A Child of the Jago
METHUEN & CO.
36 ESSEX STREET, W.C.
ARTHUR OSBORNE JAY
VICAR OF HOLY TRINITY, SHOREDITCH
... Woe unto the foolish prophets, that
follow their own spirit, and have seen
Because, even because they have seduced
my people, saying, Peace; and there
was no peace; and one built up a
wall, and lo, others daubed it with
Say unto them which daub it with untempered
mortar, that it shall fall:
there shall be an overflowing shower;
and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall;
and a stormy wind shall rend it.
Lo, when the wall is fallen, shall it not
be said unto you, Where is the daubing
wherewith ye have daubed it?—
Ezekiel xiii. 3 ... 10 12.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION
I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII XIV XV XVI XVII XVIII
XIX XX XXI XXII XXIII XXIV XXV XXVI XXVII XXVIII XXIX XXX
XXXI XXXII XXXIII XXXIV XXXV XXXVI XXXVII
PREFACE TO THE THIRD
I am glad to take this, the first available opportunity, to
acknowledge the kindness with which A Child of the Jago has
been received: both by the reading public, from which I have
received many gratifying assurances that what I have tried to say
has not altogether failed of its effect: and by the reviewers, the
most of whom have written in very indulgent terms.
I think indeed, that I am the more gratified by the fact that
this reception has not been unanimous: because an outcry and an
opposition, even from an unimportant minority, are proofs that I
have succeeded in saying, however imperfectly, something that was
worth being said. Under the conditions of life as we know it there
is no truth worth telling that will not interfere with some
hearer's comfort. Various objections have been made to A Child
of the Jago, and many of them had already been made to Tales
of Mean Streets. And it has been the way of the objectors as
well as the way of many among the kindest of my critics, to call me
a 'realist.' The word has been used sometimes, it would seem, in
praise; sometimes in mere indifference as one uses a phrase of
convenient description; sometimes by way of an irremediable
reproach. It is natural, then, not merely that I should wish to
examine certain among the objections made to my work, but that I
should feel some interest in the definition and description of a
realist. A matter never made clear to me.
Now it is a fact that I have never called myself a 'realist,'
and I have never put forth any work as 'realism.' I decline the
labels of the schoolmen and the sophisters: being a simple writer
of tales, who takes whatever means lie to his hand to present life
as he sees it; who insists on no process; and who refuses to be
bound by any formula or prescription prepared by the cataloguers
and the pigeon-holers of literature.
So it happens that when those who use the word 'realist' use it
with no unanimity of intent and with a loose, inapprehensive
application, it is not easy for me, who repudiate it altogether, to
make a guess at its meaning. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the
man who is called a 'realist' is one who, seeing things with his
own eyes, discards the conventions of the schools, and presents his
matter in individual terms of art. For awhile the schoolmen abuse
him as a realist; and in twenty years' time, if his work have life
in it, he becomes a classic. Constable was called a realist; so was
Corot. Who calls these painters realists now? The history of
Japanese art affords a continuous illustration. From the day when
Iwasa Matahei impudently arose and dared to take his subjects from
the daily life of the people, to the day when Hiroshigé, casting
away the last rag of propriety, adventurously drew a cast shadow,
in flat defiance of all the canons of Tosa and Kano—in all
this time, and through all the crowded history of the School of
Ukioyé, no artist bringing something of his own to his art but was
damned for a realist. Even the classic Harunobu did not escape.
Look now at the work of these men, and the label seems grotesque
enough. So it goes through the making of all art. A man with the
courage of his own vision interprets what he sees in fresh terms,
and gives to things a new reality and an immediate presence. The
schoolmen peer with dulled eyes from amid the heap of precedents
and prescriptions about them, and, distracted by seeing a thing
sanctioned neither by precedent nor by prescription, dub the man
realist, and rail against him for that his work fits none of their
pigeon-holes. And from without the schools many cry out and
complain: for truth is strong meat, and the weakling stomach turns
against it, except in minim doses smothered in treacle. Thus we
hear the feeble plea that the function of imagination is the
distortion of fact: the piteous demand that the artist should be
shut up in a flower-garden, and forbidden to peep through the hedge
into the world. And they who know nothing of beauty, who are
innately incapable of comprehending it, mistake it for mere
prettiness, and call aloud for comfits; and among them that cannot
understand, such definitions of the aims of art are bandied, as
mean, if they mean anything, that art finds its most perfect
expression in pink lollipops and gilt boxes. But in the end the
truth prevails, if it be well set forth; and the schoolmen,
groaning in their infinite labour, wearily write another
prescription, admit another precedent, and make another
I have been asked, in print, if I think that there is no phase
of life which the artist may not touch. Most certainly I think
this. More, I know it. It is the artist's privilege to seek his
material where he pleases, and it is no man's privilege to say him
nay. If the community have left horrible places and horrible lives
before his eyes, then the fault is the community's; and to picture
these places and these lives becomes not merely his privilege, but
his duty. It was my fate to encounter a place in Shoreditch, where
children were born and reared in circumstances which gave them no
reasonable chance of living decent lives: where they were born
fore-damned to a criminal or semi-criminal career. It was my
experience to learn the ways of this place, to know its
inhabitants, to talk with them, eat, drink, and work with them. For
the existence of this place, and for the evils it engendered, the
community was, and is, responsible; so that every member of the
community was, and is, responsible in his degree. If I had been a
rich man I might have attempted to discharge my peculiar
responsibility in one way; if I had been a statesman I might have
tried another. Being neither of these things, but a mere writer of
fiction, I sought to do my duty by writing a tale wherein I hoped
to bring the conditions of this place within the apprehension of
others. There are those who say that I should have turned away my
eyes and passed by on the other side: on the very respectable
precedent of the priest and the Levite in the parable.
Now, when the tale was written and published it was found, as I
have said, to cause discomfort to some persons. It is needless to
say more of the schoolmen. Needless, too, to say much of the merely
genteel: who were shocked to read of low creatures, as Kiddo Cook
and Pigeony Poll, and to find my pages nowhere illuminated by a
marquis. Of such are they who delight to read of two men in velvet
and feathers perforating each other's stomachs with swords; while
Josh Perrott and Billy Leary, punching each other's heads, present
a scene too sickening and brutal to consider without disgust. And
it was in defiance of the maunderings of such as these that Charles
Lamb wrote much of his essay On the Genius and Character of
Hogarth. But chiefly this book of mine disturbed those who had
done nothing, and preferred to do nothing, by way of discharging
their responsibility toward the Jago and the people in it. The
consciousness of duty neglected is discomforting, and personal
comfort is the god of their kind. They firmly believe it to be the
sole function of art to minister to their personal comfort—as
upholstery does. They find it comfortable to shirk consideration of
the fate of the Jago children, to shut their eyes to it, to say
that all is well and the whole world virtuous and happy. And this
mental attitude they nickname optimism, and vaunt it—exult in
it as a quality. So that they cry out at the suggestion that it is
no more than a selfish vice; and finding truth where they had
looked for the materials of another debauch of self-delusion, they
moan aloud: they protest, and they demand as their sacred right
that the bitter cup be taken from before them. They have moaned and
protested at A Child of the Jago, and, craven and
bewildered, any protest seemed good enough to them. And herein they
have not wanted for allies among them that sit in committee-rooms,
and tinker. For your professed philanthropist, following his own
spirit, and seeing nothing, honestly resents the demonstration that
his tinkering profits little. There is a story current in the East
End of London, of a distracted lady who, being assailed with a
request for the loan of a saucepan, defended herself in these
words:—'Tell yer mother I can't lend 'er the saucepan,
consekince o' 'avin' lent it to Mrs Brown, besides which I'm
a-usin' of it meself, an' moreover it's gone to be mended, an'
what's more I ain't got one.' In a like spirit of lavish objection
it has been proclaimed in a breath that I transgress:—because
(1) I should not have written of the Jago in all the nakedness of
truth; (2) my description is not in the least like; (3) moreover,
it is exaggerated; (4) though it may be true, it is quite
unnecessary, because the Jago was already quite familiar, and
everybody knew all about it; (5) the Jago houses have been pulled
down; and (6) there never was any such place as the Jago at
To objections thus handsomely variegated it is not easy to reply
with the tripping brevity wherewith they may be stated; and truly
it is little reply that they call for, except, perhaps, in so far
as they may be taken to impugn the sincerity of my work and the
accuracy of my picture. A few of the objectors have caught up
enough of their wits to strive after a war in my own country. They
take hold of my technical method, and accuse me of lack of
'sympathy'; they claim that if I write of the Jago I should do so
'even weeping.' Now, my technical method is my own, and is
deliberately designed to achieve a certain result, as is the method
of every man—painter, poet, sculptor, or novelist—who
is not the slave and the plaything of his material. My tale is the
tale of my characters, and I have learned better than to thrust
myself and my emotions between them and my reader. The cant of the
charge stares all too plainly from the face of it. It is not that
these good people wish me to write 'even weeping': for how do they
know whether I weep or not? No: their wish is, not that I shall
weep, but that I shall weep obscenely in the public gaze. In other
words, that I shall do their weeping for them, as a sort of
emotional bedesman: that I shall make public parade of sympathy in
their behalf, so that they may keep their own sympathy for
themselves, and win comfort from the belief that they are eased of
their just responsibility by vicarious snivelling.
But the protest, that my picture of the Jago is untrue, is
another thing. For the most part it has found very vague
expression, but there are instances of rash excursion into
definiteness. Certain passages have been denoted as
exaggerations—as impossibilities. Now, I must confess that,
foreseeing such adventurous indiscretions, I had, for my own
diversion, set A Child of the Jago with traps. For certain
years I have lived in the East End of London, and have been, not an
occasional visitor, but a familiar and equal friend in the house of
the East-Ender in all his degrees; for, though the steps between be
smaller, there are more social degrees in the East End than ever in
the West. In this experience I have seen and I have heard things
that persons sitting in committee-rooms would call diabolical
fable; nevertheless, I have seen them, and heard them. But it was
none of my design to write of extreme instances: typical facts were
all I wanted; these, I knew, would be met—or
shirked—with incredulity; so that, whenever I saw reason to
anticipate a charge of exaggeration—as for instance, in the
matter of faction fighting—I made my typical incident the
cold transcript of a simple fact, an ordinary, easy-going fact, a
fact notorious in the neighbourhood, and capable of any amount of
reasonable proof. If I touched my fact at all, it was to subdue it;
that and no more. The traps worked well. Not one definite charge of
exaggeration has been flung but it has been aimed at one of the
normal facts I had provided as a target: not one. Sometimes the
effect has had a humour of its own; as when a critic in a literary
journal, beginning by selecting two of my norms as instances of
'palpable exaggeration,' went on to assure me that there was no
need to describe such life as the life in the Jago, because it was
already perfectly familiar to everybody.
Luckily I need not vindicate my accuracy. That has been done for
me publicly by independent and altogether indisputable authority.
In particular, the devoted vicar of the parish, which I have called
the Jago, has testified quite unreservedly to the truth of my
presentation. Others also, with special knowledge, have done the
same; and though I refer to them, and am grateful for their
support, it is with no prejudice to the validity of my own
authority. For not only have I lived in the East End of London
(which one may do, and yet never see it) but observation is my
I have remarked in more than one place the expression of a
foolish fancy that because the houses of the Old Jago have been
pulled down, the Jago difficulty has been cleared out of the way.
That is far from being the case. The Jago, as mere bricks and
mortar, is gone. But the Jago in flesh and blood still lives, and
is crowding into neighbourhoods already densely over-populated.
In conclusion: the plan and the intention of my story made it
requisite that, in telling it, I should largely adhere to fact; and
I did so. If I write other tales different in scope and design, I
shall adhere to fact or neglect it as may seem good to me:
regardless of anybody's classification as a realist, or as anything
else. For though I have made a suggestion, right or wrong, as to
what a realist may be, whether I am one or not is no concern of
mine; but the concern (if it be anybody's) of the tabulators and
A CHILD OF THE JAGO
It was past the mid of a summer night in the Old Jago. The
narrow street was all the blacker for the lurid sky; for there was
a fire in a farther part of Shoreditch, and the welkin was an
infernal coppery glare. Below, the hot, heavy air lay, a rank
oppression, on the contorted forms of those who made for sleep on
the pavement: and in it, and through it all, there rose from the
foul earth and the grimed walls a close, mingled stink—the
odour of the Jago.
From where, off Shoreditch High Street, a narrow passage, set
across with posts, gave menacing entrance on one end of Old Jago
Street, to where the other end lost itself in the black beyond Jago
Row; from where Jago Row began south at Meakin Street, to where it
ended north at Honey Lane—there the Jago, for one hundred
years the blackest pit in London, lay and festered; and half-way
along Old Jago Street a narrow archway gave upon Jago Court, the
blackest hole in all that pit.
A square of two hundred and fifty yards or less—that was
all there was of the Jago. But in that square the human population
swarmed in thousands. Old Jago Street, New Jago Street, Half Jago
Street lay parallel, east and west: Jago Row at one end and Edge
Lane at the other lay parallel also, stretching north and south:
foul ways all. What was too vile for Kate Street, Seven Dials, and
Ratcliff Highway in its worst day, what was too useless, incapable
and corrupt—all that teemed in the Old Jago.
Old Jago Street lay black and close under the quivering red sky;
and slinking forms, as of great rats, followed one another quickly
between the posts in the gut by the High Street, and scattered over
the Jago. For the crowd about the fire was now small, the police
was there in force, and every safe pocket had been tried. Soon the
incursion ceased, and the sky, flickering and brightening no
longer, settled to a sullen flush. On the pavement some writhed
wearily, longing for sleep; others, despairing of it, sat and
lolled, and a few talked. They were not there for lack of shelter,
but because in this weather repose was less unlikely in the street
than within doors: and the lodgings of the few who nevertheless
abode at home were marked here and there by the lights visible from
the windows. For in this place none ever slept without a light,
because of three kinds of vermin that light in some sort keeps at
bay: vermin which added to existence here a terror not to be
guessed by the unafflicted: who object to being told of it. For on
them that lay writhen and gasping on the pavement; on them that sat
among them; on them that rolled and blasphemed in the lighted
rooms; on every moving creature in this, the Old Jago, day and
night, sleeping and walking, the third plague of Egypt, and more,
The stifling air took a further oppression from the red sky. By
the dark entrance to Jago Court a man rose, flinging out an oath,
and sat with his head bowed in his hands.
'Ah—h—h—h,' he said. 'I wish I was dead: an'
kep' a cawfy shop.' He looked aside from his hands at his
neighbours; but Kiddo Cook's ideal of heaven was no new thing, and
the sole answer was a snort from a dozing man a yard away.
Kiddo Cook felt in his pocket and produced a pipe and a screw of
paper. 'This is a bleed'n' unsocial sort o' evenin' party, this
is,' he said, 'An' 'ere's the on'y real toff in the mob with ardly
'arf a pipeful left, an' no lights. D' y' 'ear, me
lord'—leaning toward the dozing neighbour—'got a
'Go t' 'ell!'
'O wot 'orrid langwidge! It's shocking, blimy. Arter that y'
ought to find me a match. Come on.'
'Go t' 'ell!'
A lank, elderly man, who sat with his back to the wall, pushed
up a battered tall hat from his eyes, and, producing a box of
matches, exclaimed 'Hell? And how far's that? You're in it!' He
flung abroad a bony hand, and glanced upward. Over his forehead a
greasy black curl dangled and shook as he shuddered back against
the wall. 'My God, there can be no hell after this!'
'Ah,' Kiddo Cook remarked, as he lit his pipe in the hollow of
his hands, 'that's a comfort, Mr Beveridge, any'ow.' He returned
the matches, and the old man, tilting his hat forward, was
A woman, gripping a shawl about her shoulders, came furtively
along from the posts, with a man walking in her tracks—a
little unsteadily. He was not of the Jago, but a decent young
workman, by his dress. The sight took Kiddo Cook's idle eye, and
when the couple had passed, he said meditatively: 'There's Billy
Leary in luck ag'in: 'is missis do pick 'em up, s'elp me. I'd carry
the cosh meself if I'd got a woman like 'er.'
Cosh-carrying was near to being the major industry of the Jago.
The cosh was a foot length of iron rod, with a knob at one end, and
a hook (or a ring) at the other. The craftsman, carrying it in his
coat sleeve, waited about dark staircase corners till his wife
(married or not) brought in a well drunken stranger: when, with a
sudden blow behind the head, the stranger was happily coshed, and
whatever was found on him as he lay insensible was the profit on
the transaction. In the hands of capable practitioners this
industry yielded a comfortable subsistence for no great exertion.
Most, of course, depended on the woman: whose duty it was to keep
the other artist going in subjects. There were legends of
surprising ingatherings achieved by wives of especial diligence:
one of a woman who had brought to the cosh some six-and-twenty on a
night of public rejoicing. This was, however, a story years old,
and may have been no more than an exemplary fiction, designed, like
a Sunday School book, to convey a counsel of perfection to the
dutiful matrons of the Old Jago.
The man and woman vanished in a doorway near the Jago Row end,
where, for some reason, dossers were fewer than about the portal of
Jago Court. There conversation flagged, and a broken snore was
heard. It was a quiet night, as quietness was counted in the Jago;
for it was too hot for most to fight in that stifling air—too
hot to do more than turn on the stones and swear. Still the last
hoarse yelps of a combat of women came intermittently from Half
Jago Street in the further confines.
In a little while something large and dark was pushed forth from
the door-opening near Jago Row which Billy Leary's spouse had
entered. The thing rolled over, and lay tumbled on the pavement,
for a time unnoted. It might have been yet another would-be
sleeper, but for its stillness. Just such a thing it seemed,
belike, to two that lifted their heads and peered from a few yards
off, till they rose on hands and knees and crept to where it lay:
Jago rats both. A man it was; with a thick smear across his face,
and about his head the source of the dark trickle that sought the
gutter deviously over the broken flags. The drab stuff of his
pockets peeped out here and there in a crumpled bunch, and his
waistcoat gaped where the watch-guard had been. Clearly, here was
an uncommonly remunerative cosh—a cosh so good that the boots
had been neglected, and remained on the man's feet. These the
kneeling two unlaced deftly, and, rising, prize in hand, vanished
in the deeper shadow of Jago Row.
A small boy, whom they met full tilt at the corner, staggered
out to the gutter and flung a veteran curse after them. He was a
slight child, by whose size you might have judged his age at five.
But his face was of serious and troubled age. One who knew the
children of the Jago, and could tell, might have held him eight, or
from that to nine.
He replaced his hands in his trousers pockets, and trudged up
the street. As he brushed by the coshed man he glanced again toward
Jago Row, and, jerking his thumb that way, 'Done 'im for 'is
boots,' he piped. But nobody marked him till he reached Jago Court,
when old Beveridge, pushing back his hat once more, called sweetly
and silkily, 'Dicky Perrott!' and beckoned with his finger.
The boy approached, and as he did so the man's skeleton hand
suddenly shot out and gripped him by the collar.
Beveridge said, in a series of shouts, close to the boy's ear. 'Now
go home,' he added, in a more ordinary tone, with a push to make
his meaning plain: and straightway relapsed against the wall.
The boy scowled and backed off the pavement. His ragged jacket
was coarsely made from one much larger, and he hitched the collar
over his shoulder as he shrank toward a doorway some few yards on.
Front doors were used merely as firewood in the Old Jago, and most
had been burnt there many years ago. If perchance one could have
been found still on its hinges, it stood ever open and probably
would not shut. Thus at night the Jago doorways were a row of black
holes, foul and forbidding.
Dicky Perrott entered his hole with caution, for anywhere, in
the passage and on the stairs, somebody might be lying drunk,
against whom it would be unsafe to stumble. He found nobody,
however, and climbed and reckoned his way up the first stair-flight
with the necessary regard for the treads that one might step
through and the rails that had gone from the side. Then he pushed
open the door of the first-floor back and was at home.
A little heap of guttering grease, not long ago a candle end,
stood and spread on the mantel-piece, and gave irregular light from
its drooping wick. A thin-railed iron bedstead, bent and
staggering, stood against a wall, and on its murky coverings a
half-dressed woman sat and neglected a baby that lay by her,
grieving and wheezing. The woman had a long dolorous face, empty of
expression and weak of mouth.
'Where 'a' you bin, Dicky?' she asked, rather complaining than
asking. 'It's sich low hours for a boy.'
Dicky glanced about the room. 'Got anythink to eat?' he
'I dunno,' she answered listlessly. 'P'raps there's a bit o'
bread in the cupboard. I don't want nothin', it's so 'ot. An'
father ain't bin 'ome since tea-time.'
The boy rummaged and found a crust. Gnawing at this, he crossed
to where the baby lay. ''Ullo, Looey,' he said, bending and patting
the muddy cheek. ''Ullo!'
The baby turned feebly on its back, and set up a thin wail. Its
eyes were large and bright, its tiny face was piteously flea-bitten
and strangely old. 'Wy, she's 'ungry, mother,' said Dicky Perrott,
and took the little thing up.
He sat on a small box, and rocked the baby on his knees, feeding
it with morsels of chewed bread. The mother, dolefully inert,
looked on and said: 'She's that backward I'm quite wore out; more
'n ten months old, an' don't even crawl yut. It's a never-endin'
trouble, is children.'
She sighed, and presently stretched herself on the bed. The boy
rose, and carrying his little sister with care, for she was dozing,
essayed to look through the grimy window. The dull flush still
spread overhead, but Jago Court lay darkling below, with scarce a
sign of the ruinous back yards that edged it on this and the
opposite sides, and nothing but blackness between.
The boy returned to his box, and sat. Then he said: 'I don't
s'pose father's 'avin' a sleep outside, eh?'
The woman sat up with some show of energy. 'Wot?' she said
sharply. 'Sleep out in the street like them low Ranns an' Learys? I
should 'ope not. It's bad enough livin' 'ere at all, an' me being
used to different things once, an' all. You ain't seen 'im outside,
'No, I ain't seen 'im: I jist looked in the court.' Then, after
a pause: 'I 'ope 'e's done a click,' the boy said.
His mother winced. 'I dunno wot you mean, Dicky,' she said, but
falteringly. 'You—you're gittin' that low an' an'—'
'Wy, copped somethink, o' course. Nicked somethink. You
'If you say sich things as that I'll tell 'im wot you say, an'
'e'll pay you. We ain't that sort o' people, Dicky, you ought to
know. I was alwis kep' respectable an' straight all my life, I'm
'I know. You said so before, to father—I 'eard: w'en 'e
brought 'ome that there yuller prop—the necktie pin. Wy,
where did 'e git that? 'E ain't 'ad a job for munse and munse:
where's the yannups come from wot's bin for to pay the rent, an'
git the toke, an' milk for Looey? Think I dunno? I ain't a kid. I
'Dicky, Dicky! you mustn't say sich things!' was all the mother
could find to say, with tears in her slack eyes. 'It's wicked
an'—an' low. An' you must alwis be respectable an' straight,
Dicky, an' you'll—you'll git on then.'
'Straight people's fools, I reckon. Kiddo Cook says that,
an' 'e's as wide as Broad Street. W'en I grow up I'm goin' to git
toffs' clo'es an' be in the 'igh mob. They does big clicks.'
'They git put in a dark prison for years an' years,
Dicky—an'—an' if you're sich a wicked low boy, father
'll give you the strap—'ard,' the mother returned, with what
earnestness she might. 'Gimme the baby, an' you go to bed, go on;
'fore father comes.'
Dicky handed over the baby, whose wizen face was now relaxed in
sleep, and slowly disencumbered himself of the ungainly jacket,
staring at the wall in a brown study. 'It's the mugs wot git took,'
he said, absently. 'An' quoddin' ain't so bad.' Then, after a
pause, he turned and added suddenly: 'S'pose father'll be smugged
some day, eh, mother?'
His mother made no reply, but bent languidly over the baby, with
an indefinite pretence of settling it in a place on the bed. Soon
Dicky himself, in the short and ragged shirt he had worn under the
jacket, burrowed head first among the dingy coverings at the foot,
and protruding his head at the further side, took his accustomed
place crosswise at the extreme end.
The filthy ceiling lit and darkened by fits as the candle-wick
fell and guttered to its end. He heard his mother rise and find
another fragment of candle to light by its expiring flame, but he
lay still wakeful. After a time he asked: 'Mother, why don't you
come to bed?'
'Waitin' for father. Go to sleep.'
He was silent for a little. But brain and eyes were wide awake,
and soon he spoke again. 'Them noo 'uns in the front room,' he
said. 'Ain't the man give 'is wife a 'idin' yut?'
'Nor yut the boy—'umpty-backed 'un?'
'Seems they're mighty pertickler. Fancy theirselves too good for
their neighbours; I 'eard Pigeony Poll say that; on'y Poll
'You mustn't never listen to Pigeony Poll, Dicky. Ain't you
'eard me say so? Go to sleep. 'Ere comes father.' There was,
indeed, a step on the stairs, but it passed the landing, and went
on to the top floor. Dicky lay awake, but silent, gazing upward and
back through the dirty window just over his head. It was very hot,
and he fidgeted uncomfortably, fearing to turn or toss lest the
baby should wake and cry. There came a change in the hue of the
sky, and he watched the patch within his view, until the red seemed
to gather in spots, and fade a spot at a time. Then at last there
was a tread on the stairs, that stayed at the door; and father had
come home. Dicky lay still, and listened.
'Lor, Josh, where ye bin?' Dicky heard his mother say. 'I'm
almost wore out a-waitin'.'
'Awright, awright'—this in a hoarse grunt, little above a
whisper. 'Got any water up 'ere? Wash this 'ere stick.'
There was a pause, wherein Dicky knew his mother looked about
her in vacant doubt as to whether or not water was in the room.
Then a quick, undertoned scream, and the stick rattled heavily on
the floor. 'It's sticky!' his mother said. 'O my Gawd, Josh, look
at that—an' bits o' 'air, too!' The great shadow of an open
hand shot up across the ceiling and fell again. 'O Josh! O my Gawd!
You ain't, 'ave ye? Not—not—not that?'
'Not wot? Gawblimy, not what? Shutcher mouth. If a man fights,
you're got to fight back, ain' cher? Any one 'ud think it was a
murder, to look at ye. I ain't sich a damn fool as that.
'Ere—pull up that board.'
Dicky knew the loose floor-board that was lifted with a slight
groaning jar. It was to the right of the hearth, and he had shammed
sleep when it had been lifted once before. His mother whimpered and
cried quietly. 'You'll git in trouble, Josh,' she said. 'I wish
you'd git a reg'lar job, Josh, like what you used—I
The board was shut down again. Dicky Perrott through one opened
eye saw the sky a pale grey above, and hoped the click had been a
good one: hoped also that it might bring bullock's liver for
Out in the Jago the pale dawn brought a cooler air and the
chance of sleep. From the paving of Old Jago Street sad grey faces,
open-mouthed, looked upward as from the Valley of Dry Bones. Down
by Jago Row the coshed subject, with the blood dry on his face,
felt the colder air, and moved a leg.
Three-quarters of a mile east of the Jago's outermost limit was
the East End Elevation Mission and Pansophical Institute: such was
the amazing success whereof, that a new wing had been built, and
was now to be declared open by a Bishop of great eminence and
The triumphs of the East End Elevation Mission and Pansophical
Institute were known and appreciated far from East London, by
people who knew less of that part than of Asia Minor. Indeed, they
were chiefly appreciated by these. There were kept, perpetually on
tap for the aspiring East Ender, the Higher Life, the Greater
Thought, and the Wider Humanity: with other radiant abstractions,
mostly in the comparative degree, specifics all for the manufacture
of the Superior Person. There were many Lectures given on still
more subjects. Pictures were borrowed and shown, with revelations
to the Uninformed of the morals ingeniously concealed by the
painters. The Uninformed were also encouraged to debate and to
produce papers on literary and political matters, while still
unencumbered with the smallest knowledge thereof: for the
Enlargement of the Understanding and the Embellishment of the
Intellect. And there were classes, and clubs, and newspapers, and
games of draughts, and musical evenings, and a brass band, whereby
the life of the Hopeless Poor might be coloured, and the Misery of
the Submerged alleviated. The wretches who crowded to these
benefits were tradesmen's sons, small shop-keepers and their
families, and neat clerks, with here and there a smart young
artisan of one of the especially respectable trades. They freely
patronised the clubs, the musical evenings, the brass band, and the
bagatelle board; and those who took themselves seriously debated
and Mutually-Improved with pomp. Others, subject to savage fits of
wanting-to-know, made short rushes at random evening classes, with
intervals of disgusted apathy. Altogether, a number of
decently-dressed and mannerly young men passed many evenings at the
Pansophical Institute in harmless pleasures, and often with an
agreeable illusion of intellectual advance.
Other young men, more fortunately circumstanced, with the
educational varnish fresh and raw upon them, came from afar,
equipped with a foreign mode of thought and a proper ignorance of
the world and the proportions of things, as Missionaries. Not
without some anxiety to their parents, they plunged into the
perilous deeps of the East End, to struggle—for a
fortnight—with its suffering and its brutishness. So they
went among the tradesmen's sons and the shopmen, who endured them
as they endured the nominal subscription; and they came away with a
certain relief, and with some misgiving as to what impression they
had made, and what they had done to make it. But it was with
knowledge and authority that they went back among those who had
doubted their personal safety in the dark region. The East End,
they reported, was nothing like what it was said to be. You could
see much worse places up West. The people were quite a decent sort,
in their way: shocking Bounders, of course; but quite clean and
quiet, and very comfortably dressed, with ties and collars and
But the Missionaries were few, and the subscribers to the
Elevation Mission were many. Most had been convinced, by what they
had been told, by what they had read in charity appeals, and
perhaps by what they had seen in police-court and inquest reports,
that the whole East End was a wilderness of slums: slums packed
with starving human organisms without minds and without morals,
preying on each other alive. These subscribers visited the
Institute by twos and threes, on occasions of particular festivity
among the neat clerks, and were astonished at the wonderful effects
of Pansophic Elevation on the degraded classes, their aspect and
their habits. Perhaps it was a concert where nobody was drunk:
perhaps a little dance where nobody howled a chorus, nor wore his
hat, nor punched his partner in the eye. It was a great marvel,
whereunto the observers testified: so that more subscriptions came,
and the new wing was built.
The afternoon was bright, and all was promising. A small crowd
of idlers hung about the main door of the Institute, and stared at
a string of flags. Away to the left stood the new wing, a face of
fair, clean brick; the ornamentation, of approved earnestness, in
terra-cotta squares at regular intervals. Within sat many friends
and relations of the shopmen and superior mechanics, and waited for
the Bishop; the Eminences of the Elevation Mission sitting apart on
the platform. Without, among the idlers, waited Dicky Perrott. His
notions of what were going on were indistinct, but he had a belief,
imbibed through rumour and tradition, that all celebrations at such
large buildings were accompanied by the consumption, in the
innermost recesses, of cake and tea. Even to be near cake was
something. In Shoreditch High Street was a shop where cake stood in
the window in great slabs, one slab over another, to an
incalculable value. At this window—against it, as near as
possible, his face flattened white—Dicky would stand till the
shop-keeper drove him off: till he had but to shut his eyes to see
once more, in the shifting black, the rich yellow sections with
their myriad raisins. Once a careless errand-boy, who had bought a
slice, took so clumsy a bite as he emerged that near a third of the
whole piece broke and fell; and this Dicky had snatched from the
paving and bolted with, ere the owner quite saw his loss. This was
a superior sort of cake, at a penny. But once he had managed to buy
himself a slice of an inferior sort for a halfpenny, in Meakin
Dicky Perrott, these blessed memories in his brain, stood
unobtrusively near the door, with the big jacket buttoned over as
decently as might be, full of a desperate design: which was to get
inside by whatsoever manner of trick or opportunity he might, and
so, if it were humanly possible, to the cake.
The tickets were being taken at the door by an ardent young
Elevator—one of the missionaries. Him, and all such washed
and well-dressed people, Dicky had learnt to hold in serene
contempt when the business in hand was dodging. There was no hurry:
the Elevator might waste his vigilance on the ticket-holders for
some time yet. And Dicky knew better than to betray the smallest
sign of a desire for entrance while his enemy's attention was
Carriages drew up, and yielded more Eminences: toward the end
the Bishop himself, whom Dicky observed but as a pleasant-looking
old gentleman in uncommon clothes; and on whom he bestowed no more
thought than a passing wonder at what might be the accident to his
hat which had necessitated its repair with string.
But at the spikes of the Bishop's carriage came another; and out
of that there got three ladies, friends of the ticket-receiver, on
whom they closed, greeting and shaking hands; and in a flash Dicky
Perrott was beyond the lobby and moving obscurely along the walls
of the inner hall, behind pillars and in shadow, seeking cake.
The Choral Society sang their lustiest, and there were speeches.
Eminences expressed their surprise and delight at finding the
people of the East End, gathered in the Institute building, so
respectable and clean, thanks to persistent, indefatigable,
The good Bishop, amid clapping of hands and fluttering of
handkerchiefs, piped cherubically of everything. He rejoiced to see
that day, whereon the helping hand of the West was so unmistakably
made apparent in the East. He rejoiced also to find himself in the
midst of so admirably typical an assemblage—so
representative, if he might say so, of that great East End of
London, thirsting and crying out for—for Elevation: for
that—ah—Elevation which the more fortunately
circumstanced denizens of—of other places, had so
munificently—laid on. The people of the East End had been
sadly misrepresented—in popular periodicals and in—in
other ways. The East End, he was convinced, was not so black as it
was painted. (Applause.) He had but to look about him. Etcetera,
etcetera. He questioned whether so well-conducted,
morally-given, and respectable a gathering could be brought
together in any West End parish with which he was acquainted. It
was his most pleasant duty on this occasion—and so on and so
Dicky Perrott had found the cake. It was in a much smaller room
at the back of the hall, wherein it was expected that the Bishop
and certain Eminences of the platform would refresh themselves with
tea after the ceremony. There were heavy, drooping curtains at the
door of this room, and deep from the largest folds the ratling from
the Jago watched. The table was guarded by a sour-faced
man—just such a man as drove him from the window of the cake
shop in Shoreditch High Street. Nobody else was there yet, and
plainly the sour-faced man must be absent or busy ere the cake
could be got at.
There was a burst of applause in the hall: the new wing had been
declared open. Then there was more singing, and after that much
shuffling and tramping, for everybody was free to survey the new
rooms on the way out; and the Importances from the platform came to
find the tea.
Filling the room and standing about in little groups; chatting,
munching, and sipping, while the sour-faced man distractedly
floundered amid crockery: not a soul of them all perceived an
inconsiderable small boy, ducking and dodging vaguely among legs
and round skirts, making, from time to time, a silent snatch at a
plate on the table: and presently he vanished altogether. Then the
amiable Bishop, beaming over the tea-cup six inches from his chin,
at two courtiers of the clergy, bethought him of a dinner
engagement, and passed his hand downward over the rotundity of his
'Dear, dear,' said the Bishop, glancing down suddenly,
'why—what's become of my watch?'
There hung three inches of black ribbon, with a cut end. The
Bishop looked blankly at the Elevators about him.
Three streets off, Dicky Perrott, with his shut fist deep in his
breeches pocket, and a gold watch in the fist, ran full drive for
the Old Jago.
There was nobody in chase; but Dicky Perrott, excited by his
novel exploit, ran hard: forgetting the lesson first learnt by
every child of the Jago, to avoid, as far as may be, suspicious
flight in open streets. He burst into the Old Jago from the Jago
Row corner, by Meakin Street; and still he ran. A small boy a
trifle bigger than himself made a sharp punch at him as he passed,
but he took no heed. The hulking group at the corner of Old Jago
Street, ever observant of weaklings with plunder, saw him, and one
tried to catch his arm, but he had the wit to dodge. Past the Jago
Court passage he scudded, in at the familiar doorway, and up the
stairs. A pale hunchbacked child, clean and wistful, descended, and
him Dicky flung aside and half downstairs with 'Git out, 'ump!'
Josh Perrott sat on the bed, eating fried fish from an oily
paper; for it was tea-time. He was a man of thirty-two, of middle
height and stoutly built, with a hard, leathery face as of one much
older. The hair about his mouth seemed always three days
old—never much less nor much more. He was a
plasterer—had, at least, so described himself at
police-courts. But it was long since he had plastered, though he
still walked abroad splashed and speckled, as though from an
eruption of inherent plaster. In moments of pride he declared
himself the only member of his family who had ever learned a trade,
and worked at it. It was a long relinquished habit, but while it
lasted he had married a decent boiler-maker's daughter, who had
known nothing of the Jago till these latter days. One other boast
Josh Perrott had: that nothing but shot or pointed steel could hurt
him. And this, too, was near being a true boast; as he had proved
in more than one fight in the local arena—which was Jago
Court. Now he sat peaceably on the edge of the bed, and plucked
with his fingers at the oily fish, while his wife grubbed
hopelessly about the cupboard shelves for the screw of paper which
was the sugar-basin.
Dicky entered at a burst. 'Mother—father—look! I
done a click! I got a clock—a red 'un!'
Josh Perrott stopped, jaw and hand, with a pinch of fish poised
in air. The woman turned, and her chin fell. 'O, Dicky, Dicky,' she
cried, in real distress, 'you're a awful low, wicked boy. My Gawd,
Josh, 'e—'e'll grow up bad: I said so.'
