Part 4 out of 5
Pinkey waited, shivering in a corner, while Chook did the buying. He
walked along the stalls, eyeing the sellers and their goods with the air
of a freebooter, for, as he always had more impudence than cash, he was a
redoubtable customer. There was always a touch of comedy in Chook's
buying, and the Chinamen knew and dreaded him, instantly on the defensive,
guarding their precious cabbages against his predatory fingers, while
Chook parted with his shillings as cheerfully as a lioness parts with her
cubs. A pile of superb cauliflowers caught his eye.
"'Ow muchee?" he inquired.
"Ten shilling," replied the Chinaman.
"Seven an' six," answered Chook, promptly.
"No fear," replied the seller, relapsing into Celestial gravity and
resuming his dream of fan-tan and opium.
Chook walked the length of the arcade and then came back. These were the
pick of the market, and he must have them. Suddenly he pushed a handful
of silver into the Chinaman's hand and began to fill his bag with the
cauliflowers. With a look of suspicion the seller counted the money in
his hand; there were only eight shillings.
"'Ere, me no take you money," cried he, frantic with rage, trying to push
the silver into Chook's hand. And then Chook overwhelmed him with a
torrent of words, swearing that he had taken the money and made a sale.
The Chinaman hesitated and was lost.
"All li, you no pickum," he said, sullenly.
"No fear!" said Chook, grabbing the largest he could see.
In the next arcade he bought a dozen of rhubarb, Chin Lung watching him
suspiciously as he counted them into the bag.
"You gottum more'n a dozen," he cried.
"What a lie!" cried Chook, with a stare of outraged virtue.
"I'll push yer face in if yer say I pinched yer rotten stuff," and he
emptied the rhubarb out of the bag, dexterously kicking the thirteenth
bunch under the stall.
"Now are yez satisfied?" he cried, and began counting the bunches into the
bag two by two. As the Chinaman watched sharply, he stooped to move a
cabbage that he was standing on, and instantly Chook whipped in two
bunches without counting.
"Twelve," said Chook, with a look of indignation. "I 'ope ye're satisfied:
When the bags were full, Pinkey was blue with the cold, and the dawn had
broken, dull and grey, beneath the pitiless fall of rain. It was no use
waiting for such rain to stop, and they quarrelled again because Chook
insisted that she should wait in the markets till he went home with one
chaff-bag and came back for the other. Each bag, bulging with vegetables,
was nearly the size of Pinkey, but the expert in moving furniture was not
to be dismayed by that. She ended the dispute by seizing a bag and
trudging out into the rain, bent double beneath the load, leaving Chook to
curse and follow.
Halfway through breakfast Pinkey caught Chook's eye fixed on her in a
"Wot are yez thinkin' about?" she asked, with a smile.
"Well, if yer want ter know, I'm thinkin' wot a fool I was to marry yer,"
said Chook, bitterly.
A cold wave swept over Pinkey. It flashed through her mind that he was
tired of her; that he thought she wasn't strong enough to do her share of
the work. Well, she could take poison or throw herself into the harbour.
"Ah!" she said, cold as a stone. "Anythin' else?"
"I mean," said Chook, stumbling for words, "I ought to 'ave 'ad more sense
than ter drag yez out of a good 'ome ter come 'ere an' work like
a bus 'orse."
"Is that all?" inquired Pinkey.
"Yes; wot did yer think?" said Chook, miserably. "It fair gives me the
pip ter see yer 'umpin' a sack round the stalls, when I wanted ter make
yer 'appy an' comfortable."
Pinkey took a long breath of relief. She needn't drown herself, then,
he wasn't tired of her.
"An' who told yer I wasn't 'appy an' comfortable?" she inquired, "'cause
yer can go an' tell 'em it's only a rumour. An' while ye're about it,
yous can tell 'em I've got a good 'ome, a good 'usband, an' everythin'
I want." Here she looked round the dingy room as if daring it to
contradict her. "An' as fer the good 'ome I came from, I wasn't wanted
there, an' was 'arf starved; an' now the butcher picks the best joint an'
if I lift me finger, a big 'ulkin' feller falls over 'imself ter run an'
do wot I want."
Chook listened without a smile. Then his lips twitched and his eyes
turned misty. Pinkey ran at him, crying, "Yer silly juggins, if I've got
yous, I've got all I want." She hung round his neck, crying for pleasure,
and Mrs Higgs knocked on the counter till she was tired before she got
The wet morning gave Pinkey a sore throat, and that finished Chook.
The shop gave them a bare living, but with a horse and cart he could
easily double their takings, and Pinkey could lie snug in bed while he
drove to Paddy's Market in the morning. He looked round in desperation
for some way of making enough money to buy Jack Ryan's horse and cart,
which were still for sale. He could think of nothing but the two-up
school, which had swallowed all his spare money before he was married.
Since his marriage he had sworn off the school, as he couldn't spare the
money with a wife to keep.
All his life Chook had lived from hand to mouth. He belonged to the class
that despises its neighbours for pinching and scraping, and yet is haunted
by the idea of sudden riches falling into its lap from the skies.
Certainly Chook had given Fortune no excuse for neglecting him. He was
always in a shilling sweep, a sixpenny raffle, a hundred to one double on
the Cup. He marked pak-a-pu tickets, took the kip at two-up, and staked
his last shilling more readily than the first. It was always the last
shilling that was going to turn the scale and make his fortune. Well,
he would try his luck again unknown to Pinkey, arguing with the blind
obstinacy of the gambler that after his abstinence fate would class him as
a beginner, the novice who wins a sweep with the first ticket he buys,
or backs the winner at a hundred to one because he fancies its name.
Chook and Pinkey had been inseparable since their marriage, and he spent a
week trying to think of some excuse for going out alone at night. But
Pinkey, noticing his gloomy looks, decided that he needed livening up,
and ordered him to spend a shilling on the theatre. Instantly Chook
declined to go alone, and Pinkey fell into the trap. She had meant to go
with him at the last moment, but now she declared that the night air made
her cough. Chook could tell her all about the play when he came home.
This in itself was a good omen, and when two black cats crossed his path
on the way to the tram, it confirmed his belief that his luck was in.
When Chook reached Castlereagh Street, he hesitated. It was market-day on
Thursday, and the two sovereigns in his pocket stood for his banking
account. They would last for twenty minutes, if his luck were out, and he
would never forgive himself. But at that moment a black cat crossed the
footpath rapidly in front of him, and his courage revived. That made the
third tonight. Men were slipping in at the door of the school, which was
guarded by a sentinel. Chook, being unknown, waited till he saw an
acquaintance, and was then passed in. The play had not begun, and his
long absence from the alley gave his surroundings an air of novelty.
The large room, furnished like a barn, gave no sign of its character,
except for the ring, marked by a huge circular seat, the inner circle
padded and covered with canvas to deaden the noise of falling coins.
Above the ring the roof rose into a dome where the players pitched the
coins. The gaffers, a motley crowd, were sitting or standing about,
playing cards or throwing deck quoits to kill time till the play began.
The money-changer, his pockets bulging with silver, came up, and Chook
turned his sovereigns into half-crowns. Chook looked with curiosity at
the crowd; they were all strangers to him.
The cards and quoits were dropped as the boxer entered the ring. It was
Paddy Flynn himself, a retired pugilist, with the face and neck of a bull,
wearing a sweater and sandshoes, his arms and legs bared to show the
enormous muscles of the ancient athlete. He threw the kip and the pennies
into the centre, and took his place on a low seat at the head of the ring.
The gaffers scrambled for places, wedged in a compact circle, the
spectators standing behind them to advise or take a hand as occasion
offered. Chook looked at the kip, a flat piece of wood, the size of a
butter-pat, and the two pennies, blackened on the tail and polished on the
face. A gaffer stepped into the ring and picked them up.
"A dollar 'eads! A dollar tails! 'Arf a dollar 'eads!" roared the
gamblers, making their bets.
"Get set!--get set!" cried the boxer, lolling in his seat with a nonchalant
air; and in a twinkling a bright heap of silver lay in front of each
player, the wagers made with the gaffers opposite. The spinner handed his
stake of five shillings to the boxer, who cried "Fair go!"
