and was pleasant again, though business-like. 'Now, you
just go an' find somethink,' he said. 'Look sharp about it, an' don't go
an' git in trouble. The cawfy's a penny, an' the cake's a penny--ought
prop'ly to be twopence, but say a penny this time. That's twopence you
owe me, an' you better bring somethink an' pay it off quick. So go
along.'

This was an unforeseen tag to the entertainment. For the first time in
his life Dicky was in debt. It was a little disappointing to find the
coffee and cake no gift after all: though, indeed, it now seemed foolish
to have supposed they were; for in Dicky Perrott's world people did not
give things away--that were the act of a fool. Thus Dicky, with his
hands in his broken pockets, and thought in his small face, whereon
still stood the muddy streaks of yesterday's tears, trudged out of Mr
Aaron Weech's shop-door, and along Meakin Street.

Now he was beginning the world seriously, and must face the fact. Truly
the world had been serious enough for him hitherto, but that he knew
not. Now he was of an age when most boys were thieving for themselves,
and he owed money like a man. True it was, as Mr Weech had said, that
everybody--the whole Jago--was on the look-out for himself. Plainly he
must take his share, lest it fall to others. As to the old gentleman's
watch, he had but been beforehand. Through foolish ingenuousness he had
lost it, and his father had got it, who could so much more easily steal
one for himself; for he was a strong man, and had but to knock over
another man at any night-time. Nobody should hear of future clicks but
Mr Weech. Each for himself? Come, he must open his eyes.



VII


There was no chance all along Meakin Street. The chandlers and the
keepers of cook-shops knew their neighbourhood too well to leave
articles unguarded. Soon Dicky reached Shoreditch High Street. There
things were a little more favourable. There were shops, as he well
remembered, where goods were sometimes exhibited at the doors and
outside the windows; but to-day there seemed to be no chance of the
sort. As for the people, he was too short to try pockets, and indeed the
High Street rarely gave passage to a more unpromising lot. Moreover,
from robbery from the person he knew he must abstain, except for such
uncommon opportunities as that of the Bishop's watch, for some years
yet.

He hung about the doors and windows of shop after shop, hoping for a
temporary absence of the shop-keeper, which might leave something
snatchable. But he hoped in vain. From most shops he was driven away,
for the Shoreditch trader is not slow to judge the purpose of a
loitering boy. So he passed nearly two hours: when at last he saw his
chance. It came in an advantageous part of High Street, not far from the
'Posties,' though on the opposite side of the way. A nurse-girl had left
a perambulator at a shop door, while she bought inside, and on the
perambulator lay loose a little skin rug, from under which a little fat
leg stuck and waved aloft. Dicky set his back to the shop, and sidled to
within reach of the perambulator. But it chanced that at this moment the
nurse-girl stepped to the door, and she made a snatch at his arm as he
lifted the rug. This he dropped at once, and was swinging leisurely away
(for he despised the chase of any nurse-girl) when a man took him
suddenly by the shoulder. Quick as a weasel, Dicky ducked under the
man's arm, pulled his shoulder clear, dropped forward and rested an
instant on the tips of his fingers to avoid the catch of the other hand,
and shot out into the road. The man tried to follow, but Dicky ran under
the belly of a standing horse, under the head of another that trotted,
across the fore-platform of a tramcar--behind the driver's back--and so
over to the 'Posties.'

He slouched into the Jago, disappointed. As he crossed Edge Lane, he was
surprised to perceive a stranger--a toff, indeed--who walked slowly
along, looking up right and left at the grimy habitations about him. He
wore a tall hat, and his clothes were black, and of a pattern that Dicky
remembered to have seen at the Elevation Mission. They were, in fact,
the clothes of a clergyman. For himself, he was tall and soundly built,
with a certain square muscularity of face, and of age about thirty-five.
He had ventured into the Jago because the police were in possession,
Dicky thought; and wondered in what plight he would leave, had he come
at another time. But losing view of the stranger, and making his way
along Old Jago Street, Dicky perceived that indeed the police were
gone, and that the Jago was free.

He climbed the broken stairs and pushed into the first-floor back,
hopeful, though more doubtful, of dinner. There was none. His mother,
tied about the neck with rags, lay across the bed nursing the damage of
yesterday, and commiserating herself. A yard from her lay Looey, sick
and ailing in a new way, but disregarded. Dicky moved to lift her, but
at that she cried the more, and he was fain to let her lie. She rolled
her head from side to side, and raised her thin little hand vaguely
toward it, with feverishly working fingers. Dicky felt her head and she
screamed again. There was a lump at the side, a hard, sharp lump; got
from the stones of the roadway yesterday. And there was a curious
quality, a rather fearful quality, in the little wails: uneasily
suggestive of the screams of Sally Green's victims.

Father was out, prowling. There was nothing eatable in the cupboard, and
there seemed nothing at home worth staying for. He took another look at
Looey, but refrained from touching her, and went out.

The opposite door on the landing was wide open, and he could hear nobody
in the room. He had never seen this door open before, and now he
ventured on a peep: for the tenants of the front room were strangers,
late arrivals, and interlopers. Their name was Roper. Roper was a pale
cabinet-maker, fallen on evil times and out of work. He had a pale wife,
disliked because of her neatly-kept clothes, her exceeding use of soap
and water, her aloofness from gossip. She had a deadly pale baby; also
there was a pale hunchbacked boy of near Dicky's age. Collectively the
Ropers were disliked as strangers: because they furnished their own
room, and in an obnoxiously complete style; because Roper did not drink,
nor brawl, nor beat his wife, nor do anything all day but look for work;
because all these things were a matter of scandalous arrogance,
impudently subversive of Jago custom and precedent. Mrs Perrott was bad
enough, but such people as these!...

Dicky had never before seen quite such a room as this. Everything was so
clean: the floor, the windows, the bed-clothes. Also there was a strip
of old carpet on the floor. There were two perfectly sound chairs; and
two pink glass vases on the mantel-piece; and a clock. Nobody was in the
room, and Dicky took a step farther. The clock attracted him again. It
was a small, cheap, nickel-plated, cylindrical thing, of American make,
and it reminded him at once of the Bishop's watch. It was not gold,
certainly, but it was a good deal bigger, and it could go--it was going.
Dicky stepped back and glanced at the landing. Then he darted into the
room, whipped the clock under the breast of the big jacket, and went for
the stairs.

Half way down he met the pale hunchback ascending. Left at home alone,
he had been standing in the front doorway. He saw Dicky's haste, saw
also the suspicious bulge under his jacket, and straightway seized
Dicky's arm. 'Where 'a' you bin?' he asked sharply. 'Bin in our room?
What you got there?'

'Nothin' o' yours, 'ump. Git out o' that!' Dicky pushed him aside. 'If
you don't le' go I'll corpse ye!'

But one arm and hand was occupied with the bulge, and the other was for
the moment unequal to the work of driving off the assailant. The two
children wrangled and struggled downstairs, through the doorway and into
the street: the hunchback weak, but infuriate, buffeting, biting and
whimpering; Dicky infuriate too, but alert for a chance to break away
and run. So they scrambled together across the street, Dicky dragging
away from the house at every step; and just at the corner of Luck Row,
getting his fore-arm across the other's face, he back-heeled him, and
the little hunchback fell heavily, and lay breathless and sobbing, while
Dicky scampered through Luck Row and round the corner into Meakin
Street.

Mr Weech was busier now, for there were customers. But Dicky and his
bulge he saw ere they were well over the threshold.

'Ah yus, Dicky,' he said, coming to meet him. 'I was expectin' you. Come
in--

    _In the swe-e-et by an' by,
    We shall meet on that beautiful shaw-er!_

Come in 'ere.' And still humming his hymn, he led Dicky into the shop
parlour.

Here Dicky produced the clock, which Mr Weech surveyed with no great
approval. 'You'll 'ave to try an' do better than this, you know,' he
said. 'But any'ow 'ere it is, sich as it is. It about clears auf wot you
owe, I reckon. Want some dinner?'

This was a fact, and Dicky admitted it.

'Awright--

    _In the swe-e-e-t by an' by_,--

come out an' set down. I'll bring you somethink 'ot.'

This proved to be a very salt bloater, a cup of the usual muddy coffee,
tasting of burnt toast, and a bit of bread: afterwards supplemented by a
slice of cake. This to Dicky was a banquet. Moreover, there was the
adult dignity of taking your dinner in a coffee-shop, which Dicky
supported indomitably now that he began to feel at ease in Mr Weech's:
leaning back in his seat, swinging his feet, and looking about at the
walls with the grocers' almanacks hanging thereto, and the Sunday School
Anniversary bills of past date, gathered from afar to signalise the
elevated morals of the establishment.

'Done?' queried Mr Weech in his ear. 'Awright, don't 'ang about 'ere
then. Bloater's a penny, bread a 'a'peny, cawfy a penny, cake a penny.
You'll owe thrippence a'peny now.'



VIII


When Dicky Perrott and the small hunchback were hauling and struggling
across the street, Old Fisher came down from the top-floor back, wherein
he dwelt with his son Bob, Bob's wife and two sisters, and five
children: an apartment in no way so clean as the united efforts of ten
people might be expected to have made it. Old Fisher, on whose grimy
face the wrinkles were deposits of mud, stopped at the open door on the
first floor, and, as Dicky had done, he took a peep. Perplexed at the
monstrous absence of dirt, and encouraged by the stillness, Old Fisher
also ventured within. Nobody was in charge, and Old Fisher, mentally
pricing the pink glass vases at threepence, made for a small chest in
the corner of the room, and lifted the lid. Within lay many of Roper's
tools, from among which he had that morning taken such as he might want
on an emergent call to work, to carry as he tramped Curtain Road.
Clearly these were the most valuable things in the place; and, slipping
a few small articles into his pockets, Old Fisher took a good double
handful of the larger, and tramped upstairs with them. Presently he
returned with Bob's missis, and together they started with more. As they
emerged, however, there on the landing stood the little hunchback,
sobbing and smearing his face with his sleeve. At sight of this new
pillage he burst into sharp wails, standing impotent on the landing, his
streaming eyes following the man and woman ascending before him. Old
Fisher, behind, stumped the stairs with a clumsy affectation of
absent-mindedness; the woman, in front, looked down, merely indifferent.
Scarce were they vanished above, however, when the little hunchback
heard his father and mother on the lower stairs.



IX


Dicky came moodily back from his dinner at Mr Weech's, plunged in
mystified computation: starting with a debt of twopence, he had paid Mr
Weech an excellent clock--a luxurious article in Dicky's eyes--had eaten
a bloater, and had emerged from the transaction owing threepence
halfpenny. Of what such a clock cost he had no notion, though he felt it
must be some inconceivable sum. As Mr Weech put it, the adjustment of
accounts would seem to be quite correct; but the broad fact that all had
ended in increasing his debt by three half-pence, remained and perplexed
him. He remembered having seen such clocks in a shop in Norton Folgate.
To ask the price, in person, were but to be chased out of the shop; but
they were probably ticketed, and perhaps he might ask some bystander to
read the ticket. This brought the reflection that, after all, reading
was a useful accomplishment on occasion: though a matter of too much
time and trouble to be worth while. Dicky had never been to school; for
the Elementary Education Act ran in the Jago no more than any other Act
of Parliament. There was a Board School, truly, away out of the Jago
bounds, by the corner of Honey Lane, where children might go free, and
where some few Jago children did go now and again, when boots were to be
given away, or when tickets were to be had, for tea, or soup, or the
like. But most parents were of Josh Perrott's opinion: that school-going
was a practice best never begun; for then the child was never heard of,
and there was no chance of inquiries or such trouble. Not that any such
inquiries were common in the Jago, or led to anything.

Meantime Dicky, minded to know if his adventure had made any stir in the
house, carried his way deviously toward home. Working through the parts
beyond Jago Row, he fetched round into Honey Lane, so coming at New
Jago Street from the farther side. Choosing one of the houses whose
backs gave on Jago Court, he slipped through the passage, and so, by the
back yard, crawled through the broken fence into the court. Left and
right were the fronts of houses, four a side. Before him, to the right
of the narrow archway leading to Old Jago Street, was the window of his
own home. He gained the back yard quietly, and at the kitchen door met
Tommy Rann.

'Come on,' called Tommy. ''Ere's a barney! They're a-pitchin' into them
noo 'uns--Roperses. Roperses sez Fisherses is sneaked their things. They
_are_ a-gittin' of it!'

From the stairs, indeed, came shouts and curses, bumps and sobs and
cries. The first landing and half the stairs were full of people, men
and women, Ranns and Learys together. When Ranns joined Learys it was an
ill time for them they marched against; and never were they so ready and
so anxious to combine as after a fight between themselves, were but some
common object of attack available. Here it was. Here were these
pestilent outsiders, the Ropers, assailing the reputation of the
neighbourhood by complaining of being robbed. As though their mere
presence in the Jago, with their furniture and their superiority, were
not obnoxious enough: they must turn about and call their neighbours
thieves! They had been tolerated too long already. They should now be
given something for themselves, and have some of their exasperating
respectability knocked off; and if, in the confusion, their portable
articles of furniture and bed-clothing found their way into more
deserving hands--why, serve them right.

The requisite volleys of preliminary abuse having been discharged, more
active operations began under cover of fresh volleys. Dicky, with Tommy
Rann behind him, struggled up the stairs among legs and skirts, and saw
that the Ropers, the man flushed, but the woman paler than ever, were
striving to shut their door. Within, the hunchback and the baby cried,
and without, those on the landing, skidding the door with their feet,
pushed inward, and now began to strike and maul. Somebody seized the
man's wrist, and Norah Walsh got the woman by the hair and dragged her
head down. In a peep through the scuffle Dicky saw her face, ashen and
sweat-beaded, in the jamb of the door, and saw Norah Walsh's red fist
beat into it twice. Then somebody came striding up the stairs, and Dicky
was pushed farther back. Over the shoulders of those about him, Dicky
saw a tall hat, and then the head beneath it. It was the stranger he had
seen in Edge Lane--the parson: active and resolute. Norah Walsh he took
by the shoulder, and flung back among the others, and as he turned on
him, the man who held Roper's wrist released it and backed off.

'What is this?' demanded the new-comer, stern and hard of face. 'What is
all this?' He bent his frown on one and another about him, and, as he
did it, some shrank uneasily, and on the faces of others fell the blank
lack of expression that was wont to meet police inquiries in the Jago.
Dicky looked to see this man beaten down, kicked and stripped. But a
well-dressed stranger was so new a thing in the Jago, this one had
dropped among them so suddenly, and he had withal so bold a confidence,
that the Jagos stood irresolute. A toff was not a person to be attacked
without due consideration. After such a person there were apt to be
inquiries, with money to back them, and vengeance sharp and certain: the
thing, indeed, was commonly thought too risky. And this man, so
unflinchingly confident, must needs have reason for it. He might have
the police at instant call--they might be back in the Jago at the
moment. And he flung them back, commanded them, cowed them with his
hard, intelligent eyes, like a tamer among beasts.

'Understand this, now,' he went on, with a sharp tap of his stick on the
floor. 'This is a sort of thing I will _not_ tolerate in my parish--in
this parish: nor in any other place where I may meet it. Go away, and
try to be ashamed of yourselves--go. Go, all of you, I say, to your own
homes: I shall come there and talk to you again soon. Go along, Sam
Cash--you've a broken head already, I see. Take it away: I shall come
and see you too.'

Those on the stairs had melted away like punished school-children. Most
of the others, after a moment of averted face and muttered justification
one to another, were dragging their feet, each with a hang-dog pretence
of sauntering airily off from some sight no longer interesting. Sam
Cash, who had already seen the stranger in the street, and was thus
perhaps a trifle less startled than the others at his advent, stood,
however, with some assumption of virtuous impudence, till amazed by
sudden address in his own name: whereat, clean discomfited, he
ignominiously turned tail and sneaked downstairs in meaner case than the
rest. How should this strange parson know him, and know his name?
Plainly he must be connected with the police. He had brought out the
name as pat as you please. So argued Sam Cash with his fellows in the
outer street: never recalling that Jerry Gullen had called aloud to him
by name, when first he observed the parson in the street; had called to
him, indeed, to haste to the bashing of the Ropers; and thus had first
given the stranger notice of the proceeding. But it was the way of the
Jago that its mean cunning saw a mystery and a terror where simple
intelligence saw there was none.

As the crowd began to break up, Dicky pushed his own door a little open
behind him, and there stood on his own ground, as the others cleared
off; and the hunchback ventured a peep from behind his swooning mother.
'There y'are, that's 'im!' he shouted, pointing at Dicky. ''E begun it!
'E took the clock!' Dicky instantly dropped behind his door, and shut it
fast.

The invaders had all gone--the Fishers had made upstairs in the
beginning--before the parson turned and entered the Ropers' room. In
five minutes he emerged and strode upstairs: whence he returned, after a
still shorter interval, herding before him Old Fisher and Bob Fisher's
missis, sulky and reluctant, carrying tools.

And thus it was that the Reverend Henry Sturt first addressed his
parishioners. The parish, besides the Jago, comprised Meakin Street and
some small way beyond, and it was to this less savage district that his
predecessor had confined his attention: preaching every Sunday in a
stable, in an alley behind a disused shop, and distributing loaves and
sixpences to the old women who attended regularly on that account. For
to go into the Jago were for him mere wasted effort. And so, indeed, the
matter had been since the parish came into being.



X


When Dicky retreated from the landing and shut the door behind him, he
slipped the bolt, a strong one, put there by Josh Perrott himself,
possibly as an accessory to escape by the window in some possible
desperate pass. For a little he listened, but no sound hinted of attack
from without, and he turned to his mother.

Josh Perrott had been out since early morning, and Dicky, too, had done
no more than look in for a moment in search of dinner. Hannah Perrott,
grown tired of self commiseration, felt herself neglected and
aggrieved--slighted in her state of invalid privilege. So she
transferred some of her pity from her sore neck to her desolate
condition as misprized wife and mother, and the better to feel it,
proceeded to martyrise herself, with melancholy pleasure, by a
nerveless show of 'setting to rights' in the room--a domestic novelty,
perfunctory as it was. Looey, still restless and weeping, she left on
the bed, for, being neglected herself, it was not her mood to tend the
baby; she would aggravate the relish of her sorrows in her own way.
Besides, Looey had been given something to eat a long time ago, and had
not eaten it yet: with her there was nothing else to do. So that now, as
she dragged a rag along the grease-strewn mantel-piece, Mrs Perrott
greeted Dicky:--'There y'are, Dicky, comin' 'inderin' 'ere jest when I'm
a-puttin' things to rights.' And she sighed with the weight of another
grievance.

Looey lay on her back, faintly and vainly struggling to turn her fearful
little face from the light. Clutched in her little fist was the unclean
stump of bread she had held for hours. Dicky plucked a soft piece and
essayed to feed her with it, but the dry little mouth rejected the
morsel, and the head turned feverishly from side to side to the sound of
that novel cry. She was hot wherever Dicky touched her, and presently
he said:--'Mother, I b'lieve Looey's queer. I think she wants some
med'cine.'

His mother shook her head peevishly. 'O, you an' Looey's a noosance,'
she said. 'A lot you care about _me_ bein' queer, you an' yer father
too, leavin' me all alone like this, an' me feelin' ready to drop, an'
got the room to do an' all. I wish you'd go away an' stop 'inderin' of
me like this.'

Dicky took but another look at Looey, and then slouched out. The landing
was clear, and the Ropers' door was shut. He wondered what had become of
the stranger with the tall hat--whether he was in the Ropers' room or
not. The thought hurried him, for he feared to have that stranger asking
him questions about the clock. He got out into the street, thoughtful.
He had some compunctions in the matter of that clock, now. Not that he
could in any reasonable way blame himself. There the clock had stood at
his mercy, and by all Jago custom and ethic it was his if only he could
get clear away with it. This he had done, and he had no more concern in
the business, strictly speaking. Nevertheless, since he had seen the
woman's face in the jamb of the door, he felt a sort of pity for
her--that she should have lost her clock. No doubt she had enjoyed its
possession, as, indeed, he would have enjoyed it himself, had he not had
to take it instantly to Mr Weech. And his fancy wandered off in
meditation of what he would do with a clock of his own. To begin with,
of course, he would open it, and discover the secret of its works and
its ticking: perhaps thereby discovering how to make a clock himself.
Also he would frequently wind it up, and he would show the inside to
Looey, in confidence. It would stand on the mantel-piece, and raise the
social position of the family. People would come respectfully to ask the
time, and he would tell them, with an air. Yes, certainly a clock must
stand eminent among the things he would buy, when he had plenty of
money. He must look out for more clicks: the one way to riches.

As to the Ropers, again. Bad it must be, indeed, to be deprived suddenly
of a clock, after long experience of the joys it brought; and Norah
Walsh had punched the woman in the face, and clawed her hair, and the
woman could not fight. Dicky was sorry for her, and straightway resolved
to give her another clock, or, if not a clock, something that would
please her as much. He had acquired a clock in the morning; why not
another in the afternoon? Failing a clock, he would try for something
else, and the Ropers should have it. The resolve gave Dicky a virtuous
exaltation of spirit, the reward of the philanthropist.

Again he began the prowl after likely plunder that was to be his daily
industry. Meakin Street he did not try. The chandlers' and the
cook-shops held nothing that might be counted a consolatory equivalent
for a clock. Through the 'Posties' he reached Shoreditch High Street at
once, and started.

This time his movements aroused less suspicion. In the morning he had no
particular prize in view, and loitered at every shop, waiting his chance
at anything portable. Now, with a more definite object, he made his
promenade easily, but without stopping or lounging by shop-fronts. The
thing, whatsoever it might be, must be small, handsome, and of an
interesting character--at least as interesting as the clock was. It must
be small, not merely for facility of concealment and removal--though
these were main considerations--but because stealthy presentation were
then the easier. It would have pleased Dicky to hand over his gift
openly, and to bask in the thanks and the consideration it would
procure. But he had been accused of stealing the clock, and an open gift
would savour of admission and peace-offering, whereas in that matter
stark denial was his plain course.

A roll of print stuff would not do; apples would not do; and fish was
wide of his purpose. Up one side and down the other side of High Street
he walked, his eyes instant for suggestion and opportunity. But all in
vain. Nobody exposed clocks out of doors, and of those within not one
but an attempt on it were simple madness. And of the things less
desperate of access nothing was proper to the occasion: all were too
large, too cheap, or too uninteresting. Oddly, Dicky feared failure
more than had he been hunting for himself.

He tried farther south, in Norton Folgate. There was a shop of cheap
second-hand miscellanies: saddles, razors, straps, dumbbells, pistols,
boxing gloves, trunks, bags, and billiard-balls. Many of the things hung
about the door-posts in bunches, and within all was black, as in a cave.
At one door-post was a pistol. Nothing could be more interesting than a
pistol--indeed it was altogether a better possession than a clock; and
it was a small, handy sort of thing. Probably the Ropers would be
delighted with a pistol. He stood and regarded it with much interest.
There were difficulties. In the first place it was beyond his reach; and
in the second, it hung by the trigger-guard on a stout cord. Just then,
glancing within the shop, he perceived a pair of fiery eyes regarding
him, panther-like, from the inner gloom; and he hastily resumed his
walk, as the Jew shop-keeper reached the door, and watched him safely
away.

Now he came to Bishopsgate Street, and here at last he chose the gift.
It was at a toy-shop: a fine, flaming toy-shop, with carts, dolls, and
hoops dangling above, and wooden horses standing below, guarding two
baskets by the door. One contained a mixed assortment of tops, whips,
boats, and woolly dogs; the other was lavishly filled with shining,
round metal boxes, nobly decorated with coloured pictures, each box with
a little cranked handle. As he looked, a tune, delightfully tinkled on
some instrument, was heard from within the shop. Dicky peeped. There was
a lady, with a little girl at her side who was looking eagerly at just
such a shining, round box in the saleswoman's hands, and it was from
that box, as the saleswoman turned the handle, that the tune came. Dicky
was enchanted. This--this was the thing, beyond debate: a pretty little
box that would play music whenever you turned a handle. This was a thing
worth any fifty clocks. Indeed it was almost as good as a regular
barrel-organ, the first thing he would buy if he were rich.

There was a shop-boy in charge of the goods outside the window, and his
eyes were on Dicky. So Dicky whistled absently, and strolled carelessly
along. He swung behind a large waggon, crossed the road, and sought a
convenient doorstep; for his mind was made up, and his business was now
to sit down before the toy-shop, and wait his opportunity.

A shop had been boarded up after a fire, and from its doorstep one could
command a perfect view of the toy-shop across the broad thoroughfare
with its crowded traffic--could sit, moreover, safe from interference.
Here he took his seat, secure from the notice of the guardian shop-boy,
whose attention was given to passengers on his own side. The little
girl, gripping the new toy in her hand, came out at her mother's side
and trotted off. For a moment Dicky reflected that the box could be
easily snatched. But after all the little girl had but one: whereas the
shopwoman had many, and at best could play on no more than one at a
time.

He resumed his watch of the shop-boy, confident that sooner or later a
chance would come. A woman stopped to ask the price of something, and
Dicky had half crossed the road ere the boy had begun to answer. But the
answer was short, and the boy's attention was released too soon.

At last the shopwoman called the boy within, and Dicky darted
across--not directly, but so as to arrive invisibly at the side next the
basket of music boxes. A quick glance behind him, a snatch at the box
with the reddest picture, and a dash into the traffic did it.

The dash would not have been called for but for the sudden re-appearance
of the shop-boy ere the box had vanished amid the intricacies of Dicky's
jacket. Dicky was fast, but the boy was little slower, and was,
moreover, bigger, and stronger on his legs; and Dicky reached the other
pavement and turned the next corner into Widegate Street, the pursuer
scarce ten yards behind.

It was now that he first experienced 'hot beef'--which is the Jago idiom
denoting the plight of one harried by the cry 'Stop thief.' Down
Widegate Street, across Sandys Row and into Raven Row he ran his best,
clutching the hem of his jacket and the music box that lay within.
Crossing Sandys Row a loafing lad shouldered against the shop-boy, and
Dicky was grateful, for he made it a gain of several yards.

But others had joined in the hunt, and Dicky for the first time began to
fear. This was a bad day--twice already he had been chased; and now--it
was bad. He thought little more, for a stunning fear fell upon him: the
fear of the hunted, that calculates nothing, and is measured by no
apprehension of consequences. He remembered that he must avoid
Spitalfields Market, full of men who would stop him; and he knew that in
many places where a man would be befriended many would make a virtue of
stopping a boy. To the right along Bell Lane he made an agonised burst
of speed, and for a while he saw not nor remembered anything; heard no
more than dreadful shouts drawing nearer his shoulders, felt only the
fear. But he could not last. Quick enough when fresh, he was tiny and
ill fed, and now he felt his legs trembling and his wind going.
Something seemed to beat on the back of his head, till he wondered madly
if it were the shop-boy with a stick. He turned corners, and chose his
way by mere instinct, ashen-faced, staring, open-mouthed. How soon would
he give in, and drop? A street more--half a street--ten yards? Rolling
and tripping, he turned one last corner and almost fell against a vast,
fat, unkempt woman whose clothes slid from her shoulders.

''Ere y' are, boy,' said the woman, and flung him by the shoulder
through the doorway before which she stood.

He was saved at his extremity, for he could never have reached the
street's end. The woman who had done it (probably she had boys of her
own on the crook) filled the entrance with her frowsy bulk, and the
chase straggled past. Dicky caught the stair-post for a moment's
support, and then staggered out at the back of the house. He gasped, he
panted, things danced blue before him, but still he clutched his jacket
hem and the music box lying within. The back door gave on a
cobble-paved court, with other doors, two coster's barrows, and a few
dusty fowls. Dicky sat on a step where a door was shut, and rested his
head against the frame.

The beating in his head grew slower and lighter, and presently he could
breathe with no fear of choking. He rose and moved off, still panting,
and feeble in the legs. The court ended in an arched passage, through
which he gained the street beyond. Here he had but to turn to the left,
and he was in Brick Lane, and thence all was clear to the Old Jago.
Regaining his breath and his confidence as he went, he bethought him of
the Jago Row retreat, where he might examine his prize at leisure,
embowered amid trucks and barrows. Thither he pushed his way, and soon,
in the shade of the upturned barrow, he brought out the music box.
Bright and shiny, it had taken no damage in the flight, though on his
hands he found scratches, and on his shins bruises, got he knew not how.
On the top of the box was the picture of a rosy little boy in crimson
presenting a scarlet nosegay to a rosy little girl in pink, while a red
brick mansion filled the distance and solidified the composition. The
brilliant hoop that made the sides (silver, Dicky was convinced) was
stamped in patterns, and the little brass handle was an irresistible
temptation. Dicky climbed a truck, and looked about him, peeping from
beside the loose fence-plank. Then, seeing nobody very near, he muffled
the box as well as he could in his jacket, and turned the handle.

This was indeed worth all the trouble. _Gently Does the Trick_ was the
tune, and Dicky, with his head aside and his ear on the bunch of jacket
that covered the box, listened: his lips parted, his eyes seeking
illimitable space. He played the tune through, and played it again, and
then growing reckless, played it with the box unmuffled, till he was
startled by a bang on the fence from without. It was but a passing boy
with a stick, but Dicky was sufficiently disturbed to abandon his
quarters and take his music elsewhere.