Josh Perrott bolted the pinch of fish, and sucked his fingers as
he sprang to the door. After a quick glance down the stairs he shut
it, and turned to Dicky. 'Where d'je get that, ye young devel?' he
asked, and snatched the watch.
'Claimed it auf a ol' bloke w'en 'e was drinkin' 'is tea,' Dicky
replied, with sparkling eyes. 'Let's 'ave a look at it,
'Did 'e run after ye?'
'No—didn't know nuffin' about it. I cut 'is bit o' ribbin
with my knife.' Dicky held up a treasured relic of blade and
handle, found in a gutter. 'Ain' cher goin' to let's 'ave a look at
Josh Perrott looked doubtfully toward his wife: the children
were chiefly her concern. Of her sentiments there could be no
mistake. He slipped the watch into his own pocket, and caught Dicky
by the collar.
'I'll give you somethink, you dam young thief,' he exclaimed,
slipping off his belt. 'You'd like to have us all in stir for a
year or two, I s'pose; goin' thievin' watches like a growed-up
man.' And he plied the belt savagely, while Dicky, amazed,
breathless and choking, spun about him with piteous squeals, and
the baby woke and puled in feeble sympathy.
There was a rip, and the collar began to leave the old jacket.
Feeling this, Josh Perrott released it, and with a quick drive of
the fist in the neck sent Dicky staggering across the room. Dicky
caught at the bed frame, and limped out to the landing, sobbing
grievously in the bend of his sleeve.
It was more than his mother had intended, but she knew better
than to attempt interference. Now that he was gone, she said, with
some hesitation: ''Adn't you better take it out at once, Josh?'
'Yus, I'm goin',' Josh replied, turning the watch in his hand.
'It's a good 'un—a topper.'
'You—you won't let Weech 'ave it, will ye, Josh?
'E—'e never gives much.'
'No bloomin' fear. I'm goin' up 'Oxton with this 'ere.'
Dicky sobbed his way down the stairs and through the passage to
the back. In the yard he looked for Tommy Rann, to sympathise. But
Tommy was not, and Dicky paused in his grief to reflect that
perhaps, indeed, in the light of calm reason, he would rather cast
the story of the watch in a more heroic mould, for Tommy's benefit,
than was compatible with tears and a belted back. So he turned and
squeezed through a hole in the broken fence, sobbing again, in
search of the friend that shared his inmost sorrows.
The belting was bad—very bad. There was broken skin on his
shins where the strap had curled round, and there was a little
sticky blood under the shirt half way up his back: to say nothing
of bruises. But it was the hopeless injustice of things that shook
him to the soul. Wholly unaided, he had done, with neatness and
credit, a click that anybody in the Jago would have been proud of.
Overjoyed, he had hastened to receive the commendations of his
father and mother, and to place the prize in their hands, freely
and generously, though perhaps with some hope of hot supper by way
of celebration. And his reward was this. Why? He could understand
nothing: could but feel the wrong that broke his heart. And so,
sobbing, he crawled through two fences to weep on the shaggy neck
of Jerry Gullen's canary.
Jerry Gullen's canary was no bird, but a donkey: employed by
Jerry Gullen in his occasional intervals of sobriety to drag a
cranky shallow, sometimes stored with glass bottles, rags, and
hearth-stone: sometimes with firewood manufactured from a
convenient hoarding, or from the joinery of an empty house:
sometimes with empty sacks covering miscellaneous property suddenly
acquired and not for general inspection. His vacations, many and
long, Jerry Gullen's canary spent, forgotten and unfed, in Jerry
Gullen's back-yard: gnawing desperately at fences, and harrowing
the neighbourhood with his bray. Thus the nickname, facetiously
applied by Kiddo Cook in celebration of his piteous song, grew into
use; and 'Canary' would call the creature's attention as readily as
a mouthful of imprecations.
Jerry Gullen's canary was gnawing, gnawing, with a sound as of a
crooked centre-bit. Everywhere about the foul yard, ten or twelve
feet square, wood was rounded and splintered and bitten white, and
as the donkey turned his heavy head, a drip of blood from his gums
made a disc on the stones. A twitch of the ears welcomed Dicky,
grief-stricken as he was; for it was commonly thus that he
bethought him of solace in Jerry Gullen's back-yard. And so Dicky,
his arms about the mangy neck, told the tale of his wrongs till
consolation came in composition of the heroic narrative designed
for Tommy Rann.
'O, Canary, it is a blasted shame!'
When Dicky Perrott came running into Jago Row with the Bishop's
watch in his pocket, another boy punched a fist at him, and at the
time Dicky was at a loss to guess the cause—unless it were a
simple caprice—but stayed neither to inquire nor to
retaliate. The fact was that the Ranns and the Learys were coming
out, fighting was in the air, and the small boy, meeting another a
trifle smaller, punched on general principles. The Ranns and the
Learys, ever at war or in guarded armistice, were the great rival
families—the Montagues and the Capulets—of the old
Jago. The Learys indeed, scarce pretended to rivalry—rather
to factious opposition. For the Ranns gloried in the style and
title of the 'Royal Family,' and dominated the Jago; but there were
mighty fighters, men and women, among the Learys, and when a combat
arose it was a hard one and an animated. The two families ramified
throughout the Jago; and under the Rann standard, whether by kin or
by custom, were the Gullens, the Fishers, the Spicers, and the
Walshes; while in the Leary train came Dawsons, Greens, and
Harnwells. So that near all the Jago was wont to be on one side or
the other, and any of the Jago which was not, was apt to be the
worse for it; for the Ranns drubbed all them that were not of their
faction in the most thorough and most workmanlike manner, and the
Learys held by the same practice; so that neutrality meant double
drubbing. But when the Ranns and Learys combined, and the Old Jago
issued forth in its entire might against Dove Lane, then the battle
was one to go miles to see.
This, however, was but a Rann and Leary fight; and it was but in
its early stages when Dicky Perrott, emerging from Jerry Gullen's
back-yard, made for Shoreditch High Street by way of the
'Posties'—the passage with posts at the end of Old Jago
Street. His purpose was to snatch a handful of hay from some
passing waggon, or of mixed fodder from some unguarded nosebag,
wherewith to reward the sympathy of Jerry Gullen's canary. But by
the 'Posties,' at the Edge Lane corner, Tommy Rann, capless, and
with a purple bump on his forehead, came flying into his arms,
breathless, exultant, a babbling braggart. He had fought Johnny
Leary and Joe Dawson, he said, one after the other, and pretty nigh
broke Johnny Leary's blasted neck; and Joe's Dawson's big brother
was after him now with a bleed'n' shovel. So the two children ran
on together, and sought the seclusion of their own back yard; where
the story of Johnny Rann's prowess, with scowls and the pounding of
imaginary foes, and the story of the Bishop's watch, with
suppressions and improvements, mingled and contended in the
thickening dusk. And Jerry Gullen's canary went forgotten and
That night fighting was sporadic and desultory in the Jago. Bob
the Bender was reported to have a smashed nose, and Sam Cash had
his head bandaged at the hospital. At the Bag of Nails in Edge
Lane, Snob Spicer was knocked out of knowledge with a quart pot,
and Cocko Harnwell's missis had a piece bitten off of one ear. As
the night wore on, taunts and defiances were bandied from window to
door, and from door to window, between those who intended to begin
fighting to-morrow; and shouts from divers corners gave notice of
isolated scuffles. Once a succession of piercing screams seemed to
betoken that Sally Green had begun. There was a note in the screams
of Sally Green's opposites which the Jago had learned to recognise.
Sally Green, though of the weaker faction, was the female champion
of the Old Jago: an eminence won and kept by fighting tactics
peculiar to herself. For it was her way, reserving teeth and nails,
to wrestle closely with her antagonist, throw her by a dexterous
twist on her face, and fall on her, instantly seizing the victim's
nape in her teeth, gnawing and worrying. The sufferer's screams
were audible afar, and beyond their invariable eccentricity of
quality—a quality a vaguely suggestive of dire
surprise—they had mechanical persistence, a pump-like
regularity, that distinguished them, in the accustomed ear, from
Josh Perrott had not been home all the evening: probably the
Bishop's watch was in course of transmutation into beer. Dicky,
stiff and domestically inclined, nursed Looey and listened to the
noises without till he fell asleep, in hopeful anticipation of the
morrow. For Tommy Rann had promised him half of a broken iron
railing wherewith to fight the Learys.
Sleep in the Jago was at best a thing of intermission, for
reasons—reasons of multitude—already denoted;
nevertheless Dicky slept well enough to be unconscious of his
father's homecoming. In the morning, however, there lay Josh
Perrott, snoring thunderously on the floor, piebald with road-dust.
This was not a morning whereon father would want
breakfast—that was plain: he would wake thirsty and savage.
So Dicky made sure of a crust from the cupboard, and betook himself
in search of Tommy Rann. As to washing, he was never especially
fond of it, and in any case there were fifty excellent excuses for
neglect. The only water was that from the little tap in the back
yard. The little tap was usually out of order, or had been stolen
bodily by a tenant; and if it were not, there was no basin there,
nor any soap, nor towel; and anything savouring of moderate
cleanliness was resented in the Jago as an assumption of
Fighting began early, fast and furious. The Ranns got together
soon, and hunted the Learys up and down, and attacked them in their
houses: the Learys' chances only coming when straggling Ranns were
cut off from the main body. The weapons in use, as was customary,
rose in effectiveness by a swiftly ascending scale. The Learys,
assailed with sticks, replied with sticks torn from old
packing-cases, with protruding nails. The two sides bethought them
of coshes simultaneously, and such as had no coshes—very
few—had pokers and iron railings. Ginger Stagg, at bay in his
passage, laid open Pud Palmer's cheek with a chisel; and, knives
thus happily legitimised with the least possible preliminary form,
everybody was free to lay hold of whatever came handy.
In Old Jago Street, half way between Jago Court and Edge Lane,
stood the Feathers, the grimiest and vilest of the four
public-houses in the Jago. Into the Feathers some dozen Learys were
driven, and for a while they held the inner bar and the tap-room
against the Ranns, who swarmed after them, chairs, bottles, and
pewter pots flying thick, while Mother Gapp, the landlady, hung
hysterical on the beer-pulls in the bar, supplicating and
blubbering aloud. Then a partition came down with a crash, bringing
shelves and many glasses with it, and the Ranns rushed over the
ruin, beating the Learys down, jumping on them, heaving them
through the back windows. Having thus cleared the house of the
intruding enemy, the Ranns demanded recompense of liquor, and took
it, dragging handles off beer-engines, seizing bottles, breaking
into the cellar, and driving in bungs. Nobody better than Mother
Gapp could quell an ordinary bar riot—even to knocking a man
down with a pot; but she knew better than to attempt interference
now. Nothing could have made her swoon, but she sat limp and
helpless, weeping and blaspheming.
The Ranns cleared off, every man with a bottle or so, and
scattered, and this for a while was their undoing. For the Learys
rallied and hunted the Ranns in their turn: a crowd of eighty or a
hundred sweeping the Jago from Honey Lane to Meakin Street. Then
they swung back through Edge Lane to Old Jago Street, and made for
Jerry Gullen's—a house full of Ranns. Jerry Gullen, Bill
Rann, and the rest took refuge in the upper floors and barricaded
the stairs. Below, the Learys broke windows and ravaged the rooms,
smashing whatsoever of furniture was to be found. Above, Pip Walsh,
who affected horticulture on his window-sill, hurled down
flower-pots. On the stairs, Billy Leary, scaling the barricade, was
flung from top to bottom, and had to be carried home. And then Pip
Walsh's missis scattered the besiegers on the pavement below with a
kettleful of boiling water.
There was a sudden sortie of Ranns from Jago Court, but it
profited nothing; for the party was small, and, its advent being
unexpected, there was a lack of prompt co-operation from the house.
The Learys held the field.
Down the middle of Old Jago Street came Sally Green: red faced,
stripped to the waist, dancing, hoarse and triumphant. Nail-scores
wide as the finger striped her back, her face, and her throat, and
she had a black eye; but in one great hand she dangled a long bunch
of clotted hair, as she whooped defiance to the Jago. It was a
trophy newly rent from the scalp of Norah Walsh, champion of the
Rann womankind, who had crawled away to hide her blighted head, and
be restored with gin. None answered Sally's challenge, and, staying
but to fling a brickbat at Pip Walsh's window, she carried her
dance and her trophy into Edge Lane.
The scrimmage on Jerry Gullen's stairs was thundering anew, and
parties of Learys were making for other houses in the street, when
there came a volley of yells from Jago Row, heralding a scudding
mob of Ranns. The defeated sortie-party from Jago Court, driven
back, had gained New Jago Street by way of the house-passages
behind the Court, and set to gathering the scattered faction. Now
the Ranns came, drunk, semi-drunk, and otherwise, and the Learys,
leaving Jerry Gullen's, rushed to meet them. There was a great
shock, hats flew, sticks and heads made a wooden rattle, and
instantly the two mobs were broken into an uproarious confusion of
tangled groups, howling and grappling. Here a man crawled into a
passage to nurse a broken head; there a knot gathered to kick a
sprawling foe. So the fight thinned out and spread, resolving into
many independent combats, with concerted rushes of less and less
frequency, till once again all through the Jago each fought for his
own hand. Kiddo Cook, always humorous, ran hilariously through the
streets, brandishing a long roll of twisted paper, wherewith he
smacked the heads of Learys all and sundry, who realised too late
that the paper was twisted round a lodging-house poker.
Now, of the few neutral Jagos: most lay low. Josh Perrott,
however, hard as nails and respected for it, feared neither Rann
nor Leary, and leaving a little money with his missis, carried his
morning mouth in search of beer. Pigeony Poll, harlot and outcast,
despised for that she neither fought nor kept a cosh-carrier, like
a respectable married woman, slunk and trembled in corners and
yards, and wept at the sight of bleeding heads. As for old
Beveridge, the affair so grossly excited him that he neglected
business (he cadged and wrote begging screeves) and stayed in the
Jago, where he strode wildly about the streets, lank and rusty,
stabbing the air with a carving knife, and incoherently defying
'all the lot' to come near him. Nobody did.
Dicky Perrott and Tommy Rann found a snug fastness in Jago Row.
For there was a fence with a loose board, which, pushed aside,
revealed a hole where-through a very small boy might squeeze; and
within were stored many barrows and shallows, mostly broken, and of
these one, tilted forward and bottom up, made a hut or den,
screened about with fence and barrows. Here they hid while the
Learys swept the Jago, and hence they issued from time to time to
pound such youngsters of the other side as might come in sight. The
bits of iron railing made imposing weapons, but were a trifle too
big and heavy for rapid use in their puny hands. Still, Dicky
managed to double up little Billy Leary with a timely lunge in the
stomach, and Tommy Rann made Bobby Harnwell's nose bleed very
satisfactorily. On the other hand, the bump on Tommy Rann's
forehead was widened by the visitation of a stick, and Dicky
Perrott sustained a very hopeful punch in the eye, which he
cherished enthusiastically with a view to an honourable blackness.
In the snuggery intervals they explained their prowess one to
another, and Dicky alluded to his intention, when he was a man, to
buy a very long sword wherewith to cut off the Learys' heads: Tommy
Rann inclining, however, to a gun, with which one might also shoot
The battle flagged a little toward mid-day, but waxed lively
again as the afternoon began. It was then that Dicky Perrott,
venturing some way from the retreat, found himself in a scrimmage,
and a man snatched away his piece of iron and floored a Leary with
it. Gratifying as was the distinction of aiding in the exploit,
Dicky mourned the loss of the weapon almost unto tears, and Tommy
Rann would not go turn-about with the other, but kept it wholly for
himself; so Dicky was fain to hunt sorrowfully for a mere stick.
Even a disengaged stick was not easy to find just then. So Dicky,
emerging from the Jago, tried Meakin Street, where there were
shops, but unsuccessfully, and so came round by Luck Row, a narrow
way from Meakin Street by Walker's cook shop, up through the
Dicky's mother, left with the baby, fastened the door as well as
she might, and trembled. Indeed she had reason. The time of Josh
Perrott's return was a matter of doubt, but when he did come he
would want something to eat; it was for that he had left the money.
But Dicky was out, and there was nothing in the cupboard. From the
window she saw divers fights in Jago Court; and a man lay for near
two hours on the stones with a cut on his temple. As for herself,
she was no favourite in the neighbourhood at any time. For one
thing, her husband did not carry the cosh. Then she was an alien
who had never entirely fallen into Jago ways; she had soon grown
sluttish and dirty, but she was never drunk, she never quarrelled,
she did not gossip freely. Also her husband beat her but rarely,
and then not with a chair nor a poker. Justly irritated by such
superiorities as these, the women of the Jago were ill-disposed to
brook another: which was, that Hannah Perrott had been married in
church. For these reasons she was timid at the most peaceful of
times, but now, with Ranns and Learys on the war-path, and herself
obnoxious to both, she trembled. She wished Dicky would come and do
her errand. But there was no sign of him, and mid-day wore into
afternoon. It was late for Josh as it was, and he would be sure to
come home irritable: it was his way when a bad head from overnight
struggled with morning beer. If he found nothing to eat there would
At length she resolved to go herself. There was a lull in the
outer din, and what there was seemed to come from the farther parts
of Honey Lane and Jago Row. She would slip across by Luck Row to
Meakin Street and be back in five minutes. She took up little Looey
And as Dicky, stickless, turned into Luck Row, there arose a
loud shriek and then another, and then in a changed voice a
succession of long screams with a regular breath-pause. Sally Green
again! He ran, turned into Old Jago Street, and saw.
Sprawled on her face in the foul road lay a writhing woman and
screamed; while squeezed under her arm was a baby with mud in its
eyes and a cut cheek, crying weakly; and spread over all, clutching
her prey by hair and wrist, Sally Green hung on the nape like a
terrier, jaws clenched, head shaking.
Thus Dicky saw it in a flash, and in an instant he had flung
himself on Sally Green, kicking, striking, biting and crying, for
he had seen his mother and Looey. The kicks wasted themselves among
the woman's petticoats, and the blows were feeble; but the sharp
teeth were meeting in the shoulder-flesh, when help came.
Norah Walsh, vanquished champion, now somewhat recovered, looked
from a window, saw her enemy vulnerable, and ran out armed with a
bottle. She stopped at the kerb to knock the bottom off the bottle,
and then, with an exultant shout, seized Sally Green by the hair
and stabbed her about the face with the jagged points. Blinded with
blood, Sally released her hold on Mrs Perrott and rolled on her
back, struggling fiercely; but to no end, for Norah Walsh, kneeling
on her breast, stabbed and stabbed again, till pieces of the bottle
broke away. Sally's yells and plunges ceased, and a man pulled
Norah off. On him she turned, and he was fain to run, while certain
Learys found a truck which might carry Sally to the hospital.
Hannah Perrott was gone indoors, hysterical and helpless. She
had scarce crossed the street on her errand when she had met Sally
Green in quest of female Ranns. Mrs Perrott was not a Rann, but she
was not a Leary, so it came to the same thing. Moreover, there was
her general obnoxiousness. She had tried to run, but that was
useless; and now, sobbing and bleeding, she was merely conscious of
being gently led, almost carried, indoors and upstairs. She was
laid back on the bed, and somebody loosened her hair and wiped her
face and neck, giving her hoarse, comforting words. Then she saw
the face—scared though coarse and pitted, and red about the
eyes—that bent over her. It was Pigeony Poll's.
Dicky had followed her in, no longer the hero of the Jago Row
retreat, but with his face tearful and distorted, carrying the baby
in his arms, and wiping the mud from her eyes. Now he sat on the
little box and continued his ministrations, with fear in his looks
as he glanced at his mother on the bed.
Without, the fight rallied once more. The Learys ran to avenge
Sally Green, and the Ranns met them with a will. Down by the Bag of
Nails a party of Ranns was driven between the posts and through the
gut into Shoreditch High Street, where a stand was made until Fag
Dawson dropped, with a shoemaker's knife sticking under his
arm-pit. Then the Ranns left, with most of the Learys after them,
and Fag Dawson was carried to a chemist's by the police, never to
floor a Rann again. For he was chived in the left lung.
Thus the fight ended. For a faction fight in the Jago, with a
few broken heads and ribs and an odd knife wound here and
there—even with a death in the hospital from kicks or what
not—was all very well; but when it came to homicide in the
open High Street, the police drew the line, and entered the Jago in
force. Ordinarily, a peep now and again from a couple of policemen
between the 'Posties' was all the supervision the Jago had,
although three policemen had been seen to walk the length of Old
Jago Street together, and there were raids in force for special
captures. There was a raid in force now, and the turmoil ceased.
Nothing would have pleased both Ranns and Learys better than to
knock over two or three policemen, for kicking-practice; but there
were too many for the sport, and for hours they patrolled the
Jago's closest passages. Of course nobody knew who chived Fag
Dawson. No inquiring policeman ever found anybody in the Old Jago
who knew anything, even to the harm of his bitterest foe. It was
the sole commandment that ran there:—'Thou shalt not
That night it was known that there would be a fight between Josh
Perrott and Billy Leary, once the latter grew well. For Josh
Perrott came home, saw his wife, and turned Rann on the spot. But
for the police in the Jago that night, there would have been many a
sore head, if no worse, among the Learys, by visitation of Josh
Perrott. Sally Green's husband had fled years ago, and Billy Leary,
her brother, was the obvious mark for Josh's vengeance. He was near
as eminent a fighter among the men as his sister among the women,
and a charming scrap was anticipated. It would come off, of course,
in Jago Court one Sunday morning, as all fights of distinction did;
and perhaps somebody in the High Mob would put up stakes.
In the morning the police still held the Jago. Their presence
embarrassed many, but none more than Dicky Perrott, who would
always take a turning, or walk the other way, at sight of a
policeman. Dicky got out of Old Jago Street early, and betook him
to Meakin Street, where there were chandlers' shops with sugar in
their windows, and cook-shops with pudding. He designed working
through by these to Shoreditch High Street, there to crown his
solace by contemplation of the cake-shop. But, as he neared Weech's
coffee-shop, scarce half through Meakin Street, there stood Weech
himself at the door, grinning and nodding affably, and beckoning
him. He was a pleasant man, this Mr Aaron Weech, who sang hymns
aloud in the back parlour, and hummed the tunes in the shop: a
prosperous, white-aproned, whiskered, half-bald, smirking
tradesman, who bent and spoke amiably to boys, looking sharply in
their eyes, but talked to a man mostly with his gaze on the man's
Indeed, there seemed to be something about Mr Aaron Weech
especially attractive to youth. Nearly all his customers were boys
and girls, though not boys and girls who looked likely to pay a
great deal in the way of refreshment, much as they took. But he was
ever indulgent, and at all times accessible to his young clients.
Even on Sunday (though, of course, his shutters were kept rigidly
up on the Day of Rest) a particular tap would bring him hot-foot to
the door: not to sell coffee, for Mr Weech was no
Now he stood at his door, and invited Dicky with nods and becks.
Dicky, all wondering, and alert to dodge in case the thing were a
mere device to bring him within striking distance, went.
'W'y Dicky Perrott,' quoth Mr Weech in a tone of genial
surprise, 'I b'lieve you could drink a cup o' cawfy!'
Dicky, wondering how Mr Weech had learnt his name, believed he
'An' eat a slice o' cake too, I'll be bound,' Mr Weech
Dicky's glance leapt. Yes, he could eat a slice of cake too.
'Ah, I knew it,' said Mr Weech, triumphantly; 'I can always
tell.' He rubbed Dicky's cap about his head, and drew him into the
shop, at this hour bare of customers. At the innermost compartment
they stopped, and Mr Weech, with a gentle pressure on the
shoulders, seated Dicky at the table.
He brought the coffee, and not a single slice of cake, but two.
True, it was not cake of Elevation Mission quality, nor was it so
good as that shown at the shop in High Street: it was of a browner,
dumpier, harder nature, and the currants were gritty and few. But
cake it was, and to consider it critically were unworthy. Dicky
bolted it with less comfort than he might, for Mr Weech watched him
keenly across the table. And, indeed, from some queer cause, he
felt an odd impulse to cry. It was the first time that he had ever
been given anything, kindly and ungrudgingly.
He swallowed the last crumb, washed it down with the dregs of
his cup, and looked sheepishly across at Mr Weech.
'Goes down awright, don't it?' that benefactor remarked. 'Ah, I
like to see you enjoyin' of yerself. I'm very fond o' you young
'uns: 'specially clever 'uns like you.'
Dicky had never been called clever before, so far as he could
recollect, and he wondered at it now. Mr Weech, leaning back,
contemplated him smilingly for some seconds, and then proceeded.
'Yus,' he said, 'you're the sort o' boy as can 'ave cawfy and cake
w'enever you want it, you are.'
Dicky wondered more, and his face said as much. 'You know,' Mr
Weech pursued, winking again, grinning and nodding. 'That was a
fine watch you found the other day. Y'ought to 'a' brought it to
Dicky was alarmed. How did Mr Weech learn about the watch?
Perhaps he was a friend of the funny old man who lost it. Dicky
half rose, but his affable patron leaned across and pushed him back
on the seat. 'You needn't be frightened,' he said. 'I ain't goin'
to say nothink to nobody. But I know all about it, mind, an' I
could if I liked. You found the watch, an' it was a red 'un, on a
bit o' ribbin. Well, then you went and took it 'ome, like a little
fool. Wot does yer father do? W'y 'e ups an' lathers you with 'is
belt, an' 'e keeps the watch 'isself. That's all you git for yer
pains. See—I know all about it.' And Mr Weech gazed on Dicky
Perrott with a fixed grin.
''Oo toldjer?' Dicky managed to ask at last.
'Ah!'—this with a great emphasis and a tapping of the
forefinger beside the nose—'I don't want much tellin': it
ain't much as goes on 'ereabout I don't know of. Never mind 'ow.
P'raps I got a little bird as w'ispers—p'raps I do it some
other way. Any'ow I know. It ain't no good any boy tryin' to do
somethink unbeknownst to me, mindjer.'
Mr Weech's head lay aside, his grin widened, his glance was
sidelong, his forefinger pointed from his temple over Dicky's head,
and altogether he looked so very knowing that Dicky shuffled in his
seat. By what mysterious means was this new-found friend so well
informed? The doubt troubled him, for Dicky knew nothing of Mr
Aaron Weech's conversation, an hour before, with Tommy Rann.
'But it's awright, bless yer,' Mr Weech went on presently.
'Nobody's none the wuss for me knowin' about 'em.... Well, we was
a-talkin' about the watch, wasn't we? All you got after sich a lot
o' trouble was a woppin' with a belt. That was too bad.' Mr Weech's
voice was piteous and sympathetic. 'After you a-findin' sich a nice
watch—a red 'un an' all!—you gits nothink for yerself
but a beltin'. Never mind, you'll do better next time—I'll
take care o' that. I don't like to see a clever boy put upon. You
go an' find another, or somethink else—anythink
good—an' then you bring it 'ere.'
Mr Weech's friendly sympathy extinguished Dicky's doubt. 'I
didn't find it,' he said, shy but proud. 'It was a click—I
'Eh?' ejaculated Mr Weech, a sudden picture of blank
incomprehension. 'Eh? What? Click? Wot's a click? Sneaked? Wot's
that? I dunno nothink about no talk o' that sort, an' I don't want
to. It's my belief it means somethink wrong—but I dunno, an'
I don't want to. 'Ear that? Eh? Don't let me 'ave no more o' that,
or you'd better not come near me agin. If you find
somethink, awright: you come to me an' I'll give ye somethink for
it, if it's any good. It ain't no business of anybody's
where you find it, o' course, an' I don't want to know. But
clicks and sneaks—them's Greek to me, an' I don't want to
learn 'em. Unnerstand that? Nice talk to respectable people, with
yer clicks an' sneaks!'
Dicky blushed a little, and felt very guilty without in the
least understanding the offence. But Mr Weech's virtuous
indignation subsided as quickly as it had arisen, and he went on as
amiably as ever.
'When you find anythink,' he said, 'jist like you found
that watch, don't tell nobody, an' don't let nobody see it. Bring
it 'ere quiet, when there ain't any p'liceman in the street, an'
come right through to the back o' the shop, an' say, "I come to
clean the knives." Unnerstand? "I come to clean the knives." There
ain't no knives to clean—it's on'y a way o' tellin' me you
got somethink without other people knowin'. An' then I'll give you
somethink for it—money p'raps, or p'raps cake or wot not.
Don't forgit. "I come to clean the knives." See?'
Yes, Dicky understood perfectly; and Dicky saw a new world of
dazzling delights. Cake—limitless cake, coffee, and the like
whenever he might feel moved thereunto; but more than all,
money—actual money. Good broad pennies, perhaps whole
shillings—perhaps even more still: money to buy bullock's
liver for dinner, or tripe, or what you fancied: saveloys, baked
potatoes from the can on cold nights, a little cart to wheel Looey
in, a boat from a toy-shop with sails!
'There's no end o' things to be found all over the place, an' a
sharp boy like you can find 'em every day. If you don't find 'em,
someone else will; there's plenty on 'em about on the look-out, an'
you got jist as much right as them. On'y mind!'—Mr Weech was
suddenly stern and serious, and his forefinger was raised
impressively—'you know you can't do anythink without I know,
an' if you say a word—if you say a word,' his fist came on
the table with a bang, 'somethink 'll happen to you. Somethink
Mr Weech rose, and was pleasant again, though business-like.
'Now, you just go an' find somethink,' he said. 'Look sharp about
it, an' don't go an' git in trouble. The cawfy's a penny, an' the
cake's a penny—ought prop'ly to be twopence, but say a penny
this time. That's twopence you owe me, an' you better bring
somethink an' pay it off quick. So go along.'
This was an unforeseen tag to the entertainment. For the first
time in his life Dicky was in debt. It was a little disappointing
to find the coffee and cake no gift after all: though, indeed, it
now seemed foolish to have supposed they were; for in Dicky
Perrott's world people did not give things away—that were the
act of a fool. Thus Dicky, with his hands in his broken pockets,
and thought in his small face, whereon still stood the muddy
streaks of yesterday's tears, trudged out of Mr Aaron Weech's
shop-door, and along Meakin Street.
Now he was beginning the world seriously, and must face the
fact. Truly the world had been serious enough for him hitherto, but
that he knew not. Now he was of an age when most boys were thieving
for themselves, and he owed money like a man. True it was, as Mr
Weech had said, that everybody—the whole Jago—was on
the look-out for himself. Plainly he must take his share, lest it
fall to others. As to the old gentleman's watch, he had but been
beforehand. Through foolish ingenuousness he had lost it, and his
father had got it, who could so much more easily steal one for
himself; for he was a strong man, and had but to knock over another
man at any night-time. Nobody should hear of future clicks but Mr
Weech. Each for himself? Come, he must open his eyes.
There was no chance all along Meakin Street. The chandlers and
the keepers of cook-shops knew their neighbourhood too well to
leave articles unguarded. Soon Dicky reached Shoreditch High
Street. There things were a little more favourable. There were
shops, as he well remembered, where goods were sometimes exhibited
at the doors and outside the windows; but to-day there seemed to be
no chance of the sort. As for the people, he was too short to try
pockets, and indeed the High Street rarely gave passage to a more
unpromising lot. Moreover, from robbery from the person he knew he
must abstain, except for such uncommon opportunities as that of the
Bishop's watch, for some years yet.
He hung about the doors and windows of shop after shop, hoping
for a temporary absence of the shop-keeper, which might leave
something snatchable. But he hoped in vain. From most shops he was
driven away, for the Shoreditch trader is not slow to judge the
purpose of a loitering boy. So he passed nearly two hours: when at
last he saw his chance. It came in an advantageous part of High
Street, not far from the 'Posties,' though on the opposite side of
the way. A nurse-girl had left a perambulator at a shop door, while
she bought inside, and on the perambulator lay loose a little skin
rug, from under which a little fat leg stuck and waved aloft. Dicky
set his back to the shop, and sidled to within reach of the
perambulator. But it chanced that at this moment the nurse-girl
stepped to the door, and she made a snatch at his arm as he lifted
the rug. This he dropped at once, and was swinging leisurely away
(for he despised the chase of any nurse-girl) when a man took him
suddenly by the shoulder. Quick as a weasel, Dicky ducked under the
man's arm, pulled his shoulder clear, dropped forward and rested an
instant on the tips of his fingers to avoid the catch of the other
hand, and shot out into the road. The man tried to follow, but
Dicky ran under the belly of a standing horse, under the head of
another that trotted, across the fore-platform of a
tramcar—behind the driver's back—and so over to the
He slouched into the Jago, disappointed. As he crossed Edge
Lane, he was surprised to perceive a stranger—a toff,
indeed—who walked slowly along, looking up right and left at
the grimy habitations about him. He wore a tall hat, and his
clothes were black, and of a pattern that Dicky remembered to have
seen at the Elevation Mission. They were, in fact, the clothes of a
clergyman. For himself, he was tall and soundly built, with a
certain square muscularity of face, and of age about thirty-five.
He had ventured into the Jago because the police were in
possession, Dicky thought; and wondered in what plight he would
leave, had he come at another time. But losing view of the
stranger, and making his way along Old Jago Street, Dicky perceived
that indeed the police were gone, and that the Jago was free.
He climbed the broken stairs and pushed into the first-floor
back, hopeful, though more doubtful, of dinner. There was none. His
mother, tied about the neck with rags, lay across the bed nursing
the damage of yesterday, and commiserating herself. A yard from her
lay Looey, sick and ailing in a new way, but disregarded. Dicky
moved to lift her, but at that she cried the more, and he was fain
to let her lie. She rolled her head from side to side, and raised
her thin little hand vaguely toward it, with feverishly working
fingers. Dicky felt her head and she screamed again. There was a
lump at the side, a hard, sharp lump; got from the stones of the
roadway yesterday. And there was a curious quality, a rather
fearful quality, in the little wails: uneasily suggestive of the
screams of Sally Green's victims.
Father was out, prowling. There was nothing eatable in the
cupboard, and there seemed nothing at home worth staying for. He
took another look at Looey, but refrained from touching her, and
The opposite door on the landing was wide open, and he could
hear nobody in the room. He had never seen this door open before,
and now he ventured on a peep: for the tenants of the front room
were strangers, late arrivals, and interlopers. Their name was
Roper. Roper was a pale cabinet-maker, fallen on evil times and out
of work. He had a pale wife, disliked because of her neatly-kept
clothes, her exceeding use of soap and water, her aloofness from
gossip. She had a deadly pale baby; also there was a pale
hunchbacked boy of near Dicky's age. Collectively the Ropers were
disliked as strangers: because they furnished their own room, and
in an obnoxiously complete style; because Roper did not drink, nor
brawl, nor beat his wife, nor do anything all day but look for
work; because all these things were a matter of scandalous
arrogance, impudently subversive of Jago custom and precedent. Mrs
Perrott was bad enough, but such people as these!...
Dicky had never before seen quite such a room as this.
Everything was so clean: the floor, the windows, the bed-clothes.
Also there was a strip of old carpet on the floor. There were two
perfectly sound chairs; and two pink glass vases on the
mantel-piece; and a clock. Nobody was in the room, and Dicky took a
step farther. The clock attracted him again. It was a small, cheap,
nickel-plated, cylindrical thing, of American make, and it reminded
him at once of the Bishop's watch. It was not gold, certainly, but
it was a good deal bigger, and it could go—it was going.
Dicky stepped back and glanced at the landing. Then he darted into
the room, whipped the clock under the breast of the big jacket, and
went for the stairs.
Half way down he met the pale hunchback ascending. Left at home
alone, he had been standing in the front doorway. He saw Dicky's
haste, saw also the suspicious bulge under his jacket, and
straightway seized Dicky's arm. 'Where 'a' you bin?' he asked
sharply. 'Bin in our room? What you got there?'
'Nothin' o' yours, 'ump. Git out o' that!' Dicky pushed him
aside. 'If you don't le' go I'll corpse ye!'
But one arm and hand was occupied with the bulge, and the other
was for the moment unequal to the work of driving off the
assailant. The two children wrangled and struggled downstairs,
through the doorway and into the street: the hunchback weak, but
infuriate, buffeting, biting and whimpering; Dicky infuriate too,
but alert for a chance to break away and run. So they scrambled
together across the street, Dicky dragging away from the house at
every step; and just at the corner of Luck Row, getting his
fore-arm across the other's face, he back-heeled him, and the
little hunchback fell heavily, and lay breathless and sobbing,
while Dicky scampered through Luck Row and round the corner into
Mr Weech was busier now, for there were customers. But Dicky and
his bulge he saw ere they were well over the threshold.
'Ah yus, Dicky,' he said, coming to meet him. 'I was expectin'
you. Come in—
In the swe-e-et by an' by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shaw-er!
Come in 'ere.' And still humming his hymn, he led Dicky into the
Here Dicky produced the clock, which Mr Weech surveyed with no
great approval. 'You'll 'ave to try an' do better than this, you
know,' he said. 'But any'ow 'ere it is, sich as it is. It about
clears auf wot you owe, I reckon. Want some dinner?'
This was a fact, and Dicky admitted it.
In the swe-e-e-t by an' by,—
come out an' set down. I'll bring you somethink 'ot.'