The spinner placed the two pennies face down on the kip, and then, with a
turn of the wrist, the coins flew twenty feet into the air. For a second
there was a dead silence, every eye following the fall of the coins. One
fell flat, the other rolled on its edge, every neck craned to follow its
movements. One head and one tail lay in the ring.
"Two ones!" cried the boxer; and the stakes remained untouched.
The spinner tossed the coins again, and, as they fell, the gaffers cried
"Two heads," repeated the boxer, with the decision of a judge.
The next moment a shower of coins flew like spray across the ring; the
tails had paid their dollars to the winning heads. Three times the
spinner threw heads, and the pile of silver in front of Chook grew larger.
Then Chook, who was watching the spinner, noticed that he fumbled the
pennies slightly as he placed them on the kip. Success had shaken his
nerve, and instantly Chook changed his cry to "A dollar tails--a dollar
The coins spun into the air with a nervous jerk, and fell with the two
black tails up. The spinner threw down the kip, and took his winnings
from the boxer--five pounds for himself and ten shillings for the boxer.
As another man took the kip, the boxer glared at the winning players.
"How is it?" he cried with the voice of a footpad demanding charity, and
obeying the laws of the game, the winners threw a dollar or more from
their heap to the boss.
For an hour Chook won steadily, and then at every throw the heap of coins
in front of him lessened. A trot or succession of seven tails followed,
and the kip changed hands rapidly, for the spinner drops the kip when he
throws tails. Chook stopped betting during the trot, obeying an instinct.
Without counting, his practised eye told him that there were about five
pounds in the heap of coins in front of him. The seventh man threw down
the kip, and Chook, as if obeying a signal, rose from his seat and walked
into the centre of the ring. He handed five shillings to the boxer,
and placed the pennies tail up on the kip. His stake was covered with
another dollar, the betting being even money.
"Fair go!" cried the boxer.
Chook jerked the coins upward with the skill of an old gaffer; they flew
into the dome, and then dropped spinning. As they touched the canvas
floor, a hundred voices cried "Two heads!"
"Two heads!" cried the boxer, and a shower of coins flew across the ring
to the winners.
"A dollar or ten bob heads!" cried the boxer, staking Chook's win. Chook
spun the coins again, and as they dropped heads, the boxer raked in
"Wot d'ye set?" he cried to Chook.
"The lot," cried Chook, and spun the coins. Heads again, and Chook had
two pounds in the boxer's hands, who put ten shillings aside in case
Chook "threw out", and staked thirty. Chook headed them again, and was
three pounds to the good. The gaffers realized that a trot of heads was
coming, and the boxer had to offer twelve to ten to cover Chook's stake.
For the seventh time Chook threw heads, and was twelve pounds to the good.
This was his dream come true, and with the faith of the gambler in omens,
he knew that was the end of his luck. He set two pounds of his winnings,
and tossed the coins.
"Two ones!" cried the gamblers, with a roar.
Chook threw again. One penny fell flat on its face; the other rolled on
its edge across the ring. In a sudden, deadly silence, a hundred necks
craned to follow its movements. Twenty or thirty pounds in dollars and
half-dollars depended on the wavering coin. Suddenly it stopped, balanced
as if in doubt, and fell on its face.
"Two tails!" cried the gaffers, and the trot of heads was finished.
Chook's stake was swept away, and the boxer handed him ten pounds.
Chook tossed a pound to him for commission. He acknowledged it with a
grunt, and looking round the ring at the winning players cried out
"How is it?--how is it?" With his other winnings Chook had over fifteen
pounds in his pocket, and he decided to go, although the night was young.
As he went to the stairs, the boxer cried out, "No one to leave for five
minutes!" following the custom when a big winner left the room, to prevent
a swarm of cadgers, lug-biters, and spielers begging a tram fare, a bed,
a cup of coffee from the winner. When Chook reached the top of the
staircase, the G.P.O. clock began to strike, and Chook stopped to listen,
for he had forgotten the lapse of time. He counted the last stroke,
eleven, and then, as if it had been a signal, came the sound of voices and
a noise of hammering from the front door. The next moment the doorkeeper
ran up the narrow staircase crying "The Johns are here!"
For a moment the crowd of gamblers stared, aghast; then the look of
trapped animals came into their faces, and with the noise of splintering
wood below, they made a rush at the money on the floor. The boxer ran
swearing into the ring to hide the kip and the pennies, butting with his
bull shoulders against a mob of frenzied gaffers mad with fear and greed,
grabbing at any coins they could reach in despair of finding their own.
The news spread like fire. The school was surrounded by a hundred
policemen in plain clothes and uniform; every outlet from the alley was
watched and guarded. A cold scorn of the police filled Chook's mind.
For months the school ran unmolested, and then a raid was planned in the
spirit of sportsmen arranging a drive of rabbits for a day's outing. This
raid meant capture by the police, an ignominious procession two by two to
the lock-up, a night in the cells unless bail was found, and a fine and a
lecture from the magistrate in the morning. To some it meant more. To
the bank clerk it meant the sack; to the cashier who was twenty pounds
short in his cash, an examination of his books and discovery; to the
spieler who was wanted by the police, scrutiny by a hundred pair of
The gaffers ran here and there bewildered, cursing and swearing in an
impotence of rage. Like trapped rats the men ran to the windows and doors,
but the room, fortified with iron bars and barbed wire, held them like a
trap. The boxer cried out that bail would be found for the captured, but
his bull roar was lost in the din.
There was a rush of heavy police boots on the stairs, the lights were
suddenly turned out, and in the dark a wild scramble for liberty. Someone
smashed a window that was not barred, and a swarm of men fought round the
opening, dropping one by one on to the roof of some stables. The first
man through shouted something and tried to push back, but a frenzied
stream of men pushed him and the others into the arms of the police,
who had marked this exit beforehand. Chook found himself on the roof,
bleeding from a cut lip, and hatless. Below him men were crouching on the
roofs like cats, to be picked off at the leisure of the police.
He could never understand how he escaped. He stood on the roof awaiting
capture quietly, as resistance was useless, picked up a hat two sizes too
large for him, and, walking slowly to the end of the roof, ducked suddenly
under an old signboard that was nailed to a chimney. Every moment he
expected a John to walk up to him, but, to his amazement, none came.
As a man may walk unhurt amid a shower of bullets, he had walked unseen
under twenty policemen's eyes. From Castlereagh Street came a murmur of
voices. The theatres were out, and a huge crowd, fresh from the painted
scenes and stale odours of the stalls and gallery, watched with hilarious
interest the harlequinade on the roofs. In half an hour a procession was
formed, two deep, guarded by the police, and followed by a crowd stumbling
over one another to keep pace with it, shouting words of encouragement and
sympathy to the prisoners. Five minutes later Chook slithered down a
veranda post, a free man, and walked quietly to the tram.
THE "ANGEL" LOSES A CUSTOMER
Six months after the death of Mrs Yabsley, Ada and Mrs Herring sat in the
back parlour of the Angel sipping brandy. They had drunk their fill and
it was time to be going, but Ada had no desire to move. She tapped her
foot gently as she listened to the other woman's ceaseless flow of talk,
but her mind was elsewhere. She had reached the stage when the world
seemed a delightful place to live in; when it was a pleasure to watch the
people moving and gesticulating like figures in a play, without jar or
fret, as machines move on well-oiled cogs.
There was nothing to show that she had been drinking, except an uncertain
smile that rippled over her heavy features as the wind breaks the surface
of smooth water. Mrs Herring was as steady as a rock, but she knew
without looking that the end of her nose was red, for drink affected that
organ as heat affects a poker. Ada looked round with affection on the
small room with the sporting prints, the whisky calendar, and the gong.
For months past she had felt more at home there than at the "Silver Shoe."