What he longed to do was to take it home and play it to Looey, but that
was out of the question: he remembered the watch. But there was Jerry's
Gullen's canary, and him Dicky sought and found. Canary blinked solemnly
when the resplendent box was flashed in his eyes, and set his ears back
and forward as, muffled again in Dicky's jacket, it tinkled out its
tune.

Tommy Rann should not see it, lest he prevail over its beneficent
dedication to the Ropers. Truly, as it was, Dicky's resolution was hard
to abide by. The thing acquired at such a cost of patience, address,
hard flight, and deadly fear was surely his by right--as surely, quite,
as the clock had been. And such a thing he might never touch again. But
he put by the temptation manfully, and came out by Jerry Gullen's front
door. He would look no more on the music box, beautiful as it was: he
would convey it to the Ropers before temptation came again.

It was not easy to devise likely means. Their door was shut fast, of
course. For a little while he favoured the plan of setting the box
against the threshold, knocking, and running off. But an opportunity
might arise of doing the thing in a way to give him some glimpse of the
Ropers' delight, an indulgence he felt entitled to. So he waited a
little, listened a little, and at last came out into the street, and
loafed.

It was near six o'clock, and a smell of bloater hung about Jerry
Gullen's door and window; under the raised sash Jerry Gullen,
close-cropped and foxy of face, smoked his pipe, sprawled his elbows,
and contemplated the world. Dicky, with the music box stowed out of
sight, looked as blank of design and as destitute of possession as he
could manage; for there were loafers near Mother Gapp's, loafers at the
Luck Row corner--at every corner--and loafers by the 'Posties,' all
laggard of limb and alert of eye. He had just seen a child, going with
an empty beer can, thrown down, robbed of his coppers and a poor old
top, and kicked away in helpless tears; and the incident was commonplace
enough, or many would have lacked pocket-money. Whosoever was too young,
too old, or too weak to fight for it must keep what he had well hidden,
in the Jago.

Down the street came Billy Leary, big, flushed and limping, and hanging
to a smaller man by a fistful of his coat on the shoulder. Dicky knew
the small man for a good toy-getter--(which = watch stealer)--and judged
he had had a good click, the proceeds whereof Billy Leary was battening
upon in beershops. For Billy Leary rarely condescended to anything less
honourable than bashing, and had not yet fallen so low as to go about
stealing for himself. His missis brought many to the cosh, and his chief
necessity--another drink--he merely demanded of the nearest person with
the money to buy it, on pain of bashing. Or he walked into the nearest
public-house, selected the fullest pot, and spat in it: a ceremony that
deprived the purchaser of further interest in the beer, and left it at
his own disposal. There were others, both Ranns and Learys, who pursued
a similar way of life; but Billy Leary was biggest among them--big men
not being common in the Jago--and rarely came to a difficulty: as,
however, he did once come, having invaded the pot of a stranger, who
turned out to be a Mile End pugilist exploring Shoreditch. It was not
well for any Jago who had made a click to have Billy Leary know of it;
for then the clicker was apt to be sought out, clung to, and sucked dry;
possibly bashed as well, when nothing more was left, if Billy Leary were
still but sober enough for the work.

Dicky gazed after the man with interest. It was he whom his father was
to fight in a week or so--perhaps in a few days: on the first Sunday,
indeed, that Leary should be deemed fit enough. How much of the limp was
due to yesterday's disaster and how much to to-day's beer, Dicky could
not judge. But there seemed little reason to look for a long delay
before the fight.

As Dicky turned away a man pushed a large truck round the corner from
Edge Lane, and on the footpath beside it walked the parson, calm as
ever, with black clothes and tall hat, whole and unsoiled. He had made
himself known in the Jago in the course of that afternoon. He had
traversed it from end to end, street by street and alley by alley. His
self-possession, his readiness, his unbending firmness, abashed and
perplexed the Jagos, and his appearance just as the police had left
could but convince them that he must have some mysterious and potent
connection with the force. He had attempted very little in the way of
domiciliary visiting, being content for the time to see his parish, and
speak here a word and there another with his parishioners. An encounter
with Kiddo Cook did as much as anything toward securing him a proper
deference. In his second walk through Old Jago Street, as he neared the
Feathers, he was aware of a bunch of grinning faces pressed against the
bar window, and as he came abreast, forth stepped Kiddo Cook from the
door, impudently affable, smirking and ducking with mock obsequiousness,
and offering a quart pot.

'An' 'ow jer find jerself, sir?' he asked, with pantomime cordiality.
'Hof'ly shockin' these 'ere lower classes, ain't they? Er--yus;
disgustin', weally. Er--might I--er--prepose--er--a little refreshment?
Ellow me.'

The parson, grimly impassive, heard him through, took the pot, and
instantly jerking it upward, shot the beer, a single splash, into
Kiddo's face. 'There are things I must teach you, I see, my man,' he
said, without moving a muscle, except to return the pot.

Kiddo Cook, coughing, drenched and confounded, took the pot
instinctively and backed to Mother Gapp's door, while the bunch of faces
at the bar window tossed and rolled in a joyous ecstasy: the ghost
whereof presently struggled painfully among Kiddo's own dripping
features, as he realised the completeness of his defeat, and the
expedience of a patient grin. The parson went calmly on.

Before this, indeed when he left the Ropers' room, and just after Dicky
had started out, he had looked in at the Perrotts' quarters to speak
about the clock. But plainly no clock was there, and Mrs Perrott's
flaccid indignation at the suggestion, and her unmistakable ignorance of
the affair, decided him to carry the matter no further, at any rate for
the present. Moreover, the little hunchback's tale was inconclusive. He
had seen no clock in Dicky's possession--had but met him on the stairs
with a bulging jacket. The thing might be suspicious, but the new parson
knew better than to peril his influence by charging where he could not
convict. So he duly commiserated Hannah Perrott's troubles, suggested
that the baby seemed unwell and had better be taken to a doctor, and
went his way about the Jago.

Now he stopped the truck by Dicky's front door and mounted to the
Ropers' room. For he had seen that the Jago was no place for them now,
and had himself found them a suitable room away by Dove Lane. And so,
emboldened by his company, the Ropers came forth, and with the help of
the man who had brought the truck, carried down the pieces of their
bedstead, a bundle of bedding, the two chairs, the pink vases, and the
strip of old carpet, and piled them on the truck with the few more
things that were theirs.

Dicky, with his hand on the music box in the lining of his jacket,
sauntered up by the tail of the truck, and, waiting his chance, plunged
his gift under the bundle of bedding, and left it there. But the little
hunchback's sharp eyes were jealously on him, and 'Look there!' he
squealed, ''e put 'is 'and in the truck an' took somethink!'

'Ye lie!' answered Dicky, indignant and hurt, but cautiously backing
off; 'I ain't got nothink.' He spread his hands and opened his jacket in
proof. 'Think I got yer bloomin' bedstead?'

He had nothing, it was plain. In fact, at the tail of the truck there
was nothing he could easily have moved at all, certainly nothing he
could have concealed. So the rest of the little removal was hurried, for
heads were now at windows, the loafers began to draw about the truck,
and trouble might break out at any moment: indeed, the Ropers could
never have ventured from their room but for the general uneasy awe of
the parson. For nothing was so dangerous in the Jago as to impugn its
honesty. To rob another was reasonable and legitimate, and to avoid
being robbed, so far as might be, was natural and proper. But to accuse
anybody of a theft was unsportsmanlike, a foul outrage, a shameful
abuse, a thing unpardonable. You might rob a man, bash a man, even kill
a man; but to 'take away his character'--even when he had none--was to
draw down the execrations of the whole Jago; while to assail the pure
fame of the place--to 'give the street a bad name'--this was to bring
the Jago howling and bashing about your ears.

The truck moved off at last, amid murmurings, mutterings, and grunts
from the onlookers. The man of the truck pulled, Roper shoved behind,
and his wife, with her threadbare decency and her meagre, bruised face,
carried the baby, while the hunchbacked boy went by her side. All this
under convoy of the Reverend Henry Sturt.

A little distance gave more confidence to a few, and, when the group had
reached within a score of yards of Edge Lane, there came a hoot or two,
a 'Yah!' and other less spellable sounds, expressive of contempt and
defiance. Roper glanced back nervously, but the rest held on their way
regardless. Then came a brickbat, which missed the woman by very little
and struck the truck wheel. At this the parson stopped and turned on his
heel, and Cocko Harnwell, the flinger, drove his hands into his breeches
pockets and affected an interest in Mother Gapp's window; till,
perceiving the parson's eyes directed sternly upon him, and the parson's
stick rising to point at him, he ingloriously turned tail and scuttled
into Jago Court.

And so the Ropers left the Jago. Dove Lane was but a stone's-throw ahead
when some of the load shifted, and the truck was stopped to set the
matter right. The chest was pushed back, and the bedding was lifted to
put against it, and so the musical box came to light. Roper picked it up
and held it before the vicar's eyes. 'Look at that, sir,' he said.
'You'll witness I know nothing of it, won't you? It ain't mine, an' I
never saw it before. It's bin put in for spite to put a theft on us.
When they come for it you'll bear me out, sir, won't you? That was the
Perrott boy as was put up to do that, I'll be bound. When he was behind
the truck.'

But nobody came for Dicky's gift, and in the Jago twilight Dicky vainly
struggled to whistle the half-remembered tune, and to persuade himself
that he was not sorry that the box was gone.



XI


Josh Perrott reached home late for tea but in good humour. He had spent
most of the day at the Bag of Nails, dancing attendance on the High
Mobsmen. Those of the High Mob were the flourishing practitioners in
burglary, the mag, the mace, and the broads, with an outer fringe of
such dippers--such pick-pockets--as could dress well, welshers, and
snides-men. These, the grandees of rascality, lived in places far from
the Jago, and some drove in gigs and pony traps. But they found the Bag
of Nails a convenient and secluded exchange and house of call, and there
they met, made appointments, designed villainies, and tossed for
sovereigns: deeply reverenced by the admiring Jagos, among whom no
ambition flourished but this--to become also of these resplendent ones.
It was of these that old Beveridge had spoken one day to Dicky, in
language the child but half understood. The old man sat on a curb in
view of the Bag of Nails, and smoked a blackened bit of clay pipe. He
hauled Dicky to his side, and, pointing with his pipe, said:--'See that
man with the furs?'

'What?' Dicky replied. 'Mean 'im in the ice-cream coat, smokin' a cigar?
Yus.'

'And the other with the brimmy tall hat, and the red face, and the
umbrella?'

'Yus.'

'What are they?'

''Igh mob. 'Ooks. Toffs.'

'Right. Now, Dicky Perrott, you Jago whelp, look at them--look hard.
Some day, if you're clever--cleverer than anyone in the Jago now--if
you're only scoundrel enough, and brazen enough, and lucky enough--one
of a thousand--maybe you'll be like them: bursting with high living,
drunk when you like, red and pimply. There it is--that's your aim in
life--there's your pattern. Learn to read and write, learn all you can,
learn cunning, spare nobody and stop at nothing, and perhaps--' he
waved his hand toward the Bag of Nails. 'It's the best the world has for
you, for the Jago's got you, and that's the only way out, except gaol
and the gallows. So do your devilmost, or God help you, Dicky
Perrott--though he wont: for the Jago's got you!'

Old Beveridge had eccentric talk and manners, and the Jago regarded him
as a trifle 'balmy,' though anything but a fool. So that Dicky troubled
little to sift the meaning of what he said.

Josh Perrott's mission among the High Mob had been to discover some
Mobsman who might be disposed to back him in the fight with Billy Leary.
For though a private feud was the first cause of the turn-up, still
business must never be neglected, and a feud or anything else that could
produce money must be made to produce it, and when a fight of
exceptional merit is placed before spectators, it is but fair that they
should pay for their diversion.

But few High Mobsmen were at the Bag of Nails that day. Sunday was the
day of the chief gatherings of the High Mob: Sunday the market-day, so
to speak, of the Jago, when such rent as was due weekly was paid (most
of the Jago rents were paid daily and nightly) and other accounts were
settled or fought out. Moreover, the High Mob were perhaps a trifle shy
of the Jago at the time of a faction fight; and one was but just over,
and that cut short at a third of the usual span of days. So that Josh
waited long and touted vainly, till a patron arrived who knew him of
old; who had employed him, indeed, as 'minder'--which means a protector
or a bully, as you please to regard it--on a racecourse adventure
involving bodily risk. On this occasion Josh had earned his wages with
hard knocks given and taken, and his employer had conceived a high and
thankful opinion of his capacity. Wherefore he listened now to the tale
of the coming fight, and agreed to provide something in the way of
stakes, and to put something on for Josh himself: looking for his own
profit to the bets he might make at favourable odds with his friends.
For Billy Leary was notorious as being near prime ruffian of the Jago,
while Josh's reputation was neither so evil nor so wide. And so it was
settled, and Josh came pleased to his tea; for assuredly Billy Leary
would have no difficulty in finding another notable of the High Mob to
cover the stakes.

Dicky was at home, sitting by Looey on the bed; and when he called his
father it seemed pretty plain to Josh that the baby was out of sorts.
'She's rum about the eyes,' he said to his wife. 'Blimy if she don't
look as though she was goin' to squint.'

Josh was never particularly solicitous as to the children, but he saw
that they were fed and clothed--perhaps by mere force of the habit of
his more reputable days of plastering. He had brought home tripe, rolled
in paper, and stuffed into his coat pocket, to make a supper on the
strength of the day's stroke of business. When this tripe was boiled, he
and Dicky essayed to drive morsels into Looey's mouth, and to wash them
down with beer; but to no end but choking rejection. Whereat Josh
decided that she must go to the dispensary in the morning. And in the
morning he took her, with Dicky at his heels; for not only did his wife
still nurse her neck, but in truth she feared to venture abroad.

The dispensary was no charitable institution, but a shop so labelled in
Meakin Street, one of half a dozen such kept by a medical man who lived
away from them, and bothered himself as little about them as was
consistent with banking the takings and signing the death-certificates.
A needy young student, whose sole qualification was cheapness, was set
to do the business of each place, and the uniform price for advice and
medicine was sixpence. But there was a deal of professional character in
the blackened and gilt lettered front windows, and the sixpences came by
hundreds. For hospital letters but rarely came Meakin Street way. Such
as did were mostly in the hands of tradesmen, who subscribed for the
purpose of getting them, and gave them to their best customers, as was
proper and business-like. And so the dispensary flourished, and the
needy young student grew shifty and callous, and no doubt there were
occasional faith-cures. Indeed, cures of simple science were not at all
impossible. For there was always a good supply of two drugs in the
place--Turkey rhubarb and sulphuric acid: both very useful, both very
cheap, and both going very far in varied preparation, properly handled.
An ounce or two of sulphuric acid, for instance, costing something
fractional, dilutes with water into many gallons of physic. Excellent
medicines they made too, and balanced each other very well by reason of
their opposite effects. But indeed they were not all, for sometimes
there were two or three other drugs in hand, interfering, perhaps
troublesomely, with the simple division of therapeutics into the two
provinces of rhubarb and sulphuric acid.

Business was brisk at the dispensary: several were waiting, and medicine
and advice were going at the rate of two minutes for sixpence. Looey's
case was not so clear as most of the others: she could not describe its
symptoms succinctly, as 'a pain here,' or 'a tight feeling there.' She
did but lie heavily, staring blankly upward (she did not mind the light
now), with the little cast in her eyes, and repeat her odd little wail;
and Dicky and his father could tell very little. The young student had a
passing thought that he might have known a trifle more of the matter if
he had had time to turn up Ross on nerve and brain troubles--were such a
proceeding consistent with the dignity of the dispensary; but
straightway assigning the case to the rhubarb province, made up a
powder, ordered Josh to keep the baby quiet, and pitched his sixpence
among the others, well within the two minutes.

And faith in the dispensary was strengthened, for indeed Looey seemed a
little better after the powder; and she was fed with spoonfuls of a
fluid bought at a chandler's shop, and called milk.



XII


'Dicky Perrott, come 'ere,' said Mr Aaron Weech in a voice of sad
rebuke, a few days later. 'Come 'ere, Dicky Perrott.'

He shook his head solemnly as he stooped. Dicky slouched up.

'What was that you found the other day an' didn't bring to me?'

'Nuffin'.' Dicky withdrew a step.

'It's no good you a-tellin' me that, Dicky Perrott, when I know better.
You know very well you can't pervent me knowin'.' His little eyes
searched Dicky's face, and Dicky sulkily shifted his own gaze. 'You're a
wicked, ungrateful young 'ound, an' I've a good mind to tell a p'liceman
to find out where you got that clock. Come 'ere now--don't you try
runnin' away. Wot! after me a-takin' you in when you was 'ungry, an'
givin' you cawfy an' cake, an' good advice like a father, an' a bloater
an' all, an' you owin' me thrippence a'peny besides, then you goes
an'--an' takes yer findin's somewhere else!'

'I never!' protested Dicky stoutly. But Mr Weech's cunning, equal to a
shrewd guess that since his last visit Dicky had probably had another
'find,' and quick to detect a lie, was slack to perceive a truth.

'Now don't you go an' add on a wicked lie to yer sinful ungratefulness,
wotever you do,' he said, severely. 'That's wuss, an' I alwis know.
Doncher know the little 'ymn?--

    An' 'im as does one fault at fust
    An' lies to 'ide it, makes it two.

It's bad enough to be ungrateful to me as is bin so kind to you, an'
it's wuss to break the fust commandment. If the bloater don't inflooence
you, the 'oly 'ymn ought. 'Ow would you like me to go an' ask yer father
for that thrippence a'peny you owe me? That's wot I'll 'ave to do if you
don't mind.'

Dicky would not have liked it at all, as his frightened face testified.

'Then find somethink an' pay it at once, an' then I won't. I won't be
'ard on you, if you'll be a good boy. But don't git playin' no more
tricks--'cos I'll know all about 'em. Now go an' find somethink quick.'
And Dicky went.



XIII


Ten days after his first tour of the Old Jago, the Reverend Henry Sturt
first preached in the parish church made of a stable, in an alley behind
Meakin Street, but few yards away, though beyond sight and sound of the
Jago. There, that Sunday morning was a morning of importance, a time of
excitement, for the fight between Billy Leary and Josh Perrott was to
come off in Jago Court. The assurance that there was money in the thing
was a sovereign liniment for Billy Leary's bruises--for they were but
bruises--and he hastened to come by that money, lest it melt by caprice
of the backers, or the backers themselves fall at unlucky odds with the
police. He made little of Josh Perrott, his hardness and known fighting
power notwithstanding. For was there not full a stone and a half between
their weights? and had Billy not four or five inches the better in
height and a commensurate advantage in reach? And Billy Leary's own
hardness and fighting power were well proved enough.

It was past eleven o'clock. The weekly rents--for the week
forthcoming--had been extracted, or partly extracted, or scuffled over.
Old Poll Rann, who had made money in sixty-five years of stall-farming
and iniquity, had made the rounds of the six houses she rented, to turn
out the tenants of the night who were disposed to linger. Many had
already stripped themselves to their rags at pitch-and-toss in Jago
Court; and the game still went busily on in the crowded area and in
overflow groups in Old Jago Street; and men found themselves deprived,
not merely of the money for that day's food and that night's lodging,
but even of the last few pence set by to back a horse for Tuesday's
race. A little-regarded fight or two went on here and there as usual,
and on kerbs and doorsteps sat women, hideous at all ages, filling the
air with the rhetoric of the Jago.

Presently down from Edge Lane and the 'Posties' came the High Mobsmen,
swaggering in check suits and billycocks, gold chains and lumpy rings:
stared at, envied, and here and there pointed out by name or exploit.
'Him as done the sparks in from Regent Street for nine centuries o'
quids'; 'Him as done five stretch for a snide bank bill an' they never
found the oof'; 'Him as maced the bookies in France an' shot the nark in
the boat'; and so forth. And the High Mob being come, the fight was due.

Of course, a fight merely as a fight was no great matter of interest:
the thing was too common. But there was money on this; and again, it was
no common thing to find Billy Leary defied, still less to find him
challenged. Moreover, the thing had a Rann and Leary complexion, and it
arose out of the battle of less than a fortnight back. So that Josh
Perrott did not lack for partisans, though not a Rann believed he could
stand long before Billy Leary Billy's cause, too, had lost some
popularity because it had been reported that Sally Green, in hospital,
had talked of 'summonsing' Norah Walsh in the matter of her mangled
face: a scandalous device to overreach, a piece of foul practice
repugnant to all proper feeling; more especially for such a
distinguished Jago as Sally Green--so well able to take care of herself.
But all this was nothing as affecting the odds. They ruled at three to
one on Billy Leary, with few takers, and went to four to one before the
fight began.

Josh Perrott had been strictly sober for a full week. And the family had
lived better, for he had brought meat home each day. Now he sat
indifferently at the window of his room, and looked out at the crowd in
Jago Court till such time as he might be wanted. He had not been out of
the room that morning: he was saving his energy for Billy Leary.

As for Dicky, he had scarce slept for excitement. For days he had
enjoyed consideration among his fellows on account of this fight. Now he
shook and quivered, and nothing relieved his agitation but violent
exertion. So he rushed downstairs a hundred times to see if the High Mob
were coming, and back to report that they were not. At last he saw their
overbearing checks, and tore upstairs, face before knees, with ''Ere
they are, father! 'Ere they are! They're comin' down the street,
father!' and danced frenzied about the room and the landing.

Presently Jerry Gullen and Kiddo Cook came, as seconds, to take Josh
out, and then Dicky quieted a little externally, though he was bursting
at the chest and throat, and his chin jolted his teeth together
uncontrollably. Josh dragged off his spotted coat and waistcoat and
flung them on the bed, and then was helped out of his ill-mended blue
shirt. He gave a hitch to his trousers-band, tightened his belt, and was
ready.

'Ta-ta, ol' gal,' he said to his wife, with a grin; 'back agin soon.'

'With a bob or two for ye,' added Kiddo Cook, grinning likewise.

Hannah Perrott sat pale and wistful, with the baby on her knees.
Through the morning she had sat so, wretched and helpless,
sometimes putting her face in her hands, sometimes breaking out
hopelessly:--'Don't, Josh, don't--good Gawd, Josh, I wish you wouldn't!'
or 'Josh, Josh, I wish I was dead!' Josh had fought before, it was true,
and more than once, but then she had learned of the matter afterward.
This preparation and long waiting were another thing. Once she had even
exclaimed that she would go with him--though she meant nothing.

Now, as Josh went out at the door, she bent over Looey and hid her face
again. 'Good luck, father,' called Dicky, 'go it!' Though the words
would hardly pass his throat, and he struggled to believe that he had no
fear for his father.

No sooner was the door shut than he rushed to the window, though Josh
could not appear in Jago Court for three or four minutes yet. The
sash-line was broken, and the window had been propped open with a stick.
In his excitement Dicky dislodged the stick, and the sash came down on
his head, but he scarce felt the blow, and readjusted the stick with
trembling hands, regardless of the bruise rising under his hair.

'Aincher goin' to look, mother?' he asked. 'Wontcher 'old up Looey?'

But his mother would not look. As for Looey, she looked at nothing. She
had been taken to the dispensary once again, and now lay drowsy and
dull, with little more movement than a general shudder and a twitching
of the face at long intervals. The little face itself was thinner and
older than ever: horribly flea-bitten still, but bloodlessly pale. Mrs
Perrott had begun to think Looey was ailing for something; thought it
might be measles or whooping-cough coming, and complained that children
were a continual worry.

Dicky hung head and shoulders out of the window, clinging to the broken
sill and scraping feverishly at the wall with his toes. Jago Court was
fuller than ever. The tossing went on, though now with more haste, that
most might be made of the remaining time. A scuffle still persisted in
one corner. Some stood to gaze at the High Mob, who, to the number of
eight or ten, stood in an exalted group over against the back fences of
New Jago Street; but the thickest knot was about Cocko Harnwell's
doorstep, whereon sat Billy Leary, his head just visible through the
press about him, waiting to keep his appointment.

Then a close group appeared at the archway, and pushed into the crowd,
which made way at its touch, the disturbed tossers pocketing their
coppers, but the others busily persisting, with no more than a glance
aside between the spins. Josh Perrott's cropped head and bare shoulders
marked the centre of the group, and as it came, another group moved out
from Cocko Harnwell's doorstep, with Billy Leary's tall bulk shining
pink and hairy in its midst.

''E's in the court, mother,' called Dicky, scraping faster with his
toes.

The High Mobsmen moved up toward the middle of the court, and some from
the two groups spread and pushed back the crowd. Still half a dozen
couples, remote by the walls, tossed and tossed faster than ever, moving
this way and that as the crowd pressed.

Now there was an irregular space of bare cobble stones and house refuse,
five or six yards across, in the middle of Jago Court, and all round it
the shouting crowd was packed tight, those at the back standing on sills
and hanging to fences. Every window was a clump of heads, and women
yelled savagely or cheerily down and across. The two groups were merged
in the press at each side of the space, Billy Leary and Josh Perrott in
front of each, with his seconds.

'Naa then, any more 'fore they begin?' bawled a High Mobsman, turning
about among his fellows. 'Three to one on the big 'un--three to one!
'Ere, I'll give fours--four to one on Leary! Fourer one! Fourer one!'

But they shook their heads; they would wait a little. Leary and Perrott
stepped out. The last of the tossers stuffed away his coppers, and
sought for a hold on the fence.

'They're a-sparrin', mother!' cried Dicky, pale and staring, elbows and
legs a-work, till he was like to pitch out of window. From his mother
there but jerked a whimpering sob, which he did not hear.

The sparring was not long. There was little of subtlety in the milling
of the Jago: mostly no more than a rough application of the main hits
and guards, with much rushing and ruffianing. What there was of
condition in the two men was Josh's: smaller and shorter, he had a
certain hard brownness of hide that Leary, in his heavy opulence of
flesh, lacked; and there was a horny quality in his face and hands that
reminded the company of his boast of invulnerability to anything milder
than steel. Also his breadth of chest was great. Nevertheless all odds
seemed against him, by reason of Billy Leary's size, reach, and fighting
record.

The men rushed together, and Josh was forced back by weight. Leary's
great fists, left and right, shot into his face with smacking reports,
but left no mark on the leathery skin, and Josh, fighting for the body,
drove his knuckles into the other's ribs with a force that jerked a
thick grunt from Billy's lips at each blow.

There was a roar of shouts. 'Go it, father! Fa--ther! Fa--ther!' Dicky
screamed from the window, till his voice broke in his throat and he
coughed himself livid. The men were at holds, and swaying this way and
that over the uneven stones. Blood ran copiously from Billy Leary's nose
over his mouth and chin, and, as they turned, Dicky saw his father spit
away a tooth over Leary's shoulder. They clipped and hauled to and fro,
each striving to break the other's foothold. Then Perrott stumbled at a
hole, lost his feet, and went down, with Leary on top.

Cheers and yells rent the air, as each man was taken to his own side by
his seconds. Dicky let go the sill and turned to his mother, wild of
eye, breathless with broken chatter.

'Father 'it 'im on the nose, mother, like that--'is ribs is goin' black
where father pasted 'em--'e was out o' breath fust--there' blood all
over 'is face, mother--father would 'a' chucked 'im over if 'e 'adn't
tumbled in a 'ole--father 'it 'im twice on the jore--'e--O!'

Dicky was back again on the sill, kicking and shouting, for time was
called, and the two men rushed again into a tangled knot. But the close
strife was short. Josh had but closed to spoil his man's wind, and,
leaving his head to take care of itself, stayed till he had driven left
and right on the mark, and then got back. Leary came after him, gasping
and blowing already, and Josh feinted a lead and avoided, bringing Leary
round on his heel and off again in chase. Once more Josh met him, drove
at his ribs, and got away out of reach. Leary's wind was going fast, and
his partisans howled savagely at Josh--perceiving his tactics--taunting
him with running away, daring him to stand and fight. 'I'll take that
four to one,' called a High Mobsman to him who had offered the odds in
the beginning. 'I'll stand a quid on Perrott!'

'Not with me you won't,' the other answered. 'Evens, if you like.'

'Right. Done at evens, a quid.'

Perrott, stung at length by the shouts from Leary's corner, turned on
Billy and met him at full dash. He was himself puffing by this, though
much less than his adversary, and, at the cost of a heavy blow (which he
took on his forehead), he visited Billy's ribs once more.

Both men were grunting and gasping now, and the sound of blows was as of
the confused beating of carpets. Dicky, who had been afflicted to
heart-burst by his father's dodging and running, which he mistook for
simple flight, now broke into excited speech once more:--

'Father's 'it 'im on the jore ag'in--'is eye's a-bungin' up--_Go it,
father, bash 'i-i-i-m!_ Father's landin' 'im--'e--'

Hannah Perrott crept to the window and looked. She saw the foul Jago
mob, swaying and bellowing about the shifting edge of an open patch, in
the midst whereof her husband and Billy Leary, bruised, bloody and
gasping, fought and battered infuriately; and she crept back to the bed
and bent her face on Looey's unclean little frock; till a fit of tense
shuddering took the child, and the mother looked up again.

Without, the round ended. For a full minute the men took and gave knock
for knock, and then Leary, wincing from another body-blow, swung his
right desperately on Perrott's ear, and knocked him over.

