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Title:      Benno and Some of the Push
Author:     Edward Dyson
eBook No.:  0501021.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          October 2005
Date most recently updated: October 2005

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Title:      Benno and Some of the Push
Author:     Edward Dyson



Note:
FIFTEEN of the sixteen stories contained in this volume were originally
published in The Bulletin, Sydney. "The Big Spoof" was first printed in
Sydney Sunday Sun. To the proprieters of these papers I am indebted for
the privilege of presenting the tales in book form.



CONTENTS

I   -- THE PICNIC
II  -- NICHOLAS DON AND THE MEEK ALMIRA
III -- DUKIE M'KENZIE'S DAWNCE
IV  -- THE TRUCULENT BOY
V   -- THE FICKLE DOLLY HOPGOOD
VI  -- ON A BENDER
VII -- AT THE OPERA
VIII-- SUSIE GANNON'S YOUNG MAN
IX  -- AT A BOXING BOUT
X   -- THE DISPOSAL OF A DOG
XI  -- BARRACKING
XII -- THE RIVALS
XIII-- THE RESCUE
XIV -- AN AMOROUS BOY
XV  -- A PRANK THAT REACTED
XVI -- THE BIG SPOOF




CHAPTER I. THE PICNIC.

A RECENT disappointment in love had made Benno a perfect fiend to women.
A woman had deceived him; by her perfidy his heart had been broken, his
life blighted. At twenty-one and a half he was already embittered, and
all through a woman. Henceforward he would give them no quarter. His
cynicism would have made you shudder.

"I'm livin' on'y fer revenge," he told Feathers, darkly.

"Come orf the keg, little boy," replied the packer, with his
man-of-the-world air. "You ain't talkin', y' know; ye're just makin' a
noise."

"I'm talkin', gorstruth," the clerk continued. "There isn't a bit o'
common in treatin' women decent. If y' do, they'll dog on yer fer a cert.
Deal 'em out stoush 'ard 'n' often, 'n' they'll lick yer 'and. Show 'em
yer gone soft about 'em, 'n' y' get what yer lookin' fer--the sudden
jerk. Ye're on'y fit t' be cut up fer dusters then. Women's pure nark, I
tell yeh. I spared one woman once" (here the little clerk's voice became
husky and morose, and his small brow darkened), "'n' she never forgive me
fer it, but never again--never again. Any iv the sect what's in my power
after this won't git no mercy, 'n' that's how it is."

"It's after 'avin' sixpen'orth iv 'ang-over et 'The Cankered 'Eart, 'r
The Cooper in the Soup,' 'n' it's puttin' up fer a 'eavy villain et eight
stone seven, Feathers commented; and then he continued in a declamatory
manner: 'T' mothers 'iv fam'lies, 'n' all whom it may concern. As Benno,
the feather-weight devil, otherwise the Merciless Midget, is now prowlin'
at large in the parks 'n' waste places, it would be well 'n' wise t' keep
all girls iv the female sex under sixteen stone limit on the chain till
the monster's plugged with bullets 'r otherwise pervided fer."

"You're the king comic, ain't yeh?" sneered Benno. "Better mind out 'r
you'll be makin' me larf. A man might 's well tork sense to a madhouse
cockertoo."

The clerk returned to his high stool in a huff, but he was back at
Feathers in the course of an hour as if nothing had happened, with an
elaboration of his complaint, and the theme was staling on Mills. In
fact, the whole factory was losing faith in Mr. Dickson in the character
of a destroyer, although the Beauties still considered it worth while to
affect a grotesque timidity when he approached them.

"Oh, 'eavens! Take them eyes away," cried the ex-professional fat girl,
retreating behind her board. "Have pity on the orfin girl!"

"Back, wretch!" hissed Sarah Eddie, arming herself with a paste brush.
"I'm on'y a lone woman, pa's in the country, 'n' ma's gone fishin', but
if you touch me I'll scream."

Selina Dodd ("Silly" in the vernacular), who was fashioned on the lines
of the giraffe and, according to Feathers, "as plain as a hide pie,"
elevated herself almost out of sight at the attenuated clerk, and quoted
from a popular melodrama:

"Think, man, think! Would you stain your soul with this hidjis sin?
Remember, you had a mother once."

"Ar-r-r, get it stopped!" retorted Benno with awful vindictiveness. Or
perhaps he said: "So y' ort to," or "Git yer 'ead read," or something
equally felicitous. Benno was never wanting in telling repartee. But
neither the burlesque of the Beauties, the derision of Feathers, nor the
irony of the town traveller affected Benno's attitude. He loved himself
as the soured victim of the perfidious sex, relentless in his anguish,
justified in all his iniquities by the faithlessness and villainy of
woman.

For some time past he had been hinting to Mills and Goudy, and even to
the depressed foreman--the only person in the whole establishment who
took him seriously--that he had found a victim. His hints were dark, but
significant, and he smiled a mirthless smile.

"Lead 'em on, an' when yer got 'em fair dilly about yer, freeze 'em;
that's my motto," he told Goudy.

"Thanks be, my doors are shut to you," answered the town traveller. "A
man with maiden aunts of his own can't be too careful."

"Out with it, Benno, who's yer cuddle?" said Feathers.

"There's 'ere an' there one," Benno admitted wearily, "but the little
hextra special's a bit iv a widder Kingy's interjuced to me."

"A widow, murmured Goudy," and he laid a heavy, hot, fatherly hand on
Benno's head, and sighed three times, "a poor, little, bereaved,
helpless, artless, innocent widow, and you a man of the world, a callous,
sin-stained devil! Ah' this is indeed a hard world for women."

"Good enough for 'er," Benno scowled darkly.

"But all the same your mother ought to be warned," concluded Goudy.

"Is she a shine squeeze, Benno?" asked Feathers.

"Such ez they are," replied Benno, without warmth. "They're all erlike t'
me. But I'm thinkin' o' havin' it on my string fer the picnic so y'
wanter watch out."

The packer had no conscience, and respected nobody's confidence if his
ruffianly sense of humour suggested that food for laughter was to be
gained by violating it. And yet the packer never laughed. He went to the
Beauties with the story of Benno's little widow, and inspired a
systematic pulling of Benno's leg, and was happy through a whole week
while the clerk cynically enlarged on the widow's great, despairing
affection for him, and gave everybody to understand that he could twist
her round his finger, but her love awakened no reciprocal emotions in his
case-hardened breast. He was a man with a past.

"Women's bin me ruin," Benno told the foreman, surveying the wreck in the
mirror on Ellis's wall with a good deal of interest and adjusting his
tie, "'n' I've got it up agen 'em till my dyin' day."

"My advice," said Fuzzy earnestly and in almost a whisper, "is, do
nothink rash."

Benno laughed his new, mirthless laugh, and walked away.

"Gor' delp us orl!" cried slatternly Arabella Harte--called
"Harrerbeller," hearing the laugh, and the fat girl crossed herself.

The appearance of Benno's little widow before the loading-up on the
picnic morning occasioned something like a sensation. She proved to be a
tall, stout, hilarious woman of about thirty, with ruddy cheeks, black
hair, and a large, dark, cheerfully defiant eye. She was of the stamp our
fathers classified as "bouncing."

"Mother of Jimmy! Is that the victim of Benno's guile?" gasped Goudy.

"It's it orl right," answered Feathers. "Don't she look it t' the life?
She's the one little ewe lamb bein' led t' the slaughter."

Then Benno passed the lady round. "Let me interjuce yous," he said.
"These is Mr. Goudy 'n' Mr. Mills, 'n' this is Mrs. Norah Cavanagh, one
of mine."

Feathers could hold his face; he winked the lady hard in the eye, and
stood his ground; but the town traveller retired precipitately behind the
delivery waggon, and bit himself.

"What use 'ave yer got fer him, Norah?" asked the packer, familiarly.

"Oh, I don't let him get in me way," replied the widow.

Then Benno introduced Nicholas Don, and Nicholas immediately entered into
possession. The Don was employed as carter at thirty-six shillings per
week. He told Mrs. Cavanagh, immediately and confidentially, that he was
taking the odds on his being made junior partner within a year.

"If you are out for a good gay day," he said, "place your order with me.
I'm not financin' this frolic on my only, of course--a fellow can't do
everything with a paltry ten pounds a week--but I'm spinning a few jim
over it, and what's mine's yours."

The Don was reported to have a way with women. His "way" was a system of
cheerful and audacious mendacity, and was uniformly successful for a
time. In ordinary circumstances his conversation was in the vernacular,
but, when impressing a lady, he fell into a fairly accurate imitation of
the barbarous accent of the English dude in the burlesques.

The factory went to its picnic in vehicles of nine kinds, and, passing
through the city, looked like a bush funeral gone astray; but it did not
sound anything like that. It was a peculiarly blatant procession, and for
the most part sang touching vaudeville ballads about "mother" or
somebody's "broken heart," each vehicle exercising its liberty of choice
and striving to out-sing the other. Those excursionists who did not sing
cast reflections on the habits, manners, and personal appearance of
respectable pedestrians carrying small black bags to business. Their
astonishment and indignation under the ordeal were considered most
diverting.

Nicholas sat next to Mrs. Cavanagh during the ride out, and monopolised
her. Benno sat on the other side of the widow, and was prey to a grievous
uneasiness, in strong contrast with his previous attitude as the cold,
proud avenger. His uneasiness was occasioned by the carter's frank
repudiation of his right, title and interest in Mrs. Cavanagh, and by a
painful suspicion that Don had his arm round Norah from the off side. The
suspicion was unworthy, but well-founded. Benno strove to maintain an air
of proprietorship, but his efforts to keep a place in the conversation
were quietly ignored.

The picnic ground was at Dogwood, where there was a sprinkling of gums
along the river, and a nice belt of ti-tree scrub offering cover for
affectionate couples between meals. Nicholas Don remained in possession
of Benno's widow, and the clerk prowled after the pair all the morning,
making occasional protestations with an attempt at humour that became
pitiful through repetition.

Norah could not be brought to understand that she owed allegiance to
Benno, who had introduced her to such a select gathering and paid her
way, and Don had no sense of honour. The moment Benno withdrew his
surveillance the pair disappeared, and then Benjamin Dickson went
trotting from cover to cover, making enquiries, the effectedly comic
nature of which did not disguise his great distress, and meeting
everywhere with the bitterest contempt. Benno threatened to be the ruin
of the picnic.

Discovering Nicholas and Norah for the second time since dinner, Benno
abandoned facetiae.

"Strike me up a stick," he said, bitterly, "this is gettin' on my nerves.
Say, what brought yeh to this corrob--me or his nibs?"

"Go on along and mind baby. Mummy's busy," replied Norah.

"Don't I like yer pink cheek, polin' in on 'er bloke's ticket, 'n' then
doin' the smoodge with his cobber." Benno was deeply hurt. "'Tain't the
act iv a lady," he added virtuously. He was so sure of this point of
etiquette that he repeated it five times.

"Yar-r, go away, carn't yeh!" snorted Nicholas, "an' send in yer bill.
Get somethin' iv yer own. I got a reserve on this."

"Somethin' o' me own!" Benno fairly gasped. "I like that, I don't think."
He seated himself deliberately on the grass at their feet. "Somethin' o'
me own!" he repeated.

Nicholas Don resigned himself to the situation. He pillowed Norah's head
on his shoulder, he addressed to the widow words of tenderness and sighs
of ardour, he kissed her at intervals, and Benno, the miserable, sat and
looked on, and denounced them occasionally in his own inimitable way.

"Yeh needn't mind me, he said, I'm in the nearse. I'm s'posed to be dead.
All the same, it's daylight dam robbery, iv yeh arsk me."

"Don't erpologise," answered Nicholas

They tried to shake Benno off later, but Benno refused to be shaken. He
yapped at their heels like a disagreeable little dog, following them
everywhere, and voices out of ambush cried derisively after the three as
they drifted from place to place.

Despairing of ridding themselves of Benno, Nicholas and the widow
returned to the camping ground on the river bank, where a number of the
Beauties and their boys were varying honest Pagan dalliance with another
meal. Norah seated herself, and Don provided "'am san'wiches" and picnic
tea.

Benno stood over them while they ate, glowering darkly. He had no
appetite. That was another injustice. He meditated an appeal to common
decency and popular opinion, and, meanwhile, raked the perfidious pair
with scathing invective; but they ate, drank and were merry.

"Don't 'ave 'im on yer mind," said Nicholas; "he ain't on the earth."

"But yer gotter," piped Benno. "I'm 'ere t' live. You don't shake me. Get
on to it, blokes," he cried in shrill tones. "Ain't it dead hooketty?
Here's me bin 'n' parted the beans t' bring a tom along, 'n' the Don
backs his barrer 'n' burgles her. He's too dirt mean to finance a skirt
iv 'is own, 'n'."

Benno's first public oration ended there. He was standing on the rug on
which Norah was seated, with his back to the river. The widow's hand
gripped the rug. She gave it a sharp tug. Benno's boots shot out. He sat
down. The bank was steep there. Benno struck it halfway down, ricochetted
smartly, and shot into the river, feet first.

There was an instantaneous rush of picnickers as Benno went down. There
was a unanimous roar of advice as Benno came up. Benno disregarded it. He
was clawing like a desperate cat with a weight on her tail. His eyes were
wild. He opened his mouth and the river ran in.

Benno went under once more. Nicholas Don was waiting for him with a
hooked stick when he reappeared. The stick was hitched in the back of
Benno's coat, and Nicholas hauled the half-drowned clerk on to the bank,
and left him there.

When Dickson recovered sufficiently to manifest an interest in mundane
things, Nicholas and the widow had disappeared.

Deserted, deluded, sodden, Ben Dickson bore with the heartless barracking
of the Beauties and their boys for ten minutes, and then turned his back
on womankind and fled into the scrub. He went far beyond the range of the
smoodgers, seeking the solace of solitude.

In the depths Benjamin lit a fire, and, having stripped, hung his
dripping garments to dry, and then lay down in the shade, and, like a
desolate babe in the woods, covered himself with leaves, and gave his
mind to despairing reflections upon the perfidy, selfishness, and deceit
of the race of men--especially women.

Our Mr. Dickson was awakened by an unpleasant sensation of frying, which
attacked his feet, and sprang up with a yell. The scrub was afire.

The day had been extremely hot, there was a strong north wind, and the
scrub burnt fiercely. Benno's only chance was in instantaneous flight. He
fled--fled as he was--rushing, diving, tearing and tumbling through the
bush, an image of supreme alarm, with the fire springing at his heels,
licking out whips of flame to lash him along.

The fire swept through the scrub, and drove all the smoodgers into the
open, Nicholas Don and Norah Cavanagh with the rest. Blame attached to
Benno. The firing of the scrub was supposed to be an act of malicious
retaliation, and the picnic cursed him.

At half-past five, when tea was spread, there was no Benno to appreciate
the little acts of vengeance that they were saving for him. An hour
later, when the vans were loaded for the home journey, there was still no
Benno. Goudy, with the faintest suggestion of concern, advised a search
of the burnt area.

The men went to the hunt with some ferocity, cursing Benno. They returned
two hours later, walking like a funeral procession. Feathers had portion
of a hat and part of a boot, recognisable as belonging to the deceased
Benjamin Dickson. Nicholas Don carried some bones, not recognisable as
those of the deceased B. Dickson, but reasonably supposed to be his.

The Beauties were overwhelmed, and consternation fell upon the picnic.
The widow uttered cries of bitterest self-reproach, and, giving way to
tears, reviled Nicholas Don for his cruelty and faithlessness to his poor
dead friend. That would have been a proud moment for Benno had he only
lived to witness the complete revulsion of feeling in his favour.

Some of the men remained to continue the hunt, and the bones and the
other relics were handed over to the police at Dogwood, with details.
There was no singing of ribald songs as Spats's picnic drove into town
that night. Gloom was seated in every vehicle. The Beauties discussed
Benno's perfections in low, reverent voices. The widow was a pariah.
Nicholas Don's unpopularity was absolute.

Next day there was the same gloom in the factory. Benno's deserted desk
was a silent reproach to all who had aided and abetted Don in his act of
treachery. The evening paper contained a full and not over-particular
account of the supposed terrible death of a young clerk, but the papers
of the following morning prepared the Beauties for the re-appearance of
Benno.

He was pale and signed, and he sat with great apparent discomfort, but he
had rather a jaunty air, for he was now a person of some notoriety and
his race for life had been given quite a heroic aspect in the press.

Feathers, who had stayed at Dogwood to assist the police, explained the
denouement.

"Seems 'is nibs there done a quarter mile in ten secs, under the
hofficial record, with the fire proddin' him all the way, 'n' come out on
the west side, alone in a crool world. Then he recorlected with a holler
groan that in the 'urry iv shiftin' he'd clean fergot his glad rags, 'n'
was ixposed to the hinclemency iv the weather 'n' the dangers iv the law
'orribly undressed,'n' fearin' t' be caught in the act he went t' roost
in a 'oller tree. He stayed there all night.

"In the mornin' there was nothin' better fer a man t' do, mother naked
'n' ten miles from 'ome, so our Mr. Dickson returned to his 'oller,
specially as another picnic party rushed 'im outer sight, 'n' then camped
in his back-yard. A yeller dog traced him out in the afternoon, 'n' me
'n' a John discovered the plant, just when some boys was goin' t' light a
fire t' smoke out somethin' or another--they didn't care which.

"We made a collection from the picnic, 'n' presented Benno with a stror
lid, a pink tie, a flannel petticut, four handkerchiefs, 'n' a donah's
bobtailed coat, 'n' delivered him at his 'ome larst night. He was
blistered, 'n' singed, 'n' smoked, 'n' scratched all over, 'n' the ants
had got at him, otherwise he's free iv himpediments 'n' in good repair,
'n' he's thinkin' iv applyin' fer the Rile Humane Society's medal for
distinguished bravery in savin' his own life, ain't yeh, Benno?"

"Better he had died," said Goudy impressively; "better have perished in
the flames than live to continue his pitiless career among innocent and
confiding widows."

"Pah! who let that in?" said Benno with contempt. "I ortenter talk t'
your sort."

Just then the call pipe whistle blew, and a voice from the depths said
very distinctly:

"There's a gentleman from the press here to interview our Mr. Dickson."

The call was timely. The celebrity took a lapel of his coat in either
hand, gave a little, characteristic, saucy tug, squared his small
shoulders, and went down stairs a cold, proud man.

"Fer photographs 'n' full perticklers, see our later editions," said the
packer.



CHAPTER II. NICHOLAS DAN AND THE MEEK ALMIRA.

NICHOLAS DON was a gay deceiver. His attitude towards womankind was
consistently frivolous, and his opinion of the sex was small but
indulgent.

"They're all erlike," said Nicholas, and it must be admitted that his
experience was extensive. He devoted the greater part of his leisure to
the pursuit of it, and his audacity in "wording" cold, proud young
persons in the grand march past in the city on Sunday evenings, and his
success in attaching himself to girls in whom his first advances had
seemed to provoke unutterable loathing and contempt were the wonder, the
admiration, and the envy of comparatively timid spirits like Benno and
the printers.

On these occasions the Don always indulged a harmless and pleasing
imposition, and presented himself to the little lady of his fancy--or
the little ladies, for Nicholas did not hesitate in the face of
numbers--as a person of consequence. He adopted the name of some singer
or actor conspicuous for the moment, some well-known man about town, a
titled visitor, or a local celebrity of great wealth, and he acted the
part. Young devils from the factories and warehouses generally assume
fictitious names when plunging into adventures of this kind.

Mr. Nicholas Don did not always expect the young lady to be deceived
when he introduced himself as Lord Saveus or Walter Baker. Often the
fiction was accepted with open glee, as the mere manifestation of a
cheerful spirit. But if the damsel were sufficiently ingenuous, and
seemed prepared to take Nicholas at his word, the carter presumed upon
her innocent, trusting nature. Then the eye-glass appeared, the drawl
became very marked, and the toothpick was gracefully manipulated.

The Don had carried through many a successful impersonation of a wicked
young English aristocrat with these properties alone-especially the quill
toothpick. Nicholas's faith in a toothpick was profound.

"A bloke with a bit iv sav 'n' a toothpick kin trade himself off ez a
haide-de-kong 'r somethin' jist ez large ez life, though he's wearin'
trowsis that look zif he'd bin tryin' t'blast 'em off with dinnymite,"
said the Don.

Spats's carter admitted that his attention was first drawn to the meek
Almira by an advertisement in the "Missing Friends" column of a morning
paper. Therein Almira described herself as a young widow and a lonely
soul, and craved the sympathy of "middle-aged gentleman similarly
situated."

"Thinks I, 'Wha's the matter with me?'" said the Don, long
after it was all over. "I ain't middle-aged, but I'm a symperthetic soul.
I'll do a duck in, 'n' mingle tears with Almira. I put on me bes'
pretties, 'n' took me brass ring all covered with di'monds, ini me
card-case, 'n' went forth ez the Hon. Horace Badminton-Carte t' yearn
'long with me Almira by happointment. Trust me when I say she wiz jist
the best piece, a little fat widder risin' thirty, a sad, sentimental,
hush-a-bye kind, but with a savin' bias towards oysters 'n' stout. She
tole me 'er ole pot-'n'-pan'ed dodged under the daisies through sittin'
outside the draught in 'otel bars year in 'n' year out, 'n' took me to
'er 'umble 'ome, where she earned a 'onest livin', givin' man 'n' his
young boxin' lessons on the pianner. I sighed over 'er unhappy lot, 'n'
she tumbled that we was symperthetic souls orl right.

"The Hon. Horace Badminton-Carte was a young English gentleman, out 'ere
fer change iv scene 'n' what not. I gave it to Almira strong, she lookin'
a soft 'n' simple baby mine. 'It's dem hard,' I sez, 'fer ah fellah to be
penned in this beastly country, but what's ah fellah to do, bai Jove, when
the old gentleman says, "Go there, sir, and stay there, demmy, till you're
sent for"? That's what ah fellah gets for being too dooced rackety, and
serve him dooced well right, of course. By gad, it's sobered me, by gad it
has. By gad, I'd have been down to it on my bendeds if Sir Chawles hadn't
dwopped a wemittance now and again. As it is, I've had to take a dem
billet, by gad, and work like a bally slave seven hours a day. Bai Jove,
yes. I'm ashamed to say where I am, positively. By Jove, yes, by gad."'

The Don, who was a close student of the drama, got his idea of the
English younger son largely from certain familiar comedy types, but he
had a talent for dissimulation, and it must not be imagined that meek
Almira was necessarily a fool in reposing some little confidence in
Horace Badminton-Carte, and believing in his reformation and in his
expected remittances.

The idea was that dear Horace was to call on Almira frequently, "with a
view to the above" when eventually the remittances became regular, and
the black sheep was restored to parental favour. Meanwhile they were to
regard themselves as each other's, for better or worse.

Escapades of this kind were meat and drink to Nicholas. He followed-up
the meek Almira with assiduity. He devoted evenings, Sundays, and
Saturday afternoons to the quest. Twice during off-days in the city she
excused him while he darted into a bank to see the manager respecting an
idea he had that "Sir Chawles" might be placing a thousand or two to his
credit. Once he detained her while he held a cordial conversation with
the chauffeur of a grand motor, whom he afterwards described to her as
"dear old Fitzie, you know. Dooced good chap. His people know my people
at home. Beastly rich-wanted to lend me fifty. Couldn't think of it, you
know; couldn't think of it."

The little widow found this all very convincing. She thought Horace's
scruples in refusing to take the fifty from dear old Fitzie a trifle
strained, but there was certainly wisdom in his heroic determination to
let the governor see he could do without that sort of thing.

The Don's only doubts were inspired by Almira's maid, a pert young thing
of sixteen, who giggled foolishly at him. She also called him "Percy"
when she caught him alone, winked with insolent familiarity, and said,
"Oh, what sort!" in a tone that almost made Horace Badminton-Carte forget
himself. Horace feared that he might have met her in some former
existence.

It was the meek Almira who suggested the evening at the theatre, and it
was she who financed the venture. She had a new evening dress, and an
early public display of it was essential to her happiness.

Horace, fearing a financial failure, raised objections.

"Fact is, me dear," explained the younger son of one of our oldest
families, "ah fellah's been peculiarly situated. Dem awkward. Yes, by
Jove. Fellah's had reverses and that sort of thing, by gad. Had to sell
his dwess clothes. Beastly vulgar thing to do. By gad, yes. But ah fellah
had no alternative--honest poverty, don't you know."

Horace seemed deeply moved by the contemplation of his misfortunes, and
the little fat widow was touched. She shed two distinct tears, and strove
to comfort him with a kiss. She said she had a dress suit that had been
left by the late lamented Berryman. It was in an excellent state of
repair, and it was at Horace's service.

So Horace Badminton-Carte and Mrs. Almira Berryman went to the theatre.
Horace insisted on paying the tram fare. The dress-suit was a pretty good
fit, but smelt suspiciously of pawn-shops. It was a trifle long in the
leg, and full in the bust, but Horace had no difficulty in keeping it on.
In the coat room he brushed his hair very flat, and arranged the parting
and the curves with artistic deftness. The effect was highly decorative.
Horace thrust an expensive red silk handkerchief negligently into the
front of his evening vest.

The carter followed Almira into the circle, with the bland case of a man
to whom this was rather a come-down after Vienna and Paris, but who was
prepared to be quite pleasant for all that. "The pater always had his
box, you know," he told the meek Almira.

In a conspicuous scat near the front Nicholas Don flattered himself he
was quite at home, although hitherto when attending the theatre he had
been a god in the galleries. He bought Almira a shilling box of
chocolates from the boy. He bowed graciously into the thick of the crowd
on the other side of the circle, and made some show of being concerned on
finding Sir John and Lady Winterton present.

"Dooced annoying," he said. "Met 'em at Government House, you know,
before the funds gave out. Fussy old devil, Sir John. Hope he won't come
dinning ah fellah with his demmed invitation to dinner, by gad."

Almira was radiant to find there were those present who appreciated
Horace at his true social value. She was a trifle florid in her present
setting, but the Don thought her a particularly fine woman. It was a
proud moment. He spread himself. His attitudes were graceful. He made
excellent play with the brass ring "all covered with diamonds," which, he
had explained, belonged to the Badminton-Carte family jewels, and was not
to be parted with at any price. He talked familiarly of the people in the
boxes. Not a doubt assailed him, until there came faintly to his ear a
familiar voice from the gallery, which said:

"'Strewth, Donny, howjer do it?"

Then Horace Badminton-Carte went cold all over, his flow of small talk
was frozen under, and suddenly the Don realised that his dress suit was
too big for him, that too much linen was falling out in front, and that
his awful night had come.

"Tuck in yer washin" Nickie, cried the voice, in graceful allusion to
Horace's superabundance of shirt.

Something hit Nick on the head, and bounced into the lap of the lady on
his right. It was a peanut.

There is nothing more humiliating to a young gentleman enjoying a rare
interval of high life and superior refinement with the lady of his heart
than to become the object of loud, vulgar, and familiar criticism. When
discourteous address is accompanied by a fusillade of peanuts, the young
gentleman fathoms the depths of human anguish, and knows utter
degradation. For a moment the Don had a blind idea of springing up,
dashing over or through the intervening audience, and flying from the
scoffers, but presently his natural and acquired impudence came to his
aid, and he determined to see the matter through.

Nicholas leaned gracefully towards the meek Almira, and entertained her
with fluent small talk. He flourished his toothpick. A cone formed of a
twisted programme, weighted with a grape, shot like a dart from above,
smote him on the head, and skidded into the corsage of a very stout lady
in front, where the grape remained.

A flush of rage spread all over the visible surface of the stout lady;
face, neck, and suburbs glowed angrily, and she rounded on Horace
Badminton-Carte with an ejaculation far below her apparent station in
life. Horace was distracted at the unmerited accusation the address
implied, and sat forward to expostulate. He wore one of those
steel-backed clip ties. The tie jerked from its moorings, struck the
stout lady sharply on the nose, and fell into the depths, whence it was
dug by the now furious female and flung aside.

A young man recovered the tie and it was courteously returned to Horace,
passing from hand to hand. The incident was very popular; everybody
seemed delighted.

"What-hol Nickie, you won't get nothin' from the missus Saturday," said a
voice above-a voice of friendliness touched with commiseration.

"Doin' in ver board on chocolates," added another voice, in admonitory
tones.

Horace Badminton-Carte did not enjoy that first act, and the meek Almira
seemed uneasy. He was afraid her suspicions were aroused, and he
whispered something about the demned lower orders always being stirred to
malice at the sight of wealth, breeding, and beauty. He wished to convey
the idea that the attack was the outcome of class prejudice, and was
general, not personal.

Don thought of going out during the interval, but feared that a movement
on his part would provoke a demonstration that must identify him as the
boon companion of the ruffians aloft, and it was a long way to the door.
Meanwhile an occasional peanut dropped on his head, and an occasional one
fell into the recesses of the vast female in front.

The act was all too short, and when the curtain came down and the lights
shone out again only two or three men moved for the door. The Don sat
very still, waiting anxiously. He forgot Almira. The strain was awful,
but didn't last long.

"Say, Nickie," called a persuasive voice, "won't yeh come 'n' 'ave a
beer--a long cool-'n'-juicy?"

"Garn, don't lure 'im!" said a second, in mock expostulation.

"Rats!" cried a third. "What's beer t' the Don after the bar'ls iv
champagne he's used ter?"

Then the first voice again, pleadingly: "Nickie, where did you get them
round-the-'ouses?"

"'N' that flogger?"

"'N' that little dickie-dirt?"

Involuntarily the Don made an effort to tuck in his shirt. The action
called him to himself. He became extremely attentive to the little widow,
and talked airily. The twenty-fifth peanut bounced off his head.

The Don was not quite his suave, collected self. Some of his sentences
were in Horace's speech, some in the rude utterance of Nicholas Don,
driver of Spats's delivery van. He was perspiring a little. His hand
trembled, his monocle refused to stick in; he felt that every eye in the
theatre was on him. Then came the awful voice again in anxious warning:

"Don, Don, ye've clean fergot t' snatch the for hire docket off yer
clobber."

"Wait till the little tom from the pie plant gets onter these goin's on
false one!"

"'R Lizzie et the pickle mill."

At this point the specialist engaged to weed disorderly persons out of
the gallery arrived and expostulated with the Don's friends up aloft. He
said he would bump them down the stairs, and they said it was too big a
trouble for a man with a face like that, and in the subsequent argument
Horace Badminton-Carte escaped attention. But the badinage was resumed in
the second interval, and the cheerful push above, having run out of
peanuts, collected orange-peel, and dropped it into Horace's clothes.
Remarks having reference to his humble calling were exchanged in a matter
of fact way. He was cautioned not to spill the devilled oysters into his
lap, otherwise the Hebrew owner of the dress suit would certainly bankrupt
him with a claim for damages.

"Wear'em et the two-up Friday, Ned," said Chiller Green.

The Don was wholly himself now, and a bottled geyser of bubbling
invective and boiling wrath. A section of orange fell on his head and
stuck there. All was forgotten but his wrongs. He arose before the whole
house; he shook a vengeful fist aloft.

"Righto, Pinkie!" he cried, "I seen yeh. I'll put a screw on your chin
Monday see if I don't You-"

Here Almira swung on Nickie's coat tails, and dragged him into his seat.
The gallery had broken into howls, shouts, stamping, laughter, and a roar
of barracking; the dress circle was horrified and delighted; a small
usher was tapping at the Don's shoulder, threatening to eject him; the
Don was replying that if the minion didn't get a shift on he'd kick the
crupper off him. And then came a violent diversion to Nickie's rescue.
Loud, angry voices were heard from the vestibule, and suddenly a stoutish
man fell into the circle through the folding doors.

