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Title: Tales of Mean Streets
Author: Morrison, Arthur, 1863-1945
Language: English
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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.

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And Others



_Copyright, 1895,_

_All rights reserved._

University Press:



NOTE.--_The greater number of these stories and studies were first
printed in_ The National Observer; _the introduction, in a slightly
different form, in_ Macmillan's Magazine; _"That Brute Simmons" and "A
Conversion" have been published in_ The Pall Mall Budget; _and "The Red
Cow Group" is new._



INTRODUCTION                             15


     I. LIZER'S WOOING                   29

    II. LIZER'S FIRST                    38


WITHOUT VISIBLE MEANS                    57

TO BOW BRIDGE                            73

THAT BRUTE SIMMONS                       83

BEHIND THE SHADE                         97

THREE ROUNDS                            109

IN BUSINESS                             127

THE RED COW GROUP                       141

ON THE STAIRS                           161

SQUIRE NAPPER                           171

"A POOR STICK"                          197

A CONVERSION                            207

"ALL THAT MESSUAGE"                     221



It was considered an intrepid thing for Walter Besant to do when, twelve
or thirteen years ago, he invaded the great East End of London and drew
upon its unknown wealth of varied material to people that most charming
novel, "All Sorts and Conditions of Men." Until then the West End knew
little of its contiguous neighbor in the East. Dickens's kaleidoscopic
views of low life in the South of London were manifestly caricatures of
the slum specimens of human nature which he purposely sought and often
distorted to suit his bizarre humor. Mr. Besant may be fairly considered
as the pioneer of those who have since descended to the great
unchartered region of East London, about which, so far as our knowledge
of the existing conditions of human life in that community are
concerned, we remained until, as it were yesterday, almost as ignorant
as of the undiscovered territories in Central Africa. Contemporaneous
with Mr. Besant's "discovery" of East London began the eastward march of
the Salvation Army, which has since honeycombed this quarter of the
metropolis with its militant camps. Gradually the barriers were thrown
down, and the East has become accessible to literature and to
civilization as it never had been to the various Charity and Church
missionary organizations.

It was as the secretary of an old Charity Trust that Mr. Arthur Morrison
first made his acquaintance with East London, and by dint of several
years' residence and attentive study acquired his knowledge of the East
End and its myriad denizens. Right in the midst of the great square
bounded by the Thames, the Lea, the City, Kingsland, and the Hackney
open spaces lie the dreary "Mean Streets" which Mr. Morrison has
described with uncommon power and vigor, and among which the operations
of his secretaryship engaged him laboriously for years. The possibility
of presenting his observations of East London in narrative form began to
grow upon him while casting around for literary pabulum to convert into
magazine articles, and in October, 1891, appeared his first sketch,
entitled "A Street," in "Macmillan's Magazine." This, in a remodelled
form, now serves as an introductory chapter to the present collection.
The article in "Macmillan's" attracted a good deal of attention, and won
for its author the good fellowship of Mr. W. E. Henley, who encouraged
him in his idea of writing a series of short stories and studies which
should describe East End life with austerity, restraint, and frankness.
A large number of the "Tales" appeared in the "National Observer" and
several followed in the "Pall Mall Budget." The dedication to Mr. Henley
of "Tales of Mean Streets" is a grateful acknowledgment by the author of
the kindly and frank counsel of his friendly critic; whose criticism, it
may be added, has been mainly directed towards the author's
craftsmanship--his conceptions of the life he was portraying the critic
was wise enough to let alone. Mr. Morrison has also been indebted on the
side of art in fiction to Mr. Walter Besant, whom he met in the East

Mr. Morrison has been fortunate in his literary experience. He is
another witness to the fact that merit makes its way from the outside,
without necessarily receiving aid or having influence brought to bear
on editors or publishers. It is curious to note that a manuscript of his
which happened to be rejected once was accepted on the day following,
and now has a place in this book. Some cycling verses contributed as a
lad to a cycling magazine began his literary career, and for some years
he continued to write on what was then a novel sport. He drifted into
broader channels and became a frequent contributor to popular papers and
magazines. During this period he was working on the Charity Commission,
and wrote only by way of relaxation. About five years ago he resigned
his office on the Trust, and, occupying chambers near the Strand, joined
the editorial staff of an old-established evening paper, where for some
months he continued to write leaderettes and miscellaneous articles and
notes until, becoming convinced that he could not do justice to such
ability for better work which he might possess amidst the grinding
routine of newspaper scribbling, he gave up his post and applied himself
to more serious writing, contributing to the "Strand," and other
magazines and reviews. About this time he began the series which is now
gathered under the common title "Tales of Mean Streets." On its recent
publication in England it was received with instant recognition as a
book of extraordinary merit, and it has met with signal success. Some
idea of the strong impression which it has made in England may be
gathered from Mr. Arthur Waugh's warm tribute to the author's
distinction in a recent letter to the "Critic." "He deals exclusively,"
writes Mr. Waugh, "with life in the East End of London, and he does so
with a fearlessness and originality which are of more value than many
sermons. I do not know whether his book is published in America; but if
so, I strongly advise every reader of this letter to secure it. Those
who do so will learn from its pages more of the degradation and misery
of a certain side of London life than they could in many weeks of
philanthropic 'slumming.' Mr. Morrison's will be a name to conjure with
in another season."

Mr. Arthur Morrison is but thirty-one, and has just stepped on to the
threshold of literary fame as a writer of decided promise and strength.
He has only broken ground as yet in the field which has brought him his
spurs, and is at present contemplating a longer story of East End life.
The number of those who have attempted to write familiarly of the seamy
side of our great cities from close observation and laborious study of
its life in a first-hand fashion is so small that it is easy to believe
that the author of "Tales of Mean Streets," possessing as he does the
prime qualities of a novelist, has a future before him in an
unprecedented form of literature.


NEW YORK, March 2, 1895.



This street is in the East End. There is no need to say in the East End
of what. The East End is a vast city, as famous in its way as any the
hand of man has made. But who knows the East End? It is down through
Cornhill and out beyond Leadenhall Street and Aldgate Pump, one will
say: a shocking place, where he once went with a curate; an evil plexus
of slums that hide human creeping things, where filthy men and women
live on penn'orths of gin, where collars and clean shirts are decencies
unknown, where every citizen wears a black eye, and none ever combs his
hair. The East End is a place, says another, which is given over to the
Unemployed. And the Unemployed is a race whose token is a clay pipe, and
whose enemy is soap: now and again it migrates bodily to Hyde Park with
banners, and furnishes adjacent police courts with disorderly drunks.
Still another knows the East End only as the place whence begging
letters come; there are coal and blanket funds there, all perennially
insolvent, and everybody always wants a day in the country. Many and
misty are people's notions of the East End; and each is commonly but the
distorted shadow of a minor feature. Foul slums there are in the East
End, of course, as there are in the West; want and misery there are, as
wherever a host is gathered together to fight for food. But they are not
often spectacular in kind.

Of this street there are about one hundred and fifty yards--on the same
pattern all. It is not pretty to look at. A dingy little brick house
twenty feet high, with three square holes to carry the windows, and an
oblong hole to carry the door, is not a pleasing object; and each side
of this street is formed by two or three score of such houses in a row,
with one front wall in common. And the effect is as of stables.

Round the corner there are a baker's, a chandler's, and a beer-shop.
They are not included in the view from any of the rectangular holes; but
they are well known to every denizen, and the chandler goes to church on
Sunday and pays for his seat. At the opposite end, turnings lead to
streets less rigidly respectable: some where "Mangling done here"
stares from windows, and where doors are left carelessly open; others
where squalid women sit on doorsteps, and girls go to factories in white
aprons. Many such turnings, of as many grades of decency, are set
between this and the nearest slum.

They are not a very noisy or obtrusive lot in this street. They do not
go to Hyde Park with banners, and they seldom fight. It is just possible
that one or two among them, at some point in a life of ups and downs,
may have been indebted to a coal and blanket fund; but whosoever these
may be, they would rather die than publish the disgrace, and it is
probable that they very nearly did so ere submitting to it.

Some who inhabit this street are in the docks, some in the gasworks,
some in one or other of the few shipbuilding yards that yet survive on
the Thames. Two families in a house is the general rule, for there are
six rooms behind each set of holes: this, unless "young men lodgers" are
taken in, or there are grown sons paying for bed and board. As for the
grown daughters, they marry as soon as may be. Domestic service is a
social descent, and little under millinery and dressmaking is compatible
with self-respect. The general servant may be caught young among the
turnings at the end where mangling is done; and the factory girls live
still further off, in places skirting slums.

Every morning at half-past five there is a curious demonstration. The
street resounds with thunderous knockings, repeated upon door after
door, and acknowledged ever by a muffled shout from within. These
signals are the work of the night-watchman or the early policeman, or
both, and they summon the sleepers to go forth to the docks, the
gasworks, and the ship-yards. To be awakened in this wise costs
fourpence a week, and for this fourpence a fierce rivalry rages between
night-watchmen and policemen. The night-watchman--a sort of by-blow of
the ancient "Charley," and himself a fast vanishing quantity--is the
real professional performer; but he goes to the wall, because a large
connection must be worked if the pursuit is to pay at fourpence a
knocker. Now, it is not easy to bang at two knockers three-quarters of a
mile apart, and a hundred others lying between, all punctually at
half-past five. Wherefore the policeman, to whom the fourpence is but a
perquisite, and who is content with a smaller round, is rapidly
supplanting the night-watchman, whose cry of "Past nine o'clock," as he
collects orders in the evening, is now seldom heard.

The knocking and the shouting pass, and there comes the noise of
opening and shutting of doors, and a clattering away to the docks, the
gasworks and the ship-yards. Later more door-shutting is heard, and then
the trotting of sorrow-laden little feet along the grim street to the
grim Board School three grim streets off. Then silence, save for a
subdued sound of scrubbing here and there, and the puny squall of croupy
infants. After this, a new trotting of little feet to docks, gasworks,
and ship-yards with father's dinner in a basin and a red handkerchief,
and so to the Board School again. More muffled scrubbing and more
squalling, and perhaps a feeble attempt or two at decorating the
blankness of a square hole here and there by pouring water into a grimy
flower-pot full of dirt. Then comes the trot of little feet toward the
oblong holes, heralding the slower tread of sooty artisans; a smell of
bloater up and down; nightfall; the fighting of boys in the street,
perhaps of men at the corner near the beer-shop; sleep. And this is the
record of a day in this street; and every day is hopelessly the same.

Every day, that is, but Sunday. On Sunday morning a smell of cooking
floats round the corner from the half-shut baker's, and the little feet
trot down the street under steaming burdens of beef, potatoes, and
batter pudding--the lucky little feet these, with Sunday boots on them,
when father is in good work and has brought home all his money; not the
poor little feet in worn shoes, carrying little bodies in the threadbare
clothes of all the week, when father is out of work, or ill, or drunk,
and the Sunday cooking may very easily be done at home,--if any there be
to do.

On Sunday morning one or two heads of families appear in wonderful black
suits, with unnumbered creases and wrinklings at the seams. At their
sides and about their heels trot the unresting little feet, and from
under painful little velvet caps and straw hats stare solemn little
faces towelled to a polish. Thus disposed and arrayed, they fare gravely
through the grim little streets to a grim Little Bethel where are
gathered together others in like garb and attendance; and for two hours
they endure the frantic menace of hell-fire.

Most of the men, however, lie in shirt and trousers on their beds and
read the Sunday paper; while some are driven forth--for they hinder the
housework--to loaf, and await the opening of the beer-shop round the
corner. Thus goes Sunday in this street, and every Sunday is the same as
every other Sunday, so that one monotony is broken with another. For the
women, however, Sunday is much as other days, except that there is
rather more work for them. The break in their round of the week is
washing day.

No event in the outer world makes any impression in this street. Nations
may rise, or may totter in ruin; but here the colorless day will work
through its twenty-four hours just as it did yesterday, and just as it
will to-morrow. Without there may be party strife, wars and rumors of
wars, public rejoicings; but the trotting of the little feet will be
neither quickened nor stayed. Those quaint little women, the
girl-children of this street, who use a motherly management toward all
girl-things younger than themselves, and toward all boys as old or
older, with "Bless the child!" or "Drat the children!"--those quaint
little women will still go marketing with big baskets, and will regard
the price of bacon as chief among human considerations. Nothing disturbs
this street--nothing but a strike.

Nobody laughs here--life is too serious a thing; nobody sings. There was
once a woman who sang--a young wife from the country. But she bore
children, and her voice cracked. Then her man died, and she sang no
more. They took away her home, and with her children about her skirts
she left this street forever. The other women did not think much of her.
She was "helpless."

One of the square holes in this street--one of the single, ground-floor
holes--is found, on individual examination, to differ from the others.
There has been an attempt to make it into a shop-window. Half a dozen
candles, a few sickly sugar-sticks, certain shrivelled bloaters, some
bootlaces, and a bundle or two of firewood compose a stock which at
night is sometimes lighted by a little paraffine lamp in a tin sconce,
and sometimes by a candle. A widow lives here--a gaunt, bony widow, with
sunken, red eyes. She has other sources of income than the candles and
the bootlaces: she washes and chars all day, and she sews cheap shirts
at night. Two "young men lodgers," moreover, sleep upstairs, and the
children sleep in the back room; she herself is supposed not to sleep at
all. The policeman does not knock here in the morning--the widow wakes
the lodgers herself; and nobody in the street behind ever looks out of
window before going to bed, no matter how late, without seeing a light
in the widow's room where she plies her needle. She is a quiet woman,
who speaks little with her neighbors, having other things to do: a woman
of pronounced character, to whom it would be unadvisable--even
dangerous--to offer coals or blankets. Hers was the strongest contempt
for the helpless woman who sang: a contempt whose added bitterness
might be traced to its source. For when the singing woman was marketing,
from which door of the pawnshop had she twice met the widow coming

This is not a dirty street, taken as a whole. The widow's house is one
of the cleanest, and the widow's children match the house. The one house
cleaner than the widow's is ruled by a despotic Scotchwoman, who drives
every hawker off her whitened step, and rubs her door handle if a hand
have rested on it. The Scotchwoman has made several attempts to
accommodate "young men lodgers," but they have ended in shrill rows.

There is no house without children in this street, and the number of
them grows ever and ever greater. Nine-tenths of the doctor's visits are
on this account alone, and his appearances are the chief matter of such
conversation as the women make across the fences. One after another the
little strangers come, to live through lives as flat and colorless as
the day's life in this street. Existence dawns, and the
doctor-watchman's door knock resounds along the row of rectangular
holes. Then a muffled cry announces that a small new being has come to
trudge and sweat its way in the appointed groove. Later, the trotting of
little feet and the school; the midday play hour, when love peeps even
into this street; after that more trotting of little feet--strange
little feet, new little feet--and the scrubbing, and the squalling, and
the barren flower-pot; the end of the sooty day's work; the last
home-coming; nightfall; sleep.

When love's light falls into some corner of the street, it falls at an
early hour of this mean life, and is itself but a dusty ray. It falls
early, because it is the sole bright thing which the street sees, and is
watched for and counted on. Lads and lasses, awkwardly arm in arm, go
pacing up and down this street, before the natural interest in marbles
and doll's houses would have left them in a brighter place. They are
"keeping company"; the manner of which proceeding is indigenous--is a
custom native to the place. The young people first "walk out" in pairs.
There is no exchange of promises, no troth-plight, no engagement, no
love-talk. They patrol the street side by side, usually in silence,
sometimes with fatuous chatter. There are no dances, no tennis, no
water-parties, no picnics to bring them together: so they must walk out,
or be unacquainted. If two of them grow dissatisfied with each other's
company, nothing is easier than to separate and walk out with somebody
else. When by these means each has found a fit mate (or thinks so), a
ring is bought, and the odd association becomes a regular engagement;
but this is not until the walking out has endured for many months. The
two stages of courtship are spoken of indiscriminately as "keeping
company," but a very careful distinction is drawn between them by the
parties concerned. Nevertheless, in the walking out period it would be
almost as great a breach of faith for either to walk out with more than
one, as it would be if the full engagement had been made. And
love-making in this street is a dreary thing, when one thinks of
love-making in other places. It begins--and it ends--too soon.

Nobody from this street goes to the theatre. That would mean a long
journey, and it would cost money which might buy bread and beer and
boots. For those, too, who wear black Sunday suits it would be sinful.
Nobody reads poetry or romance. The very words are foreign. A Sunday
paper in some few houses provides such reading as this street is
disposed to achieve. Now and again a penny novel has been found among
the private treasures of a growing daughter, and has been wrathfully
confiscated. For the air of this street is unfavorable to the ideal.

Yet there are aspirations. There has lately come into the street a young
man lodger who belongs to a Mutual Improvement Society. Membership in
this society is regarded as a sort of learned degree, and at its
meetings debates are held and papers smugly read by lamentably
self-satisfied young men lodgers, whose only preparation for debating
and writing is a fathomless ignorance. For ignorance is the inevitable
portion of dwellers here: seeing nothing, reading nothing, and
considering nothing.

Where in the East End lies this street? Everywhere. The hundred and
fifty yards is only a link in a long and a mightily tangled chain--is
only a turn in a tortuous maze. This street of the square holes is
hundreds of miles long. That it is planned in short lengths is true, but
there is no other way in the world that can more properly be called a
single street, because of its dismal lack of accent, its sordid
uniformity, its utter remoteness from delight.




Somewhere in the register was written the name Elizabeth Hunt; but
seventeen years after the entry the spoken name was Lizerunt. Lizerunt
worked at a pickle factory, and appeared abroad in an elaborate and
shabby costume, usually supplemented by a white apron. Withal she was
something of a beauty. That is to say, her cheeks were very red, her
teeth were very large and white, her nose was small and snub, and her
fringe was long and shiny; while her face, new-washed, was susceptible
of a high polish. Many such girls are married at sixteen, but Lizerunt
was belated, and had never a bloke at all.

Billy Chope was a year older than Lizerunt. He wore a billycock with a
thin brim and a permanent dent in the crown; he had a bobtail coat, with
the collar turned up at one side and down at the other, as an expression
of independence; between his meals he carried his hands in his breeches
pockets; and he lived with his mother, who mangled. His conversation
with Lizerunt consisted long of perfunctory nods; but great things
happened this especial Thursday evening, as Lizerunt, making for home,
followed the fading red beyond the furthermost end of Commercial Road.
For Billy Chope, slouching in the opposite direction, lurched across the
pavement as they met, and, taking the nearer hand from his pocket,
caught and twisted her arm, bumping her against the wall.

"Garn," said Lizerunt, greatly pleased: "le' go!" For she knew that this
was love.

"Where yer auf to, Lizer?"

"'Ome, o' course, cheeky. Le' go;" and she snatched--in vain--at Billy's

Billy let go, and capered in front of her. She feigned to dodge by him,
careful not to be too quick, because affairs were developing.

"I say, Lizer," said Billy, stopping his dance and becoming
business-like, "goin' anywhere Monday?"

"Not along o' you, cheeky; you go 'long o' Beller Dawson, like wot you
did Easter."

"Blow Beller Dawson; _she_ ain't no good. I'm goin' on the Flats. Come?"

Lizerunt, delighted but derisive, ended with a promise to "see." The
bloke had come at last, and she walked home with the feeling of having
taken her degree. She had half assured herself of it two days before,
when Sam Cardew threw an orange peel at her, but went away after a
little prancing on the pavement. Sam was a smarter fellow than Billy,
and earned his own living; probably his attentions were serious; but one
must prefer the bird in hand. As for Billy Chope, he went his way,
resolved himself to take home what mangling he should find his mother
had finished, and stick to the money; also, to get all he could from her
by blandishing and bullying, that the jaunt to Wanstead Flats might be
adequately done.

There is no other fair like Whit Monday's on Wanstead Flats. Here is a
square mile and more of open land where you may howl at large; here is
no danger of losing yourself, as in Epping Forest; the public houses are
always with you; shows, shies, swings, merry-go-rounds, fried fish
stalls, donkeys, are packed closer than on Hampstead Heath; the ladies'
tormentors are larger, and their contents smell worse, than at any other
fair. Also, you may be drunk and disorderly without being locked
up,--for the stations won't hold everybody,--and when all else has
palled, you may set fire to the turf. Hereinto Billy and Lizerunt
projected themselves from the doors of the Holly Tree on Whit Monday
morning. But through hours on hours of fried fish and half-pints both
were conscious of a deficiency. For the hat of Lizerunt was brown and
old; plush it was not, and its feather was a mere foot long, and of a
very rusty black. Now, it is not decent for a factory girl from
Limehouse to go bank-holidaying under any but a hat of plush, very high
in the crown, of a wild blue or a wilder green, and carrying withal an
ostrich feather, pink or scarlet or what not; a feather that springs
from the fore part, climbs the crown, and drops as far down the
shoulders as may be. Lizerunt knew this, and, had she had no bloke,
would have stayed at home. But a chance is a chance. As it was, only
another such hapless girl could measure her bitter envy of the feathers
about her, or would so joyfully have given an ear for the proper
splendor. Billy, too, had a vague impression, muddled by but not drowned
in half-pints, that some degree of plush was condign to the occasion and
to his own expenditure. Still, there was no quarrel; and the pair walked
and ran with arms about each other's necks; and Lizerunt thumped her
bloke on the back at proper intervals; so that the affair went regularly
on the whole: although, in view of Lizerunt's shortcomings, Billy did
not insist on the customary exchange of hats. Everything, I say, went
well and well enough until Billy bought a ladies' tormentor and began to
squirt it at Lizerunt. For then Lizerunt went scampering madly, with
piercing shrieks, until her bloke was left some little way behind, and
Sam Cardew, turning up at that moment and seeing her running alone in
the crowd, threw his arms about her waist and swung her round him again
and again, as he floundered gallantly this way and that, among the shies
and the hokey-pokey barrows.

"'Ulloo, Lizer! Where _are_ y' a-comin' to? If I 'adn't laid 'old o'
ye--!" But here Billy Chope arrived to demand what the 'ell Sam Cardew
was doing with his gal. Now Sam was ever readier for a fight than Billy
was; but the sum of Billy's half-pints was large: wherefore the fight
began. On the skirt of an hilarious ring Lizerunt, after some small
outcry, triumphed aloud. Four days before, she had no bloke; and here
she stood with two, and those two fighting for her! Here in the public
gaze, on the Flats! For almost five minutes she was Helen of Troy.

And in much less time Billy tasted repentance. The haze of half-pints
was dispelled, and some teeth went with it. Presently, whimpering and
with a bloody muzzle, he rose and made a running kick at the other.
Then, being thwarted in a bolt, he flung himself down; and it was like
to go hard with him at the hands of the crowd. Punch you may on Wanstead
Flats, but execration and worse is your portion if you kick anybody
except your wife. But, as the ring closed, the helmets of two policemen
were seen to be working in over the surrounding heads, and Sam Cardew,
quickly assuming his coat, turned away with such an air of blamelessness
as is practicable with a damaged eye; while Billy went off unheeded in
an opposite direction.

Lizerunt and her new bloke went the routine of half-pints and
merry-go-rounds, and were soon on right thumping terms; and Lizerunt was
as well satisfied with the issue as she was proud of the adventure.
Billy was all very well; but Sam was better. She resolved to draw him
for a feathered hat before next bank holiday. So the sun went down on
her and her bloke hanging on each other's necks and straggling toward
the Romford Road with shouts and choruses. The rest was tram-car, Bow
Music Hall, half-pints, and darkness.

Billy took home his wounds, and his mother, having moved his wrath by
asking their origin, sought refuge with a neighbor. He accomplished his
revenge in two instalments. Two nights later Lizerunt was going with a
jug of beer; when somebody sprang from a dark corner, landed her under
the ear, knocked her sprawling, and made off to the sound of her
lamentations. She did not see who it was, but she knew; and next day Sam
Cardew was swearing he'd break Billy's back. He did not, however, for
that same evening a gang of seven or eight fell on him with sticks and
belts. (They were Causeway chaps, while Sam was a Brady's Laner, which
would have been reason enough by itself, even if Billy Chope had not
been one of them.) Sam did his best for a burst through and a run, but
they pulled and battered him down; and they kicked him about the head,
and they kicked him about the belly; and they took to their heels when
he was speechless and still.

He lay at home for near four weeks, and when he stood up again it was in
many bandages. Lizerunt came often to his bedside, and twice she brought
an orange. On these occasions there was much talk of vengeance. But the
weeks went on. It was a month since Sam had left his bed; and Lizerunt
was getting a little tired of bandages. Also, she had begun to doubt and
to consider bank holiday--scarce a fortnight off. For Sam was
stone-broke, and a plush hat was further away than ever. And all
through the later of these weeks Billy Chope was harder than ever on his
mother, and she, well knowing that if he helped her by taking home he
would pocket the money at the other end, had taken to finishing and
delivering in his absence, and, threats failing to get at the money,
Billy Chope was impelled to punch her head and gripe her by the throat.

There was a milliner's window, with a show of nothing but fashionable
plush-and-feather hats, and Lizerunt was lingering hereabouts one
evening, when some one took her by the waist, and some one said, "Which
d'yer like, Lizer?--The yuller un?"

Lizerunt turned and saw that it was Billy. She pulled herself away, and
backed off, sullen and distrustful. "Garn," she said.

"Straight," said Billy, "I'll sport yer one.--No kid, I will."

"Garn," said Lizerunt once more. "Wot yer gittin' at now?"

But presently, being convinced that bashing wasn't in it, she approached
less guardedly; and she went away with a paper bag and the reddest of
all the plushes and the bluest of all the feathers; a hat that
challenged all the Flats the next bank holiday, a hat for which no girl
need have hesitated to sell her soul. As for Billy, why, he was as good
as another; and you can't have everything; and Sam Cardew, with his
bandages and his grunts and groans, was no great catch after all.

This was the wooing of Lizerunt: for in a few months she and Billy
married under the blessing of a benignant rector, who periodically set
aside a day for free weddings, and, on principle, encouraged early
matrimony. And they lived with Billy's mother.