Exulting shouts rose from the Leary faction, and the blow struck Dicky's
heart still. But Josh was up almost before Kiddo Cook reached him, and
Dicky saw a wide grin on his face as he came to his corner. The leathery
toughness of the man, and the advantage it gave him, now grew apparent.
He had endured to the full as much and as hard punching as had his
foe--even more, and harder; once he had fallen on the broken
cobble-stones with all Leary's weight on him; and once he had been
knocked down on them. But, except for the sweat that ran over his face
and down his back, and for a missing front tooth and the lip it had cut,
he showed little sign of the struggle; while Leary's left eye was a mere
slit in a black wen, his nose was a beaten mass, which had ensanguined
him (and indeed Josh) from crown to waist, and his chest and flanks were
a mottle of bruises.

'Father's awright, mother--I see 'im laughin'! And 'e's smashed Leary's
nose all over 'is face!'

Up again they sprang for the next round, Perrott active and daring,
Leary cautious and a trifle stiff. Josh rushed in and struck at the
tender ribs once more, took two blows callously on his head, and sent
his left at the nose, with a smack as of a flail on water. With that
Leary rushed like a bull, and Josh was driven and battered back, for the
moment without response. But he ducked, and slipped away, and came
again, fresh and vicious. And now it was seen that Perrott's toughness
of hand was lasting. Leary's knuckles were raw, cut, and flayed, and
took little good by the shock when they met the other's stubborn muzzle;
while Josh still flung in his corneous fists, hard and lasting as a bag
of bullets.

But suddenly, stooping to reach the mark once more, Josh's foot turned
on a projecting stone, and he floundered forward into Billy's arms.
Like a flash his neck was clipped in the big man's left arm: Josh
Perrott was in chancery. Quick and hard Leary pounded the imprisoned
head, while Jerry Gullen and Kiddo Cook danced distracted and dismayed,
and the crowd whooped and yelled.

Dicky hung delirious over the sill, and shrieked he knew not what. He
saw his father fighting hard at the back and ribs with both hands, and
Leary hammering his face in a way to make pulp of an ordinary mazzard.
Then suddenly Josh Perrott's right hand shot up from behind, over
Leary's shoulder, and gripped him at the chin. Slowly, with tightened
muscles, he forced his man back over his bent knee, Leary clinging and
swaying, but impotent to struggle. Then, with an extra wrench from Josh,
up came Leary's feet from the ground, higher, higher, till suddenly Josh
flung him heavily over, heels up, and dropped on him with all his
weight.

The Ranns roared again. Josh was up in a moment, sitting on Kiddo Cook's
knee, and taking a drink from a bottle. Billy Leary lay like a man
fallen from a house-top. His seconds turned him on his back, and dragged
him to his corner. There he lay limp and senseless, and there was a cut
at the back of his head.

The High Mobsman who held the watch waited for half a minute and then
called 'Time!' Josh Perrott stood up, but Billy Leary was knocked out of
knowledge, and heard not. He was beaten.

Josh Perrott was involved in a howling, dancing crowd, and was pushed,
grinning, this way and that, slapped on the back, and offered drinks. In
the outskirts the tossers, inveterate, pulled out their pence and
resumed their game.

Dicky spun about, laughing, flushed, and elated, and as soon as the door
was distinct to his dazzled sight, he ran off downstairs. His mother,
relieved and even pleased, speculated as to what money the thing might
bring. She put the baby on the bed, and looked from the window.

Josh, in the crowd, shouted and beckoned her, pointing and tapping his
bare shoulder. He wanted his clothes. She gathered together the shirt,
the coat, and the waistcoat, and hurried downstairs. Looey could come to
no harm lying on the bed for a few minutes. And, indeed, Hannah Perrott
felt that she would be a person of distinction in the crowd, and was not
sorry to have an excuse for going out.

'Three cheers for the missis!' sang out Kiddo Cook as she came through
the press. 'I said 'e'd 'ave a bob or two for you, didn't I?' Josh
Perrott, indeed, was rich--a capitalist of five pounds. For a sovereign
a side had been put up, and his backer had put on a sovereign for him at
three to one. So that now it became him to stand beer to many
sympathisers. Also, he felt that the missis should have some part in the
celebration, for was it not her injury that he had avenged on Sally
Green's brother? So Hannah Perrott, pleased though timorous, was hauled
away with the rest to Mother Gapp's.

Here she sat by Josh's side for an hour. Once or twice she thought of
Looey, but with native inertness she let the thought slip. Perhaps
Dicky would be back, and at any rate it was hard if she must not take
half an hour's relaxation once in a way. At last came Dicky, urgent
perplexity in his face, looking in at the door. Josh, minded to be
generous all round, felt for a penny.

'Mother,' said Dicky, plucking at her arm, 'Pigeony Poll's at 'ome,
nussin' Looey; she told me to tell you to come at once.'

Pigeony Poll? What right had she in the room? The ghost of Hannah
Perrott's respectability rose in resentment. She supposed she must go.
She arose, mystified, and went, with Dicky at her skirts.

Pigeony Poll sat by the window with the baby in her arms, and pale
misgiving in her dull face. 'I--I come in, Mrs Perrott, mum,' she said,
with a hush in her thick voice, 'I come in 'cos I see you goin' out, an'
I thought the baby'd be alone. She--she's 'ad a sort o' fit--all stiff
an' blue in the face and grindin' 'er little mouth. She's left auf
now--but I--I dunno what to make of 'er. She's so--so--'

Hannah Perrott stared blankly, and lifted the child, whose arm dropped
and hung. The wizen age had gone from Looey's face, and the lids were
down on the strained eyes; her pale lips lay eased of the old
pinching--even parted in a smile. For she looked in the face of the
Angel that plays with the dead children.

Hannah Perrott's chin fell. 'Lor',' she said bemusedly, and sat on the
bed.

An odd croaking noise broke in jerks from Pigeony Poll as she crept from
the room, with her face bowed in the bend of her arm, like a weeping
schoolboy. Dicky stared, confounded.... Josh came and gazed stupidly,
with his mouth open, walking tip-toe. But at a word from Kiddo Cook, who
came in his tracks, he snatched the little body and clattered off to the
dispensary, to knock up the young student.

       *       *       *       *       *

The rumour went in the Jago that Josh Perrott was in double luck. For
here was insurance money without a doubt. But in truth that was a thing
the Perrotts had neglected.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hannah Perrott felt a listless relief; Josh felt nothing in particular,
except that there was no other thing to be done, and that Mother Gapp's
would be a cheerful place to finish the day in, and keep up the missis's
pecker.

So that eight o'clock that evening at Perrotts' witnessed a darkening
room wherein an inconsiderable little corpse lay on a bed; while a small
ragamuffin spread upon it with outstretched arms, exhausted with
sobbing, a soak of muddy tears:--'O Looey, Looey! Can't you 'ear? Won't
you never come to me no more?'

And the Reverend Henry Sturt, walking from church through Luck Row
toward his lodgings in Kingsland Road, heard shouts and riot behind the
grimy panes of Mother Gapp's, and in the midst the roar of many voices
joined in the Jago chant:--

_Six bloomin' long months in a prison, Six more bloomin' months I must
stay, For meetin' a bloke in our alley, An' takin' 'is uxter away!_

_Toora-li--toora-li--looral, Toora-li--toora-li--lay, A-coshin' a bloke
in our alley, An' takin' 'is uxter away!_



XIV


On an autumn day four years after his first coming to the Jago, the
Reverend Henry Sturt left a solicitor's office in Cheapside, and walked
eastward, with something more of hope and triumph in him than he had
felt since the Jago fell to his charge. For the ground was bought
whereon should be built a church and buildings accessory, and he felt,
not that he was like to see any great result from his struggle, but that
perhaps he might pursue it better armed and with less of grim despair
than had been his portion hitherto.

It had taken him four years to gather the money for the site, and some
of it he was paying from his own pocket. He was unmarried, and had
therefore no reason to save. Still, he must be careful, for the sake of
the parish: the church must be built, and some of the money would
probably be wanted for that. Moreover, there were other calls. The
benefice brought a trifle less than £200 a year, and out of that, so far
as it would go, he paid (with some small outside help) £130 for rent of
the temporary church and the adjacent rooms; the organist's salary; the
rates and the gas-bills; the cost of cleaning, care, and repair; the
sums needed for such relief as was impossible to be withheld; and a
thousand small things beside. While the Jagos speculated wildly among
themselves as to the vast sums he must make by his job. For what toff
would come and live in the Jago except for a consideration of solid
gain? What other possible motive could there be, indeed?

Still, he had an influence among them such as they had never known
before. For one thing, they feared in him what they took for a sort of
supernatural insight. The mean cunning of the Jago, subtle as it was,
and baffling to most strangers, foundered miserably before his
relentless intelligence; and crafty rogues--'wide as Broad Street,' as
their proverb went--at first sulked, faltered and prevaricated
transparently, but soon gave up all hope or effort to deceive him. Thus
he was respected. Once he had made it plain that he was no common
milch-cow in the matter of gratuities: to be bamboozled for shillings,
cajoled for coals, and bullied for blankets: then there became apparent
in him qualities of charity and lovingkindness, well-judged and
governed, that awoke in places a regard that was in a way akin to
affection. And the familiar habit of the Jago slowly grew to call him
Father Sturt.

Father Sturt was not to be overreached: that was the axiom gloomily
accepted by all in the Jago who lived by what they accounted their wits.
You could not juggle shillings and clothing (convertible into shillings)
out of Father Sturt by the easy fee-faw-fum of repentance and salvation
that served with so many. There were many of the Jagos (mightily
despised by some of the sturdier ruffians) who sallied forth from time
to time into neighbouring regions in pursuit of the profitable
sentimentalist: discovering him--black-coated, earnest, green--sometimes
a preacher, sometimes a layman, sometimes one having authority on the
committee of a charitable institution; dabbling in the East End on his
own account, or administering relief for a mission, or disbursing a
Mansion House Fund. He was of two chief kinds: the Merely-Soft,--the
'man of wool' as the Jago word went,--for whom any tale was good enough,
delivered with the proper wistful misery: and the Gullible-Cocksure,
confident in a blind experience, who was quite as easy to tap, when
approached with a becoming circumspection. A rough and ready method,
which served well in most cases with both sorts, was a profession of
sudden religious awakening. For this, one offered an aspect either of
serene happiness or of maniacal exaltation, according to the customer's
taste. A better way, but one demanding greater subtlety, was the
assumption of the part of Earnest Inquirer, hesitating on the brink of
Salvation. For the attitude was capable of indefinite prolongation, and
was ever productive of the boots, the coats, and the half-crowns used to
coax weak brethren into the fold. But with Father Sturt, such trouble
was worse than useless; it was, indeed, but to invite a humiliating
snub. Thus, when Fluffy Pike first came to Father Sturt with the
intelligence that he had at last found Grace, the Father Sturt asked if
he had found it in a certain hamper--a hamper hooked that morning from a
railway van--and if it were of a quality likely to inspire an act of
restoration to the goods office. Nothing was to be done with a man of
this disgustingly practical turn of mind, and the Jagos soon ceased from
trying.

Father Sturt had made more of the stable than the make-shift church he
had found. He had organised a club in a stable adjoining, and he lived
in the rooms over the shut-up shop. In the club he gathered the men of
the Jago indiscriminately, with the sole condition of good behaviour on
the premises. And there they smoked, jumped, swung on horizontal bars,
boxed, played at cards and bagatelle, free from interference save when
interference became necessary. For the women there were sewing-meetings
and singing. And all governed with an invisible discipline, which, being
brought to action, was found to be of iron.

Now there was ground on which might be built a worthier church; and
Father Sturt had in mind a church which should have by its side a
cleanly lodging-house, a night-shelter, a club, baths and washhouses.
And at a stroke he would establish this habitation and wipe out the
blackest spot in the Jago. For the new site comprised the whole of Jago
Court and the houses that masked it in Old Jago Street.

This was a dream of the future--perhaps of the immediate future, if a
certain new millionaire could only be interested in the undertaking--but
of the future certainly. The money for the site alone had been hard
enough to gather. In the first place the East London Elevation Mission
and Pansophical Institute was asking very diligently for funds--and was
getting them. It was to that, indeed, that people turned by habit when
minded to invest in the amelioration of the East End. Then about this
time there had arisen a sudden quacksalver, a Panjandrum of
philanthropy, a mummer of the market-place, who undertook, for a fixed
sum, to abolish poverty and sin together; and many, pleased with the new
gaudery, poured out before him the money that had gone to maintain
hospitals and to feed proved charities. So that gifts were scarce and
hard to come by--indeed, were apt to be thought unnecessary, for was not
misery to be destroyed out of hand? Moreover, Father Sturt wanted not
for enemies among the Sentimental-Cocksure. He was callous and cynical
in face of the succulent penitence of Fluffy Pike and his kind. He
preferred the frank rogue before the calculating snivelmonger. He had a
club at which boxing was allowed, and dominoes--flat ungodliness. He
shook hands familiarly every day with the lowest characters: his tastes
were vulgar and brutal. And the company at his club was really dreadful.
These things the Cocksure said, with shaking of heads; and these they
took care should be known among such as might give Father Sturt money.
Father Sturt!--the name itself was sheer papistry. And many comforted
themselves by writing him anonymous letters, displaying hell before his
eyes, and dealing him vivid damnation.

So Father Sturt tramped back to the Jago, and to the strain and struggle
that ceased not for one moment of his life, though it left never a mark
of success behind it. For the Jago was much as ever. Were the lump once
leavened by the advent of any denizen a little less base than the rest,
were a native once ridiculed and persuaded into a spell of work and
clean living, then must Father Sturt hasten to drive him from the Jago
ere its influence suck him under for ever; leaving for his own community
none but the entirely vicious. And among these he spent his life:
preaching little, in the common sense, for that were but idle vanity in
this place; but working, alleviating, growing into the Jago life,
flinging scorn and ridicule on evil things, grateful for tiny negative
successes--for keeping a few from ill-behaviour but for an hour;
conscious that wherever he was not, iniquity flourished unreproved; and
oppressed by the remembrance that albeit the Jago death-rate ruled full
four times that of all London beyond, still the Jago rats bred and bred
their kind unhindered, multiplying apace and infecting the world.

In Luck Row he came on Josh Perrott, making for home with something
under the skirt of his coat 'How d'ye do, Josh?' said Father Sturt,
clapping a hand on Josh's shoulder, and offering it as Josh turned
about.

Josh, with a shifting of the object under his coat, hastened to tap his
cap-peak with his forefinger before shaking hands. He grinned broadly,
and looked this way and that, with mingled gratification and
embarrassment, as was the Jago way in such circumstances. Because one
could never tell whether Father Sturt would exchange a mere friendly
sentence or two, or, with concealed knowledge, put some disastrous
question about a watch, or a purse, or a breast-pin, or what not.

'Very well, thanks, Father,' answered Josh, and grinned amiably at the
wall beyond the vicar's elbow.

'And what have you been doing just lately?'

'Oo--odd jobs, Father.' Always the same answer, all over the Jago.

'Not quite such odd jobs as usual, I hope, Josh, eh?' Father Sturt
smiled, and twitched Josh playfully by the button-hole as one might
treat a child. 'I once heard of a very odd job in the Kingsland Road
that got a fine young man six months' holiday. Eh, Josh?'

Josh Perrott wriggled and grinned sheepishly; tried to frown, failed,
and grinned again. He had only been out a few weeks from that six moon.
Presently he said:--'Awright, Father; you do rub it into a bloke, no
mistake.'

The grin persisted as he looked first at the wall, then at the pavement,
then down the street, but never in the parson's face.

'Ah, there's a deal of good in a blister sometimes, isn't there, Josh?
What's that I see--a clock? Not another odd job, eh?'

It was indeed a small nickel-plated American clock which Josh had under
his coat, and which he now partly uncovered with positive protests. 'No,
s'elp me, Father, it's all straight--all fair trade, Father--jist a swop
for somethink else, on me solemn davy. That's wot it is,
Father--straight.'

'Well, I'm glad you thought to get it, Josh,' Father Sturt pursued,
still twitching the button-hole. 'You never have been a punctual
churchgoer, you know, Josh, and I'm glad you've made arrangements to
improve. You'll have no excuse now, you know, and I shall expect you on
Sunday morning--promptly. Don't forget: I shall be looking for you.' And
Father Sturt shook hands again, and passed on, leaving Josh Perrott
still grinning dubiously, and striving to assimilate the invitation to
church.

The clock was indeed an exchange, though not altogether an innocent one:
the facts being these. Early that morning Josh had found himself
scrambling hastily along a turning out of Brick Lane, accompanied by a
parcel of nine or ten pounds of tobacco, and extremely conscious of the
hasty scrambling of several other people round the corner. Some of these
people turned that corner before Josh reached the next, so that his
course was observed, and it became politic to get rid of his parcel
before a possible heading-off in Meakin Street. There was one place
where this might be done, and that was at Weech's. A muddy yard, one of
a tangle of such places behind Meakin Street, abutted on Weech's
back-fence; and it was no uncommon thing for a Jago on the crook, hard
pressed, to pitch his plunder over the fence, double out into the
crowd, and call on Mr Aaron Weech for the purchase-money as soon as
opportunity served. The manoeuvre was a simple one, facilitated by the
plan of the courts; but it was only adopted in extreme cases, because Mr
Aaron Weech was at best but a mean paymaster, and with so much of the
upper hand in the bargain as these circumstances conferred, was apt to
be meaner than ever. But this case seemed to call for the stratagem, and
Josh made for the muddy yard, dropped the parcel over the fence, with a
loud whistle, and backed off by the side passage in the regular way.

When he called on Mr Aaron Weech a few hours later, that talented
tradesman, with liberal gestures, told out shillings singly in his hand,
pausing after each as though that were the last. But Josh held his hand
persistently open, till Mr Weech, having released the fifth shilling,
stopped altogether, scandalised at such rapacity. But still Josh was not
satisfied, and as he was not quite so easy a customer to manage as the
boys who commonly fenced at the shop, Mr Weech compromised, in the end,
by throwing in a cheap clock. It had been in hand for a long time; and
Josh was fain to take it, since he could get no more. And thus it was
that Dicky, coming in at about five o'clock, was astonished to see on
the mantel-piece, amid the greasy ruins of many candle ends, the clock
that had belonged to the Ropers four years before.



XV


As for Dicky, he went to school. That is to say, he turned up now and
again, at irregular intervals, at the Board School just over the Jago
border in Honey Lane. When anything was given away, he attended as a
matter of course; but he went now and again without such
inducement--perhaps because he fancied an afternoon's change, perhaps
because the weather was cold and the school was warm. He was classed as
a half-timer, an arrangement which variegated the register, but
otherwise did not matter. Other boys, half-timers or not, attended as
little as he. It was long since the managers had realised the futility
of attempting compulsion in the Jago.

Dicky was no fool, and he had picked up some sort of reading and writing
as he went along. Moreover, he had grown an expert thief, and had taken
six strokes of a birch-rod by order of a magistrate. As yet he rarely
attempted a pocket, being, for most opportunities, too small; but he was
comforted by the reflection that probably he would never get really
tall, and thus grow out of pocket-picking when he was fully experienced,
as was the fate of some. For no tall man can be a successful pickpocket,
because he must bend to his work, and so advertise it to every beholder.

Meantime Dicky practised that petty larceny which is possible in every
street in London; and at odd times he would play the scout among the
practitioners of the 'fat's a-running' industry. If one crossed Meakin
Street by way of Luck Row and kept his way among the courts ahead, he
presently reached the main Bethnal Green Road, at the end whereof stood
the great goods depot of a railway company. Here carts and vans went to
and fro all day, laden with goods from the depot, and certain gangs
among the Jagos preyed on these continually. A quick-witted scout stood
on the look-out for such vehicles as went with unguarded tailboards. At
the approach of one such he sent the shout '_Fat's a-runnin'!_' up Luck
Row, and, quick at the signal, a gang scuttled down, by the court or
passage which his waved hand might hint at, seized whatever could be
snatched from the cart, and melted away into the courts, sometimes
leaving a few hands behind to hinder and misdirect pursuit. Taking one
capture with another, the thing paid very well; and besides, there were
many vans laden with parcels of tobacco, not from the railway depot but
from the tobacco factories hard by, a click from which was apt to prove
especially lucrative. Dicky was a notable success as scout. The
department was a fairly safe one, but it was not always easy to extract
from the gang the few coppers that were regarded as sufficient share for
service done. Moreover, Mr Weech was not pleased; for by now Dicky was
near to being his most remunerative client, and the cart robberies
counted nothing, for the fat's a-running boys fenced their swag with a
publican at Hoxton. And though Dicky had grown out of his childish
belief that Mr Weech could hear a mile away and see through a wall, he
had a cautious dread of the weapon he supposed to lie ever to his
patron's hand--betrayal to the police. In other respects things were
easier. His father took no heed of what he did, and even his mother had
so far accepted destiny as to ask if he had a copper or two, when there
was a scarcity. Indeed Hannah Perrott filled her place in the Jago
better than of old. She would gossip, she drew no very rigid line as to
her acquaintance, and Dicky had seen her drunk. Still, for Old Jago
Street she was a quiet woman, and she never brawled nor fought. Of
fighting, indeed, Josh could do enough for the whole family, once again
four in number. For the place of Looey, forgotten, was supplied by Em,
aged two.

When Dicky came home and recognised the clock on the mantel-piece, being
the more certain because his mother told him it had come from Weech's,
the thing irritated him strangely. Through all those four years since he
had carried that clock to Mr Weech, he had never got rid of the wretched
hunchback. He, too, went to the Board School in Honey Lane (it lay
between Dove Lane and the Jago), but he went regularly, worked hard, and
was a favourite with teachers. So far, Dicky was unconcerned. But scarce
an ill chance came to him but, sooner or later, he found the hunchback
at the back of it. If ever a teacher mysteriously found out that it was
Dicky who had drawn his portrait, all nose and teeth, on the blackboard,
the tale had come from Bobby Roper. Whenever Dicky, chancing upon school
by ill luck on an afternoon when sums were to be done, essayed to copy
answers from his neighbour's slate, up shot the hunchback's hand in an
instant, the tale was told, and handers were Dicky's portion. Once,
dinnerless and hungry, he had stolen a sandwich from a teacher's desk;
and, though he had thought himself alone and unseen, the hunchback knew
it, and pointed him out, white malice in his thin face and eager hate in
his thrust finger. For a fortnight Dicky dared not pass a little fruit
shop in Meakin Street, because of an attempt on an orange, betrayed by
his misshapen schoolfellow, which brought him a hard chase from the
fruiterer and a bad bruise on the spine from a board flung after him.
The hunchback's whole energies--even his whole time--seemed to be
devoted to watching him. Dicky, on his part, received no injuries
meekly. In the beginning he had tried threats and public jeers at his
enemy's infirmity. Then, on some especially exasperating occasion, he
pounded Bobby Roper savagely about the head and capsized him into a
mud-heap. But bodily reprisal, though he erected it into a practice,
proved no deterrent. For the little hunchback, though he might cry at
the pummelling, retorted with worse revenge of his own sort. And once or
twice bystanders, seeing a deformed child thus treated, interfered with
clouts on Dicky's ears. The victim, moreover, designed another
retaliation. He would go to some bigger boy with a tale that Dicky had
spoken vauntingly of fighting him and beating him hollow, with one hand.
This brought the big boy after Dicky at once, with a hiding: except on
some rare occasion when the hunchback rated his instrument of vengeance
too high, and Dicky was able to beat him in truth. But this was a very
uncommon mistake. And after this Dicky did not wait for specific
provocation: he 'clumped' Bobby Roper, or rolled him in the gutter, as a
matter of principle, whenever he could get hold of him.

That afternoon Dicky had suffered again. Two days earlier, tea and cake
had been provided by a benevolent manager for all who attended the
school. Consequently the attendance was excellent, and included Dicky.
But his attempt to secrete a pocketful of cake, to carry home for Em,
was reported by Bobby Roper; and Dicky was hauled forth, deprived of his
plunder, and expelled in disgrace. He waited outside and paid off the
score fiercely, by the help of a very long and pliant cabbage stalk. But
this afternoon Bill Bates, a boy a head taller than himself and two
years older, had fallen on him suddenly in Lincoln Street, and, though
Dicky fought desperately and kicked with much effect, had dealt him a
thrashing that left him bruised, bleeding, dusty, and crying with rage
and pain. This was the hunchback's doing, without a doubt. Dicky limped
home, but was something comforted by an accident in Shoreditch High
Street, whereby a coster's barrow-load of cough-drops was knocked over
by a covered van, and the cough-drops were scattered in the mud. For
while the carman and the coster flew at each other's name and address,
and defamed each other's eyes and mother, Dicky gathered a handful of
cough-drops, muddy, it is true, but easy to wipe. And so he made for
home more cheerfully disposed: till the sight of the Ropers' old clock
brought the hunchback to mind once more, and in bitter anger he resolved
to search for him forthwith, and pass on the afternoon's hiding, with
interest.

As he emerged into the street, a hand was reached to catch him, which he
dodged by instinct. He rushed back upstairs, and emptied his pockets,
stowing away in a safe corner the rest of the cough-drops, the broken
ruin he called his knife, some buttons and pieces of string, a bit of
chalk, three little pieces of slate pencil and two marbles. Then he went
down again into the street, confident in his destitution, and watched,
forgetting the hunchback in the excitement of the spectacle.

The loafers from the corners had conceived a sudden notion of
co-operation, and had joined forces to the array of twenty or thirty.
Confident in their numbers, they swept the street, stopping every
passenger--man, woman or child--and emptying all pockets. A straggler on
the outskirts of the crowd, a hobbledehoy like most of the rest, had
snatched at but had lost Dicky, and was now busy, with four or five
others, rolling a woman, a struggling heap of old clothes and skinny
limbs, in the road. It was Biddy Flynn, too old and worn for anything
but honest work, who sold oranges and nuts from a basket, and who had
been caught on her way out for her evening's trade in High Street. She
was a fortunate capture, being a lone woman with all her possessions
about her. Under her skirt, and tied round her waist with string, she
kept her money-bag; and it was soon found and dragged away, yielding two
and eightpence farthing and a lucky shoe-tip, worn round and bright. She
had, moreover, an old brass brooch; but unfortunately her wedding ring,
worn to pin-wire, could not be got past the knotted knuckle--though it
would have been worth little in any case. So Biddy Flynn, exhausted with
plunging and screaming, was left, and her empty basket was flung at her.
She staggered away, wailing and rolling her head, with her hand to the
wall; and the gang, sharing out, sucked oranges with relish, and turned
to fresh exploits. Dicky watched from the Jago Court passage.

Business slackened for a little while, and the loafers were
contemplating a raid in force on Mother Gapp's till, when a grown lad
ran in pell-mell from Luck Row with a square parcel clipped under his
arm--a parcel of aspect well known among the fat's a-running boys--a
parcel that meant tobacco. He was collared at once.

'Stow it, Bill!' he cried breathlessly, recognising his captor. 'The
bloke's a-comin'!'

But half-a-dozen hands were on his plunder, it was snatched away, and he
was flung back on the flags. There was a clatter on the stones of Luck
Row, and a light van came rattling into Old Jago Street, the horse
galloping, the carman lashing and shouting:--'Stop 'im! Stop thief!'

The sight was so novel that for a moment the gang merely stared and
grinned. This man must be a greenhorn--new to the neighbourhood--to
venture a load of goods up Luck Row. And it was tobacco, too. He was
pale and flustered, and he called wildly, as he looked this way and
that:--'A man's stole somethin' auf my van. Where's 'e gawn?'

'No good, guv'nor,' cried one. 'The ball's stopped rollin'. You're lawst
'im.'

'My Gawd!' said the man, in a sweat, 'I'm done. There's two quid's worth
o' 'bacca--an' I on'y got the job o' Monday--bin out nine munse!'

'Was it a parcel like this 'ere?' asked another, chuckling, and lifting
a second packet over the tailboard.

'Yus--put it down! Gawd--wotcher up to? 'Ere--'elp! 'elp!'

The gang were over the van, guffawing and flinging out the load. The
carman yelled aloud, and fought desperately with his whip--Bill Hanks
is near blind of an eye now from one cut; but he was the worse for it.
For he was knocked off the van in a heap, and, as he lay, they cleared
his pockets, and pulled off his boots; those that had caught the sting
of the whip kicking him about the head till it but shifted in the slime
at the stroke, an inanimate lump.

There was talk of how to deal with the horse and van. To try to sell
them was too large a job, and too risky. So, as it was growing dusk, the
senseless carman was put on the floor of the van, the tailboard was
raised, and one of the gang led the horse away, to lose the whole thing
in the busy streets.

Here was a big haul, and many of the crowd busied themselves in getting
it out of sight, and scouting out among the fences to arrange sales.
Those who remained grew less active, and hung at the corner of Luck Row,
little more than an ordinary corner-group of loafers.

Then Dicky remembered the hunchback, and slouched off to Dove Lane. But
he could see nothing of Bobby Roper. The Jago and Dove Lane were
districts ever at feud, active or smouldering, save for brief intervals
of ostentatious reconciliation, serving to render the next attack on
Dove Lane the more savage--for invariably the Jagos were aggressors and
victors. Dicky was careful in his lurkings, therefore: lest he should be
recognised and set upon by more Dove Lane boys than would be convenient.
He knew where the Ropers lived, and he went and hung about the door.
Once he fancied he could hear a disjointed tinkle, as of a music-box
grown infirm, but he was not sure of it. And in the end he contented
himself, for the present, with flinging a stone through the Ropers'
window, and taking to his heels.