The intruder was red, dishevelled, and somewhat drunken. He was uttering
loud threats. Hands from outside clung to him, other servile hands
hastened to thrust him back. He fell through the folding doors again and
disappeared.

At the sight of this man meek Almira had started and uttered a cry of
distress. She said she was feeling ill. Then came the blessed darkness,
and the play was resumed.

Happily there were only three acts, and when the curtain fell Nickie and
his little widow mingled with the escaping crowd, yearning for the night
air and the sweet oblivion of back streets.

But their trials were not over. In the crush room a large man-an angry
man-breathing whisky and bad words, arose from a settee and lurched at
Nicholas Don. It was the man who had fallen through the folding doors.
Almira screamed and buried herself in the press of people.

"That's him!" cried the inebriate. "That's the chap. He's got my clo's
on. Gimme me clo's, yeh robber."

The evening-dress crowd backed away and made a ring. Don was again the
centre of interest. The drunken stranger slid down and hung on to his
trousers. He tried with violence to pull them off.

"Gimme me clo's," gurgled the inebriate. "Whatcher mean be stealin' a
man's trousers?"

"Who th' 'ell 're you?" said Nicholas.

"I'm the man whose clo's yeh wearin', yeh bla'guard!" wailed the
stranger. "Gimme me clo's!"

There was laughter and excitement and talk of police. The man had risen
and barred the way. Nicholas Don saw red. He drew his foe with a feint,
shot a left in on his neck, and the claimant of the clothes went down
hard, skidded on the pile carpet and shot under the settee.

Then Horace Badminton-Carte broke the ring and bolted, hatless and
without his overcoat. The meek Almira had disappeared.

Nicholas turned to the left and ran for the slum streets, hunted by
terror of the ignominy of being arrested in another man's clothes-if
indeed it were true that the lamented Berryman had resurrected.

In a frowsy parlour Don reviewed the situation over a consolatory beer.
He was abroad in the dyed garments of a total stranger, pursued by the
law perhaps, his own suit was in the little spare bedroom at the abode of
Almira, his hat and coat were in the cloakroom at the theatre. If the law
were seeking him the widow's cottage was no safe place. He must proceed
with caution.

Don had another beer. Three quarters of an hour later, Nicholas, wearing
a dress suit, a staring white shirt, and an old soft felt hat-a
villainous thing that had been at the service of the cat for weeks, but
the only one the hotel would trust him with-stole down the dim, suburban
street to Almira's garden gate.

Astout man was staggering about on the verandah brandishing his hands in
the air, and clamouring in drunken speech for his clothes.

The house was in darkness, but curious neighbours were hanging their
heads out of adjacent houses offering loud advice, all deeply interested
in the stout man's grievance. The man rattled at Almira's window, pounded
on the door, and filled the night with piteous cries for his wearing
apparel.

Don ducked down a side street, found another hotel, and stayed till
kick-out, taking counsel with long, strong drink. Then he sneaked back to
Almira's cottage. The heads were all gone, but the stout man was sitting
on the mat, with his back to the front door, drowsing and making weak
lamentation. Nicholas stood cogitating. Would it be possible to steal by
in the gloom and effect an entrance by the back? Suddenly the outcast put
up a howl of great anguish and started battering the door again.

"Lemme in!" he cried. "Lemme get the vill'n who shtole me clo's." His
voice broke, and he continued piteously: "Oh, M'rier, how could yeh-how
could yeh?" He advanced to the edge of the verandah and addressed an
imaginary audience in tones of poignant anguish.

"Lays 'n' shennlemen, I'm man iv sorrers. Behol' me broken 'eart.
Englishman's clo's is hish cashle."

Nicholas Don left the man unbosoming himself to the stars, and stole
away. He walked through the cold, dark, damp morning to his home in the
distant suburb on the other side of the city.

Don held long arguments with policemen by the way-policemen whose
suspicious were aroused by the incongruity of his hat and his costume. It
is easy to arouse the suspicions of policemen at two o'clock in the
morning.

On Sunday Nicholas could not venture out because he had only an old
working suit and the evening clobber of a perfect stranger. On Monday
night he recovered his overcoat and hat at the theatre, and journeyed to
Almira's cot. From the door he heard the beery, melancholy voice of the
stout man within, and the man of sorrows was still uttering bitter
reproaches about the absent clothes. The person who had once been Horace
Badminton-Carte retired without knocking.

On Tuesday Nicholas discovered an advertisement in the "Missing Friends"
column, in which H. B. C. was informed that if he appeared at noon at the
corner where he first met A. B. parcels might be exchanged.

Nick rolled the unfortunate evening suit in brown paper and took it to
work with him. He managed with some difficulty to be at the corner
mentioned at noon, with the delivery van. Almira's servant was waiting,
nursing a parcel.

"What-o' Percy!" she cried, "'s that you?"

"No," growled Nicholas, "but it's me nearest 'n' dearest survivin'
relation. Them my soft-goods, Sissie?"

Sissic nodded. "But you gotter part up first. I ain't t' be done in."

The Don threw down his parcel, and after Sissie had torn the paper and
satisfied her mind she tossed the other bundle into the van.

"Strike me, you're a pretty pair o' take-downs," said the girl, "you 'n'
mar."

"Me 'n' mar!" cried Don. "Garn, you ain't chattin' that the meek Almira's
your mar?"

"Well, I am!"

"'N' I s'pose the pickled bloke was the ole pot-'n'-pan?"

"Yes-he's dad. Mum's got a legal separate, but he comes round sometimes
when 'e's drunk 'n' lovin'. An' mar passed me off as the girl for fear
your rich relations mightn't like me. How's Sir Charles?"

"'N' you put the old man on t' us at the theatre Saterdee?"

Sissie grinned.

"Lor' strike yeh cock-eyed for it," said Nicholas, bitterly.

That evening Nick encountered Pinkie in Egg Lane, and they fought three
rounds, to their great mutual disadvantage. The conclusion was postponed.

Nicholas did not open his parcel till he returned home, and then he
found, to his astonishment, that it contained some old rags, a note, and
a pawn ticket for his best suit. The note said:--

"This is the best I can do for you. Had to pawn your clothes to keep
George drunk till I got his own back. You are an impudent impostor.
Farewell.-ALMIRA."

Nicholas sat down.

"'Struth!" he gasped. "I do like that. Swelp me Jimmy Gee, I do like
that!"

And then for five minutes Nick sat in a rigid attitude, staring blankly
at the pawn ticket.



CHAPTER III. DUKIE M'KENZIE'S DAWNCE.

BENNO had been looking forward to the hop on Thursday. It was not the
ordinary weekly fixture of Dukie M'Kenzie's "Assembly," but something
much more elaborate-almost a ball; and it celebrated the climax of the
season. Admission on ordinary occasions was 1s.; on Thursday it was
to be--gents, eighteen-pence; double tickets, 2s. 6d. The familiar accordion
orchestra was to be augmented with a harp and violin, dancing was to be
maintained till two in the morning, and there were to be refreshments in
the cloak-room.

But Mr. Dickson's special interest lay in the fact that he felt himself
called upon to seize this opportunity of wounding and humiliating Miss
Cilly Gwynne, who had turned him down for the third and last time. Any
bloke with the usual allowance of human weaknesses may be "done in" once
by the girl he's fond of. Any man with a forgiving heart added to those
common weaknesses may take his chances and be "had" a second time. But
only a confirmed chump and irremediable "gooey" comes up for a third
"chuck." So the astute Benno argued with himself. He had had "the chuck"
twice. Miss Gwynne had cruelly forsaken him for a strange German in the
theatre. At Stonkie's picnic she had passed him over in favour of Billy
Crib, the butter bumper, across the lane. And lately she was devoting her
time and talents to a stocky youth, one Did Cootie, who mauled bags of
carrots, spuds, onions, and other flora at the produce store.

Did Cootie was new to Egg Lane, where he provoked some little resentment
by a slight superiority of style and a pretentious use of tall collars.
He was quite quiet and apparently harmless, but truculent spirits in the
lane discovered a certain confidence in his demeanour where humility
might have been more natural and becoming in a stranger. The resulting
prejudice was responsible for a display of fictitious sympathy for Benno.
When quite honest, the Lane had nothing but derision for the bloke who
showed any disposition to squeal over the vagaries of a mere "tom."

Mr. Dickson, mindful of the ignominy due to the man who "gets brusher,"
thought he was combining airy indifference to Miss Gwynne with a man's
natural craving to "put it across" his enemy.

"All toms is erlike t' me," he said, tweaking his lapels with a birdlike
jauntiness of demeanour, "but, all the same, it's up t' me t' put a mock
on that tripester et the 'ay-an'-corn."

The packer winked a grave aside at the town-traveller. "Why don't yeh get
to him, Benno?" he said.

Benno looked wise. "That'll be all right," he said. "He'll get his pot
on. You leave it t'me."

"Yes, Feathers," said the town-traveller, "you leave it to our little
Benno-he'll give him a black look."

Really Mr. Dickson was wounded, and secretly he hoped to score a triumph
at the Assembly on Thursday night. Proprietary rights were respected at
Dukie M'Kenzie's dances. No gent could appropriate another patron's "bit
of skirt" at Dukie's and hope to escape the retribution prescribed for
dishonourable conduct in well-regulated push society.

Benno was taking Miss Adelia Smith, Miss Priscilla Gwynne's rival for the
honour of belle of Whimble's pickle mill. Both were in the pepper
department, for Whimble milled coffee and spices, and manufactured many
odorous condiments in addition to his main business, which was bottling
onions.

The little clerk had not been hasty in his choice. It was a matter
calling for deep deliberation. He was having a new suit himself, and the
lady must not discredit it. As a clerk, he was a man of position. More is
expected of a man with a position than is looked for in one who has only
a job. Furthermore, and above all, there was the necessity of giving
Cilly Gwynne thoroughly to understand that she was no wise necessary to
his happiness, and that her betters were, to use his own expressive
phrase, "dead easy" to him.

True, Miss Smith was rather tall and aggressively lean, but her dress
promised to be the best at the ball, and she was decidedly superior. At
Whimble's, Adelia was abbreviated to Haddy, but the young lady's intense
propriety was admitted and respected. She held herself aloof from Miss
Gwynne, whom she considered "fast." If professional duties threw them
together, Miss Smith's mouth became depressed at the corners, her
nostrils inflated, and she moved her lips and tongue as if tasting
something disagreeable.

Mr. Dickson was very pleased with the effect when he entered the assembly
hall with Haddy Smith on his arm. In consequence of Miss Smith's great
height it was difficult for Benno to avoid the appearance of being a mere
appendage to the lady, but his loud vest helped him, and his cardinal tie
assisted in maintaining his individuality.

Cilly and Did Cootie were present. Benno and Haddy sailed in under their
very noses. It gratified the clerk to note that in the matter of dressing
Cilly was "no class" beside Miss Smith, while Cootie wore nothing that
could have been heard in the same street with Benno's splendid get-up.

And yet Benno found it difficult to bear up against the plain fact that
as a cheerful companion and a ballroom feature Cilly Gwynne was just
"it," and easily outdid Miss Smith, whose frigid style was not to the
taste of M'Kenzie's patrons.

"Blime, where'd yeh get it?" said Kingie, a bosom friend of Benno's.
"Ain't she 'ead saleswoman at a hice fact'ry? Why, when I'm swingin'
corners with 'er I sez, ''Ow are yeh!' I sez. 'It's a bit iv good goods
'ere t'-night, ain't it?" She ups with 'er trunk, sniffs at me, 'n' sez
her gills 'No conversation, if yeh please! she sez.

"Yes," said Benno with a touch of regret, "she is a bit iv a lady."

While no one could possibly have a truer appreciation of the qualities of
refinement and breeding than Mr. Dickson, he realised before an hour had
gone that Haddy was overdoing the perfect lady. She was altogether too
genteel. She sat, prim and erect, against the wall, her head slightly on
one side, her face drawn down tight, and her eyes drooping. Her
expression was that of one who has discovered a defect in the drainage,
but is too well-mannered to mention it.

If asked to dance Miss Smith yielded, and went through the performance
with a sort of stony energy. Hugged to her partner's breast, she danced
with vehemence, but in silence, and her superior expression never relaxed
for a moment. She seemed to say, "I dance with you, but allow no
liberties."

There was another marked disadvantage in dancing with Miss Smith that
presently excited some discussion.

"Nit, cobber, what's got that piece o'yours?" said M'Kenzie after a round
dance. "I no sooner gets into holts with 'er than I fair sneezes me
napper off."

Nicholas Don also rose to complain. "She's a snorter, Dickson," he said.
"She's got everyone sneezin'. The blokes is blowin' false teeth all over
the shop. Wot sort iv a game is this fer a perfec' lady whose ma washes
fer the Gov'ner?"

Benno was sad. He had been sneezing a good deal himself. No man could
grapple with Haddy without breaking the continuity of the dance several
times while he got down to sneeze explosively.

The sight of Haddy standing erect and alone, waiting with a coldly
superior aid while her gent bucked and contorted on the floor in a
paroxysm of explosion, became one of the features of the evening. Not her
partners alone, but all the dancers in a set in which Haddy took part
were similarly afflicted.

Miss Smith's curious influence was due to the fact that she had been
toiling among pepper in Whimble's factory all day, and had neglected to
brush the floating stock out of her abundant fluffy locks in the hurry of
preparing for the ball. Indurated to pepper herself, she felt no
unpleasant effects; but when she came into good action she discharged the
irritant in clouds, and infected the whole atmosphere of the room. This
did not add to her popularity. A tendency to isolate the young lady
manifested itself.

Benno was hurt. His new grievance against Haddy increased the bitterness
with which he regarded Cilly Gwynne and Mr. Cootie. He took occasion to
mention to a few friends that Miss Smith had been in a measure forced
upon him at the last moment in consequence of the gross unfaithulness of
Miss Gwynne.

"The blokie in the blue suit kidded 'er t' turn me down, 'n' she dogged
on me after I'd made me arrangements," said Benno. "It cost a bit, take
it from me."

"Gar-rn," said Twitter Feeney disgustedly. "Didn' yeh take somethin' to
'im? The cow!"

"That's t' come," retorted Benno with a sort of deadly composure.

Benno's friends were most sympathetic, especially Twitter. Twitter had a
great reputation to lose. He was supposed to be a very destructive street
fighter. He was said to have outed a fourteen-stone policeman in a
dust-up. Benno cultivated Twitter Feeney; he took him in to refreshments
two or three times.

The refreshment room was very small and extremely hot. Refreshments
consisted mainly of corned beef and bread and beer. Dukie M'Kenzie had
set up a large barrel of beer, and put Jumbo Stone in command. A charge
of 3d. a glass was exacted. This was a breach of covenant, it being set
out on the tickets that refreshments were free to all. It was also
contrary to law, but Dukie was a law unto himself. Jumbo was a large man;
he was hot and flurried by the strain put upon him. He chopped bread and
meat and filled beer glasses with perspiring energy; but he found time to
have one himself on Benno's invitation, and to show some interest in
Benno's grievance. Then he had another to avoid the worry of giving the
clerk his change.

Feeling right was with him, and that the weight of public opinion was
behind him, Benno no longer took the trouble to disguise his enmity. He
passed a gibe or two to Did Cootie, but Did was not looking for trouble,
and heard nothing. Benno grew valiant, and bumped his enemy several times
in the course of a dance. Cootie found nothing in this to object to. He
went on dancing very amiably.

Mr. Dickson realised now that he had a "soft thing." It was plain that
Cootie would take it lying down. Benno became reckless in his attacks and
in his loud criticism of Did's dress, appearance, and manner of dancing.
Several young gentlemen, hurt by Cootie's success with their girls, took
open joy in Benno's wit, and seconded his attacks. Did was jostled a
great deal, and his feet were trodden on. Somebody knocked his boxer from
its peg, and walked in it. The little clerk was doing a violent
schottische with Miss Bills, and, to hasten a climax, came into heavy
collision with Cootie.

Did resisted like a gum-butt. Benno ricochetted and went down hard, slid
three yards on the polished floor and bumped his head violently against
the wall. It was the last straw. Benno arose, spitting wrath. His hair
was disarranged; his collar was adrift; there was homicide in his fiery
eye.

"'Ere, 'ere, wot sort!" he said, throwing himself in Cootie's way, his
hands up, and sparring decoratively. "Yer lookin' fer it. Yiv bin fair
beggin' fer it all evenin'. Put 'em up!"

Benno lunged a feeble left at Did Cootie, and Did very calmly evaded; and
then he smote Benno dispassionately. Be batted Benno with the open hand
on the right cheek, then he batted him on the left cheek, and then, with
a forward thrust, took the aggressor with the heel of his palm right on
the nose. Benno went down again, harder than before, and this time he
skidded right across the hall, like a fish on a marble slab, fetching up
under one of the forms.

Instantly Twitter Feeney was up in arms in defence of his friend and
patron. He walked up to Did Cootie with a leery swagger, and thrust his
face into that of Did, and his countenance wore a look of ferocity
terrible to behold.

"Come orf!" he said. "'0w's this, pluggin' a bloke out iv yeh class?
'Ere's where yeh get it, see. Yes-yus-ya-as." Twitter pushed his hard jaw
closer to Did's with each repetition, then he swung a destructive left.

Did Cootie ducked the lead, and stepping up timed Twitter with such
precision and such force that the youth's legs crumpled under him. He
went down like a dropped sack and lay on the floor, without movement,
while the crowd pressed round, gazing with silent, almost breathless,
amazement at the vanquished champion.

Dukie M'Kenzie broke through the circle and grappled Cootie roughly.

"Out yeh get, 'n' get easy, 'r I'll topple yeh in the drain!" he snorted.

Dukie made a cocksure twist to get Did's arm up his back, but the young
man from the produce store had an excellent repertoire of holds, twists,
and clips. He took a jiu-jitsu turn on Dukie's arm, and kicked up Dukie's
heels, and Dukie hit the floor with his ear.

The master of ceremonies arose, somewhat dazed. Twitter Feeney arose
still more dazed. Benno was on his feet, but was not pushing himself
forward at this stage. A line of angry enemies confronted Did Cootie, who
was backed by Cilly Gwynne only.

"Jumbo!" yelled M'Kenzie. "Jumbo! Bring erlong Jumbo someone, 'n' we'll
blessed soon clear up this gazob."

Jumbo came, twining his sleeves neatly above the elbow. Jumbo was an
elephant of a man. He could "chuck out" anything human, and for years had
been toying with recalcitrant drunks and bad men in minor pubs and
similar resorts of the vicious.

"Pitch him through the winder," said M'Kenzie, "'n' put all expenses down
t' me."

Jumbo advanced. He liked the job. Did Cootie backed quickly to the end
wall. Cilly stood by him, shrilly abusing the company as cowards and
people of mean instincts. Cootie was bent on escaping with honour. He was
a ready-reckoner, and, snatching the bright hydrant from the neat folds
of the hose on the stand, he said softly:

"Turn that little brass wheel, Priscilla. Turn it hard."

Did had armed himself with the hose insisted upon by the Board of Health
as a provision against fire. He made a show of using it as a club, and
the enemy loitered. Cilly pounced on the wheel, with a squeal of rapture.
The folds of hose jumped and pranced under the pressure of the rush of
water, and Jumbo received the stream full in the face.

Jumbo was a brave man, but he loathed water. He fell back, gasping, and
the flood got into his mouth, and washed his false teeth into his vest.
Cilly gave the wheel another turn, and a hard jet bounced off Jumbo's
large, taut corporation. Jumbo was beaten. He turned keel up, and lay
gasping for breath on the boards.

The regular patrons who were backing M'Kenzie had formed a solid support
behind Jumbo. It was now their turn Did Cootie played the hose on Dukie,
and Dukie collapsed. The great wash struck Benno in the breast, and Benno
rolled over. Cootie followed up his merciless attack. He kept the stream
on his small foe, and washed him across the floor and under the form
again.

"The door, Priscilla!" said Cootie gently. "Put the key on the outside."

Did ran the powerful stream among his foes, and they broke before it, and
fled pell-mell, drenched and ignominious. Then Did dropped the hydrant,
and leaped after Priscilla.

When the wet people recovered and rushed the door they found it locked on
the outside, and long before an exit was made Cootie and Miss Gwynne were
safely aboard a city-bound tram.

The drenched company in the water-logged hall thought seriously of
inviting the intervention of the law, but wiser counsel prevailed.

Of all the woeful herd that went from Dukie's dance that night the most
woeful was Mr. Ben Dickson, the great "cop-out." His suit was wrecked,
his vest was spoiled, and his cardinal tie could never be worn again.
Above all, his amour propre had received an awful shock.

Next morning the little clerk passed Did Cootie at the store door in Egg
Lane. Cootie smiled quite nicely, as if nothing had happened, and said,
"How do you do, Mr. Dickson?" in the pleasantest way.

Here was Benno's opportunity.

He cut the fellow dead.



CHAPTER IV. THE TRUCULENT BOY.

NIPPER CREEGAN was a nugget of a boy, short, but stoutly built, tough and
ugly, with a small corn of a nose and two narrow eyes, all set together
in a wide waste of face. His mouth was far removed from the other
important features, and came upon the observer as an afterthought. The
ears of the truculent boy sprouted from his head with a suddenness
somewhat disconcerting, and they were unnecessarily large.

"Say, Ned," observed Billy the Boy, on the occasion of Nipper's first
appearance, "'r them things ears, 'r what?"

"Wha' th' 'ell d'yer think?" retorted Creegan, sourly.

"Oh, I was thinkin' they might be handles 'r fakements t' swim with.
'Skews me fer mentionin' it afore we're interdooced, won'tcher?"

"I'll belt yer chin in iv yer get merry with me," said the new boy, the
light of battle shining in his eye. "Yes! Yes!"

"You will?"

"Yes, will I Say, 're yer wantin' it?" Nipper sidled up to the printer's
devil, and butted him along with his shoulder three times. "I'm yer man,"
he said. "Yes. Fight yer with one 'and. Yes. Yes. Any day. Yes."

"Dear, dear, dear," murmured Billy the Boy, "'ow these children talk!"
But Billy displayed a certain discretion in getting downstairs. Then his
voice came up: "Hi, yous, get up 'n' 'ave a look et the strange-but-true
on the bag-flat, It can flap its ears."

"I'll pass that mug one iv he comes pickin' et me," said Creegan to the
packer. "Yes. Y-e-e-s." And the boy resumed his work, growling with
exceeding bitterness.

The "Yes" in Nipper's speech took the place that snarling holds in the
vocabulary of an angry terrier. The word was uttered with an open mouth
and a shooting of the under jaw, was drawn out as long as breath held,
and the air that went with it was a hateful blend of malevolence and
contempt.

The truculent boy made no friends. Within a few days he had established a
reign of terror, and the feeble foreman displayed a nervous awe in his
presence. He gave Nipper no orders, but sometimes ventured a mild request
or a gentle suggestion, which was received by the boy with sullen
mutterings.

Master Creegan entertained a dark suspicion that the people of the
factory were conspiring to work him to death, and hate smouldered in his
soul. His combativeness was purely instinctive; it dominated him on the
slightest encroachment, or in the face of the smallest wrong. When roused
to fury, his language was that of a sinner grown old and hardened dealing
with working bullocks.

On fine days the male employees from the factory and the printers' flat
sat along the kerb or on the window-sills in Egg Lane, and Nipper's
truculence made him the butt of the company. Billy the Boy was the first
victim. Billy was something of a spoilt child in the business, and was
allowed much latitude in consideration of his elderly humour, his quaint
impishness, and his talent in imitating farm-yards, phonographs, and
popular actors; but his quality as an entertainer did not appeal to
Nipper Creegan, more especially when Nipper was the butt of Billy's
insolence. The printer's devil had discretion, and as a rule he assailed
Nipper from elevated places, or only when the road was open for a rapid
retreat; but retribution overtook him one day in the middle of his lunch.

"D'jer know me 'n' Nip's goin' t' run a circus?" Billy asked the
assemblage. "It'll be a boshter, too. I'm buildin' a cage fer Nipper.
He's goin' ter be the mad monkey, 'n' flap his ears. Flap yer ears fer
the gentlemen, Nipper. Get outer the lugs, lads; he pinched 'em from a
baby helerphant. Iv Nip had any sense he'd fly with them ears, but yer
kin see he ain't got no more savvy than a doped goslin'."

Here Billy dropped his lunch and "did his dash," but a delivery van
blocked the way, and the next instant Nipper Creegan was on him, and for
one minute there was a bewildering whirl of limbs in a small storm of
dust, chaff, straw, and lunch wrappers. Then Billy went down in a sitting
position against the store opposite, and he was a changed boy. He was
ruffled and torn and had a black eye, and his nose shed much blood.

Billy the Boy wept and whined, and crawled round on his hands and knees
seeking a "rock." As he crawled he heaped wonderful abuse upon his enemy.

"Yeh dirty, mean, cock-eyed Chow t' hit a man when he ain't ready,"
moaned Billy, continuing his hunt. "Yeh stinkin' cur! You'll see what
you'll get. G' out, yer monkey-mugged slum mungrool, you'll cop yer
doss."

Billy arose, and Creegan made another rush, but a stone bounced on his
thick skull and broke a window on the second floor, and the printer's
devil dived under a delivery van and fled into the wilderness of bales in
the dark basement.

When next Billy appeared on the top flat his eye resembled a large,
rain-cracked purple plum, but Billy felt he could afford to be jaunty, in
view of the egg-like excrescence on Nipper's head and the blood-stains on
his shirt. He whistled an airy strain, keeping a sidelong eye on the foe.

"When's the berloon goin' up?" he asked the packer, with a wink towards
Nipper's swelling.

"Yes, 'n' if yer gi' me yer lip y'll get more yes," growled Creegan.
"Jist wait till nex' time, that's all. Yes."

"Hark et the animal with the 'ump," retorted Billy. "Looks t' me 's if it
got anythin' that was goin'."

But Billy's air and utterance lacked the true assurance, and it was plain
there was to be no next time for him.

Benno, the clerk, was ill-advised enough to incur Master Creegan's wrath
on one occasion. Benno had given the boy certain orders in his superior
way, and Nipper had carefully ignored them. Benno went up to him an hour
later, very angry indeed, and Benno when very angry had the formidable
aspect of an indignant cock-sparrow. He took Nipper by the ear and
pinched.

"Here, me noble," he said, "whatt erbout them samples? Er yer goin' t'
trot 'em up, 'r am I a party iv the name iv Mud? Have 'em erlong in ten
ticks, 'r I'll be a bad father t' yeh, little Creegan."

"Take yer meat-hooks outer me," snarled Nipper.

"Is the little boy goin' t' be good?" said Benno, playfully, and his
pinch tightened.

Then Nipper let go with both hands, and Benno was rushed before a small
tornado full of flying limbs, and was backed against the packer's table
winded and suffering many hurts. He leaned there, very pale,
open-mouthed, amazed, and his index finger went up and painfully
oscillated a loosened tooth. The sight stirred the factory to unfeeling
laughter.

Benno wagged the other index finger impressively at Creegan. "I'll see
you after hours, Mister Creegan," he gasped, "'n' I'll take my belt t'
yeh, young feller, me lad. You can save up for it-you'll get an
unmerciful."

"Garn!" said Nipper. "I'm Mat Dooley's fav'rit pupil. I could do with a
dozen like you jist t' toy with. Yes, I could-yes."

The clerk did not take his belt to the truculent boy that evening.
Perhaps he forgot. It remained for Sarah Eddie to visit upon Nipper the
only retribution that befell him during his stay at Spats's.

Sarah was large, and Sarah was powerful. She happened to be turning quite
suddenly with a stack of freshly-pasted brown bags in her arms, when
Creegan was passing her board, and the bundle caught the boy in the face,
bore him down, and skated all over him.

In circumstances like these Nipper never waited for apologies. He
scrambled to his feet, maddened by the outrage and the yells of the
Beauties, and plunged at Sarah, punching blindly. Miss Eddie sustained
injuries before she quite realised what had happened, but, once
understanding came to her, she got promptly down to business. She reached
for Nipper Creegan with two large capable hands, and she grabbed his ears
as he came in. Then she took the remaining trifle of sense out of him;
she rocked him to and fro; she bumped his head on the pasting-board; she
anathematised him with screams; she towed him to the wall and
deliberately knocked his skull against it five times; she kicked him
repeatedly, then put him down and stood on part of him.

Nipper came up, blind with rage and far from conquered, and Miss Eddie
was willing, but the packer intervened. Master Creegan writhed in his
clutches.

"Lemme go!" he cried; "I ain't done! I'll fight her, big ez she is. Yes,
I'll fight her any time she likes."

Sarah went at him with her brush. "Come on!" she screamed, "come on!" She
smote Nipper across the face, smearing him with paste.

"Let 'er fight fair!" vociferated Nipper. "Let 'er fight fair, 'n' I'm
her man. She was foulin' all the time. Yes, yes; 'ittin' in bolts 'n'
fightin' all in, she was. Let 'er break clean, 'n' I'll fight 'er fer
five quid. Yes!"

The packer dragged him away by the scruff, and planted him at his bench,
soothing him with a punt.

"This ain't no place fer you, Baby Creegan," said Feathers. "You're too
dainty fer this job. You want a grip in a religious 'ome. Be busy, 'r
I'll belt yeh."

"You look who yer skull-dragging, see," said Nipper, and he sparred at
Feathers, but the packer adroitly kicked his heels from under him, and
Nipper went down hard. Feathers hoisted him up by the scruff again, and
rubbed his nose on the packing board.

"I kin see your untimely end, sweetie," said Mills.

"Yes, you'd nark a church. Ye-e-es," sneered Nipper. "Get me sacked, 'n'
iv I carn't deal with yeh on me lonesome I knows them what can. Yes. My
push'll mess you about. Yes. Yes."

Feathers punted him again for comfort, and returned to his customary
duties, and for the rest of the day the truculent boy was a black and
bitter misanthrope.

Nipper would attack anything. He did not discriminate, and went for the
largest man as readily as for the smallest girl. Goudy, the town
traveller, was the largest man, and it must be admitted he brought it on
himself.

Creegan had merely run into him with a loaded truck. The load was so high
as to obscure Nipper's view, and the iron lug took the town traveller
across the calves. Now, there is nothing nastier to collide with than the
iron lug of a perpendicular truck.

Goudy gave a bound and a howl, then cuffed Nipper in his anger and his
pain, and foolishly went down to rub his hurts, instead of preparing his
defence. Consequently, when Master Creegan came in, wrathfully punching
and kicking, Goudy sustained a cut lip, a maimed ear, and a clicking clip
on the shin from a new boot before he could clear decks for action.

"Whoof!" cried Goudy in pure anguish, as he ran at Nipper.

It was not in Nipper's nature to run from anything. He met Goudy in a
sullen, stupid spirit, and kicked him on the other shin.

"Whoof!" said Goudy again, and he sat down on some parcels and embraced
his shins. "Wheew!" he cried, drawing wind in through his set teeth.

Goudy was an elderly man, and a stout one, and the father of a family. It
was a painful sight. Feathers choked on his quid, struggled with his
emotions for a moment, and then fell into un-christian laughter. All the
Beauties commanding a full view of Goudy's distress joined in the uproar,
and the rest rushed for positions.

The town traveller recollected himself and came gingerly to his feet and
turned on Nipper. The boy faced him like a young bull, with beetling
brows, and lowering grimly. Goudy changed his mind and limped downstairs.

"Here's where yer bundled out, baby mine," said the packer

"Well, what'd he wanter plug me for?" said the truculent boy. "I never
done nothink t' him. No. Yous all seem t' think I'm here t' practise on.
Yes, yes, yes, yeh do. Ye-e-es."

