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Jonah
by
Louis Stone




CONTENTS



PART 1


LARRIKINS ALL

1   SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE CORNER
2   JONAH EATS GREEN PEAS
3   CARDIGAN STREET AT HOME
4   JONAH DISCOVERS THE BABY
5   THE PUSH DEALS IT OUT
6   THE BABY DISCOVERS JONAH
7   A QUIET WEDDING
8   JONAH STARTS ON HIS OWN
9   PADDY'S MARKET
10  JONAH DECLARES WAR
11  THE COURTING OF PINKEY


PART 2


THE SIGN OF THE "SILVER SHOE"

12  THE SIGN OF THE "SILVER SHOE"
13  A FAMILY IN EXILE
14  ADA MAKES A FRIEND
15  Mrs PARTRIDGE LENDS A HAND
16  A DEATH IN THE FAMILY
17  THE TWO-UP SCHOOL
18  THE "ANGEL" LOSES A CUSTOMER
19  THE PIPES OF PAN
20  Mrs PARTRIDGE MINDS THE SHOP
21  DAD WEEPS ON A TOMBSTONE
22  A FATAL ACCIDENT





PART 1





LARRIKINS ALL




CHAPTER 1



SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE CORNER


One side of the street glittered like a brilliant eruption with the light
from a row of shops; the other, lined with houses, was almost deserted,
for the people, drawn like moths by the glare, crowded and jostled
under the lights.

It was Saturday night, and Waterloo, by immemorial habit, had flung itself
on the shops, bent on plunder.  For an hour past a stream of people had
flowed from the back streets into Botany Road, where the shops stood
in shining rows, awaiting the conflict.

The butcher's caught the eye with a flare of colour as the light played
on the pink and white flesh of sheep, gutted and skewered like victims
for sacrifice; the saffron and red quarters of beef, hanging like the
limbs of a dismembered Colossus; and the carcasses of pigs, the unclean
beast of the Jews, pallid as a corpse.  The butchers passed in and out,
sweating  and greasy, hoarsely crying the prices as they cut and hacked
the meat.  The people crowded about, sniffing the odour of dead flesh,
hungry and brutal--carnivora seeking their prey.

At the grocer's the light was reflected from the gay labels on tins
and packages and bottles, and the air was heavy with the confused odour
of tea, coffee and spices.

Cabbages, piled in heaps against the door-posts of the greengrocer's,
threw a rank smell of vegetables on the air; the fruit within, built
in pyramids for display, filled the nostrils with the fragrant, wholesome
scents of the orchard.

The buyers surged against the barricade of counters, shouting their
orders, contesting the ground inch by inch as they fought for the value
of a penny.  And they emerged staggering under the weight of their
plunder, laden like ants with food for hungry mouths--the insatiable maw
of the people.

The push was gathered under the veranda at the corner of Cardigan Street,
smoking cigarettes and discussing the weightier matters of life--horses
and women.  They were all young--from eighteen to twenty-five--for the
larrikin never grows old.  They leaned against the veranda posts, or
squatted below the windows of the shop, which had been to let for months.

Here they met nightly, as men meet at their club--a terror to the
neighbourhood.  Their chief diversion was to guy the pedestrians, leaping
from insult to swift retaliation if one resented their foul comments.

"Garn!" one was saying, "I tell yer some 'orses know more'n a man.  I
remember old Joe Riley goin' inter the stable one day to a brown mare as
'ad a derry on 'im 'cause 'e flogged 'er crool.  Well, wot does she do?
She squeezes 'im up agin the side o' the stable, an' nearly stiffens 'im
afore 'e cud git out.  My oath, she did!"

"That's nuthin' ter wot a mare as was runnin' leader in Daly's 'bus used
ter do," began another, stirred by that rivalry which makes talkers
magnify and invent to cap a story; but he stopped suddenly as two girls
approached.

One was short and fat, a nugget, with square, sullen features; the other,
thin as a rake, with a mass of red hair that fell to her waist in
a thick coil.

"'Ello, Ada, w'ere you goin'?" he inquired, with a facetious grin.
"Cum 'ere, I want ter talk ter yer."

The fat girl stopped and laughed.

"Can't--I'm in a 'urry," she replied.

"Well, kin I cum wid yer?" he asked, with another grin.

"Not wi' that face, Chook," she answered, laughing.

"None o' yer lip, now, or I'll tell Jonah wot yer were doin' last night,"
said Chook.

"W'ere is Joe?" asked the girl, suddenly serious.  "Tell 'im I want
ter see 'im."

"Gone ter buy a smoke; 'e'll be back in a minit."

"Right-oh, tell 'im wot I said," replied Ada, moving away.

"'Ere, 'old 'ard, ain't yer goin' ter interdooce yer cobber?" cried Chook,
staring at the red-headed girl.

"An' 'er ginger 'air was scorchin' all 'er back," he sang in parody,
suddenly cutting a caper and snapping his fingers.

 The girl's white skin flushed pink with anger, her eyes sparkled
 with hate.

"Ugly swine!   I'll smack yer jaw, if yer talk ter me," she cried.

"Blimey, 'ot stuff, ain't it?" inquired Chook.

"Cum on, Pinkey.  Never mind 'im," cried Ada, moving off.

"Yah, go 'ome an' wash yer neck!" shouted Chook, with sudden venom.

The red-headed girl stood silent, searching her mind for a stinging retort.

"Yer'd catch yer death o' cold if yer washed yer own," she cried; and the
two passed out of sight, tittering.  Chook turned to his mates.

"She kin give it lip, can't she?" said he, in admiration.

A moment later the leader of the Push crossed the street, and took
his place in silence under the veranda.  A first glance surprised the eye,
for he was a hunchback, with the uncanny look of the deformed--the head,
large and powerful, wedged between the shoulders as if a giant's hand
had pressed it down, the hump projecting behind, monstrous and inhuman.
His face held you with a pair of restless grey eyes, the colour and temper
of steel, deep with malicious intelligence.  His nose was large and thin,
curved like the beak of an eagle.  Chook, whose acquaintance he had made
years ago when selling newspapers, was his mate.  Both carried nicknames,
corrupted from Jones and Fowles, with the rude wit of the streets.

"Ada's lookin' fer yous, Jonah," said Chook.

"Yer don't say so?" replied the hunchback, raising his leg to strike
 a match.  "Was Pinkey with 'er?" he added.

"D'ye mean a little moll wi' ginger hair?" asked Chook.

Jonah nodded.

"My oath, she was!   Gi' me a knockout in one act," said Chook; and the
others laughed.

"Ginger fer pluck!" cried someone.

And they began to argue whether you could tell a woman's character from
the colour of her hair; whether red-haired women were more deceitful
than others.

Suddenly, up the road, appeared a detachment of the Salvation Army,
stepping in time to the muffled beat of a drum.  The procession halted
at the street corner, stepped out of the way of traffic, and formed
a circle.  The Push moved to the kerbstone, and, with a derisive grin,
awaited the performance.

The wavering flame of the kerosene torches, topped with thick smoke,
shone yellow against the whiter light of the gas-jets in the shops.
The men, in red jerseys and flat caps, held the poles of the torches in
rest.  When a gust of air blew the thick black smoke into their eyes, they
patiently turned their heads.  The sisters, conscious of the public gaze,
stood with downcast eyes, their faces framed in grotesque poke-bonnets.

The Captain, a man of fifty, with the knotty, misshapen hands of a
workman, stepped into the centre of the ring, took off his cap, and began
to speak.

"Oh friends, we 'ave met 'ere again tonight to  inquire after the safety
of yer everlastin' souls.  Yer pass by, thinkin' only of yer idle
pleasures, w'en at any moment yer might be called to judgment by
'Im Who made us all equal in 'Is eyes.  Yer pass by without 'earin'
the sweet voice of Jesus callin' on yer to be saved this very minit.
For 'E is callin' yer to come an' be saved an' find salvation, as 'E
called me many years ago.  I was then like yerselves, full of wickedness,
an gloryin' in sin.  But I 'eard the voice of 'Im Who died on the Cross,
an' saw I was rushin' 'eadlong to 'ell.  An' 'Is blood washed all my sins
away, an' made me whiter than snow.  Whiter than snow, friends--whiter
than snow!   An' 'E'll do the same fer you if yer will only come an' be
saved.  Oh, can't yer 'ear the voice of Jesus callin' to yer to come an'
live with 'Im in 'Is blessed mansions in the sky?  Oh, come tonight an'
find salvation!"

His arms were outstretched in a passionate gesture of appeal, his rough
voice vibrated with emotion, the common face flamed with the ecstasy of
the fanatic.  When he stopped for breath or wiped the sweat from his face,
the Army spurred him on with cries of "Hallelujah!   Amen!" as one pokes
a dying fire.

The Lieutenant, who was the comedian of the company, met with a grin of
approval as he faced the ring of torches like an actor facing the
footlights, posing before the crowd that had gathered, flashing his vulgar
conceit in the public eye.  And he praised God in a song and dance,
fitting his words to the latest craze of the music-hall: 

"Oh! won't you come and join us?
Jesus leads the throng,"

snapping his fingers, grimacing, cutting capers that would have delighted
the gallery of a theatre.

"Encore!" yelled the Push as he danced himself to a standstill,
hot and breathless.

The rank and file came forward to testify.  The men stammered in
confusion, terrified by the noise they made, shrinking from the crowd as
a timid bather shrinks from icy water, driven to this performance by an
unseen power.  But the women were shrill and self-possessed, scolding
their hearers, demanding an instant surrender to the Army, whose
advantages they pointed out with a glib fluency as if it were a
Benefit Lodge.

Then the men knelt in the dust, the women covered their faces, and the
Captain began to pray.  His voice rose in shrill entreaty, mixed with the
cries of the shopmen and the noise of the streets.

The spectators, familiar with the sight, listened in nonchalance, stopping
to watch the group for a minute as they would look into a shop window.
The exhibition stirred no religious feeling in them, for their minds,
with the tenacity of childhood, associated religion with churches,
parsons and hymn-books.

The Push grew restless, divided between a desire to upset the meeting
and fear of the police.

"Well I used ter think a funeral was slow," remarked Chook, losing
patience, and he stepped behind Jonah.

"'Ere, look out!" yelled Jonah the next minute, as, with a push from
Chook, he collided violently with one of the soldiers and fell into the
centre of the ring.

"'E shoved me," cried Jonah as he got up, pointing with an injured air
 to the grinning Chook.  "I'll gi' yer a kick in the neck, if yer git me
 lumbered," he added, scowling with counterfeit anger at his mate.

"If yer was my son," said the Captain severely--"If yer was my son..."
he repeated, halting for words.

"I should 'ave trotters as big as yer own," cried Jonah, pointing to the
man's feet, cased in enormous bluchers.  The Push yelled with derision
as Jonah edged out of the circle ready for flight.

The Captain flushed angrily, and then his face cleared.

"Well, friends," he cried, "God gave me big feet to tramp the streets and
preach the Gospel to my fellow men." And the interrupted service went on.

Jonah, who carried the brains of the Push, devised a fresh attack,
involving Chook, a broken bottle, and the big drum.

"It'll cut it like butter," he was explaining, when suddenly there was
a cry of "Nit!  'Ere's a cop!" and the Push bolted like rabbits.

Jonah and Chook alone stood their ground, with reluctant valour, for the
policeman was already beside them.  Chook shoved the broken bottle into
his pocket, and listened with unusual interest to the last hymn of the
Army.  Jonah, with one eye on the policeman, looked worried, as if he were
struggling with a desire to join the Army and lead a pure life.
The policeman looked hard at them and turned away.

The pair were making a strategic movement to the rear, when the two girls
who had exchanged shots  with Chook at the corner passed them.  The fat
girl tapped Jonah on the back.  He turned with a start.

"Nit yer larks!" he cried.  "I thought it was the cop."

"Cum 'ere, Joe; I want yer," said the girl.

"Wot's up now?" he cried, following her along the street.

They stood in earnest talk for some minutes, while Chook complimented
the red-headed girl on her wit.

"Yer knocked me sky-'igh," he confessed, with a leer.

"Did I?"

"Yer did.  Gi' me one straight on the point," he admitted.

"Yous keep a civil tongue in yer head," she cried, and the curious pink
flush spread over her white skin.

"Orl right, wot are yer narked about?" inquired Chook.

He noticed, with surprise, that she was pretty, with small regular
features; her eyes quick and bright, like a bird's.  Under the gaslight
her hair was the colour of a new penny.

"W'y, I don't believe yer 'air is red," said Chook, coming nearer.

"Now then, keep yer 'ands to yerself," cried the girl, giving him a
vigorous push.  Before he could repeat his attack, she walked away to
join Ada, who hailed her shrilly.

Jonah rejoined his mate in gloomy silence.  The Push had scattered--some
to the two-up school, some  to the dance-room.  The butcher's flare of
lights shone with a desolate air on piles of bones and scraps of meat--the
debris of battle.  The greengrocer's was stripped bare to the shelves,
as if an army of locusts had marched through with ravenous tooth.

"Comin' down the street?" asked Chook, feeling absently in his pockets.

"No," said Jonah.

"W'y, wot's up now?" inquired Chook in surprise.

"Oh, nuthin'; but I'm goin' ter sleep at Ada's tonight," replied Jonah,
staring at the shops.

"'Strewth!" cried Chook, looking at him in wonder.  "Wot's the game now?"

"Oh! the old woman wants me ter put in the night there.  Says some blokes
'ave bin after 'er fowls," replied Jonah, hesitating like a boy inventing
an excuse.

"Fowls!" cried Chook, with infinite scorn.  "Wants yer to nuss the
bloomin' kid."

"My oath, she don't," replied Jonah, with great heartiness.

"Well, gimme a smoke," said Chook, feeling again in his pockets.

Jonah took out a packet of cigarettes, counted how many were left,
and gave him one.

"Kin yer spare it?" asked Chook, derisively.  "Lucky I've only got
one mouth."

"Mouth?  More like a hole in a wall," grinned Jonah.

"Well, so long.  See yer to-morrer," said Chook, moving off.  "Ere,
gimme a match," he added.

"Better tell yer old woman I'm sleepin' out," said Jonah 

 He was boarding with Chook's family, paying what he could spare out of
 fifteen shillings or a pound a week.

"Oh, I don't suppose you'll be missed," replied Chook graciously.

"Rye buck!" cried Jonah.




CHAPTER 2



JONAH EATS GREEN PEAS


Eighteen months past, Jonah had met Ada, who worked at Packard's boot
factory, at a dance.  Struck by her skill in dancing, he courted her in
the larrikin fashion.  At night he stood in front of the house, and
whistled till she came out.  Then they went to the park, where they
sprawled on the grass in obscure corners.

At intervals the quick spurt of a match lit up their faces, followed by
the red glow of Jonah's everlasting cigarette.  Their talk ran incessantly
on their acquaintances, whose sayings and doings they discussed with
monotonous detail.  If it rained, they stood under a veranda in the
conventional attitude--Jonah leaning against the wall, Ada standing in
front of him.  The etiquette of Cardigan Street considered any other
position scandalous.

On Saturday night they went to Bob Fenner's dance-room, or strolled down
to Paddy's Market.  When Jonah was flush, he took her to the "Tiv.",
where they sat in the gallery, packed like sardines.  If it were hot,
Jonah sat in his shirtsleeves, and went out for a drink at the
intermission.  When they reached home, they stood in the lane bordering
the cottage where Ada lived, and talked for an hour in the dim light of
the lamp opposite, before she went in.

Sometimes, in a gay humour, she knocked off Jonah's hat, and he retaliated
with a punch in the ribs.  Then a scuffle followed, with slaps, blows
and stifled yells, till Ada's mother, awakened by the noise, knocked on
the wall with her slipper.  And this was their romance of love.

Mrs Yabsley was a widow; for Ada's father, scorning old age, had preferred
to die of drink in his prime.  The publicans lost a good customer, but his
widow found life easier.

"Talk about payin' ter see men swaller knives an' swords!" she exclaimed.
"My old man could swaller tables an' chairs faster than I could buy 'em."

So she opened a laundry, and washed and ironed for the neighbourhood.
Cardigan Street was proud of her.  Her eyes twinkled in a big, humorous
face; her arm was like a leg of mutton; the floors creaked beneath her
as she walked.  She laughed as a bull roars; her face turned purple;
she fought for air; the veins rose like cords on her forehead.  She was
pointed out to strangers like a public building as she sat on her veranda,
gossiping with the neighbours in a voice that shook the windows.  There
was no tongue like hers within a mile.  Her sayings were quoted like the
newspaper.  Draymen laughed at her jokes.

Yet the women took their secret troubles to her.  For this unwieldy
jester, with the jolly red face and rough tongue, could touch the heart
with a word,  when she was in the humour.  Then she spoke so wisely and
kindly that the tears gathered in stubborn eyes, and the poor fools went
home comforted.

Ever since her daughter was a child she had speculated on her marriage.
There was to be no nonsense about love.  That was all very well in
novelettes, but in Cardigan Street love-matches were a failure.  Generally
the first few months saw the divine spark drowned in beer.  She would pick
a steady man with his two pounds a week; he would jump at the chance,
and the whole street would turn out to the wedding.  But, as is common,
her far-seeing eyes had neglected the things that lay under her nose.
Ada, in open revolt, had chosen Jonah the larrikin, a hunchback, crafty
as the devil and monstrous to the sight.  In six months the inevitable
had happened.

She was dismayed, but unshaken, and set to work to repair the damage with
the craft and strategy of an old general.  She made no fuss when the child
was born, and Jonah, who meditated flight, in fear of maintenance, was
assured he had nothing to worry about.  Mrs Yabsley had a brief interview
with him at the street corner.

"As fer puttin' yous inter court, I'll wait till y'earn enough ter keep
yerself, an' Gawd knows w'en that'll 'appen," she remarked pleasantly.

As she spoke she earnestly considered the large head, wedged between the
shoulders as if a giant's hand had pressed it down, the masterful nose,
the keen grey eyes, and the cynical lips; and in that moment determined
to make him Ada's husband.  Yet he was the last man she would have chosen
for a son-in-law.  A loafer and a vagabond, he spoke of marriage with
a grin.  Half his time was spent under the veranda at the corner with
the Push.  He worked at his trade by fits and starts, earning enough to
keep himself in cigarettes.

That was six months ago, and Ada had returned to the factory, where her
disaster created no stir.  Such accidents were common.  Mrs Yabsley reared
the child as she had reared her daughter, in a box-cradle near the
wash-tub or ironing-board, for Ada proved an indifferent mother.

Then, with a sudden change of front, she encouraged Jonah's intimacy with
Ada.  She invited him to the house, which he avoided with an animal craft
and suspicion, meeting Ada in the streets.  It was her scheme to get him
to live in the house; the rest, she thought, would be easy.  But Jonah
feared dimly that if he ventured inside the house he would bring himself
under the law.  So he grinned, and kept his distance, like an animal
that fears a trap.

But at last, his resistance worn to a thread by constant coaxing, he had
agreed to spend the night there on account of the fowls.  He was
interested in these, for one pair was his gift to Ada, the fruit of some
midnight raid.

Jonah stood alone at the corner watching the crowd.  Chook's reference
to the baby had shaken his resolution, and he decided to think it over.
And as he watched the moving procession with the pleasure of a spectator
at the play, he thought uneasily of women and marriage.  As he nodded from
time to time to an acquaintance, a young man passed him carrying a child
in his arms.  His wife, a slip of a  girl, loaded with bundles, gave Jonah
a quick look of fear and scorn.  The man stared Jonah full in the face
without a sign of recognition, and bent his head over the child with a
caressing movement.  Jonah noted the look of humble pride in his eyes,
and marvelled.  Twelve months ago he was Jonah's rival in the Push,
famous for his strength and audacity, and now butter wouldn't melt in his
mouth.  Jonah called to mind other cases, with a sudden fear in his heart
at this mysterious ceremony before a parson that affected men like a
disease, robbing them of all a man desired, and leaving them contented and
happy.  He turned into Cardigan Street with the air of a man who is
putting his neck in the noose, resolving secretly to cut and run at the
least hint of danger.

As he walked slowly up the street he became aware of a commotion at the
corner of George Street.  He saw that a crowd had gathered, and quickened
his pace, for a crowd in Cardigan Street generally meant a fight.  Jonah
elbowed his way through the ring, and found a young policeman, new to this
beat, struggling with an undersized man with the face of a ferret.
Jonah's first thought was to effect a rescue, as his practised eye took in
the details of the scene.  Let them get away from the light of the street
lamp, and with a sudden rush the thing would be done.  He looked round for
the Push and remembered that they were scattered.  Then he saw that the
captive was a stranger, and decided to look on quietly and note the
policeman's methods for future use.

On finding that he was overmatched in strength, the prisoner had dropped
to the ground, and, with silent, cat-like movements baulked the
policeman's efforts.  As Jonah looked on, the constable straightened his
back, wiped the sweat from his face, and then, suddenly desperate, called
on the nearest to help him.  The men slipped behind the women, who laughed
in his face.  It was his first arrest, and he looked in astonishment at
the grinning, hostile faces, too nervous to use his strength, harassed by
the hatred of the people.

"Take 'im yerself; do yer own dirty work."

"Wot's the poor bloke done?"

"Nuthin', yer may be sure."

"These Johns run a man in, an' swear his life away ter git a stripe
on their sleeve."

"They think they kin knock a man about as they like 'cause 'e's poor."

"They'd find plenty to do if they took the scoundrels that walk the
streets in a top 'at."

"It don't pay.  They know which side their bread's buttered, don't
yous fergit."

Chiefly by his own efforts the prisoner had become a disreputable wreck.
Hatless, with torn collar, his clothes covered with the dirt he was
rolling in, ten minutes' struggle with the policeman had transformed him
into a scarecrow.

"If there was any men about, they wouldn't see a decent young man turned
into a criminal under their very eyes," cried a virago, looking round
for a champion.

"If I was a man, I'd..."

She stopped as Sergeant Carmody arrived with a brisk air, and the crowd
fell back, silent before the official who knew every face in the ring.
In an instant the captive was lifted to his feet, his arms were twisted
behind his back till the sinews cracked, and the procession moved off to
the station.  When Jonah reached the cottage, he stood irresolute on the
other side of the street.  Already regretting his promise, he turned to
go, when Ada came to the door and saw him under the gas lamp.  He crossed
the street, trying to show by his walk that his presence was a mere
accident.

"Cum in," cried Ada.  "Mum won't eat yer."

Mrs Yabsley, who was ironing among a pile of shirts and collars,
looked up, with the iron in her hand.

"W'y, Joe, ye're quite a stranger!" she cried.  "Sit down an' make yerself
at 'ome."

"'Ow do, missus?" said Jonah, looking round nervously for the child,
but it was not visible.

"I knowed yer wouldn't let them take the old woman's fowls," she
continued.  "'Ere, Ada, go an' git a jug o' beer."

The room, which served for a laundry, was dimly lit with a candle.
The pile of white linen brought into relief the dirt and poverty of the
interior.  The walls were stained with grease and patches of dirt, added
slowly through the years as a face gathers wrinkles.  But Jonah saw
nothing of this.  He was used to dirt.

He sat down, and, with a sudden attack of politeness, decided to take off
his hat, but, uncertain of his footing, pushed it on the back of his head
as a compromise.  He lit a cigarette, and felt more at ease.

 A faint odour of scorching reached his nostrils as Mrs Yabsley passed
 the hot iron over the white fronts.  The small black iron ran swiftly
 over the clean surface, leaving a smooth, shining track behind it.  And
 he watched, with an idler's pleasure, the swift, mechanical movements.

When the beer came, Jonah gallantly offered it to Mrs Yabsley, whose face
was hot and red.

"Just leave a drop in the jug, an' I'll be thankful for it when I'm done,"
she replied, wiping her forehead on her sleeve.  Jonah had risen
in her esteem.

After some awkward attempts at conversation, Jonah relapsed into silence.
He was glad that he had brought his mouth-organ, won in a shilling raffle.
He would give them a tune later on.

When she had finished the last shirt, Mrs Yabsley looked at the clock
with an exclamation.  It was nearly ten.  She had to deliver the shirts,
and then buy the week's supplies.  For she did her shopping at the last
minute, in a panic.  It had been her mother's way--to dash into the
butcher's as he swept the last bones together, to hammer at the grocer's
door as he turned out the lights.  And she always forgot something which
she got on Sunday morning from the little shop at the corner.

As she was tying the shirts into bundles, she heard the tinkle of a bell
in the street, and a hoarse voice that cried: 

"Peas an' pies, all 'ot, all 'ot!"

"'Ow'd yer like some peas, Joe?" she cried, dropping the shirts and
seizing a basin.

"I wouldn't mind," said Jonah.

"'Ere, Ada, run an' git threepenn'orth," she cried.

In a minute Ada returned with the basin full of green peas, boiled
into a squashy mass.

Mrs Yabsley went out with the shirts, and Jonah and Ada sat down to the
peas, which they ate with keen relish, after sprinkling them with pepper
and vinegar.

After the green peas, Ada noticed that Jonah was looking furtively about
the room and listening, as if he expected to hear something.  She guessed
the cause, and decided to change his thoughts.

"Give us a tune, Joe," she cried.

Jonah took the mouth-organ from his pocket, and rubbed it carefully on his
sleeve.  He was a famous performer on this instrument, and on holiday
nights the Push marched through the streets, with Jonah in the lead,
playing tunes that he learned at the "Tiv".  He breathed slowly into the
tubes, running up and down the scale as a pianist runs his fingers over
the keyboard before playing, and then struck into a sentimental ballad.

In five minutes he had warmed up to his work, changing from one tune
to another with barely a pause, revelling in the simple rhythm and facile
phrases of the popular songs.  Ada listened spellbound, amazed by this
talent for music, carried back to the gallery of the music-hall where she
had heard these very tunes.  At last he struck into a waltz, marking
the time with his foot, drawing his breath in rapid jerks to accentuate
the bass.

"Must 'ave a turn, if I die fer it," cried Ada, springing to her feet,
and, with her arms extended to embrace an imaginary partner, she began
to spin round on her toes.  Ada's only talent lay in her feet, and,
conscious of her skill, she danced before the hunchback with the lightness
of a feather, revolving smoothly on one spot, reversing, advancing and
retreating in a straight line, displaying every intricacy of the waltz.
The sight was too much for Jonah, and, dropping the mouth-organ,
he seized her in his arms.

"Wot did yer stop for?" cried Ada.  "We carn't darnce without a tune."

"Carn't we?" said Jonah, in derision, and began to hum the words of the
waltz that he had been playing: 


White Wings, they never grow weary,
They carry me cheerily over the sea;
Night comes, I long for my dearie--
I'll spread out my White Wings and sail home to thee.


The pair had no equals in the true larrikin style, called "cass dancing",
and they revolved slowly on a space the size of a dinner-plate, Ada's head
on Jonah's breast, their bodies pressed together, rigid as the pasteboard
figures in a peep-show.  They were interrupted by a cry from Mrs Yabsley's
bedroom.  Jonah stopped instantly, with a look of dismay on his face.
Ada looked at him with a curious smile, and burst out laughing.

"I'll 'ave ter put 'im to sleep now.  Cum an' 'ave a look at 'im,
Joe--'e won't eat yer."

"No fear," cried Jonah, recoiling with anger.  "Wot did yer promise before
I agreed to come down?"

Chook's words flashed across his mind.  This was a trap, and he had been
a fool to come.

"I'll cum to-morrow, an' fix up the fowls," he cried, and grabbing his
mouth-organ, turned to go--to find his way blocked by Mrs Yabsley,
carrying a shoulder of mutton and a bag of groceries.




CHAPTER 3



CARDIGAN STREET AT HOME


Mrs Yabsley came to the door for a breath of fresh air, and surveyed
Cardigan Street with a loving eye.  She had lived there since her marriage
twenty years ago, and to her it was the pick of Sydney, the centre of the
habitable globe.  She gave her opinion to every newcomer in her tremendous
voice, that broke on their unaccustomed ears like thunder: 

"I've lived 'ere ever since I was a young married woman, an' I know wot
I'm talkin' about.  My 'usband used ter take me to the play before we was
married, but I never see any play equal ter wot 'appens in this street,
if yer only keeps yer eyes open.  I see people as wears spectacles readin'
books.  I don't wonder.  If their eyesight was good, they'd be able ter
see fer themselves instead of readin' about it in a book.  I can't read
myself, bein' no scholar, but I can see that books an' plays is fer them
as ain't got no eyes in their 'eads."

The street, which Mrs Yabsley loved, was a street of poor folk--people to
whom poverty clung like their shirt.  It tumbled over the ridge opposite
the church, fell rapidly for a hundred yards, and then, recovering its
balance, sauntered easily down the slope till it met Botany Road on level
ground.  It was a street of small houses and large families, and struck
the eye as mean and dingy, for most of the houses were standing on their
last legs, and paint was scarce.  The children used to kick and scrape
it off the fences, and their parents rub it off the walls by leaning
against them in a tired way for hours at a stretch.  On hot summer nights
the houses emptied their inhabitants on to the verandas and footpaths.
The children, swarming like rabbits, played in the middle of the road.
With clasped hands they formed a ring, and circled joyously to a song
of childland, the immemorial rhymes handed down from one generation
to another as savages preserve tribal rites.  The fresh, shrill voices
broke on the air, mingled with silvery peals of laughter.


What will you give to know her name,
Know her name, know her name?
What will you give to know her name,
On a cold and frosty morning?


Across the street comes a burst of coarse laughter, and a string of foul,
obscene words on the heels of a jest.  And again the childish trebles
would ring on the tainted air: 


Green gravel, green gravel,
Your true love is dead;
I send you a message
To turn round your head.


They are ragged and dirty, true children of the gutter, but Romance, with
the cloudy hair and starry eyes, holds them captive for a few merciful
years.  Their parents loll against the walls, or squat on  the kerbstone,
devouring with infinite relish petty scandals about their neighbours,
or shaking with laughter at some spicy yarn.

About ten o'clock the children are driven indoors with threats and blows,
and put to bed.  By eleven the street is quiet, and only gives a last
flicker of life when a drunken man comes swearing down the street, full of
beer, and offering to fight anyone for the pleasure of the thing.
By twelve the street is dead, and the tread of the policeman echoes with
a forlorn sound as if he were walking through a cemetery.

As Mrs Yabsley leaned over the gate, Mrs Swadling caught sight of her,
and, throwing her apron over her head, crossed the street, bent on gossip.
Then Mrs Jones, who had been watching her through the window, dropped
her mending and hurried out.

The three women stood and talked of the weather, talking for talking's
sake as men smoke a pipe in the intervals of work.  Presently Mrs Yabsley
looked hard at Mrs Swadling, who was shading her head from the sun
with her apron.

"Wot's the matter with yer eye?" she said, abruptly.

"Nuthin'," said Mrs Swadling, and coloured.

The eye she was shading was black from a recent blow, a present from her
husband, Sam the carter, who came home for his tea, fighting drunk,
as regular as clockwork.

"I thought I 'eard Sam snorin' after tea," said Mrs Jones.

"Yes, 'e was; but 'e woke up about twelve, an'  give me beans 'cause
I'd let 'im sleep till the pubs was shut."

"An' yer laid 'im out wi' the broom-handle, I s'pose?"

"No fear," said Mrs Swadling.  "I ran down the yard, an' 'ollered
blue murder."

"Well," said Mrs Yabsley, reflectively, "an 'usband is like the weather,
or a wart on yer nose.  It's no use quarrelling with it.  If yer don't
like it, yer've got ter lump it.  An' if yer believe all yer 'ear,
everybody else 'as got a worse."

She looked down the street, and saw Jonah and Chook, with a few others
of the Push, sunning themselves in the morning air.  Her face darkened.

"I see the Push 'ave got Jimmy Sinclair at last.  Only six months ago
'e went ter Sunday school reg'lar, an' butter wouldn't melt in 'is mouth.
Well, if smokin' cigarettes, an' spittin', and swearin' was 'ard work,
they'd all die rich men.  There's Waxy Collins.  Last week 'e told 'is
father 'e'd 'ave ter keep 'im till 'e was twenty-one 'cause of the law,
an' the old fool believed 'im.  An' little Joe Crutch, as used ter come
'ere beggin' a spoonful of drippin' fer 'is mother, come 'ome drunk the
other night so natural, that 'is mother mistook 'im fer 'is father,
an' landed 'im on the ear with 'er fist.  An' 'im the apple of 'er eye,
as the sayin' is.  It's 'ard ter be a mother in Cardigan Street.  Yer
girls are mothers before their bones are set, an' yer sons are dodgin'
the p'liceman round the corner before they're in long trousers."

It was rare for Mrs Yabsley to touch on her private sorrows, and there
was an embarrassing  silence.  But suddenly, from the corner of Pitt
Street, appeared a strange figure of a man, roaring out a song in the
voice of one selling fish.  Every head turned.

"'Ello," said Mrs Jones, "Froggy's on the job to-day."

The singer was a Frenchman with a wooden leg, dressed as a sailor.  As he
hopped slowly down the street with the aid of a crutch, his grizzled beard
and scowling face turned mechanically to right and left, sweeping the
street with threatening eyes that gave him the look of a retired pirate,
begging the tribute that he had taken by force in better days.  The song
ended abruptly, and he wiped the sweat from his face with an enormous
handkerchief.  Then he began another.

The women were silent, greedily drinking in the strange, foreign sounds,
touched for a moment with the sense of things forlorn and far away.
The singer still roared, though the tune was caressing, languishing,
a love song.  But his eyes rolled fiercely, and his moustache seemed
to bristle with anger.


Le pinson et la fauvette
Chantaient nos chastes amours,
Que les oiseaux chantent toujours,
Pauvre Colinette, pauvre Colinette.


When he reached the women he hopped to the pavement holding out his hat
like a collection plate, with a beseeching air.  The women were
embarrassed, grudging the pennies, but afraid of being thought mean.
Mrs Yabsley broke the silence.

"I don't know wot ye're singin' about, an' I  shouldn't like ter meet yer
on a dark night, but I'm always willin' ter patronize the opera,
as they say."

She fumbled in her pocket till she found tuppence.  The sailor took the
money, rolled his eyes, gave her a magnificent bow, and continued on his
way with a fresh stanza: 


Lorsque nous allions tous deux
Dans la verdoyante allee,
Comme elle etait essoufflee,
Et comme j'etais radieux.


"The more fool you," said Mrs Jones, who was ashamed of having nothing
to give.  "I've 'eard 'e's got a terrace of 'ouses, an' thousands in the
bank.  My cousin told me 'e sees 'im bankin' 'is money reg'lar in George
Street every week."

And then a conversation followed, with instances of immense fortunes made
by organ-grinders, German bands, and street-singers--men who cadged in
rags for a living, and could drive their carriage if they chose.  The
women lent a greedy ear to these romances, like a page out of their
favourite novelettes.  They were interrupted by an extraordinary noise
from the French singer, who seemed suddenly to have gone mad.  The Push
had watched in ominous silence the approach of the Frenchman.  But,
as he passed them and finished a verse, a blood-curdling cry rose from
the group.  It was a perfect imitation of a dog baying the moon in agony.
The singer stopped and scowled at the group, but the Push seemed to be
unaware of his existence.  He moved on, and began another verse.  As he
stopped to take  breath the cry went up again, the agonized wail of a cur
whose feelings are harrowed by music.  The singer stopped, choking with
rage, bewildered by the novelty of the attack.  The Push seemed lost
in thought.  Again he turned to go, when a stone, jerked as if from a
catapult, struck him on the shoulder.  As he turned, roaring like a bull,
a piece of blue metal struck him above the eye, cutting the flesh to
the bone.  The blood began to trickle slowly down his cheek.

Still roaring, he hopped on his crutch with incredible speed towards
the Push, who stood their ground for a minute and then, with the instinct
of the cur, bolted.  The sailor stopped, and shook his fist at their
retreating forms, showering strange, foreign maledictions on the fleeing
enemy.  It was evident that he could swear better than he could sing.

"Them wretches is givin' Froggy beans," said Mrs Swadling.

"Lucky fer 'im it's daylight, or they'd tickle 'is ribs with their boots,"
said Mrs Jones.

"Jonah and Chook's at the bottom o' that," said Mrs Swadling, looking hard
at Mrs Yabsley.

"Ah, the devil an' 'is 'oof!" said Mrs Yabsley grimly, and was silent.

The sailor disappeared round the corner, and five minutes later the Push
had slipped back, one by one, to their places under the veranda.
Mrs Jones was in the middle of a story: 

"'Er breath was that strong, it nearly knocked me down, an' so I sez
to 'er, 'Mark my words, I'll pocket yer insults no longer, an' you in
a temperance  lodge.  I'll make it my bizness to go to the sekertary this
very day, an' tell 'im of yer goin's on.' An' she sez...w'y, there she is
again," cried Mrs Jones, as she caught the sound of a shrill voice,
high-pitched and quarrelsome.  The women craned their necks to look.

A woman of about forty, drunken, bedraggled, dressed in dingy black,
was pacing up and down the pavement in front of the barber's.  She blinked
like a drunken owl, and stepped high on the level footpath as if it were
mountainous.  And without looking at anything, she threw a string of
insults at the barber, hiding behind the partition in his shop.  For seven
years she had passed as his wife, and then, one day, sick of her drunken
bouts, he had turned her out, and married Flash Kate, the ragpicker's
daughter.  Sloppy Mary had accepted her lot with resignation, and went out
charring for a living; but whenever she had a drop too much she made for
the barber's, forgetting by a curious lapse of memory that it was no
longer her home.  And as usual the barber's new wife had pushed her into
the street, staggering, and now stood on guard at the door, her coarse,
handsome features alive with contempt.

"Wotcher doin' in my 'ouse?" suddenly inquired Sloppy, blinking with
suspicion at Flash Kate.  "Yous go 'ome, me fine lady, afore yer git
yerself talked about."

The woman at the door laughed loudly, and pretended to examine with keen
interest a new wedding ring on her finger.

"Cum 'ere, an' I'll tear yer blasted eyes out," cried the drunkard,
turning on her furiously.

The ragpicker's daughter leaned forward, and inquired, "'Ow d'ye like
yer eggs done?"

At this simple inquiry the drunkard stamped her foot with rage, calling
on her enemy to prepare for instant death.  And the two women bombarded
one another with insults, raking the gutter for adjectives, spitting like
angry cats across the width of the pavement.

The Push gathered round, grinning from ear to ear, sooling the women on as
if they were dogs.  But just as a shove from behind threw Sloppy nearly
into the arms of her enemy, the Push caught sight of a policeman, and
walked away with an air of extreme nonchalance.  At the same moment the
drunkard saw the dreaded uniform, and, obeying the laws of Cardigan
Street, pulled herself together and walked away, mumbling to herself.
The three women watched the performance without a word, critical as
spectators at a play.  When they saw there would be no scratching,
they resumed their conversation.

"W'en a woman takes to drink, she's found a short cut to 'ell, an' lets
everybody know it," said Mrs Yabsley, briefly.  "But this won't git my
work done," and she tucked up her sleeves and went in.

The Push, bent on killing time, and despairing of any fresh diversion in
the street, dispersed slowly, one by one, to meet again at night.

The Cardigan Street Push, composed of twenty or thirty young men of the
neighbourhood, was a social wart of a kind familiar to the streets of
Sydney.  Originally banded together to amuse themselves at other people's
expenses, the Push found new cares  and duties thrust upon them, the chief
of which was chastising anyone who interfered with their pleasures.
Their feats ranged from kicking an enemy senseless, and leaving him for
dead, to wrecking hotel windows with blue metal, if the landlord had
contrived to offend them.  Another of their duties was to check ungodly
pride in the rival Pushes by battering them out of shape with fists and
blue metal at regular intervals.

They stood for the scum of the streets.  How they lived was a mystery,
except to people who kept fowls, or forgot to lock their doors at night.
A few were vicious idlers, sponging on their parents for a living at
twenty years of age; others simply mischievous lads, with a trade at their
fingers' ends, if they chose to work.  A few were honest, unless
temptation stared them too hard in the face.  On such occasions their
views were simple as A B C.  "Well, if yer lost a chance, somebody else
collared it, an' w'ere were yer?"

The police, variously named "Johns", "cops" and "traps", were their
natural enemies.  If one of the Push got into trouble, the others clubbed
together and paid his fine; and if that failed, they made it hot for the
prosecutors.  Generally their offences were disorderly conduct, bashing
their enemies, and resisting the police.

Both Jonah and Chook worked for a living--Chook by crying fish and
vegetables in the streets, Jonah by making and mending for Hans Paasch,
the German shoemaker on Botany Road.  But Chook often lacked the few
shillings to buy his stock-in-trade, and Jonah never felt inclined for
work till Wednesday.  Then he would stroll languidly down to the shop.
The old German would thrust out his chin, and blink at him over his
glasses.  And he always greeted Jonah with one of two set phrases: 

"Ah, you haf come, haf you?  I vas choost going to advertise for a man."
This meant that work was plentiful.  When trade was slack, he would shake
his head sadly as if he were standing over the grave of his last sixpence,
and say: 

"Ah, it vas no use; dere is not enough work to fill one mouth."

Jonah always listened to either speech with utter indifference, took off
his coat, put on his leather apron, and set to work silently and swiftly
like a man in anger.

Although he always grumbled, Paasch was quite satisfied.  He had too much
work for one, and not enough for two.  So Jonah, who was a good workman,
and content to make three or four days in a week, suited him exactly.
Besides, Jonah had started with him as an errand-boy at five shillings
a week, years ago, and was used to his odd ways.

Hans Paasch was born in Bavaria, in the town of Hassloch.  His father was
a shoemaker, and destined Hans for the same trade.  The boy preferred
to be a fiddler but his father taught him his trade thoroughly with the
end of a strap.

In his eighteenth year Hans suddenly ended the dispute by running away
from home with his beloved fiddle.  He made his way to the coast, and got
passage on a cargo tramp to England.  There he heard of the wonderful land
called Australia, where gold was to be had for the picking up.  The fever
took him, and he worked his passage out to Melbourne on a sailing ship.
He reached the goldfields, dug without success, and would have starved
but for his fiddle.  A year found him back in Melbourne, penniless.  Here
he met another German in the same condition.  They decided to work their
way overland to Sydney, Hans playing the fiddle and his mate singing.
Then began a Bohemian life of music by the wayside inns, sleep in the open
air, and meals when it pleased God to send them.

This had proved to be the solitary sunlit passage in his life, for when he
reached Sydney he found that his music had no money value, and, under the
goad of hunger, took to the trade that he had learned so unwillingly.
Twenty years ago he had opened his small shop on the Botany Road, and
to-day it remained unchanged, dwarfed by larger buildings on either side.
He lived by himself in the room over the shop, where he spent his time
reading the newspaper as a child spells out a lesson, or playing his
beloved violin.  He was a good player, but his music was a puzzle and
a derision to Jonah, for his tastes were classical, and sometimes he spent
as much as a shilling on a back seat at a concert in the Town Hall.  Jonah
scratched his ear and listened, amazed that a man could play for hours
without finding a tune.  The neighbours said that Paasch lived on the
smell of an oil rag; but that was untrue, for he spent hours cooking
strange messes soaked in vinegar, the sight of which turned Jonah's
stomach.

Bob Fenner's dance-room, three doors away, was a thorn in his side.
Three nights in the week a brazen comet struck into a set of lancers,
drowning the  metallic thud of the piano and compelling his ear to follow
the latest popular air to the last bar.

His solitary life, his fiddling, and his singular mixture of gruffness
and politeness had bred legends among the women of the neighbourhood.
He was a German baron, who had forfeited his title and estates through
killing a man in a duel; and never a milder pair of eyes looked timidly
through spectacles.  He was a famous musician, who had chosen to blot
himself out of the world for love of a high-born lady; and, in his
opinion, women were useful to cook and sew, nothing more.




CHAPTER 4



JONAH DISCOVERS THE BABY


Joey the pieman had scented a new customer in Mrs Yabsley, and on the
following Saturday night he stopped in front of the house and rattled
the lids of his cans to attract her attention.  His voice, thin and
cracked with the wear of the streets, chanted his familiar cry to an
accompaniment faintly suggestive of clashing cymbals: 

"Peas an' pies, all 'ot, all 'ot!"

His cart, a kitchen on wheels, sent out a column of smoke from its
stovepipe chimney; and when he raised the lids of the shining cans,
a fragrant steam rose on the air.  The cart, painted modestly in red,
bore a strange legend in yellow letters on the front: 

WHO'D HAVE THOUGHT IT,
PEAS AND PIES WOULD HAVE BOUGHT IT!

This outburst of lyric poetry was to inform the world that Joey had risen
from humble beginnings to his present commercial eminence, and was not
ashamed of the fact.

He called regularly about ten o'clock, and Jonah and Ada spent a
delightful five minutes deciding which delicacy to choose for the night.
When they tired of green peas they chose hot pies, full of rich gravy that
ran out if you were not careful how you bit; or they preferred the plump
saveloy, smoking hot from the can, giving out a savoury odour that made
your mouth water.  Then Ada fetched a jug of beer from the corner to wash
it down.  Soon Jonah stayed at the house on Saturday night as a matter
of course.

But Jonah drew the line when the mother hinted that he might as well stay
there altogether.  He feared a trap; and when she pointed out the danger
of two women living alone in the house, he looked at her brawny arms
and smiled.

Haunted by her scheme for marriage, she set to work to undermine Jonah's
obstinacy.  She proceeded warily, and made no open attack; but Jonah began
to notice with uneasiness that he could not talk for five minutes without
stumbling on marriage.  In the midst of a conversation on the weather,
he would be amazed to find the theme turn to the praise of marriage,
brought mysteriously to this hateful word as a man is led blindfold to a
giddy cliff.  When his startled look warned the mother, she changed
the subject.

Still she persevered, sapping Jonah's prejudices with the terrible zeal
of a priest making a convert.  When he saw her drift, it set him thinking,
and he watched Ada with curious attention as she moved about the house
helping her mother.

It was Sunday morning, and Ada was shelling peas.  The pods split with
a sharp crack under her fingers, and the peas rattled into a tin basin.
She wore an old skirt, torn and shabby; her bodice  was split under the
arms, showing the white lining.  Her hair lay flat on her forehead,
screwed tightly in curling-pins, which brought into relief her fiat face
and high cheekbones, for she was no beauty.  By a singular coquetry,
she wore her best shoes, small and neat, with high French heels.

Jonah looked at the girl with satisfaction, but she stirred no sentiment,
for all women were alike to him.  His view of them was purely animal.
The procession of Chook's loves crossed his mind, and he smiled.  At
regular intervals Chook "went balmy" over some girl or other, and, while
the fit lasted, worshipped her as a savage worships an idol.  And Jonah
was stupefied by this passionate preference for one woman.  He had never
felt that way for Ada.