She had never forgotten the scene that had followed her first visit to
this room, when Jonah, surprised by her good humour, had smelt brandy on
her breath. The sight of a misshapen devil, with murder in his eyes,
spitting insults, had sobered her like cold water. She had stammered out
a tale of a tea-room where she had been taken ill, and brandy had been
brought in from the adjoining hotel. Mrs Herring, who had spent a
lifetime in deceiving men, had prepared this story for her as one teaches
a lesson to a child, but she had forgotten it until she found herself
mechanically repeating it, her brain sobered by the shock. For a month
she had avoided the woman with the hairy lip, and then the death of her
mother had removed the only moral barrier that stood between her and
Since then she had gone to pieces. Mrs Herring had prescribed her
favourite remedy for grief, a drop of cordial, and Jonah for once found
himself helpless, for Mrs Herring taught Ada more tricks than a monkey.
Privately she considered Ada a dull fool, but she desired her company, for
she belonged to the order of sociable drunkards, for whom drink has no
flavour without company, and who can no more drink alone than men can
smoke in the dark. Ada was an ideal companion, rarely breaking the thread
of her ceaseless babble, and never forgetting to pay for her share. It
was little enough she could squeeze out of Aaron, and often she drank for
the afternoon at Ada's expense.
She looked anxiously at Ada, and then at the clock. For she drank with
the precision of a patient taking medicine, calculating to a drop the
amount she could carry, and allowing for the slight increase of giddiness
when she stepped into the fresh air of the streets. But to-day she felt
anxious, for Ada had already drunk a glass too much, and turned from her
coaxings with an obstinate smile. The more she drank, she thought, the
less she would care for what Jonah said when she got home. Mrs Herring
felt annoyed with her for threatening to spoil a pleasant afternoon, but
she talked on to divert her thoughts from the brandy.
"And remember what I told you, dearie. Every woman should learn to manage
men. Some say you should study their weak points, but that was never my
way. They all like to think their word is law, and you can do anything
you please if you pretend you are afraid to do anything without asking
their permission. And always humour them in one thing. Now, Aaron
insists on punctuality. His meals must be ready on the stroke, and once
he is fed, I can do as I please. Now, do be ruled by me, dearie, and come
But Ada had turned unmanageable, and called for more drink. Mrs Herring
could have slapped her. Her practised eye told her that Ada would soon be
too helpless to move, and she thought, with a cringing fear, of Aaron the
Jew, and her board and lodging that depended on his stomach.
Outside it had begun to rain, and Joe Grant, a loafer by trade and a
lug-biter by circumstance, shifted from one foot to another, and stared
dismally at the narrow slit between the swinging doors of the "Angel",
where he knew there was warmth, and light, and comfort--everything that he
desired. The rain, fine as needle-points, fell without noise,
imperceptibly covering his clothes and beard with moisture. The pavements
and street darkened as if a shadow had been thrown over them, and then
shone in irregular streaks and patches of light, reflected from the jets
of light that suddenly appeared in the shop windows. Joe looked at the
clock through the windows of the bar. It was twenty to six. The rain had
brought the night before its time, and Joe wondered what had become of
Mrs Jones and her pal. He had had the luck to see her going in at the
side door, and she was always good for a tray bit when she came out.
Failing her, he must depend on the stream of workmen, homeward bound, who
always stopped at the Angel for a pint on their way home.
Suddenly the huge white globes in front of the hotel spluttered and
flashed, piercing the darkness and the rain with their powerful rays. The
bar, as suddenly illumined, brilliant with mirrors and glass, invited the
weary passenger in to share its comforts. Joe fingered the solitary coin
in his pocket--threepence. It was more than the price of a beer to him;
it was the price of admission to the warm, comfortable bar every night,
for the landlord was the friend of every man with the price of a drink in
his pocket, and once inside, he could manage to drink at other people's
expense till closing time. He kept an eye on the side door for Ada and
Mrs Herring, at the same time watching each pedestrian as he emerged from
the darkness into the glare of the electric lights.
The fine points of rain had gradually increased to a smart downfall, that
drummed on the veranda overhead and gurgled past his feet in the gutter.
Behind him, from a leak in the pipe, the water fell to the ground with a
noisy splash as if someone had turned on a tap. Joe felt that he hated
water like a cat. His watery blue eyes, fixed with a careless scrutiny on
every face, told him in an instant whether the owner was a likely mark
that he could touch for a drink, but his luck was out. He decided that
the two women must have slipped out by another door.
Jonah, who had been caught in the shower, stopped for a moment under the
veranda, anxious to get back to the Silver Shoe before closing time. Joe
let him pass without stirring a muscle; he knew him. If you asked him for
a drink, he offered you work. But, as Jonah hesitated before facing the
rain again, a sudden anger flamed in his mind at the sight of Jonah's gold
watch-chain and silver-mounted umbrella. Cripes, he knew that fellow when
he knocked about with the Push, and now he was rolling in money! And with
the sudden impulse of a suicide who throws himself under a train, he
stepped up to Jonah.
"Could I 'ave a word with yer, Mr Jones?" he mumbled.
"'Ello, Smacker! Just gittin' 'ome, like myself?" said Jonah.
"Not much use gittin' 'ome to an empty 'ouse," said Joe, with a doleful whine,
"an' I've earned nuthin' this week."
"'Ow do yer expect to find work, when the only place yer look fer it is in
the bottom of a beer-glass?" said Jonah.
"I 'ave me faults, none knows better than meself," said Joe humbly, "but
thinkin' of them won't fill me belly on a night like this."
"Now look 'ere," said Jonah, "I'm in a 'urry. I won't give yer any money,
but if ye're 'ungry, come across the street, an' I'll buy yer a meal."
Joe hesitated, but the thought of good money being wasted on food was too
much for him, and he played his last card.
"Look, I'll tell yer straight, Mr Jones; it's no use tryin' to pull yer
leg. I can git all the tucker I want for the askin', but I'm dyin' for
a beer to cheer me up an' keep out the cold."
He smiled at Jonah with an air of frankness, hoping to play on Jonah's
vanity by this cynical confession, but his heart sank as Jonah replied
"No, not a penny for drink," and prepared to dive into the rain.
"'Orl right, boss," muttered Joe; and then, half to himself, he added
"'Ard luck, to grudge a man a pint, with 'is own missis inside there
gittin' as full as a tick."
"What's that yer say?" cried Jonah, turning pale.
"Nuthin'," muttered Joe, conscious that he had made a mistake.
But a sudden light flashed on Jonah. Ada had lied to him from the
beginning. She had told him that she got the drink at Paddy Boland's in
the Haymarket, a notorious drinking-den for women, where spirits were
served to customers, disguised as light refreshments. The fear of a
public scandal in a room full of women had alone prevented him from going
there to find her. It was Mrs Herring's craft to throw Jonah on the wrong
scent, and sip comfortably in the back parlour of the Angel, safe from
detection, a stone's throw from the Silver Shoe. Jonah turned and walked
in at the side door, leaving Joe with the uneasy feeling of the man who
killed the goose to get the golden eggs.
Ada had just rung the gong, insisting on another drink with the fatuous
obstinacy of drunkards. She lolled in her chair, her hat tilted over one
ear, watching the door for the return of Cassidy with the tray and glasses,
and wondering dimly why Mrs Herring's voice sounded far away, as if she
were speaking through a telephone. Mrs Herring, the tip of her nose
growing a brighter red with drink and vexation, was scolding and coaxing
by turns in a rapid whisper. Suddenly she stopped, her eyes fixed in a
petrified stare at an apparition in the doorway. It was the devil himself,
Ada's husband, the hunchback. As he stood in the doorway, his eyes
travelled from her to his wife. His face turned white, a nasty greyish
white, his eyes snapped like an angry cat's, and then his face hardened in
a sneer. But Ada, who was fast losing consciousness of her identity,
stared at her husband without fear or surprise. The deadly silence was
broken by the arrival of Cassidy, who nearly ran into Jonah with the tray.
"Beg pardon," said he, briskly, and looking down found himself staring
into the face of a grinning corpse.
"Don't mind me, Cassidy," said the corpse, speaking. "She can stand
another glass, I think."
Cassidy put the tray down with a jerk that upset the glasses.
"I'm very sorry this should have happened, Mr Jones," he stammered.
"I'm very ..."
"Of course you are," cried Jonah. "Ye're sorry fer anythin' that
interferes with yer business of turning men and women into swine."