When Billy Chope married Lizerunt there was a small rejoicing. There was
no wedding-party; because it was considered that what there might be to
drink would be better in the family. Lizerunt's father was not, and her
mother felt no interest in the affair; not having seen her daughter for
a year, and happening, at the time, to have a month's engagement in
respect of a drunk and disorderly. So that there were but three of them;
and Billy Chope got exceedingly tipsy early in the day; and in the
evening his bride bawled a continual chorus, while his mother,
influenced by that unwonted quartern of gin the occasion sanctioned,
wept dismally over her boy, who was much too far gone to resent it.

His was the chief reason for rejoicing. For Lizerunt had always been
able to extract ten shillings a week from the pickle factory, and it was
to be presumed that as Lizer Chope her earning capacity would not
diminish; and the wages would make a very respectable addition to the
precarious revenue, depending on the mangle, that Billy extorted from
his mother. As for Lizer, she was married. That was the considerable
thing; for she was but a few months short of eighteen, and that, as you
know, is a little late.

Of course there were quarrels very soon; for the new Mrs. Chope, less
submissive at first than her mother-in-law, took a little breaking in,
and a liberal renewal of the manual treatment once applied in her
courting days. But the quarrels between the women were comforting to
Billy: a diversion and a source of better service.

As soon as might be, Lizer took the way of womankind. This circumstance
brought an unexpected half-crown from the evangelical rector who had
married the couple gratis; for recognizing Billy in the street by
accident, and being told of Mrs. Chope's prospects, as well as that
Billy was out of work (a fact undeniable), he reflected that his
principles did on occasion lead to discomfort of a material sort. And
Billy, to whose comprehension the half-crown opened a new field of
receipt, would doubtless have long remained a client of the rector, had
not that zealot hastened to discover a vacancy for a warehouse porter,
the offer of presentation whereunto alienated Billy Chope forever. But
there were meetings and demonstrations of the Unemployed; and it was
said that shillings had been given away; and, as being at a meeting in a
street was at least as amusing as being in a street where there was no
meeting, Billy often went, on the off chance. But his lot was chiefly
disappointment: wherefore he became more especially careful to furnish
himself ere he left home.

For certain weeks cash came less freely than ever from the two women.
Lizer spoke of providing for the necessities of the expected child: a
manifestly absurd procedure, as Billy pointed out, since, if they were
unable to clothe or feed it, the duty would fall on its grandmother.
That was law, and nobody could get over it. But even with this argument,
a shilling cost him many more demands and threats than it had used, and
a deal more general trouble.

At last Lizer ceased from going to the pickle factory, and could not
even help Billy's mother at the mangle for long. This lasted for near a
week, when Billy, rising at ten with a bad mouth, resolved to stand no
nonsense, and demanded two shillings.

"Two bob? Wot for?" Lizer asked.

"'Cos I want it. None o' yer lip."

"Ain't got it," said Lizer sulkily.

"That's a bleed'n' lie."

"Lie yerself."

"I'll break y' in 'arves, ye blasted 'eifer!" He ran at her throat and
forced her back over a chair. "I'll pull yer face auf! If y' don't give
me the money, gawblimy, I'll do for ye!"

Lizer strained and squalled. "Le' go! You'll kill me an' the kid too!"
she grunted hoarsely. Billy's mother ran in and threw her arms about
him, dragging him away. "Don't, Billy," she said, in terror. "Don't,
Billy--not now! You'll get in trouble. Come away! She might go auf, an'
you'd get in trouble!"

Billy Chope flung his wife over and turned to his mother. "Take yer
'ands auf me," he said: "go on, or I'll gi' ye somethin' for yerself."
And he punched her in the breast by way of illustration.

"You shall 'ave what I've got, Billy, if it's money," the mother said.
"But don't go an' git yerself in trouble, don't. Will a shillin' do?"

"No, it won't. Think I'm a bloomin' kid? I mean 'avin' two bob this

"I was a-keepin' it for the rent, Billy, but--"

"Yus; think o' the bleed'n' lan'lord 'fore me, doncher?" And he pocketed
the two shillings. "I ain't settled with you yut, my gal," he added to
Lizer; "mikin' about at 'ome an' 'idin' money. You wait a bit."

Lizer had climbed into an erect position, and, gravid and slow, had got
as far as the passage. Mistaking this for a safe distance, she replied
with defiant railings. Billy made for her with a kick that laid her on
the lower stairs, and, swinging his legs round his mother as she
obstructed him, entreating him not to get in trouble, he attempted to
kick again in a more telling spot. But a movement among the family
upstairs and a tap at the door hinted of interference, and he took
himself off.

Lizer lay doubled upon the stairs, howling: but her only articulate cry
was, "Gawd 'elp me, it's comin'!"

Billy went to the meeting of the Unemployed, and cheered a proposal to
storm the Tower of London. But he did not join the procession following
a man with a handkerchief on a stick, who promised destruction to every
policeman in his path: for he knew the fate of such processions. With a
few others, he hung about the nearest tavern for a while, on the chance
of the advent of a flush sailor from St. Katharine's, disposed to treat
out-o'-workers. Then he went alone to a quieter beer-house and took a
pint or two at his own expense. A glance down the music-hall bills
hanging in the bar having given him a notion for the evening, he
bethought himself of dinner, and made for home.

The front door was open, and in the first room, where the mangle stood,
there were no signs of dinner. And this was at three o'clock! Billy
pushed into the room behind, demanding why.

"Billy," Lizer said faintly from her bed, "look at the baby!"

Something was moving feebly under a flannel petticoat. Billy pulled the
petticoat aside, and said, "That? Well, it _is_ a measly snipe." It was
a blind, hairless homunculus, short of a foot long, with a skinny face
set in a great skull. There was a black bruise on one side from hip to
armpit. Billy dropped the petticoat and said, "Where's my dinner?"

"I dunno," Lizer responded hazily. "Wot's the time?"

"Time? Don't try to kid me. You git up; go on. I want my dinner."

"Mother's gittin' it, I think," said Lizer. "Doctor had to slap 'im like
anythink 'fore 'e'd cry. 'E don't cry now much. 'E--"

"Go on; out ye git. I do' want no more damn jaw. Git my dinner."

"I'm a-gittin' of it, Billy," his mother said, at the door. She had
begun when he first entered. "It won't be a minute."

"You come 'ere; y' ain't alwis s' ready to do 'er work, are ye? She
ain't no call to stop there no longer, an' I owe 'er one for this
mornin'. Will ye git out, or shall I kick ye?"

"She can't, Billy," his mother said. And Lizer snivelled and said,
"You're a damn brute. Y' ought to be bleedin' well booted."

But Billy had her by the shoulders and began to haul; and again his
mother besought him to remember what he might bring upon himself. At
this moment the doctor's dispenser, a fourth-year London Hospital
student of many inches, who had been washing his hands in the kitchen,
came in. For a moment he failed to comprehend the scene. Then he took
Billy Chope by the collar, hauled him pell-mell along the passage,
kicked him (hard) into the gutter, and shut the door.

When he returned to the room, Lizer, sitting up and holding on by the
bed-frame, gasped hysterically: "Ye bleedin' makeshift, I'd 'ave yer
liver out if I could reach ye! You touch my 'usband, ye long pisenin'
'ound you! Ow!" And, infirm of aim, she flung a cracked teacup at his
head. Billy's mother said, "Y' ought to be ashamed of yourself, you low
blaggard. If 'is father was alive 'e'd knock yer 'ead auf. Call yourself
a doctor--a passel o' boys!--Git out! Go out o' my 'ouse, or I'll give
y' in charge!"

"But--why, hang it, he'd have killed her." Then to Lizer, "Lie down."

"Sha'n't lay down. Keep auf! if you come near me I'll corpse ye. You go
while ye're safe!"

The dispenser appealed to Billy's mother. "For God's sake make her lie
down. She'll kill herself. I'll go. Perhaps the doctor had better come."
And he went: leaving the coast clear for Billy Chope to return and
avenge his kicking.



Lizer was some months short of twenty-one when her third child was born.
The pickle factory had discarded her some time before, and since that
her trade had consisted in odd jobs of charing. Odd jobs of charing have
a shade the better of a pickle factory in the matter of respectability,
but they are precarious, and they are worse paid at that. In the East
End they are sporadic and few. Moreover, it is in the household where
paid help is a rarity that the bitterness of servitude is felt. Also,
the uncertainty and irregularity of the returns were a trouble to Billy
Chope. He was never sure of having got them all. It might be ninepence,
or a shilling, or eighteenpence. Once or twice, to his knowledge, it had
been half-a-crown, from a chance job at a doctor's or a parson's, and
once it was three shillings. That it might be half-a-crown or three
shillings again, and that some of it was being kept back, was ever the
suspicion evoked by Lizer's evening homing. Plainly, with these
fluctuating and uncertain revenues, more bashing than ever was needed to
insure the extraction of the last copper; empty-handedness called for
bashing on its own account; so that it was often Lizer's hap to be
refused a job because of a black eye.

Lizer's self was scarcely what it had been. The red of her cheeks, once
bounded only by the eyes and the mouth, had shrunk to a spot in the
depth of each hollow; gaps had been driven in her big white teeth; even
the snub nose had run to a point, and the fringe hung dry and ragged,
while the bodily outline was as a sack's. At home, the children lay in
her arms or tumbled at her heels, puling and foul. Whenever she was near
it, there was the mangle to be turned; for lately Billy's mother had
exhibited a strange weakness, sometimes collapsing with a gasp in the
act of brisk or prolonged exertion, and often leaning on whatever stood
hard by and grasping at her side. This ailment she treated, when she had
twopence, in such terms as made her smell of gin and peppermint; and
more than once this circumstance had inflamed the breast of Billy her
son, who was morally angered by this boozing away of money that was
really his.

Lizer's youngest, being seven or eight months old, was mostly taking
care of itself, when Billy made a welcome discovery after a hard and
pinching day. The night was full of blinding wet, and the rain beat on
the window as on a drum. Billy sat over a small fire in the front room
smoking his pipe, while his mother folded clothes for delivery. He
stamped twice on the hearth, and then, drawing off his boot, he felt
inside it. It was a nail. The poker-head made a good anvil, and, looking
about for a hammer, Billy bethought him of a brick from the mangle. He
rose, and, lifting the lid of the weight-box, groped about among the
clinkers and the other ballast till he came upon a small but rather
heavy paper parcel. "'Ere--wot's this?" he said, and pulled it out.

His mother, whose back had been turned, hastened across the room, hand
to breast (it had got to be her habit). "What is it, Billy?" she said.
"Not that: there's nothing there. I'll get anything you want, Billy."
And she made a nervous catch at the screw of paper. But Billy fended her
off, and tore the package open. It was money, arranged in little columns
of farthings, halfpence, and threepenny pieces, with a few sixpences, a
shilling or two, and a single half-sovereign. "O," said Billy, "this is
the game, is it?--'idin' money in the mangle! Got any more?" And he
hastily turned the brickbats.

"No, Billy, don't take that--don't!" implored his mother. "There'll be
some money for them things when they go 'ome--'ave that. I'm savin' it,
Billy, for something partic'ler: s'elp me Gawd, I am, Billy."

"Yus," replied Billy, raking diligently among the clinkers, "savin' it
for a good ol' booze. An' now you won't 'ave one. Bleedin' nice thing,
'idin' money away from yer own son!"

"It ain't for that, Billy--s'elp me, it ain't; it's case anythink
'appens to me. On'y to put me away decent, Billy, that's all. We never
know, an' you'll be glad of it t'elp bury me if I should go any time--"

"I'll be glad of it now," answered Billy, who had it in his pocket; "an'
I've got it. You ain't a dyin' sort, _you_ ain't; an' if you was, the
parish 'ud soon tuck _you_ up. P'raps you'll be straighter about money
after this."

"Let me 'ave _some_, then,--you can't want it all. Give me some, an'
then 'ave the money for the things. There's ten dozen and seven, and you
can take 'em yerself if ye like."

"Wot--in this 'ere rain? Not me! I bet I'd 'ave the money if I wanted it
without that. 'Ere--change these 'ere fardens at the draper's wen you go
out: there's two bob's worth an' a penn'orth; I don't want to bust my
pockets wi' them."

While they spoke Lizer had come in from the back room. But she said
nothing: she rather busied herself with a child she had in her arms.
When Billy's mother, despondent and tearful, had tramped out into the
rain with a pile of clothes in an oilcloth wrapper, she said sulkily,
without looking up, "You might 'a' let 'er kep' that; you git all you

At another time this remonstrance would have provoked active
hostilities; but now, with the money about him, Billy was complacently
disposed. "You shutcher 'ead," he said, "I got this, any'ow. She can
make it up out o' my rent if she likes." This last remark was a joke,
and he chuckled as he made it. For Billy's rent was a simple fiction,
devised, on the suggestion of a smart canvasser, to give him a
parliamentary vote.

That night Billy and Lizer slept, as usual, in the bed in the back room,
where the two younger children also were. Billy's mother made a bedstead
nightly with three chairs and an old trunk in the front room by the
mangle, and the eldest child lay in a floor-bed near her. Early in the
morning Lizer awoke at a sudden outcry of the little creature. He clawed
at the handle till he opened the door, and came staggering and tumbling
into the room with screams of terror. "Wring 'is blasted neck," his
father grunted sleepily. "Wot's the kid 'owlin' for?"

"I's 'f'aid o' g'anny--I's 'f'aid o' g'anny!" was all the child could
say; and when he had said it, he fell to screaming once more.

Lizer rose and went to the next room; and straightway came a scream from
her also. "O--O--Billy! Billy! O my Gawd! Billy, come 'ere!"

And Billy, fully startled, followed in Lizer's wake. He blundered in,
rubbing his eyes, and saw.

Stark on her back in the huddled bed of old wrappers and shawls lay his
mother. The outline of her poor face--strained in an upward stare of
painful surprise--stood sharp and meagre against the black of the grate
beyond. But the muddy old skin was white, and looked cleaner than its
wont, and many of the wrinkles were gone.

Billy Chope, half-way across the floor, recoiled from the corpse, and
glared at it pallidly from the doorway.

"Good Gawd!" he croaked faintly, "is she dead?"

Seized by a fit of shuddering breaths, Lizer sank on the floor, and,
with her head across the body, presently broke into a storm of
hysterical blubbering, while Billy, white and dazed, dressed hurriedly
and got out of the house. He was at home as little as might be until the
coroner's officer carried away the body two days later. When he came
for his meals, he sat doubtful and querulous in the matter of the front
room door's being shut. The dead once clear away, however, he resumed
his faculties, and clearly saw that here was a bad change for the worse.
There was the mangle, but who was to work it? If Lizer did, there would
be no more charing jobs--a clear loss of one-third of his income. And it
was not at all certain that the people who had given their mangling to
his mother would give it to Lizer. Indeed, it was pretty sure that many
would not, because mangling is a thing given by preference to widows,
and many widows of the neighborhood were perpetually competing for it.
Widows, moreover, had the first call in most odd jobs whereunto Lizer
might turn her hand: an injustice whereon Billy meditated with

The inquest was formal and unremarked, the medical officer having no
difficulty in certifying a natural death from heart disease. The bright
idea of a collection among the jury, which Billy communicated, with
pitiful representations, to the coroner's officer, was brutally swept
aside by that functionary, made cunning by much experience. So the
inquest brought him nought save disappointment and a sense of injury....

The mangling orders fell away as suddenly and completely as he had
feared: they were duly absorbed among the local widows. Neglect the
children as Lizer might, she could no longer leave them as she had done.
Things, then, were bad with Billy, and neither threats nor thumps could
evoke a shilling now.

It was more than Billy could bear: so that, "'Ere," he said one night,
"I've 'ad enough o' this. You go and get some money; go on."

"Go an' git it?" replied Lizer. "O yus. That's easy, ain't it? 'Go an'
git it,' says you. 'Ow?"

"Any'ow--I don't care. Go on."

"Wy," replied Lizer, looking up with wide eyes, "d'ye think I can go an'
pick it up in the street?"

"Course you can. Plenty others does, don't they?"

"Gawd, Billy ... wot d'ye mean?"

"Wot I say; plenty others does it. Go on--you ain't so bleed'n' innocent
as all that. Go an' see Sam Cardew. Go on--'ook it."

Lizer, who had been kneeling at the child's floor-bed, rose to her feet,
pale-faced and bright of eye.

"Stow kiddin', Billy," she said. "You don't mean that. I'll go round to
the fact'ry in the mornin': p'raps they'll take me on temp'ry."

"Damn the fact'ry."

He pushed her into the passage. "Go on--you git me some money, if ye
don't want yer bleed'n' 'ead knocked auf."

There was a scuffle in the dark passage, with certain blows, a few
broken words, and a sob. Then the door slammed, and Lizer Chope was in
the windy street.


All East London idled, or walked in a procession, or waylaid and bashed,
or cried in an empty kitchen: for it was the autumn of the Great
Strikes. One army of men, having been prepared, was ordered to
strike--and struck. Other smaller armies of men, with no preparation,
were ordered to strike to express sympathy--and struck. Other armies
still were ordered to strike because it was the fashion--and struck.
Then many hands were discharged because the strikes in other trades left
them no work. Many others came from other parts in regiments to work,
but remained to loaf in gangs: taught by the example of earlier
regiments, which, the situation being explained (an expression devised
to include mobbings and kickings and flingings into docks), had returned
whence they came. So that East London was very noisy and largely hungry;
and the rest of the world looked on with intense interest, making
earnest suggestions, and comprehending nothing. Lots of strikers, having
no strike pay and finding little nourishment in processions, started
off to walk to Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, or Newcastle, where
work might be got. Along the Great North Road such men might be seen in
silent companies of a dozen or twenty, now and again singly or in
couples. At the tail of one such gang, which gathered in the Burdett
Road and found its way into the Enfield Road by way of Victoria Park,
Clapton, and Stamford Hill, walked a little group of three: a voluble
young man of thirty, a stolid workman rather older, and a pale, anxious
little fellow, with a nasty spasmic cough and a canvas bag of tools.

The little crowd straggled over the footpath and the road, few of its
members speaking, most of them keeping to their places and themselves.
As yet there was nothing of the tramp in the aspect of these mechanics.
With their washed faces and well-mended clothes they might have been
taken for a jury coming from a local inquest. As the streets got broken
and detached, with patches of field between, they began to look about
them. One young fellow in front (with no family to think of), who looked
upon the enterprise as an amusing sort of tour, and had even brought an
accordion, began to rebel against the general depression, and attempted
a joke about going to the Alexandra Palace. But in the rear, the little
man with the canvas bag, putting his hand abstractedly into his pocket,
suddenly stared and stopped. He drew out the hand, and saw in it three

"S'elp me," he said, "the missis is done that--shoved it in unbeknown
when I come away! An' she's on'y got a bob for 'erself an' the kids." He
broke into a sweat of uneasiness. "I'll 'ave to send it back at the next
post-office, that's all."

"Send it back? not you!" Thus with deep scorn the voluble young man at
his side. "_She'll_ be all right, you lay your life. A woman allus knows
'ow to look after 'erself. You'll bleed'n' soon want it, an' bad. You do
as I tell you, Joey: stick to it. That's right, Dave, ain't it?"

"Matter o' fancy," replied the stolid man. "My missis cleared my pockets
out 'fore I got away. Shouldn't wonder at bein' sent after for leavin'
'er chargeable if I don't soon send some more. Women's different."

The march continued, and grew dustier. The cheerful pilgrim in front
produced his accordion. At Palmer's Green four went straight ahead to
try for work at the Enfield Arms Factory. The others, knowing the thing
hopeless, turned off to the left for Potter's Bar.

After a long silence, "Which 'll be nearest, Dave," asked little Joey
Clayton, "Newcastle or Middlesborough?"

"Middlesborough," said Dave; "I done it afore."

"Trampin' ain't so rough on a man, is it, after all?" asked Joey
wistfully. "_You_ done all right, didn't you?"

"Got through. All depends, though it's rough enough. Matter o' luck.
_I_'ad the bad weather."

"If I don't get a good easy job where we're goin'," remarked the voluble
young man, "I'll 'ave a strike there too."

"'Ave a strike there?" exclaimed Joey. "'Ow? Who'd call 'em out?"

"Wy, _I_ would. I think I'm equal to doin' it, ain't I? An' when workin'
men stand idle an' 'ungry in the midst o' the wealth an' the lukshry an'
the igstravagance they've produced with the sweat of their brow, why,
then, feller-workmen, it's time to act. It's time to bring the
nigger-drivin' bloated capitalists to their knees."

"'Ear, 'ear," applauded Joey Clayton; tamely, perhaps, for the words
were not new. "Good on yer, Newman!" Newman had a habit of practising
this sort of thing in snatches whenever he saw the chance. He had learnt
the trick in a debating society; and Joey Clayton was always an
applausive audience. There was a pause, the accordion started another
tune, and Newman tried a different passage of his harangue.

"In the shop they call me Skulky Newman. Why? 'Cos I skulk, o' course"
("'Ear, 'ear," dreamily--from Dave this time). "I ain't ashamed of it,
my friends. I'm a miker out an' out, an' I 'ope I shall always remain a
miker. The less a worker does the more 'as to be imployed, don't they?
An' the more the toilers wrings out o' the capitalists, don't they? Very
well then, I mike, an' I do it as a sacred dooty."

"You'll 'ave all the mikin' you want for a week or two," said Dave Burge
placidly. "Stow it."

At Potter's Bar the party halted and sat under a hedge to eat hunks of
bread and cheese (or hunks of bread and nothing else) and to drink cold
tea out of cans. Skulky Newman, who had brought nothing, stood in with
his two friends. As they started anew and turned into the Great North
Road he said, stretching himself and looking slyly at Joey Clayton, "If
_I'd_ got a bob or two I'd stand you two blokes a pint apiece."

Joey looked troubled. "Well, as you ain't, I suppose I ought to," he
said uneasily, turning toward the little inn hard by. "Dave," he cried
to Burge, who was walking on, "won't you 'ave a drink?" And, "Well, if
you _are_ goin' to do the toff, I ain't proud," was the slow reply.

Afterward Joey was inclined to stop at the post-office to send away at
least two shillings. But Newman wouldn't. He enlarged on the
improvidence of putting out of reach that which might be required on an
emergency, he repeated his axiom as to a woman's knack of keeping alive
in spite of all things: and Joey determined not to send--for a day or so
at any rate.

The road got looser and dustier; the symptoms of the tramp came out
stronger and stronger on the gang. The accordion struck up from time to
time, but ceased toward the end of the afternoon. The player wearied,
and some of the older men, soon tired of walking, were worried by the
noise. Joey Clayton, whose cough was aggravated by the dust, was
especially tortured, after every fit, to hear the thing drawling and
whooping the tune it had drawled and whooped a dozen times before; but
he said nothing, scarce knowing what annoyed him.

At Hatfield Station two of the foremost picked up a few coppers by
helping with a heavy trap-load of luggage. Up Digswell Hill the party
tailed out lengthily, and Newman, who had been letting off a set speech,
was fain to save his wind. The night came, clear to see and sweet to
smell. Between Welwyn and Codicote the company broke up to roost in
such barns as they might possess: all but the master of the accordion,
who had stayed at a little public-house at Welwyn, with the notion of
earning a pot of beer and a stable-corner (or better) by a tune in the
tap-room. Dave Burge lighted on a lone shed of thatched hurdles with
loose hay in it, and Newman straightway curled in the snuggest corner on
most of the hay. Dave Burge pulled some from under him, and, having
helped Joey Clayton to build a nest in the best place left, was soon
snoring. But Joey lay awake all night, and sat up and coughed and turned
restlessly, being unused to the circumstances and apprehensive of those
months in jail which (it is well known) are rancorously dealt forth
among all them that sleep in barns.

Luck provided a breakfast next morning at Codicote: for three
bicyclists, going north, stood cold beef and bread round at The Anchor.
The man with the accordion caught up. He had made his lodging and
breakfast and eightpence: this had determined him to stay at Hitchin,
and work it for at least a day, and then to diverge into the towns and
let the rest go their way. So beyond Hitchin there was no music.

Joey Clayton soon fell slow. Newman had his idea; and the three were
left behind, and Joey staggered after his mates with difficulty. He
lacked sleep, and he lacked stamina. Dave Burge took the canvas bag, and
there were many rests: when Newman, expressing a resolve to stick by his
fellow-man through thick and thin, hinted at drinks. Dave Burge made
twopence at Henlow level crossing by holding an unsteady horse while a
train passed. Joey saw little of the rest of the day; the road was
yellow and dazzling, his cough tore him, and things were red sometimes
and sometimes blue. He walked without knowing it, now helped, now
lurching on alone. The others of the party were far ahead and forgotten.
There was talk of a windmill ahead, where there would be rest; and the
three men camped in an old boathouse by the river just outside
Biggleswade. Joey, sleeping as he tottered, fell in a heap and lay
without moving from sunset to broad morning.

When he woke Dave Burge was sitting at the door, but Newman was gone.
Also, there was no sign of the canvas bag.

"No use lookin'," said Dave; "'e's done it."


"Skulky's 'opped the twig an' sneaked your tools. Gawd knows where 'e is
by now."

"No--" the little man gasped, sitting up in a pale sweat.... "Not
sneaked 'em ... is 'e?... S'elp me, there's a set o' callipers worth
fifteen bob in that bag ... 'e ain't gawn ...?"

Dave Burge nodded inexorably.

"Best feel in your pockets," he said, "p'raps 'e's bin there."

He had. The little man broke down. "I was a-goin' to send 'ome that two
bob--s'elp me, I was.... An' what can I do without my tools? If I'd got
no job I could 'a pawned 'em--an' then I'd 'a sent 'ome the money--s'elp
me I would.... O, it's crool!"

The walking, with the long sleep after it, had left him sore and stiff,
and Dave had work to put him on the road again. He had forgotten
yesterday afternoon, and asked, at first, for the others. They tramped
in silence for a few miles: when Joey suddenly flung himself upon a
tussock by the wayside.