The Jago was black with night, the rats came and went, and the
cosh-carriers lurked on landings. On a step, Pigeony Poll, drunk because
of a little gin and no food, sang hideously and wept. The loafers had
dispersed to spend their afternoon's makings. The group which Dicky had
left by Luck Row corner, indeed, had been discouraged early in the
evening in consequence of an attempt at 'turning over' old Beveridge, as
he unsuspectingly stalked among them, in from his city round. For the
old man whipped out his case-knife and drove it into the flesh of Nobber
Sugg's arm, at the shoulder--stabbed, too, at another, and ripped his
coat. So Nobber Sugg, with blood streaming through his sleeve, went off
with two more to tie up the arm; and old Beveridge, grinning and
mumbling fiercely, strode about the street, knife in hand, for ten
minutes, ere he grew calm enough to go his way. This Tommy Rann told
Dicky, sitting in the back-yard and smoking a pipe; a pipe charged with
tobacco pillaged from a tin-full which his father had bought, at about
fourpence a pound, from a loafer. And both boys crawled indoors deadly
sick.



XVI


Josh Perrott was at church on Sunday morning, as Father Sturt had bid
him. Not because of the bidding, but because the vicar overtook him and
Kiddo Cook in Meakin Street, and hauled them in, professing to be much
gratified at their punctuality, and charging them never to fall away
from the habit. The two Jagos, with dubious grins, submitted as they
must, and were in a little while surprised to find others arriving,
friends and acquaintances never suspected of church-going. The fact was,
that Father Sturt, by dint of long effort, had so often brought so many
to his stable-church, as he had now brought Josh and Kiddo, that the
terrors and embarrassments of the place had worn off, and many, finding
nothing more attractive elsewhere, would make occasional attendances of
their own motion. Wet Sundays, particularly, inclined them to church:
where there might be a fire, where at least there was a clean room, with
pictures on the wall, where there were often flowers, where there was
always music, and where Father Sturt made an address of a quarter of an
hour, which nobody ever suspected of being a sermon; an address which
one might doze over or listen to, as one might be disposed; but which
most listened to, more or less, partly because of an uneasy feeling that
Father Sturt would know if they did not, and partly because it was very
easy to understand, was not oppressively minatory, was spoken with an
intimate knowledge of themselves, and was, indeed, something of a
refreshing novelty, being the simple talk of a gentleman.

Josh Perrott and Kiddo Cook were not altogether sorry they had come. It
was a rest. Stable though it had been, they had never sat in so pleasant
a room before. There was nothing to do, no constant watch to be kept, no
police to avoid, and their wits had a holiday. They forgot things. Their
courage never rose so high as to build the thought; but in truth pipes
would have made them happy.

The address being done, Father Sturt announced the purchase of the site
for the new church, and briefly described his scheme. He would give
tenants good notice, he said, before the houses were destroyed.
Meantime, they must pay rent; though most of the amounts would be
reduced.

And after the benediction, Father Sturt, from his window over the closed
shop, saw Josh Perrott and Kiddo Cook guffawing and elbowing one another
up Luck Row. Each was accusing the other of having tried to sing.



XVII


There was much talk of Father Sturt's announcement. Many held it a shame
that so much money, destined for the benefit of the Jago, should be
spent in bricks and mortar, instead of being distributed among
themselves. They fell to calculating the price of the land and houses,
and to working it out laboriously in the denomination of pots and
gallons. More: it was felt to be a grave social danger that Jago Court
should be extinguished. What would become of the Jago without Jago
Court? Where would Sunday morning be spent? Where would the fights come
off, and where was so convenient a place for pitch and toss? But mainly
they feared the police. Jago Court was an unfailing sanctuary, a city of
refuge ever ready, ever secure. There were times when two or three of
the police, hot in the chase, would burst into the Jago at the heels of
a flying marauder. Then the runaway would make straight for the archway,
and, once he was in Jago Court, danger was over. For he had only to run
into one of the ever-open doors at right or left, and out into
back-yards and other houses; or, better, to scramble over the low fence
opposite, through the back door before him, and so into New Jago Street.
Beyond the archway the police could not venture, except in large
companies. A young constable who tried it once, getting ahead of two
companions in his ardour, was laid low as he emerged from the passage,
by a fire-grate adroitly let drop from an upper window.

The blotting out of such a godsend of a place as this would be a
calamity. The Jago would never be the same again. As it was, the Old
Jago was a very convenient, comfortable sort of place, they argued. They
could not imagine themselves living anywhere else. But assuredly it
would be the Jago no longer without Jago Court. And this thing was to be
done, too, with money got together for their benefit! The sole
explanation the Jago could supply was the one that at last, with
arithmetical variations, prevailed. The landlords were to be paid a sum
(varying in Jago estimation from a hundred pounds to a hundred thousand)
for the houses and the ground, and of this they were secretly to return
to Father Sturt a certain share (generally agreed on as half), as his
private fee for bringing about so desirable a transaction. Looked at
from all points, this appeared to be the most plausible explanation: for
no other could reasonably account for Father Sturt's activity. No wonder
he could afford to reduce some of the rents! Was he not already
receiving princely wages (variously supposed to be something from ten
pounds to thirty pounds a week) from the Government, for preaching every
Sunday?

Still the rents were to be reduced: that was the immediate
consideration, and nothing but an immediate consideration carried weight
in the Jago, where a shilling to-day was to be preferred to a constant
income beginning in a month's time. The first effect of the announcement
was a rush of applications for rooms in the doomed houses, each
applicant demanding to be accommodated by the eviction of somebody
already established, but now disinterestedly discovered to be a bad
tenant. They were all disappointed, but the residents had better luck
than they had hoped. For the unexpected happened, and the money for a
part of the new buildings was suddenly guaranteed. Wherefore Father
Sturt, knowing that many would be hard put to it to find shelter when
the houses came down, and guessing that rents would rise with the
demand, determined to ask none for the little while the tenements
endured. Scarce had he made his decision known ere he regretted it,
popular as it was. For he reflected that the money saved would merely
melt, and that at the inevitable turning out, not a soul would be the
better off for the relief, but, indeed, might find it harder than ever
to pay rent after the temporary easement. It would have been better
rigidly to exact the rent, and return it in lump to each tenant as he
left. The sum would have been an inducement to leave peaceably--a matter
in which trouble was to be expected. But then, what did any windfall of
shillings bring in the Jago? What but a drunk? This was one of Father
Sturt's thousand perplexities, and he could but hope that, perhaps, he
had done right after all.

The old buildings were sold, as they stood, to the house-wreckers, and
on the house-wreckers devolved the work of getting the lodgers out. For
weeks the day was deferred, but it drew very near at last, and a tall
hoarding was put up. Next morning it had vanished; but there was a loud
crackling where the Jagos boiled their pots; Dicky Perrott and Tommy
Rann had a bonfire in Edge Lane; and Jerry Gullen's canary sweated
abroad before a heavy load of cheap firewood.

Then Josh Perrott and Billy Leary, his old enemy, were appointed joint
guardians of the new hoarding, each to get half-a-crown on every morning
when the fence was found intact. And in the end there came eviction day,
and once more the police held the Jago in force, escorting gangs of men
with tumbrils.

As for the Perrotts, they could easily find another room, at the high
rent always charged for the privilege of residence in the Jago. To have
remained in one room four or five years, and to have paid rent with
indifferent good regularity was a feat sufficiently rare to be
notorious, and to cause way to be made for them wherever a room was
falling vacant, or could be emptied. They went no farther than across
the way, to a room wherein a widow had died over her sack-making two
days before, and had sat on the floor with her head between her knees
for hours, while her children, not understanding, cried that they were
hungry. These children were now gone to the workhouse: more fortunate
than the many they left behind. And the room was a very fair one, ten
feet square or so.

The rest of the tenants thought not at all of new quarters, and did
nothing to find them, till they found themselves and their belongings
roofless in Old Jago Street. Then with one accord they demanded lodgings
of the vicar. Most of them had never inhabited any rooms so long as they
had these which they must now leave--having been ejected again and
again because of unpaid rent. Nevertheless, they clamoured for redress
as they might have clamoured had they never changed dwellings in their
lives.

Nobody resisted the police; for there were too many of them. Moreover,
Father Sturt was there, and few had hardihood for any but their best
behaviour in his presence. Still, there were disputes among the Jagos
themselves, that sometimes came very near to fights. Ginger Stagg's
missis professed to recognise a long-lost property in a tin kettle
brought into the outer air among the belongings of Mrs Walsh. The
miscellaneous rags and sticks that were Cocko Harnwell's household goods
got mingled in the roadway with those appertaining to the Fishers; and
their assortment without a turn of family combat was a task which tried
the vicar's influence to the utmost. Mrs Rafferty, too, was suspected of
undue pride in a cranky deal wash-stand, and thereby of a disposition to
sneer at the humbler turn-out of the Regans from the next floor: giving
occasion for a shrill and animated row.

The weather was dry, fortunately, and the evicted squatted in the
roadway, by their heaps, or on them, squabbling and lamenting. Ginger
Stagg, having covered certain crockery with the old family mattress,
forgetfully sat on it, and came upon Father Sturt with an indignant
demand for compensation.

Father Sturt's efforts to stimulate a search for new lodgings met with
small success at first. It was felt that, no doubt, there were lodgings
to be had, but they would be open to the fatal objection of costing
something; and the Jago temperament could neither endure nor understand
payment for what had once been given for nothing. Father Sturt, the
Jagos argued, had given them free quarters for so long. Then why should
he stop now? If they cleared out in order to make room for his new
church, in common fairness he should find them similar lodging on the
same terms. So they sat and waited for him to do it.

At length the vicar set to work with them in good earnest, carried away
with him a family or two at a time, and inducted them to rooms of his
own finding. And hereat others, learning that in these cases rent in
advance was exacted, bestirred themselves: reflecting that if rent must
be paid they might as well choose their own rooms as take those that
Father Sturt might find. Of course the thing was not done without
payments from the vicar's pocket. Some were wholly destitute; others
could not muster enough to pay that advance of rent which alone could
open a Jago tenancy. Distinguishing the genuine impecuniosity from the
merely professed, with the insight that was now a sixth sense with him,
Father Sturt helped sparingly and in secret; for a precedent of
almsgiving was an evil thing in the Jago, confirming the shiftlessness
which was already a piece of Jago nature, and setting up long affliction
for the almsgiver. Enough of such precedents existed; and the inevitable
additions thereto were a work of anxious responsibility and jealous
care.

So the bivouac in Old Jago Street melted away. For one thing, there were
those among the dispossessed who would not waste time in unproductive
inactivity just then; for war had arisen with Dove Lane, and spoils were
going. Dove Lane was no very reputable place, but it was not like the
Jago. In the phrase of the district, the Dove Laners were pretty thick,
but the Jagos were thick as glue. There were many market-porters among
the Dove Laners, and at this, their prosperous season, they and their
friends resorted to a shop in Meakin Street, kept by an 'ikey' tailor,
there to buy the original out-and-out downy benjamins, or the celebrated
bang-up kicksies, cut saucy, with artful buttons and a double fakement
down the sides. And hereabout they were apt to be set upon by Jagos;
overthrown by superior numbers; bashed; and cleaned out. Or, if the
purchases had been made, they were flimped of their kicksies, benjies or
daisies, as the case might be. So that a fight with Dove Lane might be
an affair of some occasional profit; and it became no loyal Jago to idle
in the stronghold.

Father Sturt's task was nearly over, when, returning to Old Jago Street,
he saw Dicky Perrott sitting by a still-remaining heap--a heap small and
poor even among those others. The Perrotts had been decorously settled
in their new home since early morning; but here was Dicky, guarding a
heap with a baby on it, and absorbed in the weaving of rush bags.

'That's right, Dicky my boy,' said Father Sturt in the approving voice
that a Jago would do almost anything--except turn honest--to hear. And
Dicky, startled, looked up, flushed and happy, over his shoulder.

'Rush bags, eh?' the vicar went on, stooping and handing Dicky another
rush from the heap. 'And whose are they?'

The bags, the rushes, the heap, and the baby belonged to Mrs Bates, the
widow, who was now in search of a new room. Dicky had often watched the
weaving of fishmongers' frails, and, since it was work in which he had
had no opportunity of indulging, it naturally struck him as a
fascinating pastime. So that he was delighted by the chance which he had
taken, and Mrs Bates, for her part, was not sorry to find somebody to
mind her property. Moreover, by hard work and the skill begot of much
practice, she was able to earn a sum of some three farthings an hour at
the rush bags: a profit which her cupidity made her reluctant to lose,
for even half an hour. And thus to have Dicky carry on the business--and
in his enthusiasm he did it very well--was a further consideration.

Father Sturt chatted with Dicky till the boy could scarce plait for very
pride. Would not Dicky like to work regularly every day, asked Father
Sturt, and earn wages? Dicky could see no graceful answer but the
affirmative; and in sober earnest he thought he would. Father Sturt took
hold of Dicky's vanity. Was he not capable of something better than
other Jago boys? Why should he not earn regular wages, and live
comfortably, well fed and clothed, with no fear of the police, and no
shame for what he did? _He_ might do it, when others could not. They
were not clever enough. They called themselves 'clever' and 'wide;'
'but,' said Father Sturt, 'is there one of them that can deceive me?'
And Dicky knew there was not one. Most did no work, the vicar's argument
went on, because they had neither the pluck to try nor the intelligence
to accomplish. Else why did they live the wretched Jago life instead of
take the pleasanter time of the decent labourer?

Dicky, already zealous at work as exampled in rush bag-making, listened
with wistful pride. Yes, if he could, he would work and take his place
over the envious heads of his Jago friends. But how? Nobody would employ
a boy living in the Jago. That was notorious. The address was a
topsy-turvy testimonial for miles round.

All the same when Mrs Bates at last took away her belongings, Dicky ran
off in delighted amaze to tell his mother and Em that he was going to
tea at Father Sturt's rooms.

And the wreckers tore down the foul old houses, laying bare the secret
dens of a century of infamy; lifting out the wide sashes of the old
'weavers' windows'--the one good feature in the structures; letting
light and air at last into the subterraneous basements where men and
women had swarmed, and bred, and died, like wolves in their lairs; and
emerging from clouds of choking dust, each man a colony of vermin. But
there were rooms which the wreckers--no jack-a-dandies neither--flatly
refused to enter; and nothing would make them but much coaxing, the
promise of extra pay, and the certainty of much immediate beer.



XVIII


Mr Grinder kept a shop in the Bethnal Green Road. It was announced in
brilliant lettering as an 'oil, colour and Italian warehouse,' and
there, in addition to the oil and the colour, and whatever of Italian
there might have been, he sold pots, pans, kettles, brooms, shovels,
mops, lamps, nails, and treacle. It was a shop ever too tight for its
stock, which burst forth at every available opening, and heaped so high
on the paving that the window was half buried in a bank of shining tin.
Father Sturt was one of the best customers: the oil, candles and
utensils needed for church and club all coming from Mr Grinder's. Mr
Grinder was losing his shop-boy, who had found a better situation; and
Father Sturt determined that, could but the oil-man be persuaded, Dicky
Perrott should be the new boy. Mr Grinder was persuaded. Chiefly
perhaps, because the vicar undertook to make good the loss, should the
experiment end in theft; partly because it was policy to oblige a good
customer; and partly, indeed, because Mr Grinder was willing to give
such a boy a chance in life, for he was no bad fellow, as
oil-and-colourmen go, and had been an errand boy himself.

So that there came a Monday morning when Dicky, his clothes as well
mended as might be (for Hannah Perrott, no more than another Jago, could
disobey Father Sturt), and a cut-down apron of his mother's tied before
him, stood by Mr Grinder's bank of pots and kettles, in an eager agony
to sell something, and near blind with the pride of the thing. He had
been waiting at the shop-door long ere Mr Grinder was out of bed; and
now, set to guard the outside stock--a duty not to be neglected in that
neighbourhood--he brushed a tin pot here and there with his sleeve, and
longed for some Jago friend to pass and view him in his new greatness.
The goods he watched over were an unfailing source of interest; and he
learned by much repetition the prices of all the saucepans, painted in
blue distemper on the tin, and ranging from eightpence-halfpenny, on the
big pots in the bottom row, to three-halfpence on the very little ones
at the top. And there were long ranks of little paraffin lamps at a
penny--the sort that had set fire to a garret in Half Jago Street a
month since, and burnt old Mother Leary to a greasy cinder. With a
smaller array of a superior quality at fourpence-halfpenny--just like
the one that had burst at Jerry Gullen's, and burnt the bed. While over
his head swung doormats at one-and-eightpence, with penny mousetraps
dangling from their corners.

When he grew more accustomed to his circumstances, he bethought him to
collect a little dirt, and rub it down the front of his apron, to give
himself a well-worked and business-like appearance; and he greatly
impeded women who looked at the saucepans and the mousetraps, ere they
entered the shop, by his anxiety to cut them off from Mr Grinder and
serve them himself. He remembered the boy at the toy-shop in Bishopsgate
Street, years ago, who had chased him through Spitalfields; and he
wished that some lurching youngster would snatch a mousetrap, that he
might make a chase himself.

At Mr Grinder's every call Dicky was prompt and willing; for every new
duty was a fresh delight, and the whole day a prolonged game of real
shopkeeping. And at his tea--he was to have tea each day in addition to
three and sixpence every Saturday--he took scarce five minutes. There
was a trolley--just such a thing as porters used at railway stations,
but smaller--which was his own particular implement, his own to pack
parcels on for delivery to such few customers as did not carry away
their own purchases: and to acquire the dexterous management of this
trolley was a pure joy. He bolted his tea to start the sooner on a
trolley-journey to a public-house two hundred yards away.

His enthusiasm for work as an amusement cooled in a day or two, but all
his pride in it remained. The fight with Dove Lane waxed amain, but
Dicky would not be tempted into more than a distant interest in it. In
his day-dreams he saw himself a tradesman, with a shop of his own and
the name 'R. Perrott,' with a gold flourish, over the door. He would
employ a boy himself then; and there would be a parlour, with
stuff-bottomed chairs and a shade of flowers, and Em grown up and
playing on the piano. Truly Father Sturt was right: the hooks were
fools, and the straight game was the better.

Bobby Roper, the hunchback, went past the shop once, and saw him. Dicky,
minding his new dignity, ignored his enemy, and for the first time for a
year and more, allowed him to pass without either taunt or blow. The
other, astonished at Dicky's new occupation, came back and back again,
staring, from a safe distance, at Dicky and the shop. Dicky, on his
part, took no more notice than to assume an ostentatious vigilance: so
that the hunchback, baring his teeth in a snigger of malice, at last
turned on his heel and rolled off.

Twice Kiddo Cook passed, but made no sign of recognition beyond a wink;
and Dicky felt grateful for Kiddo's obvious fear of compromising him.
Once old Beveridge came by, striding rapidly, his tatters flying, and
the legend 'Hard Up' chalked on his hat, as was his manner in his town
rambles. He stopped abruptly at sight of Dicky, stooped, and
said:--'Dicky Perrott? Hum--hum--hey?' Then he hurried on, doubtless
conceiving just such a fear as Kiddo Cook's. As for Tommy Rann, his
affections were alienated by Dicky's outset refusal to secrete treacle
in a tin mug for a midnight carouse; and he did not show himself. So
matters went for near a week.

But Mr Weech missed Dicky sadly. It was rare for a day to pass without a
visit from Dicky, and Dicky had a way of bringing good things. Mr Weech
would not have sold Dicky's custom for ten shillings a week. So that
when Mr Weech inquired, and found that Dicky was at work in an oil-shop,
he was naturally annoyed. Moreover, if Dicky Perrott got into _that_ way
of life, he would have no fear for himself, and might get talking
inconveniently among his new friends about the business affairs of Mr
Aaron Weech. And at this reflection that philanthropist grew
thoughtful.



XIX


Dicky had gone on an errand, and Mr Grinder was at the shop door, when
there appeared before him a whiskered and smirking figure, with a quick
glance each way along the street, and a long and smiling one at the
oil-man's necktie.

'Good mornin', Mr Grinder, good mornin' sir.' Mr Weech stroked his left
palm with his right fist and nodded pleasantly. 'I'm in business meself,
over in Meakin Street--name of Weech: p'r'aps you know the shop? I--I
jist 'opped over to ask'--Grinder led the way into the shop--'to ask
(so's to make things quite sure y'know, though no doubt it's all right)
to ask if it's correct you're awfferin' brass roastin'-jacks at a
shillin' each.'

'Brass roastin'-jacks at a shillin'?' exclaimed Grinder, shocked at the
notion. 'Why, no!'

Mr Weech appeared mildly surprised. 'Nor yut seven-poun' jars o' jam an'
pickles at sixpence?' he pursued, with his eye on those ranged behind
the counter.

'No!'

'Nor doormats at fourpence?'

'Fourpence? Cert'nly not!'

Mr Weech's face fell into a blank perplexity. He pawed his ear with a
doubtful air, murmuring absently:--'Well I'm sure 'e _said_ fourpence:
an' sixpence for pickles, an' bring 'em round after the shop was shut.
But there', he added, more briskly, 'there's no 'arm done, an' no doubt
it's a mistake.' He turned as though to leave, but Grinder restrained
him.

'But look 'ere,' he said, 'I want to know about this. Wotjer mean? _'Oo_
was goin' to bring round pickles after the shop was shut? _'Oo_ said
fourpence for doormats?'

'Oh, I expect it's jest a little mistake, that's all,' answered Weech,
making another motion toward the door; 'an' I don't want to git nobody
into trouble.'

'Trouble? Nice trouble I'd be in if I sold brass smoke-jacks for a bob!
There's somethink 'ere as I ought to know about. Tell me about it
straight.'

Weech looked thoughtfully at the oil-man's top waistcoat button for a
few seconds, and then said:--'Yus, p'raps I better. I can feel for you,
Mr Grinder, 'avin' a feelin' 'art, an' bein' in business meself. Where's
your boy?'

'Gawn out.'

'Comin' back soon?'

'Not yut. Come in the back-parlour.'

There Mr Weech, with ingenuous reluctance, assured Mr Grinder that Dicky
Perrott had importuned him to buy the goods in question at the prices he
had mentioned, together with others--readily named now that the oil-man
swallowed so freely--and that they were to be delivered and paid for at
night when Dicky left work. But perhaps, Mr Weech concluded, parading an
obstinate belief in human nature, perhaps the boy, being new to the
business, had mistaken the prices, and was merely doing his best to push
his master's trade.

'No fear o' that,' said Grinder, shaking his head gloomily. 'Not the
least fear o' that. 'E knows the cheapest doormats I got's one an'
six--I 'eard him tell customers so outside a dozen times; an' anyone can
see the smoke-jacks is ticketed five an 'nine'--as Mr Weech had seen,
when he spoke of them. 'I thought that boy was too eager an' willin' to
be quite genavin,' Dicky's master went on. ''E ain't 'ad me yut, that's
one comfort: if anythin' 'ud bin gawn I'd 'a' missed it. But out 'e goes
as soon as 'e comes back: you can take yer davy o' that!'

'Ah,' replied Mr Weech, 'it's fearful the wickedness there is about,
ain't it? It's enough to break yer 'art. Sich a neighb'r'ood, too! Wy,
if it was known as I'd give you this 'ere little friendly information,
bein' in business meself an' knowin' wot it is, my life wouldn't be safe
a hower. It wouldn't, Mr Grinder.'

'Wouldn't it?' said Mr Grinder. 'You mean them in the Jago, I s'pose.'

'Yus. They're a awful lot, Mr Grinder--you've no idear. The father o'
this 'ere boy as I've warned you aginst, 'e's in with a desprit gang,
an' they'd murder me if they thought I'd come an' told you honest, w'en
you might 'a' bin robbed, as is my nature to. They would indeed. So o'
course you won't say wot I toldjer, nor 'oo give you this 'ere
honourable friendly warnin'--not to nobody.'

'That's awright,' answered the simple Grinder, 'I won't let on. But out
'e goes, promp'. I'm obliged to ye, Mr Weech. Er--r wot'll ye take?'

Weech put away the suggestion with a virtuous palm:--'Nothink at all, Mr
Grinder, thanks all the same. I never touch nothink; an' I'm glad to--to
do any moral job, so to speak, as comes in my way. 'Scatter seeds o'
kindness' you know, as the--the Psalm says, Mr Grinder. Your boy ain't
back, is 'e?'

And after peering cautiously, Mr Weech went his way.



XX


Dicky completed his round, and pushed his unladen trolley Grinder-ward
with a fuller sense of responsibility than ever. For he carried money. A
publican had paid him four and threepence, and he had taken two and
tenpence elsewhere. He had left his proud signature, pencilled large and
black, on two receipts, and he stopped in a dozen doorways to count the
money over again, and make sure that all was right. Between the halts he
added four and three to two and ten mentally, and proved his sum correct
by subtracting each in turn from seven and a penny. And at last he stood
his trolley on end by the bank of saucepans, and entered the shop.

'Walker's is paid, an' Wilkins is paid,' said Dicky, putting down the
money. 'Two an' ten an' four an' three's seven an' a penny.'

Mr Grinder looked steadily and sourly at Dicky, and counted. He pitched
the odd penny into the till and shook the rest of the coins in his
closed hand, still staring moodily in the boy's face. 'It's three an'
six a week you come 'ere at,' he said.

'Yus sir,' Dicky replied, since Grinder seemed to expect an answer. The
supreme moment when he should take his first wages had been the week's
beacon to him, reddening and brightening as Saturday night grew nearer.

'Three an' six a week an' yer tea.'

Dicky wondered.

'So as if I found out anythink about--say Brass Roastin'-jacks for
instance--I could give ye yer three an' six an' start y' auf, unless I
did somethin' wuss.'

Dicky was all incomprehension; but something made him feel a little
sick.

'But s'posin' I _didn't_ find out anythink about--say Seven-pun' Jars o'
Pickles--an' s'pose I wasn't disposed to suspect anythink in regard
to--say Doormats; then I could either give ye a week s notice or pay y'
a week's money an' clear y' out on the spot, without no more trouble.'

Mr Grinder paused, and still looked at Dicky with calm dislike. Then he
added, as though in answer to himself, 'Yus.' ...

He dropped the money slowly from his right hand to his left. Dicky's
mouth was dry, and the drawers and pickle-jars swam before him at each
side of Grinder's head. What did it mean?

''Ere y' are,' cried Mr Grinder, with sudden energy, thrusting his hand
across the counter. 'Two three-and-sixes is seven shillin's, an' you can
git yer tea at 'ome with yer dirty little sister. Git out o' my shop!'

Dicky's hand closed mechanically on the money, and after a second's
pause, he found broken speech. 'W--w--wot for, sir?' he asked, huskily.
'I ain't done nothink!'

'No, an' you sha'n't do nothink, that's more. Out ye go! If I see ye
near the place agin I'll 'ave ye locked up!'

Dicky slunk to the door. He felt the sobs coming, but he turned at the
threshold and said with tremulous lips:--'Woncher gimme a chance, sir?
S'elp me, I done me best. I--'

Mr Grinder made a short rush from the back of the shop, and Dicky gave
up and fled.

It was all over. There could never be a shop with 'R. Perrott' painted
over it, now; there would be no parlour with stuff-bottomed chairs and a
piano for Em to play. He was cut off from the trolley for ever. Dicky
was thirteen, and at that age the children of the Jago were past
childish tears; but tears he could not smother, even till he might find
a hiding-place: they burst out shamefully in the open street.

He took dark turnings, and hid his head in doorways. It was very bitter.
At last, when the sobs grew fewer, he remembered the money gripped in
his wet fist. It was a consolation. Seven shillings was a vast sum in
Dicky's eyes; until that day he had never handled so much in his life.
It would have been handsome recompense, he thought, for any trouble in
the world but this. He must take it home, of course; it might avail to
buy sympathy of his father and mother. But then, to think he might have
had as much every fortnight of his life, a good tea every day, and the
proud responsibility, and the trolley! At this his lips came awry again,
his eyes sought his sleeve, and he turned to another doorway.

His glance fell on the white apron, now smudged and greased in good
earnest. It made him feel worse; so he untied it and stuffed it away
under his jacket. He wondered vaguely what had occurred to irritate Mr
Grinder, and why he talked of pickles and doormats; but the sorrow of it
all afflicted him to the extinction of such minor speculation. And in
this misery he dragged his reluctant feet toward the Old Jago.



XXI


He handed his father the seven shillings, and received a furious belting
for losing his situation. He cried quietly, but it was not because of
the strap. All he feared now was to meet Father Sturt. He had rather
fifty beltings than Father Sturt's reproaches; and, having disgraced
himself with Mr Grinder in some mysterious way which it was beyond his
capacity to understand, what but reproaches could he expect from the
vicar? The whole world was against him. As for himself, he was hopeless:
plainly he must have some incomprehensible defect of nature, since he
offended, do as he might, and could neither understand nor redeem his
fault. He wondered if it had been so with little Neddy Wright, who had
found the world too ruthless for him at ten; and had tied a brick to
his neck, as he had seen done with needless dogs, and let himself
timidly down into the canal at Haggerstone Bridge.