He returned to his own affairs.  Marriage meant a wife, a family, and
steady work, for Ada would leave the factory if he married her.  The
thought filled him with weariness.  The vagabond in him recoiled from the
set labours and common burdens of his kind.  Ever since he could remember
he had been more at home in the streets than in the four walls of a room.
The Push, the corner, the noise and movement of the streets--that was life
for him.  And he decided the matter for ever; there was nothing in it.

But, as the months slipped by, and Jonah remained impregnable to her
masked batteries, Mrs Yabsley attacked him openly.  Jonah stood his
ground, and pointed out, with cynical candour, his unfitness to keep a
wife.  But Mrs Yabsley seized the opportunity to sketch out a career for
him, with voluminous instances, for she had foreseen and arranged
all that.

"An' 'oo's ter blame fer that?" she cried, "a feller that oughter be
gittin' 'is three pounds a week.  W'y, look at Dave Brown.  Don't I
remember the time 'e used ter 'awk a basket o' fish on Fridays, an' doss
in park?  An' now 'e goes round in a white shirt, an' draws 'is rents.
An' mark me, it was gittin' married did that fer 'im.  W'en a man's
married, 'e's got somethin' better to do than smokin' cigarettes an'
playin' a mouth-orgin."

"Yes," said Jonah, grinning.  "Git up an' light the fire, an' graft
'is bloomin' 'ead off."

Mrs Yabsley feigned deafness.

"Anyhow, 'e didn't git 'is 'ouses 'awkin' fish," pursued Jonah; "'e got
'em while 'e kep' a pub."

Then, with feverish vivacity, Mrs Yabsley mapped out half a dozen careers
for him, chiefly in connection with a shop, for to her, who lived by the
sweat of her brow, shopkeepers were aristocrats, living in splendid ease.

"It's no go, missis," said Jonah.  "Marriage is all right fer them as
don't know better, but anyhow, it ain't wot it's cracked up ter be."

He avoided the house for some weeks after this conversation, patrolling
the streets with the gang, with the zest of a drunkard returning to his
cups.  Mrs Yabsley, who saw that she had pushed her attack too far,
waited in patience.

Jonah found the Push thirsting for blood.  One of them had got three
months for taking a fancy to a copper boiler that he had found in an empty
house, and they discovered that a bricklayer, who lived next door, had put
the police on his track.  The Push resolved to stoush him, and had lain in
wait for a  week without success.  Jonah took the matter in hand, and
inquired secretly into the man's habits.  He discovered that the
bricklayer, sober as a judge through the week, was in the habit of
fuddling himself on pay-day.  Jonah arranged a plan, which involved a
search of every hotel in the neighbourhood.

But one Saturday night, as they were stealthily scouting the streets for
their man, Jonah suddenly thought of Ada.  It was weeks since he had last
seen her.  He was surprised by a faint longing for her presence, and,
with a word to Chook, he slipped away.

The cottage was in darkness and the door locked; but after a moment's
hesitation, he took the key from under the flowerpot and went in.  He
struck a match and looked round.  The irons were on the table.
Mrs Yabsley had evidently gone out with the shirts.  He lit the candle and
sat down.

The room was thick with shadows, that fled and advanced as the candle
flickered in the draught.  He looked with quiet pleasure on the familiar
objects--the deal table, propped against the wall on account of a broken
leg, the ragged curtain stretched across the window, the new shelf that he
had made out of a box.  He studied, with fresh interest, the coloured
almanacs on the wall, and spelt out, with amiable derision, the Scripture
text over the door.  He felt vaguely that he was at home.

Home!--the word had no meaning for him.  He had been thrown on the streets
when a child by his parents, who had rid themselves of his unwelcome
presence with as little emotion as they would have tossed an empty can
out of doors.

A street-arab, he had picked a living from the gutters, hardened to
exposure, taking food and shelter with the craft of an old soldier in
hostile country.  Until he was twelve he had sold newspapers, sleeping
in sheds and empty cases, feeding on the broken victuals thrown out from
the kitchens of hotels and restaurants, and then, drifting by chance to
Waterloo, had found a haven of rest with Paasch as an errand-boy at five
shillings a week.

His cigarette was finished, and there was no sign of Ada.  He swore at
himself for coming, picked up his hat, and turned to go.  But, at that
moment, from the corner of the room, came a thin, wailing cry.  Jonah
started violently, and then, as he recognized the sound, smiled grimly.
It was the baby, awakened by the light.  He remembered that Mrs Yabsley
often left it alone in the house.

But the infant, thoroughly aroused, gave out a querulous note, thin and
sustained.  Jonah stooped to blow out the candle, and then, with a sudden
curiosity, walked over to the cradle.

It was a box on rough rollers, made out of a packing-case, grimy with dirt
from the hands that had rocked it.  Jonah pulled it out of the corner into
the light, and the child, pacified by the sight of a face, stopped crying.

Fearful of observation, he looked round, and then stared intently at the
baby.  It was a meeting of strangers, for Mrs Yabsley, aware of his
aversion from the child, had kept it out of the way.  It was the first
baby that he had seen at close quarters, for he had never lived in a house
with one.  And he looked at this with the curiosity with which one looks
at a foreigner--surprised that he, too, is a man.

The child blinked feebly under the light of the candle, which Jonah was
holding near.  Its fingers moved with a mechanical, crab-like motion.

With an odd sensation Jonah remembered that this was his child--flesh of
his flesh, bone of his bone--and, with a swift instinct, he searched its
face for a sign of paternity.

The child's bulging forehead bore no likeness to Jonah's which sloped
sharply from the eyebrows, and the nose was a mere dab of flesh; but its
eyes were grey, like his own.  His interest increased.  Gently he stroked
the fine silky down that covered its head, and then, growing bolder,
touched its cheek.  The delicate skin was smooth as satin under his
rough finger.

The child, pleased with his touch, smiled and clutched his finger,
holding it with the tenacity of a monkey.  Jonah looked in wonder at that
tiny hand, no bigger than a doll's.  His own fist, rough with toil,
seemed enormous beside it.

Flesh of his flesh, he thought, half incredulous, as he compared his red,
hairy skin with that delicate texture; amazed by this miracle of life--the
renewal of the flesh that perishes.

Then he remembered his deformity, and, with a sudden catch in his breath,
lifted the child from the cradle, and felt its back, a passionate fear
in his heart: it was straight as a die.  He drew a long breath, and was
silent, embarrassed for words before this mite, searching his mind in vain
for the sweet jargon used by women.

"Sool 'im!" he cried at last, and poked his son in the ribs.  The child
 crowed with delight.  Jonah touched its mouth, and its teeth, like tiny
 pegs, closed tightly on his fingers.  It lay contentedly on his knees,
 its eyes closed, already fatigued.  And, as Jonah watched it, there
 suddenly vibrated in him a strange, new sensation--the sense of
 paternity, which Nature, crafty beyond man, has planted in him to fulfil
 her schemes, the imperious need to protect and rejoice in its young that
 preserves the race from extinction.

Jonah sat motionless, afraid to disturb the child, intoxicated by the
first pure emotion of his life, his heart filled with an immense pity for
this frail creature.  Absorbed in his emotions, he was startled by a step
on the veranda.

He rose swiftly to put the child in the cot, but it was too late, and he
turned to the door with the child in his arms, ashamed and defiant, like
a boy caught with the jam-pot.  He expected Mrs Yabsley or Ada; it was
Chook, breathless with haste.  He stood in the doorway, dumb with
amazement as his eye took in this strange picture; then his face relaxed
in a grin.

"Well, Gawd strike me any colour 'E likes, pink for preference," he cried,
and shook with laughter.

Jonah stared at him with a deepening scowl, till chuckles died away.

"Garn!" he cried at last, and his voice was between a whine and a snarl;
"yer needn't poke borak!"




CHAPTER 5



THE PUSH DEALS IT OUT


It was near eleven, and the lights were dying out along the Road as the
shopmen, fatigued by their weekly conflict with the people, fastened the
shutters.  At intervals trams and buses, choked with passengers from the
city, laboured heavily past.  Groups of men still loitered on the
footpaths, careless of the late hour, for to-morrow was Sunday, the day of
idleness, when they could lie a-bed and read the paper.  And they gossiped
tranquilly, no longer harassed by the thought of the relentless toil,
the inexorable need for bread, that dragged them from their warm beds
while the rest of the world lay asleep.

The Angel, standing at the corner, dazzled the eye with the glare from
its powerful lamps, their rays reflected in immense mirrors fastened to
the walls, advertising in frosted letters the popular brands of whisky.
And it stood alone in the darkening street, piercing the night with an
unwinking stare like an evil spirit, offering its warm, comfortable bars
to the passer-by, drawing men into its deadly embrace like a courtesan,
to reject them afterwards babbling, reeling, staggering, to rouse  the
street with quarrels, or to snore in the gutters like swine.

Cassidy the policeman, with the slow, leaden step of a man who is going
nowhere, stopped for a moment in front of the hotel, and examined the
street with a suspicious eye.  He saw nothing but some groups of young men
leaning against the veranda-posts at the opposite corner.  They smoked and
spat, tranquilly discussing the horses and betting for the next Cup
meeting.  Satisfied that the Road was quiet, he moved off, dragging his
feet as if they weighed a ton.  At once a sinister excitement passed
through the groups.

"That was Cassidy, now we shan't be long."

"Wot price Jonah givin' us the slip?"

"'Ow'll Chook perform, if 'e ain't at Ada's?"

It was the Push, who had run their man to earth at the Angel, where he was
drinking in the bar, alone.  Chook had posted them with the instinct of
a general, and then left in hurried search of Jonah.  And they watched the
swinging doors of the hotel with cruel eyes, their nerves already
vibrating with the ancestral desire to kill, the wild beast within them
licking his lips at the thought of the coming feast.

Meanwhile, in Cardigan Street, Chook was arguing with Jonah.  When told
that the Push was waiting for him, he had listened without interest;
the matter seemed foreign and remote.  The velvety touch of his son's
frail body still thrilled his nerves; its sweet, delicate odour was still
in his nostrils.  And he flatly refused to go.  Chook was beside himself
with excitement; tears stood in his eyes.

"W'y, y'ain't goin' ter turn dawg on me, Jonah, are yer?"

"No bleedin' fear," said Jonah; "but I feel--I dunno 'ow I feel.  The
blasted kid knocked me endways," he explained, in confusion.

As he looked down the street, he caught sight of Mrs Yabsley on the other
side.  She walked slowly on account of the hill, gasping for air, the
weekly load of meat and groceries clutched in her powerful arms.  His eyes
softened with tenderness.  He felt a sudden kinship for this huge,
ungainly woman.  He wanted to run and meet her, and claim the sweet,
straight-limbed child that he had just discovered.  Chook, standing at his
elbow, like the devil in the old prints, was watching him curiously.

"Well, I'm off," cried Chook at last.  "Wot'll I tell the blokes?"

Jonah was silent for a moment, with a sombre look in his eyes.  Then he
pulled himself together.

"Let 'er go," he cried grimly; "the kid can wait."

On the stroke of eleven, as they reached the "Angel", the huge lamps were
extinguished, the doors swung open and vomited a stream of men on to the
footpath, their loud voices bringing the noise and heat of the bar into
the quiet street.  They dispersed slowly, talking immoderately, parting
with the regret of lovers from the warm bar with its cheerful light and
pleasant clink of glasses.  The doors were closed, but the bar was still
noisy, and the laggards slipped out cautiously by the side door, where a
barman kept watch for the police.  Presently the bricklayer came out,
alone.  He stood on the footpath, slightly fuddled, his giddiness
increased by the fresh air.  Immediately Chook lurched forward to meet
him, with a drunken leer.

"'Ello, Bill, fancy meetin' yous!" he mumbled.

The man, swaying slightly, stared at him in a fog.

"I dunno you," he muttered.

"Wot, yer dunno me, as worked wid yer on that job in Kent Street?  Dunno
Joe Parsons, as danced wid yer missis at the bricklayers' picnic?"

The man stopped to think, trying to remember, but his brain refused
the effort.

"Orl right," he muttered; "come an' 'ave a drink." And he turned to
the bar.

"No fear," cried Chook, taking him affectionately by the arm, "no more
fer me!  I'm full up ter the chin, an' so are yous."

"Might's well 'ave another," said the man, obstinately.

Chook pulled him gently away from the hotel, along the street.

"It's gittin' late; 'ow'll yer ole woman rous w'en yer git 'ome?"

"Sez anythin' ter me, break 'er bleedin' jaw," muttered the bricklayer.
And then his eyes flamed with foolish, drunken anger.  "I earn the money,
don' I, an' I spend it, don' I?" he inquired.  And he refused to move till
Chook answered his question.

The Push closed quietly in.

"'Oo are these blokes?" he asked uneasily.

"Pals o' mine, all good men an' true," said Chook, gaily.

They were near Eveleigh Station, and the street was clear.  The red
signal-lights, like angry, bloodshot eyes, followed the curve of the line
as it swept into the terminus.  An engine screamed hoarsely as  it swept
past with a rattle of jolting metal and the hum of swiftly revolving
wheels.  The time was come to strike, but the Push hesitated.  The show
of resistance, the spark to kindle their brutal fury, was wanting.

"Is this a prayer meetin'?" inquired Waxy Collins, with a sneer.  "Biff
him on the boko, an' we'll finish 'im in one act."

"Shut yer face," said Jonah, and he stepped up to the bricklayer.

"Ever 'ear tell of a copper boiler?" he inquired pleasantly.

"Ever meet a bleedin' bastard as put the cops on a bloke, an' got 'im
three months' 'ard?" he inquired again.

The bricklayer stared at him open-mouthed, surprised and alarmed by the
appearance of this misshapen devil with the glittering eyes.  Then a
sudden suspicion ran through the fuddled brain.

"I niver lagged 'im; s'elp me Gawd, I niver put nobody away to the cops!"
he cried.

"Yer rotten liar, take that!" cried Jonah, and struck him full on the
mouth with his fist.  The man clapped his hand to his cut lip, and looked
at the blood in amazement.  The shock cleared his brain, and he remembered
with terror the tales of deadly revenge taken by the pushes.  He looked
wildly for help.  He was in a ring of mocking, menacing faces.

"Let 'im out," cried Jonah, in a sharp, strident voice.  "The swine lives
about 'ere; give 'im a run for 'is money."

The Push opened out, and the man, sobered by his danger, stood for a
moment with bewildered eyes.  Then, with the instinct of the hunted,
he turned for home and ran.  The Push gave chase, with Chook in the lead.
Again and again the quarry turned, blindly seeking refuge in the
darkest lanes.

As his pursuers gained on him he gave a hoarse scream--the dolorous cry
of a hunted animal.

But it was the cat playing with the mouse.  The bricklayer ran like a cow,
his joints stiffened by years of toil; the larrikins, light on their feet
as hares, kept the pace with a nimble trot, silent and dangerous,
conscious of nothing but the desire and power to kill.

As he turned into Abercrombie Street, Chook ran level with him, then
stooped swiftly and caught his ankle.  The bricklayer went sprawling, and
in an instant the Push closed in on the fallen man as footballers form
a scrum, kicking the struggling body with silent ferocity, drunk with the
primeval instinct to destroy.

"Nit!" cried Jonah; and the Push scattered, disappearing by magic over
fences and down lanes.

The bricklayer had ceased to struggle, and lay in a heap.  Five minutes
later some stragglers, noticing the huddled mass on the road, crossed the
street cautiously and stared.  Then a crowd gathered, each asking the
other what had happened, each amazed at the other's ignorance.

The excitement seemed to penetrate the houses opposite.  Heads were thrust
out of windows, doors were opened, and a stream of men and women, wearing
whatever they could find in the dark, shuffled across the footpath.

Some still fumbled at their braces; others, draped like Greek statues,
held their garments on with both  hands.  A coarse jest passed round when
a tall, bony woman came up, a man's overcoat, thrown over her shoulders,
barely covering her nightdress.  They stood shivering in the cold air,
greedy to hear what sensation had come to their very doors.

"It's only a drunken man."

"They say 'e was knocked down in a fight."

"No; the Push stoushed 'im, an' then cleared."

Someone struck a match and looked at his face; it was smeared with blood.
Then the crowd rendered "first aid" in the street fashion.

"Wot's yer name?  W'ere d'yer live?  'Ow did it 'appen?"

And at each question they shook him vigorously, impatient at his silence.
The buzz of voices increased.

"W'ere's the perlice?"

"Not w'ere they're wanted, you may be sure."

"It's my belief they go 'ome an' sleep it out these cold nights."

"Well, I s'pose a p'liceman 'as ter take care of 'imself, like everybody
else," said one, and laughed.

"It's shameful the way these brutes are allowed to knock men about."

"An' the perlice know very well 'oo they are, but they're afraid of
their own skins."

The woman in the nightdress had edged nearer, craning her neck over the
shoulders of the men to see better.  As another match was struck she saw
the man's face.

"My Gawd, it's my 'usband!" she screamed.  "Bill, Bill, wot 'ave they done
ter yer?"

Her old affection, starved to death by years of neglect, sprang to life
for an instant in this cry of agony.  She dropped on her knees beside the
bruised body, wiping the blood from his face with the sleeve of her
nightdress.  A dark red stain spread over the coarse, common calico.
And she kissed passionately the bleeding lips, heedless of the sour smell
of alcohol that tainted his breath.  The bricklayer groaned feebly.
With a sudden movement she stripped the coat from her shoulders, and
covered him as if to protect him from further harm.

Her hair, fastened in an untidy knot, slipped from the hairpins, and fell,
grey and scanty, over her neck; her bony shoulders, barely covered by the
thin garment, moved convulsively.

"'Ere, missis, take this, or you'll ketch cold," said a man kindly,
pulling off his coat.

Then, with the quick sympathy of the people, they began to make light
of the matter, trying to persuade her that his injuries were not serious.
A friendly rivalry sprang up among them as they related stories of
wonderful recoveries made by men whose bodies had been beaten to a jelly.
One, carried away by enthusiasm, declared that it did a man good to be
shattered like glass, for the doctors, with satanic cunning seized the
opportunity to knead the broken limbs like putty into a more desirable
shape.  But their words fell on deaf ears.  The woman crouched over the
prostrate man, stroking the bruised limbs with a stupid, mechanical
movement as an animal licks its wounded mate.

The crowd divided as a policeman came up with an important air.  Brisk and
cheerful, he made a few inquiries, enchanted with this incident that broke
the  monotony of the night's dreary round.  The crowd breathed freely,
feeling that the responsibility had shifted on to the official shoulders.
He blew shrilly on his whistle, and demanded a cab.

"Cab this time o' night?  No chance," was the common opinion.

But by great good luck a cab was heard rattling along the next street.
Two men ran to intercept it.

The woman clung desperately to the crippled body as they lifted it into
the cab, impeding the men in their efforts, imploring them to carry him
to his own house, with the distrust of the ignorant for the hospitals,
where the doctors amuse themselves by cutting and carving the bodies of
their helpless patients.  The policeman, a young man, embarrassed by the
sight of this half-dressed woman, swore softly to himself.

"'Ere, missis, you'd better get 'ome, you can't do any good 'ere,"
he said, kindly.  "Don't you worry; I've seen worse cases than this go
'ome to breakfast the next day."

As the cab drove off, some neighbours led her away, her thin, angular
body shaken with sobs.

The street was quiet again, but some groups still lingered, discussing
with relish the details of the outrage, searching their memories for
stories of brutal stoushings that had ended in the death of the victim.




CHAPTER 6



THE BABY DISCOVERS JONAH


An hour later Jonah and Chook, picking the most roundabout way, reached
home.  The family was in bed, and the house in darkness.  The two mates
dropped silently over the fence, and, with the stealthy movements of cats,
clambered through the window of the room which they shared, for Jonah
believed that secrets were kept best by those who had none to tell.

"Gawd, I'm dry," said Chook, yawning.  "I could do a beer."

"That comes of runnin' along the street so 'ard," said Jonah, grinning.
"It must 'ave bin a fire by the way I see yer run.  W'y was yer runnin'
so 'ard?"  Then his face darkened.  "I wonder 'ow the poor bloke feels,
that fell down an' 'urt 'imself?"

"D'ye think 'e knows enough ter give us away?" asked Chook, anxiously.

"No fear," said Jonah.  "I make the Ivy Street Push a present of that
little lot."

"Well, I s'pose a sleep's the next best thing," replied Chook, and in
a minute was snoring.

Jonah finished undressing slowly.  As he unlaced his boots, he noticed
a dark patch on one toe.  It looked as if he had kicked something wet.
He examined the stain without repugnance, and thought of the bricklayer.

"Serve the cow right," he thought.  "'Ope it stiffens 'im!"

Again he examined the patch of blood attentively, wondering if it would
leave a mark on his tan boots, of which he was very proud.  Dipping a
piece of rag in water, he washed it off carefully.  And, as he rubbed,
the whole scenes passed through his brain in rapid succession--the Angel,
bright and alluring with the sinister gleam of its powerful lamps, the
swaying man in the midst of the Push, the wild-beast chase, and the fallen
body that ceased to struggle as they kicked.

He lit a cigarette and stared at the candle, smiling with the pride of a
good workman at the thought of his plan that had worked so neatly.  The
Push was secure, and the blame would fall on the Ivy Street gang, the
terror of Darlington.  For a moment he regretted the active part he had
taken in the stoushing, as his hunchback made him conspicuous.  He
wondered carelessly what had happened after the Push bolted.  These
affairs were so uncertain.  Sometimes the victim could limp home, mottled
with bruises; just as often he was taken to the hospital in a cab, and a
magistrate was called in to take down his dying words.  In this case the
chances were in favour of the victim recovering, as the Push had been
interrupted in dealing it out through Jonah's excessive caution.  Still,
they had no intention of killing the man; they merely wished to teach
him a lesson.

True, the lesson sometimes went too far; and he  thought with anxiety of
the Surry Hills affair, in which, through an accident, a neighbouring push
had disappeared like rats into a hole, branded with murder.  The ugly word
hung on his tongue and paralysed his thoughts.  His mind recoiled with
terror as he saw where his lawless ways had carried him, feeling already
branded with the mark of Cain, which the instinct of the people has
singled out as the unpardonable crime, destroying the life that cannot
be renewed.  And suddenly he began to persuade himself that the man's
injuries were not serious, that he would soon recover; for it was
wonderful the knocking about a man could stand.

He turned on himself with amazement.  Why was he twittering like an old
woman?  Quarrels, fights, and bloodshed were as familiar to him as his
daily bread.  With a sudden cry of astonishment he remembered the baby.
The affair of the bricklayer had driven it completely out of his mind.
His thoughts returned to Cardigan Street.  He remembered the quiet room
dimly lit with a candle, the dolorous cry of the infant, and the
intoxicating touch of its frail body in his arms.

His amazement increased.  What had possessed him to take the brat in his
arms and nurse it?  His lips contracted in a cynical grin as he remembered
the figure he cut when Chook appeared.  He decided to look on the affair
as a joke.  But again his thoughts returned to the child, and he was
surprised with a vibration of tenderness sweet as honey in his veins.
A strange yearning came over him like a physical weakness for the touch
of his son's body.

His eye caught his shadow on the wall, grotesque  and forbidding; the
large head, bunched beneath the square shoulders, thrust outwards in a
hideous lump.  Monster and outcast was he?  Well, he would show them that
only an accident separated the hunchback from his fellows.  He thought
with a fierce joy of his son's straight back and shapely limbs.  This was
his child, that he could claim and exhibit to the world.  Then his delight
changed to a vague terror--the fear of an animal that dreads a trap,
and finds itself caught.  He blew out the candle and fell asleep, to dream
of enemies that fled and mocked at him, embarrassed with an infant that
hung like a millstone round his neck.

Within a month the affair of the bricklayer had blown over.  The police
made inquiries, and arrested some of the Ivy Street Push, but released
them for want of evidence.  In the hospital the bricklayer professed a
complete ignorance of his assailants and their motive.  It was understood
that he was too drunk to recognize anyone.

But it was his knowledge of Push methods that sealed his tongue.  No one
would risk his skin by giving evidence.  If the police had brought the
offenders to book, the magistrates, who seemed to regard these outrages
as the playful excesses of wanton blood, would have let them off with a
light punishment, and the streets would never have been safe for him
again.  So he held his tongue, thankful to have escaped so easily.

But burnt on his brain was the vision of a misshapen devil who struck at
him, with snarling lips, and a desperate flight through avenues of silent,
impassive streets that heard with indifference his cry  for help.  In six
weeks he was back at work, with no mark of his misadventure but a broken
nose, caused by a clumsy boot.

So the Push took to the streets again, and Jonah resumed his visits to
Cardigan Street on Saturday nights.  He had concealed his adventure with
the baby from Ada and her mother, feeling ashamed, as if he had discovered
an unmanly taste for mud pies and dolls.  But the imperious instinct was
aroused, and he gratified it in secret, caressing the child by stealth as
a miser runs to his hoard.  In the women's presence he ignored its
existence, but he soon discovered that Ada shared none of his novel
sensations.  And he grew indignant at her indifference, feeling that his
child was neglected.

Mrs Yabsley, for ever on the alert, felt some change in his manner, and
one Sunday morning received a shock.  She was chopping wood in the yard.
She swung the axe with a grunt, and the billet, split in two, left the axe
wedged in the block.  As she was wrenching it out, Jonah dropped his
cigarette and cried: 

"'Ere, missis, gimme that axe; I niver like ter see a woman chop wood."

She looked at him in amazement.  Times without number he had watched her
grunt and sweat without stirring a finger.  Bitten with her one idea,
she watched him curiously.

It was the baby that betrayed him at last.  Ada was carrying it past him
in furtive haste, when it caught sight of his familiar features.  Jonah,
off his guard, smiled.  The child laughed joyously, and leaned out of
Ada's arms towards him.

"W'y, wot's the matter, Joe?" cried Mrs Yabsley, all eyes.

Jonah hesitated.  Denial was on his tongue, but he looked again at his
child, and a lump rose in his throat.

"Oh, nuthin', missis," he replied, reddening.  "Me an' the kid took a
fancy ter one another long ago."

He smiled blandly, in exquisite relief, as if he had confessed a sin or
had a tooth drawn.  He took the child from Ada, and it lay in his arms,
nestling close with animal content.

Ada looked in silence, astonished and slightly scornful at this
development, jealous of the child's preference, already regretting
her neglect.

Mrs Yabsley stood petrified with the face of one who has seen a miracle.
For a moment she was too amazed to think; then, with a rapid change of
front, she conquered her surprise and claimed the credit for this result.

"I knowed all along the kid 'ud fetch yer, Joe.  I knowed yer'd got a soft
'eart," she cried.  "An' 'e's the very image of yer, wi' the sweetest
temper mortal child ever 'ad."

From that time Sunday became a marked day for Jonah, and he looked forward
to it with impatience.  It was spring.  The temperate rays of the sun fell
on budding tree and shrub; the mysterious renewal of life that stirred
inanimate nature seemed to touch his pulse to a quicker and lighter beat.
He sat for hours in the backyard, once a garden, screened from
observation, with the child on his knees.  The blood ran pleasantly in his
veins; he felt in sympathy with the sunlight, the sky flecked with clouds,
and the warm breath of the winds.  It broke on him slowly that he was
taking his place among his fellows, outcast and outlaw no longer.

Soon, he and the child were inseparable.  He learned to attend to its
little wants with deft fingers, listening with a smile to the kindly
banter of the women.  His manner changed to Ada and her mother; he was
considerate, even kind.  Then he began to drop in on Monday or Tuesday
instead of loafing with the Push at the corner.  Ada was at the factory;
but Mrs Yabsley, sorting piles of dirty linen, with her arms bared to the
elbow, welcomed him with a smile.  He remarked with satisfaction that a
change had come over the old woman.  She never spoke of marriage; seemed
to have given up the idea.

But one day, as he sat with the child on his knees, she stopped in front
of the pair, with a bundle of shirts in her arms, and regarded them with
a puzzling smile.  The baby lay on its back, staring into space with
solemn, unreflective eyes.  From time to time Jonah turned his head to
blow the smoke of his cigarette into the air.

"You'll be gittin' too fond of 'im, if y'ain't careful, Joe," she said
at last.

"Git work; wot's troublin' yer?" said Jonah, with a grin.

"Nuthin'; only I was thinkin' wot a fine child 'e'd be in a few years.
It's a pity 'e ain't got no real father."

"Wot d'yer mean?" said Jonah, looking up angrily.  "W'ere do I come in?
Ain't I the bloke?"

"Well, y'are an' y'ain't, yer know," said Mrs Yabsley.  "There's two ways
 of lookin' at these things."

"'Strewth!  I niver thought o' that," said Jonah, scratching his ear.

"No, but other people do, worse luck," said Mrs Yabsley.

Jonah stared at the child in silence.  Mrs Yabsley turned and poked the
fire under the copper boiler.  Suddenly Jonah lifted his head and cried: 

"I say, missis, I can see a hole in a ladder plain enough!  Yer mean
I've got ter marry Ada?"

The old woman left the fire and stood in front of him.

"Not a bit, Joe.  I've give up that idea.  Marriage wouldn't suit yous.
Your dart is ter be King of the Push, an' knock about the streets with a
lot of mudlarks as can't look a p'liceman straight in the face.  You an'
yer pals are seein' life now all right; but wait till yer bones begin ter
stiffen, an' yer can't run faster than the cop.  Then it'll be jail or
worse, an' yous might 'ave bin a good workman, with a wife an' family,
only yer knowed better--"

"'Ere, steady on the brake, missis," interrupted Jonah, with a frown.

"No, Joe, I don't mind sayin' that I 'ad some idea of marryin' yous an'
Ada, but ye're not the man I took yer for an' I give it up.  I don't
believe in a man marryin' because 'e wants a woman ter cook 'is meals.
My idea is a man wants ter git married because 'e's found out a lot o'
surprisin' things in the world 'e niver dreamt of before.  An' it's only
when 'e's found somethin' ter live for, an' work for, that 'e's wot yer
rightly call a man.  That's w'y I don't worry about you, Joe.  I can see
your time ain't come."

"Don't be too bleedin' sure," cried Jonah, angrily.

"Of course I'm only a fat old woman as likes 'er joke an' a glass o' beer.
I'd be a fool ter lay down the law to a bloke as sharp as yous, that
thinks 'e can see everything.  But I wasn't always so fat I 'ad ter
squeeze through the door, an' I tell yer the best things in life are them
yer can't see at all, an' that's the feelin's.  So take a fool's advice,
an' don't think of marryin' till yer feel there's somethin' wrong wi' yer
inside, fer that's w'ere it ketches yer."

"'Ere, 'old 'ard!  Can't a bloke git a word in edgeways?"

Mrs Yabsley stopped, with an odd smile on her face.

Jonah stared at her with a perplexed frown, and then the words came
in a rush.

"Look 'ere, missis, I wasn't goin' ter let on, but since yer on fer a
straight talk, I tell yer there's more in me than yer think, an' if it's
up ter me ter git married, I can do it without gittin' roused on by yous."

"Keep yer 'air on, Joe," said Mrs Yabsley, smiling.  "I didn't mean ter
nark yer, but yer know wot I say is true.  An' don't say I ever put it
inter yer 'ead ter git married.  You've studied the matter, an' yer know
it means 'ard graft an' plenty of worry.  There's nuthin' in it, Joe,
as yer said, an' besides, the Push is waitin' for yer.

"Of course, there's no 'arm in yer comin' 'ere ter see the kid, but I
'ope yer won't stand in Ada's way w'en she gits a chance.  There's
Tom Mullins, that  was after Ada before she ever took up wi' yous.  Only
last week 'e told Mrs Jones 'e'd take Ada, kid an' all, if he got the
chance.  I know yous don't want a wife, but yer shouldn't 'inder others
as do."

"Yer talkin' through yer neck," cried Jonah, losing his temper.

"Suppose I tell yer that the kid's done the trick, an' I want ter git
married, an' bring 'im up respectable?"

The old woman was silent, but a wonderful smile lit up her face.

"Yer've got a lot ter say about the feelin's.  Suppose I tell yer there's
somethin' in me trembles w'en I touch this kid?  I felt like a damned fool
at first, but I'm gittin' used to it."

"That's yer own flesh an' blood a-callin' yer, Joe," cried Mrs Yabsley,
in ecstasy--"the sweetest cry on Gawd's earth, for it goes to yer
very marrer."

"That's true," said Jonah, sadly; "an' 'e's the only relation I've got in
the wide world, as far as I know.  More than that, 'e's the only livin'
creature that looks at me without seein' my hump."

It was the first time in Mrs Yabsley's memory that Jonah had mentioned his
deformity.  A tremor in his voice made her look at him sharply.  Tears
stood in his eyes.  With a sudden impulse she stopped and patted his head.

"That's all right, Joe," she said, gently.  "I was only pullin' yer leg.
I wanted yer to do the straight thing by Ada, but I wasn't sure yer'd got
a 'eart, till the kid found it.  But wot will the Push say w'en ..."

"The Push be damned!" cried Jonah.

"Amen ter that," said Mrs Yabsley.  "Gimme yer fist."

Jonah stayed to tea that night, contrary to his usual habit, for Mrs
Yabsley was anxious to have the matter settled.

"Wot's wrong wi' you an' me gittin' married, Ada?" he said.  Ada nearly
dropped her cup.

"Garn, ye're only kiddin'!" she cried with an uneasy grin.

"Fair dinkum!" said Jonah.

"Right-oh," said Ada, as calmly as if she were accepting an invitation
to a dance.

But she thought with satisfaction that this was the beginning of a
perpetual holiday.  For she was incorrigibly lazy and hated work, going
through the round of mechanical toil in a slovenly fashion, indifferent
to the shower of complaints, threats and abuse that fell about her ears.

"Where was yer thinkin' of gittin' married, Joe?" inquired Mrs Yabsley
after tea.

"I dunno," replied Jonah, suddenly remembering that he knew no more of
weddings than a crow.

"At the Registry Office, of course," said Ada.  "Yer walk in an' yer walk
out, an' it's all over."

"That's the idea," said Jonah, greatly relieved.  He understood vaguely
that weddings were expensive affairs, and he had thirty shillings in his
pocket.

"Don't tell me that people are married that goes ter the Registry Office!"
cried Mrs Yabsley.  "They only git a licence to 'ave a family.  I know all
about them.  Yer sign a piece of paper, an' then the bloke tells yer ye're
married.  'Ow does 'e know ye're  married?  'E ain't a parson.  I was
married in a church, an' my marriage is as good now as ever it was.  Just
yous leave it to me, an' I'll fix yez up."

Ever since Ada was a child, Mrs Yabsley had speculated on her marriage,
when all the street would turn out to the wedding.  And now, after years
of planning and waiting, she was to be married on the quiet, for there was
nothing to boast about.

"Well, it's no use cryin' over skimmed milk," she reflected, adapting the
proverb to her needs.

But she clung with obstinacy to a marriage in a church, convinced that
none other was genuine.  And casting about in her mind for a parson who
would marry them without fuss or expense, she remembered Trinity Church,
and the thing was done.

Canon Vaughan, the new rector of Trinity Church, had brought some strange
ideas from London, where he had worked in the slums.  He had founded a
workman's club, and smoked his pipe with the members; formed a brigade of
newsboys and riff-raff, and taught them elementary morality with the aid
of boxing-gloves; and offended his congregation by treating the poor with
the same consideration as themselves.  And then, astonished by the number
of mothers who were not wives, that he discovered on his rounds, he had
announced that he would open the church on the first Saturday night in
every month to marry any couples without needless questions.  They could
pay, if they chose, but nothing was expected.

Jonah and Ada jumped at the idea, but Mrs Yabsley thought with sorrow of
her cherished dream--Ada married on a fine day of sunshine, Cardigan
Street in an uproar, a feast where all could cut and come again, the clink
of glasses, and a chorus that shook the windows.  Well, such things were
not to be, and she shut her mouth grimly.  But she determined in secret to
get in a dozen of beer, and invite a few friends after the ceremony to
drink the health of the newly married, and keep the secret till they got
home.  And as she was rather suspicious of a wedding that cost nothing,
she decided to give the parson a dollar to seal the bargain and make the
contract more binding.




CHAPTER 7



A QUIET WEDDING


The following Saturday Mrs Yabsley astonished her customers by delivering
the shirts and collars in the afternoon.  There were cries of amazement.

"No, I'm quite sober," she explained; "but I'm changin' the 'abits of a
lifetime just to show it can be done."

Then she hurried home to clean up the house.  After much thought, she had
decided to hold the reception after the wedding in the front room, as it
was the largest.  She spent an hour carrying the irons, boards, and other
implements of the laundry into the back rooms.  A neighbour, who poked her
head in, asked if she were moving.  But when she had finished the
cleaning, she surveyed the result with surprise.  The room was scrubbed as
bare as a shaven chin.  So she took some coloured almanacs from the
bedroom and kitchen, and tacked them on the walls, studying the effect
with the gravity of a decorative artist.  The crude blotches of colour
pleased her eye, and she considered the result with pride.  "Wonderful
'ow a few pitchers liven a place up," she thought.

She looked doubtfully at the chairs.  There were only three, and, years
ago, her immense weight had made them as uncertain on their legs as
drunkards.  She generally sat on a box for safety.  Finally, she
constructed two forms out of the ironing-boards and some boxes.  Then she
fastened two ropes of pink tissue paper, that opened out like a
concertina, across the ceiling.  This was the finishing touch, and lent an
air of gaiety to the room.

For two hours past Ada and Pinkey had been decorating one another in the
bedroom.  When they emerged, Mrs Yabsley cried out in admiration, not
recognizing her own daughter for the moment.  Their white dresses, freshly
starched and ironed by her, rustled stiffly at every movement of their
bodies, and they walked daintily as if they were treading on eggs.
Both had gone to bed with their hair screwed in curling-pins, losing half
their sleep with pain and discomfort, but the result justified the
sacrifice.  Ada's hair, dark and lifeless in colour, decreased the sullen
heaviness of her features; Pinkey's, worn up for the first time, was a
barbaric crown, shot with rays of copper and gold as it caught the light.

"Yous put the kettle on, an' git the tea, an' I'll be ready in no time,"
said Mrs Yabsley.  "W'en I was your age, I used ter take 'arf a day ter
doll meself up, an' then git down the street with a brass band playin'
inside me silly 'ead; but now, gimme somethin' new, if it's only a bit o'
ribbon in me 'at, an' I feel dressed up ter the knocker."

At seven o'clock Jonah and Chook arrived.  They were dressed in the height
of larrikin fashion--tight-fitting suits of dark cloth, soft black felt
hats, and soft white shirts with new black mufflers round their necks in
place of collars--for the larrikin taste in dress runs to a surprising
neatness.  But their boots were remarkable, fitting like a glove, with
high heels and a wonderful ornament of perforated toe-caps and brass
eyelet-holes on the uppers.

Mrs Yabsley, moved by the solemn occasion, formally introduced Chook
and Pinkey.  They stared awkwardly, not knowing what to say.  In a flash,
Chook remembered her as the red-haired girl whom he had chiacked at the
corner.  As he stared at her in surprise, the impudence died out of his
face, and he thought with regret of his ferocious jest and her stinging
reply.  Pinkey grew uneasy under his eyes.  Again the curious pink flush
coloured her cheeks, and she turned her head with a light, scornful toss.
That settled Chook.  In five minutes he was looking at her with the
passionate adoration of a savage before an idol, for this Lothario of the
gutter brought to each fresh experience a surprising virginity of emotion
that his facile, ignoble conquests left untouched.  Jonah broke the
silence by complimenting the ladies on their appearance.

"My oath, yer a sight fer sore eyes, yous are!" he cried.  "I'm glad yer
don't know 'ow giddy yer look, else us blokes wouldn't 'ave a chance,
would we, Chook?"

The girls bridled with pleasure at the rude compliments, pretending not
to hear them, feeling very desirable and womanly in their finery.

"Dickon ter you," said Mrs Yabsley.  "Yer needn't think they're got up
ter kill ter please yous.  It's  only ter give their clobber an airin',
an' keep out the moths."

When it was time to set out for the church, the five were quite at their
ease, grinning and giggling at the familiar jokes on marriage, broad as a
barn door, dating from the Flood.  Mrs Yabsley toiled in the rear of the
bridal procession, fighting for wind on account of the hill.  She kept her
fist shut on the two half-dollars for the parson; the wedding ring, jammed
on the first joint of her little finger for safety, gave her an atrocious
pain.  At length they reached Cleveland street, and halted opposite
the church.

The square tower of Trinity Church threw its massive outline against the
faint glow of the city lights, keeping watch and ward over the church,
that had grown grey in the service of God, like a fortress of the Lord
planted on hostile ground.  And they stood together, the grim tower and
the grey church, for a symbol of immemorial things--a stronghold and
a refuge.

The wedding party walked into the churchyard on tiptoe as if they were
trespassers.  Then, unable to find the door in the dark, they walked
softly round the building, trying to see what was going on inside through
the stained-glass windows.  Their suspicious movements attracted the
attention of the verger, and he followed them with stealthy movements,
convinced that they meditated a burglary.  When he learned their errand,
he took charge of the party.  They entered the church like foreigners in
a remote land.  Another wedding was in progress, so they sat down in the
narrow, uncomfortable pews, waiting their turn.  When Chook caught sight
of the Canon in his surplice and bands, he uttered a cry of amazement.

"Look at the old bloke.  'E's wearin' 'is shirt outside!"

The two girls were convulsed, turning crimson with the effort to repress
their giggles.  Mrs Yabsley was annoyed, feeling that they were treating
the matter as a farce.

"I'm ashamed o' yer, Chook," she remarked severely.  "Yer the two ends an'
middle of a 'eathen.  That's wot they call 'is surplus, an' I wish I 'ad
the job of ironin' it."

Order was restored, but at intervals the girls broke into ripples of
hysterical laughter.  Then Chook saw the organ, with its rows of painted
pipes, and nudged Jonah.

"Wot price that fer a mouth-orgin, eh?  Yer'd want a extra pair o' bellows
ter play that."

Jonah examined the instrument with the interest of a musician, surprised
by the enormous tubes, packed stiffly in rows, the plaything of a giant;
but he still kept an eye on the pair that were being married, with the
nervous interest of a criminal watching an execution.  The women, to whom
weddings were an afternoon's distraction, like the matinees of the richer,
stared about the building.  Mrs Yabsley, wedged with difficulty in the
narrow pew, pretended that they were made uncomfortable on purpose to keep
people awake during the sermon.  Presently Ada and Pinkey, who had been
examining the memorial tablets on the walls, began to argue whether the
dead people were buried under the floor of the church.  Pinkey decided
they were, and  shivered at the thought.  Ada called her a fool; they
nearly quarrelled.

When their turn came, the Canon advanced to meet them, setting them at
their ease with a few kindly words, less a priest than a courteous host
welcoming his guests.  He seemed not to notice Jonah's deformity.  But,
as he read the service, he was the priest again, solemn and austere,
standing at the gates of Life and Death.  He followed the ritual with
scrupulous detail, scorning to give short measure to the poor.  In the
vestry they signed their names with tremendous effort, holding the pen as
if it were a prop.  Mrs Yabsley, being no scholar, made a mark.  The Canon
left them with an apology, as another party was waiting.

"Rum old card," commented Chook, when they got outside.  "I reckon 'e's
a man w'en 'e tucks 'is shirt in."

The party decided to go home by way of Regent Street, drawn by the sight
of the jostling crowd and the glitter of the lamps.  As they threaded
their way through the crowd, Jonah stopped in front of a pawnshop and
announced that he was going to buy a present for Ada and Pinkey to bring
them luck.  He ignored Ada's cries of admiration at the sight of a large
brooch set with paste diamonds, and fixed on a thin silver bracelet for
her, and a necklace of imitation pearls, the size of peas, for Pinkey.
Ada thrust her fat fingers through the rigid band of metal; it slipped
over the joints and hung loosely on her wrist.  Then Pinkey clasped the
string of shining beads round her thin neck, the metallic lustre of the
false gems heightening the delicate pallor of  her fine skin.  The effect
was superb.  Ada, feeling that the bride was eclipsed, pretended that her
wedding ring was hurting her, and drew all eyes to that badge of honour.

When they reached Cardigan Street, Mrs Yabsley went into the back room,
and returned grunting under the weight of a dozen bottles of beer in a
basket.  Then, one by one, she set them in the middle of the table like
a group of ninepins.  It seemed a pity to break the set, but they were
thirsty, and the pieman was not due for half an hour.  A bottle was opened
with infinite precaution, but the faint plop of the cork reached the sharp
ears of Mrs Swadling, who was lounging at the end of the lane.  The
unusual movements of Mrs Yabsley had roused her suspicions, but the
arrival of her husband, Sam fighting drunk for his tea, had interrupted
her observations.  She was accustomed to act promptly, even if it were
only to dodge a plate, and in an instant her sharp features were thrust
past the door, left ajar for the sake of coolness.

"I thought I'd run across an' ask yer about that ironmould, on Sam's
collar," she began.

Then, surprised by the appearance of the room, dressed for a festival,
she looked around.  Her eyes fell on the battalion of bottles, and she
stood thunderstruck by this extravagance.  But Ada, anxious to display her
ring, was smoothing and patting her hair every few minutes.  Already the
movement had become a habit.  Unconsciously she lifted her hand and
flashed the ring in the eyes of Mrs Swadling.

"Well, I never!" she cried.  "I might 'ave known  wot yer were up to,
an' me see a weddin' in me cup only this very mornin."

Mrs Yabsley looked at Jonah and laughed.

"Might as well own up, Joe," she cried.  "The cat's out of the bag."

"Right y'are," cried Jonah.  "Let 'em all come.  I can't be 'ung fer it."

Mrs Yabsley, delighted with her son-in-law's speech, invited Mrs Swadling
to a seat, and then stepped out to ask a few of her neighbours in to drink
a glass and wish them luck.  In half an hour the room was full of women,
who were greatly impressed by the bottles of beer, a luxury for
aristocrats.  When Joey the pieman arrived, some were sitting on the
veranda, as the room was crowded.  Mrs Yabsley anxiously reckoned the
number of guests; she had reckoned on twelve, and there were twenty.
She beckoned to Jonah, and they whispered together for a minute.  He
counted some money into her hand, and cried,

"Let 'er go; it's only once in a lifetime."

Then Mrs Yabsley, as hostess, went to each in turn, asking what they
preferred.  The choice was limited to green peas, hot pies, and saveloys,
and as each chose, she ticked it off on a piece of paper in hieroglyphics
known only to herself, as she was used to number the shirts and collars.
Joey, impressed by the magnitude of the order, got down from his perch in
the cart and helped to serve the guests.  And he passed in and out among
the expectant crowd, helping them to make a choice, like a chef anxious
to please even the most fastidious palates.