"Come now," said Cassidy, making a last stand on his dignity, "this is a
public house, and I am bound to serve drink to anyone that asks for it.
As a matter of fact, I didn't know the lady was in this condition till the
barman sent me in to see what could be done."
"You're a liar, an' a fat liar. I hate fat liars--I don't know why--an'
if yer tell another, I'll ram yer teeth down yer throat. She's been comin'
'ere for months, an' you've been sending her home drunk for the sake of a
few shillings, to poison my life and make her name a byword in the
neighbourhood. Now, listen to me! You'll not serve that woman again with
drink under any pretext whatever."
"I should be glad to oblige you; but this is a public house, as I said
He stopped as Jonah took a step forward, his fists clenched, transformed
in a moment into Jonah the larrikin, king of the Cardigan Street Push.
"D'ye remember me, Cassidy?" he cried. "I've sent better men than you to
the 'orspital in a cab. D'ye remember w'en yer were a cop with one stripe,
an' we smashed every window in Flanagan's pub for laggin'? D'ye remember
the time yer used ter turn fer safety down a side street w'en yer saw
Cassidy's face stiffened for a moment, the old policeman coming to life
again at the sight of his natural enemy, the larrikin. But years of ease
had buried the guardian of the law under layers of fat. He stepped hastily
back from Jonah's fists.
"No, I won't hit yer; yer might splash," cried Jonah bitterly.
And Cassidy, forgetting that the dreaded Push was scattered to the winds,
and trembling for the safety of his windows, spoke in a changed voice.
"I'll do anything to meet your wishes, Mr Jones. There's no call to rake
up old times. We've both got on since then, and it won't pay us to be
enemies. I promise you faithfully that your wife shan't be served with
"I'm glad to 'ear it," said Jonah; "an' now yer better 'elp me ter git
He looked round the room. There were only himself, Cassidy, and Ada.
Mrs Herring, who had been paralysed by the sight of the devil in the shape
of a hunchback, had found herself on the footpath, sober as a judge,
without very well knowing how she got there.
Ada, stupefied with brandy, and tired over the long conversation, had
fallen asleep on the table. Jonah went to the door and called Joe, who
was listening dismally to the hum of voices raised in argument and the
pleasant clink of glasses in the bar, now filled with workmen carrying
their bags of tools, their faces covered with the sweat and grime of
"Fetch me a cab, Smacker," he said. "My wife's been taken ill. She
fainted in the street, and they brought her here to recover."
"Right y'are, boss," cried Joe. "She turned giddy as she was walkin'
past, an' yer tried to pull 'er round with a drop of brandy."
He repeated the words like a boy reciting a lesson, feeling anxiously with
his thumb as he spoke, wondering if the coin Jonah had pushed into his
hand was a florin or a half-dollar.
Cassidy and Joe, one on each side, helped Ada into the cab. Her feet
scraped helplessly over the flagged pavement her head lolled on her
shoulder, and the baleful white gleam of the huge electric lamps fell like
limelight on her face contracted in an atrocious leer.
The "Silver Shoe" was closed and in darkness, and Jonah drew a breath of
relief. The neighbours were at their tea, and he could get his shameful
burden in unseen. Prendergast, the cabman, helped him to drag Ada across
the shop to the foot of the stairs, where with an oath he threw her across
his shoulder, and ran up the winding staircase as if he were carrying a
bag of chaff.
Suddenly the door on the landing opened, throwing a flood of light on
their faces, and Jonah was astonished to see Miss Grimes, trim and neat,
looking in alarm from him to the cabman and his burden. As Prendergast
dropped Ada on the couch, she took a step forward.
"What has happened? Is she hurt?" she asked, bending over Ada; but the
next moment she turned away.
This unconscious movement of disgust maddened Jonah. What was she doing
there to see his humiliation?
"No, she's not hurt," said Jonah dryly. "But wot are you doing 'ere?"
His tone nettled the young woman, and she coloured.
"I'm sorry I'm in the way," she said stiffly, "but Mr Johnson locked up,
and was anxious to get away, and as I was giving Ray his lesson, I offered
to stay with him till someone came."
"I beg yer pardon," said Jonah. "I'm much obliged to yer fer mindin' the
kid, but I didn't want yer to see this."
"I've known it all the time," said Clara, quietly.
"Ah," said Jonah, understanding many things in a flash.
He caught sight of Ray, staring open-mouthed at his mother lying so
strangely huddled on the couch.
"Yer mother's tired, Ray," he said. "Go an' boil the kettle; she'll want
some tea when she wakes up."
"That's 'ow I 'ave ter lie to everybody; an' I suppose they all know the
truth, an' nod an' wink behind my back," he cried bitterly. "I've tried
all I know; but now 'er mother's gone, I'm fair beat. People envy me
because I've got on, but they little know wot a millstone I've got round
He lifted his head, and look steadily at Ada snoring in a drunken sleep on
the couch. And to Clara's surprise, his face suddenly changed; tears
stood in his eyes.
"Poor devil! I don't know that she's to blame altogether. It's in her
blood. Her father went the same way. My money's done 'er no good. She'd
'ave been better off in Cardigan Street on two pounds a week."
Clara was surprised at the pity in his voice. She thought that he loathed
and despised his wife. Suddenly Jonah looked up at her.
"Will yer meet me to-morrow afternoon?" he asked abruptly.
"Why?" said Clara, alarmed and surprised.
"I want yer to 'elp me. Since 'er mother died, she's gone from bad to
worse. I've got no one to 'elp me, an' I feel I'll burst if I don't talk
it over with somebody."
"I hardly know," replied Clara, taken by surprise.
"Say the Mosman boat at half past two, an' I'll be there," said Jonah
"Very well," said Clara.
THE PIPES OF PAN
Circular Quay, shaped like a bite in a slice of bread, caught the eye like
a moving picture. The narrow strip of roadway, hemmed in between the
Customs House and the huge wool stores, was alive with the multitudinous
activity of an ant-hill. A string of electric cars slid past the jetties
in parallel lines or climbed the sharp curve to Phillip Street; and every
minute cars, loaded with passengers from the dusty suburbs, swung round
the corners of the main streets and stopped in front of the ferries. And
as the cars stopped, the human cargo emptied itself into the roadway and
hurried to the turnstiles, harassed by the thought of missing the next boat.
From the waterside, where the great mail steamers lay moored along the
Quay, came the sudden rattle of winches, the cries of men unloading cargo,
and the shrill hoot of small steamers crossing the bay. Where the green
waters licked the piles and gurgled under the jetties, waterside loafers
sat on the edge of the wharves intently watching a fishing-line thrown out.
Men in greasy clothes and flannel shirts, with the look of the sea in their
eyes, smoked and spat as they watched the ships in brooding silence. For
of all structures contrived by the hands of man, a ship is the most
fascinating. It is so complete, so perfect in its devices and ingenuity,
a house and a habitation for men set adrift on the waste of waters,
plunging headlong into danger and romance with its long spars and coiled
ropes, its tarry sailors roaring a sea-chanty, and the common habits of
eating and sleeping accomplished in a spirit of adventure.
Two streams, mainly women, met at the turnstiles--mothers and children from
the crowded, dusty suburbs, drawn by the sudden heat of an autumn sun in a
cloudless sky to the harbour for a day in the open air, and the leisured
ladies of the North Shore, calm and collected, dressed in expensive
materials, crossing from the fashionable waterside suburbs to the Quay to
saunter idly round the Block, look in the shops, and drink a cup of tea.
Jonah, who had been standing outside the Mosman ferry for the last
half-hour, looked at the clock in the Customs House opposite, and swore to
himself. It was on the stroke of three, and she would miss the boat, as
usual. It was always the same--she was always late; and when he had worked
himself into a fury, deciding to wait another minute, and then to go home,
she would suddenly appear breathless, with a smile and an apology that
took the words out of his mouth.
He watched each tram as it stopped, looking for one face and figure among
the moving crowd, for he had learned to know her walk in the distance while
her features were a blur. For months past he had endured that supreme
tyranny--the domination of the woman--till his whole life seemed to be
spent between thinking about her and waiting for her at appointed corners.
The hours they spent together fled with incredible speed, and she always
shortened the flying minutes by coming late, with one of half a dozen
excuses that he knew by heart.