But Mr Goudy did not report the boy. He knew the Beauties were disposed
to be resentful to a "put-away," and after due consideration left Nipper
to work his own undoing.

The truculent boy would not have lasted a month were it not that Feathers
took a certain joy in the young ruffian. Feathers could always manage
him. He had a pleasant way of dropping the bag-shaped dusty hessian off a
bale over Nipper when he was otherwise uncontrollable, and bringing him
up sharp, smothering and struggling, but helpless. One afternoon he had
him bagged for an hour, while the foreman revolved nervously about the
tumbling bundle, stumbling over things and ejaculating, "Now, now! Come,
come! Bless my soul! Enough of this! Enough of this!"

The comps and printers on the lower flat delighted to aggravate Nipper.
His bursts of fighting fury were vastly entertaining to everybody but the
party attacked.

Master Creegan was a very strong boy, and took delight in displaying his
strength. It was his duty to truck the reams of paper up to the
guillotines, and he stacked mighty loads on the upright truck, and deftly
ran them up the gangway past the stair railings, hidden from sight behind
the moving pile. While the road was clear, and he could keep his fifteen
or sixteen cwt. of paper poised on a dead centre he was all right, but
any misadventure that disturbed the equilibrium resulted in disaster.

The printers had often come up the stairs, and slid small obstacles in
front of the truck-wheels, and Nipper had assaulted innocent folders when
his reams shot all about the factory.

On this occasion Nipper was steering a stack of reams of brown paper
higher than himself, and had a good run on the smooth floor, when Billy
the Boy saw him coming, and pushed a length of "furniture" through the
rails, and then shot downstairs again.

The two wheels of the truck struck the piece of wood with a terrible
jolt. Nipper was hoisted off his feet, and his nose collided sharply with
a cross-bar of the truck. The reams slid all over the place. One brought
Sarah Eddie down, another crashed into a loaded pasting board,
overturning it on top of two squealing pasters, and Master Creegan and
the truck and one loose ream fell together, Nipper underneath.

The boy worried his way out of the scattered sheets and arose. He gazed
at the ruin, he felt his injuries, and then he began to see red. He
dashed for the stairs, he went down them with a swoop, collided with a
figure on the midway landing, and "bucked in."

With his hard, bullet head down, Creegan used his fists in desperate
swings, and the thud of his blows was heard all over the place. Hurled
back by his victim, Nipper fell in a half-reclining position on the
stairs, and now he saw and understood. Towering over him was a massive,
ginger man, purple with wrath. The man was a Personage, he was clad in
broadcloth and fine linen, the blood from his damaged nose dripped
through his moustache, his battered bell-topper floated in the lye tub
below.

This time Nipper's victim was Odgson himself-Odgson the owner-Odgson the
great and good!

For a moment Nipper blinked at Spats in stupid wonder, and then he
grasped the situation.

"Gimme me money, 'n' I'll go!" he said.

Nipper Creegan was off the premises inside of four minutes.



Chapter V: THE FICKLE DOLLY HOPGOOD

MISS DOLLY HOPGOOD was commonly called "Ginge", an abbreviation of
Ginger, and a polite allusion to her prevailing tint. She was a saucy
young lady of about sixteen, and lived in a push-ridden suburb. Her hair
was worn turned in a hard pad all round her head, so that from a little
distance it looked very much as if she were wearing the pneumatic cushion
from Odgson's office chair, as a sort of halo.

The dress in which Miss Hopgood came to business was of light-coloured,
limp material, ribbed with cheap black lace, like the hoops on a barrel.
Her hat was a wide-rimmed "gem", skewered so far forward that in her
walks it preceded her by about half a yard; the high-heeled boots she
affected accentuated the apparent precipitation of Dolly's top-hamper.

Dolly was a plump and cheerful rapscallion, but her face had a certain
granite quality characteristic of the daughters of slum families--a
quality devised by an all-wise Providence, no doubt, as a provision
against injury in contact with the bluchers of husbands and lovers, the
ardour of whose affection, when accelerated by beer, is apt to express
itself in kicks.

On the first appearance of Miss Hopgood the packer greeted her with
breezy familiarity.

"'Ow is it, Sis?" he said. "Here, ain't I seen you proppin' the door at
Crilly's Assembly Toosday nights?"

Benno grinned approvingly. "Strike me, Feathers, you've fitted her in
one!" he chortled.

Ginge certainly did suggest a larrikin hop.

"Gart! git back t'yer lorndry!" retorted the young lady. The remark
conveyed a playful insinuation that Feathers and the clerk were of
ignominious Asiatic origin.

There was usually some little diffidence about novitiates on the factory
flat, but Miss Hopgood betrayed not the smallest Concern.

"Yow, there, Tilly! Scratchin' a livin' 'ere, are yeh?" she cried
shrilly, shaking her crib basket at a distant paster. The ex-professional
fat girl caught her eye. Miss Pilcher was wearing a superior expression.
Ginge raised her hand, and wagged playful fingers at Martha. "Buck up,
puds," she said, "you're all right. They're payin' quids a bar'l fer your
sort at Stonkie Watson's." Watson's was the soap-boiling establishment
that gave rank to a river-side suburb. The fat girl resented the
insinuation with a loathly sneer, and Ginge passed by in triumph.

Ginge Hopgood was just as gaily impertinent with the comps and machine
hands on the printers' flat, and hailed them from the stairs with frank
familiarity. Clinker Gill, one of the freeders, was Sophie Oddie's boy,
but Miss Hopgood assumed possession without a trace of compunction.
Clinker, greatly flattered to find himself the chief object of her
somewhat personal back-street flippancies, succumbed instantly, and
Sophie ceased to be an item in his daily life.

Possibly Clinker lived to repent his perfidy. Sometimes he might have
looked as if he did, but he never admitted it. Master Gill was about
seventeen, a round-headed lad with closely-mown black hair, and a
countenance the utter commonplaceness of which beggared criticism. On the
morning of the fifth day after Miss Hopgood's arrival, Clinker came to
work with a damaged eye, and all day his manner was subdued, not to say
penitent.

"How'd it 'appen, Ned?" asked Feathers, when Gill came up with a bundle
of printed tea papers.

"Bit iv a dust-up with a bloke down ar way," said Clinker.

Feathers had all a woman's curiosity about details.

"S'pose th' other lad won't be leavin' his bed this side Christmas?" he
said.

"Oh, I dunno." Clinker was becomingly modest. "There ain't nothin' much
wrong with him, barrin' two teeth out 'n' a thick ear."

"Give us the strength iv it, Ned. Did yeh hand him the pass out?"

Clinker Gill grew confidential. His opponent was a rival claimant for
Ginge's favours. Miss Hopgood had had another boy for some months, a boy
who was prepared to assert his prior rights on the gory battlefield, and
who had already done so on two occasions, to Clinker's great discomfort.
The claimant's name was Holland. He was a stiff-built youth, with large
freckles and a fair down all over his face. Also, he was an impetuous and
unscrupulous fighter, and lurked at corners to intercept Clinker and
Dolly, charging down upon the former, and commencing hostilities without
fair and sufficient warning.

In the course of the following fortnight Clinker had four scraps with
Tommy Holland--wholly unsatisfactory Street "scrims" that were
interrupted by the appearance of a John, or the intervention of some
benevolently-disposed old lady or gentleman; but the feeder always
sustained more or less damage, and he burned to fight a conclusive
engagement with his hated rival.

Apparently there was no peaceful way of settling the matter in dispute,
since Ginge could not be brought to see that she was called upon to
accept any responsibility. The girl would not give a decision. She might
walk home with Clinker in the evening but she would stroll out with Tommy
at night, and Gill was the occasion of a most unusual pleasant Sunday
afternoon in the Botanical Gardens. He had discovered Holland reposing by
Miss Hopgood on the sward. It took three gardeners and a whole revival
meeting to stop the fight.

Truth to tell, neither young gentleman seemed to expect Dolly to express
any partiality, but the packer sometimes reproached her in a frivolous
spirit. "Ain't yeh announced yer choice yet, Ginge?" he asked. "'Strewth,
if yeh can't make up yer mind which is the prettiest, why not toss 'em
for it--double or quits?"

"Not me," said Dolly. "I ain't took on either of 'em fer keeps. I ain't
one fer tyin' meself down."

"Then this 'ere bloodshed is t' continue to the bitter end?"

"My oath it is! While these blokes is fightin' each other they ain't
fightin' me--see?" It was a specimen of slum philosophy that tickled the
packer immensely.

"Jimmy Jee! You're a bird," he said delightedly. "What you don't know
ain't in the books."

Clinker Gill came to Feathers' board a few days after this, with an air
of great importance.

"It's all fixed up, Mills," he said.

"What," cried the packer, "has she given yeh brusher?"

Clinker wagged his round head confidently. "No blinded fear," he said.
"Ginge knows when she's got a good thing. The fight's arranged 'tween me
'n' th' other bloke. We fight the prelim. to the Bull Green 'n' Coffee
Hogan scrap et the Smithers Street Hathletic Club's room on Monday night
fortnight, catch-weights, fer harf-a-Jim 'n' a five-bob side wager--eight
rounds, one t' win."

"Go on," ejaculated Feathers in proud appreciation.

"Yes, Markis o' Queensbee rules, four-ounce gloves, 'n' regerlation
trunks. Prelimery starts punctual et eight; prices two, one, 'n' a
tizzie. We've both signed harticles."

"Good e-nough," cried the packer. "I must 'ave a deener's worth iv that."

During the following fortnight Clinker Gill was the hero of Spats'
factory. He trained industriously night and morning, and at lunch time he
boxed vigorously on a full stomach in the lift-corner with any good
friend who would oblige him with a generous hiding.

Clinker got punching enough in twelve days to have made him indifferent
to anything short of a mad bull-camel. The bigger fellows nearly belted
the head off him in the kindliest spirit imaginable, believing they were
doing him a great favour, and everybody offered him advice and gave him
useful hints to beginners, especially Benno the clerk. Mr Dickson
insisted with great wisdom on the necessity of keeping a straight left.
He committed himself no further, but he impressed that one point on Gill
at least twenty times a day.

"I sticks my left into 'em," said Benno. "Never do nothin' else, but jab
'em with a straight left ez they come in, savin'me right fer a finisher."

 Mr Dickson had never fought a round in his life, but he was very
impressive, and Clinker accepted his advice with proper respect.

Master Gill bought a shilling book on boxing, and started to learn it off
by heart, from cover to cover, but he was a poor study, and had only
mastered about three chapters relating to rules, training and attitudes,
when the eventful night arrived.

The room of the Smithers Street Athletic Club was over a threepenny
hair-cut saloon in a cheap, crowded suburb. It was a small, low, dark
apartment, with a tiny ring in the centre, and just space enough between
the ropes and one wall for the high-priced patrons to creep to the
cramped gallery rising abruptly from the ringside to the roof. The cheap
"sports" were packed in a space twelve feet by twelve on the other side
of roped the enclosure, and a third set of supporters gathered on the
roof on the occasion of a really popular engagement, and looked on the
warfare through the broken shingles. In the course of  the battle the
proprietor of the threepenny saloon went among these latter with a
collection box, and any spectator refusing to contribute was summarily
chucked off. The chucking entailed a fall of six feet to an adjoining
roof.

Feathers, Benno, the Don and several comps from the factory occupied
seats in the shilling reserve, the top half of the gallery close to the
roof, where the smoke accumulated and the heat of perdition assailed
them. For it was a summer night, and the room was packed as tight as it
could hold with baking humanity, half of whom tugged at pipes which
sizzled like frying-pans and stank like future punishment. The other half
smoked cigarettes.

Benno took immediate steps to let it be known that he was a personal
friend of one of the boxers, and in all probability had taught the lad
all he knew, and then, finding nobody disposed to bet on the preliminary,
he offered five to four on Clinker Gill.

"Five t' four in quids," said the clerk, addressing a "tough" who was
nursing a brindle bulldog with a face like a Japanese nightmare. Putting
a trace of pleading in his voice, he added:

"Come on, Ned, be a sport. I'll lay six t' four the Clinker outs him
inside iv five rounds."

The tough answered hoarsely that he hadn't four warts, and the dog
growled in a venomous way, so Benno did not press his point.

At twenty past eight Tommy Holland came into the ring, followed a few
minutes later by Clinker Gill and his seconds, two lads from a racing
stable with which Clinker was acquainted. Tommy Holland looked strong and
confident, but Clinker was pale and very nervous. He trembled visibly,
his knees knocked as he sat in his chair. One of the seconds noticed
this, and kicked the lad disgustedly.

"See 'ere, Clink," he said, "drop yer bundle, 'n' make a guy iv me, 'n'
I'll pelt yeh a few meself."

Clinker's lip trembled, and a tear rolled down his cheek, which he wiped
with his glove.

The MC. and official announcer was in the ring. He was a retired
lightweight run to flesh, and sported a face like a freak potato.

"Gents," he said, addressing the dress circle, "I'll ask yez kindly t'
put out yer smokes 'n' give the boys a chance. Youse," he added, turning
with some fierceness on the sixpenny patrons, "stop smokin' 'r ye'll land
in the fat. A let me 'ave ter talk t' yer agin. Gents," he repeated,
softening his voice, "this 'ere's a perliminry iv eight rounds, 'tween a
pair iv unknowns. I may tell yeh it all erbout a bit iv skirt, 'n' I
think I can promise yeh a dead willin' go. Nar then, lads, get ready."

The announcer then joined the seconds, and there was some argument over
the appointment of a referee. During the discussion Clinker's nervousness
increased to such an extent that he began to whimper piteously, mopping
up his tears with his gloves.

The announcer stepped forward again. "Is Mr Peter Nickie present in th'
'all?" he cried.

Mr Nicklde was present. He arose with dignity. He was a fat and florid
bookmaker, with a reputation for paying successful backers with stoush.

"Both parties is willin' t' 'ave you referee this 'ere, Pete," said the
announcer, and Peter obligingly rolled through the ropes, and swayed into
a corner.

Mr Nickie was now seen to be lamentably drunk. He propped himself
securely against a post.

"Is yez all ready?" he said. "Shake 'an's!"

The boys advanced into the centre, Clinker pushed behind by his second,
and touched gloves. They returned to their corners, and the timekeeper
smote the gong, a superannuated dinner tray.

"Box On!" gurgled the referee, and Clinker Gill faced his enemy.

Clinker was snivelling; his face was very white; there was a wild look in
his eye. The boys circled round and round, moving their hands
mechanically. For a whole minute there was no attempt to strike a blow;
then Tommy rushed furiously, whirling his arms, and Clinker went down. He
rose again, still weeping and Holland rushed him again, and again Gill,
was prostrated by the impact. On his hands and knees, his face
pathetically contorted, and tears streaming down his cheeks, Clinker
seemed, to be looking for a way of escape, but all exits were blocked. It
seemed as if the whole world was screaming derision at him.

Gill arose, and Tommy charged him. Utterly demoralized, Clinker turned
and ran. He ran three times round the ring, hotly pursued by Tommy
Holland, and the onlookers roared with laughter. After the third lap,
Tommy overtook Gill, and hit him in the small of the back, and Clinker
fell again. While he was down the gong sounded, and the pride of Spats'
factory was dragged into his corner, and sat there, blubbering dismally,
while his seconds fanned him, and covered him with scoffing and curses.

Tommy Holland came straight from his corner at the sound of the gong, and
hit Clinker hard on the nose, and Clinker went to the floor. Clinker got
up and Tommy hit him again.

"Yeh blinded cow!" squealed Gill, and he whirled a glove on to Tommy's
ear. He hurled his left, and hit Tommy on the mark. The crowd applauded.
Clinker's blubbering was loud no, but there was a note of anger in it. He
charged at his opponent, head down, and pounded with both hands.
Clinching, he got Holland's head under his arm, and punched him five
times on the nose, while Tommy's seconds howled for a foul and the
referee nodded in his corner, swaying on the ropes.

When the gong clashed the boxers continued fiercely fighting, and
Clinker's seconds had to tear him off. Benno was applauding like a
madman, and yelling advice. The crowd was delighted. Clinker made a dash
out of his chair to get at the foe again, and had to be carried
struggling to the seat.

Gill was no longer pale, and his nervousness had evaporated. The third
round was full of fight. Clinker waded in. He forgot all he had learned,
and utterly ignored Benno's wise advice. He hit in holds, he hit anyhow;
he butted, and palmed, and screwed, and broke every known rule. Tommy had
a cut lip, a bleeding ear, and a mouse on one eye. Again the pride of
Spat? had to be torn from his opponent.

The boys spent the greater part of the fourth round on the floor, but
time was not wasted. They fought there just as well as anywhere else,
pasting each other desperately. Clinker bumped Tommy's nose against the
boards, and while the crowd roared and laughed, the master of ceremonies
woke up the referee, and expostulated profanely. Mr Nickie blinked about
vaguely, realized where he was, and murmured:

"Sh all ready? Shake 'an's."

When the two minutes were up the seconds had to disentangle the boys, and
drag them to their corners.

"Yiv got 'im done in, Clinker!" yelled the passionate Benno. "He's your
mutton. Keep that left goin' how I told yeh, 'n' it's a moral."

But Clinker was deaf and blind to everything but his mighty wrath. He
charged Tommy, and felled him, he smote him on the chin as he was rising,
and Tommy clung to his legs, and climbed up by them, and punched Clinker
in the left eye, putting that organ completely out of action.

In the sixth they were both tired, but continued to fight like terriers.
In the seventh Clinker had Holland down three times, but in the eighth
and last Tommy freshened up, and made it very willing. They finished on
the floor, punching, clawing, and even kicking.

The lads were carried to their chairs, and once more the referee was
shaken up.

"Hello! what's matter?" said Mr Nickie.

"A decision--give a decision, blarst it!" hissed the master of
ceremonies behind his hand.

Mr Peter Nickie bucked up, he moved into the centre of the ring, and held
aloft an impressive palm.

"Gen'lemen," he said--"Smith the winner!"

"'Ere, 'ere," hissed the M.C., "there ain't no Smith in the fight!"

"Wha's that?" said the referee, staggering to the ropes.

"I say they ain't no Smith in the fight. Which lad are yeh givin' it to?"

"Smith the winner!" repeated Mr Nickie, with the air of a man of marked
integrity.

"But, dammitall, they ain't no Smith!"

"Look 'ere, Spud Malone," said Mr Nickie with great dignity, "are you
refereein' thish fight, 'r 'm I?"

"But I tell yeh they ain't no Smith."

"Wha' th' 'ell I care? Smith the winner!" Then the referee rolled out of
the ring and fell into his seat, and the battered boys were led away to
the changing room downstairs, while the over-joyed crowd, more delighted
with the fight than it would have been with a pantomime, simmered down
for the serious business of the evening.

The error of Mr Nickie left things practically as they were with Clinker
Gill and Tommy Holland; and Dolly, who had spent he night of the fight in
full enjoyment of a darnce at the Six-penny Quadrille, remained
perfectly impartial, so far as they were concerned. This was fair, since
it could be demonstrated quite satisfactorily that Clinker had won on
points and Tommy had won on a foul.

On the Saturday night twelve days later, two young gentlemen were leaning
in fraternal sympathy against the front of a cobbler's shop in the
push-ridden suburb. The were Clinker Gill and Tommy Holland. Some traces
of their battle lingered on the countenances of both, but they were now
bosom friends, drawn together by a common sorrow.

A young lady passed, walking daintily on high-heeled shoes, with a
characteristic projection of the figure, and wearing a large hat
liberally feathered. By her side walked a young man, his thumbs in the
arm-holes of his vest, his hat hung precariously on the back of his head,
a blazer screaming the local football colours tossed about his neck, his
cold grey eye defying creation.

Clinker nudged Tommy Holland. "There she goes," he whispered.

"Let 'er," growled, Holland, "the nark!"

The passing fair was Ginge Hopgood. The young gentleman in charge was
"Nigger" Tish, a promising welterweight.

Clinker and Tommy have now resigned all pretensions to Dolly's favour,
knowing themselves hopelessly outclassed.



Chapter VI.  ON A BENDER.

"S'POSE y' ain't 'eard iv it?" said Feathers.

He and the town traveller were lunching together in the small reserve
shut off by the lift well and a stack of bales, and splitting
sixpenn'orth of draught beer, Billy the Boy having "run the rabbit" for a
consideration.

Benno was sitting back in the corner, pale and pimply, and wearing the
satiated expression of a man who had breakfasted on cod oil.  There was a
sort of unearthly yellow down on the clerk's thin face, and his high,
humped nose was dead white, an eerie, corpse-like feature. He had a black
eye and some abrasions. Benno was not interested in meals.

"Have a look et his gills," the packer continued, sitting back for the
sake of the view.

"Look as if you were sickening for something, Benno," said Goudy. "Better
have it operated on."

The clerk tried hard, and pulled his face into a faded smile, but failed
to sustain it.  He groaned.

"Don' make him laugh," said Feathers reprovingly.  "Once a bloke died iv
laughin'. Let's pretend we don' notice nothin'.  Fact is that in the
corner's a great objec' lesson on temp'rance, it's a touchin'
hillustration iv the 'orrid influence iv strong drink on the himmature
'n' the weak-minded."

"Arr-rr, Scotty, call off yer monkey!" hissed Benno viciously.

"'Ave a wet rag on it, dear," said feathers, in feminine tones and with
great solicitude.  Then resuming his confidential manner: "Benno's one iv
the never-shoulds.  'E ain't built fer the purpose iv encouragin' the
breweries.  Men iv his physique ain't designed be an all-wise Providence
fer puttin' down the demon, 'n' Benno ortenter entered for the novice
pint-bitin' tournament yes'dee after.

"'Twas a harf day orf, 'n' our Mr. Dickson must get out after it along iv
the Don 'n' yours till death.  The Don was shoutin'-p'raps that's how-but
shickerin' ain't a thing Benno 'ad done afore, t' my knowledge iv his
'abits.  We scarcely knoo we had him erbout us, till he'd got his small
load, 'n' was tearin' orf his rags t' fight a fifteen-stone mutton 'umper
in a bar down be the freezin' mill. I dunno what the 'umper 'ad done t'
get Benno in that dangerous state-mistook him fer the free lunch 'n' took
him up with his bread proberly.  Anyhow he was a helephan' iv a man, 'n'
Benno was tearin' orf his rags t' fight a fifteen-stone mutton 'umper in
a bar down be the freezin' mill. I dunno what the 'umper 'ad done t' get
Benno in that dangerous state-mistook him fer the free lunch 'n' took him
up with his bread proberly.  Anyhow he was a helephan' iv a man, 'n'
Benno was buzzin' round his outskirts with most iv his clo's on the
floor, arrangin' a terrible death, 'n' the barmaid was weepin' piteous,
'n' hopin' Benno wouldn't act cruel be the pore man.  Benno's shape was
the dead ring iv that iv Griffo, 'n' he was a terrifyin' spectacle, but
the big man jest wiped his fingers on him, absentminded, 'n' then Benno
got a worse attack, 'n' tore off some more clo's.  But our Mr. Dickson's
like a lot what 'ud rather take orf every stitch than fight, 'n' we got
'im away, leavin' a bit iv the 'otel standin'.

"Comin' up the road Benno had an air iv great gravity. He was stern with
everyone, 'n' when blokes passed, peaceful ez kittens, Benno swung round
on 'em, 'n' glared after 'em with the fecrosity iv a tin tiger, shouting
how he wouldn't take chin from no Little Willie bein' a naughty man
himself when roused, 'n' good ernuf for penny bundles iv that sort. Then
fer an orful moment he'd sorter totter on the brink iv gettin' across
them, 'n' makin' a mess iv the place; but, somehow, he never done it.

"When we come to a 'orse tied to a post Benno gave a little start iv
pleased su'prise, 'n' he stopped 'n' gazed at the crock with an air iv
profound wisdom.  Then he walked round 'n' examined the other elervation.
 Then he lifted up one 'oof, 'n' gazed into it, 'n' then put it down on
his own foot.  After that he tried to open the 'orse's mouth, 'n' the
'orse bit him, 'n' then Benno come away.  He said he never see a finer
specimen iv a Hinglish 'unter in the ole course iv his experience.  Now,
ez a matter of fact, our Mr. Dickson don't know a 'orse from an iron bed,
but when he's got a dribble iv beer in he gets an idea he's hem' mistook
all over the place fer a successful jockey."

"Anyone claimin' t' be champion long distance liar'll 'ave t' toss you
fer it, Mills," said Benno weakly.

"We started on a 'ouse t' 'ouse visertation," continued the packer, "with
the penny comic there at heel. I wanted t' wire him 'ome t' mother 'n'
the girls, but the Don wouldn't ear iv it.  He said he found him a nice
change this dull weather, 'n' so me noble drifted from bad t' worse.
'Oh, my!' 'n' afore night he was all sorts.  S'pose you ain't studied how
beer eats inter differen' people, Scotty?  Nothin' brings character out
like shick.  Fer me, I'm never so carm and collected ez when chin-deep in
cold colonial.  The Don, he blows out his pout, 'n' rises in the soshul
scale hand over dook; 'n' you can't reckon he's wet through 'n' through
till he's a Hinglish Earl out t' buy an 'an'ful iv gold-mines 'n' a small
quantity iv cattle-runs; but with a tup'ney like Benno you never know
what's comin' erlong next.  He's jist odds 'n' ends.  There ain't nothin'
defnite in his jag, 'n' one moment his gills was layin' bare his
passionate young 'eart to a barmaid big ernough t' be his fat aunt, 'n'
the next he was sloped up agin the wall, pressin' his baby brow t' the
cold, 'n' snivellin' erbout his sister Hameliar, what teaches a hinfant
class et St. Mark's, 'n' is that unconscionable good the flies carn't
live on 'er.

"'Ah-h-h, Hameliar, what'd yeh say iv y' cud see what I've come ter?'
said Benno, low 'n' piteous, 'n' the tears dripped down like a leak in a
dipper.

"'Y'ortenter bring it out without its comforter,' said the crool barmaid,
'n' a torpid little gazob what was devourin' a grown man's drink et the
other end iv the bar put up a 'orrid laugh, 'n' cried: 'Gor' bli', look
et the lost boy!'

"Then Benno pulled his little self up stiff 'n terrible, tugged his coat,
'n' went across the bar, his legs lockin' every second stride, 'n'
floundered inter the free lunch, passed t' recollec' what he'd come fer,
stiffened hisself agin, 'n' hit the gazob with a 'am san'wich.  The gazob
bellered, 'n' went buttin' at Benno, 'n' both foundered in the rooms iv
the lunch.  They got up outer the sawdust, covered with fish balls 'n'
mustard, 'n' the gazob said Benno was his dear ole cobber, 'n' Benno
kissed the gazob, 'n' ordered all 'ands ter the pump agin."

"It's a low, dirty lie!" cried the clerk, starting up.  "I never kissed
him. You're lookin' fer it, Mills, 'n' Jimmy Gee! ye'll get it."

Benno went suddenly limp again, and sat down.  Mills disregarded the
outburst.

"Afore the fat Duchess 'd begun t' pull the drinks Benno fell inter one
iv them cold, dank, solemn spasms, 'n' stood in the middle iv the bar,
swayin' on his stem, 'n' lookin' like a man feelin' the 'and iv death on
him.  Then he made a straddlin' break fer the closed door, 'n' tried t'
walk through it.  When he came back he sort o' slid in, 'n' stood agin
the wall, 'n' looked over at us, 'n' his face was like the chiv iv a pale
goat I once saw what'd took a big drink on a lunch iv dried peas.  A
faint, billyus smile fluttered in the stubble, 'n' he said:
'Thereshlovelymoon,' 'n' the sawdust slid under him, 'n' he sat down.  He
smiled up at us agin like a fond poodle, 'n' he said: 'Boys, yorter see
moon-buful moon!' Then his 'eart broke in 'im, 'n' he cried: 'Hameliar!
Hameliar! why don' yeh come t' me?' 'n' he burrowed down in the sawdust
'n' wept."

"Lies!  Lies!  Lies!" snarled Mr. Dickson, and groaned again.

"The lady 'elp asked, sweet 'n' pretty, if the legal infant 'ad the price
iv the drinks he'd ordered in his sock, 'n' Benno was his self agin.  He
rose up, proud 'n' stern, 'n' called her madame.

"'Don' you make any mistook, Madame.' he said, 'Benno kin pay fer any
drinks he orders Champagne 'f he likes.  Pay fer drinks! I like that!'
'n' his voice rose t' a pig squeak ez he went along.  'It's dam insult.
Can I pay fer the drinks?  Square 'n' all it's a dam insult.  Whad yer
mean be it?' he yelled, 'n' he whacked a pewter down on the bar, 'n' tore
orf some clo's. 'I did'n' come here t' be insulted,' he said.  'I'll
fight the blessed barmaid. Come on,' he yapped, throwin' his cigger et
'er, 'I'll fight yeh, big 's y' are.  Le's see who's bes' man!' 'n' he
skipped 'n' sparred a bit 'n' skidded ercross the bar, 'n' shot clean
under the lunch table.  He came back draggin' his coat after him be one
sleeve.  'Pay fer drinks!' he said.  'Madame, d' yer know who yer pickin'
at?  D'yer know I got two 'unnerd quid fer me las' win et Corfield?  Dam
it, sen' fer boss 'n' I'll buy the infernal 'otel.  Pay fer drinks!
Here, take 't out iv that!' 'n' he bounced a coin on the counter.  'Take
it outer that, Madame, 'n' yeh kin keep the change.' The coin was a
lordly copper.

"Et the nex' pub the Don was doin' his magnificent Hinglish character
himpersonation.  He was an 'ell iv a swell frim 'Ome-a dizzv sport with a
 heyeglass 'n' guff erbout his fam'ly, 'n' I wus his trainer, 'n' Benno
his jockey.  'Ow the Don kin do that kind iv thing on three 'thripneys,'
the glass top off a penny puzzle, 'n' a brass ring full uv Chiny
di'monds, runs me out, but he does it, 'n' was quite warm 'n' cosy with
the ginger barmaid; on'y Benno got snivellin' mashed erbout 'er 'imself,
'n' wanted t' have 'er t' cry on all on their lonesome.  That ginger
pot-polisher 's bin through all the blood-'ouses in town, 'n' she's a
tough, a fair halligator; but Benno, he cried on er 'and, 'n' said it
done a man well t' meet a true, pure woman.  He said if he'd met a hangel
iv goodness like 'er in his early man'ood he'd never 've took the
downward track.  Then he called her Hameliar, 'n' said he was lost, lost,
lost.  He also said he'd 'a' bin a better man if his child 'ad lived.
After that he bucked up wonderful, and called for more beer.  He could
stand up agin it all night, he said."

"Yar! chuck it. Yeh gi' me the 'ump!" came faintly from Benno's corner.

"'Twas et the Gateway Mr. Dickson made the discov'ry iv his life.  He
come in, bustlin' with excitement, 'n' told us the moon was spiked on the
spire iv the Wesleyan Church.  He seemed a good deal upset erbout it, 'n'
wanted ter call up the Premier down the pipe; 'n' when they wouldn't let
'im et the tellerphone he got proud 'n' hurt, 'n' said he washed his
'ands iv the 'ole business.  Then he went over t' the bar, haughtily, 'n'
took on an ole gent's beer. ''Scuse me, young gentleman, tha's my
refreshment,' said the old gent.  He was a very tiny, shaky ole gent,
with baggy eyes, 'n' a mouth that flopped eround feebly, like a cow's.
Benno looked et him zif he was a plague rat, 'n' he sez, like fifteen
thousan' a year: 'Barman, remove this fellow; he is annoyin' me.' Then he
raised the beer. That old gent was seventy if a day, 'n' all his joints
seemed t' be mended with string, but he was a giant 'n' a 'ero in defence
iv his beer, 'n' ten secs. later Benno was down in the sawdust agin, with
them scratches 'n' the dawnin' symptoms iv the black eye you notice he's
wearin' this spring, 'n' th' ole gent was in possession iv his own agin.