Cups, saucers, plates, and basins were pressed into service until
Mrs Yabsley's stock ran out; the last served were forced to hold their
delicacy wrapped in a scrap of paper in their hands, the hot grease
sweating through the thin covering on to their fingers.  The ladies
hesitated, fearful of being thought vulgar if they ate in their usual
manner; but Mrs Yabsley seeing their embarrassment, cried out that fingers
were made before forks, and bit a huge piece out of her pie.

Then the feast began in silence, except for the sound of chewing.  Joey
had surpassed himself.  The peas melted in your mouth, the piecrusts were
a marvel, and the saveloys were done to a turn.  And they ate with solemn,
serious faces, for it was not every day the chance came to fill their
bellies with such dainties.  Joey, with an eye to business, decided to
stay in the street on the chance of selling out, for the crowd had now
reached to the gutter.  He rattled the shining lids of the hot cans from
time to time to attract attention as his cracked voice chanted his
familiar cry, 

"Peas an' pies, all 'ot, all 'ot!"

And he drove a brisk trade among the uninvited guests, who paid for their
own.  Inside, they drank the health of the married couple; but the dozen
of beer barely wet their throats.  Jonah and Chook went to the "Woolpack"
with jugs, and the company settled down to the spree.  At intervals the
men offered to shout for a few friends, and, borrowing a dead marine from
the heap of empty bottles, shuffled off to the hotel to get it filled.
The noise grew to an uproar--a babel of tongues, sudden explosions of
laughter, and the shuffling of feet.

Suddenly Mrs Yabsley looked at the clock.

"Good Gawd!" she cried.  "to-morrer's Sunday, an' there ain't a bite or
sup in the blessed 'ouse!"

In the excitement of the wedding she had forgotten her weekly shopping.
It was a catastrophe.  But Chook had an idea.

"Cum on, blokes," he cried, "'oo'll cum down the road wi' Mother, an' 'elp
carry the tucker?  Blimey, I reckon it's 'er night out!"

A dozen volunteered, with a shout of applause.  Jonah and Ada were left to
entertain the guests, and the party set out.  The grocer was going to bed,
and the shop was in darkness, but they banged so fiercely on the door that
he leaned over the balcony in his shirt, convinced that the Push had come
to wreck his shop.  Yet he came down, distressed in his shopkeeper's soul
at the thought of losing his profit.  He served her in haste, terrified by
the boisterous noise of her escort.

Then they walked up the Road, shrieking with laughter, bumping against the
passengers, who hurried past with scared looks.  It was a triumphal
procession to the butcher's and the greengrocer's Mrs Yabsley, radiant
with beer, gave her orders royally, her bodyguard, seizing on every
purchase, fighting for the privilege of carrying it.  The procession
turned into Cardigan Street again, laden with provisions, yelling scraps
of song, rousing the street with ungodly clamour.

Old Dad met them at the corner of Cooper Street.  He stood for a moment,
lurching with unpremeditated steps to the front and rear, astonished by
the noise and the crowd.  Then he recognized Mrs Yabsley,  and became
suddenly excited, under the impression that she was being taken to the
lock-up by the police.  He lurched gallantly into the throng, calling on
his friends to rescue the old girl from her captors.  When he learned that
she was in no danger, he grew enthusiastic, and insisted on helping
to carry the provisions.

"'Ere, Dad, yer've lost yer 'ead.  Take this," said Chook, offering him
a cabbage.

"Keep it, sonny--keep it; you want it more than I do," cried Dad,
scornfully.

So saying, he tore a shoulder of mutton out of Waxy's hands, and,
carrying it in his arms as a woman carries a child, joined the procession
with sudden, zigzag steps.  When the party reached the cottage, it was met
with a howl of welcome from the crowd, which now reached to the opposite
footpath.  Barney Ryan, seized with an inspiration, broke suddenly into
"Mother Shipton".  The chorus was taken up with a roar of discordant
voices:


Good old Mother has come again to prophesy
Things that will surely occur as the days go rolling by,
So listen to me if you wish to know,
For I'll let you into the know, you know,
And tell you some wonders before I go
To home, sweet home.


Mrs Yabsley, delighted by the compliment, stood on her veranda, smiling
and radiant, like Royalty receiving homage from its subjects.  This set
the ball rolling.  Song followed song, the pick of the music-halls.
Jonah gave a selection on the mouth-organ.  Then Barney, who was growing
hoarse, winked maliciously at Jonah and Ada, and struck into his
masterpiece, "Trinity Church".  It was the success of the evening.


She told me her age was five-and-twenty,
Cash in the bank of course she'd plenty,
I like a lamb believed it all,
I was an M.U.G.;
At Trinity Church I met my doom,
Now we live in a top back room,
Up to my eyes in debt for 'renty',
That's what she's done for me.


The chorus rang out with a deafening roar.  The guests, tickled by the
words that fell so pat, twisted and squirmed with laughter, digging their
fingers into their neighbours' ribs to emphasize the details.  But Barney,
in trying to imitate a stumpy man with an umbrella, as the song demanded,
tripped and lay where he fell, too fatigued to rise.

Then, saddened by the beer they had drunk, they grew sentimental.
Mrs Swadling, who never let herself be asked twice, for fear of being
thought shy, led off with a pathetic ballad.  She sang in a thin,
quavering voice, staring into, vacancy with glassy eyes like the blind
beggars at the corner, dragging the tune till it became a wail--a dirge
for lost souls.


Some are gone from us for ever,
Longer here they might not stay;
They have reached a fairer region,
Far away-ee, far away--
They have reached a fairer region,
Far away-ee, far away.


The guests listened with a beery sadness in their  eyes, suddenly reminded
that you were here to-day and gone to-morrow, pierced with a sense of the
tragic brevity of Life, their hearts oppressed with a pleasant anguish at
the pity and wonder of this insubstantial world.

Mrs Yabsley had put the baby in her bed, where it had slept calmly through
the night till awakened by the singing.  Then it grew fretful, disturbed
by the rude clamour.  At length, in a sudden pause, a lusty yell from the
bedroom fell on their ears.  Everyone smiled.  But, as Mrs Yabsley crossed
the room to pacify it, the women called for the baby to be brought out.
When Mrs Yabsley appeared with the infant in her arms, she was greeted
with yells of admiration.  Ada turned crimson with embarrassment.  The
women passed it from hand to hand, nursing it for a few minutes with
little cries of emotion.

But suddenly Jonah walked up to Mrs Swadling and took his child in his
arms.  And he stood before the crowd, his eyes glittering with pride as
he exhibited his own flesh and blood, the son whose shapely back and limbs
proved that only an accident separated the hunchback from his fellows.
The guests howled with delight, clapping their hands, stamping their feet,
trying to add to the din.  It was a triumph, the sensation of the evening.
Then Old Dad, shutting one eye to see more distinctly, proposed the health
of the baby.  It was given with a roar.  The noise stimulated Dad to
further effort and, swaying slightly, he searched his memory for a
suitable quotation.  A patent medicine advertisement zigzagged across his
brain, and with a sigh of relief, he muttered, 

"The 'and that slaps the baby rocks the world,"

beaming on the guests with the air of a man who has Shakespeare at his
fingers' ends.  There was a dead silence, and Dad looked round in wonder.
Then a woman tittered, and a shout went up that rattled the windows.

It was nearly twelve when the party broke up, chiefly because the
"Woolpack" was closed and the supply of beer was cut off.  Some of the men
had reached the disagreeable stage, maudlin drunk or pugnacious, anxious
to quarrel, but forgetting the cause of dispute.  The police, who had
looked on with a tolerant eye, began to clear the footpaths, shaking the
drowsy into wakefulness, threatening and coaxing the obstinate till they
began to stagger homewards.

There was nearly a fight in the cottage.  Pinkey's young man had called to
take her home, and Chook had recognized him for an old enemy, a
wool-washer, called "Stinky" Collins on account of the vile smell of
decaying skins that hung about his clothes.  Chook began to make love to
Pinkey under his very eyes.  And Stinky sat in sullen silence, refusing to
open his mouth.  Pinkey, amazed by Chook's impudence and annoyed that her
lover should cut so poor a figure, encouraged him, with the feminine
delight in playing with fire.  Then Chook, with an insolent grin at
Stinky, announced that he was going to see Pinkey home.  Mrs Yabsley just
parted them in time.  Chook went swearing up to the corner on the chance
of getting a final taste at the "Woolpack."

Mrs Yabsley stood on the veranda and watched his departing figure, aching
in every joint from the strain of the eventful day.  Cardigan Street was
silent and deserted.  The air was still hot and breathless, but little
gusts of wind began to rise, the first signs of a coming "buster".  Then
she turned to Jonah and Ada, who had followed her on to the veranda,
and summed up the day's events.

"All's well that ends well, as the man said when he plaited the horse's
tail, but this is a new way of gittin' married on the sly, with all the
street to keep the secret.  There's no mistake, secrets are dead funny.
Spend yer last penny to 'elp yer friend out of a 'ole, an' it niver gits
about, but pawn yer last shirt, an' nex' day all the bloomin' street wants
to know if yer don't feel the cold."




CHAPTER 8



JONAH STARTS ON HIS OWN


It was Monday morning.  Hans Paasch was at his bench cleaning up the dirt
and litter of last week, setting the tools in order at one end of the
bench, while he swept it clear of the scraps of leather that had gathered
through the week.  Then he set the heavy iron lasts on their shelves,
where they looked like a row of amputated feet.  The shining knives and
irons lay in order, ready to hand.  A light cloud of dust from the broom
made him sneeze, and he strewed another handful of wet tea-leaves on the
floor.  These he saved carefully from day to day to lay the dust before
sweeping.  When the bench and the shop were swept clean, he looked round
with mild satisfaction.

Once a week, in this manner, he gratified his passion for order and
neatness; but when work began, everything fell into disorder, and he
wasted hours peering over the bench with his short sight for tools that
lay under his nose, buried in a heap of litter.

The peculiar musty odour of leather hung about the shop.  A few pairs of
boots that had been mended stood in a row, the shining black rim of the
new soles contrasting with the worn, dingy uppers--the patched and mended
shoes of the poor, who must wear them while upper and sole hang together.
They betrayed the age and sex of the wearer as clearly as a photograph.
The shoddy slipper, with the high, French heels, of the smart shop-girl;
the heavy bluchers, studded with nails, of the labourer; the light tan
boots, with elegant, pointed toes, of the clerk or counter-jumper; the
shoes of a small child, with a thin rim of copper to protect the toes.

For the first time since he was on piecework, Jonah set out for the shop
on Monday morning; but when he walked in, Paasch met him with a look of
surprise, thinking he had mistaken the day of the week.  He blinked
uneasily when Jonah reached for his apron.

"It vas no use putting on your apron.  Dere is not a stitch of work to be
done," he cried in amazement.

Jonah looked round, it was true.  He remembered that the repairs, which
were the backbone of Paasch's trade, began to come in slowly on Monday.
Paasch always began the week by making a pair of boots for the window,
which he sold at half price when the leather had perished.  In his
eagerness for work, he had forgotten that Paasch's business was so small.
He looked round with annoyance, realizing that he would never earn the
wages here that he needed for his child.  For he usually earned about
fifteen shillings, except in the Christmas season, when trade was brisk.
Then he drew more than a pound.  This sum of money, which had formerly
satisfied his wants, now seemed a mere flea-bite.

He looked round with a sudden scorn on the musty shop that had given him
work and food since he was a boy.  The sight of the old man, bending over
the last, with his simple, placid face, annoyed him.  And he felt a sudden
enmity for this man whose old-fashioned ways had let him grow grey here
like a rat in a hole.

He stared round, wondering if anything could be done to improve the
business.  The shop wanted livening up with a coat of paint.  He would put
new shelves up, run a partition across, and dress the windows like the
shops down town.  In his eager thoughts he saw the dingy shop transformed
under his touch, spick and span, alive with customers, who jostled one
another as they passed in and out, the coin clinking merrily in the till.

He awoke as from a dream, and looked with dismay on the small, grimy shop
keeping pace with its master's old age.  Suddenly an idea came into his
head, and he stared at Paasch with a hard, calculating look in his eyes.
Then he got up, and walked abruptly out of the shop.  The old German, who
was used to his sudden humours and utter want of manners peered after his
retreating figure with a puzzled look.

Jonah had walked out of the door to look for work.  He saw that it was
useless to expect the constant work and wages that he needed from Paasch,
for the old man's business had remained stationary during the twelve years
that Jonah had worked for him.  And he had decided to leave him, if a job
could be found.  He stood on the footpath and surveyed the Road with some
anxiety.  There were plenty of shops, but few of them in which he would be
welcome, owing to his reputation as leader of the Push.  For years he had
been at daggers drawn with the owners of the three largest shops, and the
small fry could barely make a living for themselves.

The street-arab in him, used to the freedom of a small shop, recoiled from
the thought of Packard's, the huge factory where you became a machine,
repeating one operation indefinitely till you were fit for nothing else.
Paasch had taught him the trade thoroughly, from cutting out the insoles
to running the bead-iron round the finished boot.  As a forlorn hope, he
resolved to call on Bob Watkins.  Bob, who always passed the time of day
with him, had been laid up with a bad cold for weeks.  He might be glad
of some help.  Jonah found the shop empty, the bench and tools covered
with dust.  Mrs Watkins came in answer to his knock.

"Bob's done 'is last day's work 'ere," she said, using her handkerchief.
"'E 'ad a terrible cold all the winter, an' at last 'e got so bad we 'ad
to call the doctor in, an' 'e told 'im 'e was in a gallopin' consumption,
an' sent 'im away to some 'ome on the mountains."

"It's no use askin' fer a job, then?" inquired Jonah.

"None at all," said the woman.  "Bob neglected the work for a long time,
as 'e was too weak to do it, an' the customers took their work away.
In fact, I'm giving up the shop, an' going back to business.  I was a
dressmaker before I got married, and my sister's 'ad more work than she
could do ever since I left 'er.  And Bob wrote down last week to say that
I was to sell the lasts and tools for what they would fetch.  And now I
think of it, I wish you would run your eye over the lasts and bench, an'
tell me what  they ought to fetch.  A man offered me three pounds for the
lot, but I know that's too cheap."

"Yer'll niver get wot 'e gave fer 'em, but gimme a piece of paper, an'
I'll work it out," said Jonah.

In half an hour he made a rough inventory based on the cost and present
condition of the material.

"I make it ten pounds odd, but I don't think yer'll git it," he said at
last.  "Seven pounds would be a fair offer, money down."

"I'd be thankful to get that," said Mrs Watkins.

Jonah walked thoughtfully up Cardigan Street.  Here was the chance of a
lifetime, if a man had a few dollars.  With Bob's outfit, he could open a
shop on the Road, and run rings round Paasch and the others.  But seven
pounds!  He had never handled so much money in his life, and there was no
one to lend it to him.  Mrs Yabsley was as poor as a crow.  Well, he would
fit up the back room as a workshop, and go on at Packard's as an outdoor
finisher, carrying a huge bag of boots to and from the factory every week,
like Tom Mullins.

When Jonah reached the cottage, he found Mrs Yabsley sorting the shirts
and collars; Ada was reading a penny novelette.  She had left Packard's
without ceremony on her wedding-day, and was spending her honeymoon on
the back veranda.  Her tastes were very simple.  Give her nothing to do,
a novelette to read, and some lollies to suck, and she was satisfied.
Ray, who was growing too big for the box-cradle, was lying on a sugar-bag
in the shade.

"W'y, Joe, yer face is as long as a fiddle!" cried Mrs Yabsley,
cheerfully.  "Wot's up?  'Ave yer got the sack?"

"No, but Dutchy's got nuthin' fer me till We'n'sday.  I might 'ave known
 that.  An' anyhow, if I earned more than a quid, 'e'd break 'is 'eart."

"Well, a quid's no good to a man wi' a wife an' family," replied the old
woman.  "Wot do yer reckon on doin'?"

She knew that her judgment of Jonah was being put to the test, and she
remarked his gloomy face with satisfaction.

"I'm goin' ter chuck Dutchy, if I can git a job," said Jonah.  "I went
round ter Bob Watkins, but 'e's in the 'orspital, an' 'is wife's sellin'
'is tools."

"Wot does she want for 'em?" asked Mrs Yabsley, with a curious look.

"Seven quid, an' they'd set a man up fer life," said Jonah.

"Ah!  that's a lot o' money," said Mrs Yabsley, raking the ashes from
under the copper.  "Wait till this water boils, an' we'll talk things
over."

Ada returned to her novelette.  Ray, sitting upright with an effort,
gurgled with pleasure to see his father.  Jonah tilted him on his back,
and tickled his fat legs, pretending to worry him like a dog.  The pair
made a tremendous noise.

"Oh, gi' the kid a bit o' peace!" cried Ada, angry at being disturbed.

"Yous git round, an' 'elp Mum wi' the clothes," snapped Jonah.

"Me?  No fear!" cried Ada, with a malicious grin.  "I didn't knock off
work to carry bricks.  Yous married me, an' yer got ter keep me."

Jonah looked at her with a scowl.  She knew quite well that he had
married her for the child's sake alone.   A savage retort was on his
tongue, but Mrs Yabsley stepped in.

"Well, Joe, now I see yer dead set on earnin' a livin', I don't mind
tellin' yer I've got somethin' up me sleeve.  No, I don't mean a
guinea-pig an' a dozen eggs, like the conjurer bloke I see once," she
explained in reply to his surprised look; "but if yer the man I take yer
for, we'll soon 'ave the pot a-boiling.  Many's the weary night I've spent
in bed thinkin' about you w'en I might 'ave bin snorin'.  That reminds me.
Did y'ever notice yer can niver tell exactly w'en yer drop off?  I've
tried all I know, but ye're awake one minit, an' chasin' a butterfly wi' a
cow's 'ead the next.  But that ain't wot I'm a-talkin' about.  Paasch 'e's
blue mouldy, an' couldn't catch a snail unless yer give 'im a start; an'
if yer went ter Packard's, yer'd tell the manager ter go to 'ell, an' git
fired out the first week.  Yous must be yer own boss, Joe.  I've studied
yer like a book, an yer nose wasn't made that shape for nuthin'."

"W'y, wot's wrong wi' it?" laughed Jonah, feeling his nose with its
powerful, predatory curve.

"Nuthin', if yer listen to me.  'Ave yer got pluck enough ter start on yer
own?" she inquired, suddenly.

"Wot's the use, w'en I've got no beans?" replied Jonah.

"I'll find the beans, an' yer can go an' buy Bob Watkins's shop out as it
stands," said Mrs Yabsley, proudly.

"Fair dinkum!" cried Jonah, in amazement.

Ada put down her novelette and stared, astonished  at the turn of the
conversation.  It flashed through her mind that her mother had some
mysterious habits.  Suppose she were like the misers she had read of in
books, who lived in the gutter, and owned terraces of houses?  For a
moment Ada saw herself riding in a carriage, with rings on every finger,
and feathers in her hat, with the childlike faith of the ignorant in the
marvellous.

But Mrs Yabsley was studying some strange hieroglyphics like Chinese,
pencilled on the cupboard.  She knitted her brows in the agony of
calculation.

"I can lay me 'ands on thirty pounds in solid cash," she announced.  She
spoke as if it were a million.  Jonah cried out in amazement; Ada felt
disappointed.

"W'ere is it, Mum?  In the bank?" asked Jonah.

"No fear," said Mrs Yabsley, with a crafty smile.  "It's as safe as a
church.  I was niver fool enough ter put my money in the bank.  I know all
about them.  Yer put yer money in fer years, an' then, w'en they've got
enough, they shut the door, an' the old bloke wi' the white weskit an'
gold winkers cops the lot.  No banks fer me, thank yer!"

Then she explained that ever since she opened the laundry, she had
squeezed something out of her earnings as one squeezes blood out of a
stone.  She had saved threepence this week, sixpence that, sometimes even
a shilling went into the child's money-box that she had chosen as a safe
deposit.  When the coins mounted to a sovereign, she had changed them into
a gold piece.  Then, her mind disturbed by visions of thieves bent on
plunder, she had hit on a plan.  A floorboard was loose in the kitchen.
She had levered this up, and probed with a stick till she  touched solid
earth.  Then the yellow coin, rolled carefully in a ball of paper, was
dropped into the hole.  And for years she had added to her unseen treasure,
dropping her precious coins into that dark hole with more security than a
man deposits thousands in the bank.  But the time was come to unearth
the golden pile.

She trembled with excitement when Jonah ripped up the narrow plank with
the poker.  Then he thrust his arm down till he touched the soft earth.
He seemed a long time groping, and Mrs Yabsley wondered at the delay.
At last he sat up, with a perplexed look.

"I can't feel nuthin'," he said.  "Are yez sure this is the place?"

"Of course it is," said Mrs Yabsley, sharply.  "I dropped them down right
opposite the 'ead of that nail."

Jonah groped again without success.

"'Ere, let me try," said Mum, impatiently.

She knelt over the hole to get her bearings, and then plunged her arm
into the gap.  Jonah and Ada, on their knees, watched in silence.

At last, with a cry of despair, Mrs Yabsley sat up on the floor.

There was no doubt, the treasure was gone!  In this extremity, her wit,
her philosophy, her temper, her very breath deserted her, and she wept.
She looked the picture of misery as the tears rolled down her face.
Jonah and Ada stared at one another in dismay, each wondering if this
story of a hidden treasure was a delusion of the old woman's mind.  Like
her neighbours, who lived from hand to mouth, she was given to dreaming of
imaginary riches falling on her from the clouds.  But her grief was too
real for doubt.

"Well, if it ain't there, w'ere is it?" cried Jonah, angrily, feeling that
he, too, had been robbed.  "If it's gone, somebody took it.  Are yer sure
yer niver got a few beers in, an' started skitin' about it?"  He looked
hard at Ada.

"Niver a word about it 'ave I breathed to a livin' soul till this day,"
wailed Mrs Yabsley, mopping her eyes with her apron.

"Rye buck!" said Jonah.  "'Ere goes!  I'll find it, if the blimey house
falls down.  Gimme that axe."

The floor-boards cracked and split as he ripped them up.  Small beetles
and insects, surprised by the light, scrambled with desperate haste into
safety.  A faint, earthy smell rose from the foundations.  Suddenly,
with a yell of triumph, Jonah stooped, and picked up a dirty ball of paper.
As he lifted it, a glittering coin fell out.

"W'y, wot's this?" he cried, looking curiously at the wad of discoloured
paper.  One side had been chewed to a pulp by something small and sharp.
"Rats an' mice!" cried Jonah.

"They've boned the paper ter make their nests.  Every dollar's 'ere,
if we only look."

"Thank Gawd!" said Mrs Yabsley, heaving a tremendous sigh.  "Ada, go an'
git a jug o' beer."

In an hour Jonah had recovered twenty-eight of the missing coins; the
remaining two had evidently been dragged down to their nests by the
industrious vermin.  Late in the afternoon Jonah, who looked like a sweep,
gave up the search.  The kitchen was a  wreck.  Mrs Yabsley sat with the
coins in her lap, feasting her eyes on this heap of glittering gold, for
she had rubbed each coin till it shone like new.  Her peace of mind was
restored, but it was a long time before she could think of rats and mice
without anger.




CHAPTER 9



PADDY'S MARKET


Chook was standing near the entrance to the market where his mates had
promised to meet him, but he found that he had still half an hour to spare,
as he had come down early to mark a pak-ah-pu ticket at the Chinaman's in
Hay Street.  So he lit a cigarette and sauntered idly through the markets
to kill time.

The three long, dingy arcades were flooded with the glare from clusters
of naked gas-jets, and the people, wedged in a dense mass, moved slowly
like water in motion between the banks of stalls.  From the stone flags
underneath rose a sustained, continuous noise--the leisurely tread and
shuffle of a multitude blending with the deep hum of many voices, and over
it all, like the upper notes in a symphony, the shrill, discordant cries
of the dealers.

Overhead, the light spent its brightness in a gloomy vault, like the roof
of a vast cathedral fallen into decay, its ancient timbers blackened with
the smoke and grime of half a century.  On Saturdays the great market,
silent and deserted for six nights in the week, was a debauch of sound
and colour and smell.  Strange, pungent odours assailed the  nostrils;
the ear was surprised with the sharp, broken cries of dealers, the cackle
of poultry, and the murmur of innumerable voices; the stalls, splashed
with colour, astonished the eye like a picture, immensely powerful,
immensely crude.

The long rows of stalls were packed with the drift and refuse of a great
City.  For here the smug respectability of the shops were cast aside,
and you were deep in the romance of traffic in merchandise fallen from
its high estate--a huge welter and jumble of things arrested in their
ignoble descent from the shops to the gutter.

At times a stall was loaded with the spoils of a sunken ship or the loot
from a city fire, and you could buy for a song the rare fabrics and costly
dainties of the rich, a stain on the cloth, a discoloured label on the
tin, alone giving a hint of their adventures.  Then the people hovered
round like wreckers on a hostile shore, carrying off spoil and treasure at
a fraction of its value, exulting over their booty like soldiers after
pillage.

There was no caprice of the belly that could not be gratified, no want of
the naked body that could not be supplied in this huge bazaar of the poor,
but its cost had to be counted in pence, for those who bought in the
cheapest market came here.

A crowd of women and children clustered like flies round the lolly stall
brought Chook to a standstill; the trays heaped with sweets coloured like
the rainbow, pleased his eye, and, remembering Ada's childish taste for
lollies, he thought suddenly of her friend, Pinkey the red-haired,
and smiled.

Near at hand stood a collection of ferns and pot-plants, fresh and cool,
smelling of green gardens and moist earth.  Over the way, men lingered
with serious faces, trying the edge of a chisel with their thumb,
examining saws, planes, knives, and shears with a workman's interest in
the tools that earn his bread.

Chook stopped to admire the art gallery, gay with coloured pictures from
the Christmas numbers of English magazines.  On the walls were framed
pictures of Christ crucified, the red blood dropping from His wounds, or
the old rustic bridge of an English village, crude as almanacs, printed to
satisfy the artistic longings of the people.

Opposite, a cock crowed in defiance; the hens cackled loudly in the coops;
the ducks lay on planks, their legs fastened with string, their eyes dazed
with terror or fatigue.

A cargo of scented soap and perfume, the damaged rout of a chemist's shop,
fascinated the younger women, stirring their instinctive delight in
luxury; and for a few pence they gratified the longing of their hearts.

The children pricked their ears at the sudden blare of a tin trumpet, the
squeaking of a mechanical doll.  And they stared in amazement at the
painted toys, surprised that the world contained such beautiful things.
The mothers, harassed with petty cares, anxiously considered the prices;
then the pennies were counted, and the child clasped in its small hands a
Noah's ark, a wax doll, or a wooden sword.

Chook stared at the vegetable stalls with murder in his eyes, for here
stood slant-eyed Mongolians behind heaps of potatoes, onions, cabbages,
beans, and cauliflowers, crying the prices in broken English,  or
chattering with their neighbours in barbaric, guttural sounds.  To Chook
they were the scum of the earth, less than human, taking the bread out of
his mouth, selling cheaply because they lived like vermin in their gardens.

But he forgot them in watching the Jews driving bargains in second-hand
clothes, renovated with secret processes handed down from the Ark.  Coats
and trousers, equipped for their last adventure with mysterious darns and
patches, cheated the eye like a painted beauty at a ball.  Women's finery
lay in disordered heaps--silk blouses covered with tawdry lace, skirts
heavy with gaudy trimming--the draggled plumage of fine birds that had
come to grief.  But here buyer and seller met on level terms, for each
knew to a hair the value of the sorry garments; and they chaffered with
crafty eyes, each searching for the silent thought behind the spoken lie.

Chook stared at the bookstall with contempt, wondering how people found
the time and patience to read.  One side was packed with the forgotten
lumber of bookshelves--an odd volume of sermons, a collection of
scientific essays, a technical work out of date.  And the men, anxious to
improve their minds, stared at the titles with the curious reverence of
the illiterate for a printed book.  At their elbows boys gloated over the
pages of a penny dreadful, and the women fingered penny novelettes with
rapid movements, trying to judge the contents from the gaudy cover.

The crowd at the provision stall brought Chook to a standstill again.
Enormous flitches hung from the posts, and the shelves were loaded with
pieces of bacon tempting the eye with a streak of lean in a wilderness of
fat.  The buyers watched hungrily as the keen knife slipped into the rich
meat, and the rasher, thin as paper, fell on the board like the shaving
from a carpenter's plane.  The dealer, wearing a clean shirt and white
apron, served his customers with smooth, comfortable movements, as if
contact with so much grease had nourished his body and oiled his joints.

When Chook elbowed his way to the corner where Joe Crutch and Waxy Collins
had promised to meet him, there was no sign of them, and he took another
turn up the middle arcade.  It was now high tide in the markets, and the
stream of people filled the space between the stalls like a river in flood.
And they moved at a snail's pace, clutching in their arms fowls,
pot-plants, parcels of groceries, toys for the children, and a thousand
odd, nameless trifles, bought for the sake of buying, because they were
cheap.  A babel of broken conversation, questions and replies, jests and
laughter, drowned the cries of the dealers, and a strong, penetrating
odour of human sweat rose on the hot air.  From time to time a block
occurred, and the crowd stood motionless, waiting patiently until they
could move ahead.  In one of these sudden blocks Chook, who was craning
his neck to watch the vegetable stalls, felt someone pushing, and turning
his head, found himself staring into the eyes of Pinkey, the red-haired.

"'Ello, fancy meetin' yous," cried Chook, his eyes dancing with pleasure.

The curious pink flush spread over the girl's face, and then she found
her tongue.

"Look w'ere ye're goin'.  Are yer walkin' in yer sleep?"

"I am," said Chook, "an' don't wake me; I like it."

But the twinkle died out of his eyes when he saw Stinky Collins, separated
from Pinkey by the crowd, scowling at him over her shoulder.  He ignored
Chook's friendly nod, and they stood motionless, wedged in that sea of
human bodies until it chose to move.

Chook felt the girl's frail body pressed against him.  His nostrils caught
the odour of her hair and flesh, and the perfume mounted to his brain like
wine, The wonderful red hair, glittering like bronze, fell in short curls
round the nape of her neck, where it had escaped from the comb.  A tremor
ran through his limbs and his pulse quickened.  And he was seized with an
insane desire to kiss the white flesh, pale as ivory against her red hair.
The crowd moved, and Pinkey wriggled to the other side.

"I'll cum wid yer, if yer feel lonely," said Chook as she passed.

"Yous git a move on, or yer'll miss the bus," cried Pinkey, as she passed
out of sight.

When Chook worked his way back to the corner, little Joe Crutch and
Waxy Collins stepped forward.

"W'ere the 'ell 'ave yer bin?  We've bin waitin' 'ere this 'arf 'our,"
they cried indignantly.

"Wot liars yer do meet," said Chook, grinning.

The three entered the new market, an immense red-brick square with a
smooth, cemented floor, and a lofty roof on steel girders.  It is here
the people amuse themselves with the primitive delights of an English fair
after the fatigue of shopping.

The larrikins turned to the chipped-potato stall as a hungry dog jumps at
a bone, eagerly sniffing the smell of burning fat as the potatoes crisped
in the spitting grease.

"It's up ter yous ter shout," cried Joe and Waxy.

"Well, a tray bit won't break me," said Chook, producing threepence
from his pocket.

The dealer, wearing the flat white cap of a French cook, and a clean
apron, ladled the potatoes out of the cans into a strainer on the counter.
His wife, with a rapid movement, twisted a slip of paper into a spill,
and, filling it with chips, shook a castor of salt over the top.
Customers crowded about, impatient to be served, and she went through the
movements of twisting the paper, filling it with chips, and shaking the
castor with the automatic swiftness of a machine.

When they were served, the larrikins stood on one side crunching the crisp
slices of potato between their teeth with immense relish as they watched
the cook stirring the potatoes in the cauldron of boiling fat.  Then they
licked the grease off their fingers, lit cigarettes, and sauntered on.
But the chips had whetted their appetites, and the sight of green peas
and saveloys made their mouths water.

Men, women, and children sat on the forms round the stall with the stolid
air of animals waiting to be fed.  When each received a plate containing
a squashy mess of peas and a luscious saveloy, they began to eat with
slow, animal satisfaction, heedless of the noisy crowd.  The larrikins sat
down and gave their order, each paying for his own.

"Nothin' like a feed ter set a man up," said Chook, wiping his mouth with
the back of his hand.

As he turned, he was surprised to see Stinky Collins and Pinkey in front
of the electric battery.  These machines had a singular attraction for
the people.  The mysterious fluid that ran silently and invisibly through
the copper wires put them in touch with the mysteries of Nature.  And they
gripped the brass handles, holding on till the tension became too great,
with the conscientious air of people taking medicine.

Stinky, full of jealous fear, had dragged Pinkey to the new market, where
he meant to treat her to green peas and ice-cream.  But as they passed the
battery, a sudden desire swept through him to give an exhibition of his
strength and endurance to this girl, to force her admiration with the
vanity of a cock strutting before his hens.

He took hold of the brass handles, and watched the dial, like a
clock-face, that marked the intensity of the current.  The muscles of his
face contracted into a rigid stare as the electric current ran through his
limbs.  He had the face of one visiting the dentist, but he held on until
the pointer marked half-way.  Then he nodded, and dropped the handles with
a sigh of relief as the current was turned off.

But as he looked to Pinkey for the applause that he had earned, Chook
stepped up to the machine and, with an impudent grin at Pinkey, grasped
the handles.  The pointer moved slowly round, and passed Stinky's mark,
but Chook held on, determined to eclipse his rival.  His muscles seemed to
be cracking with pain, the seconds lengthened into intolerable hours.
Suddenly, as the dial marked three-quarters, he dropped the handles with
a grin of triumph at Pinkey.

Stinky, smarting with defeat, instantly took up the challenge.

"That's no test of strength," he cried angrily.  "Women can stand a lot
more than men."

"Orl right; choose yer own game, an' I'm after yer," said Chook.

Behind them a hammer fell with a tremendous thud, and a voice cried,
"Try yer strength--only a penny, only a penny."

"'Ow'll that suit yer?" inquired Stinky, with a malicious grin, for he
counted on his superior weight and muscle to overcome his rival.

"Let 'er go!" cried Chook.

Stinky spat on his hands, and seized the wooden mallet.  Cripes, he would
show Pinkey which was the better man of the two!  He tightened his muscles
with tremendous effort as he swung the hammer, turning red in the face
with the exertion.  The mallet fell, and a little manikin flew up the
pillar, marking the weight of the blow.  It was a good stroke, and he
threw down the hammer with the air of a Sandow.

Then Chook seized the mallet, still with his provoking grin at Pinkey,
and swung it with the ease of a man using an axe.  The manikin flew level
with Stinky's mark.  And they disputed angrily which was the heavier blow.
But Stinky, whose blood was up, seized the mallet again, and forced every
ounce of his strength into the blow.  The manikin flew a foot higher than
the previous mark.  The contest went on, each striving to beat the other's
mark, with blows that threatened to shatter the machine, till both were
tired.  But Stinky's second blow held the record.  Chook was beaten.

"Is there any other game yer know?" sneered Stinky.

Near them were the shooting-galleries, looking like enormous chimneys that
had blown down.  A sharp, spitting crack came from each rifle as it
was fired.

"A dollar even money yer can't ring the bell in six shots," cried Chook.

"Done!" shouted Stinky.

The stakes, in half-crowns, were handed to the proprietor of the gallery,
and they took turns with the pea-rifle, resting their elbows on the ledge
as they stared down the black tube at a white disc that seemed miles away.
Each held the gun awkwardly like a broom-handle, holding their breath to
prevent the barrel from wobbling.  At the fifth shot, by a lucky fluke,
Chook rang the bell.  When he put down the rifle, Stinky was already
dragging Pinkey away, his face black with anger.  But Chook cried out, 

"'Ere, 'arf a mo'--this is my shout!"

They were near the ice-cream stall, where trade was brisk, for the
people's appetite for this delicacy is independent of the season.  Pinkey,
who adored ice-cream, looked with longing eyes, but Stinky turned angrily
on his heel.

"'Ave a bit o' common, an' don't make a 'oly show  of yerself 'cause yer
lost a dollar," she whispered in disgust.

She pulled him to a seat, and the party sat down to wait their turn.
Then the dealer scooped the frozen delicacy out of the can, and plastered
it into the glasses as if it were mortar.  And they swallowed the icy
mixture in silence, allowing it to melt on the tongue to extract the
flavour before swallowing.  All but Stinky, who held his glass as if it
belonged to someone else, disdaining to touch it.  Chook's gorge rose
at the sight 

"Don't eat it, if it chokes yer," he cried.

With an oath Stinky threw the glass on the ground, where it broke with a
noisy crash that jerked every head in their direction as if pulled by
strings.

"I can pay fer wot I eat," he cried.  "Come on, Liz."

The others had sprung to their feet, astonished at this prodigal waste
of a delicacy fit for kings.  Chook stood for a moment, glowering with
rage, and then ran at his enemy; but Pinkey jumped between them.

"You do!--you do!" she cried, pushing him away with the desperate valour
of a hen defending her chickens.

"Orl right, not till next time," said Chook, smiling grimly.

She pulled Stinky by the arm, and they disappeared in the crowd.

"It's all right, missis; I'll pay fer the glass," said Chook to the
dealer, who began to jabber excitedly in Italian.  The woman began to
scrape the pieces of broken glass together, and the sight reminded Chook
of the insult.  His face darkened.

"Cum on, blokes, an' see a bit o' fun," he cried with a mirthless grin
that showed he was dangerously excited.  The three larrikins caught up
with Stinky and the girl as they were crossing into Belmore Park.  Stinky
was explaining to some sympathizers the events that had led up to the
quarrel.

"Wot would yous do if a bloke tried to sneak yer moll?" he inquired
in an injured tone.

"Break 'is bleedin' neck," said Chook as he stepped up.

"When I want yer advice, I'll ask fer it," cried Stinky.

"Yer'll git it now without askin'," said Chook.  "Don't open yer mouth
so wide, or yer'll ketch cold."

"I don't want ter talk ter anybody as 'awks rotten cabbages through the
streets," cried Stinky.

"The cabbages don't stink worse than some people I've met," Chook replied.

Stinky, who was very touchy on the score of the vile smell of his trade,
boiled over.

"Never mind my trade," he shouted, "I'm as good a man as yous."

"Garn, that's only a rumour!  I wouldn't let it git about," sneered Chook.

The smouldering hate of months burst suddenly into flame, and the two men
rushed at each other.  The others tried to separate them.

"Don't be a fool."

"Yer'll only git lumbered."

"'Ere's the traps." But the two enemies, with a sudden twist, broke away
from their advisers, and threw off their hats and coats.

And as suddenly, the others formed a ring round the two antagonists,
who faced each other with the savage intensity of gamecocks, with no
thought but to maim and kill the enemy in front of them.

A crowd gathered, and Pinkey was pushed to the outside of the ring,
where she could only judge the progress of the fight by the cries of
the onlookers.

"Use yer left, Chook."

"Wot price that?"

"Time!"

"Wait fer 'is rush, an' use yer right."

"Foller 'im up, Chook."

"Oh, dry up!  I tell yer 'e slipped."

"Not in the same class, I tell yer."

"Mix it, Chook--mix it.  Yer've got 'im beat."

The last remark was true, for Stinky, in spite of his superior weight
and height, was no match for Chook, the cock of Cardigan Street.  It was
the fifth round, and Chook was waiting for an opening to finish his man
before the police came up, when a surprising thing happened.  As Stinky
retreated in exhaustion before the fists that rattled on his face like
drumsticks, his hand struck his enemy's lower jaw by chance, and the next
minute he was amazed to see Chook drop to the ground as if shot.  And he
stared with open mouth at his opponent, wondering why he didn't move.

"Gawd, 'e's stiffened 'im!"

"I 'eard 'is neck crack!"

Stinky stood motionless, his wits scattered by this sudden change--the
stillness of his enemy, who a moment ago was beating him down with
murderous fists.

"'Ere's the johns," cried someone.

"Come on, Liz," cried Stinky, and turned to run.

"Cum with yous, yer great 'ulkin', stinkin' coward," cried Pinkey, her
face crimson with passion, "yer'll be lucky if y'ain't hung fer murder."

Stinky listened in amazement.  Here was another change that he was too
dazed to understand, and, hastily grabbing his coat, he ran.

Pinkey ran to Chook's prostrate body, and listened.  "I can 'ear 'im
breathin'," she cried.

The others listened, and the breathing grew louder, a curious,
snoring sound.

"Gorblimey!  A knock-out!"

"'E'll be right in a few minutes."

It was true.  Stinky, with a haphazard blow, had given Chook the dreaded
knock-out, a jolt beside the chin that, in the expressive phrase,
"sent him to sleep".

But now the police came up, glad of this chance to show their authority
and order the people about.  The crowd melted.

Chook's mates had pulled him into a sitting position, when, to Pinkey's
delight, he opened his eyes and spat out a mouthful of blood.

"W'ere the 'ell am I?" he muttered, like a man awaking from a dream.

"What's this?  You've been fighting," said the policeman.

"Me?  No fear," growled Chook.  "I was walkin' along, quiet as a lamb,
 when a bloke come up an' landed me on the jaw."

"Well, who was he?" asked the policeman.

"I dunno.  I never set eyes on 'im before," said Chook, lying without
hesitation to their common enemy, the police.

The policeman looked hard at him, and then cried roughly,

"Get out of this, or I'll lock you up."

Chook's mates helped him to his feet, and he staggered away like a drunken
man.  Suddenly he became aware that someone was crying softly near him,
and, turning his head, found that it was Pinkey, who was holding his arm
and guiding his steps.  He wrenched his arm free with an oath, remembering
that she was the cause of his fight and defeat.  "Wot the 'ell are yous
doin' 'ere?  Go an' tell yer bloke I nearly got lumbered."

"I ain't got no bloke," sobbed Pinkey.

"Wotcher mean?" cried Chook.

"I don't run after people I don't want," said Pinkey, smiling
through her tears.

"Fair dinkum?" cried Chook.

Pinkey nodded her head, with its crown of hair that glittered like bronze.

Chook stopped to think.

"I'm orl right," he said to Waxy and Joe; "I'll ketch up with yer in a
minit."  They understood and walked on.

He stood and stared at Pinkey with a scowl that softened imperceptibly
into a smile, and then a passionate flame leapt into his eyes.

"Cum 'ere," he said; and Pinkey obeyed him like a child.

He looked at her with a gloating fondness in his eyes, and then caught her
in his arms and kissed her with his bleeding lips.

"Ugh, I'm all over blood!" cried the girl with a shuddering laugh,
as she wiped her lips with her handkerchief.




CHAPTER 10



JONAH DECLARES WAR


As it promised to be a slack week, Paasch had decided to dress the window
himself, as he felt that the goods were not displayed to their proper
advantage.  This was a perquisite of Jonah's, for which he was paid
eighteenpence extra once a fortnight; but Jonah had deserted him--a fact
which he discovered by finding that Jonah's tools, his only property,
were missing.

So he had spent a busy morning in renovating his entire stock with double
coats of Peerless Gloss, the stock that the whole neighbourhood knew by
sight--the watertight bluchers with soles an inch thick that a woolwasher
from Botany had ordered and left on his hands; the pair of kangaroo tops
that Pat Riley had ordered the week he was pinched for manslaughter;
the pair of flash kid lace-ups, high in the leg, that Katey Brown had
thrown at his head because they wouldn't meet round her thick calves;
and half a dozen pairs of misfits into which half the neighbourhood had
tried to coax their feet because they were dirt cheap.

But the pride of the collection was a monstrous abortion of a boot, made
for a clubfoot, with a sole and heel six inches deep, that had cost Paasch
weeks of endless contrivance, and had only one fault--it was as heavy as
lead and unwearable.  But Paasch clung to it with the affection of a
mother for her deformed offspring, and gave it the pride of place in the
window.  And daily the urchins flattened their noses against the panes,
fascinated by this monster of a boot, to see it again in dreams on the
feet of horrid giants.  This melancholy collection was flanked by odd
bottles of polish and blacking, and cards of bootlaces of such unusual
strength that elephants were shown vainly trying to break them.

The old man paused in his labours to admire the effect of his new
arrangement, and suddenly noticed a group of children gathered about a man
painting a sign on the window opposite.  Paasch stared; but the words were
a blur to his short sight, and he went inside to look for his spectacles,
which he had pushed up on his forehead in order to dress the window.  By
the time he had looked everywhere without finding them, the painter had
finished the lettering, and was outlining the figure of something on the
window with rapid strokes.

Paasch itched with impatience.  He would have crossed the street to look,
but he made it a rule never to leave the shop, even for a minute, lest
someone should steal the contents in his absence.  As he fidgeted with
impatience, it occurred to him to ask a small boy, who was passing, what
was being painted on the window.

"Why, a boot of course," replied the child.

Paasch's amazement was so great that, forgetting the caution of a
lifetime, he walked across until the words came into range.  What he saw
brought him to a standstill in the middle of Botany Road, heedless of the
traffic, for the blur of words had resolved themselves into: 

JOSEPH JONES,
BOOTMAKER.
Repairs neatly executed.

And, underneath, the pattern of a shoe, which the painter was finishing
with rapid strokes.

So, thought Paasch, another had come to share the trade and take the bread
out of his mouth, and he choked with the egotistical dread of the
shopkeeper at another rival in the struggle for existence.  Who could this
be? he thought, with the uneasy fear of a man threatened with danger.
For the moment he had forgotten Jonah's real name, and he looked into the
shop to size up his adversary with the angry curiosity of a soldier facing
the enemy.  Then, through the open door, he spied the familiar figure of
the hunchback moving about the shop and placing things in order.  He
swallowed hastily, with the choking sensation of a parent whose child has
at last revolted, for his rival was the misshapen boy that he had taken
off the streets, and clothed and fed for years.  Jonah came to the door
for a moment, and, catching sight of the old man, stared at him fixedly
without a sign of recognition.

And suddenly, with a contraction at his heart, a fear and dread of Jonah
swept through Paasch, the vague, primeval distrust and suspicion of the
deformed that lurks in the normal man, a survival of the ancient
hostility that in olden times consigned them to the stake as servants of
the Evil One.

He forgot where he was till the warning snort of a steam tram made him
jump aside and miss the wheels of a bus from the opposite direction by
the skin of his teeth.

And the whole street smiled at the sight of the bewildered old man,
with his silvery hair and leather apron, standing in the middle of the
Road to stare at a dingy shop opposite.