So he shuffled through Jago Row, when a hand came on his shoulder and a
hoarse voice said:--'Wot's the matter, Dicky?'

He turned, and saw the mild, coarse face of Pigeony Poll, the jaw
whereof was labouring on something tough and sticky. Poll pulled from
her pocket a glutinous paper, clinging about a cohesive lump of broken
toffee--the one luxury of her moneyed times. ''Ave a bit,' she said.
'Wot's the matter?'

But Dicky thrust the hand away and fled, for he feared another burst of
tears. His eyes were bad enough as it was, and he longed to hide himself
in some hole.

He turned into New Jago Street. Hither it was that Jerry Gullen had
betaken himself with his family and the Canary, after the great
eviction. Dicky slackened his pace, loitered at Jerry's doorway, and
presently found himself in the common passage. It was long since he had
had a private interview with Jerry Gullen's canary: for, indeed, he was
thirteen--he was no longer a child, in fact!--and it was not well that
he should indulge in such foolish weakness. Nevertheless he went as far
as the back door. There stood the old donkey, mangy and infirm as ever,
but apparently no nearer the end. The wood of the fence was bitten in
places, but it was not as yet gnawed to the general whiteness and
roundness of that in Canary's old abode. Canary, indeed, was fortunate
to-day, for at the sound of Dicky's step he lifted his nose from a small
heap of straw, dust, and mouldy hay, swept into a corner. Dicky stepped
into the yard, and put his hand on Canary's neck; presently he glanced
guiltily at the windows above. Nobody was looking. And in five minutes
Dicky, aged as he was, had told Canary his troubles, while new tears
wetted the ragged crest and dropped into the dusty straw.

Now his grief lost some of its edge. Ashamed as he was, he had a
shapeless, unapprehended notion that Canary was the sole creature alive
that could understand and feel with him. And Canary poked his nose under
the old jacket and sniffed in sympathy, as the broken lining tickled
him. Dicky's intellectuals began to arrange themselves. Plainly, Mr
Weech's philosophy was right after all. He was of the Jago, and he must
prey on the outer world, as all the Jago did; not stray foolishly off
the regular track in chase of visions, and fall headlong. Father Sturt
was a creature of another mould. Who was he, Dicky Perrott, that he
should break away from the Jago habit, and strain after another nature?
What could come of it but defeat and bitterness? As old Beveridge had
said, the Jago had got him. Why should he fight against the inevitable,
and bruise himself? The ways out of the Jago old Beveridge had told him,
years ago. Gaol, the gallows and the High Mob. There was his chance, his
aspiration, his goal: the High Mob. To dream of oil-shops or regular
wages was foolishness. His bed was made in the Jago, and he must lie on
it. His hope in life, if he might have a hope at all, was to be of the
High Mob. Spare nobody, stop at nothing, do his devilmost: old Beveridge
had said that years ago. The task was before him, and he must not balk
at it. As for gaol and the gallows, well! There they were, and he could
not help it; ill ways out of the Jago, both, but still--ways out.

He rubbed his face carefully with his sleeve, put away his foolish
ambitions, and went forth with a brave heart: to accomplish his destiny
for well or ill,--a Jago rat. To do his devilmost. But to avoid Father
Sturt.

Out he went into Shoreditch High Street, and there he prowled the
evening away; there and in Norton Folgate. But he touched for
nothing--nothing at all. He feared lest his week's honesty had damaged
his training. Even an apple on a stall he failed at, and had to run. And
then he turned into Bethnal Green Road.

But here a thought checked him suddenly. What of Mr Grinder? He had
threatened to have Dicky locked up if he came near the shop again. But a
child of the Jago knew too much to be frightened by such a threat as
that. He went on. He felt interested to see how his late employer was
getting along without him, and who was minding the goods outside the
shop. Probably there was nobody: and this gave Dicky an idea.

He had forgotten his smudgy apron, folded and tucked away in the lining
of his jacket. Now he pulled it out, and fastened it before him once
more. He knew Mr Grinder's habits in the shop, and if he could seize a
fitting opportunity he might be able, attired in his apron, to pick up
or reach down any article that struck his fancy, fearless of
interference from passers-by; for he would seem to be still shop-boy.

With that he hastened, for it was near closing time at Grinder's. He
took the opposite side of the road, the better to observe unseen in the
darkness. But Mr Grinder had already begun to carry things in from the
pavement. As Dicky looked he came out with a long pole wherewith he
unhooked from above a clattering cluster of pails and watering pots, and
a bunch of doormats. The doormats he let fall on the flags, while he
carried in the pots and pails. Dicky knew that these pots and pails were
kept at night in a shed behind the house; so he scuttled across the
road, opening the blade of his old knife as he ran. He cut the string
that held the mats together, selected a thick one, rolled it under his
arm, and edged off into the shadow. Then he ran quietly across to the
nearest turning.

Presently Mr Grinder came out, hooked his finger in the string among the
mats, and pulled up nothing. He stooped, and saw that the string was
cut. He looked about him suspiciously, flung the mats over, and counted
them. Then he stood erect; stared up the street, down the street, and
across the road, with his mouth open; and made short rushes left and
right into the gloom. Then he returned to the mats and scratched his
head. Finally, he gave another glance about the street, picked up the
mats in his arms and carried them in, counting them as he went. And, the
mats bestowed, whenever he came forth for a fresh armful of saucepans,
he stood and gazed doubtfully, now this way, now that, about the Bethnal
Green Road.

Mr Aaron Weech was pushing his last shutter into its place when 'Clean
the knives,' said Dicky Perrott, in perfunctory repetition of the old
formula.

Mr Weech seemed taken aback. 'Wot, that?' he asked, doubtfully, pointing
at the doormat. Then, after a sharp look about the almost deserted
street, he ran to Jago Row corner, twenty yards away, and looked down
there. Nobody was hiding, and he came back. He led the way into the
shop, and closed the door. Then, looking keenly in Dicky's face, he
suddenly asked,--''Oo toldjer to bring that 'ere?'

'Told me?' Dicky answered sullenly. 'Nobody told me. Don'cher want it?'

''Ow much did 'e tell ye t'ask for it?'

'Tell me? 'Oo?'

'_You_ know. 'Ow much didjer say 'e said?'

Dicky was mystified. 'Dunno wotcher mean,' he replied.

Mr Weech suddenly broke into a loud laugh, but kept his keen look on the
boy's face nevertheless. 'Ah, it's a good joke, Dicky, ain't it?' he
said, and laughed again. 'But you can't 'ave me, ye know! Mr Grinder's a
old friend o' mine, an' I know 'is little larks. Wot did 'e tell ye to
do if I wouldn't 'ave that doormat?'

'Tell me?' asked Dicky, plainly more mystified than ever. 'Wy 'e never
told me nothink. 'E gimme the sack this afternoon, an' chucked me out.'

'Then wotcher got yer apron on now for?'

'Oh,' said Dicky, looking down at it, 'I jist put it on agin--o'
purpose.' And he glanced at the mat.

Mr Weech understood, and grinned--a genuine grin this time. 'That's
right Dicky,' he said, 'never let yer wits go a-ramblin'. A sharp boy
like you's a lot too good for a shop-boy, slavin' away from mornin' till
night, an' treated ungrateful. Wot did 'e sack ye for?'

'I dunno. Took a fit in 'is 'ead, I s'pose. Wotcher goin' to gimme for
this mat? It's a two an' three mat.'

'Want somethink to eat, doncher?' suggested Mr Weech, glancing at a heap
of stale cake.

'No I don't,' Dicky answered, with sulky resolution. 'I want money.'

'Awright,' said Mr Weech, resignedly. 'You ain't 'ad much to eat an'
drink 'ere for a long time, though. But I'll do the 'an'some, seein'
you're bin treated ungrateful by Grinder. 'Ere's twopence.'

But Dicky held to the mat. 'Twopence ain't enough,' he said. 'I want
fourpence.' He meant to spare nobody--not even Mr Weech.

'Wot? Fourpence?' gasped Mr Weech indignantly. 'Wy, you're mad. Take it
away.'

Dicky rolled the mat under his arm and turned to the door.

''Ere,' said Mr Weech, seeing him going, 'I'll make it thrippence,
seein' you're bin treated so bad. Thrippence--_and_ a slice o' cake,' he
added, perceiving that Dicky did not hesitate.

'I don't want no cake,' Dicky answered doggedly. 'I want fourpence, an'
I won't take no less.'

The good Weech was unwilling that Dicky should find another market after
all, so he submitted to the extortion. 'Ah well,' he said, with a sigh,
pulling out the extra coppers, 'jist for this once, then. You'll ave to
make it up next time. Mindjer, it's on'y 'cos I'm sorry for ye bein'
treated ungrateful. Don't _you_ go an' treat _me_ ungrateful, now.'

Dicky pocketed his pence and made for home, while Mr Weech, chuckling
gently at his morning prophecy of a doormat for fourpence, carried the
plunder to the room reserved for new and unused stock; promising
himself, however, a peep at Grinder's shop in the morning, to make quite
sure that Dicky had really left.

So ended Dicky's dealings with the house of Grinder. When Father Sturt
next saw the oil-man, and inquired of Dicky's progress, he was met with
solemn congratulations that no larcenies were to pay for. Mr Grinder's
sagacity, it seemed, had enabled him to detect and crush at the outset
Dicky's plans for selling stock wholesale on his own account. Out of
consideration for the vicar's recommendation he had refrained from
handing the boy over to the police, but had paid him a week in advance
and dismissed him. Father Sturt insisted on repaying the money, and
went his way with a heavy heart. For if this were what came of the
promising among his flock, what of the others? For some while he saw
nothing of Dicky; and the incident fell back among a crowd of others in
his remembrance: for Dicky was but one among thousands, and the
disappointment was but one of many hundreds.

Lying awake that night, but with closed eyes, Dicky heard his mother,
talking with his father, suggest that perhaps an enemy had earwigged
Grinder, and told him a tale that had brought about Dicky's dismissal:
somebody, perhaps, who wanted the situation for somebody else. Josh
Perrott did no more than grunt at the guess, but it gave a new light to
Dicky. Clearly that would account for Grinder's change. But who could
the mischief-maker be?

The little clock on the mantel-piece ticked away busily in the silence,
and Dicky instantly thought of the hunchback. He it must have been,
without a doubt. Who else? Was he not hanging about the shop, staring
and sneering, but a day or two back? And was it not he who had pursued
him with malice on every occasion, in school and out? Had not Bobby
Roper this very trick of lying tales? Where was the gratuitous injury in
all these four years that had not been Bobby Roper's work? Dicky
trembled with rage as he lay, and he resolved on condign revenge. The
war with Dove Lane was over for the time being, but that made it easier
for him to catch his enemy.



XXII


The feud between the Jago and Dove Lane was eternal, just as was that
between the Ranns and the Learys; but, like the Rann and Leary feud, it
had its paroxysms and its intervals. And, in both cases, the close of a
paroxysm was signalised by a great show of amity between the factions.
Bob Rann and Billy Leary would drink affably from the same pot, and
Norah Walsh and Sally Green would call each other 'mum'; while Jagos and
Dove-Laners would mingle in bars and lend pinches of tobacco, and call
each other 'matey.' A paroxysm in the war had now passed, and
reconciliation was due. The Dove-Laners had been heavily thrashed: their
benjamins and kicksies had been impounded in Meakin Street, and they had
ceased from buying. Dove Lane itself had been swept from end to end by
the victorious Jago, and the populations of both were dotted thickly
with bandaged heads. This satisfactory state of things achieved, there
was little reason left for fighting. Moreover, if fighting persisted too
long at a time, the police were apt to turn up in numbers, subjecting
the neighbourhood to much inconvenient scrutiny, and very often coming
across Jagos--or even Dove-Laners--'wanted' on old accounts. So peace
was declared; and, as a visible sign thereof, it was determined that the
Dove-Laners should visit the Jago in a body, there to join in a
sing-song at Mother Gapp's. Mother Gapp's was chosen, not only because
it _was_ Mother Gapp's--an important consideration--but also because of
the large room behind the bar, called the 'club-room,' which had long
ago been made of two rooms and a big cupboard, by the cutting away of
crazy partitions from the crazy walls.

Scarce was it dark when the Dove-Laners, in a succession of hilarious
groups--but withal a trifle suspicious--began to push through Mother
Gapp's doors. Their caps pulled down to their ears, their hands in their
pockets, their shoulders humped, and their jackets buttoned tight, they
lurched through the Jago, grinning with uneasy affability at the
greetings that met them, being less practised than the Jagos in the
assumption of elaborate cordiality.

In the club-room of the Feathers there were but three or four of the
other party, though the bar was packed. The three or four, of whom Josh
Perrott was one, were by way of a committee of stewards deputed to bid
the Dove-Laners welcome, and to help them to seats. The Jagos were in
some sort in the situation of hosts, and it had been decided after
debate that it would ill become them to take their places till their
guests were seated. The punctilio of the Jago on such occasions was a
marvel ever.

So Josh Perrott stood at one side of the club-room door and Billy Leary
at the other, shaking hands with all who entered, and strenuously
maintaining cheerful grins. Now the Jago smile was a smile by itself,
unlike the smiles in other places. It faded suddenly, and left the
face--the Jago face--drawn and sad and startling by contrast, as of a
man betrayed into mirth in the midst of great sorrow. So that a
persistent grin was known for a work of conscious effort.

The Dove-Laners came in still larger numbers than had been expected, and
before long it was perceived that there would be little space in the
club-room, if any at all, for the Jagos. Already the visitors seemed to
fill the place, but they still kept coming, and found places by
squeezing. There was some doubt as to what had best be done. Meanwhile
the sing-song began, for at least a score were anxious to 'oblige' at
once, and every moment fresh volunteers arose. Many Dove-Laners stood
up, and so made more room; but more came, and still more, till the
club-room could hold not another, and the very walls were like to burst.
Under the low ceiling hung a layer of smoke that obscured the face of
the man standing on the table at the end to sing; and under the smoke
was a close-packed array of heads, hats, and clay pipes, much
diversified by white bandages and black eyes.

Such Dove-Laners as came in now were fain to find places in the bar, if
they could; and a crowd of Jagos, men and women, hung about the doors of
the Feathers. More fortunate than other boys, Dicky, who would go
anywhere to hear what purported to be music, had succeeded in worming
himself through the bar and almost to the door of the club-room; but he
could get no farther, and now he stood compressed, bounded on the face
by Cocko Harnwell's coat-tails, and on the back of the head by Fluffy
Pike's moleskin waistcoat, with pearlies down the front and the artful
dodge over the pockets. Pud Palmer--one of the reception committee--was
singing. He accompanied his chorus by a step dance, and all the company
stamped in sympathy:--

    '_She's a fighter, she's a biter, she's a swearer, she's a tearer,
      The gonophs down aar alley they calls 'er Rorty Sal;
    But as I'm a pertikiler sort o' bloke, I calls 'er Rorty Sairer,
      I'm goin'_--'

Crack!--CRASH!

Dicky clung to Cocko Harnwell's coat-tails lest he were trampled to
death; and for a while he was flung about, crushed and bruised, among
rushing men, like a swimmer among breakers, while the air was rent with
howls and the smash of glass. For the club-room floor had given way.

It had been built but slightly in the beginning, as floor for two small
rooms and a cupboard, with little weight to carry. Old and rotten now,
and put to the strain of a multitude, stamping in unison, it had failed
utterly, and had let down a struggling mob of men five feet on the
barrels in the cellar, panic-stricken and jumbled with tables, pots,
wooden forms, lighted pipes and splintered joinery.

From the midst of the stramash a Dove-Laner bawled aloud that it was a
trap, and instantly Jagos and Dove-Laners were at each others' throats,
and it was like to go hard with the few Jagos among the ruins. Billy
Leary laid about him desperately with a ragged piece of flooring, while
Josh Perrott and Pud Palmer battered Dove-Laners with quart pots. Then
it was shouted without that the Dove-Laners were exterminating the
Jagos within, and a torrent of Jagos burst through the doors, poured
through the bar, and over the club-room threshold into the confusion
below.

Dicky, bruised, frightened and flung like a rag this way and that, at
last made shift to grasp a post, and climb up on the bar counter. Mother
Gapp, a dishevelled maniac, was dancing amid pots and broken glass,
black in the face, screaming inaudibly. Dicky stumbled along the
counter, climbed over the broken end of a partition, and fell into the
arms of Kiddo Cook, coming in with the rush. 'Put the boy out!' yelled
Kiddo, turning and heaving him over the heads behind him. Somebody
caught Dicky by a leg and an arm, his head hit the door post, the world
turned a double-somersault about him, and he came down with a crash. He
was on the flags of Old Jago Street, with all his breath driven out of
him.

But he was quickly on his feet again. A crowd beat against the front of
Mother Gapp's, and reinforcements came running from everywhere, with the
familiar rallying-cry, 'Jago! Jago 'old tight!' Dove Lane had abused
the Jago hospitality; woe to the Dove-Laners!

There were scuffles here and there, where Dove-Laners, who had never
reached the club-room, or who had been crowded out of it, made for
escape. Dicky was shaken and sore, but he pulled himself together
resolutely. He had seen a few Dove Lane boys about before he had got
into the Feathers, and plainly it was his duty to find them and bash
them. Moreover, he wondered what had become of his father. He hastened
through the dark passage of the house next to Mother Gapp's, into the
back yard, and through the broken fence. There was a door in the
club-room wall, and through this he thought to see what was going
forward.

The cellar--at any rate, at the farther end--was a pit of writhing
forms, and the din rose loud as ever. A short figure stood black against
the light, and held by the door-post, looking down at the riot. Dicky
knew it. He sprang at Bobby Roper, pulled him by the arm, and struck at
him furiously. The hunchback, whimpering, did his best to retaliate and
to get away; but Dicky, raging at the remembrance of his fancied
injury, struck savagely, and struck again, till Bobby Roper tripped
backward over the projecting end of a broken floor-board, and pitched
headlong into the cellar. He struck a barrel and rolled over, falling
into the space between that and two other barrels. Dicky looked, but the
hunchback did not move. Then some of the Dove-Laners flung pots at the
lamps hanging against the club-room walls. Soon they were smashed and
fell, and there was a darkness; and under cover thereof the aliens
essayed flight.

Dicky was a little frightened at what he had done, but he felt that with
Bobby Roper anything was justifiable. Some Dove-Laners escaped by the
back door--the cellar was low, and there was not five feet between the
barrels and the broken joists--and these Dicky avoided by getting back
through the fence. In the end, most of the enemy struggled away by one
means or another, and when lights were brought at last the Jagos were
found pummelling each other savagely in the gloom.

Father Sturt, apprised of something uncommon by the exodus of members
from the club, finally locked the doors and came to investigate. He
arrived as the Jagos were extricating themselves from the cellar, and it
was he who lifted the little hunchback from among the barrels and
carried him into the open air; he also who carried him home. No bone was
broken, and no joint was disturbed, but there was a serious shock, many
contusions, and a cut on the scalp. So said the surgeon whom Father
Sturt took with him to Dove Lane. And Bobby Roper lay a fortnight in
bed.

More plaster than ever embellished the heads of Dove Lane and the Jago
that night; but for the Jagos there was compensation. For down among the
barrels lay many a packet of tobacco, many a pair of boots, and many a
corner stuffed with mixed property of other sorts: which Mother Gapp had
fenced for many a month back. So that it happened to more than one
warrior to carry home again something with which he had run between the
'Posties' long before, and had sold to Mother Gapp for what she would
give.

The ground floor of the Feathers stood a battered shell. The damage of
four years ago was inconsiderable compared to this. With tears and
blasphemy Mother Gapp invaded the hoard of her long iniquity to buy a
new floor; but it was the larceny--the taking of the tobacco and the
boots, and the many other things from among the barrels--that cut her to
the soul. A crool--a crool thing was such robbery--sheer robbery, said
Mother Gapp.

Josh Perrott got a bad sprain in the cellar and had to be helped home.
More, he took with him not a single piece of plunder, such was his
painful disablement.



XXIII


For more than a week Josh Perrott could not walk about. And it was a bad
week. For some little while his luck had been but poor, and now he found
himself laid up with a total reserve fund of fourteenpence. A coat was
pawned with old Poll Rann (who kept a leaving shop in a first floor back
in Jago Row) for ninepence. Then Josh swore at Dicky for not being still
at Grinder's, and told him to turn out and bring home some money. Dicky
had risen almost too sore and stiff to stand, on the morning after the
fight at the Feathers, and he was little better now. But he had to go,
and he went, though he well knew that a click was out of the question,
for his joints almost refused to bend. But he found that the fat's
a-running boys were contemplating business, and he scouted for them
with such success as to bring home sevenpence in the evening. Then Kiddo
Cook, who had left Mother Gapp's with a double armful on the night of
the sing-song, found himself rich enough, being a bachelor, to lend Josh
eighteenpence. And a shawl of Hannah Perrott's was pawned. That, though,
was redeemed the next day, together with the coat. For Dicky brought
home a golden sovereign.

It had been an easy click--scarce a click at all, perhaps, strictly
speaking. Dicky had tramped into the city, and had found a crowd outside
St Paul's--a well-dressed crowd, not being moved on: for something was
going forward in the cathedral. He recognised one of the High Mob, a
pogue-hunter--that is a pickpocket who deals in purses. Dicky watched
this man's movements, by way of education; for he was an eminent
practitioner, and worked alone, with no assistant to cover him. Dicky
saw him in the thick of the crowd, standing beside and behind one lady
after another; but it was only when his elbow bent to slip something
into his own pocket that Dicky knew he had 'touched.' Presently he
moved to another part of the crowd, where mostly men were standing, and
there he stealthily let drop a crumpled newspaper, and straightway left
the crowd. He had 'worked' it as much as he judged safe. Dicky wriggled
toward the crumpled paper, slipped it under his jacket, and cleared away
also. He knew that there was something in the paper beside news: that,
in fact, there were purses in it--purses emptied and shed as soon as
might be, because nobody can swear to money, but strange purses lead to
destruction. Dicky recked little of this danger, but made his best pace
to a recess in a back street, there to examine his pogues; for though
the uxter was gone from them, they might yet bring a few coppers from Mr
Weech, if they were of good quality. They were a fairly sound lot. One
had a large clasp that looked like silver, and another was quite new,
and Dicky was observing with satisfaction the shop-shininess of the
lining, when he perceived a cunning pocket at the back, lying flat
against the main integument--and in it was a sovereign! He gulped at the
sight. Clearly the pogue-hunter, emptying the pogues in his pocket by
sense of touch, had missed the flat pocket. Dicky was not yet able to
run with freedom, but he never ceased from trotting till he reached his
own staircase in Old Jago Street. And so the eight or nine days passed,
and Josh went out into the Jago with no more than a tenderness about his
ankle.

Now, he much desired a good click; so he went across High Street
Shoreditch, to Kingsland Railway Station and bought a ticket for
Canonbury.

Luck was against him, it was plain. He tramped the northern suburbs from
three o'clock till dark, but touched for nothing. He spent money,
indeed, for he feared to overwork his ankle, and for that reason rested
in divers public-houses. He peeped in at the gates of quiet gardens, in
the hope of garden-hose left unwatched, or tennis-rackets lying in a
handy summer-house. But he saw none. He pried about the doors of private
stable-yards, in case of absent grooms and unprotected bunches of
harness; but in vain. He inspected quiet areas and kitchen entrances in
search of unguarded spoons--even descended into one area, where he had
to make an awkward excuse about buying old bottles, in consequence of
meeting the cook at the door. He tramped one quiet road after another on
the look out for a dead 'un--a house furnished, but untenanted. But
there was never a dead 'un, it seemed, in all the northern district. So
he grew tired and short-tempered, and cursed himself for that he had not
driven off with a baker's horse and cart that had tempted him early in
the afternoon.

It grew twilight, and then dark. Josh sat in a public-house, and took a
long rest and some bread and cheese. It would never do to go home
without touching, and for some time he considered possibilities with
regard to a handful of silver money, kept in a glass on a shelf behind
the bar. But it was out of reach, and there were too many people in the
place for any attempt by climbing on the counter. Josh grew savage and
soured. Plastering itself was not such troublesome work; and at least
the pay was certain. It was little short of ten o'clock when he left
the public-house and turned back toward Canonbury. He would have
_something_ on the way, he resolved, and he would catch the first train
home. He would have to knock somebody over in a dark street, that was
all. It was nothing new, but he would rather have made his click another
way this time, because his tender ankle might keep him slow, or even
give way altogether; and to be caught in a robbery with violence might
easily mean something more than mere imprisonment; it might mean a dose
of the 'cat': and the cat was a thing the thought or the mention whereof
sent shudders through the Old Jago.

But no: nobody worth knocking down came his way. Truly luck was out
to-night. There was a spot by the long garden wall of a corner house
that would have suited admirably, and as Josh lingered there, and looked
about him, his eye fell on a ladder, reared nearly upright against the
back wall of that same corner house, and lashed at the roof. It passed
by the side of the second floor window, whereof the top sash was a
little open. That would do. It was not his usual line of work, but it
looked very promising.

He stuck his stick under his waistcoat by way of the collar, and climbed
the wall with gingerly care, giving his sound foot all the hard work.
The ladder offered no difficulty, but the bottom sash of the window was
stiff, and he cracked a pane of glass in pushing at the frame with his
stick. The sash lifted, however, in the end, and he climbed into the
dark room, being much impeded by the dressing-table. All was quiet in
the house, and the ticking of a watch on the dressing-table was distinct
in the ear. Josh felt for it and found it, with a chain hanging from the
bow.

The house was uncommonly quiet. Could it possibly be a dead 'un after
all? Josh felt that he ought to have inspected the front windows before
climbing the wall, but the excitement of the long-delayed chance had
ruined his discretion. At any rate he would reconnoitre. The door was
ajar and the landing was dark.

Down in the drawing-room a gross, pimply man, in shirt-sleeves and
socks, sat up on the sofa at the sound of an opened window higher in
the house. He took a drink from the glass by his side, and listened.
Then he rose and went softly upstairs.

Josh Perrott came out on the landing. It was a long landing, with a
staircase at the end, illuminated from somewhere below: so that it was
not a case of a dead 'un after all. He tip-toed along to take a look
down the stairs, nevertheless. Then he was conscious of a loud
breathing, as of an over-gorged cow, and up behind the stair-rails rose
a fat head, followed by a fat trunk, between white shirt-sleeves.

Josh sank into the shadow. The man had no light, but discover him he
must, sooner or later, for the landing was narrow. Better sooner, and
suddenly. As the man's foot was on the topmost stair, Josh sprang at him
with a straight left-hander that took him on the broad chin, and sent
him downstairs in a heap, with a crash and a roar. Josh darted back to
the room he had just left, scrambled through the window, and slid down
the ladder, as he had slid down many another when he was a plasterer's
boy. He checked himself short of the bottom, sprang at the wall-coping,
flung himself over, and ran up the dark by-street, with the sound of
muffled roars and screams faint in his ears.

He ran a street or two, taking every corner as he came to it, and then
fell into a walk. In his flight he had not spared his ankle, and now it
was painful. Moreover, he had left his stick behind him, in the bedroom.
But he was in Highbury, and Canonbury Road Station was less than half a
mile away. He grinned silently as he went, for there was something in
the aspect of the overfed householder, and in the manner of his
downfall, that gave the adventure a comic flavour. He took a peep at his
spoil as he passed under a street lamp, for all watches and chains are
the same in the dark, and the thing might be a mere Waterbury on a steel
guard. But no: both were gold, and heavy: a red clock and slang if ever
there was one. And so Josh Perrott hobbled and chuckled his way home.



XXIV


But indeed Josh Perrott's luck was worse than he thought. For the gross,
pimply man was a High Mobsman--so very high a mobsman that it would have
been slander and libel, and a very great expense, to write him down a
mobsman at all. He paid a rent of a hundred and twenty pounds a year,
and heavy rates, and put half-a-crown into the plate at a very
respectable chapel every Sunday. He was, in fact, the King of High
Mobsmen, spoken of among them as the Mogul. He did no vulgar thievery:
he never screwed a chat, nor claimed a peter, nor worked the mace. He
sat easily at home, and financed (sometimes planned) promising
speculations: a large swindle requiring much ground-baiting and
preliminary outlay; or a robbery of specie from a mail train; or a bank
fraud needing organization and funds. When the results of such
speculations consisted of money he took the lion's share. When they were
expressed in terms of imprisonment they fell to active and intelligent
subordinates. So that for years the Mogul had lived an affluent and a
blameless life, far removed from the necessity of injudicious bodily
exercise, and characterised by every indulgence consistent with a proper
suburban respectability. He had patronised, snubbed, or encouraged High
Mobsmen of more temerarious habit, had profited by their exploits, and
had read of their convictions and sentences with placid interest in the
morning papers. And after all this, to be robbed in his own house and
knocked downstairs by a casual buster was an outrage that afflicted the
Mogul with wrath infuriate. Because that was a sort of trouble that had
never seemed a possibility, to a person of his eminence: and because the
angriest victim of dishonesty is a thief.