"We missed Benno after that, 'n' found him down in the gutter, with a
'ot-pieman on top iv him.  He'd wanted t' buy a box iv liver pills off
the pie stall, 'n' insisted on the pie-founder lookin' et his tongue.
That's 'ow. I dunno meself 'ow we got into Reekie's, the Dago wine-shop
back o' Paddy's.  S'pose y' don' know it, Scotty?  It's hextra special,
'n' Reekie was a brigand in his own country, but got fired out iv the
push fer his bad 'abits.  He's big, 'n' fat, 'n' lazy, 'n' his clo's 'r
fallin' off him, 'n' he sez: 'Good-a th' ni', Meester,' same 's the purr
iv a gorged cat, 'n' smiles a sudden white smile, like the fear iv death.
 He's got two fun 'n' fancy girls there, what deal out the ebony stain.
They're called Will 'n' Won't.  Will's a moth-eaten serio-chronic left
over frim father's day.  Won't 's a curious coon mixture-stout 'n'
pig-eyed, with a peanut complexion, 'n' a cartload iv crinkled 'air, dyed
lemon yeller.

"Reekie's shanty's got the name iv a 'ot shop, 'n' the young devils don't
think they're edjikated till they've took liberties with Reekie's
pianner.  Ther wineshop's erbout the size iv the publican's coffin, but
there's a room at the back where the barmaids 'll sit on yer knee when
you've stood 'em three drinks outer the stained water bottle.  The
pianner's there, 'n' the young devils 're there too, actin' up t' it all
they know how.  Benno took t' Reekie's like a fair sport.  He riglar
splashed himself agin the bar, 'n' was perky ez a chicken rooster after
his first win.  Be this time he was the rich uncle iv us all.  He had t'
cling hard t' the dead cigar he was carryin' to keep himself up; but
there was no moskeeters on his.  When he plunged inter the smoke iv the
back room he looked ez disjinted ez sixpen'orth iv bones in a bundle--but
his soul was proud.  ''Ello! 'ello!' sez he, with a r'yal gesture, 'clear
the room.  This room's reserved for me 'n' mine, 'n' if y' don' get out I
put y' out, see.' A lad from a trainin-stable 'bout two foot 'igh hit
Benno all iv a 'eap in a corner, where he sat, wonderin' what'd come
erbout since he last remembered himself, 'n' tryin' t' work it out on his
fingers.

"We left him there, restin' fer a time 'n' presently he was up, walkin'
roun' the pianner, lookin' et it with a knowin' eye, same's he looked et
the 'orse, on'y more hartistic.  This trip his niblets was a great
musician-in 'is mind.  He went up 'n' touched the pianner in a
himpressive sort iv way, 'n' listened with his 'ead all a one side.  That
pianner was a sort iv combination dust-bin 'n' slop-bowl, 'n' it sounded
like a tinker's shop when y' 'it it.  Benno touched it agin, 'n' seemed
very pleased with it.  He sat down t' it, 'n' done a crawl over the keys,
'n' the pianner cried out in pain.  'That's a splen'id instrument,' sez
our Mr. Dickson, speakin' ez a hexpert.  'That's a particular fine
instrument,' sez he. 'Yes,' sez the lemon-'aired coon girl, 'but you'd
better not play it, sonny-you'll disturb the cat.  That's where she
lives.'

 "Benno, who couldn't scratch a toon out iv a 'and-organ, tossed back his
'ead of 'air, 'n' got down to it.  He hit 'er nine times, 'n' the
commotion was frightful.  Erbove the jingle iv fallin' tins y' cud 'ear
the squealin' iv a clutch iv blin' kittens, 'n' then, outer the top,
flew a great grey cat.  She landed in Benno's hair, 'n' hung on, 'n'
Benno went over backwa'ds, hittin' the floor with his neck, 'n'
screamin' 'Murder.'

"Ben rose up, free ev cats, but with that pianner snouted.  He'd put some
wine in on top iv his beer, 'n' was seein' red, 'n' the pianner was his
t' kill.  He grabbed up the chair 'n' bashed the pianner in the wind.  He
swung his club, 'n' biffed her in the teeth, 'n' she yelped like a 'uman
bein'.  Bash! crash! biff! went the chair, 'n' the ole pianner was
shriekin' fire 'n' perlice 'n' murder every belt.  Then the Dago, who's
always lurkin' on the edge iv the  smoke, stepped up 'n' called a finish
on a foul.  'You spoila the pian',' he said-'breaka the bowel of the
beautiful pian'. I fine-a you the ten shiel.' It was a good bluff iv
Reekie's.  Sometimes it comes off, but this was Benno's busy night.  He
swung the chair agin, 'n' the Dago took her where the monkey tucks the
nuts.  Then all iv a sudden 'ell got loose.  Reekie whipped out a knife-a
long, clean, crool-lookin' knife. I saw the light dancin' on it.  Benno
saw it too, 'n' he saw the Dago's white grin, 'n' he knew.  His hands
went t' his face, his knees fell in, 'n' fer a second his wild eyes stuck
out through his fingers, glarin' et Reekie, who was tryin' t' fight his
way through the push that'd rushed him.

"Then our Mr. Dickson screamed like a 'orse in a burnin' stable, 'n' he
turned 'n' done a guy.  The Don punched the Dago fair on the point, 'n'
was after Benno. I got out after the Don all I knew.  Run!  You never in
your natural seen a dead shick pace dirt the way Benno done it.  He was
jumpin' cross the town a block at a time 'n' every bound he yelled
'Murder!' I think in his dilly bit iv red brain he b'lieved we was the
Dago out after 'im 'n' we saw him go down the white road, streakin'
through the quiet, moonlit city disturbin' the peace with his 'owls, 'n'
every now'n agin a fresh helmet ud flash out, 'n' go bobbin' after that
squealin' streak iv a demented clerk, till cops' bonnets was ez thick ez
fleas in the limelight.  Benno went right bang through the city, 'n' then
a long John got his foot on 'im.

"When we came up eleven cops 'ad our Mr. Dickson down, 'n' he was
two'n-a-harf secs off dead fer want iv wind, but he was sayin': 'Murder!
 Murder!  Murder!' in a thick, fat whisper, 'n' his chiv was ez white's a
turnip."

"'What is ut?" said the long cop, lookin' at us, suspicious.

"'It's a baby drunk what's broke erway from parents 'n' guardians,' I
said.

"'What's he talkin' murder fur?'

"'An old Greek oyster breathed on 'im up et Matter's fish-shop,' said the
Don.

"'Then I'll put 'im where he can meditate 'n pray,' said ther John.

"We tried t' beg the body, but the John was set on hushin' 'im up, 'n so
our Mr. Dickson went t' beddy-by on a soft board lars night, 'n' was
fined in a like hamount this mornin', 'n' he's just bin explainin' t' the
Firm that he didn't turn up this mornin' cause his aunt what's goin' t'
die nex' Sat'dee had t' be buried in advance, 'n' how his injuries was
doo t' his fallen outer his motor car 'r somethin'-'ain't yeh, Benno?"

Benno said: "0-o-o-oh!  Oo-oh!  Oh!" and pressed his head against the
bricks.



Chapter VII. AT THE OPERA.

BENNO'S confidence in womankind being fully restored, for some time past
the clerk had been going strong with Miss Cilly Gwynne.

Cilly was shout for Priscilla, and Priscilla filled an inferior office in
the pepper department in Whimble's pickle and spice mill, next door.

In his more candid moments "our Mr. Dickson" admitted to himself that it
was something of a come-down for a man in his position to knock round
with a "tom" who packed pepper for fifteen and a tizzie a week at
"Stonkies." But there was much to be said for Miss Gwynne. She had
style, and Mr. Ben Dickson boasted a fine appreciation of style. She had
social pretensions, too, having an elder sister in a comic opera chorus,
and a brother, known as "The Flash", who was recognised as one of the
best-dressed "guns" in the metropolis.

True, Cilly's tastes were rather expensive. She had a passion for the
theatre, and apart altogether from the cost, it was not an unalloyed
pleasure to take her to the play, since she invariably lost all
conception of Benno's liberality, and his social status, his qualities of
mind, and his charms of person, in her voluble and foolish adoration of
the hero.

But on occasions Benno could be magnificent, and this was one of the
occasions. He shouted Miss Gwynne to a two-shilling seat at the opera.
More in consideration of the fact that doors opened at half-past six, he
had stood her a ninepenny tea. On the top of that, there were two tram
fares, two ice-cream wafers, and a sixpenny box of chocolates. It was the
night of Benno's life.

"Straight griffin," he told Miss Gwynne, "there ain't no one can tell yer
uncle 'ow t' spend his stuff. It's scatter sixes with me while I've got
it."

Neither of them had been to grand opera before, but Mr. Dickson
understood "The Valkyrie" was "class." He also perceived that the
generous management was giving a great deal for the money, the
performance starting at seven and terminating at half after eleven.
Furthermore, Cilly, having a sort of family connection with opera, was
naturally eager to see the show, a fact she had delicately conveyed to
Benno by occasional casual references to sundry gentlemen who were eager
to take her-Billy Crib, for instance, greaser from the butter depot, and
Ned Morrissy, the lad in charge of the onion plant at Whimble's mill.
"But 'avin' a John o' me own, I gave 'em all nay," said Cilly,
virtuously. So it came about that Benno suggested a visit to the opera as
a spontaneous idea of his own.

Their seats were in the centre of the gallery, up under the roof. Benno
had the box of lollies and a pair of battered field-glasses, and he
filled Cilly's satchel with peanuts. Nothing was wanting to make the
evening a complete success.

To be sure, Benno was not quite at his best in the presence of a staid
and elderly audience, and he would have been easier in his mind if the
pale-faced, black-haired young German on Cilly's left had been plainer
and less polite.

"Wha's it all about, Benny?" asked Miss Gwynne.

Mr. Dickson hated being called "Benny" in public, but he passed that
over. "I don't quite get on to it, t' tell gorstruth," said he, "but
Mills the packer, one iv our 'ands, tells me she's great 'n' good.
Better'n a pantermime, he sez. Sez he never larfed so much since mother
blew up."

"That's bon tosh," said Cilly, with enthusiasm. "Benno, you're a taw. But
what's come o' George Lauri? I don't see his name."

"Go hon!" Benno was amazed. He chased through the programme. He even
examined the advertisements, to be sure the comedian's name had not
strayed into the three-shilling supper. "Gor blime," he said bitterly,
"old George ain't in it. They've juggled us fer our beans, that's what.
George Lauri ain't appearin'." He raised his voice for the benefit of
the people about him.

There was some tittering. "You'd better see the manager about it," said a
wire-haired youth in front.

Benno resented the sarcasm. "If Willie ain't good he'll get his 'ands
slapped," he said, quite loud enough for Miss Gwynne to hear. "Wonder why
Lauri's bin took out," he continued. "Mills told me 'e was playin' Wotan,
'n' little Percy was playin' Siegmund. Funniest he ever saw, he said."

Priscilla tugged at Mr. Dickson's sleeve. All within earshot were
grinning broadly.

"Hallelujah but someone's been swingin' on your leg-end," said the lad in
front.

Benno gasped. Recollections of the frivolous disposition of the packer
dawned upon him. For five minutes he was silent and depressed. Then came
the commanding officer of the gallery, busily packing the already
over-crowded audience by hand to make room for newcomers. He went along
the rows at a great pace, hustling the people up by inches, and "Mind yer
fav'rites! Mind yer fav'rites!" he cried with the insolence of an elected
person. His efforts pressed Cilly into closer contact with the poetic
German. Benno resented this.

"Yar-r-r!" he said, "better get under the 'ouse, this is th' day fer th'
dogman." The official grabbed Benno and battled him into place. "Dunno
why they don't lay poison for'em," said the aggrieved clerk.

"Gimme lip, 'n' you'll hit th' pavement with yer nut, sonny," said the
usher, hurrying about his business.

"P'raps so--p'raps not. Me 'n' meself 'ud out a batch iv your sort,"
said Benno in quite a loud voice. Then to Cilly, with a tired air: "These
gazobs what get proud, 'n' go round wantin' t' mix it with strangers,
generally strikes a snag."

The orchestra came out, and played something that sounded to Mr. Dickson
like the flight of a thousand kerosene tins down a hill. He listened in
silence for a few minutes, and then exclaimed disgustedly:

"Jimmy Jee! what 're they givin' us? The orchestra's shicker, if yeh arsk
me. They've got at Sunday's beer fer a cert. Why, that ain't anythin'
they're playin'. It's jist every beggar fer himself, 'n' first man dead
pay th' slate. Strike me up a pipe, yeh can't get a hook into this
anywhere. 'Tain't coon song, 'tain't dance music, 'tain't ballads,
'tain't serio an' it ain't comic. Start again!" he cried, addressing the
conductor.

"Shoot oop!" "'Seats!" "Stop-a de rah!" "Lie down!" hissed fierce voices.
The audience as a very mixed one, the alien being strongly and variously
represented.

"You know," said Benno, in justification of his superior attitude, "me
sister Hameliar sings in the choir at St. Mark's."

The clerk felt himself taken by the shoulders in two big, strong hands,
and jerked violently to and fro, till he had a startling impression that
his head was about to be shot into the stalls. When the shaking ceased,
and he looked back in amazement, he discovered a large, stolid-looking
Dutch frau dumped on the scat directly behind.

"Will you make no inderuptions off you please," she said, with a calmness
in surprising contrast with her audacity.

"Our Mr. Dickson" was paralysed. He sat in stony silence till the first
act was well under way. He was slowly overcoming his indignation, and
trying hard to make head or tail of the happenings on the stage, and
failing miserably. A very fleshy tenor, clad mainly in goat skins, lay in
a most uneasy attitude on an inadequate rock in the centre of some ruins,
making occasional outcries, the purport of which always evaded the little
clerk. One emotional yell stirred the audience to its boots.

"Eh, wh-wh-what did he say? What 'id he say then?" said Benno eagerly to
the man on his right.

"'Ow t' hell d' I know!" responded the man, sourly, and the frau at the
back kicked Benno in the spine, and said "Shoot oop!"

Later the large, round tenor, in the course of a struggle with his
emotions set to music, lost his centre of gravity, and nearly rolled off
the couch. Benno liked that. He laughed rather noisily, and started to
applaud.

"He's the funny one. That bloke in the carfskin vest. He's dead comic,"
he said, excitedly, delighted to have discovered something at last.

"Shoot oop!" said the frau, and kicked again.

"Pud 'im oud!" commanded another voice.

There were hisses of "Hush!" "Hush!" from all round the gallery.

Benno was hurt. "Ah-h-h, get work!" he said, vehemently.

A stout, fair lady and a wild man of the woods with profuse black
whiskers, joined the corpulent tenor, and Mr. Dickson's hopes revived. He
whispered to Cilly his belief that the cove with the chin whisker was old
George Lauri in disguise, but when the three ranged themselves at a
table, and sang endlessly, his soul revolted again. He bore up for twenty
minutes, but at the expiration of that time, nothing having appeared, he
could no longer contain his righteous emotions.

"Blime, send for someone, somebody; they've forgot 'ow t' stop," he said,
scornfully. "Ring up the fire brigade! Call in the amberlance!" Then,
with still keener disgust, "They outer be shot! Call this grand operer!
Grand! Strike me blue, it's rotten--fair rotten!"

The people at hand rose at him in a sort of frenzy. They were
enthusiasts, and they loathed this discordant Philistine. The frau behind
avenged the injured ones. Drawing a fat hand like a shoulder of lamb, she
dealt Mr. Dickson a box on the ear that knocked him end over on to the
people in the next tier.

"Will you make no inderuptions off you please?" she said, composedly,
when Benno crawled into his place, wearing a dazed expression, and
foolishly rubbing his damaged ear.

The clerk was too stunned to expostulate, and Cilly, who at another time
would certainly have espoused his cause with violence and strong
language, was leaning very much towards the young German, and trying to
create an impression that she was not acquainted with the absurd person
on her right.

Till close upon the conclusion of the act Benno was sulky, and occupied
himself muttering scathing comments on the Dutch female behind. At this
stage, however, he made a startling discovery. It was a great truth that
should not be suppressed. He had unearthed a scandalous imposition, and
he spoke up like a man.

"Jimmy Jee!" he said, "they ain't talkin' at all. They ain't said a word
fer 'arf a hour. It's jist jabber they're givin' us."

"You blighted ass, they'll fire you out in half a tick, and serve you
good," said the man on his right.

Benno rounded on him. "Since yer so smart, Ned," he said, "what's the
bloke sayin'? Come now, what's his nibs gassin' about? Garn, I like your
sort, kiddin' ye're pleased with the show, 'n' all the time yeh don' know
what's it more'n a dead hen. There ain't bin a word iv English spoke.
I'll lay yeh six t' four on it."

Had not the curtain come down just then, Benno would certainly have been
ignominiously ejected.

During the interval he explained to Priscilla, in loud, assertive tones,
that the members of the company had all forgotten their parts, and were
merely pretending to employ civilised language.

"Jest jollyin' these gooeys, tha's how," he said. "But they don't jolly
your Uncle Ben, not once. They outer be pinched."

He bought two ice-creams wafers in a defiant mood, and talked scathingly
of the infamous conduct of the management in deluding an audience, the
infantile innocence of which passed human belief.

"It's a bilk," he said."This ain't no play. The cows 're makin' it up ez
they go along."

Benno was quiet and depressed during the second act. He gave little
attention to the opera. Cilly's conduct was filling his soul with gloomy
doubts. The poetic young German was explaining the opera to her in a
whisper as it progressed, and Priscilla inclined away from Benno, and
towards the interesting foreigner.

The clerk had an uneasy feeling that "the Dago's" arm was about his
girl's waist, but the press of knees behind barred investigation. He
thought of his lavish expenditure, and the base ingratitude of woman.
Twice he whispered to Cilly, but she disregarded him, bending an
attentive car to the stranger.

"Garn," blurted Mr. Dickson, "get orf the kraut hog. Let's get a word in."

"'Scats!" retorted Miss Gwynne, contemptuously.

Benno's small soul bubbled with wrath. He sat there sourly, meditating
vengeance. If his suspicions were verified his dealings with the
bladder-headed Dago would startle the town. Little did the devoted
Dutchman know what horrors of retribution were saving up for him. Little
did he understand the pugilistic power and the grim malignancy of Mr.
Dickson.

Benno's suspicions were verified immediately the lights went up in the
second interval. Obviously "the Dago" was holding Cilly's hand under the
poor cover of the programme spread on the girl's lap. The righteously
indignant clerk tore the programme away. It was too true; the hands of
Cilly and the German were clasped affectionately. The pale German blinked
up at Dickson with bland composure.

"'Ere, 'ere! what yeh givin'us?" snorted Benno.

"Mint yer pissenes!" said the German, with a calmness that bespoke depths
of stupidity unprecedented even in a foreigner.

Benno struck his rival. The German arose. There was a scuffle and a
sudden uproar. Mr. Dickson saw the gallery M.C. working rapidly towards
the centre of disturbance, and then the German's fist landed with
terrible force in dead centre. "Whoo-oof!" said the little clerk, and
went down, writhing in an agony of breathlessness.

The next thing Mr. Dickson knew he was being rushed down the stone stairs
ahead of the ruthless chucker-out. There was a choking grip on Benno's
collar, there was an incisive connection with the rear of his pants, he
was leaping perilously on his toes, his eyes stuck out, he had a nasty,
dizzy feeling, and thought at every stride that he was about to be
precipitated down the stone flight on his defenceless head.

Benno struck the wall opposite, rebounded, and sat in the gutter. Blind
fury seized our hero. His craving for vengeance was not to be sated by
little deeds. He circled fiercely, seeking a weapon, went down on a
stone, and then did a blind, mad act. He hurled the junk of blue metal
with all his force at the theatre. Fortunately the wall was well built,
and no harm was done.


Rushing back to the entrance, he was confronted by a stern, cold
policeman pointing a commanding finger into the middle distance. Benno
pulled up short, gulping.

"Well, wh-wh-" he gasped.

The policeman's finger became more peremptory, and Benno picked up the
hat thrown at him and stole away. He hung about till the performance was
over, and saw the German courteously assisting Miss Gwynne down the
stairs. When Benno took charge "the Dago" raised his hat gravely, and
passed on. Benno said nothing at all. His soul was a black pit of wrath.
On the tram he made an attempt to awaken some sense of compunction in the
girl.

"S'pose yeh ate them choc'lits I bought?" he said.

"No," answered Cilly composedly, "Mr. Van Norden ate 'em all."

"'N' the peanuts?" said Benno.

"He ate them too," repllied Cilly. "He's a all-right John. So nice
lookin'," she went on with enthusiasm, "and he's goin' t' teach me the
pianner."

Benno arose, his eyes blazing. This was too much. "Is he?" he cried; "is
he? Then, blime, the gooey kin pay yer tram fare!"

It was a crushing rejoinder, too cruel perhaps, but relentless, Benno
sailed out without another word, and took his seat on the dummy.



CHAPTER VIII. SUSIE GANNON'S YOUNG MAN

Miss GANNON made rapid strides in the bag factory. She came to the flat
fresh from the country, a tall, bony girl of sixteen, very angular, all
legs and wings with strangely obtrusive feet, large freckles, and a face
like that of a patient horse. At this time, too, Susie Gannon's apparel
was markedly inadequate. She had grown out of everything, and the
abruptness of her skirts, and the strain upon her jackets, and the
brevity of her sleeves, showed how her parents had been distanced in
their well-meant efforts to keep pace with their daughter's startling
development. The whole effect made an irresistible appeal to the strong
sense of humour in the women of the world dominant on the top flat, and
Susie provoked much merriment for many days.

"Blime, she looks like a shillin' ling wrapped in a penny stamp!" cried
Harrerbeller Harte.

"See yeh got yer old brown--brown, brown--see yeh got yer old brown 'at
on," piped the ex-professional fat girl every morning, when Susie's
bizarre felt headdress appeared above the stairs.

The girls at Spats' were not over-burdened with sensibilities. They did
not scruple to make merry at the expense of the smaller misfortunes and
the little idiosyncrasies of their weaker sisters. The factory had a
peculiar spirit of hoydenish frivolity; it helped to ward off weariness
and break the tedium of a set task. Susie served her time as the common
butt. It was everybody's lot.

In those earlier days Susie was gaunt and timid. She stole into the
factory like a furtive cat. She loved to creep into cover of any kind, to
get anything between her and the ribald pasters--a stack of bags or a
heap of envelopes on a board. She was grateful even for a gas bracket
that she could hang a strip of paper on. But marvellous is the sex's
adaptability; its power of development is wonderful. In two months Susie
was as pert and as self-assertive as the best of them.

Miss Gannon had not been at Spats' many days when she told Kitty Coudray,
who was posing as a sympathetic soul, that she had left a lover behind
her in the country, and Kitty, with a shocking lack of respect for the
confidence reposed in her, instantly communicated the information to the
whole factory.

"What-oh, girls!" she cried, "little Gannon's got a John iv her own."

"What!" cried Harrerbeller Harte in mock wonder. "T' do ez she likes
with?"

"Yes," said Kitty, "'or very own--'ers for keeps. He's a squatter 'r
somethin', 'n' his name's Oliver Thripny, 'n' he'll call fer her with the
fam'ly carriage 'n' pair when he comes into own, 'n' she's goin' t' be
married in white satin shoes 'n' hon blossom. She sez Oliver's got a
noble bearin'."

"So he has," cried Susie defiantly.

"There," said Miss Harte to the pasters, "that's up agen' yeh. There
ain't one iv yeh got a bloke with a noble bearin'."

"He writ her a love letter," continued Kitty when the yells of derision
had subsided, fluttering a slip of paper in the air. "Would yeh like t'
hear it? No, iv course not."

A dozen girls scampered to Kitty's board, and danced about her with
shrill clamour; but Fuzzy Ellis went hopping among them, protesting
bitterly, spluttering threats of fines and dismissal and with the help of
the sullen forewoman he drove the girls back to their boards again.

Kitty Coudray retained the letter, however, and read it to a large
audience at lunch time. It was the love letter of an uncultured youth,
written with dire pains, wonderfully spelt and quaintly worded. Evidently
the opening passage had been borrowed from a tradesman's circular. The
document began: "Dear sir or madam, this is to inform you how I'm still
lovin' you with all me hart." And it concluded: "I have the honour to
remain, yours obedient to command, Oliver Thripny."

Of course the Beauties revelled in the outpourings of Oliver's simple
soul, and Susie whose sense of the ridiculous was as yet but poorly
developed, filled with triumph in the face of the loudly expressed envy
of the girls.

Susie's squatter was adopted by the factory. It expressed unlimited faith
in him. It endowed him with great wealth and superlative personal
attractions, and affected to believe that his love for Miss Gannon, as
expressed in his letters, was a consuming passion beside which the torrid
affection of the ducal hero for the simple heroine in penny fiction was
pale and cold and weak.

George Mills, alias Feathers, entered into the spirit of the comedy with
unaffected joy. He pretended to find in Miss Gannon's equine cast of
countenance a marked resemblance to a popular racehorse, and rechristened
her accordingly.

"'Ella, Carbine," he said, "half a mo'. I want t' whisper. Will yeh put
in a word with the squatter fer me nibs? I'm sick iv this grip; it don't
suit me style. I'm hambitious, 'n' a bloke don't get no charnce t'
improve his social position snatching bags in a measly city crib. What
I'd like would be the management iv a big cattle run where I could spread
meself 'n' develop, 'n' I s'pose iv yeh was t' put in a kind word with Mr
Thripny it ud be ez good ez done."

"Oh, he ain't got that much land," said Susie dubiously.

"So yeh twitter!" answered the unbelieving Feathers. "Fair dinkum yeh
might use yer influence, Miss Gannon. 'Tain't ez iv I didn't know the
game. I managed a milk run onst, 'n' I've sheared all our own cows fer
years past."

Miss Gannon promised to see about it, raking up the while an abbreviated
stocking, much of the leg of which had been worn out, doing service at
foot.

Harrerbeller bespoke the position of house-keeper, and the
ex-professional fat girl thought she would like to be nursery governess.

The situation was almost forced upon poor Susie, but she certainly made a
game effort to live up to it, and every day her young man in the country
increased in importance, wealth, and manly beauty. Kitty Coudray, who had
Susie's confidence, never failed to inform the factory of the latest
development.

The packer introduced a highly decorative oleograph of a member of the
royal family--a picture of astounding beauty which he hung on the
factory wall, decorated with a frame of tinted papers, and labelled
"Oliver".

The Oliver Thripny legend spread through the establishment. Susie met
with elaborate courtesy from the clerks downstairs, and the compositors
were painfully polite. Billy, the printer's devil, was humble, almost
piteous, pleading, cap in hand, for the position of lady's companion for
his dear mother. His mother, he said, had been lady's companion and
confidential friend to all the best families in Paddy's Alley, and if
Susie would engage her in some ladylike office at a prodigious salary
when she married wealth and station, he would be, oh, so grateful. Billy
the Boy wiped his eyes with his cap when he mentioned his mother.

Meanwhile Miss Gannon was steadily improving. She was taken from the
folding board and put on to piecework, and she made great progress as a
paster. Her comical, out-of-date garments fell from her, replaced by more
stylish and appropriate articles.

Susie was earning good money, and she made a corresponding development in
her ambition. Oliver grew and expanded. Susie was picking up town ideas,
and she grafted city traits on to her country lover. His letters began to
display some literary pretension. They lost their quaint and captivating
stupidity, and became ponderously correct and stilted. They were full of
fine expressions of love and devotion, wordy protestations, and formal
offers of service. Harrerbeller was quick to note the change.

"Blime, that ain't a love letter," she said. "That's a bit iv parsing."

"Oh. he's 'ighly edjicated, Holiver is," said Susie.

"'N' the 'andwritin's different," said Feathers. "But I he's had 'em writ
be his privit secretary."

The letters became more numerous. Then one morning the ex-professional
fat girl brought in a copy of somebody's "Ready Letter Writer for Young
Lovers", and huddled away in a corner at lunch-time, the packer and
half-a-dozen of the Beauties went through it, and discovered the source
of Oliver's eloquence. Susie was up to page thirteen, and had used every
letter so far. Obviously she had been writing love letters to herself,
and evidently it was her intention to go straight through the book, There
had long been a suspicion that Oliver Thripny had no existence in fact,
and now that suspicion was held to be confirmed; but the conspirators
swore secrecy, and Susie was encouraged to further flights.

Susie produced more letters, and eventually a cabinet photograph of
Oliver. She showed the picture first to sympathetic Mr. Mills, and the
packer went into ecstasies with Benno, the clerk, at his elbow, and a lot
of pasters crowded about him, craning to get a glimpse.

"A bloke with arf a neye kin see he's nobly born," said Mills, "'n' iv
yeh don't believe he's a gentleman iv means, there's the di'mond studs t'
prove it, 'n' look at his proud, cold manner, his mock kids, 'n' his 'air
caught back like Padder Whosths, pianner scratcher's."

"'Ow beautiful the man is!" moaned the scandalous Harrerbeller.

"'N' such breedin'!" said Benno. "But what iv the down droopin' yaller
mo?"

"He's 'ad it pulled, yeh chump," retorted the packer.

Mills begged the photograph, and it was hung on the wall with the other
trophies.

"It's a photo iv one iv them beauty actors," the packer told
Harrerbeller, in confidence, some minutes later. "They're a bob a quart
at the fancy-goods up town. Ain't yeh noticed it?"

Miss Harte threw her pasty hessian apron over her head, and squealed with
rapture. "Love a duck! Susie's a treat," she gasped "This is better'n the
wicked lady in the drammer. I'm wonderin' what's next."

The next came one afternoon, when a young man arrived on the top flat
from the front stairs. He was a very diffident young man, and plainly
fresh from the wilds. He took off his hat a he entered, and stood with it
in his hand, with the reverent irresolution some strangers display in
church. He had very large feet, and his trousers were hung too high. So
large were his feet and so heavy his boots that he looked like an
immovable object standing there before the gaping factory. His hands were
large too, and heavy and very red. His hair was profuse, and his face was
covered with a fluffy down that caught a strange radiance from the
sunbeams sloping through the windows.

The strange young man's clothes were new but curiously cut, and so small
for him that each piece had an appearance of being semi-detached. He had
adopted a tall white collar for this occasion only, and it rode high up
above his coat at the back. His countenance was honest but not
intellectual, and his neck very long. He gazed sheepishly about the
place, wearing an uncomfortable grin, and the Beauties gazed on him in
strained silence, awaiting developments.

"Get on t' it," said Benno. "It's lost its mother."

Feathers looked with great interest. "Looks a bit like a goose with ears,
don't 'e?" he said.

The stranger found tongue. "Please, does Miss Gannon work here?" he asked.

A whoop of delight welled from the pasters, and a dozen brushes pointed
to Susie's board, but Harrerbeller Harte intervened. She confronted the
young man, and bobbed with a ridiculous curtsey.

"What name, if yeh please, sir?" she said.

"Oliver Thripny."

There was another whoop, louder, longer, more ecstatic than the first,
but Harrerbeller disregarded it. "Yes, sir," she said. "Walk this way, if
you please sir!" She led him between the boards, with a ridiculous
affectation of the manners of a shopwalker. "Nice weather we're 'avin',
sir," she simpered.

"Beautiful, Miss, thank you, and how's yourself?" stammered Oliver.