Paasch crossed the street and entered his door again with the air of a man
who has been to a funeral.  He had never made any friends, but, in his
gruff, reserved way, he liked Jonah.  He had taught him his trade, and
here, with a sudden sinking in his heart, he remembered that the pupil
had easily surpassed the master in dexterity.  Then another fear assailed
him.  How would he get through his work? for most of it had passed through
Jonah's nimble fingers.  Ah well, it was no matter!  He was a lonely old
man with nothing but his fiddle to bring back the memories of the
Fatherland.

The week ran to an end, and found Jonah out of pocket.  He had planted
himself like a footpad at the door of his old master to rob him of his
trade and living; and day by day he counted the customers passing in and
out of the old shop, but none came his way.  As he stared across the
street at his rival's shop, his face changed; it was like a hawk's,
threatening and predatory, indifferent to the agony of the downy breast
and fluttering wings that it is about to strike.

It maddened him to see the stream of people pass his shop with
indifference, as if it were none of their business whether he lived or
starved.  The memory of his boyish days returned to him, when every man's
hand was against him, and he took food and shelter with the craft of an
old soldier in hostile country.  Even the shop which he had furnished and
laid out with such loving care, seemed a cunning trap to devour his
precious sovereigns week by week.

True, he had drawn some custom, but it was of the worst sort--that of the
unprincipled rogues who fatten upon tradesmen till the back of their
credit is broken, and then transfer their sinister custom to another.
Jonah recognized them with a grim smile, but he had taken their work,
glad of something to do, although he would never see the colour of their
money.

Meanwhile the weeks ran into a month, and Jonah had not paid expenses.
He could hold out for three months according to his calculation, but he
saw the end rapidly approaching, when he must retire covered with
ignominious defeat.  He would have thrown up the sponge there and then,
but for the thought of the straight-limbed child in Cardigan Street,
for whom he wanted money--money to feed and clothe him for the world
to admire.

One Saturday night, weary of waiting for the custom that never came,
he closed the shop, and joined Ada, who was waiting on the footpath.
They sauntered along, Ada stopping every minute to look into the shop
windows, while Jonah, gloomy and taciturn, turned his back on the lighted
windows with impatience.  Presently Ada gave a cry of delight before
the draper's.

"I say, Joe, that bonnet would suit the kid all to pieces.  An' look at
the price!  Only last week they was seven an' a kick."

Jonah turned and looked at the window.  The bonnet, fluffy and absurd,
was marked with a ticket bearing an enormous figure 4 in red ink, and
beside it, faintly marked in pencil, the number 11.

"W'y don't yer say five bob, an' be done with it?" said Jonah.

"But it ain't five bob; it's only four an' eleven," insisted Ada,
annoyed at his stupidity.

"An' I suppose it 'ud be dear at five bob?" sneered Jonah.

"Any fool could tell yer that," snapped Ada.

Jonah included the whole feminine world in a shrug of the shoulders,
and turned impatiently on his heel.  But Ada was not to be torn away.
She ran her eye over the stock, marvelling at the cheapness of everything.
Jonah, finding nothing better to do, lit a cigarette, and turned a
contemptuous eye on the bales of calico, cheap prints, and flimsy lace
displayed.  Presently he began to study the tickets with extraordinary
interest.  They were all alike.  The shillings in gigantic figures of red
or black, and across the dividing line elevenpence three-farthings
pencilled in strokes as modest as the shy violet.  When Jonah reached
Cardigan Street, he was preoccupied and silent, and sat on the veranda,
smoking in the dark, long after Ada and her mother had gone to bed.

About one o'clock Mrs Yabsley, who was peacefully ironing shirts in her
sleep, was awakened by a loud hammering on the door.  She woke up, and
instantly recognized what had happened.  Ada had left the candle burning
and had set the house on fire, as her mother had daily predicted for the
last ten years.  Then the hammering ceased.

"Are yez awake, Mum?" cried Jonah's voice.

"No," said Mrs Yabsley firmly.  "'Ow did it 'appen?"

"'Appen wot?" cried Jonah roughly.

"'Ow did the 'ouse ketch fire?" said Mrs Yabsley, listening for the
crackling.

"The 'ouse ain't a-fire, an' ye're talkin' in yer sleep."

"Wot!" cried Mrs Yabsley, furiously, "yer wake me up out o' me sleep
to tell me the 'ouse ain't a-fire.  I'll land yer on the 'ead wi' me
slipper, if yer don't go to bed."

"I say, Mum," entreated Jonah, "will yer gimme five quid on Monday,
an ask no questions?"

Mrs Yabsley's only answer was a snore.

But a week later the morning procession that trudged along Botany Road
towards the city was astonished at the sight of a small shop, covered
with huge calico signs displaying in staring red letters on a white
ground the legend:

WHILE U WAIT.
Boots and Shoes Soled and Heeled.
GENTS, 2/11; LADIES, 1/11; CHILDS, 1/6.

The huge red letters, thrown out like a defiance and a challenge, caused
a sensation in the Road.  The pedestrians stopped to read the signs,
looked curiously at the shop, and went on their way.  The passengers in
the trams and buses craned their necks, anxious to read the gigantic
advertisement before they were carried out of sight.  A group of urchins,
stationed at the door, distributed handbills to the curious, containing
the same announcement in bold type.

Across the street hung Paasch's dingy sign from which the paint was
peeling:

Repairs neatly executed 
GENTS, 3/6; LADIES, 2/6; CHILDS, 1/9

--the old prices sanctioned by usage, unchangeable and immovable as the
laws of nature to Paasch and the trade on Botany Road.

The shop itself was transformed.  On one side were half a dozen new chairs
standing in a row on a strip of bright red carpet.  Gay festoons of
coloured tissue paper, the work of Mrs Yabsley's hands, stretched in ropes
across the ceiling.  The window had been cleared and at a bench facing the
street Jonah and an assistant pegged and hammered as if for dear life.
Another, who bore a curious likeness to Chook, with his back to the street
and a last on his knees, hammered with enthusiasm.  A tremendous heap of
old boots, waiting to be repaired, was thrown carelessly in front of the
workers, who seemed too busy to notice the sensation they were creating.

The excitement increased when a customer, Waxy Collins by name, entered
the shop, and, taking off his boots, sat down while they were repaired,
reading the morning paper as coolly as if he were taking his turn at the
barber's.  The thing spread like the news of a murder, and through the day
a group of idlers gathered, watching with intense relish the rapid
movements of the workmen.  Jonah had declared war.

Six weeks after he had opened the shop, Jonah found twelve of
Mrs Yabsley's sovereigns between him and ignominious defeat.  Then the
tickets in the draper's window had given him an idea, and, like a general
who throws his last battalion at the enemy, he had resolved to stake the
remaining coins on the hazard.  The calico signs, then a novelty, the
fittings of the shop, and the wages for a skilful assistant, had swallowed
six of his precious twelve pounds.  With the remaining six he hoped to
hold out for a fortnight.  Then, unless the tide turned, he would throw
up the sponge.  Chook, amazed and delighted with the idea, had volunteered
to disguise himself as a snob, and help to give the shop a busy look;
and Waxy Collins jumped at the chance of getting his boots mended for the
bare trouble of walking in and pretending to read the newspaper.

The other shopkeepers were staggered.  They stared in helpless anger at
the small shop, which had suddenly become the most important in their ken.
Already they saw their families brought to the gutter by this hunchback
ruffian, who hit them below the belt in the most ungentlemanly fashion
in preference to starving.  But the simple manoeuvre of cutting down the
prices of his rivals was only a taste of the unerring instinct for
business that was later to make him as much feared as respected in the
trade.  By a single stroke he had shown his ability to play on the
weakness as well as the needs of the public, coupled with a pitiless
disregard for other interests than his own, which constitutes business
talent.

The public looked on, surprised and curious, drawn by the novelty of the
idea and the amazing prices, but hesitating like an animal that fears a
tempting bait.  The ceaseless activity of the shop reassured them.  One
by one the customers arrived.  Numbers bred numbers, and in a week a rush
had set in.  It became the fashion on the Road to loll in the shop,
carelessly reading the papers for all the world to see, while your boots
were being mended.  On Saturday for the first time Jonah turned a profit,
and the battle was won.

Among the later arrivals Jonah noticed with satisfaction some of Paasch's
best customers, and every week, with an apologetic smile, another handed
in his boots for repair.  Soon there was little for Paasch to do but stand
at his door, staring with frightened, short-sighted eyes across the Road
at the octopus that was slowly squeezing the life out of his shop.  But he
obstinately refused to lower his prices, though his customers carried the
work from his counter across the street.  It seemed to him that the prices
were something fixed by natural laws, like the return of the seasons or
the multiplication table.

"I haf always charge tree an' six for men's, an' it cannot be done cheaper
without taking de bread out of mine mouth," he repeated obstinately.

 In three months Jonah hired another workman, and the landlord came down
 to see if the shop could be enlarged to meet Jonah's requirements.  Then
 a traveller called with an armful of samples.  He was travelling for his
 brother, he explained, who had a small factory.  Jonah looked longingly,
 and confessed that he wanted to stock his shop, but had no money to buy.
 Then the traveller smiled, and explained to Jonah, alert and attentive,
 the credit system by which his firm would deliver fifty pounds' worth of
 boots at three months.  Jonah was quick to learn, but cautious.

"D'ye mean yer'd gimme the boots, an' not want the money for three months?"

The traveller explained that was the usual practice.

"An' can I sell 'em at any price I like?"

The man said he could give them away if he chose.  Jonah spent a pound on
brass rods and glass stands, and sold the lot in a month at sixpence a
pair profit.  His next order ran into a hundred pounds, and Jonah had
established a cash retail trade.  Meanwhile, he worked in a way to stagger
the busy bee.  Morning and night the sound of his hammer never ceased,
except the three nights a week he spent at a night school, where he
discovered a remarkable talent for mental arithmetic and figures.  Jonah
the hunchback had found his vocation.

And in the still night, when he stopped to light a cigarette, Jonah could
hear the mournful wail of a violin in Paasch's bedroom across the street.
In his distress the old man had turned to his beloved instrument as one
turns to an old friend.  But now the tunes were never merry, only scraps
and fragments of songs of love and despair, the melancholy folk-songs of
his native land, long since forgotten, and now returning to his memory as
its hold on the present grew feebler.




CHAPTER 11



THE COURTING OF PINKEY


It was Monday morning, and, according to their habit, the Partridges were
moving.  Every stick of their furniture was piled on the van, and Pinkey,
who was carrying the kerosene lamp for fear of breakage, watched the load
anxiously as the cart lurched over a rut.  A cracked mirror, swinging
loosely in its frame, followed every movement of the cart, one minute
reflecting Pinkey's red hair and dingy skirt, the next swinging vacantly
to the sky.

The cart stopped outside a small weatherboard cottage, and the vanman
backed the wheels against the kerbstone, cracking his whip and swearing
at the horse, which remained calm and obstinate, refusing to move except
of its own accord.  The noise brought the neighbours to their doors.
And they stood with prying eyes, ready to judge the social standing of
the newcomers from their furniture.

It was the old battered furniture of a poor family, dragged from the
friendly shelter of dark corners into the naked light of day, the back,
white and rough as a packing-case, betraying the front, varnished and
stained to imitate walnut and cedar.  Every scratch and stain showed
plainly on the tables and chairs fastened to their companions in misery,
odd, nameless contrivances made of boxes and cretonne, that took the place
of the sofas, wardrobes, and toilet-tables of the rich.  Every mark and
every dint was noted with satisfaction by the furtive eyes.  The new
arrivals had nothing to boast about.

Mrs Partridge, who collected gossip and scandal as some people collect
stamps, generally tired of a neighbourhood in three months, after she had
learned the principal facts--how much of the Brown's money went in drink,
how much the Joneses owed at the corner shop, and who was really the
father of the child that the Smiths treated as a poor relation.  When she
had sucked the neighbourhood dry like an orange, she took a house in
another street, and Pinkey lost a day at the factory to move the furniture.

Pinkey's father was a silent, characterless man, taking the lead from his
wife with admirable docility, and asking nothing from fortune but regular
work and time to read the newspaper.  He had worked for the same firm
since he was a boy, disliking change; but since his second marriage he had
been dragged from one house to another.  Sometimes he went home to the
wrong place, forgetting that they had moved.  Every week he planned
another short cut to Grimshaw's works, which landed him there half
an hour late.

Her mother had died of consumption when Pinkey was eleven, and two years
later her father had married his housekeeper.  She proved to be a
shiftless slattern, never dressed, never tidy, and selfish to the core
under the cloak of a good-natured smile.  She was always resting from the
fatigue of imaginary labours, and her house was a pigsty.  Nothing was in
its place, and nothing could be found when it was wanted.  This, she
always explained with a placid smile, was owing to the fact that they were
busy looking for a house where they could settle down.

The burden of moving fell on Pinkey, for her father had never lost a day
at Grimshaw's in his life; and after Mrs Partridge had hindered for half
an hour by getting in the way and mislaying everything, Pinkey usually
begged her in desperation to go and wait for the furniture in the new
house.

Meanwhile, lower down the street, Chook was slowly working his way from
house to house, hawking a load of vegetables.  In the distance he remarked
the load of furniture, and resolved to call before a rival could step in
and get their custom.  As he praised the quality of the peas to a
customer, he found time to observe that the unloading went on very slowly.
The vanman stood on the cart and slid the articles on to the shoulders of
a girl, who staggered across the pavement under a load twice her size.
It looked like an ant carrying a beetle.  Five minutes later Chook stood
at the door and rapped with his knuckles.

"Any vegetables to-day, lydy?" he inquired, in his nasal, professional
sing-song.

The answer to his question was Pinkey, dishevelled, sweating in beads,
covered with dust, her sleeves tucked up to the elbows, showing two arms
as thick  as pipe-stems.  She flushed pink under the sweat and grime,
feeling for her apron to wipe her face.  They had not seen each other
since the fight, for in a sudden revulsion of feeling Pinkey had decided
that Chook was too handy with his fists to make a desirable bloke, and a
change of address on the following Monday had enabled her to give him the
slip easily.  And after waiting at street corners till he was tired,
Chook had returned to his old love, the two-up school.  Pinkey broke the
silence with a question that was furthest from her thoughts.

"'Ow are yez sellin' yer peas?"

Chook dropped his basket and roared with laughter.

"If yer only come ter poke borak, yer better go," cried Pinkey,
with an angry flush.

Chook sobered instantly.

"No 'arm meant," he said, quite humbly, "but yer gimme the knock-out
every time I see yer.  But wot are yez doin'?" he asked.

"We're movin'," said Pinkey, with an important air.

"Oh, are yez?" said Chook, looking round with interest.  "Yous an' old
Jimmy there?"  He nodded familiarly to the vanman, who was filling his
pipe.  "Well, yer must excuse me, but I'm on in this act."

"Wotcher mean?" said Pinkey, looking innocent, but she flushed with
pleasure.

"Nuthin'," said Chook, seizing the leg of a table; "but wait till I put
the nosebag on the moke."

"Whose cart is it?" inquired Pinkey.

"Jack Ryan's," answered Chook; "'e's bin shickered since last We'n'sday,
an' I'm takin' it round fer 'is missis an' the kids."

Mrs Partridge received Chook very graciously when she learned that he was
a friend of Pinkey's and had offered to help in passing.  She had been
reading a penny novelette under great difficulties, and furtively eating
some slices of bread-and-butter which she had thoughtfully put in her
pocket.  But now she perked up under the eyes of this vigorous young man,
and even attempted to help by carrying small objects round the room and
then putting them back where she found them.  In an hour the van was
empty, and Jimmy was told to call next week for his money.  It was well
into the afternoon when Chook resumed his hawking with the cart and then
only because Pinkey resolutely pushed him out of the door.

Chook's previous love-affairs had all been conducted in the open air.
Following the law of Cardigan Street, he met the girl at the street corner
and spent the night in the park or the dance-room.  Rarely, if she forgot
the appointment, he would saunter past the house, and whistle till she
came out.  What passed within the house was no concern of his.  Parents
were his natural enemies, who regarded him with the eyes of a butcher
watching a hungry dog.  But his affair with Pinkey had been full of
surprises, and this was not the least, that chance had given him an
informal introduction to Pinkey's stepmother and the furniture.

He had called again with vegetables, and when he adroitly remarked that no
one would have taken Mrs Partridge to be old enough to be the mother of
Pinkey, she had spent a delightful hour leaning against the doorpost
telling him how she came to marry Partridge, and the incredible number of
offers she had refused in her time.  Charmed with his wit and sympathy,
she forgot what she was saying, and invited him to tea on the following
Sunday.  Chook was staggered.  He knew this was the custom of the
law-abiding, who nodded to the police and went to church on Sunday.  But
here was the fox receiving a pressing invitation from the lamb.  He
decided to talk the matter over with Pinkey.  But when he told her of the
invitation, she flushed crimson.

"She asked yous to tea, did she?  The old devil!"

"W'y," said Chook mortified.

"W'y?  'Cause she knows father 'ud kill yer, if yer put yer nose inside
the door."

"Oh! would 'e?" cried Chook, bristling.

"My word, yes!  A bloke once came after Lil, an' 'e run 'im out so quick
'e forgot 'is 'at, an' waited at the corner till I brought it."

"Well, 'e won't bustle me," cried Chook.

"But y'ain't goin'?" said Pinkey, anxiously.

"My oath, I am!" cried Chook.  "I'm doin' the square thing this time,
don't yous fergit, an' no old finger's goin' ter bustle me, even if
'e's your father."

"Yous stop at 'ome while yer lucky," said Pinkey.  "Ever since Lil cleared
out wi' Marsden, 'e swears 'e'll knife the first bloke that comes
after me."

"Ye're only kiddin'," said Chook, cheerfully; "an' wot'll 'e do ter yous?"

"Me!  'E niver rouses on me.  W'en 'e gits shirty, I just laugh, an'
'e can't keep it up."

"Right-oh!" said Chook.  "Look out fer a song an' dance nex' Sunday."

About five o'clock on the following Sunday afternoon, Chook, beautifully
attired in the larrikin fashion, sauntered up to the door and tried
the knocker.  It was too stiff to move, and he used his knuckles.  Then
he heard footsteps and a rapid whispering, and Pinkey, white with anxiety,
opened the door.  Mrs Partridge, half dressed, slipped into the bedroom
and called out in a loud voice:

"Good afternoon, Mr Fowles!  'Ave yer come to take Elizabeth for a walk?"

Ignoring Pinkey's whispered advice, he pushed in and looked round.  He was
in the parlour, and a large china dog welcomed him with a fixed grin.

"W'ere's the old bloke?" muttered Chook.

Pinkey pointed to the dining-room, and Chook walked briskly in.  He found
Partridge in his arm-chair, scowling at him over the newspaper.

"Might I ask 'oo you are?" he growled.

"Me name's Fowles--Arthur Fowles," replied Chook, picking a seat near the
door and smoothing a crease in his hat.

"Ah! that's all I wanted to know," growled Partridge.  "Now yer can go."

"Me?  No fear!" cried Chook, affecting surprise.  "Yer missis gave me an
invite ter tea, an' 'ere I am.  Besides, I ain't such a stranger as I
look; I 'elped move yer furniture in."

"An' yer shove yer way into my 'ouse on the strength of wot a pack o'
 silly women said ter yer?"

"I did," admitted Chook.

"Now you take my advice, an' git out before I break every bone
in yer body."

Chook stared at him with an unnatural stolidity for fear he should spoil
everything by grinning.

"Well, wot are yer starin' at?" inquired Partridge, with irritation.

"I was wonderin' 'ow yer'd look on the end of a rope," replied Chook,
quietly.

"Me on the end of a rope?" cried Partridge in amazement.

"Yes.  They said yous 'ud stiffen me if I cum in, an' 'ere I am."

"An' yet you 'ad the cheek?"

"Yes," said Chook; "I niver take no notice o' wot women say."

Partridge glared at him as if meditating a spring, and then, with a rapid
jerk, turned his back on Chook and buried his nose in the newspaper.
Pinkey and her stepmother, who were listening to this dialogue at the
door, ready for flight at the first sound of breaking glass or splintered
wood, now ventured to step into the room.  Chook, secure of victory,
criticized the weather, but Partridge remained silent as a graven image.
Mrs Partridge set the table for tea with nervous haste.

"Tea's ready, William," she cried at last.

William took his place, and, without lifting his eyes, began to serve the
meat.  Mrs Partridge had made a special effort.  She had bought a pig's
cheek, some German sausage, and a dozen scones at seven for threepence.
This was flanked by bread-and-butter, and a newly opened tin of jam with
the jagged lid of the tin standing upright.  She thought, with pride,
that the young man would see he was in a house where no expense was
spared.  She requested Chook to sit next to Pinkey, and talked with
feverish haste.

"Which do yer like, Mr Fowles?  Lean or fat?  The fat sometimes melts in
yer mouth.  Give 'im that bit yer cut for me, William."

"If 'e don't like it, 'e can leave it," growled Partridge.

"Now, that'll do, William.  I always said yer bark was worse than yer
bite.  You'll be all right w'en yer've 'ad yer beer.  'E's got the temper
of an angel w'en 'e's 'ad 'is beer," she explained to Chook, as if her
husband were out of hearing.

Partridge sat with his eyes fixed on his plate with the face of a sulky
schoolboy.  His long features reminded Chook of a horse he had once
driven.  When he had finished eating, he pulled his chair back and buried
his silly, obstinate face in the newspaper.  He had evidently determined
to ignore Chook's existence.  Mrs Partridge broke the silence by
describing his character to the visitor as if he were a naughty child.

"William always sulks w'en 'e can't get 'is own way.  Not another word
will we 'ear from 'im tonight.  'E knows 'e ought to be civil to people
as eat at 'is own table, an' that only makes 'im worse.  But for all 'is
sulks, 'e's got the temper of an angel w'en 'e's 'ad 'is beer.  I've met
all sorts--them as smashes the furniture for spite, an' them as bashes
their wives 'cause it's cheaper, but gimme William every time."

Partridge took no notice, except to bury his nose deeper in the paper.
He had reached the advertisements, and a careful study of these would
carry him safely to bed.  After tea, Pinkey set to work and washed up the
dishes, while Mrs Partridge entertained the guest.  Chook took out his
cigarettes, and asked if Mr Partridge objected to smoke.  There was no
answer.

"You must speak louder, Mr Fowles," said Mrs Partridge.  "William's
'earing ain't wot it used to be."

William resented this remark by twisting his chair farther away and
emitting a grunt.

Pinkey, conscious of Chook's eyes, was bustling in and out with the airs
of a busy housewife, her arms, thin as a broomstick, bared to the elbow.
His other love-affairs had belonged to the open-air, with the street for
a stage and the park for scenery, and this domestic setting struck Chook
as a novelty.  Pinkey, then, was not merely a plaything for an hour, but
a woman of serious uses, like the old mother who suckled him and would
hear no ill word of him.  And as he watched with greedy eyes the animal
died within him, and a sweeter emotion than he had ever known filled his
ignorant, passionate heart For the first time in his life he understood
why men gave up their pals and the freedom of the streets for a woman.
Mrs Partridge saw the look in his eyes, and wished she were twenty years
younger.  When Pinkey got her hat and proposed a walk, Chook, softened by
his novel emotions, called out "Good night, boss!"

For a wonder, Partridge looked up from his paper and grunted "Night!"

"There now," cried Mrs Partridge, delighted, "William wouldn't say that to
everybody, would you, William?  Call again any time you like, an' 'e'll be
in a better temper."

When they reached the park, they sat on a seat facing the asphalt path.
Near them was another pair, the donah, with a hat like a tea-tray, nursing
her bloke's head in her lap as he lay full length along the seat.  And
they exchanged caresses with a royal indifference to the people who were
sauntering along the paths.  But, without knowing why, Chook and Pinkey
sat as far apart as if they had freshly studied a book on etiquette.  For
to Chook this frail girl with the bronze hair and shabby clothes was no
longer a mere donah, but a laborious housewife and a potential mother of
children; and to Pinkey this was a new Chook, who kept his hands to
himself, and looked at her with eyes that made her forget she was a poor
factory girl.

Chook looked idly at the stars, remote and lofty, strewn like sand across
the sky, and wondered at one that gleamed and glowed as he watched.
A song of the music-hall about eyes and stars came into his head.  He
looked steadily into Pinkey's eyes, darkened by the broad brim of her hat,
and could see no resemblance, for he was no poet.  And as he looked, he
forgot the stars in an intense desire to know the intimate details of her
life--the mechanical, monotonous habits that fill the day from morning
till night, and yet are too trivial to tell.  He asked some questions
about Packard's factory where she worked, and Pinkey's tongue ran on
wheels when she found a sympathetic listener.  Apart from the boot
factory, the great events of her life had been the death of her mother,
her father's second marriage, and the night of her elder sister, Lil, who
had gone to the bad.  She blamed her stepmother for that.  Lil had acted
like a fool, and Mrs Partridge, with her insatiable greed for gossip, had
gathered hints and rumours from the four corners of Sydney, and Lil had
bolted rather than argue it out with her father.  That and the death of
Pinkey's mother had soured his temper, and his wits, never very powerful,
had grown childish under the blow.

"So don't yous go pokin' borak at 'im," she cried, flushing pink.  "'E's a
good father to me, if she lets 'im alone.  But she's got 'im under 'er
thumb with 'er nasty tongue."

Chook thought Mrs Partridge was an agreeable woman.  Instantly Pinkey's
eyes blazed with anger.

"Is she?  You ought ter 'ear 'er talk.  She's got a tongue like a dog's
tail; it's always waggin'.  An' niver a good word for anybody.  I wish
she'd mind 'er own business, an' clean up the 'ouse.  W'en my mother was
alive, you could eat yer dinner off the floor, but Sarah's too delicate
for 'ousework.  She'd 'ave married the greengrocer, but she was too
delicate to wait in the shop.  We niver see a bit o' fresh meat in the
'ouse, an' if yer say anythin' she bursts into tears, an' sez somethin'
nasty about Lil.  She makes believe she's got no more appetite than a
canary, but she lives on the pick of the 'am shop w'en nobody's lookin'.
Look 'ow fat she is.  W'en she married Dad, you could 'ear 'er bones
rattle.  I wouldn't mind if she did the washin'.  But she puts the things
in soak on Monday, an' then on Saturday I 'ave ter turn to an' do the lot,
'cause she's delicate.  I ain't delicate.  I'm only skin an' bone."

Her face was flushed and eager; her eyes sparkled.  Chook remembered the
song about eyes and stars, and agreed with the words.  And as suddenly the
sparkle died out of her eyes, her mouth drooped, and the colour left her
face, pale as ivory in the faint gleam of the stars.

"Yous don't think any worse o' me 'cause Lil's crook, do yer?" she asked
piteously.

Chook swore a denial.

"P'raps yer think it runs in the family; but Lil 'ud 'a' gone straight if
she 'adn't been driven out o' the 'ouse by Sarah's nasty tongue."

Chook declared that Lil was spotless.

"No, she ain't," said Pinkey; "she's as bad as they make 'em now;
but...wot makes yer tail up after me?" she inquired suddenly.

Chook answered that she had sent him fair off his dot.

"Oh yes, that's wot yer said to Poll Corcoran, an' then went skitin' that
she'd do anythin' yer liked, if yer lifted yer finger.  I've 'eard all
about yous."

Chook swore that he would never harm a hair of her head.

"The worst 'arm is done without meanin' it," said Pinkey wisely, "an'
that's w'y I'm frightened of yer."

"Wotcher got ter be frightened o' me?" asked Chook, softly.

"I'm frightened o' yer...'cause I like yer," said Pinkey, bursting
into tears.

Mrs Partridge was disappointed in Chook.  He was too much taken up with
that red-headed cat, and he ate nothing when he came to tea on Sunday,
although she ransacked the ham-and-beef shop for dainties--black pudding,
ham-and-chicken sausage, and brawn set in a mould of appetizing jelly.
She flattered herself she knew her position as hostess and made up for
William's sulks by loading the table with her favourite delicacies.  And
Chook's healthy stomach recoiled in dismay before these doubtful triumphs
of the cookshop.  His mother had been a cook before she married, and, as
a shoemaker believes in nothing but leather, she pinned her faith to good
cooking.  The family might go without clothes or boots, but they always
had enough to eat.  Chook's powerful frame, she asserted, was due entirely
to careful nourishment in his youth.  "Good meals keep people out of
jail," was her favourite remark.  Chook had learned this instead of the
catechism, and the sight of Pinkey's starved body stirred his anger.  What
she wanted was proper nourishment to cover her bones.

The next Sunday, while Pinkey was frying some odds and ends in the pan to
freshen them up for breakfast, Mrs Partridge, who was finishing a
novelette in bed, heard a determined knock on the door.  It was only eight
o'clock.  She called Pinkey, and  ran to the window in surprise.  It was
Chook, blushing as nearly as his face would permit, and carrying two
plates wrapped in a towel.  He pushed through to the kitchen with the
remark "I'll just 'ot this up agin on the stove."

"But wot is it?" cried Pinkey, in astonishment.

Chook removed the upper plate, and showed a dish of sheep's brains, fried
with eggs and breadcrumbs--a thing to make the mouth water.

"Mother sent these; she thought yer might like somethin' tasty fer yer
breakfast," he muttered gruffly, in fear of ridicule.

Pinkey tried to laugh, but the tears welled into her eyes.

"Oh, Sarah will be pleased!" she cried.

"No, she won't," said Chook, grimly.  "Wot yer can't eat goes back fer the
fowls."

While Mrs Partridge was dressing, they quarrelled fiercely, because Chook
swore she must eat the lot.  Sarah ended the dispute by eating half, but
Chook watched jealously till Pinkey declared she could eat no more.

The next Sunday it was a plate of fish fried in the Jewish fashion--a
revelation to Pinkey after the rancid fat of the fish shop--then a prime
cut off the roast for dinner, or the breast and wing of a fowl; and he
made Pinkey eat it in his presence, so that he could take the plates home
to wash.  One Sunday he was so late that Mrs Partridge fell back on pig's
cheek; but he arrived, with a suspicious swelling under his eye.  He
explained briefly that there had been an accident.  They learned
afterwards than an ill-advised wag in the street had asked him if he were
feeding Pinkey up for the show.  During the two rounds that followed,
Chook had accidentally stepped on the plates.

Whenever Ada met Pinkey, she wanted to know how things were progressing;
but Pinkey could turn like a hare from undesirable questions.

"Are you an' 'im goin' to git spliced?" she inquired, for the hundredth
time.

"I dunno," said Pinkey, turning scarlet; "'e sez we are."



END OF PART I.




PART 2





THE SIGN OF THE "SILVER SHOE"




CHAPTER 12



THE SIGN OF THE "SILVER SHOE"


The suburban trains slid into the darkness of the tunnel at Cleveland
Street, and, as they emerged into daylight on the other side, paused for
a moment like intelligent animals before the spider's web of shining rails
that curved into the terminus, as if to choose the pair that would carry
them in safety to the platform.  It was in this pause that the passengers
on the left looked out with an upward jerk of the head, and saw that the
sun had found a new plaything in Regent Street.

It was the model of a shoe, fifteen feet long, the hugest thing within
sight, covered with silver leaf that glittered like metal in the morning
sun.  A gang of men had hoisted it into position last night by the flare
of naphtha lamps, and now it trod securely on air above the new bootshop
whose advertisement sprawled across half a page of the morning paper.

In Regent Street a week of painting and hammering had prepared them for
surprises; two shops had been  knocked into one, with two plate-glass
windows framed in brass, and now the shop with its triumphant sign caught
the eye like a check suit or a red umbrella.  Every inch of the walls was
covered with lettering in silver leaf, and across the front in huge
characters ran the sign: 

JONAH'S SILVER SHOE EMPORIUM

Meanwhile, the shop was closed, the windows obscured by blinds; but the
children, attracted by the noise of hammering, flattened their noses
against the plate glass, trying to spy out the busy privacy within.
Evening fell, and the hammering ceased.  Then, precisely on the stroke
of seven, the electric lights flashed out, the curtains were withdrawn,
and the shop stood smiling like a coquette at her first ball.

Everything was new.  The fittings glistened with varnish, mirrors and
brass rods reflected the light at every angle, and the building was packed
from roof to floor with boots.  The shelves were loaded with white
cardboard boxes containing the better sort of boot.  But there was not
room enough on the shelves, and boots and shoes hung from the ceiling like
bunches of fruit; they clung to brass rods like swarming bees.  The
strong, peculiar odour of leather clogged the air.  The shopmen stood
about, whispering to one another or changing the position of a pair of
boots as they waited for the customers.

A crowd had gathered round the window on the left, which was fitted out
like a workshop.  On one  side a clicker was cutting uppers from the skin;
beside him a girl sat at a machine stitching the uppers together at racing
speed.  On the other side a man stood at a bench lasting the uppers to the
insoles, and then pegging for dear life; near him sat a finisher, who
shaved and blackened the rough edges, handing the finished article to a
boy, who gave it a coat of gloss and placed it in the front of the window
for inspection.  A placard invited the public to watch the process of
making Jonah's Famous Silver Shoes.  The people crowded about as if it
were a play, delighted with the novelty, following the stages in the
growth of a boot with the pleasure of a boy examining the inside of
a watch.

At eight o'clock another surprise was ready.  A brass band began to play
popular airs on the balcony, hung about with Chinese lanterns, and a row
of electric bulbs flashed out, marking the outline of the wonderful silver
shoe, glittering and gigantic in the white light.

The crowd looked up, and made bets on the length of the shoe, and recalled
the time, barely five years ago, when the same man--Jonah the hunchback--had
astonished Botany Road with his flaring signs in red and white.  True, his
shop was still on the Road, for Regent Street is but the fag end of a
long, dusty road where it saunters into town, snobbishly conscious of
larger buildings and higher rents.  Since then his progress had been
marked by removals, and each step had carried him nearer to the great city.
He had outgrown his shops as a boy outgrows his trousers.

It was reported that everything turned to gold that he touched.  It was
certain that he had captured the trade of the Road, and this move meant
that he had fastened his teeth in the trade of the roaring city.  And not
so long ago people could remember when he was a common larrikin, reputed
leader of the Cardigan Street Push, and working for old Paasch, whose shop
was now empty, his business absorbed by Jonah with the ease one swallows
a lozenge.  And they say he began life as a street-arab, selling papers
and sleeping in the gutter.  Well, some people's luck was marvellous!

The crowd became so dense that the police cleared a passage through it,
and the carts and buses slackened to a walk as they passed the shop,
where the electric lights glittered, the Chinese lanterns swung gaily in
the breeze, and the band struck noisily into the airs from a comic opera.

Meanwhile the shop was crowded with customers, impatient to be served,
each carrying a coupon cut from the morning paper, which entitled the
holder to a pair of Jonah's Famous Silver Shoes at cost price.  And near
the door, in an interval of business, stood the proprietor, a hunchback,
his grey eyes glittering with excitement at seeing his dream realized,
the huge shop, spick and span as paint could make it, the customers
jostling one another as they passed in and out, and the coin clinking
merrily in the till.

Yes, they were quite right.  Everything that he touched turned to gold.
Outsiders confused his fortune with the luck of the man who draws the
first prize in a sweep, enriched without effort by a chance turn of
Fortune's wrist.  They were blind to the  unresting labour, the ruthless
devices that left his rivals gaping, and the fixed idea that shaped
everything to its needs.  In five years he had fought his way down the
Road, his line of march dotted with disabled rivals.

Old Paasch, the German, had been his first victim.  Bewildered and
protesting, he had succumbed to Jonah's novel methods of attack as a
savage goes down under the fire of machine-guns.  His shop was closed
years ago, and he lived in a stuffy room, smelling vilely of tobacco-smoke,
where he taught the violin to hazardous pupils for little more than
a crust.  He always spoke of Jonah with a vague terror in his blue eyes,
convinced that he had once employed Satan as an errand-boy.

People were surprised to find that Jonah meant to live in the rooms over
the new shop, when he could well afford to take a private house in the
suburbs.  It was said he treated his wife like dirt; that they lived like
cat and dog; that he grudged her bare living and clothing.  Jonah set his
lips grimly on a hint of these rumours.

Three years ago he had planted Ada in a house of her own, and had gone
home daily to rooms choked with dirt, for with years of ease she had grown
more slovenly.  Servants were a failure, for she made a friend of them,
and their families lived in luxury at her expense.  And when Ada was left
alone, the meals were never ready, the house was like a pigsty, and she
sat complacently amidst the dirt, reading penny novelettes in a gaudy
dressing-jacket, or entertaining her old pals from the factory.

These would sit through an afternoon with envy in their hearts, and cries
of wonder on their lips at the sight of some useless and costly article,
which Ada, with the instinct of the parvenu, had bought to dazzle their
eyes.  For she remained on the level where she was born, and the gaping
admiration of her poorer friends was the only profit she drew from Jonah's
success.  If Jonah arrived without warning, they tumbled over one another
to get out unseen by the back door, but never forgot to carry away some
memento of their visit--a tin of salmon, a canister of tea, a piece of
bacon, a bottle whose label puzzled them--for Ada bestowed gifts like
Royalty, with the invariable formula "Oh! take it; there's plenty more
where that comes from."

But the worst was her neglect of Ray, now seven years old, and the apple
of Jonah's eye.  She certainly spent part of the morning in dressing him
up in his clothes, which were always new, for they were discarded by
Jonah when the creases wore off; but when this duty, which she was afraid
to neglect, was ended, she sent him out into the street to play in the
gutter.  His meals were the result of hazard, starving one day, and
over-eating the next.  And then, one day, some stains which Ada had been
unable to sponge out elicited a stammering tale of a cart-wheel that had
stopped three inches from the prostrate child.

This had finished Jonah, and with an oath he had told Ada to pack up,
and move into the rooms over the shop, when they could be got ready.
Ada made a scene, grumbled and sulked, but Jonah would take no more risks.
His son and his shop, he had fathered both, and they should be brought
together under his watchful eye, and Ada's parasites could sponge
elsewhere.

It had happened in time for him to have the living-rooms fitted up over
the shop, for the part which was required as a store-room left ample space
for a family of three.  Ada gave in with a sullen anger, refusing to
notice the splendours of the new establishment.  But she had a real
terror, besides her objection to being for ever under Jonah's sharp eyes.

Born and bred in a cottage, she had a natural horror of staircases,
looking on them as dangerous contrivances on which people daily risked
their lives.  She climbed them slowly, feeling for safety with her feet,
and descended with her heart in her mouth.  The sight of others tripping
lightly up and down impressed her like a dangerous performance on the
tight-rope in a circus.  And the new rooms could only be reached by two
staircases, one at the far end of the shop, winding like a corkscrew to
the upper floor, and another, sickening to the eye, dropping from the
rear balcony in the open air to the kitchen and the yard.

Mrs Yabsley continued to live in the old cottage in Cardigan Street.
Jonah made her an allowance, but she still worked at the laundry, not for
a living, as she carefully explained to every new customer, but for the
sake of exercise.  And she had obstinately refused to be pensioned off.

"I've seen too many of them pensioners, creepin' an' coughin' along the
street, because they thought they was too old fer work, an' one fine
mornin' they fergit ter come down ter breakfust, an' the neighbours are
invited to the funeral.  An' but for that  they might 'ave lived fer
years, drawin' their money an' standin' in the way of younger men.  No
pensions fer me, thank yer!"

When Jonah had pointed out that she could not live alone in the cottage,
she had listened with a mysterious smile.  With Jonah's allowance and her
earnings, she was the rich woman, the lady chatelaine of the street, and
she chose a companion from the swarm of houseless women that found a
precarious footing in the houses of their relations--women with raucous
voices, whose husbands had grown tired of life and fled; ladies who were
vaguely supposed to be widows; comely young women cast on a cold world
with a pitiful tale and a handbag.  And she fed them till they were plump
and vicious again, when they invariably disappeared, taking everything of
value they could lay hands on.  When Jonah, exasperated by these petty
thefts, begged her to come and live with them, she shook her head, with a
humorous twinkle in her eyes.

"No, yer'd 'ave ter pull me up by the roots like that old tree if yer took
me out of this street.  I remember w'en 'arf this street was open
paddicks, an' now yer can't stick a pin between the 'ouses.  I was a young
gell then, an' a lot better lookin' than yer'd think.  Ada's father
thought a lot o' me, I tell yer.  That was afore 'e took ter drink.  I was
'is first love, as the sayin' is, but beer was 'is second.  'E was a good
'usbind ter me wot time 'e could spare from the drink, an' I buried 'im
out of this very 'ouse, w'en Ada could just walk.  I often think life's a
bloomin' fraud, Joe, w'ichever way yer look at it.  W'en ye're young, it
promises yer everythin' yer  want, if yer only wait.  An' w'en ye're done
waitin', yer've lost yer teeth an' yer appetite, or forgot wot yer were
waitin' for.  Yes, Joe, the street an' me's old pals.  We've seen one
another in sickness an' sorrer an' joy an' jollification, an' it 'ud be
a poor job ter part us now.  Funny, ain't it?  This street is more like a
'uman bein' ter me than plenty I know.  Yer see, I can't read the paper,
an' see 'oo's bin married and murdered through the week, bein' no scholar,
but I can read Cardigan Street like a book.  An' I've found that wot
'appens in this street 'appens everywhere else, if yer change the names
an' addresses."

About a week after the triumphant opening of the Silver Shoe, Jonah was
running his eye down some price-lists, when he was disturbed by a loud
noise.  He looked round, and was surprised to see Miss Giltinan, head of
the ladies' department, her lips tight with anger, replacing a heap of
cardboard boxes with jerks of suppressed fury.

She was his best saleswoman, gathered in from the pavement a week after
she had been ejected from Packard's factory for cheeking the boss.  She
had spent a few weeks dusting shoes and tying up parcels, and then,
brushing the old hands aside, had taken her place as a born saleswoman.
Sharp as a needle, the customers were like clay in her hands.  She
recognized two classes of buyers--those who didn't know what they wanted,
and always, under her guidance, spent more than they intended, and those
who knew quite well what they wanted, the best quality at an impossible
price.  Both went away satisfied, for she took them into her confidence,
and, with covert glances for fear she should be overheard, gave them her
private opinion of the articles in a whisper.  And they went away
satisfied that they had saved money, and made a friend who would always
look after their interests.  But this morning she was blazing.

"Save the pieces, Mary," said Jonah, "wot's the matter?"

"A woman in there's got me beat," replied the girl savagely--"says she
must 'ave Kling & Wessel's, an' we 'aven't got a pair in the place.  Not
likely either, when the firm's gone bung; but I wasn't goin' to tell 'er
that.  Better come an' try 'er yourself, or she'll get away with
'er money."

As Jonah entered, the troublesome customer looked up with an air of great
composure.  She was a young woman of five-and-twenty, tall, dark, and
slight, with features more uncommon than beautiful.  Her face seemed quite
familiar to Jonah.

"Good mornin', Miss.  Can I 'elp you in any way?" he said, trying to
remember where he had seen her before.

"So sorry to trouble you, but my feet are rather a nuisance," she said,
in a voice that broke like the sound of harps and flutes on Jonah's ear.

Jonah noted mechanically that her eyes were brown, peculiar, and luminous
as if they glowed from within.  They were marked by dark eyebrows that
formed two curves of remarkable beauty.  She showed her teeth in a smile;
they were small and white and even, so perfect that they passed for false
with strangers.  She explained that she had an abnormally high instep,
and could only be fitted by one brand of shoe.  She showed her foot, cased
in a black stocking, and the sight of it carried Jonah back to Cardigan
Street and the push, for the high instep was a distinguished mark of
beauty among the larrikins, adored by them with a Chinese reverence.

"I can only wear Kling & Wessel's, and your assistant tells me you are out
of them at present," she continued, "so I am afraid I must give it up as a
bad job." She picked up her shoe, and Jonah was seized with an imperious
desire to keep her in the shop at any cost.

"I'm afraid yer've worn yer last pair of that make," said Jonah.  "The
Americans 'ave driven them off the market, and the agency's closed."

"How annoying!  I must wear shoes.  Whatever shall I do?" she replied,
staring at the shelves as if lost in thought.

Jonah marked with an extraordinary pleasure every detail of her face and
dress.  The stuff was a cheap material, but it was cut and worn with a
daintiness that marked her off from the shopgirls and others that Jonah
was most familiar with.  And as he looked, a soft glow swept through him
like the first stage of intoxication.  Sometimes at the barber's a similar
hypnotic feeling had come over him, some electric current stirred by the
brushing of his hair, when common sounds and movements struck on his
nerves like music.  Again his nerves vibrated tunefully, and he became
aware that she was speaking.

"So sorry to have troubled you," she said, and prepared to go.

He felt he must keep her at any cost.  "A foot like yours needs a special
last shaped to the foot.  I don't make to order now, as a rule, but I'll
try wot I can do fer yer, if yer care to leave an order," he said.
He spoke like one in a dream.

She looked at him with a peculiar, intense gaze.  "I should prefer that,
but I'm afraid they would be too expensive," she said.

"No, I can do them at the same price as Kling & Wessel's," said Jonah.

Miss Giltinan started and looked sharply from Jonah to his customer.  She
knew that was impossible.  And she looked with a frown at this woman who
could make Jonah forget his business instincts for a minute.  For she
worshipped him in secret, grateful to him for lifting her out of the
gutter, and regarded him as the arbiter of her destiny.

He went to the desk and found the sliding rule and tape.  As he passed the
tape round the stranger's foot, he found that his hands were trembling.
And as he knelt before her on one knee, the young woman studied, with a
slight repugnance, the large head, wedged beneath the shoulders as if a
giant's hand had pressed it down, and the hump projecting behind,
monstrous and inhuman.  Suddenly Jonah looked up and met her eyes.
She coloured faintly.

"Wot sort of fit do yer like?" he asked.  His voice, usually sharp and
nasal, was rather hoarse.

All her life she remembered that moment.  The huge shop, glittering with
varnish, mirrors, and brass rods, the penetrating odour of leather, the
saleswoman silently copying the figures into the book, and the misshapen
hunchback kneeling before her and looking  up into her face with his
restless grey eyes, grown suddenly steady, that asked one question and
sought another.  She frowned slightly, conscious of some strange and
disagreeable sensation.

"I prefer them as tight as possible without hurting me," she replied
nervously; "but I'm afraid I'm giving you too much trouble."

"Not a bit," replied Jonah, clearing his throat.

As he finished measuring, a small boy, dressed in a Fauntleroy velvet
suit, with an enormous collar and a flap cap, ran noisily into the shop,
dragging a toy train at his heels.

"Get upstairs at once, Ray," said Jonah, without looking round.