"Why won't nobody let me live?" he snivelled. "_I'm_ a 'armless bloke
enough. I worked at Ritterson's, man and boy, very nigh twenty year.
When they come an' ordered us out, I come out with the others, peaceful
enough; I didn't want to chuck it up, Gawd knows, but I come out promp'
when they told me. And when I found another job on the Island, four big
blokes set about me an' 'arf killed me. _I_ didn't know the place was
blocked. And when two o' the blokes was took up, they said I'd get
strike-pay again if I didn't identify 'em; so I didn't. But they never
give me no strike-pay--they laughed an' chucked me out. An' now I'm
a-starvin' on the 'igh road. An' Skulky ... blimy ... _'e's_ done me

There were days wherein Joey learned to eat a swede pulled from behind a
wagon, and to feel thankful for an early turnip; might have learned,
too, just what tramping means in many ways to a man unskilled both in
begging and in theft, but was never equal to it. He coughed--and worse:
holding to posts and gates, and often spitting blood. He had little to
say, but trudged mechanically, taking note of nothing.

Once, as though aroused from a reverie, he asked, "Wasn't there some

"Others?" said Dave, for a moment taken aback. "O, yes, there was some
others. They're gone on ahead, y'know."

Joey tramped for half a mile in silence. Then he said, "Expect they're
'avin' a rough time too."

"Ah--very like," said Dave.

For a space Joey was silent, save for the cough. Then he went on: "Comes
o' not bringing 'cordions with 'em. Every one ought to take a 'cordion
what goes trampin'. I knew a man once that went trampin', an' 'e took a
'cordion. _He_ done all right. It ain't so rough for them as plays on
the 'cordion." And Dave Burge rubbed his cap about his head and stared;
but answered nothing.

It was a bad day. Crusts were begged at cottages. Every rise and every
turn, the eternal yellow road lay stretch on stretch before them,
flouting their unrest. Joey, now unimpressionable, endured more placidly
than even Dave Burge. Late in the afternoon, "No," he said, "it ain't so
rough for them as plays the 'cordion. They 'as the best of it.... S'elp
me," he added suddenly, "_we're_ all 'cordions!" He sniggered
thoughtfully, and then burst into a cough that left him panting. "We're
nothin' but a bloomin' lot o' 'cordions ourselves," he went on, having
got his breath, "an' they play any toon they like on us; an' that's 'ow
they make their livin'. S'elp me, Dave, we're all 'cordions." And he

"Um--yus," the other man grunted. And he looked curiously at his mate;
for he had never heard that sort of laugh before.

But Joey fondled the conceit, and returned to it from time to time; now
aloud, now to himself. "All 'cordions: playin' any toon as is ordered,
blimy.... _Are_ we 'cordions? _I_ don't b'lieve we're as much as that
... no, s'elp me. We're on'y the footlin' little keys; shoved about to
soot the toon.... Little tin keys, blimy ... footlin' little keys....
I've bin played on plenty, _I_ 'ave...."

Dave Burge listened with alarm, and tried to talk of other things. But
Joey rarely heard him. "I've bin played on plenty, _I_ 'ave," he
persisted. "I was played on once by a pal: an' my spring broke."

At nightfall there was more bad luck. They were driven from a likely
barn by a leather-gaitered man with a dog, and for some distance no
dormitory could be found. Then it was a cut haystack, with a nest near
the top and steps to reach it.

In the night Burge was wakened by a clammy hand upon his face. There was
a thick mist.

"It's you, Dave, ain't it?" Clayton was saying. "Good Gawd, I thought
I'd lawst you. What's all this 'ere--not the water is it?--not the dock?
I'm soppin' wet."

Burge himself was wet to the skin. He made Joey lie down, and told him
to sleep; but a coughing fit prevented that. "It was them 'cordions woke
me," he explained when it was over.

So the night put on the shuddering gray of the fore-dawn. And the two
tramps left their perch, and betook them, shivering and stamping, to the

That morning Joey had short fits of dizziness and faintness. "It's my
spring broke," he would say after such an attack. "Bloomin' little tin
key put out o' toon." And once he added, "I'm up to one toon, though,
now: this 'ere bloomin' Dead March."

Just at the outskirts of a town, where he stopped to cough over a gate,
a stout old lady, walking out with a shaggy little dog, gave him a
shilling. Dave Burge picked it up as it dropped from his incapable hand,
and "Joey, 'ere's a bob," he said; "a lady give it you. You come an' git
a drop o' beer."

They carried a twopenny loaf into the tap-room of a small tavern, and
Dave had mild ale himself, but saw that Joey was served with stout with
a penn'orth of gin in it. Soon the gin and stout reached Joey's head,
and drew it to the table. And he slept, leaving the rest of the shilling
where it lay.

Dave arose, and stuffed the last of the twopenny loaf into his pocket.
He took a piece of chalk from the bagatelle board in the corner, and
wrote this on the table:--"_dr. sir. for god sake take him to the work

Then he gathered up the coppers where they lay, and stepped quietly into
the street.


The eleven-five tram-car from Stratford started for Bow a trifle before
its time. The conductor knew what he might escape by stealing a march on
the closing public-houses; as also what was in store for all the
conductors in his wake, till there were no more revellers left to swarm
the cars. For it was Saturday night, and many a week's wages were
a-knocking down; and the publicans this side of Bow Bridge shut their
doors at eleven under Act of Parliament, whereas beyond the Bridge,
which is the county of London, the law gives them another hour, and a
man may drink many pots therein. And for this, at eleven every Saturday,
there is a great rush westward, a vast migration over Lea, from all the
length of High Street. From the nearer parts they walk, or do their best
to walk; but from further Stratford, by the Town Hall, the Church, and
the Martyrs' Memorial, they crowd the cars. For one thing, it is a long
half-mile, and the week's work is over. Also, the car being swamped, it
is odds that a man shall save his fare, since no conductor may fight
his way a quarter through his passengers before Bow Bridge, where the
vehicle is emptied at a rush. And that means yet another half-pint.

So the eleven-five car started sooner than it might have done. As it was
spattering with rain, I boarded it, sharing the conductor's forlorn
hope, but taking care to sit at the extreme fore-end inside. In the
broad street the market clamored and flared, its lights and shadows
flickering and fading about the long churchyard and the steeple in the
midst thereof; and toward the distant lights, the shining road sparkled
in long reaches, like a blackguard river.

A gap fell here and there among the lights where a publican put his gas
out; and at these points the crowds thickened. A quiet mechanic came in,
and sat near a decent woman with children, a bundle, a basket, and a
cabbage. Thirty yards on the car rumbled, and suddenly its hinder end
was taken in a mass of people--howling, struggling, and blaspheming--who
stormed and wrangled in at the door and up the stairs. There were lads
and men whooping and flushed, there were girls and women screaming
choruses; and in a moment the seats were packed, knees were taken, and
there was not an inch of standing room. The conductor cried, "All
full!" and tugged at his bell-strap, whereunto many were hanging by the
hand; but he was swept from his feet, and made to push hard for his own
place. And there was no more foothold on the back platform nor the
front, nor any vacant step upon the stairway; and the roof was thronged;
and the rest of the crowd was fain to waylay the next car.

This one moved off slowly, with shrieks and howls that were racking to
the wits. From divers quarters of the roof came a bumping thunder as of
cellar-flapping clogs. Profanity was sluiced down, as it were by
pailfuls, from above, and was swilled back as it were in pailfuls from
below. Blowses in feathered bonnets bawled hilarious obscenity at the
jiggers. A little maid with a market-basket, hustled and jostled and
elbowed at the far end, listened eagerly and laughed when she could
understand; and the quiet mechanic, whose knees had been invaded by an
unsteady young woman in a crushed hat, tried to look pleased. My own
knees were saved from capture by the near neighborhood of an enormous
female, seated partly on the seat and partly on myself, snorting and
gulping with sleep, her head upon the next man's shoulder. (To offer
your seat to a standing woman would, as beseems a foreign antic, have
been visited by the ribaldry of the whole crowd.) In the midst of the
riot the decent woman sat silent and indifferent, her children on and
about her knees. Further along, two women ate fish with their fingers
and discoursed personalities in voices which ran strident through the
uproar, as the odor of their snack asserted itself in the general fetor.
And opposite the decent woman there sat a bonnetless drab, who said
nothing, but looked at the decent woman's children as a shoeless brat
looks at the dolls in a toyshop window.

"So I ses to 'er, I ses"--this from the snacksters--"I'm a respectable
married woman, I ses. More'n you can say, you barefaced hussey, I ses--"
Then a shower of curses, a shout, and a roar of laughter; and the
conductor, making slow and laborious progress with the fares nearest
him, turned his head. A man had jumped upon the footboard and a
passenger's toes. A scuffle and a fight, and both had rolled off into
the mire, and got left behind. "Ain't they fond o' one another?" cried a
girl. "They're a-goin' for a walk together;" and there was a guffaw.
"The silly bleeders'll be too late for the pubs," said a male voice; and
there was another, for the general understanding was touched.

Then--an effect of sympathy, perhaps--a scuffle broke out on the roof.
But this disturbed not the insides. The conductor went on his plaguy
task: to save time, he passed over the one or two that, asked now or
not, seemed likely to pay at the journey's end. The snacking women
resumed their talk, the choristers their singing; the rumble of the
wheels was lost in a babel of vacant ribaldry; the enormous woman choked
and gasped and snuggled lower down upon her neighbor's shoulder; and the
shabby strumpet looked at the children.

A man by the door vomited his liquor: whereat was more hilarity, and his
neighbors, with many yaups, shoved further up the middle. But one of the
little ones, standing before her mother, was pushed almost to falling;
and the harlot, seeing her chance, snatched the child upon her knee. The
child looked up, something in wonder, and smiled; and the woman leered
as honestly as she might, saying a hoarse word or two.

Presently the conflict overhead, waxing and waning to an accompaniment
of angry shouts, afforded another brief diversion to those within, and
something persuaded the standing passengers to shove toward the door.
The child had fallen asleep in the street-walker's arms. "Jinny!" cried
the mother, reaching forth and shaking her. "Jinny! wake up now--you
mustn't go to sleep." And she pulled the little thing from her perch to
where she had been standing.

The bonnetless creature bent forward, and, in her curious voice (like
that of one sick with shouting), "She can set on my knee, m'm, if she
likes," she said; "she's tired."

The mother busied herself with a jerky adjustment of the child's hat and
shawl. "She mustn't go to sleep," was all she said, sharply, and without
looking up.

The hoarse woman bent further forward, with a propitiatory grin. "'Ow
old is she?... I'd like to--give 'er a penny."

The mother answered nothing; but drew the child close by the side of her
knee, where a younger one was sitting, and looked steadily through the
fore windows.

The hoarse woman sat back, unquestioning and unresentful, and turned her
eyes upon them that were crowding over the conductor; for the car was
rising over Bow Bridge. Front and back they surged down from the roof,
and the insides made for the door as one man. The big woman's neighbor
rose, and let her fall over on the seat, whence, awaking with a loud
grunt and an incoherent curse, she rolled after the rest. The conductor,
clamant and bedevilled, was caught between the two pell-mells, and,
demanding fares and gripping his satchel, was carried over the
footboard in the rush. The stramash overhead came tangled and swearing
down the stairs, gaining volume and force in random punches as it came;
and the crowd on the pavement streamed vocally toward a brightness at
the bridge foot--the lights of the Bombay Grab.

The woman with the children waited till the footboard was clear, and
then, carrying one child and leading another (her marketings attached
about her by indeterminate means), she set the two youngsters on the
pavement, leaving the third on the step of the car. The harlot,
lingering, lifted the child again--lifted her rather high--and set her
on the path with the others. Then she walked away toward the Bombay
Grab. A man in a blue serge suit was footing it down the turning between
the public-house and the bridge with drunken swiftness and an
intermittent stagger; and, tightening her shawl, she went in chase.

The quiet mechanic stood and stretched himself, and took a corner seat
near the door; and the tram-car, quiet and vacant, bumped on westward.


Simmons's infamous behavior toward his wife is still matter for profound
wonderment among the neighbors. The other women had all along regarded
him as a model husband, and certainly Mrs. Simmons was a most
conscientious wife. She toiled and slaved for that man, as any woman in
the whole street would have maintained, far more than any husband had a
right to expect. And now this was what she got for it. Perhaps he had
suddenly gone mad.

Before she married Simmons, Mrs. Simmons had been the widowed Mrs. Ford.
Ford had got a berth as donkeyman on a tramp steamer, and that steamer
had gone down with all hands off the Cape: a judgment, the widow woman
feared, for long years of contumacy which had culminated in the
wickedness of taking to the sea, and taking to it as a donkeyman--an
immeasurable fall for a capable engine-fitter. Twelve years as Mrs. Ford
had left her still childless, and childless she remained as Mrs.

As for Simmons, he, it was held, was fortunate in that capable wife. He
was a moderately good carpenter and joiner, but no man of the world, and
he wanted one. Nobody could tell what might not have happened to Tommy
Simmons if there had been no Mrs. Simmons to take care of him. He was a
meek and quiet man, with a boyish face and sparse, limp whiskers. He had
no vices (even his pipe departed him after his marriage), and Mrs.
Simmons had engrafted on him divers exotic virtues. He went solemnly to
chapel every Sunday, under a tall hat, and put a penny--one returned to
him for the purpose out of his week's wages--in the plate. Then, Mrs.
Simmons overseeing, he took off his best clothes and brushed them with
solicitude and pains. On Saturday afternoons he cleaned the knives, the
forks, the boots, the kettles, and the windows, patiently and
conscientiously. On Tuesday evenings he took the clothes to the
mangling. And on Saturday nights he attended Mrs. Simmons in her
marketing, to carry the parcels.

Mrs. Simmons's own virtues were native and numerous. She was a wonderful
manager. Every penny of Tommy's thirty-six or thirty-eight shillings a
week was bestowed to the greatest advantage, and Tommy never ventured to
guess how much of it she saved. Her cleanliness in housewifery was
distracting to behold. She met Simmons at the front door whenever he
came home, and then and there he changed his boots for slippers,
balancing himself painfully on alternate feet on the cold flags. This
was because she scrubbed the passage and doorstep turn about with the
wife of the downstairs family, and because the stair-carpet was her own.
She vigilantly supervised her husband all through the process of
"cleaning himself" after work, so as to come between her walls and the
possibility of random splashes; and if, in spite of her diligence, a
spot remained to tell the tale, she was at pains to impress the fact on
Simmons's memory, and to set forth at length all the circumstances of
his ungrateful selfishness. In the beginning she had always escorted him
to the ready-made clothes shop, and had selected and paid for his
clothes: for the reason that men are such perfect fools, and shopkeepers
do as they like with them. But she presently improved on that. She found
a man selling cheap remnants at a street corner, and straightway she
conceived the idea of making Simmons's clothes herself. Decision was one
of her virtues, and a suit of uproarious check tweeds was begun that
afternoon from the pattern furnished by an old one. More: it was
finished by Sunday; when Simmons, overcome by astonishment at the feat,
was indued in it, and pushed off to chapel ere he could recover his
senses. The things were not altogether comfortable, he found: the
trousers clung tight against his shins, but hung loose behind his heels;
and when he sat, it was on a wilderness of hard folds and seams. Also
his waistcoat collar tickled his nape, but his coat collar went
straining across from shoulder to shoulder; while the main garment
bagged generously below his waist. Use made a habit of his discomfort,
but it never reconciled him to the chaff of his shopmates; for as Mrs.
Simmons elaborated successive suits, each one modelled on the last, the
primal accidents of her design developed into principles, and grew even
bolder and more hideously pronounced. It was vain for Simmons to
hint--as hint he did--that he shouldn't like her to overwork herself,
tailoring being bad for the eyes, and there was a new tailor's in the
Mile End Road, very cheap, where.... "Ho yus," she retorted, "you're
very consid'rit I dessay sittin' there actin' a livin' lie before your
own wife Thomas Simmons as though I couldn't see through you like a
book. A lot you care about overworkin' me as long as _your_ turn's
served throwin' away money like dirt in the street on a lot o' swindlin'
tailors an' me workin' an' slavin' 'ere to save a 'apenny an' this is
my return for it any one 'ud think you could pick up money in the
'orseroad an' I b'lieve I'd be thought better of if I laid in bed all
day like some would that I do." So that Thomas Simmons avoided the
subject, nor even murmured when she resolved to cut his hair.

So his placid fortune endured for years. Then there came a golden summer
evening when Mrs. Simmons betook herself with a basket to do some small
shopping, and Simmons was left at home. He washed and put away the
tea-things, and then he fell to meditating on a new pair of trousers,
finished that day and hanging behind the parlor door. There they hung,
in all their decent innocence of shape in the seat, and they were
shorter of leg, longer of waist, and wilder of pattern than he had ever
worn before. And as he looked on them the small devil of Original Sin
awoke and clamored in his breast. He was ashamed of it, of course, for
well he knew the gratitude he owed his wife for those same trousers,
among other blessings. Still, there the small devil was, and the small
devil was fertile in base suggestions, and could not be kept from
hinting at the new crop of workshop gibes that would spring at Tommy's
first public appearance in such things.

"Pitch 'em in the dustbin!" said the small devil at last; "it's all
they're fit for."

Simmons turned away in sheer horror of his wicked self, and for a
moment thought of washing the tea-things over again by way of
discipline. Then he made for the back room, but saw from the landing
that the front door was standing open, probably by the fault of the
child downstairs. Now a front door standing open was a thing that Mrs.
Simmons would _not_ abide: it looked low. So Simmons went down, that she
might not be wroth with him for the thing when she came back; and, as he
shut the door, he looked forth into the street.

A man was loitering on the pavement, and prying curiously about the
door. His face was tanned, his hands were deep in the pockets of his
unbraced blue trousers, and well back on his head he wore the
high-crowned peaked cap topped with a knob of wool, which is affected by
Jack ashore about the docks. He lurched a step nearer to the door, and
"Mrs. Ford ain't in, is she?" he said.

Simmons stared at him for a matter of five seconds, and then said, "Eh?"

"Mrs. Ford as was, then--Simmons now, ain't it?"

He said this with a furtive leer that Simmons neither liked nor

"No," said Simmons, "she ain't in now."

"You ain't her 'usband, are ye?"


The man took his pipe from his mouth, and grinned silently and long.
"Blimy," he said at length, "you look the sort o' bloke she'd
like,"--and with that he grinned again. Then, seeing that Simmons made
ready to shut the door, he put a foot on the sill and a hand against the
panel. "Don't be in a 'urry, matey," he said, "I come 'ere t'ave a
little talk with you, man to man, d'ye see?" And he frowned fiercely.

Tommy Simmons felt uncomfortable, but the door would not shut, so he
parleyed. "Wotjer want?" he asked. "I dunno you."

"Then, if you'll excuse the liberty, I'll interdooce meself, in a manner
of speaking." He touched his cap with a bob of mock humility. "I'm Bob
Ford," he said, "come back out o' kingdom-come, so to say. Me as went
down with the _Mooltan_--safe dead five year gone. I come to see my

During this speech Thomas Simmons's jaw was dropping lower and lower. At
the end of it he poked his fingers up through his hair, looked down at
the mat, then up at the fanlight, then out into the street, then hard at
his visitor. But he found nothing to say.

"Come to see my wife," the man repeated. "So now we can talk it over--as
man to man."

Simmons slowly shut his mouth, and led the way upstairs mechanically,
his fingers still in his hair. A sense of the state of affairs sank
gradually into his brain, and the small devil woke again. Suppose this
man _was_ Ford? Suppose he _did_ claim his wife? Would it be a
knock-down blow? Would it hit him out?--or not? He thought of the
trousers, the tea-things, the mangling, the knives, the kettles, and the
windows; and he thought of them in the way of a backslider.

On the landing Ford clutched at his arm, and asked in a hoarse whisper:
"'Ow long 'fore she's back?"

"'Bout a hour, I expect," Simmons replied, having first of all repeated
the question in his own mind. And then he opened the parlor door.

"Ah," said Ford, looking about him, "you've bin pretty comf'table. Them
chairs an' things"--jerking his pipe toward them--"was hers--mine that
is to say, speaking straight, and man to man." He sat down, puffing
meditatively at his pipe, and presently: "Well," he continued, "'ere I
am agin, ol' Bob Ford dead an' done for--gawn down in the _Mooltan_.
On'y I _ain't_ done for, see?"--and he pointed the stem of his pipe at
Simmons's waistcoat,--"I ain't done for, 'cause why? Cons'kence o' bein'
picked up by a ol' German sailin'-'utch an' took to 'Frisco 'fore the
mast. I've 'ad a few years o' knockin' about since then, an'
now"--looking hard at Simmons--"I've come back to see my wife."

"She--she don't like smoke in 'ere," said Simmons, as it were at random.

"No, I bet she don't," Ford answered, taking his pipe from his mouth,
and holding it low in his hand. "I know 'Anner. 'Ow d'you find 'er? Do
she make ye clean the winders?"

"Well," Simmons admitted uneasily, "I--I do 'elp 'er sometimes, o'

"Ah! An' the knives too, I bet, an' the bloomin' kittles. I know.
Wy"--he rose and bent to look behind Simmons's head--"s'elp me, I
b'lieve she cuts yer 'air! Well, I'm damned! Jes' wot she would do,

He inspected the blushing Simmons from divers points of vantage. Then he
lifted a leg of the trousers hanging behind the door. "I'd bet a
trifle," he said, "she made these 'ere trucks. Nobody else 'ud do 'em
like that. Damme--they're wuss'n wot you're got on."

The small devil began to have the argument all its own way. If this man
took his wife back perhaps he'd have to wear those trousers.

"Ah!" Ford pursued, "she ain't got no milder. An' my davy, wot a jore!"

Simmons began to feel that this was no longer his business. Plainly,
'Anner was this other man's wife, and he was bound in honor to
acknowledge the fact. The small devil put it to him as a matter of duty.

"Well," said Ford suddenly, "time's short an' this ain't business. I
won't be 'ard on you, matey. I ought prop'ly to stand on my rights, but
seein' as you're a well-meanin' young man, so to speak, an' all settled
an' a-livin' 'ere quiet an' matrimonual, I'll"--this with a burst of
generosity--"damme, yus, I'll compound the felony, an' take me 'ook.
Come, I'll name a figure, as man to man, fust an' last, no less an' no
more. Five pound does it."

Simmons hadn't five pounds--he hadn't even five pence--and he said so.
"An' I wouldn't think for to come between a man an' 'is wife," he added,
"not on no account. It may be rough on me, but it 's a dooty. _I'll_
'ook it."

"No," said Ford hastily, clutching Simmons by the arm, "don't do that.
I'll make it a bit cheaper. Say three quid--come, that's reasonable,
ain't it? Three quid ain't much compensation for me goin' away
forever--where the stormy winds do blow, so to say--an' never as much as
seein' me own wife agin for better nor wuss. Between man an' man
now--three quid; an' I'll shunt. That's fair, ain't it?"

"Of course it's fair," Simmons replied effusively. "It's more'n fair:
it's noble--downright noble, _I_ call it. But I ain't goin' to take a
mean advantage o' your good-'artedness, Mr. Ford. She's your wife, an' I
oughtn't to 'a' come between you. I apologize. You stop an' 'ave yer
proper rights. It's me as ought to shunt, an' I will." And he made a
step toward the door.

"'Old on," quoth Ford, and got between Simmons and the door; "don't do
things rash. Look wot a loss it'll be to you with no 'ome to go to, an'
nobody to look after ye, an' all that. It'll be dreadful. Say a
couple--there, we won't quarrel, jest a single quid, between man an'
man, an' I'll stand a pot out o' the money. You can easy raise a
quid--the clock 'ud pretty nigh do it. A quid does it; an' I'll--"

There was a loud double-knock at the front door. In the East End a
double-knock is always for the upstairs lodgers.

"Oo's that?" asked Bob Ford apprehensively.

"I'll see," said Thomas Simmons in reply, and he made a rush for the

Bob Ford heard him open the front door. Then he went to the window, and,
just below him, he saw the crown of a bonnet. It vanished, and borne to
him from within the door there fell upon his ear the sound of a
well-remembered female voice.

"Where ye goin' now with no 'at?" asked the voice sharply.

"Awright, 'Anner--there's--there's somebody upstairs to see you,"
Simmons answered. And, as Bob Ford could see, a man went scuttling down
the street in the gathering dusk. And behold, it was Thomas Simmons.

Ford reached the landing in three strides. His wife was still at the
front door, staring after Simmons. He flung into the back room, threw
open the window, dropped from the wash-house roof into the back-yard,
scrambled desperately over the fence, and disappeared into the gloom. He
was seen by no living soul. And that is why Simmons's base
desertion--under his wife's very eyes, too--is still an astonishment to
the neighbors.


The street was the common East End street--two parallels of brick
pierced with windows and doors. But at the end of one, where the builder
had found a remnant of land too small for another six-roomer, there
stood an odd box of a cottage, with three rooms and a wash-house. It had
a green door with a well-blacked knocker round the corner; and in the
lower window in front stood a "shade of fruit"--a cone of waxen grapes
and apples under a glass cover.

Although the house was smaller than the others, and was built upon a
remnant, it was always a house of some consideration. In a street like
this mere independence of pattern gives distinction. And a house
inhabited by one sole family makes a figure among houses inhabited by
two or more, even though it be the smallest of all. And here the seal of
respectability was set by the shade of fruit--a sign accepted in those
parts. Now, when people keep a house to themselves, and keep it clean;
when they neither stand at the doors nor gossip across back-fences;
when, moreover, they have a well-dusted shade of fruit in the front
window; and, especially, when they are two women who tell nobody their
business: they are known at once for well-to-do, and are regarded with
the admixture of spite and respect that is proper to the circumstances.
They are also watched.