However, the burglar had got clean away, that was plain; and he had
taken the best watch and chain in the house, with the Mogul's initials
on the back. So that respectable sufferer sent for the police, and gave
his attention to the the alleviation of bumps and the washing away of
blood. In his bodily condition a light blow was enough to let a great
deal of blood--no doubt with benefit; and Josh Perrott's blows were not
light in any case.

So it came to pass that not only were the police on the look-out for a
man with a large gold watch with the Mogul's monogram on the back; but
also the word was passed as by telegraph through underground channels,
till every fence in London was warned that the watch was the Mogul's;
and ere noon next day there was not one but would as lief have put a
scorpion in his pocket as that same toy and tackle that Josh Perrott was
gloating over in his back room in Old Jago Street.

As for Josh, his ankle was bad in the morning, and swelled. He dabbed at
it perseveringly with wet rags, and rubbed it vigorously, so that by one
o'clock he was able to lace up his boot and go out. He was anxious to
fence his plunder without delay, and he made his way to Hoxton. The
watch seemed to be something especially good, and he determined to stand
out for a price well above the usual figure. For the swag of common
thieves commanded no such prices as did that of the High Mob. All of it
was bought and sold on the simple system first called into being seventy
years back and more by the prince of fences, Ikey Solomons. A breast-pin
brought a fixed sum, good or bad, and a roll of cloth brought the fixed
price of a roll of cloth, regardless of quality. Thus a silver watch
fetched six shillings, never more and never less; a gold watch was worth
twice as much; an uncommonly good one--a rich man's watch--would bring
as much as eighteen shillings, if the thief were judge enough of its
quality to venture the demand. And as it commonly took three men to
secure a single watch in the open street--one to 'front,' one to snatch,
and a third to take from the snatcher--the gains of the toy-getting
trade were poor, except to the fence. This time Josh resolved to put
pressure on the fence, and to do his best to get something as near a
sovereign as might be. And as to the chain, so thick and heavy, he would
fight his best for the privilege of sale by weight. Thus turning the
thing in his mind, he entered the familiar doorway of the old clothes
shop.

'Vot is id?' asked the fence, holding out his hand with the customary
air of contempt for what was coming, by way of discounting it in
advance. This particular fence, by-the-bye, never bought anything
himself. He inspected whatever was brought on behalf of an occult
friend; and the transaction was completed by a shabby third party in an
adjoining court. But he had an amazingly keen regard for his friend's
interests.

Josh put the watch into the extended hand. The fence lifted it to his
face, turned it over, and started. He looked hard at Josh, and then
again at the watch, and handed it hastily back, holding it gingerly by
the bow. 'Don' vant _dot_,' he said; 'nod me--nod 'im, I mean. No, no.'
He turned away, shaking his hand as though to throw off contamination.
'Take id avay.'

'Wot's the matter?' Josh demanded, astonished. 'Is it 'cos o' the
letters on the back? You can easy send it to church, can't ye?'

A watch is 'sent to church' when it is put into another case. But the
fence waved away the suggestion. 'Take id avay I tell you,' he said.
'I--'e von't 'ave nodden to do vid id.'

'Wot's the matter with the chain, then?' asked Josh. But the fence
walked away to the back of the shop, wagging his hands desperately, like
a wet man seeking a towel, and repeating only:--'Nodden to do vid
id--take id avay--nodden to do vid id.'

Josh stuffed his prize back into his pocket, and regained the street. He
was confounded. What was wrong with Cohen? Did he suspect a police trick
to entrap him? Josh snorted with indignation at the thought. He was no
nark! But perhaps the police were showing a pressing interest in Cohen's
business concerns just now, and he had suspended fencing for a while.
The guess was a lame one, but he could think of none better at the
moment, as he pushed his way to the Jago. He would try Mother Gapp.

Mother Gapp would not even take the watch in her hands; her eyes were
good enough at that distance. 'Lor', Josh Perrott,' she said, 'wot 'a'
ye bin up to now? Want to git me lagged now, do ye? Ain't satisfied with
breakin' up the 'ouse an' ruinin' a pore widder that way, ain't ye? You
git out, go on. I 'ad 'nough o' you!'

It was very extraordinary. Was there a general reclamation of fences?
But there were men at work at the Feathers, putting down boards and
restoring partitions; and two of them had been 'gone over' ruinously on
their way to work, and now they came and went with four policemen.
Possibly Mother Gapp feared the observation of carpenters. Be it as it
might, there was nothing for it now but Weech's.

Mr Weech was charmed. 'Dear me, it's a wonderful fine watch, Mr
Perrott--a wonderful fine watch. An' a beautiful chain.' But he was
looking narrowly at the big monogram as he said it. 'It's reely a
wonderful article. 'Ow they do git 'em up, to be sure! Cost a lot o'
money too, I'll be bound. Might you be thinkin' o' sellin' it?'

'Yus o' course,' replied Josh. 'That's wot I brought it for.'

'Ah, it's a lovely watch, Mr Perrott--a lov-erly watch; an' the chain
matches it. But you mustn't be too 'ard on me. Shall we say four pound
for the little lot?'

It was more than double Josh's wildest hopes, but he wanted all he could
get. 'Five,' he said doggedly.

Weech gazed at him with tender rebuke. 'Five pound's a awful lot o'
money, Mr Perrott,' he said. 'You're too 'ard on me, reely. I 'ardly
know 'ow I can scrape it up. But it's a beautiful little lot, an' I
won't 'aggle. But I ain't got all that money in the 'ouse now. I never
keep so much money in the 'ouse--sich a neighb'r'ood, Mr Perrott! Bring
it round to-morrer mornin' at eleven.'

'Awright, I'll come. Five quid, mind.'

'Ah yus,' answered Mr Weech, with a reproving smile. 'It's reely more
than I ought!'

Josh was jubilant, and forgot his sore ankle. He had never handled such
a sum as five pounds since his fight with Billy Leary, years ago; when,
indeed, he had stooped to folly in the shape of lavish treating, and so
had not enjoyed the handling of the full amount.

Mr Weech, also, was pleased. For it was a great stroke of business to
oblige so distinguished a person as the Mogul. There was no telling what
advantages it might not lead to in the way of trade.

That night the Perrotts had a hot supper, brought from Walker's
cook-shop in paper. And at eleven the next morning Josh, twenty yards
from Mr Weech's door, with the watch and chain in his pocket, was tapped
on the arm by a constable in plain clothes, while another came up on the
other side. 'Mornin', Perrott,' said the first constable, cheerily.
'We've got a little business with you at the station.'

'Me? Wot for?'

'Oh well, come along; p'raps it ain't anything--unless there's a gold
watch an' chain on you, from Highbury. It's just a turnin' over.'

'Awright,' replied Josh, resignedly. 'It's a fair cop. I'll go quiet.'

'That's right, Perrott; it ain't no good playin' the fool, you know.'
They were moving along; and as they came by Weech's shop, a whiskered
face, with a patch of shining scalp over it, peeped from behind a
curtain that hung at the rear of the bloaters and plumcake in the
window. As he saw it, Josh ducked suddenly, wrenching his arm free, and
dashed over the threshold. Mr Weech, whiskers and apron flying, galloped
through the door at the back, and the constables sprang upon Josh
instantly and dragged him into the street. 'Wotcher mean?' cried the one
who knew him, indignantly, and with a significant glance at the other.
'Call that goin' quiet?'

Josh's face was white and staring with rage. 'Awright,' he grunted
through his shut teeth, after a pause. 'I'll go quiet now. I ain't got
nothin' agin _you_.'



XXV


Dicky's morning theft that day had been but a small one--he had run off
with a new two-foot rule that a cabinet-maker had carelessly left on an
unfinished office table at his shop door in Curtain Road. It was not
much, but it might fetch some sort of a dinner at Weech's, which would
be better than going home, and, perhaps, finding nothing. So about noon,
all ignorant of his father's misfortune, he came by way of Holywell Lane
and Bethnal Green Road to Meakin Street.

Mr Weech looked at him rather oddly, Dicky fancied, when he came in, but
he took the two-foot rule with alacrity, and brought Dicky a rasher of
bacon, and a slice of cake afterward. This seemed very generous. More:
Mr Weech's manner was uncommonly amiable, and when the meal was over, of
his own motion, he handed over a supplementary penny. Dicky was
surprised; but he had no objection, and he thought little more about it.

As soon as he appeared in Luck Row he was told that his father had been
'smugged.' Indeed the tidings had filled the Jago within ten minutes.
Josh Perrott was walking quietly along Meakin Street,--so went the
news,--when up comes Snuffy and another split, and smugs him. Josh had a
go for Weech's door, to cut his lucky out at the back, but was caught.
That was a smart notion of Josh's, the Jago opinion ran, to get through
Weech's and out into the courts behind. But it was no go.

Hannah Perrott sat in her room, inert and lamenting. Dicky could not
rouse her, and at last he went off by himself to reconnoitre about
Commercial Street Police Station, and pick up what information he might;
while a gossip or two came and took Mrs Perrott for consolation to
Mother Gapp's. Little Em, unwashed, tangled and weeping, could well take
care of herself and the room, being more than two years old.

Josh Perrott would be brought up to-morrow, Dicky ascertained, at the
North London Police Court. So the next morning found Dicky trudging
moodily along the two miles of flags to Stoke Newington Road; while his
mother and three sympathising friends, who foresaw an opportunity for
numerous tiny drops with interesting circumstances to flavour them, took
a penny cast on the way in a tramcar.

Dicky, with some doubt as to the disposition of the door-keeping
policeman toward ragged boys, waited for the four women, and contrived
to pass in unobserved among them. Several Jagos were in the court,
interested not only in Josh's adventure, but in one of Cocko Harnwell's,
who had indulged, the night before, in an animated little scramble with
three policemen in Dalston; and they waited with sympathetic interest
while the luck was settled of a long string of drunk-and-disorderlies.

At last Josh was brought in, and lurched composedly into the dock, in
the manner of one who knew the routine. The police gave evidence of
arrest, in consequence of information received, and of finding the
watch and chain in Josh's trousers pocket. The prosecutor, with his head
conspicuously bedight with sticking-plaster, puffed and grunted up into
the witness-box, kissed the book, and was a 'retired commission agent.'
He positively identified the watch and chain, and he not less positively
identified Josh Perrott, whom he had picked out from a score of men in
the police-yard. This would have been a feat indeed for a man who had
never seen Josh, and had only once encountered his fist in the dark, had
it not been for the dutiful though private aid of Mr Weech: who, in
giving his information had described Josh and his one suit of clothes
with great fidelity, especially indicating a scar on the right
cheek-bone which would mark him among a thousand. The retired commission
agent was quite sure of the prisoner. He had met him on the stairs,
where there was plenty of light from a lamp, and the prisoner had
attacked him savagely, beating him about the head and flinging him
downstairs. The policeman called by the prosecutor's servant deposed to
finding the prosecutor bruised and bleeding. There was a ladder against
the back of the house; a bedroom window had been opened; there were
muddy marks on the sill; and he had found the stick--produced--lying in
the bedroom.

Josh leaned easily on the rail before him while evidence was being
given, and said 'No, yer worship,' whenever he was asked if he desired
to question a witness. He knew better than to run the risk of
incriminating himself by challenging the prosecutor's well-coloured
evidence; and, as it was a certain case of committal for trial, it would
have been useless in any event. He made the same reply when he was asked
if he had anything to say before being committed: and straightway was
'fullied.' He lurched serenely out of the dock, waving his cap at his
friends in the court, and that was all. The Jagos waited till Cocko
Harnwell got his three months and then retired to neighbouring
public-houses; but Dicky remembered his little sister, and hurried home.

The month's session at the Old Bailey had just begun, so that Josh had
no long stay at Holloway. Among the Jagos it was held to be a most
creditable circumstance that Josh was to take his trial with full
honours at the Old Bailey, and not at mere County Sessions at
Clerkenwell, like a simple lob-crawler or peter-claimer. For Josh's was
a case of burglary with serious violence, such as was fitting for the
Old Bailey, and not even a High Mobsman could come to trial with greater
glory. 'As like as not it's laggin' dues, after 'is other convictions,'
said Bill Rann. And Jerry Gullen thought so too.

Dicky went, with his mother and Em, to see Josh at Newgate. They stood
with other visitors, very noisy, before a double iron railing covered
with wire-netting, at the farther side whereof stood Josh and other
prisoners, while a screaming hubbub of question and answer filled the
air. Josh had little to say. He lounged against the farther railing with
his hands in his pockets, asked what Cocko Harnwell had got, and sent a
message to Bill Rann. While his wife did little more than look dolefully
through the wires, and pipe:--'Oh, Josh, wotever shall I do?' at
intervals, with no particular emotion; while Em pressed her smudgy
little face against the wires, and stared mightily; and while Dicky felt
that if he had been younger he would have cried. When time was up, Josh
waved his hand and slouched off, and his family turned out with the
rest: little Em carrying into later years a memory of father as a man
who lived in a cage.

In such a case as this, the Jago would have been for ever disgraced if
Josh Perrott's pals had neglected to get up a 'break' or subscription to
pay for his defence. Things were never very flourishing in the Jago. But
this was the sort of break a Jago could not shirk, lest it were
remembered against him when his own turn came. So enough was collected
to brief an exceedingly junior counsel, who did his useless best. But
the facts were too strong even for the most inexperienced advocate; the
evidence of the prosecutor was nowhere to be shaken, and the jury found
a verdict of guilty without leaving the box--indeed, with scarce the
formality of collecting their heads together over the rails. Then Josh's
past was most unpleasantly raked up before him. He had been convicted
of larceny, of assaulting the police, and of robbery with violence.
There were two sentences of six months' imprisonment recorded against
him, one of three months, and two of a month. Besides fines. The
Recorder considered it a very serious offence. Not deterred by the
punishments he had already received, the prisoner had proceeded to a
worse crime--burglary; and with violence. It was plain that lenience was
wasted in such a case, and simple imprisonment was not enough. There
must be an exemplary sentence. The prisoner must be kept in penal
servitude for five years.

Lagging dues it was, as Bill Rann had anticipated. That Josh Perrott
agreed with him was suggested by the fact that from the very beginning
he described himself as a painter; because a painter in prison is apt to
be employed at times in painting--a lighter and a more desirable task
than falls to the lot of his fellows in other trades.

In a room by the court Josh saw his wife, Dicky, and Bill Rann (Josh's
brother-in-law for the occasion) before his ride to Holloway, his one
stopping place on the way to Chelmsford Gaol. Little Em had been left
sprawling in the Jago gutters. This time Hannah Perrott wept in good
earnest, and Dicky, notwithstanding his thirteen years, blinked very
hard at the wall before him. The arrangement of Josh's affairs was
neither a long nor a difficult labour. 'S'pose you'll 'ave to do wot you
can with rush bags, an' sacks, and match-boxes, an' wot not,' he said to
his wife, and she assented. Josh nodded:--'An' if you 'ave to go in the
'ouse,'--he meant the workhouse,--'well, it can't be 'elped. You won't
be no wuss auf 'n me.'

'Oh, _she'll_ be awright,' said Bill Rann, jerking his thumb cheerfully
toward the missis. 'Wot about you? Think they'll make it Parkhurst?'

Josh shook his head moodily. Parkhurst being the prison reserved for
convicts of less robust habit, he had little hope of enjoying its easier
conditions. Presently he said:--'I bin put away this time--fair put
away.'

'Wot?' answered Bill, 'narkin' dues is it?'

Josh nodded.

''Oo done it then? 'Oo narked?'

Josh shook his head. 'Never mind,' he said, 'I don't want 'im druv out
o' the Jago 'fore I come out. I'd be sorry to miss 'im. _I_ know
'im--that's enough.'

And then time was up. Josh suffered the missis to kiss him, and shook
hands with Bill Rann. 'Good luck to all you Jagos,' he said. Dicky shook
hands too, and said 'Good-bye, father!' in a voice of such laboured
cheerfulness that a grin burst for a moment amid Josh's moody features
as he was marched away, and so departed for the place--in Jago
idiom--where the dogs don't bite.



XXVI


It was Father Sturt's practice to visit every family in his parish in
regular order. But small as the parish was--insignificant, indeed, in
mere area--its population exceeded eight thousand: so that the round was
one of many months, for visiting was but one among innumerable duties.
But Josh Perrott's lagging secured his family a special call. Not that
the circumstances were in any way novel or at all uncommon; nor even
that the vicar had any hope of being able to help. He was but the one
man who could swim in a howling sea of human wreckage. In the Jago,
wives like Hannah Perrott, temporarily widowed by the absence of
husbands 'in the country,' were to be counted in scores, and most were
in worse case than she, in the matter of dependent children. Father
Sturt's house-list revealed the fact that in Old Jago Street alone,
near seventy of the males were at that moment on ticket-of-leave.

In the Perrott case, indeed, the sufferers were fortunate, as things
went. Mrs Perrott had but herself and the child of two to keep, for
Dicky could do something, whether good or bad, for himself. The vicar
might try to get regular work for Dicky, but it would be a vain toil,
for he must tell an employer what he knew of Dicky's past and of that
other situation. He could but give the woman the best counsel at his
command, and do what he might to quicken any latent spark of energy. So
he did his best, and that was all. The struggle lay with Hannah Perrott.

She had been left before, and more than once; but then the periods had
been shorter, and, as a matter of fact, things had fallen out so well
that scarce more than a meal here and there had had to be missed,
though, when they came, the meals were apt to be but of crusts. And now
there was more trouble ahead; for though she began her lonely time with
but one small child on hand, she knew that ere long there would be two.

Of course, she had worked before; not only when Josh had been 'in' but
at other times, to add to the family resources. She was a clumsy
needlewoman: else she might hope to earn some ninepence or a shilling a
day at making shirts, by keeping well to the needle for sixteen hours
out of the twenty-four; and from the whole sum there would be no
deductions, except for needles and cotton, and what the frugal employer
might choose to subtract for work to which he could devise an objection.
But, as it was, she must do her best to get some sack-making. They paid
one and sevenpence a hundred for sacks, and, with speed and long hours,
she could make a hundred in four days. Rush bag-making would bring even
more, which would be desirable, considering the three-and-sixpence a
week for rent: which, with the payments for other rooms, made the rent
of the crazy den in Old Jago Street about equal, space for space, to
that of a house in Onslow Square. Then there was a more lucrative
employment still, but one to be looked for at intervals only: one not
to be counted on at all, in fact, for it was a prize, and many sought
after it. This was the making of match-boxes. For making one hundred and
forty-four outside cases with paper label and sandpaper, and the same
number of trays to slide into them--a gross of complete boxes, or two
hundred and eighty-eight pieces in all--one got twopence farthing;
indeed, for a special size one even got a farthing a gross more; and all
the wood and the labels and the sandpaper were provided free: so that
the fortunate operative lost nothing out of the twopence farthing but
the cost of the paste, and the string for tying up the boxes into
regularly numbered batches, and the time employed in fetching the work
and taking it back again. And if seven gross were to be got, and could
be done in a day--and it was really not very difficult for the skilful
hand who kept at work long enough--the day's income was one and
threepence three-farthings, less expenses: still better, that, than the
shirts. But the work was hard to get. As the public-spirited
manufacturers complained: people would buy Swedish matches, whereas if
people would Support Home Industries and buy no matches but theirs, they
would be able to order many a twopence-farthingsworth of boxes more.

There might be collateral sources of income, but these were doubtful and
irregular. Probably Dicky would bring in a few coppers now and again.
Then judicious attendance at churches, chapels and prayer-meetings
beyond the Jago borders was rewarded by coal-tickets, boots, and the
like. It was necessary to know just where and when to go and what to
say, else the sole result might be loss of time. There was a church in
Bethnal Green, for instance, which it would be foolish to enter before
the end of the Litany, for then you were in good time to get your
half-quarter hundredweight of coals; but at other places they might
object to so late an appearance. Above all, one must know the ropes.
There were several women in the Jago who made almost a living in this
way alone. They were experts; they knew every fund, every
meeting-house, all the comings and goings of the gullible; insomuch that
they would take black umbrage at any unexpected difficulty in getting
what they demanded. 'Wy,' one would say, 'I 'ad to pitch sich a bleed'n'
'oly tale I earned it twice over.' But these were the proficient, and
proficiency in the trade was an outcome of long experience working on a
foundation of natural gifts; and Hannah Perrott could never hope to be
among them.

Turning these things in her mind, she addressed herself to her struggle.
She managed to get some sacks, but for a week or two she could make
nothing like twenty-five a day, though Dicky helped. Her fingers got
raw; but she managed to complete a hundred within the first week. They
might have been better done, as the employer said when he saw them. But
she got her full one and sevenpence. She pawned her boots for fourpence,
and wore two old odd ones of Josh's; and she got twopence on a
petticoat. Dicky also helped a little; and at the end of a fortnight
there came a godsend in the shape of material for match-boxes. Mrs
Perrott was slow with them at first; but Dicky was quick, and even
little Em began to learn to spread paste.



XXVII


Dicky grew slighter and lanker, dark about the eyes, and weaker. He was
growing longitudinally, and that made his lateral wasting the quicker
and the more apparent. A furtive frighted look hung ever in his face, a
fugitive air about his whole person. His mother's long face was longer
than ever, and blacker under the eyes than Dicky's own, and her weak
open mouth hung at the corners as that of a woman faint with weeping.
Little Em's knees and elbows were knobs in the midst of limbs of
unnatural length. Rarely could a meal be seen ahead; and when it came,
it made Dicky doubtful whether or not hunger were really caused by
eating. But his chief distress was to see that little Em cried not like
a child, but silently, as she strove to thread needles or to smear
matchbox labels. And when good fortune brought match-boxes, there was an
undue loss on the twopence farthing in the matter of paste. The stuff
was a foul mess, sour and faint, and it was kept in a broken tea-cup,
near which Dicky had detected his sister sucking her fingers; for in
truth little Em stole the paste.

On and off, by one way and another, Mrs Perrott made enough to keep the
rent paid with indifferent regularity, and sometimes there was a copper
or so left over. She did fairly well, too, at the churches and
prayer-meetings; people saw her condition, and now and again would give
her something beyond the common dole; so that she learned the trick of
looking more miserable than usual at such places.

The roof provided, Dicky felt that his was the task to find food. Alone,
he might have rubbed along clear of starvation, but there were his
mother and his sister. Lack of victuals shook his nerve and made him
timid. Moreover, his terror grew greater than ever at the prospect of
being caught in a theft. He lay awake at night and sweated to think of
it. Who would bring in things from the outer world for mother and Em
then? And the danger was worse than ever. He had felt the police-court
birch, and it was bad, very bad. But he would take it every day and take
it almost without a tear, rather than the chance of a reformatory.
Magistrates were unwilling to send boys to reformatories while both
father and mother were at hand to control them, for that were relieving
the parents of their natural responsibility; but in a case like Dicky's,
a 'schooling' was a very likely thing. So that Dicky, as he prowled, was
torn between implacable need and the fear of being cut off from all
chance of supplying it.

It was his rule never to come home without bringing something, were it
no more than a mildewed crust. It was a resolve impossible to keep at
times, but at those times it was two in the morning ere he would drag
himself, pallid and faint, into the dark room where the others might
be--probably were--lying awake and unfed. Rather than face such a
homecoming he had sometimes ventured on a more difficult feat than
stealing in the outer world: he had stolen in the Jago. Sam Cash, for
instance, had lost a bloater.

Dicky never ate at Weech's now. Rarely, indeed, would he take payment in
kind, unless it were for something of smaller value than the average of
his poor pilferings; and then he carried the food home. But cheaper
things could be bought elsewhere, so that more usually he insisted on
money payments: to the grief of Mr Weech, who set forth the odiousness
of ingratitude at length; though his homilies had no sort of effect on
Dicky's morals.

Father Sturt saw that Hannah Perrott gained no ground in her struggle,
and urged her to apply for outdoor parish relief, promising to second
her request with the guardians. But with an odd throwback to the
respectability of her boiler-making ancestry, she disliked the notion of
help from the parish, and preferred to remain as she was; for there at
least her ingrained inertness seemed to side with some phantom of
self-respect. To her present position she had subsided by almost
imperceptible degrees, and she was scarce conscious of a change. But to
parish relief there was a distinct and palpable step: a step that, on
the whole, it seemed easier not to take. But it was with eagerness that
she took a Maternity Society's letter, wherewith the vicar had provided
himself on her behalf. For her time was drawing near.



XXVIII


Josh Perrott well understood the advantage of good prison-behaviour, and
after six months in his Chelmsford cell he had earned the right to a
visit from friends. But none came. He had scarcely expected that anybody
would, and asked for the order merely on the general principle that a
man should take all he can get, useful or not. For there would have been
a five shilling fare to pay for each visitor from London, and Hannah
Perrott could as easily have paid five pounds. And indeed she had other
things to think of.

Kiddo Cook had been less observed of late in the Jago. In simple fact he
was at work. He found that a steady week of porterage at Spitalfields
Market would bring him sixteen shillings and perhaps a little more; and
he had taken Father Sturt's encouragement to try another week, and a
week after that. Father Sturt too, had cunningly stimulated Kiddo's
ambitions: till he cherished aspirations to a fruit and vegetable stall,
with a proper tarpaulin cover for bad weather; though he cherished them
in secret, confident that they were of his own independent conception.
Perhaps the Perrotts saw as much of Kiddo as did anybody at this time.
For Kiddo, seeing how it went with them (though indeed it went as badly
with others too) built up laboriously a solemn and most circumstantial
Lie. There was a friend of his, a perfect gentleman, who used a
beer-shop by Spitalfields Market, and who had just started an extensive
and complicated business in the general provision line. He sold all
sorts of fruit and vegetables fresh, and all sorts of meat, carrots,
cabbages, saveloys, fried fish and pease-pudding cooked. His motto
was:--'Everything _of_ the best.' But he had the misfortune to be quite
unable himself to judge whether his goods were really of the best or
not, in consequence of an injury to his palate, arising from a blow on
the mouth with a quart pot, inflicted in the heat of discussion by a
wealthy acquaintance. So that he, being a perfect gentleman, had
requested Kiddo Cook, out of the friendship he bore him, to drop in
occasionally and test his samples. 'Take a good big whack, you know,'
said he, 'and get the advice of a friend or two, if _you_ ain't sure.'
So Kiddo would take frequent and handsome whacks accordingly, to the
perfect gentleman's delight; and, not quite knowing what to do with all
the whacks, or being desirous of an independent opinion on them (there
was some confusion between these two motives) he would bring Mrs Perrott
samples, from time to time, and hope it wouldn't inconvenience her. It
never did.

It was late in the dusk of a rainy day that Kiddo Cook stumped into Old
Jago Street with an apple in his pocket for Em. It was not much, but
money was a little short, and at any rate the child would be pleased. As
he climbed the stairs he grew conscious of sounds of anguish, muffled by
the Perrotts' door. There might have been sobs, and there seemed to be
groans; certainly little Em was crying, though but faintly, and
something--perhaps boot-heels--scraped on the boards. Kiddo hesitated a
little, and then knocked softly. The knock was unnoticed, so in the end
he pushed the door open.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day had been a bad one with the Perrotts. Dicky had gone out early,
and had not returned. His mother had tramped unfed to the sackmakers,
but there was no work to be got. She tried the rush bag people, with a
like result. Nor was any matchbox material being given out. An
unregarded turnip had rolled from a shop into the gutter, and she had
seized it stealthily. It was not in nature to take it home whole, and
once a corner was cleared, she dragged herself Jago-ward, gnawing the
root furtively as she went. And so she joined Em at home late in the
afternoon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kiddo pushed the door open and went in. At his second step he stood
staring, and his chin dropped. 'Good Gawd!' said Kiddo Cook.

He cleared the stairs in three jumps. He stood but an instant on the
flags before the house, with a quick glance each way, and then dashed
off through the mud.

Pigeony Poll was erratic in residence, but just now she had a room by
the roof of a house in Jago Row, and up the stairs of this house Kiddo
ran, calling her by name.

'Go over to Perrotts', quick!' he shouted from the landing below as Poll
appeared at her door. 'Run, for Gawd's sake, or the woman'll croak! I'm
auf to Father's.' And he rushed away to the vicar's lodgings.

Father Sturt emerged at a run, and made for a surgeon's in Shoreditch
High Street. And when the surgeon reached Hannah Perrott he found her
stretched on her ragged bed, tended, with anxious clumsiness, by Pigeony
Poll; while little Em, tearful and abashed, sat in a corner and nibbled
a bit of turnip.

Hannah Perrott had anticipated the operation of the Maternity Society
letter, and another child of the Jago had come unconsenting into its
black inheritance.

Father Sturt met the surgeon as he came away in the later evening, and
asked if all were well. The surgeon shrugged his shoulders. 'People
would call it so,' he said. 'The boy's alive, and so is the mother. But
you and I may say the truth. You know the Jago far better than I. Is
there a child in all this place that wouldn't be better dead--still
better unborn? But does a day pass without bringing you just such a
parishioner? Here lies the Jago, a nest of rats, breeding, breeding, as
only rats can; and we say it is well. On high moral grounds we uphold
the right of rats to multiply their thousands. Sometimes we catch a rat.
And we keep it a little while, nourish it carefully, and put it back
into the nest to propagate its kind.'

Father Sturt walked a little way in silence. Then he said:--'You are
right, of course. But who'll listen, if you shout it from the housetops?
I might try to proclaim it myself, if I had time and energy to waste.
But I have none--I must work, and so must you. The burden grows day by
day, as you say. The thing's hopeless, perhaps, but that is not for me
to discuss. I have my duty.'