This broke up Harrerbeller's gravity and she had only strength to point
Miss Cannon out before collapsing. But the factory had hurriedly composed
itself to enjoy the encounter between Susie Cannon and her young man.

Susie had been almost petrified on the discovery of Oliver standing hat
in hand in the gangway. Now she was working at top-speed, with averted
eyes and her face scarlet with the conflict of many emotions. Evidently
she was taken wholly by surprise, and the drop from the ideal to the real
left her in a state of utter confusion. Oliver came awkwardly to her
board, hat in hand still.

"Hello, Suze," he said, "how're you doin'?"

Susie turned up her Roman nose and closed her eyes in an expression of
scorn, and continued her work. Oliver raised his voice, "How are you,
Suze?" he said. "I said I'd conic after you."

Susie, with eyes still closed and nose still elevated, turned to him for
a moment, and said contemptuously: "What yeh givin' us? I don't know yeh
from a ding-bat!"

The young man was astounded. "Don't y' know me, Suze?" he gasped.

"Why, I'm Oliver--Oliver Thripny."

"Phew!" said Susie, intensifying her scorn.

Oliver's situation was a very painful one. He gazed piteously about the
room, as if seeking corroboration.

"Oh, go on, you know me all right," he pleaded. "I on'y come down lars'
night, 'n' I thought you'd be glad t' see me."

"Phew!" repeated Susie, accenting her contempt to the utmost.

"Well, I'm bloomin' well jiggered!" said Mr. Thripny, helplessly.

The Beauties were moved by some small promptings of compassion.

"Garn, 'ive the lad a show!" said the fat girl.

"It's Oliver the squatter come t' claim his bride," pleaded Kitty
Coudray. "Kiss him pretty."

"'Tisn't!" squealed Miss Gannon, with a sudden access of fury. "'Tisn't!
'Tisn't! 'Tisn't!"

"HELLO, SUZE; HOW'RE YOU DOIN'?"

"Benno".

"Oh, crikey," murmured the astounded bushman, "that'll tell you. Says I
ain't Oliver Thripny. Crikey!"

"You ain't," cried Susie, "you know you ain't. You're a himposter. It's
forgery, that's what it is. The p'lice orter be sent fer."

"Crikey!" said the helpless Oliver, "I wouldn't 'a' believed it. Oh, I
say, Suze, have a good look at me."

"I won't," said Susie. "Go away. You ain't a bit like."

Then Oliver invited the bursting of the storm. Appealing to Harrerbeller
in his amazement he blurted: "There, that'll tell you the difference good
clothes makes in a bloke."

The shriek that followed welled from thirty throats, and befoe the
beauties had recovered from their paroxysm of mirth Oliver had fled down
the stairs. In the language of the flat Susie "got nothing" for the next
hour or two. As the pasters worked they exercised their ingenuity in
reminding Miss Gannon of what she had lost.

"No more garding parties et Gov'ment 'Ouse fer you, me lady," said the
fat girl.

"Wot price th' opera 'n' the fam'ly jewels?" said Hareerbeller. "They've
a blue duck fer Susie."

"Now, who'll drive yeh in a brougham 'n' pair, 'n' spatter yeh with
di'monds?" asked Kitty.

"Fame, fortune, lux'ry, 'igh society, all gone," said the packer. "She
might iv 'ad mullingatawney soup 'n' hice cream fer dinn every day, 'n'
swelled it with the best, but she done in her chances in a fit iv pick."
Feathers meant "pique".

But the factory had not seen the last of Oliver. He came up the stairs
again at about five o'clock, and turned to pull something after him. He
helped a short, fat, red-faced female to the flat. She was about
forty-five, and she cuddled a large umbrella, and faced the pasters like
a startled horse.

"Now," cried the bushie, "I am Oliver Thripny, and here's mother to prove
it!"

The "hoy" that greeted this announcement disturbed the whole
establishment. Mid the laughter and badinage Susie escaped, and
entrenched herself in the dressing-room.

Boldly Mrs. Thripny confronted the storm. The climb had robbed her of
breath, but she brandished her brolly in the face of the factory. The
pasters' demonstration was regarded by her as one of open enmity,
whereas, as with most outbreaks amongst the hands, it was mere devilment,
without a shadow of malice. A scampish craving for diversion inspired
such displays. The Beauties were not tender souls themselves, and did not
look for supersitiveness in others.

Mrs. Thripny grew redder. Her redness merged into purple. She hurled
thunderbolts at the laughing hoydens from the end of her fat gamp.

Oliver retired before the storm, and stood trembling at the head of the
stairs. Not so his nuggety mother. She advanced, gasping, full of heroic
wrath, and then she burst into language. It was a torrent, a Niagara. The
woman tumbled great lexicons on the heads of the girls. Her shrill voice
penetrated to the offices. It brought Spats and the junior partner to the
top flat. They found Mrs. Thripny "going strong", and the dusty foreman
nervously skipping round just beyond the orbit of her umbrella, excitedly
but piteously pleading for peace.

The lordly proprietor thundered orders, but Mrs. Thripny lunged at him
angrily, gripping his belltopper, and continued her speech.

Exactly what the woman said nobody knew, but she said a tremendous deal,
and nothing was complimentary to Spats or the staring hussies, stunned by
the downpour they had precipitated.

Mr. Duff, the junior partner, intervened, and it was quaint to see his
timid overtures, but a prod in the ear from the raging gamp put him out
of action.

Then the diplomatic Feathers took a hand. Feathers was a mere packer and
something of a larrikin, perhaps, but in an emergency he was the wise man
of that establishment.

"Garn!" he cried, addressing the factory generally, "le' the poor woman
be, carn't yeh? 'Ave a bit iv manners if y' are fact'ry rats. It's dead
hookety if a decent married woman's t' be abused 'n' hinsulted 'n'
treated no better 'n' a Chow. Switch off, carn't yeh? Yeh might be decent
people yerselves some day."

Mrs. Thripny, who was now breathless, fell back beside her ally.

"Don't ye know a lady when yeh see one?" asked Feathers indignantly.
 Then, addressing Oliver's mother, he said: "You put it down t' their
ignorance 'n' bad bringin' up, Mrs Thripny."

He soothed her with deferential words, and an air of vast respect, and in
three minutes she was under perfect control. Before she left she invited
Feathers to tea on Sunday.

The packer assured Oliver's ma that nobody doubted the authenticity of
Oliver, and there was no intention to question his legitimacy. This was
Mrs. Thripny's sore point. He said he would send her a written apology,
signed by the proprietor and all the employees, and she departed after
the boy, quite satisfied. Feathers called innocently over the stairs:

"Mrs. Thripny, may I bring mother with me on Sunday?"

Six months later, when Susie's squatter was almost forgotten, Susie
startled the factory with the announcement of her forthcoming marriage to
Mr. Thripny.

"He's sold out his selection 'n' bought sand drays. He's makin' his five
quid a week," said Susie, proudly.

"What!" ejaculated Feathers; "are yeh his special agin, 'n' after the way
yeh dogged on him?"

"Oh," said Miss Gannon, "he could see all along that was on'y my joke."

"Could he?" answered the packer. "A wise gazob is Oliver--yeh can't kid
'im!"



CHAPTER IX. AT A BOXING BOUT

THE big building was crowded. Below in the five shilling and ten shilling
reserves, was a flood of human faces. In the balcony opposite, the two
shilling push piled itself against the railing. The atmosphere was one of
blue smoke, and through this the stout, bald, purple M.C. in the ring
shouted the names, weights, and colours of the competitors in the
preliminary tournament, his voice like that of a very old crow.

"Struth, his jibs wouldn't earn peanuts ez gripman on a mussel barrer,"
said the youth next Benno, sociably.

The clerk looked wise "That's right, Ned," he said. "But Dinny's a good
ernough spruicher. Givin' chat t' aujinces this size jiggers up the 'uman
organ, I tell yeh."

Feathers, on a seat behind, touched the lad on the shoulder, and edged
him away from Benno with a sidelong motion of the head. "Knows a bit
erbout elercutlon, he does," he said confidentially behind his hand,
"somethin' iv a horater 'imseif. Fam'ly's in Parlymint."

"Gar-rn?" said the lad.

"'S truth," Feathers assured him. "Mother's got the contrac' fer
scrubbin' 'n' dustin'."

"Get yer ear out, Ned, 'r he'll bite it," said Benno sourly to the
stranger, suspecting mischief.

Benno had been to a couple of fights before this, and felt entitled to be
regarded as an authority. Down in his heart he cherished an idea on the
strength of the experience thus acquired, that, should occasion arise, he
could give an excellent account of himself. He had never hit a man, but
it seemed easy, and he had magnificent dreams of outing fourteen-stone
foes with a right cross which he had frequently tried on a bed bolster
with success. This visionary feat always took place under the eyes of
astonished and admiring multitudes.

Two featherweights were scrambling in the ring, exchanging wild swings,
and the referee was dodging about, looking for points in a pointless
exhibition, Benno watched closely, making a little critical "tut-tut-tut"
now and again.

During the rests the clerk instructed the lad next him with a wise old
air. The lad chewed gravely, and said little. Occasionally he jerked a
quaint grimace at an acquaintance on the off side, but nothing in his
attitude was intended to disturb the clerk's pleasing faith in himself.
The lad had a thick ear.

"O'Brien 'll out 'im this round," said Benno with calm confidence, when
the gong sounded. "He'll get that crool right iv his ercross, 'n'
Scorcher'll go t'bunk, you take it frim the prefessor."

"Bin in the game yerself, Ned," said the lad, with a touch of mock
reverence.

Benno lowered his voice. He had an uneasy consciousness of the proximity
of Feathers and Nicholas Don, the driver. "Oh, nothin' t' speak of," he
said in the way of a man deliberately hiding his light. "Matter ev a
scrap 'er two."

"Perfeshional?" asked the lad.

"No-o," said Benno, "not yet."

O'Brien aimed a blind swing at Scorcher; Scorcher took it on his glove,
and prodded his man a straight left flush. "Ha-ha," cried Benno, starting
up excitedly. "What'd I tell you? O'Brien'll out 'im; O'Brien's got 'im
goin'! He's got 'im goin'! Five t' O'Brien! I bet five t' one O'Brien!"

"In cherry-bobs!" said a derisive voice.

Before the clerk could frame an apt rejoinder, the Scorcher planted a
left on O'Brien's mark, and a right on his chin, and O'Brien went down.
Eleven seconds later he was carried to his corner, as limp as a dead eel.

"A quitter!" said Benno, disgustedly. "The Scorcher never touched 'im.
That's often the way with clever sparrers, they've got science, but no
'eart."

Then Benno went on to explain to the lad with the thick ear how O'Brien
must have beaten the Scorcher to dough if he had kept at him. The lad
seemed quite grateful for the polite attention.

"If 'e'd on'y kep' that left iv 'is goin'," said Benno regretfully.

A youth in front rounded on the clerk with vociferous disgust. "Garn, get
work!" he said. "O'Brien never had a possible. 'E ain't got a left 'and,
and 'e ain't got a right. 'E's a gander. 'E don't know enough to win a
tombstone novice tournament up in the 'Ome for Incurables."

"Oh," said Benno, composedly, "p'raps I know somethin' erbout the game.
It's just possible. Then again, o' course, I may be little Georgie, the
gazob, 'n' maybe I'm goat ernough t' gnaw the posters off the 'oardin if
I ain't watched." He looked about to note the effect of this preposterous
supposition, and then warmed up. "But, all the same, Ned, I'm bettin'
twenty t' five in quids O'Brien does Scorcher up inside seven rounds with
two-ounce gloves. Come, now!"

"G' out," snorted the other; "you don't know boxin' from dominoes. Get
back t' the socks."

Benno grew rash. Money was nothing to him. "I'll make it a 'undred t'
twenty," he said, "'n' arrange the match meseif. A 'undred t' twenty in
Jimmy O'Gobs. Say what?" He even plunged his hand in his trousers pocket,
where lurked three and fourpence and a bone stud. "Is it a bet?" he
asked, defiantly.

"My name ain't Chirnside," growled the youth, quite over-whelmed. "I
ain't got twenty ticks."

"Then get 'em 'n' pull the string," retorted the clerk. He looked about
him magnificently. Several people were regarding him with marked respect.
Benno exulted. He felt that he was being mistaken for a bookmaker.
"Listen t' the oof bird twitter," he said "How does it talk 'em down." He
slapped his pocket.

"What do yo' think of Brophy's chance in the big fight, young gentleman?"
asked the greybeard on Benno's left, with proper diffidence.

Benno looked him over slowly, somewhat superciliously, took out a
cigar-case, and drew out a cigar. It was a somewhat worn and ragged
cigar, and Benno, who was no smoker, had once taken it for a threepenny
shout. It came in handy now. He lit it like a millionaire. Then he
condescended to speak. "If yet wantin' t' pick up good money dirt cheap,
Whiskers," he said, "back Brophy."

"Fer a win or a place?" asked the derisive voice.

Young Mr Dickson felt he could afford to ignore the interjection. "Put
yer plate on Brophy," he repeated, "his chances 're all right. He's got
the quids ez good ez in 'is 'and. Hark to the prophet. I admit the big
feller's strong 'n' game, but what's 'e done?" He looked hard at the old
gentleman, toying daintily with his ragged cigar the while, and repeated,
"What's 'e done?"

"Yes, yes, that's the point," said the greybeard.

"Whereas, look at Brophy," continued Benno for the benefit of the
company, "he's bin through 'em all. He's a bit small fer this, but he's
got the science. He's used t' handlin' big blokes, too, 'n' you just
watch out 'n' see him quilt Mr Rocker Dodd from gong t' beddy-bye. Dodd
won't 'it 'im, he's too shifty. He'll just pelt 'em inter Rocker's
biscuit barrel, 'n' slide out every time the 'eavyweight offers t' pass
'im one."

"Ever seen either of 'em fight?" asked the unbeliever in front.

For a moment Benno was taken back. As a matter of fact, he had not. He
rallied quickly. "Have I seen 'em! Have I what?" he retorted. "Brophy's ez
quick ez dam' it, 'n' gets erbout a bit, I'm tellin' yeh."

"I ain't seen Brophy," growled the other, "but this Dodd can shift. He
ain't as slow as a hearse."

"You're comin' on all right, Ned," said Benno soothingly. "When you're
growed up you'll know a bit, I promise yeh, but just now I wouldn't open
me head too wide erbout boxin' iv I was you."

Benno was very excitable and very demonstrative during the other
preliminary bouts. He brandished a notebook and talked in hundreds with
the glibness of a King of the Ring. He even shouted directions to the
combatants, using their Christian names familiarly.

Feathers and the Don, sitting behind, were enjoying themselves immensely.
They refrained from interfering for fear of spoiling "our Mr Dickson's"
flow of skite, and the clerk, in his great exultation, had forgotten
their existence.

But it was when the fight of the night came on that Benno excelled
himself. While the men were in their corners his enthusiasm in the cause
of Brophy manifested itself in a reckless offering of the odds to all and
sundry. He stood on his chair gesticulating over the heads of the
standing crowd, till those behind him howled him down.

Mr Dickson's cheap, dry cigar burst into flame at this point, but that
did not disconcert him. Threats of personal violence he treated with a
cold scornful smile. He hoped he was looking as if he could fight a bit.

In his calmer moments our hero invited the lad with the thick ear to call
on him at his hotel--Benno, it must not be forgotten, lived in a humble
five-roomed cottage with his ma and his sister Amelia--and he would
teach him a few hits that might be useful to him in his dealings with a
cruel world.

In the first round Mike Brophy showed himself a flash fighter, and very
fanciful in his movements. He had a fine figure and feline grace, and was
anxious to display himself in the limelight, and, while he was pouting
his chest and striking attitudes for the benefit of his artistic
minority, Rocker Dodd, who was a hard-headed, lumbering pug with no eye
for the beautiful, swung in a punch a punch that lifted the smaller man
up off his two feet, and dropped him like a bag of scraps.

"On'y a slip!" cried Benno. "He's up agin all right." And so he was, but
looking like a man full of warm whisky suddenly ejected into the cold
night.

Rocker sprang at Mike again, and Mike ducked by instinct into safety
under his enemy's wing.

"What'd I tell you," squealed the clerk. "See that? What'd I tell yeh?
Ain't 'e a beaut? Rocker can't 'it 'im. He can' 'it 'im, that's what."
Rocker shook his man off, and punched with right and left, putting a
lop-sided head on Brophy, and then the gong sounded, and a thankful
fighter sank into Mike's corner.

"Ain't 'e a beaut?" vociferated Benno. "Good man, Brophy! It's twenty t'
one on yeh! Twenty t' one Brophy!" cried the clerk, raising his voice.
"Twenty t' one Brophy."

A red-faced, pimply man bobbed up out of the crowd, and pinned Benno with
a fat forefinger. "Done!" he said, "I'll take that, Ned."

"Twenty t' one in quids erbout Brophy!" repeated Benno, flourishing his
pocket-book.

"Same fer me, mister," said a sport with a broken nose, tugging at
Benno's coat.

Several others were anxious to do business with Mr Dickson. "I'll have a
dollar worth in that," said the lad with the thick ear. "Referee's
decision."

Benno was too elated to heed them. He was shouting expert advice to
Brophy's corner, "Give 'im the tow'l!" he cried, disgustedly. "He don't
want no sermons frim you. Wag the washin', blarst yeh!" He turned to the
lad with the thick ear. "Wish I was in his corner," he said.

"Bitter bad mozzle fer Brophy yeh ain't," said the other. "He'd be glad
t' know all you don't."

In the second round Brophy was more anxious to keep out of trouble than
to show his elegant shape, and he sprinted about the ring with Rocker
lumbering after him, punching anyhow and anywhere. Twice Mike was down,
thinking, but that did not damp Benno's ardour.

The clerk was now offering thirty to one Brophy with splendid
prodigality, and there were many takers whom he didn't even notice.

"He'll let the big bloke wear 'imself out, 'n' then he'll dish 'im up on
the arf shell with a taste iv lemon," said "our Mr Dickson".

Presently Brophy was bleeding from a cut over the eye, and had a numbed
nose and a split lip, and Rocker Dodd was wishing the fight would begin
in earnest.

During the next interval Benno was more confident than ever. He said it
was picking up money backing Brophy. He casually offered to lay two
hundred to ten about it, He addressed Brophy like an old and valued
friend, advising him to keep cool and fight his own hand.

Mike tried to make the third round a foot-race, but Mr Dodd was there,
and wouldn't hear of it. He blocked Brophy in the corners, and punched
him, and his punches had all the nervous energy that is in the heels of
an exuberant young pack mule. When they reached Mike. Mike's feet sprang
up, and he struck the boards with the back of his head.

For the fifth time in two minutes Mike was down, and now his better
judgement prevailed, and he pretended to be asleep in order to evade the
responsibility of getting up again. The seconds called him early, the
ten-seconds-check reminded him it was time to be up and doing, but Mike
slept on. It was all over. The referee, in a few terse, epigrammatic
words declared Rocker Dodd the winner.

"Yaha-h, a schlinter!" cried Benno. "A schlinter! A schlinter!"

The red-faced man was working his way towards Benno through the press,
pinning the clerk with that imperious forefinger. He took Benno by a
button. "That's a matter o' twenty jim you're owin' me, Ned," he said.

"Ah, scratch!" retorted the clerk. "That wasn't no bet."

The sport with the perverted nose and the lad with the thick ear were
clamouring for an immediate settlement of their claims. Several others,
thinking the bluff might be worth it, put in large demands. The red-faced
man was furious and threatening. He recited terrible things that would
happen to "our Mr Dickson" if he did not instantly hand out twenty
pounds.

The painful nature of the situation flashed upon Benno. He had been taken
too seriously. He went chalk white, his legs wobbled foolishly.

"Bli'me, 'twas on'y a joke," he protested. "I was just talkin'. I ain't
got a bean."

"A blessed welsher!" yelled the red-faced man.

"An infernal gun!" cried the sport.

Twenty hands fell upon Benno. He went down into dark night that was full
of arms and feet and broken chairs, and his only sensation was of being a
mere scrap of himself whirling in the blackness, in which the arms, the
chairs, and the feet continually multiplied themselves.

The packer and Nicholas Don, ably assisted by six policemen, effected a
rescue, and what they rescued was a weary fragment. Very reluctant were
the police to give Feathers charge of  it, for it was ragged, dusty,
blood-stained, hatless and battered, and would have been a striking
object lesson in the dock next morning.

However, the packer's eloquence prevailed, and he and Nick took the weary
fragment away with them, wrapped in Nick's over-coat. Without that coat
it would not have been possible to introduce the clerk into mixed company
on a tram, what remained of his clothes being hardly sufficient to
establish identification.

"Well, you're the king cop-out," said the packer, having delivered Benno
into his sister's hands at his own door "If yeh was t' go t' church the
boiler 'ud bust."

Benno answered never a word. His splendid spirit was broken.



CHAPTER X THE DISPOSAL OF A DOG.

NICHOLAS DON called across the street. He was leading, or rather
dragging, a tall dog that objected strongly. When Nicholas put on an
effort the dog sat down hard and choked his four paws ploughing through
the dust like a new kind of one-man onion harvester. It was a hot
Saturday afternoon, and this was hard work. The dog was heavy, he had
plenty of bone, and when he threw his influence against the leader
progress was almost impossible.

"What-o' Benno! A word with yeh," cried the Don.

"Can't be did," replied Mr. Dickson; "important engagement. Got a date
with a bunch iv frill."

"Ga-art! What of it? Len's a hand 'n' I'll buy the beer."

Benno did not care for beer, but he hadn't the courage to confess it. The
pretence of an undying devotion to "pints" and "pots" was one of the most
cherished affectations of his class.

"Now yer talkin'," said the clerk. "That's me little weakness. Yeh could
lure me from a harem with the smell iv a cork on a day like this."

Mr. Dickson crossed the road with a proper show of avidity. Nicholas Don
removed his hat, scooped honest perspiration from his brow, and hurled
the moisture at the dog.

"Whew, ain't she er corker?" said the carter. "'N' I've pulley-hauled
this 'ere cart-horse spaniel all the way from Spats's privit residence. I
was jist tryin' t' make up me mind whether I'd go further 'r curl up here
'n' die when yer gills drifts in. Fer the love iv mother, Benno, stir 'im
up aft 'n' save me life."

Our Mr. Dickson examined the animal closely, accurately, with the wise
air of a dog-fancier. He felt the tyke's cars, measured his tail, and
inspected his teeth. "Er carriage dog," he said, speaking as a man whose
judgment was final, "but he ain't pure bred. Yiv bin done in, Nicky, if
yeh give more in a quid fer 'im."

"A quid!" cried the Don. "Me give twenty deener fer a batch iv calamity
like that--in me sober moments too? Garn, who's dippy? This is a public
nuisance I'm commissioned t' do away with. Fer months past he's bin
makin' hisself particularly objectionable to Odgson's people, runnin'
steeplechases with the hens, moppin' up the breakfas' milk, sweatin' the
famb'ly cat, 'n' breakin' in 'n' dossin' on the best beds. So Spats
instructed me nibs t' destroy the brute, 'n' slid me a dollar. That was
this mornin'. Now I'm on me way, but I can't buy poison deadly enough fer
a tough like this without a witness. If ye'll come along we'll dope Tiny,
'n' then chop up the dollar."

"I'm with yeh," said Mr. Dickson, setting his straw on the back of his
head. "You pull 'n' l'll push."

So while Nicholas Don towed with the rope over his shoulder, Mr. Benjamin
Dickson prompted the dog behind, and progress again set in. At the shop
of Squills and Beegin, chemists, Nicholas explained his need. He wanted
something fatal to dogs. "Somethin' sudden," he said. "You mustn't give
him time t' think, or he'll pull out. He's ez strong ez a camel 'n' has
the digestion iv an alligator."

Even while Don was giving his order the dog began to revolve. He turned
round three times, and then sat up, stiff and hard with all his hair
bristling, and snapped viciously at the atmosphere.

Benno retreated to a corner. Nicholas fell back. The chemist seemed
concerned. There was a wild look in Carlo's eye, and froth oozed from the
corners of his mouth. He snapped right and left, and then started to
revolve again. He increased his pace, spinning after the manner of a
playful collie humorously chasing his own tail. But there was no
frivolity about this dog-he whirled in a sort of frenzy. His pace
increased till the characteristics of a dog were lost in a sort of
revolving pattern.

"Stop him! Hold him!" yelled the chemist.

"That be jiggered fer a yarn," retorted Nicholas Don, and he climbed on a
chair.

"He ain't no dog o' mine," protested Benno, disclaiming all
responsibility.

"I gave him a dose this mornin" explained the Don, "all I had, but it
didn't seem t' do him no good; so I thought I'd fit him here with a fatal
charge. Evidently proccedin's has just begun. Look out!"

Benno followed Don in a dash for the counter. The dog had changed his
manoeuvres. He was now racing round the walls of the shop, chopping at
things as he passed. He overturned the chairs, and brought down a small
show-stand with a crash. The chemist joined Don and Dickson on the
counter.

"Stop him!" stuttered Squills. "He'll wreck the shop. For Heaven's sake,
stop him!"

"Stop yer Aunt Martha," retorted Nicholas, bitterly. "'Ow in thunder 'm I
goin' t' stop him? Lorblime, he'd bite the leg off yeh!"

Carlo made frantic excursions up the wall. He bit madly. The froth flew
from him, but he made no sound till he got among the crockery. He had to
swarm over the counter to do that, and he crashed into a show case by the
way, floundered out, and tore about a cwt. of phials off the shelves. For
two minutes he raged up and down behind the scenes, overturning gallons
of physic. Then he took the counter in a leap again, revolved three
times, and stiffened out in the middle of the floor, and there was a
great silence for thirty seconds.

"Jimmy Gee!" murmured Nicholas, gazing at the ruin, "here's a tub iv
trouble."

"Mind," protested Benno feebly, "he ain't no dog iv mine, 'n' I can prove
it." Benno edged towards the door. Nicholas seemed disposed to follow,
but the chemist wouldn't hear of it.

"No, you don't," he said intervening, "who's to pay for all this?"

The discussion that followed was conducted with a good deal of warmth,
but eventually Squills agreed to try his claim on Odgson and Co.,
11 Pepper-lane, City, before going to legal extremes with Nicholas Don and
Mr. Dickson. A more or less unsatisfactory conclusion having been arrived
at, the friends again turned to depart.

"Here, here, hold hard," said Squills, "what about the dog?"

"We throw the dog in," said the Don, with a lamentable attempt at levity.

"You do NOT! I like your cast-iron cheek, hauling your infernal mongrel
in here to die, and wanting to leave the corpse on my hands. You'll hike
it out of this, or I'll call the police."

"Come along, Benno," said Nick, hopelessly; "take a holt. Grab his
rudder."

Nicholas Don gripped the carcase by the neck. Benno took it by the tail.
The two marched out with their burden, and laboured down the street. It
was a trying task they had in hand, and most ignominious.

No young man of the superior classes with a proper respect for himself,
cares to be seen passing through town bearing the loathly carcase of a
dog, and it must not be forgotten that Benno was a clerk and a man with a
position to maintain. He felt degraded. People passed remarks. Two or
three small boys raised a "hoy!" Then a ragamuffinly football team,
passing in a van, discovered the hapless pair with the cadaver, and they
yelled like demons.

"'Ello, Ned! Gettin' 'ome with the week's meat?" roared a hardened
barracker, and the van passed with howls of laughter and a volley of
insults.

Benno dropped his end of the dog. "Jimmy Jee!" he wailed, "here's a sweet
thing yiv let me in fer. What iv I got t' do with yer blighted dog? This
is where I duck out."

"Oh, come, I say, ez a man iv honour, yeh can't do that," answered
Nicholas Don reproachfully. "Yer in this now. Yiv got t' see it through."

"Didn't I tell yeh I've got a meet? A bloke can't keep a lady waitin"'

"Don't have it on yer mind," said the Don, with great decision. His manner
implied that he would regard the dereliction of Benno as a personal
affront calling for instant action.

At this point a fat policeman arrived on the scene. He regarded the three
with grave suspicion. "What is it y' 'ave there?" said he.

"What is it!" retorted the Don, with bitterness. "Come closer, Charles,
'n' inspect. It's ther missin' jewels."

"No lip, me son," said the Law. The constable placed a foot on the dog,
and pushed it inquisitively. "It's a dog," he said, "a dead wan."

"No use, Benno," murmured the Don in despair, "yeh can hide nothin' from
a cunnin' devil like this. We own up," he added, addressing the officer,
"it's a dorg all right, 'n' it's permanently dead."

"D' yeh know," said the policeman severely, "I could run yiz in fer hem'
in possession of property raysonably supposed to have been stolen? Take
it out o' this."

"But where in 'ell 're we t' take it?" cried Nicholas.

"Devil a man o' me knows. Try th' Zoo. If yeh lave it round th' town yer
li'ble to penalties made 'n' provided."

The pair resumed their burden and their march. A few boys who had been
drawn to them tagged behind with an air of lively expectation. A hansom
driver yelled something in passing to the effect that they might try it
boiled, and a publican asked them if they were taking it home for the
cat. Most of the passing strangers had something funny to say. All
grinned. Benno dropped his end again.

"'Ere, 'ere!" he said. "Gimme the 'ead end; it's less ridiculous."

"Lorblime! the pride iv him!" commented the Don; but he consented to the
change.

"By the way," asked the clerk, "what are we goin' t' do with him?"

"Dunno," answered Nicholas, hopelessly. A bright idea struck him. "D' yeh
want a dorg?" he said, addressing one of the expectant small boys. "A
beautiful dorg," he added persuasively; "brings sticks outer the water
'n' steals chickens."

"Garn!" said the grimy youth, "he's dead."

"Oh, no he ain't," Nicholas assured him; "he's only fainted."

But the boys were not enterprising. They refused to take over the dog
even when assured that his hide and bones were worth seven shillings.
Nicholas Don and Mr. Dickson next tried to put the corpse on a tram, with
the idea of delivering it at the Zoo, but were hounded off by an
infuriated conductor.

Nicholas had another inspiration when passing a hay and corn store. "I
got it," he said. "I'll dip in here 'n' buy a sack. P'raps we'll be able
t' leave him round somewhere if he's disguised."

Nicholas dipped in. Benno guarded the dog for five minutes, and then the
usual policeman arrived and urged him to move on with the offensive
remains. Mr. Dickson explained, and the officer entered the store to
hasten the Don's efforts, but returned presently with important
information. Don was not there. The villainous Nicholas had sneaked out
by a back way, leaving Benno in sole possession of the dog's body.
Dickson's fury was frightful to see. He used language that would have got
him ten hours had not the policeman been a man of sentiment and sympathy.

"Annyway, ye must shift th' cor-r-rpse," said the constable. He added,
confidentially: "'N' I wouldn't be kapin' him by me too long this warum
weather."

The policeman purchased a chaff-bag with Benno's money, and assisted the
indignant and harassed clerk to push the dog in. The animal had
stiffened, and it was not easy to bag him. Fifty-seven people watched the
operation with great interest. Fifteen of them followed Benno some
distance as he tottered away with his bag of dog. The policeman was
careful to see the cadaver off his beat.

Mr. Dickson arrived before a pub in a side street, hot and despairing. He
dropped his bag, and, entering the bar with a stagger, called for a long
shandy. He drank deeply, and was refreshed and consoled. His magnificent
brain got to work. Here was a chance to break with that horrible dog. He
would escape by the side door, as Nicholas had done, leaving the defunct
tyke to the corporation. Benno finished his drink, and was making for the
safe exit, when a policeman entered from the street.

"Hi, you!" cried the Law. "There's a bit of a dog waiting. Don't forget
the dog." He gripped Benno, and led him into the street. The dog was
there, lying stark and stiff on the pavement. Benno uttered a wail of
pure anguish. Somebody had stolen the bag!