Their first meeting had been at the Quay the day after he had brought Ada
home drunk from the "Angel", and since then a silent understanding had
grown between them that they should always meet there and cross the water,
as Jonah's conspicuous figure made recognition very likely in the streets
and parks of the city.
The first passion of his life--love of his child--had for ever stamped on
his brain the scenes and atmosphere of Cardigan Street, the struggle for
life on the Road, and the march of triumph to the "Silver Shoe". And this,
the second passion of his life--love of a woman--was set like a stage-play
among the wide spaces of sea and sky, the flight of gulls, the encircling
hills, and the rough, salt breath of the harbour.
Suddenly he saw her crossing the road, threading her way between the
electric cars, and noted with intense satisfaction the distinction of her
figure, clothed in light tweed, with an air of scrupulous neatness in which
she could hold her own with the rich idlers from the Shore. She smiled at
him with her peculiar, intense look, and then frowned slightly. Jonah knew
that something was wrong, and remembered that he had forgotten to raise his
hat, an accomplishment that she had taught him with much difficulty.
"So sorry to be late, but I couldn't really help it. I'll tell you
presently," she said, as they passed the turnstiles.
Jonah knew by her voice that she was in a bad temper, and his heart sank.
The afternoon that he had waited for and counted on for nearly a week would
be spoiled. Never before in his life had his pleasures depended on the
humour or caprice of anyone, but he had learned with dismal surprise that
a word or a look from this woman could make or mar the day for him. He
gave her a sidelong look, and saw she was angry by a certain hardness in
her profile, and, as he stared moodily at the water, he wondered if all
women were as mutable and capricious. In his dealings with women--shop-hands
who moved at his bidding like machines--he had never suspected these gusts
of emotion that ended as suddenly as they began. Ada had the nerves of a cow.
Over the way the Manly boat was filling slowly with mothers and children
and stray couples. A lamentable band on the upper deck mixed popular airs
with the rattle of winches. The Quay was alive with ferry-boats,
blunt-nosed and squat like a flat-iron, churning the water with invisible
screws. A string of lascars from the P.&O. boat caught his eye with a
patch of colour, the white calico trousers, the gay embroidered vests,
and the red or white turbans bringing a touch of the East to Sydney.
Suddenly the piles of the jetty slipped to the rear, and the boat moved
out past the huge mail-steamers from London, Marseilles, Bremen, Hongkong,
and Yokohama lying at the wharves.
As they rounded the point the warships swung into view, grim and
forbidding, with the ugly strength of bulldogs. A light breeze flicked
the waters of the harbour into white flakes like the lash of a whip, and
Jonah felt the salt breath of the sea on his cheeks. His eye travelled
over the broad sheet of water from the South Head, where the long rollers
of the Pacific entered and broke with a muscular curve, to the shores
broken by innumerable curves into bays where the moving waters, already
tamed, lost their beauty like a caged animal, and spent themselves in
fretful ripples on the sand. Overhead the sky, arched in a cloudless
dome of blue, was reflected in the turquoise depths of the water.
Then Mosman came in sight with its shaggy slopes and terra-cotta roofs,
the houses, on the pattern of a Swiss chalet, standing with spaces between,
fashionable and reserved. Jonah thought of Cardigan Street, and smiled.
They walked in silence along the path to Cremorne Point, the noise of
birds and the rustling of leaves bringing a touch of the country to Jonah.
"Had you been waiting long?" asked Clara, suddenly.
"Since twenty past two," replied Jonah.
"The impudence of some people is incredible," she said. "I've just lost
a pupil and a guinea a quarter--it's the same thing. The mother thought I
should buy the music for the child out of the guinea. That means a hat
and a pair of gloves or a pair of boots less through no fault of my own.
You don't seem very sympathetic," she cried, looking sharply at Jonah.
"I ain't," said Jonah, calmly.
"Well, I must say you don't pick your words. A guinea may be nothing to
you, but it means a great deal to me."
"It ain't that," said Jonah, "but I hate the thought of yer bein' at the
beck an' call of people who ain't fit to clean yer boots. Ye're like a
kid 'oldin' its finger in the fire an' yellin' with pain. There's no need
fer yer to do it. I've offered ter make yer cashier in the shop at two
pounds a week, if yer'd put yer pride in yer pocket."
"And throw a poor girl out of work to step into her shoes."
"Nuthin' of the sort, as I told yer. She's been threatenin' fer months to
git married, but it 'urts 'er to give up a good billet an' live on three
pounds a week. Yer'd do the bloke a kindness, if yer made me give 'er
"It's no use. My mother wouldn't listen to it. For years she's half
starved herself to keep me out of a shop. She can never forget that her
people in England are gentry."
"I don't know much about gentry, but I could teach them an' yer mother
some common sense," said Jonah.
"We won't discuss my mother, if you please," said Clara, and they both
They had reached the end of Cremorne Point, a spur of rock running into
the harbour. Clara ran forward with a cry of pleasure, her troubles
forgotten as she saw the harbour lying like a map at her feet. The
opposite shore curved into miniature bays, with the spires and towers of
the city etched on a filmy blue sky. The mass of bricks and mortar in
front was Paddington and Woollahra, leafless and dusty where they had
trampled the trees and green grass beneath their feet; the streets cut like
furrows in a field of brick. As the eye travelled eastward from Double Bay
to South Head the red roofs became scarcer, alternating with clumps of
sombre foliage. Clara looked at the scene with parted lips as she
listened to music. This frank delight in scenery had amused Jonah at
first. It was part of a woman's delight in the pretty and useless. But,
as his eyes had become accustomed to the view, he had begun to understand.
There was no scenery in Cardigan Street, and he had been too busy in later
years to give more than a hasty glance at the harbour. There was no money
From where they sat they could see a fleet of tramps and cargo-boats lying
at anchor on their right. Jonah examined them attentively, and then his
eyes turned to the city, piled massively in the sunlight, studded with
spires and towers and tall chimneys belching smoke into the upper air.
It was this city that had given him life on bitter terms, a misshapen and
neglected street-arab, scouring the streets for food, of less account than
a stray dog.
His eye softened as he looked again at the water. As the safest place for
their excursions they had picked by chance on the harbour with its fleet
of steamers that threaded every bay and cove, and little by little, in the
exaltation of the senses following his love for this woman, the swish of
the water slipping past the bows, the panorama of rock and sandy beach,
and the salt smell of the sea were for ever part of this strange,
emotional condition where reality and dream blended without visible jar
He turned and looked at the woman beside him. She was silent, looking
seaward. He stared at her profile, cut like a cameo, with intense
satisfaction. The low, straight forehead, the straight nose, the full
curving chin, satisfied his eye like a carved statue. About her ear,
exquisitely small and delicate, the wind had blown a fluff of loose hair,
and on this insignificant detail his eye dwelt with rapture. This woman's
face pleased him like music. And as he looked, all his desires were melted
and confounded in a wave of tenderness, caressing and devotional, the
complete surrender of strength to weakness. He wanted to take her in his
arms, and dared not even touch her hand. There had been no talk of love
between them, and she had kept him at a distance with her air of
distinction and superficial refinements. She seemed to spread a silken
barrier between them that exasperated and entranced him. Some identity in
his sensations puzzled him, and as he looked, with a flash he was in
Cardigan Street again, stooping over his child with a strange sensation in
his heart, learning his first lesson in pity and infinite tenderness.
Another moment and he would have taken her in his arms. Instead of that,
he said "I'm putting that line of patent leather pumps in the catalogue at
seven and elevenpence, post free."
Instantly Clara became attentive.
"You mean those with the buckles and straps? They'll go like hot cakes!"
"They ought to," said Jonah, dryly. "Post free brings them a shade below
"A shade below cost?" said Clara in surprise. "I thought you bought them
at seven and six?"