Still, the neighbors knew the history of the Perkinses, mother and
daughter, in its main features, with little disagreement: having told it
to each other, filling in the details when occasion seemed to serve.
Perkins, ere he died, had been a shipwright; and this was when the
shipwrights were the aristocracy of the workshops, and he that worked
more than three or four days a week was counted a mean slave: it was
long (in fact) before depression, strikes, iron plates, and collective
blindness had driven shipbuilding to the Clyde. Perkins had labored no
harder than his fellows, had married a tradesman's daughter, and had
spent his money with freedom; and some while after his death his widow
and daughter came to live in the small house, and kept a school for
tradesmen's little girls in a back room over the wash-house. But as the
School Board waxed in power, and the tradesmen's pride in regard
thereunto waned, the attendance, never large, came down to twos and
threes. Then Mrs. Perkins met with her accident. A dweller in Stidder's
Rents overtook her one night, and, having vigorously punched her in the
face and the breast, kicked her and jumped on her for five minutes as
she lay on the pavement. (In the dark, it afterwards appeared, he had
mistaken her for his mother.) The one distinct opinion the adventure
bred in the street was Mrs. Webster's, the Little Bethelite, who
considered it a judgment for sinful pride--for Mrs. Perkins had been a
Church-goer. But the neighbors never saw Mrs. Perkins again. The doctor
left his patient "as well as she ever would be," but bedridden and
helpless. Her daughter was a scraggy, sharp-faced woman of thirty or so,
whose black dress hung from her hips as from a wooden frame; and some
people got into the way of calling her Mrs. Perkins, seeing no other
thus to honor. And meantime the school had ceased, although Miss Perkins
essayed a revival, and joined a dissenting chapel to that end.

Then, one day, a card appeared in the window, over the shade of fruit,
with the legend "Pianoforte Lessons." It was not approved by the street.
It was a standing advertisement of the fact that the Perkinses had a
piano, which others had not. It also revealed a grasping spirit on the
part of people able to keep a house to themselves, with red curtains
and a shade of fruit in the parlor window; who, moreover, had been able
to give up keeping a school because of ill-health. The pianoforte
lessons were eight-and-sixpence a quarter, two a week. Nobody was ever
known to take them but the relieving officer's daughter, and she paid
sixpence a lesson, to see how she got on, and left off in three weeks.
The card stayed in the window a fortnight longer, and none of the
neighbors saw the cart that came in the night and took away the old
cabinet piano with the channelled keys, that had been fourth-hand when
Perkins bought it twenty years ago. Mrs. Clark, the widow who sewed far
into the night, may possibly have heard a noise and looked; but she said
nothing if she did. There was no card in the window next morning, but
the shade of fruit stood primly respectable as ever. The curtains were
drawn a little closer across, for some of the children playing in the
street were used to flatten their faces against the lower panes, and to
discuss the piano, the stuff-bottomed chairs, the antimacassars, the
mantelpiece ornaments, and the loo table with the family Bible and the
album on it.

It was soon after this that the Perkinses altogether ceased from
shopping--ceased, at any rate, in that neighborhood. Trade with them
had already been dwindling, and it was said that Miss Perkins was
getting stingier than her mother--who had been stingy enough herself.
Indeed, the Perkins demeanor began to change for the worse, to be
significant of a miserly retirement and an offensive alienation from the
rest of the street. One day the deacon called, as was his practice now
and then; but, being invited no further than the doorstep, he went away
in dudgeon, and did not return. Nor, indeed, was Miss Perkins seen again
at chapel.

Then there was a discovery. The spare figure of Miss Perkins was seldom
seen in the streets, and then almost always at night; but on these
occasions she was observed to carry parcels, of varying wrappings and
shapes. Once, in broad daylight, with a package in newspaper, she made
such haste past a shop-window where stood Mrs. Webster and Mrs. Jones,
that she tripped on the broken sole of one shoe, and fell headlong. The
newspaper broke away from its pins, and although the woman reached and
recovered her parcel before she rose, it was plain to see that it was
made up of cheap shirts, cut out ready for the stitching. The street had
the news the same hour, and it was generally held that such a taking of
the bread out of the mouths of them that wanted it by them that had
plenty was a scandal and a shame, and ought to be put a stop to. And
Mrs. Webster, foremost in the setting right of things, undertook to find
out whence the work came, and to say a few plain words in the right

All this while nobody watched closely enough to note that the parcels
brought in were fewer than the parcels taken out. Even a hand-truck,
late one evening, went unremarked: the door being round the corner, and
most people within. One morning, though, Miss Perkins, her best foot
foremost, was venturing along a near street with an outgoing
parcel--large and triangular and wrapped in white drugget--when the
relieving officer turned the corner across the way.

The relieving officer was a man in whose system of etiquette the
Perkinses had caused some little disturbance. His ordinary female
acquaintances (not, of course, professional) he was in the habit of
recognizing by a gracious nod. When he met the minister's wife he lifted
his hat, instantly assuming an intense frown, in the event of irreverent
observation. Now he quite felt that the Perkinses were entitled to some
advance upon the nod, although it would be absurd to raise them to a
level with the minister's wife. So he had long since established a
compromise: he closed his finger and thumb upon the brim of his hat, and
let his hand fall forthwith. Preparing now to accomplish this salute,
he was astounded to see that Miss Perkins, as soon as she was aware of
his approach, turned her face, which was rather flushed, away from him,
and went hurrying onward, looking at the wall on her side of the street.
The relieving officer, checking his hand on its way to his hat, stopped
and looked after her as she turned the corner, hugging her parcel on the
side next the wall. Then he shouldered his umbrella and pursued his way,
holding his head high, and staring fiercely straight before him; for a
relieving officer is not used to being cut.

It was a little after this that Mr. Crouch, the landlord, called. He had
not been calling regularly, because of late Miss Perkins had left her
five shillings of rent with Mrs. Crouch every Saturday evening. He noted
with satisfaction the whitened sills and the shade of fruit, behind
which the curtains were now drawn close and pinned together. He turned
the corner and lifted the bright knocker. Miss Perkins half opened the
door, stood in the opening, and began to speak.

His jaw dropped. "Beg pardon--forgot something. Won't wait--call next
week--do just as well;" and he hurried round the corner and down the
street, puffing and blowing and staring. "Why the woman frightened me,"
he afterward explained to Mrs. Crouch. "There's something wrong with her
eyes, and she looked like a corpse. The rent wasn't ready--I could see
that before she spoke; so I cleared out."

"P'r'aps something's happened to the old lady," suggested Mrs. Crouch.
"Anyhow, I should think the rent 'ud be all right." And he thought it

Nobody saw the Perkinses that week. The shade of fruit stood in its old
place, but was thought not to have been dusted after Tuesday.

Certainly the sills and the doorstep were neglected. Friday, Saturday,
and Sunday were swallowed up in a choking brown fog, wherein men lost
their bearings, and fell into docks, and stepped over embankment edges.
It was as though a great blot had fallen, and had obliterated three days
from the calendar. It cleared on Monday morning, and, just as the women
in the street were sweeping their steps, Mr. Crouch was seen at the
green door. He lifted the knocker, dull and sticky now with the foul
vapor, and knocked a gentle rat-tat. There was no answer. He knocked
again, a little louder, and waited, listening. But there was neither
voice nor movement within. He gave three heavy knocks, and then came
round to the front window. There was the shade of fruit, the glass a
little duller on the top, the curtains pinned close about it, and
nothing to see beyond them. He tapped at the window with his knuckles,
and backed into the roadway to look at the one above. This was a window
with a striped holland blind and a short net curtain; but never a face
was there.

The sweepers stopped to look, and one from opposite came and reported
that she had seen nothing of Miss Perkins for a week, and that certainly
nobody had left the house that morning. And Mr. Crouch grew excited, and
bellowed through the keyhole.

In the end they opened the sash-fastening with a knife, moved the shade
of fruit, and got in. The room was bare and empty, and their steps and
voices resounded as those of people in an unfurnished house. The
wash-house was vacant, but it was clean, and there was a little net
curtain in the window. The short passage and the stairs were bare
boards. In the back room by the stair-head was a drawn window-blind, and
that was all. In the front room with the striped blind and the short
curtain there was a bed of rags and old newspapers; also a wooden box;
and on each of these was a dead woman.

Both deaths, the doctor found, were from syncope, the result of
inanition; and the better-nourished woman--she on the bed--had died the
sooner; perhaps by a day or two. The other case was rather curious; it
exhibited a degree of shrinkage in the digestive organs unprecedented in
his experience. After the inquest the street had an evening's fame: for
the papers printed coarse drawings of the house, and in leaderettes
demanded the abolition of something. Then it became its wonted self. And
it was doubted if the waxen apples and the curtains fetched enough to
pay Mr. Crouch his fortnight's rent.


At six o'clock the back streets were dank and black; but once in the
Bethnal Green Road, blots and flares of gas and naphtha shook and
flickered till every slimy cobble in the cartway was silver-tipped.
Neddy Milton was not quite fighting-fit. A day's questing for an odd job
had left him weary in the feet; and a lad of eighteen cannot comfortably
go unfed from breakfast to night-fall. But box he must, for the shilling
was irrecoverable, and so costly a chance must not be thrown away. It
was by a bout with the gloves that he looked to mend his fortunes. That
was his only avenue of advancement. He could read and write quite
decently, and in the beginning might even have been an office-boy, if
only the widow, his mother, had been able to give him a good send-off in
the matter of clothes. Also, he had had one chance of picking up a
trade, but the firm already employed as many boys as the union was
disposed to allow. So Neddy had to go, and pick up such stray jobs as he

It had been a bad day, without a doubt. Things were bad generally. It
was nearly a fortnight since Ned had lost his last job, and there seemed
to be no other in the world. His mother had had no slop-waistcoat
finishing to do for three or four days, and he distinctly remembered
that rather less than half a loaf was left after breakfast; so that it
would never do to go home, for at such a time the old woman had a trick
of pretending not to be hungry, and of starving herself. He almost
wished that shilling of entrance-money back in his pocket. There is a
deal of stuff to be bought for a shilling: fried fish, for instance,
whereof the aromas, warm and rank, met him thrice in a hundred yards,
and the frizzle, loud or faint, sang in his ears all along the Bethnal
Green Road. His shilling had been paid over but two days before the last
job gave out, and it would be useful now. Still, the investment might
turn out a gold mine. Luck must change. Meanwhile, as to being
hungry--well, there was always another hole in the belt!

The landlord of the Prince Regent public-house had a large room behind
his premises, which, being moved by considerations of sport and profit
in doubtful proportions, he devoted two nights a week to the uses of the
Regent Boxing Club. Here Neddy Milton, through a long baptism of
pummellings, had learned the trick of a straight lead, a quick counter,
and a timely duck; and here, in the nine-stone competition to open this
very night, he might perchance punch wide the gates of Fortune. For some
sporting publican, or discriminating book-maker from Bow, might see and
approve his sparring, and start him fairly, with money behind him--a
professional. That would mean a match in six or eight weeks' time, with
good living in the mean while: a match that would have to be won, of
course. And after that ...!

Twice before he had boxed in a competition. Once he won his bout in the
first round, and was beaten in the second; and once he was beaten in the
first, but that was by the final winner, Tab Rosser, who was now matched
for a hundred a side, sparred exhibition bouts up west, wore a light
Newmarket coat, and could stand whiskey and soda with anybody. To be
"taken up" on the strength of these early performances was more than he
could reasonably expect. There might be luck in the third trial; but he
would like to feel a little fitter. Breakfast (what there was of it) had
been ten hours ago, and since there had been but a half-pint of
four-ale. It was the treat of a well-meaning friend, but it lay cold on
the stomach for want of solid company.

Turning into Cambridge Road, he crossed, and went on among the
by-streets leading toward Globe Road. Now and again a slight aspersion
of fine rain came down the gusts, and further damped his cap and
shoulders and the ragged hair that hung over his collar. Also a cold
spot under one foot gave him fears of a hole in his boot-sole as he
tramped in the chilly mud.

In the Prince Regent there were many at the bar, and the most of them
knew Neddy.

"Wayo, Ned," said one lad with a pitted face, "_you_ don't look much of
a bleed'n' champion. 'Ave a drop o' beer."

Ned took a sparing pull at the pot, and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. A
large man behind him guffawed, and Neddy reddened high. He had heard the
joke. The man himself was one of the very backers that might make one's
fortune, and the man's companion thought it would be unsafe to back
Neddy to fight anything but a beefsteak.

"You're drawed with Patsy Beard," one of Ned's friends informed him.
"You'll 'ave to buck up."

This was bad. Patsy Beard, on known form, stood best chance of winning
the competition, and to have to meet him at first set-off was ill luck,
and no mistake. He was a thickset little butcher, and there was just
the ghost of a hope that he might be found to be a bit over the weight.

A lad by the bar looked inquiringly in Ned's face and then came toward
him, shouldering him quietly out of the group. It was Sam Young, whom
Neddy had beaten in an earlier competition. "'Ungry, Neddy?" he asked,
in a corner.

It was with a shamed face that Neddy confessed; for among those in peril
of hunger it is disgraceful to be hungry. Sam unpocketed a greasy paper,
enveloping a pallid sausage-roll. "'Ave 'alf o' this," he said. It was a
heavy and a clammy thing, but Ned took it, furtively swallowed a large
piece, and returned the rest with sheepish thanks. He did not turn again
toward the others, but went through to the room where the ring was

The proceedings began. First there were exhibition bouts, to play in the
company. Neddy fidgeted. Why couldn't they begin the competition at
once? When they did, his bout would be number five. That would mean at
least an hour of waiting; and the longer he waited the less fit he would

In time the exhibition sparring was ended, and the real business began.
He watched the early bouts feverishly, feeling unaccountably anxious.
The lads looked strong and healthy. Patsy Beard was as strong as any of
them, and heavy. Could he stand it? This excited nervousness was new and
difficult to understand. He had never felt like it before. He was almost
trembling; and that lump of sausage-roll had stuck half-way, and made
breathing painful work. Patsy Beard was at the opposite corner,
surrounded by admirers. He was red-faced, well-fed, fleshy, and
confident. His short hair clung shinily about his bullet head. Neddy
noted a small piece of court-plaster at the side of his nose. Plainly
there was a tender spot, and it must be gone for, be it cut, or scratch,
or only pimple. On the left side, too, quite handy. Come, there was some
comfort in that.

He fell to watching the bout. It was a hard fight, and both the lads
were swinging the right again and again for a knock-out. But the pace
was too hot, and they were soon breathing like men about to sneeze,
wearily pawing at each other, while their heads hung forward. Somebody
jogged him in the back, and he found he must get ready. His dressing was
simple. An ill-conditioned old pair of rubber gymnasium shoes replaced
his equally ill-conditioned bluchers, and a cotton singlet his shirt;
but his baggy corduroys, ragged at the ankles and doubtful at the seat,

Presently the last pair of boxers was brought into the dressing-room,
and one of the seconds, a battered old pug with one eye, at once seized
Neddy. "Come along, young 'un," he said. "I'm your bloke. Got no
flannels? Awright. Jump on the scales."

There was no doubt as to the weight. He had scaled at eight stone
thirteen; now it was eight stone bare. Patsy Beard, on the other hand,
weighed the full nine, without an ounce to spare.

"You're givin' 'im a stone," said the old pug; "all the more credit
'idin' of 'im. 'Ere, let's shove 'em on. Feel 'em." He grinned and
blinked his solitary eye as he pulled on Neddy's hand one of a very
black and long-worn pair of boxing-gloves. They were soft and flaccid;
Neddy's heart warmed toward the one-eyed man, for well he knew from many
knocks that the softer the glove the harder the fist feels through it.
"Sawftest pair in the place, s'elp me," grunted the second, with one
glove hanging from his teeth. "My lad 'ad 'em last time. Come on."

He snatched a towel and a bottle of water, and hurried Neddy from the
dressing-room to the ring. Neddy sat in his chair in the ring-corner,
and spread his arms on the ropes: while his second, arms uplifted, stood
before him and ducked solemnly forward and back with the towel flicking
overhead. While he was fanning, Neddy was still conscious of the lump of
sausage-roll in his chest. Also he fell to wondering idly why they
called Beard Patsy, when his first name was Joe. The same reflection
applied to Tab Rosser, and Hocko Jones, and Tiggy Magson. But certainly
he felt hollow and sick in the belly. Could he stand punching? It would
never do to chuck it half through. Still--

"Ready!" sang the timekeeper.

The old pug threw the towel over his arm. "'Ave a moistener," he said,
presenting the water-bottle to Neddy's mouth. "Don't swaller any," he
added, as his principal took a large gulp. "Spit it out."

"Seconds out of the ring!"

The old prize-fighter took his bottle and climbed through the ropes.
"Don't go in-fightin'," he whispered from behind. "Mark 'im on the
stickin'-plaster; an' if you don't give 'im a 'idin', bli' me, I'll give
you one!"


The seconds seized the chairs and dragged them out of the ring, as the
lads advanced and shook hands. Patsy Beard flung back his right foot,
and made a flashy prance with his left knee as they began to spar for an
opening: it was Patsy's way. All Neddy's anxiety was gone. The moment
his right foot dropped behind his left, and his left hand rocked,
knuckles up, before him, he was a competent workman, with all his tools
in order. Even the lump of dough on his chest he felt no more.

"Buy, buy!" bawled a wag in the crowd, as a delicate allusion to Beard's
more ordinary occupation. Patsy grinned at the compliment, but Neddy
confined his attention to business. He feinted with his left, and got
back; but Patsy was not to be drawn. Then Neddy stepped in and led
quickly, ducking the counter and repeating before getting away. Patsy
came with a rush and fought for the body, but Neddy slipped him, and got
in one for nothing on the ear. The company howled.

They sparred in the middle. Patsy led perfunctorily with the left now
and again, while his right elbow undulated nervously. That foretold an
attempt to knock out with the right: precautions, a straight and
persistent left, and a wary eye. So Neddy kept poking out his left, and
never lost sight of the court-plaster, never of the shifty right. Give
and take was the order of the round, and they fought all over the ring,
Patsy Beard making for close quarters, and Neddy keeping off, and
stopping him with the left. Neddy met a straight punch on the nose that
made his eyes water, but through the tears he saw the plaster displaced,
and a tiny stream of blood trickling toward the corner of Patsy's mouth.
Plainly it was a cut. He broke ground, stopped half-way and banged in
left and right. He got a sharp rive on the neck for his pains, and took
the right on his elbow; but he had landed on the spot, and the tiny
streak of blood was smeared out wide across Patsy's face. The company
roared and whistled with enthusiasm. It was a capital rally.

But now Neddy's left grew slower, and was heavy to lift. From time to
time Patsy got in one for nothing, and soon began to drive him about the
ring. Neddy fought on, weak and gasping, and longed for the call of
time. His arms felt as if they were hung with lead, and he could do
little more than push feebly. He heard the yell of many voices, "Now
then, Patsy, hout him! 'Ave 'im out! That's it, Patsy, another like
that! Keep on, Patsy!"

Patsy kept on. Right and left, above and below, Neddy could see the
blows coming. But he was powerless to guard or to return. He could but
stagger about, and now and again swing an ineffectual arm as it hung
from the shoulder. Presently a flush hit on the nose drove him against
the ropes, another in the ribs almost through them. But a desperate,
wide whirl of his right brought it heavily on Patsy's tender spot, and
tore open the cut. Patsy winced, and--


Neddy was grabbed at the waist and put in his chair. "Good lad!" said
the one-eyed pug in his ear as he sponged his face. "Nothink like pluck.
But you mustn't go to pieces 'alf through the round. Was it a awk'ard
poke upsetcher?"

Neddy, lying back and panting wildly, shook his head as he gazed at the
ceiling. "Awright; try an' save yourself a bit. Keep yer left goin'--you
roasted 'im good with that; 'e'll want a yard o' plaster to-night. An'
when 'e gits leadin' loose, take it auf an' give him the right straight
from the guard--if you know the trick. Point o' the jaw that's for,
mind. 'Ave a cooler." He took a mouthful of water and blew it in a fine
spray in Neddy's face, wiped it down, and began another overhead

"Seconds out of the ring!" called the timekeeper.

"Go it, my lad,"--thus a whisper from behind,--"you can walk over 'im!"
And Neddy felt the wet sponge squeezed against the back of his neck, and
the cool water trickling down his spine.


Neddy was better, though there was a worn feeling in his arm-muscles.
Patsy's cut had been well sponged, but it still bled, and Patsy meant
giving Neddy no rest. He rushed at once, but was met by a clean
right-hander, slap on the sore spot. "Bravo, Neddy!" came a voice, and
the company howled as before. Patsy was steadied. He sparred with some
caution, twitching the cheek next the cut. Neddy would not lead (for he
must save himself), and so the two sparred for a few seconds. Then Patsy
rushed again, and Neddy got busy with both hands. Once he managed to get
the right in from the guard as his second had advised, but not heavily.
He could feel his strength going--earlier than in the last round--and
Patsy was as strong and determined as ever. Another rush carried Neddy
against the ropes, where he got two heavy body blows and a bad
jaw-rattler. He floundered to the right in an attempt to slip, and fell
on his face. He rolled on his side, however, and was up again,
breathless and unsteady. There was a sickening throbbing in the crown of
his head, and he could scarce lift his arms. But there was no respite:
the other lad was at him again, and he was driven across the ring and
back, blindly pushing his aching arms before him, while punch followed
punch on nose, ears, jaws, and body, till something began to beat
inside his head, louder and harder than all beside, stunning and
sickening him. He could hear the crowd roaring still, but it seemed
further off; and the yells of "That's it, Patsy! Now you've got 'im!
Keep at 'im! Hout 'im this time!" came from some other building close
by, where somebody was getting a bad licking. Somebody with no control
of his legs, and no breath to spit away the blood from his nose as it
ran and stuck over his lips. Somebody praying for the end of the three
minutes that seemed three hours, and groaning inwardly because of a lump
of cold lead in his belly that had once been sausage-roll. Somebody to
whom a few called--still in the other building--"Chuck it, Neddy; it's
no good. Why don'cher chuck it?" while others said, "Take 'im away, tyke
'im away!" Then something hit him between the eyes, and some other thing
behind the head; that was one of the posts. He swung an arm, but it met
nothing; then the other, and it struck somewhere; and then there was a
bang that twisted his head, and hard boards were against his face. O it
was bad, but it was a rest.

Cold water was on his face, and somebody spoke. He was in his chair
again, and the one-eyed man was sponging him. "It was the call o' time
as saved ye then," he said; "you'd never 'a' got up in the ten seconds.
Y' ain't up to another round, are ye? Better chuck it. It's no disgrace,
after the way you've stood up." But Neddy shook his head. He had got
through two of the three rounds, and didn't mean throwing away a chance
of saving the bout.

"Awright, if you won't," his Mentor said. "Nothink like pluck. But
you're no good on points--a knock-out's the on'y chance. Nurse yer
right, an' give it 'im good on the point. 'E's none so fresh 'isself;
'e's blowed with the work, an' you pasted 'im fine when you did 'it.
Last thing, just before 'e sent ye down, ye dropped a 'ot 'un on 'is
beak. Didn't see it, didjer?" The old bruiser rubbed vigorously at his
arms, and gave him a small, but welcome, drink of water.

"Seconds out of the ring!"

The one-eyed man was gone once more, but again his voice came from
behind. "Mind--give it 'im 'ard and give it 'im soon, an' if you feel
groggy, chuck it d'reckly. If ye don't, I'll drag ye out by the slack o'
yer trousis an' disgrace ye."


Neddy knew there was little more than half a minute's boxing left in
him--perhaps not so much. He must do his best at once. Patsy was showing
signs of hard wear, and still blew a little: his nose was encouragingly
crimson at the nostrils, and the cut was open and raw. He rushed in with
a lead which Neddy ducked and cross-countered, though ineffectually.
There were a few vigorous exchanges, and then Neddy staggered back from
a straight drive on the mouth. There was a shout of "Patsy!" and Patsy
sprang in, right elbow all a-jerk, and flung in the left. Neddy guarded
wildly, and banged in the right from the guard. Had he hit? He had felt
no shock, but there was Patsy, lying on his face.

The crowd roared and roared again. The old pug stuffed his chair hastily
through the ropes, and Neddy sank into it, panting, with bloodshot eyes.
Patsy lay still. The timekeeper watched the seconds-hand pass its ten
points, and gave the word, but Patsy only moved a leg. Neddy Milton had

"Brayvo, young 'un," said the old fighter, as he threw his arm about
Neddy's waist, and helped him to the dressing-room. "Cleanest knock-out
I ever see--smack on the point o' the jaw. Never thought you'd 'a' done
it. I said there was nothink like pluck, did'n' I? 'Ave a wash now, an'
you'll be all the better for the exercise. Give us them gloves--I'm off
for the next bout." And he seized another lad, and marched him out.

"'Ave a drop o' beer," said one of Neddy's new-won friends, extending a
tankard. He took it, though he scarcely felt awake. He was listless and
weak, and would not have moved for an hour had he been left alone. But
Patsy was brought to, and sneezed loudly, and Neddy was hauled over to
shake hands with him.

"You give me a 'ell of a doin'," said Neddy, "_I_ never thought I'd beat

"Beat me? well you ain't, 'ave you? 'Ow?"

"Knock-out," answered several at once.

"Well, I'm damned," said Patsy Beard....