The child, puffing and snorting like an engine, took no notice of the command.

"Did yez 'ear me speak?" cried Jonah, angrily.

The child laughed, and stopped with his train in front of the customer,
staring at her with unabashed eyes.

"What a pretty boy!" said the young woman.  "Won't you tell me your name?"

"My name's Ray Jones, and I'll make old bones," he cried, with the
glibness of a parrot.

The young woman laughed, and Jonah's face changed instantly.  It wore
the adoring gaze of the fond parent, who thinks his child is a marvel
and a prodigy.

"Tell the lady 'ow old yer are," he said.

"I'm seven and a bit old-fashioned," cried the child, looking into the
customer's face for the amused look that always followed the words.
The young woman smiled pleasantly as she laced her shoe.

"'E's as sharp as a needle," said Jonah, with a proud look, "but I 'aven't
put 'im to school yet, 'cause 'e'll get enough schooling later on.  But
I'll 'ave ter do somethin' with 'im soon; 'e's up ter 'is neck in
mischief.  I wish 'e was old enough ter learn the piano.  'E's got a
wonderful ear fer music."

"But he is old enough," said the young woman with a sudden interest.
"I have two pupils the same age as he."

"Ah?" said Jonah, inquiringly.

"I am a teacher of music," continued the young woman, "and in my opinion,
they can't start too early, if they have any gift."

"An' 'ow would yer judge that?" said Jonah, delighted at the turn of the
conversation.

"I generally go by the width of the forehead at the temples.
Phrenologists always look for that, and I have never found it fail.  Come
here," she said to the child, in a sharp, businesslike tone.  She passed
her hand over his forehead, and pointed out to Jonah a fullness over the
corner of the eye.  "That is the bump of music.  You have it yourself,"
she said, suddenly looking at Jonah's face.  "I'm sure you're fond of
music.  Do you sing or play?"

"I can do a bit with the mouth-organ," said Jonah, off his guard.  He
turned red with shame at this vulgar admission but the young woman only
smiled.

"Well, about the boy," said Jonah, anxious to change the subject, "I'd
like yer to take 'im in 'and, if yer could make anythin' of 'im."

"I should be very pleased," said the young woman.

"Very well, we'll talk it over on Thursday, when yer come fer yer shoes,"
said Jonah, feeling that he was making an appointment with this
fascinating stranger.

As she left the shop she handed Jonah a card, on which was printed:

MISS CLARA GRIMES,
TEACHER OF MUSIC.
Terms: 1 pound 1 shilling per quarter.

"Well, I'm damned!" said Jonah.  "Old Grimes's daughter, of course." And
as he watched her crossing the street with a quick, alert step, an intense
yearning and loneliness came over him.  Something within him contracted
till it hurt.  And suddenly there flashed across his mind some
half-forgotten words of Mrs Yabsley's:

"Don't think of marryin' till yer feel there's somethin' wrong wi'
yer inside, for that's w'ere it ketches yer."

He sighed heavily, and went into the shop, preoccupied and silent for
that day.




CHAPTER 13



A FAMILY IN EXILE


Dad Grimes had just finished the story of his nose and the cabman, and the
group in the bar of the Angel exploded like a shell.  Dicky Freeman's
mouth seemed to slip both ways at once till it reached his ears.  The
barman put down the glass he was wiping and twisted the cloth in his
fingers till the tears stood in his eyes.  The noise was deafening.

"An' 'e sez, 'Cum on, you an' yer nose, an' I'll fight the pair o' yez,'"
spluttered Dicky, with hysterical gasps, and went off again.  His chuckles
ended in a dead silence.  There was no sound but the rapid breathing of
the men.  The barman flattened a mosquito on his cheek, the smack sounded
like a kiss.  Dicky Freeman emptied his glass, and then stared through the
bottom as if he wondered where the liquor had gone.

"I assure you for the moment I was staggered," said Dad, rounding off his
story.  "I am aware that my nose has added to the gaiety of nations, but
it was the first time that it had been reckoned as a creature distinct
from myself with an individuality of its own."

Dad Grimes was a man of fifty, wearing a frock coat that showed a faint
green where the light fell on the shoulders, and a tall silk hat that had
grown old with the wearer.  But for his nose he might have been an
undertaker.  It was an impossible nose, the shape and size of a potato,
and the colour of pickled cabbage--the nose for a clown in the Carnival of
Venice.  Its marvellous shape was none of Dad's choosing, but the colour
was his own, laid on by years of patient drinking as a man colours a
favourite pipe.  Years ago, when he was a bank manager, his heart had bled
at the sight of this ungainly protuberance; but since his downfall, he had
led the chorus of laughter that his nose excited, with a degraded pride in
his physical defect.

It was Dicky Freeman's turn to shout, and he began another story as Dad
sucked the dregs of beer off his moustache.  Dad recognized the opening
sentence.  It was one of the interminable stories out of the Decameron of
the bar-room, realistic and obscene, that circulate among drinkers.  Dad
knew it by heart.  He looked at his glass, and remembered that it was his
fourth drink.  Instantly he thought of the Duchess.  With his usual
formula "'Scuse me; I'm a married man, y'know," he hurried out of the bar
in search of his little present.

It was nine o'clock, and the Duchess would be waiting for him with his tea
since six.  And always when he stopped at the "Angel" on his way home, he
tried to soften her icy looks with a little present.  Sometimes it was a
bunch of grapes that he crushed to a pulp by rolling on them; sometimes a
dozen apples that he spilt out of the bag, and recovered from the gutter
with lurching steps.  But tonight he happened to stop in front of the fish
shop, and a lobster caught his eye.  The beer had quickened the poetry in
his soul, and the sight of this fortified inhabitant of the deep pleased
him like a gorgeous sunset.  He shuffled back to the Angel with the
lobster under his arm, wrapped in a piece of paper.

One more drink and he would go home.  He put the lobster carefully at his
elbow and called for drinks.  But Dicky was busy with a new trick with a
box of matches, and Dad, who was a recognized expert in the idle devices
of bar-room loafers--picking up glasses and bottles with a finger and
thumb, opening a footrule with successive jerks from the wrist, drinking
beer out of a spoon--forgot the lapse of time with the new toy.

Punctually on the stroke of eleven the swinging doors of the Angel were
closed and the huge street lamps were extinguished.  Dad's eye was glassy,
but he remembered the lobster.

"Whersh my lil' present?" he wailed.  "Mush 'ave lil' present for the
Duchess, y'know.  'Ow could I g'ome, d'ye think?"

He made so much noise that the landlord came to see what was the matter,
and then the barman pointed to where he had left the lobster on the
counter.  He tucked it under his arm and lurched into the street.  Now,
Dad could run when he couldn't walk.  He swayed a little, then suddenly
broke into a run whose speed kept him from falling and preserved his
balance like a spinning top.

The Duchess, seen through a haze, seemed unusually stern tonight; but with
beery pride he produced his  little present, the mail-clad delicacy, the
armoured crustacean.  But Dicky Freeman, offended by Dad's sudden
departure in the middle of the story, had taken a mean revenge with the
aid of the barman, and, as Dad unfastened the wrapping, there appeared,
not the shellfish in its vermilion armour, but something smooth and
black--an empty beer-bottle!  Dad stared and blinked.  A look at the
Duchess revealed a face like the Ten Commandments.  The situation was too
abject for words; he grinned vacantly and licked his lips.

The Grimes family lived in the third house in the terrace, counting from
the lamp-post at the corner of Buckland Street, where, running parallel to
Cardigan Street, it tumbles over the hill and is lost to sight on its way
to Botany Road.  It was a long, ugly row of two-storey houses, the model
lodging-houses of the crowded suburbs, so much alike that Dad had forced
his way, in a state of intoxication, into every house in the terrace at
one time or another, under the impression that he lived there.

Ten years ago the Grimes family had come to live in Waterloo, when the
Bank of New Guinea had finally dispensed with Dad's services as manager at
Billabong.  His wife had picked on this obscure suburb of working men to
hide her shame, and Dad who could make himself at home on an ant-hill, had
cheerfully acquiesced.  He had started in business as a house-agent, and
the family of three lived from hand to mouth on the profits that escaped
the publican.  Not that Dad was idle.  He was for ever busy; but it was
the busyness of a fly.  He would call for the rent, and spend half the
morning fixing a tap for Mrs Brown, instead of calling in the plumber;
he would make a special journey to the other end of Sydney for Mrs Smith,
to prove that he had a nose for bargains.

Mrs Grimes forgot with the greatest ease that her neighbours were made of
the same clay as herself, but she never forgot that she had married a bank
manager, and she never forgave Dad for lowering her pride to the dust.
True, she was only the governess at Nullah Nullah station when Dad married
her, but her cold aristocratic features had given her the pick of the
neighbouring stations, and Dad was reckoned a lucky man when he carried
her off.  It was her fine, aquiline features and a royal condescension in
manner that had won her the title of "Duchess" in this suburb of workmen.
She tried to be affable, and her visitors smarted under a sense of
patronage.  The language of Buckland Street, coloured with oaths, the
crude fashions of the slop-shop, and the drunken brawls, jarred on her
nerves like the sharpening of a saw.  So she lived, secluded as a nun,
mocked and derided by her inferiors.

She was born with the love of the finer things that makes poverty tragic.
She kept a box full of the tokens of the past--a scarf of Maltese lace,
yellow with age, that her grandmother had sent from England; a long chain
of fine gold, too frail to be worn; a brooch set with diamonds in a bygone
fashion; a ring with her father's seal carved in onyx.

Her daughter Clara was the image of herself in face and manner, and her
grudge against her husband hardened every time she thought of her only
child's future.  Clara was fifteen when they descended to Buckland Street,
a pampered child, nursed in luxury.  The Duchess belonged to the Church of
England, and it had been one of the sights of Billabong to see her move
down the aisle on Sunday like a frigate of Nelson's time in full sail; but
she had overcome her scruples, and sent Clara to the convent school for
finishing lessons in music, dancing, and painting.

We each live and act our parts on a stage built to our proportions, and
set in a corner of the larger theatre of the world, and the revolution
that displaces princes was not more surprising to them than the
catastrophe that dropped the Grimes family in Buckland Street was to Clara
and her mother.

Clara had been taught to look on her equals with scorn, and she stared at
her inferiors with a mute contempt that roused the devil in their hearts.
She had lived in the street ten years, and was a stranger in it.  Buckland
Street was never empty, but she learned to pick her time for going in and
out when the neighbours were at their meals or asleep.  She attended a
church at an incredible distance from Waterloo, for fear people should
learn her unfashionable address.  Her few friends lived in other suburbs
whose streets she knew by heart, so that they took her for a neighbour.

When she was twenty-two she had become engaged to a clerk in a Government
office, who sang in the same choir.  A year passed, and the match was
suddenly broken off.  This was her only serious love-affair, for, though
she was handsome in a singular way, her flirtations never came to
anything.  She belonged to the type of woman who can take her pick of the
men, and remains unmarried while her plainer friends are rearing families.

The natural destiny of the Waterloo girls was the factory, or the
workshops of anaemic dressmakers, stitching slops at racing speed for the
warehouses.  A few of the better sort, marked out by their face and
figure, found their way to the tea-rooms and restaurants.  But the Duchess
had encouraged her daughter's belief that she was too fine a lady to soil
her hands with work, and she strummed idly on the dilapidated piano while
her mother roughened her fine hands with washing and scrubbing.  This was
in the early days, when Dad, threatened with starvation, had passed the
hotels at a run to avoid temptation, for which he made amends by drinking
himself blind for a week at a time.  Then, after years of genteel poverty,
the Duchess had consented to Clara giving lessons on the piano--that last
refuge of the shabby-genteel.  But pupils were scarce in Waterloo, and
Clara's manner chilled the enthusiasm of parents who only paid for lessons
on the understanding that their child was to become the wonder of the
world for a guinea a quarter.

This morning Clara was busy practising scales, while her mother dusted and
swept with feverish haste, for Mr Jones, the owner of the great boot-shop,
was bringing his son in the afternoon to arrange for lessons on the piano.
The Duchess knew the singular history of Jonah, the boot king, and awaited
his arrival with intense curiosity.  She had married a failure, and adored
success.  She decided to treat Jonah as an equal, forgiving his lowly
origin with a confused idea that it was the proper thing for millionaires
to spring from the gutter, the better to show their contempt for the
ordinary advantages of education and family.  She had decided to wear her
black silk, faded and darned, but by drawing the curtains; she hoped it
would pass.  From some receptacle unknown to Dad she had fished out a few
relics of her former grandeur--an old-fashioned card-tray of solid silver,
and the quaint silver tea-set with the tiny silver spoons that her
grandmother had sent as a wedding present from England.

Clara had just finished a variation with three tremendous fortissimo
chords when she heard the wheels of a cab.  This was an event in itself,
for cabs in Buckland Street generally meant doctors, hospitals, or sudden
death.  She ran to the window and saw the hunchback and the boy stepping
out.  Clara opened the door with an air of surprise, and led them to the
parlour where the Duchess was waiting.  Years and misfortune had added to
her dignity, and Jonah felt his shop and success and money slip away from
him, leaving him the street-arab sprung from the gutter before this
aristocrat.  Ray took to her at once, and climbed into her lap, bringing
her heart into her mouth as he rubbed his feet on the famous black silk.

"I have never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I have heard of your
romantic career," she said.

"Well, I've got on, there's no denying that," said Jonah.  "Some people
think it's luck, but I tell 'em it's 'ard graft."

"Exactly," said the Duchess, wondering what he meant by graft.

Jonah looked round the stuffy room.  It had an indescribable air of
antiquity.  Every piece of furniture was of a pattern unknown to him,
and there was a musty flavour in the air, for the Duchess, valuing privacy
more than fresh air, never opened the windows.  On the wall opposite was
a large picture in oils, an English scene, with the old rustic bridge and
the mill in the distance, painted at Billabong by Clara at an early age.
The Duchess caught Jonah's eye.

"That was painted by my daughter ten years ago.  Her teachers considered
she had a wonderful talent, but misfortune came, and she was unable to
follow it up," she said.

Jonah's amazement increased.  It was a mere daub, but to his untrained eye
it was like the pictures in the Art Gallery, where he had spent a couple
of dull afternoons.  Over the piano a framed certificate announced that
Clara Grimes had passed the junior grade of Trinity College in 1890.  And
Jonah, who had an eye for business like a Jew, who moved in an atmosphere
of profit and loss, suddenly felt ill at ease.  His shop, his money, and
his success must seem small things to these women who lived in the world
of art.  His thoughts were brought back to earth by a sudden crash.  Ray
was sitting on a chair, impatient for the music to begin, and, as he never
sat on a chair in the ordinary fashion, he had paralysed the Duchess with
a series of gymnastic feats, twining his legs round the chair, sitting on
his feet, kneeling on the seat with his feet on the back of the chair,
until at last an unlucky move had tilted the chair backwards into a
pot-stand.  The jar fell with  a crash, and Ray laughed.  The Duchess
uttered a cry of terror.

"Yer young devil, keep still," cried Jonah, angrily.  "Yer can pay fer
that out of yer pocket-money," he added.

"It was of no value," said the Duchess, with frigid dignity.

"Perhaps Miss Grimes will play something," said Jonah.  "Ray's talked of
nothing else since daylight this morning."

Clara sat down at the piano and ran her fingers over the keys.  She had
selected her masterpiece, "The Wind Among the Pines", a tone-picture from
a shilling album.  Her fingers ran over the keys with amazing rapidity as
she beat out the melody with the left hand on the groaning bass, while
with the right she executed a series of scales to the top of the keyboard
and back.  Jonah listened spellbound to the clap-trap arrangement.  He had
the native ear for music, and he recognized that he was in the presence
of a born musician.  Ray crept near, and listened with open mouth to this
display of musical fireworks.  When she had finished, Clara turned to
Jonah with a languid smile, the look of the artist conscious of
divine gifts.

"My daughter was considered the best player at the convent where she was
educated," said the Duchess--"a great talent wasted in this dreadful
place."

"I niver 'eard anythin' like that in my natural," said Jonah with
enthusiasm.  "If yer can teach Ray ter play like that, I'm satisfied."

"You may depend upon her doing her best with  your son, but it is not
everyone who has Clara's talent," said the Duchess.

"Play some more," said Ray.

This time she selected a grand march, striking the dilapidated piano a
series of stunning blows with both hands, filling the air with the noise
of battle.

"That must be terrible 'ard," said Jonah.

"It takes it out of one," replied Clara, with the simplicity of an artist.

Then she gave Ray his first lesson, showing him how to sit and place his
hands, anxious to impress the parent that she was a good teacher.  She
declared that Ray was very apt, and would learn rapidly.  An hour later,
Jonah paid for Ray's first quarter.  Clara's terms were a guinea, but
Jonah insisted on two guineas on the understanding that Ray would receive
special attention.

But in spite of her promises, Ray's progress was slow.  As Jonah had no
piano, the boy came half an hour early to his lesson to practise, but the
twenty minutes' journey from the Silver Shoe occupied the best part of an
hour, for Ray, who took to the streets as a duck takes to water, could
spend a morning idling before shop windows, following fiddlers on their
rounds, watching navvies dig a drain, with a frank, sensuous delight in
the sights and sounds of the streets, an inheritance from Jonah's years
of vagabondage.  Then the street-arabs fell on him, annoyed by his new
clothes and immense white collar, and at the end of the third week he
reached home after dark with a cut on his forehead and spattered with mud.

The next day Jonah called on Clara to make some other arrangements.  His
tone was brusque, and Clara noticed with surprise that he was inclined to
blame her for Ray's mishap.  He seemed to forget everything when it was a
question of his son.  But all of the Duchess in Clara came to the surface
in her annoyance, and she suggested that the lessons had better come to
an end.  Absorbed in his egotistic feelings, Jonah looked up in surprise,
and his anger vanished.  He saw that he had offended her, and apologized.
Then he remembered what had brought him.  His overpowering desire to see
this woman had surprised him like the first symptoms of an illness.
He had not seen her for three weeks, and in the increased flow of business
at the Silver Shoe had half forgotten his amazing emotions as one forgets
a powerful dream.  Women, he repeated, were worse than drink for taking a
man's mind off his work.

In his experience he had observed with some curiosity that drink and women
were alike in throwing men off their balance.  Drink, fortunately, had no
power over him.  Beer only fuddled his brain, and he looked on its effect
with the curious dislike women look on smoking, blind to its fascinations.
As for women, Ada was the only one he had ever been on intimate terms
with, and, judging by his sensations, people who talked about love were
either fools or liars.  True, he had heard Chook talking like a fool about
Pinkey, swearing that he couldn't live without her, but thought naturally
that he lied.  And they had quarrelled so fiercely over the colour of her
hair, that for years each looked the other way when they met in the
street.  But as he looked at Clara again, something vibrated within him,
and he was conscious of nothing but a desire to look at her and hear
her speak.

"My idea was to buy a piano, an' then yer could give Ray 'is lessons at
'ome," he said.

"That is the only way out of the difficulty," said Clara.

Jonah thought awhile, and made up his mind with a snap.

"Could yer come with me now, an' pick me a piano?  I can tell a boot by
the smell of the leather, but pianos are out of my line.  Clara's manner
changed instantly as she thought of the commission she would get from
Kramer's, where she had a running account for music."

"I shall be only too pleased," she said.

As they left the house she remembered, with a slight repugnance, Jonah's
deformity.  She hoped people wouldn't notice them as they went down the
street.  But to her surprise and relief, Jonah hailed a passing cab.

"Time's money to me," he said, with an apologetic look.

Cabs were a luxury in Buckland Street, and Clara was delighted.  She felt
suddenly on the level of the rich people who could afford to ride where
others trudged afoot.  She leaned forward, hoping that the people would
notice her.

At Kramer's she took charge of Jonah as a guide takes charge of tourists
in a foreign land, anxious to show him that she was at home among this
display of expensive luxuries.  The floor was packed with pianos,
glittering with varnish which reflected the  strong light of the street.
From another room came a monotonous sound repeated indefinitely, a tuner
at work on a piano.

The salesman stepped up, glancing at the hunchback with the quick look
of surprise which Clara had noticed in others.  They stopped in front of
an open piano, and Clara, taking off her gloves, ran her fingers over the
keys.  The rich, singing notes surprised Jonah, they were quite unlike
those he had heard on Clara's piano.  Clara played as much as she could
remember of "The Wind Among the Pines", and Jonah decided to buy that one.

"'Ow much is that?" he inquired.

"A hundred guineas," replied the shopman, indifferently.

"Garn!  Yer kiddin'?" cried Jonah, astounded.

The salesman looked in surprise from Jonah to Clara.  She coloured
slightly.  Jonah saw that she was annoyed.  The salesman led them to
another instrument, and, with less deference in his tone, remarked that
this was the firm's special cheap line at fifty guineas.  But Jonah had
noticed the change in Clara's manner, and decided against the cheaper
instrument instantly.  They thought he wasn't good for a hundred quid,
did they?  Well, he would show them.  But, to his surprise, Clara opposed
the idea.  The Steinbech, she explained, was an instrument for artists.
It would be a sacrilege for a beginner to touch it.  Jonah persisted, but
the shopman agreed with Clara that the celebrated Ropp at eighty guineas
would meet his wants.  A long discussion followed, and Jonah listened
while Clara tried to beat the salesman down below catalogue price for
cash.   Here was a woman after his own heart, who could drive a bargain
with the best of them.  At the end of half an hour Jonah filled in a
cheque for eighty guineas, and the salesman, reading the signature, bowed
them deferentially out of the shop.

Clara walked out of the shop with the air of a millionaire.  To be brought
in contact even for a moment with this golden stream of sovereigns excited
her like wine.  All her life she had desired things whose price put them
beyond her reach, and she felt suddenly friendly to this man who took what
he wanted regardless of cost.  She thought pleasantly of the ride home in
the cab, but she was pulled up with a jerk when Jonah led the way to the
tram.  He wore an anxious look, as if he had spent more than he could
afford, and yet the money was a mere flea-bite to him.  But whenever he
spent money, a panic terror seized him--a survival of the street-arab's
instinct, who counted his money in pennies instead of pounds.




CHAPTER 14



ADA MAKES A FRIEND


Ada moved uneasily, opened her eyes and stared at the patch of light on
the opposite wall.  As she lay half awake, she tried to remember the day
of the week, and, deceived by the morning silence, decided that it was
Sunday.  She thought, with lazy pleasure, that a day of idleness lay
before her, and felt under the pillow for the tin of lollies that she hid
there every night.  This movement awakened her completely, and stretching
her limbs luxuriously between the warm sheets, she began to suck the
lollies, at first slowly revolving the sticky globules on her tongue, and
then scrunching them between her firm teeth with the tranquil pleasure
of a quadruped.

This was her only pleasure and the only pleasant hour of the day.  She
looked at Jonah, who lay on his side with his nose buried in the pillow,
without repugnance and without liking.  That had gone long ago.  And as
she looked, she remembered that he was to be awakened early and that it
was Friday the hardest day of the week, when she must make up her arrears
of scrubbing and dusting.  Her luxurious mood changed to one of dull
irritation, and she looked sullenly  at the enormous wardrobe and
dressing-table with their speckled mirrors.  These had delighted her at
first, but in her heart she preferred the battered, makeshift furniture
of Cardigan Street.  A few licks with the duster and her work was done;
but here the least speck of dust showed on the polished surface.  Jonah,
too, had got into a nasty habit of writing insulting words on the dusty
surface with his finger.

Well, let him!  There had been endless trouble since he bought the piano.
As sure as Miss Grimes came to give Ray his lesson, he declared the place
was a pigsty and tried to shame her by taking off his coat and dusting the
room himself.  Not that she blamed Miss Grimes.  She was quite a lady in
her way, and had won Ada's heart by telling her that she hated housework.
She thought Ada must be a born housekeeper to do without a servant, and
Ada didn't trouble to put her right.  Anyhow, Jonah should keep a servant.
He pretended that their servants in Wyndham Street had made game of her
behind her back, and robbed her right and left.  What did that matter?
she thought--Jonah could afford it.

The real reason was that he wanted no one in the house to see how he
treated his wife.  She cared little herself whether she had a girl or not,
for she had always been accustomed to make work easy by neglecting it.
If Jonah wanted a floor that you could eat your dinner off, let him get a
servant.  He was as mean as dirt.  A fat lot she got out of his money.
Here she was, shut up in these rooms, little better than a prisoner, for
her old pals never dared show their noses in this house, and she could
never go out without all the shop-hands knowing it.  She never bought a
new dress, but Jonah stormed like a madman, declaring that she looked like
a servant dressed up.  Well, her clothes knocked Cardigan Street endways
when she paid her mother a visit, and that was all she wanted.

There was her mother, too.  She had never been a real mother to her; you
could never tell what she was thinking about.  Other people took their
troubles to her, but she treated her own daughter like a stranger.  And,
of course, she sided with Jonah and talked till her jaw ached about her
duty to her child and her husband.  She would have married Tom Mullins if
it hadn't been for the kid, and lived in Cardigan Street like her pals.
Her thoughts travelled back to Packard's and the Road.  She remembered
with intense longing the group at the corner, the drunken rows, and the
nightly gossip on the doorstep.  That was life for her.  She had been like
a fish out of water ever since she left it.  She thought with singular
bitterness of Jonah's attempts to introduce her to the wives of the men he
met in business, women who knew not Cardigan Street, and annoyed her by
staring at her hands, and talking of their troubles with servants till
they made her sick.

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Jonah.  He turned in his sleep
and pushed the sheet from his face, but a loud scrunch from Ada's jaw woke
him completely.  He tugged at the pillow and his hand fell on the tin
of sticky lollies.

"Bah!" he cried in disgust, and rubbed his fingers on the sheet.  "Only
kids eat that muck."

"Kid yerself!" cried Ada furiously.  "Anybody 'ud  think I was eatin'
di'monds.  Yer'd grudge me the air I breathe, if yer thought it cost money."

"Yah, git up an' light the fire!" replied Jonah.

"Yes, that's me all over.  Anybody else 'ud keep a servant; but as long as
I'm fool enough ter slave an' drudge, yer save the expense."

"You slave an' drudge?" cried Jonah in scorn--"that was in yer dream.
Are yer sure ye're awake?"

"Yes, I am awake, an' let me tell yer that it's the talk of the
neighbourhood that yer've got thousands in the bank, an' too mean ter keep
a servant."

"That's a lie, an' yer know it!" cried Jonah.  "Didn't yez 'ave a girl in
Wyndham Street, an' didn't she pinch enough things to set up 'er sister's
'ouse w'en she got married?"

"Yous couldn't prove it," said Ada, sullenly.

"No, I couldn't prove it without showing everybody wot sort of wife
I'd got."

"She's a jolly sight too good fer yous, an' well yer know it."

"Yes, that's wot I complain of," said Jonah.  "I'd prefer a wife like
other men 'ave that can mind their 'ouse, an' not make a 'oly show of
themselves w'en they take 'em out."

"A fat lot yer take me out!"

"Take yous out!  Yah!  Look at yer neck!"

Ada flushed a sullen red.  So far the quarrel had been familiar and
commonplace, like a conversation about the weather, but her neck, hidden
under grubby lace, was Ada's weak point.

"Look at the hump on yer back before yer talk about my neck," she shouted.
It was the first time  she had ever dared to taunt Jonah with his
deformity, and the sound of her words frightened her.  He would strike her
for certain.

Jonah's face turned white.  He raised himself on his elbow and clenched
his fist, the hard, knotty fist of the shoemaker swinging at the end of
the unnaturally long arms, another mark of his deformity.  Jonah had never
struck her--contrary to the habit of Cardigan Street--finding that he
could hit harder with his tongue; but it was coming now, and she nerved
herself for the blow.  But Jonah's hand dropped helplessly.

"You low, dirty bitch," he said.  "If a man said that to me, I'd strangle
him.  I took yer out of the factory, I married yer, an' worked day an'
night ter git on in the world, an' that's yer thanks.  Pity I didn't leave
yer in the gutter w'ere yer belonged.  I wonder who yer take after?  Not
after yer mother.  She is clean an' wholesome.  Any other woman would take
an interest in my business, an' be a help to a man; but you're like a
millstone round my neck.  I thought I'd done with Cardigan Street, an' the
silly loafers I grew up with, but s'elp me Gawd, when I married you I
married Cardigan Street.  I could put up with yer want of brains--you
don't want much brains ter git through this world--but it's yer nasty,
sulky temper, an' yer bone idleness.  I suppose yer git them from yer
lovely father.  The 'ardest work 'e ever did was to drink beer.  It's a
wonder yer don't take after 'im in that.  I suppose I've got something to
be thankful for."

"Yes, I suppose yer'd like me ter drink meself ter death, so as yer could
marry again.  But yer needn't fear I'll last yous out," cried Ada,
recovering her tongue now that she was no longer in fear of a blow.

"Ah well, yer can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear they say," said
Jonah.  There was an intense weariness in his voice as he turned his back
on Ada.

"No more than yer can make a man out of a monkey on a stick," muttered Ada
to herself as she got out of bed.

Ada got the breakfast and went about the house in sullen silence.  Jonah
was used to this.  For days together after a quarrel she would sulk
without speaking, proud of her stubborn temper that forced others to give
in first.  And they would sit down to meals and pass one another in the
rooms, watching each other's movements to avoid the necessity for
speaking.  The day had begun badly for Ada, and her anger increased as she
brooded over her wrongs.  Heavy and sullen by nature, her wrath came to a
head hours after the provocation, burning with a steady heat when others
were cooling down.

But as she was pegging out some towels in the yard she heard a discreet
cough on the other side of the fence.  Ada recognized the signal.  It was
her neighbour, the woman with the hairy lip, housekeeper to Aaron the Jew.
It had taken Ada weeks to discover Mrs Herring's physical defect, which
she humoured by shaving.  Now Ada could tell in an instant whether she
was shaven or hairy, for when her lip bristled with hairs for lack of the
razor, she peered over the fence so as to hide the lower part of her face.
Ada, being used to such things, thought at first she was hiding a black
eye.  But who was there to give her one?  Aaron the pawnbroker, not being
her husband, could not take such a liberty.

She had introduced herself over the fence the week of Ada's arrival,
giving her the history of the neighbourhood in an unceasing flow of
perfect English, her voice never rising above a whisper.  For days she
would disappear altogether, and then renew the conversation by coughing
gently on her side of the fence.  This morning her lip was shaven, and she
leaned over the fence, full of gossip.  But Ada's sullen face caught her
eye, and instantly she was full of sympathy, a peculiar look of falsity
shining in her light blue eyes.

"Why, what's the matter, dearie?" she inquired.

"Oh, nuthin'," said Ada roughly.

"Ah, you mustn't tell me that!  When my poor husband was alive, I've often
looked in my glass and seen a face like that.  He was my husband, and I
suppose I should say no more, but men never brought any happiness to me
or any other woman that I know of.  The first day I set eyes on you,
I said, 'That's an unhappy woman.'"

"Well, yer needn't tell the bloomin' street," growled Ada.

"What you want is love and sympathy, but I suppose your husband is too
busy making money to spare the time for that.  Ah, many's the time, when
my poor dear husband was alive, did I pine for a kind word, and get a
black look instead!  And a woman can turn to no one in a trouble like
that.  She feels as if her own door had been slammed in her face.  What
you want is a cheerful outing with a  sympathetic friend, but I hear
you're little more than a prisoner in your own house."

"Who told yer that?" cried Ada, flushing angrily.

"A little bird told me," said the woman, with a false grin.

"Well, I'd wring its neck, if I 'eard it," cried Ada.  "And as fer bein' a
prisoner, I'm goin' out this very afternoon."

"Why, how curious!" cried Mrs Herring.  "This is my afternoon out.  We
could have a pleasant chat, if you have nothing better to do."

Ada hesitated.  Jonah always wanted to know where she was going, and had
forbidden her to make friends with the neighbours, for in Cardigan Street
friendship with neighbours generally ended in a fight or the police court.
She had never defied Jonah before, but her anger was burning with a steady
flame.  She'd show him!

"I'll meet yer at three o'clock opposite the church," she cried,
and walked away.

She gave Jonah his meal in silence, and sent Ray off on a message before
two o'clock.  But Jonah seemed to have nothing to do this afternoon, and
sat, contrary to custom, reading the newspaper.  Ada watched the clock
anxiously, fearing she would be baulked.  But, as luck would have it,
Jonah was suddenly called into the shop, and the coast was clear.  It
never took Ada long to dress; her clothes always looked as if they had
been thrown on with a pitchfork, and she slipped down the outside stairs
into the lane at the back.  It was the first time she had gone out without
telling Jonah where she was going and when she would be back.  And
afterwards she could never understand why she crept out in this furtive
manner.  Mrs Herring was waiting, dressed in dingy black, a striking
contrast to Ada's flaring colours.  They walked up Regent Street, as
Mrs Herring said she wanted to buy a thimble.

But when they reached Redfern Street, Mrs Herring put her hand suddenly
to her breast and cried "Oh, dearie, if you could feel how my heart is
beating!  I really feel as if I am going to faint.  I've suffered for
years with my heart, and the doctor told me always to take a drop of
something soothing, when I had an attack."

They were opposite the "Angel", no longer sinister and forbidding in the
broad daylight.  The enormous lamps hung white and opaque; the huge
mirrors reflected the cheerful light of the afternoon sun.  The
establishment seemed harmless and respectable, like the grocer's or
baker's.  But from the swinging doors came a strong odour of alcohol,
enveloping the two women in a vinous caress that stirred hidden desires
like a strong perfume.

"Do you think we could slip in here without being seen?" said the
housekeeper.

"If ye're so bad as all that, we can," replied Ada.

Mrs Herring turned and slipped in at the side door with the dexterity of
customers entering a pawnshop, and Ada followed, slightly bewildered.
The housekeeper, seeming quite familiar with the turnings, led the way to
a small room at the back.  Ada looked round with great curiosity.  She had
never entered a hotel before in this furtive fashion.  In Cardigan Street
she had always fetched her mother's beer in a jug from the bar.  On the
walls were two sporting prints of dogs chasing a hare, and a whisky
calendar.  On the table was a small gong, which Mrs Herring rang.  Cassidy
himself, the landlord, answered the ring.

"Good dey, good dey to you, Mrs Herring," he said briskly.  "The same as
usual, I suppose?  And what'll your friend take?" he added, grinning
at Ada.

"My friend, Mrs Jones," said the housekeeper.

"Glad to meet you," cried Cassidy.  "A terrible hill this," he continued,
winking at Ada.  "We should never see Mrs Herring, if it wasn't for
the hill."

"Nothing for me," said Ada, shaking her head.

"Now just a drop to keep me company," begged Mrs Herring.

As Ada continued to shake her head, Cassidy went out, and returned with a
bottle of brandy and three glasses on a tray.

"Sure, I forgot to tell you I'm a father again; father number nine,
unless I've lost count.  Sure your friend will join us in a glass to wet
the head of the baby?"

He filled three glasses as he spoke, and winked at Mrs Herring.  Ada's
brain was in a whirl.  She saw that she had been trapped, and that
Mrs Herring was a liar and a comedian.  She might as well drink now she
was here.  But Jonah would kill her, if he smelt drink on her.  Well,
let him!  It was little enough fun she got out of life anyhow.  She nodded
to Cassidy.  They clinked the three glasses and drank, the landlord and
Mrs Herring at a gulp, Ada with tiny sips as if it were poison.

"Well, I'll leave you to your bit of gossip; I think  I hear the child
crying," said the landlord, backing out of the door with a grin.

Mrs Herring, who had forgotten her palpitations, filled her glass again,
and sipped slowly to keep Ada company.  In half an hour Ada finished her
second glass.  A pleasant glow had spread through her body.  The weight
was lifted off her mind, and she felt calm and happy.  She thought of
Jonah with indifference.  What did he matter?  She listened cheerfully to
Mrs Herring's ceaseless whisper, only catching the meaning of one word
in ten.

"And many's the time, when my poor dear husband was alive, have I gone out
meaning to throw myself into the harbour, and a drop of cordial has
changed my mind."

Ada nodded to show that she understood that the late Mr Herring was a
brute and a tyrant.

"And then he went with the contingent to South Africa, and the next I
heard was that he was dead.  And the thought of my poor dear lying with
his face turned to the skies would have driven me mad, if the doctor
hadn't insisted on my taking a drop of cordial to bear my grief.  And when
I recovered, I vowed I would never marry again.  The men dearie, are all
alike.  They marry one woman, and want twenty.  And if you as much as look
at another man, they smash the furniture and threaten to get a divorce.
I can see you've found that out."

"Ye're barkin' up the wrong tree," said Ada.  "My old man's as 'ard as
nails, but 'e don't run after women.  'E's the wrong shape, see."

Ada had never spent such a pleasant time in her life.  She had never
tasted brandy till that afternoon.   Cardigan Street drank beer, and the
glasses Ada had drunk at odd times had only made her sleepy without
excitement.  But this seductive liquid leapt through her veins, bringing
a delicious languor and a sense of comfort.  Her mind, dull and heavy by
habit, ran on wheels.  She wanted to interrupt Mrs Herring to make some
observations of her own which seemed too good to lose.  She felt a silly
impulse to ask her whether she was born with a moustache, who taught her
to shave, whether she could grow a moustache if she left it alone.  She
wanted to ask why her palpitations had gone off so quickly, and why she
seemed perfectly at home in the "Angel", but her thoughts crowded heel on
heel so fast that she had forgotten them before she could speak.

She remembered that a few weeks ago the housekeeper's husband had died of
typhoid in the Never Never country, and Mrs Herring had nursed him bravely
to the end.  She tried to reconcile this with his death this afternoon in
the Boer War, and decided that it didn't matter.  He must have died
somewhere, for no one had ever seen him.  She was discovering slowly that
this woman was a consummate liar, who lied as the birds sing, but forgot
her many inventions, a born liar without a memory.  Suddenly Mrs Herring
said she must be going, and Ada got up to leave.  She lurched as she
stood, and pushed her chair over with a clumsy movement.

"I b'lieve I'm drunk," she muttered, with a foolish titter.




CHAPTER 15



Mrs PARTRIDGE LENDS A HAND


Since ten o'clock in the morning the large house, standing in its own
grounds, had been invaded by a swarm of dealers, hook-nosed and
ferret-eyed, prying into every corner, searching each lot for hidden
faults, judging at a glance the actual value of every piece of furniture,
their blood stirred with the hereditary joy in chaffering, for an auction
is as full of surprises as a battle, the prices rising and falling
according to the temper of the crowd.  And they watched one another with
crafty eyes that had long lost the power to see anything but the faults
and defects in the property of others.  Those who had commissions from
buyers marked the chosen lots in their catalogue with a stumpy pencil.

Mother Jenkins was one of these.  She was the auctioneer's scavenger,
snapping up the dishonoured, broken remnants disdained by the others,
buying for a song the job lots on the way to the rubbish-heap.  All was
fish that came to her net, for her second-hand shop in Bathurst Street
had taught her to despise nothing that had an ounce of wear left in it.
Her bids never ran beyond a few shillings, but to-day she had an important
commission, twenty pounds to lay out on the furnishing of three rooms for
a married couple.  These were her windfalls.  Sometimes she got a wedding
order, and furnished the house out of her amazing collection, supplemented
by her bargains at the next auction sale.  This had brought her to the
sale early, for the young couple, deciding to furnish in style, had
exhausted her resources by demanding wardrobes, dressing-tables, and
washstands with marble tops.

The young woman with the mop of red hair followed on her heels, amazed by
the luxury of the interior harmonized in a scheme of colour.  Her
day-dreams, coloured by the descriptions of ducal mansions in penny
novelettes, came suddenly true.  And she lingered before carved cabinets,
strange vases like frozen rainbows, and Oriental tapestry with the
instinctive delight in luxury planted in women.

But Mother Jenkins had no time to spare.  She had found the very thing
for Pinkey, and led the way to the servants' quarters, hidden at the back
of the house.  Pinkey's visions of grandeur fled at the sight.  The rooms
were small, and a sour smell hung on the air, the peculiar odour of
servants' rooms where ventilation is unknown.  Pinkey recognized the
curtains and drapes at a glance, the pick of a suburban rag-shop.  One
room was as bare as a prison cell, merely a place to sleep in, but the
next was royally furnished with a wardrobe, toilet-table, and washstand,
solid and old-fashioned like the generation it had outlived.  By its look
it had descended in regular stages from the bedrooms of the family to the
casual guests' room and then to the servants.   But Pinkey had seen
nothing so beautiful at home, and her heart swelled at the thought of
possessing such genteel furniture.  Mother Jenkins explained that with a
lick of furniture polish they would look as good as new, but Pinkey's only
fear was that they would be too expensive.  Then the dealer reckoned that
she could get the lot for seven pounds.  The only rivals she feared were
women who, if they set their heart on anything, sometimes forced the price
up till you could buy it for less in the shop.

Meanwhile the sale had begun, and in the distance Pinkey could hear the
monotonous voice of the auctioneer forcing the bids up till he reached the
limit.  From time to time there was a roar of laughter as he cracked a
joke over the heads of his customers.  The buyers stood wedged like
sardines in the room, craning their necks to see each lot as it was put
up.  As the crowd moved from room to room, Pinkey's excitement increased.
Mother Jenkins had gone to the kitchen, where she always found a few
pickings.  She came back and found Pinkey's husband, the young man with
the ugly face and dancing eyes, who was waiting outside with the cart,
watching while Pinkey polished a corner of the wardrobe to show him its
quality.  She hurried them down to the kitchen to examine the linoleum on
the floor, as it would fit their dining-room, if the worn parts were
cut out.

The crowd moved like a mob of sheep into the servants rooms, standing in
each other's way, tired of the strain on their attention.  Mother Jenkins
whispered that things would go cheap because the auctioneer was in a hurry
to get to his lunch.  Pinkey stood behind her, ready to poke her in the
ribs if she wished her to keep on bidding.

"Now, gentlemen," said the auctioneer, "lot one hundred and seventy-five.
Duchesse wardrobe, dressing-table with bevelled mirrors, and marble-top
washstand, specially imported from England by Mrs Harper.  What am I
offered?"

"Specially imported from England?" cried a dealer.  "Yes, came out in the
first fleet."

"What's that?" cried the auctioneer.  "Thank you for telling me,
Mr Isaacs." And he began again: "What offer for this solid ash bedroom
suite, imported in the first fleet, guaranteed by Mr Isaacs, who was in
leg-irons and saw it."

There was a roar of laughter at the dealer's discomfiture.

"Now, Mr Isaacs, how much are you going to bid, for old times' sake?"
cried the auctioneer, pushing his advantage.  But Isaacs had turned sulky.

"A pound," said Mother Jenkins.

"No, mother, you don't mean it," cried the auctioneer, grinning.

"That'll leave you nothing to pay your tram fare home." But he went on:
"I'm offered a pound for this solid ash bedroom suite that cost thirty
guineas in London."

The bids crawled slowly up to six pounds.

"It's against you, mother," cried the auctioneer; "don't let a few
shillings stand in the way of your getting married.  I knew the men
couldn't leave you alone with that face.  Thank you, six-five."

The old hag showed her toothless gums in a hideous smile, the woman that
was left in the dried shell still tickled at the reference to marriage.
But her look changed to one of intense pain as Pinkey, trembling with
excitement, nudged her violently in the ribs as a signal to keep on
bidding.  However, there was no real opposition, and the bidding stopped
suddenly at seven pounds, forced up to that price by a friend of Mother
Jenkins's to increase her commission.

In the kitchen the auctioneer lost his temper, and knocked down to Mother
Jenkins enough pots and pans to last Pinkey a lifetime for ten shillings
before the others could get in a bid.  Chook, who had borrowed Jack Ryan's
cart for the day, drove off with his load in triumph, while Pinkey went
with Mother Jenkins to her shop in Bathurst Street to sort out her
curtains, bed-linen, and crockery from that extraordinary collection.
Twenty pounds would pay for the lot, and leave a few shillings over.

One Saturday morning, two years ago, Pinkey had set out for the factory as
usual, and had come home to dinner with her wages in her handkerchief and
a wedding ring on her finger.  Mrs Partridge gave up novelettes for a week
when she learned that her stepdaughter had married Chook that morning at
the registry office.  Partridge had taken the news with a look that had
frightened the women; the only sign of emotion that he had given was to
turn his back without a word on his favourite daughter.  Since then they
had lived with Chook's mother, as he had no money to furnish; but last
month Chook had joined a syndicate of three to buy a five-shilling sweep
ticket, which, to their amazement, drew a hundred-pound prize.  With
Chook's share they had decided to take Jack Ryan's shop in Pitt Street
just round the corner from Cardigan Street.  It was a cottage that had
been turned into a shop by adding a false front to it.  The rent, fifteen
shillings a week, frightened Chook, but he reserved ten pounds to stock it
with vegetables, and buy the fittings from Jack Ryan, who had tried to
conduct his business from the bar of the nearest hotel, and failed.  If
the money had run to Jack's horse and cart, their fortunes would have
been made.

Mrs Partridge's wanderings had ended with the marriage of Pinkey.  Only
once had she contrived to move, and the result had frightened her, for
William had mumbled about his lost time in his sleep.  And she had lived
in Botany Street for two years, a stone's throw from the new shop in Pitt
Street.  She remembered that Chook had helped to move her furniture in at
their first meeting, and, not liking to be out-done in generosity,
resolved to slip round after tea and lend a hand.  She knew, if any woman
did, the trouble of moving furniture and setting it straight.  She
prepared for her labours by putting on her black silk blouse and her best
skirt, and as William was anchored by the fireside with the newspaper, she
decided to wear her new hat with the ostrich feathers, twenty years too
young for her face, which she had worn for three months on the quiet out
of regard for William's feelings, for it had cost the best part of his
week's wages, squeezed out in shillings and sixpences, the price of
imaginary pounds of tea, butter, and groceries.

She found Chook with his mouth full of nails, hanging pictures at five
shillings the pair; Pinkey, dishevelled, sweating in beads, covered with
dust, her sleeves tucked up to the elbows, ordering Chook to raise or
lower the picture half an inch to increase the effect.  It was some time
before Mrs Partridge could find a comfortable chair where she ran no risk
of soiling her best clothes, but when she did she smiled graciously on
them, noting with intense satisfaction Pinkey's stare of amazement at the
black hat, twenty years too young for her face.

"I thought I'd come round and give you a hand," she explained.

"Thanks, Missis," said Chook, thankful for even a little assistance.