"So I do," replied Jonah, "but add twelve per cent for working expenses,
an' where's the profit? Packard's manager puts them in the window at
eight an' six, an' wonders why they don't sell. His girls come straight
from the factory and buy them off me. They're the sort I want--waitresses,
dressmakers, shop-hands, bits of girls that go without their meals to doll
themselves up. They want the cheapest they can get, an' they're always
And at once they plunged into a discussion on the business of the Silver
Shoe. Clara always listened with fascination to the details of buying and
selling. Novelettes left her cold, but the devices to attract customers,
the lines that were sold at a loss for advertisement, the history of the
famous Silver Shoe that Jonah sold in thousands at a halfpenny a pair
profit, astonished her like a fairy-tale that happened to be real.
One day, while shopping at Jordan's mammoth cash store, her ear had caught
the repeated clink of metal, and turning her head, she stood on the stairs,
thunderstruck. She saw a square room lit with electric bulbs in broad
daylight. It was the terminus of a multitude of shining brass tubes
leading from counters the length of a street away, and, with an incessant
popping, the tubes dropped a cascade of gold and silver before the
cashiers, silent and absorbed in this river of coin. She felt that she
was looking at the heart of this huge machine for drawing money from the
pockets of the multitude. The "Silver Shoe", that poured a stream of
golden coins into the pockets of the hunchback, fascinated her in a
They had talked for half an hour, intent on figures which Jonah dotted on
the back of an envelope, when they were surprised by a sudden change in
the light. The sun was low in the sky, dipping to the horizon, where its
motion seemed more rapid, as if it had gathered speed in the descent. The
sudden heat had thrown a haze over the sky, and the city with its spires
and towers was transformed. The buildings floated in a liquid veil with
the unreality of things seen in a dream. The rays of the sun, filtered
through bars of crystal cloud, fell not crimson nor amber nor gold, but
with the mystic radiance of liquid pearls, touching the familiar scene
with Eastern magic. In the silvery light a dome reared its head that
might have belonged to an Eastern mosque with a muezzin calling the
faithful to prayers. Minarets glistered, remote and ethereal, and tall
spires lifted themselves like arrows in flight. On the left lay low hills
softly outlined against the pearly sky; hills of fairyland that might
dissolve and disappear with the falling night; hills on the borderland of
fantasy and old romance.
And as they watched, surprised out of themselves by this magic play of
light, the sun's rim dipped below the skyline, a level lake of blood, and
the fantastic city melted like a dream. The pearly haze was withdrawn
like a net of gossamer, and the magic city had vanished at a touch.
The familiar towers and spires of Sydney reappeared, silhouetted against
the amber rim of night; the hills, robbed of their pearly glamour, huddled
beneath a belt of leaden cloud; the harbour waters lay fiat and grey like
a sheet of polished metal; light clouds were pacing in from the sea.
They stared across the water, silent and thoughtful, touched for a moment
with the glamour of a dream. The sound of a cornet, prolonged into a wail,
reached them from the deck of a Manly steamer. At intervals the full
strength of the band, cheerful and vulgar, was carried by a gust of wind
to their ears.
"Oh, I would like to hear some music!" cried Clara. "Something slow and
solemn, a dirge for the dying day."
Jonah turned and looked at her curiously, surprised by the gush of emotion
in her voice. He started to speak, and hesitated. Then the words came
with a rush.
"I could give yer a tune meself, but I suppose yer'd poke borak."
"Give me a tune? I never knew you could sing," said Clara, in surprise.
"Sing!" said Jonah, in scorn. "I can beat any singin' w'en I'm in good nick."
"Whatever do you mean?" said Clara. She was surprised to see that the
habitual shrewd look had gone out of his eyes. He looked half ashamed
"Yer remember w'en I first met yer in the shop I mentioned that I could do
a bit with the mouth-organ?"
"The mouth-organ?" said Clara, smiling. "I thought only boys amused
themselves with that."
"No fear!" cried Jonah. "I 'eard a bloke at the 'Tiv.' play a fair treat.
That's 'ow I come to git this instrument," and he tapped something in his
breast pocket. "Kramer's 'ad to send 'ome for it, an' I only got it this
afternoon. I've bin dyin' to 'ave a go at it, but I always wait till I
git the place to meself. It wouldn't do for the 'ands to see the boss
playin' the mouth-organ."
He took the instrument out of his pocket, and handed it to Clara with the
pride of a fiddler showing his Strad. Clara looked carelessly at the flat
row of tubes cased in nickel-silver.
"Exhibition concert organ with forty reeds," said Jonah. Again Clara
looked at the instrument with a slightly disdainful air, as an organist
would look at a penny whistle.
"Well, play something," she said with a smile.
Jonah breathed slowly into the reeds, up and down the scale, testing the
compass of the instrument. It was full and rich, unlike any that she had
heard in the streets. Presently he struck into a popular ballad from the
music-hall, holding the organ to his mouth with the left hand. With his
right he covered the pipes to control the volume of sound as a pianist
uses the pedals. When he had finished, Clara smiled in encouragement,
with a secret feeling that he was making himself ridiculous. She looked
across the water, wishing he would put the thing away and stop this absurd
exhibition. But Jonah had warmed up to his work. He was back in Cardigan
Street again, when the Push marched through the streets with him in the
lead, playing tunes that he had learned at the music-halls.
In five minutes Clara's uneasiness had vanished, and she was listening to
the music with a dreamy languor quite foreign to her usual composure. Her
mind was filled with the fantastic splendour of the sunset; the fresh salt
air had acted like a drug; and the sounds breathed into the reeds made her
nerves vibrate like strings. Strange, lawless thoughts floated in her
mind. The world was meant for love, and passionate sadness, and breaking
hearts that healed at the glance of an eye. And as her ear followed the
tune, her eyes were drawn with an irresistible movement to the musician.
She found him staring at her with a magnetic look in his eyes.
He was no longer ridiculous. The large head, wedged beneath the shoulders,
the projecting hump, monstrous and inhuman, and the music breathed into
the reeds set him apart as a sinister, uncanny being. She frowned in an
effort to think what the strange figure reminded her of, and suddenly she
remembered. It was the god Pan, the goat-footed lord of rivers and woods,
sitting beside her, who blew into his pipes and stirred the blood of men
and women to frenzies of joy and fear. There was fear and exultation in
her heart. A pagan voluptuousness spread through her limbs. Jonah paused
for a moment, and then broke into the pick of his repertory. And Clara
listened, hypnotized by the sounds, her brain mechanically fitting the
words to the tune:
Come to me, sweet Marie, sweet Marie, come to me!
Not because your face is fair, love, to see;
But your soul, so pure and sweet,
Makes my happiness complete,
Makes me falter at your feet, sweet Marie.
The vulgar, insipid words rang as plainly in her ears as if a voice were
singing them. Jonah stopped playing, and stared at her with a curious
glitter in his eyes. She felt, in a dazed, dreamy fashion, that this was
the hunchback's declaration of love. The hurdy-gurdy tune and the unsung
words had acted like a spell. For a space of seconds she gazed with a
fixed look at Jonah, waiting for him to move or speak. She seemed to be
slipping down a precipice without the power or desire to resist. Then,
like a fit of giddiness, the sensation passed. She stumbled to her feet
and ran wildly down the rocky path to the wharf where the ferry-boat,
glittering with electric lights, like a gigantic firefly, was waiting
at the jetty.
MRS PARTRIDGE MINDS THE SHOP
Chook caught the last tram home, and found Pinkey asleep in bed with a
novelette in her hand. She had fallen asleep reading it. The noise of
Chook's entry roused her, and she stared at him, uncertain of the hour.
Then, seeing him fully dressed, she decided that it was four o'clock in
the morning, and that he was trying to sneak off to Paddy's Market without
her. She was awake in an instant, and her face flushed pink with anger as
she jumped out of bed, indignant at being deprived of her share of the
unpleasant trip to the markets. Three times a week she nerved herself for
that heartbreaking journey in the raw morning air, resolved never to let
Chook see her flinch from her duty. As she started to dress herself with
feverish haste, Chook recovered enough from his astonishment to ask her
where she was going.
"To Paddy's, of course," she replied fiercely. "Yer sneaked off last week
on yer own, an' cum 'ome so knocked out that yer couldn't eat yer
A cold shiver ran through Chook. Her mind was affected, and in a flash he
saw his wife taken to the asylum and himself left desolate. Then he
understood, and burst into a roar.