In the bar, after the evening's business, Neddy sat and looked wistfully
at the stout red-faced men who smoked fourpenny cigars and drank special
Scotch; but not one noticed him. His luck had not come after all. But
there was the second round of bouts, and the final, in a week's
time--perhaps it would come then. If he could only win the final--then
it _must_ come. Meanwhile he was sick and faint, and felt doubtful about
getting home. Outside it was raining hard. He laid his head on the bar
table at which he was sitting, and at closing time there they found him


There was a great effervescence of rumor in Cubitt Town when Ted Munsey
came into money. Ted Munsey, commonly alluded to as Mrs. Munsey's
'usband, was a moulder with a regular job at Moffat's: a large, quiet
man of forty-five, the uncomplaining appurtenance of his wife. This was
fitting, for she had married beneath her, her father having been a dock

To come into money is an unusual feat in Cubitt Town; a feat,
nevertheless, continually contemplated among possibilities by all Cubitt
Towners; who find nothing else in the Sunday paper so refreshing as the
paragraphs headed "Windfall for a Cabman" and "A Fortune for a Pauper,"
and who cut them out to pin over the mantelpiece. The handsome coloring
of such paragraphs was responsible for many bold flights of fancy in
regard to Ted Munsey's fortune: Cubitt Town, left to itself, being
sterile soil for the imagination. Some said that the Munseys had come in
for chests packed with bank notes, on the decease of one of Mrs.
Munsey's relations, of whom she was wont to hint. Others put it at a
street full of houses, as being the higher ideal of wealth. A few, more
romantically given, imagined vaguely of ancestral lands and halls, which
Mrs. Munsey and her forbears had been "done out of" for many years by
the lawyers. All which Mrs. Munsey, in her hour of triumph, was at
little pains to discount, although, in simple fact, the fortune was no
more than a legacy of a hundred pounds from Ted's uncle, who had kept a
public-house in Deptford.

Of the hundred pounds Mrs. Munsey took immediate custody. There was no
guessing what would have become of it in Ted's hands; probably it would
have been, in chief part, irrecoverably lent; certainly it would have
gone and left Ted a moulder at Moffat's, as before. With Mrs. Munsey
there was neither hesitation nor difficulty. The obvious use of a
hundred pounds was to put its possessors into business--which meant a
shop; to elevate them socially at a single bound beyond the many grades
lying between the moulder and the small tradesman. Wherefore the Munseys
straightway went into business. Being equally ignorant of every sort of
shopkeeping, they were free to choose the sort they pleased; and thus it
was that Mrs. Munsey decided upon drapery and haberdashery, Ted's
contribution to the discussion being limited to a mild hint of
greengrocery and coals, instantly suppressed as low. Nothing could be
more genteel than drapery, and it would suit the girls. General
chandlery, sweetstuff, oil, and firewood--all these were low,
comparatively. Drapery it was, and quickly; for Mrs. Munsey was not wont
to shilly-shally. An empty shop was found in Bromley, was rented, and
was stocked as far as possible. Tickets were hung upon everything,
bearing a very large main figure with a very small three-farthings
beside it, and the thing was done. The stain of moulding was washed from
the scutcheon; the descent thereunto from dock timekeeping was redeemed
fivefold; dock timekeeping itself was left far below, with carpentering,
shipwrighting, and engine-fitting. The Munseys were in business.

Ted Munsey stood about helplessly and stared, irksomely striving not to
put his hands in his pockets, which was low; any lapse being instantly
detected by Mrs. Munsey, who rushed from all sorts of unexpected places
and corrected the fault vigorously.

"I didn't go for to do it, Marier," he explained penitently. "It's
'abit. I'll get out of it soon. It don't look well, I know, in a
business; but it do seem a comfort, somehow."

"O you an' your comfort! A lot you study _my_ comfort, Hedward!"--for he
was Ted no more--"a-toilin' an' a-moilin' with everything to think of
myself while you look on with your 'ands in your pockets. Do try an' not
look like a stuck ninny, do!" And Hedward, whose every attempt at help
or suggestion had been severely repulsed, slouched uneasily to the door,
and strove to look as business-like as possible.

"There you go again, stickin' in the doorway and starin' up an' down the
street, as though there was no business doin'"--there was none, but that
might not be confessed. "D'y' expect people to come in with you
a-fillin' up the door? Do come in, do! You'd be better out o' the shop

Hedward thought so too, but said nothing. He had been invested with his
Sunday clothes of lustrous black, and brought into the shop to give such
impression of a shop-walker as he might. He stood uneasily on alternate
feet, and stared at the ceiling, the floor, or the space before him,
with an unhappy sense of being on show and not knowing what was expected
of him. He moved his hands purposelessly, and knocked things down with
his elbows; he rubbed his hair all up behind, and furtively wiped the
resulting oil from his hand on his trousers: never looking in the least
degree like a shop-walker.

The first customer was a very small child who came for a ha'porth of
pins, and on whom Hedward gazed with much interest and respect, while
Mrs. Munsey handed over the purchase: abating not a jot of his
appreciation when the child returned, later, to explain that what she
really wanted was sewing cotton. Other customers were disappointingly
few. Several old neighbors came in from curiosity, to talk and buy
nothing. One woman, who looked at many things without buying, was
discovered after her departure to have stolen a pair of stockings; and
Hedward was duly abused for not keeping a sharp look-out while his
wife's back was turned. Finally, the shutters went up on a day's takings
of three and sevenpence farthing, including a most dubious threepenny
bit. But then, as Mrs. Munsey said, when you are in business you must
expect trade to vary; and of course there would be more customers when
the shop got known; although Hedward certainly might have taken the
trouble to find one in a busier thoroughfare. Hedward (whose opinion in
that matter, as in others, had never been asked) retired to the
back-yard to smoke a pipe--a thing he had been pining for all day; but
was quickly recalled (the pipe being a clay) upon Mrs. Munsey's
discovery that the act could be observed from a neighbor's window. He
was continually bringing the family into disgrace, and Mrs. Munsey
despaired aloud over him far into the night.

The days came and went, and trade varied, as a fact, very little indeed.
Between three and sevenpence farthing and nothing the scope for
fluctuation is small, and for some time the first day's record was never
exceeded. But on the fifth day a customer bought nearly seven shillings'
worth all at once. Her husband had that day returned from sea with
money, and she, after months of stint, indulged in an orgie of
haberdashery at the nearest shop. Mrs. Munsey was reassured. Trade was
increasing; perhaps an assistant would be needed soon, in addition to
the two girls.

Only the younger of the girls, by the bye, had as yet taken any active
interest in the business: Emma, the elder, spending much of her time in
a bedroom, making herself unpresentable by inordinate blubbering. This
was because of Mrs. Munsey's prohibition of more company-keeping with
Jack Page. Jack was a plumber, just out of his time--rather a catch for
a moulder's daughter, but impossible, of course, for the daughter of
people in business, as Emma should have had the proper feeling to see
for herself. This Emma had not: she wallowed in a luxury of woe,
exacerbated on occasions to poignancy by the scoldings and sometimes by
the thumpings of her mar; and neglected even the select weekly quadrille
class, membership whereof was part of the novel splendor.

But there was never again a seven-shilling customer. The state of trade
perplexed Mrs. Munsey beyond telling. Being in business, one must, by
the circumstance, have a genteel competence: this was an elementary
axiom in Cubitt Town. But where was the money? What was the difference
between this and other shops? Was a screw loose anywhere? In that case
it certainly could not be her fault; wherefore she nagged Hedward.

One day a polite young man called in a large pony-trap and explained the
whole mystery. Nobody could reasonably expect to succeed in a business
of this sort who did not keep a good stock of the fancy aprons and lace
bows made by the firm he was charged to represent. Of course he knew
what business was, and that cash was not always free, but that need
never hinder transactions with him: three months' credit was the regular
thing with any respectable, well-established business concern, and in
three months one would certainly sell all the fancy aprons and lace bows
of this especial kind and price that one had room for. And he need
scarcely remind a lady of Mrs. Munsey's business experience that fancy
aprons and lace bows--of the right sort--were by far the most profitable
goods known to the trade. Everybody knew _that_. Should they say a gross
of each, just to go on with? No? Well, then half a gross. These prices
were cut so near that it really did not pay to split the gross, but this
time, to secure a good customer, he would stretch a point. Mrs. Munsey
was enlightened. Plainly the secret of success in business was to buy
advantageously, in the way the polite young man suggested, sell at a
good price, and live on the profits: merely paying over the remainder at
the end of three months. Nothing could be simpler. So she began the
system forthwith. Other polite young men called, and further certain
profits were arranged for on similar terms.

The weak spot in the plan was the absence of any binding arrangement
with the general public; and this was not long in discovering itself.
Nobody came to buy the fancy aprons and the lace bows, tempting as they
might seem. Moreover, after they had hung a week or more, Alice reported
that a large shop in the Commercial Road was offering, by retail, aprons
and bows of precisely the same sort at a less price than the polite
young man had charged for a wholesale purchase. Mrs. Munsey grew
desperate, and Hedward's life became a horror unto him. He was set to
stand at the door with a fancy apron in one hand and a lace bow in the
other, and capture customers as they passed: a function wherein he
achieved detestable failure; alarming passing women (who considered him
dangerously drunk) as greatly as his situation distressed himself.

Mrs. Munsey grew more desperate, and drove Hedward to the rear of the
house, with bitter revilings. Money must be got out of the stock
somehow. That a shop could in any circumstances be unremunerative
puzzled as much as it dismayed her. The goods were marked down to low
prices--often lower than cost. Still Mrs. Munsey had the abiding
conviction that the affair must pay, as others did, if only she might
hold out long enough. Hedward's suggestion that he should return to the
moulding, coming and going as little in sight as possible, she repelled
savagely. "A nice notion you've got o' keepin' up a proper position. You
ain't content with disgracin' me and yourself too, playin' the fool in
the shop till trade's ruined an' nobody won't come near the place--an' I
don't wonder at it.... You're a nice sort of 'usband, I must say. What
are you goin' to do now, with the business in this pretty mess, an' your
wife an' children ready to starve? What are you goin' to do? Where are
you goin' to turn? That's what I want to know."

"Well, I'm a-thinkin' it out, Marier, in a legal point. P'r'aps, you
know, my dear--"

"Oh, don't dear me! I 'ate a fool."

Marked as low as they might be, none of the aprons nor the bows nor the
towels nor the stockings nor any other of the goods were bought--never a
thing beyond a ha'porth of thread or a farthing bodkin. Rent had to be
paid, and even food cost money. There was a flavor of blank
disappointment about Saturday--the pay day of less anxious times; and
quarter day, when all these polite young men would demand the money that
was not--that day was coming, black and soon. Mrs. Munsey grew more
desperate than ever, sharp of feature, and aged. Alone, she would
probably have wept. Having Hedward at hand, she poured forth her
bitterness of spirit upon him; till at last he was nagged out of his
normal stolidity, and there came upon his face the look of a bullock
that is harried on all hands through unfamiliar streets.

On a night when, from sheer weariness of soul, she fell from clatter
toward sleep, of a sudden Hedward spoke. "Marier--" he said.


"You ain't give me a kiss lately. Kiss me now."

"Don't be a fool. I'm sick an' tired. Go to sleep, if you can sleep,
with everything--"

"Kiss me, I tell you!" He had never commanded like that before. She
marvelled, feared a little, and obeyed.

In the morning, when she awoke, he had already gone downstairs. This was
as usual. When she followed, however, he was not to be found in the
house. The shop shutters had been taken down, and the windows carefully
cleaned, although it was not the regular window-cleaning day; but the
door was shut. On the sitting-room table were two papers, one within the
other. The first was written with many faults and smudges, and this was
how it ran:--

     "the deed and testiment of Ed. Munsey this is to cirtiffy that i
     make over all my property to my belov^d wife stock bisness and
     furnitur so help me god all detts i keep to pay myself and my wife
     is not ansrable for them and certiffy that I O U Minchin and co 9
     pound 4/7½ Jones and son 6 pound 13/2 and settrer all other detts
     me and not my wife I O U

     ED. MUNSEY"

The other was a letter:--

     "my dear wife i have done this legle dockerment after thinking it
     out it will make you alrite having all made over and me still oawe
     the detts not you as you can pull round the bisness as you said
     with time and if you do not see me again will you pay the detts
     when it is pull round as we have been allways honnest and straght i
     should wish for Emma to keep co with Jhon Page if can be mannaged
     he might be shop walker and you will soon all be rich swels i know
     so no more from yours affec husband


     "love to Emma and Alice this one must be burnt keep the other"

Near the papers lay Ted Munsey's large silver watch and chain, the
silver ring that he used to fasten his best tie, three keys, and a few
coppers. Upstairs the girls began to move about. Mrs. Munsey sat with
her frightened face on the table.


The Red Cow Anarchist Group no longer exists. Its leading spirit appears
no more among his devoted comrades, and without him they are

He was but a young man, this leading spirit, (his name, by the bye, was
Sotcher,) but of his commanding influence among the older but unlettered
men about him, read and judge. For themselves, they had long been
plunged in a beery apathy, neither regarding nor caring for the fearful
iniquities of the social system that oppressed them. A Red Cow group
they had always been, before the coming of Sotcher to make Anarchists of
them: forgathering in a remote compartment of the Red Cow bar, reached
by a side door in an alley; a compartment uninvaded and almost
undiscovered by any but themselves, where night after night they drank
their beer and smoked their pipes, sunk in a stagnant ignorance of their
manifold wrongs. During the day Old Baker remained to garrison the
stronghold. He was a long-bankrupt tradesman, with invisible resources
and no occupation but this, and no known lodging but the Red Cow
snuggery. There he remained all day and every day, "holding the fort,"
as he put it: with his nose, a fiery signal of possession, never two
feet from the rim of his pot; while Jerry Shand was carrying heavy loads
in Columbia Market; while Gunno Polson was running for a book-maker in
Fleet Street; while Snorkey was wherever his instinct took him, doing
whatever paid best, and keeping out of trouble as long as he could; and
while the rest of the group--two or three--picked a living out of the
London heap in ways and places unspecified. But at evening they joined
Old Baker, and they filled their snuggery.

Their talk was rarely of politics, and never of "social problems":
present and immediate facts filled their whole field of contemplation.
Their accounts were kept, and their references to pecuniary matters were
always stated, in terms of liquid measure. Thus, fourpence was never
spoken of in the common way: it was a quart, and a quart was the
monetary standard of the community. Even as twopence was a pint, and
eightpence was half-a-gallon.

It was Snorkey who discovered Sotcher, and it was with Snorkey that that
revolutionary appeared before the Red Cow group with his message of
enlightenment. Snorkey (who was christened something else that nobody
knew or cared about) had a trick of getting into extraordinary and
unheard-of places in his daily quest of quarts, and he had met Sotcher
in a loft at the top of a house in Berners Street, Shadwell. It was a
loft where the elect of Anarchism congregated nightly, and where
everybody lectured all the others. Sotcher was a very young Anarchist,
restless by reason of not being sufficiently listened to, and glad to
find outsiders to instruct and to impress with a full sense of his
sombre, mystic dare-devilry. Therefore he came to the Red Cow with
Snorkey, to spread (as he said) the light.

He was not received with enthusiasm, perhaps because of a certain
unlaundered aspect of person remarkable even to them of the Red Cow
group. Grease was his chief exterior characteristic, and his thick hair,
turning up over his collar, seemed to have lain for long unharried of
brush or comb. His face was a sebaceous trickle of long features, and on
his hands there was a murky deposit that looked like scales. He wore, in
all weathers, a long black coat with a rectangular rent in the skirt,
and his throat he clipped in a brown neckerchief that on a time had been
of the right Anarchist red. But no want of welcome could abash him.
Here, indeed, he had an audience, an audience that did not lecture on
its own account, a crude audience that might take him at his own
valuation. So he gave it to that crude audience, hot and strong. They
(and he) were the salt of the earth, bullied, plundered and abused. Down
with everything that wasn't down already. And so forth and so on.

His lectures were continued. Every night it was the same as every other,
and each several chapter of his discourse was a repetition of the one
before. Slowly the Red Cow group came around. Plainly other people were
better off than they; and certainly each man found it hard to believe
that anybody else was more deserving than himself.

"Wy are we pore?" asked Sotcher, leaning forward and jerking his
extended palm from one to another, as though attempting a hasty
collection. "I ask you straight, wy are we pore? Why is it, my frien's,
that awften and awften you find you ain't got a penny in yer pocket, not
for to git a crust o' bread or 'alf a pint o' reasonable refreshment?
'Ow is it that 'appens? Agin I ask, 'ow?"

Snorkey, with a feeling that an answer was expected from somebody,
presently murmured, "No mugs," which encouraged Gunno Polson to suggest,
"Backers all stony-broke." Jerry Shand said nothing, but reflected on
the occasional result of a day on the loose. Old Baker neither spoke nor

"I'll tell you, me frien's. It's 'cos o' the rotten state o' s'ciety. Wy
d'you allow the lazy, idle, dirty, do-nothing upper classes, as they
call 'emselves, to reap all the benefits o' your toil wile you slave an'
slave to keep 'em in lukshry an' starve yerselves? Wy don't you go an'
take your shares o' the wealth lyin' round you?"

There was another pause. Gunno Polson looked at his friends one after
another, spat emphatically, and said, "Coppers."

"Becos o' the brute force as the privileged classes is 'edged
theirselves in with, that's all. Becos o' the paid myrmidons armed an'
kep' to make slaves o' the people. Becos o' the magistrates an' p'lice.
Then wy not git rid o' the magistrates an' p'lice? They're no good, are
they? 'Oo wants 'em, I ask? 'Oo?"

"They _are_ a noosance," admitted Snorkey, who had done a little time
himself. He was a mere groundling, and persisted in regarding the
proceedings as simple conversation, instead of as an oration with pauses
at the proper places.

"Nobody wants 'em--nobody as is any good. Then don't 'ave 'em, me
frien's--don't 'ave 'em! It all rests with you. Don't 'ave no
magistrates nor p'lice, nor gover'ment, nor parliament, nor monarchy,
nor county council, nor nothink. Make a clean sweep of 'em. Blow 'em up.
Then you'll 'ave yer rights. The time's comin', I tell you. It's comin',
take my word for it. Now you toil an' slave; then everybody'll 'ave to
work w'ether 'e likes it or not, and two hours work a day'll be all
you'll 'ave to do."

Old Baker looked a little alarmed, and for a moment paused in his

"Two hours a day at most, that's all; an' all yer wants provided for,
free an' liberal." Some of the group gave a lickerish look across the
bar. "No a'thority, no gover'ment, no privilege, an' nothink to
interfere. Free contrack between man an' man, subjick to free revision
an' change."

"Wot's that?" demanded Jerry Shand, who was the slowest convert.

"Wy, that," Sotcher explained, "means that everybody can make wot
arrangements with 'is feller-men 'e likes for to carry on the business
of life, but nothink can't bind you. You chuck over the arrangement if
it suits best."

"Ah," said Gunno Polson musingly, rotating his pot horizontally before
him to stir the beer; "that 'ud be 'andy sometimes. They call it
welshin' now."

The light spread fast and free, and in a few nights the Red Cow group
was a very promising little bed of Anarchy. Sotcher was at pains to have
it reported at two places west of Tottenham Court Road and at another in
Dean Street, Soho, that at last a comrade had secured an excellent
footing with a party of the proletariat of East London, hitherto looked
on as hopeless material. More: that an early manifestation of activity
might be expected in that quarter. Such activity had been held advisable
of late, in view of certain extraditions.

And Sotcher's discourse at the Red Cow turned, lightly and easily,
toward the question of explosives. Anybody could make them, he
explained; nothing simpler, with care. And here he posed at large in the
character of mysterious desperado, the wonder and admiration of all the
Red Cow group. They should buy nitric acid, he said, of the strongest
sort, and twice as much sulphuric acid. The shops where they sold
photographic materials were best and cheapest for these things, and no
questions were asked. They should mix the acids, and then add gently,
drop by drop, the best glycerine, taking care to keep everything cool.
After which the whole lot must be poured into water, to stand for an
hour. Then a thick, yellowish, oily stuff would be found to have sunk to
the bottom, which must be passed through several pails of water to be
cleansed: and there it was, a terrible explosive. You handled it with
care and poured it on brick-dust or dry sand, or anything of that sort
that would soak it up, and then it could be used with safety to the

The group listened with rapt attention, more than one pot stopping
half-way on its passage mouthwards. Then Jerry Shand wanted to know if
Sotcher had ever blown up anything or anybody himself.

The missionary admitted that that glory had not been his. "I'm one o'
the teachers, me frien's--one o' the pioneers that goes to show the way
for the active workers like you. I on'y come to explain the principles
an' set you in the right road to the social revolution, so as you may
get yer rights at last. It's for you to act."

Then he explained that action might be taken in two ways: either
individually or by mutual aid in the group. Individual work was much to
be preferred, being safer; but a particular undertaking often
necessitated co-operation. But that was for the workers to settle as the
occasion arose. However, one thing must be remembered. If the group
operated, each man must be watchful of the rest; there must be no half
measures, no timorousness; any comrade wavering, temporizing, or
behaving in any way suspiciously, must be straightway _suppressed_.
There must be no mistake about that. It was desperate and glorious work,
and there must be desperate and rapid methods both of striking and
guarding. These things he made clear in his best conspirator's manner:
with nods and scowls and a shaken forefinger, as of one accustomed to
oversetting empires.

The men of the Red Cow group looked at each other, and spat
thoughtfully. Then a comrade asked what had better be blown up first.
Sotcher's opinion was that there was most glory in blowing up people, in
a crowd or at a theatre. But a building was safer, as there was more
chance of getting away. Of buildings, a public office was probably to be
preferred--something in Whitehall, say. Or a bank--nobody seemed to have
tried a bank: he offered the suggestion now. Of course there were not
many public buildings in the East End, but possibly the group would like
to act in their own neighborhood: it would be a novelty, and would
attract notice; the question was one for their own decision, independent
freedom of judgment being the right thing in these matters. There were
churches, of course, and the factories of the bloated capitalist.
Particularly, he might suggest the gas-works close by. There was a large
gasometer abutting on the street, and probably an explosion there would
prove tremendously effective, putting the lights out everywhere, and
attracting great attention in the papers. That was glory.

Jerry Shand hazarded a remark about the lives of the men in the
gas-works; but Sotcher explained that that was a trivial matter.
Revolutions were never accomplished without bloodshed, and a few casual
lives were not to be weighed in the balance against the glorious
consummation of the social upheaval. He repeated his contention, when
some weaker comrade spoke of the chance of danger to the operator, and
repeated it with a proper scorn of the soft-handed pusillanimity that
shrank from danger to life and limb in the cause. Look at the glory, and
consider the hundred-fold vengeance on the enemy in the day to come! The
martyr's crown was his who should die at the post of duty.

His eloquence prevailed: there were murmurs no more. "'Ere, tell us the
name of the stuff agin," broke out Gunno Polson, resolutely, feeling for
a pencil and paper. "Blimy, I'll make some to-morrer."

He wrote down the name of the ingredients with much spelling. "Thick,
yuller, oily stuff, ain't it, wot you make?" he asked.

"Yus--an' keep it cool."

The group broke up, stern and resolute, and Sotcher strode to his home
exultant, a man of power.

For the next night or two the enthusiasm at the Red Cow was unbounded.
There was no longer any questioning of principles or action--every man
was an eager Anarchist--strong and devoted in the cause. The little
chemical experiment was going on well, Gunno Polson reported, with
confident nods and winks. Sotcher repeated his discourse, as a matter of
routine, to maintain the general ardor, which had, however, to endure a
temporary check as the result of a delicate inquiry of Snorkey's, as to
what funds might be expected from head-quarters. For there were no
funds, said Sotcher, somewhat surprised at the question.

"Wot?" demanded Jerry Shand, opening his mouth and putting down his
pipe: "ain't we goin' to get nothink for all this?"

They would get the glory, Sotcher assured him, and the consciousness of
striking a mighty blow at this, and that, and the other; but that was
all. And instantly the faces of the group grew long.

"But," said Old Baker, "I thought all you blokes always got somethink
from the--the committee?"

There was no committee, and no funds: there was nothing but glory, and
victory, and triumph, and the social revolution, and things of that
kind. For a little, the comrades looked at each other awkwardly, but
they soon regained their cheerfulness, with zeal no whit abated. The
sitting closed with promises of an early gathering for the next night.

But when the next night came Sotcher was later than usual. "Ullo,"
shouted Gunno Polson, as he entered, "'ere you are at last. We've 'ad to
do important business without you. See," he added in a lower tone,
"'ere's the stuff!" And he produced an old physic-bottle nearly full of
a thick, yellowish fluid.

Sotcher started back half a pace, and slightly paled. "Don't shake it,"
he whispered hoarsely. "Don't shake it, for Gawd's sake!... Wot--wotjer
bring it 'ere for, like that? It's--it's awful stuff, blimy." He looked
uneasily about the group, and wiped his forehead with the back of his
hand. "I--I thought you'd git the job over soon as the stuff was
ready.... 'Ere, my Gawd!" he squeaked under his breath, "don't put it
down 'ard on the table like that. It's sich--sich awful stuff." He wiped
his forehead again, and, still standing, glanced once more
apprehensively round the circle of impassive faces. Then after a pause,
he asked, with an effort, "Wot--wotjer goin' to do now?"

"Blow up the bleed'n' gas-works, o' course," answered Gunno Polson
complacently. "'Ere's a penn'orth o' silver sand, an' a 'bacca canister,
an' some wire, an' a big cracker with a long touch-paper, so as to stick
out o' the canister-lid. That ought to set it auf, oughtn't it? 'Ere,
you pour the stuff over the sand, doncher?" And he pulled out the cork
and made ready to mix.

"'Old on--'old on--don't! Wait a bit, for Gawd's sake!" cried Sotcher,
in a sweat of terror. "You--you dunno wot awful stuff it is--s'elp me,
you don't! You--you'll blow us all up if you don't keep it still.
Y--you'll want some--other things. I'll go an'--"

But Jerry Shand stood grimly against the door. "This 'ere conspiracy'll
'ave to be gawn through proper," he said. "We can't 'ave no waverers nor
blokes wot want to clear out in the middle of it, and p'r'aps go an'
tell the p'lice. Them sort we 'as to _suppress_, see? There's all the
stuff there, me lad, an' you know it. Wot's more, it's you as is got to
put it up agin the gas-works an' set it auf."

The hapless Sotcher turned a yellower pallor and asked faintly, "Me? Wy

"All done reg'lar and proper," Jerry replied, "'fore you come. We voted
it--by ballot, all square. If you'd 'a' come earlier you'd 'a' 'ad a
vote yerself."