Pinkey stared again at the hat, and Mrs Partridge felt a momentary
dissatisfaction with life in possessing such a hat without the right to
wear it in public.  In half an hour Chook and Pinkey had altered the
position of everything in the room under the direction of Mrs Partridge,
who sat in her chair like a spectator at the play.  At last they sat down
exhausted and Mrs Partridge, who felt as fresh as paint, gave them her
opinion on matrimony and the cares of housekeeping.  But Pinkey, unable to
sit in idleness among this beautiful furniture, got to work with her
duster.

"Ah," said Mrs Partridge, "it's natural to take a pride in the bit of
furniture you start with, but when you've been through the mill like I
'ave, you'll think more of your own comfort.  There was yer Aunt Maria
wore 'er fingers to the bone polishing 'er furniture on the time-payment
plan, an' then lost it all through the death of 'er 'usband, an' the
furniture man thanked 'er kindly fer keepin' it in  such beautiful order
when 'e took it away.  An' Mrs Ross starved 'erself to buy chairs an'
sofas, which she needed, in my opinion, being too weak to walk about; an'
then 'er 'usband dropped a match, an' they 'ad the best fire ever seen in
the street, an' 'ave lived in lodgings ever since."

"That's all right," said Chook uneasily, "but this ain't time-payment
furniture, an' I ain't goin' ter sling matches about like some people
sling advice."

"That's very true," said Mrs Partridge, warming up to her subject, "but
there's no knowin' 'ow careless yer may git when yer stomach's undermined
with bad cookin'."

"Wot rot ye're talkin'!" cried Chook.  "Mother taught her to cook a fair
treat these two years.  She niver got anythin' to practise on in your
'ouse."

"That's true," said Mrs Partridge, placidly.  "I was never one to poison
meself with me own cooking.  When I was a girl I used ter buy a penn'orth
of everythin', peas-pudden, saveloys, pies, brawn, trotters, Fritz, an'
German sausage.  Give me the 'am shop, an' then I know who ter blame, if
anythin' goes wrong with me stomach."

Chook gave his opinion of cookshops.

"Ah well," said Mrs Partridge, "what the eye doesn't see the 'eart doesn't
grieve over, as the sayin' is!  An' that reminds me.  Elizabeth suffers
from 'er 'eart, an' that means a doctor's bill which I could never
understand the prices they charge, knowin' plenty as got better before the
doctor could cure 'em an' so takin' the bread out of 'is mouth, as the
sayin' is.  Though I make it my business to be very smooth  with them as
might put somethin' nasty in the medsin an' so carry you off, an' none the
wiser, as the sayin' is."

"'Ere, this ain't a funeral," cried Chook, in disgust.

"An' thankful you ought ter be that it ain't," cried Mrs Partridge, "after
what I read in the paper only last week about people bein' buried alive
oftener than dead, an' fair gave me the creeps thinkin' I could see the
people scratchin' their way out of the coffin, an' sittin' on a tombstone
with nuthin' but a sheet round 'em.  It would cure anybody of wantin' ter
die.  I've told William to stick pins in me when my time comes."

"Anybody could tell w'en you're dead," said Chook.

"Why, 'ow?" cried Mrs Partridge, eagerly.

"Yer'll stop gassin' about yerself," cried Chook, roughly.

Mrs Partridge started to smile, and then stopped.  It dawned slowly on her
mind that she was insulted, and she rose to her feet.

"Thank's fer yer nasty remark," she cried.  "That's all the thanks I get
fer comin' to give a 'elpin' 'and.  But I know when I'm not wanted."

"Yer don't," said Pinkey, "or yer'd 'ave gone 'ours ago."

Mrs Partridge turned to go, the picture of offended dignity, when her eyes
fell on an apparition in the doorway, and she quailed.  It was William,
left safely by the fireside for the night, and now glowering, not at her
as she swiftly divined, but at the hat with the drooping feathers, twenty
years too young for her face.  For the first time in her life she lost her
nerve, but with wonderful presence of mind, she smiled in her agony.

"Why, there you are, William," she cried.  "Yer gave me quite a start.
I was just tryin' on Elizabeth's new 'at, to see if it suited me."

As she spoke, she tore out the hatpins with feverish dexterity, and thrust
the hat into Pinkey's astonished hand.

"Take it, yer little fool," she whispered, savagely.

Her face looked suddenly old and withered under the scanty grey hair.

"Good evenin', Mr Partridge--glad ter see yer," cried Chook, advancing
with outstretched hand; but the old man ignored him.  His eyes travelled
slowly round the room, taking in every detail of the humble furniture.
The others stood silent with a little fear in their hearts at the sight of
this old man with the face of a sleep-walker; but suddenly Pinkey walked
up to him, and, reaching on tiptoe, kissed him, her face pink with emotion.
It was the first time since her unforgiven marriage.  And she hung on him
like a child, her wonderful hair, the colour of a new penny, heightening
the bloodless pallor of the old man's face.  The stolid grey eyes turned
misty, and, in silence, he slowly patted his daughter's cheek.

Chook kept his distance, feeling that he was not wanted.  Mrs Partridge,
who had recovered her nerve, came as near cursing as her placid, selfish
nature would permit.  She could have bitten her tongue for spite.  She
thought of a thousand ways of explaining away the hat.  She should have
said that a friend had lent it to her; that she had bought it for half
price at a sale.  She had meant to show it to William some night after his
beer with a plausible story, but his sudden appearance had upset her
apple-cart, and the lie had slipped out unawares.  She wasn't afraid of
William, she scorned him in her heart.  And now that little devil must
keep it, for if she went back on her word it would put William on the
track of other little luxuries that she squeezed out of his wages unknown
to him--luxuries whose chief charm lay in their secrecy.  She felt ready
to weep with vexation.  Instead she cried gaily:

"I've been tellin' them what a nice little 'ome they've got together.
I've seen plenty would be glad to start on less."

Partridge seemed not to hear his wife's remark.  His mind dulled by shock
and misfortune, was slowly revolving forgotten scenes.  He saw with
incredible sharpness of view his first home, with its few sticks of
second-hand furniture like Pinkey's, and Pinkey's mother, the dead image
of her daughter.  That was where he belonged--to the old time, when he was
young and proud of himself, able to drink his glass and sing a song with
the best of them.  Someone pulled him gently.  He looked round, wondering
what he was doing there.  But Pinkey pulled him across the room to Chook,
who was standing like a fool.  He looked Chook up and down as if he were a
piece of furniture, and then, without a word, held out his hand.  The
reconciliation was complete.

"Well, we must be goin', William," said Mrs Partridge, wondering how she
was to get home without a hat; but Partridge followed Chook into the
kitchen, where a candle was burning.  Chook held the candle in his hand to
show the little dresser with the cups and saucers and plates arranged in
mathematical precision.  The pots and pans were already hung on hooks.
They had all seen service, and in Chook's eyes seemed more at home than
the brand-new things that hung in the shops.  As Chook looked round with
pride, he became aware that Partridge was pushing something into his hand.
It seemed like a wad of dirty paper, and Chook held it to the candle in
surprise.  He unrolled it with his fingers, and recognized banknotes.

"'Ere, I don't want yer money," cried Chook, offering the wad of paper to
the old man; but he pushed it back into Chook's hand with an imploring
look.

"D'ye mean it fer Liz?" asked Chook.

Partridge nodded; his eyes were full of tears.

"Yous are a white man, an' I always knew it.  Yer niver 'ad no cause ter
go crook on me, but I ain't complainin'," cried Chook hoarsely.

The tears were running a zigzag course over the grey stubble of
Partridge's cheeks.

"Yer'll be satisfied if I think as much of 'er as yous did of her mother?"
asked Chook, feeling a lump in his throat.

Partridge nodded, swallowing as if he were choking.

"She's my wife, an' the best pal I ever 'ad, an' a man can't say more than
that," cried Chook proudly, but his eyes were full of tears.

Without a word the grey-haired old man shook his head and hurried to the
front door, where Mrs Partridge was waiting impatiently.  She had forced
the hat on Pinkey in a speech full of bitterness, and had refused the loan
of a hat to see her home.  To explain her bare head, she had prepared a
little speech about running down without a hat because of the fine night,
but Partridge was too agitated to notice what she wore.

When they stepped inside, the first thing that met Chook's eyes was the
hat with the wonderful feathers lying on a chair where Pinkey had
disdainfully thrown it.  He stood and laughed till his ribs ached as he
thought of the figure cut by Mrs Partridge.  He looked round for Pinkey to
join in, and was amazed to find her in tears.

"W'y, wot's the matter, Liz?" he cried, serious in a moment.

"Nuthin'," said Pinkey, drying her eyes "I was cryin' because I'm glad
father made it up with you.  'E's bin a good father to me.  W'en Lil an'
me was kids, 'e used ter take us out every Saturday afternoon, and buy us
lollies," and the tears flowed again.

Chook wisely decided to say nothing about the banknotes till her nerves
were steadier.

"'Ere, cum an' try on yer new 'at," he cried, to divert her thoughts.

"Me?" cried Pinkey, blazing.  "Do yer think I'd put anythin' on my 'ead
belongin' to 'er?"

"All right," said Chook, with regret, "I'll give it to mother fer one of
the kids."

"Yer can burn it, if yer like," cried Pinkey.

Chook held up the hat, and examined it with  interest.  It was quite
unlike any he had seen before.

"See 'ow it look on yer," he coaxed.

"Not me," said Pinkey, glaring at the hat as if it were Mrs Partridge.

But Chook had made up his mind, and after a short scuffle, he dragged
Pinkey before the glass with the hat on her head.

"That's back ter front, yer silly," she said, suddenly quiet.

A minute later she was staring into the glass, silent and absorbed,
forgetful of Mrs Partridge, Chook, and her father.  The hat was a dream.
The black trimmings and drooping feathers set off the ivory pallor of her
face and made the wonderful hair gleam like threads of precious metal.
She turned her head to judge it at very angle, surprised at her own beauty.
Presently she lifted it off her head as tenderly as if it were a crown,
with the reverence of women for the things that increase their beauty.
She put it down as if it were made of glass.

"I'll git Miss Jones to alter the bow, an' put the feathers farther back,"
she said, like one in a dream.

"I thought yer wouldn't wear it at any price," said Chook, delighted,
but puzzled.

"Sometimes you talk like a man that's bin drinkin'," said Pinkey, with
the faintest possible smile.




CHAPTER 16



A DEATH IN THE FAMILY


It was past ten o'clock, and one by one, with a sudden, swift collapse,
each shop in Botany Road extinguished its lights, leaving a blank gap in
the shining row of glass windows.  Mrs Yabsley turned into Cardigan Street
and, taking a firmer grip of her parcels, mounted the hill slowly on
account of her breath.  She still continued to shop at the last minute,
in a panic, as her mother had done before her, proud of her habit of being
the last customer at the butcher's and the grocer's.  She looked up at the
sky and, being anxious for the morrow, tried to forecast the weather.
A sharp wind was blowing, and the stars winked cheerfully in a windswept
sky.  There was every promise of a fine day, but to make sure, she tried
the corn on her left foot.  The corn gave no sign, and she thought with
satisfaction of her new companion, Miss Perkins.

For years she had searched high and low for some penniless woman to share
her cottage and Jonah's allowance, and her pensioners had gone out of
their way to invent new methods of robbing her.  But Miss Perkins (whom
she had found shivering and hungry on the doorstep as she was going to bed
one night and had taken in without asking questions, as was her habit)
guarded Mrs Yabsley's property like a watchdog.  For Cardigan Street, when
it learned that Mrs Yabsley only worked for the fun of the thing, had
leaped to the conclusion that she was rolling in money.  They knew that
she had given Jonah his start in life, and felt certain that she owned
half of the Silver Shoe.

So the older residents had come to look on Mrs Yabsley as their property,
and they formed a sort of club to sponge on her methodically.  They ran
out of tea, sugar and flour, and kept the landlord waiting while they ran
up to borrow a shilling.  They each had their own day, and kept to it,
respecting the rights of their friends to a share of the plunder.  None
went away empty-handed, and they looked with unfriendly eyes on any new
arrivals who might interfere with their rights.  They thought they
deceived the old woman, and the tea and groceries had a finer flavour in
consequence; but they would have been surprised to know that Mrs Yabsley
had herself fixed her allowance from Jonah at two pounds a week and
her rent.

"That's enough money fer me to play the fool with, an' if it don't do much
good, it can't do much 'arm," she had remarked, with a mysterious smile,
when he had offered her anything she needed to live in comfort.

The terrible Miss Perkins had altered all that.  She had discovered that
Mrs Harris was paying for a new hat with the shilling a week she got for
Johnny's medicine; that Mrs Thorpe smelt of drink half an hour after she
had got two shillings towards the rent; that Mr Hawkins had given his wife
a black eye for saying that he was strong enough to go to work again.
Mrs Yabsley had listened with a perplexing smile to her companion's cries
of indignation.

"I could 'ave told yer all that meself," she said, "but wot's it matter?
Who am I to sit in judgment on 'em?  They know I've got more money than I
want, but they're too proud to ask fer it openly.  People with better
shirts on their backs are built the same way, if all I 'ear is true.  I've
bin poor meself an' yer may think there's somethin' wrong in me 'ead, but
if I've got a shillin', an' some poor devil's got nuthin', I reckon I owe
'im sixpence.  It isn't likely fer you to understand such things, bein'
brought up in the lap of luxury, but don't yer run away with the idea that
poor people are the only ones who are ashamed to beg an' willin' to steal."

Mrs Yabsley had asked no questions when she had found Miss Perkins on the
step, but little by little her companion had dropped hints of former
glory, and then launched into a surprising tale.  She was the daughter of
a rich man, who had died suddenly, and left her at the mercy of a
stepmother and she had grown desperate and fled, choosing to earn her own
bread till her cousin arrived, who was on his way from England to marry
her.  On several occasions she had forgotten that her name was Perkins,
and when Mrs Yabsley dryly commented on this, she confessed that she had
borrowed the name from her maid when she fled.  And she whispered her real
name in the ear of Mrs Yabsley, who marvelled, and promised to keep the
secret.

Mrs Yabsley, who was no fool, looked for some proof of the story, and was
satisfied.  The girl was young and pretty, and gave herself the airs of a
duchess.  Mrs Swadling, indeed, had spent so much of her time at the
cottage trying to worm her secret from the genteel stranger that she
unconsciously imitated her aristocratic manner and way of talking, until
Mr Swadling had brought her to her senses by getting drunk and giving her
a pair of black eyes, which destroyed all resemblance to the fascinating
stranger.  Mrs Swadling had learned nothing, but she assured half the
street that Miss Perkins's father had turned her out of doors for refusing
to marry a man old enough to be her father, and the other half that a
forged will had robbed her of thousands and a carriage and pair.

Cardigan Street had watched the aristocracy from the gallery of the
theatre with sharp, envious eyes, and reported their doings to Mrs Yabsley,
but Miss Perkins was the first specimen she had ever seen in the flesh.
In a week she learned more about the habits of the idle rich than she had
ever imagined in a lifetime.  Her lodger lay in bed till ten in the
morning, and expected to be waited on hand and foot.  And when Mrs Yabsley
could spare a minute, she described in detail the splendours of her
father's home.  She talked incessantly of helping Mrs Yabsley with the
washing, but she seemed as helpless as a child, and Mrs Yabsley, noticing
the softness and whiteness of her hands, knew that she had never done a
stroke of work in her life.  Then, with the curious reverence of the
worker for the idler, she explained to her lodger that she only worked
for exercise.

When Miss Perkins came, she had nothing but what she stood up in; but one
night she slipped out under cover of darkness, and returned with a
dress-basket full of finery, with which she dazzled Mrs Yabsley's eyes in
the seclusion of the cottage.  The basket also contained a number of pots
and bottles with which she spent hours before the mirror, touching up her
eyebrows and cheeks and lips.  When Mrs Yabsley remarked bluntly that she
was young and pretty enough without these aids, she learned with amazement
that all ladies in society used them.  Mrs Yabsley never tired of hearing
Miss Perkins describe the splendours of her lost home.  She recognized
that she had lived in another world, where you lounged gracefully on
velvet couches and life was one long holiday.

"It's funny," she remarked, "'ow yer run up agin things in this world.
I never 'ad no partic'lar fancy fer dirty clothes an' soapsuds, but in my
time, which ever way I went, I never ran agin the drorin'-room carpet an'
the easy-chairs.  It was the boilin' copper, the scrubbin' brush, an' the
kitchen floor every time."

She was intensely interested in Miss Perkins's cousin, who was on his way
from England to marry her.  She described him so minutely that Mrs Yabsley
would have recognized him if she had met him in the street.  His income,
his tastes and habits, his beautiful letters to Miss Perkins, filled
Mrs Yabsley with respectful admiration.  As a special favour Miss Perkins
promised to read aloud one of his letters announcing his departure from
England, but found that she had mislaid it.  She made up for it by
consulting Mrs Yabsley on the choice of a husband.  Mrs Yabsley, who had
often been consulted on this subject, gave her opinion.

"Some are ruled by 'is 'andsome face, an' some by 'ow much money 'e's got,
but they nearly all fergit they've got ter live in the same 'ouse with
'im.  Women 'ave only one way of lookin' at a man in the long run, an' if
yer ask my opinion of any man, I want ter know wot 'e thinks about women.
That's more important, yer'll find in the long run, than the shape of his
nose or the size of 'is bankin' account."

Mrs Yabsley still hid her money, but out of the reach of rats and mice,
and Miss Perkins had surprised her one day by naming the exact amount she
had in her possession.  And she had insisted on Mrs Yabsley going with her
to the Ladies' Paradise and buying a toque, trimmed with jet, for thirty
shillings, a fur tippet for twenty-five shillings, and a black cashmere
dress, ready-made, for three pounds.  Mrs Yabsley had never spent so much
money on dress in her life, but Miss Perkins pointed out that the cadgers
in Cardigan Street went out better dressed than she on Sunday, and
Mrs Yabsley gave in.  Miss Perkins refused to accept a fur necklet,
slightly damaged by moth, reduced to twelve-and-six, but took a plain
leather belt for eighteen pence.  They were going out to-morrow for the
first time to show the new clothes, and she had left Miss Perkins at home
altering the waistband of the skirt and the hooks on the bodice, as there
had been some difficulty in fitting Mrs Yabsley's enormous girth.

Mrs Yabsley's thoughts came to a sudden stop as  she reached the steep
part of the hill.  On a steep grade her brain ceased to work, and her body
became a huge, stertorous machine, demanding every ounce of vitality to
force it an inch farther up the hill.  Always she had to fight for wind on
climbing a hill, but lately a pain like a knife in her heart had
accompanied the suffocation, robbing her of all power of locomotion.
The doctor had said that her heart was weak, but, judging by the rest of
her body, that was nonsense, and a sniff at the medicine before she threw
it away had convinced her that he was merely guessing.

When she reached the cottage she was surprised to find it in darkness,
but, thinking no harm, took the key from under the doormat and went in.
She lit the candle and looked round, as Jonah had done one night ten years
ago.  The room was unchanged.  The walls were stained with grease and
patches of dirt, added, slowly through the years as a face gathers
wrinkles.  The mottoes and almanacs alone differed.  She looked round,
wondering what errand had taken Miss Perkins out at that time of night.
She was perplexed to see a sheet of paper with writing on it pinned to the
table.  Miss Perkins knew she was no scholar.  Why had she gone out and
left a note on the table?  The pain eased in her heart, and strength came
back slowly to her limbs as the suffocation in her throat lessened.  At
last she was able to think.  She had left Miss Perkins busy with her
needle and cotton, and she noticed with surprise that the clothes
were gone.

With a sudden suspicion she went into the bedroom with the candle, and
looked in the wardrobe made out of six yards of cretonne.  The black
cashmere dress, the fur tippet, and the box containing the toque with jet
trimmings were gone!  She shrank from the truth, and, candle in hand,
examined every room, searching the most unlikely corners for the missing
articles.  She came back and, taking the note pinned to the table, stared
at it with intense curiosity.  What did these black scratches mean?  For
the first time in her life she wished she were scholar enough to read.
She had had no schooling and when she grew up it seemed a poor way to
spend the time reading, when you might be talking.  Somebody always told
you what was in the newspapers, and if you wanted to know anything else,
why, where was your tongue?  She examined the paper again, but it conveyed
no meaning to her anxious eyes.

And then in a flash she saw Miss Perkins in a new light, The woman's
anxiety about her was a blind to save her money from dribbling out in
petty loans.  Mrs Yabsley, knowing that banks were only traps, still hid
her money so carefully that no one could lay hands on it.  So that was the
root of her care for Mrs Yabsley's appearance.  She held up the note,
and regarded it with a grimly humorous smile.  She knew the truth now,
and felt no desire to read what was written there--some lie, she
supposed--and dropped it on the floor.

Suddenly she felt old and lonely, and wrapping a shawl round her
shoulders, went out to her seat on the veranda.  It was near eleven, and
the street was humming with life.  The sober and thrifty were trudging
home with their loads of provisions; gossips were gathered at intervals;
sudden jests were bandied, conversations were shouted across the width of
the street, for it was Saturday night, and innumerable pints of beer had
put Cardigan Street in a good humour.  The doors were opened, and the eye
travelled straight into the front rooms lit with a kerosene lamp or a
candle.  Under the veranda at the corner the Push was gathered, the
successors of Chook and Jonah, young and vicious, for the larrikin never
grows old.

She looked on the familiar scenes that had been a part of her life since
she could remember.  The street was changed, she thought, for a new
generation had arrived, scorning the old traditions.  The terrace opposite,
sinking in decay, had become a den of thieves, the scum of a city rookery.
She felt a stranger in her own street, and saw that her money had spoilt
her relations with her neighbours.  Once she could read them like a book,
but these people came to her with lies and many inventions for the sake of
a few miserable shillings.  She wondered what the world was coming to.
She threw her thoughts into the past with an immense regret.  A group on
the kerbstone broke into song: 

Now, honey, yo' stay in yo' own back yard,
Doan min' what dem white chiles do;
What show yo' suppose dey's a-gwine to gib
A little black coon like yo'?
So stay on this side of the high boahd fence,
An', honey, doan cry so hard;
Go out an' a-play, jes' as much as yo' please,
But stay in yo' own back yard.

The tune, with a taking lilt in it, made no impression on the old woman.
And she thought with regret that the old tunes had died out with the
people who sang them.  These people had lost the trick of enjoying
themselves in a simple manner.  Ah for the good old times, when the street
was as good as a play, and the people drank and quarrelled and fought and
sang without malice!  A meaner race had come in their stead, with meaner
habits and meaner vices.  Her thoughts were interrupted by a tinkling bell,
and a voice that cried:

"Peas an' pies, all 'ot!--all 'ot!"

It was the pieman, pushing a handcart.  He went the length of the street,
unnoticed.  She thought of Joey, dead and gone these long years, with his
shop on wheels and his air of prosperity.  His widow lived on the rent of
a terrace of houses, but his successor was as lean as a starved cat, for
the people's tastes had changed, and the chipped-potato shop round the
corner took all their money.  She thought with pride of Joey and the
famous wedding feast--the peas, the pies, the saveloys, the beer, the
songs and laughter.  Ah well, you could say what you liked, the good old
times were gone for ever.  Once the street was like a play, and now...Her
thoughts were disturbed again by a terrific noise in the terrace opposite.
The door of a cottage flew open, and a woman ran screaming into the road,
followed by her husband with a tomahawk.  But as the door slammed behind
him, he suddenly changed his mind and, turning back, hammered on the
closed door with frantic rage, calling on someone within to come out and
be killed.  Then, as he grew tired of trying to get in, he remembered his
wife, but she had disappeared.

The crowd gathered about, glad of a diversion, and  the news travelled
across the street to Mrs Yabsley on her veranda.  Doughy the baker,
stepping down unexpectedly from the Woolpack to borrow a shilling from his
wife, had found her drinking beer in the kitchen with Happy Jack.  And
while Doughy was hammering on the front door, Happy Jack had slipped out
at the back, and was watching Doughy's antics over the shoulders of his
pals.  Presently Doughy grew tired and, crossing the street, sat on the
kerbstone in front of Mrs Yabsley's, with his eye on the door.  And as he
sat, he caressed the tomahawk, and carried on a loud conversation with
himself, telling all the secrets of his married life to the street.
Cardigan Street was enjoying itself.  The crowd dwindled as the excitement
died out, and Doughy was left muttering to himself.  From the group at the
corner came the roar of a chorus: 

You are my honey, honeysuckle, I am the bee,
I'd like to sip the honey sweet from those red lips, you see;
I love you dearly, dearly, and I want you to love me;
You are my honey, honeysuckle, I am the bee.

Doughy still muttered, but the beer had deadened his senses and his
jealous anger had evaporated.  Half an hour later his wife crossed the
street cautiously and went inside.  Doughy saw her and, having reached the
maudlin stage, got up and lurched across the street, anxious to make it up
and be friends.  Quite like the old times, thought Mrs Yabsley, when the
street was as good as a play.  And suddenly remembering her dismal
thoughts of an hour ago, she saw in a flash that she had grown old and
that the street had remained young.  The past, on which her  mind dwelt so
fondly, was not wonderful.  It was her youth that was wonderful, and now
she was grown old.  She recognized that the street was the same, and that
she had changed--that the world is for ever beginning for some and ending
for others.

It was nearly midnight, and, with a shiver, she pulled the shawl over her
shoulders and took a last look at the street before she went to bed.
Thirty years ago since she came to live in it, when half the street was
an open paddock!  If Jim could see it now he wouldn't know it!  The thought
brought the vision of him before her eyes.  She was an old woman now, but
in her mind's eye he remained for ever young and for ever joyous, the
smart workman in a grey cap, with the brown moustache and laughing eyes,
who was nobody's enemy but his own.  Something within her had snapped when
he died, and she had remained on the defensive against life, expecting
nothing, surprised at nothing, content to sit out the performance like a
spectator at the play.

She thought of to-morrow, and decided to pay a surprise visit to the
Silver Shoe before the people set out for church.  There was something
wrong with Ada, she felt sure.  Jonah had failed to look her in the eye
when she had asked news of Ada the last time.  Well, she would go and see
for herself, and talk Ada into her senses again.  She locked the door and
went to bed.

She gave Jonah and Ada a surprise, but not in the way she intended.
On Sunday morning it happened that Mrs Swadling sent over for a pinch of
tea, and, growing impatient, ran across to see what was keeping Tommy.
She found that he could make no one hear, and growing suspicious, called
the neighbours.  An hour later the police forced the door, and found
Mrs Yabsley dead in bed.  The doctor said that she had died in her sleep
from heart failure.  Mrs Swadling, wondering what had become of
Miss Perkins, found a note lying on the floor, and wondered no more when
she read:


DEAR MRS YABSLEY,

I am sorry that I can't stay for the outing to-morrow, but my cousin came
out of Darlinghurst jail this morning, and we are going to the West to
make a fresh start.  All I told you about my beautiful home was quite
true, only I was the upper housemaid.  I am taking a few odds and ends
that you bought for the winter, as I could never find out where you hid
your money.  I have searched till my back ached, and quite agree with you
that it is safer than a bank.  I left your clothes at Aaron's pawnshop,
and will post you the ticket.  When you get this I shall be safe on the
steamer, which is timed to leave at ten o'clock.  I hope someone will
read this to you, and tell you that I admire you immensely, although I
take a strange way of showing it.

In haste,
MAY




CHAPTER 17



THE TWO-UP SCHOOL


The silence of sleeping things hung over the Haymarket, and the three
long, dingy arcades lay huddled and lifeless in the night, black and
threatening against a cloudy sky.  Presently, among the odd nocturnal
sounds of a great city, the vague yelping of a dog, the scream of a
locomotive, the furtive step of a prowler, the shrill cry of a feathered
watchman from the roost, the ear caught a continuous rumble in the
distance that changed as it grew nearer into the bumping and jolting of
a heavy cart.

It was the first of a lumbering procession that had been travelling all
night from the outlying suburbs--Botany, Fairfield, Willoughby, Smithfield,
St Peters, Woollahra and Double Bay--carrying the patient harvest of
Chinese gardens laid out with the rigid lines of a chessboard.  A sleepy
Chinaman, perched on a heap of cabbages, pulled the horse to a standstill,
and one by one the carts backed against the kerbstone forming a line the
length of the arcades, waiting patiently for the markets to open.  And
still, muffled in the distance, or growing sharp and clear, the continuous
rumble broke the silence, the one persistent sound in the brooding night.

Presently the iron gates creaked on rusty hinges, the long, silent arcades
were flooded with the glow from clusters of electric bulbs, and, with the
shuffle of feet on the stone flags, the huge market woke slowly to life,
like a man who stretches himself and yawns.  Outside, the carters
encouraged the horses with short, guttural cries, the heavy vehicles
bumped on the uneven flags, the horses' feet clattered loudly on the
stones as the drivers backed the carts against the stalls, and the
unloading began.

In half an hour the grimy stalls had disappeared under piles of green
vegetables, built up in orderly masses by the Chinese dealers.  The rank
smell of cabbages filled the air, the attendants gossiped in a strange
tongue, and the arcades formed three green lanes, piled with the fruits
of the earth.  Here and there the long green avenues were broken with
splashes of colour where piles of carrots, radishes and rhubarb, the
purple bulbs of beetroot, the creamy white of cauliflowers, and the soft
green of eschalots and lettuce broke the dominant green of the cabbage.

The markets were transformed; it was an invasion from the East.  Instead
of the sharp, broken cries of the dealers on Saturday night, the shuffle
of innumerable feet, the murmur of innumerable voices in a familiar
tongue, there was a silence broken only by strange guttural sounds
dropping into a sing-song cadence, the language of the East.  Chinamen
stood on guard at every stall, slant-eyed and yellow, clothed in the cheap
slops of Sydney, their impassive features carved in fantastic ugliness,
surveying the scene with inscrutable eyes that had opened first on
rice-fields, sampans, junks, pagodas, and the barbaric trappings of the
silken East.

At four o'clock the sales began, and the early buyers arrived with the
morose air of men who have been robbed of their sleep.  There were small
dealers, Dagoes from the fruit shops, greengrocers from the suburbs, with
a chaff-bag slung across their arm, who buy by the dozen.  They moved
silently from stall to stall, pricing the vegetables, feeling the market,
calculating what they would gain by waiting till the prices dropped,
making the round of the markets before they filled the chaff-bags and
disappeared into the darkness doubled beneath their loads.

Chook and Pinkey reached the markets by the first workman's tram in the
morning.  As the rain had set in, Chook had thrown the chaff-bags over his
shoulders, and Pinkey wore an old jacket that she was ashamed to wear in
the daytime.  By her colour you could tell that they had been quarrelling
as usual, because she had insisted on coming with Chook to carry one of
the chaff-bags.  And now, as she came into the light of the arcades, she
looked like a half-drowned sparrow.  The rain dripped from her hat, and
the shabby thin skirt clung to her legs like a wet dishcloth.  Chook
looked at her with rage in his heart.  These trips to the market always
rolled his pride in the mud, the pride of the male who is willing to work
his fingers to the bone to provide his mate with fine plumage.

The cares of the shop had told on Pinkey's looks, for the last two years
spent with Chook's mother had been like a long honeymoon, and Pinkey had
led the life of a lady, with nothing to do but scrub and wash  and help
Chook's mother keep her house like a new pin.  So she had grown plump and
pert like a well-fed sparrow, but the care and worry of the new shop had
sharpened the angles of her body.  Not that Pinkey cared.  She had the
instinct for property, the passionate desire to call something her own,
an instinct that lay dormant and undeveloped while she lived among other
people's belongings.  Moreover, she had discovered a born talent for
shopkeeping.  With her natural desire to please, she enchanted the
customers, welcoming them with a special smile, and never forgetting to
remember that it was Mrs Brown's third child that had the measles, and
that Mrs Smith's case puzzled the doctors.  They only wanted a horse and
cart, so that she could mind the shop while Chook went hawking about the
streets, and their fortunes were made.  But this morning the rain and
Chook's temper had damped her spirits, and she looked round with dismay on
the cold, silent arcades, recalling with a passionate longing the same
spaces transformed by night into the noisy, picturesque bazaar through
which she had been accustomed to saunter as an idler walks the block on a
Saturday morning.

Pinkey waited, shivering in a corner, while Chook did the buying.  He
walked along the stalls, eyeing the sellers and their goods with the air
of a freebooter, for, as he always had more impudence than cash, he was a
redoubtable customer.  There was always a touch of comedy in Chook's
buying, and the Chinamen knew and dreaded him, instantly on the defensive,
guarding their precious cabbages against his predatory fingers, while
Chook parted with his shillings as  cheerfully as a lioness parts with her
cubs.  A pile of superb cauliflowers caught his eye.

"'Ow muchee?" he inquired.

"Ten shilling," replied the Chinaman.

"Seven an' six," answered Chook, promptly.

"No fear," replied the seller, relapsing into Celestial gravity and
resuming his dream of fan-tan and opium.

Chook walked the length of the arcade and then came back.  These were the
pick of the market, and he must have them.  Suddenly he pushed a handful
of silver into the Chinaman's hand and began to fill his bag with the
cauliflowers.  With a look of suspicion the seller counted the money in
his hand; there were only eight shillings.

"'Ere, me no take you money," cried he, frantic with rage, trying to push
the silver into Chook's hand.  And then Chook overwhelmed him with a
torrent of words, swearing that he had taken the money and made a sale.
The Chinaman hesitated and was lost.

"All li, you no pickum," he said, sullenly.

"No fear!" said Chook, grabbing the largest he could see.

In the next arcade he bought a dozen of rhubarb, Chin Lung watching him
suspiciously as he counted them into the bag.

"You gottum more'n a dozen," he cried.

"What a lie!" cried Chook, with a stare of outraged virtue.

"I'll push yer face in if yer say I pinched yer rotten stuff," and he
emptied the rhubarb out of the bag, dexterously kicking the thirteenth
bunch under the stall.

"Now are yez satisfied?" he cried, and began counting the bunches into the
bag two by two.  As the Chinaman watched sharply, he stooped to move a
cabbage that he was standing on, and instantly Chook whipped in two
bunches without counting.

"Twelve," said Chook, with a look of indignation.  "I 'ope ye're satisfied:
I am."

When the bags were full, Pinkey was blue with the cold, and the dawn had
broken, dull and grey, beneath the pitiless fall of rain.  It was no use
waiting for such rain to stop, and they quarrelled again because Chook
insisted that she should wait in the markets till he went home with one
chaff-bag and came back for the other.  Each bag, bulging with vegetables,
was nearly the size of Pinkey, but the expert in moving furniture was not
to be dismayed by that.  She ended the dispute by seizing a bag and
trudging out into the rain, bent double beneath the load, leaving Chook to
curse and follow.

Halfway through breakfast Pinkey caught Chook's eye fixed on her in a
peculiar manner.

"Wot are yez thinkin' about?" she asked, with a smile.

"Well, if yer want ter know, I'm thinkin' wot a fool I was to marry yer,"
said Chook, bitterly.

A cold wave swept over Pinkey.  It flashed through her mind that he was
tired of her; that he thought she wasn't strong enough to do her share of
the work.  Well, she could take poison or throw herself into the harbour.

"Ah!" she said, cold as a stone.  "Anythin' else?"

"I mean," said Chook, stumbling for words, "I ought to 'ave 'ad more sense
than ter drag yez out of a good 'ome ter come 'ere an' work like
a bus 'orse."

"Is that all?" inquired Pinkey.

"Yes; wot did yer think?" said Chook, miserably.  "It fair gives me the
pip ter see yer 'umpin' a sack round the stalls, when I wanted ter make
yer 'appy an' comfortable."

Pinkey took a long breath of relief.  She needn't drown herself, then,
he wasn't tired of her.

"An' who told yer I wasn't 'appy an' comfortable?" she inquired, "'cause
yer can go an' tell 'em it's only a rumour.  An' while ye're about it,
yous can tell 'em I've got a good 'ome, a good 'usband, an' everythin'
I want."  Here she looked round the dingy room as if daring it to
contradict her.  "An' as fer the good 'ome I came from, I wasn't wanted
there, an' was 'arf starved; an' now the butcher picks the best joint an'
if I lift me finger, a big 'ulkin' feller falls over 'imself ter run an'
do wot I want."

Chook listened without a smile.  Then his lips twitched and his eyes
turned misty.  Pinkey ran at him, crying, "Yer silly juggins, if I've got
yous, I've got all I want." She hung round his neck, crying for pleasure,
and Mrs Higgs knocked on the counter till she was tired before she got
her potatoes.

The wet morning gave Pinkey a sore throat, and that finished Chook.
The shop gave them a bare living, but with a horse and cart he could
easily double their takings, and Pinkey could lie snug in bed while he
drove to Paddy's Market in the morning.  He looked round in desperation
for some way of making enough money to buy Jack Ryan's horse and cart,
which were still for sale.  He could think of nothing but the two-up
school, which had swallowed all his spare money before he was married.
Since his marriage he had sworn off the school, as he couldn't spare the
money with a wife to keep.

All his life Chook had lived from hand to mouth.  He belonged to the class
that despises its neighbours for pinching and scraping, and yet is haunted
by the idea of sudden riches falling into its lap from the skies.
Certainly Chook had given Fortune no excuse for neglecting him.  He was
always in a shilling sweep, a sixpenny raffle, a hundred to one double on
the Cup.  He marked pak-a-pu tickets, took the kip at two-up, and staked
his last shilling more readily than the first.  It was always the last
shilling that was going to turn the scale and make his fortune.  Well,
he would try his luck again unknown to Pinkey, arguing with the blind
obstinacy of the gambler that after his abstinence fate would class him as
a beginner, the novice who wins a sweep with the first ticket he buys,
or backs the winner at a hundred to one because he fancies its name.

Chook and Pinkey had been inseparable since their marriage, and he spent a
week trying to think of some excuse for going out alone at night.  But
Pinkey, noticing his gloomy looks, decided that he needed livening up,
and ordered him to spend a shilling on the theatre.  Instantly Chook
declined to go alone, and Pinkey fell into the trap.  She had meant to go
with him at the last moment, but now she declared that the night air made
her cough.  Chook could tell her all about the play when he came home.
This in itself was a good omen, and  when two black cats crossed his path
on the way to the tram, it confirmed his belief that his luck was in.

When Chook reached Castlereagh Street, he hesitated.  It was market-day on
Thursday, and the two sovereigns in his pocket stood for his banking
account.  They would last for twenty minutes, if his luck were out, and he
would never forgive himself.  But at that moment a black cat crossed the
footpath rapidly in front of him, and his courage revived.  That made the
third tonight.  Men were slipping in at the door of the school, which was
guarded by a sentinel.  Chook, being unknown, waited till he saw an
acquaintance, and was then passed in.  The play had not begun, and his
long absence from the alley gave his surroundings an air of novelty.

The large room, furnished like a barn, gave no sign of its character,
except for the ring, marked by a huge circular seat, the inner circle
padded and covered with canvas to deaden the noise of falling coins.
Above the ring the roof rose into a dome where the players pitched the
coins.  The gaffers, a motley crowd, were sitting or standing about,
playing cards or throwing deck quoits to kill time till the play began.
The money-changer, his pockets bulging with silver, came up, and Chook
turned his sovereigns into half-crowns.  Chook looked with curiosity at
the crowd; they were all strangers to him.

The cards and quoits were dropped as the boxer entered the ring.  It was
Paddy Flynn himself, a retired pugilist, with the face and neck of a bull,
wearing a sweater and sandshoes, his arms and legs bared to show the
enormous muscles of the ancient athlete.  He threw the kip and the pennies
into the centre, and took his place on a low seat at the head of the ring.

The gaffers scrambled for places, wedged in a compact circle, the
spectators standing behind them to advise or take a hand as occasion
offered.  Chook looked at the kip, a flat piece of wood, the size of a
butter-pat, and the two pennies, blackened on the tail and polished on the
face.  A gaffer stepped into the ring and picked them up.

"A dollar 'eads!  A dollar tails!  'Arf a dollar 'eads!" roared the
gamblers, making their bets.

"Get set!--get set!" cried the boxer, lolling in his seat with a nonchalant
air; and in a twinkling a bright heap of silver lay in front of each
player, the wagers made with the gaffers opposite.  The spinner handed his
stake of five shillings to the boxer, who cried "Fair go!"

The spinner placed the two pennies face down on the kip, and then, with a
turn of the wrist, the coins flew twenty feet into the air.  For a second
there was a dead silence, every eye following the fall of the coins.  One
fell flat, the other rolled on its edge, every neck craned to follow its
movements.  One head and one tail lay in the ring.

"Two ones!" cried the boxer; and the stakes remained untouched.

The spinner tossed the coins again, and, as they fell, the gaffers cried
"Two heads!"

"Two heads," repeated the boxer, with the decision of a judge.

The next moment a shower of coins flew like spray across the ring; the
tails had paid their dollars to the winning heads.  Three times the
spinner threw heads, and the pile of silver in front of Chook grew larger.
Then Chook, who was watching the spinner, noticed that he fumbled the
pennies slightly as he placed them on the kip.  Success had shaken his
nerve, and instantly Chook changed his cry to "A dollar tails--a dollar
tails!"

The coins spun into the air with a nervous jerk, and fell with the two
black tails up.  The spinner threw down the kip, and took his winnings
from the boxer--five pounds for himself and ten shillings for the boxer.

As another man took the kip, the boxer glared at the winning players.
"How is it?" he cried with the voice of a footpad demanding charity, and
obeying the laws of the game, the winners threw a dollar or more from
their heap to the boss.

For an hour Chook won steadily, and then at every throw the heap of coins
in front of him lessened.  A trot or succession of seven tails followed,
and the kip changed hands rapidly, for the spinner drops the kip when he
throws tails.  Chook stopped betting during the trot, obeying an instinct.
Without counting, his practised eye told him that there were about five
pounds in the heap of coins in front of him.  The seventh man threw down
the kip, and Chook, as if obeying a signal, rose from his seat and walked
into the centre of the ring.  He handed five shillings to the boxer,
and placed the pennies tail up on the kip.  His stake was covered with
another dollar, the betting being even money.

"Fair go!" cried the boxer.

 Chook jerked the coins upward with the skill of an old gaffer; they flew
 into the dome, and then dropped spinning.  As they touched the canvas
 floor, a hundred voices cried "Two heads!"

"Two heads!" cried the boxer, and a shower of coins flew across the ring
to the winners.

"A dollar or ten bob heads!" cried the boxer, staking Chook's win.  Chook
spun the coins again, and as they dropped heads, the boxer raked in
one pound.

"Wot d'ye set?" he cried to Chook.

"The lot," cried Chook, and spun the coins.  Heads again, and Chook had
two pounds in the boxer's hands, who put ten shillings aside in case
Chook "threw out", and staked thirty.  Chook headed them again, and was
three pounds to the good.  The gaffers realized that a trot of heads was
coming, and the boxer had to offer twelve to ten to cover Chook's stake.
For the seventh time Chook threw heads, and was twelve pounds to the good.
This was his dream come true, and with the faith of the gambler in omens,
he knew that was the end of his luck.  He set two pounds of his winnings,
and tossed the coins.

"Two ones!" cried the gamblers, with a roar.

Chook threw again.  One penny fell flat on its face; the other rolled on
its edge across the ring.  In a sudden, deadly silence, a hundred necks
craned to follow its movements.  Twenty or thirty pounds in dollars and
half-dollars depended on the wavering coin.  Suddenly it stopped, balanced
as if in doubt, and fell on its face.

"Two tails!" cried the gaffers, and the trot of  heads was finished.
Chook's stake was swept away, and the boxer handed him ten pounds.
Chook tossed a pound to him for commission.  He acknowledged it with a
grunt, and looking round the ring at the winning players cried out
"How is it?--how is it?"  With his other winnings Chook had over fifteen
pounds in his pocket, and he decided to go, although the night was young.
As he went to the stairs, the boxer cried out, "No one to leave for five
minutes!" following the custom when a big winner left the room, to prevent
a swarm of cadgers, lug-biters, and spielers begging a tram fare, a bed,
a cup of coffee from the winner.  When Chook reached the top of the
staircase, the G.P.O. clock began to strike, and Chook stopped to listen,
for he had forgotten the lapse of time.  He counted the last stroke,
eleven, and then, as if it had been a signal, came the sound of voices and
a noise of hammering from the front door.  The next moment the doorkeeper
ran up the narrow staircase crying "The Johns are here!"

For a moment the crowd of gamblers stared, aghast; then the look of
trapped animals came into their faces, and with the noise of splintering
wood below, they made a rush at the money on the floor.  The boxer ran
swearing into the ring to hide the kip and the pennies, butting with his
bull shoulders against a mob of frenzied gaffers mad with fear and greed,
grabbing at any coins they could reach in despair of finding their own.
The news spread like fire.  The school was surrounded by a hundred
policemen in plain clothes and uniform; every outlet from the alley was
watched and guarded.  A cold scorn of the police filled Chook's mind.
For months the school ran unmolested, and then a raid was planned in the
spirit of sportsmen arranging a drive of rabbits for a day's outing.  This
raid meant capture by the police, an ignominious procession two by two to
the lock-up, a night in the cells unless bail was found, and a fine and a
lecture from the magistrate in the morning.  To some it meant more.  To
the bank clerk it meant the sack; to the cashier who was twenty pounds
short in his cash, an examination of his books and discovery; to the
spieler who was wanted by the police, scrutiny by a hundred pair of
official eyes.

The gaffers ran here and there bewildered, cursing and swearing in an
impotence of rage.  Like trapped rats the men ran to the windows and doors,
but the room, fortified with iron bars and barbed wire, held them like a
trap.  The boxer cried out that bail would be found for the captured, but
his bull roar was lost in the din.

There was a rush of heavy police boots on the stairs, the lights were
suddenly turned out, and in the dark a wild scramble for liberty.  Someone
smashed a window that was not barred, and a swarm of men fought round the
opening, dropping one by one on to the roof of some stables.  The first
man through shouted something and tried to push back, but a frenzied
stream of men pushed him and the others into the arms of the police,
who had marked this exit beforehand.  Chook found himself on the roof,
bleeding from a cut lip, and hatless.  Below him men were crouching on the
roofs like cats, to be picked off at the leisure of the police.

He could never understand how he escaped.  He stood on the roof awaiting
capture quietly, as resistance was useless, picked up a hat two sizes too
large for him, and, walking slowly to the end of the roof, ducked suddenly
under an old signboard that was nailed to a chimney.  Every moment he
expected a John to walk up to him, but, to his amazement, none came.
As a man may walk unhurt amid a shower of bullets, he had walked unseen
under twenty policemen's eyes.  From Castlereagh Street came a murmur of
voices.  The theatres were out, and a huge crowd, fresh from the painted
scenes and stale odours of the stalls and gallery, watched with hilarious
interest the harlequinade on the roofs.  In half an hour a procession was
formed, two deep, guarded by the police, and followed by a crowd stumbling
over one another to keep pace with it, shouting words of encouragement and
sympathy to the prisoners.  Five minutes later Chook slithered down a
veranda post, a free man, and walked quietly to the tram.