This proved to be a very salt bloater, a cup of the usual muddy
coffee, tasting of burnt toast, and a bit of bread: afterwards
supplemented by a slice of cake. This to Dicky was a banquet.
Moreover, there was the adult dignity of taking your dinner in a
coffee-shop, which Dicky supported indomitably now that he began to
feel at ease in Mr Weech's: leaning back in his seat, swinging his
feet, and looking about at the walls with the grocers' almanacks
hanging thereto, and the Sunday School Anniversary bills of past
date, gathered from afar to signalise the elevated morals of the
'Done?' queried Mr Weech in his ear. 'Awright, don't 'ang about
'ere then. Bloater's a penny, bread a 'a'peny, cawfy a penny, cake
a penny. You'll owe thrippence a'peny now.'
When Dicky Perrott and the small hunchback were hauling and
struggling across the street, Old Fisher came down from the
top-floor back, wherein he dwelt with his son Bob, Bob's wife and
two sisters, and five children: an apartment in no way so clean as
the united efforts of ten people might be expected to have made it.
Old Fisher, on whose grimy face the wrinkles were deposits of mud,
stopped at the open door on the first floor, and, as Dicky had
done, he took a peep. Perplexed at the monstrous absence of dirt,
and encouraged by the stillness, Old Fisher also ventured within.
Nobody was in charge, and Old Fisher, mentally pricing the pink
glass vases at threepence, made for a small chest in the corner of
the room, and lifted the lid. Within lay many of Roper's tools,
from among which he had that morning taken such as he might want on
an emergent call to work, to carry as he tramped Curtain Road.
Clearly these were the most valuable things in the place; and,
slipping a few small articles into his pockets, Old Fisher took a
good double handful of the larger, and tramped upstairs with them.
Presently he returned with Bob's missis, and together they started
with more. As they emerged, however, there on the landing stood the
little hunchback, sobbing and smearing his face with his sleeve. At
sight of this new pillage he burst into sharp wails, standing
impotent on the landing, his streaming eyes following the man and
woman ascending before him. Old Fisher, behind, stumped the stairs
with a clumsy affectation of absent-mindedness; the woman, in
front, looked down, merely indifferent. Scarce were they vanished
above, however, when the little hunchback heard his father and
mother on the lower stairs.
Dicky came moodily back from his dinner at Mr Weech's, plunged
in mystified computation: starting with a debt of twopence, he had
paid Mr Weech an excellent clock—a luxurious article in
Dicky's eyes—had eaten a bloater, and had emerged from the
transaction owing threepence halfpenny. Of what such a clock cost
he had no notion, though he felt it must be some inconceivable sum.
As Mr Weech put it, the adjustment of accounts would seem to be
quite correct; but the broad fact that all had ended in increasing
his debt by three half-pence, remained and perplexed him. He
remembered having seen such clocks in a shop in Norton Folgate. To
ask the price, in person, were but to be chased out of the shop;
but they were probably ticketed, and perhaps he might ask some
bystander to read the ticket. This brought the reflection that,
after all, reading was a useful accomplishment on occasion: though
a matter of too much time and trouble to be worth while. Dicky had
never been to school; for the Elementary Education Act ran in the
Jago no more than any other Act of Parliament. There was a Board
School, truly, away out of the Jago bounds, by the corner of Honey
Lane, where children might go free, and where some few Jago
children did go now and again, when boots were to be given away, or
when tickets were to be had, for tea, or soup, or the like. But
most parents were of Josh Perrott's opinion: that school-going was
a practice best never begun; for then the child was never heard of,
and there was no chance of inquiries or such trouble. Not that any
such inquiries were common in the Jago, or led to anything.
Meantime Dicky, minded to know if his adventure had made any
stir in the house, carried his way deviously toward home. Working
through the parts beyond Jago Row, he fetched round into Honey
Lane, so coming at New Jago Street from the farther side. Choosing
one of the houses whose backs gave on Jago Court, he slipped
through the passage, and so, by the back yard, crawled through the
broken fence into the court. Left and right were the fronts of
houses, four a side. Before him, to the right of the narrow archway
leading to Old Jago Street, was the window of his own home. He
gained the back yard quietly, and at the kitchen door met Tommy
'Come on,' called Tommy. ''Ere's a barney! They're a-pitchin'
into them noo 'uns—Roperses. Roperses sez Fisherses is
sneaked their things. They are a-gittin' of it!'
From the stairs, indeed, came shouts and curses, bumps and sobs
and cries. The first landing and half the stairs were full of
people, men and women, Ranns and Learys together. When Ranns joined
Learys it was an ill time for them they marched against; and never
were they so ready and so anxious to combine as after a fight
between themselves, were but some common object of attack
available. Here it was. Here were these pestilent outsiders, the
Ropers, assailing the reputation of the neighbourhood by
complaining of being robbed. As though their mere presence in the
Jago, with their furniture and their superiority, were not
obnoxious enough: they must turn about and call their neighbours
thieves! They had been tolerated too long already. They should now
be given something for themselves, and have some of their
exasperating respectability knocked off; and if, in the confusion,
their portable articles of furniture and bed-clothing found their
way into more deserving hands—why, serve them right.
The requisite volleys of preliminary abuse having been
discharged, more active operations began under cover of fresh
volleys. Dicky, with Tommy Rann behind him, struggled up the stairs
among legs and skirts, and saw that the Ropers, the man flushed,
but the woman paler than ever, were striving to shut their door.
Within, the hunchback and the baby cried, and without, those on the
landing, skidding the door with their feet, pushed inward, and now
began to strike and maul. Somebody seized the man's wrist, and
Norah Walsh got the woman by the hair and dragged her head down. In
a peep through the scuffle Dicky saw her face, ashen and
sweat-beaded, in the jamb of the door, and saw Norah Walsh's red
fist beat into it twice. Then somebody came striding up the stairs,
and Dicky was pushed farther back. Over the shoulders of those
about him, Dicky saw a tall hat, and then the head beneath it. It
was the stranger he had seen in Edge Lane—the parson: active
and resolute. Norah Walsh he took by the shoulder, and flung back
among the others, and as he turned on him, the man who held Roper's
wrist released it and backed off.
'What is this?' demanded the new-comer, stern and hard of face.
'What is all this?' He bent his frown on one and another about him,
and, as he did it, some shrank uneasily, and on the faces of others
fell the blank lack of expression that was wont to meet police
inquiries in the Jago. Dicky looked to see this man beaten down,
kicked and stripped. But a well-dressed stranger was so new a thing
in the Jago, this one had dropped among them so suddenly, and he
had withal so bold a confidence, that the Jagos stood irresolute. A
toff was not a person to be attacked without due consideration.
After such a person there were apt to be inquiries, with money to
back them, and vengeance sharp and certain: the thing, indeed, was
commonly thought too risky. And this man, so unflinchingly
confident, must needs have reason for it. He might have the police
at instant call—they might be back in the Jago at the moment.
And he flung them back, commanded them, cowed them with his hard,
intelligent eyes, like a tamer among beasts.
'Understand this, now,' he went on, with a sharp tap of his
stick on the floor. 'This is a sort of thing I will not
tolerate in my parish—in this parish: nor in any other place
where I may meet it. Go away, and try to be ashamed of
yourselves—go. Go, all of you, I say, to your own homes: I
shall come there and talk to you again soon. Go along, Sam
Cash—you've a broken head already, I see. Take it away: I
shall come and see you too.'
Those on the stairs had melted away like punished
school-children. Most of the others, after a moment of averted face
and muttered justification one to another, were dragging their
feet, each with a hang-dog pretence of sauntering airily off from
some sight no longer interesting. Sam Cash, who had already seen
the stranger in the street, and was thus perhaps a trifle less
startled than the others at his advent, stood, however, with some
assumption of virtuous impudence, till amazed by sudden address in
his own name: whereat, clean discomfited, he ignominiously turned
tail and sneaked downstairs in meaner case than the rest. How
should this strange parson know him, and know his name? Plainly he
must be connected with the police. He had brought out the name as
pat as you please. So argued Sam Cash with his fellows in the outer
street: never recalling that Jerry Gullen had called aloud to him
by name, when first he observed the parson in the street; had
called to him, indeed, to haste to the bashing of the Ropers; and
thus had first given the stranger notice of the proceeding. But it
was the way of the Jago that its mean cunning saw a mystery and a
terror where simple intelligence saw there was none.
As the crowd began to break up, Dicky pushed his own door a
little open behind him, and there stood on his own ground, as the
others cleared off; and the hunchback ventured a peep from behind
his swooning mother. 'There y'are, that's 'im!' he shouted,
pointing at Dicky. ''E begun it! 'E took the clock!' Dicky
instantly dropped behind his door, and shut it fast.
The invaders had all gone—the Fishers had made upstairs in
the beginning—before the parson turned and entered the
Ropers' room. In five minutes he emerged and strode upstairs:
whence he returned, after a still shorter interval, herding before
him Old Fisher and Bob Fisher's missis, sulky and reluctant,
And thus it was that the Reverend Henry Sturt first addressed
his parishioners. The parish, besides the Jago, comprised Meakin
Street and some small way beyond, and it was to this less savage
district that his predecessor had confined his attention: preaching
every Sunday in a stable, in an alley behind a disused shop, and
distributing loaves and sixpences to the old women who attended
regularly on that account. For to go into the Jago were for him
mere wasted effort. And so, indeed, the matter had been since the
parish came into being.
When Dicky retreated from the landing and shut the door behind
him, he slipped the bolt, a strong one, put there by Josh Perrott
himself, possibly as an accessory to escape by the window in some
possible desperate pass. For a little he listened, but no sound
hinted of attack from without, and he turned to his mother.
Josh Perrott had been out since early morning, and Dicky, too,
had done no more than look in for a moment in search of dinner.
Hannah Perrott, grown tired of self commiseration, felt herself
neglected and aggrieved—slighted in her state of invalid
privilege. So she transferred some of her pity from her sore neck
to her desolate condition as misprized wife and mother, and the
better to feel it, proceeded to martyrise herself, with melancholy
pleasure, by a nerveless show of 'setting to rights' in the
room—a domestic novelty, perfunctory as it was. Looey, still
restless and weeping, she left on the bed, for, being neglected
herself, it was not her mood to tend the baby; she would aggravate
the relish of her sorrows in her own way. Besides, Looey had been
given something to eat a long time ago, and had not eaten it yet:
with her there was nothing else to do. So that now, as she dragged
a rag along the grease-strewn mantel-piece, Mrs Perrott greeted
Dicky:—'There y'are, Dicky, comin' 'inderin' 'ere jest when
I'm a-puttin' things to rights.' And she sighed with the weight of
Looey lay on her back, faintly and vainly struggling to turn her
fearful little face from the light. Clutched in her little fist was
the unclean stump of bread she had held for hours. Dicky plucked a
soft piece and essayed to feed her with it, but the dry little
mouth rejected the morsel, and the head turned feverishly from side
to side to the sound of that novel cry. She was hot wherever Dicky
touched her, and presently he said:—'Mother, I b'lieve
Looey's queer. I think she wants some med'cine.'
His mother shook her head peevishly. 'O, you an' Looey's a
noosance,' she said. 'A lot you care about me bein' queer,
you an' yer father too, leavin' me all alone like this, an' me
feelin' ready to drop, an' got the room to do an' all. I wish you'd
go away an' stop 'inderin' of me like this.'
Dicky took but another look at Looey, and then slouched out. The
landing was clear, and the Ropers' door was shut. He wondered what
had become of the stranger with the tall hat—whether he was
in the Ropers' room or not. The thought hurried him, for he feared
to have that stranger asking him questions about the clock. He got
out into the street, thoughtful. He had some compunctions in the
matter of that clock, now. Not that he could in any reasonable way
blame himself. There the clock had stood at his mercy, and by all
Jago custom and ethic it was his if only he could get clear away
with it. This he had done, and he had no more concern in the
business, strictly speaking. Nevertheless, since he had seen the
woman's face in the jamb of the door, he felt a sort of pity for
her—that she should have lost her clock. No doubt she had
enjoyed its possession, as, indeed, he would have enjoyed it
himself, had he not had to take it instantly to Mr Weech. And his
fancy wandered off in meditation of what he would do with a clock
of his own. To begin with, of course, he would open it, and
discover the secret of its works and its ticking: perhaps thereby
discovering how to make a clock himself. Also he would frequently
wind it up, and he would show the inside to Looey, in confidence.
It would stand on the mantel-piece, and raise the social position
of the family. People would come respectfully to ask the time, and
he would tell them, with an air. Yes, certainly a clock must stand
eminent among the things he would buy, when he had plenty of money.
He must look out for more clicks: the one way to riches.
As to the Ropers, again. Bad it must be, indeed, to be deprived
suddenly of a clock, after long experience of the joys it brought;
and Norah Walsh had punched the woman in the face, and clawed her
hair, and the woman could not fight. Dicky was sorry for her, and
straightway resolved to give her another clock, or, if not a clock,
something that would please her as much. He had acquired a clock in
the morning; why not another in the afternoon? Failing a clock, he
would try for something else, and the Ropers should have it. The
resolve gave Dicky a virtuous exaltation of spirit, the reward of
Again he began the prowl after likely plunder that was to be his
daily industry. Meakin Street he did not try. The chandlers' and
the cook-shops held nothing that might be counted a consolatory
equivalent for a clock. Through the 'Posties' he reached Shoreditch
High Street at once, and started.
This time his movements aroused less suspicion. In the morning
he had no particular prize in view, and loitered at every shop,
waiting his chance at anything portable. Now, with a more definite
object, he made his promenade easily, but without stopping or
lounging by shop-fronts. The thing, whatsoever it might be, must be
small, handsome, and of an interesting character—at least as
interesting as the clock was. It must be small, not merely for
facility of concealment and removal—though these were main
considerations—but because stealthy presentation were then
the easier. It would have pleased Dicky to hand over his gift
openly, and to bask in the thanks and the consideration it would
procure. But he had been accused of stealing the clock, and an open
gift would savour of admission and peace-offering, whereas in that
matter stark denial was his plain course.
A roll of print stuff would not do; apples would not do; and
fish was wide of his purpose. Up one side and down the other side
of High Street he walked, his eyes instant for suggestion and
opportunity. But all in vain. Nobody exposed clocks out of doors,
and of those within not one but an attempt on it were simple
madness. And of the things less desperate of access nothing was
proper to the occasion: all were too large, too cheap, or too
uninteresting. Oddly, Dicky feared failure more than had he been
hunting for himself.
He tried farther south, in Norton Folgate. There was a shop of
cheap second-hand miscellanies: saddles, razors, straps, dumbbells,
pistols, boxing gloves, trunks, bags, and billiard-balls. Many of
the things hung about the door-posts in bunches, and within all was
black, as in a cave. At one door-post was a pistol. Nothing could
be more interesting than a pistol—indeed it was altogether a
better possession than a clock; and it was a small, handy sort of
thing. Probably the Ropers would be delighted with a pistol. He
stood and regarded it with much interest. There were difficulties.
In the first place it was beyond his reach; and in the second, it
hung by the trigger-guard on a stout cord. Just then, glancing
within the shop, he perceived a pair of fiery eyes regarding him,
panther-like, from the inner gloom; and he hastily resumed his
walk, as the Jew shop-keeper reached the door, and watched him
Now he came to Bishopsgate Street, and here at last he chose the
gift. It was at a toy-shop: a fine, flaming toy-shop, with carts,
dolls, and hoops dangling above, and wooden horses standing below,
guarding two baskets by the door. One contained a mixed assortment
of tops, whips, boats, and woolly dogs; the other was lavishly
filled with shining, round metal boxes, nobly decorated with
coloured pictures, each box with a little cranked handle. As he
looked, a tune, delightfully tinkled on some instrument, was heard
from within the shop. Dicky peeped. There was a lady, with a little
girl at her side who was looking eagerly at just such a shining,
round box in the saleswoman's hands, and it was from that box, as
the saleswoman turned the handle, that the tune came. Dicky was
enchanted. This—this was the thing, beyond debate: a pretty
little box that would play music whenever you turned a handle. This
was a thing worth any fifty clocks. Indeed it was almost as good as
a regular barrel-organ, the first thing he would buy if he were
There was a shop-boy in charge of the goods outside the window,
and his eyes were on Dicky. So Dicky whistled absently, and
strolled carelessly along. He swung behind a large waggon, crossed
the road, and sought a convenient doorstep; for his mind was made
up, and his business was now to sit down before the toy-shop, and
wait his opportunity.
A shop had been boarded up after a fire, and from its doorstep
one could command a perfect view of the toy-shop across the broad
thoroughfare with its crowded traffic—could sit, moreover,
safe from interference. Here he took his seat, secure from the
notice of the guardian shop-boy, whose attention was given to
passengers on his own side. The little girl, gripping the new toy
in her hand, came out at her mother's side and trotted off. For a
moment Dicky reflected that the box could be easily snatched. But
after all the little girl had but one: whereas the shopwoman had
many, and at best could play on no more than one at a time.
He resumed his watch of the shop-boy, confident that sooner or
later a chance would come. A woman stopped to ask the price of
something, and Dicky had half crossed the road ere the boy had
begun to answer. But the answer was short, and the boy's attention
was released too soon.
At last the shopwoman called the boy within, and Dicky darted
across—not directly, but so as to arrive invisibly at the
side next the basket of music boxes. A quick glance behind him, a
snatch at the box with the reddest picture, and a dash into the
traffic did it.
The dash would not have been called for but for the sudden
re-appearance of the shop-boy ere the box had vanished amid the
intricacies of Dicky's jacket. Dicky was fast, but the boy was
little slower, and was, moreover, bigger, and stronger on his legs;
and Dicky reached the other pavement and turned the next corner
into Widegate Street, the pursuer scarce ten yards behind.
It was now that he first experienced 'hot beef'—which is
the Jago idiom denoting the plight of one harried by the cry 'Stop
thief.' Down Widegate Street, across Sandys Row and into Raven Row
he ran his best, clutching the hem of his jacket and the music box
that lay within. Crossing Sandys Row a loafing lad shouldered
against the shop-boy, and Dicky was grateful, for he made it a gain
of several yards.
But others had joined in the hunt, and Dicky for the first time
began to fear. This was a bad day—twice already he had been
chased; and now—it was bad. He thought little more, for a
stunning fear fell upon him: the fear of the hunted, that
calculates nothing, and is measured by no apprehension of
consequences. He remembered that he must avoid Spitalfields Market,
full of men who would stop him; and he knew that in many places
where a man would be befriended many would make a virtue of
stopping a boy. To the right along Bell Lane he made an agonised
burst of speed, and for a while he saw not nor remembered anything;
heard no more than dreadful shouts drawing nearer his shoulders,
felt only the fear. But he could not last. Quick enough when fresh,
he was tiny and ill fed, and now he felt his legs trembling and his
wind going. Something seemed to beat on the back of his head, till
he wondered madly if it were the shop-boy with a stick. He turned
corners, and chose his way by mere instinct, ashen-faced, staring,
open-mouthed. How soon would he give in, and drop? A street
more—half a street—ten yards? Rolling and tripping, he
turned one last corner and almost fell against a vast, fat, unkempt
woman whose clothes slid from her shoulders.
''Ere y' are, boy,' said the woman, and flung him by the
shoulder through the doorway before which she stood.
He was saved at his extremity, for he could never have reached
the street's end. The woman who had done it (probably she had boys
of her own on the crook) filled the entrance with her frowsy bulk,
and the chase straggled past. Dicky caught the stair-post for a
moment's support, and then staggered out at the back of the house.
He gasped, he panted, things danced blue before him, but still he
clutched his jacket hem and the music box lying within. The back
door gave on a cobble-paved court, with other doors, two coster's
barrows, and a few dusty fowls. Dicky sat on a step where a door
was shut, and rested his head against the frame.
The beating in his head grew slower and lighter, and presently
he could breathe with no fear of choking. He rose and moved off,
still panting, and feeble in the legs. The court ended in an arched
passage, through which he gained the street beyond. Here he had but
to turn to the left, and he was in Brick Lane, and thence all was
clear to the Old Jago. Regaining his breath and his confidence as
he went, he bethought him of the Jago Row retreat, where he might
examine his prize at leisure, embowered amid trucks and barrows.
Thither he pushed his way, and soon, in the shade of the upturned
barrow, he brought out the music box. Bright and shiny, it had
taken no damage in the flight, though on his hands he found
scratches, and on his shins bruises, got he knew not how. On the
top of the box was the picture of a rosy little boy in crimson
presenting a scarlet nosegay to a rosy little girl in pink, while a
red brick mansion filled the distance and solidified the
composition. The brilliant hoop that made the sides (silver, Dicky
was convinced) was stamped in patterns, and the little brass handle
was an irresistible temptation. Dicky climbed a truck, and looked
about him, peeping from beside the loose fence-plank. Then, seeing
nobody very near, he muffled the box as well as he could in his
jacket, and turned the handle.
This was indeed worth all the trouble. Gently Does the
Trick was the tune, and Dicky, with his head aside and his ear
on the bunch of jacket that covered the box, listened: his lips
parted, his eyes seeking illimitable space. He played the tune
through, and played it again, and then growing reckless, played it
with the box unmuffled, till he was startled by a bang on the fence
from without. It was but a passing boy with a stick, but Dicky was
sufficiently disturbed to abandon his quarters and take his music
What he longed to do was to take it home and play it to Looey,
but that was out of the question: he remembered the watch. But
there was Jerry's Gullen's canary, and him Dicky sought and found.
Canary blinked solemnly when the resplendent box was flashed in his
eyes, and set his ears back and forward as, muffled again in
Dicky's jacket, it tinkled out its tune.
Tommy Rann should not see it, lest he prevail over its
beneficent dedication to the Ropers. Truly, as it was, Dicky's
resolution was hard to abide by. The thing acquired at such a cost
of patience, address, hard flight, and deadly fear was surely his
by right—as surely, quite, as the clock had been. And such a
thing he might never touch again. But he put by the temptation
manfully, and came out by Jerry Gullen's front door. He would look
no more on the music box, beautiful as it was: he would convey it
to the Ropers before temptation came again.
It was not easy to devise likely means. Their door was shut
fast, of course. For a little while he favoured the plan of setting
the box against the threshold, knocking, and running off. But an
opportunity might arise of doing the thing in a way to give him
some glimpse of the Ropers' delight, an indulgence he felt entitled
to. So he waited a little, listened a little, and at last came out
into the street, and loafed.
It was near six o'clock, and a smell of bloater hung about Jerry
Gullen's door and window; under the raised sash Jerry Gullen,
close-cropped and foxy of face, smoked his pipe, sprawled his
elbows, and contemplated the world. Dicky, with the music box
stowed out of sight, looked as blank of design and as destitute of
possession as he could manage; for there were loafers near Mother
Gapp's, loafers at the Luck Row corner—at every
corner—and loafers by the 'Posties,' all laggard of limb and
alert of eye. He had just seen a child, going with an empty beer
can, thrown down, robbed of his coppers and a poor old top, and
kicked away in helpless tears; and the incident was commonplace
enough, or many would have lacked pocket-money. Whosoever was too
young, too old, or too weak to fight for it must keep what he had
well hidden, in the Jago.
Down the street came Billy Leary, big, flushed and limping, and
hanging to a smaller man by a fistful of his coat on the shoulder.
Dicky knew the small man for a good toy-getter—(which = watch
stealer)—and judged he had had a good click, the proceeds
whereof Billy Leary was battening upon in beershops. For Billy
Leary rarely condescended to anything less honourable than bashing,
and had not yet fallen so low as to go about stealing for himself.
His missis brought many to the cosh, and his chief
necessity—another drink—he merely demanded of the
nearest person with the money to buy it, on pain of bashing. Or he
walked into the nearest public-house, selected the fullest pot, and
spat in it: a ceremony that deprived the purchaser of further
interest in the beer, and left it at his own disposal. There were
others, both Ranns and Learys, who pursued a similar way of life;
but Billy Leary was biggest among them—big men not being
common in the Jago—and rarely came to a difficulty: as,
however, he did once come, having invaded the pot of a stranger,
who turned out to be a Mile End pugilist exploring Shoreditch. It
was not well for any Jago who had made a click to have Billy Leary
know of it; for then the clicker was apt to be sought out, clung
to, and sucked dry; possibly bashed as well, when nothing more was
left, if Billy Leary were still but sober enough for the work.
Dicky gazed after the man with interest. It was he whom his
father was to fight in a week or so—perhaps in a few days: on
the first Sunday, indeed, that Leary should be deemed fit enough.
How much of the limp was due to yesterday's disaster and how much
to to-day's beer, Dicky could not judge. But there seemed little
reason to look for a long delay before the fight.
As Dicky turned away a man pushed a large truck round the corner
from Edge Lane, and on the footpath beside it walked the parson,
calm as ever, with black clothes and tall hat, whole and unsoiled.
He had made himself known in the Jago in the course of that
afternoon. He had traversed it from end to end, street by street
and alley by alley. His self-possession, his readiness, his
unbending firmness, abashed and perplexed the Jagos, and his
appearance just as the police had left could but convince them that
he must have some mysterious and potent connection with the force.
He had attempted very little in the way of domiciliary visiting,
being content for the time to see his parish, and speak here a word
and there another with his parishioners. An encounter with Kiddo
Cook did as much as anything toward securing him a proper
deference. In his second walk through Old Jago Street, as he neared
the Feathers, he was aware of a bunch of grinning faces pressed
against the bar window, and as he came abreast, forth stepped Kiddo
Cook from the door, impudently affable, smirking and ducking with
mock obsequiousness, and offering a quart pot.
'An' 'ow jer find jerself, sir?' he asked, with pantomime
cordiality. 'Hof'ly shockin' these 'ere lower classes, ain't they?
Er—yus; disgustin', weally. Er—might
I—er—prepose—er—a little refreshment? Ellow
The parson, grimly impassive, heard him through, took the pot,
and instantly jerking it upward, shot the beer, a single splash,
into Kiddo's face. 'There are things I must teach you, I see, my
man,' he said, without moving a muscle, except to return the
Kiddo Cook, coughing, drenched and confounded, took the pot
instinctively and backed to Mother Gapp's door, while the bunch of
faces at the bar window tossed and rolled in a joyous ecstasy: the
ghost whereof presently struggled painfully among Kiddo's own
dripping features, as he realised the completeness of his defeat,
and the expedience of a patient grin. The parson went calmly
Before this, indeed when he left the Ropers' room, and just
after Dicky had started out, he had looked in at the Perrotts'
quarters to speak about the clock. But plainly no clock was there,
and Mrs Perrott's flaccid indignation at the suggestion, and her
unmistakable ignorance of the affair, decided him to carry the
matter no further, at any rate for the present. Moreover, the
little hunchback's tale was inconclusive. He had seen no clock in
Dicky's possession—had but met him on the stairs with a
bulging jacket. The thing might be suspicious, but the new parson
knew better than to peril his influence by charging where he could
not convict. So he duly commiserated Hannah Perrott's troubles,
suggested that the baby seemed unwell and had better be taken to a
doctor, and went his way about the Jago.
Now he stopped the truck by Dicky's front door and mounted to
the Ropers' room. For he had seen that the Jago was no place for
them now, and had himself found them a suitable room away by Dove
Lane. And so, emboldened by his company, the Ropers came forth, and
with the help of the man who had brought the truck, carried down
the pieces of their bedstead, a bundle of bedding, the two chairs,
the pink vases, and the strip of old carpet, and piled them on the
truck with the few more things that were theirs.
Dicky, with his hand on the music box in the lining of his
jacket, sauntered up by the tail of the truck, and, waiting his
chance, plunged his gift under the bundle of bedding, and left it
there. But the little hunchback's sharp eyes were jealously on him,
and 'Look there!' he squealed, ''e put 'is 'and in the truck an'
'Ye lie!' answered Dicky, indignant and hurt, but cautiously
backing off; 'I ain't got nothink.' He spread his hands and opened
his jacket in proof. 'Think I got yer bloomin' bedstead?'
He had nothing, it was plain. In fact, at the tail of the truck
there was nothing he could easily have moved at all, certainly
nothing he could have concealed. So the rest of the little removal
was hurried, for heads were now at windows, the loafers began to
draw about the truck, and trouble might break out at any moment:
indeed, the Ropers could never have ventured from their room but
for the general uneasy awe of the parson. For nothing was so
dangerous in the Jago as to impugn its honesty. To rob another was
reasonable and legitimate, and to avoid being robbed, so far as
might be, was natural and proper. But to accuse anybody of a theft
was unsportsmanlike, a foul outrage, a shameful abuse, a thing
unpardonable. You might rob a man, bash a man, even kill a man; but
to 'take away his character'—even when he had none—was
to draw down the execrations of the whole Jago; while to assail the
pure fame of the place—to 'give the street a bad
name'—this was to bring the Jago howling and bashing about
The truck moved off at last, amid murmurings, mutterings, and
grunts from the onlookers. The man of the truck pulled, Roper
shoved behind, and his wife, with her threadbare decency and her
meagre, bruised face, carried the baby, while the hunchbacked boy
went by her side. All this under convoy of the Reverend Henry
A little distance gave more confidence to a few, and, when the
group had reached within a score of yards of Edge Lane, there came
a hoot or two, a 'Yah!' and other less spellable sounds, expressive
of contempt and defiance. Roper glanced back nervously, but the
rest held on their way regardless. Then came a brickbat, which
missed the woman by very little and struck the truck wheel. At this
the parson stopped and turned on his heel, and Cocko Harnwell, the
flinger, drove his hands into his breeches pockets and affected an
interest in Mother Gapp's window; till, perceiving the parson's
eyes directed sternly upon him, and the parson's stick rising to
point at him, he ingloriously turned tail and scuttled into Jago
And so the Ropers left the Jago. Dove Lane was but a
stone's-throw ahead when some of the load shifted, and the truck
was stopped to set the matter right. The chest was pushed back, and
the bedding was lifted to put against it, and so the musical box
came to light. Roper picked it up and held it before the vicar's
eyes. 'Look at that, sir,' he said. 'You'll witness I know nothing
of it, won't you? It ain't mine, an' I never saw it before. It's
bin put in for spite to put a theft on us. When they come for it
you'll bear me out, sir, won't you? That was the Perrott boy as was
put up to do that, I'll be bound. When he was behind the
But nobody came for Dicky's gift, and in the Jago twilight Dicky
vainly struggled to whistle the half-remembered tune, and to
persuade himself that he was not sorry that the box was gone.
Josh Perrott reached home late for tea but in good humour. He
had spent most of the day at the Bag of Nails, dancing attendance
on the High Mobsmen. Those of the High Mob were the flourishing
practitioners in burglary, the mag, the mace, and the broads, with
an outer fringe of such dippers—such pick-pockets—as
could dress well, welshers, and snides-men. These, the grandees of
rascality, lived in places far from the Jago, and some drove in
gigs and pony traps. But they found the Bag of Nails a convenient
and secluded exchange and house of call, and there they met, made
appointments, designed villainies, and tossed for sovereigns:
deeply reverenced by the admiring Jagos, among whom no ambition
flourished but this—to become also of these resplendent ones.
It was of these that old Beveridge had spoken one day to Dicky, in
language the child but half understood. The old man sat on a curb
in view of the Bag of Nails, and smoked a blackened bit of clay
pipe. He hauled Dicky to his side, and, pointing with his pipe,
said:—'See that man with the furs?'
'What?' Dicky replied. 'Mean 'im in the ice-cream coat, smokin'
a cigar? Yus.'
'And the other with the brimmy tall hat, and the red face, and
'What are they?'
''Igh mob. 'Ooks. Toffs.'
'Right. Now, Dicky Perrott, you Jago whelp, look at
them—look hard. Some day, if you're clever—cleverer
than anyone in the Jago now—if you're only scoundrel enough,
and brazen enough, and lucky enough—one of a
thousand—maybe you'll be like them: bursting with high
living, drunk when you like, red and pimply. There it
is—that's your aim in life—there's your pattern. Learn
to read and write, learn all you can, learn cunning, spare nobody
and stop at nothing, and perhaps—' he waved his hand toward
the Bag of Nails. 'It's the best the world has for you, for the
Jago's got you, and that's the only way out, except gaol and the
gallows. So do your devilmost, or God help you, Dicky
Perrott—though he wont: for the Jago's got you!'
Old Beveridge had eccentric talk and manners, and the Jago
regarded him as a trifle 'balmy,' though anything but a fool. So
that Dicky troubled little to sift the meaning of what he said.
Josh Perrott's mission among the High Mob had been to discover
some Mobsman who might be disposed to back him in the fight with
Billy Leary. For though a private feud was the first cause of the
turn-up, still business must never be neglected, and a feud or
anything else that could produce money must be made to produce it,
and when a fight of exceptional merit is placed before spectators,
it is but fair that they should pay for their diversion.
But few High Mobsmen were at the Bag of Nails that day. Sunday
was the day of the chief gatherings of the High Mob: Sunday the
market-day, so to speak, of the Jago, when such rent as was due
weekly was paid (most of the Jago rents were paid daily and
nightly) and other accounts were settled or fought out. Moreover,
the High Mob were perhaps a trifle shy of the Jago at the time of a
faction fight; and one was but just over, and that cut short at a
third of the usual span of days. So that Josh waited long and
touted vainly, till a patron arrived who knew him of old; who had
employed him, indeed, as 'minder'—which means a protector or
a bully, as you please to regard it—on a racecourse adventure
involving bodily risk. On this occasion Josh had earned his wages
with hard knocks given and taken, and his employer had conceived a
high and thankful opinion of his capacity. Wherefore he listened
now to the tale of the coming fight, and agreed to provide
something in the way of stakes, and to put something on for Josh
himself: looking for his own profit to the bets he might make at
favourable odds with his friends. For Billy Leary was notorious as
being near prime ruffian of the Jago, while Josh's reputation was
neither so evil nor so wide. And so it was settled, and Josh came
pleased to his tea; for assuredly Billy Leary would have no
difficulty in finding another notable of the High Mob to cover the
Dicky was at home, sitting by Looey on the bed; and when he
called his father it seemed pretty plain to Josh that the baby was
out of sorts. 'She's rum about the eyes,' he said to his wife.
'Blimy if she don't look as though she was goin' to squint.'
Josh was never particularly solicitous as to the children, but
he saw that they were fed and clothed—perhaps by mere force
of the habit of his more reputable days of plastering. He had
brought home tripe, rolled in paper, and stuffed into his coat
pocket, to make a supper on the strength of the day's stroke of
business. When this tripe was boiled, he and Dicky essayed to drive
morsels into Looey's mouth, and to wash them down with beer; but to
no end but choking rejection. Whereat Josh decided that she must go
to the dispensary in the morning. And in the morning he took her,
with Dicky at his heels; for not only did his wife still nurse her
neck, but in truth she feared to venture abroad.
The dispensary was no charitable institution, but a shop so
labelled in Meakin Street, one of half a dozen such kept by a
medical man who lived away from them, and bothered himself as
little about them as was consistent with banking the takings and
signing the death-certificates. A needy young student, whose sole
qualification was cheapness, was set to do the business of each
place, and the uniform price for advice and medicine was sixpence.
But there was a deal of professional character in the blackened and
gilt lettered front windows, and the sixpences came by hundreds.
For hospital letters but rarely came Meakin Street way. Such as did
were mostly in the hands of tradesmen, who subscribed for the
purpose of getting them, and gave them to their best customers, as
was proper and business-like. And so the dispensary flourished, and
the needy young student grew shifty and callous, and no doubt there
were occasional faith-cures. Indeed, cures of simple science were
not at all impossible. For there was always a good supply of two
drugs in the place—Turkey rhubarb and sulphuric acid: both
very useful, both very cheap, and both going very far in varied
preparation, properly handled. An ounce or two of sulphuric acid,
for instance, costing something fractional, dilutes with water into
many gallons of physic. Excellent medicines they made too, and
balanced each other very well by reason of their opposite effects.
But indeed they were not all, for sometimes there were two or three
other drugs in hand, interfering, perhaps troublesomely, with the
simple division of therapeutics into the two provinces of rhubarb
and sulphuric acid.
Business was brisk at the dispensary: several were waiting, and
medicine and advice were going at the rate of two minutes for
sixpence. Looey's case was not so clear as most of the others: she
could not describe its symptoms succinctly, as 'a pain here,' or 'a
tight feeling there.' She did but lie heavily, staring blankly
upward (she did not mind the light now), with the little cast in
her eyes, and repeat her odd little wail; and Dicky and his father
could tell very little. The young student had a passing thought
that he might have known a trifle more of the matter if he had had
time to turn up Ross on nerve and brain troubles—were such a
proceeding consistent with the dignity of the dispensary; but
straightway assigning the case to the rhubarb province, made up a
powder, ordered Josh to keep the baby quiet, and pitched his
sixpence among the others, well within the two minutes.
And faith in the dispensary was strengthened, for indeed Looey
seemed a little better after the powder; and she was fed with
spoonfuls of a fluid bought at a chandler's shop, and called
'Dicky Perrott, come 'ere,' said Mr Aaron Weech in a voice of
sad rebuke, a few days later. 'Come 'ere, Dicky Perrott.'
He shook his head solemnly as he stooped. Dicky slouched up.
'What was that you found the other day an' didn't bring to
'Nuffin'.' Dicky withdrew a step.