From the publican Benjamin Dickson purchased another sack, and went on
again, staggering under his woeful burden. That policeman also saw him
off his beat. Another policeman saw him carefully the whole length of the
next beat.

Never had Benno met so many policeman. Several times he tried to rid
himself of the canine incubus, but he failed in his purpose. Once when he
dropped the deceased among a lot of cases in a yard behind an
ironmongery, and fled, a splenetic man chased him up the lane, captured
him, and skull-dragged him all the way back. Benno was forced to take up
the sack of remains again, and was then kicked off the premises. The
coward kicked Benno with the child in his arms-kicked him nine times.

Blessed release came all in a moment Benno came upon a doctor's motor
standing unguarded, and a desperate idea struck him. Made reckless by his
misery, he marched boldly to the motor, dropped the body into the back
compartment and walked away. Turning the first corner trepidation seized
him, and he ran a mile.

Terrible was Benno's scorn, bitter his reproaches when he confronted
Nicholas Don at the warehouse on Monday morning.

"It's no use buckin' up, Benno," said the Don. "I wasn't responsible fer
me actions. I had a kind iv kidney fit in the 'ay 'n' corn, 'n' the
blokes carried me t' the pub fer stimulants. Anyway cut it out; I got
troubles enough iv me own. Wait till Spats sees the bill from Squills.
Jimmy Jee, won't he pig-jump!"

Nicholas was correct in his anticipations. Odgson was furious when the
chemist's account came to hand. He went at the Don in a series of hops,
barking. There were flecks of froth on his whiskers.

But this was not the end. Nicholas came upstairs to Benno on the Tuesday
afternoon, looking like a man haunted.

"'Ell 'n' Tommy!" he said, "here's a blighted mess. That dorg we
killed--"

"We killed!" interrupted Benno, in a squeal. "WE killed! Oh, I like that,
I don't think. WE killed!"

"Well," continued the Don, waiving Benno's repudiation, "it appears it's
the wrong dorg."

"The wrong--" Benno was unequal to the occasion. He collapsed mentally.

"The wrong dorg! The dorg what's bin givin' Odgson's people all the
troub' ez turned up agin', 'n' he's sweatin' the cat 'n' sleepin' on the
beds same ez heretofore. It turns out the dorg we killed belonged to
Packthro, Odgson's neighbour, 'n' he was a Great Dane, 'n' worth twenty
quid. At any rate, Packthro's rushin' you 'n' me fer twenty quid
compensation."

Benno's small face was very while. His body was as limp as a damp duster.
He stared at Nicholas in stupid dismay.

"Blime! Don't perch there like a paralytic hen," yelled the Don. "Vvhat
yer goin' t' do about it?"

Benno opened his mouth feebly. "Twenty quid!" he whispered. "Twen' "---
Then he fell off his high stool and lap huddled upon the floor.



CHAPTER XI. BARRACKING.

GOUDY, the town traveller, examined the clerk curiously. Benno was
perched on his high stool like a monkey on an organ. He crouched at his
work, hiding his face with his left arm, writing laboriously. He only
pretended to be oblivious of the Scotchman's scrutiny. As a matter of
fact, he wrote at random, setting down meaningless figures. His small
intellectual capacity was occupied in framing bitter and biting abuse of
Goudy, whose cursed inquisitiveness was very unwelcome at that moment.

Benno consumed his splendid invectives, however, and was silent under the
scrutiny. Goudy moved in a semi-circle, peering under and over with an
air of grave concern, and the clerk manoeuvred adroitly to hide his
injuries.

"It's never my old friend Benjamin," said the town traveller with
affected concern; "never our Mr. Dickson! It's not possible. Man, man,
but you're changed. Tut, tut, tut, poor laddie, the moths have been at
you."

"Garn scratch!" grumbled Benno.

"But you have a black eye, Benjamin; your ear is a ruin; you have a split
lip. You are ashamed, my boy, you are covered with contrition. Your
effort to hide your disgrace implies a lingering remnant of decency, but
it advertises your fall, Benno. The beaten bantam creeps under the barn,
but the conqueror crows from the housetops. Open your heart to me,
laddie. Weep on my bosom. It will ease you."

"Some'n 'll git a belt in the whiskers if he don't behave," said Benno,
reaching for a glass paper-weight.

"That face outrages the proprieties," Goudy continued. "It ought to be
brought under the notice of the Executive. Bless my soul, it's enough to
lose us all our Wesleyan trade."

"Come erway," interposed the packer, taking Goudy by the arm. "Respect a
strong man's sorrer."

Feathers led Goudy to the packing bench, and resumed the handling of a
ream of printed tea wraps.

"There was a game iv footy, Saturdee," said Feathers.
The town traveller whistled a gust eloquent of enlightenment.

"Our Mr.
Dickson was there. Benno's bin bestowin' his vote 'n' patronage on St.
Kilda fer some time past. He's bin recitin' bits 'n' expressin' loud 'n'
large opinions t' th' effect that St. Kilda is the dazzlin' P., the
bonzers, the boshters, the pink, the pride, 'n' the pick iv th' earth at
the noble game iv footy. Jimmy Jee! T' hear him flute you'd think he'd
discovered th' whole team on a doorstep, 'n' 'ad brought 'em up by 'and
on the bottle with much patience'n' self-sacrifice."

"You know Dickson has a splendid public spirit," said Goudy. "He'll be
city dog-catcher one of these days."

Benno crouched lower, and the figures swarmed over his page. He knew the
ignominious story would be told, and, knowing how, felt his inwards
curdling with hate for G. Mills.

"Benno don't live at St. Kilda" said the packer, turning in the end of
his parcel with movements graceful and adept, "but he 'as 'igh notions.
He lives on the fag end iv one iv them cheap, weather-board subbubs
what's all sloppy rightaways 'n' battered rubbish tins, 'n' what's
inhabited mainly by bottle-ohs, deserted wives, 'n' soured cats. But he's
a peacock fer style, 'n' he hadopted St. Kilda 'cause it goes well with
his two-'n'-sixpenny helephant's breath gloves 'n' his pinch-back
overcoat.

"I have t' report that our Mr. Dickson went t' the match, Saints versus
South, Saturdec. Me 'n' the Don was privileged to accompany his nibs, 'n'
his chinnin' aboard the train was th' chatter iv th' man what ain't
mistaken, never was, 'n' never will be. In one iv his proud moments he
offered t' wager a forty horse-power 'igh-grade, nickel-plated motor-car
agin the poor but honest belltopper iv the ginger gent opposite that
Saints 'd win, 'n' he threw a goal in. His magnernimity was terrible t'
behold.

"The ginger bloke declined t' bet, mentionin' how he was a preacher iv
th' Gorspel, a hantigambler, 'n' a Society fer the Prevention iv Vice.

"'Then don't talk so much,' sez Benno with some severity. 'Don' get
eloquent iv yeh ain't prepared t' put yer oof down with a firm hand.'
Which was scaldin' hot, seein' the ginger gent 'adn't said a word. But
you can't stop little Benjamin once he gets flutterin' his rag in public.
Afore we'd reached St. Kilda he'd got the people in the nex' compartments
peepin' over th' partitions in the belief he was the prodigal son iv a
rich old family; 'n' the perfect lady, with the brazen head of 'air 'n'
the beautiful set iv new china teeth, lookin' like a glazed tile
staircase, told th' Don she knew Benno well. He had mountains iv gold,
she said, but he was crool t' women."

Benno screwed his head round, and
snarled at them like a teased dog. "Yar-r-r, get work," he said. "Who's
polin' on th' 'ouse now? Strike me dilly, they's blokes 'ere don't earn
enough t' keep a canary in corf drops."

"But Benny was at th' height iv his splendour on the field iv battle,"
continued Feathers remorselessly. "He got an early camp, 'n' screwed in
t' th' fence, 'n' gave th' general public some advanced opinions on a
lacrosse game what was pervided ez a sort iv preliminary canter. Our Mr.
Dickson always selects a confidant on occasions iv this kind-someone t'
sort o' play 'Oratio t' his 'Amlet-someone t' lean up agen 'n' address
hisself to. By this means he lets information about hisself leak out, 'n'
'elps t' edjikate the masses. Ez a matter o' fact, his niblets don't know
th' game iv lacrosse from tiggie-tiggie-touchwood, but that didn't
diminish the flow ev Benny's heloquence nothin'. He told the silent bloke
next him all about it, trustin' to his own common-sense t' pick up points
ez he went along.

"Benny's always trustin' to his own commonsense,
disregardless iv th' fact that he ain't got none. Presently the crowd
sort iv glued itself round Mr. Dickson 'n' the silent lad, 'n' bekan t'
pass the blurt. Then 'Oratio bestirred himself. He shouldered 'Amlet off.

"Gar-r-rn,' sez he, 'this ain't a game iv hi-spy-hi, 'uthbert, this is
quoits. Turn yer voice th' other way. It's givin' me the sleepin'
sickness.'

"'P'raps I don' know lacrosse?' said Benno; bravely. 'Yeh think yeh can
gi' me instructions, don't yeh? Let me tell yeh I was playin' the game
when you was suckin' milk through a tube.'

"'Any'ow, Ned, don't talk all over me. I got me Sunday things on. 'Sides,
everybody's lookin'. They'll be thinkin' we're out o' th' same cage.'

"'There's someone in th' himmediate vicinity infested with rats,' says
Benno in his 'appiest style.

"At this th' lad got the flat iv his juke agin Mr. Dickson's chiv, 'n'
shoved it 'ard t' th' off. 'If yer turn it on me again, Ned,' sez he,
'I'll hurt it.'

"Benjamin the cop-out was dooly impressed, 'n' suffered a long spasm iv
silent reflection. Then he shifted his bunk, 'n' wormed in lower down.
When the Saints ambled out, he was ready 'n' waitin'. The yell he let
loose caused er fat peeler t' shy, 'n' turned er lady's umbreller inside
out.

"'Get at 'em, Saints!' he howled. 'Now fer th' sacrifice. No beg-pardons,
'n' no mercy. Give 'em a bump. Stand 'em on their necks. You can do it,
you beauts!'

"Little Benny's frenzy when the game got goin' would freeze yer blood. He
was that angry with the South pie-biters, he didn't care what 'appened to
'em, 'n' the way he screamed at the doomed wretches would mind you iv
Mrs. Canty tellin' Mrs. Bill Higgins candidly what she thinks iv her 'n'
hers over the right-o'-way, after a sisterly spree 'n' a dispute 'bout a
stew-pan.

"'Wade into 'em, Saints!' he yelled 'Swing him on his ear, Cumby. Snatch
th' 'air off him! Bring 'em down, you boshters! Jump 'em in the mud. Good
man, Barwick! That shifted 'im. Give 'im another fer his mother!'

"Benno's 'appiest moments was when a S'melbin' player got busted, or took
the boot in er tender place, 'n' curled up on the field, wrigglin' like a
lamed worm. These affectin' incidents stirred th' clerk deeply.

"'Oh, a bonzer, a bonzer, a boshter, a bontoshter!' screamed our
Christian brother. 'Fair in the balloon, 'n' good enough for him! That's
the way to tease 'em, the blighters! They're lookin' fer it, so let 'em
have it wet 'n' heavy! Lay 'em out! Stiffen 'em! You can get better
players fer old bottles anywhere!'

"There was on'y one thing our Mr. Dickson was undecided erbout, 'n' that
was th' humpire. He couldn't quite make up his mind whether he should get
a presentation gold watch 'n' a gran' banquet, 'r be tethered t' the
field with a stake driven through his gizzard. Yeh see, when he gave a
free kick t' Saints he was a noble soul 'n' a bright 'n' shinin' example
iv all th' virtues; but when he gave a free kick t' South he was a
despicable 'n' disgustin' object what orter 'ave been smothered in mud.
Th' humpire blew his toot, 'n' passed the leather on t' Ginger Stewart,
representin' Saints, 'n', iv course, the South barrackers took it in bad
part, 'n' put up the yell iv hate. Sez Benno:

"Yah-h-h! get work! What's er matter with that? Want the blanky humpire
t' put the Saints t' bed,'n' let yer lame hens play it on their own, do
yer? Good man, Tulloch! You're a blitherer!' 'N' the nice boy 'd put his
ands t'gether 'n' exalt Mr. Tulloch with prayer 'n' praise.

"By'm-bye, Tulloch blows his horn again 'n' Hughie Callan, representin'
South, is allowed a free-'n'-easy, coz one iv the Saints bit him in a
burst iv affection, 'r somethin', 'n' Benno's disgust almost stiffens
him.

"'Lorblime!' 'e wails, 'wot sort! Jimmie Jee, it's murder-gory murder 'n'
blanky robbery, tha's what it is!' Then he lets his whole himpassioned
soul loose, 'n' blasts th' humpire with abuse, coverin' his family with
shame 'n' degradin' his name fer ever.

"But 'twas when someone was shootin' fer goal that little Benjy worked
'is 'ead t' the best effect. 'Twas et sich tryin' moments that his nibs
ducked in, 'n' went it blind, hangin' on ter the railin', his mince pies
stickin' out like warts on a horse, 'n' all his henergies 'n' his
surprisin' intellec' screwed up t' the breakin' point, 'n' his young
emotions fair seethin' 'n' bubblin' out iv him. 'Twas et a moment like
this Benno hachieved his splendid effort iv diplomacy."

"Don'be fergettin' what yeh got frim the three-card sparrer at Flemington
that Saturdee, Mills," said Benno from his desk, with sudden ferocity.
"'N' by the holy, you'll get it agin if you give me too much iv yer
gibber. Jist you be careful, tha's all."

Mr. Dickson actually looked as if on the point of coming down from his
stool, and indulging in manslaughter, but the packer paid no attention.

"Scotty," he said, "you don't do justice t' the keen 'n' brilliant mind
iv our Mr. Dickson. Yiv no idear iv his power t' grasp a situation, 'n'
his great promptness 'n' resource in a hemergency. The game was at a
critical stage, 'n' Benno was bumpin' the Saints up all he knew 'ow.

"'Lay 'em out,' sez he. 'Tear 'em down, 'n' walk over 'em. Jerk him on
his chin, Scotty. Bust up the gander-neck. Fracture his back. Lorblime,
Saints, you got 'em goin'. Rush it along there, Harwick! Oh, the
cripples, they're dead t' the world! Welt their 'ead in! Stiffen 'em!
KILL 'EM! Buck in, S'--

"There Benny's eloquence was shut off. Yeh never struck anythin' suddener
in yer natural. 'Buck in, Sus---" sez he, 'n' stuck there, with his
north-'n'-south wide open, 'n' his eyes fair glarin'. "N' why?' sez you.
Fact is, Benjamin's splendid powers iv persuasion 'ad bin attractin' a
good deal iv public attention lately, 'n' slowly but surely a lot iv
South barrackers had been percolatin' through the crowd, 'n' gatherin'
round Benno, 'n' Ben discovered 'em at that tragic moment when his head
was wide ajar in his best burst iv horatory. The push had blood in its
eyes, 'n' its fists was ready. 'Twas jist th' toughest bunch, 'n' carried
a banner made iv a old white shirt with the legend: 'Deth or Victry.' Fer
ten terrible seconds Benno glared, chokin', on them vital words, 'Buck
in, S---' Then his bright mind got t' work, 'n' the squeal he put up
split the blouse iv a fat lady on his left.

"'Buck in South!' sez he. 'Lay 'em out, South! Tear 'em down! Waltz over
'em! Whooroo, Souths! Oh, you beauts, you bonzers! South'll do 'em!
South's the pride, the boshters! I'll lay a doller to a dump on South
Melbin!'"

"'Twas a masterpiece of strategy," said Goudy, gravely.

"'Twas an instance iv phenomenal presence iv mind," continued Feathers,
"'n' it saved Benno's life. The push suspended 'ostilities, 'n' fer
twenty minutes 'r so Bennie was very subdoo'd, puttin' in on'y a
half-'earted word fer South now 'n' agin. 'N' when he got his chance he
backed out, 'n' shifted his pitch. He shoved in further round, where the
toms was thickest, 'n' where he reckoned it'd be safe t' have some
hopinions iv his own.

"We had some trouble in findin' him agin, but when we did he was hittin'
up St. Kilda once more, 'n' givin' South samples iv slum language that 'd
demoralise a navvy's cow. But Benno had made another mistook. The toms
erbout was ingrained South barrackers to a woman, fact'ry rats from the
Port 'n' the river mills, ez willin' ez cats, 'n' 'ard in th' face ez
fish-plates. We 'eard Benno's yell, n' then somethin' fizzed like pullin'
the cork out iv a soder-water foundry, 'n' out iv the throng comes a push
iv bright girls fighting round somethin', like a pack iv greyhounds on a
starved cat. There was no noise 'cept a sort iv buzzin' 'n' tearin', 'n'
then the toms opened out, leavin' their prey on the ground. 'Twas Benno.
'Twas th' immortal cop-out, 'n' he sat up in the mud ermong his rags,
blinkin', a monimint iv human sorrer. His eye was black, 'n' his nose was
bleedin' free, but the look on his face was not anger. 'Twas a look iv
sad perplexity. He thort th' earth had bin hit with a comet.

"He went 'ome at once, not bein' fit fer publication. He rode in the
guard's van, hidin' from the crool world under a 'orse r-ug, 'n' he never
spoke iv his troubles.

"This, Scotty, accounts fer them evidences iv a bad past what our Mr.
Dickson is displayin' fer th' edification iv the vulgar, 'n' which he
tells the junyer partner was obtained in a 'eroic effort t' save a sick
policeman from a ill-mannered gang up in Little Lon. Poor Benno; his
luck's disgustin', but he's the backbone iv our national winter game. I
wouldn't give peanuts for a play iv footy without him as leadin'
comedian."



CHAPTER XII  THE RIVALS.

JINNY BITT-known as Thripny-was going on for sixteen, too tall for her
age and her width and her wearing apparel. Her shins were so thin they
seemed to have a cutting edge, and there was too much of them visible,
although the frayed, stained and faded skirt was let down so far in the
hope of covering the deficiency that a wide gap existed between it and
the skimpy body part of her costume, where a quantity of dun-coloured
underclothing protruded. Her arms, too, were long and thin; so was her
neck. The long, thin arms came far out of her tight sleeves, always worn
at the elbow and torn in the armpit. The long, thin neck was surmounted
by a very small head decorated with pale, drab-tinted hair that had been
cropped within the year, and was now about a span in length, and amenable
to no kind of treatment. It writhed like shrivelled pea-pods, and Miss
Bitt thought it was curly.

Jinny wore a bit of stale red ribbon awkwardly knotted in the middle of
her swan-like neck, but she was not a girl who put forth any pretensions
to style. Her boots were heelless, and their symmetry had been destroyed
by bigger feet. Her stockings had many holes. The hat she wore had been a
"gem" in its day and generation, but most of the rim was nibbled off by
the rats and cockroaches abounding on the factory flat, and its only
ornaments were a bootlace and a large brass button. Miss Bitt might have
picked up a better hat any day anywhere, but she seemed cheerfully
unconscious of this one's imperfections.

"Thripny looks ez if she was painted on elastic, 'n' then stretched,"
said the packer. The description was apt.

Coffee Morgan was Miss Bitt's cobber. She was a girl of about the same
age, shorter, and fleshy in an unhealthy way. She owed her nick-name to
her prevailing tone. Her hair might have been bright red under more
favourable conditions, but she oiled it liberally, and it collected the
factory dust and assumed the tint of ground coffee. Her complexion was
like coffee milked, and her disposition was morose.

Miss Morgan dressed rather better than Miss Bitt, but the Beauties soon
discovered that her new dresses were always made of second-hand material,
and her latest hats were at least a generation too old for the girl, and
had evidently come down to her after seeing long service. From the fact
that all her dresses were coffee-coloured, the Beauties rashly concluded
that her grandmother was a "Beardie," a brown sect closely allied to
Quakers.

Nearly all the Beauties paired off. Their mateships were close,
affectionate, and to some extent secretive. Once the alliance was formed,
and while it lasted, the two friends seemed to cherish identical tastes,
appetites, and desires. The characteristic is not peculiar to factory
hands; it is noticeable in a young ladies' seminary. This intimacy of
Thripny and Coffee Morgan was more quaint than another, because of
Thripny's length and leanness, and Miss Morgan's shortness and
shapelessness, and for the reason that Thripny had the ungainly
sprightliness of a half-grown Newfoundland pup, while her cobber was
slow, weighty, and depressed in manner. Miss Bitt was shrill and voluble;
Miss Morgan talked little, and then in a low, mumbling tone, and with an
aggrieved air, as if resenting the task.

The two were typical of the younger hands from the slum suburbs. They
served in the lower branches of the game, and were still novices. With
experience and increase of income would come something like a sense of
decorum, and a passion for fine raiment and brass bangles; but as yet
Thripny was an undisciplined rapscallion of a girl, street-bred,
unconscious, and with no more restraint than the unowned, shambling,
jubilant mongrel you may see brazenly claiming acquaintance with elegant
young ladies in public places.

Turned loose from Spats's, Thripny tore down Egg Lane, her bony knees
tossing up her sparse petticoats, her left hand hitching some detached or
displaced portion of apparel, her right clutching her battered sugee crib
basket, her scrap of a hat dangling from the bootlace, one end of which
she always chewed as a precaution against high winds or casual mishaps.
Now and again she might look back in her wild career and shout: "Come
'long, Mordie, here's er jinker!" And Miss Morgan, a bad second, would
paddle behind, displaying no manner of interest in anything.

The grease-grimed lads at the egg, ham, and butter market looked out for
Thripny, and whooped at her as she passed. The grimier young men in the
potato depot assailed her with joyful badinage. Miss Bitt's troubles-she
was bent on catching the first jinker or lorry for home at the Port and
had time only for a breathless "Ga-an, get work!" which was no more than
the civilities demanded.

If it happened to be a timber jinker Thripny dashed at the protruding
beam and scrambled astride, excited and voluble, shouting encouragement
to Miss Morgan as the stout girl made clumsy efforts to follow suit. At
the rope works they were joined by four or five congenial spirits of
their own age, sex and station, and so, triumphantly, with legs a-swing,
squealing jubilant impudence at all sorts and conditions of men, the
Pagans rode home.

The way to work in the morning was enlivened by frequent encounters with
jocose young milkmen, raucous sand carters, and whimsical butcher's
assistants. Strange though it may seem, it is nevertheless true that no
driver of a milk-cart could pass Jinny and Maud without shouting at them
some terse sentiment, the humour of which lay in its gratuitous
insolence. Thripny usually responded for both with a shrill yell:
"A-a-a-h, 'ave it stitched!" or, "Hi, where yer goin' wi' the bones?"

The uninitiated might have thought the greeting and the response bitter,
even vindictive. They were nothing of the kind. Often they were the
preliminaries to an amorous friendship, and led to votive plates of hot
peas and sociable rides in the swing-boats at the gay market on
Saturdays.

Coffee Morgan and Thripny worked close together at the same board, and
when not working they were linked together in an awkward embrace. They
were the closest cobbers the factory had known, and yet Maud was never
anything but sullen and depressed, whereas the factory often revolted
against Jinny's joyful melodies because of their "damnable iteration." It
needed Maud's warning growl: "Chuck it, Thripny!" a dozen times a day to
repress her musical exuberance.

Then, one morning, Miss Bitt came in alone. "Gor bli!" said the packer,
in amazement, "bin a funeral in the family, er what?"

"Speak t'cher equals!" said Thripny, with none of her usual vivacity.

Coffee Morgan came later, looking more morose than ever.

"Split partners, hev yeh, Corfee?" said the packer. "S'pose the dark
man's come between yer?"

"Give yeh swipe cross the jore!" mumbled Miss Morgan.

At their board the pair worked in silence, as far apart as possible.
Thripny had no inclination to sing; she was ill at case. Maud's face was
set sourly over her work, and she never raised her eyes. The Beauties
were inquiring and derisive, and Jinny, who had hitherto done all the
barracking for herself and Maud, and had always been effective in retort,
was silent now. So matters remained till the afternoon, when Feathers
intervened.

"It's like this," said the packer addressing the factory, "Mord saw 'im
first, 'n' Thripny's bin 'n' pinched him. No wonder Morgan's givin' 'er
brusher-he's the pride iv the habbattoirs, ain't he, Mordie?"

Coffee Morgan was slapping paste all over her work, and her small,
"greenery-yallery" eyes were turned up vindictively.

"Don't have him on yer thinker, little sister," continued Mills, with
much sympathy, "he ain't th' on'y sardine in the tin. Put on yer spring
millin'ry, 'n' get out after a squatter, why don't yeh?"

At this point Coffee Morgan's feelings became too many for her. She
uttered a piggish scream of fury, and darted at Thripny. Clutching her
bunch of short hair with one hand Maud smote her cobber of yesterday
about the face and head with her paste brush, and then, dropping the
brush, got at her with the Beauties' favourite weapons, and scratched
like a burrowing terrier.

Borne back against the board, slightly off her perpendicular, Thripny was
quite helpless against the fury of her small enemy. She seemed overcome
with a great amazement, and stared with wide-eyed, stupid surprise, while
Miss Morgan scratched, and tore, and punched. Jinny Bitt's astonishment
was so comical that, tragic as the incident was, the unfeeling Beauties
laughed aloud.

The packer went to the rescue, and struggled with Coffee Morgan, while
the lean foreman, in his excitement, endeavoured to walk through two
pasting boards, and fell three times in ten yards, hastening to quell the
riot.

Jinny and Maud were put to work at separate boards. The former did not
recover from her surprise for twenty minutes, and then she started to
cry, and wept long and bitterly, and her tears ran down the furrows Miss
Morgan's nails had made.

During the following three days Jinny continued silent, and Maud
vindictive. There was something of triumph in Jinny's air, however, that
excited Maud beyond bearing. Five times she rushed Jinny with the
intention of inflicting liberal bodily harm, but Maud was nowhere in a
race with Thripny.

The factory was enjoying itself, but the lean foreman was thrown into
pathetic distress of mind. Spats's was short-handed. If Fuzzy Ellis
sacked a girl the authorities below would bound on him, and break his
heart with duplicated abuse; and, on the other hand, if knowledge of the
disturbance above came to the powers below, they would unite to abase and
abuse him. That was what he was there for. Several stout pasters were
posted between the foes to intercept and overcome Coffee Morgan when
wrought too far by silent contemplation of her wrongs.

On Monday morning there was a new development. Maud came upstairs
smiling, actually smiling. The Beauties squealed, Feathers cried "Wow!"
and the town traveller collapsed on a stack of bags. Maud had not been
known to smile even in the old happy days.

Jinny Bitt came up a few minutes later. Her eyes were red and swollen,
and she was the picture of misery. The Beauties greeted her with a shout
that broke her up, and, mopping her tears with the front of her jacket,
she bellowed dismally on her way round to the changing-room.

There was a silence of seven minutes, and then a yell announced the
outbreak of hostilities. The packer rushed, but was just too late.
Thripny had struck Maud on the head with the hot, iron pasteladle, and
Maud was thinking it over on the floor.

Now, the difficulty was to keep Jinny Bitt off Coffee Morgan. Jinny, as
the turned worm, was much more ferocious than Maud had been. She had a
tongue, too, and before noon the factory had Maud's history, and the
history of Maud's mother, who, it appeared, once cleaned skins at a
sausage mill, and of Maud's father, who had to be treated in gaol for a
morbid habit of gathering bags of hens from other people's roosts at
unseemly hours.

"'N' she cracks she's someone, 'n' wears asylum 'and-me-downs!" squealed
Jinny. "What price pauper 'ats frim the Ladies' Beneverlent? Anyone kin
put on dog when they cadges their rags frim a bloomin' institoot."

Coffee Morgan plied her nimble fingers, mumbling sourly all the time,
only an occasional word or two like "scrougers," "sooer rats," and "low
commonies" being articulate.

"I'll fight yeh," yelled Thripny defiantly. "I'll take it outer yeh, any
day. Come 'n' 'it me now, 'n' y'll cop yer doss in the Morgue."

Maud mumbled on, but kept out of range. Thripny's demonstrations had
cowed her.

"So yeh loored him back with yer pretty ways?" said the packer to Coffee
Morgan at lunch-time.

"How yer talk!" growled Maud.

"The Pride's true t' yeh after all. 'Come back,' sez you, ''n' all will
be fergot 'n' forgave, 'n' no questions arst'; 'n' now he's yours for
keeps."

"The lad what's keepin' co. with me ain't got no use fer scrags, if
that's what yer song's erbout," said Miss Morgan, almost pertly.

Maud paid dearly for her triumph. Jinny harried her in the factory with
hard blows and bitter speech, and she hunted her all the way home in
pursuit of her vengeance. The sight of Thripny tearing down Egg Lane
after her enemy was a new joy for the lads at the butter mart and the
potato depot, and the "hoys" that resulted startled the town.

But another change came within a week. Jinny bobbed up on Friday,
radiant.

"'Twiz all a mistook," she said joyfully to Feathers. "He's true t' me.
Coffee's gone t' the tip."

"Bli' me," said the packer, "Ned's a bit shifty, ain't he?"

"Oh, we're pets now, me 'n' him. He's arst me t' Snadger Halligan's
darnce nex' month."

For four days Maud was terribly depressed, and Jinny crowed over her
without pity. Once Miss Morgan threw a ladle of hot paste over Thripny,
and once the pair fought a destructive two-minute round in the lift
corner, but there were many changes before Snadger Halligan's dance came
off. Coffee Morgan came into her own again, and was deposed again. The
fluctuations of feeling wrought by the mysterious unknown awakened a
hilarious interest amongst the Beauties, and the first question every day
was "Who's got him this mornin', Thripny?" Through it all Maud and Jinny
remained bitterest enemies.

Thripny was in possession of the vagrant fancy of the much beloved, and
Snadger Halligan's dance was only two nights off. Which would have him
for the "darnce"? The Beauties were much concerned, and betting was rife.
Feathers was making a book on the event.

It was at lunch time. Feathers was sitting on his own bench, finishing
his bundle, when an unknown came up the stairs. He was an under-sized,
bullet-headed youth of about twenty-four, "ez plain ez a bottle iv
pickled mussels," said the packer to his friend, the town traveller, "'n'
look-in' like the cockie talker from a tuppeny push. He was jist erbout
class ernough t' be a roustabout et a trainin' stable fer dogs, 'n' he
'ad the sting-proof cheek iv a Scotch auctioneer."

The stranger stopped at the top of the stairs, put his hands to his
mouth, and uttered the familiar call of the early morning milkman. That
identified him. Then he turned to the packer, and said:

"Got a tom name iv Bitt workin' 'ere erbart, ain't yeh?"

"Supposin'?" said the packer, with his mouth full.

"Oh, she's one of mine, tha's all."

"What-o, Billy-be-dam'd, are you it?" said the packer.

"Come orf, I'm no it," answered the lad. "I'm somethink."

"Yer dreamin'," scoffed Feathers.

Thripny had heard the call. She approached diffidently.

"Ello, Danny," she said. "Who'd' 'a' thort?"

"'Ere's ther bit o' stick," said Danny to Feathers, and then he took
Jinny aside, and for a few moments they talked in low voices, but with
increasing feeling, and from over bales and round stacks the Beauties
tittered and giggled at the prize boy who had kept Thripny Bitt and
Coffee Morgan at deadly enmity for a month past. Maud stood at a little
distance and glowered. It was presently seen that Danny and Miss Bitt
were not agreeing too well.