The surgeon was a young man, but Shoreditch had helped him over most of
his enthusiasms. 'That's right,' he said, 'quite right. People are so
very genteel, aren't they?' He laughed, as at a droll remembrance. 'But,
hang it all, men like ourselves needn't talk as though the world was
built of hardbake. It's a mighty relief to speak truth with a man who
knows--a man not rotted through with sentiment. Think how few men we
trust with the power to give a fellow creature a year in gaol, and how
carefully we pick them! Even damnation is out of fashion, I believe,
among theologians. But any noxious wretch may damn human souls to the
Jago, one after another, year in year out, and we respect his right: his
sacred right.'

At the 'Posties' the two men separated. The rain, which had abated for a
space, came up on a driving wind, and whipped Dicky Perrott home to meet
his new brother.



XXIX


Things grew a little easier with the Perrotts. Father Sturt saw that
there was food while the mother was renewing her strength, and he had a
bag of linen sent. More, he carried his point as to parish relief by
main force. It was two shillings and three quartern loaves a week.
Unfortunately the loaves were imprinted with the parish mark, or they
might have been sold at the chandler's, in order that the whole measure
of relief might be passed on to the landlord (a very respectable man,
with a chandler's shop of his own) for rent. As it was, the bread
perforce was eaten, and the landlord had the two shillings, as well as
eighteenpence which had to be got in some other way. Of course, Hannah
Perrott might have 'taken in lodgers' in the room, as others did, but
she doubted her ability to bully the rent out of them, or to turn them
out if they did not pay. Whatever was pawnable had gone already, of
course, except the little nickel-plated clock. That might have produced
as much as sixpence, but she had a whim to keep it. She regarded it as a
memorial of Josh, for it was his sole contribution to the family
appointments.

Dicky, with a cast-off jacket from the vicar's store, took to hanging
about Liverpool Street Station in quest of bags to carry. Sometimes he
got bags, and coppers for carrying them: sometimes he got kicks from
porters. An hour or two of disappointment in this pursuit would send him
off on the prowl to 'find' new stock for Mr Weech. He went farther
afield now: to the market-places in Mile End and Stepney, and to the
riverside, where there were many chances--guarded jealously, however, by
the pirate boys of the neighbourhood, who would tolerate no interlopers
at the wharves. In the very early morning, too, he practised the
sand-bag fake, in the Jago. For there were those among the Jagos who
kept (two even bred) linnets and such birds, and prepared them for
julking, or singing matches at the Bag of Nails. It was the habit of the
bird-fanciers to hang their little wooden cages on nails out of window,
and there they hung through the night: for it had been noted, as a
surprising peculiarity in linnets, that a bird would droop and go off
song after a dozen or so of nights in a Jago room, in company with
eight, ten or a dozen human sleepers, notwithstanding the thoughtful
shutting of windows. So that any early riser provided with a little bag
packed with a handful or so of sand, could become an opulent bird-owner
in half-an-hour. Let but the sand-bag be pitched with proper skill at
the bottom of a cage, and that cage would leave the nail, and come
tumbling and fluttering down into the ready hands of the early riser.
The sand-bag brought down the cage and fell quietly on the flags, which
was why it was preferred before a stone. The sand-bag faker was moved by
no particular love of linnets. His spoil was got rid of as soon as the
bird-shops opened in Club Row. And his craft was one of danger.

Thus the months went with Dicky, and the years. There were changes in
the Jago. The baby was but three months old when Father Sturt's new
church was opened, and the club set going in new buildings; and it was
at that time that Josh Perrott was removed to Portland. Even the gradual
removal of the Old Jago itself was begun. For the County Council bought
a row of houses at the end of Jago Row, by Honey Lane, with a design to
build big barrack dwellings on the site. The scenes of the Jago Court
eviction were repeated, with less governed antics. For the County
Council knew not Jago ways; and when deputations came forth weeping,
protesting the impossibility of finding new lodgings, and beseeching a
respite, they were given six weeks more, and went back delighted into
free quarters. At the end of the six weeks a larger deputation protested
a little louder, wept a great deal more, and poached another month; for
it would seem an unpopular thing to turn the people into the street.
Thus in the end, when the unpopular thing had to be done, it was with
sevenfold trouble, loud cursing of the County Council in the public
street, and many fights. But this one spot of the Jago cleared, the
County Council began to creep along Jago Row and into Half Jago Street;
and after long delay the crude yellow brick of the barrack dwellings
rose above the oft-stolen hoardings, and grew, storey by storey. Dicky
was fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. If Josh Perrott had only earned his
marks, he would soon be out now.



XXX


Josh Perrott earned his marks, and in less than four years from his
conviction he came away from Portland. It was a mere matter of hours ere
his arrival in London, when Dicky, hands in pockets, strolled along Old
Jago Street, and by the 'Posties' to High Street.

Dicky was almost at his seventeenth birthday. He had grown his utmost,
and stood five feet two. He wore a cap with a cloth peak and ear-laps
tied at the top with strings, slap-up kicksies, cut saucy, and a
bob-tail coat of the out-and-out description: though all these glories
were torn and shabby, and had been bought second-hand. He was safe from
any risk of the reformatory now, being well over the age; and he had had
the luck never to have been taken by the police since his father's
lagging--though there were escapes too narrow to be thought about with
comfort. It was a matter for wonderment, and he spoke of it with pride.
Here he was, a man of long experience, and near seventeen years old, yet
he had never been in prison. Few, very few of such an age could say
that.

Sometimes he saw his old enemy, the hunchback, who worked at a
shoemaker's, but he saw him with unconcern. He cared nothing for
tale-bearing now. The memory of old injuries had dulled, and, after all,
this was a merely inconsiderable hunchback, whom it were beneath his
dignity to regard with anything but tolerant indifference. Bob Roper
steered clear at such encounters, and showed his teeth like a cat, and
looked back malevolently. It didn't matter.

Dicky was not married, either in the simple Jago fashion or in church.
There was little difference, as a matter of fact, so far as facility
went. There was a church in Bethnal Green where you might be married for
sevenpence if you were fourteen years old, and no questions asked--or
at any rate they were questions answers whereunto were easy to invent.
You just came in, drunk if possible, with a batch of some scores, and
rowdied about the church with your hat on, and the curate worked off the
crowd at one go, calling the names one after another. You sang, or you
shouted, or you drank out of a bottle, or you flung a prayer-book at a
friend, as the fancy took you; and the whole thing was not a bad joke
for the money, though after all sevenpence is half-a-gallon, and not to
be wasted. But Dicky had had enough to do to look after his mother and
Em and little Josh--as Hannah Perrott had called the baby. Dicky,
indeed, had a family already. More: the Jago girls affected him with an
odd feeling of repulsion. Not of themselves, perhaps, though they were
squalid drabs long ere they were ripe for the sevenpenny church: but by
comparison with the clean, remote shop-girls who were visible through
the broad windows in the outer streets.

Dicky intended the day to be a holiday. He was not going 'out,' as the
word went, for ill-luck had a way of coming on notable days like this,
and he might easily chance to 'fall' before his father got home. He was
almost too big now for carrying bags at Liverpool Street, because small
boys looked cheaper than large ones--not that there was anything
especially large about Dicky, beyond his height of five feet two; and at
the moment he could think of nothing else that might turn a copper. He
stood irresolute on the High Street footway, and as he stood, Kiddo Cook
hove in sight, dragging a barrow-load of carrots and cabbages. Kiddo had
not yet compassed the stall with the rain-proof awning. But it was
almost in sight, for the barrow could scarce hold all that he could
sell; and there was a joke abroad that he was to be married in Father
Sturt's church: some facetiously suggesting that Mother Gapp would prove
a good investment commercially, while others maintained the greater
eligibility of old Poll Rann.

''Tcheer, Dicky!' said Kiddo, pulling up and wiping his cap-lining with
a red cotton handkerchief. 'Ol' man out to-day, ain't 'e?'

'Yus,' Dicky answered. ''Spect 'im up to-night.'

Kiddo nodded, and wiped his face. ''Spose the mob'll git up a break for
'im,' he said; 'but 'e'll 'ave a bit o' gilt from stir as well, won't
'e? So 'e'll be awright.' And Kiddo stuffed his handkerchief into his
trousers pocket, pulled his cap tight, and bent to his barrow-handles.

Dicky turned idly to the left, and slouched to the corner of Meakin
Street. There he loafed for a little while, and then went as aimlessly
up the turning. Meakin Street was much as ever. There were still the
chandlers' shops, where tea and sugar were sold by the farthingsworth,
and the barber's where hair was fashionably cut for three half-pence:
though Jago hair was commonly cut in another place and received little
more attention. There was still Walker's cook-shop, foggy with steam,
its windows all a-trickle, and there was the Original Slap-up Tog
Emporium, with its kicksies and its benjamins cut saucy as ever, and its
double fakements still artful. At the 'dispensary' there was another
young student, but his advice and medicine were sixpence, just as his
remote predecessor's had been for little Looey, long forgotten. And
farther down on the opposite side, Mr Aaron Weech's coffee-shop, with
its Sunday-school festival bills, maintained its general Band-of-Hope
air, and displayed its shrivelled bloaters, its doubtful cake, and its
pallid scones in an odour of respectability and stale pickles. Dicky
glanced in as he came by the door, and met the anxious eye of Mr Weech,
whom he had not seen for a fortnight. For Dicky was no boy now, but knew
enough to sell at Cohen's or elsewhere whenever possible, and to care
not a rap for Mr Weech.

As that tradesman saw Dicky, he burst into an eager smile, and came
forward. 'Good mornin',--er--' with a quick glance--'Mr Perrott! Good
mornin'! You're quite a stranger, reely!'

_Mister_ Perrott! Mr Weech was very polite. Dicky stopped, and grunted a
cautious salutation.

'Do come in, Mr Perrott. Wy, is the good noos right wot I 'ear, about
yer father a-comin' 'ome from--from the country?'

Dicky confirmed the news.

'Well I _am_ glad t' 'ear that now.' Mr Weech grinned exceedingly,
though there was something lacking in his delight. 'But there, wot'll
you 'ave, Mr Perrott? Say anythink in the 'ole shop and welcome! It's
sich an 'appy occasion, Mr Perrott, I couldn't think o' chargin' you a
'apeny. 'Ave a rasher, now, do. There's one on at this very moment.
Sairer! ain't that rasher done yut?'

Dicky did not understand this liberality, but he had long since adopted
the policy of taking all he could get. So he sat at a table, and Mr
Weech sat opposite.

'Jist like ole times, ain't it?' said Mr Weech. 'An' that reminds me I
owe you a shillin'. It's that pair o' noo boots you chucked over the
back fence a fortnight ago. W'en I come to look at 'em, they was
better'n wot I thought, an' so I says to meself, "This won't do," says
I. "On'y ninepence for a pair o' boots like them ain't fair," I says,
"an' I'd rayther be at a lawss on 'em than not be fair. Fair's fair, as
the apostle David says in the Proverbs, an' them boots is worth very
near _one_-an'-nine. So I'll give Mr Perrott another shillin'," I says,
"the very next time I see 'im." An' there it is.'

He put the shilling on the table, and Dicky pocketed it, nothing loth.
The thing might be hard to understand, but that concerned him not.
There was the shilling. Likewise, there was the bacon, and the coffee
that went with it, and Dicky went at them with a will, recking nothing
of why they were there, and nothing of any matter which might make the
giver anxious in the prospect of an early meeting with Josh.

'Ah,' Mr Weech went on, 'it'll be quite a pleasure to see yer father
agin, that it will. Wot a blessed release! "Free from the lor O 'appy
condition," as the 'ymn says. I 'ope 'e'll be well an' 'arty. An'
if--_if_ there should be anythink in the way of a friendly lead or a
subscription or wot not, I 'ope--remember this, Mr Perrott,
won'tcher?--I 'ope you'll let me 'ave a chance to put down somethink
good. Not as I can reely afford it, ye know, Mr Perrott--trade's very
pore, an' it's sich a neighb'r'ood!--but I'll do it for yer father--yus,
if it's me last copper. Ye won't forgit that, will ye? An' if 'e'd like
any little relish w'en 'e comes 'ome--sich as a 'addick or a bit o'
'am--wy, I'll wrop it up an' send it.'

This was all very handsome, and Dicky wished some notion of the sort had
occurred to Mr Weech on a few of the dinnerless days of the past four
years. But he went away wondering if it might not be well to regard Mr
Weech with caution for a while. For there must be a reason for all this
generosity.



XXXI


It was in Mother Gapp's that Josh Perrott and his family met. Hannah had
started out with an idea of meeting him at Waterloo Station; but,
finding herself an object of distinction and congratulation among the
women she met, she had lingered by the way, accepting many little drops,
to prove herself not unduly proud, and so had failed of her intent.
Josh, on his part, had not been abstinent. He had successfully run the
gauntlet of Prisoners' Aid Societies and the like, professing to have 'a
job waiting for him' in Shoreditch, and his way across London had been
freely punctuated at public-houses; for his prison gratuity was a very
pleasant and useful little sum. And now, when at last they met, he was
not especially gracious. He wanted to know, not only why he had found
nobody at home, but also why Hannah had never been to see him at
Portland. As to the second question, the obvious and sufficient answer
was that the return fare to Portland would have been some twenty-five
shillings: a sum that Hannah had never seen together since Josh left
her. As to the first, she protested, with muddled vehemence, that she
had gone to meet him, and had missed him by some mistake as to arrival
platforms. So that at length, urged thereto by the rest of the hour's
customers at the Feathers, Josh kissed her sulkily and ordered her a
drink. Em was distrustful at first, but drank her allowance of gin with
much relish, tipping the glass again and again to catch the last drop;
and little Josh, now for the first time introduced to Josh the elder,
took a dislike to his father's not particularly sober glare and grin,
and roared aloud upon his knee, assailing him, between the roars, with
every curse familiar in the Jago, amid the genial merriment of the
company. Dicky came in quietly, and stood at his father's elbow with
the pride natural to a dutiful son on such an occasion. And at
closing-time they all helped each other home.

In the morning Josh rose late. He looked all the better for his lagging,
browner than ever in the face, smarter and stouter. In a corner he
perceived a little heap of made match-boxes, and, hard by, the material
for more. It was Em's work of yesterday morning. 'Support 'ome
ind_us_tries,' said Josh, musingly. 'Yus. Twopence-farden a gross.' And
he kicked the heap to splinters.

He strolled out into the street, to survey the Jago. In the bulk it was
little changed, though the County Council had made a difference in the
north-east corner, and was creeping farther and farther still. The
dispossessed Jagos had gone to infect the neighbourhoods across the
border, and to crowd the people a little closer. They did not return to
live in the new barrack-buildings; which was a strange thing, for the
County Council was charging very little more than double the rents which
the landlords of the Old Jago had charged. And so another Jago, teeming
and villainous as the one displaced, was slowly growing, in the form of
a ring, round about the great yellow houses. But the new church and its
attendant buildings most took Josh's notice. They were little more than
begun when last he walked Old Jago Street in daylight, and now they
stood, large and healthy amid the dens about them, a wonder and a pride.
As he looked, Jerry Gullen and Bill Rann passed.

'Wayo, brother-in-law!' sang out Bill Rann, who remembered the Old
Bailey fiction of four years back, and thought it a capital joke.

'Nice sort o' thing, ain't it?' said Jerry Gullen with indignant
sarcasm, jerking his thumb toward the new church. 'The street's clean
ruined. Wot's the good o' livin' 'ere now? Wy, a man mustn't even do a
click, blimy!'

'An' doncher?' asked Josh with a grin. Hereat another grin broke wide on
Jerry Gullen's face, and he went his way with a wink and a whistle.

'And so you're back again, Josh Perrott!' said old Beveridge, seedier
than ever, with the 'Hard Up' fresh chalked on the changeless hat. 'Back
again! Pity you couldn't stay there, isn't it? Pity we can't all stay
there.'

Josh looked after the gaunt old figure with much doubt and a vague
indignation: for such a view was foreign to his understanding. And as he
looked Father Sturt came out of the church, and laid his hand on Josh's
shoulder.

'What!' exclaimed the vicar, 'home again without coming to see me! But
there, you must have been coming. I hope you haven't been knocking long?
Come in now, at any rate. You're looking wonderfully well. What a
capital thing a holiday is, isn't it--a good long one?' Taking Josh by
the arm he hauled him, grinning, sheepish and almost blushing, toward
the club door. And at that moment Sam Cash came hurrying round Luck Row
corner, with his finger through a string, and on that string a bunch of
grouse.

'Dear me,' said Father Sturt, turning back, but without releasing Josh's
arm. 'Here's our dear friend, Sam Cash, taking home something for his
lunch. Come, Sam, with such a fine lot of birds as that, I'm sure you'll
be proud to tell us where they came from. Eh?'

For a moment Sam Cash was a trifle puzzled, even offended. Then there
fell over his face the mask of utter inexpression which the vicar had
learned to know. Said Sam Cash, stolidly: 'I bin 'avin' a little
shootin' with a friend.'

'Dear, dear, what a charming friend! And where are his moors? Nowhere
about the Bethnal Green Road, I suppose, by the goods depot? Come now,
I'm sure Josh Perrott would like to know. You didn't get any shooting in
your little holiday, did you, Josh?' Josh grinned, delighted, but Sam
shuffled uneasily, with a hopeless sidelong glance as in search of a
hole wherein to hide. 'Ah, you see,' Father Sturt said, 'he doesn't want
his friend's hospitality to be abused. Let me see--two, four, six--why
there must be nine or ten brace, and all at one shot, too! Sam always
makes his bag at one shot, you know, Josh, whatever the game is. Yes,
wonderful shooting. And did you shoot the label at the same time, Sam?
Come, I _should_ like to look at that label!'

But the wretched Sam was off at a bolt, faster than a police pursuit
would have sent him, while Josh guffawed joyously. To be 'rotted' by
Father Sturt was the true Jago terror, but to the Jagos looking on it
was pure delight. Theft was a piece of the Jago nature; but at least
Father Sturt could wither the pride of it by such ridicule as the Jago
could understand.

'There--he's very bashful for a sportsman, isn't he, Josh?' the vicar
proceeded. 'But you must come and see the club at once. You shall be a
member.'

Josh spent near an hour in the new buildings. Father Sturt showed him
the club, the night shelter, the church, and his own little rooms. He
asked, too, much about Josh's intentions for the future. Of course, Josh
was 'going to look for a job.' Father Sturt knew he would say that.
Every Jago had been going to look for a job ever since the vicar first
came to the place. But he professed to take Josh's word seriously, and
offered to try to get him taken on as a plasterer at some of the new
County Council buildings. He flattered Josh by reminding him of his
command of a regular trade. Josh was a man with opportunities, and he
should be above the pitiable expedients of the poor untradesmanlike
about him. Indeed, he should leave the Jago altogether, with his family,
and start afresh in a new place, a reputable mechanic.

To these things Josh Perrott listened with fidgety deference, answering
only 'Yus, Father,' when it seemed to be necessary. In the end he
promised to 'think it over,' which meant nothing, as the parson well
knew. And in the mood in which Josh came away he would gladly have
risked another lagging to serve Father Sturt's convenience; but he would
rather have suffered one than take Father Sturt's advice.

He made the day a holiday. He had been told that he was in for a little
excitement, for it was held that fitting time had arrived for another
scrap with Dove Lane; but the affair was not yet moving. Snob Spicer had
broken a window with a Dove-Laner's head, it was true, but nothing had
come of it, and etiquette demanded that the next card should be played
by Dove Lane. For the present, the Jago was content to take thought for
Josh's 'friendly lead.' Such a thing was everybody's right on return
from a lagging, and this one was fixed for a night next week.

All that day Mr Weech looked out anxiously, but Josh Perrott never
passed his way.



XXXII


Bill Rann called for Josh early the next morning, and they strolled down
Old Jago Street in close communion.

'Are you on for a job?' asked Bill. ''Cos I got one cut an' dried--a
topper, an' safe as 'ouses.'

'Wot sort o' job's this?'

'Wy a bust--unless we can screw it.'

This meant a breaking-in, with a possibility of a quieter entrance by
means of keys. It was unpleasantly suggestive of Josh's last exploit,
but he answered: 'Awright. Depends, o' course.'

'O, it's a good un.' Bill Rann grinned for no obvious reason, and
slapped his leg to express rapturous amusement. 'It's a good un--you can
take yer davy o' that. I bin a thinkin' about it for a fortnight, but
it wants two. Damme, it's nobby!' And Bill Rann grinned again, and made
two taps of a step-dance. 'Wotjer think,' he pursued, suddenly serious,
'wotjer think o' screwin' a fence?'

It was a novel notion, but in Josh's mind, at first flush, it seemed
unsportmanlike. 'Wot fence?' asked Josh.

Bill Rann's grin burst wide again. He bent low, with outstretched chin,
and stuck his elbows out as he answered: 'Wy, ole Weech!'

Josh bared his teeth--but with no smile--looking sharply in the other's
upturned face. Bill Rann, bent nearly double, and with hands in pockets,
flapped his arms in the manner of wings, chuckled aloud, and, jerking
his feet back and forth, went elaborately through the first movement of
the gallows-flap. 'Eh? eh?' said he. ''Ow's that strike ye, ole cock?'

Josh answered not, but his parted lips stretched wide, and his
tongue-tip passed quickly over them while he thought.

'It'll be a fair cop for 'im,' Bill pursued, eagerly. ''E's treated us
all pretty mean, one time or other. Wy, I bet 'e _owes_ us fifty quid
atween us, wot with all the times 'e's squeeged us for a bit. It'll on'y
be goin' to bring away our own stuff!'

'G-r-r-r!' Josh growled, glaring fiercely; 'it was 'im as put me away
for my laggin'! Bleed'n' swine!'

Bill Rann stopped, surprised. 'Wot--'im?' he exclaimed. 'Ole Weech
narked ye? 'Owjer know that?'

Josh told the tale of his negotiations in the matter of the Mogul's
watch, and described Weech's terror at sight of his dash at the
shop-door. 'I'm on,' said Josh in conclusion. 'It's one way o' payin'
'im, an' it'll bring a bit in. On'y _'e_ better not show 'isself w'ile
I'm abaat! _'E_ wouldn't git auf with a punch on the chin, like the
bloke at 'Ighbury!' Josh Perrott ended with a tigerish snarl and a white
spot at the curl of each of his nostrils.

'Blimy!' said Bill Rann; 'an' so it was 'im, was it? I often wondered
'oo you meant. Well, flimpin' 'im's the best way. Won't 'e sing a
bleed'n' 'ymn w'en 'e finds 'is stuff weeded!' Bill flung back his
head, and laughed again. 'But there,--let's lay it out.' And the two men
fell to the discussion of methods.

Weech's back-fence was to be his undoing. It was the obvious plan. The
front shutters were impracticable in such a place as Meakin Street; but
the alleys in the rear were a perfect approach. Bill Rann had surveyed
the spot attentively, and, after expert consideration, he had selected
the wash-house window as the point of entrance. Old boxes and
packing-wood littered the yard, and it would be easy to mount a selected
box, shift the catch of the little window, and wriggle in, feet first,
without noise. True, the door between the wash-house and the other rooms
might be fastened, but it could be worked at under cover; and Bill Rann
had a belief that there must be a good deal of 'stuff' in the wash-house
itself. There would be nobody in the house but Weech, because the
wretched old woman, who swept the floors and cooked bloaters, was sent
away at night; so that every room must be unoccupied but one.

As for tools, Josh had none, but Bill Rann undertook to provide them;
and in the matter of time it was considered that that same night would
be as good as any. It would be better than most, in fact, for it was
Wednesday, and Bill Rann had observed that Mr Weech went to the bank in
High Street, Shoreditch, pretty regularly on Thursday mornings.

This day also Mr Weech kept a careful watch for Josh Perrott, but saw
him not.



XXXIII


Hannah Perrott did her best to keep Josh from going out that night. She
did not explain her objections, because she did not know precisely what
they were, though they were in some sort prompted by his manner; and it
was solely because of her constitutional inability to urge them with any
persistence that she escaped forcible retort. For Josh was in a savage
and self-centred mood.

'Wy, wot's up?' asked Bill Rann, when they met, looking doubtfully in
his pal's face. 'You ain't bin boozin', 'ave ye?'

Josh repelled the question with a snarl. 'No I ain't,' he said. 'Got the
tools?' There was a thickness in his voice, with a wildness in his eye,
that might well explain his partner's doubt.

'Yus. Come under the light. I couldn't git no twirls, an' we sha'n't
want 'em. 'Ere's a screwdriver, an' two gimlets, an' a knife for the
winderketch, an' a little james, an' a neddy--'

'A neddy!' Josh cut in, scornfully pointing his thumb at the instrument,
which some call life-preserver. 'A neddy for Weech! G-r-r-r! I might
take a neddy to a _man_!'

'That's awright,' Bill replied. 'But it 'ud frighten 'im pretty well,
wouldn't it? Look 'ere. S'pose we can't find the oof. W'y shouldn't we
wake up Mr Weech very quiet an' respeckful, an' ask 'im t' 'elp us? 'E's
all alone, an' I'm sure 'e'll be glad to 'blige, w'en 'e sees this 'ere
neddy, without waitin' for a tap. W'y, blimy, I b'lieve 'e'd be afraid
to sing out any'ow, for fear o' bringin' in the coppers to find all the
stuff 'e's bought on the crook! It's all done, once we're inside!'

It was near midnight, and Bill Rann had observed Weech putting up his
shutters at eleven. So the two Jagos walked slowly along Meakin Street,
on the side opposite Weech's, with sharp eyes for the windows.

All was quiet; there was no visible light--none from the skylight over
the shop door, none from the window above, none from the garret window
above that. They passed on, crossed the road, strolled back, and
listened at the door; there was no sound from within. The clock in a
distant steeple struck twelve, and was joined at the fourth stroke by
the loud bell of St Leonards, hard by; and ere the last mild note had
sounded from the farthest clock in the awakened chorus, Josh Perrott and
Bill Rann had taken the next turning, and were pushing their way to the
alleys behind Weech's.

Foul rat-runs, these alleys, not to be traversed by a stranger. Josh and
Bill plunged into one narrow archway after another, each of which might
have been the private passage of a house, and came at last, stealthy and
unseen, into the muddy yard.

Weech's back-fence was before them, and black house-backs crowded them
round. There were but one or two lights in the windows, and those
windows were shut and curtained. The rear of Weech's house was black and
silent as the front. They peered over the fence. The yard was
pitch-dark, but faint angular tokens here and there told of heaped boxes
and lumber. 'We won't tip 'im the whistle this time,' whispered Bill
Rann, with a smothered chuckle. 'Over!'

He bent his knee, and Josh straddled from it over the rickety fence with
quiet care, and lowered himself gingerly on the other side. 'Clear
'ere,' he whispered. 'Come on.' Since Bill's display of the tools Josh
had scarce spoken a word. Bill wondered at his taciturnity, but
respected it as a business-like quality in the circumstances.

It was but a matter of four or five yards to the wash-house window, but
they bent and felt their way. Josh took up an old lemonade-case as he
went, and planted it on the ground below the window, stretching his hand
for the knife as he did so. And now he took command and foremost place.

It was an old shoemaker's knife, with too long a handle; for there was a
skew-joint in the sash, and the knife would not bend. Presently Bill
Rann, below, could see that Josh was cutting away the putty from the
pane, and in five minutes the pane itself was put into his hand. He
stooped, and laid it noiselessly on the soft ground.

Josh turned the catch and lifted the sash. There was some noise, but not
much, as he pushed the frame up evenly, with a thumb at each side. They
waited; but it was quite still, and Josh, sitting on the sill,
manoeuvred his legs, one at a time, through the narrow opening. Then,
turning over, he let himself down, and beckoned Bill Rann to follow.

Bill Rann had a small tin box, with an inch of candle on the inside of
one end, so that when the wick was lit the contrivance made a simple but
an effective lantern, the light whereof shone in front alone, and could
be extinguished at a puff. Now a match was struck, and a quick view
taken of the wash-house.

There was not much about; only cracked and greasy plates, jars, tins,
pots and pans, and in a corner a miscellaneous heap, plainly cheap
pilferings, covered with a bit of old carpet. The air was offensive with
the characteristic smell of Weech's--the smell of stale pickles.

'There ain't nothin' to waste time over 'ere,' said Josh, aloud. 'Come
on!'

'Shut up, you damn fool!' exclaimed Bill Rann, in a whisper. 'D'jer want
to wake 'im?'

'Umph! Why not?' was the reply, still aloud. Bill began to feel that his
pal was really drunk. But, silent once more, Josh applied himself to the
door of the inner room. It was crank and old, worn and battered at the
edges. Josh forced the wedge end of the jemmy through the jamb,
splintering the perished wood of the frame, and, with a push, forced the
striking-box of the lock off its screws. There was still a bolt at the
top; that at the bottom had lost its catch--but this gave as little
trouble as the lock. Bill Rann strained the door open from below, the
jemmy entered readily, and in a few seconds the top bolt was in like
case with the bottom.

They entered the room behind the shop, and it was innocent and
disappointing. A loo table, four horse-hair-covered chairs, a mirror,
three coloured wall-texts, two china figures and a cheap walnut
sideboard--that was all. The slow step of a policeman without stopped,
with a push at the shop-door, to test its fastenings, and then went on;
and stronger than ever was the smell of stale pickles.