'It's no good you a-tellin' me that, Dicky Perrott, when I know
better. You know very well you can't pervent me knowin'.' His
little eyes searched Dicky's face, and Dicky sulkily shifted his
own gaze. 'You're a wicked, ungrateful young 'ound, an' I've a good
mind to tell a p'liceman to find out where you got that clock. Come
'ere now—don't you try runnin' away. Wot! after me a-takin'
you in when you was 'ungry, an' givin' you cawfy an' cake, an' good
advice like a father, an' a bloater an' all, an' you owin' me
thrippence a'peny besides, then you goes an'—an' takes yer
findin's somewhere else!'
'I never!' protested Dicky stoutly. But Mr Weech's cunning,
equal to a shrewd guess that since his last visit Dicky had
probably had another 'find,' and quick to detect a lie, was slack
to perceive a truth.
'Now don't you go an' add on a wicked lie to yer sinful
ungratefulness, wotever you do,' he said, severely. 'That's wuss,
an' I alwis know. Doncher know the little 'ymn?—
An' 'im as does one fault at fust
An' lies to 'ide it, makes it two.
It's bad enough to be ungrateful to me as is bin so kind to you,
an' it's wuss to break the fust commandment. If the bloater don't
inflooence you, the 'oly 'ymn ought. 'Ow would you like me to go
an' ask yer father for that thrippence a'peny you owe me? That's
wot I'll 'ave to do if you don't mind.'
Dicky would not have liked it at all, as his frightened face
'Then find somethink an' pay it at once, an' then I won't. I
won't be 'ard on you, if you'll be a good boy. But don't git
playin' no more tricks—'cos I'll know all about 'em. Now go
an' find somethink quick.' And Dicky went.
Ten days after his first tour of the Old Jago, the Reverend
Henry Sturt first preached in the parish church made of a stable,
in an alley behind Meakin Street, but few yards away, though beyond
sight and sound of the Jago. There, that Sunday morning was a
morning of importance, a time of excitement, for the fight between
Billy Leary and Josh Perrott was to come off in Jago Court. The
assurance that there was money in the thing was a sovereign
liniment for Billy Leary's bruises—for they were but
bruises—and he hastened to come by that money, lest it melt
by caprice of the backers, or the backers themselves fall at
unlucky odds with the police. He made little of Josh Perrott, his
hardness and known fighting power notwithstanding. For was there
not full a stone and a half between their weights? and had Billy
not four or five inches the better in height and a commensurate
advantage in reach? And Billy Leary's own hardness and fighting
power were well proved enough.
It was past eleven o'clock. The weekly rents—for the week
forthcoming—had been extracted, or partly extracted, or
scuffled over. Old Poll Rann, who had made money in sixty-five
years of stall-farming and iniquity, had made the rounds of the six
houses she rented, to turn out the tenants of the night who were
disposed to linger. Many had already stripped themselves to their
rags at pitch-and-toss in Jago Court; and the game still went
busily on in the crowded area and in overflow groups in Old Jago
Street; and men found themselves deprived, not merely of the money
for that day's food and that night's lodging, but even of the last
few pence set by to back a horse for Tuesday's race. A
little-regarded fight or two went on here and there as usual, and
on kerbs and doorsteps sat women, hideous at all ages, filling the
air with the rhetoric of the Jago.
Presently down from Edge Lane and the 'Posties' came the High
Mobsmen, swaggering in check suits and billycocks, gold chains and
lumpy rings: stared at, envied, and here and there pointed out by
name or exploit. 'Him as done the sparks in from Regent Street for
nine centuries o' quids'; 'Him as done five stretch for a snide
bank bill an' they never found the oof'; 'Him as maced the bookies
in France an' shot the nark in the boat'; and so forth. And the
High Mob being come, the fight was due.
Of course, a fight merely as a fight was no great matter of
interest: the thing was too common. But there was money on this;
and again, it was no common thing to find Billy Leary defied, still
less to find him challenged. Moreover, the thing had a Rann and
Leary complexion, and it arose out of the battle of less than a
fortnight back. So that Josh Perrott did not lack for partisans,
though not a Rann believed he could stand long before Billy Leary
Billy's cause, too, had lost some popularity because it had been
reported that Sally Green, in hospital, had talked of 'summonsing'
Norah Walsh in the matter of her mangled face: a scandalous device
to overreach, a piece of foul practice repugnant to all proper
feeling; more especially for such a distinguished Jago as Sally
Green—so well able to take care of herself. But all this was
nothing as affecting the odds. They ruled at three to one on Billy
Leary, with few takers, and went to four to one before the fight
Josh Perrott had been strictly sober for a full week. And the
family had lived better, for he had brought meat home each day. Now
he sat indifferently at the window of his room, and looked out at
the crowd in Jago Court till such time as he might be wanted. He
had not been out of the room that morning: he was saving his energy
for Billy Leary.
As for Dicky, he had scarce slept for excitement. For days he
had enjoyed consideration among his fellows on account of this
fight. Now he shook and quivered, and nothing relieved his
agitation but violent exertion. So he rushed downstairs a hundred
times to see if the High Mob were coming, and back to report that
they were not. At last he saw their overbearing checks, and tore
upstairs, face before knees, with ''Ere they are, father! 'Ere they
are! They're comin' down the street, father!' and danced frenzied
about the room and the landing.
Presently Jerry Gullen and Kiddo Cook came, as seconds, to take
Josh out, and then Dicky quieted a little externally, though he was
bursting at the chest and throat, and his chin jolted his teeth
together uncontrollably. Josh dragged off his spotted coat and
waistcoat and flung them on the bed, and then was helped out of his
ill-mended blue shirt. He gave a hitch to his trousers-band,
tightened his belt, and was ready.
'Ta-ta, ol' gal,' he said to his wife, with a grin; 'back agin
'With a bob or two for ye,' added Kiddo Cook, grinning
Hannah Perrott sat pale and wistful, with the baby on her knees.
Through the morning she had sat so, wretched and helpless,
sometimes putting her face in her hands, sometimes breaking out
hopelessly:—'Don't, Josh, don't—good Gawd, Josh, I wish
you wouldn't!' or 'Josh, Josh, I wish I was dead!' Josh had fought
before, it was true, and more than once, but then she had learned
of the matter afterward. This preparation and long waiting were
another thing. Once she had even exclaimed that she would go with
him—though she meant nothing.
Now, as Josh went out at the door, she bent over Looey and hid
her face again. 'Good luck, father,' called Dicky, 'go it!' Though
the words would hardly pass his throat, and he struggled to believe
that he had no fear for his father.
No sooner was the door shut than he rushed to the window, though
Josh could not appear in Jago Court for three or four minutes yet.
The sash-line was broken, and the window had been propped open with
a stick. In his excitement Dicky dislodged the stick, and the sash
came down on his head, but he scarce felt the blow, and readjusted
the stick with trembling hands, regardless of the bruise rising
under his hair.
'Aincher goin' to look, mother?' he asked. 'Wontcher 'old up
But his mother would not look. As for Looey, she looked at
nothing. She had been taken to the dispensary once again, and now
lay drowsy and dull, with little more movement than a general
shudder and a twitching of the face at long intervals. The little
face itself was thinner and older than ever: horribly flea-bitten
still, but bloodlessly pale. Mrs Perrott had begun to think Looey
was ailing for something; thought it might be measles or
whooping-cough coming, and complained that children were a
Dicky hung head and shoulders out of the window, clinging to the
broken sill and scraping feverishly at the wall with his toes. Jago
Court was fuller than ever. The tossing went on, though now with
more haste, that most might be made of the remaining time. A
scuffle still persisted in one corner. Some stood to gaze at the
High Mob, who, to the number of eight or ten, stood in an exalted
group over against the back fences of New Jago Street; but the
thickest knot was about Cocko Harnwell's doorstep, whereon sat
Billy Leary, his head just visible through the press about him,
waiting to keep his appointment.
Then a close group appeared at the archway, and pushed into the
crowd, which made way at its touch, the disturbed tossers pocketing
their coppers, but the others busily persisting, with no more than
a glance aside between the spins. Josh Perrott's cropped head and
bare shoulders marked the centre of the group, and as it came,
another group moved out from Cocko Harnwell's doorstep, with Billy
Leary's tall bulk shining pink and hairy in its midst.
''E's in the court, mother,' called Dicky, scraping faster with
The High Mobsmen moved up toward the middle of the court, and
some from the two groups spread and pushed back the crowd. Still
half a dozen couples, remote by the walls, tossed and tossed faster
than ever, moving this way and that as the crowd pressed.
Now there was an irregular space of bare cobble stones and house
refuse, five or six yards across, in the middle of Jago Court, and
all round it the shouting crowd was packed tight, those at the back
standing on sills and hanging to fences. Every window was a clump
of heads, and women yelled savagely or cheerily down and across.
The two groups were merged in the press at each side of the space,
Billy Leary and Josh Perrott in front of each, with his
'Naa then, any more 'fore they begin?' bawled a High Mobsman,
turning about among his fellows. 'Three to one on the big
'un—three to one! 'Ere, I'll give fours—four to one on
Leary! Fourer one! Fourer one!'
But they shook their heads; they would wait a little. Leary and
Perrott stepped out. The last of the tossers stuffed away his
coppers, and sought for a hold on the fence.
'They're a-sparrin', mother!' cried Dicky, pale and staring,
elbows and legs a-work, till he was like to pitch out of window.
From his mother there but jerked a whimpering sob, which he did not
The sparring was not long. There was little of subtlety in the
milling of the Jago: mostly no more than a rough application of the
main hits and guards, with much rushing and ruffianing. What there
was of condition in the two men was Josh's: smaller and shorter, he
had a certain hard brownness of hide that Leary, in his heavy
opulence of flesh, lacked; and there was a horny quality in his
face and hands that reminded the company of his boast of
invulnerability to anything milder than steel. Also his breadth of
chest was great. Nevertheless all odds seemed against him, by
reason of Billy Leary's size, reach, and fighting record.
The men rushed together, and Josh was forced back by weight.
Leary's great fists, left and right, shot into his face with
smacking reports, but left no mark on the leathery skin, and Josh,
fighting for the body, drove his knuckles into the other's ribs
with a force that jerked a thick grunt from Billy's lips at each
There was a roar of shouts. 'Go it, father! Fa—ther!
Fa—ther!' Dicky screamed from the window, till his voice
broke in his throat and he coughed himself livid. The men were at
holds, and swaying this way and that over the uneven stones. Blood
ran copiously from Billy Leary's nose over his mouth and chin, and,
as they turned, Dicky saw his father spit away a tooth over Leary's
shoulder. They clipped and hauled to and fro, each striving to
break the other's foothold. Then Perrott stumbled at a hole, lost
his feet, and went down, with Leary on top.
Cheers and yells rent the air, as each man was taken to his own
side by his seconds. Dicky let go the sill and turned to his
mother, wild of eye, breathless with broken chatter.
'Father 'it 'im on the nose, mother, like that—'is ribs is
goin' black where father pasted 'em—'e was out o' breath
fust—there' blood all over 'is face, mother—father
would 'a' chucked 'im over if 'e 'adn't tumbled in a
'ole—father 'it 'im twice on the jore—'e—O!'
Dicky was back again on the sill, kicking and shouting, for time
was called, and the two men rushed again into a tangled knot. But
the close strife was short. Josh had but closed to spoil his man's
wind, and, leaving his head to take care of itself, stayed till he
had driven left and right on the mark, and then got back. Leary
came after him, gasping and blowing already, and Josh feinted a
lead and avoided, bringing Leary round on his heel and off again in
chase. Once more Josh met him, drove at his ribs, and got away out
of reach. Leary's wind was going fast, and his partisans howled
savagely at Josh—perceiving his tactics—taunting him
with running away, daring him to stand and fight. 'I'll take that
four to one,' called a High Mobsman to him who had offered the odds
in the beginning. 'I'll stand a quid on Perrott!'
'Not with me you won't,' the other answered. 'Evens, if you
'Right. Done at evens, a quid.'
Perrott, stung at length by the shouts from Leary's corner,
turned on Billy and met him at full dash. He was himself puffing by
this, though much less than his adversary, and, at the cost of a
heavy blow (which he took on his forehead), he visited Billy's ribs
Both men were grunting and gasping now, and the sound of blows
was as of the confused beating of carpets. Dicky, who had been
afflicted to heart-burst by his father's dodging and running, which
he mistook for simple flight, now broke into excited speech once
'Father's 'it 'im on the jore ag'in—'is eye's a-bungin'
up—Go it, father, bash 'i-i-i-m! Father's landin'
Hannah Perrott crept to the window and looked. She saw the foul
Jago mob, swaying and bellowing about the shifting edge of an open
patch, in the midst whereof her husband and Billy Leary, bruised,
bloody and gasping, fought and battered infuriately; and she crept
back to the bed and bent her face on Looey's unclean little frock;
till a fit of tense shuddering took the child, and the mother
looked up again.
Without, the round ended. For a full minute the men took and
gave knock for knock, and then Leary, wincing from another
body-blow, swung his right desperately on Perrott's ear, and
knocked him over.
Exulting shouts rose from the Leary faction, and the blow struck
Dicky's heart still. But Josh was up almost before Kiddo Cook
reached him, and Dicky saw a wide grin on his face as he came to
his corner. The leathery toughness of the man, and the advantage it
gave him, now grew apparent. He had endured to the full as much and
as hard punching as had his foe—even more, and harder; once
he had fallen on the broken cobble-stones with all Leary's weight
on him; and once he had been knocked down on them. But, except for
the sweat that ran over his face and down his back, and for a
missing front tooth and the lip it had cut, he showed little sign
of the struggle; while Leary's left eye was a mere slit in a black
wen, his nose was a beaten mass, which had ensanguined him (and
indeed Josh) from crown to waist, and his chest and flanks were a
mottle of bruises.
'Father's awright, mother—I see 'im laughin'! And 'e's
smashed Leary's nose all over 'is face!'
Up again they sprang for the next round, Perrott active and
daring, Leary cautious and a trifle stiff. Josh rushed in and
struck at the tender ribs once more, took two blows callously on
his head, and sent his left at the nose, with a smack as of a flail
on water. With that Leary rushed like a bull, and Josh was driven
and battered back, for the moment without response. But he ducked,
and slipped away, and came again, fresh and vicious. And now it was
seen that Perrott's toughness of hand was lasting. Leary's knuckles
were raw, cut, and flayed, and took little good by the shock when
they met the other's stubborn muzzle; while Josh still flung in his
corneous fists, hard and lasting as a bag of bullets.
But suddenly, stooping to reach the mark once more, Josh's foot
turned on a projecting stone, and he floundered forward into
Billy's arms. Like a flash his neck was clipped in the big man's
left arm: Josh Perrott was in chancery. Quick and hard Leary
pounded the imprisoned head, while Jerry Gullen and Kiddo Cook
danced distracted and dismayed, and the crowd whooped and
Dicky hung delirious over the sill, and shrieked he knew not
what. He saw his father fighting hard at the back and ribs with
both hands, and Leary hammering his face in a way to make pulp of
an ordinary mazzard. Then suddenly Josh Perrott's right hand shot
up from behind, over Leary's shoulder, and gripped him at the chin.
Slowly, with tightened muscles, he forced his man back over his
bent knee, Leary clinging and swaying, but impotent to struggle.
Then, with an extra wrench from Josh, up came Leary's feet from the
ground, higher, higher, till suddenly Josh flung him heavily over,
heels up, and dropped on him with all his weight.
The Ranns roared again. Josh was up in a moment, sitting on
Kiddo Cook's knee, and taking a drink from a bottle. Billy Leary
lay like a man fallen from a house-top. His seconds turned him on
his back, and dragged him to his corner. There he lay limp and
senseless, and there was a cut at the back of his head.
The High Mobsman who held the watch waited for half a minute and
then called 'Time!' Josh Perrott stood up, but Billy Leary was
knocked out of knowledge, and heard not. He was beaten.
Josh Perrott was involved in a howling, dancing crowd, and was
pushed, grinning, this way and that, slapped on the back, and
offered drinks. In the outskirts the tossers, inveterate, pulled
out their pence and resumed their game.
Dicky spun about, laughing, flushed, and elated, and as soon as
the door was distinct to his dazzled sight, he ran off downstairs.
His mother, relieved and even pleased, speculated as to what money
the thing might bring. She put the baby on the bed, and looked from
Josh, in the crowd, shouted and beckoned her, pointing and
tapping his bare shoulder. He wanted his clothes. She gathered
together the shirt, the coat, and the waistcoat, and hurried
downstairs. Looey could come to no harm lying on the bed for a few
minutes. And, indeed, Hannah Perrott felt that she would be a
person of distinction in the crowd, and was not sorry to have an
excuse for going out.
'Three cheers for the missis!' sang out Kiddo Cook as she came
through the press. 'I said 'e'd 'ave a bob or two for you, didn't
I?' Josh Perrott, indeed, was rich—a capitalist of five
pounds. For a sovereign a side had been put up, and his backer had
put on a sovereign for him at three to one. So that now it became
him to stand beer to many sympathisers. Also, he felt that the
missis should have some part in the celebration, for was it not her
injury that he had avenged on Sally Green's brother? So Hannah
Perrott, pleased though timorous, was hauled away with the rest to
Here she sat by Josh's side for an hour. Once or twice she
thought of Looey, but with native inertness she let the thought
slip. Perhaps Dicky would be back, and at any rate it was hard if
she must not take half an hour's relaxation once in a way. At last
came Dicky, urgent perplexity in his face, looking in at the door.
Josh, minded to be generous all round, felt for a penny.
'Mother,' said Dicky, plucking at her arm, 'Pigeony Poll's at
'ome, nussin' Looey; she told me to tell you to come at once.'
Pigeony Poll? What right had she in the room? The ghost of
Hannah Perrott's respectability rose in resentment. She supposed
she must go. She arose, mystified, and went, with Dicky at her
Pigeony Poll sat by the window with the baby in her arms, and
pale misgiving in her dull face. 'I—I come in, Mrs Perrott,
mum,' she said, with a hush in her thick voice, 'I come in 'cos I
see you goin' out, an' I thought the baby'd be alone.
She—she's 'ad a sort o' fit—all stiff an' blue in the
face and grindin' 'er little mouth. She's left auf now—but
I—I dunno what to make of 'er. She's so—so—'
Hannah Perrott stared blankly, and lifted the child, whose arm
dropped and hung. The wizen age had gone from Looey's face, and the
lids were down on the strained eyes; her pale lips lay eased of the
old pinching—even parted in a smile. For she looked in the
face of the Angel that plays with the dead children.
Hannah Perrott's chin fell. 'Lor',' she said bemusedly, and sat
on the bed.
An odd croaking noise broke in jerks from Pigeony Poll as she
crept from the room, with her face bowed in the bend of her arm,
like a weeping schoolboy. Dicky stared, confounded.... Josh came
and gazed stupidly, with his mouth open, walking tip-toe. But at a
word from Kiddo Cook, who came in his tracks, he snatched the
little body and clattered off to the dispensary, to knock up the
The rumour went in the Jago that Josh Perrott was in double
luck. For here was insurance money without a doubt. But in truth
that was a thing the Perrotts had neglected.
Hannah Perrott felt a listless relief; Josh felt nothing in
particular, except that there was no other thing to be done, and
that Mother Gapp's would be a cheerful place to finish the day in,
and keep up the missis's pecker.
So that eight o'clock that evening at Perrotts' witnessed a
darkening room wherein an inconsiderable little corpse lay on a
bed; while a small ragamuffin spread upon it with outstretched
arms, exhausted with sobbing, a soak of muddy tears:—'O
Looey, Looey! Can't you 'ear? Won't you never come to me no
And the Reverend Henry Sturt, walking from church through Luck
Row toward his lodgings in Kingsland Road, heard shouts and riot
behind the grimy panes of Mother Gapp's, and in the midst the roar
of many voices joined in the Jago chant:—
Six bloomin' long months in a prison, Six more bloomin'
months I must stay, For meetin' a bloke in our alley, An' takin'
'is uxter away!
Toora-li—toora-li—lay, A-coshin' a bloke in our alley,
An' takin' 'is uxter away!
On an autumn day four years after his first coming to the Jago,
the Reverend Henry Sturt left a solicitor's office in Cheapside,
and walked eastward, with something more of hope and triumph in him
than he had felt since the Jago fell to his charge. For the ground
was bought whereon should be built a church and buildings
accessory, and he felt, not that he was like to see any great
result from his struggle, but that perhaps he might pursue it
better armed and with less of grim despair than had been his
It had taken him four years to gather the money for the site,
and some of it he was paying from his own pocket. He was unmarried,
and had therefore no reason to save. Still, he must be careful, for
the sake of the parish: the church must be built, and some of the
money would probably be wanted for that. Moreover, there were other
calls. The benefice brought a trifle less than £200 a year, and out
of that, so far as it would go, he paid (with some small outside
help) £130 for rent of the temporary church and the adjacent rooms;
the organist's salary; the rates and the gas-bills; the cost of
cleaning, care, and repair; the sums needed for such relief as was
impossible to be withheld; and a thousand small things beside.
While the Jagos speculated wildly among themselves as to the vast
sums he must make by his job. For what toff would come and live in
the Jago except for a consideration of solid gain? What other
possible motive could there be, indeed?
Still, he had an influence among them such as they had never
known before. For one thing, they feared in him what they took for
a sort of supernatural insight. The mean cunning of the Jago,
subtle as it was, and baffling to most strangers, foundered
miserably before his relentless intelligence; and crafty
rogues—'wide as Broad Street,' as their proverb went—at
first sulked, faltered and prevaricated transparently, but soon
gave up all hope or effort to deceive him. Thus he was respected.
Once he had made it plain that he was no common milch-cow in the
matter of gratuities: to be bamboozled for shillings, cajoled for
coals, and bullied for blankets: then there became apparent in him
qualities of charity and lovingkindness, well-judged and governed,
that awoke in places a regard that was in a way akin to affection.
And the familiar habit of the Jago slowly grew to call him Father
Father Sturt was not to be overreached: that was the axiom
gloomily accepted by all in the Jago who lived by what they
accounted their wits. You could not juggle shillings and clothing
(convertible into shillings) out of Father Sturt by the easy
fee-faw-fum of repentance and salvation that served with so many.
There were many of the Jagos (mightily despised by some of the
sturdier ruffians) who sallied forth from time to time into
neighbouring regions in pursuit of the profitable sentimentalist:
discovering him—black-coated, earnest, green—sometimes
a preacher, sometimes a layman, sometimes one having authority on
the committee of a charitable institution; dabbling in the East End
on his own account, or administering relief for a mission, or
disbursing a Mansion House Fund. He was of two chief kinds: the
Merely-Soft,—the 'man of wool' as the Jago word
went,—for whom any tale was good enough, delivered with the
proper wistful misery: and the Gullible-Cocksure, confident in a
blind experience, who was quite as easy to tap, when approached
with a becoming circumspection. A rough and ready method, which
served well in most cases with both sorts, was a profession of
sudden religious awakening. For this, one offered an aspect either
of serene happiness or of maniacal exaltation, according to the
customer's taste. A better way, but one demanding greater subtlety,
was the assumption of the part of Earnest Inquirer, hesitating on
the brink of Salvation. For the attitude was capable of indefinite
prolongation, and was ever productive of the boots, the coats, and
the half-crowns used to coax weak brethren into the fold. But with
Father Sturt, such trouble was worse than useless; it was, indeed,
but to invite a humiliating snub. Thus, when Fluffy Pike first came
to Father Sturt with the intelligence that he had at last found
Grace, the Father Sturt asked if he had found it in a certain
hamper—a hamper hooked that morning from a railway
van—and if it were of a quality likely to inspire an act of
restoration to the goods office. Nothing was to be done with a man
of this disgustingly practical turn of mind, and the Jagos soon
ceased from trying.
Father Sturt had made more of the stable than the make-shift
church he had found. He had organised a club in a stable adjoining,
and he lived in the rooms over the shut-up shop. In the club he
gathered the men of the Jago indiscriminately, with the sole
condition of good behaviour on the premises. And there they smoked,
jumped, swung on horizontal bars, boxed, played at cards and
bagatelle, free from interference save when interference became
necessary. For the women there were sewing-meetings and singing.
And all governed with an invisible discipline, which, being brought
to action, was found to be of iron.
Now there was ground on which might be built a worthier church;
and Father Sturt had in mind a church which should have by its side
a cleanly lodging-house, a night-shelter, a club, baths and
washhouses. And at a stroke he would establish this habitation and
wipe out the blackest spot in the Jago. For the new site comprised
the whole of Jago Court and the houses that masked it in Old Jago
This was a dream of the future—perhaps of the immediate
future, if a certain new millionaire could only be interested in
the undertaking—but of the future certainly. The money for
the site alone had been hard enough to gather. In the first place
the East London Elevation Mission and Pansophical Institute was
asking very diligently for funds—and was getting them. It was
to that, indeed, that people turned by habit when minded to invest
in the amelioration of the East End. Then about this time there had
arisen a sudden quacksalver, a Panjandrum of philanthropy, a mummer
of the market-place, who undertook, for a fixed sum, to abolish
poverty and sin together; and many, pleased with the new gaudery,
poured out before him the money that had gone to maintain hospitals
and to feed proved charities. So that gifts were scarce and hard to
come by—indeed, were apt to be thought unnecessary, for was
not misery to be destroyed out of hand? Moreover, Father Sturt
wanted not for enemies among the Sentimental-Cocksure. He was
callous and cynical in face of the succulent penitence of Fluffy
Pike and his kind. He preferred the frank rogue before the
calculating snivelmonger. He had a club at which boxing was
allowed, and dominoes—flat ungodliness. He shook hands
familiarly every day with the lowest characters: his tastes were
vulgar and brutal. And the company at his club was really dreadful.
These things the Cocksure said, with shaking of heads; and these
they took care should be known among such as might give Father
Sturt money. Father Sturt!—the name itself was sheer
papistry. And many comforted themselves by writing him anonymous
letters, displaying hell before his eyes, and dealing him vivid
So Father Sturt tramped back to the Jago, and to the strain and
struggle that ceased not for one moment of his life, though it left
never a mark of success behind it. For the Jago was much as ever.
Were the lump once leavened by the advent of any denizen a little
less base than the rest, were a native once ridiculed and persuaded
into a spell of work and clean living, then must Father Sturt
hasten to drive him from the Jago ere its influence suck him under
for ever; leaving for his own community none but the entirely
vicious. And among these he spent his life: preaching little, in
the common sense, for that were but idle vanity in this place; but
working, alleviating, growing into the Jago life, flinging scorn
and ridicule on evil things, grateful for tiny negative
successes—for keeping a few from ill-behaviour but for an
hour; conscious that wherever he was not, iniquity flourished
unreproved; and oppressed by the remembrance that albeit the Jago
death-rate ruled full four times that of all London beyond, still
the Jago rats bred and bred their kind unhindered, multiplying
apace and infecting the world.
In Luck Row he came on Josh Perrott, making for home with
something under the skirt of his coat 'How d'ye do, Josh?' said
Father Sturt, clapping a hand on Josh's shoulder, and offering it
as Josh turned about.
Josh, with a shifting of the object under his coat, hastened to
tap his cap-peak with his forefinger before shaking hands. He
grinned broadly, and looked this way and that, with mingled
gratification and embarrassment, as was the Jago way in such
circumstances. Because one could never tell whether Father Sturt
would exchange a mere friendly sentence or two, or, with concealed
knowledge, put some disastrous question about a watch, or a purse,
or a breast-pin, or what not.
'Very well, thanks, Father,' answered Josh, and grinned amiably
at the wall beyond the vicar's elbow.
'And what have you been doing just lately?'
'Oo—odd jobs, Father.' Always the same answer, all over
'Not quite such odd jobs as usual, I hope, Josh, eh?' Father
Sturt smiled, and twitched Josh playfully by the button-hole as one
might treat a child. 'I once heard of a very odd job in the
Kingsland Road that got a fine young man six months' holiday. Eh,
Josh Perrott wriggled and grinned sheepishly; tried to frown,
failed, and grinned again. He had only been out a few weeks from
that six moon. Presently he said:—'Awright, Father; you do
rub it into a bloke, no mistake.'
The grin persisted as he looked first at the wall, then at the
pavement, then down the street, but never in the parson's face.
'Ah, there's a deal of good in a blister sometimes, isn't there,
Josh? What's that I see—a clock? Not another odd job,
It was indeed a small nickel-plated American clock which Josh
had under his coat, and which he now partly uncovered with positive
protests. 'No, s'elp me, Father, it's all straight—all fair
trade, Father—jist a swop for somethink else, on me solemn
davy. That's wot it is, Father—straight.'
'Well, I'm glad you thought to get it, Josh,' Father Sturt
pursued, still twitching the button-hole. 'You never have been a
punctual churchgoer, you know, Josh, and I'm glad you've made
arrangements to improve. You'll have no excuse now, you know, and I
shall expect you on Sunday morning—promptly. Don't forget: I
shall be looking for you.' And Father Sturt shook hands again, and
passed on, leaving Josh Perrott still grinning dubiously, and
striving to assimilate the invitation to church.
The clock was indeed an exchange, though not altogether an
innocent one: the facts being these. Early that morning Josh had
found himself scrambling hastily along a turning out of Brick Lane,
accompanied by a parcel of nine or ten pounds of tobacco, and
extremely conscious of the hasty scrambling of several other people
round the corner. Some of these people turned that corner before
Josh reached the next, so that his course was observed, and it
became politic to get rid of his parcel before a possible
heading-off in Meakin Street. There was one place where this might
be done, and that was at Weech's. A muddy yard, one of a tangle of
such places behind Meakin Street, abutted on Weech's back-fence;
and it was no uncommon thing for a Jago on the crook, hard pressed,
to pitch his plunder over the fence, double out into the crowd, and
call on Mr Aaron Weech for the purchase-money as soon as
opportunity served. The manœuvre was a simple one,
facilitated by the plan of the courts; but it was only adopted in
extreme cases, because Mr Aaron Weech was at best but a mean
paymaster, and with so much of the upper hand in the bargain as
these circumstances conferred, was apt to be meaner than ever. But
this case seemed to call for the stratagem, and Josh made for the
muddy yard, dropped the parcel over the fence, with a loud whistle,
and backed off by the side passage in the regular way.
When he called on Mr Aaron Weech a few hours later, that
talented tradesman, with liberal gestures, told out shillings
singly in his hand, pausing after each as though that were the
last. But Josh held his hand persistently open, till Mr Weech,
having released the fifth shilling, stopped altogether, scandalised
at such rapacity. But still Josh was not satisfied, and as he was
not quite so easy a customer to manage as the boys who commonly
fenced at the shop, Mr Weech compromised, in the end, by throwing
in a cheap clock. It had been in hand for a long time; and Josh was
fain to take it, since he could get no more. And thus it was that
Dicky, coming in at about five o'clock, was astonished to see on
the mantel-piece, amid the greasy ruins of many candle ends, the
clock that had belonged to the Ropers four years before.
As for Dicky, he went to school. That is to say, he turned up
now and again, at irregular intervals, at the Board School just
over the Jago border in Honey Lane. When anything was given away,
he attended as a matter of course; but he went now and again
without such inducement—perhaps because he fancied an
afternoon's change, perhaps because the weather was cold and the
school was warm. He was classed as a half-timer, an arrangement
which variegated the register, but otherwise did not matter. Other
boys, half-timers or not, attended as little as he. It was long
since the managers had realised the futility of attempting
compulsion in the Jago.
Dicky was no fool, and he had picked up some sort of reading and
writing as he went along. Moreover, he had grown an expert thief,
and had taken six strokes of a birch-rod by order of a magistrate.
As yet he rarely attempted a pocket, being, for most opportunities,
too small; but he was comforted by the reflection that probably he
would never get really tall, and thus grow out of pocket-picking
when he was fully experienced, as was the fate of some. For no tall
man can be a successful pickpocket, because he must bend to his
work, and so advertise it to every beholder.
Meantime Dicky practised that petty larceny which is possible in
every street in London; and at odd times he would play the scout
among the practitioners of the 'fat's a-running' industry. If one
crossed Meakin Street by way of Luck Row and kept his way among the
courts ahead, he presently reached the main Bethnal Green Road, at
the end whereof stood the great goods depot of a railway company.
Here carts and vans went to and fro all day, laden with goods from
the depot, and certain gangs among the Jagos preyed on these
continually. A quick-witted scout stood on the look-out for such
vehicles as went with unguarded tailboards. At the approach of one
such he sent the shout 'Fat's a-runnin'!' up Luck Row, and,
quick at the signal, a gang scuttled down, by the court or passage
which his waved hand might hint at, seized whatever could be
snatched from the cart, and melted away into the courts, sometimes
leaving a few hands behind to hinder and misdirect pursuit. Taking
one capture with another, the thing paid very well; and besides,
there were many vans laden with parcels of tobacco, not from the
railway depot but from the tobacco factories hard by, a click from
which was apt to prove especially lucrative. Dicky was a notable
success as scout. The department was a fairly safe one, but it was
not always easy to extract from the gang the few coppers that were
regarded as sufficient share for service done. Moreover, Mr Weech
was not pleased; for by now Dicky was near to being his most
remunerative client, and the cart robberies counted nothing, for
the fat's a-running boys fenced their swag with a publican at
Hoxton. And though Dicky had grown out of his childish belief that
Mr Weech could hear a mile away and see through a wall, he had a
cautious dread of the weapon he supposed to lie ever to his
patron's hand—betrayal to the police. In other respects
things were easier. His father took no heed of what he did, and
even his mother had so far accepted destiny as to ask if he had a
copper or two, when there was a scarcity. Indeed Hannah Perrott
filled her place in the Jago better than of old. She would gossip,
she drew no very rigid line as to her acquaintance, and Dicky had
seen her drunk. Still, for Old Jago Street she was a quiet woman,
and she never brawled nor fought. Of fighting, indeed, Josh could
do enough for the whole family, once again four in number. For the
place of Looey, forgotten, was supplied by Em, aged two.
When Dicky came home and recognised the clock on the
mantel-piece, being the more certain because his mother told him it
had come from Weech's, the thing irritated him strangely. Through
all those four years since he had carried that clock to Mr Weech,
he had never got rid of the wretched hunchback. He, too, went to
the Board School in Honey Lane (it lay between Dove Lane and the
Jago), but he went regularly, worked hard, and was a favourite with
teachers. So far, Dicky was unconcerned. But scarce an ill chance
came to him but, sooner or later, he found the hunchback at the
back of it. If ever a teacher mysteriously found out that it was
Dicky who had drawn his portrait, all nose and teeth, on the
blackboard, the tale had come from Bobby Roper. Whenever Dicky,
chancing upon school by ill luck on an afternoon when sums were to
be done, essayed to copy answers from his neighbour's slate, up
shot the hunchback's hand in an instant, the tale was told, and
handers were Dicky's portion. Once, dinnerless and hungry, he had
stolen a sandwich from a teacher's desk; and, though he had thought
himself alone and unseen, the hunchback knew it, and pointed him
out, white malice in his thin face and eager hate in his thrust
finger. For a fortnight Dicky dared not pass a little fruit shop in
Meakin Street, because of an attempt on an orange, betrayed by his
misshapen schoolfellow, which brought him a hard chase from the
fruiterer and a bad bruise on the spine from a board flung after
him. The hunchback's whole energies—even his whole
time—seemed to be devoted to watching him. Dicky, on his
part, received no injuries meekly. In the beginning he had tried
threats and public jeers at his enemy's infirmity. Then, on some
especially exasperating occasion, he pounded Bobby Roper savagely
about the head and capsized him into a mud-heap. But bodily
reprisal, though he erected it into a practice, proved no
deterrent. For the little hunchback, though he might cry at the
pummelling, retorted with worse revenge of his own sort. And once
or twice bystanders, seeing a deformed child thus treated,
interfered with clouts on Dicky's ears. The victim, moreover,
designed another retaliation. He would go to some bigger boy with a
tale that Dicky had spoken vauntingly of fighting him and beating
him hollow, with one hand. This brought the big boy after Dicky at
once, with a hiding: except on some rare occasion when the
hunchback rated his instrument of vengeance too high, and Dicky was
able to beat him in truth. But this was a very uncommon mistake.
And after this Dicky did not wait for specific provocation: he
'clumped' Bobby Roper, or rolled him in the gutter, as a matter of
principle, whenever he could get hold of him.
That afternoon Dicky had suffered again. Two days earlier, tea
and cake had been provided by a benevolent manager for all who
attended the school. Consequently the attendance was excellent, and
included Dicky. But his attempt to secrete a pocketful of cake, to
carry home for Em, was reported by Bobby Roper; and Dicky was
hauled forth, deprived of his plunder, and expelled in disgrace. He
waited outside and paid off the score fiercely, by the help of a
very long and pliant cabbage stalk. But this afternoon Bill Bates,
a boy a head taller than himself and two years older, had fallen on
him suddenly in Lincoln Street, and, though Dicky fought
desperately and kicked with much effect, had dealt him a thrashing
that left him bruised, bleeding, dusty, and crying with rage and
pain. This was the hunchback's doing, without a doubt. Dicky limped
home, but was something comforted by an accident in Shoreditch High
Street, whereby a coster's barrow-load of cough-drops was knocked
over by a covered van, and the cough-drops were scattered in the
mud. For while the carman and the coster flew at each other's name
and address, and defamed each other's eyes and mother, Dicky
gathered a handful of cough-drops, muddy, it is true, but easy to
wipe. And so he made for home more cheerfully disposed: till the
sight of the Ropers' old clock brought the hunchback to mind once
more, and in bitter anger he resolved to search for him forthwith,
and pass on the afternoon's hiding, with interest.