"It's orf," said Danny; "I thort I'd tell yeh it's O double F orf. This
is the chuck fer yow, Sticks. I'm otherwise engaged fer the future. Yeh
got smoogin' up ter Gopher Eddie at the Blondin, Chewsdee, 'n' that's the
last quarter. It's me takin' Little Bilk-street ter the darnce at
Snadger's-Bilk-street! Put it in yer book. No more fact'ry rats for
Danno." This was hurled at Maud, who was edging up. Dan threw out his
hand, edge on, and wreathed lip and nose contemptuously. "No more rats,
d' y' 'ear? Both o' yeh, when yer meets me next, 'll get brusher."

Dan had turned at the top of the stairs to deliver the last salute, and a
tornado of discarded lunch struck him, and blotted him out. The Beauties
considered "fact'ry rats" an offensive phrase.

"Bilk-street!" gasped Thripny.

"It's Liz Bricky," mumbled Miss Morgan.

Thripny flew to the balusters, and yelled abuse after Danny. Danny
responded in kind as he passed down in a shower of scraps. Mills gave him
"the order" most offensively.

"Gar-r-ut, cat's milk," cried Miss Bitt. "Wouldn't be seen with your sort
at a bottle-oh's garding party."

"Scrouger! Scrouger!" mumbled Coffee Morgan, spitting after the
retreating lad. "Who bit the pig?"

"Ever speak t' me agin 'n' y'll cop out," said Jinny. "I'll put the John
on ter yeh, that's what."

"Cat's milk! Cat's milk!" said Maud, sullenly. She was not audible five
yards off, but wished to keep her end up.

Jinny had the last words, a triumphant yell covering Dan with odium as a
stealer of door mats.

"Now yiv done yerselves in, both iv yeh," said the packer. "Hensforth,
Danno's on'y a cherished mem'ry. Bilk-street's got him clinched."

"Our trubs!" answered Thripny, with terrible scorn. She wound a long,
thin arm affectionately around Maud. Maud responded in kind.

"Don' want nothink t' do with low larrikins like Danno, we don't,"
mumbled Miss Morgan, and the two went down the room, linked lovingly. The
entente cordiale was restored.



CHAPTER XIII THE RESCUE.

IT was Sunday.  There were three of our friends in the darkened bar.
Benno, the Don and Mr. William King.  They had been living expensively
during the last few hours, and had recently arrived at a due sense of
their importance in the great scheme of things.  The Don, who was a
sturdy drinker of native ales, was as thoroughly "pickled" as little Mr.
Ben Dickson, a mere amateur and a thirster of wretched capacity; but this
spree was something in the nature of a handicap, Nicholas Don having
started on a career of profligacy early in the day.  He associated
himself with Billy King in the afternoon, and towards evening the two
fell in with Benno, and straightway adopted the small clerk with the
intention of making him as disgraceful as themselves.

As a result of this nice adjustment, the Don, Benno, and Billy King were
in a corresponding condition of exaltation and noble pride.  Their
admiration for each other was only exceeded by the appreciation each had
of his own splendid qualities as a man and a brother, a public-spirited
citizen, a friend of virtue, and a heroic champion of the poor and
downtrodden.

The conversation had taken a philosophical turn; it bore gravely on the
shocking inequalities fostered by the existing social system, the
increasing tyranny of the rich, the sweat and agony of the toiling
masses.  There were moments when the little clerk felt strongly impelled
to go out and kill a plutocrat in the interests of the working man.  He
had mentioned it more than once.

Nicholas Don set down his pewter where the counter should have been, but
wasn't, and gazed at Benno with brimming eyes.  He embraced him. "I'm
ver' fon' iv you, Benno," he said.  "You're splennid fel'r.  Man iv me
own 'eart Brave's er lion.  Tr-ue's steel. What I like in you, Dickson,
is there's no beas'ly pride 'bout you--n' you're brave!"

Benno was much moved. He seized the Don's hand, and wrung it with silent
fervour.  It was a touching scene.  Billy King, from under whose hat tiny
drops of perspiration were oozing, surveyed it with symptoms of profound
emotion.

"Yes y' are," said Nicholas, defiantly "ye're brave.  You stan' up fer
the suf'rin' masses, same's me".

"Me too," said Billy King.  He was very pale, but determined.  "Le's do
'r die," he said.

Nicholas Don embraced Billy with the other arm.  He regarded him with
tender pride.  "'Ere, 'ere!" he said.  "We'll stan' t'gether.  'S time
somethin' was put down.  There's too much unnecessary suf'rin' poor in
th' worl'.  The rich is gettin' richer, 'n' the poor's gettin' poorer!
Look et th' widder 'n' th' orphan," he cried.  "Look et th' widder 'n'
th' orphan!" he repeated still more vehemently.

Benno burst into tears.  There was silence for a few moments.  The other
two regarded "our Mr. Dickson" in puzzled melancholy.  They were
struggling to recall the circumstances.

"Widder 'n' orphan," said Billy King, prompting, but his brilliant mind
refused to connect Benno's tears with the argument.

The two fell on Dickson, they smothered him with sympathy.  Billy King
wiped his eye.  The Don patted him on the back, and murmured soothingly.
 "Buck up, ol' man," he said.  "Buck up.  Never say die while yeh got
strong 'eart 'n' stout 'ead."

It appeared that Mr. Dickson was crying over the widow and the orphan in
a general sort of way.  He thought he once knew a widow and orphan
somewhere.  He could not recollect where.  He thought she was pale and
beautiful with a look of heavenly resignation, but he was not sure.
However, his grief was not for any individual case; it was for widows and
orphans as a class.  He wept on principle.

Benno's friends did not despise his tears; they respected him for them.

"Shows ten'er, symp'thetic nature," said Nicholas.  "'Aver drink?"

The Don looked narrowly at the two pewters on the counter.  His own was
on the floor.  He counted the pots, and a worried calculation fled across
his mind.

"Where's ol' Billy gone?" he said.  He counted the pewters again.  Billy
was still absent, so he drank Billy's beer.

They had another, and the conversation developed greater fervour.  It
became evident that the democracy must awake and arise.  In the absence
of a general awakening and arising the three were prepared to awake and
arise entirely on their own responsibility.

"There's their wireless telegraphy 'n' their preferential votin'," said
the Don, argumentatively; "what good 're they t' the workin' man?  What
we want's 'quality iv opporchewnity. 'Quality iv opporchewnity," he
repeated.

"Yesh," said Benno, "quali vopertunity."

"'N' liberty iv the subjec'," said Billy King.  "'Ow 'ave they bin
treatin' Hemming?  What price a free country where they pinch a pore man
fer speakin' his mind?"

"Tha's right," said the Don, sagaciously; "tha's right.  It's
hinfringement iv the rights iv free speech."

"Somethin' 'll 'ave t' be done!" Benno was quite positive about it.  He
saw the country sliding to ruin.  Immediate action was called for.  "'N'
it's up to us t' do it," he said.  "Hemming's a frien' iv the str-ugglin'
masses Damn it, he's frien' o'mine!"

Hemming had been arrested that morning for inflammatory language in the
course of a Yarrabank oration dealing with constituted authorities,
conventional religions, and great persons, and was then languishing in a
prison cell.  Billy's reminder gave point and purpose to the fine
emotions of the brothers in beer.  Their aspirations took form.  Here was
an object, a mission.

"It's outragis," said Nicholas Don.  "Hemmin's a decent bloke.  He hasn't
done nobody any 'arm; 'n' jist because he's speakin' up fer suf'rin'
humanity the Johns runs him in.  This 'as gotter be put a stop to." He
hit the counter with his pint.  "This 'as gotter be put a stop to!" he
said decisively, addressing the barmaid.  "Don' care hang washer say."

"Righto," cried the little clerk.  "It's up t' us t' use our influence."

"We'll see someone 'bout it," said Billy King, vaguely.

Determination was stamped upon their brows.  Enthusiasm was in their
hearts.  Their souls were suffused with a righteous scorn for the
oppressor and a hatred of wrong-doing.  They had another drink.

"Now we'll go t' get that man out," said the Don.

"Yesh, now we'll gettimout 'r perish in attempt," said Kingie.

"Liberty 'r death!" cried Benno.

They shook hands on it, and marched resolutely into the street.

The three patriots did not merely hail a tram, they commandeered one.
They were public-spirited men with a great purpose.  Already their quest
had assumed the dignity of a popular rising.  They did not stop the tram
with insolence or hauteur, but there was a terrible impressiveness about
their joint behest that might have stopped a universe.  The whole tram
system trembled and obeyed.

Benno explained to the conductor that they were bound for the city to
secure the immediate release from durance vile of good Comrade Hemming.
It was understood that in these circumstances the tram would be rushed
straight through, and when presently it stopped to pick up passengers the
public benefactors were hurt and indignant.  It seemed to them that the
conductor was showing a lamentable lack of enthusiasm in a great cause.
Benno threatened to report him.  He promised to hold the tramway system
up to popular odium.  He expressed the belief that that system was no
friend of the working man.

When the three reached the city their grand purpose was still uppermost
in their minds.  They knew perfectly well what they were going to do.
They were about to visit the powers, and by the exercise of their own
enormous personal influence and their great perspicacity induce them to
throw open the gaol doors to the martyred Hemming.

In the event of a failure of the methods, which however, was not likely,
Nicholas Don was prepared to remind the Premier that their force of
character alone was preventing a terrible rising, and that what restraint
they exerted over an outraged and furious populace would be withdrawn at
once if the just request of the democracy were not instantly complied
with.

They met Fuzzy Ellis.  Fuzzy was leading four little nephews and nieces.
 He did not seem overjoyed to see them.  They backed him against the Town
Hall and explained their mission to him.  They explained it at great
length.  Fuzzy tried to get away, but they held him to the wall, saying
that he must not detain them, as it was absolutely necessary that they
should go at once and bring the Chief Justice to release Comrade Hemming.

Fuzzy Ellis was painfully propitiatory He sympathised with everything.
He agreed with everybody.  His little nephews and nieces clung to his
legs, and Benno and Nicholas and Billy King enlarged on the infamy of
which constituted authority had been guilty in incarcerating that noble
soul, Comrade Hemming.  Finally they got very angry with Fuzzy for
detaining them, knowing the importance and urgency of their mission, and
Benno dismissed him with scorn and contempt.

"It's no use yer talkin', our min's made up," said the clerk.  "We'll
'ave 'im out 'r perish the 'tempt.  What good 're you t' th' workin' man?
 You're hireling iv the rich.  Stan' 'side!  Stan' 'side, I say!"

They passed on.  The Don suggested that their next course was to have a
drink.  No doubt that was the proper procedure.  There was not a
dissentient voice.  Don knew a pub.

In another dark, secluded bar they told the vague, furtive barmaid their
splendid intention.  They swore her to secrecy; and then, having looked
up the address of the Prime Minister in a directory, they went forth
again, firm in their purpose.

Billy King was "on the door" at another
pub, and after that they took tram to a northern suburb to visit a hotel
where the Don was known and respected.

All this time their zeal in the interests of the people's champion,
Comrade Hemming, burned white hot.  Through many dim, confused
excursions, it remained with them.  There was a project to rouse the
people, and lead an armed insurrection to tear down the gaol.  There was
a passionate interview with a fat man in a motor car-a fat man whom the
three patriots insisted was the Premier, and whom they afterwards wanted
to fight for trying to impose himself upon them as the Premier.

The three reformers spent half-an-hour knocking up the Premier at a large
city wool store; and Benno was publicly kicked by the watchman before he
would desist. Later, a policeman drove them from the steps of Parliament
House, where the Don was making a passionate speech to some lampposts,
while his satellites slept at his feet.

At a quarter past eleven o'clock
three splendid, public-spirited electors passed out over Prince's Bridge,
and along the St. Kilda-road in the soft and kindly light of the full
moon.  They were no longer eloquent.  Their gait was eccentric; their
minds were clouded.  Still, they were true to their trust.  The demands
of a sublime duty drove them forward.  A man tried to bar their way at
the big gates.  He seemed to have a gun.  His behaviour was most
extraordinary.  The Don explained to him that there was not a moment to
lose.

"Life 'n' libity!" cried Benno.

"Nothin' turn us 'side," said Billy
King.  "Victim-iv-br-utal-tyranny-languishin'-prison."

The man with the gun was obdurate, and the Don did something to him.  The
three heroes passed over that man's body, and on to the residence of the
Governor-General to accomplish their object.

"Pity we f'got t' bring brass band," said the Don.

Wild telephones
summoned the police in numbers, and when they arrived they found three
young men besieging Government House.  One was hauling at the bell,
another knocked at a window, the third was delivering a stirring oration
from his seat on the door mat.  The subsequent remarks of the young men
conveyed the idea that they wanted the Governor-General's assistance in
striking for freedom.  They thought His Excellency would get up and do
justice to a wronged man if they were admitted to his bedside to put the
matter to him in its true light.

When Benno awoke on Monday morning it was with a horrible sense of
suffering and calamity.  His bones were full of aches.  His head was as
heavy as a pig of lead.  His mouth was littered with Dead Sea fruit, and
a burning thirst consumed his vitals.  He groaned, he blinked, he stirred
on his bed of tumbled bricks.  Then he uttered a cry of apprehension, and
sat up. Wildly he shook his companions from their sleep, wildly they
looked upon the four walls and the wretched furnishing.

"Jimmy Jee, we're pinched!" The wail came from the lips of Billy King.
It was terribly true-they were in a cell There was a fourth man in the
drear compartment.  He sat on a bunk, and gazed at them with contempt.
"It's a damnable thing that a decent man should have to spend a night
with a herd of stale drunks like you," he said disgustedly.  The fourth
man was Comrade Hemming!



CHAPTER XIV. AN AMOROUS BOY.

THE lads who came to the bag factory in the course of a few years were
many and various. They represented pretty well all possible variants of
the human boy, and quaint and curious types were numerous. The quaintest
of all was Claude Alva Arthur Johns-miscalled Snivel-the Amorous Boy.

Claude was not yet fifteen, and was plainly a spoilt child. This was his
first job. He came upstairs on his first morning, clinging to the hand of
his papa, timorous and tearful.

Johns, senior, was a type of the highly respectable mechanic, the perfect
model of all those splendid drawings of the British workman that adorned
the BAND OF HOPE, and other pious, non-alcoholic publications familiar in
our youth. He had the same surprising and shining cleanliness, the same
benignant, ox-like eye, the same trim, hyacinthine side-whiskers, the
same luxuriant hair deftly combed into a "cockie," and was obviously
possessed of all those gentle virtues that endear the teetotal,
church-going English mechanic to the editors of moral publications for
the very young.

Claude was a smaller edition of his excellent parent-spotless, deftly
combed, highly polished as to face and boots, and extremely proficient in
"manners." He took off his hat on entering the factory; he called the
packer "Sir," and plaintively begged Harrerbeller Harte's pardon for
merely being alive. Master Johns's large, turned-down collar gave him an
infantile appearance, which was accentuated by his shy blue eye and
childish diffidence.

Billy the Boy, who had followed in that spirit of earnest investigation
so characteristic of him, surveyed Claude with disgust that implied an
abandonment of all hope in the future of the human race.

"Now yiv got it," he said to the packer. "Iv it ain't the king stinker
boy, pickle me."

"Wha's that?" asked Mills.

"G'out. A stinker boy's a bub et school what won't fight nothin', smooges
t' the teachers, narks everythin', 'n's clean an' pretty alwiz. You
know-it's granny's ickle sweetie-early t' bed, 'n' early t' rise, 'n'
gets sops fer breckfist every day."

Having commanded Claude to the care of the foreman, with much solicitude,
the elder Johns departed leaving his son leaning over the balusters of
the parcel-well by the stairs, tremulous and desolate.

When his father passed from sight Claude's apprehension quite overcame
him. He cried "Dadder! dadder!" in despair, and then blubbered miserably.

The ruffianly young printer's devil was struck speechless at the sight.
He approached Master Johns, he examined him closely, and then, diving a
knuckle into each eye, he too roared in an excess of grotesque woe.

Claude raised his voice. Billy the Boy raised his Billy's anguish was
something awful. Master Johns was touched at this generous sympathy. He
ceased crying himself and looked tenderly at the devil.

"Dud-don't kuck-cry, little boy," he said.

That finished Billy. He hadn't believed such simplicity could exist. He
gaped dumbly for a moment, and then fell back in a simulated fit, and the
packer took him up by the ear and solemnly slid down stairs.

"Yiv got somethin't' dry-nurse now, Feathers," cried Billy from the first
landing. "Lucky yer fond iv kids. Stick it in a corner with a crust t'
suck, 'n' it'll be good."

Harrerbeller Harte, whose camel-like ungainliness and blatant humour
masked a somewhat sensitive soul, took Claude under her wing, fashioned a
hessian apron for him, and, having divested him of his coat and his
impossible collar, decked him for labour, and handed him over to the
packer.

"What's yer name?" said Mills.

"Please, sir, Claude Alva Arthur"---

"Time flies," interjected the packer. "S'pose we make it Snivel? It's
more like yer."

Mills instructed Master Johns in the art of making up 14 lb. parcels, and
the youth shaped better than might have been expected. In the course of a
few days he was more at home in the factory than many hardened boys had
succeeded in being in as many weeks.

Feminine company was congenial to Claude. He revelled in it. On the
second day he kissed Harrerbeller, and that was more than a grown man
would have done in seven years. He was already very partial to the
ex-professional fat girl too, and had smooged about prim Miss Magill's
board a good deal.

Claude's way with the women was distressingly ingenuous, and he had none
of a boy's natural shame about cuddling or being cuddled. He offered
caresses in company without compunction, and received them unabashed. To
Billy the Boy he was a source of unending amazement, and an object of
unmitigated loathing. To vindicate the honour of his class the Boy felt
called upon to boot Claude every time he found him guilty of conduct
unbecoming a grown lad.

"Get t' yer game," he snorted disgustedly, coming upon Claude dangling
about a paster of thirty, with an arm round her waist, and he punted him
skilfully. "Want people t' think y' ain't weaned? Look'ere, you'll cop
sock-o every time I get onter yeh playin' handies, 'r doin' duckie with
our hemployees. Take that t' go on with. It'll make a man iv yeh!" He
punted Claude again and then had to double smartly, and dive for the next
flat to evade retribution from Feathers.

Claude wept. Claude always did weep. An unkind word would drive Claude to
an excess of tears, and make him bleat like a motherless calf. The packer
had no patience with his new assistant's deplorable weaknesses, but was
not willing to share with Billy the authority he himself had usurped from
the timid foreman.

In fact, Claude's snivelling was a new and poignant horror in the
professional career of Mills. Where another boy would take a curse and a
cuff uncomplainingly, counting it all in the day's work, Snivel, if
sternly rebuked, would relapse into a condition of tearful misery, and
cry copiously for twenty minutes or so. When he had grown accustomed to
the place, a tirade of doleful complaint went with the long blubbering.

"Come outer that, 'n' dig in," said Feathers, finding Claude philandering
with the machinists when there was a rush on. "We ain't hirin' yeh t'
play hose you blighted gooey."

Claude came, his face wreathed into an expression of deep-seated
spiritual anguish and tears flowing down his cheeks.

"There you go," he blubbered; "there you go, getting on to me again.
You're always getting on to me. Everybody gets on to me. I wish I was
dead!"

"Jimmy Jee! that would be er himprovement," said the packer. "I'll
squeeze half a dollar fer the undertaker's exes."

"Dicken there, Feathers," chimed in Benno; "let the kid be. It's his
teeth worryin'him. His mother sez he ain't t'be teased."

"That's right," wailed Claude, "insult my mother now; go on, insult my
dear mother. If I was a man I would kill you but you know I am only a
boy, and you do everything you can to make me unhappy."

Snivel boo-hooed, and his tears splashed on the bags he was handling.

Billy the Boy went to him murmuring the soothing prattle usually
addressed to fretful babies, arranged his apron with a few motherly
touches and then tenderly wiped his nose with a bunch of cotton waste
that left blobs of ink on Claude's pink cheeks. Master Johns put up a
pitiful cry. Benno laughed derisively, and Feathers plaintively requested
the world at large to "give it milk fer the love iv Heaving."

There was a yell of protest from the girls. Harrerbeller Harte dashed at
Billy with her brush, and the devil jumped for the lift chain, and slid
into the depths. Harrerbeller cleaned Claude's face with the softer parts
of her very pasty skirt, subjecting Feathers and Benno to contemptuous
criticism the while.

"Lor' bli," she said, "youter be shot, a pair iv buck larrikins slingin'
off at a bit iv a kid."

"Terust him not, gentle lydie," sang Feathers. "Bit iv a kid," he said---
"that? 'Struth, he's a bloated Brigham Young, 'n' he am' troo t' you,
Harrerbeller. He loves some others. What erbout you, Beller, wastin' yer
wealth iv affection on a goody-goody-two-shoes when y'orter be standin'
up agin a sixteen stun p'leeceman?"

Miss Harte almost blushed. "Vvlhat's torkin'?" she said contemptuously,
retiring to her table.

Nothing surprised Feathers so much as the attitude of the elder Beauties
towards Claude Alva Arthur Johns. The younger girls treated him with the
derision he deserved; the youngest-hoydens of about Claude's own
age-quarrelled with him continually, and slaps were frequently exchanged;
but the elder girls and the old ones mothered him quite affectionately.
When Snivel let them out by the basement door at night, after overtime,
he kissed them all.

"Strike me cock-eyed iv the old dorkin's ain't stricken with it," said Mills
to the town traveller. "It's a taste iv the unexpected. They waited for
him comin' 'n' he never come at all, 'n' now this is a sort iv Consolation
Stakes. Et first 'twas had out in th' open, but now it's goin' inter
hidin' behind the bales 'n' stacks, 'n' takin' on the character n'
complexion iv 'n established smooge, with a touch iv the dear old Auntie
Aggie business thrown in fer the sake iv decorum. Ez fer Snivel, he's
perfectly satisfied. He's a whale fer motherly love 'n' auntly affection
'n' sisterly solicertude. Takes it all shapes, 'e does. He'd rather lean
his bonny curls up agin a gentle breast than carry bricks."

It was true that the demonstrations of affection for Claude, at first
quite careless, had become somewhat covert, but the Beauties were
responsible for this. They had grown sensitive to the gibes of the
packer, and, although they might accept Claude's caresses in comparative
seclusion, they were impelled to restrain his innocent impetuosity in the
eye of the factory. No barracking could alter Snivel's affectionate
little ways, but it often awoke tearful remonstrance.

"Well, I'm blessed!" he would cry with doleful self-pity. "It's enough to
break a fellow's heart, abusing him just because he's got a loving
disposition. You're cruel wretches, and I hate you!"

Then Claude would weep many tears, grumbling at his work about the
packer's wickedness and want of brotherly love.

"You're always making my poor dear mamma cry with the way you treat me!"
he blurted one afternoon, following the disclosure with a howl so
poignant that Fuzzy came tumbling down the flat, thinking the boy had
sustained a mortal injury.

The printer's devil remained the sorest trial Snivel was called upon to
endure. Billy found an infernal joy in pursuing him. Claude had to have a
bodyguard of pasters going home in the evening and coming in in the
morning; and Billy the Boy ferreted him out amongst the stacks at
lunch-time, and, finding him in affectionate juxtaposition with the fat
girl or Harrerbeller, or Miss Magill, or some other, mounted a bale and
pointed out the error of his ways in language of remarkable fluency.

"I wish I'd had the bringin' of yeh," said Billy the Boy.

Claude had a favourite in the factory. It was Miss Lucy Tooth, machinist.
She was a thin, decorous woman of twenty-seven, with superior airs and
eyebrows permanently elevated. She called Snivel "a sweet boy," and "a
perfect little gentleman," and coddled him a good deal. Then came the
announcement of the machinist's approaching marriage. It was not broken
to Claude gently; the awful truth was flashed upon him, and it brought on
one of his worst bursts.

"There, I knew you didn't love me! You just pretended to love me, and you
loved somebody else all the time." He was crying wretchedly. "I don't
care, I won't stand it," he bleated. "Nobody loves me. I'll kill myself!
I'll kill myself!"

Claude rushed to the recess by the lift where stood the taps and the
paste-boiler, and presently sounds of a mild commotion issued from that
quarter. Benno made a somewhat anxious move.

"Snivel's gorn to kill hisself," said Feathers; "don't disturb him."

But there followed screams and cries of terror, and the packer was
constrained to approach the disturbed centre in a leisurely way. He found
Master Johns with his head and shoulders burrowed down in a bin, and
three or four folders standing round in helpless consternation. Claude
was actually endeavouring to drown himself in flour. He was pulled out,
and spread on the floor in an unconscious condition, and he could not
breathe till about a pint of flour had been dug out of his wide-open
mouth.

"'Twas a cold-blooded case iv attempted suercide while in a state iv
unsound mind," said Feathers, and there was more of gravity and
thoughtfulness in his attitude towards Snivel after that.

When Miss Tooth had gone Snivel was more than usually lachrymose for a
week, and then he permitted Kitty Coudray to console him.

"Coudray's makin' a little love with his gills now," Feathers informed
Goudy, who was interested in the development of Snivel. "She doesn't know
it's loaded, but Sonny's a mummer's boy what'll make scandals afore he's
hanged, take it frim me. He's got too much emotion fer his size in
knickers."

Feathers was a true prophet. Within a fortnight a bloke came to visit
Kitty. The whisper went round that this was her "regular," and Claude
heard it, and began to fret.

The boy was not so demonstrative in his grief as usual, however. But it
happened that when Kitty's bloke passed down stairs, Claude was standing
at the drop with three 28 lb. parcels of brown bags in the rope, balanced
on the handrail.

With practice it was easy to swing a load like this on the rope and
pulley into any flat. Claude let the lot down with a rush, swung it badly
and it took Kitty Coudray's regular boy in the small of the back, wiped
him off the stairs, kicked him head over tip into the well, and then the
whole 84 lbs. struck him in the wind as he lay on the asphalt floor of the
basement, with a broken collarbone and minor injuries.

The packer did not pause to investigate. He took Claude Alva Arthur Johns
by the scruff, and kicked him all the way to the changing room, and there
gave him a paternal doing. Later, Mills said to the foreman:

"Ain't yeh thinkin' it's time we made representations below erbout this
sweet child of ours? Don't it strike you he ain't no fit companion for me
'n' you 'n' innocence 'n' beauty generally?"

"He's a very nice lad, only a little unfortunate," faltered Ellis.

"Oh, he's a peach bloom, he is, but it's up t' you t' be tired of him
afore he bites holes in the wall. Tryin' t' drown hisself in the flour
bar'l was a bit hookity, but nothin' t' homycide. Look 'ere, you think
droppin' them goods on the lad just now was haccidental. Yer wrong. I was
watching his nibs, 'n' it was dam, deliberate manslaughter. Claudie's too
passionate for a hot shop like this; better recommend his ole pot'n'pan
t'put him in a ice mill."

So it happened that Claude Johns was passed out, but Feathers is waiting
for him to turn up in a striking evening-paper sensation.



CHAPTER XV. A PRANK THAT REACTED.

HENRY INMAN had already drunk more beer than was good for him when he
drifted into the Dago's little, dark, dirty smoke-house of a wine shop in
the Black Slum, a blind alley backing a jumble of warehouses and Sin
Fat's odoriferous banana market.

But if Henry took a drop too much he had always the melancholy
satisfaction of knowing that he was driven to it.  People, Fate,
circumstances and events combined with malicious diligence to drive Henry
to drink.  To begin with he was at the pitiful necessity of having to
earn his own living by the sweat of his brow when the weather was sultry,
and this, to a young man of his temperament, was sufficient justification
for a little indulgence.  Then there were the sisters and mother at home,
who nagged at him to mend his manners and customs and to contribute more
liberally towards the household expenses; and they introduced Brother
Dripstone Meekin, from No. 3 Blue Tent of the Fighting Rechabites, to
point out the error of his ways, from two to four on Sundays, and
endeavour to win him to temperance.

Henry was often surprised at his own moderation when he considered the
number and persistence of the forces impelling him.

Reekie's wine shop was no place for a man, already stricken in drink.
The Dago's wines possessed some of the qualities of corrosive sublimate,
and, acting alone, rapidly undermined the intellect and the higher
instincts of man; but operating in conjunction with beer or any other
foreign substance, they set up almost immediate acute inflammation of the
faculties.

"Good-a-ni', Meester," said the bulky licensee, lounging in the doorway,
his long, white grin flashing like a bared knife through the black
stubble.  "Queek, queek! you miss-a th' fun.  Insi' th' boys they make-a
th' 'ell-play.  The great-a time eet is.  Ah, gran'!"

Up went Reekie's hands in affected esctasy.

"Righto, Metto!" cried Henry, clapping the Dago's fat back with a fine
show of appreciation, it was part of the convention, to affect an airy
familiarity with this blowsy ruffian, and to be intimate with the
frequenters of his den.  You could not expect to be rated as a young
devil, a no-doubt bad lad, and a real sport if you were not bosom
brothers with Fiani and quite at home in his grimy parlour bar, with the
tinted barmaids, the old grey cat, and the buckled piano.

The wine-seller had a tremendous name that steeplechased across the front
of his shop and half-way round the building, but the customers had broken
it into seven pieces, and they used the fragments indiscriminately.

Fiani bustled Inman towards the parlour.

"Th' boy-a they cry out-they speak-a for 'Enry.  They want-a 'Enry, they
say-a th' fine fella, th' splendid-a fella, 'Enry.  Queek, queek!" Reekie
resented any delay in getting down to business.

Inman was greeted with a shout of boozy enthusiasm when he entered the
back parlour. Three acquaintances of his held two strangers to the wine
bar; a red-headed youth was carving his initials on the grand piano; the
brunette barmaid, a pale Australian with Chinese symptoms, was arranging
her bunch of black mule's wool at the dingy mirror behind the shelves;
the lemon-yellow blonde devoted her time and talents to the younger of
the two strangers.  Everybody smoked cigarettes.  The small counter
pinched the girls into a corner, with a few wine bottles fraudulently
labelled "Claret," "Burgundy," "Port," etc.

"'Ello, 'ello, Willie," cried the brunette.  "What ink are you drinkin'?"

"Make it red," answered Inman.  There was no pretence of expecting virgin
purity in Reekie's liquors.

The taller of the two strangers insisted on paying for Henry's drink.
"Any fren' o' yours sa fren' o' mine," he explained to the company.

Inman and the newcomers were formally introduced, the latter as Jim and
Bill.  There was an uncertainty as to the correctness of these names; in
fact, nobody could guarantee which was Jim and which Bill, least of all
Bill and Jim; but no man present was in a condition to worry over
trifles.

Bill and Jim were American sailors, both very young, clean-limbed,
clear-skinned, fresh from the green sea, and both open-hearted and fairly
ingenuous, despite the reputation for precocity in wickedness that
attaches to sailormen all the world over.

Johno Hobbs and Raymond Cato, alias "The Toucher," had met the sailors at
a riverside bar.  Drinks and compliments were exchanged, and the four
fraternised.  Then the Australians, with the best intentions in the
world, started out to show the Americans the hospitality of the town.
Cordial relations deepened with successive refreshments.  In an hour the
four agreed among themselves, with kindliest regard, that Americans and
Australians were first cousins on both sides, and that America and
Australia united could dictate terms to creation.

"As fer Japan," said Johno Hobbs, resuming the conversation, when Henry
was comfortably disposed, "let 'em get gaudy ideas about ownin' the
earth, and they'll have We-Us t' deal with." Hobbs ranged alongside the
tall sailor.

"Them's the facts," said the sailor, with Bacchic gravity.  "We call off
the spread of Japanese influence, and the Orient gets biffed."

"'Ave another?" Cato was gloriously reckless.