"Git into bed again, Liz," he cried. "Ye're walkin' in yer sleep."
"Wot's the time?" she asked, with a suspicious look.
"Five past twelve," said Chook, reluctantly.
"An' ye're only just come 'ome! Wot d'ye mean by stoppin' out till this
time of night?" she cried, turning on him furiously, but secretly
relieved, like a patient who finds the dentist is out.
"The play was out late, an' we..." stammered Chook.
As he stammered, Pinkey caught sight of a rip in his sleeve, and looking
at him intently, was horrified to see his lip cut and bleeding. She gave
a cry of terror and burst into tears.
"Yer never went to no play; yer've bin fightin'," she sobbed.
"No, I ain't, fair dinkum," cried Chook. "I'll tell yer 'ow I come by
this, if yer wait a minute."
"Yer never cut yer lip lookin' at the play; yer've gone back ter the Push,
as Sarah always said yer would."
"I'll screw Sarah's neck when I can spare the time," said Chook, savagely.
Chook, the old-time larrikin, had turned out a model husband, but, for
years after his marriage, Mrs Partridge had taken a delight in prophesying
that he would soon tire of Pinkey's apron-strings and return to the Push
and the streets. And now, although Waxy Collins and Joe Crutch were in
jail for sneak-thieving, their places taken by younger and more vicious
scum, Pinkey thought instantly of the dread Push when Chook grew restive.
"No," said Chook, deciding to cut it short, "I tore me coat an' cut me lip
gittin' away from the Johns at Paddy Flynn's alley."
Pinkey turned sick with fear. The two-up school was worse than the Push,
and they were ruined.
"I knew it the moment I set eyes on yer. Yer've been bettin' again, an'
lost all yer money. Yer've got nothing left for the markets, an' the
landlord'll turn us out," she cried, seeing herself already in the gutter.
"Yes, I lost a bit, but I pulled up, an' I'm a couple of dollars to the
good," said Chook, feeling in his pocket for some half-crowns.
"Well, give it to me," said Pinkey, "an' I'll go straight termorrer and
pay ten shillings on a machine."
"Wot would yer 'ave said if I'd won ten or fifteen quid?" asked Chook.
"I should 'ave said 'Buy Jack Ryan's 'orse an' cart, an' never go near a
two-up school again'," said Pinkey, thinking of the impossible.
"Well, I won the dollars, an' I'll do as yer say," cried Chook emptying
his pockets on the counterpane.
As Chook poured the heap of gold and silver on to the bed, Pinkey gasped,
and turned deadly white. Chook thought she was going to faint.
"It's all right, Liz," he cried. "I've 'ad a good win, an' we're set up
He was busy sorting the gold and silver into heaps, first putting aside
his stake, two pounds ten. There were fifteen pounds twelve shillings
and sixpence left. Pinkey stared in amazement. It seemed incredible that
so much money could belong to them. And suddenly she thought, with a pang
of joy, that no longer would she need to nerve herself for the cruel
journey to the markets in the morning. Chook would drive down in his own
cart, and she would be waiting on his return with a good breakfast. They
had gone up in the world like a rocket.
The marriage of Pinkey, three years ago, had affected Mrs Partridge like
the loss of a limb. For over two years she had been chained to the same
house, in the same street, with the desire but not the power to move.
Only once had she managed to change her quarters with the aid of William,
and the result had been disastrous. For the first time in his life
William had lost a day at Grimshaw's to move the furniture, and for six
months he had brooded over the lost time. This last move had planted them
in Botany Street, five minutes' walk from Chook's shop. At first Mrs
Partridge had fretted, finding little consolation in the new ham-and-beef
shop on Botany Road; and then, little by little, she had become attached
to the neighbourhood. She had been surprised to find that entertainment
came to her door unsought, in the form of constant arrivals and departures
among the neighbours. And each of them was the beginning or the end of a
mystery, which she probed to the bottom with the aid of the postman, the
baker, the butcher, and the tradesmen who were left lamenting with their
bills unpaid. Never before in her wanderings had she got so completely in
touch with her surroundings.
But from habit she always talked of moving. She could never pass an
empty house without going through it, sniffing the drains, and requesting
the landlord to make certain improvements, with the mania of women who
haunt the shops with empty purses, pricing expensive materials. Every
week she announced to Chook and Pinkey that she had found the very house,
if William would take a day off to move. But in her heart she had no
desire to leave the neighbourhood. It was an agreeable and daily
diversion for her to run up to the shop, and prophesy ruin and disaster
to Chook and Pinkey for taking a shop that had beggared the last tenant,
ignoring the fact that Jack Ryan had converted his profits into beer.
Chook's rough tongue made her wince at times, but she refused to take
offence for more than a day. She had taken a fancy to Chook the moment
she had set eyes on him, and was sure Pinkey was responsible for his
sudden bursts of temper. She thought to do him a service by dwelling on
Pinkey's weak points, and Chook showed his gratitude by scowling. Pinkey,
who had been a machinist in the factory, was no hand with a needle, and
Mrs Partridge commented on this in Chook's hearing.
"An' fancy 'er 'ardly able to sew on a button, which is very dangerous
lyin' about on the floor, as children will eat anythin', not knowin' the
consequences," she cried.
Chook pointed out that there were no children in the house to eat
"An' thankful you ought to be for that," she cried. "There's Mrs Brown's
baby expectin' to be waited on 'and an' foot, an' thinks nothin' of wakin'
'er up in the night, cryin' its heart out one minute, an' cooin' like a
dove the next, though I don't 'old with keepin' birds in the 'ouse as
makes an awful mess, an' always the fear of a nasty nip through the bars
of the cage, which means a piece of rag tied round your finger."
Here she stopped for breath, and Chook turned aside the torrent of words
by offering her some vegetables, riddled with grubs, for the trouble of
carrying them home. She considered herself one of Chook's best customers,
having dealt off him since their first meeting. Every market-day she came
to the shop, picked out everything that was damaged or bruised, and bought
it at her own price. She often wished that Pinkey had married a grocer.
Chook had said nothing to her of his win at the two-up school, and she
only heard of it at the last moment through a neighbour. She put on her
hat, and just reached the shop in time to see Chook drive up to the door
in his own horse and cart. Pinkey was standing there, radiant, her dreams
come true, already feeling that their fortunes were made. Mrs Partridge
looked on with a choking sensation in her throat, desiring nothing for
herself, but angry with Fortune for showering her gifts on others. Then
she stepped up briskly, and cried out:
"I 'eard all about yer luck, an' I sez to myself, 'it couldn't 'ave
'appened to a more deservin' young feller.' You'll ride in yer carriage
yet, mark my words."
She came nearer and stared at the mare, anxious to find fault, but
knowing nothing of the points of a horse. She decided to make friends
with it, and rubbed its nose. The animal, giving her an affectionate
look, furtively tried to bite her arm, and then threw back its head,
expecting the rap on the nose that always followed this attempt.
Mrs Partridge trembled with fear and rage.
"Well, I never!" she cried. "The sly brute! Looked at me like a 'uman
being, an' then tried to eat me, which I could never understand people
preachin' about kindness to dumb animals, an' 'orses takin' a delight in
runnin' over people in the street every day."
"It's because they've got relations that makes 'em thankful animals are
dumb," said Chook.
"Meaning me?" cried Mrs Partridge, smelling an insult.
"You?" said Chook, affecting surprise. "I niver mind yous talkin'. It
goes in one ear an' out of the other."
Mrs Partridge bounced out of the shop in a rage, but next day she came
back to tell Pinkey that she had found the very house in Surry Hills for a
shilling a week less rent. She stayed long enough to frighten the life
out of Pinkey by telling her that she had heard that Jack Ryan was well
rid of the horse, because it had a habit of bolting and breaking the
driver's neck. Chook found Pinkey trembling for his safety, and
determined to put a stop to these annoyances. He disappeared for a whole
day, and when Pinkey wanted to know where he had been, he told her to wait
and see. They nearly quarrelled. But the next morning he gave her a
surprise. After breakfast he announced that he was going to take her to
the Druids' picnic in his own cart, and that Mrs Partridge had consented
to mind the shop in their absence.