As he emerged into the street, a hand was reached to catch him,
which he dodged by instinct. He rushed back upstairs, and emptied
his pockets, stowing away in a safe corner the rest of the
cough-drops, the broken ruin he called his knife, some buttons and
pieces of string, a bit of chalk, three little pieces of slate
pencil and two marbles. Then he went down again into the street,
confident in his destitution, and watched, forgetting the hunchback
in the excitement of the spectacle.
The loafers from the corners had conceived a sudden notion of
co-operation, and had joined forces to the array of twenty or
thirty. Confident in their numbers, they swept the street, stopping
every passenger—man, woman or child—and emptying all
pockets. A straggler on the outskirts of the crowd, a hobbledehoy
like most of the rest, had snatched at but had lost Dicky, and was
now busy, with four or five others, rolling a woman, a struggling
heap of old clothes and skinny limbs, in the road. It was Biddy
Flynn, too old and worn for anything but honest work, who sold
oranges and nuts from a basket, and who had been caught on her way
out for her evening's trade in High Street. She was a fortunate
capture, being a lone woman with all her possessions about her.
Under her skirt, and tied round her waist with string, she kept her
money-bag; and it was soon found and dragged away, yielding two and
eightpence farthing and a lucky shoe-tip, worn round and bright.
She had, moreover, an old brass brooch; but unfortunately her
wedding ring, worn to pin-wire, could not be got past the knotted
knuckle—though it would have been worth little in any case.
So Biddy Flynn, exhausted with plunging and screaming, was left,
and her empty basket was flung at her. She staggered away, wailing
and rolling her head, with her hand to the wall; and the gang,
sharing out, sucked oranges with relish, and turned to fresh
exploits. Dicky watched from the Jago Court passage.
Business slackened for a little while, and the loafers were
contemplating a raid in force on Mother Gapp's till, when a grown
lad ran in pell-mell from Luck Row with a square parcel clipped
under his arm—a parcel of aspect well known among the fat's
a-running boys—a parcel that meant tobacco. He was collared
'Stow it, Bill!' he cried breathlessly, recognising his captor.
'The bloke's a-comin'!'
But half-a-dozen hands were on his plunder, it was snatched
away, and he was flung back on the flags. There was a clatter on
the stones of Luck Row, and a light van came rattling into Old Jago
Street, the horse galloping, the carman lashing and
shouting:—'Stop 'im! Stop thief!'
The sight was so novel that for a moment the gang merely stared
and grinned. This man must be a greenhorn—new to the
neighbourhood—to venture a load of goods up Luck Row. And it
was tobacco, too. He was pale and flustered, and he called wildly,
as he looked this way and that:—'A man's stole somethin' auf
my van. Where's 'e gawn?'
'No good, guv'nor,' cried one. 'The ball's stopped rollin'.
You're lawst 'im.'
'My Gawd!' said the man, in a sweat, 'I'm done. There's two
quid's worth o' 'bacca—an' I on'y got the job o'
Monday—bin out nine munse!'
'Was it a parcel like this 'ere?' asked another, chuckling, and
lifting a second packet over the tailboard.
'Yus—put it down! Gawd—wotcher up to?
The gang were over the van, guffawing and flinging out the load.
The carman yelled aloud, and fought desperately with his
whip—Bill Hanks is near blind of an eye now from one cut; but
he was the worse for it. For he was knocked off the van in a heap,
and, as he lay, they cleared his pockets, and pulled off his boots;
those that had caught the sting of the whip kicking him about the
head till it but shifted in the slime at the stroke, an inanimate
There was talk of how to deal with the horse and van. To try to
sell them was too large a job, and too risky. So, as it was growing
dusk, the senseless carman was put on the floor of the van, the
tailboard was raised, and one of the gang led the horse away, to
lose the whole thing in the busy streets.
Here was a big haul, and many of the crowd busied themselves in
getting it out of sight, and scouting out among the fences to
arrange sales. Those who remained grew less active, and hung at the
corner of Luck Row, little more than an ordinary corner-group of
Then Dicky remembered the hunchback, and slouched off to Dove
Lane. But he could see nothing of Bobby Roper. The Jago and Dove
Lane were districts ever at feud, active or smouldering, save for
brief intervals of ostentatious reconciliation, serving to render
the next attack on Dove Lane the more savage—for invariably
the Jagos were aggressors and victors. Dicky was careful in his
lurkings, therefore: lest he should be recognised and set upon by
more Dove Lane boys than would be convenient. He knew where the
Ropers lived, and he went and hung about the door. Once he fancied
he could hear a disjointed tinkle, as of a music-box grown infirm,
but he was not sure of it. And in the end he contented himself, for
the present, with flinging a stone through the Ropers' window, and
taking to his heels.
The Jago was black with night, the rats came and went, and the
cosh-carriers lurked on landings. On a step, Pigeony Poll, drunk
because of a little gin and no food, sang hideously and wept. The
loafers had dispersed to spend their afternoon's makings. The group
which Dicky had left by Luck Row corner, indeed, had been
discouraged early in the evening in consequence of an attempt at
'turning over' old Beveridge, as he unsuspectingly stalked among
them, in from his city round. For the old man whipped out his
case-knife and drove it into the flesh of Nobber Sugg's arm, at the
shoulder—stabbed, too, at another, and ripped his coat. So
Nobber Sugg, with blood streaming through his sleeve, went off with
two more to tie up the arm; and old Beveridge, grinning and
mumbling fiercely, strode about the street, knife in hand, for ten
minutes, ere he grew calm enough to go his way. This Tommy Rann
told Dicky, sitting in the back-yard and smoking a pipe; a pipe
charged with tobacco pillaged from a tin-full which his father had
bought, at about fourpence a pound, from a loafer. And both boys
crawled indoors deadly sick.
Josh Perrott was at church on Sunday morning, as Father Sturt
had bid him. Not because of the bidding, but because the vicar
overtook him and Kiddo Cook in Meakin Street, and hauled them in,
professing to be much gratified at their punctuality, and charging
them never to fall away from the habit. The two Jagos, with dubious
grins, submitted as they must, and were in a little while surprised
to find others arriving, friends and acquaintances never suspected
of church-going. The fact was, that Father Sturt, by dint of long
effort, had so often brought so many to his stable-church, as he
had now brought Josh and Kiddo, that the terrors and embarrassments
of the place had worn off, and many, finding nothing more
attractive elsewhere, would make occasional attendances of their
own motion. Wet Sundays, particularly, inclined them to church:
where there might be a fire, where at least there was a clean room,
with pictures on the wall, where there were often flowers, where
there was always music, and where Father Sturt made an address of a
quarter of an hour, which nobody ever suspected of being a sermon;
an address which one might doze over or listen to, as one might be
disposed; but which most listened to, more or less, partly because
of an uneasy feeling that Father Sturt would know if they did not,
and partly because it was very easy to understand, was not
oppressively minatory, was spoken with an intimate knowledge of
themselves, and was, indeed, something of a refreshing novelty,
being the simple talk of a gentleman.
Josh Perrott and Kiddo Cook were not altogether sorry they had
come. It was a rest. Stable though it had been, they had never sat
in so pleasant a room before. There was nothing to do, no constant
watch to be kept, no police to avoid, and their wits had a holiday.
They forgot things. Their courage never rose so high as to build
the thought; but in truth pipes would have made them happy.
The address being done, Father Sturt announced the purchase of
the site for the new church, and briefly described his scheme. He
would give tenants good notice, he said, before the houses were
destroyed. Meantime, they must pay rent; though most of the amounts
would be reduced.
And after the benediction, Father Sturt, from his window over
the closed shop, saw Josh Perrott and Kiddo Cook guffawing and
elbowing one another up Luck Row. Each was accusing the other of
having tried to sing.
There was much talk of Father Sturt's announcement. Many held it
a shame that so much money, destined for the benefit of the Jago,
should be spent in bricks and mortar, instead of being distributed
among themselves. They fell to calculating the price of the land
and houses, and to working it out laboriously in the denomination
of pots and gallons. More: it was felt to be a grave social danger
that Jago Court should be extinguished. What would become of the
Jago without Jago Court? Where would Sunday morning be spent? Where
would the fights come off, and where was so convenient a place for
pitch and toss? But mainly they feared the police. Jago Court was
an unfailing sanctuary, a city of refuge ever ready, ever secure.
There were times when two or three of the police, hot in the chase,
would burst into the Jago at the heels of a flying marauder. Then
the runaway would make straight for the archway, and, once he was
in Jago Court, danger was over. For he had only to run into one of
the ever-open doors at right or left, and out into back-yards and
other houses; or, better, to scramble over the low fence opposite,
through the back door before him, and so into New Jago Street.
Beyond the archway the police could not venture, except in large
companies. A young constable who tried it once, getting ahead of
two companions in his ardour, was laid low as he emerged from the
passage, by a fire-grate adroitly let drop from an upper
The blotting out of such a godsend of a place as this would be a
calamity. The Jago would never be the same again. As it was, the
Old Jago was a very convenient, comfortable sort of place, they
argued. They could not imagine themselves living anywhere else. But
assuredly it would be the Jago no longer without Jago Court. And
this thing was to be done, too, with money got together for their
benefit! The sole explanation the Jago could supply was the one
that at last, with arithmetical variations, prevailed. The
landlords were to be paid a sum (varying in Jago estimation from a
hundred pounds to a hundred thousand) for the houses and the
ground, and of this they were secretly to return to Father Sturt a
certain share (generally agreed on as half), as his private fee for
bringing about so desirable a transaction. Looked at from all
points, this appeared to be the most plausible explanation: for no
other could reasonably account for Father Sturt's activity. No
wonder he could afford to reduce some of the rents! Was he not
already receiving princely wages (variously supposed to be
something from ten pounds to thirty pounds a week) from the
Government, for preaching every Sunday?
Still the rents were to be reduced: that was the immediate
consideration, and nothing but an immediate consideration carried
weight in the Jago, where a shilling to-day was to be preferred to
a constant income beginning in a month's time. The first effect of
the announcement was a rush of applications for rooms in the doomed
houses, each applicant demanding to be accommodated by the eviction
of somebody already established, but now disinterestedly discovered
to be a bad tenant. They were all disappointed, but the residents
had better luck than they had hoped. For the unexpected happened,
and the money for a part of the new buildings was suddenly
guaranteed. Wherefore Father Sturt, knowing that many would be hard
put to it to find shelter when the houses came down, and guessing
that rents would rise with the demand, determined to ask none for
the little while the tenements endured. Scarce had he made his
decision known ere he regretted it, popular as it was. For he
reflected that the money saved would merely melt, and that at the
inevitable turning out, not a soul would be the better off for the
relief, but, indeed, might find it harder than ever to pay rent
after the temporary easement. It would have been better rigidly to
exact the rent, and return it in lump to each tenant as he left.
The sum would have been an inducement to leave peaceably—a
matter in which trouble was to be expected. But then, what did any
windfall of shillings bring in the Jago? What but a drunk? This was
one of Father Sturt's thousand perplexities, and he could but hope
that, perhaps, he had done right after all.
The old buildings were sold, as they stood, to the
house-wreckers, and on the house-wreckers devolved the work of
getting the lodgers out. For weeks the day was deferred, but it
drew very near at last, and a tall hoarding was put up. Next
morning it had vanished; but there was a loud crackling where the
Jagos boiled their pots; Dicky Perrott and Tommy Rann had a bonfire
in Edge Lane; and Jerry Gullen's canary sweated abroad before a
heavy load of cheap firewood.
Then Josh Perrott and Billy Leary, his old enemy, were appointed
joint guardians of the new hoarding, each to get half-a-crown on
every morning when the fence was found intact. And in the end there
came eviction day, and once more the police held the Jago in force,
escorting gangs of men with tumbrils.
As for the Perrotts, they could easily find another room, at the
high rent always charged for the privilege of residence in the
Jago. To have remained in one room four or five years, and to have
paid rent with indifferent good regularity was a feat sufficiently
rare to be notorious, and to cause way to be made for them wherever
a room was falling vacant, or could be emptied. They went no
farther than across the way, to a room wherein a widow had died
over her sack-making two days before, and had sat on the floor with
her head between her knees for hours, while her children, not
understanding, cried that they were hungry. These children were now
gone to the workhouse: more fortunate than the many they left
behind. And the room was a very fair one, ten feet square or
The rest of the tenants thought not at all of new quarters, and
did nothing to find them, till they found themselves and their
belongings roofless in Old Jago Street. Then with one accord they
demanded lodgings of the vicar. Most of them had never inhabited
any rooms so long as they had these which they must now
leave—having been ejected again and again because of unpaid
rent. Nevertheless, they clamoured for redress as they might have
clamoured had they never changed dwellings in their lives.
Nobody resisted the police; for there were too many of them.
Moreover, Father Sturt was there, and few had hardihood for any but
their best behaviour in his presence. Still, there were disputes
among the Jagos themselves, that sometimes came very near to
fights. Ginger Stagg's missis professed to recognise a long-lost
property in a tin kettle brought into the outer air among the
belongings of Mrs Walsh. The miscellaneous rags and sticks that
were Cocko Harnwell's household goods got mingled in the roadway
with those appertaining to the Fishers; and their assortment
without a turn of family combat was a task which tried the vicar's
influence to the utmost. Mrs Rafferty, too, was suspected of undue
pride in a cranky deal wash-stand, and thereby of a disposition to
sneer at the humbler turn-out of the Regans from the next floor:
giving occasion for a shrill and animated row.
The weather was dry, fortunately, and the evicted squatted in
the roadway, by their heaps, or on them, squabbling and lamenting.
Ginger Stagg, having covered certain crockery with the old family
mattress, forgetfully sat on it, and came upon Father Sturt with an
indignant demand for compensation.
Father Sturt's efforts to stimulate a search for new lodgings
met with small success at first. It was felt that, no doubt, there
were lodgings to be had, but they would be open to the fatal
objection of costing something; and the Jago temperament could
neither endure nor understand payment for what had once been given
for nothing. Father Sturt, the Jagos argued, had given them free
quarters for so long. Then why should he stop now? If they cleared
out in order to make room for his new church, in common fairness he
should find them similar lodging on the same terms. So they sat and
waited for him to do it.
At length the vicar set to work with them in good earnest,
carried away with him a family or two at a time, and inducted them
to rooms of his own finding. And hereat others, learning that in
these cases rent in advance was exacted, bestirred themselves:
reflecting that if rent must be paid they might as well choose
their own rooms as take those that Father Sturt might find. Of
course the thing was not done without payments from the vicar's
pocket. Some were wholly destitute; others could not muster enough
to pay that advance of rent which alone could open a Jago tenancy.
Distinguishing the genuine impecuniosity from the merely professed,
with the insight that was now a sixth sense with him, Father Sturt
helped sparingly and in secret; for a precedent of almsgiving was
an evil thing in the Jago, confirming the shiftlessness which was
already a piece of Jago nature, and setting up long affliction for
the almsgiver. Enough of such precedents existed; and the
inevitable additions thereto were a work of anxious responsibility
and jealous care.
So the bivouac in Old Jago Street melted away. For one thing,
there were those among the dispossessed who would not waste time in
unproductive inactivity just then; for war had arisen with Dove
Lane, and spoils were going. Dove Lane was no very reputable place,
but it was not like the Jago. In the phrase of the district, the
Dove Laners were pretty thick, but the Jagos were thick as glue.
There were many market-porters among the Dove Laners, and at this,
their prosperous season, they and their friends resorted to a shop
in Meakin Street, kept by an 'ikey' tailor, there to buy the
original out-and-out downy benjamins, or the celebrated bang-up
kicksies, cut saucy, with artful buttons and a double fakement down
the sides. And hereabout they were apt to be set upon by Jagos;
overthrown by superior numbers; bashed; and cleaned out. Or, if the
purchases had been made, they were flimped of their kicksies,
benjies or daisies, as the case might be. So that a fight with Dove
Lane might be an affair of some occasional profit; and it became no
loyal Jago to idle in the stronghold.
Father Sturt's task was nearly over, when, returning to Old Jago
Street, he saw Dicky Perrott sitting by a still-remaining
heap—a heap small and poor even among those others. The
Perrotts had been decorously settled in their new home since early
morning; but here was Dicky, guarding a heap with a baby on it, and
absorbed in the weaving of rush bags.
'That's right, Dicky my boy,' said Father Sturt in the approving
voice that a Jago would do almost anything—except turn
honest—to hear. And Dicky, startled, looked up, flushed and
happy, over his shoulder.
'Rush bags, eh?' the vicar went on, stooping and handing Dicky
another rush from the heap. 'And whose are they?'
The bags, the rushes, the heap, and the baby belonged to Mrs
Bates, the widow, who was now in search of a new room. Dicky had
often watched the weaving of fishmongers' frails, and, since it was
work in which he had had no opportunity of indulging, it naturally
struck him as a fascinating pastime. So that he was delighted by
the chance which he had taken, and Mrs Bates, for her part, was not
sorry to find somebody to mind her property. Moreover, by hard work
and the skill begot of much practice, she was able to earn a sum of
some three farthings an hour at the rush bags: a profit which her
cupidity made her reluctant to lose, for even half an hour. And
thus to have Dicky carry on the business—and in his
enthusiasm he did it very well—was a further
Father Sturt chatted with Dicky till the boy could scarce plait
for very pride. Would not Dicky like to work regularly every day,
asked Father Sturt, and earn wages? Dicky could see no graceful
answer but the affirmative; and in sober earnest he thought he
would. Father Sturt took hold of Dicky's vanity. Was he not capable
of something better than other Jago boys? Why should he not earn
regular wages, and live comfortably, well fed and clothed, with no
fear of the police, and no shame for what he did? He might
do it, when others could not. They were not clever enough. They
called themselves 'clever' and 'wide;' 'but,' said Father Sturt,
'is there one of them that can deceive me?' And Dicky knew there
was not one. Most did no work, the vicar's argument went on,
because they had neither the pluck to try nor the intelligence to
accomplish. Else why did they live the wretched Jago life instead
of take the pleasanter time of the decent labourer?
Dicky, already zealous at work as exampled in rush bag-making,
listened with wistful pride. Yes, if he could, he would work and
take his place over the envious heads of his Jago friends. But how?
Nobody would employ a boy living in the Jago. That was notorious.
The address was a topsy-turvy testimonial for miles round.
All the same when Mrs Bates at last took away her belongings,
Dicky ran off in delighted amaze to tell his mother and Em that he
was going to tea at Father Sturt's rooms.
And the wreckers tore down the foul old houses, laying bare the
secret dens of a century of infamy; lifting out the wide sashes of
the old 'weavers' windows'—the one good feature in the
structures; letting light and air at last into the subterraneous
basements where men and women had swarmed, and bred, and died, like
wolves in their lairs; and emerging from clouds of choking dust,
each man a colony of vermin. But there were rooms which the
wreckers—no jack-a-dandies neither—flatly refused to
enter; and nothing would make them but much coaxing, the promise of
extra pay, and the certainty of much immediate beer.
Mr Grinder kept a shop in the Bethnal Green Road. It was
announced in brilliant lettering as an 'oil, colour and Italian
warehouse,' and there, in addition to the oil and the colour, and
whatever of Italian there might have been, he sold pots, pans,
kettles, brooms, shovels, mops, lamps, nails, and treacle. It was a
shop ever too tight for its stock, which burst forth at every
available opening, and heaped so high on the paving that the window
was half buried in a bank of shining tin. Father Sturt was one of
the best customers: the oil, candles and utensils needed for church
and club all coming from Mr Grinder's. Mr Grinder was losing his
shop-boy, who had found a better situation; and Father Sturt
determined that, could but the oil-man be persuaded, Dicky Perrott
should be the new boy. Mr Grinder was persuaded. Chiefly perhaps,
because the vicar undertook to make good the loss, should the
experiment end in theft; partly because it was policy to oblige a
good customer; and partly, indeed, because Mr Grinder was willing
to give such a boy a chance in life, for he was no bad fellow, as
oil-and-colourmen go, and had been an errand boy himself.
So that there came a Monday morning when Dicky, his clothes as
well mended as might be (for Hannah Perrott, no more than another
Jago, could disobey Father Sturt), and a cut-down apron of his
mother's tied before him, stood by Mr Grinder's bank of pots and
kettles, in an eager agony to sell something, and near blind with
the pride of the thing. He had been waiting at the shop-door long
ere Mr Grinder was out of bed; and now, set to guard the outside
stock—a duty not to be neglected in that
neighbourhood—he brushed a tin pot here and there with his
sleeve, and longed for some Jago friend to pass and view him in his
new greatness. The goods he watched over were an unfailing source
of interest; and he learned by much repetition the prices of all
the saucepans, painted in blue distemper on the tin, and ranging
from eightpence-halfpenny, on the big pots in the bottom row, to
three-halfpence on the very little ones at the top. And there were
long ranks of little paraffin lamps at a penny—the sort that
had set fire to a garret in Half Jago Street a month since, and
burnt old Mother Leary to a greasy cinder. With a smaller array of
a superior quality at fourpence-halfpenny—just like the one
that had burst at Jerry Gullen's, and burnt the bed. While over his
head swung doormats at one-and-eightpence, with penny mousetraps
dangling from their corners.
When he grew more accustomed to his circumstances, he bethought
him to collect a little dirt, and rub it down the front of his
apron, to give himself a well-worked and business-like appearance;
and he greatly impeded women who looked at the saucepans and the
mousetraps, ere they entered the shop, by his anxiety to cut them
off from Mr Grinder and serve them himself. He remembered the boy
at the toy-shop in Bishopsgate Street, years ago, who had chased
him through Spitalfields; and he wished that some lurching
youngster would snatch a mousetrap, that he might make a chase
At Mr Grinder's every call Dicky was prompt and willing; for
every new duty was a fresh delight, and the whole day a prolonged
game of real shopkeeping. And at his tea—he was to have tea
each day in addition to three and sixpence every Saturday—he
took scarce five minutes. There was a trolley—just such a
thing as porters used at railway stations, but smaller—which
was his own particular implement, his own to pack parcels on for
delivery to such few customers as did not carry away their own
purchases: and to acquire the dexterous management of this trolley
was a pure joy. He bolted his tea to start the sooner on a
trolley-journey to a public-house two hundred yards away.
His enthusiasm for work as an amusement cooled in a day or two,
but all his pride in it remained. The fight with Dove Lane waxed
amain, but Dicky would not be tempted into more than a distant
interest in it. In his day-dreams he saw himself a tradesman, with
a shop of his own and the name 'R. Perrott,' with a gold flourish,
over the door. He would employ a boy himself then; and there would
be a parlour, with stuff-bottomed chairs and a shade of flowers,
and Em grown up and playing on the piano. Truly Father Sturt was
right: the hooks were fools, and the straight game was the
Bobby Roper, the hunchback, went past the shop once, and saw
him. Dicky, minding his new dignity, ignored his enemy, and for the
first time for a year and more, allowed him to pass without either
taunt or blow. The other, astonished at Dicky's new occupation,
came back and back again, staring, from a safe distance, at Dicky
and the shop. Dicky, on his part, took no more notice than to
assume an ostentatious vigilance: so that the hunchback, baring his
teeth in a snigger of malice, at last turned on his heel and rolled
Twice Kiddo Cook passed, but made no sign of recognition beyond
a wink; and Dicky felt grateful for Kiddo's obvious fear of
compromising him. Once old Beveridge came by, striding rapidly, his
tatters flying, and the legend 'Hard Up' chalked on his hat, as was
his manner in his town rambles. He stopped abruptly at sight of
Dicky, stooped, and said:—'Dicky Perrott?
Hum—hum—hey?' Then he hurried on, doubtless conceiving
just such a fear as Kiddo Cook's. As for Tommy Rann, his affections
were alienated by Dicky's outset refusal to secrete treacle in a
tin mug for a midnight carouse; and he did not show himself. So
matters went for near a week.
But Mr Weech missed Dicky sadly. It was rare for a day to pass
without a visit from Dicky, and Dicky had a way of bringing good
things. Mr Weech would not have sold Dicky's custom for ten
shillings a week. So that when Mr Weech inquired, and found that
Dicky was at work in an oil-shop, he was naturally annoyed.
Moreover, if Dicky Perrott got into that way of life, he
would have no fear for himself, and might get talking
inconveniently among his new friends about the business affairs of
Mr Aaron Weech. And at this reflection that philanthropist grew
Dicky had gone on an errand, and Mr Grinder was at the shop
door, when there appeared before him a whiskered and smirking
figure, with a quick glance each way along the street, and a long
and smiling one at the oil-man's necktie.
'Good mornin', Mr Grinder, good mornin' sir.' Mr Weech stroked
his left palm with his right fist and nodded pleasantly. 'I'm in
business meself, over in Meakin Street—name of Weech: p'r'aps
you know the shop? I—I jist 'opped over to ask'—Grinder
led the way into the shop—'to ask (so's to make things quite
sure y'know, though no doubt it's all right) to ask if it's correct
you're awfferin' brass roastin'-jacks at a shillin' each.'
'Brass roastin'-jacks at a shillin'?' exclaimed Grinder, shocked
at the notion. 'Why, no!'
Mr Weech appeared mildly surprised. 'Nor yut seven-poun' jars o'
jam an' pickles at sixpence?' he pursued, with his eye on those
ranged behind the counter.
'Nor doormats at fourpence?'
'Fourpence? Cert'nly not!'
Mr Weech's face fell into a blank perplexity. He pawed his ear
with a doubtful air, murmuring absently:—'Well I'm sure 'e
said fourpence: an' sixpence for pickles, an' bring 'em
round after the shop was shut. But there', he added, more briskly,
'there's no 'arm done, an' no doubt it's a mistake.' He turned as
though to leave, but Grinder restrained him.
'But look 'ere,' he said, 'I want to know about this. Wotjer
mean? 'Oo was goin' to bring round pickles after the shop
was shut? 'Oo said fourpence for doormats?'
'Oh, I expect it's jest a little mistake, that's all,' answered
Weech, making another motion toward the door; 'an' I don't want to
git nobody into trouble.'
'Trouble? Nice trouble I'd be in if I sold brass smoke-jacks for
a bob! There's somethink 'ere as I ought to know about. Tell me
about it straight.'
Weech looked thoughtfully at the oil-man's top waistcoat button
for a few seconds, and then said:—'Yus, p'raps I better. I
can feel for you, Mr Grinder, 'avin' a feelin' 'art, an' bein' in
business meself. Where's your boy?'
'Comin' back soon?'
'Not yut. Come in the back-parlour.'
There Mr Weech, with ingenuous reluctance, assured Mr Grinder
that Dicky Perrott had importuned him to buy the goods in question
at the prices he had mentioned, together with others—readily
named now that the oil-man swallowed so freely—and that they
were to be delivered and paid for at night when Dicky left work.
But perhaps, Mr Weech concluded, parading an obstinate belief in
human nature, perhaps the boy, being new to the business, had
mistaken the prices, and was merely doing his best to push his
'No fear o' that,' said Grinder, shaking his head gloomily. 'Not
the least fear o' that. 'E knows the cheapest doormats I got's one
an' six—I 'eard him tell customers so outside a dozen times;
an' anyone can see the smoke-jacks is ticketed five an
'nine'—as Mr Weech had seen, when he spoke of them. 'I
thought that boy was too eager an' willin' to be quite genavin,'
Dicky's master went on. ''E ain't 'ad me yut, that's one comfort:
if anythin' 'ud bin gawn I'd 'a' missed it. But out 'e goes as soon
as 'e comes back: you can take yer davy o' that!'
'Ah,' replied Mr Weech, 'it's fearful the wickedness there is
about, ain't it? It's enough to break yer 'art. Sich a
neighb'r'ood, too! Wy, if it was known as I'd give you this 'ere
little friendly information, bein' in business meself an' knowin'
wot it is, my life wouldn't be safe a hower. It wouldn't, Mr
'Wouldn't it?' said Mr Grinder. 'You mean them in the Jago, I
'Yus. They're a awful lot, Mr Grinder—you've no idear. The
father o' this 'ere boy as I've warned you aginst, 'e's in with a
desprit gang, an' they'd murder me if they thought I'd come an'
told you honest, w'en you might 'a' bin robbed, as is my nature to.
They would indeed. So o' course you won't say wot I toldjer, nor
'oo give you this 'ere honourable friendly warnin'—not to
'That's awright,' answered the simple Grinder, 'I won't let on.
But out 'e goes, promp'. I'm obliged to ye, Mr Weech. Er—r
wot'll ye take?'
Weech put away the suggestion with a virtuous
palm:—'Nothink at all, Mr Grinder, thanks all the same. I
never touch nothink; an' I'm glad to—to do any moral job, so
to speak, as comes in my way. 'Scatter seeds o' kindness' you know,
as the—the Psalm says, Mr Grinder. Your boy ain't back, is
And after peering cautiously, Mr Weech went his way.
Dicky completed his round, and pushed his unladen trolley
Grinder-ward with a fuller sense of responsibility than ever. For
he carried money. A publican had paid him four and threepence, and
he had taken two and tenpence elsewhere. He had left his proud
signature, pencilled large and black, on two receipts, and he
stopped in a dozen doorways to count the money over again, and make
sure that all was right. Between the halts he added four and three
to two and ten mentally, and proved his sum correct by subtracting
each in turn from seven and a penny. And at last he stood his
trolley on end by the bank of saucepans, and entered the shop.
'Walker's is paid, an' Wilkins is paid,' said Dicky, putting
down the money. 'Two an' ten an' four an' three's seven an' a
Mr Grinder looked steadily and sourly at Dicky, and counted. He
pitched the odd penny into the till and shook the rest of the coins
in his closed hand, still staring moodily in the boy's face. 'It's
three an' six a week you come 'ere at,' he said.
'Yus sir,' Dicky replied, since Grinder seemed to expect an
answer. The supreme moment when he should take his first wages had
been the week's beacon to him, reddening and brightening as
Saturday night grew nearer.
'Three an' six a week an' yer tea.'
'So as if I found out anythink about—say Brass
Roastin'-jacks for instance—I could give ye yer three an' six
an' start y' auf, unless I did somethin' wuss.'
Dicky was all incomprehension; but something made him feel a
'But s'posin' I didn't find out anythink about—say
Seven-pun' Jars o' Pickles—an' s'pose I wasn't disposed to
suspect anythink in regard to—say Doormats; then I could
either give ye a week s notice or pay y' a week's money an' clear
y' out on the spot, without no more trouble.'
Mr Grinder paused, and still looked at Dicky with calm dislike.
Then he added, as though in answer to himself, 'Yus.' ...
He dropped the money slowly from his right hand to his left.
Dicky's mouth was dry, and the drawers and pickle-jars swam before
him at each side of Grinder's head. What did it mean?
''Ere y' are,' cried Mr Grinder, with sudden energy, thrusting
his hand across the counter. 'Two three-and-sixes is seven
shillin's, an' you can git yer tea at 'ome with yer dirty little
sister. Git out o' my shop!'
Dicky's hand closed mechanically on the money, and after a
second's pause, he found broken speech. 'W—w—wot for,
sir?' he asked, huskily. 'I ain't done nothink!'
'No, an' you sha'n't do nothink, that's more. Out ye go! If I
see ye near the place agin I'll 'ave ye locked up!'
Dicky slunk to the door. He felt the sobs coming, but he turned
at the threshold and said with tremulous lips:—'Woncher gimme
a chance, sir? S'elp me, I done me best. I—'
Mr Grinder made a short rush from the back of the shop, and
Dicky gave up and fled.
It was all over. There could never be a shop with 'R. Perrott'
painted over it, now; there would be no parlour with stuff-bottomed
chairs and a piano for Em to play. He was cut off from the trolley
for ever. Dicky was thirteen, and at that age the children of the
Jago were past childish tears; but tears he could not smother, even
till he might find a hiding-place: they burst out shamefully in the
He took dark turnings, and hid his head in doorways. It was very
bitter. At last, when the sobs grew fewer, he remembered the money
gripped in his wet fist. It was a consolation. Seven shillings was
a vast sum in Dicky's eyes; until that day he had never handled so
much in his life. It would have been handsome recompense, he
thought, for any trouble in the world but this. He must take it
home, of course; it might avail to buy sympathy of his father and
mother. But then, to think he might have had as much every
fortnight of his life, a good tea every day, and the proud
responsibility, and the trolley! At this his lips came awry again,
his eyes sought his sleeve, and he turned to another doorway.
His glance fell on the white apron, now smudged and greased in
good earnest. It made him feel worse; so he untied it and stuffed
it away under his jacket. He wondered vaguely what had occurred to
irritate Mr Grinder, and why he talked of pickles and doormats; but
the sorrow of it all afflicted him to the extinction of such minor
speculation. And in this misery he dragged his reluctant feet
toward the Old Jago.
He handed his father the seven shillings, and received a furious
belting for losing his situation. He cried quietly, but it was not
because of the strap. All he feared now was to meet Father Sturt.
He had rather fifty beltings than Father Sturt's reproaches; and,
having disgraced himself with Mr Grinder in some mysterious way
which it was beyond his capacity to understand, what but reproaches
could he expect from the vicar? The whole world was against him. As
for himself, he was hopeless: plainly he must have some
incomprehensible defect of nature, since he offended, do as he
might, and could neither understand nor redeem his fault. He
wondered if it had been so with little Neddy Wright, who had found
the world too ruthless for him at ten; and had tied a brick to his
neck, as he had seen done with needless dogs, and let himself
timidly down into the canal at Haggerstone Bridge.
So he shuffled through Jago Row, when a hand came on his
shoulder and a hoarse voice said:—'Wot's the matter,
He turned, and saw the mild, coarse face of Pigeony Poll, the
jaw whereof was labouring on something tough and sticky. Poll
pulled from her pocket a glutinous paper, clinging about a cohesive
lump of broken toffee—the one luxury of her moneyed times.
''Ave a bit,' she said. 'Wot's the matter?'
But Dicky thrust the hand away and fled, for he feared another
burst of tears. His eyes were bad enough as it was, and he longed
to hide himself in some hole.
He turned into New Jago Street. Hither it was that Jerry Gullen
had betaken himself with his family and the Canary, after the great
eviction. Dicky slackened his pace, loitered at Jerry's doorway,
and presently found himself in the common passage. It was long
since he had had a private interview with Jerry Gullen's canary:
for, indeed, he was thirteen—he was no longer a child, in
fact!—and it was not well that he should indulge in such
foolish weakness. Nevertheless he went as far as the back door.
There stood the old donkey, mangy and infirm as ever, but
apparently no nearer the end. The wood of the fence was bitten in
places, but it was not as yet gnawed to the general whiteness and
roundness of that in Canary's old abode. Canary, indeed, was
fortunate to-day, for at the sound of Dicky's step he lifted his
nose from a small heap of straw, dust, and mouldy hay, swept into a
corner. Dicky stepped into the yard, and put his hand on Canary's
neck; presently he glanced guiltily at the windows above. Nobody
was looking. And in five minutes Dicky, aged as he was, had told
Canary his troubles, while new tears wetted the ragged crest and
dropped into the dusty straw.
Now his grief lost some of its edge. Ashamed as he was, he had a
shapeless, unapprehended notion that Canary was the sole creature
alive that could understand and feel with him. And Canary poked his
nose under the old jacket and sniffed in sympathy, as the broken
lining tickled him. Dicky's intellectuals began to arrange
themselves. Plainly, Mr Weech's philosophy was right after all. He
was of the Jago, and he must prey on the outer world, as all the
Jago did; not stray foolishly off the regular track in chase of
visions, and fall headlong. Father Sturt was a creature of another
mould. Who was he, Dicky Perrott, that he should break away from
the Jago habit, and strain after another nature? What could come of
it but defeat and bitterness? As old Beveridge had said, the Jago
had got him. Why should he fight against the inevitable, and bruise
himself? The ways out of the Jago old Beveridge had told him, years
ago. Gaol, the gallows and the High Mob. There was his chance, his
aspiration, his goal: the High Mob. To dream of oil-shops or
regular wages was foolishness. His bed was made in the Jago, and he
must lie on it. His hope in life, if he might have a hope at all,
was to be of the High Mob. Spare nobody, stop at nothing, do his
devilmost: old Beveridge had said that years ago. The task was
before him, and he must not balk at it. As for gaol and the
gallows, well! There they were, and he could not help it; ill ways
out of the Jago, both, but still—ways out.
He rubbed his face carefully with his sleeve, put away his
foolish ambitions, and went forth with a brave heart: to accomplish
his destiny for well or ill,—a Jago rat. To do his devilmost.
But to avoid Father Sturt.
Out he went into Shoreditch High Street, and there he prowled
the evening away; there and in Norton Folgate. But he touched for
nothing—nothing at all. He feared lest his week's honesty had
damaged his training. Even an apple on a stall he failed at, and
had to run. And then he turned into Bethnal Green Road.
But here a thought checked him suddenly. What of Mr Grinder? He
had threatened to have Dicky locked up if he came near the shop
again. But a child of the Jago knew too much to be frightened by
such a threat as that. He went on. He felt interested to see how
his late employer was getting along without him, and who was
minding the goods outside the shop. Probably there was nobody: and
this gave Dicky an idea.