CHAPTER 18



THE "ANGEL" LOSES A CUSTOMER


Six months after the death of Mrs Yabsley, Ada and Mrs Herring sat in the
back parlour of the Angel sipping brandy.  They had drunk their fill and
it was time to be going, but Ada had no desire to move.  She tapped her
foot gently as she listened to the other woman's ceaseless flow of talk,
but her mind was elsewhere.  She had reached the stage when the world
seemed a delightful place to live in; when it was a pleasure to watch the
people moving and gesticulating like figures in a play, without jar or
fret, as machines move on well-oiled cogs.

There was nothing to show that she had been drinking, except an uncertain
smile that rippled over her heavy features as the wind breaks the surface
of smooth water.  Mrs Herring was as steady as a rock, but she knew
without looking that the end of her nose was red, for drink affected that
organ as heat affects a poker.  Ada looked round with affection on the
small room with the sporting prints, the whisky calendar, and the gong.
For months past she had felt more at home there than at the "Silver Shoe."

She had never forgotten the scene that had followed her first visit to
this room, when Jonah, surprised by her good humour, had smelt brandy on
her breath.  The sight of a misshapen devil, with murder in his eyes,
spitting insults, had sobered her like cold water.  She had stammered out
a tale of a tea-room where she had been taken ill, and brandy had been
brought in from the adjoining hotel.  Mrs Herring, who had spent a
lifetime in deceiving men, had prepared this story for her as one teaches
a lesson to a child, but she had forgotten it until she found herself
mechanically repeating it, her brain sobered by the shock.  For a month
she had avoided the woman with the hairy lip, and then the death of her
mother had removed the only moral barrier that stood between her and
hereditary impulse.

Since then she had gone to pieces.  Mrs Herring had prescribed her
favourite remedy for grief, a drop of cordial, and Jonah for once found
himself helpless, for Mrs Herring taught Ada more tricks than a monkey.
Privately she considered Ada a dull fool, but she desired her company, for
she belonged to the order of sociable drunkards, for whom drink has no
flavour without company, and who can no more drink alone than men can
smoke in the dark.  Ada was an ideal companion, rarely breaking the thread
of her ceaseless babble, and never forgetting to pay for her share.  It
was little enough she could squeeze out of Aaron, and often she drank for
the afternoon at Ada's expense.

She looked anxiously at Ada, and then at the clock.  For she drank with
the precision of a patient taking medicine, calculating to a drop the
amount she could carry, and allowing for the slight increase of giddiness
when she stepped into the fresh air of the streets.  But to-day she felt
anxious, for Ada had already drunk a glass too much, and turned from her
coaxings with an obstinate smile.  The more she drank, she thought, the
less she would care for what Jonah said when she got home.  Mrs Herring
felt annoyed with her for threatening to spoil a pleasant afternoon, but
she talked on to divert her thoughts from the brandy.

"And remember what I told you, dearie.  Every woman should learn to manage
men.  Some say you should study their weak points, but that was never my
way.  They all like to think their word is law, and you can do anything
you please if you pretend you are afraid to do anything without asking
their permission.  And always humour them in one thing.  Now, Aaron
insists on punctuality.  His meals must be ready on the stroke, and once
he is fed, I can do as I please.  Now, do be ruled by me, dearie, and come
home."

But Ada had turned unmanageable, and called for more drink.  Mrs Herring
could have slapped her.  Her practised eye told her that Ada would soon be
too helpless to move, and she thought, with a cringing fear, of Aaron the
Jew, and her board and lodging that depended on his stomach.

Outside it had begun to rain, and Joe Grant, a loafer by trade and a
lug-biter by circumstance, shifted from one foot to another, and stared
dismally at the narrow slit between the swinging doors of the "Angel",
where he knew there was warmth, and light, and comfort--everything that he
desired.  The rain, fine as needle-points, fell without noise,
imperceptibly covering his clothes and beard with  moisture.  The pavements
and street darkened as if a shadow had been thrown over them, and then
shone in irregular streaks and patches of light, reflected from the jets
of light that suddenly appeared in the shop windows.  Joe looked at the
clock through the windows of the bar.  It was twenty to six.  The rain had
brought the night before its time, and Joe wondered what had become of
Mrs Jones and her pal.  He had had the luck to see her going in at the
side door, and she was always good for a tray bit when she came out.
Failing her, he must depend on the stream of workmen, homeward bound, who
always stopped at the Angel for a pint on their way home.

Suddenly the huge white globes in front of the hotel spluttered and
flashed, piercing the darkness and the rain with their powerful rays.  The
bar, as suddenly illumined, brilliant with mirrors and glass, invited the
weary passenger in to share its comforts.  Joe fingered the solitary coin
in his pocket--threepence.  It was more than the price of a beer to him;
it was the price of admission to the warm, comfortable bar every night,
for the landlord was the friend of every man with the price of a drink in
his pocket, and once inside, he could manage to drink at other people's
expense till closing time.  He kept an eye on the side door for Ada and
Mrs Herring, at the same time watching each pedestrian as he emerged from
the darkness into the glare of the electric lights.

The fine points of rain had gradually increased to a smart downfall, that
drummed on the veranda overhead and gurgled past his feet in the gutter.
Behind him, from a leak in the pipe, the water fell to the ground with a
noisy splash as if someone had turned on a tap.  Joe felt that he hated
water like a cat.  His watery blue eyes, fixed with a careless scrutiny on
every face, told him in an instant whether the owner was a likely mark
that he could touch for a drink, but his luck was out.  He decided that
the two women must have slipped out by another door.

Jonah, who had been caught in the shower, stopped for a moment under the
veranda, anxious to get back to the Silver Shoe before closing time.  Joe
let him pass without stirring a muscle; he knew him.  If you asked him for
a drink, he offered you work.  But, as Jonah hesitated before facing the
rain again, a sudden anger flamed in his mind at the sight of Jonah's gold
watch-chain and silver-mounted umbrella.  Cripes, he knew that fellow when
he knocked about with the Push, and now he was rolling in money!  And with
the sudden impulse of a suicide who throws himself under a train, he
stepped up to Jonah.

"Could I 'ave a word with yer, Mr Jones?" he mumbled.

"'Ello, Smacker!  Just gittin' 'ome, like myself?" said Jonah.

"Not much use gittin' 'ome to an empty 'ouse," said Joe, with a doleful whine,
"an' I've earned nuthin' this week."

"'Ow do yer expect to find work, when the only place yer look fer it is in
the bottom of a beer-glass?" said Jonah.

"I 'ave me faults, none knows better than meself,"  said Joe humbly, "but
thinkin' of them won't fill me belly on a night like this."

"Now look 'ere," said Jonah, "I'm in a 'urry.  I won't give yer any money,
but if ye're 'ungry, come across the street, an' I'll buy yer a meal."

Joe hesitated, but the thought of good money being wasted on food was too
much for him, and he played his last card.

"Look, I'll tell yer straight, Mr Jones; it's no use tryin' to pull yer
leg.  I can git all the tucker I want for the askin', but I'm dyin' for
a beer to cheer me up an' keep out the cold."

He smiled at Jonah with an air of frankness, hoping to play on Jonah's
vanity by this cynical confession, but his heart sank as Jonah replied
"No, not a penny for drink," and prepared to dive into the rain.

"'Orl right, boss," muttered Joe; and then, half to himself, he added
"'Ard luck, to grudge a man a pint, with 'is own missis inside there
gittin' as full as a tick."

"What's that yer say?" cried Jonah, turning pale.

"Nuthin'," muttered Joe, conscious that he had made a mistake.

But a sudden light flashed on Jonah.  Ada had lied to him from the
beginning.  She had told him that she got the drink at Paddy Boland's in
the Haymarket, a notorious drinking-den for women, where spirits were
served to customers, disguised as light refreshments.  The fear of a
public scandal in a room full of women had alone prevented him from going
there to find her.  It was Mrs Herring's craft to throw Jonah on the wrong
scent, and sip comfortably in the back parlour of the Angel, safe from
detection, a stone's throw from the Silver Shoe.  Jonah turned and walked
in at the side door, leaving Joe with the uneasy feeling of the man who
killed the goose to get the golden eggs.

Ada had just rung the gong, insisting on another drink with the fatuous
obstinacy of drunkards.  She lolled in her chair, her hat tilted over one
ear, watching the door for the return of Cassidy with the tray and glasses,
and wondering dimly why Mrs Herring's voice sounded far away, as if she
were speaking through a telephone.  Mrs Herring, the tip of her nose
growing a brighter red with drink and vexation, was scolding and coaxing
by turns in a rapid whisper.  Suddenly she stopped, her eyes fixed in a
petrified stare at an apparition in the doorway.  It was the devil himself,
Ada's husband, the hunchback.  As he stood in the doorway, his eyes
travelled from her to his wife.  His face turned white, a nasty greyish
white, his eyes snapped like an angry cat's, and then his face hardened in
a sneer.  But Ada, who was fast losing consciousness of her identity,
stared at her husband without fear or surprise.  The deadly silence was
broken by the arrival of Cassidy, who nearly ran into Jonah with the tray.

"Beg pardon," said he, briskly, and looking down found himself staring
into the face of a grinning corpse.

"Don't mind me, Cassidy," said the corpse, speaking.  "She can stand
another glass, I think."

Cassidy put the tray down with a jerk that upset the glasses.

"I'm very sorry this should have happened, Mr Jones," he stammered.
"I'm very ..."

"Of course you are," cried Jonah.  "Ye're sorry fer anythin' that
interferes with yer business of turning men and women into swine."

"Come now," said Cassidy, making a last stand on his dignity, "this is a
public house, and I am bound to serve drink to anyone that asks for it.
As a matter of fact, I didn't know the lady was in this condition till the
barman sent me in to see what could be done."

"You're a liar, an' a fat liar.  I hate fat liars--I don't know why--an'
if yer tell another, I'll ram yer teeth down yer throat.  She's been comin'
'ere for months, an' you've been sending her home drunk for the sake of a
few shillings, to poison my life and make her name a byword in the
neighbourhood.  Now, listen to me!  You'll not serve that woman again with
drink under any pretext whatever."

"I should be glad to oblige you; but this is a public house, as I said
before..."

He stopped as Jonah took a step forward, his fists clenched, transformed
in a moment into Jonah the larrikin, king of the Cardigan Street Push.

"D'ye remember me, Cassidy?" he cried.  "I've sent better men than you to
the 'orspital in a cab.  D'ye remember w'en yer were a cop with one stripe,
an' we smashed every window in Flanagan's pub for laggin'?  D'ye remember
the time yer used ter turn fer safety down a side street w'en yer saw
us comin'?"

Cassidy's face stiffened for a moment, the old policeman coming to life
again at the sight of his natural enemy, the larrikin.  But years of ease
had buried the guardian of the law under layers of fat.  He stepped hastily
back from Jonah's fists.

"No, I won't hit yer; yer might splash," cried Jonah bitterly.

And Cassidy, forgetting that the dreaded Push was scattered to the winds,
and trembling for the safety of his windows, spoke in a changed voice.

"I'll do anything to meet your wishes, Mr Jones.  There's no call to rake
up old times.  We've both got on since then, and it won't pay us to be
enemies.  I promise you faithfully that your wife shan't be served with
drink here."

"I'm glad to 'ear it," said Jonah; "an' now yer better 'elp me ter git
'er 'ome."

He looked round the room.  There were only himself, Cassidy, and Ada.
Mrs Herring, who had been paralysed by the sight of the devil in the shape
of a hunchback, had found herself on the footpath, sober as a judge,
without very well knowing how she got there.

Ada, stupefied with brandy, and tired over the long conversation, had
fallen asleep on the table.  Jonah went to the door and called Joe, who
was listening dismally to the hum of voices raised in argument and the
pleasant clink of glasses in the bar, now filled with workmen carrying
their bags of tools, their faces covered with the sweat and grime of
the day.

"Fetch me a cab, Smacker," he said.  "My wife's been taken ill.  She
fainted in the street, and they brought her here to recover."

"Right y'are, boss," cried Joe.  "She turned giddy as she was walkin'
past, an' yer tried to pull 'er round with a drop of brandy."

He repeated the words like a boy reciting a lesson, feeling anxiously with
his thumb as he spoke, wondering if the coin Jonah had pushed into his
hand was a florin or a half-dollar.

Cassidy and Joe, one on each side, helped Ada into the cab.  Her feet
scraped helplessly over the flagged pavement her head lolled on her
shoulder, and the baleful white gleam of the huge electric lamps fell like
limelight on her face contracted in an atrocious leer.

The "Silver Shoe" was closed and in darkness, and Jonah drew a breath of
relief.  The neighbours were at their tea, and he could get his shameful
burden in unseen.  Prendergast, the cabman, helped him to drag Ada across
the shop to the foot of the stairs, where with an oath he threw her across
his shoulder, and ran up the winding staircase as if he were carrying a
bag of chaff.

Suddenly the door on the landing opened, throwing a flood of light on
their faces, and Jonah was astonished to see Miss Grimes, trim and neat,
looking in alarm from him to the cabman and his burden.  As Prendergast
dropped Ada on the couch, she took a step forward.

"What has happened?  Is she hurt?" she asked, bending over Ada; but the
next moment she turned away.

This unconscious movement of disgust maddened Jonah.  What was she doing
there to see his humiliation?  

"No, she's not hurt," said Jonah dryly.  "But wot are you doing 'ere?"
he added.

His tone nettled the young woman, and she coloured.

"I'm sorry I'm in the way," she said stiffly, "but Mr Johnson locked up,
and was anxious to get away, and as I was giving Ray his lesson, I offered
to stay with him till someone came."

"I beg yer pardon," said Jonah.  "I'm much obliged to yer fer mindin' the
kid, but I didn't want yer to see this."

"I've known it all the time," said Clara, quietly.

"Ah," said Jonah, understanding many things in a flash.

He caught sight of Ray, staring open-mouthed at his mother lying so
strangely huddled on the couch.

"Yer mother's tired, Ray," he said.  "Go an' boil the kettle; she'll want
some tea when she wakes up."

"That's 'ow I 'ave ter lie to everybody; an' I suppose they all know the
truth, an' nod an' wink behind my back," he cried bitterly.  "I've tried
all I know; but now 'er mother's gone, I'm fair beat.  People envy me
because I've got on, but they little know wot a millstone I've got round
my neck."

He lifted his head, and look steadily at Ada snoring in a drunken sleep on
the couch.  And to Clara's surprise, his face suddenly changed; tears
stood in his eyes.

"Poor devil!  I don't know that she's to blame altogether.  It's in her
blood.  Her father went the same way.  My money's done 'er no good.  She'd
'ave been better off in Cardigan Street on two pounds a week."

Clara was surprised at the pity in his voice.  She thought that he loathed
and despised his wife.  Suddenly Jonah looked up at her.

"Will yer meet me to-morrow afternoon?" he asked abruptly.

"Why?" said Clara, alarmed and surprised.

"I want yer to 'elp me.  Since 'er mother died, she's gone from bad to
worse.  I've got no one to 'elp me, an' I feel I'll burst if I don't talk
it over with somebody."

"I hardly know," replied Clara, taken by surprise.

"Say the Mosman boat at half past two, an' I'll be there," said Jonah
brusquely.

"Very well," said Clara.




CHAPTER 19



THE PIPES OF PAN


Circular Quay, shaped like a bite in a slice of bread, caught the eye like
a moving picture.  The narrow strip of roadway, hemmed in between the
Customs House and the huge wool stores, was alive with the multitudinous
activity of an ant-hill.  A string of electric cars slid past the jetties
in parallel lines or climbed the sharp curve to Phillip Street; and every
minute cars, loaded with passengers from the dusty suburbs, swung round
the corners of the main streets and stopped in front of the ferries.  And
as the cars stopped, the human cargo emptied itself into the roadway and
hurried to the turnstiles, harassed by the thought of missing the next boat.

From the waterside, where the great mail steamers lay moored along the
Quay, came the sudden rattle of winches, the cries of men unloading cargo,
and the shrill hoot of small steamers crossing the bay.  Where the green
waters licked the piles and gurgled under the jetties, waterside loafers
sat on the edge of the wharves intently watching a fishing-line thrown out.
Men in greasy clothes and flannel shirts, with the look of the sea in their
eyes, smoked and spat as they watched the ships in brooding  silence.  For
of all structures contrived by the hands of man, a ship is the most
fascinating.  It is so complete, so perfect in its devices and ingenuity,
a house and a habitation for men set adrift on the waste of waters,
plunging headlong into danger and romance with its long spars and coiled
ropes, its tarry sailors roaring a sea-chanty, and the common habits of
eating and sleeping accomplished in a spirit of adventure.

Two streams, mainly women, met at the turnstiles--mothers and children from
the crowded, dusty suburbs, drawn by the sudden heat of an autumn sun in a
cloudless sky to the harbour for a day in the open air, and the leisured
ladies of the North Shore, calm and collected, dressed in expensive
materials, crossing from the fashionable waterside suburbs to the Quay to
saunter idly round the Block, look in the shops, and drink a cup of tea.

Jonah, who had been standing outside the Mosman ferry for the last
half-hour, looked at the clock in the Customs House opposite, and swore to
himself.  It was on the stroke of three, and she would miss the boat, as
usual.  It was always the same--she was always late; and when he had worked
himself into a fury, deciding to wait another minute, and then to go home,
she would suddenly appear breathless, with a smile and an apology that
took the words out of his mouth.

He watched each tram as it stopped, looking for one face and figure among
the moving crowd, for he had learned to know her walk in the distance while
her features were a blur.  For months past he had endured that supreme
tyranny--the domination of the woman--till his whole life seemed to be
spent between thinking about her and waiting for her at appointed corners.
The hours they spent together fled with incredible speed, and she always
shortened the flying minutes by coming late, with one of half a dozen
excuses that he knew by heart.

Their first meeting had been at the Quay the day after he had brought Ada
home drunk from the "Angel", and since then a silent understanding had
grown between them that they should always meet there and cross the water,
as Jonah's conspicuous figure made recognition very likely in the streets
and parks of the city.

The first passion of his life--love of his child--had for ever stamped on
his brain the scenes and atmosphere of Cardigan Street, the struggle for
life on the Road, and the march of triumph to the "Silver Shoe".  And this,
the second passion of his life--love of a woman--was set like a stage-play
among the wide spaces of sea and sky, the flight of gulls, the encircling
hills, and the rough, salt breath of the harbour.

Suddenly he saw her crossing the road, threading her way between the
electric cars, and noted with intense satisfaction the distinction of her
figure, clothed in light tweed, with an air of scrupulous neatness in which
she could hold her own with the rich idlers from the Shore.  She smiled at
him with her peculiar, intense look, and then frowned slightly.  Jonah knew
that something was wrong, and remembered that he had forgotten to raise his
hat, an accomplishment that she had taught him with much difficulty.

"So sorry to be late, but I couldn't really help it.  I'll tell you
presently," she said, as they passed the turnstiles.

Jonah knew by her voice that she was in a bad temper, and his heart sank.
The afternoon that he had waited for and counted on for nearly a week would
be spoiled.  Never before in his life had his pleasures depended on the
humour or caprice of anyone, but he had learned with dismal surprise that
a word or a look from this woman could make or mar the day for him.  He
gave her a sidelong look, and saw she was angry by a certain hardness in
her profile, and, as he stared moodily at the water, he wondered if all
women were as mutable and capricious.  In his dealings with women--shop-hands
who moved at his bidding like machines--he had never suspected these gusts
of emotion that ended as suddenly as they began.  Ada had the nerves of a cow.

Over the way the Manly boat was filling slowly with mothers and children
and stray couples.  A lamentable band on the upper deck mixed popular airs
with the rattle of winches.  The Quay was alive with ferry-boats,
blunt-nosed and squat like a flat-iron, churning the water with invisible
screws.  A string of lascars from the P.&O. boat caught his eye with a
patch of colour, the white calico trousers, the gay embroidered vests,
and the red or white turbans bringing a touch of the East to Sydney.
Suddenly the piles of the jetty slipped to the rear, and the boat moved
out past the huge mail-steamers from London, Marseilles, Bremen, Hongkong,
and Yokohama lying at the wharves.

 As they rounded the point the warships swung into view, grim and
 forbidding, with the ugly strength of bulldogs.  A light breeze flicked
 the waters of the harbour into white flakes like the lash of a whip, and
 Jonah felt the salt breath of the sea on his cheeks.  His eye travelled
 over the broad sheet of water from the South Head, where the long rollers
 of the Pacific entered and broke with a muscular curve, to the shores
 broken by innumerable curves into bays where the moving waters, already
 tamed, lost their beauty like a caged animal, and spent themselves in
 fretful ripples on the sand.  Overhead the sky, arched in a cloudless
 dome of blue, was reflected in the turquoise depths of the water.

Then Mosman came in sight with its shaggy slopes and terra-cotta roofs,
the houses, on the pattern of a Swiss chalet, standing with spaces between,
fashionable and reserved.  Jonah thought of Cardigan Street, and smiled.
They walked in silence along the path to Cremorne Point, the noise of
birds and the rustling of leaves bringing a touch of the country to Jonah.

"Had you been waiting long?" asked Clara, suddenly.

"Since twenty past two," replied Jonah.

"The impudence of some people is incredible," she said.  "I've just lost
a pupil and a guinea a quarter--it's the same thing.  The mother thought I
should buy the music for the child out of the guinea.  That means a hat
and a pair of gloves or a pair of boots less through no fault of my own.
You don't seem very sympathetic," she cried, looking sharply at Jonah.

"I ain't," said Jonah, calmly.

"Well, I must say you don't pick your words.  A guinea may be nothing to
you, but it means a great deal to me."

"It ain't that," said Jonah, "but I hate the thought of yer bein' at the
beck an' call of people who ain't fit to clean yer boots.  Ye're like a
kid 'oldin' its finger in the fire an' yellin' with pain.  There's no need
fer yer to do it.  I've offered ter make yer cashier in the shop at two
pounds a week, if yer'd put yer pride in yer pocket."

"And throw a poor girl out of work to step into her shoes."

"Nuthin' of the sort, as I told yer.  She's been threatenin' fer months to
git married, but it 'urts 'er to give up a good billet an' live on three
pounds a week.  Yer'd do the bloke a kindness, if yer made me give 'er
the sack."

"It's no use.  My mother wouldn't listen to it.  For years she's half
starved herself to keep me out of a shop.  She can never forget that her
people in England are gentry."

"I don't know much about gentry, but I could teach them an' yer mother
some common sense," said Jonah.

"We won't discuss my mother, if you please," said Clara, and they both
fell silent.

They had reached the end of Cremorne Point, a spur of rock running into
the harbour.  Clara ran forward with a cry of pleasure, her troubles
forgotten as she saw the harbour lying like a map at her feet.  The
opposite shore curved into miniature bays, with the spires and towers of
the city etched on a filmy  blue sky.  The mass of bricks and mortar in
front was Paddington and Woollahra, leafless and dusty where they had
trampled the trees and green grass beneath their feet; the streets cut like
furrows in a field of brick.  As the eye travelled eastward from Double Bay
to South Head the red roofs became scarcer, alternating with clumps of
sombre foliage.  Clara looked at the scene with parted lips as she
listened to music.  This frank delight in scenery had amused Jonah at
first.  It was part of a woman's delight in the pretty and useless.  But,
as his eyes had become accustomed to the view, he had begun to understand.
There was no scenery in Cardigan Street, and he had been too busy in later
years to give more than a hasty glance at the harbour.  There was no money
in it.

From where they sat they could see a fleet of tramps and cargo-boats lying
at anchor on their right.  Jonah examined them attentively, and then his
eyes turned to the city, piled massively in the sunlight, studded with
spires and towers and tall chimneys belching smoke into the upper air.
It was this city that had given him life on bitter terms, a misshapen and
neglected street-arab, scouring the streets for food, of less account than
a stray dog.

His eye softened as he looked again at the water.  As the safest place for
their excursions they had picked by chance on the harbour with its fleet
of steamers that threaded every bay and cove, and little by little, in the
exaltation of the senses following his love for this woman, the swish of
the water slipping past the bows, the panorama of rock and sandy beach,
and the salt smell of the sea were for ever part of  this strange,
emotional condition where reality and dream blended without visible jar
or shock.

He turned and looked at the woman beside him.  She was silent, looking
seaward.  He stared at her profile, cut like a cameo, with intense
satisfaction.  The low, straight forehead, the straight nose, the full
curving chin, satisfied his eye like a carved statue.  About her ear,
exquisitely small and delicate, the wind had blown a fluff of loose hair,
and on this insignificant detail his eye dwelt with rapture.  This woman's
face pleased him like music.  And as he looked, all his desires were melted
and confounded in a wave of tenderness, caressing and devotional, the
complete surrender of strength to weakness.  He wanted to take her in his
arms, and dared not even touch her hand.  There had been no talk of love
between them, and she had kept him at a distance with her air of
distinction and superficial refinements.  She seemed to spread a silken
barrier between them that exasperated and entranced him.  Some identity in
his sensations puzzled him, and as he looked, with a flash he was in
Cardigan Street again, stooping over his child with a strange sensation in
his heart, learning his first lesson in pity and infinite tenderness.
Another moment and he would have taken her in his arms.  Instead of that,
he said "I'm putting that line of patent leather pumps in the catalogue at
seven and elevenpence, post free."

Instantly Clara became attentive.

"You mean those with the buckles and straps?  They'll go like hot cakes!"

"They ought to," said Jonah, dryly.  "Post free brings them a shade below
cost price."

"A shade below cost?" said Clara in surprise.  "I thought you bought them
at seven and six?"

"So I do," replied Jonah, "but add twelve per cent for working expenses,
an' where's the profit?  Packard's manager puts them in the window at
eight an' six, an' wonders why they don't sell.  His girls come straight
from the factory and buy them off me.  They're the sort I want--waitresses,
dressmakers, shop-hands, bits of girls that go without their meals to doll
themselves up.  They want the cheapest they can get, an' they're always
buying."

And at once they plunged into a discussion on the business of the Silver
Shoe.  Clara always listened with fascination to the details of buying and
selling.  Novelettes left her cold, but the devices to attract customers,
the lines that were sold at a loss for advertisement, the history of the
famous Silver Shoe that Jonah sold in thousands at a halfpenny a pair
profit, astonished her like a fairy-tale that happened to be real.

One day, while shopping at Jordan's mammoth cash store, her ear had caught
the repeated clink of metal, and turning her head, she stood on the stairs,
thunderstruck.  She saw a square room lit with electric bulbs in broad
daylight.  It was the terminus of a multitude of shining brass tubes
leading from counters the length of a street away, and, with an incessant
popping, the tubes dropped a cascade of gold and silver before the
cashiers, silent and absorbed in this river of coin.  She felt that she
was looking at the heart of this huge machine for drawing money from the
pockets of the multitude.  The "Silver Shoe", that  poured a stream of
golden coins into the pockets of the hunchback, fascinated her in a
like manner.

They had talked for half an hour, intent on figures which Jonah dotted on
the back of an envelope, when they were surprised by a sudden change in
the light.  The sun was low in the sky, dipping to the horizon, where its
motion seemed more rapid, as if it had gathered speed in the descent.  The
sudden heat had thrown a haze over the sky, and the city with its spires
and towers was transformed.  The buildings floated in a liquid veil with
the unreality of things seen in a dream.  The rays of the sun, filtered
through bars of crystal cloud, fell not crimson nor amber nor gold, but
with the mystic radiance of liquid pearls, touching the familiar scene
with Eastern magic.  In the silvery light a dome reared its head that
might have belonged to an Eastern mosque with a muezzin calling the
faithful to prayers.  Minarets glistered, remote and ethereal, and tall
spires lifted themselves like arrows in flight.  On the left lay low hills
softly outlined against the pearly sky; hills of fairyland that might
dissolve and disappear with the falling night; hills on the borderland of
fantasy and old romance.

And as they watched, surprised out of themselves by this magic play of
light, the sun's rim dipped below the skyline, a level lake of blood, and
the fantastic city melted like a dream.  The pearly haze was withdrawn
like a net of gossamer, and the magic city had vanished at a touch.
The familiar towers and spires of Sydney reappeared, silhouetted against
the amber rim of night; the hills, robbed of their pearly glamour, huddled
beneath a belt of leaden cloud; the harbour waters lay fiat and grey like
a sheet of polished metal; light clouds were pacing in from the sea.

They stared across the water, silent and thoughtful, touched for a moment
with the glamour of a dream.  The sound of a cornet, prolonged into a wail,
reached them from the deck of a Manly steamer.  At intervals the full
strength of the band, cheerful and vulgar, was carried by a gust of wind
to their ears.

"Oh, I would like to hear some music!" cried Clara.  "Something slow and
solemn, a dirge for the dying day."

Jonah turned and looked at her curiously, surprised by the gush of emotion
in her voice.  He started to speak, and hesitated.  Then the words came
with a rush.

"I could give yer a tune meself, but I suppose yer'd poke borak."

"Give me a tune?  I never knew you could sing," said Clara, in surprise.

"Sing!" said Jonah, in scorn.  "I can beat any singin' w'en I'm in good nick."

"Whatever do you mean?" said Clara.  She was surprised to see that the
habitual shrewd look had gone out of his eyes.  He looked half ashamed
and defiant.

"Yer remember w'en I first met yer in the shop I mentioned that I could do
a bit with the mouth-organ?"

"The mouth-organ?" said Clara, smiling.  "I thought only boys amused
themselves with that."

"No fear!" cried Jonah.  "I 'eard a bloke at the 'Tiv.' play a fair treat.
That's 'ow I come to git this instrument," and he tapped something in his
breast pocket.  "Kramer's 'ad to send 'ome for it, an' I only got it this
afternoon.  I've bin dyin' to 'ave a go at it, but I always wait till I
git the place to meself.  It wouldn't do for the 'ands to see the boss
playin' the mouth-organ."

He took the instrument out of his pocket, and handed it to Clara with the
pride of a fiddler showing his Strad.  Clara looked carelessly at the flat
row of tubes cased in nickel-silver.

"Exhibition concert organ with forty reeds," said Jonah.  Again Clara
looked at the instrument with a slightly disdainful air, as an organist
would look at a penny whistle.

"Well, play something," she said with a smile.

Jonah breathed slowly into the reeds, up and down the scale, testing the
compass of the instrument.  It was full and rich, unlike any that she had
heard in the streets.  Presently he struck into a popular ballad from the
music-hall, holding the organ to his mouth with the left hand.  With his
right he covered the pipes to control the volume of sound as a pianist
uses the pedals.  When he had finished, Clara smiled in encouragement,
with a secret feeling that he was making himself ridiculous.  She looked
across the water, wishing he would put the thing away and stop this absurd
exhibition.  But Jonah had warmed up to his work.  He was back in Cardigan
Street again, when the Push marched through the streets with him in the
lead, playing tunes that he had learned at the music-halls.

In five minutes Clara's uneasiness had vanished, and she was listening to
the music with a dreamy languor quite foreign to her usual composure.  Her
mind was filled with the fantastic splendour of the sunset; the fresh salt
air had acted like a drug; and the sounds breathed into the reeds made her
nerves vibrate like strings.  Strange, lawless thoughts floated in her
mind.  The world was meant for love, and passionate sadness, and breaking
hearts that healed at the glance of an eye.  And as her ear followed the
tune, her eyes were drawn with an irresistible movement to the musician.
She found him staring at her with a magnetic look in his eyes.

He was no longer ridiculous.  The large head, wedged beneath the shoulders,
the projecting hump, monstrous and inhuman, and the music breathed into
the reeds set him apart as a sinister, uncanny being.  She frowned in an
effort to think what the strange figure reminded her of, and suddenly she
remembered.  It was the god Pan, the goat-footed lord of rivers and woods,
sitting beside her, who blew into his pipes and stirred the blood of men
and women to frenzies of joy and fear.  There was fear and exultation in
her heart.  A pagan voluptuousness spread through her limbs.  Jonah paused
for a moment, and then broke into the pick of his repertory.  And Clara
listened, hypnotized by the sounds, her brain mechanically fitting the
words to the tune: 

Come to me, sweet Marie, sweet Marie, come to me!
Not because your face is fair, love, to see;
But your soul, so pure and sweet,
Makes my happiness complete,
Makes me falter at your feet, sweet Marie.

The vulgar, insipid words rang as plainly in her ears as if a voice were
singing them.  Jonah stopped playing, and stared at her with a curious
glitter in his eyes.  She felt, in a dazed, dreamy fashion, that this was
the hunchback's declaration of love.  The hurdy-gurdy tune and the unsung
words had acted like a spell.  For a space of seconds she gazed with a
fixed look at Jonah, waiting for him to move or speak.  She seemed to be
slipping down a precipice without the power or desire to resist.  Then,
like a fit of giddiness, the sensation passed.  She stumbled to her feet
and ran wildly down the rocky path to the wharf where the ferry-boat,
glittering with electric lights, like a gigantic firefly, was waiting
at the jetty.




CHAPTER 20



MRS PARTRIDGE MINDS THE SHOP


Chook caught the last tram home, and found Pinkey asleep in bed with a
novelette in her hand.  She had fallen asleep reading it.  The noise of
Chook's entry roused her, and she stared at him, uncertain of the hour.
Then, seeing him fully dressed, she decided that it was four o'clock in
the morning, and that he was trying to sneak off to Paddy's Market without
her.  She was awake in an instant, and her face flushed pink with anger as
she jumped out of bed, indignant at being deprived of her share of the
unpleasant trip to the markets.  Three times a week she nerved herself for
that heartbreaking journey in the raw morning air, resolved never to let
Chook see her flinch from her duty.  As she started to dress herself with
feverish haste, Chook recovered enough from his astonishment to ask her
where she was going.

"To Paddy's, of course," she replied fiercely.  "Yer sneaked off last week
on yer own, an' cum 'ome so knocked out that yer couldn't eat yer
breakfast."

A cold shiver ran through Chook.  Her mind was affected, and in a flash he
saw his wife taken to the asylum and himself left desolate.  Then he
understood, and burst into a roar.

"Git into bed again, Liz," he cried.  "Ye're walkin' in yer sleep."

"Wot's the time?" she asked, with a suspicious look.

"Five past twelve," said Chook, reluctantly.

"An' ye're only just come 'ome!  Wot d'ye mean by stoppin' out till this
time of night?" she cried, turning on him furiously, but secretly
relieved, like a patient who finds the dentist is out.

"The play was out late, an' we..." stammered Chook.

As he stammered, Pinkey caught sight of a rip in his sleeve, and looking
at him intently, was horrified to see his lip cut and bleeding.  She gave
a cry of terror and burst into tears.

"Yer never went to no play; yer've bin fightin'," she sobbed.

"No, I ain't, fair dinkum," cried Chook.  "I'll tell yer 'ow I come by
this, if yer wait a minute."

"Yer never cut yer lip lookin' at the play; yer've gone back ter the Push,
as Sarah always said yer would."

"I'll screw Sarah's neck when I can spare the time," said Chook, savagely.

Chook, the old-time larrikin, had turned out a model husband, but, for
years after his marriage, Mrs Partridge had taken a delight in prophesying
that he would soon tire of Pinkey's apron-strings and return to the Push
and the streets.  And now, although Waxy Collins and Joe Crutch were in
jail for sneak-thieving, their places taken by younger  and more vicious
scum, Pinkey thought instantly of the dread Push when Chook grew restive.

"No," said Chook, deciding to cut it short, "I tore me coat an' cut me lip
gittin' away from the Johns at Paddy Flynn's alley."

Pinkey turned sick with fear.  The two-up school was worse than the Push,
and they were ruined.

"I knew it the moment I set eyes on yer.  Yer've been bettin' again, an'
lost all yer money.  Yer've got nothing left for the markets, an' the
landlord'll turn us out," she cried, seeing herself already in the gutter.

"Yes, I lost a bit, but I pulled up, an' I'm a couple of dollars to the
good," said Chook, feeling in his pocket for some half-crowns.

"Well, give it to me," said Pinkey, "an' I'll go straight termorrer and
pay ten shillings on a machine."

"Wot would yer 'ave said if I'd won ten or fifteen quid?" asked Chook.

"I should 'ave said 'Buy Jack Ryan's 'orse an' cart, an' never go near a
two-up school again'," said Pinkey, thinking of the impossible.

"Well, I won the dollars, an' I'll do as yer say," cried Chook emptying
his pockets on the counterpane.

As Chook poured the heap of gold and silver on to the bed, Pinkey gasped,
and turned deadly white.  Chook thought she was going to faint.

"It's all right, Liz," he cried.  "I've 'ad a good win, an' we're set up
fer life."

He was busy sorting the gold and silver into heaps, first putting aside
his stake, two pounds ten.  There  were fifteen pounds twelve shillings
and sixpence left.  Pinkey stared in amazement.  It seemed incredible that
so much money could belong to them.  And suddenly she thought, with a pang
of joy, that no longer would she need to nerve herself for the cruel
journey to the markets in the morning.  Chook would drive down in his own
cart, and she would be waiting on his return with a good breakfast.  They
had gone up in the world like a rocket.

The marriage of Pinkey, three years ago, had affected Mrs Partridge like
the loss of a limb.  For over two years she had been chained to the same
house, in the same street, with the desire but not the power to move.
Only once had she managed to change her quarters with the aid of William,
and the result had been disastrous.  For the first time in his life
William had lost a day at Grimshaw's to move the furniture, and for six
months he had brooded over the lost time.  This last move had planted them
in Botany Street, five minutes' walk from Chook's shop.  At first Mrs
Partridge had fretted, finding little consolation in the new ham-and-beef
shop on Botany Road; and then, little by little, she had become attached
to the neighbourhood.  She had been surprised to find that entertainment
came to her door unsought, in the form of constant arrivals and departures
among the neighbours.  And each of them was the beginning or the end of a
mystery, which she probed to the bottom with the aid of the postman, the
baker, the butcher, and the tradesmen who were left lamenting with their
bills unpaid.  Never before in her wanderings had she got so completely in
touch with her surroundings.

 But from habit she always talked of moving.  She could never pass an
 empty house without going through it, sniffing the drains, and requesting
 the landlord to make certain improvements, with the mania of women who
 haunt the shops with empty purses, pricing expensive materials.  Every
 week she announced to Chook and Pinkey that she had found the very house,
 if William would take a day off to move.  But in her heart she had no
 desire to leave the neighbourhood.  It was an agreeable and daily
 diversion for her to run up to the shop, and prophesy ruin and disaster
 to Chook and Pinkey for taking a shop that had beggared the last tenant,
 ignoring the fact that Jack Ryan had converted his profits into beer.
 Chook's rough tongue made her wince at times, but she refused to take
 offence for more than a day.  She had taken a fancy to Chook the moment
 she had set eyes on him, and was sure Pinkey was responsible for his
 sudden bursts of temper.  She thought to do him a service by dwelling on
 Pinkey's weak points, and Chook showed his gratitude by scowling.  Pinkey,
 who had been a machinist in the factory, was no hand with a needle, and
 Mrs Partridge commented on this in Chook's hearing.

"An' fancy 'er 'ardly able to sew on a button, which is very dangerous
lyin' about on the floor, as children will eat anythin', not knowin' the
consequences," she cried.

Chook pointed out that there were no children in the house to eat
stray buttons.

"An' thankful you ought to be for that," she cried.  "There's Mrs Brown's
baby expectin' to be waited  on 'and an' foot, an' thinks nothin' of wakin'
'er up in the night, cryin' its heart out one minute, an' cooin' like a
dove the next, though I don't 'old with keepin' birds in the 'ouse as
makes an awful mess, an' always the fear of a nasty nip through the bars
of the cage, which means a piece of rag tied round your finger."

Here she stopped for breath, and Chook turned aside the torrent of words
by offering her some vegetables, riddled with grubs, for the trouble of
carrying them home.  She considered herself one of Chook's best customers,
having dealt off him since their first meeting.  Every market-day she came
to the shop, picked out everything that was damaged or bruised, and bought
it at her own price.  She often wished that Pinkey had married a grocer.

Chook had said nothing to her of his win at the two-up school, and she
only heard of it at the last moment through a neighbour.  She put on her
hat, and just reached the shop in time to see Chook drive up to the door
in his own horse and cart.  Pinkey was standing there, radiant, her dreams
come true, already feeling that their fortunes were made.  Mrs Partridge
looked on with a choking sensation in her throat, desiring nothing for
herself, but angry with Fortune for showering her gifts on others.  Then
she stepped up briskly, and cried out: 

"I 'eard all about yer luck, an' I sez to myself, 'it couldn't 'ave
'appened to a more deservin' young feller.' You'll ride in yer carriage
yet, mark my words."

She came nearer and stared at the mare, anxious to  find fault, but
knowing nothing of the points of a horse.  She decided to make friends
with it, and rubbed its nose.  The animal, giving her an affectionate
look, furtively tried to bite her arm, and then threw back its head,
expecting the rap on the nose that always followed this attempt.
Mrs Partridge trembled with fear and rage.

"Well, I never!" she cried.  "The sly brute!  Looked at me like a 'uman
being, an' then tried to eat me, which I could never understand people
preachin' about kindness to dumb animals, an' 'orses takin' a delight in
runnin' over people in the street every day."

"It's because they've got relations that makes 'em thankful animals are
dumb," said Chook.

"Meaning me?" cried Mrs Partridge, smelling an insult.

"You?" said Chook, affecting surprise.  "I niver mind yous talkin'.  It
goes in one ear an' out of the other."

Mrs Partridge bounced out of the shop in a rage, but next day she came
back to tell Pinkey that she had found the very house in Surry Hills for a
shilling a week less rent.  She stayed long enough to frighten the life
out of Pinkey by telling her that she had heard that Jack Ryan was well
rid of the horse, because it had a habit of bolting and breaking the
driver's neck.  Chook found Pinkey trembling for his safety, and
determined to put a stop to these annoyances.  He disappeared for a whole
day, and when Pinkey wanted to know where he had been, he told her to wait
and see.  They nearly quarrelled.  But the next morning he gave her a
surprise.  After breakfast he announced that he was going to take her to
the Druids' picnic in his own cart, and that Mrs Partridge had consented
to mind the shop in their absence.

When Chook asked Mrs Partridge to mind the shop for the day, she jumped at
the idea.  She felt that she had a gift for business which she had wasted
by not marrying the greengrocer; and now, with the shop to herself, she
would show them how to deal with the customers, and find time in between
to run her eye through Pinkey's boxes.  She, too, would have a holiday
after her own heart.  She decided to wear her best skirt and blouse, to
keep the customers in their place and remind them that she was independent
of their favours.  She found everything ready on her arrival.  The price
of every vegetable was freshly painted on the window by Chook in white
letters, and there were five shillings in small change in the till.  Lunch
was set for her on the kitchen table, a sight to make the mouth water,
for Chook, remembering the days of his courting, had ransacked the
ham-and-beef shop for dainties--sheep's trotters, brawn, pig's cheek,
ham-and-chicken sausage, and a bottle of mixed pickles.  Nothing was
wanting.  As Chook drove off with Pinkey, she waved her hand to them,
and then, surveying the street with the air of a proprietor, entered the
shop and took possession.

They were going to Sir Joseph Banks's for the picnic; but, to Pinkey's
surprise, the cart turned into Botany Street and pulled up in front of
Sarah's cottage.

"Wotcher stoppin' 'ere for?" she inquired.

"'Cause we're goin' ter git out," said Chook, with a grin.

"Git out?  Wot for?  There's nobody at 'ome, Dad's at work."

"I know; that's w'y I came," said Chook, tying the reins to the seat.
"Git down, Liz; yer've got a 'ard day in front of yer."

"'Ard day?  Wotcher mean?" cried Pinkey, suspiciously.

"We're goin' ter move Sarah's furniture to the new 'ouse she found in
Surry Hills," replied Chook.

"She never took no 'ouse," said Pinkey.

"No, I took it yesterday in 'er name," said Chook, grinning at Pinkey's
perplexed frown.  "I wanted ter give 'er a pleasant surprise fer 'er
birthday."

"Wot about the picnic?" exclaimed Pinkey, suddenly.

"There ain't no picnic," said Chook.  "It's next Monday; the date must
'ave slipped me mind."

"An' yer mean ter move 'er furniture in without 'er knowin'?"

"That's the dart," said Chook, with a vicious smile.  "If Sarah's tongue
don't git a change of air, I'll git three months fer murder.  So 'urry up,
Liz, an' put this apron over yer skirt."

The impudence of Chook's plan took her breath away, but when he insisted
that there was no other way of getting rid of Mrs Partridge, she consented,
with the feeling that she was taking part in a burglary.  Chook took the
key from under the flower-pot and went in.  They found the place like a
pigsty, for in the excitement of dressing for her day behind the counter,
Sarah had wasted no time in  making the bed or washing up, and Pinkey,
trained under the watchful eye of Chook's mother, stood aghast.  She
declared that nothing could be done till that mess was cleared away, and
tucked up her sleeves.

The appearance of the cart had roused the neighbours' curiosity, and Chook
engaged them in conversation over the back fence.  He explained that Mrs
Partridge had begged him to come down and move her furniture while she
minded the shop.  There was a general sigh of relief.  Nothing had escaped
her eye or tongue.  Mrs King, who was supposed to be temperance, did
wonders with the bottle under her apron, but was caught.  Then she found
out that Mrs Robinson's brother, who was supposed to be doing well in the
country, was really doin' seven years.  Chook refused half a dozen offers
of help before Pinkey had finished washing up.

As Chook lacked the professional skill of Jimmy the van-man, Pinkey was
obliged to make two loads of the furniture; but by twelve o'clock the last
stick was on the cart, and Pinkey, sitting beside her husband on a plank,
carried the kerosene lamp in her lap to prevent breakage.  By sunset
everything was in its place, and Chook and Pinkey, aching in every joint,
locked the door and drove home.

Meanwhile, Mrs Partridge had spent a pleasant day conducting Chook's
business on new lines.  She had always suspected that she had a gift for
business, and here was an opportunity to prove it.  The first customer
was a child, sent for three penn'orth of potatoes.  As children are
naturally careless, Mrs Partridge saw here an excellent opportunity for
weeding out the stock, and went to a lot of trouble in picking out the
small and damaged tubers, reserving the best for customers who came to
choose for themselves.  Five minutes later she was exchanging them for the
largest in the sack under the direction of an infuriated mother.  This
flustered her slightly, and when Mrs Green arrived, complaining of
rheumatic twinges in her leg, she decided to try Pinkey's sympathetic manner.