Sotcher pushed at Jerry's shoulder despairingly. "I won't, I won't!" he
gasped. "Lemme go--it ain't fair--I wasn't 'ere--lemme go!"

"None o' yer shovin', young man," said Jerry severely. "None o' yer
shovin', else I'll 'ave to punch you on the jore. You're a bleed'n' nice
conspirator, you are. It's pretty plain we can't depend on you, an' you
know wot that means,--eh? Doncher? You're one o' the sort as 'as to be
suppressed, that's wot it means. 'Ere, 'ave a drink o' this 'ere beer,
an' see if that can't put a little 'art in ye. You got to do it, so you
may as well do it cheerful. Snorkey, give 'im a drink."

But the wretched revolutionary would not drink. He sank in a corner--the
furthest from the table where Gunno Polson was packing his dreadful
canister--a picture of stupefied affright.

Presently he thought of the bar--a mere yard of counter in an angle of
the room, with a screen standing above it--and conceived a wild notion
of escape by scrambling over. But scarce had he risen ere the watchful
Jerry divined his purpose.

"'Old 'im, Snorkey," he said. "Keep 'im in the corner. An' if 'e won't
drink that beer, pour it over 'is 'ead."

Snorkey obeyed gravely and conscientiously, and the bedraggled Sotcher,
cowed from protest, whined and sobbed desolately.

When all was ready, Jerry Shand said: "I s'pose it's no good askin' you
to do it willin', like a man?"

"O, let me go, I--I ain't well--s'elp me, I ain't. I--I might do it
wrong--an'--an'--I'm a--a teacher--a speaker; not the active branch,
s'elp me. Put it auf--for to-night--wait till to-morrer. I ain't well
an'--an' you're very 'ard on me!"

"Desp'rit work, desp'rit ways," Jerry replied laconically. "You're
be'avin' very suspicious, an' you're rebellin' agin the orders o' the
group. There's only one physic for that, ain't there, in the rules?
You're got to be suppressed. Question is 'ow. We'll 'ave to kill 'im
quiet somehow," he proceeded, turning to the group. "Quiet an' quick.
It's my belief 'e's spyin' for the p'lice, an' wants to git out to split
on us. Question is 'ow to do for 'im?"

Sotcher rose, a staring spectre. He opened his mouth to call, but there
came forth from it only a dry murmur. Hands were across his mouth at
once, and he was forced back into the corner. One suggested a
clasp-knife at the throat, another a stick in his neckerchief, twisted
to throttling-point. But in the end it was settled that it would be
simpler, and would better destroy all traces, to despatch him in the
explosion--to tie him to the canister, in fact.

A convulsive movement under the men's hands decided them to throw more
beer on Sotcher's face, for he seemed to be fainting. Then his pockets
were invaded by Gunno Polson, who turned out each in succession. "You
won't 'ave no use for money where you're goin'," he observed callously;
"besides, it 'ud be blowed to bits an' no use to nobody. Look at the
bloke at Greenwich, 'ow 'is things was blowed away. 'Ullo! 'ere's two
'arf-crowns an' some tanners. Seven an' thrippence altogether, with the
browns. This is the bloke wot 'adn't got no funds. This'll be divided on
free an' equal principles to 'elp pay for that beer you've wasted. 'Old
up, ol' man! Think o' the glory. P'r'aps you're all right, but it's best
to be on the safe side, an' dead blokes can't split to the coppers. An'
you mustn't forget the glory. You 'ave to shed blood in a revolution,
an' a few odd lives more or less don't matter--not a single damn. Keep
your eye on the bleed'n' glory! They'll 'ave photos of you in the
papers, all the broken bits in a 'eap, fac-similiar as found on the
spot. Wot a comfort that'll be!"

But the doomed creature was oblivious--prostrate--a swooning heap. They
ran a piece of clothes-line under his elbows, and pulled them together
tight. They then hobbled his ankles, and took him among them through the
alley and down the quiet street, singing and shouting their loudest as
they went, in case he might sufficiently recover his powers to call for
help. But he did not, and there in the shadow, at the foot of the great
gasometer, they flung him down with a parting kick and a barbarous knock
on the head, to keep him quiet for those few necessary moments. Then the
murderous canister, bound with wire, was put in place; the extruding
touch-paper was set going with a match; and the Red Cow Anarchists
disappeared at a run, leaving their victim to his fate. Presently the
policeman on that beat heard a sudden report from the neighborhood of
the gas-works, and ran to see what it might mean.

The next morning Alfred Sotcher was charged at the Thames Police Court
as a drunk and incapable. He had been found in a helpless state near the
gas-works, and appeared to have been tied at the elbows and ankles by
mischievous boys, who had also, it seemed, ignited a cracker near by
where he lay. The divisional surgeon stated that he was called to the
prisoner, and found him tearful and incoherent, and smelling strongly of
drink. He complained of having been assaulted in a public-house, but
could give no intelligible account of himself. A canister found by his
side appeared to contain a mixture of sand and castor oil, but prisoner
could not explain how it came there. The magistrate fined him five
shillings, with the alternative of seven days, and as he had no money he
was removed to the cells.


The house had been "genteel." When trade was prospering in the East End,
and the ship-fitter or block-maker thought it no shame to live in the
parish where his workshop lay, such a master had lived here. Now, it was
a tall, solid, well-bricked, ugly house, grimy and paintless in the
joinery, cracked and patched in the windows: where the front door stood
open all day long; and the womankind sat on the steps, talking of
sickness and deaths and the cost of things; and treacherous holes lurked
in the carpet of road-soil on the stairs and in the passage. For when
eight families live in a house, nobody buys a door-mat, and the street
was one of those streets that are always muddy. It smelt, too, of many
things, none of them pleasant (one was fried fish); but for all that it
was not a slum.

Three flights up, a gaunt woman with bare forearms stayed on her way to
listen at a door which, opening, let out a warm, fetid waft from a close
sick-room. A bent and tottering old woman stood on the threshold,
holding the door behind her.

"An' is 'e no better now, Mrs. Curtis?" the gaunt woman asked, with a
nod at the opening.

The old woman shook her head, and pulled the door closer. Her jaw
waggled loosely in her withered chaps: "Nor won't be; till 'e's gone."
Then after a certain pause, "'E's goin'," she said.

"Don't doctor give no 'ope?"

"Lor' bless ye, I don't want to ast no doctors," Mrs. Curtis replied,
with something not unlike a chuckle. "I've seed too many on 'em. The
boy's a-goin', fast; I can see that. An' then"--she gave the handle
another tug, and whispered--"he's been called." She nodded amain. "Three
seprit knocks at the bed-head las' night; an' I know what _that_ means!"

The gaunt woman raised her brows, and nodded. "Ah, well," she said, "we
all on us comes to it some day, sooner or later. An' it's often a 'appy

The two looked into space beyond each other, the elder with a nod and a
croak. Presently the other pursued, "'E's been a very good son, ain't

"Ay, ay, well enough son to me," responded the old woman, a little
peevishly; "an' I'll 'ave 'im put away decent, though there's on'y the
Union for me after. I can do that, thank Gawd!" she added, meditatively,
as chin on fist she stared into the thickening dark over the stairs.

"When I lost my pore 'usband," said the gaunt woman, with a certain
brightening, "I give 'im a 'ansome funeral. 'E was a Oddfeller, an' I
got twelve pound. I 'ad a oak caufin an' a open 'earse. There was a
kerridge for the fam'ly an' one for 'is mates--two 'orses each, an'
feathers, an' mutes; an' it went the furthest way round to the cimitry.
'Wotever 'appens, Mrs. Manders,' says the undertaker, 'you'll feel as
you're treated 'im proper; nobody can't reproach you over that.' An'
they couldn't. 'E was a good 'usband to me, an' I buried 'im

The gaunt woman exulted. The old, old story of Manders's funeral fell
upon the other one's ears with a freshened interest, and she mumbled her
gums ruminantly. "Bob'll 'ave a 'ansome buryin', too," she said. "I can
make it up, with the insurance money, an' this, an' that. On'y I dunno
about mutes. It's a expense."

In the East End, when a woman has not enough money to buy a thing much
desired, she does not say so in plain words; she says the thing is an
"expense," or a "great expense." It means the same thing, but it sounds
better. Mrs. Curtis had reckoned her resources, and found that mutes
would be an "expense." At a cheap funeral mutes cost half-a-sovereign
and their liquor. Mrs. Manders said as much.

"Yus, yus, 'arf-a-sovereign," the old woman assented. Within, the sick
man feebly beat the floor with a stick. "I'm a-comin'," she cried
shrilly; "yus, 'arf-a-sovereign, but it's a lot, an' I don't see 'ow I'm
to do it--not at present." She reached for the door-handle again, but
stopped and added, by after-thought, "Unless I don't 'ave no plooms."

"It 'ud be a pity not to 'ave plooms. I 'ad--"

There were footsteps on the stairs: then a stumble and a testy word.
Mrs. Curtis peered over into the gathering dark. "Is it the doctor,
sir?" she asked. It was the doctor's assistant; and Mrs. Manders tramped
up to the next landing as the door of the sick-room took him in.

For five minutes the stairs were darker than ever. Then the assistant, a
very young man, came out again, followed by the old woman with a candle.
Mrs. Manders listened in the upper dark. "He's sinking fast," said the
assistant. "He _must_ have a stimulant. Dr. Mansell ordered port wine.
Where is it?" Mrs. Curtis mumbled dolorously. "I tell you he _must_
have it," he averred with unprofessional emphasis (his qualification
was only a month old). "The man can't take solid food, and his strength
must be kept up somehow. Another day may make all the difference. Is it
because you can't afford it?" "It's a expense--sich a expense, doctor,"
the old woman pleaded. "An' wot with 'arf-pints o' milk an'--" She grew
inarticulate, and mumbled dismally.

"But he must have it, Mrs. Curtis, if it's your last shilling: it's the
only way. If you mean you absolutely haven't the money--" And he paused
a little awkwardly. He was not a wealthy young man--wealthy young men do
not devil for East End doctors--but he was conscious of a certain haul
of sixpences at nap the night before; and, being inexperienced, he did
not foresee the career of persecution whereon he was entering at his own
expense and of his own motion. He produced five shillings: "If you
absolutely haven't the money, why--take this and get a bottle--good: not
at a public-house. But mind, _at once_. He should have had it before."

It would have interested him, as a matter of coincidence, to know that
his principal had been guilty of the selfsame indiscretion--even the
amount was identical--on that landing the day before. But, as Mrs.
Curtis said nothing of this, he floundered down the stair and out into
the wetter mud, pondering whether or not the beloved son of a
Congregational minister might take full credit for a deed of charity on
the proceeds of sixpenny nap. But Mrs. Curtis puffed her wrinkles, and
shook her head sagaciously as she carried in her candle. From the room
came a clink as of money falling into a teapot. And Mrs. Manders went
about her business.

The door was shut, and the stair a pit of blackness. Twice a lodger
passed down, and up and down, and still it did not open. Men and women
walked on the lower flights, and out at the door, and in again. From the
street a shout or a snatch of laughter floated up the pit. On the
pavement footsteps rang crisper and fewer, and from the bottom passage
there were sounds of stagger and sprawl. A demented old clock buzzed
divers hours at random, and was rebuked every twenty minutes by the
regular tread of a policeman on his beat. Finally, somebody shut the
street-door with a great bang, and the street was muffled. A key turned
inside the door on the landing, but that was all. A feeble light shone
for hours along the crack below, and then went out. The crazy old clock
went buzzing on, but nothing left that room all night. Nothing that
opened the door....

When next the key turned, it was to Mrs. Manders's knock, in the full
morning; and soon the two women came out on the landing together, Mrs.
Curtis with a shapeless clump of bonnet. "Ah, 'e's a lovely corpse,"
said Mrs. Manders. "Like wax. So was my 'usband."

"I must be stirrin'," croaked the old woman, "an' go about the insurance
an' the measurin' an' that. There's lots to do."

"Ah, there is. 'Oo are you goin' to 'ave,--Wilkins? I 'ad Wilkins.
Better than Kedge, _I_ think: Kedge's mutes dresses rusty, an' their
trousis is frayed. If you was thinkin' of 'avin' mutes--"

"Yus, yus,"--with a palsied nodding,--"I'm a-goin' to 'ave mutes: I can
do it respectable, thank Gawd!"

"And the plooms?"

"Ay, yus, and the plooms too. They ain't sich a great expense, after



Bill Napper was a heavy man of something between thirty-five and forty.
His moleskin trousers were strapped below the knees, and he wore his
coat loose on his back, with the sleeves tied across his chest. The
casual observer set him down a navvy, but Mrs. Napper punctiliously made
it known that he was "in the paving"; which meant that he was a pavior.
He lived in Canning Town, and was on a footpath job at West Ham (Allen
was the contractor) when he won and began to wear the nickname "Squire."

Daily at the stroke of twelve from the neighboring church, Bill Napper's
mates let drop rammer, trowel, spade, and pick, and turned toward a row
of basins, tied in blue-and-red handkerchiefs, and accompanied of divers
tin cans with smoky bottoms. Bill himself looked toward the street
corner for the punctual Polly bearing his own dinner fresh and hot; for
home was not far, and Polly, being thirteen, had no school now.

One day Polly was nearly ten minutes late. Bill, at first impatient,
grew savage, and thought wrathfully on the strap on its nail by the
kitchen-dresser. But at the end of the ten minutes Polly came, bringing
a letter as well as the basin-load of beef and cabbage. A young man had
left it, she said, after asking many ill-mannered questions. The letter
was addressed "W. Napper, Esq.," with a flourish; the words, "By hand,"
stood in the corner of the envelope; and on the flap at the back were
the embossed characters "T. & N." These things Bill Napper noted several
times over, as he turned the letter about in his hand.

"Seems to me you'll 'ave to open it after all," said one of Bill's
mates; and he opened it, setting back his hat as a preparation to
serious study. The letter was dated from Old Jewry, and ran thus:--

     "_Re_ B. NAPPER _deceased_.

     "DEAR SIR,--We have a communication in this matter from our
     correspondents at Sydney, New South Wales, in respect to
     testamentary dispositions under which you benefit. We shall be
     obliged if you can make it convenient to call at this office any
     day except Saturday between two and four.--Your obedient servants,

     "TIMS & NORTON."

The dinner hour had gone by before the full inner meaning had been
wrested from this letter. "B. Napper deceased" Bill accepted, with a
little assistance, as an announcement of the death of his brother Ben,
who had gone to Australia nearly twenty years ago, and had been
forgotten. "Testamentary dispositions" nobody would tackle with
confidence, although its distinct suggestion of biblical study was duly
remarked. "Benefit" was right enough, and led one of the younger men,
after some thought, to the opinion that Bill Napper's brother might have
left him something: a theory instantly accepted as the most probable,
although some thought it foolish of him not to leave it direct instead
of authorizing the interference of a lawyer, who would want to do Bill
out of it.

Bill Napper put up his tools and went home. There the missis put an end
to doubt by repeating what the lawyer's clerk said: which was nothing
more definite than that Bill had been "left a bit"; and the clerk only
acknowledged so much when he had satisfied himself, by sinuous
questionings, that he had found the real legatee. He further advised the
bringing of certain evidence on the visit to the office. Thus it was
plain that the Napper fortunes were in good case, for, as "a bit" means
money all the world over, the thing was clearly no worthless keepsake.


On the afternoon of the next day, Bill Napper, in clean moleskins and
black coat, made for Old Jewry. On mature consideration he had decided
to go through it alone. There was not merely one lawyer, which would be
bad enough, but two of them in a partnership; and to take the missis,
whose intellects, being somewhat flighty, were quickly divertible by the
palaver of which a lawyer was master, would be to distract and impede
his own faculties. A male friend might not have been so bad, but Bill
could not call to mind one quite cute enough to be of any use, and in
any case such a friend would have to be paid for the loss of his day's
work. Moreover, he might imagine himself to hold a sort of interest in
the proceeds. So Bill Napper went alone.

Having waited the proper time without the bar in the clerk's office, he
was shown into a room where a middle-aged man sat at a writing-table.
There was no other lawyer to be seen. This was a stratagem for which
Bill Napper was not prepared. He looked suspiciously about the room, but
without discovering anything that looked like a hiding-place. Plainly
there were two lawyers, because their names were on the door and on the
letter itself; and the letter said we. Why one should hide it was hard
to guess, unless it were to bear witness to some unguarded expression.
Bill Napper resolved to speak little, and not loud.

The lawyer addressed him affably, inviting him to sit. Then he asked to
see the papers that Bill had brought. These were an old testimonial
reciting that Bill had been employed "with his brother Benjamin" as a
boy in a brick-field, and had given satisfaction; a letter from a parish
guardian, the son of an old employer of Bill's father, certifying that
Bill was his father's son and his brother's brother; copies of the birth
registry of both Bill and his brother, procured that morning; and a
letter from Australia, the last word from Benjamin, dated eighteen years
back. These Bill produced in succession, keeping a firm grip on each as
he placed it beneath the lawyer's nose. The lawyer behaved somewhat
testily under this restraint, but Bill knew better than to let the
papers out of his possession, and would not be done.

When he had seen all, "Well, Mr. Napper," said the lawyer, rather
snappishly (obviously he was balked), "these things seem all right, and
with the inquiries I have already made I suppose I may proceed to pay
you the money. It is a legacy of three hundred pounds. Your brother was
married, and I believe his business and other property goes to his wife
and children. The money is intact, the estate paying legacy duty and
expenses. In cases of this sort there is sometimes an arrangement for
the amount to be paid a little at a time as required; that, however, I
judge, would not be an arrangement to please you. I hope, at any rate,
you will be able to invest the money in a profitable way. I will draw a

Three hundred pounds was beyond Bill Napper's wildest dreams. But he
would not be dazzled out of his caution. Presently the lawyer tore the
check from the book, and pushed it across the table with another paper.
He offered Bill a pen, pointing with his other hand at the bottom of the
second paper, and saying, "This is the receipt. Sign just there,

Bill took up the check, but made no movement toward the pen. "Receipt?"
he grunted softly; "receipt wot for? I ain't 'ad no money."

"There's the check in your hand--the same thing. It's an order to the
bank to hand you the amount--the usual way of paying money in business
affairs. If you would rather have the money paid here, I can send a
clerk to the bank to get it. Give me the check."

But again Bill was not to be done. The lawyer, finding him sharper than
he expected, now wanted to get this tricky piece of paper back. So Bill
only grinned at him, keeping a good hold of the check. The lawyer lost
his temper. "Why, damn it," he said, "you're a curious person to deal
with. D'ye want the money and the check too?"

He rang a bell twice, and a clerk appeared. "Mr. Dixon," said the
lawyer, "I have given this person a check for three hundred pounds. Just
take him round to the bank, and get it cashed. Let him sign the receipt
at the bank. I suppose," he added, turning to Bill, "that you won't
object to giving a receipt when you get the money, eh?"

Bill Napper, conscious of his victory, expressed his willingness to do
the proper thing at the proper time, and went out with the clerk. At the
bank there was little difficulty, except at the clerk's advice to take
the money chiefly in notes, which instantly confirmed Bill in a
determination to accept nothing but gold. When all was done, and the
three hundred sovereigns, carefully counted over for the third and
fourth time, were stowed in small bags about his person, Bill, much
relieved after his spell of watchfulness, insisted on standing the clerk
a drink.

"Ah," he said, "all you City lawyers an' clurks are pretty bleed'n'
sharp, I know, but you ain't done me, an' _I_ don't bear no malice. 'Ave
wot you like--'ave wine or a six o' Irish--I ain't goin' to be stingy.
I'm goin' to do it open an' free, I am, an' set a example to men o'


Bill Napper went home in a hansom, ordering a barrel of beer on the way.
One of the chief comforts of affluence is that you may have beer in by
the barrel; for then Sundays and closing times vex not, and you have but
to reach the length of your arm for another pot whenever moved
thereunto. Nobody in Canning Town had beer by the barrel except the
tradesmen, and for that Bill had long envied the man who kept shop. And
now, at his first opportunity, he bought a barrel of thirty-six gallons.

Once home with the news, and Canning Town was ablaze. Bill Napper had
come in for three thousand, thirty thousand, three hundred
thousand--any number of thousands that were within the compass of the
gossip's command of enumeration. Bill Napper was called "W. Napper,
Esq."--he was to be knighted--he was a long-lost baronet--anything. Bill
Napper came home in a hansom--a brougham--a state coach.

Mrs. Napper went that very evening to the Grove at Stratford to buy silk
and satin, green, red, and yellow--cutting her neighbors dead, right and
left. And by the next morning tradesmen had sent circulars and samples
of goods. Mrs. Napper was for taking a proper position in society, and a
house in a fashionable part--Barking Road, for instance, or even East
India Road, Poplar; but Bill would none of such foolishness. He wasn't
proud, and Canning Town was quite good enough for him. This much,
though, he conceded: that the family should take a whole house of five
rooms in the next street, instead of the two rooms and a cellule
upstairs now rented.

That morning Bill lit his pipe, stuck his hands in his pockets, and
strolled as far as his job. "Wayo, squire," shouted one of the men as he
approached. "'Ere comes the bleed'n' toff," remarked another.

"'Tcheer, 'tcheer, mates," Bill responded, calmly complacent. "I'm
a-goin' to wet it." And all the fourteen men left their paving for the
beer-house close by. The foreman made some demur, but was helpless, and
ended by coming himself. "Now then, gaffer," said Bill, "none o' your
sulks. No one ain't a-goin' to stand out of a drink o' mine--unless 'e
wants to fight. As for the job--damn the job! I'd buy up fifty jobs like
that 'ere and not stop for the change. You send the guv'nor to me if
_'e_ says anythink: unnerstand? You send 'im to _me_." And he laid hands
on the foreman, who was not a big man, and hauled him after the others.

They wetted it for two or three hours, from many quart pots. Then there
appeared between the swing doors the wrathful face of the guv'nor.

The guv'nor's position was difficult. He was only a small master, and
but a few years back had been a working mason. This deserted job was his
first for the parish, and by contract he was bound to end it quickly
under penalty. Moreover, he much desired something on account that week,
and must stand well with the vestry. On the other hand, this was a time
of strikes, and the air was electrical. Several large and successful
movements had quickened a spirit of restlessness in the neighborhood,
and no master was sure of his men. Some slight was fancied, something
was not done as it should have been done from the point of view of the
workshop, and there was a strike, picketing, and bashing. Now, the worst
thing that could have happened to the guv'nor at this moment was one of
those tiny, unrecorded strikes that were bursting out weekly and daily
about him, with the picketing of his two or three jobs. Furious,
therefore, as he was, he dared not discharge every man on the spot. So
he stood in the door, and said: "Look here, I won't stand this sort of
thing--it's a damn robbery. I'll--"

"That's all right, ol' cock," roared Bill Napper, reaching toward the
guv'nor. "You come 'an 'ave a tiddley. I'm a bleed'n' millionaire meself
now, but I ain't proud. What, you won't?"--for the guv'nor,
unenthusiastic, remained at the door. "You're a sulky old bleeder. These
'ere friends o' mine are 'avin' 'arf a day auf at my expense:
unnerstand? My expense. I'm a-payin' for their time, if you dock 'em;
an' I can give _you_ a bob, me fine feller, if you're 'ard up. See?"

The guv'nor addressed himself to the foreman. "What's the meaning o'
this, Walker?" he said. "What game d'ye call it?"

Bill Napper, whom a succession of pots had made uproarious, slapped the
foreman violently on the shoulder. "This 'ere's the gaffer," he
shouted. "'E's all right. 'E come 'ere 'cos 'e couldn't 'elp 'isself. I
made 'im come, forcible. Don't you bear no spite agin' the gaffer, d'y'
ear? 'E's my mate, is the gaffer; an' I could buy you up forty times,
s'elp me--but I ain't proud. An' you're a bleed'n' gawblimy

"Well," said the guv'nor to the assembled company, but still ignoring
Bill, "don't you think there's been about enough of this?"

A few of the men glanced at one another, and one or two rose. "Awright,
guv'nor," said one, "we're auf." And two more echoed, "Awright,
guv'nor," and began to move away.

"Ah!" said Bill Napper, with disgust, as he turned to finish his pot,
"you're a blasted nigger-driver, you are. An' a sulky beast," he added
as he set the pot down. "Never mind," he pursued, "_I'm_ awright, an' I
ain't a 'arf-paid kerb-whacker no more, under you."

"You was a damn sight better kerb-whacker than you are a millionaire,"
the guv'nor retorted, feeling safer now that his men were getting back
to work.

"None o' your lip," replied Bill, rising and reaching for a pipe-spill:
"none o' your lip, you work'us stone-breaker." Then, turning with a
sudden access of fury, "I'll knock yer face off, blimy!" he shouted, and
raised his fist.

"Now, then, none o' that here, please," cried the landlord from behind
the bar; unto whom Bill Napper, with all his wonted obedience in that
quarter, answered only, "All right, guv'nor," and subsided.

Left alone, he soon followed the master-pavior and his men through the
swing doors, and so went home. In his own street, observing two small
boys in the prelusory stages of a fight, he put up sixpence by way of
stakes, and supervised the battle from the seat afforded by a convenient
window-sill. After that he bought a morning paper, and lay upon his bed
to read it, with a pipe and a jug; for he was beginning a life of
leisure and comfort, wherein every day should be a superior Sunday.


Thus far the outward and visible signs of the Napper wealth were these:
the separate house; the barrel of beer; a piano--not bought as a musical
instrument, but as one of the visible signs; a daily paper, also
primarily a sign; the bonnets and dresses of the missis; and the
perpetual possession of Bill Napper by a varying degree of fuddlement.
An inward and dissembled sign was a regiment, continually reinforced,
of mostly empty bottles, in a cupboard kept sacred by the missis. And
the faculties of that good lady herself experienced a fluctuating
confusion from causes not always made plain to Bill: for the money was
kept in the bedroom chest of drawers, and it was easy to lay hands on a
half-sovereign as required without unnecessary disturbance.