He had forgotten his smudgy apron, folded and tucked away in the
lining of his jacket. Now he pulled it out, and fastened it before
him once more. He knew Mr Grinder's habits in the shop, and if he
could seize a fitting opportunity he might be able, attired in his
apron, to pick up or reach down any article that struck his fancy,
fearless of interference from passers-by; for he would seem to be
With that he hastened, for it was near closing time at
Grinder's. He took the opposite side of the road, the better to
observe unseen in the darkness. But Mr Grinder had already begun to
carry things in from the pavement. As Dicky looked he came out with
a long pole wherewith he unhooked from above a clattering cluster
of pails and watering pots, and a bunch of doormats. The doormats
he let fall on the flags, while he carried in the pots and pails.
Dicky knew that these pots and pails were kept at night in a shed
behind the house; so he scuttled across the road, opening the blade
of his old knife as he ran. He cut the string that held the mats
together, selected a thick one, rolled it under his arm, and edged
off into the shadow. Then he ran quietly across to the nearest
Presently Mr Grinder came out, hooked his finger in the string
among the mats, and pulled up nothing. He stooped, and saw that the
string was cut. He looked about him suspiciously, flung the mats
over, and counted them. Then he stood erect; stared up the street,
down the street, and across the road, with his mouth open; and made
short rushes left and right into the gloom. Then he returned to the
mats and scratched his head. Finally, he gave another glance about
the street, picked up the mats in his arms and carried them in,
counting them as he went. And, the mats bestowed, whenever he came
forth for a fresh armful of saucepans, he stood and gazed
doubtfully, now this way, now that, about the Bethnal Green
Mr Aaron Weech was pushing his last shutter into its place when
'Clean the knives,' said Dicky Perrott, in perfunctory repetition
of the old formula.
Mr Weech seemed taken aback. 'Wot, that?' he asked, doubtfully,
pointing at the doormat. Then, after a sharp look about the almost
deserted street, he ran to Jago Row corner, twenty yards away, and
looked down there. Nobody was hiding, and he came back. He led the
way into the shop, and closed the door. Then, looking keenly in
Dicky's face, he suddenly asked,—''Oo toldjer to bring that
'Told me?' Dicky answered sullenly. 'Nobody told me. Don'cher
''Ow much did 'e tell ye t'ask for it?'
'Tell me? 'Oo?'
'You know. 'Ow much didjer say 'e said?'
Dicky was mystified. 'Dunno wotcher mean,' he replied.
Mr Weech suddenly broke into a loud laugh, but kept his keen
look on the boy's face nevertheless. 'Ah, it's a good joke, Dicky,
ain't it?' he said, and laughed again. 'But you can't 'ave me, ye
know! Mr Grinder's a old friend o' mine, an' I know 'is little
larks. Wot did 'e tell ye to do if I wouldn't 'ave that
'Tell me?' asked Dicky, plainly more mystified than ever. 'Wy 'e
never told me nothink. 'E gimme the sack this afternoon, an'
chucked me out.'
'Then wotcher got yer apron on now for?'
'Oh,' said Dicky, looking down at it, 'I jist put it on
agin—o' purpose.' And he glanced at the mat.
Mr Weech understood, and grinned—a genuine grin this time.
'That's right Dicky,' he said, 'never let yer wits go a-ramblin'. A
sharp boy like you's a lot too good for a shop-boy, slavin' away
from mornin' till night, an' treated ungrateful. Wot did 'e sack ye
'I dunno. Took a fit in 'is 'ead, I s'pose. Wotcher goin' to
gimme for this mat? It's a two an' three mat.'
'Want somethink to eat, doncher?' suggested Mr Weech, glancing
at a heap of stale cake.
'No I don't,' Dicky answered, with sulky resolution. 'I want
'Awright,' said Mr Weech, resignedly. 'You ain't 'ad much to eat
an' drink 'ere for a long time, though. But I'll do the 'an'some,
seein' you're bin treated ungrateful by Grinder. 'Ere's
But Dicky held to the mat. 'Twopence ain't enough,' he said. 'I
want fourpence.' He meant to spare nobody—not even Mr
'Wot? Fourpence?' gasped Mr Weech indignantly. 'Wy, you're mad.
Take it away.'
Dicky rolled the mat under his arm and turned to the door.
''Ere,' said Mr Weech, seeing him going, 'I'll make it
thrippence, seein' you're bin treated so bad.
Thrippence—and a slice o' cake,' he added, perceiving
that Dicky did not hesitate.
'I don't want no cake,' Dicky answered doggedly. 'I want
fourpence, an' I won't take no less.'
The good Weech was unwilling that Dicky should find another
market after all, so he submitted to the extortion. 'Ah well,' he
said, with a sigh, pulling out the extra coppers, 'jist for this
once, then. You'll ave to make it up next time. Mindjer, it's on'y
'cos I'm sorry for ye bein' treated ungrateful. Don't you go
an' treat me ungrateful, now.'
Dicky pocketed his pence and made for home, while Mr Weech,
chuckling gently at his morning prophecy of a doormat for
fourpence, carried the plunder to the room reserved for new and
unused stock; promising himself, however, a peep at Grinder's shop
in the morning, to make quite sure that Dicky had really left.
So ended Dicky's dealings with the house of Grinder. When Father
Sturt next saw the oil-man, and inquired of Dicky's progress, he
was met with solemn congratulations that no larcenies were to pay
for. Mr Grinder's sagacity, it seemed, had enabled him to detect
and crush at the outset Dicky's plans for selling stock wholesale
on his own account. Out of consideration for the vicar's
recommendation he had refrained from handing the boy over to the
police, but had paid him a week in advance and dismissed him.
Father Sturt insisted on repaying the money, and went his way with
a heavy heart. For if this were what came of the promising among
his flock, what of the others? For some while he saw nothing of
Dicky; and the incident fell back among a crowd of others in his
remembrance: for Dicky was but one among thousands, and the
disappointment was but one of many hundreds.
Lying awake that night, but with closed eyes, Dicky heard his
mother, talking with his father, suggest that perhaps an enemy had
earwigged Grinder, and told him a tale that had brought about
Dicky's dismissal: somebody, perhaps, who wanted the situation for
somebody else. Josh Perrott did no more than grunt at the guess,
but it gave a new light to Dicky. Clearly that would account for
Grinder's change. But who could the mischief-maker be?
The little clock on the mantel-piece ticked away busily in the
silence, and Dicky instantly thought of the hunchback. He it must
have been, without a doubt. Who else? Was he not hanging about the
shop, staring and sneering, but a day or two back? And was it not
he who had pursued him with malice on every occasion, in school and
out? Had not Bobby Roper this very trick of lying tales? Where was
the gratuitous injury in all these four years that had not been
Bobby Roper's work? Dicky trembled with rage as he lay, and he
resolved on condign revenge. The war with Dove Lane was over for
the time being, but that made it easier for him to catch his
The feud between the Jago and Dove Lane was eternal, just as was
that between the Ranns and the Learys; but, like the Rann and Leary
feud, it had its paroxysms and its intervals. And, in both cases,
the close of a paroxysm was signalised by a great show of amity
between the factions. Bob Rann and Billy Leary would drink affably
from the same pot, and Norah Walsh and Sally Green would call each
other 'mum'; while Jagos and Dove-Laners would mingle in bars and
lend pinches of tobacco, and call each other 'matey.' A paroxysm in
the war had now passed, and reconciliation was due. The Dove-Laners
had been heavily thrashed: their benjamins and kicksies had been
impounded in Meakin Street, and they had ceased from buying. Dove
Lane itself had been swept from end to end by the victorious Jago,
and the populations of both were dotted thickly with bandaged
heads. This satisfactory state of things achieved, there was little
reason left for fighting. Moreover, if fighting persisted too long
at a time, the police were apt to turn up in numbers, subjecting
the neighbourhood to much inconvenient scrutiny, and very often
coming across Jagos—or even Dove-Laners—'wanted' on old
accounts. So peace was declared; and, as a visible sign thereof, it
was determined that the Dove-Laners should visit the Jago in a
body, there to join in a sing-song at Mother Gapp's. Mother Gapp's
was chosen, not only because it was Mother Gapp's—an
important consideration—but also because of the large room
behind the bar, called the 'club-room,' which had long ago been
made of two rooms and a big cupboard, by the cutting away of crazy
partitions from the crazy walls.
Scarce was it dark when the Dove-Laners, in a succession of
hilarious groups—but withal a trifle suspicious—began
to push through Mother Gapp's doors. Their caps pulled down to
their ears, their hands in their pockets, their shoulders humped,
and their jackets buttoned tight, they lurched through the Jago,
grinning with uneasy affability at the greetings that met them,
being less practised than the Jagos in the assumption of elaborate
In the club-room of the Feathers there were but three or four of
the other party, though the bar was packed. The three or four, of
whom Josh Perrott was one, were by way of a committee of stewards
deputed to bid the Dove-Laners welcome, and to help them to seats.
The Jagos were in some sort in the situation of hosts, and it had
been decided after debate that it would ill become them to take
their places till their guests were seated. The punctilio of the
Jago on such occasions was a marvel ever.
So Josh Perrott stood at one side of the club-room door and
Billy Leary at the other, shaking hands with all who entered, and
strenuously maintaining cheerful grins. Now the Jago smile was a
smile by itself, unlike the smiles in other places. It faded
suddenly, and left the face—the Jago face—drawn and sad
and startling by contrast, as of a man betrayed into mirth in the
midst of great sorrow. So that a persistent grin was known for a
work of conscious effort.
The Dove-Laners came in still larger numbers than had been
expected, and before long it was perceived that there would be
little space in the club-room, if any at all, for the Jagos.
Already the visitors seemed to fill the place, but they still kept
coming, and found places by squeezing. There was some doubt as to
what had best be done. Meanwhile the sing-song began, for at least
a score were anxious to 'oblige' at once, and every moment fresh
volunteers arose. Many Dove-Laners stood up, and so made more room;
but more came, and still more, till the club-room could hold not
another, and the very walls were like to burst. Under the low
ceiling hung a layer of smoke that obscured the face of the man
standing on the table at the end to sing; and under the smoke was a
close-packed array of heads, hats, and clay pipes, much diversified
by white bandages and black eyes.
Such Dove-Laners as came in now were fain to find places in the
bar, if they could; and a crowd of Jagos, men and women, hung about
the doors of the Feathers. More fortunate than other boys, Dicky,
who would go anywhere to hear what purported to be music, had
succeeded in worming himself through the bar and almost to the door
of the club-room; but he could get no farther, and now he stood
compressed, bounded on the face by Cocko Harnwell's coat-tails, and
on the back of the head by Fluffy Pike's moleskin waistcoat, with
pearlies down the front and the artful dodge over the pockets. Pud
Palmer—one of the reception committee—was singing. He
accompanied his chorus by a step dance, and all the company stamped
She's a fighter, she's a biter, she's a swearer, she's a
The gonophs down aar alley they calls 'er Rorty Sal;
But as I'm a pertikiler sort o' bloke, I calls 'er Rorty
Dicky clung to Cocko Harnwell's coat-tails lest he were trampled
to death; and for a while he was flung about, crushed and bruised,
among rushing men, like a swimmer among breakers, while the air was
rent with howls and the smash of glass. For the club-room floor had
It had been built but slightly in the beginning, as floor for
two small rooms and a cupboard, with little weight to carry. Old
and rotten now, and put to the strain of a multitude, stamping in
unison, it had failed utterly, and had let down a struggling mob of
men five feet on the barrels in the cellar, panic-stricken and
jumbled with tables, pots, wooden forms, lighted pipes and
From the midst of the stramash a Dove-Laner bawled aloud that it
was a trap, and instantly Jagos and Dove-Laners were at each
others' throats, and it was like to go hard with the few Jagos
among the ruins. Billy Leary laid about him desperately with a
ragged piece of flooring, while Josh Perrott and Pud Palmer
battered Dove-Laners with quart pots. Then it was shouted without
that the Dove-Laners were exterminating the Jagos within, and a
torrent of Jagos burst through the doors, poured through the bar,
and over the club-room threshold into the confusion below.
Dicky, bruised, frightened and flung like a rag this way and
that, at last made shift to grasp a post, and climb up on the bar
counter. Mother Gapp, a dishevelled maniac, was dancing amid pots
and broken glass, black in the face, screaming inaudibly. Dicky
stumbled along the counter, climbed over the broken end of a
partition, and fell into the arms of Kiddo Cook, coming in with the
rush. 'Put the boy out!' yelled Kiddo, turning and heaving him over
the heads behind him. Somebody caught Dicky by a leg and an arm,
his head hit the door post, the world turned a double-somersault
about him, and he came down with a crash. He was on the flags of
Old Jago Street, with all his breath driven out of him.
But he was quickly on his feet again. A crowd beat against the
front of Mother Gapp's, and reinforcements came running from
everywhere, with the familiar rallying-cry, 'Jago! Jago 'old
tight!' Dove Lane had abused the Jago hospitality; woe to the
There were scuffles here and there, where Dove-Laners, who had
never reached the club-room, or who had been crowded out of it,
made for escape. Dicky was shaken and sore, but he pulled himself
together resolutely. He had seen a few Dove Lane boys about before
he had got into the Feathers, and plainly it was his duty to find
them and bash them. Moreover, he wondered what had become of his
father. He hastened through the dark passage of the house next to
Mother Gapp's, into the back yard, and through the broken fence.
There was a door in the club-room wall, and through this he thought
to see what was going forward.
The cellar—at any rate, at the farther end—was a pit
of writhing forms, and the din rose loud as ever. A short figure
stood black against the light, and held by the door-post, looking
down at the riot. Dicky knew it. He sprang at Bobby Roper, pulled
him by the arm, and struck at him furiously. The hunchback,
whimpering, did his best to retaliate and to get away; but Dicky,
raging at the remembrance of his fancied injury, struck savagely,
and struck again, till Bobby Roper tripped backward over the
projecting end of a broken floor-board, and pitched headlong into
the cellar. He struck a barrel and rolled over, falling into the
space between that and two other barrels. Dicky looked, but the
hunchback did not move. Then some of the Dove-Laners flung pots at
the lamps hanging against the club-room walls. Soon they were
smashed and fell, and there was a darkness; and under cover thereof
the aliens essayed flight.
Dicky was a little frightened at what he had done, but he felt
that with Bobby Roper anything was justifiable. Some Dove-Laners
escaped by the back door—the cellar was low, and there was
not five feet between the barrels and the broken joists—and
these Dicky avoided by getting back through the fence. In the end,
most of the enemy struggled away by one means or another, and when
lights were brought at last the Jagos were found pummelling each
other savagely in the gloom.
Father Sturt, apprised of something uncommon by the exodus of
members from the club, finally locked the doors and came to
investigate. He arrived as the Jagos were extricating themselves
from the cellar, and it was he who lifted the little hunchback from
among the barrels and carried him into the open air; he also who
carried him home. No bone was broken, and no joint was disturbed,
but there was a serious shock, many contusions, and a cut on the
scalp. So said the surgeon whom Father Sturt took with him to Dove
Lane. And Bobby Roper lay a fortnight in bed.
More plaster than ever embellished the heads of Dove Lane and
the Jago that night; but for the Jagos there was compensation. For
down among the barrels lay many a packet of tobacco, many a pair of
boots, and many a corner stuffed with mixed property of other
sorts: which Mother Gapp had fenced for many a month back. So that
it happened to more than one warrior to carry home again something
with which he had run between the 'Posties' long before, and had
sold to Mother Gapp for what she would give.
The ground floor of the Feathers stood a battered shell. The
damage of four years ago was inconsiderable compared to this. With
tears and blasphemy Mother Gapp invaded the hoard of her long
iniquity to buy a new floor; but it was the larceny—the
taking of the tobacco and the boots, and the many other things from
among the barrels—that cut her to the soul. A crool—a
crool thing was such robbery—sheer robbery, said Mother
Josh Perrott got a bad sprain in the cellar and had to be helped
home. More, he took with him not a single piece of plunder, such
was his painful disablement.
For more than a week Josh Perrott could not walk about. And it
was a bad week. For some little while his luck had been but poor,
and now he found himself laid up with a total reserve fund of
fourteenpence. A coat was pawned with old Poll Rann (who kept a
leaving shop in a first floor back in Jago Row) for ninepence. Then
Josh swore at Dicky for not being still at Grinder's, and told him
to turn out and bring home some money. Dicky had risen almost too
sore and stiff to stand, on the morning after the fight at the
Feathers, and he was little better now. But he had to go, and he
went, though he well knew that a click was out of the question, for
his joints almost refused to bend. But he found that the fat's
a-running boys were contemplating business, and he scouted for them
with such success as to bring home sevenpence in the evening. Then
Kiddo Cook, who had left Mother Gapp's with a double armful on the
night of the sing-song, found himself rich enough, being a
bachelor, to lend Josh eighteenpence. And a shawl of Hannah
Perrott's was pawned. That, though, was redeemed the next day,
together with the coat. For Dicky brought home a golden
It had been an easy click—scarce a click at all, perhaps,
strictly speaking. Dicky had tramped into the city, and had found a
crowd outside St Paul's—a well-dressed crowd, not being moved
on: for something was going forward in the cathedral. He recognised
one of the High Mob, a pogue-hunter—that is a pickpocket who
deals in purses. Dicky watched this man's movements, by way of
education; for he was an eminent practitioner, and worked alone,
with no assistant to cover him. Dicky saw him in the thick of the
crowd, standing beside and behind one lady after another; but it
was only when his elbow bent to slip something into his own pocket
that Dicky knew he had 'touched.' Presently he moved to another
part of the crowd, where mostly men were standing, and there he
stealthily let drop a crumpled newspaper, and straightway left the
crowd. He had 'worked' it as much as he judged safe. Dicky wriggled
toward the crumpled paper, slipped it under his jacket, and cleared
away also. He knew that there was something in the paper beside
news: that, in fact, there were purses in it—purses emptied
and shed as soon as might be, because nobody can swear to money,
but strange purses lead to destruction. Dicky recked little of this
danger, but made his best pace to a recess in a back street, there
to examine his pogues; for though the uxter was gone from them,
they might yet bring a few coppers from Mr Weech, if they were of
good quality. They were a fairly sound lot. One had a large clasp
that looked like silver, and another was quite new, and Dicky was
observing with satisfaction the shop-shininess of the lining, when
he perceived a cunning pocket at the back, lying flat against the
main integument—and in it was a sovereign! He gulped at the
sight. Clearly the pogue-hunter, emptying the pogues in his pocket
by sense of touch, had missed the flat pocket. Dicky was not yet
able to run with freedom, but he never ceased from trotting till he
reached his own staircase in Old Jago Street. And so the eight or
nine days passed, and Josh went out into the Jago with no more than
a tenderness about his ankle.
Now, he much desired a good click; so he went across High Street
Shoreditch, to Kingsland Railway Station and bought a ticket for
Luck was against him, it was plain. He tramped the northern
suburbs from three o'clock till dark, but touched for nothing. He
spent money, indeed, for he feared to overwork his ankle, and for
that reason rested in divers public-houses. He peeped in at the
gates of quiet gardens, in the hope of garden-hose left unwatched,
or tennis-rackets lying in a handy summer-house. But he saw none.
He pried about the doors of private stable-yards, in case of absent
grooms and unprotected bunches of harness; but in vain. He
inspected quiet areas and kitchen entrances in search of unguarded
spoons—even descended into one area, where he had to make an
awkward excuse about buying old bottles, in consequence of meeting
the cook at the door. He tramped one quiet road after another on
the look out for a dead 'un—a house furnished, but
untenanted. But there was never a dead 'un, it seemed, in all the
northern district. So he grew tired and short-tempered, and cursed
himself for that he had not driven off with a baker's horse and
cart that had tempted him early in the afternoon.
It grew twilight, and then dark. Josh sat in a public-house, and
took a long rest and some bread and cheese. It would never do to go
home without touching, and for some time he considered
possibilities with regard to a handful of silver money, kept in a
glass on a shelf behind the bar. But it was out of reach, and there
were too many people in the place for any attempt by climbing on
the counter. Josh grew savage and soured. Plastering itself was not
such troublesome work; and at least the pay was certain. It was
little short of ten o'clock when he left the public-house and
turned back toward Canonbury. He would have something on the
way, he resolved, and he would catch the first train home. He would
have to knock somebody over in a dark street, that was all. It was
nothing new, but he would rather have made his click another way
this time, because his tender ankle might keep him slow, or even
give way altogether; and to be caught in a robbery with violence
might easily mean something more than mere imprisonment; it might
mean a dose of the 'cat': and the cat was a thing the thought or
the mention whereof sent shudders through the Old Jago.
But no: nobody worth knocking down came his way. Truly luck was
out to-night. There was a spot by the long garden wall of a corner
house that would have suited admirably, and as Josh lingered there,
and looked about him, his eye fell on a ladder, reared nearly
upright against the back wall of that same corner house, and lashed
at the roof. It passed by the side of the second floor window,
whereof the top sash was a little open. That would do. It was not
his usual line of work, but it looked very promising.
He stuck his stick under his waistcoat by way of the collar, and
climbed the wall with gingerly care, giving his sound foot all the
hard work. The ladder offered no difficulty, but the bottom sash of
the window was stiff, and he cracked a pane of glass in pushing at
the frame with his stick. The sash lifted, however, in the end, and
he climbed into the dark room, being much impeded by the
dressing-table. All was quiet in the house, and the ticking of a
watch on the dressing-table was distinct in the ear. Josh felt for
it and found it, with a chain hanging from the bow.
The house was uncommonly quiet. Could it possibly be a dead 'un
after all? Josh felt that he ought to have inspected the front
windows before climbing the wall, but the excitement of the
long-delayed chance had ruined his discretion. At any rate he would
reconnoitre. The door was ajar and the landing was dark.
Down in the drawing-room a gross, pimply man, in shirt-sleeves
and socks, sat up on the sofa at the sound of an opened window
higher in the house. He took a drink from the glass by his side,
and listened. Then he rose and went softly upstairs.
Josh Perrott came out on the landing. It was a long landing,
with a staircase at the end, illuminated from somewhere below: so
that it was not a case of a dead 'un after all. He tip-toed along
to take a look down the stairs, nevertheless. Then he was conscious
of a loud breathing, as of an over-gorged cow, and up behind the
stair-rails rose a fat head, followed by a fat trunk, between white
Josh sank into the shadow. The man had no light, but discover
him he must, sooner or later, for the landing was narrow. Better
sooner, and suddenly. As the man's foot was on the topmost stair,
Josh sprang at him with a straight left-hander that took him on the
broad chin, and sent him downstairs in a heap, with a crash and a
roar. Josh darted back to the room he had just left, scrambled
through the window, and slid down the ladder, as he had slid down
many another when he was a plasterer's boy. He checked himself
short of the bottom, sprang at the wall-coping, flung himself over,
and ran up the dark by-street, with the sound of muffled roars and
screams faint in his ears.
He ran a street or two, taking every corner as he came to it,
and then fell into a walk. In his flight he had not spared his
ankle, and now it was painful. Moreover, he had left his stick
behind him, in the bedroom. But he was in Highbury, and Canonbury
Road Station was less than half a mile away. He grinned silently as
he went, for there was something in the aspect of the overfed
householder, and in the manner of his downfall, that gave the
adventure a comic flavour. He took a peep at his spoil as he passed
under a street lamp, for all watches and chains are the same in the
dark, and the thing might be a mere Waterbury on a steel guard. But
no: both were gold, and heavy: a red clock and slang if ever there
was one. And so Josh Perrott hobbled and chuckled his way home.
But indeed Josh Perrott's luck was worse than he thought. For
the gross, pimply man was a High Mobsman—so very high a
mobsman that it would have been slander and libel, and a very great
expense, to write him down a mobsman at all. He paid a rent of a
hundred and twenty pounds a year, and heavy rates, and put
half-a-crown into the plate at a very respectable chapel every
Sunday. He was, in fact, the King of High Mobsmen, spoken of among
them as the Mogul. He did no vulgar thievery: he never screwed a
chat, nor claimed a peter, nor worked the mace. He sat easily at
home, and financed (sometimes planned) promising speculations: a
large swindle requiring much ground-baiting and preliminary outlay;
or a robbery of specie from a mail train; or a bank fraud needing
organization and funds. When the results of such speculations
consisted of money he took the lion's share. When they were
expressed in terms of imprisonment they fell to active and
intelligent subordinates. So that for years the Mogul had lived an
affluent and a blameless life, far removed from the necessity of
injudicious bodily exercise, and characterised by every indulgence
consistent with a proper suburban respectability. He had
patronised, snubbed, or encouraged High Mobsmen of more temerarious
habit, had profited by their exploits, and had read of their
convictions and sentences with placid interest in the morning
papers. And after all this, to be robbed in his own house and
knocked downstairs by a casual buster was an outrage that afflicted
the Mogul with wrath infuriate. Because that was a sort of trouble
that had never seemed a possibility, to a person of his eminence:
and because the angriest victim of dishonesty is a thief.
However, the burglar had got clean away, that was plain; and he
had taken the best watch and chain in the house, with the Mogul's
initials on the back. So that respectable sufferer sent for the
police, and gave his attention to the the alleviation of bumps and
the washing away of blood. In his bodily condition a light blow was
enough to let a great deal of blood—no doubt with benefit;
and Josh Perrott's blows were not light in any case.
So it came to pass that not only were the police on the look-out
for a man with a large gold watch with the Mogul's monogram on the
back; but also the word was passed as by telegraph through
underground channels, till every fence in London was warned that
the watch was the Mogul's; and ere noon next day there was not one
but would as lief have put a scorpion in his pocket as that same
toy and tackle that Josh Perrott was gloating over in his back room
in Old Jago Street.
As for Josh, his ankle was bad in the morning, and swelled. He
dabbed at it perseveringly with wet rags, and rubbed it vigorously,
so that by one o'clock he was able to lace up his boot and go out.
He was anxious to fence his plunder without delay, and he made his
way to Hoxton. The watch seemed to be something especially good,
and he determined to stand out for a price well above the usual
figure. For the swag of common thieves commanded no such prices as
did that of the High Mob. All of it was bought and sold on the
simple system first called into being seventy years back and more
by the prince of fences, Ikey Solomons. A breast-pin brought a
fixed sum, good or bad, and a roll of cloth brought the fixed price
of a roll of cloth, regardless of quality. Thus a silver watch
fetched six shillings, never more and never less; a gold watch was
worth twice as much; an uncommonly good one—a rich man's
watch—would bring as much as eighteen shillings, if the thief
were judge enough of its quality to venture the demand. And as it
commonly took three men to secure a single watch in the open
street—one to 'front,' one to snatch, and a third to take
from the snatcher—the gains of the toy-getting trade were
poor, except to the fence. This time Josh resolved to put pressure
on the fence, and to do his best to get something as near a
sovereign as might be. And as to the chain, so thick and heavy, he
would fight his best for the privilege of sale by weight. Thus
turning the thing in his mind, he entered the familiar doorway of
the old clothes shop.
'Vot is id?' asked the fence, holding out his hand with the
customary air of contempt for what was coming, by way of
discounting it in advance. This particular fence, by-the-bye, never
bought anything himself. He inspected whatever was brought on
behalf of an occult friend; and the transaction was completed by a
shabby third party in an adjoining court. But he had an amazingly
keen regard for his friend's interests.
Josh put the watch into the extended hand. The fence lifted it
to his face, turned it over, and started. He looked hard at Josh,
and then again at the watch, and handed it hastily back, holding it
gingerly by the bow. 'Don' vant dot,' he said; 'nod
me—nod 'im, I mean. No, no.' He turned away, shaking his hand
as though to throw off contamination. 'Take id avay.'
'Wot's the matter?' Josh demanded, astonished. 'Is it 'cos o'
the letters on the back? You can easy send it to church, can't
A watch is 'sent to church' when it is put into another case.
But the fence waved away the suggestion. 'Take id avay I tell you,'
he said. 'I—'e von't 'ave nodden to do vid id.'
'Wot's the matter with the chain, then?' asked Josh. But the
fence walked away to the back of the shop, wagging his hands
desperately, like a wet man seeking a towel, and repeating
only:—'Nodden to do vid id—take id avay—nodden to
do vid id.'
Josh stuffed his prize back into his pocket, and regained the
street. He was confounded. What was wrong with Cohen? Did he
suspect a police trick to entrap him? Josh snorted with indignation
at the thought. He was no nark! But perhaps the police were showing
a pressing interest in Cohen's business concerns just now, and he
had suspended fencing for a while. The guess was a lame one, but he
could think of none better at the moment, as he pushed his way to
the Jago. He would try Mother Gapp.
Mother Gapp would not even take the watch in her hands; her eyes
were good enough at that distance. 'Lor', Josh Perrott,' she said,
'wot 'a' ye bin up to now? Want to git me lagged now, do ye? Ain't
satisfied with breakin' up the 'ouse an' ruinin' a pore widder that
way, ain't ye? You git out, go on. I 'ad 'nough o' you!'
It was very extraordinary. Was there a general reclamation of
fences? But there were men at work at the Feathers, putting down
boards and restoring partitions; and two of them had been 'gone
over' ruinously on their way to work, and now they came and went
with four policemen. Possibly Mother Gapp feared the observation of
carpenters. Be it as it might, there was nothing for it now but
Mr Weech was charmed. 'Dear me, it's a wonderful fine watch, Mr
Perrott—a wonderful fine watch. An' a beautiful chain.' But
he was looking narrowly at the big monogram as he said it. 'It's
reely a wonderful article. 'Ow they do git 'em up, to be sure! Cost
a lot o' money too, I'll be bound. Might you be thinkin' o' sellin'
'Yus o' course,' replied Josh. 'That's wot I brought it
'Ah, it's a lovely watch, Mr Perrott—a lov-erly watch; an'
the chain matches it. But you mustn't be too 'ard on me. Shall we
say four pound for the little lot?'
It was more than double Josh's wildest hopes, but he wanted all
he could get. 'Five,' he said doggedly.
Weech gazed at him with tender rebuke. 'Five pound's a awful lot
o' money, Mr Perrott,' he said. 'You're too 'ard on me, reely. I
'ardly know 'ow I can scrape it up. But it's a beautiful little
lot, an' I won't 'aggle. But I ain't got all that money in the
'ouse now. I never keep so much money in the 'ouse—sich a
neighb'r'ood, Mr Perrott! Bring it round to-morrer mornin' at
'Awright, I'll come. Five quid, mind.'
'Ah yus,' answered Mr Weech, with a reproving smile. 'It's reely
more than I ought!'
Josh was jubilant, and forgot his sore ankle. He had never
handled such a sum as five pounds since his fight with Billy Leary,
years ago; when, indeed, he had stooped to folly in the shape of
lavish treating, and so had not enjoyed the handling of the full
Mr Weech, also, was pleased. For it was a great stroke of
business to oblige so distinguished a person as the Mogul. There
was no telling what advantages it might not lead to in the way of
That night the Perrotts had a hot supper, brought from Walker's
cook-shop in paper. And at eleven the next morning Josh, twenty
yards from Mr Weech's door, with the watch and chain in his pocket,
was tapped on the arm by a constable in plain clothes, while
another came up on the other side. 'Mornin', Perrott,' said the
first constable, cheerily. 'We've got a little business with you at
'Me? Wot for?'
'Oh well, come along; p'raps it ain't anything—unless
there's a gold watch an' chain on you, from Highbury. It's just a
'Awright,' replied Josh, resignedly. 'It's a fair cop. I'll go
'That's right, Perrott; it ain't no good playin' the fool, you
know.' They were moving along; and as they came by Weech's shop, a
whiskered face, with a patch of shining scalp over it, peeped from
behind a curtain that hung at the rear of the bloaters and plumcake
in the window. As he saw it, Josh ducked suddenly, wrenching his
arm free, and dashed over the threshold. Mr Weech, whiskers and
apron flying, galloped through the door at the back, and the
constables sprang upon Josh instantly and dragged him into the
street. 'Wotcher mean?' cried the one who knew him, indignantly,
and with a significant glance at the other. 'Call that goin'
Josh's face was white and staring with rage. 'Awright,' he
grunted through his shut teeth, after a pause. 'I'll go quiet now.
I ain't got nothin' agin you.'
Dicky's morning theft that day had been but a small one—he
had run off with a new two-foot rule that a cabinet-maker had
carelessly left on an unfinished office table at his shop door in
Curtain Road. It was not much, but it might fetch some sort of a
dinner at Weech's, which would be better than going home, and,
perhaps, finding nothing. So about noon, all ignorant of his
father's misfortune, he came by way of Holywell Lane and Bethnal
Green Road to Meakin Street.
Mr Weech looked at him rather oddly, Dicky fancied, when he came
in, but he took the two-foot rule with alacrity, and brought Dicky
a rasher of bacon, and a slice of cake afterward. This seemed very
generous. More: Mr Weech's manner was uncommonly amiable, and when
the meal was over, of his own motion, he handed over a
supplementary penny. Dicky was surprised; but he had no objection,
and he thought little more about it.
As soon as he appeared in Luck Row he was told that his father
had been 'smugged.' Indeed the tidings had filled the Jago within
ten minutes. Josh Perrott was walking quietly along Meakin
Street,—so went the news,—when up comes Snuffy and
another split, and smugs him. Josh had a go for Weech's door, to
cut his lucky out at the back, but was caught. That was a smart
notion of Josh's, the Jago opinion ran, to get through Weech's and
out into the courts behind. But it was no go.
Hannah Perrott sat in her room, inert and lamenting. Dicky could
not rouse her, and at last he went off by himself to reconnoitre
about Commercial Street Police Station, and pick up what
information he might; while a gossip or two came and took Mrs
Perrott for consolation to Mother Gapp's. Little Em, unwashed,
tangled and weeping, could well take care of herself and the room,
being more than two years old.
Josh Perrott would be brought up to-morrow, Dicky ascertained,
at the North London Police Court. So the next morning found Dicky
trudging moodily along the two miles of flags to Stoke Newington
Road; while his mother and three sympathising friends, who foresaw
an opportunity for numerous tiny drops with interesting
circumstances to flavour them, took a penny cast on the way in a
Dicky, with some doubt as to the disposition of the door-keeping
policeman toward ragged boys, waited for the four women, and
contrived to pass in unobserved among them. Several Jagos were in
the court, interested not only in Josh's adventure, but in one of
Cocko Harnwell's, who had indulged, the night before, in an
animated little scramble with three policemen in Dalston; and they
waited with sympathetic interest while the luck was settled of a
long string of drunk-and-disorderlies.
At last Josh was brought in, and lurched composedly into the
dock, in the manner of one who knew the routine. The police gave
evidence of arrest, in consequence of information received, and of
finding the watch and chain in Josh's trousers pocket. The
prosecutor, with his head conspicuously bedight with
sticking-plaster, puffed and grunted up into the witness-box,
kissed the book, and was a 'retired commission agent.' He
positively identified the watch and chain, and he not less
positively identified Josh Perrott, whom he had picked out from a
score of men in the police-yard. This would have been a feat indeed
for a man who had never seen Josh, and had only once encountered
his fist in the dark, had it not been for the dutiful though
private aid of Mr Weech: who, in giving his information had
described Josh and his one suit of clothes with great fidelity,
especially indicating a scar on the right cheek-bone which would
mark him among a thousand. The retired commission agent was quite
sure of the prisoner. He had met him on the stairs, where there was
plenty of light from a lamp, and the prisoner had attacked him
savagely, beating him about the head and flinging him downstairs.
The policeman called by the prosecutor's servant deposed to finding
the prosecutor bruised and bleeding. There was a ladder against the
back of the house; a bedroom window had been opened; there were
muddy marks on the sill; and he had found the
stick—produced—lying in the bedroom.
Josh leaned easily on the rail before him while evidence was
being given, and said 'No, yer worship,' whenever he was asked if
he desired to question a witness. He knew better than to run the
risk of incriminating himself by challenging the prosecutor's
well-coloured evidence; and, as it was a certain case of committal
for trial, it would have been useless in any event. He made the
same reply when he was asked if he had anything to say before being
committed: and straightway was 'fullied.' He lurched serenely out
of the dock, waving his cap at his friends in the court, and that
was all. The Jagos waited till Cocko Harnwell got his three months
and then retired to neighbouring public-houses; but Dicky
remembered his little sister, and hurried home.
The month's session at the Old Bailey had just begun, so that
Josh had no long stay at Holloway. Among the Jagos it was held to
be a most creditable circumstance that Josh was to take his trial
with full honours at the Old Bailey, and not at mere County
Sessions at Clerkenwell, like a simple lob-crawler or
peter-claimer. For Josh's was a case of burglary with serious
violence, such as was fitting for the Old Bailey, and not even a
High Mobsman could come to trial with greater glory. 'As like as
not it's laggin' dues, after 'is other convictions,' said Bill
Rann. And Jerry Gullen thought so too.