"Ah, if anybody knows what rheumatism is, I do," she cried.  "For years I
suffered cruelly, an' then I was persuaded to carry a new pertater in me
pocket, an' I've never 'ad ache or pain since; though gettin' cured, to my
mind, depends on the sort of life you've led."

Mrs Green, a woman with a past, flushed heavily.

"'Oo are yer slingin' off at?" she cried.  "You and yer new pertater.
I'd smack yer face for two pins," and she walked out of the shop.

This made Mrs Partridge careful, and she served the next customers in an
amazing silence.  Then she dined royally on the pick of the ham-and-beef
shop, and settled down for the afternoon.  But she recovered her tongue
when Mrs Paterson wanted some lettuce for a salad.

"Which I could never understand people eatin' salads, as I shall always
consider bad for the stomach, an' descendin' to the lower animals," she
cried.  "Nothing could make me believe I was meant to eat vegetables raw
when I can 'ave them boiled an' strained for 'alf an 'our."

In her eagerness to convert Mrs Paterson to her views, she forgot to
charge for the lettuce.  When  Chook and Pinkey arrived, she had partially
destroyed the business, and was regretting that she had been too delicate
to marry the greengrocer.  She showed Chook the till bulging with copper
and silver.

"Yer've done us proud," cried Chook, staring.

Mrs Partridge sorted out ten shillings from the heap.

"That's Mrs Robins's account," she remarked.

"Wot made 'er pay?" inquired Pinkey, suspiciously.  "Yer didn't go an' ask
'er for it, did yer?"

"Not likely," said Mrs Partridge; "but when she complained of the peas
bein' eighteenpence a peck, I pointed out that if she considered nothing
too dear for 'er back, she should consider nothing too dear for 'er stomach,
an' she ran 'ome to fetch this money an' nearly threw it in my face."

"Me best customer," cried Pinkey in dismay.  "She pays at the end of the
month like clockwork."

Mrs Partridge stared at the heap of silver, and changed the subject.

"It 'ud give me the creeps to sleep in the 'ouse with all that money,"
she remarked, "after readin' in the paper as 'ow burglars are passionate
fond of silver, an' 'avin' no reg'lar 'ours for callin', like to drop in
when least expected." She noted with satisfaction that Pinkey changed
colour, and shook the creases out of her skirt.  "Well, I must be goin',"
she added.  "I never like to keep William waitin' for 'is tea."

A cold wave swept over Chook.  He had clean forgotten William, who would
go home to Botany Street and find an empty house.  Pinkey dived into the
bedroom, and left Chook to face it out.

"'Ere's yer key," he said helplessly, to make a beginning.

"This is my key," said Mrs Partridge, feeling in her pocket, "an' the
other one is under the flower-pot for William, if I'm out.  I dunno what
you mean."

"I mean this is the key of yer new 'ouse in Surry Hills," said Chook,
fumbling hopelessly with the piece of iron.

"You've bin drinkin', an' the beer's gone to yer 'ead," said Mrs Partridge,
unwilling to take offence.

"I tell yer I'm as dry as a bone," cried Chook, losing patience.

"Yer think yer live in Botany Street, but yer don't.  Yer live in Foveaux
Street, an' this is the key of the 'ouse."

"I think I live in Botany Street, but I've moved to Foveaux Street,"
repeated Mrs Partridge, but the words conveyed no meaning to her mind.

She came closer to Chook.  He looked and smelt sober, and suddenly a horrid
suspicion ran through her mind that her brain was softening.  She was older
than they thought, for she had taken five years off her age when she had
married William.  In an agony of fear she searched her memory for the
events of the past month, trying to recall any symptom of illness that
should have warned her.  She could remember nothing, and turned to Chook
with a wild fear in her eyes.  Something must be wrong with him.

"Can you understand what you're sayin'?" she asked.

"Yes," said Chook, anxious to get it over.  "Yer lived in Botany Street
this morning, but yer moved to-day, an' now yer live in Foveaux Street in
the 'ouse yer picked on Monday."

"Do you expect me to believe that?" cried Mrs Partridge.

"No," said Chook; "but yer will w'en yer go 'ome an' find your 'ouse
empty."

"An' who moved me?"

"Me an' Liz," said Chook.  "The picnic wasn't till next week, an' Liz an'
me thought we'd give yer a surprise."

For the first time in her life Mrs Partridge was speechless.  She saw that
she had been tricked shamefully.  They had ransacked her house, and laid
bare all the secrets of her little luxuries.  She quailed as she remembered
what they had found in the cupboard and the bottom drawer of the wardrobe.
Never again could she face Chook and Pinkey, knowing what they did, and
take her pickings of the shop.  Suddenly she recovered her tongue, and
turned on Chook, transformed with rage.

"William will break every bone in yer body when 'e 'ears what you've done,"
she cried, "mark my words.  An' in case I never see yer again, let me tell
yer somethin' that's been on my mind ever since I first met you.  If that
ginger-headed cat 'idin' behind the bedroom door 'adn't married yer,
nobody else would, for you're that ugly it 'ud pay yer to grow whiskers
an' 'ide yer face."

And with this parting shot she marched out of the shop and disappeared
in the darkness.




CHAPTER 21



DAD WEEPS ON A TOMBSTONE


The scene at Cremorne Point had suddenly reminded Clara that she was
playing with fire.  In the beginning she had consented to these meetings
to humour the parent of her best pupil, and gradually she had drifted into
an intimacy with Jonah without the courage to end it.  To her fastidious
taste his physical deformity and the flavour of Cardigan Street that still
clung about his speech and manners put him out of court as a possible
lover; but it had gratified her pride to discover that he was in love with
her, and as he never expressed himself more plainly than by furtive glances
and sudden inflections in his voice, she felt sure of her power to keep him
at a distance.

These outings, indeed, had nearly fallen through, when Jonah, fumbling for
words and afraid to say what was on his mind, had touched on a detail of
his business.  To his surprise Clara caught fire like straw, fascinated at
being shown the inner workings of the "Silver Shoe".  And from that time a
curious attitude had grown between them.  Jonah talked of his business,
and stared at Clara as she listened, forgetful of him, her mind absorbed
in details of profit and loss.  She found the position easy to maintain,
for Jonah, catching at straws, demanded no positive encouragement.
A chance word or look from her was rich matter for a week's thought,
twisted and turned in his mind till it meant all he desired.

She saw clearly and coldly that Jonah had placed her on a pedestal, and
she determined never to step down of her own accord, recognizing with the
instinct for business that had surprised Jonah that she would lose more
than she would gain.  And yet the sudden glimpse of passion in Jonah had
whetted her appetite for more.  It had recalled the days of her engagement
with a singular bitterness and pleasure.  She thought with a hateful
persistence of her first love, the man who had accustomed her to admiration
and then shuffled out of the engagement, forced by the attitude of his
relatives to her father.  But for weeks after the scene at Cremorne Jonah
had retired within himself terrified lest he should alarm her and put an
end to their outings.  So far she had timed their meetings for the daylight
out of prudence, but, pricked on by curiosity, she had begun to dally on
the return journey, desiring and fearing some token of his adoration.

Meanwhile Jonah swung like a pendulum between hope and despair.  He dimly
suspected that a bolder man would have had his declaration out and done
with long ago, and he waited for a favourable opportunity; but it came and
went, and left him speechless.  He had accepted Ada as the typical woman,
and now found himself as much at sea as if he had discovered a new species,
for he never suspected that any other woman had it in her power, given a
favourable opportunity, to lead him to this new world of sensation.  Women
had always been shy of him, and with his abnormal shape and his absorption
in business it had been easy for him to miss what lay beneath the surface.
But for the accident of his meeting with Clara, his temperament would have
carried him through life, unconscious of love from his own experience and
regarding it as a fable of women and poets.

Jonah never spent money willingly, except where Ray was concerned, and
Clara in their first meetings had been surprised and chilled by his anxiety
to get the value of his money.  He had informed her, bluntly, that money
was not made by spending it; but for some months he had been surprised by
a desire to spend his money to adorn and beautify this woman.  Clara,
however, maintaining her independence with a wary eye, had refused to take
presents from him.  He had become more civilized and more human under the
weight of his generous emotions, but they could find no outlet.

It was the affair of Hans Paasch that opened his eye to the power for good
that she exercised over him.  When his shop had closed for want of
customers, Paasch found that his failing eyesight and methodical slowness
barred him from competing with younger and quicker men, and, his mind
weakened and bewildered by disaster, he had turned for help to his first
and only love, the violin.  For some years he had taught a few pupils who
were too poor to pay the fees of the professional teachers, and, persuaded
that pupils would flock to him if he gave his whole time to it he took a
room and set up as a teacher.  In six months he had to choose between
starvation by inches or playing dance music in Bob Fenner's hall for
fifteen shillings a week.  For a while he endured this, playing popular
airs that he hated and despised for the larrikins whom he hated and feared,
a nightly butt and target for their coarse jests.  Then he preferred
starvation, and found himself in the gutter with the clothes he stood up
in and his fiddle.  He had joined the army of mendicant musicians, who
scrape a tune in front of hotels and shops, living on charity thinly veiled.

They had passed him one night on their return from Mosman, playing in front
of a public-house to an audience of three loafers.  The streets had soon
dragged him to their level.  Unkempt and half starved, he wore the look of
the vagrant who sleeps in his clothes for want of bedding.  Grown childish
in his distress, he had forgotten his lifelong habits of neatness and
precision, going to pieces like a man who takes to drink.

Clara, who knew his history, was horrified at the sight.  She thought he
lived comfortably on a crust of bread by giving lessons.  Jonah turned
sulky when she reproached him.

"I don't see 'ow I'm ter blame for this any more'n if 'e'd come to the
gutter through drink.  It was a fair go on the Road, an' if I beat 'im an'
the others, it was because I was a better man at the game.  I spent nearly
all my money in that little shanty where I started, an' 'im an' the others
looked on an' 'oped I'd starve.  Yer talk about me bein' cruel an' callous.
It's the game that's cruel, not me.  I  knocked 'im out all right, but wot
'ud be the use of knockin' 'im down with one 'and an' pickin' 'im up with
the other?"

"You say yourself that he took you off the streets, and gave you a living."

"So 'e did, but 'e got 'is money's worth out of me.  I did the work of a
man, an' saved 'im pounds for years.  Yer wouldn't 'ave such a sentimental
way of lookin' at things if yer'd been a steet-arab, sellin' newspapers,
an' no one ter make it 'is business whether yer lived or starved."

"But surely you can't see him in that condition without feeling sorry
for him?"

"Oh yes, I can; 'e's no friend of mine.  'E told everybody on the Road
that I went shares with the Devil," said Jonah, with an uneasy grin.
"'Ere, I'll show yer wot 'e thinks of me."

He felt in his pocket for a coin, and crossed the street.  Paasch had
finished his piece, and putting his fiddle under his arm, turned to the
loafers with a beseeching air.  They looked the other way and discussed
the weather.  Then Jonah stepped up to him and thrust the coin into his
hand.  Paasch, feeling something unaccustomed in his fingers, held it up
to the light.  It was a sovereign, and he blinked in wonder at the coin
then at the giver, convinced that it was a trick.  Then he recognized
Jonah, and a look of passionate fear and anger convulsed his features.
He threw down the coin as if it had burnt him, crying:

"No, I vill not take your cursed moneys.  Give me back mine shop and mine
business that you stole from me.  You are a rich man and ride in your
carriage, and I am the beggar, but I would not change with you.  The great
gods shall mock at you.  Money you shall have in plenty while I starve,
but never your heart's desire, for like a dog did you bite the hand that
fed you."

Suddenly his utterance was choked by a violent fit of coughing, and he
stared at Jonah, crazed with hate and prophetic fury.  A crowd began to
gather, and Jonah, afraid of being recognized, walked rapidly away.

"Now yer can see fer yerself," he cried, sullenly.

"Yes, I see," said Clara, strangely excited; "and I think you would be as
cruel with a woman as you are with a man."

"I've given yer no cause ter say that," protested Jonah.

"Perhaps not," said Clara; "but that man won't last through the winter
unless he's cared for.  And if he dies, his blood will be on your head,
and your luck will turn.  His crazy talk made me shiver.  Promise me to do
something for him."

"Ye're talkin' like a novelette," said Jonah, roughly.

But Paasch's words had struck a superstitious chord in Jonah, and he went
out of his way to find a plan for relieving the old man without showing
his hand.  He consulted his solicitors, and then an advertisement in the
morning papers offered a reward to anyone giving the whereabouts of
Hans Paasch, who left Hassloch in Bavaria in 1860, and who would hear of
something to his advantage by calling on Harris & Harris, solicitors.
A month later Jonah held a receipt for twelve pounds ten, signed by Hans
Paasch, the first instalment of an annuity of fifty pounds a year
miraculously left him by a distant cousin in Germany.

He showed this to Clara while they were crossing in the boat to Mosman.
She listened to him in silence.  Then a flush coloured her cheeks.

"You'll never regret that," she said; "it's the best day's work you
ever did."

"I 'ope I'll never regret anythin' that gives you pleasure," said Jonah,
feeling very noble and generous, and surprised at the ease with which he
turned a compliment.

They had the Point to themselves, as usual, and Clara went to the edge of
the rocks to see what ships had come and gone during the week, trying to
identify one that she had read about in the papers.  Jonah watched her in
silence, marking every detail of her tall figure with a curious sense of
possession that years of intimacy had never given him with Ada.  And yet
she kept him at a distance with a skill that exasperated him and provoked
his admiration.  One day when he had held her hand a moment too long, she
had withdrawn it with an explanation that sounded like an apology.
She explained that from a child she had been unable to endure the touch
of another person; that she always preferred to walk rather than ride in
a crowded bus or tram because bodily contact with others set her nerves on
edge.  It was a nervous affection, she explained, inherited from her
mother.  Jonah had his own opinion of this malady, but he admitted to
himself that she would never enter a crowd or a crush.

The result of her pleading for Paasch had put her  in a high good humour.
It was the first certain proof of her power over Jonah, and she chattered
gaily.  She had risen in her own esteem.  But presently, to her surprise,
Jonah took some papers from his pocket and frowned over them.

"It's very impolite to read in other people's company," she remarked,
with a sudden coolness.

"I beg yer pardon," said Jonah, starting suddenly, as if a whip had touched
him.  She never failed to reprove him for any lapse in manners, and Jonah
winced without resentment.

"I thought this might interest yer," he continued.  "I'm puttin' Steel in
as manager at last, an' this is the agreement."

"Who advised you to do that?" said Clara, with an angry flush.

"Well, Johnson's been complainin' of overwork fer some time, but Miss
Giltinan decided me.  She's very keen on me openin' up branches in the
suburbs."

"You place great weight on Miss Giltinan's opinion," said Clara, jealously.

"Ter tell the truth, I do," said Jonah.  "Next ter yerself, she's got the
best 'ead fer business of any woman I know."

"I don't agree with it at all," said Clara.  "You're the brains of the
"Silver Shoe", and another man's ideas will clash with yours."

"No fear!" said Jonah.  "I've got 'im tied down in black and white by my
solicitors."

Clara ran her eye over the typewritten document, reading some of the items
aloud.

"'Turn over the stock three times a year'!  What  does that mean?" And she
listened while Jonah explained, the position of pupil and tutor suddenly
reversed.

"'Ten and a half per cent bonus, in addition to his salary, if he shows an
increase on last year's sales.'"

"'Net profits on the departments not to exceed twenty-five per cent.,'"
read Clara in amazement.  "Why, I should have thought the more profit he
made, the better for you."

"No fear," said Jonah, with a grin; "I can't 'ave a man puttin' up the
price of the Silver Shoe with his eye on his bonus."

Then a long discussion followed that lasted till nightfall.  As the night
promised to be fine, Jonah persuaded her to take tea at a dilapidated
refreshment-room, halfway to the jetty, and they continued the discussion
over cups of discoloured water and stale cakes.  When they reached the
Point again the moon was rising clear in the sky, and they sat and watched
in silence the gradual illumination of the harbour.  The wind had dropped,
and tiny ripples alone broke the surface of the water.  On the opposite
shore the beaches lay obscured in the faint light of the moon, growing
momently stronger, the land and water melted and confounded together in
the grey light.  The lesser stars fled at the slow approach of the moon,
and in an hour she floated alone in the sky, save for the larger planets,
Hooding the deep abysses of the night with a gleam of silver, tender and
caressing that softened the angles and blotted details in brooding shadows.

Overhead curved the arch of night, a deep, flawless  blue with velvety
depths, pale and diluted with light as it touched the skyline.  On the
right, in the farther distance, Circular Quay flashed with the gleam of
electric arcs, each contracted into a star of four points.  And they
glittered on the waterline like clustered gems without visible setting.
A fainter glow marked the packed suburbs of the east; and then the lamps,
flung like jewels in the night, picked out the line of shore to Rose Bay
and the Heads.

Ferry-boats were crossing the harbour, jewelled and glittering with
electric bulbs, moving in the distance without visible effort with the
motion of swans, the throb of engines and the swirl of water lost in the
distance.  It was a symphony in light, each detached gleam on the sombre
shore hanging 

Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.

Between the moon and the eye the water lay like a sheet of frosted glass;
elsewhere the water rippled without life or colour, treacherous and
menacing in the night.

Jonah turned and looked at the woman beside him.  They were alone on the
rocky headland, the city and the world of men seemed remote and unreal,
cut off by the silvery light and the brooding shadows.  It dawned slowly
on him that his relations with this woman were independent of time and
space.  Of all things visible, it was she alone that mattered.  Often
enough he had missed his cue, but now, as if answering a question, he
began speaking softly, as if he were talking to himself: 

"Clara!--Clara Grimes!--Clara!  I've wanted ter say that out aloud fer
months, but I've never found the place ter say it in.  It sounds quite
natural 'ere.  Yer know that I love yer--I've seen it in yer face, but yer
don't know that you're the first woman I ever wanted.  No, yer needn't run
away.  I'm afraid ter touch yer, an' yer know it.  Yer thought because I
was married that I knew all about women.  Why, I didn't know what women
were made for till I met you.  I thought w'en I 'ad the shop an' my boy
that I had everythin' I wanted, but the old woman was right.  There's a
lot more in this world than I ever dreamt of.  Seein' you opened my eyes.
An' now I want yer altogether.  I want ter see yer face every 'our of the
day, an' tell yer whatever comes into my mind.  I spend 'ours talkin' to
yer w'en I'm by myself."

"It's only my right," he went on, with increased energy.  "I'm a man in
spite of my shape, an' I only ask fer what I'm entitled to.  I can see
that other men 'ave been gittin' these things without me knowin' it.  I
used ter grin at Chook, but I was the fool.  I had everythin' that I could
see that was worth 'avin', an' somehow I wasn't satisfied.  I never could
see much in this life.  I often wondered what it was all about.  But now I
understand.  What's this for," and he indicated the dreamy peaceful scene
with a sweep of his hand, "if it only leaves yer starin' and wonderin'?
I know now.  It's ter make me think about yer an' want yer.  Well, yer've
made a man of me, an' it's up ter yous ter make the best of me." He broke
off with a short laugh.  "P'raps this sound funny ter you.  I've 'eard old
women at the Salvos' meetings talk like this, tellin' of the wonderful
things they found out w'en they got converted."

Clara had listened in silence, with an intent, curious expression on her
face.  Jonah's words were like balm to her pride, lacerated three years
ago by her broken engagement.  And she listened, immensely pleased and a
little afraid, like a mischievous child that has set fire to the curtains.
Jonah's face was turned to her, and as she looked at him her curiosity was
changed to awe at the sight of passion on fire.  She thought of the crazy
fiddler's words, and felt in herself an infinite sadness, for she knew
that Jonah would never gain his heart's desire.

"I've 'ad my say," he continued, "an' now I'll talk sense.  You're a grown
woman, an' yer know what all this means.  I can give yer anythin' yer like:
a house an' servants; everythin' yer want.  What do yer say?"

Clara had gone white to the lips.  It had come at last, and the
"Silver Shoe" was within her reach, but the gift was incomplete.  She must
decline it, and take her chances for the future.

"Not quite everything, Joe," she replied gently, afraid of wounding him.
"Ever since I was a girl I've had something to be ashamed of through no
fault of my own--my drunken father, the street we live in, our genteel
poverty; and now, when I seem to have missed all my chances, you come
along, and offer me everything I want with the main thing left out.  Oh,
I know those cottages where the husband is a stranger, and the neighbours
watch them behind the curtains, and pump the servant over the back fence!
I'm too proud for that sort of thing.   Oh, what a rotten world this is!"
she cried passionately, and burst into a storm of weeping.  It was the
most natural action of her life.

Jonah sat and stared at the lights of the Quay, dismayed by her tears but
relieved in his mind.  He had spoken at last; already he was framing fresh
arguments to persuade her.  Presently she dried her eyes and looked at him
with the ghost of a smile.  Then began a discussion which threatened to
last all night, neither of them giving way from the position they had
taken up, neither yielding an inch to the other's entreaties.  Suddenly
Jonah looked at his watch with an exclamation.  It was nearly ten.  In the
heat of argument they had forgotten the lapse of time.  They scrambled
over boulders and through the lantana bushes down to the path, and just
caught the boat.

When they reached the Quay they were surprised again by the splendour of
the night.  The moon, just past the full, flooded the streets with white
light that left deep shadows between the buildings like a charcoal drawing.
They took a tram to the Haymarket, as they were afraid of being recognized
in the Waterloo cars, and reached Regent Street after eleven.  The hotels
had disgorged their customers, who were talking loudly in groups on the
footpath or lurching homeward with uneven steps.  Jonah was explaining
that he must see Clara all the way home on account of the lateness of the
hour, when he was astonished to hear someone sobbing in the monumental
mason's yard as if his heart would break.  He turned and looked.  The
headstones and white marble crosses stood in rows with a faint resemblance
to a graveyard; the moonlight fell clear and cold on these monuments
awaiting a purchaser.  Some, already sold, were lettered in black with the
name of the departed.  Jonah and Clara stared, puzzled by the noise, when
they saw an old man in the rear of the yard in a top hat and a frock coat,
clinging to a marble cross.  He lurched round, and instantly Clara, with a
gasp of amazement and shame, recognized her father.

She moved into the shadows of a house, humiliated to her soul by this
exhibition; but Jonah laughed, in spite of himself, at the figure cut by
Dad among the ready-made monuments.  As he laughed, Dad caught sight of
him, and clinging to a marble angel with one arm for support, beckoned
wildly with the other.

"Come here--come here," he cried between his sobs.  "I'm all alone with
the dead, and nobody to shed a tear 'cep' meself.  Shame on you, shame on
you," he cried, raising his voice in bitter grief, "to pass the poor
fellows in their graves without sheddin' tear!"

He stopped and stared with drunken gravity at the name on the nearest
tombstone, trying to read the words which danced before his eyes in the
clear light.  Jonah saw them plainly.

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
SARAH JAMES,
Aged Eighty-five.

A fresh burst of grief announced that Dad had deciphered the lettering.

"Sam!" he cried bitterly.  "Me old fren' Sam!  To think of bringing him
here without letting me know!  The besh fren' I ever had."

Here sobs choked his utterance.  He stooped and examined the shining marble
slab again, lurching from one side to the other with incessant motion.

"An' not a flowersh onsh grave!" he cried.  "Sam was awf'ly fond flowersh."

"Get away 'ome, or the Johns'll pinch yer," said Jonah.

Dad stopped and stared at him with a glimmering of reason in his fuddled
brain.

"I know yoush," he cried, with a cunning leer.  "An' I know your fren'
there.  She isn't yer missis.  She never is, y' know.  Naughty boy!" he
cried, wagging his finger at Jonah; "but I wont split on pal."

That reminded him of the deceased Sam, and he turned again to the monument.

"Goo'bye, Sam," he cried suddenly, under the impression that he had been
to a funeral.  "I've paid me respecks to an ol' fren', an' now we'll both
sleep in peace."

"Come away and leave him," whispered Clara, trembling with disgust and
mortification.

"No fear!" said Jonah.  "The Johns down 'ere don't know 'im, an' they'll
lumber 'im.  You walk on ahead, an' I'll steer 'im 'ome."

He looked round; there was not a cab to be seen.

He led Dad out of the stonemason's yard with difficulty, as he wanted to
wait for the mourning coaches.  Then, opposite the mortuary, he remembered
his little present for the Duchess, and insisted on going back.

"Wheresh my lil' present for Duchess?" he wailed.  "Can't go 'ome without
lil' present."

Jonah was in despair.  At last he rolled his handkerchief into a ball and
thrust it into Dad's hand.

Then Dad, relieved and happy, cast Jonah off, and stood for a moment like
the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Jonah watched anxiously, expecting him to fall,
but all at once, with a forward lurch Dad broke into a run, safe on his
feet as a spinning top.  Jonah had forgotten Dad's run, famous throughout
all Waterloo, Redfern, and Alexandria.




CHAPTER 22



A FATAL ACCIDENT


As Clara crossed the tunnel at Cleveland Street, she found that she had a
few minutes to spare, and stopped to admire the Silver Shoe from the
opposite footpath.  Triumphant and colossal, treading the air securely
above the shop, the glittering shoe dominated the street with the insolence
of success.  More than once it had figured in her dreams, endowed with the
fantastic powers of Aaron's rod, swallowing its rivals at a gulp or slowly
crushing the life out of the bruised limbs.

Her eye travelled to the shop below, with its huge plate-glass windows
framed in brass, packed with boots set at every angle to catch the eye.
The array of shining brass rods and glass stands, the gaudy ticket on each
pair of boots with the shillings marked in enormous red figures and the
pence faintly outlined beside them, pleased her eye like a picture.
To-day the silver lettering was covered with narrow posters announcing
that Jonah's red-letter sale was to begin to-morrow.  And as she stared at
this huge machine for coining money, she remembered, with a sudden disdain,
her home with its atmosphere of decay and genteel poverty.  She was
conscious of some change in herself.  The slight sense of physical
repugnance to the hunchback had vanished since his declaration.  He and
his shop stood for power and success.  What else mattered?

Her spirits drooped suddenly as she remembered the obstacle that lay
between her and the pride of openly sharing the triumphs of the Silver
Shoe as she already shared its secrets.  She thought with dismay of the
furtive meetings drawn out for years without hope of relief unless the
impossible happened.  A watched pot never boils, and Ada was a young woman.

She crossed the street and entered the shop, her eye scouting for Jonah as
she walked to the foot of the stairs, for since the appointment of a
manager, Jonah had found time to slip up to the room after the lesson to
ask her to play for him, on the plea that the piano was spoiling for want
of use.  And he waited impatiently for these stolen moments, with a secret
desire to see her beneath his roof in a domestic setting that gave him a
keener sense of intimacy than the swish of waters and wide spaces of sea
and sky.  But to-day she looked in vain, and Miss Giltinan, seeing the
swift look of inquiry, stepped up to her.

"Mr Jones was called away suddenly over some arrangements for our sale
that opens to-morrow.  He left word with me that he'd be back as soon as
possible," she said.

Clara thanked her, and flushed slightly.  It seemed as if Jonah were
excusing himself in public for missing an appointment.  As she went up the
stairs one shopman winked at the other and came across with a pair of
hobnailed boots in his hand.

"This'll never do," he whispered, "the boss missin' his lesson.  He'll get
behind in his practice."

"Wotcher givin' us?" replied the other.  "The boss don't take lessons;
it's the kid."

"Of course he don't," said the other with a leer.  "He learns a lot here
by lookin' on, an' she tells him the rest at Mosman in the pale moonlight.
If I won a sweep, I'd take a few lessons meself an' cut him out."

He became aware that Miss Giltinan was standing behind him, and raised
his voice.

"I was tellin' Harris that the price of these bluchers ought to be marked
down; they're beginning to sweat," he explained, turning to Miss Giltinan
and showing her some small spots like treacle on the uppers.

"Mr Jones doesn't pay you good money to talk behind his back; and if you
take the trouble to look at the tag, you'll see those boots have already
been marked down," she replied indignantly.

The shopman slinked away without a word.  Miss Giltinan was annoyed.
It was not the first time that she had heard these scandalous rumours,
for the shop was alive with whispers, some professing to know every detail
of the meetings between Jonah and the music-teacher, naming to a minute
the boat they caught on their return from Mosman.  Jonah had contrived to
avoid the faces that were familiar to him, but he had forgotten that he
must be seen and recognized by people unknown to him.  Miss Giltinan's
clear and candid mind rejected these rumours for lying inventions,
incapable of belief that her idol, Jonah, would carry on with any woman.
They talked about him going upstairs to hear the piano.  What was more
natural when he couldn't play it himself?  And she dismissed the matter
from her mind and went about her business.

Clara gave Ray his lesson, listening between whiles for a rapid step from
below, but none came.  She decided to go, and picked up her gloves.  But
as she passed the bedroom door on the landing, a voice that she recognized
for Ada's called out "Is that you, Miss Grimes?"

"Yes," said Clara, and paused.

The voice sounded faint and thin, like that of a sick woman.

"'Ow is it y'ain't playin' anythin' to-day?" she continued.

"Mr Jones is out," replied Clara, annoyed by this conversation through the
crack of a door, and anxious to get away.

"Oh, is 'e?" said Ada, with an increase of energy in her voice.  "I wish
yer'd come in fer a minit, if ye're not in a 'urry."

Clara pushed the door open, and went in.  It was her first sight of the
bedroom, and she recoiled in dismay.  The place was like a pigsty.  Ada
was lying on the bed, still tossed and disordered from last night, in a
dirty dressing-gown.  A basin of soapy water stood on the washstand, and
the carpeted floor was littered with clothes, a pile of penny novelettes,
and a collection of odds and ends on their way to the rag-bag.  In spite
of the huge bedroom suite with its streaked and speckled mirrors, the room
seemed half furnished.

For a moment Clara was puzzled, and then her quick, feminine eye noted a
complete absence of the common knick-knacks and trifles that indicate the
refinement or vulgarity of the owner.  She remembered that Jonah had told
her that Ada pawned everything she could lay hands on since he stopped her
allowance.  But she was more surprised at the change in Ada herself.
Months ago Ada had begun to avoid her, ashamed of her slovenly looks, and
now Clara scarcely recognized her.  Her eyes were sunken, her cheeks had
fallen in, and a bluish pallor gave her the look of one recovering from a
long illness.  The room had not been aired, and the accumulated odours of
the night turned Clara sick.  She was thinking of some excuse to get away
when Ada began to speak with a curious whine, quite unlike her old manner.

"I'm ashamed ter ask yer in, Miss Grimes, the room's in such a state; but
I've been very ill, with no one ter talk to fer days past.  Not that I'm
ter blame.  I 'ope it's niver your lot to 'ave a 'usband with thousan's in
the bank, an' too mean ter keep a servant.  'Ere am I from mornin' ter
night, slavin' an' drudgin', an' me with a leg that bad I can 'ardly stand
on it.  I'll just show yer wot state I'm in.  It's breakin' out all over.
Me blood's that bad fer want of proper food an' nourishment." She began to
unfasten a dirty bandage below her knee.  Clara turned her head in disgust.
The flesh was covered with ulcerated sores.

"I don't know 'ow you find 'im, Miss Grimes," she continued, her voice
rising in anger, "but if yer believe me, a meaner man niver walked the
earth.  I've 'ad ter pawn the things in this very room ter pay the baker
an' the grocer.  That's 'ow 'e makes 'is money.  Starvin' 'is own wife ter
squeeze a few shillin's for 'is bankin' account.  'E knows I can't go
outside the door, 'cause I've got nuthin' ter put on; but 'e takes jolly
good care ter go down town an' live on the fat of the land."

From the next room came the fitful, awkward sounds of a five-finger
exercise from Ray.  Clara listened with silent contempt to this torrent of
abuse.  She knew that it was false that the more Jonah gave her, the more
she spent on drink.  And as she looked at Ada's face, ravaged by alcohol,
a stealthy thought crept into her mind that set her heart beating.
Suddenly Ada's anger dropped like a spent fire.

"Did yer say Mr Jones was busy in the shop?" she inquired, feebly.

"No," said Clara, "I understand that he went down town on important
business, and won't be back till late."

"Thank yer," said Ada, with a curious glitter in her eyes.  "Would yer
mind callin' Ray in?  I want ter send 'im on a message to the grocer's."

Clara went into the next room and sent Ray to his mother, stopping for a
minute to shut the keyboard and put the music straight.  After every
lesson she was accustomed to examine the piano as if it were her own
property.  When she entered the bedroom again, Ada was whispering rapidly
to Ray.  She looked up as Clara entered, and gave him some money in a
piece of paper.

"An' tell 'im I'll send the rest to-morrer," she added aloud.  Ray went
down the back stairs, swinging an empty  millet-bag in his hand.  For
another five minutes Clara remained standing, to show that she was anxious
to get away, while Ada abused her husband, giving detailed accounts of his
meanness and neglect.  Suddenly her mood changed.

"I'm afraid I mustn't keep yer any longer, Miss Grimes," she said abruptly;
"an' thank yer fer lookin' in ter see 'ow I was."

Clara, surprised and relieved at the note of dismissal in her voice,
took her leave.

She went down the winding staircase at the rear of the shop, opposite the
cashier's desk.  The pungent odour of leather was delightful in her
nostrils after the stale smell of the room above, and she halted at the
turn of the landing to admire the huge shop, glittering with varnish,
mirrors, and brass rods.  Then she looked round for Jonah, but he was
nowhere to be seen.

The sight of Ada, ravaged by alcohol, had filled her with strange thoughts,
and she walked up Regent Street, comparing Ada with her own father, who
seemed to thrive on beer.  There must be some difference in their
constitutions, for Ada was clearly going to pieces, and...the thought
entered her mind again that quickened her pulse.  She had never thought of
that!  She was passing the "Angel" with its huge white globes and
glittering mirrors that reflected the sun's rays, when she caught sight of
Ray coming out of the side door, swinging an empty millet-bag in his hand.
A sudden light flashed on her mind.  Ada's invitation into the bedroom,
the inquiry about Jonah, and her sudden dismissal all meant this.

"Did you get what your mother wanted?" she asked the child, with a thumping
sensation in her heart.

"No," said Ray carelessly; "the man wouldn't give me the medicine.  He
told me to go home and fetch the rest of the money."

"How much more do you want?" asked Clara, in a curious tone.

"Eighteen pence," said Ray, showing two half-crowns in his hand.

Clara hesitated, with parched lips.  She remembered Ada's face, ravaged by
brandy.  She was a physical wreck, and six months ago...perhaps another
bottle...

The thought grazed her mind with a stealthy, horrible suggestion.  She felt
in her purse with trembling fingers, and found a shilling and a sixpence.

"Go and get your mother's medicine," she whispered, putting the money into
Ray's hand; "but don't tell her that you met me, or she may scold you."

Ray turned in at the side door, and Clara, white to the lips, hurried
round the corner.

It took Ray half an hour to cover the short distance between the Angel and
the Silver Shoe, with a bottle of brandy swinging carelessly in the
millet-bag.  Cassidy himself, all smiles, had carefully wrapped it in
paper.  Ray had promised to hurry home with the medicine for his mother,
but, as usual, the shop windows were irresistible.  Some of his early
trips to the "Angel" had taken half a day.

Meanwhile Ada lay on the bed in an agony of attention, atrociously alert
to every sound, hearing with every nerve in her body.  Her nerves had
collapsed under the repeated debauches, and the scream of an engine
shunting in the railway yards went through her like a knife.  The confused
rumble of carts in Regent Street, the familiar sounds from the shop below,
the slamming of a door, a voice raised in inquiry, the monotonous, kindly
echoes of life, struck on the raw edges of her nerves, exasperating her
to madness.

And through it all her ears sought for two sounds with agonizing
acuteness--the firm, rapid step of Jonah mounting the stairs winding from
the shop, or the nonchalant, laggard footfall of Ray ascending from the
stairs at the rear.  Would Cassidy send the bottle and trust her for the
other eighteen pence?  Would Jonah hurry back to meet Miss Grimes?
Presently her ear distinguished the light, uncertain step of Ray.  Every
nerve in her body leapt for joy when she saw the bottle.  She looked at
the clock, it was nearly four.  She had at least an hour clear, for Jonah
would be in no hurry now that he had missed the music-lesson.  She snatched
the bag from the astonished child.

"Go an' see if yer father's in the shop.  If 'e ain't there, yer can go
an' play in the lane till 'e comes back," she cried.

Her hands shook as she held the bottle, but with a supreme effort she
controlled her muscles and drew the cork without a sound, an accomplishment
that she had learned in the back parlour of the Angel.  She poured out half
a glass, and swallowed it neat.  The fiery liquid burnt her throat and
brought the tears to her eyes, but she endured it willingly for the sake
of the blessed relief that always followed.   A minute later she repeated
the dose and lay down on the bed.  In ten minutes the seductive liquid had
calmed her nerves like oil on troubled waters.  She listened to the
familiar sounds of the shop and the street with a delicious languor and
sense of comfort in her body.  In an hour she had reached the maudlin
stage, and the bottle was half empty.

She felt at peace with the world, and began to think kindly of Jonah.
Hazily she remembered her bitter speech to Miss Grimes, and wondered at
her violence.  There was nothing the matter with him.  He had been a good
husband to her, working day and night to get on in the world.  She felt
a sudden desire to be friendly with him.  Maudlin tears of self-reproach
filled her eyes as she thought how she had stood in his way instead of
helping him.  She would mend her ways, give up the drink which was killing
her, and take her proper position, with a fine house and servants.  With a
fatuous obstinacy in her sodden brain, she decided not to lose a minute,
but to go and surprise Jonah with her noble resolutions.

She got to her feet, and saw the brandy bottle.  Ah!  Jonah must not know
that she had been drinking, and with the last conscious act of her clouded
brain she staggered into the sitting-room and hid the bottle under the
cushions of the sofa.  Then, conscious of nothing but her resolve, she
lurched to the top of the stairs.  It was nearly dark, and she felt for
the railing, but the weight of her body sent an atrocious pain through her
leg, and to ease it she took a step forward to put her weight on the
other.  And then, without fear, and without the desire or the power to
save herself, she stepped into space and fell headlong down the winding
staircase that she had always dreaded, rolling and bumping with a horrible
noise on the wooden steps down to the shop, where the electric lights had
just been switched on.  She rolled sideways, and lay, with a curious
slackness in her limbs, in front of the cashier's desk.  One of the
shopmen, startled by the noise, turned, and then, with a look of horror on
his face, ran to the door.  He bumped into Jonah, who was coming from the
ladies' department.

"Wot the devil's this?" cried Jonah.

The man turned and pointed to the huddled heap at the foot of the stairs.

"It's yer missis.  She fell from the top.  'Er face is looking the
wrong way."

Jonah ran forward and shouted for a doctor.  Then he knelt down and tried
to lift Ada into a sitting posture, but her head sagged on one side.  And
Jonah realized suddenly, with a curious feeling of detachment, that he was
free.  When the doctor arrived, he told them that death had been
instantaneous, as she had broken her neck in the fall.

The next day the "Silver Shoe" was closed on account of the funeral.  The
Grimes family sent a wreath, but Jonah looked in vain for Clara among the
mourners.  He was disappointed but relieved, fearing that the exultation
in his heart would betray him in the presence of strangers.  He dwelt with
rapture on the moment in which he would meet her face to face, free to
love and be loved, willing to lose some precious hours for the sake of
rehearsing schemes for the future in his mind.  He listened without emotion
to the conventional regrets of the mourners, agreeing mechanically with
their empty remarks on his great loss, a mocking devil in his brain.

The day after the funeral the Silver Shoe returned to business, and Jonah
spent the morning in the shop, too nervous to sit idle.  He had spent a
sleepless night debating whether he should go to Clara or wait till she
came to him of her own accord.  The shop was alive with customers, drawn
by the red-letter sale, but there was no sign of the one woman above all
he desired to see.  Suddenly he decided, with a certainty that astonished
him, that she would come in the afternoon.  After dinner he stayed in the
sitting-room, fidgeting with impatience.  He looked for something to do,
and remembered that he had still to clear up the mystery of Ada's drunken
bout.  All the shop-hands had denied lending her money, and the mystery
was increased by his finding no bottle in the usual hiding places.  Ray,
when questioned about brandy, had stared at him with bewildered eyes.  And
to calm his nerves he made another search of the rooms.

He turned out the drawers and cupboards, meeting everywhere evidence of
Ada's slovenly habits.  And at the sight and touch of the tawdry laces and
flaring ribbons he was surprised by an emotion of tenderness and pity for
his dead wife.  He realized that the last link had snapped that bound him
to Cardigan Street and the Push.  Something vibrated in him as he thought
of the woman who had shared his youth, and he understood suddenly that no
other woman could disturb her possession of the years that were dead.
Clara could share the future with him, but half his life belonged
irrevocably to Ada.

He had searched every likely nook and corner of the rooms, and found
nothing.  The absence of the bottle set him thinking.  He became certain
that the hand of another was in this.  Ada had never left her room;
therefore the bottle had been brought to her.  And the one who brought it
had taken it away again.  Clara had been the last one to see her alive,
and of course...He stopped with an unshaped thought in his mind, and then
smiled at it for an absurdity.  Tired with his exertions, he sat on the
sofa, digging his elbow into the cushion, and instantly felt something
hard underneath.  The next moment he was on his feet, holding in his hands
the bottle of brandy, half empty.  He stared stupidly at the bottle that
had sent Ada to her death and set him free, wondering who had paid for it
and brought it into the house.  As he turned the bottle in his hands,
examining it with the morbid interest with which one examines a
bloodstained knife, he heard a light tap on the door.

"Come in," he cried, absorbed in his discovery.

He turned with the bottle in his hands, to find Clara standing in the
doorway with a tremulous smile on her lips.  But, as Jonah turned, her
eye fell on the bottle.

"I've been a day findin' this," said Jonah; "but now..."

An extraordinary change in Clara's face stopped the words on his lips.
The tremulous smile on her parted lips changed to a nervous grin, and her
colour turned to a greyish white as she stared at the bottle, her eyes
dilated with horror.  For some moments there was a dreadful silence, in
which Jonah distinctly heard Miss Giltinan giving an order downstairs.
Slowly he looked from Clara to the bottle.  Again he stared at the
frightened woman, and his mind leapt to a dreadful certainty.

"Come in, an' shut the door," he said.  His voice was little more than
a whisper.

Clara obeyed him mechanically.

"Sit down," he added, putting the bottle on the table.

For a while each stared at the other, too stunned to move or speak.
Jonah's world had fallen about his ears, and Clara's dreams of wealth
mocked at her and fled.

Suddenly, in the deadly silence, Jonah began to speak.

"So it was you, was it?  I never thought of that.  I wonder what brought
yer 'ere just as I found this?  They say murder will out, an' I believe
it now.  If this 'appened to anybody else, 'e'd go mad.  But I can stand
it.  I'm tough.  I fought my way up from the gutter.  An' ye're the woman
that I worshipped....For God's sake, woman, speak!  Make up something that
I can believe.  Say yer never 'ad a 'and in this, an' I'll kiss the
ground yer walk on.  No, it wouldn't be any use.  I couldn't believe the
angel Gabriel, if he looked at me with that face.  Yer paid for that
bottle an' brought it 'ere.  I saw that the moment yer set eyes on it.
Yer thought Ada wasn't goin' ter hell fast enough, an' yer'd give 'er a
shove.  An' I see now why yer did it.  Yer wanted ter step into 'er shoes,
an' 'andle my money.  It wasn't me yer wanted.  I might 'ave known that.
It was the shop that yer were always talkin' about.  An' if yer 'adn't
walked in at that door just now, I should never 'ave suspected.  Screamin'
funny, ain't it?  She wasn't much loss, but she was a thousand times
better than the ladylike devil that killed her.  I don't know 'ow the law
stands in a case like this.  Yer may be safe from that, but yer've got me
ter deal with first.  Yer led me on with yer damned airs to believe in
things I've never dreamt of before.  An' now yer've killed the best in me
as sure as yer murdered my wife.  Well, yer must pay for that, too."

Clara sat on the chair like one in a trance.  She understood in a numbed
kind of way that something dreadful was going to happen.  O God, she had
never meant to do wrong!  And if this was the punishment, let it come
quickly.  Jonah had been walking backwards and forwards with nervous
steps, and she noted every detail of his person with a fixed stare.  The
early repugnance to his deformity returned with horror as she studied the
large head, wedged between the shoulders as if a giant's hand had pressed
it down, the projecting hump, and the unnaturally long arms ending in the
hard, hairy fist of the shoemaker.

She felt that he was going to kill her.  She wanted to speak, to cry out
that she was not so guilty as he thought, but her tongue was like a rasp.
Suddenly Jonah stopped in front of her.  Her stony silence had maddened
him, and in a moment he was transformed into the old-time larrikin,
accustomed to demand an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.  He  rushed
at her with a cry like an animal, and caught her by the throat with his
powerful hands.  But the contact of his fingers with that delicate flesh
that he had never dared to touch before brought him to his senses.  A
violent shudder shook him like ague, his fingers relaxed, and with a
sobbing cry, dreadful to hear, he dragged the fainting woman to her feet
and pushed her towards the door, crying "Go, go, for God's sake!"

She walked unsteadily through the shop with a face the colour of chalk,
hearing and seeing nothing.  The red-letter sale was in full swing.  A
crowd of customers jostled one another as they passed in and out; the
coins clinked merrily in the till.  Miss Giltinan caught sight of her
face, and wondered.  Half an hour later, growing suspicious, she ran
upstairs, and knocked at the door on a pretext of business.  Hearing
nothing, she opened the door, with her heart in her mouth, and looked in.
Jonah was crouching motionless on the end of the sofa, his head buried
among the cushions, like a stricken animal.  Puzzled, but reassured, she
closed the door gently and went downstairs.

*****

Jonah never saw Clara again.  He spent a week in the depths, groping
blindly, hating life for its deceptions.  Then, one day, his passion of
hatred and loathing for Clara left him suddenly, as a garrison surrenders
without a blow.  He took a cab to her house, and knocked at the door.  A
curtain moved, but the door remained unopened.  A month later he learned
that she had married her old love, the clerk in the Lands Department,
transferred by request to Wagga, beyond the reach of Dad and his
reputation.  The following year Jonah married Miss Giltinan, chiefly on
account of Ray, who was growing unmanageable; and on Monday morning it was
one of the sights of Regent Street to see the second Mrs Jones step into
her sulky to drive round and inspect the suburban branches of the "Silver
Shoe" which Jonah had opened under her direction.

Chook and Pinkey did not need to stare at sixpence before spending it,
but their fortune was long in the making.  Meanwhile Chook consoled
himself with the presence of a sturdy son, the image of Pinkey, with a mop
of curls the colour of a new penny.



THE END





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