They had another.  Hobbs proposed "Hail Columbia" as a toast, and sat
down to the piano to sing "The Star Spangled Banner." Reekie's piano was
the only ancient ruin Australia could boast of.  When Hobbs sparred with
it, it made hideous noises like the jangling of tin-ware on a drover's
horse, but Hobbs's singing provoked immense enthusiasm.  "Advance
Australia" was demanded, and Reekie's grey cat's nine kittens rallied
round their mother on the lid, and added their noisy protestations to
hers.  All hands joined in the chorus.  It was a moment of concord and
patriotic fervour.

"Fill 'em up again," said Henry Inman.

Henry was playing his part, but, truth to tell, he was not happy.  It had
been his privilege to monopolise the attentions of the lemon-yellow
barmaid on occasions like this, but to-night she was absorbed in the
blue-eyed sailor, who seemed to have most right to the name of Jim, and
Henry's pride was hurt.

Jim's years of discretion were yet far off, he had drunk much more
back-lane beer and Barcoo burgundy than was good for him, and he was
seeing things in quaint perspective and through a glamour of beatitude.
Belle Devoy, the blonde, was considerably his senior, and she "made up"
with the audacity of an elderly circus rider, but Jim thought her rarely
beautiful.  She had whispered to him the sad story of her life, and his
manliness was stirred.  He was a monument of chivalry.

Belle loved to tell the sad story of her life, with its sorrows, its
sicknesses and sufferings, its heroic struggles with adversity, and its
triumphs over the machinations of wicked men.  Jim believed.  Just then
he was prepared to believe anything creditable to the fair.  He was very
respectful to Miss Devoy, very gentle with her, and Belle was deeply
touched.  She drank wine with him, clinking glasses like a perfect lady.

Inman soured.  He felt that he was being badly treated.  He was out on
the edge, he who should lead the band.  With the grand audacity with
which drink sometimes endowed him, Henry began to blurt derision, but his
gibes were lost in the din and in the thick, smoky atmosphere of
international conviviality.

The sailors called for fresh bottles.  Belle and Miss Peony Dodd, the
brunette, had to help to do honour to the great men of two great
countries.

They toasted George Washington and Captain Cook, President Roosevelt and
Alfred Deakin.  Then Jim, striking as dignified and perpendicular an
attitude as circumstances would permit, gravely and gallantly proposed
the health of Miss Belle Devoy.

"Mos' bu'ful garden in Beauty's blossom," said Jim, with a burst of
poesy.

The figure was mixed, but who cared?-the sentiment was all right.  They
drank the toast with jubilation.

This incident served to fix attention on Jim and the barmaid.  The
emotions of the company took a new trend.

"Jimmy Jee!  They're shook to their foundations," cried Inman.  "It's a
case of love et first sight, and a complex attack at that."

"'Merica 'n' 'Stralia, hooray!" cried the red-headed youth.  He swung his
glass in the air, and fell in a sitting position in the corner behind the
piano, and was not heard from again for some time.

Raymond Cato solemnly clapped the sailor on the back.

"Congrasherlations, old fl'r," he said, affectionately.  "She's goo'
girl!"

"Girl any man ud be proud of,' added Johno Hobbs.

"Oh, go on; let go!" giggled Belle.  "I'm sure me and Mr. Jim is on 'y
friends."

Jim took her hand and held it.  "Mos' bu'ful garden in Beauty's blossom,"
he repeated, vaguely.

Belle's heart was stirred, or, possibly, Reekie's red Burgundy had
obscured her natural sense of propriety.  She sat on the counter, and
wound an arm about Jim's neck.  The others stood off, and surveyed the
touching tableau with owl-like earnestness.

Hobbs began a speech in which he gave expression to his opinion that a
match between Miss Belle Devoy, of Melbourne, Australia, and our friend
and ally, Jim, of United States, America, would be a source of
gratification on two continents, and would serve to bind together still
more closely the people of the great English-speaking countries.  It was
a very fine speech, and provoked yells of approval and another toast.

At this stage Henry Inman conceived the idea of his magnificent joke.
Why not marry Belle and Jim as a climax for the big spree?

It was not a new joke.  There are many men in Australia, who have had the
quaint experience of awakening after a night of wassail, and finding
themselves well and truly married to total strangers.  Melbourne
"marriage shops" for the convenience of casuals were open at almost all
hours, and in them an impulsive couple could be married by a
duly-qualified clergyman (of a kind), equipped with a ring, and supplied
with witnesses for a trifling cost.  Henry knew of one man who had
recovered from a jamboree to a knowledge of the fact that he was
possessed of a legally-wedded wife whose face he did not recollect, and
whose maiden name he did not know.

All the elements for the magnificent, merry, and mischievous prank were
at hand.  Inman began to work them up.  He was drunk, but not quite so
thoroughly obfuscated as the others, and he had sense enough to keep the
general attention fixed on the idea of a love-match between Jim and the
lemon-yellow barmaid.

So the idea grew until it was quite understood by the company that Jim's
marriage with Belle was fore-ordained.  Bill, who at first seemed to
possess a puzzled impression that there was some show of unnecessary
haste, eventually became a clamorous advocate of short engagements and
early marriages.  He insisted on being best man.

This point was not reached without a further liberal consumption of
Reekie's red Burgundy, however, and meanwhile Henry was losing command of
his gorgeous idea.  It had a misty effect now, but he had brilliant
intervals, when he saw his purpose clearly enough.

When closing time came even Belle and Peony had abandoned their earlier
impression that it was all a joke.  An inquisitive policeman brought
festivities to a hasty close, and precipated the nuptials.

Presently the members of the party found themselves in the street,
animated with a fugitive impression that a sacred duty lay before them.
They pursued it with the sobriety and decorum the occasion demanded.
They were seeking Swinnerton's Matrimonial Bureau.

Raymond Cato led the way.  Bill followed importantly, with the lady on
his arm.  Inman and the bridesmaid, Miss Peony Dodd, came next.  The
bridegroom and Johno Hobbs were in the rear.

A feeble light burned in Swinnerton's windows, but the proprietor of the
Matrimonial Bureau and his tame parson were lurking for possible victims,
and the party had a cordial reception.

Raymond Cato explained the situation, and tendered the fees, the sum of
which had been contributed by all concerned, for Henry had taken round
the hat at Reekie's.  Meanwhile the prospective bridegroom and Johno were
having a contest of courtesy at the street door.

"'Merica first," said Johno, politely making way for his companion.

"Not a' tall," replied Jim, with equal cordiality.

"You firs', Jim-bri'groom firs'," insisted Johno.

Jim solved the problem.  "We'll go togerrer," he said.  They linked arms,
and he made another stagger, stuck in the narrow doorway, rebounded, and
sat down on the mat, where, after a minute's inlence, Jim asked with some
anxiety:

"Say Ned, wheresh thish ole paraffin drag whirl-anyway?"

Johno did not know.  He thought they were going to a wedding, or perhaps
it was a funeral.  On second thoughts he was sure it was a funeral.  In
endeavouring to preserve the solemnity proper to their character as chief
mourners both fell asleep.

Inside while the proprietor was arranging preliminaries, a vague
uneasiness was manifesting itself among the wedding party.  It knew it
was a wedding party, but it was hazy about details.

"Where'sh bridegroom, boys?" asked Cato.

"Dem' fiknow," responded Bill.

Even Inman was bewildered.  "There orter be bri'groom," he said,
positively.

There was general agreement that no wedding was complete without a
bridegroom.  Cato appealed Devoy, but the bride-elect no longer held rasp
of actualities.  She responded sleepily that any old thing would do.

"Someone's gorrer be bri'groom," said the redheaded person to Cato.
"I'll tosh yer for it."

This solution was acceptable to Cato, and he was act on it, when, in a
sun-burst of perspicacity recollected that he was already a married man
with a family.

Mr. Swinnerton and his ordained clergyman were weary and little disposed
to waste time over trifles.  The ceremony proceeded.  Somebody was
married according to law and the rites of the Free or Partially-Chained-Up
Presbyterian Church of Gippsland, and the wedding party was driven forth.
It gathered Jim and Hobbs off the mat by the way, and trooped into the
street, where presently it was disbanded by a zealous constable.

Henry, Johno, and the red-headed youth, impressed with the idea that the
laws of hospitality required them to see their guests safely home, spent
an hour wandering with the sailors through the streets of an inland
suburb, waking the occupants of one demure villa after another to inquire
if that was the American ship Acme.  Once they narrowly escaped arrest
for wanting to fight a stout councillor in pyjamas.  They suspected him
of spiriting away the good ship Acme for his own evil purposes.

Henry Inman was feeling very poorly when he awoke next morning.  His
appearance gave his mother and sisters much concern, and he was
profoundly sorry for himself.  It was a shocking thing that a man in his
low state should have to turn out and work for his bread.

Henry recollected things as he trained into the city, and eventually his
morning was brightened with a full comprehension of his glittering joke.
 It was the joke of the century-immense, magnificent-it would become
historical.

At the warehouse Inman told the clerks how he had lured a motherless
sailor-man into marrying one of Reekie's she-rapscallions.

"The one with a head like a scrambled egg," Henry explained.  He gave a
graphic description of the wild night, taking full credit for all its
humours.

Some of the clerks did not think Inman's joke a joke at all; they said it
was a dog's trick, but they were persons wanting in a true sense of the
ludicrous.

Knowledge of the joke travelled all through a city block.  The affair was
being discussed during lunch hour when Johno, looking very limp and
woebegone, called in on Henry Inman.  He beckoned Henry aside.

"That was an awful business last night," he said.  "What're you going to
do about it?"

"Do!" ejaculated Henry.  "Why, nothing.  It's star joke.  It's all over
the shop."

"Joke!  Why, the infernal marriage is valid!"

"To be sure it is.  Have you seen the American sailor?  Is he buckin' at
all?"

A strange light shone in Johno's eye.  "'Enery," he said, "you're
switched to a sad delusion.  The Devoy wasn't married to any sailor-she
was married to Cato."

Henry Inman was dumb for fully half a minute.  He glared at Hobbs, his
eyes astare, his mouth ajar, petrified with astonishment and some terror.
 "You're-you're monkeyin'," he murmured.

"It's the immortal I'm tellin' you," retorted Johno.  "Cato was the
bridegroom and he was married already.  It's bigamy, and you're an
accessory before and after the act.  It'll get you two years hard.  I've
seen Cato.  He's sure he's the man, and he's out for you with a gun."

Henry was trembling in every limb; he put a hand on Johno's shoulder.
"Not a word," he said piteously.

Inman pleaded sickness that afternoon, and rushed home.  A greater horror
awaited him.  There were five persons in the dining-room-Henry's mother,
his two sisters, Brother Dripstone Meekin, and, standing at the head of
the table, Belle Devoy, looking ghastly through the dye and the powder,
and in all the fluff and shabbiness of "the day after."

As Henry entered Belle slapped a document down before the company, and
stepped back with an air of triumph.

Henry snatched the lines from the Rev Meekin, and as he read them an
agony of grief prostrated him.  He collapsed on the couch.

Here Belle swooped upon him.  She asserted ownership in a fond embrace.

"Me husbind!" she murmured.

Henry Inman answered with a hollow moan.  Johno Hobbs's version was a
mere trifle to the actual disaster.  The name of the bridegroom on
Belle's legal document was Henry Inman.

Not the sailorman, and not Cato, but Henry himself was securely married
to Belle Devoy of the Black Slum!



CHAPTER XVI. THE BIG SPOOF.

IT was noon of the first Tuesday in November, and there was half-holiday
at Spats's. Factory hands were streaming from the lift door into
Pepper-lane, the majority squealing and jubilant, like kiddies
unexpectedly delivered from scholastic bondage, but many of the Beauties,
severely decorous in gay Cup dresses and extravagant hats, prepared for
the inexpensive fascinations of the Hill.

Mr. Ben Dickson, recording angel of the topmost flat, leaned desolately
on the western wall, and answered the badinage of the girls with flabby
interest. Benno was "broke," so depressed financially that a
corresponding moral condition was induced, and the small clerk was really
as hapless as a tarred cat. But in no circumstances was it the
disposition of our Mr. Dickson to expose his penuriousness to a bitter
world, barren of respect for honest poverty; even as he mourned his
pitiful lack of pence he sedulously rattled a bald-faced six-pence on a
latch-key and a lucky penny with a Boer bullet wound in it, with the
object of asserting his competence.

Feathers, the wise packer, to whom no man's weakness was sacred, had
summarised this trait in Benno.

"Jimmy Jee!" he said, "there's Dickson, the gord on the 'igh stool,
drorin' his thirty-five 'n' a tizzie a week-'n' thank yeh kindly, sir-'n'
he'd have us all think Rockfeller a motherless blind cripple aside him.
His good ole ma divvies thirty off the high pile, leavin' her bonny boy
five shillin's fer dress, 'n' drink, 'n' to scatter alms 'n' run his
'arum on, not to mention trifles iv bangles 'n' diamond tararas for the
young 'n' fair, 'n' yet whoever knew Benno admit he was shout iv the
price iv a town mansion? Even the night afore the oof blooms he'll jingle
like a mint in full goin'. He's a miracle iv sound finance, that's what
Benno is. He'll get enough sound out iv tuppence in small change to
establish the credit iv a patent bath-heater in Gehenner."

Benno's straitened circumstances were due to lavish expenditure on a new
"straw" and a purple tie last Saturday night, when the Cup seemed a
matter of small concern, and now, when all the world was running to
Flemington, he felt himself pitifully out of it, and experienced much
difficulty in hiding his anguish of mind.

"Garn! Be a sport," said the Don; "butt in with the push, 'n' slop yer
wealth about. Are all them dead certs yiv bin talkin' up fer weeks to be
coldly neglected?"

"Can't be did, Nickie," answered Benno, carelessly. "I placed me bit on
the birds all right-trust yer uncle-but the fact is, a man's got a better
offer."

"Oh, what-oh!" cried the driver. "A little Dutch?"

The small clerk's face twitched in a wan, blase smile. "There or
thereabouts," he said. "She's all fer the simple life; reckons on weanin'
me nibs from vicious courses. You know what women are? We all gotter play
up to 'em a bit."

"Flemin'ton won't seem the same without yeh," called Harrerbeller Harte
in gentle derision, "not to mention the Gov'ment 'Ouse party's broken
'eart."

"Ya-a-ah, what's the cat got now?" This telling retort called for no
discoverable effort in the master of repartee. Benno resumed his
conversation with the Don as though nothing had happened. "She holds a
bushel of tram shares, 'n' sonny's wise," he said.

The Don tried to look impressed. "Righto! If you won't, you don't. Woman
wins. Wot about commissions? Can I put you a bit on 'ere 'n' there?"

Benno thought this matter over carefully. "No-o," he replied. "I've pinned
me dollars on hat I like. Got in early. Alwiz do."

The Don passed on, the late leavers bobbed out of the little door, one by
one, bolts were shot, and presently the melancholy midget leaning on the
western wall gazed up and down an empty lane. He passed a hand over his
mouth in pathetic cogitation. "Now, what's a bloke--"

Benno's eye fell upon a ticket at his feet. He stooped quickly, and
snatched it. He read its superscription with a touch of awe, so direct an
answer was it to the prayer of his lonely soul.

"First-class Return, Flemington. Admit one-Lawn!"

The last word came from Mr. Dickson in a yell. He crowded the ticket into
his pocket, turned as if expecting to face an accuser, and fled
precipitately in a direction opposite to that the racegoers had taken.

From round the corner Benno peeped back. He saw an agitated figure break
into Pepper-lane, searching hurriedly right and left. The figure was
Harrerbeller Harte's. Mr. Dickson felt no higher impulses, he recognised
no promptings towards restitution, he felt only that the ambition of a
life-time was about to be realised, and in order that the manifest
intentions of Providence should not be frustrated he left the vicinity of
Pepper-lane with uncommon celerity.

Benno spent several minutes lurking in a doorway up a dingy street,
endeavouring to grasp the situation in a masterly way. He had access to
the Lawn at Flemington, he was privileged to rotate with the whirl of
fashion, to blend with youth and wealth and beauty, to do the thing as he
had lusted to do it, with appropriate "dog," and now it was up to him as
an ingenious and spirited youth to make the most of a noble opportunity.

Fortunately our Mr. Dickson had arrayed himself that morning as a young
Solomons, in all his glory. Feathers described him as "the acme of It."
His suit was a beautiful blue, his socks were bluer, his tie was bluest.
He was sartorially ne plus ultramarine, and he knew it.

But there were cockroaches in Dickson's soup, beetles in the bread; in
the matter of finance he was down to hard macadam. Benno scrambled in his
pants pockets, and ruefully examined the net result. Never was cash so
petty. The bald-faced sixpence was only to be negotiated on a bluff-it
was that thin you could cut an acquaintance with it.

Still, if a man is hard in the oof, he need not parade his financial
instability by going limp in the face of a purse-proud generation. Benno
bucked up. From the pocket to which his brass-filled iron watch-chain was
tethered with a safety pin he drew a small wad of very dirty paper, and
straightened it out on his palm. It was not negotiable paper money, but
bore a striking family resemblance to the legal quid; no longer to be
regarded as beans, it was a good has-been. In fact it was a five-pound
note once, but the banking institution which issued it was now so much a
thing of the past that two of the directors were out of gaol again.

The clerk made a collection of scraps of soft, suitable paper, folded
them into a neat pad and around this he tenderly wrapped the decayed
fiver. That disabled and discredited note had often been worked to give
Mr. Dickson an air of financial stability; once more it must serve to
impart the semblance of wealth.

Benno having padded the oof, patted his wad into nice shape, and felt a
better and bigger man as he looked at it. It might not have been ready
money, but as a money "ready" it was entirely satisfactory.

At Spencer-street the clerk bustled a small boy for a card, and escaped
through the gates while the vendor was straightening out the bald-faced
sixpence, seeking marks of identification.

Wearing his shrill socks, his good-as-gold and pearl-bead ring, and his
barley-sugar diamond shirt-stud very much in evidence, Benno lolled in a
first-class carriage, sitting almost on his neck, studying the race-card
with painful elaboration, making sudden little marginal notes as if
millions depended on it. He drew fourteen disused betting tickets from
his breast pocket, and after looking them over made a dashing calculation
in his notebook. The result seemed to please him. He smiled languidly up
one cheek, as he had seen the miraculous detective do in a worst-ever
play called "The Wickedest Barber in Bologne." The business of backing
winners was too easy to Benjamin Dickson, any passenger could see that.
They were all impressed, especially the red-faced man in the corner
opposite, and the anxious gent next him with the lap full of nail
parings.

The red-faced man was first to dare. He leaned forward, and plucked Benno
by the elbow, drew the clerk's head into the onion belt that clung to him
like a curse, and said hoarsely:

"Say whatcher know? Gotter real thing fer the second?"

Benno smiled his cynical, lop-sided smile.

"Gotter real thing?" he said. "I've got the dead bird stuffed and trussed
and baked brown, but this ain't my day for handin' out quids in bulk.
When I'm distributing me good things I'll ring you up."

"'Tween gentlemen," pleaded the red-faced man, "what's the whisper?
Square 'n' all, I'm that seedy the weevils 'll get at me if I can't hit a
homin' pigeon this trip."

Mr. Dickson took pity on him. He ran his eye down the card and chanced
it. "Dandy's the P," he said. "Put yer whole week's wash on Dandy, 'n'
hold me responsible if the goods ain't delivered."

"Dandy!" cried Red Face. "Dandy's a never-did 'n' never-will. He gallops
like a cow. Dandy; Streuth, I know a pound ov cheese that'll donkey-lick
Dandy."

Benno lolled with an air of patient weariness! he addressed his
conversation to the lamp in the carriage roof.

"Dandy can't shift; Dandy's a permanent fixture. He's that slow they
paste bills on him. He was put off the hearse fer loiterin'. All the me
son. Dandy's comin' 'ome t'-day. S'pose you ain't dreamed iv them ever
savin' a horse, Mr. Wise?"

"Savin', yes," said Red Face sulkily, "but not after he's got general
debillty, 'n' the crows have been at him. Dandy's eighteen if a day."

"You take it or leave it," said Benno with a decisive gesture,
magnificent in itself. "I can't force money on yeh."

All doubts vanished, the passengers gave Dandy good-conduct marks on
their cards, and the gent sprinkled with nail-parings said diffidently:

"I suppose you had a few winners Saturday, young gentleman."

"A few!" Benno pulled his trick roll, and gave the eager people a peep at
that monetary hollow mockery. "A bit left over from Derby winnin's," he
said. "Tons more where those were grown."

The nice, gentlemanly young chap with the classic profile, sitting next
to our Mr. Dickson, turned an eye of kindly regard upon the improvident
punter.

The anxious person opposite was quite tremulous. "Dear me," he stammered,
"you might be robbed."

"I might," said Benno, with some amusement, "things 'appen, but a man
could drop a mangy couple of hundred quid without 'avin' to sell up the
'appy home."

"Then you really win a very great deal, sir?"

This nonsense was wearying the small clerk. He yawned. "Well, a fellow
doesn't need to wear his fingers to the bone juggling bricks," said he.

"One lives without tearing up roads, 'n' maybe one lives high." The matter
was not one to argue about. Benno yawned again.

The gentlemanly young fellow with the Greek profile offered Benno his
card. Benno ruffled his clothes, perturbed for the moment, and then he
soared to an Alpine pinnacle of effrontery.

"Curse it," he said; "if my man hasn't forgotten that infernal card-case
again."

"Ghastly incompetents, these colonial valets," said the nice-looking
stranger. The latter's card was inscribed, "Michael Ambrose."

Benno made a gesture of weariness. He introduced himself by word of
mouth, and learned that the stranger was an Englishman travelling to see
little of the world, and without acquaintances in Melbourne. Mr. Ambrose
was soft-spoken and unassuming; not for a moment did his confidence seem
obtrusive. As they approached the course he suggested that since both
were unencumbered they might keep each other company for the afternoon.

"Shall be decidedly obliged to you, Mr. Dickson, you'll be so good as to
show a fellow round," he said. "Of course, musn't let me impose, you know;
but if you have nothing better to do you might amuse yourself instructing
a new chum. I'm positively a lost sheep here, and it might occur to some
of these clever Johnnies to fleece me, but with a smart man like you,
knowing the whole bally scheme, as guide, philosopher, and friend, I
should be jolly well all right. You will? Now, that's awfully good of
you. We'll go right away and have a small bottle of the best beaded,
shall we?"

Benno had some trifling misgivings at first, but his share of that
half-guinea's worth of champagne served to dispel them. He was a very
small clerk, and it took only a trifling amount of strong drink to
inflame his ideas.

After the champagne Mr. Dickson was properly proud of his new
acquaintance. Michael Ambrose was tall and well-dressed, an aristocrat in
appearance and manner. Benno admitted the Englishman did him credit.

Ambrose bought two tickets for the saddling paddock, and with the
pink-ribboned blue tag gaily decorating a well-washed check vest the
clerk felt that nothing was lacking in his impersonation of a dashing
young sport dissipating a large patrimony. He hoped many of his friends
and acquaintances might see him.

In return for the other's generosity Benno imparted information about his
besetting sins, mainly horses and women. The information was poor, but
there was plenty of it.

Later, Mr. Ambrose paid for whiskies and soda. Over the drink Benno
explained his system of betting. His habit, it appeared, was to get his
money on early in history, when a man could command a fair price. None of
the cheap push's dogging round in the heat and dust for a dollar's worth
of the favourite at five to three on for Ben Dickson.

"Use your own 'orse sense," he said. "Pick the most promisin' thing for a
long shot, 'n' slap yer dough on it in gobs." Here Benno gulped his
whisky and soda a trifle rashly, it took the wrong shoot, and the clerk
blew out, as it were; but he was in no mood to be deterred by trifles
like that. In fact, he almost shouted in the excess of his exuberance,
but recollection of the fact that he possessed only three ounces of
tissue paper wrapped in a cracked note deterred him.

Mr. Ambrose dragged Benjamin off to lunch. Benjamin did not resist
violently.

"What will you drink," asked his friend cheerily. "For my part I think
nothing sits on a good lunch as a spanking whiskey and soda."

Benno said he would take a spanking "wissy 'n' sorer" too. He was a man,
a fact that he was ready to assert in the world's teeth, and what became
a grown man better than a spanking "wissy 'n' sorer."

Our Mr. Dickson had turkey and tongue. Then he had trifle. This was life.
The top flat at Spats's seemed a hideous unreality, a dim dream.

Over the trifle Ambrose left our dear young friend for a moment, but
although Benno was by this as comfortable and creditable a companion as a
sore dog, his faithful Michael returned, and conducted him to the Lawn
once more.

Here for a terrible moment Benno encountered something that looked like
retribution. It was large, camel-like, ungainly; it was profusely, if not
lavishly, garbed; it had the face of Harrerbeller Harte, and in that
face, as the eyes glared into his, was utter amazement and fiery
accusation; but just as grim fate appeared about to overwhelm him Ambrose
towed Benno into the thick of the crowd. The crisis passed and was
forgotten.

At this point Benjamin wanted to shout. Never was a little man so bent on
squandering his substance.

"'Aver wissy 'n' sorer," he said. "'Aver hot cham. 'Ave wha' yer like; I
pay." He tore out his roll, he flourished it with desperate courage.

But Mr. Ambrose would not hear of Benno paying, he even took the roll
from him and restored it to his pocket.

"No," he said, "this afternoon you are my guest."

Mr. Dickson was touched. "You're splendid," he said. "I'm glad I took you
up. Yesh, I am. Tell you wha', you gorrer come to dinner wi' me after
races. Thash settled. Give you besht dinner in Melbourne."

Soon after this Mr. Dickson seemed to pall on the gentlemanly stranger.
You might even have thought he was trying to break with our improvident
Benno, but he had brought it on himself, and retribution clung to him. B.
Dickson was not the man to be easily shaken off once he contracted a deep
and generous affection for a friend, more especially when that friend
needed his guiding hand and wise guardianship. He clung to Mr. Ambrose
with the tenacity of a nettle-rash, he mothered him with half-drunken
effusiveness, and the poor young Englishman was kept busy dissuading him
from avishing his bundle of tissue paper on costly wines and extravagant
cigars.

"Why can't man spen' 'sown money?" cried Benno, "'unnerd poun 'snothin' to
me. Benno the Boy can pick winners in the dark. Ask anyone. Everyone
knows Benno-Benno man of beans. Aver magnum?"

He almost carried Ambrose to the bar, but, fired as was, the clerk had a
little glimmer of sense at the back of his half-helping of brains, which
kept him from risking two year's hard by attempting to pass his perished
fiver, so he was prevailed upon to let Ambrose pay in every case.

Two or three times the amiable stranger broke through the crowd and
dodged cunningly, but at the conclusion of the manoeuvre Benno was always
there, and when the penultimate race had been run the clerk was still
hanging affectionately to Michael's arm, promising to never leave him
while danger threatened and trouble loomed.

"You trus' me," he said. "You trus' Benno, 'n' you're all ri'. Ole
Benno'll see you dumped safely on your own doorstep without scar or
stain. Never deser' a pal. Tha's smi motter."

Mr. Ambrose had Benno as a travelling companion back to town. In
Collins-street the little clerk remembered the sumptuous dinner he had
promised his friend. He insisted on having that dinner. In a state of
almost deadly calm Ambrose endured the dinner and the ignominious Benno's
shocking behaviour at table, under the eyes of a superior company.
(N.B.-Ambrose also paid for the repast.)

Mr. Benjamin Dickson was very much worse after dinner. It was now his
appointed mission to see dear old Mickie home. Poor Mick, he insisted,
was in no fit state to be left to the mercy of the guns and thieves with
whom Melbourne was infested.

Then, somehow, the pair got into a narrow, dark lane, and next day Benno
recollected his being stood against a wall, and hearing his dear old
cobber Mick Ambrose saying in a cold, hard voice:

"You will have it, you pestilent little swine. Here's where you get it."

Then Ambrose punched Benno awfully on the jaw. Benno went down.

"That's for remembrance," said the gentlemanly young Englishman, and he
kicked Mr. Dickson, and Mr. Dickson's ribs hummed like a muffled drum.

Then Mr. Ambrose hastened along the lane, sauntered into the lighted
street, mounted a tram, and passed out of this history.

Benno's next recollection was of leaning on a Collins-street bank,
weeping dolorously, and addressing his tale of woe to the wide, wide
world.

"'Twasn' the act iv a jennleman," he wailed. "After all I done for him,
he punch me onner jore. I took him up when he was lone 'n' frien'less; I
shtood by him in all hish troubles; 'n' he kicksh me fair in the basket,
he gives me the boot hard in the bag, 'n' me a mother to him. Hesh no
jennleman."

The policeman admonished Benjamin, as one man to another, to go home and
forget it.

"Don' care wha' yeh say," Benno wailed; "he's jennleman. No jennleman
kicksh 'nother what's been a mother to him. See here, I took that bloke
outer the gurrer. Yesh I did--took him outer gurrer, treated him liker
brother, shpent poundsh poundsh on him, 'n' he fouled me out, 'n' then
put in the boot. There's graritude! There's--"

"See here," said the policeman roughly, "go home wid you, 'n' tell it
to the cat, 'r I'll put you bed on a board, so I will, will I."

Benno went home. He spent a troubled night, and awoke in torment, with a
large, hard, unfamiliar head that felt like a wooden block with a wedge
in it. He drank comfortless cold water that couldn't touch the spot, and
tried to think of his great day. His stiffened jaw and its sore tendons
minded him Ambrose's merciless punch, a bruise on his ribs like a
blooming iris recalled the brutal kick. Benjamin Dickson groaned aloud;
but at that moment something fell from his clothes. It was the padded
oof. Benno took up the roll and opened it. The wad of paper fell out,
leaving the note in Benno's hand.

The clerk gazed at the note, mournfully at first, then with a startled
air, and then in blank amazement. Mr. Dickson took a pull at himself,
walked to the basin, and deliberately soaked his head. Then, with water
dripping over him, and streams running down his back, he examined the
note again and a great cry of gladness burst from him.

The note in Mr. Dickson's hand was a good, sound, Bank of Australasia
note for five pounds sterling!

Benno sat and hugged his treasure, and his giant intellect worked like an
electric motor. The note he held was not the note he wrapped round the
wad of paper the wad of paper on the bed was not the paper with which he
had readied up his splendid roll.

A great sunburst of perspicacity illumined Benno's mind. Michael Ambrose
was a spieler; from the first he deliberately designed to rob the clerk
of his pile believing it to be good goods to the tune of two hundred
pounds. This accounted for the liberal effort to intoxicate his victim,
and the short absence at lunch, when the second roll, wrapped in a good
fiver, to take the place of Benno's bunch, was fabricated. It accounted,
too, for Ambrose's efforts to restrain Benno from paying and his anxiety
to escape when the exchange was made.

Benno had never possessed a whole five-pound note in his life before. As
he gazed at this one another jubilant idea grew radiant in his joyful
soul.

"Jimmy Jee!" he murmured, "here's a mag that'll fair paralyse the house.
I'll just stun 'em with it. The big gun gets out after Little Benno t' do
him fer his savins iv a lifetime, 'n' Little Benno, lyin' low, 'n'
crackin' soft 'n' silly, does the 'gun fer all he owns, 'n' gets home
with the boodle."

Benno smiled his lop-sided smile, a smile of ineffable vanity, and stood,
erect and square, happy in defiance of his sore head.

"Lor lum!" he gasped, "I've bit the dog; I've spieled the spielers. Me!
Oh, wot-oh, Benno ain't cute, Benno ain't up to schemes, he ain't wise!
Oh, no, not in a manner of speakin.' Benno, yer a fair bonza!"

Benno did an exultant step-dance, and then got back into bed, cuddling
his five-pound note. As a man of means he did not care a curse if he
should happen to be late at Spats's that day.



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