Dicky went, with his mother and Em, to see Josh at Newgate. They
stood with other visitors, very noisy, before a double iron railing
covered with wire-netting, at the farther side whereof stood Josh
and other prisoners, while a screaming hubbub of question and
answer filled the air. Josh had little to say. He lounged against
the farther railing with his hands in his pockets, asked what Cocko
Harnwell had got, and sent a message to Bill Rann. While his wife
did little more than look dolefully through the wires, and
pipe:—'Oh, Josh, wotever shall I do?' at intervals, with no
particular emotion; while Em pressed her smudgy little face against
the wires, and stared mightily; and while Dicky felt that if he had
been younger he would have cried. When time was up, Josh waved his
hand and slouched off, and his family turned out with the rest:
little Em carrying into later years a memory of father as a man who
lived in a cage.
In such a case as this, the Jago would have been for ever
disgraced if Josh Perrott's pals had neglected to get up a 'break'
or subscription to pay for his defence. Things were never very
flourishing in the Jago. But this was the sort of break a Jago
could not shirk, lest it were remembered against him when his own
turn came. So enough was collected to brief an exceedingly junior
counsel, who did his useless best. But the facts were too strong
even for the most inexperienced advocate; the evidence of the
prosecutor was nowhere to be shaken, and the jury found a verdict
of guilty without leaving the box—indeed, with scarce the
formality of collecting their heads together over the rails. Then
Josh's past was most unpleasantly raked up before him. He had been
convicted of larceny, of assaulting the police, and of robbery with
violence. There were two sentences of six months' imprisonment
recorded against him, one of three months, and two of a month.
Besides fines. The Recorder considered it a very serious offence.
Not deterred by the punishments he had already received, the
prisoner had proceeded to a worse crime—burglary; and with
violence. It was plain that lenience was wasted in such a case, and
simple imprisonment was not enough. There must be an exemplary
sentence. The prisoner must be kept in penal servitude for five
Lagging dues it was, as Bill Rann had anticipated. That Josh
Perrott agreed with him was suggested by the fact that from the
very beginning he described himself as a painter; because a painter
in prison is apt to be employed at times in painting—a
lighter and a more desirable task than falls to the lot of his
fellows in other trades.
In a room by the court Josh saw his wife, Dicky, and Bill Rann
(Josh's brother-in-law for the occasion) before his ride to
Holloway, his one stopping place on the way to Chelmsford Gaol.
Little Em had been left sprawling in the Jago gutters. This time
Hannah Perrott wept in good earnest, and Dicky, notwithstanding his
thirteen years, blinked very hard at the wall before him. The
arrangement of Josh's affairs was neither a long nor a difficult
labour. 'S'pose you'll 'ave to do wot you can with rush bags, an'
sacks, and match-boxes, an' wot not,' he said to his wife, and she
assented. Josh nodded:—'An' if you 'ave to go in the
'ouse,'—he meant the workhouse,—'well, it can't be
'elped. You won't be no wuss auf 'n me.'
'Oh, she'll be awright,' said Bill Rann, jerking his
thumb cheerfully toward the missis. 'Wot about you? Think they'll
make it Parkhurst?'
Josh shook his head moodily. Parkhurst being the prison reserved
for convicts of less robust habit, he had little hope of enjoying
its easier conditions. Presently he said:—'I bin put away
this time—fair put away.'
'Wot?' answered Bill, 'narkin' dues is it?'
''Oo done it then? 'Oo narked?'
Josh shook his head. 'Never mind,' he said, 'I don't want 'im
druv out o' the Jago 'fore I come out. I'd be sorry to miss 'im.
I know 'im—that's enough.'
And then time was up. Josh suffered the missis to kiss him, and
shook hands with Bill Rann. 'Good luck to all you Jagos,' he said.
Dicky shook hands too, and said 'Good-bye, father!' in a voice of
such laboured cheerfulness that a grin burst for a moment amid
Josh's moody features as he was marched away, and so departed for
the place—in Jago idiom—where the dogs don't bite.
It was Father Sturt's practice to visit every family in his
parish in regular order. But small as the parish
was—insignificant, indeed, in mere area—its population
exceeded eight thousand: so that the round was one of many months,
for visiting was but one among innumerable duties. But Josh
Perrott's lagging secured his family a special call. Not that the
circumstances were in any way novel or at all uncommon; nor even
that the vicar had any hope of being able to help. He was but the
one man who could swim in a howling sea of human wreckage. In the
Jago, wives like Hannah Perrott, temporarily widowed by the absence
of husbands 'in the country,' were to be counted in scores, and
most were in worse case than she, in the matter of dependent
children. Father Sturt's house-list revealed the fact that in Old
Jago Street alone, near seventy of the males were at that moment on
In the Perrott case, indeed, the sufferers were fortunate, as
things went. Mrs Perrott had but herself and the child of two to
keep, for Dicky could do something, whether good or bad, for
himself. The vicar might try to get regular work for Dicky, but it
would be a vain toil, for he must tell an employer what he knew of
Dicky's past and of that other situation. He could but give the
woman the best counsel at his command, and do what he might to
quicken any latent spark of energy. So he did his best, and that
was all. The struggle lay with Hannah Perrott.
She had been left before, and more than once; but then the
periods had been shorter, and, as a matter of fact, things had
fallen out so well that scarce more than a meal here and there had
had to be missed, though, when they came, the meals were apt to be
but of crusts. And now there was more trouble ahead; for though she
began her lonely time with but one small child on hand, she knew
that ere long there would be two.
Of course, she had worked before; not only when Josh had been
'in' but at other times, to add to the family resources. She was a
clumsy needlewoman: else she might hope to earn some ninepence or a
shilling a day at making shirts, by keeping well to the needle for
sixteen hours out of the twenty-four; and from the whole sum there
would be no deductions, except for needles and cotton, and what the
frugal employer might choose to subtract for work to which he could
devise an objection. But, as it was, she must do her best to get
some sack-making. They paid one and sevenpence a hundred for sacks,
and, with speed and long hours, she could make a hundred in four
days. Rush bag-making would bring even more, which would be
desirable, considering the three-and-sixpence a week for rent:
which, with the payments for other rooms, made the rent of the
crazy den in Old Jago Street about equal, space for space, to that
of a house in Onslow Square. Then there was a more lucrative
employment still, but one to be looked for at intervals only: one
not to be counted on at all, in fact, for it was a prize, and many
sought after it. This was the making of match-boxes. For making one
hundred and forty-four outside cases with paper label and
sandpaper, and the same number of trays to slide into them—a
gross of complete boxes, or two hundred and eighty-eight pieces in
all—one got twopence farthing; indeed, for a special size one
even got a farthing a gross more; and all the wood and the labels
and the sandpaper were provided free: so that the fortunate
operative lost nothing out of the twopence farthing but the cost of
the paste, and the string for tying up the boxes into regularly
numbered batches, and the time employed in fetching the work and
taking it back again. And if seven gross were to be got, and could
be done in a day—and it was really not very difficult for the
skilful hand who kept at work long enough—the day's income
was one and threepence three-farthings, less expenses: still
better, that, than the shirts. But the work was hard to get. As the
public-spirited manufacturers complained: people would buy Swedish
matches, whereas if people would Support Home Industries and buy no
matches but theirs, they would be able to order many a
twopence-farthingsworth of boxes more.
There might be collateral sources of income, but these were
doubtful and irregular. Probably Dicky would bring in a few coppers
now and again. Then judicious attendance at churches, chapels and
prayer-meetings beyond the Jago borders was rewarded by
coal-tickets, boots, and the like. It was necessary to know just
where and when to go and what to say, else the sole result might be
loss of time. There was a church in Bethnal Green, for instance,
which it would be foolish to enter before the end of the Litany,
for then you were in good time to get your half-quarter
hundredweight of coals; but at other places they might object to so
late an appearance. Above all, one must know the ropes. There were
several women in the Jago who made almost a living in this way
alone. They were experts; they knew every fund, every
meeting-house, all the comings and goings of the gullible; insomuch
that they would take black umbrage at any unexpected difficulty in
getting what they demanded. 'Wy,' one would say, 'I 'ad to pitch
sich a bleed'n' 'oly tale I earned it twice over.' But these were
the proficient, and proficiency in the trade was an outcome of long
experience working on a foundation of natural gifts; and Hannah
Perrott could never hope to be among them.
Turning these things in her mind, she addressed herself to her
struggle. She managed to get some sacks, but for a week or two she
could make nothing like twenty-five a day, though Dicky helped. Her
fingers got raw; but she managed to complete a hundred within the
first week. They might have been better done, as the employer said
when he saw them. But she got her full one and sevenpence. She
pawned her boots for fourpence, and wore two old odd ones of
Josh's; and she got twopence on a petticoat. Dicky also helped a
little; and at the end of a fortnight there came a godsend in the
shape of material for match-boxes. Mrs Perrott was slow with them
at first; but Dicky was quick, and even little Em began to learn to
Dicky grew slighter and lanker, dark about the eyes, and weaker.
He was growing longitudinally, and that made his lateral wasting
the quicker and the more apparent. A furtive frighted look hung
ever in his face, a fugitive air about his whole person. His
mother's long face was longer than ever, and blacker under the eyes
than Dicky's own, and her weak open mouth hung at the corners as
that of a woman faint with weeping. Little Em's knees and elbows
were knobs in the midst of limbs of unnatural length. Rarely could
a meal be seen ahead; and when it came, it made Dicky doubtful
whether or not hunger were really caused by eating. But his chief
distress was to see that little Em cried not like a child, but
silently, as she strove to thread needles or to smear matchbox
labels. And when good fortune brought match-boxes, there was an
undue loss on the twopence farthing in the matter of paste. The
stuff was a foul mess, sour and faint, and it was kept in a broken
tea-cup, near which Dicky had detected his sister sucking her
fingers; for in truth little Em stole the paste.
On and off, by one way and another, Mrs Perrott made enough to
keep the rent paid with indifferent regularity, and sometimes there
was a copper or so left over. She did fairly well, too, at the
churches and prayer-meetings; people saw her condition, and now and
again would give her something beyond the common dole; so that she
learned the trick of looking more miserable than usual at such
The roof provided, Dicky felt that his was the task to find
food. Alone, he might have rubbed along clear of starvation, but
there were his mother and his sister. Lack of victuals shook his
nerve and made him timid. Moreover, his terror grew greater than
ever at the prospect of being caught in a theft. He lay awake at
night and sweated to think of it. Who would bring in things from
the outer world for mother and Em then? And the danger was worse
than ever. He had felt the police-court birch, and it was bad, very
bad. But he would take it every day and take it almost without a
tear, rather than the chance of a reformatory. Magistrates were
unwilling to send boys to reformatories while both father and
mother were at hand to control them, for that were relieving the
parents of their natural responsibility; but in a case like
Dicky's, a 'schooling' was a very likely thing. So that Dicky, as
he prowled, was torn between implacable need and the fear of being
cut off from all chance of supplying it.
It was his rule never to come home without bringing something,
were it no more than a mildewed crust. It was a resolve impossible
to keep at times, but at those times it was two in the morning ere
he would drag himself, pallid and faint, into the dark room where
the others might be—probably were—lying awake and
unfed. Rather than face such a homecoming he had sometimes ventured
on a more difficult feat than stealing in the outer world: he had
stolen in the Jago. Sam Cash, for instance, had lost a bloater.
Dicky never ate at Weech's now. Rarely, indeed, would he take
payment in kind, unless it were for something of smaller value than
the average of his poor pilferings; and then he carried the food
home. But cheaper things could be bought elsewhere, so that more
usually he insisted on money payments: to the grief of Mr Weech,
who set forth the odiousness of ingratitude at length; though his
homilies had no sort of effect on Dicky's morals.
Father Sturt saw that Hannah Perrott gained no ground in her
struggle, and urged her to apply for outdoor parish relief,
promising to second her request with the guardians. But with an odd
throwback to the respectability of her boiler-making ancestry, she
disliked the notion of help from the parish, and preferred to
remain as she was; for there at least her ingrained inertness
seemed to side with some phantom of self-respect. To her present
position she had subsided by almost imperceptible degrees, and she
was scarce conscious of a change. But to parish relief there was a
distinct and palpable step: a step that, on the whole, it seemed
easier not to take. But it was with eagerness that she took a
Maternity Society's letter, wherewith the vicar had provided
himself on her behalf. For her time was drawing near.
Josh Perrott well understood the advantage of good
prison-behaviour, and after six months in his Chelmsford cell he
had earned the right to a visit from friends. But none came. He had
scarcely expected that anybody would, and asked for the order
merely on the general principle that a man should take all he can
get, useful or not. For there would have been a five shilling fare
to pay for each visitor from London, and Hannah Perrott could as
easily have paid five pounds. And indeed she had other things to
Kiddo Cook had been less observed of late in the Jago. In simple
fact he was at work. He found that a steady week of porterage at
Spitalfields Market would bring him sixteen shillings and perhaps a
little more; and he had taken Father Sturt's encouragement to try
another week, and a week after that. Father Sturt too, had
cunningly stimulated Kiddo's ambitions: till he cherished
aspirations to a fruit and vegetable stall, with a proper tarpaulin
cover for bad weather; though he cherished them in secret,
confident that they were of his own independent conception. Perhaps
the Perrotts saw as much of Kiddo as did anybody at this time. For
Kiddo, seeing how it went with them (though indeed it went as badly
with others too) built up laboriously a solemn and most
circumstantial Lie. There was a friend of his, a perfect gentleman,
who used a beer-shop by Spitalfields Market, and who had just
started an extensive and complicated business in the general
provision line. He sold all sorts of fruit and vegetables fresh,
and all sorts of meat, carrots, cabbages, saveloys, fried fish and
pease-pudding cooked. His motto was:—'Everything of
the best.' But he had the misfortune to be quite unable himself to
judge whether his goods were really of the best or not, in
consequence of an injury to his palate, arising from a blow on the
mouth with a quart pot, inflicted in the heat of discussion by a
wealthy acquaintance. So that he, being a perfect gentleman, had
requested Kiddo Cook, out of the friendship he bore him, to drop in
occasionally and test his samples. 'Take a good big whack, you
know,' said he, 'and get the advice of a friend or two, if
you ain't sure.' So Kiddo would take frequent and handsome
whacks accordingly, to the perfect gentleman's delight; and, not
quite knowing what to do with all the whacks, or being desirous of
an independent opinion on them (there was some confusion between
these two motives) he would bring Mrs Perrott samples, from time to
time, and hope it wouldn't inconvenience her. It never did.
It was late in the dusk of a rainy day that Kiddo Cook stumped
into Old Jago Street with an apple in his pocket for Em. It was not
much, but money was a little short, and at any rate the child would
be pleased. As he climbed the stairs he grew conscious of sounds of
anguish, muffled by the Perrotts' door. There might have been sobs,
and there seemed to be groans; certainly little Em was crying,
though but faintly, and something—perhaps
boot-heels—scraped on the boards. Kiddo hesitated a little,
and then knocked softly. The knock was unnoticed, so in the end he
pushed the door open.
The day had been a bad one with the Perrotts. Dicky had gone out
early, and had not returned. His mother had tramped unfed to the
sackmakers, but there was no work to be got. She tried the rush bag
people, with a like result. Nor was any matchbox material being
given out. An unregarded turnip had rolled from a shop into the
gutter, and she had seized it stealthily. It was not in nature to
take it home whole, and once a corner was cleared, she dragged
herself Jago-ward, gnawing the root furtively as she went. And so
she joined Em at home late in the afternoon.
Kiddo pushed the door open and went in. At his second step he
stood staring, and his chin dropped. 'Good Gawd!' said Kiddo
He cleared the stairs in three jumps. He stood but an instant on
the flags before the house, with a quick glance each way, and then
dashed off through the mud.
Pigeony Poll was erratic in residence, but just now she had a
room by the roof of a house in Jago Row, and up the stairs of this
house Kiddo ran, calling her by name.
'Go over to Perrotts', quick!' he shouted from the landing below
as Poll appeared at her door. 'Run, for Gawd's sake, or the
woman'll croak! I'm auf to Father's.' And he rushed away to the
Father Sturt emerged at a run, and made for a surgeon's in
Shoreditch High Street. And when the surgeon reached Hannah Perrott
he found her stretched on her ragged bed, tended, with anxious
clumsiness, by Pigeony Poll; while little Em, tearful and abashed,
sat in a corner and nibbled a bit of turnip.
Hannah Perrott had anticipated the operation of the Maternity
Society letter, and another child of the Jago had come unconsenting
into its black inheritance.
Father Sturt met the surgeon as he came away in the later
evening, and asked if all were well. The surgeon shrugged his
shoulders. 'People would call it so,' he said. 'The boy's alive,
and so is the mother. But you and I may say the truth. You know the
Jago far better than I. Is there a child in all this place that
wouldn't be better dead—still better unborn? But does a day
pass without bringing you just such a parishioner? Here lies the
Jago, a nest of rats, breeding, breeding, as only rats can; and we
say it is well. On high moral grounds we uphold the right of rats
to multiply their thousands. Sometimes we catch a rat. And we keep
it a little while, nourish it carefully, and put it back into the
nest to propagate its kind.'
Father Sturt walked a little way in silence. Then he
said:—'You are right, of course. But who'll listen, if you
shout it from the housetops? I might try to proclaim it myself, if
I had time and energy to waste. But I have none—I must work,
and so must you. The burden grows day by day, as you say. The
thing's hopeless, perhaps, but that is not for me to discuss. I
have my duty.'
The surgeon was a young man, but Shoreditch had helped him over
most of his enthusiasms. 'That's right,' he said, 'quite right.
People are so very genteel, aren't they?' He laughed, as at a droll
remembrance. 'But, hang it all, men like ourselves needn't talk as
though the world was built of hardbake. It's a mighty relief to
speak truth with a man who knows—a man not rotted through
with sentiment. Think how few men we trust with the power to give a
fellow creature a year in gaol, and how carefully we pick them!
Even damnation is out of fashion, I believe, among theologians. But
any noxious wretch may damn human souls to the Jago, one after
another, year in year out, and we respect his right: his sacred
At the 'Posties' the two men separated. The rain, which had
abated for a space, came up on a driving wind, and whipped Dicky
Perrott home to meet his new brother.
Things grew a little easier with the Perrotts. Father Sturt saw
that there was food while the mother was renewing her strength, and
he had a bag of linen sent. More, he carried his point as to parish
relief by main force. It was two shillings and three quartern
loaves a week. Unfortunately the loaves were imprinted with the
parish mark, or they might have been sold at the chandler's, in
order that the whole measure of relief might be passed on to the
landlord (a very respectable man, with a chandler's shop of his
own) for rent. As it was, the bread perforce was eaten, and the
landlord had the two shillings, as well as eighteenpence which had
to be got in some other way. Of course, Hannah Perrott might have
'taken in lodgers' in the room, as others did, but she doubted her
ability to bully the rent out of them, or to turn them out if they
did not pay. Whatever was pawnable had gone already, of course,
except the little nickel-plated clock. That might have produced as
much as sixpence, but she had a whim to keep it. She regarded it as
a memorial of Josh, for it was his sole contribution to the family
Dicky, with a cast-off jacket from the vicar's store, took to
hanging about Liverpool Street Station in quest of bags to carry.
Sometimes he got bags, and coppers for carrying them: sometimes he
got kicks from porters. An hour or two of disappointment in this
pursuit would send him off on the prowl to 'find' new stock for Mr
Weech. He went farther afield now: to the market-places in Mile End
and Stepney, and to the riverside, where there were many
chances—guarded jealously, however, by the pirate boys of the
neighbourhood, who would tolerate no interlopers at the wharves. In
the very early morning, too, he practised the sand-bag fake, in the
Jago. For there were those among the Jagos who kept (two even bred)
linnets and such birds, and prepared them for julking, or singing
matches at the Bag of Nails. It was the habit of the bird-fanciers
to hang their little wooden cages on nails out of window, and there
they hung through the night: for it had been noted, as a surprising
peculiarity in linnets, that a bird would droop and go off song
after a dozen or so of nights in a Jago room, in company with
eight, ten or a dozen human sleepers, notwithstanding the
thoughtful shutting of windows. So that any early riser provided
with a little bag packed with a handful or so of sand, could become
an opulent bird-owner in half-an-hour. Let but the sand-bag be
pitched with proper skill at the bottom of a cage, and that cage
would leave the nail, and come tumbling and fluttering down into
the ready hands of the early riser. The sand-bag brought down the
cage and fell quietly on the flags, which was why it was preferred
before a stone. The sand-bag faker was moved by no particular love
of linnets. His spoil was got rid of as soon as the bird-shops
opened in Club Row. And his craft was one of danger.
Thus the months went with Dicky, and the years. There were
changes in the Jago. The baby was but three months old when Father
Sturt's new church was opened, and the club set going in new
buildings; and it was at that time that Josh Perrott was removed to
Portland. Even the gradual removal of the Old Jago itself was
begun. For the County Council bought a row of houses at the end of
Jago Row, by Honey Lane, with a design to build big barrack
dwellings on the site. The scenes of the Jago Court eviction were
repeated, with less governed antics. For the County Council knew
not Jago ways; and when deputations came forth weeping, protesting
the impossibility of finding new lodgings, and beseeching a
respite, they were given six weeks more, and went back delighted
into free quarters. At the end of the six weeks a larger deputation
protested a little louder, wept a great deal more, and poached
another month; for it would seem an unpopular thing to turn the
people into the street. Thus in the end, when the unpopular thing
had to be done, it was with sevenfold trouble, loud cursing of the
County Council in the public street, and many fights. But this one
spot of the Jago cleared, the County Council began to creep along
Jago Row and into Half Jago Street; and after long delay the crude
yellow brick of the barrack dwellings rose above the oft-stolen
hoardings, and grew, storey by storey. Dicky was fourteen, fifteen,
sixteen. If Josh Perrott had only earned his marks, he would soon
be out now.
Josh Perrott earned his marks, and in less than four years from
his conviction he came away from Portland. It was a mere matter of
hours ere his arrival in London, when Dicky, hands in pockets,
strolled along Old Jago Street, and by the 'Posties' to High
Dicky was almost at his seventeenth birthday. He had grown his
utmost, and stood five feet two. He wore a cap with a cloth peak
and ear-laps tied at the top with strings, slap-up kicksies, cut
saucy, and a bob-tail coat of the out-and-out description: though
all these glories were torn and shabby, and had been bought
second-hand. He was safe from any risk of the reformatory now,
being well over the age; and he had had the luck never to have been
taken by the police since his father's lagging—though there
were escapes too narrow to be thought about with comfort. It was a
matter for wonderment, and he spoke of it with pride. Here he was,
a man of long experience, and near seventeen years old, yet he had
never been in prison. Few, very few of such an age could say
Sometimes he saw his old enemy, the hunchback, who worked at a
shoemaker's, but he saw him with unconcern. He cared nothing for
tale-bearing now. The memory of old injuries had dulled, and, after
all, this was a merely inconsiderable hunchback, whom it were
beneath his dignity to regard with anything but tolerant
indifference. Bob Roper steered clear at such encounters, and
showed his teeth like a cat, and looked back malevolently. It
Dicky was not married, either in the simple Jago fashion or in
church. There was little difference, as a matter of fact, so far as
facility went. There was a church in Bethnal Green where you might
be married for sevenpence if you were fourteen years old, and no
questions asked—or at any rate they were questions answers
whereunto were easy to invent. You just came in, drunk if possible,
with a batch of some scores, and rowdied about the church with your
hat on, and the curate worked off the crowd at one go, calling the
names one after another. You sang, or you shouted, or you drank out
of a bottle, or you flung a prayer-book at a friend, as the fancy
took you; and the whole thing was not a bad joke for the money,
though after all sevenpence is half-a-gallon, and not to be wasted.
But Dicky had had enough to do to look after his mother and Em and
little Josh—as Hannah Perrott had called the baby. Dicky,
indeed, had a family already. More: the Jago girls affected him
with an odd feeling of repulsion. Not of themselves, perhaps,
though they were squalid drabs long ere they were ripe for the
sevenpenny church: but by comparison with the clean, remote
shop-girls who were visible through the broad windows in the outer
Dicky intended the day to be a holiday. He was not going 'out,'
as the word went, for ill-luck had a way of coming on notable days
like this, and he might easily chance to 'fall' before his father
got home. He was almost too big now for carrying bags at Liverpool
Street, because small boys looked cheaper than large ones—not
that there was anything especially large about Dicky, beyond his
height of five feet two; and at the moment he could think of
nothing else that might turn a copper. He stood irresolute on the
High Street footway, and as he stood, Kiddo Cook hove in sight,
dragging a barrow-load of carrots and cabbages. Kiddo had not yet
compassed the stall with the rain-proof awning. But it was almost
in sight, for the barrow could scarce hold all that he could sell;
and there was a joke abroad that he was to be married in Father
Sturt's church: some facetiously suggesting that Mother Gapp would
prove a good investment commercially, while others maintained the
greater eligibility of old Poll Rann.
''Tcheer, Dicky!' said Kiddo, pulling up and wiping his
cap-lining with a red cotton handkerchief. 'Ol' man out to-day,
'Yus,' Dicky answered. ''Spect 'im up to-night.'
Kiddo nodded, and wiped his face. ''Spose the mob'll git up a
break for 'im,' he said; 'but 'e'll 'ave a bit o' gilt from stir as
well, won't 'e? So 'e'll be awright.' And Kiddo stuffed his
handkerchief into his trousers pocket, pulled his cap tight, and
bent to his barrow-handles.
Dicky turned idly to the left, and slouched to the corner of
Meakin Street. There he loafed for a little while, and then went as
aimlessly up the turning. Meakin Street was much as ever. There
were still the chandlers' shops, where tea and sugar were sold by
the farthingsworth, and the barber's where hair was fashionably cut
for three half-pence: though Jago hair was commonly cut in another
place and received little more attention. There was still Walker's
cook-shop, foggy with steam, its windows all a-trickle, and there
was the Original Slap-up Tog Emporium, with its kicksies and its
benjamins cut saucy as ever, and its double fakements still artful.
At the 'dispensary' there was another young student, but his advice
and medicine were sixpence, just as his remote predecessor's had
been for little Looey, long forgotten. And farther down on the
opposite side, Mr Aaron Weech's coffee-shop, with its Sunday-school
festival bills, maintained its general Band-of-Hope air, and
displayed its shrivelled bloaters, its doubtful cake, and its
pallid scones in an odour of respectability and stale pickles.
Dicky glanced in as he came by the door, and met the anxious eye of
Mr Weech, whom he had not seen for a fortnight. For Dicky was no
boy now, but knew enough to sell at Cohen's or elsewhere whenever
possible, and to care not a rap for Mr Weech.
As that tradesman saw Dicky, he burst into an eager smile, and
came forward. 'Good mornin',—er—' with a quick
glance—'Mr Perrott! Good mornin'! You're quite a stranger,
Mister Perrott! Mr Weech was very polite. Dicky stopped,
and grunted a cautious salutation.
'Do come in, Mr Perrott. Wy, is the good noos right wot I 'ear,
about yer father a-comin' 'ome from—from the country?'
Dicky confirmed the news.
'Well I am glad t' 'ear that now.' Mr Weech grinned
exceedingly, though there was something lacking in his delight.
'But there, wot'll you 'ave, Mr Perrott? Say anythink in the 'ole
shop and welcome! It's sich an 'appy occasion, Mr Perrott, I
couldn't think o' chargin' you a 'apeny. 'Ave a rasher, now, do.
There's one on at this very moment. Sairer! ain't that rasher done
Dicky did not understand this liberality, but he had long since
adopted the policy of taking all he could get. So he sat at a
table, and Mr Weech sat opposite.
'Jist like ole times, ain't it?' said Mr Weech. 'An' that
reminds me I owe you a shillin'. It's that pair o' noo boots you
chucked over the back fence a fortnight ago. W'en I come to look at
'em, they was better'n wot I thought, an' so I says to meself,
"This won't do," says I. "On'y ninepence for a pair o' boots like
them ain't fair," I says, "an' I'd rayther be at a lawss on 'em
than not be fair. Fair's fair, as the apostle David says in the
Proverbs, an' them boots is worth very near one-an'-nine. So
I'll give Mr Perrott another shillin'," I says, "the very next time
I see 'im." An' there it is.'
He put the shilling on the table, and Dicky pocketed it, nothing
loth. The thing might be hard to understand, but that concerned him
not. There was the shilling. Likewise, there was the bacon, and the
coffee that went with it, and Dicky went at them with a will,
recking nothing of why they were there, and nothing of any matter
which might make the giver anxious in the prospect of an early
meeting with Josh.
'Ah,' Mr Weech went on, 'it'll be quite a pleasure to see yer
father agin, that it will. Wot a blessed release! "Free from the
lor O 'appy condition," as the 'ymn says. I 'ope 'e'll be well an'
'arty. An' if—if there should be anythink in the way
of a friendly lead or a subscription or wot not, I
'ope—remember this, Mr Perrott, won'tcher?—I 'ope
you'll let me 'ave a chance to put down somethink good. Not as I
can reely afford it, ye know, Mr Perrott—trade's very pore,
an' it's sich a neighb'r'ood!—but I'll do it for yer
father—yus, if it's me last copper. Ye won't forgit that,
will ye? An' if 'e'd like any little relish w'en 'e comes
'ome—sich as a 'addick or a bit o' 'am—wy, I'll wrop it
up an' send it.'
This was all very handsome, and Dicky wished some notion of the
sort had occurred to Mr Weech on a few of the dinnerless days of
the past four years. But he went away wondering if it might not be
well to regard Mr Weech with caution for a while. For there must be
a reason for all this generosity.
It was in Mother Gapp's that Josh Perrott and his family met.
Hannah had started out with an idea of meeting him at Waterloo
Station; but, finding herself an object of distinction and
congratulation among the women she met, she had lingered by the
way, accepting many little drops, to prove herself not unduly
proud, and so had failed of her intent. Josh, on his part, had not
been abstinent. He had successfully run the gauntlet of Prisoners'
Aid Societies and the like, professing to have 'a job waiting for
him' in Shoreditch, and his way across London had been freely
punctuated at public-houses; for his prison gratuity was a very
pleasant and useful little sum. And now, when at last they met, he
was not especially gracious. He wanted to know, not only why he had
found nobody at home, but also why Hannah had never been to see him
at Portland. As to the second question, the obvious and sufficient
answer was that the return fare to Portland would have been some
twenty-five shillings: a sum that Hannah had never seen together
since Josh left her. As to the first, she protested, with muddled
vehemence, that she had gone to meet him, and had missed him by
some mistake as to arrival platforms. So that at length, urged
thereto by the rest of the hour's customers at the Feathers, Josh
kissed her sulkily and ordered her a drink. Em was distrustful at
first, but drank her allowance of gin with much relish, tipping the
glass again and again to catch the last drop; and little Josh, now
for the first time introduced to Josh the elder, took a dislike to
his father's not particularly sober glare and grin, and roared
aloud upon his knee, assailing him, between the roars, with every
curse familiar in the Jago, amid the genial merriment of the
company. Dicky came in quietly, and stood at his father's elbow
with the pride natural to a dutiful son on such an occasion. And at
closing-time they all helped each other home.
In the morning Josh rose late. He looked all the better for his
lagging, browner than ever in the face, smarter and stouter. In a
corner he perceived a little heap of made match-boxes, and, hard
by, the material for more. It was Em's work of yesterday morning.
'Support 'ome industries,' said Josh, musingly. 'Yus.
Twopence-farden a gross.' And he kicked the heap to splinters.
He strolled out into the street, to survey the Jago. In the bulk
it was little changed, though the County Council had made a
difference in the north-east corner, and was creeping farther and
farther still. The dispossessed Jagos had gone to infect the
neighbourhoods across the border, and to crowd the people a little
closer. They did not return to live in the new barrack-buildings;
which was a strange thing, for the County Council was charging very
little more than double the rents which the landlords of the Old
Jago had charged. And so another Jago, teeming and villainous as
the one displaced, was slowly growing, in the form of a ring, round
about the great yellow houses. But the new church and its attendant
buildings most took Josh's notice. They were little more than begun
when last he walked Old Jago Street in daylight, and now they
stood, large and healthy amid the dens about them, a wonder and a
pride. As he looked, Jerry Gullen and Bill Rann passed.
'Wayo, brother-in-law!' sang out Bill Rann, who remembered the
Old Bailey fiction of four years back, and thought it a capital
'Nice sort o' thing, ain't it?' said Jerry Gullen with indignant
sarcasm, jerking his thumb toward the new church. 'The street's
clean ruined. Wot's the good o' livin' 'ere now? Wy, a man mustn't
even do a click, blimy!'
'An' doncher?' asked Josh with a grin. Hereat another grin broke
wide on Jerry Gullen's face, and he went his way with a wink and a
'And so you're back again, Josh Perrott!' said old Beveridge,
seedier than ever, with the 'Hard Up' fresh chalked on the
changeless hat. 'Back again! Pity you couldn't stay there, isn't
it? Pity we can't all stay there.'
Josh looked after the gaunt old figure with much doubt and a
vague indignation: for such a view was foreign to his
understanding. And as he looked Father Sturt came out of the
church, and laid his hand on Josh's shoulder.
'What!' exclaimed the vicar, 'home again without coming to see
me! But there, you must have been coming. I hope you haven't been
knocking long? Come in now, at any rate. You're looking wonderfully
well. What a capital thing a holiday is, isn't it—a good long
one?' Taking Josh by the arm he hauled him, grinning, sheepish and
almost blushing, toward the club door. And at that moment Sam Cash
came hurrying round Luck Row corner, with his finger through a
string, and on that string a bunch of grouse.
'Dear me,' said Father Sturt, turning back, but without
releasing Josh's arm. 'Here's our dear friend, Sam Cash, taking
home something for his lunch. Come, Sam, with such a fine lot of
birds as that, I'm sure you'll be proud to tell us where they came
For a moment Sam Cash was a trifle puzzled, even offended. Then
there fell over his face the mask of utter inexpression which the
vicar had learned to know. Said Sam Cash, stolidly: 'I bin 'avin' a
little shootin' with a friend.'
'Dear, dear, what a charming friend! And where are his moors?
Nowhere about the Bethnal Green Road, I suppose, by the goods
depot? Come now, I'm sure Josh Perrott would like to know. You
didn't get any shooting in your little holiday, did you, Josh?'
Josh grinned, delighted, but Sam shuffled uneasily, with a hopeless
sidelong glance as in search of a hole wherein to hide. 'Ah, you
see,' Father Sturt said, 'he doesn't want his friend's hospitality
to be abused. Let me see—two, four, six—why there must
be nine or ten brace, and all at one shot, too! Sam always makes
his bag at one shot, you know, Josh, whatever the game is. Yes,
wonderful shooting. And did you shoot the label at the same time,
Sam? Come, I should like to look at that label!'
But the wretched Sam was off at a bolt, faster than a police
pursuit would have sent him, while Josh guffawed joyously. To be
'rotted' by Father Sturt was the true Jago terror, but to the Jagos
looking on it was pure delight. Theft was a piece of the Jago
nature; but at least Father Sturt could wither the pride of it by
such ridicule as the Jago could understand.
'There—he's very bashful for a sportsman, isn't he, Josh?'
the vicar proceeded. 'But you must come and see the club at once.
You shall be a member.'
Josh spent near an hour in the new buildings. Father Sturt
showed him the club, the night shelter, the church, and his own
little rooms. He asked, too, much about Josh's intentions for the
future. Of course, Josh was 'going to look for a job.' Father Sturt
knew he would say that. Every Jago had been going to look for a job
ever since the vicar first came to the place. But he professed to
take Josh's word seriously, and offered to try to get him taken on
as a plasterer at some of the new County Council buildings. He
flattered Josh by reminding him of his command of a regular trade.
Josh was a man with opportunities, and he should be above the
pitiable expedients of the poor untradesmanlike about him. Indeed,
he should leave the Jago altogether, with his family, and start
afresh in a new place, a reputable mechanic.
To these things Josh Perrott listened with fidgety deference,
answering only 'Yus, Father,' when it seemed to be necessary. In
the end he promised to 'think it over,' which meant nothing, as the
parson well knew. And in the mood in which Josh came away he would
gladly have risked another lagging to serve Father Sturt's
convenience; but he would rather have suffered one than take Father
He made the day a holiday. He had been told that he was in for a
little excitement, for it was held that fitting time had arrived
for another scrap with Dove Lane; but the affair was not yet
moving. Snob Spicer had broken a window with a Dove-Laner's head,
it was true, but nothing had come of it, and etiquette demanded
that the next card should be played by Dove Lane. For the present,
the Jago was content to take thought for Josh's 'friendly lead.'
Such a thing was everybody's right on return from a lagging, and
this one was fixed for a night next week.
All that day Mr Weech looked out anxiously, but Josh Perrott
never passed his way.
Bill Rann called for Josh early the next morning, and they
strolled down Old Jago Street in close communion.
'Are you on for a job?' asked Bill. ''Cos I got one cut an'
dried—a topper, an' safe as 'ouses.'
'Wot sort o' job's this?'
'Wy a bust—unless we can screw it.'
This meant a breaking-in, with a possibility of a quieter
entrance by means of keys. It was unpleasantly suggestive of Josh's
last exploit, but he answered: 'Awright. Depends, o' course.'
'O, it's a good un.' Bill Rann grinned for no obvious reason,
and slapped his leg to express rapturous amusement. 'It's a good
un—you can take yer davy o' that. I bin a thinkin' about it
for a fortnight, but it wants two. Damme, it's nobby!' And Bill
Rann grinned again, and made two taps of a step-dance. 'Wotjer
think,' he pursued, suddenly serious, 'wotjer think o' screwin' a
It was a novel notion, but in Josh's mind, at first flush, it
seemed unsportmanlike. 'Wot fence?' asked Josh.