To try the shop would be mere waste of time. Weech's pocket was the
till, and there could be no other prize. A door at the side of the room,
latched simply, gave on the stairs. 'Take auf yer boots,' Bill
whispered, unlacing his own, and slinging them across his shoulder by
the tied laces.

But Josh would not, and he said so, with an oath. Bill could not
understand him. _Could_ it be drink? Bill wished him a mile away.
'Awright,' he whispered, 'you set down 'ere w'ile I slip upstairs an'
take a peep. I bet the stuffs in the garret. Best on'y one goes, quiet.'

Josh sat, and Bill, taking his lantern, crept up the stairs noiselessly,
save for one creak. He gained the stair-head, listened a moment,
tip-toed along the small landing, and was half-way up the steep and
narrow garret-stairs, when he heard a sound, and stopped. Somebody was
on the lower flight.

There was a heavy tread, with the kick of a boot against stair or
skirting-board; and then came noisy steps along the landing. Josh was
coming up in his boots! Bill Rann was at his wits' end. He backed down
the garret-stairs, and met Josh at the foot. 'Are ye balmy?' he hissed
fiercely, catching Josh by the collar and pulling him into the turn of
the stairs. 'D'ye want another five stretch?'

A loud creak and a soft thump sounded from behind the door at the other
end of the landing; and then a match was struck. 'Keep back on the
stairs,' Bill whispered. ''E's 'eard you.' Josh sat on a stair,
perfectly still, with his legs drawn up out of sight from the door. Bill
blew out his light. He would not venture open intimidation of Weech now,
with Josh half muzzy, lest some burst of lunacy brought in the police.

A soft treading of bare feet, the squeak of a door-handle, a light on
the landing, and Aaron Weech stood at his open door in his shirt,
candle in hand, his hair rumpled, his head aside, his mouth a little
open, his unconscious gaze upward; listening intently. He took a slight
step forward. And then Bill Rann's heart turned over and over.

For Josh Perrott sprang from the stair, and, his shoulders humped and
his face thrust out, walked deliberately across the landing. Weech
turned his head quickly; his chin fell on his chest as by jaw-break;
there were but dots amid the white of his eyes; his head lay slowly
back, as the candle tilted and shot its grease on the floor. The door
swung wider as his shoulder struck it, and he screamed, like a rabbit
that sees a stoat. Then, with a wrench, he turned, letting drop the
candle, and ran shrieking to the window, flung it open, and yelled into
the black street. ''Elp! 'Elp! P'lice! _Murder! Murder! Murder!
Murder!_'

'Run, Josh--run, ye blasted fool!' roared Bill Rann, bounding across the
landing, and snatching at his arm.

'Go on--go on! I'm comin'!' Josh answered without turning his head. And
Bill took the bottom flight at a jump. The candle flared as it lay on
the floor, and spread a greasy pool about it.

'_Murder! Murder! Mu-r-r--_'

Josh had the man by the shoulder, swung him back from the window,
gripped his throat, and dragged him across the carpet as he might drag a
cat, while Weech's arms waved uselessly, and his feet feebly sought a
hold on the floor.

'Now!' cried Josh Perrott, glaring on the writhen face below his own,
and raising his case-knife in the manner of a cleaver, 'sing a hymn!
Sing the hymn as'll do ye most good! You'll cheat me when ye can, an'
when ye can't you'll put me five year in stir, eh? Sing a hymn, ye
snivellin' nark!'

From the street there came the noise of many hurrying feet and of a
scattered shouting. Josh Perrott made an offer at slashing the slaty
face, checked his arm, and went on.

'You'll put down somethin' 'an'some at my break, will ye? An' you'll
starve my wife an' kids all to bones an' teeth four year! Sing a hymn,
ye cur!'

He made another feint at slashing. Men were beating thunderously at the
shop door, and there were shrill whistles.

'Won't sing yer hymn? There ain't much time! My boy was goin' straight,
an' earnin' wages: someone got 'im chucked. A man 'as time to think
things out, in stir! Sing, ye son of a cow! Sing! Sing!'

Twice the knife hacked the livid face. But the third hack was below the
chin; and the face fell back.

The bubbling Thing dropped in a heap, and put out the flaring candle.
Without, the shouts gathered to a roar, and the door shook under heavy
blows. 'Open--open the door!' cried a deep voice.

He looked from the open window. There was a scrambling crowd, and more
people were running in. Windows gaped, and thrust out noisy heads. The
flash of a bull's-eye dazzled him, and he staggered back. 'Perrott!
Perrott!' came a shout. He had but glanced out, but he was recognised.

He threw down his knife, and made for the landing, slipping on the wet
floor and stumbling against the Heap. There were shouts from behind the
house now; they were few, but they were close. He dashed up the narrow
stairs, floundered through the back garret, over bags and boxes and
heaps of mingled commodities, and threw up the sash. Men were stumbling
invisibly in the dark yard below. He got upon the sill, swung round by
the dormer-frame, and went, hands and knees, along the roof. Yells and
loud whistles rose clamant in the air, and his own name was shouted to
and fro. Then the blows on the shop-door ceased with a splintering
crash, and there was a trampling of feet on floor-boards.

The roofs were irregular in shape and height, and his progress was slow.
He aimed at reaching the roof of Father Sturt's old club building, still
empty. He had had this in mind from the moment he climbed from the
garret-window; for in the work of setting the drains in order an iron
ventilating pipe had been carried up from the stable-yard to well above
the roof. It was a stout pipe, close by the wall, to which it was
clamped with iron attachments. Four years had passed since he had seen
it, and he trusted to luck to find it still standing, for it seemed his
only chance. Down below people scampered and shouted. Crowds had sprung
out of the dark night as by magic; and the police--they must have been
lying in wait in scores. It seemed a mere matter of seconds since he had
scaled the back fence; and now people were tearing about the house
behind him, and shouting out of windows to those below. He hoped that
the iron pipe might not be gone.

Good--it was there. He peered from the parapet down into the
stable-yard, and the place seemed empty. He gripped the pipe with hands
and knees, and descended.

The alley had no back way: he must take his chance in Meakin Street. He
peeped. At the street end there was a dark obstruction, set with spots
of light: a row of police. That way was shut; he must try the Jago--Luck
Row was almost opposite, and no Jago would betray him. The hunters were
already on the roofs. Men shouted up to them from the street, and kept
pace with them, coming nearer. He took a breath and dashed across,
knocking a man over at the corner.

Up Luck Row, into Old Jago Street he ran, past his own home, and across
to a black doorway, just as Father Sturt, roused by the persistent din,
opened his window. The passage was empty, and for an instant he paused,
breathless. But there were howls without, and the pelting of many feet.
The man knocked over at the corner had given the alarm, and the hunt was
up.

Into the back-yard and over the fence; through another passage into New
Jago Street; with a notion to gain the courts by Honey Lane and so away.
But he was thinking of the Jago as it had been--he had forgotten the
demolishment. As he neared Jago Row the place of it lay suddenly before
him--an open waste of eighty yards square, skirted by the straight
streets and the yellow barracks, with the Board School standing dark
among them. And along the straight streets more men were rushing, and
more police. They were new-comers: why not venture over? He rubbed his
cheek, for something like a film of gum clung to it. Then he
remembered, and peered closely at his hands. Blood, sticking and drying
and peeling; blood on hands and face, blood on clothes, without a doubt.
To go abroad thus were to court arrest, were he known or not. It must be
got off; but how? To go home was to give himself up. The police were
there long since--they swarmed the Jago through. Some half-dismantled
houses stood at hand, and he made for the nearest.

There were cellars under these houses, reached from the back-yards. Many
a Jago had been born, had lived, and had died in such a place. A cellar
would hide him for an hour, while he groped himself clean as he might.
Broken brickwork littered the space that had been the back-yard. Feeling
in the dark for the steps, which stood in a little pit, his foot turned
on a stone, and he pitched headlong.

The cellar itself was littered with rubbish, and he lay among it a
little while, breathless and bruised. When he tried to rise, he found
his ankle useless. It was the old sprain, got at Mother Gapp's before
his lagging, and ever ready to assert itself. He sat among the
brickbats to pull off the boot--that was foul and sticky too--and he
rubbed the ankle. He had been a fool to think of the cellar: why not any
corner among the walls above? He had given way to the mere panic
instinct to burrow, to hide himself in a hole, and he had chosen one
wherefrom there was no second way of escape--none at all but by the
steps he had fallen in at. Far better to have struck out boldly across
the streets by Columbia Market to the canal: who could have seen the
smears in the darkness? And in the canal he might have washed the lot
away, secure from observation, under a bridge. The thing might be
possible, even now, if he could stand the pain. But no, the foot was
useless when he tried it. He was trapped like a rat. He rubbed and
kneaded the ankle diligently, and managed to draw the boot on. But stand
on both legs he could not. He might have crawled up the steps on hands
and knees, but what was the use of that? So he sat, and waited.

Knots of men went hurrying by, and he caught snatches of their talk.
There had been a murder--a man was murdered in his bed--it was a
woman--a man had murdered his wife--there were two murders--three--the
tale went every way, but it was always Murder, Murder, Murder. Everybody
was saying Murder: till in the passing footsteps, in the vague shouts in
the distance, and presently in the mere black about him he heard the
word still--Murder, Murder, Murder. He fell to contrasting the whispered
fancy with the real screams in that bedroom. He wondered what Bill Rann
thought of it all, and what had become of the james and the gimlets. He
pictured the crowd in Old Jago Street, pushing into his room, talking
about him, telling the news. He wondered if Hannah had been asleep when
they came, and what she said when they told her. And more people hurried
past the ruined house, all talking Murder, Murder, still Murder.

The foot was horribly painful. Was it swelling? Yes, he thought it was;
he rubbed it again. What would Dicky do? If only Dicky knew where he
was! That might help. There was a new burst of shouts in the distance.
What was that? Perhaps they had caught Bill Rann; but that was unlikely.
They knew nothing of Bill--they had seen but one man. Perhaps they were
carrying away the Heap on a shutter: that would be no nice job,
especially down the steep stairs. There had been very little in the
wash-house, and nothing in the next room; the garrets were pretty full
of odd things, but no doubt the money was in the bedroom. The smell of
stale pickles was very strong.

So his thoughts chased one another--eager, trivial, crowded--till his
head ached with their splitting haste. To take heed for the future, to
plan escape, to design expedients--these were merely impossible, sitting
there inactive in the dark. He thought of the pipe he had slid down,
what it cost, why they put it there, who the man was that he ran against
at Luck Row, whether or not he hurt him, what the police would do with
the bloaters and cake and bacon at the shop, and--again--of the smell of
stale pickles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Father Sturt was up and dressed, standing guard on the landing outside
the Perrotts' door. The stairs were full of Jagos--mostly
women--constantly joined by new-comers, all anxious to batter the door
and belabour the hidden family with noisy sympathy and sedulous
inquiries: all, that is, except the oldest Mrs Walsh in the Jago, who,
possessed by an unshakable conviction that Josh's wife must have 'druv
'im to it,' had come in a shawl and a petticoat to give Hannah a piece
of her mind. But all were driven back and sent grumbling away, by Father
Sturt.

Every passage from the Jago was held by the police, and a search from
house to house was begun. With clear consciences the Jagos all could
deny any knowledge of Josh Perrott's whereabouts; but a clear conscience
was little valued in those parts, and one after another affirmed point
blank that the man seen at the window was not Perrott at all, but a
stranger who lived a long way off. This, of course, less by way of
favouring the fugitive than of baffling the police: the Jago's first
duty. But the police knew the worth of such talk, and the search went
on.

Thus it came to pass that in the grey of the morning a party in New
Jago Street, after telling each other that the ruins must be carefully
examined, climbed among the rubbish, and were startled by a voice from
underground.

'Awright,' cried Josh Perrott in the cellar. 'I'm done; it's a cop. Come
an' 'elp me out o' this 'ole.'



XXXIV


The Lion and Unicorn had been fresh gilt since he was there before, but
the white-headed old gaoler in the dock was much the same. And the big
sword--what did they have a big sword for, stuck up there, over the red
cushions, and what was the use of a sword six foot long? But perhaps it
wasn't six foot after all--it looked longer than it was; and no doubt it
was only for show, and probably a dummy with no blade. There was a
well-dressed black man sitting down below among the lawyers. What did he
want? Why did they let him in? A nice thing--to be made a show of, for
niggers! And Josh Perrott loosened his neckcloth with an indignant tug
of the forefinger, and went off into another train of thought. He had a
throbbing, wavering headache, the outcome of thinking so hard about so
many things. They were small things, and had nothing to do with his own
business; but there were so many of them, and they all had to be got
through at such a pace, and one thing led to another.

Ever since they had taken him he had been oppressed by this plague of
galloping thought, with few intervals of rest, when he could consider
immediate concerns. But of these he made little trouble. The thing was
done. Very well then, he would take his gruel like a man. He had done
many a worse thing, he said, that had been thought less of.

The evidence was a nuisance. What was the good of it all? Over and over
and over again. At the inquest, at the police court, and now here.
Repeated, laboriously taken down, and repeated again. And now it was
worse than ever, for the judge insisted on making a note of everything,
and wrote it down slowly, a word at a time. The witnesses were like
barrel-organs, producing the same old tune mechanically, without
changing a note. There was the policeman who was in Meakin Street at
twelve-thirty on the morning of the fourth of the month, when he heard
cries of Murder, and proceeded to the coffee-shop. There was the other
policeman who also 'proceeded' there, and recognised the prisoner, whom
he knew, at the first-floor window. And there was the sergeant who had
found him in the cellar, and the doctor who had made an examination, and
the knife, and the boots, and all of it. It was Murder, Murder, Murder
still. Why? Wasn't it plain enough? He felt some interest in what was
coming--in the sentence, and the black cap, and so on--never having seen
a murder trial before. But all this repetition oppressed him vaguely
amid the innumerable things he had to think of, one thing leading to
another.

Hannah and Dicky were there, sitting together behind the glass partition
that rose at the side of the dock. Hannah's face was down in her hands,
and Dicky's face was thin and white, and he sat with his neck stretched,
his lips apart, his head aside to catch the smallest word. His eyes,
too, were red with strained, unwinking attention. Josh felt vaguely
that they might keep a bolder face, as he did himself. His sprained foot
was still far from well, but he stood up, putting his weight on the
other. He might have been allowed to sit if he had asked, but that would
look like weakness.

There was another judge this time, an older one, with spectacles. He had
come solemnly in, after lunch, with a bunch of flowers in his hand, and
Josh thought he made an odd figure in his long red gown. Why did he sit
at the end of the bench, instead of in the middle, under the long sword?
Perhaps the old gentleman, who sat there for a little while and then
went away, was the Lord Mayor. That would account for it. There was
another room behind the bedroom at Weech's, which he had never thought
about. Perhaps the money was there, after all. Could they have missed
any hiding place in the shop parlour? No: there was the round table,
with the four chairs about it, and the little sideboard; besides the
texts on the wall, and two china figures on the mantel-piece--that was
all. There was a copper in the wash-house, but there was nothing in it.
The garret was a very good place to keep things in; but there was a
strong smell of stale pickles. He could smell it now--he had smelt it
ever since.

The judge stopped a witness to speak of a draught from a window. Josh
Perrott watched the shutting of the window--they did it with a cord. He
had not noticed a draught himself. But pigeons were flying outside the
panes and resting on the chimney-stacks. Pud Palmer tried to keep
pigeons in Jago Row, but one morning the trap was found empty. A
poulterer gave fourpence each for them. They were ticketed at
eighteenpence a pair in the shop, and that was fivepence profit apiece
for the poulterer. Tenpence a pair profit on eleven pairs was nearly ten
shillings--ten shillings all but tenpence. They wouldn't have given any
more in Club Row. A man had a four-legged linnet in Club Row, but there
was a show in Bethnal Green Road with a two-headed sheep. It was outside
there that Ginger Stagg was pinched for lob-crawling. And so on, and so
on, till his head buzzed again.

His counsel was saying something. How long had he been talking? What was
the good of it? He had told him that he had no defence. The lawyer was
enlarging on the dead man's iniquities, talking of provocation, and the
heat of passion, and the like. He was aiming desperately at a
recommendation to mercy. That was mere foolery.

But presently the judge began to sum up. They were coming to something
at last. But it was merely the thrice-told evidence once more. The judge
blinked at his notes, and went at it again; the policeman with his
whistle, and the other with his lantern, and the doctor, and the
sergeant, and the rest. It was shorter this time, though. Josh Perrott
turned and looked at the clock behind him, with the faces over it,
peering from the gallery. But when he turned to face the judge again he
had forgotten the time, and crowded trivialities were racing through the
narrow gates of his brain once more.

There was a cry for silence, and then a fresh voice spoke. 'Gentlemen of
the jury, have you agreed upon your verdict?'

'We have.' The foreman was an agitated, colourless man, and he spoke in
a low tone.

'Do you find the prisoner at the bar guilty, or not guilty?'

'Guilty.'

Yes, that was right; this was the real business. His head was clear and
ready now.

'And is that the verdict of you all?'

'Yes.'

Was that Hannah sobbing?

A pale parson in his black gown came walking along by the bench, and
stood like a tall ghost at the judge's side, his eyes raised and his
hands clasped. The judge took a black thing from the seat beside him,
and arranged it on his head. It was a sort of soft mortarboard, Josh
noted curiously, with a large silk tassel hanging over one side, giving
the judge, with his wig and his spectacles and his red gown, a horribly
jaunty look. No brain could be clearer than Josh Perrott's now.

'Prisoner at the bar, have you anything to say why sentence of death
should not be passed on you according to law?'

'No sir--I done it. On'y 'e was a worse man than me!'

The Clerk of Arraigns sank into his place, and the judge spoke.

'Joshua Perrott, you have been convicted, on evidence that can leave no
doubt whatever of your guilt in the mind of any rational person, of the
horrible crime of wilful murder. The circumstances of your awful offence
there is no need to recapitulate, but they were of the most brutal and
shocking character. You deliberately, and with preparation, broke into
the house of the man whose death you have shortly to answer for in a
higher court than this: whether you broke in with a design of robbery as
well as of revenge by murder I know not, nor is it my duty to consider:
but you there, with every circumstance of callous ferocity, sent the
wretched man to that last account which you must shortly render for
yourself. Of the ill-spent life of that miserable man, your victim, it
is not for me to speak, nor for you to think. And I do most earnestly
beseech you to use the short time yet remaining to you on this earth in
true repentance, and in making your peace with Almighty God. It is my
duty to pronounce sentence of that punishment which not I, but the law
of this country, imposes for the crime which you have committed. The
sentence of the Court is: that you be taken to the place whence you
came, and thence to a place of execution: and that you be there Hanged
by the Neck till you be Dead: and may the Lord have Mercy on your Soul!'

'Amen!' It was from the tall black figure.

Well, well, that was over. The gaoler touched his arm. Right. But first
he took a quick glance through the glass partition. Hannah was falling
over, or something,--a mere rusty swaying bundle,--and Dicky was holding
her up with both arms. Dicky's face was damp and grey, and twitching
lines were in his cheeks. Josh took a step toward the partition, but
they hurried him away.



XXXV


All this hard thinking would be over in half an hour or so. What was to
come now didn't matter; no more than a mere punch in the eye. The worst
was over on Saturday, and he had got through that all right. Hannah was
very bad, and so was Dicky. Em cried in a bewildered sort of way,
because the others did. Little Josh, conceiving that his father was
somehow causing all the tears, kicked and swore at him. He tried to get
Hannah to smile at this, but it was no go; and they had to carry her out
at last. Dicky was well-plucked though, bad as he was. He felt him shake
and choke when he kissed him, but he walked out straight and steady,
with the two children. Well, it was over....

He hoped they would get up a break in the Jago for Hannah and the
youngsters. His own break had never come off--they owed him one. The
last break he was at was at Mother Gapp's, before the Dove-Laners fell
through the floor. It must have cost Mother Gapp a deal of money to put
in the new floor; but then she must have made a lot in her time, what
with one thing and another. There was the fencing, and the houses she
had bought in Honey Lane, and the two fourpenny doss-houses in Hoxton
that they said were hers, and--well, nobody could say what else. Some
said she came of the gipsies that used to live at the Mount years ago.
The Mount was a pretty thick place now, but not so thick as the Jago:
the Jagos were thick as glue and wide as Broad Street. Bob the Bender
fell in Broad Street, toy-getting, and got a stretch and a half....

Yes, yes, of course, they always tolled a bell. But it was rather
confusing, with things to think about.

Ah, they had come at last. Come, there was nothing more to think about
now; nothing but to take it game. Hold tight--Jago hold tight.... 'No
thank you, sir--nothing to say, special. On'y much obliged to ye, thank
ye kindly, for the grub an'--an' bein' kind an' wot not. Thanks all of
ye, come to that. Specially you, sir.' It was the tall black figure
again....

What, this was the chap, was it? Seedy-looking. Sort of undertaker's man
to look at. All right--straps. Not cords to tie, then. Waist; wrists;
elbows; more straps dangling below--do them presently. This was how they
did it, then.... This way?

'I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth
in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and
believeth in Me shall never die.'

A very big gate, this, all iron, painted white. Round to the right. Not
very far, they told him. It was dark in the passage, but the door led
into the yard, where it was light and open, and sparrows were
twittering. Another door: in a shed.

This was the place. All white, everywhere--frame too; not black after
all. Up the steps.... Hold tight: not much longer. Stand there? Very
well.

'Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full
of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower: he fleeth as it
were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.

'In the midst of life....'



XXXVI


It was but a little crowd that stood at the Old Bailey corner while the
bell tolled, to watch for the black flag. This was not a popular murder.
Josh Perrott was not a man who had been bred to better things; he did
not snivel and rant in the dock; and he had not butchered his wife nor
his child, nor anybody with a claim on his gratitude or affection; so
that nobody sympathised with him, nor got up a petition for pardon, nor
wrote tearful letters to the newspapers. And the crowd that watched for
the black flag was a small one, and half of it came from the Jago.

While it was watching, and while the bell was tolling, a knot of people
stood at the Perrotts' front-doorway, in Old Jago Street. Father Sturt
went across as soon as the sleepers of the night had been seen away
from the shelter, and spoke to Kiddo Cook, who stood at the stair-foot
to drive off intruders.

'They say she's been settin' up all night, Father,' Kiddo reported, in a
hushed voice. 'An' Poll's jest looked in at the winder from Walsh's, and
says she can see 'em all kneelin' round a chair with that little clock
o' theirs on it. It's--it's more'n 'alf an hour yut.'

'I shall come here myself presently, and relieve you. Can you wait? You
mustn't neglect trade, you know.'

'I'll wait all day, Father, if ye like. Nobody sha'n't disturb 'em.'

When Father Sturt returned from his errand, 'Have you heard anything?'
he asked.

'No, Father,' answered Kiddo Cook. 'They ain't moved.'

There were two faint notes from a distant steeple, and then the bell of
St Leonards beat out the inexorable hour.



XXXVII


Kiddo Cook prospered. The stall was a present fact, and the awning was
not far off; indeed, he was vigilantly in search of a second-hand one,
not too much worn. But with all his affluence he was not often drunk.
Nothing could be better than his pitch--right out in the High Street, in
the busiest part, and hard by the London and County branch bank. They
called it Kiddo's Bank in the Jago, and made jokes about alleged
deposits of his. If you bought a penn'orth of greens from Kiddo, said
facetious Jagos, he didn't condescend to take the money himself; he gave
you a slip of paper, and you paid at the bank. And Kiddo had indulged in
a stroke of magnificence that no other Jago would have thought of. He
had taken _two_ rooms, in the new County Council dwellings. The secret
was that Father Sturt had agreed to marry Kiddo Cook and Pigeony Poll.
There would be plenty for both to do, what with the stall and the
regular round with the barrow.

The wedding-day came when Hannah Perrott had been one week a widow. For
a few days Father Sturt had left her alone, and had guarded her privacy.
Then, seeing that she gave no sign, he went with what quiet comfort he
might, and bespoke her attention to her concerns. He invented some
charing work in his rooms for her. She did it very badly, and if he left
her long alone, she would be found on the floor, with her face in a
chair-seat, crying weakly. But the work was something for her to do and
to think about, and by dint of bustling it and magnifying its
importance, Father Sturt brought her to some degree of mindfulness and
calm.

Dicky walked that morning in a sort of numb, embittered fury. What
should he do now? His devilmost. Spare nobody and stop at nothing. Old
Beveridge was right that morning years ago. The Jago had got him, and it
held him fast. Now he went doubly sealed of the outcasts: a Jago with a
hanged father. Father Sturt talked of work, but who would give _him_
work? And why do it, in any case? What came of it before? No, he was a
Jago and the world's enemy; Father Sturt was the only good man in it; as
for the rest, he would spoil them when he could. There was something for
to-morrow night, if only he could get calmed down enough by then. A
builder's yard in Kingsland with an office in a loft, and money in a
common desk. Tommy Rann had found it, and they must do it together; if
only he could get this odd numbness off him, and have his head clear. So
much crying, perhaps, and so much trying not to, till his head was like
to burst. Deep-eyed and pale, he dragged round into Edge Lane, and so
into New Jago Street.

Jerry Gullen's canary was harnessed to the barrow, and Jerry himself was
piling the barrow with rags and bottles. Dicky stood and looked; he
thought he would rub Canary's head, but then he changed his mind, and
did not move. Jerry Gullen glanced at him furtively once or twice, and
then said: 'Good ole moke for wear, ain't 'e?'

'Yus,' Dicky answered moodily, his talk half random. ''E'll peg out soon
now.'

''Im? Not 'im. Wy, I bet 'e'll live longer'n you will. _'E_ ain't goin'
to die.'

'I think 'e'd like to,' said Dicky, and slouched on.

Yes, Canary would be better off, dead. So would others. It would be a
comfortable thing for himself if he could die quietly then and there.
But it would never do for mother and the children to be left helpless.
How good for them all to go off easily together, and wake in some
pleasant place, say a place like Father Sturt's sitting-room, and
perhaps find--but there, what foolishness!

What was this unendurable stupor that clung about him like a net? He
knew everything clearly enough, but it was all in an atmosphere of dull
heedlessness. There would be some relief in doing something violent--in
smashing something to little pieces with a hammer.

He came to the ruined houses. There was a tumult of yells, and a crowd
of thirty or forty lads went streaming across the open waste, waving
sticks.

'Come on! come on, Jago! 'Ere they are!'

A fight! Ah, what more welcome! And Dove Lane, too--Dove Lane, that had
taken to bawling the taunt, 'Jago cut-throats,' since ...

He was in the thick of the raid. 'Come on, Jago! Jago! 'Ere they are!'
Past the Board School and through Honey Lane they went, and into Dove
Lane territory. A small crowd of Dove-Laners broke and fled. Straight
ahead the Jagos went, till they were suddenly taken in flank at a
turning by a full Dove Lane mob. The Jagos were broken by the rush, but
they fought stoutly, and the street was filled with a surge of combat.

'Jago! Jago hold tight!'

Thin, wasted and shaken, Dicky fought like a tiger. He had no stick till
he floored a Dove-Laner and took his from him, but then he bludgeoned
apace, callous to every blow, till he fought through the thick, and
burst out at the edge of the fray. He pulled his cap tight, and swung
back, almost knocking over, but disregarding, a leather-aproned, furtive
hunchback, who turned and came at his heels.

'Jago! Jago hold tight!' yelled Dicky Perrott. 'Come on, Father Sturt's
boys!'

He was down. Just a punch under the arm from behind. As he rolled, face
under, he caught a single glimpse of the hunchback, running. But what
was this--all this?

A shout went up. 'Stabbed! Chived! They chived Dicky Perrott!'

The fight melted. Somebody turned Dicky on his back, and he moaned, and
lay gasping. He lifted his dabbled hands, and looked at them, wondering.
They tried to lift him, but the blood poured so fast that they put him
down. Somebody had gone for a surgeon.

'Take me 'ome,' said Dicky, faintly, with an odd gurgle in his voice.
'Not 'awspital.'

The surgeon came running, with policemen at his heels. He ripped away
the clothes from about the wound, and shook his head. It was the lung.
Water was brought, and cloths, and an old door. They put Dicky on the
door, and carried him toward the surgery; and two lads who stayed by him
were sent to bring his friends.

The bride and bridegroom, meeting the news on the way home, set off at a
run, and Father Sturt followed.

'Good Gawd, Dicky,' cried Poll, tearing her way to the shutter as it
stopped at the surgery door, 'wot's this?'

Dicky's eye fell on the flowered bonnet that graced the wedding, and his
lip lifted with the shade of a smile. 'Luck, Pidge!'

He was laid out in the surgery. A crowd stood about the door, while
Father Sturt went in. The vicar lifted his eyebrows questioningly, and
the surgeon shook his head. It was a matter of minutes.

Father Sturt bent over and took Dicky's hand. 'My poor Dicky,' he said,
'who did this?'

'Dunno, Fa'er.'

The lie--the staunch Jago lie. Thou shalt not nark.

'Fetch mother an' the kids. Fa'er!'

'Yes, my boy?'

'Tell Mist' Beveridge there's 'nother way out--better.'


THE END





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