Now and again Bill Napper would discuss the abstract question of
entering upon some investment or business pursuit. Land had its
advantages; great advantages; and he had been told that it was very
cheap just now, in some places. Houses were good, too, and a suitable
possession for a man of consideration. Not so desirable on the whole,
however, as Land. You bought your Land and--well there it was, and you
could take things easily. But with Houses there was rent to collect, and
repairs to see to, and so forth. It was a vastly paying thing for any
man with capital to be a Merchant; but there was work even in that, and
you had to be perpetually on guard against sharp chaps in the City. A
public-house, suggested by one of his old mates on the occasion of
wetting it, was out of the question. There was tick, and long hours, and
a sharp look-out, and all kinds of trouble, which a man with money would
be a fool to encounter. Altogether, perhaps, Land seemed to be the
thing: although there was no need to bother now, and plenty of time to
turn things over, even if the matter were worth pondering at all, when
it was so easy for a man to live on his means. After all, to take your
boots off, and lie on the bed with a pipe and a pot and the paper was
very comfortable, and you could always stroll out and meet a mate, or
bring him in when so disposed.

Of an evening the Albert Music Hall was close at hand, and the Queen's
not very far away. And on Sundays and Saturday afternoons Bill would
often take a turn down by the dock gates, or even in Victoria Park, or
Mile End Waste, where there were speakers of all sorts. At the dock
gates it was mostly Labor and Anarchy, but at the other places there was
a fine variety; you could always be sure of a few minutes of
Teetotalism, Evangelism, Atheism, Republicanism, Salvationism,
Socialism, Anti-Vaccinationism, and Social Purity, with now and again
some Mormonism or another curious exotic. Most of the speakers denounced
something, and if the denunciations of one speaker were not sufficiently
picturesque and lively, you passed on to the next. Indeed, you might
always judge afar off where the best denouncing was going on by the size
of the crowds, at least until the hat went round.

It was at Mile End Waste that a good notion occurred to Bill Napper. He
had always vastly admired the denunciations of one speaker--a little
man, shabbier, if anything, than most of the others, and surpassingly
tempestuous of antic. He was an unattached orator, not confining himself
to any particular creed, but denouncing whatever seemed advisable,
considering the audience and circumstances. He was always denouncing
something somewhere, and was ever in a crisis that demanded the
circulation of a hat. Bill esteemed this speaker for his versatility as
well as for the freshness of his abuse, and Bill's sudden notion was to
engage him for private addresses.

The orator did not take kindly to the proposal at first, strongly
suspecting something in the nature of "guy" or "kid"; but a serious
assurance of a shilling for an occasional hour and the payment of one in
advance brought him over. After this Squire Napper never troubled to go
to Mile End Waste. He sat at ease in his parlor, with his pot on the
piano, while the orator, with another pot on the mantelpiece, stood up
and denounced to order. "Tip us the Teetotal an'
Down-with-the-Public-'Ouse," Bill would request, and the orator (his
name was Minns) would oblige in that line till most of the strong
phrases had run out, and had begun to recur. Then Bill would say, "Now
come the Rights o' Labor caper." Whereupon Minns would take a pull at
the pot, and proceed to denounce Capital, Bill Napper applauding or
groaning at the pauses provided for those purposes. And so on with
whatever subjects appealed to the patron's fancy. It was a fancy that
sometimes put the orator's invention to grievous straits; but for Bill
the whole performance was peculiarly privileged and dignified. For to
have an orator gesticulating and speechifying all to one's self, on
one's own order and choice of subject, is a thing not given to all men.

One day Minns turned up (not having been invited) with a friend. Bill
did not take to the friend. He was a lank-jawed man with a shifty eye,
who smiled as he spoke, and showed a top row of irregular and dirty
teeth. This friend, Minns explained, was a journalist--a writer of
newspapers; and between them they had an idea, which idea the friend set
forth. Everybody, he said, who knew the history of Mr. Napper admired
his sturdy independence and democratic simplicity. He was of the people
and not ashamed of it. ("Well, no, I ain't proud," Bill interjected,
wondering what was coming.) With all the advantages of wealth, he
preferred to remain one of the people, living among them plainly,
conforming to their simple habits, and sympathizing with their sorrows.
("This chap," thought Bill, "wants to be took on to hold forth turn
about with the other, and he's showing his capers; but I ain't on it.")
It was the knowledge of these things, so greatly to Mr. Napper's honor,
that had induced Minns and Minns's friend to place before him a means by
which he might do the cause of toiling humanity a very great service. A
new weekly paper was wanted--wanted very badly: a paper that should rear
its head on behalf of the downtrodden toilers, and make its mighty voice
heard with dread by the bloated circles of Class and Privilege. That
paper would prove a marvellously paying investment to its proprietor,
bringing him enormous profits every week. He would have a vast fortune
in that paper alone, besides the glory and satisfaction of striking the
great blow that should pave the way to the emancipation of the Masses
and the destruction of the vile system of society whose whole and sole
effect was the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the Grasping Few.
Being professionally disengaged at present, he (the speaker), in
conjunction with his friend Minns, had decided to give Mr. Napper the
opportunity of becoming its proprietor.

Bill was more than surprised: he was also a little bewildered. "What,"
he said, after two draws of his pipe, "d'ye mean you want me to go in
the printin' line?"

That was not at all necessary. The printing would be done by contract.
Mr. Napper would only have to find the money. The paper, with a couple
of thousand pounds behind it--or even one thousand (Minns's friend read
a difficulty in Bill's face)--would be established forever. Even five
hundred would do, and many successful papers had been floated with no
more than a couple of hundred or so. Suppose they said just a couple of
hundred to go on with, till the paper found its legs and began to pay?
How would that do?

Bill Napper smoked a dozen whiffs. Then he said: "An' what should I 'ave
to do with the two 'undred pound? Buy anythink?"

Not directly that, the promoters explained. It would finance the
thing--just finance it.

"'Oo'd 'ave the money then?"

That was perfectly simple. It would simply be handed over to Minns and
his friend, and they would attend to all the details.

Bill Napper continued to smoke. Then, beginning with a slight chuckle at
the back of his throat, he said: "W'en I got my money, I went to a
lawyer's for it. There was two lawyers--one layin' low. There was two
fust-rate lawyers an' a lot o' clurks--City clurks--an' a bank an' all.
An' they couldn't 'ave me, not for a single farden--not a farden, try
an' fiddle as they would.... Well, arter that, it ain't much good _you_
a-tryin' it on, is it?" And he chuckled again, louder.

Minns was indignant, and Minns's friend was deeply hurt. Both protested.
Bill Napper laughed aloud. "Awright, you'll do," he said; "you'll do. My
'abits may be simple, but they ain't as simple as all that. Ha--ha!
'Ere, 'ave a drink--you ain't done no 'arm, an' I ain't spiteful.

It was on an evening a fortnight after this that, as Bill Napper lay,
very full of beer and rather sleepy, on the bed--the rest of his
household being out of doors--a ladder was quietly planted against the
outer wall from the back-yard. Bill heard nothing until the window,
already a little open, was slowly pushed up, and from the twilight
outside a head and an arm plunged into the thicker darkness of the room,
and a hand went feeling along the edge of the chest of drawers by the
window. Bill rolled over on the bed, and reached from the floor one of a
pair of heavy iron-set boots. Taking the toe in his right hand, and
grasping the footrail of the bedstead with his left, he raised himself
on his knees, and brought the boot-heel down heavily on the intruding
head. There was a gasp, and the first breath of a yell, and head, arm,
shoulders, and body vanished with a bump and a rattle. Bill Napper let
the boot fall, dropped back on the bed, and took no further heed.

Neither Minns nor his friend ever came back again, but for some time
after, at Victoria Park, Minns, inciting an outraged populace to rise
and sweep police and army from the earth, was able to point to an
honorable scar on his own forehead, the proof and sign of a police
bludgeoning at Tower Hill--or Trafalgar Square.


Things went placidly on for near ten months. Many barrels of beer had
come in full and been sent empty away. Also the missis had got a gold
watch and divers new bonnets and gowns, some by gift from Bill, some by
applying privily to the drawer. Her private collection of bottles, too,
had been cleared out twice, and was respectable for the third time.
Everybody was not friendly with her, and one bonnet had been torn off
her head by a neighbor who disliked her airs.

So it stood when, on a certain morning, Bill being minded to go out,
found but two shillings in his pocket. He called upstairs to the missis,
as was his custom in such a pass, asking her to fetch a sovereign or two
when she came down; and as she was long in coming, he went up himself.
The missis left the room hurriedly, and Bill, after raking out every
corner of the drawer (which he himself had not opened for some time) saw
not a single coin. The missis had no better explanation than that there
must have been thieves in the house some time lately: a suggestion
deprived of some value by the subsequent protest that Bill couldn't
expect money to last forever, and that he had had the last three days
ago. In the end there was a vehement row, and the missis was severely

The thumping over, Bill Napper conceived a great idea. Perhaps after all
the lawyers had done him by understating the amount his brother had
left. It might well have been five hundred pounds--a thousand
pounds--anything. Probably it was, and the lawyers had had the
difference. Plainly, three hundred pounds was a suspiciously small sum
to inherit from a well-to-do brother. He would go to the lawyers and
demand the rest of his money. He would not reveal his purpose till he
saw the lawyers face to face, and then he would make his demand
suddenly, so that surprise and consternation should overwhelm and betray
them. He would give them to understand that he had complete evidence of
the whole swindle. In any case he could lose nothing. He went, after
carefully preparing his part, and was turned out by a policeman.

"After that," mused Squire Napper, going home, "I suppose I'd better see
about getting a job at Allen's again. He can't but make me gaffer,
considering I've been a man of property."


Mrs. Jennings (or Jinnins, as the neighbors would have it) ruled
absolutely at home, when she took so much trouble as to do anything at
all there--which was less often than might have been. As for Robert, her
husband, he was a poor stick, said the neighbors. And yet he was a man
with enough of hardihood to remain a non-unionist in the erector's shop
at Maidment's all the years of his service; no mean test of a man's
fortitude and resolution, as many a sufferer for independent opinion
might testify. The truth was that Bob never grew out of his
courtship-blindness. Mrs. Jennings governed as she pleased, stayed out
or came home as she chose, and cooked a dinner or didn't, as her
inclination stood. Thus it was for ten years, during which time there
were no children, and Bob bore all things uncomplaining: cooking his own
dinner when he found none cooked, and sewing on his own buttons. Then of
a sudden came children, till in three years there were three; and Bob
Jennings had to nurse and to wash them as often as not.

Mrs. Jennings at this time was what is called rather a fine woman: a
woman of large scale and full development; whose slatternly habit left
her coarse black hair to tumble in snake-locks about her face and
shoulders half the day; who, clad in half-hooked clothes, bore herself
notoriously and unabashed in her fulness; and of whom ill things were
said regarding the lodger. The gossips had their excuse. The lodger was
an irregular young cabinetmaker, who lost quarters and halves and whole
days; who had been seen abroad with his landlady, what time Bob Jennings
was putting the children to bed at home; who on his frequent holidays
brought in much beer, which he and the woman shared, while Bob was at
work. To carry the tale to Bob would have been a thankless errand, for
he would have none of anybody's sympathy, even in regard to miseries
plain to his eye. But the thing got about in the workshop, and there his
days were made bitter.

At home things grew worse. To return at half-past five, and find the
children still undressed, screaming, hungry, and dirty, was a matter of
habit: to get them food, to wash them, to tend the cuts and bumps
sustained through the day of neglect, before lighting a fire and
getting tea for himself, were matters of daily duty. "Ah," he said to
his sister, who came at intervals to say plain things about Mrs.
Jennings, "you shouldn't go for to set a man agin 'is wife, Jin. Melier
do'n' like work, I know, but that's nach'ral to 'er. She ought to
married a swell 'stead o' me; she might 'a' done easy if she liked,
bein' sich a fine gal; but she's good-'arted, is Melier; an' she can't
'elp bein' a bit thoughtless." Whereat his sister called him a fool (it
was her customary good-by at such times), and took herself off.

Bob Jennings's intelligence was sufficient for his common needs, but it
was never a vast intelligence. Now, under a daily burden of dull misery,
it clouded and stooped. The base wit of the workshop he comprehended
less, and realized more slowly, than before; and the gaffer cursed him
for a sleepy dolt.

Mrs. Jennings ceased from any pretence of housewifery, and would
sometimes sit--perchance not quite sober--while Bob washed the children
in the evening, opening her mouth only to express her contempt for him
and his establishment, and to make him understand that she was sick of
both. Once, exasperated by his quietness, she struck at him; and for a
moment he was another man. "Don't do that, Melier," he said, "else I
might forget myself." His manner surprised his wife: and it was such
that she never did do that again.

So was Bob Jennings: without a friend in the world, except his sister,
who chid him, and the children, who squalled at him: when his wife
vanished with the lodger, the clock, a shade of wax flowers, Bob's best
boots (which fitted the lodger), and his silver watch. Bob had returned,
as usual, to the dirt and the children, and it was only when he struck a
light that he found the clock was gone. "Mummy tooked ve t'ock," said
Milly, the eldest child, who had followed him in from the door, and now
gravely observed his movements. "She tooked ve t'ock an' went ta-ta. An'
she tooked ve fyowers."

Bob lit the paraffin lamp with the green glass reservoir, and carried it
and its evil smell about the house. Some things had been turned over and
others had gone, plainly. All Melier's clothes were gone. The lodger was
not in, and under his bedroom window, where his box had stood, there was
naught but an oblong patch of conspicuously clean wall-paper. In a
muddle of doubt and perplexity, Bob found himself at the front door,
staring up and down the street. Divers women-neighbors stood at their
doors, and eyed him curiously; for Mrs. Webster, moralist, opposite, had
not watched the day's proceedings (nor those of many other days) for
nothing, nor had she kept her story to herself.

He turned back into the house, a vague notion of what had befallen
percolating feebly through his bewilderment. "I dunno--I dunno," he
faltered, rubbing his ear. His mouth was dry, and he moved his lips
uneasily, as he gazed with aimless looks about the walls and ceiling.
Presently his eyes rested on the child, and "Milly," he said decisively,
"come an' 'ave yer face washed."

He put the children to bed early, and went out. In the morning, when his
sister came, because she had heard the news in common with everybody
else, he had not returned. Bob Jennings had never lost more than two
quarters in his life, but he was not seen at the workshop all this day.
His sister stayed in the house, and in the evening, at his regular
homing-time, he appeared, haggard and dusty, and began his preparations
for washing the children. When he was made to understand that they had
been already attended to, he looked doubtful and troubled for a moment.
Presently he said: "I ain't found 'er yet, Jin; I was in 'opes she might
'a' bin back by this. I--I don't expect she'll be very long. She was
alwis a bit larky, was Melier; but very good-'arted."

His sister had prepared a strenuous lecture on the theme of "I told you
so"; but the man was so broken, so meek, and so plainly unhinged in his
faculties, that she suppressed it. Instead she gave him comfortable
talk, and made him promise in the end to sleep that night, and take up
his customary work in the morning.

He did these things, and could have worked placidly enough had he been
alone; but the tale had reached the workshop, and there was no lack of
brutish chaff to disorder him. This the decenter men would have no part
in, and even protested against. But the ill-conditioned kept their way,
till, at the cry of "Bell O!" when all were starting for dinner, one of
the worst shouted the cruellest gibe of all. Bob Jennings turned on him
and knocked him over a scrapheap.

A shout went up from the hurrying workmen, with a chorus of "Serve ye
right," and the fallen joker found himself awkwardly confronted by the
shop bruiser. But Bob had turned to a corner, and buried his eyes in the
bend of his arm, while his shoulders heaved and shook.

He slunk away home, and stayed there: walking restlessly to and fro, and
often peeping down the street from the window. When, at twilight, his
sister came again, he had become almost cheerful, and said with some
briskness, "I'm a-goin' to meet 'er, Jin, at seven. I know where she'll
be waitin'."

He went upstairs, and after a little while came down again in his best
black coat, carefully smoothing a tall hat of obsolete shape with his
pocket-handkerchief. "I ain't wore it for years," he said. "I ought to
'a' wore it--it might 'a' pleased 'er. She used to say she wouldn't walk
with me in no other--when I used to meet 'er in the evenin', at seven
o'clock." He brushed assiduously, and put the hat on. "I'd better 'ave a
shave round the corner as I go along," he added, fingering his stubbly

He received as one not comprehending his sister's persuasion to remain
at home; but when he went she followed at a little distance. After his
penny shave he made for the main road, where company-keeping couples
walked up and down all evening. He stopped at a church, and began pacing
slowly to and fro before it, eagerly looking out each way as he went.

His sister watched him for nearly half an hour, and then went home. In
two hours more she came back with her husband. Bob was still there,
walking to and fro.

"'Ullo, Bob," said his brother-in-law; "come along 'ome an' get to bed,
there's a good chap. You'll be awright in the mornin'."

"She ain't turned up," Bob complained, "or else I've missed 'er. This is
the reg'lar place--where I alwis used to meet 'er. But she'll come
to-morrer. She used to leave me in the lurch sometimes, bein' nach'rally
larky. But very good-'arted, mindjer; very good-'arted."

She did not come the next evening, nor the next, nor the evening after,
nor the one after that. But Bob Jennings, howbeit depressed and anxious,
was always confident. "Somethink's prevented 'er to-night," he would
say, "but she'll come to-morrer.... I'll buy a blue tie to-morrer--she
used to like me in a blue tie. I won't miss 'er to-morrer. I'll come a
little earlier."

So it went. The black coat grew ragged in the service, and hobbledehoys,
finding him safe sport, smashed the tall hat over his eyes time after
time. He wept over the hat, and straightened it as best he might. Was
she coming? Night after night, and night and night. But to-morrow....


There are some poor criminals that never have a chance: circumstances
are against them from the first, as they explain, with tears, to
sympathetic mission-readers. Circumstances had always been against
Scuddy Lond, the gun. The word gun, it may be explained, is a friendly
synonym for thief.

His first name was properly James, but that had been long forgotten.
"Scuddy" meant nothing in particular, was derived from nothing, and was
not, apparently, the invention of any distinct person. Still, it was
commonly his only name, and most of his acquaintances had also nicknames
of similarly vague origin. Scuddy was a man of fine feelings, capable of
a most creditable hour of rapturous misery after hearing, perhaps at a
sing-song, "Put Me in my Little Bed," or any other ditty that was rank
enough in sentiment: wherefore the mission-readers never really
despaired of him. He was a small, shabby man of twenty-six, but looking
younger; with a runaway chin, a sharp yellow face, and tremulously sly
eyes; with but faint traces of hair on his face, he had a great deal of
it, straight and ragged and dirty, on his head.

Scuddy Lond's misfortunes began early. Temptation had prevailed against
him when he was at school, but that was nothing. He became errand boy in
a grocer's shop, and complications with the till brought him, a howling
penitent, to the police court. Here, while his mother hid her head in
the waiting-room, he set forth the villainy of older boys who had
prompted him to sin, and got away with no worse than a lecture on the
evils of bad company. So that a philanthropist found him a better
situation at a distance, where the evil influence could no longer move
him. Here he stayed a good while--longer than some who had been there
before him, but who had to leave because of vanishing postal orders.
Nevertheless, the postal orders still went, and in the end he confessed
to another magistrate, and fervently promised to lead a better life if
his false start were only forgiven. Betting, he protested, was this time
the author of his fall; and as that pernicious institution was clearly
to blame for the unhappy young man's ruin, the lamenting magistrate let
him off with a simple month in consideration of his misfortune and the
intercession of his employer, who had never heard of the grocer and his

After his month Scuddy went regularly into business as a lob-crawler:
that is to say, he returned to his first love, the till: not narrowly to
any individual till, but broad-mindedly to the till as a general
institution, to be approached in unattended shops by stealthy grovelling
on the belly. This he did until he perceived the greater security and
comfort of waiting without while a small boy did the actual work within.
From this, and with this, he ventured on peter-claiming: laying hands
nonchalantly on unconsidered parcels and bags at railway stations, until
a day when, bearing a fat portmanteau, he ran against its owner by the
door of a refreshment bar. This time the responsibility lay with Drink.
Strong Drink, he declared, with deep emotion, had been his ruin; he
dated his downfall from the day when a false friend persuaded him to
take a Social Glass; he would still have been an honest, upright,
self-respecting young man but for the Cursed Drink. From that moment he
would never touch it more. The case was met with three months with hard
labor, and for all that Scuddy Lond had so clearly pointed out the
culpability of Drink, he had to do the drag himself. But the
mission-readers were comforted: for clearly there was hope for one whose
eyes were so fully opened to the causes of his degradation.

After the drag, Scuddy for long made a comfortable living, free from
injurious overwork, in the several branches of lob-crawling and
peter-claiming, with an occasional deviation into parlor-jumping. It is
true that this last _did_ sometimes involve unpleasant exertion when the
window was high and the boy heavy to bunk up; and it was necessary, at
times, to run. But Scuddy was out of work, and hunger drove him to
anything, so long as it was light and not too risky. And it is
marvellous to reflect how much may be picked up in the streets and at
the side-doors of London and the suburbs without danger or vulgar
violence. And so Scuddy's life went on, with occasional misfortunes in
the way of a moon, or another drag, or perhaps a sixer. And the
mission-readers never despaired, because the real cause was always
hunger, or thirst, or betting, or a sudden temptation, or something
quite exceptional--never anything like real, hardened, unblushing
wickedness; and the man himself was always truly penitent. He made such
touching references to his innocent childhood, and was so grateful for
good advice or anything else you might give him.

One bold attempt Scuddy made to realize his desire for better things. He
resolved to depart from his evil ways and to become a nark--a copper's
nark--which is a police spy, or informer. The work was not hard, there
was no imprisonment, and he would make amends for the past. But hardly
had he begun his narking when some of the Kate Street mob dropped on him
in Brick Lane, and bashed him full sore. This would never do: so once
more implacable circumstance drove him to his old courses. And there was
this added discomfort: that no boy would parlor-jump nor dip the lob for
him. Indeed they bawled aloud, "Yah, Scuddy Lond the copper's nark!" So
that the hand of all Flower and Dean Street was against him. Scuddy grew
very sad.

These and other matters were heavy upon his heart on an evening when,
with nothing in his pockets but the piece of coal that he carried for
luck, he turned aimlessly up Baker's Row. Things were very bad: it was
as though the whole world knew him--and watched. Shopkeepers stood
frowningly at their doors. People sat defiantly on piles of luggage at
the railway stations, and there was never a peter to touch for. All the
areas were empty, and there were no side-doors left unguarded, where,
failing the more desirable wedge, one might claim a pair or two of
daisies put out for cleaning. All the hundred trifling things that
commonly come freely to hand in a mile or two of streets were somehow
swept out of the world's economy; and Scuddy tramped into Baker's Row
in melting mood. Why were things so hard for some and so easy for
others? It was not as though he were to blame--he, a man of feeling and
sentiment. Why were others living comfortable lives unvexed of any dread
of the police? And apart from that, why did other gonophs get lucky
touches for half a century of quids at a time, while he!... But there:
the world was one brutal oppression, and he was its most pitiable
victim; and he slunk along, dank with the pathos of things.

At a corner a group was standing about a woman, whose voice was uplifted
to a man's accompaniment on a stand-accordion. Scuddy listened. She
sang, with a harsh tremble:--

     "An' sang a song of 'ome, sweet 'ome,
         The song that reached my 'art.
     'Ome, 'ome, sweet, sweet 'ome,
     She sang the song of 'ome, sweet 'ome,
         The song that reached my 'art."

Here, indeed, was something in tune with Scuddy's fine feelings. He
looked up. From the darkening sky the evening star winked through the
smoke from a factory chimney. From anear came an exquisite scent of
saveloys. Plaintive influences all. He tried to think of 'ome
himself--of 'ome strictly in the abstract, so that it might reach his
'art. He stood for some minutes torpid and mindless, oozing with
sentiment: till the song ended, and he went on. Fine feelings--fine.

He crossed the road, and took a turning. A lame old woman sat in a
recess selling trotters, where a dark passage led back to a
mission-hall. About the opening a man hovered--fervent, watchful--and
darted forth on passers-by. He laid his hand on Scuddy's shoulder, and
said: "My dear friend, will you come in an' 'ear the word of the Lord
Jesus Christ?"

Scuddy turned: the sound of an harmonium and many strenuous voices came
faintly down the passage. It was his mood. Why not give his fine
feelings another little run? He would: he would go in.

"Trotters!" quavered the lame old woman, looking up wistfully. "Two a
penny! Two a penny!" But no: he went up the passage, and she turned
patiently to her board.

Along the passage the singing grew louder, and burst on his ears
unchecked as he pushed open the door at the end:--

     "'Oosoever will, 'oosoever will,
     Send the proclamation over vale an' 'ill;
     'Tis a lovin' Father calls the wand'rer 'ome,
     'Oosoever will may come!"

A man by the door knew him at once for a stranger, and found him a seat.
The hymn went quavering to an end, and the preacher in charge, a small,
bright-eyed man with rebellious hair and a surprisingly deep voice,
announced that Brother Spyers would offer a prayer.

The man prayed with his every faculty. He was a sturdy, red-necked
artisan, great of hand and wiry of beard: a smith, perhaps, or a
bricklayer. He spread his arms wide, and, his head thrown back, brought
forth, with passion and pain, his fervid, disordered sentences. As he
went on, his throat swelled and convulsed in desperate knots, and the
sweat hung thick on his face. He called for grace, that every unsaved
soul there might come to the fold and believe that night. Or if not all,
then some--even a few. That at least one, only one, poor soul might be
plucked as a brand from the burning. And as he flung together, with
clumsy travail, his endless, formless, unconsidered vehemences of
uttermost Cockney, the man stood transfigured, admirable.