Bill Rann's grin burst wide again. He bent low, with
outstretched chin, and stuck his elbows out as he answered: 'Wy,
Josh bared his teeth—but with no smile—looking
sharply in the other's upturned face. Bill Rann, bent nearly
double, and with hands in pockets, flapped his arms in the manner
of wings, chuckled aloud, and, jerking his feet back and forth,
went elaborately through the first movement of the gallows-flap.
'Eh? eh?' said he. ''Ow's that strike ye, ole cock?'
Josh answered not, but his parted lips stretched wide, and his
tongue-tip passed quickly over them while he thought.
'It'll be a fair cop for 'im,' Bill pursued, eagerly. ''E's
treated us all pretty mean, one time or other. Wy, I bet 'e
owes us fifty quid atween us, wot with all the times 'e's
squeeged us for a bit. It'll on'y be goin' to bring away our own
'G-r-r-r!' Josh growled, glaring fiercely; 'it was 'im as put me
away for my laggin'! Bleed'n' swine!'
Bill Rann stopped, surprised. 'Wot—'im?' he exclaimed.
'Ole Weech narked ye? 'Owjer know that?'
Josh told the tale of his negotiations in the matter of the
Mogul's watch, and described Weech's terror at sight of his dash at
the shop-door. 'I'm on,' said Josh in conclusion. 'It's one way o'
payin' 'im, an' it'll bring a bit in. On'y 'e better not
show 'isself w'ile I'm abaat! 'E wouldn't git auf with a
punch on the chin, like the bloke at 'Ighbury!' Josh Perrott ended
with a tigerish snarl and a white spot at the curl of each of his
'Blimy!' said Bill Rann; 'an' so it was 'im, was it? I often
wondered 'oo you meant. Well, flimpin' 'im's the best way. Won't 'e
sing a bleed'n' 'ymn w'en 'e finds 'is stuff weeded!' Bill flung
back his head, and laughed again. 'But there,—let's lay it
out.' And the two men fell to the discussion of methods.
Weech's back-fence was to be his undoing. It was the obvious
plan. The front shutters were impracticable in such a place as
Meakin Street; but the alleys in the rear were a perfect approach.
Bill Rann had surveyed the spot attentively, and, after expert
consideration, he had selected the wash-house window as the point
of entrance. Old boxes and packing-wood littered the yard, and it
would be easy to mount a selected box, shift the catch of the
little window, and wriggle in, feet first, without noise. True, the
door between the wash-house and the other rooms might be fastened,
but it could be worked at under cover; and Bill Rann had a belief
that there must be a good deal of 'stuff' in the wash-house itself.
There would be nobody in the house but Weech, because the wretched
old woman, who swept the floors and cooked bloaters, was sent away
at night; so that every room must be unoccupied but one.
As for tools, Josh had none, but Bill Rann undertook to provide
them; and in the matter of time it was considered that that same
night would be as good as any. It would be better than most, in
fact, for it was Wednesday, and Bill Rann had observed that Mr
Weech went to the bank in High Street, Shoreditch, pretty regularly
on Thursday mornings.
This day also Mr Weech kept a careful watch for Josh Perrott,
but saw him not.
Hannah Perrott did her best to keep Josh from going out that
night. She did not explain her objections, because she did not know
precisely what they were, though they were in some sort prompted by
his manner; and it was solely because of her constitutional
inability to urge them with any persistence that she escaped
forcible retort. For Josh was in a savage and self-centred
'Wy, wot's up?' asked Bill Rann, when they met, looking
doubtfully in his pal's face. 'You ain't bin boozin', 'ave ye?'
Josh repelled the question with a snarl. 'No I ain't,' he said.
'Got the tools?' There was a thickness in his voice, with a
wildness in his eye, that might well explain his partner's
'Yus. Come under the light. I couldn't git no twirls, an' we
sha'n't want 'em. 'Ere's a screwdriver, an' two gimlets, an' a
knife for the winderketch, an' a little james, an' a
'A neddy!' Josh cut in, scornfully pointing his thumb at the
instrument, which some call life-preserver. 'A neddy for Weech!
G-r-r-r! I might take a neddy to a man!'
'That's awright,' Bill replied. 'But it 'ud frighten 'im pretty
well, wouldn't it? Look 'ere. S'pose we can't find the oof. W'y
shouldn't we wake up Mr Weech very quiet an' respeckful, an' ask
'im t' 'elp us? 'E's all alone, an' I'm sure 'e'll be glad to
'blige, w'en 'e sees this 'ere neddy, without waitin' for a tap.
W'y, blimy, I b'lieve 'e'd be afraid to sing out any'ow, for fear
o' bringin' in the coppers to find all the stuff 'e's bought on the
crook! It's all done, once we're inside!'
It was near midnight, and Bill Rann had observed Weech putting
up his shutters at eleven. So the two Jagos walked slowly along
Meakin Street, on the side opposite Weech's, with sharp eyes for
All was quiet; there was no visible light—none from the
skylight over the shop door, none from the window above, none from
the garret window above that. They passed on, crossed the road,
strolled back, and listened at the door; there was no sound from
within. The clock in a distant steeple struck twelve, and was
joined at the fourth stroke by the loud bell of St Leonards, hard
by; and ere the last mild note had sounded from the farthest clock
in the awakened chorus, Josh Perrott and Bill Rann had taken the
next turning, and were pushing their way to the alleys behind
Foul rat-runs, these alleys, not to be traversed by a stranger.
Josh and Bill plunged into one narrow archway after another, each
of which might have been the private passage of a house, and came
at last, stealthy and unseen, into the muddy yard.
Weech's back-fence was before them, and black house-backs
crowded them round. There were but one or two lights in the
windows, and those windows were shut and curtained. The rear of
Weech's house was black and silent as the front. They peered over
the fence. The yard was pitch-dark, but faint angular tokens here
and there told of heaped boxes and lumber. 'We won't tip 'im the
whistle this time,' whispered Bill Rann, with a smothered chuckle.
He bent his knee, and Josh straddled from it over the rickety
fence with quiet care, and lowered himself gingerly on the other
side. 'Clear 'ere,' he whispered. 'Come on.' Since Bill's display
of the tools Josh had scarce spoken a word. Bill wondered at his
taciturnity, but respected it as a business-like quality in the
It was but a matter of four or five yards to the wash-house
window, but they bent and felt their way. Josh took up an old
lemonade-case as he went, and planted it on the ground below the
window, stretching his hand for the knife as he did so. And now he
took command and foremost place.
It was an old shoemaker's knife, with too long a handle; for
there was a skew-joint in the sash, and the knife would not bend.
Presently Bill Rann, below, could see that Josh was cutting away
the putty from the pane, and in five minutes the pane itself was
put into his hand. He stooped, and laid it noiselessly on the soft
Josh turned the catch and lifted the sash. There was some noise,
but not much, as he pushed the frame up evenly, with a thumb at
each side. They waited; but it was quite still, and Josh, sitting
on the sill, manœuvred his legs, one at a time, through the
narrow opening. Then, turning over, he let himself down, and
beckoned Bill Rann to follow.
Bill Rann had a small tin box, with an inch of candle on the
inside of one end, so that when the wick was lit the contrivance
made a simple but an effective lantern, the light whereof shone in
front alone, and could be extinguished at a puff. Now a match was
struck, and a quick view taken of the wash-house.
There was not much about; only cracked and greasy plates, jars,
tins, pots and pans, and in a corner a miscellaneous heap, plainly
cheap pilferings, covered with a bit of old carpet. The air was
offensive with the characteristic smell of Weech's—the smell
of stale pickles.
'There ain't nothin' to waste time over 'ere,' said Josh, aloud.
'Shut up, you damn fool!' exclaimed Bill Rann, in a whisper.
'D'jer want to wake 'im?'
'Umph! Why not?' was the reply, still aloud. Bill began to feel
that his pal was really drunk. But, silent once more, Josh applied
himself to the door of the inner room. It was crank and old, worn
and battered at the edges. Josh forced the wedge end of the jemmy
through the jamb, splintering the perished wood of the frame, and,
with a push, forced the striking-box of the lock off its screws.
There was still a bolt at the top; that at the bottom had lost its
catch—but this gave as little trouble as the lock. Bill Rann
strained the door open from below, the jemmy entered readily, and
in a few seconds the top bolt was in like case with the bottom.
They entered the room behind the shop, and it was innocent and
disappointing. A loo table, four horse-hair-covered chairs, a
mirror, three coloured wall-texts, two china figures and a cheap
walnut sideboard—that was all. The slow step of a policeman
without stopped, with a push at the shop-door, to test its
fastenings, and then went on; and stronger than ever was the smell
of stale pickles.
To try the shop would be mere waste of time. Weech's pocket was
the till, and there could be no other prize. A door at the side of
the room, latched simply, gave on the stairs. 'Take auf yer boots,'
Bill whispered, unlacing his own, and slinging them across his
shoulder by the tied laces.
But Josh would not, and he said so, with an oath. Bill could not
understand him. Could it be drink? Bill wished him a mile
away. 'Awright,' he whispered, 'you set down 'ere w'ile I slip
upstairs an' take a peep. I bet the stuffs in the garret. Best on'y
one goes, quiet.'
Josh sat, and Bill, taking his lantern, crept up the stairs
noiselessly, save for one creak. He gained the stair-head, listened
a moment, tip-toed along the small landing, and was half-way up the
steep and narrow garret-stairs, when he heard a sound, and stopped.
Somebody was on the lower flight.
There was a heavy tread, with the kick of a boot against stair
or skirting-board; and then came noisy steps along the landing.
Josh was coming up in his boots! Bill Rann was at his wits' end. He
backed down the garret-stairs, and met Josh at the foot. 'Are ye
balmy?' he hissed fiercely, catching Josh by the collar and pulling
him into the turn of the stairs. 'D'ye want another five
A loud creak and a soft thump sounded from behind the door at
the other end of the landing; and then a match was struck. 'Keep
back on the stairs,' Bill whispered. ''E's 'eard you.' Josh sat on
a stair, perfectly still, with his legs drawn up out of sight from
the door. Bill blew out his light. He would not venture open
intimidation of Weech now, with Josh half muzzy, lest some burst of
lunacy brought in the police.
A soft treading of bare feet, the squeak of a door-handle, a
light on the landing, and Aaron Weech stood at his open door in his
shirt, candle in hand, his hair rumpled, his head aside, his mouth
a little open, his unconscious gaze upward; listening intently. He
took a slight step forward. And then Bill Rann's heart turned over
For Josh Perrott sprang from the stair, and, his shoulders
humped and his face thrust out, walked deliberately across the
landing. Weech turned his head quickly; his chin fell on his chest
as by jaw-break; there were but dots amid the white of his eyes;
his head lay slowly back, as the candle tilted and shot its grease
on the floor. The door swung wider as his shoulder struck it, and
he screamed, like a rabbit that sees a stoat. Then, with a wrench,
he turned, letting drop the candle, and ran shrieking to the
window, flung it open, and yelled into the black street. ''Elp!
'Elp! P'lice! Murder! Murder! Murder! Murder!'
'Run, Josh—run, ye blasted fool!' roared Bill Rann,
bounding across the landing, and snatching at his arm.
'Go on—go on! I'm comin'!' Josh answered without turning
his head. And Bill took the bottom flight at a jump. The candle
flared as it lay on the floor, and spread a greasy pool about
'Murder! Murder! Mu-r-r—'
Josh had the man by the shoulder, swung him back from the
window, gripped his throat, and dragged him across the carpet as he
might drag a cat, while Weech's arms waved uselessly, and his feet
feebly sought a hold on the floor.
'Now!' cried Josh Perrott, glaring on the writhen face below his
own, and raising his case-knife in the manner of a cleaver, 'sing a
hymn! Sing the hymn as'll do ye most good! You'll cheat me when ye
can, an' when ye can't you'll put me five year in stir, eh? Sing a
hymn, ye snivellin' nark!'
From the street there came the noise of many hurrying feet and
of a scattered shouting. Josh Perrott made an offer at slashing the
slaty face, checked his arm, and went on.
'You'll put down somethin' 'an'some at my break, will ye? An'
you'll starve my wife an' kids all to bones an' teeth four year!
Sing a hymn, ye cur!'
He made another feint at slashing. Men were beating thunderously
at the shop door, and there were shrill whistles.
'Won't sing yer hymn? There ain't much time! My boy was goin'
straight, an' earnin' wages: someone got 'im chucked. A man 'as
time to think things out, in stir! Sing, ye son of a cow! Sing!
Twice the knife hacked the livid face. But the third hack was
below the chin; and the face fell back.
The bubbling Thing dropped in a heap, and put out the flaring
candle. Without, the shouts gathered to a roar, and the door shook
under heavy blows. 'Open—open the door!' cried a deep
He looked from the open window. There was a scrambling crowd,
and more people were running in. Windows gaped, and thrust out
noisy heads. The flash of a bull's-eye dazzled him, and he
staggered back. 'Perrott! Perrott!' came a shout. He had but
glanced out, but he was recognised.
He threw down his knife, and made for the landing, slipping on
the wet floor and stumbling against the Heap. There were shouts
from behind the house now; they were few, but they were close. He
dashed up the narrow stairs, floundered through the back garret,
over bags and boxes and heaps of mingled commodities, and threw up
the sash. Men were stumbling invisibly in the dark yard below. He
got upon the sill, swung round by the dormer-frame, and went, hands
and knees, along the roof. Yells and loud whistles rose clamant in
the air, and his own name was shouted to and fro. Then the blows on
the shop-door ceased with a splintering crash, and there was a
trampling of feet on floor-boards.
The roofs were irregular in shape and height, and his progress
was slow. He aimed at reaching the roof of Father Sturt's old club
building, still empty. He had had this in mind from the moment he
climbed from the garret-window; for in the work of setting the
drains in order an iron ventilating pipe had been carried up from
the stable-yard to well above the roof. It was a stout pipe, close
by the wall, to which it was clamped with iron attachments. Four
years had passed since he had seen it, and he trusted to luck to
find it still standing, for it seemed his only chance. Down below
people scampered and shouted. Crowds had sprung out of the dark
night as by magic; and the police—they must have been lying
in wait in scores. It seemed a mere matter of seconds since he had
scaled the back fence; and now people were tearing about the house
behind him, and shouting out of windows to those below. He hoped
that the iron pipe might not be gone.
Good—it was there. He peered from the parapet down into
the stable-yard, and the place seemed empty. He gripped the pipe
with hands and knees, and descended.
The alley had no back way: he must take his chance in Meakin
Street. He peeped. At the street end there was a dark obstruction,
set with spots of light: a row of police. That way was shut; he
must try the Jago—Luck Row was almost opposite, and no Jago
would betray him. The hunters were already on the roofs. Men
shouted up to them from the street, and kept pace with them, coming
nearer. He took a breath and dashed across, knocking a man over at
Up Luck Row, into Old Jago Street he ran, past his own home, and
across to a black doorway, just as Father Sturt, roused by the
persistent din, opened his window. The passage was empty, and for
an instant he paused, breathless. But there were howls without, and
the pelting of many feet. The man knocked over at the corner had
given the alarm, and the hunt was up.
Into the back-yard and over the fence; through another passage
into New Jago Street; with a notion to gain the courts by Honey
Lane and so away. But he was thinking of the Jago as it had
been—he had forgotten the demolishment. As he neared Jago Row
the place of it lay suddenly before him—an open waste of
eighty yards square, skirted by the straight streets and the yellow
barracks, with the Board School standing dark among them. And along
the straight streets more men were rushing, and more police. They
were new-comers: why not venture over? He rubbed his cheek, for
something like a film of gum clung to it. Then he remembered, and
peered closely at his hands. Blood, sticking and drying and
peeling; blood on hands and face, blood on clothes, without a
doubt. To go abroad thus were to court arrest, were he known or
not. It must be got off; but how? To go home was to give himself
up. The police were there long since—they swarmed the Jago
through. Some half-dismantled houses stood at hand, and he made for
There were cellars under these houses, reached from the
back-yards. Many a Jago had been born, had lived, and had died in
such a place. A cellar would hide him for an hour, while he groped
himself clean as he might. Broken brickwork littered the space that
had been the back-yard. Feeling in the dark for the steps, which
stood in a little pit, his foot turned on a stone, and he pitched
The cellar itself was littered with rubbish, and he lay among it
a little while, breathless and bruised. When he tried to rise, he
found his ankle useless. It was the old sprain, got at Mother
Gapp's before his lagging, and ever ready to assert itself. He sat
among the brickbats to pull off the boot—that was foul and
sticky too—and he rubbed the ankle. He had been a fool to
think of the cellar: why not any corner among the walls above? He
had given way to the mere panic instinct to burrow, to hide himself
in a hole, and he had chosen one wherefrom there was no second way
of escape—none at all but by the steps he had fallen in at.
Far better to have struck out boldly across the streets by Columbia
Market to the canal: who could have seen the smears in the
darkness? And in the canal he might have washed the lot away,
secure from observation, under a bridge. The thing might be
possible, even now, if he could stand the pain. But no, the foot
was useless when he tried it. He was trapped like a rat. He rubbed
and kneaded the ankle diligently, and managed to draw the boot on.
But stand on both legs he could not. He might have crawled up the
steps on hands and knees, but what was the use of that? So he sat,
Knots of men went hurrying by, and he caught snatches of their
talk. There had been a murder—a man was murdered in his
bed—it was a woman—a man had murdered his
wife—there were two murders—three—the tale went
every way, but it was always Murder, Murder, Murder. Everybody was
saying Murder: till in the passing footsteps, in the vague shouts
in the distance, and presently in the mere black about him he heard
the word still—Murder, Murder, Murder. He fell to contrasting
the whispered fancy with the real screams in that bedroom. He
wondered what Bill Rann thought of it all, and what had become of
the james and the gimlets. He pictured the crowd in Old Jago
Street, pushing into his room, talking about him, telling the news.
He wondered if Hannah had been asleep when they came, and what she
said when they told her. And more people hurried past the ruined
house, all talking Murder, Murder, still Murder.
The foot was horribly painful. Was it swelling? Yes, he thought
it was; he rubbed it again. What would Dicky do? If only Dicky knew
where he was! That might help. There was a new burst of shouts in
the distance. What was that? Perhaps they had caught Bill Rann; but
that was unlikely. They knew nothing of Bill—they had seen
but one man. Perhaps they were carrying away the Heap on a shutter:
that would be no nice job, especially down the steep stairs. There
had been very little in the wash-house, and nothing in the next
room; the garrets were pretty full of odd things, but no doubt the
money was in the bedroom. The smell of stale pickles was very
So his thoughts chased one another—eager, trivial,
crowded—till his head ached with their splitting haste. To
take heed for the future, to plan escape, to design
expedients—these were merely impossible, sitting there
inactive in the dark. He thought of the pipe he had slid down, what
it cost, why they put it there, who the man was that he ran against
at Luck Row, whether or not he hurt him, what the police would do
with the bloaters and cake and bacon at the shop,
and—again—of the smell of stale pickles.
Father Sturt was up and dressed, standing guard on the landing
outside the Perrotts' door. The stairs were full of
Jagos—mostly women—constantly joined by new-comers, all
anxious to batter the door and belabour the hidden family with
noisy sympathy and sedulous inquiries: all, that is, except the
oldest Mrs Walsh in the Jago, who, possessed by an unshakable
conviction that Josh's wife must have 'druv 'im to it,' had come in
a shawl and a petticoat to give Hannah a piece of her mind. But all
were driven back and sent grumbling away, by Father Sturt.
Every passage from the Jago was held by the police, and a search
from house to house was begun. With clear consciences the Jagos all
could deny any knowledge of Josh Perrott's whereabouts; but a clear
conscience was little valued in those parts, and one after another
affirmed point blank that the man seen at the window was not
Perrott at all, but a stranger who lived a long way off. This, of
course, less by way of favouring the fugitive than of baffling the
police: the Jago's first duty. But the police knew the worth of
such talk, and the search went on.
Thus it came to pass that in the grey of the morning a party in
New Jago Street, after telling each other that the ruins must be
carefully examined, climbed among the rubbish, and were startled by
a voice from underground.
'Awright,' cried Josh Perrott in the cellar. 'I'm done; it's a
cop. Come an' 'elp me out o' this 'ole.'
The Lion and Unicorn had been fresh gilt since he was there
before, but the white-headed old gaoler in the dock was much the
same. And the big sword—what did they have a big sword for,
stuck up there, over the red cushions, and what was the use of a
sword six foot long? But perhaps it wasn't six foot after
all—it looked longer than it was; and no doubt it was only
for show, and probably a dummy with no blade. There was a
well-dressed black man sitting down below among the lawyers. What
did he want? Why did they let him in? A nice thing—to be made
a show of, for niggers! And Josh Perrott loosened his neckcloth
with an indignant tug of the forefinger, and went off into another
train of thought. He had a throbbing, wavering headache, the
outcome of thinking so hard about so many things. They were small
things, and had nothing to do with his own business; but there were
so many of them, and they all had to be got through at such a pace,
and one thing led to another.
Ever since they had taken him he had been oppressed by this
plague of galloping thought, with few intervals of rest, when he
could consider immediate concerns. But of these he made little
trouble. The thing was done. Very well then, he would take his
gruel like a man. He had done many a worse thing, he said, that had
been thought less of.
The evidence was a nuisance. What was the good of it all? Over
and over and over again. At the inquest, at the police court, and
now here. Repeated, laboriously taken down, and repeated again. And
now it was worse than ever, for the judge insisted on making a note
of everything, and wrote it down slowly, a word at a time. The
witnesses were like barrel-organs, producing the same old tune
mechanically, without changing a note. There was the policeman who
was in Meakin Street at twelve-thirty on the morning of the fourth
of the month, when he heard cries of Murder, and proceeded to the
coffee-shop. There was the other policeman who also 'proceeded'
there, and recognised the prisoner, whom he knew, at the
first-floor window. And there was the sergeant who had found him in
the cellar, and the doctor who had made an examination, and the
knife, and the boots, and all of it. It was Murder, Murder, Murder
still. Why? Wasn't it plain enough? He felt some interest in what
was coming—in the sentence, and the black cap, and so
on—never having seen a murder trial before. But all this
repetition oppressed him vaguely amid the innumerable things he had
to think of, one thing leading to another.
Hannah and Dicky were there, sitting together behind the glass
partition that rose at the side of the dock. Hannah's face was down
in her hands, and Dicky's face was thin and white, and he sat with
his neck stretched, his lips apart, his head aside to catch the
smallest word. His eyes, too, were red with strained, unwinking
attention. Josh felt vaguely that they might keep a bolder face, as
he did himself. His sprained foot was still far from well, but he
stood up, putting his weight on the other. He might have been
allowed to sit if he had asked, but that would look like
There was another judge this time, an older one, with
spectacles. He had come solemnly in, after lunch, with a bunch of
flowers in his hand, and Josh thought he made an odd figure in his
long red gown. Why did he sit at the end of the bench, instead of
in the middle, under the long sword? Perhaps the old gentleman, who
sat there for a little while and then went away, was the Lord
Mayor. That would account for it. There was another room behind the
bedroom at Weech's, which he had never thought about. Perhaps the
money was there, after all. Could they have missed any hiding place
in the shop parlour? No: there was the round table, with the four
chairs about it, and the little sideboard; besides the texts on the
wall, and two china figures on the mantel-piece—that was all.
There was a copper in the wash-house, but there was nothing in it.
The garret was a very good place to keep things in; but there was a
strong smell of stale pickles. He could smell it now—he had
smelt it ever since.
The judge stopped a witness to speak of a draught from a window.
Josh Perrott watched the shutting of the window—they did it
with a cord. He had not noticed a draught himself. But pigeons were
flying outside the panes and resting on the chimney-stacks. Pud
Palmer tried to keep pigeons in Jago Row, but one morning the trap
was found empty. A poulterer gave fourpence each for them. They
were ticketed at eighteenpence a pair in the shop, and that was
fivepence profit apiece for the poulterer. Tenpence a pair profit
on eleven pairs was nearly ten shillings—ten shillings all
but tenpence. They wouldn't have given any more in Club Row. A man
had a four-legged linnet in Club Row, but there was a show in
Bethnal Green Road with a two-headed sheep. It was outside there
that Ginger Stagg was pinched for lob-crawling. And so on, and so
on, till his head buzzed again.
His counsel was saying something. How long had he been talking?
What was the good of it? He had told him that he had no defence.
The lawyer was enlarging on the dead man's iniquities, talking of
provocation, and the heat of passion, and the like. He was aiming
desperately at a recommendation to mercy. That was mere
But presently the judge began to sum up. They were coming to
something at last. But it was merely the thrice-told evidence once
more. The judge blinked at his notes, and went at it again; the
policeman with his whistle, and the other with his lantern, and the
doctor, and the sergeant, and the rest. It was shorter this time,
though. Josh Perrott turned and looked at the clock behind him,
with the faces over it, peering from the gallery. But when he
turned to face the judge again he had forgotten the time, and
crowded trivialities were racing through the narrow gates of his
brain once more.
There was a cry for silence, and then a fresh voice spoke.
'Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon your verdict?'
'We have.' The foreman was an agitated, colourless man, and he
spoke in a low tone.
'Do you find the prisoner at the bar guilty, or not guilty?'
Yes, that was right; this was the real business. His head was
clear and ready now.
'And is that the verdict of you all?'
Was that Hannah sobbing?
A pale parson in his black gown came walking along by the bench,
and stood like a tall ghost at the judge's side, his eyes raised
and his hands clasped. The judge took a black thing from the seat
beside him, and arranged it on his head. It was a sort of soft
mortarboard, Josh noted curiously, with a large silk tassel hanging
over one side, giving the judge, with his wig and his spectacles
and his red gown, a horribly jaunty look. No brain could be clearer
than Josh Perrott's now.
'Prisoner at the bar, have you anything to say why sentence of
death should not be passed on you according to law?'
'No sir—I done it. On'y 'e was a worse man than me!'
The Clerk of Arraigns sank into his place, and the judge
'Joshua Perrott, you have been convicted, on evidence that can
leave no doubt whatever of your guilt in the mind of any rational
person, of the horrible crime of wilful murder. The circumstances
of your awful offence there is no need to recapitulate, but they
were of the most brutal and shocking character. You deliberately,
and with preparation, broke into the house of the man whose death
you have shortly to answer for in a higher court than this: whether
you broke in with a design of robbery as well as of revenge by
murder I know not, nor is it my duty to consider: but you there,
with every circumstance of callous ferocity, sent the wretched man
to that last account which you must shortly render for yourself. Of
the ill-spent life of that miserable man, your victim, it is not
for me to speak, nor for you to think. And I do most earnestly
beseech you to use the short time yet remaining to you on this
earth in true repentance, and in making your peace with Almighty
God. It is my duty to pronounce sentence of that punishment which
not I, but the law of this country, imposes for the crime which you
have committed. The sentence of the Court is: that you be taken to
the place whence you came, and thence to a place of execution: and
that you be there Hanged by the Neck till you be Dead: and may the
Lord have Mercy on your Soul!'
'Amen!' It was from the tall black figure.
Well, well, that was over. The gaoler touched his arm. Right.
But first he took a quick glance through the glass partition.
Hannah was falling over, or something,—a mere rusty swaying
bundle,—and Dicky was holding her up with both arms. Dicky's
face was damp and grey, and twitching lines were in his cheeks.
Josh took a step toward the partition, but they hurried him
All this hard thinking would be over in half an hour or so. What
was to come now didn't matter; no more than a mere punch in the
eye. The worst was over on Saturday, and he had got through that
all right. Hannah was very bad, and so was Dicky. Em cried in a
bewildered sort of way, because the others did. Little Josh,
conceiving that his father was somehow causing all the tears,
kicked and swore at him. He tried to get Hannah to smile at this,
but it was no go; and they had to carry her out at last. Dicky was
well-plucked though, bad as he was. He felt him shake and choke
when he kissed him, but he walked out straight and steady, with the
two children. Well, it was over....
He hoped they would get up a break in the Jago for Hannah and
the youngsters. His own break had never come off—they owed
him one. The last break he was at was at Mother Gapp's, before the
Dove-Laners fell through the floor. It must have cost Mother Gapp a
deal of money to put in the new floor; but then she must have made
a lot in her time, what with one thing and another. There was the
fencing, and the houses she had bought in Honey Lane, and the two
fourpenny doss-houses in Hoxton that they said were hers,
and—well, nobody could say what else. Some said she came of
the gipsies that used to live at the Mount years ago. The Mount was
a pretty thick place now, but not so thick as the Jago: the Jagos
were thick as glue and wide as Broad Street. Bob the Bender fell in
Broad Street, toy-getting, and got a stretch and a half....
Yes, yes, of course, they always tolled a bell. But it was
rather confusing, with things to think about.
Ah, they had come at last. Come, there was nothing more to think
about now; nothing but to take it game. Hold tight—Jago hold
tight.... 'No thank you, sir—nothing to say, special. On'y
much obliged to ye, thank ye kindly, for the grub an'—an'
bein' kind an' wot not. Thanks all of ye, come to that. Specially
you, sir.' It was the tall black figure again....
What, this was the chap, was it? Seedy-looking. Sort of
undertaker's man to look at. All right—straps. Not cords to
tie, then. Waist; wrists; elbows; more straps dangling
below—do them presently. This was how they did it, then....
'I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that
believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and
whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.'
A very big gate, this, all iron, painted white. Round to the
right. Not very far, they told him. It was dark in the passage, but
the door led into the yard, where it was light and open, and
sparrows were twittering. Another door: in a shed.
This was the place. All white, everywhere—frame too; not
black after all. Up the steps.... Hold tight: not much longer.
Stand there? Very well.
'Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and
is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower: he
fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
'In the midst of life....'
It was but a little crowd that stood at the Old Bailey corner
while the bell tolled, to watch for the black flag. This was not a
popular murder. Josh Perrott was not a man who had been bred to
better things; he did not snivel and rant in the dock; and he had
not butchered his wife nor his child, nor anybody with a claim on
his gratitude or affection; so that nobody sympathised with him,
nor got up a petition for pardon, nor wrote tearful letters to the
newspapers. And the crowd that watched for the black flag was a
small one, and half of it came from the Jago.
While it was watching, and while the bell was tolling, a knot of
people stood at the Perrotts' front-doorway, in Old Jago Street.
Father Sturt went across as soon as the sleepers of the night had
been seen away from the shelter, and spoke to Kiddo Cook, who stood
at the stair-foot to drive off intruders.
'They say she's been settin' up all night, Father,' Kiddo
reported, in a hushed voice. 'An' Poll's jest looked in at the
winder from Walsh's, and says she can see 'em all kneelin' round a
chair with that little clock o' theirs on it. It's—it's
more'n 'alf an hour yut.'
'I shall come here myself presently, and relieve you. Can you
wait? You mustn't neglect trade, you know.'
'I'll wait all day, Father, if ye like. Nobody sha'n't disturb
When Father Sturt returned from his errand, 'Have you heard
anything?' he asked.
'No, Father,' answered Kiddo Cook. 'They ain't moved.'
There were two faint notes from a distant steeple, and then the
bell of St Leonards beat out the inexorable hour.
Kiddo Cook prospered. The stall was a present fact, and the
awning was not far off; indeed, he was vigilantly in search of a
second-hand one, not too much worn. But with all his affluence he
was not often drunk. Nothing could be better than his
pitch—right out in the High Street, in the busiest part, and
hard by the London and County branch bank. They called it Kiddo's
Bank in the Jago, and made jokes about alleged deposits of his. If
you bought a penn'orth of greens from Kiddo, said facetious Jagos,
he didn't condescend to take the money himself; he gave you a slip
of paper, and you paid at the bank. And Kiddo had indulged in a
stroke of magnificence that no other Jago would have thought of. He
had taken two rooms, in the new County Council dwellings.
The secret was that Father Sturt had agreed to marry Kiddo Cook and
Pigeony Poll. There would be plenty for both to do, what with the
stall and the regular round with the barrow.
The wedding-day came when Hannah Perrott had been one week a
widow. For a few days Father Sturt had left her alone, and had
guarded her privacy. Then, seeing that she gave no sign, he went
with what quiet comfort he might, and bespoke her attention to her
concerns. He invented some charing work in his rooms for her. She
did it very badly, and if he left her long alone, she would be
found on the floor, with her face in a chair-seat, crying weakly.
But the work was something for her to do and to think about, and by
dint of bustling it and magnifying its importance, Father Sturt
brought her to some degree of mindfulness and calm.
Dicky walked that morning in a sort of numb, embittered fury.
What should he do now? His devilmost. Spare nobody and stop at
nothing. Old Beveridge was right that morning years ago. The Jago
had got him, and it held him fast. Now he went doubly sealed of the
outcasts: a Jago with a hanged father. Father Sturt talked of work,
but who would give him work? And why do it, in any case?
What came of it before? No, he was a Jago and the world's enemy;
Father Sturt was the only good man in it; as for the rest, he would
spoil them when he could. There was something for to-morrow night,
if only he could get calmed down enough by then. A builder's yard
in Kingsland with an office in a loft, and money in a common desk.
Tommy Rann had found it, and they must do it together; if only he
could get this odd numbness off him, and have his head clear. So
much crying, perhaps, and so much trying not to, till his head was
like to burst. Deep-eyed and pale, he dragged round into Edge Lane,
and so into New Jago Street.
Jerry Gullen's canary was harnessed to the barrow, and Jerry
himself was piling the barrow with rags and bottles. Dicky stood
and looked; he thought he would rub Canary's head, but then he
changed his mind, and did not move. Jerry Gullen glanced at him
furtively once or twice, and then said: 'Good ole moke for wear,
'Yus,' Dicky answered moodily, his talk half random. ''E'll peg
out soon now.'
''Im? Not 'im. Wy, I bet 'e'll live longer'n you will. 'E
ain't goin' to die.'
'I think 'e'd like to,' said Dicky, and slouched on.
Yes, Canary would be better off, dead. So would others. It would
be a comfortable thing for himself if he could die quietly then and
there. But it would never do for mother and the children to be left
helpless. How good for them all to go off easily together, and wake
in some pleasant place, say a place like Father Sturt's
sitting-room, and perhaps find—but there, what
What was this unendurable stupor that clung about him like a
net? He knew everything clearly enough, but it was all in an
atmosphere of dull heedlessness. There would be some relief in
doing something violent—in smashing something to little
pieces with a hammer.
He came to the ruined houses. There was a tumult of yells, and a
crowd of thirty or forty lads went streaming across the open waste,
'Come on! come on, Jago! 'Ere they are!'
A fight! Ah, what more welcome! And Dove Lane, too—Dove
Lane, that had taken to bawling the taunt, 'Jago cut-throats,'
He was in the thick of the raid. 'Come on, Jago! Jago! 'Ere they
are!' Past the Board School and through Honey Lane they went, and
into Dove Lane territory. A small crowd of Dove-Laners broke and
fled. Straight ahead the Jagos went, till they were suddenly taken
in flank at a turning by a full Dove Lane mob. The Jagos were
broken by the rush, but they fought stoutly, and the street was
filled with a surge of combat.
'Jago! Jago hold tight!'
Thin, wasted and shaken, Dicky fought like a tiger. He had no
stick till he floored a Dove-Laner and took his from him, but then
he bludgeoned apace, callous to every blow, till he fought through
the thick, and burst out at the edge of the fray. He pulled his cap
tight, and swung back, almost knocking over, but disregarding, a
leather-aproned, furtive hunchback, who turned and came at his
'Jago! Jago hold tight!' yelled Dicky Perrott. 'Come on, Father
He was down. Just a punch under the arm from behind. As he
rolled, face under, he caught a single glimpse of the hunchback,
running. But what was this—all this?
A shout went up. 'Stabbed! Chived! They chived Dicky
The fight melted. Somebody turned Dicky on his back, and he
moaned, and lay gasping. He lifted his dabbled hands, and looked at
them, wondering. They tried to lift him, but the blood poured so
fast that they put him down. Somebody had gone for a surgeon.
'Take me 'ome,' said Dicky, faintly, with an odd gurgle in his
voice. 'Not 'awspital.'
The surgeon came running, with policemen at his heels. He ripped
away the clothes from about the wound, and shook his head. It was
the lung. Water was brought, and cloths, and an old door. They put
Dicky on the door, and carried him toward the surgery; and two lads
who stayed by him were sent to bring his friends.
The bride and bridegroom, meeting the news on the way home, set
off at a run, and Father Sturt followed.
'Good Gawd, Dicky,' cried Poll, tearing her way to the shutter
as it stopped at the surgery door, 'wot's this?'
Dicky's eye fell on the flowered bonnet that graced the wedding,
and his lip lifted with the shade of a smile. 'Luck, Pidge!'
He was laid out in the surgery. A crowd stood about the door,
while Father Sturt went in. The vicar lifted his eyebrows
questioningly, and the surgeon shook his head. It was a matter of
Father Sturt bent over and took Dicky's hand. 'My poor Dicky,'
he said, 'who did this?'
The lie—the staunch Jago lie. Thou shalt not nark.
'Fetch mother an' the kids. Fa'er!'
'Yes, my boy?'
'Tell Mist' Beveridge there's 'nother way out—better.'