From here and there came deep amens. Then more, with gasps, groans, and
sobs. Scuddy Lond, carried away luxuriously on a tide of grievous
sensation, groaned with the others. The prayer ended in a chorus of
ejaculations. Then there was a hymn. Somebody stuffed an open hymn-book
into Scuddy's hand, but he scarce saw it. Abandoning himself to the
mesmeric influence of the many who were singing about him, he plunged
and revelled in a debauch of emotion. He heard, he even joined in; but
understood nothing, for his feelings filled him to overflowing.

     "I 'ave a robe: 'tis resplendent in w'iteness,
       Awaitin' in glory my wonderin' view:
     Oh, w'en I receive it, all shinin' in brightness,
       Dear friend, could I see you receivin' one too!
         For you I am prayin'! For you I am prayin'!
         For you I am prayin', I'm prayin' for you."

The hymn ceased; all sat down, and the preacher began his discourse:
quietly at first, and then, though in a different way, with all the
choking fervor of the man who had prayed. For the preacher was fluent as
well as zealous, and his words, except when emotion stayed them, poured
in a torrent. He preached faith--salvation in faith--declaiming,
beseeching, commanding. "Come--come! Now is the appointed time! Only
believe--only come! Only--only come!" To impassioned, broken entreaty he
added sudden command and the menace of eternity, but broke away
pitifully again in urgent pleadings, pantings, gasps; pointing above,
spreading his arms abroad, stretching them forth imploringly. Come, only

Sobs broke out in more than one place. A woman bowed her head and
rocked, while her shoulders shook again. Brother Spyers's face was
alight with joy. A tremor, a throe of the senses, ran through the
assembly as through a single body.

The preacher, nearing his peroration, rose to a last frenzy of
adjuration. Then, ending in a steadier key, he summoned any to stand
forth who had found grace that night.

His bright, strenuous eyes were on the sobbers, charging them, drawing
them. First rose the woman who had bowed her head. Her face uncovered
but distorted and twitching, still weeping but rapt and unashamed, she
tottered out between the seats, and sank at last on the vacant form in
front. Next a child, a little maid of ten, lank-legged and outgrown of
her short skirts, her eyes squeezed down on a tight knot of
pocket-handkerchief, crying wildly, broken-heartedly, sobbed and
blundered over seat-corners and toes, and sat down, forlorn and
solitary, at the other end of the form. And after her came Scuddy Lond.

Why, he knew not--nor cared. In the full enjoyment of a surfeit of
indefinite emotion, tearful, rapturous, he had accepted the command put
on him by the preacher, and he had come forth, walking on clouds,
regenerate, compact of fine feelings. There was a short prayer of
thanks, and then a final hymn:--

     "Ring the bells of 'eaven, there is joy to-day,
       For a soul returnin' from the wild!"

Scuddy felt a curious equable lightness of spirits--a serene
cheerfulness. His emotional orgasm was spent, and in its place was a
numb calm, pleasant enough.

     "Glory! glory! 'ow the angels sing--
     Glory! glory! 'ow the loud 'arps ring!
     'Tis the ransomed army, like a mighty sea,
     Pealin' forth the anthem of the free!"

The service ended. The congregation trooped forth into the evening; but
Scuddy sat where he was, for the preacher wanted a few words with his
converts ere he would let them go. He shook hands with Scuddy Lond, and
spoke with grave, smiling confidence about his soul. Brother Spyers also
shook hands with him and bespoke his return on Sunday.

In the cool air of the empty passage, Scuddy's ordinary faculties began
to assert themselves; still in an atmosphere of calm cheer. Fine
feelings--fine. And as he turned the piece of coal in his pocket, he
reflected that, after all, the day had not been altogether unlucky--not
in every sense a blank. Emerging into the street, he saw that the lame
old woman, who was almost alone in view, had risen on her crutch and
turned her back to roll her white cloth over her remaining trotters. On
the ledge behind stood her little pile of coppers, just reckoned. Scuddy
Lond's practised eye took the case in a flash. With two long tip-toed
steps he reached the coppers, lifted them silently, and hurried away up
the street. He did not run, for the woman was lame and had not heard
him. No: decidedly the day had not been blank. For here was a hot



"All that messuage dwelling-house and premises now standing on part of
the said parcel of ground" was the phrase in the assignment of lease,
although it only meant Number Twenty-seven Mulberry Street, Old Ford,
containing five rooms and a wash-house, and sharing a dirty front wall
with the rest of the street on the same side. The phrase was a very fine
one, and, with others more intricate, lent not a little to the triumph
and the perplexity the transaction filled old Jack Randall withal. The
business was a conjunction of purchase and mortgage, whereby old Jack
Randall, having thirty pounds of his own, had, after half-an-hour of
helpless stupefaction in a solicitor's office in Cornhill, bought a
house for two hundred and twenty pounds, and paid ten pounds for stamps
and lawyer's fees. The remaining two hundred pounds had been furnished
by the Indubitable Perpetual Building Society, on the security of a
mortgage; and the loan, with its interest, was to be repaid in monthly
instalments of two pounds and fourpence during twelve years. Thus old
Jack Randall designed to provide for the wants and infirmities of age;
and the outright purchase, he argued, was a thing of mighty easy
accomplishment. For the house let at nine shillings a week, which was
twenty-three pounds eight shillings a year; and the mortgage
instalments, with the ground rent of three pounds a year, only came to
twenty-seven pounds four, leaving a difference of three pounds sixteen,
which would be more than covered by a saving of eighteenpence a week:
certainly not a difficult saving for a man with a regular job and no
young family, who had put by thirty pounds in little more than three
years. Thus on many evenings old Jack Randall and his wife would figure
out the thing, wholly forgetting rates and taxes and repairs.

Old Jack stood on the pavement of Cornhill, and stared at the traffic.
When he remembered that Mrs. Randall was by his side, he said, "Well,
mother, we done it;" and his wife replied, "Yus, fa', you're a lan'lord
now." Hereat he chuckled and began to walk eastward. For to be a
landlord is the ultimate dignity. There is no trouble, no anxiety in the
world if you are a landlord; and there is no work. You just walk round
on Monday mornings (or maybe you even drive in a trap), and you collect
your rents: eight and six, or nine shillings, or ten shillings, as the
case may be. And there you are! It is better than shopkeeping, because
the money comes by itself; and it is infinitely more genteel. Also, it
is better than having money in a bank and drawing interest; because the
house cannot run away as is the manner of directors, nor dissolve into
nothingness as is the way of banks. And here was he, Jack Randall,
walking down Leadenhall Street a landlord. He mounted a tram-car at
Aldgate, and all things were real.


Old Jack had always been old Jack since at fourteen young Jack had come
'prentice in the same engine-turner's shop. Young Jack was a married man
himself now, at another shop; and old Jack was near fifty, and had set
himself toward thrift. All along Whitechapel Road, Mile End Road, and
Bow Road he considered the shops and houses from the tram-roof, madly
estimating rents and values. Near Bow Road end he and his wife alighted,
and went inspecting Twenty-seven Mulberry Street once more. Old Jack
remarked that the scraper was of a different shape from that he had
carried in his mind since their last examination; and he mentioned it to
Mrs. Randall, who considered the scraper of fact rather better than the
scraper of memory. They walked to and fro several times, judging the
door and three windows from each side of the street, and in the end they
knocked, with a purpose of reporting the completed purchase. But the
tenant's wife, peeping from behind a blind, and seeing only the people
who had already come spying about the house some two or three times,
retired to the back and went on with her weekly washing.

They waited a little, repeated the knock, and then went away. The whole
day was "off," and a stroll in the Tower Hamlets Cemetery was decided
on. Victoria Park was as near, but was not in the direction of home.
Moreover, there was less interest for Mrs. Randall in Victoria Park,
because there were no funerals. In the cemetery, Mrs. Randall solaced
herself and old Jack with the more sentimental among the inscriptions.
In the poor part, whose miscellaneous graves are marked by mounds alone,
they stopped to look at a very cheap funeral.

"Lor', Jack," Mrs. Randall said under her breath with a nudge, "wot a
common caufin! Why, the body's very nigh a-droppin' through the
bottom!" The thin under-board had, in fact, a bulge. "Pore chap! ain't
it shockin'!"

The ignominy of a funeral with no feathers was a thing accepted of
course, but the horror of a cheap coffin they had never realized till
now. They turned away. In the main path they met the turgid funeral of a
Bow Road bookmaker. After the dozen mourning coaches there were cars and
pony traps, and behind these came a fag-end of carts and donkey-barrows.
Ahead of all was the glazed hearse, with attendants in weepers, and by
it, full of the pride of artistry, walked the undertaker himself.

"Now that," said old Jack, "is somethin' like a caufin." (It was heavy
and polished and beset with bright fittings.) "Ah," sighed his missis,
"ain't it lovely!"

The hearse drew up at the chapel door, where the undertaker turned to
the right-about and placidly surveyed the movements of his forces. Mrs.
Randall murmured again: "Lovely--lovely!" and kept her eyes on the
coffin. Then she edged gently up to the undertaker, and whispered, "What
would that kind o' caufin be called, mister?"

The undertaker looked at her from the sides of his eyes, and answered
briskly, "Two-inch polished oak solid extry brass fittin's." Mrs.
Randall returned to old Jack's side and repeated the words. "That must
cost a lot," she said. "What a thing, though, to be certain you won't be
buried in a trumpery box like that other! Ah, it's well to be rich."

Old Jack gazed on the coffin, and thought. Surely a landlord, if
anybody, was entitled to indulge in an expensive coffin? All day he had
nursed a fancy that some small indulgence, something a little heavier
than usual in the matter of expense, would be proper to celebrate the
occasion. But he reflected that his savings were gone and his pockets no
fuller than had always been their Wednesday wont: though, of course, in
that matter the future would be different. The bearers carried the
coffin into the chapel, and Mrs. Randall turned away among the graves.
Old Jack put his hands in his pockets, and, looking at the ground, said:
"That was a nobby caufin, mother, wasn't it?" Whereunto Mrs. Randall
murmured: "Lovely--lovely!" yet again.

Old Jack walked a little further, and asked, "Two-inch polished oak, 'e
said, didn't 'e?"

"Solid, an' extry brass fittin's; beautiful!"

"I'll remember it. That's what you shall 'ave if it 'appens you go fust.
There!" And old Jack sat on the guard-chain of a flowery grave with the
air of one giving a handsome order.

"Me? Git out! Look at the expense."

"Matter o' circumstances. Look at Jenkins's Gardens. Jenkins was a
bench-'and at the Limited; got 'is 'ouses one under another through
building s'ieties. That there caufin 'ud be none too dear for _'im_.
We're beginnin'; an' I promise you that same, if you'd like it."

"Like it!" the missis ejaculated. "Course I should. Wouldn't you?"

"Wy, yus. Any one 'ud prefer somethin' a bit nobby; an' thick."

And the missis reciprocated old Jack's promise, in case he died first:
if a two-inch polished oak solid could be got for everything she had to
offer. And, tea-time approaching, they made well pleased for home.


In two days old Jack was known as a landlord all about. On the third
day, which was Saturday, young Jack called to borrow half a sovereign,
but succeeded only to the extent of five shillings: work was slack with
him, and three days of it was all he had had that week. This had
happened before, and he had got on as best he could; but now, with a
father buying house-property, it was absurd to economize for lack of
half a sovereign. When he brought the five shillings home, his wife
asked why he had not thrown them at his father's head: a course of
procedure which, young Jack confessed, had never occurred to his mind.
"Stingy old 'unks!" she scolded. "A-goin' about buyin' 'ouses, an' won't
lend 'is own son ten shillin's! Much good may all 'is money do 'im with
'is 'ateful mean ways!" This was the beginning of old Jack's
estrangement from his relatives. For young Jack's missis expressed her
opinion in other places, and young Jack was soon ready to share it:
rigidly abstaining from another attempt at a loan, though he never
repaid the five shillings.

In the course of the succeeding week two of his shopmates took old Jack
aside at different times to explain that the loan of a pound or two
would make the greatest imaginable difference to the whole course of
their future lives, while the temporary absence of the money would be
imperceptible to a capitalist like himself. When he roundly declared
that he had as few loose sovereigns as themselves, he was set down as an
uncommon liar as well as a wretched old miser. This was the beginning of
old Jack's unpopularity in the workshop.


He took a half-day off to receive the first week's rent in state, and
Mrs. Randall went with him. He showed his written authority from the
last landlord, and the tenant's wife paid over the sum of nine
shillings, giving him at the same time the rent-book to sign and a slip
of written paper. This last was a week's notice to terminate the

"We're very well satisfied with the 'ouse," the tenant's wife said (she
was a painfully clean, angular woman, with a notable flavor of yellow
soap and scrubbing-brush about her), "but my 'usband finds it too far to
get to an' from Albert Docks mornin' and night. So we're goin' to West
'Am." And she politely ejected her visitors by opening the door and
crowding them through it.

The want of a tenant was a contingency that old Jack had never
contemplated. As long as it lasted it would necessitate the setting by
of ten and sixpence a week for the building society payments and the
ground-rent. This was serious: it meant knocking off some of the
butcher's meat, all the beer and tobacco, and perhaps a little firing.
Old Jack resolved to waste no more half-days in collecting, but to send
his missis. On the following Monday, therefore, while the tenant's wife
kept a sharp eye on the man who was piling a greengrocer's van with
chairs and tables, Mrs. Randall fixed a "To Let" bill in the front
window. In the leaves of the rent-book she found another thing of
chagrin: to wit, a notice demanding payment of poor, highway, and
general rates to the amount of one pound eighteen and sevenpence. Now,
no thought of rates and taxes had ever vexed the soul of old Jack. Of
course, he might have known that his own landlord paid the rates for his
house; but, indeed, he had never once thought of the thing, being
content with faithfully paying the rent, and troubling no more about it.
That night was one of dismal wakefulness for old Jack and his missis. If
he had understood the transaction at the lawyer's office, he would have
known that a large proportion of the sum due had been allowed him in the
final adjustment of payment to the day; and if he had known something of
the ways of rate-collecting, he would have understood that payment was
not expected for at least a month. As it was, the glories of
lease-possession grew dim in his eyes, and a landlord seemed a poor
creature, spending his substance to keep roofs over the heads of


On Wednesday afternoon a man called about taking the house, and returned
in the evening, when old Jack was home. He was a large-featured,
quick-eyed man, with a loud, harsh voice and a self-assertive manner.
Quickly old Jack recognized him as a speaker he had heard at certain
street-corners: a man who was secretary, or delegate, or that sort of
thing, to something that old Jack had forgotten.

He began with the announcement, "I am Joe Parsons," delivered with a
stare for emphasis, and followed by a pause to permit assimilation.

Old Jack had some recollection of the name, but it was indefinite. He
wondered whether or not he should address the man as "sir," considering
the street speeches, and the evident importance of the name. But then,
after all, he was a landlord himself. So he only said, "Yus?"

"I am Joe Parsons," the man repeated; "and I'm looking for a 'ouse."

There was another pause, which lasted till old Jack felt obliged to say
something. So he said, "Yus?" again.

"I'm looking for a 'ouse," the man repeated, "and, if we can arrange
things satisfactory, I might take yours."

Mr. Joe Parsons was far above haggling about the rent, but he had
certain ideas as to painting and repairs that looked expensive. In the
end old Jack promised the paint a touch-up, privily resolving to do the
work himself in his evenings. And on the whole, Mr. Joe Parsons was
wonderfully easy to come to terms with, considering his eminent public
character. And anything in the nature of a reference in his case would
have been absurd. As himself observed, his name was enough for that.


Old Jack did the painting, and the new tenant took possession. When Mrs.
Randall called for the first week a draggle-tailed little woman with a
black eye meekly informed her that Mr. Parsons was not at home, and had
left no money nor any message as to the rent. This was awkward, because
the first building society instalment would be due before next
rent-day--to say nothing of the rates. But it would never do to offend
Mr. Parsons. So the money was scraped together by heroic means (the
missis produced an unsuspected twelve and sixpence from a gallipot on
the kitchen dresser), and the first instalment was paid.

Mrs. Randall called twice at Mulberry Street next rent-day, but nobody
answered her knocks. Old Jack, possessed by a misty notion, born of use,
that rent was constitutionally demandable only on Monday morning, called
no more for a week. But on Thursday evening a stout little stranger,
with a bald head which he wiped continually, came to the Randalls to ask
if the tenant of Twenty-seven Mulberry Street was Mr. Joe Parsons.
Assured that it was, he nodded, said, "Thanks! that's all," wiped his
head again, and started to go. Then he paused, and "Pay his rent
regular?" he asked. Old Jack hesitated. "Ah, thought so," said the
little stranger. "He's a wrong 'un. _I've_ got a bit o' paper for 'im."
And he clapped on his hat with the handkerchief in it and vanished.


Old Jack felt unhappy, for a landlord. He and the missis reproached
themselves for not asking the little stranger certain questions; but he
had gone. Next Monday morning old Jack took another half-day, and went
to Mulberry Street himself. From appearances, he assured himself that a
belief, entertained by his missis, that the upper part of his house was
being sublet, was well founded. He watched awhile from a corner, until a
dirty child kicked at the door, and it was opened. Then he went across
and found the draggle-tailed woman who had answered Mrs. Randall before,
in every respect the same to look at, except that not one eye was black
but two. Old Jack, with some abruptness, demanded his rent of her,
addressing her as Mrs. Parsons. Without disclaiming the name, she
pleaded with meek uneasiness that Mr. Parsons really wasn't at home, and
she didn't know when to expect him. At last, finding this ineffectual,
she produced four and sixpence: begging him with increasing agitation to
take that on account and call again.

Old Jack took the money, and called again at seven. Custom or law or
what-not, he would wait for no Monday morning now. The door was open,
and a group of listening children stood about it. From within came a
noise of knocks and thuds and curses--sometimes a gurgle. Old Jack asked
a small boy, whose position in the passage betokened residence, what was
going forward. "It's the man downstairs," said the boy, "a-givin' of it
to 'is wife for payin' awy the lodgers' rent."

At this moment Mr. Joe Parsons appeared in the passage. The children,
who had once or twice commented in shouts, dispersed. "I've come for my
rent," said old Jack.

Mr. Joe Parsons saw no retreat. So he said, "Rent? Ain't you 'ad it? I
don't bother about things in the 'ouse. Come again when my wife's in."

"She is in," rejoined old Jack, "an' you've been a-landin' of 'er for
payin' me what little she 'as. Come, you pay me what you owe me, and
take a week's notice now. I want my house kep' respectable."

Mr. Joe Parsons had no other shift. "You be damned," he said. "Git out."

"What?" gasped old Jack--for to tell a landlord to get out of his own
house!... "What?"

"Why git out? Y' ought to know better than comin' 'ere askin' for money
you ain't earnt."

"Ain't earnt? What d'ye mean?"

"What I say. Y' ain't earnt it. It's you blasted lan'lords as sucks the
blood o' the workers. You go an' work for your money."

Old Jack was confounded. "Why--what--how d'ye think I can pay the rates,
an' everythink?"

"I don't care. You'll _'ave_ to pay 'em, an' I wish they was 'igher.
They ought to be the same as the rent, an' that 'ud do away with fellers
like you. Go on: you do your damdest an' get your rent best way you

"But what about upstairs? You're lettin' it out an' takin' the rent
there. I--"

"That's none o' your business. Git out, will ye?" They had gradually
worked over the doorstep, and Randall was on the pavement. "I sha'n't
pay, an' I sha'n't go, an' ye can do what ye like; so it's no good your
stoppin'--unless you want to fight. Eh--do ye?" And Mr. Parsons put a
foot over the threshold.

Old Jack had not fought for many years. It was low. For a landlord
outside his own house it was, indeed, disgraceful. But it was quite dark
now, and there was scarcely a soul in the street. Perhaps nobody would
know, and this man deserved something for himself. He looked up the
street again, and then, "Well, I ain't so young as I was," he said, "but
I won't disappoint ye. Come on."

Mr. Joe Parsons stepped within and slammed the door.


Old Jack went home less happy than ever. He had no notion what to do.
Difficulties of private life were often discussed and argued out in the
workshop, but there he had become too unpopular to ask for anything in
the nature of sympathy or advice. Not only would he lend no money, but
he refused to stand treat on rent days. Also, there was a collection on
behalf of men on strike at another factory, to which he gave nothing;
and he had expressed the strongest disapproval of an extension of that
strike, and his own intention to continue working if it happened. For
what would become of all his plans and his savings if his wages ceased?
Wherefore there was no other man in the shop so unpopular as old Jack,
and in a workshop unpopularity is a bad thing.

He called on a professional rent-receiver and seller-up. This man knew
Mr. Joe Parsons very well. He never had furniture upon which a
profitable distress might be levied. But if he took lodgers, and they
were quiet people, something might be got out of them--if the job were
made worth while. But this was not at all what old Jack wanted.

Soon after it occurred to him to ask advice of the secretary of the
building society. This was a superficial young man, an auctioneer's
clerk until evening, who had no disposition to trouble himself about
matters outside his duties. Still, he went so far as to assure old Jack
that turning out a tenant who meant to stay was not a simple job. If you
didn't mind losing the rent it might be done by watching until the house
was left ungarrisoned, getting in, putting the furniture into the
street, and keeping the tenant out. With this forlorn hope old Jack
began to spend his leisure about Mulberry Street: ineffectually, for
Mrs. Parsons never came out while he was there. Once he saw the man, and
offered to forgive him the rent if he would leave: a proposal which Mr.
Parsons received with ostentatious merriment. At this old Jack's
patience gave out, and he punched his tenant on the ear. Whereat the
latter, suddenly whitening in the face, said something about the police,
and walked away at a good pace.


The strike extended, as it was expected and designed to do. The men at
old Jack's factory were ordered out, and came, excepting only old Jack
himself. He was desperate. Since he had ventured on that cursed
investment everything had gone wrong: but he would not lose his savings
if mere personal risk would preserve them. Moreover, a man of fifty is
not readily re-employed, once out; and as the firm was quite ready to
keep one hand on to oil and see that things were in order, old Jack
stayed: making his comings and goings late to dodge the pickets, and
approaching subtly by a railway-arch stable and a lane thereunto. It was
not as yet a very great strike, and with care these things could be
done. Still, he was sighted and chased twice, and he knew that, if the
strike lasted, and feeling grew hotter, he would be attacked in his own
house. If only he could hold on through the strike, and by hook or crook
keep the outgoings paid, he would attend to Mr. Parsons afterward.


One Saturday afternoon, as Mrs. Randall was buying greens and potatoes,
old Jack, waiting without, strolled toward a crowd standing about a
speaker. A near approach discovered the speaker to be Mr. Joe Parsons,
who was saying:--

"----strike pay is little enough at the time, of course, but don't
forget what it will lead to! An' strike pay does very well, my frien's,
when the party knows 'ow to lay it out, an' don't go passin' it on to
the lan'lord. Don't give it away. When the lan'lord comes o' Monday
mornin', tell 'im (polite as you like) that there's nothink for 'im till
there's more for you. Let the lan'lord earn 'is money, like me an' you.
Let the lan'lords pay a bit towards this 'ere strike as well as the
other blaggards, the imployers. Lan'lords gits quite enough out o' you,
my feller workers, when--"

"They don't git much out o' you!" shouted old Jack in his wrath; and
then felt sorry he had spoken. For everybody looked at him, and he knew
some of the faces.

"Ho!" rejoined the speaker, mincingly. "There's a gent there as seems to
want to address this 'ere meetin'. P'r'aps you'll 'ave the kindness to
step up 'ere, my friend, an' say wot you got to say plain." And he
looked full at old Jack, pointing with his finger.

Old Jack fidgeted, wishing himself out of it. "You pay me what you owe
me," he growled sulkily.

"As this 'ere individual, after intruding 'isself on this peaceful
meetin', ain't got anythink to say for 'isself," pursued Mr. Joe
Parsons, "I'll explain things for 'im. That's _my_ lan'lord, that is:
look at 'im! 'E comes 'angin' round my door waitin' for a chance to turn
my pore wife an' children out o' 'ouse and 'ome. 'E follers me in the
street an' tries to intimidate me. 'E comes 'ere, my feller workers, as
a spy, an' to try an' poison your minds agin me as devotes my 'ole life
to your int'rests. That's the sort o' man, that's the sort o' lan'lord
_'e_ is. But 'e's somethink more than a greedy, thievin', overfed
lan'lord, my frien's, an' I'll tell you wot. 'E's a dirty, crawlin'
blackleg; that's wot else 'e is. 'E's the on'y man as wouldn't come out
o' Maidment's; an' 'e's workin' there now, skulkin' in an' out in the
dark--a dirty rat! Now you all know very well I won't 'ave nothink to do
with any violence or intimidation. It's agin my principles, although I
know there's very often great temptation, an' it's impossible to
identify in a crowd, an' safe to be very little evidence. But this I
will say, that when a dirty low rat, not content with fattenin' on
starvin' tenants, goes an' takes the bread out o' 'is feller men's
mouths, like that bleedin' blackleg--blackleg!--blackleg!--"

Old Jack was down. A dozen heavy boots were at work about his head and
belly. In from the edge of the crowd a woman tore her way, shedding
potatoes as she ran, and screaming; threw herself upon the man on the
ground; and shared the kicks. Over the shoulders of the kickers whirled
the buckle-end of a belt. "One for the old cow," said a voice.


When a man is lying helpless on his back, with nothing in hand, he pays
nothing off a building society mortgage, because, as his wife pawns the
goods of the house, the resulting money goes for necessaries. To such a
man the society shows no useless grace: especially when the secretary
has a friend always ready to take over a forfeited house at forced sale
price. So the lease of Twenty-seven vanished, and old Jack's savings
with it.

And one day, some months later, old Jack, supported by the missis and a
stick, took his way across the workhouse forecourt. There was a door
some twenty yards from that directly before them, and two men came out
of it, carrying a laden coffin of plain deal.

"Look there, Jack," the missis said, as she checked her step; "what a
common caufin!" And indeed there was a distinct bulge in the bottom.


*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales of Mean Streets" ***

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