When Chook asked Mrs Partridge to mind the shop for the day, she jumped at
the idea. She felt that she had a gift for business which she had wasted
by not marrying the greengrocer; and now, with the shop to herself, she
would show them how to deal with the customers, and find time in between
to run her eye through Pinkey's boxes. She, too, would have a holiday
after her own heart. She decided to wear her best skirt and blouse, to
keep the customers in their place and remind them that she was independent
of their favours. She found everything ready on her arrival. The price
of every vegetable was freshly painted on the window by Chook in white
letters, and there were five shillings in small change in the till. Lunch
was set for her on the kitchen table, a sight to make the mouth water,
for Chook, remembering the days of his courting, had ransacked the
ham-and-beef shop for dainties--sheep's trotters, brawn, pig's cheek,
ham-and-chicken sausage, and a bottle of mixed pickles. Nothing was
wanting. As Chook drove off with Pinkey, she waved her hand to them,
and then, surveying the street with the air of a proprietor, entered the
shop and took possession.
They were going to Sir Joseph Banks's for the picnic; but, to Pinkey's
surprise, the cart turned into Botany Street and pulled up in front of
"Wotcher stoppin' 'ere for?" she inquired.
"'Cause we're goin' ter git out," said Chook, with a grin.
"Git out? Wot for? There's nobody at 'ome, Dad's at work."
"I know; that's w'y I came," said Chook, tying the reins to the seat.
"Git down, Liz; yer've got a 'ard day in front of yer."
"'Ard day? Wotcher mean?" cried Pinkey, suspiciously.
"We're goin' ter move Sarah's furniture to the new 'ouse she found in
Surry Hills," replied Chook.
"She never took no 'ouse," said Pinkey.
"No, I took it yesterday in 'er name," said Chook, grinning at Pinkey's
perplexed frown. "I wanted ter give 'er a pleasant surprise fer 'er
"Wot about the picnic?" exclaimed Pinkey, suddenly.
"There ain't no picnic," said Chook. "It's next Monday; the date must
'ave slipped me mind."
"An' yer mean ter move 'er furniture in without 'er knowin'?"
"That's the dart," said Chook, with a vicious smile. "If Sarah's tongue
don't git a change of air, I'll git three months fer murder. So 'urry up,
Liz, an' put this apron over yer skirt."
The impudence of Chook's plan took her breath away, but when he insisted
that there was no other way of getting rid of Mrs Partridge, she consented,
with the feeling that she was taking part in a burglary. Chook took the
key from under the flower-pot and went in. They found the place like a
pigsty, for in the excitement of dressing for her day behind the counter,
Sarah had wasted no time in making the bed or washing up, and Pinkey,
trained under the watchful eye of Chook's mother, stood aghast. She
declared that nothing could be done till that mess was cleared away, and
tucked up her sleeves.
The appearance of the cart had roused the neighbours' curiosity, and Chook
engaged them in conversation over the back fence. He explained that Mrs
Partridge had begged him to come down and move her furniture while she
minded the shop. There was a general sigh of relief. Nothing had escaped
her eye or tongue. Mrs King, who was supposed to be temperance, did
wonders with the bottle under her apron, but was caught. Then she found
out that Mrs Robinson's brother, who was supposed to be doing well in the
country, was really doin' seven years. Chook refused half a dozen offers
of help before Pinkey had finished washing up.
As Chook lacked the professional skill of Jimmy the van-man, Pinkey was
obliged to make two loads of the furniture; but by twelve o'clock the last
stick was on the cart, and Pinkey, sitting beside her husband on a plank,
carried the kerosene lamp in her lap to prevent breakage. By sunset
everything was in its place, and Chook and Pinkey, aching in every joint,
locked the door and drove home.
Meanwhile, Mrs Partridge had spent a pleasant day conducting Chook's
business on new lines. She had always suspected that she had a gift for
business, and here was an opportunity to prove it. The first customer
was a child, sent for three penn'orth of potatoes. As children are
naturally careless, Mrs Partridge saw here an excellent opportunity for
weeding out the stock, and went to a lot of trouble in picking out the
small and damaged tubers, reserving the best for customers who came to
choose for themselves. Five minutes later she was exchanging them for the
largest in the sack under the direction of an infuriated mother. This
flustered her slightly, and when Mrs Green arrived, complaining of
rheumatic twinges in her leg, she decided to try Pinkey's sympathetic manner.
"Ah, if anybody knows what rheumatism is, I do," she cried. "For years I
suffered cruelly, an' then I was persuaded to carry a new pertater in me
pocket, an' I've never 'ad ache or pain since; though gettin' cured, to my
mind, depends on the sort of life you've led."
Mrs Green, a woman with a past, flushed heavily.
"'Oo are yer slingin' off at?" she cried. "You and yer new pertater.
I'd smack yer face for two pins," and she walked out of the shop.
This made Mrs Partridge careful, and she served the next customers in an
amazing silence. Then she dined royally on the pick of the ham-and-beef
shop, and settled down for the afternoon. But she recovered her tongue
when Mrs Paterson wanted some lettuce for a salad.
"Which I could never understand people eatin' salads, as I shall always
consider bad for the stomach, an' descendin' to the lower animals," she
cried. "Nothing could make me believe I was meant to eat vegetables raw
when I can 'ave them boiled an' strained for 'alf an 'our."
In her eagerness to convert Mrs Paterson to her views, she forgot to
charge for the lettuce. When Chook and Pinkey arrived, she had partially
destroyed the business, and was regretting that she had been too delicate
to marry the greengrocer. She showed Chook the till bulging with copper
"Yer've done us proud," cried Chook, staring.
Mrs Partridge sorted out ten shillings from the heap.
"That's Mrs Robins's account," she remarked.
"Wot made 'er pay?" inquired Pinkey, suspiciously. "Yer didn't go an' ask
'er for it, did yer?"
"Not likely," said Mrs Partridge; "but when she complained of the peas
bein' eighteenpence a peck, I pointed out that if she considered nothing
too dear for 'er back, she should consider nothing too dear for 'er stomach,
an' she ran 'ome to fetch this money an' nearly threw it in my face."
"Me best customer," cried Pinkey in dismay. "She pays at the end of the
month like clockwork."
Mrs Partridge stared at the heap of silver, and changed the subject.
"It 'ud give me the creeps to sleep in the 'ouse with all that money,"
she remarked, "after readin' in the paper as 'ow burglars are passionate
fond of silver, an' 'avin' no reg'lar 'ours for callin', like to drop in
when least expected." She noted with satisfaction that Pinkey changed
colour, and shook the creases out of her skirt. "Well, I must be goin',"
she added. "I never like to keep William waitin' for 'is tea."
A cold wave swept over Chook. He had clean forgotten William, who would
go home to Botany Street and find an empty house. Pinkey dived into the
bedroom, and left Chook to face it out.
"'Ere's yer key," he said helplessly, to make a beginning.
"This is my key," said Mrs Partridge, feeling in her pocket, "an' the
other one is under the flower-pot for William, if I'm out. I dunno what
"I mean this is the key of yer new 'ouse in Surry Hills," said Chook,
fumbling hopelessly with the piece of iron.
"You've bin drinkin', an' the beer's gone to yer 'ead," said Mrs Partridge,
unwilling to take offence.
"I tell yer I'm as dry as a bone," cried Chook, losing patience.
"Yer think yer live in Botany Street, but yer don't. Yer live in Foveaux
Street, an' this is the key of the 'ouse."
"I think I live in Botany Street, but I've moved to Foveaux Street,"
repeated Mrs Partridge, but the words conveyed no meaning to her mind.
She came closer to Chook. He looked and smelt sober, and suddenly a horrid
suspicion ran through her mind that her brain was softening. She was older
than they thought, for she had taken five years off her age when she had
married William. In an agony of fear she searched her memory for the
events of the past month, trying to recall any symptom of illness that
should have warned her. She could remember nothing, and turned to Chook
with a wild fear in her eyes. Something must be wrong with him.
"Can you understand what you're sayin'?" she asked.
"Yes," said Chook, anxious to get it over. "Yer lived in Botany Street
this morning, but yer moved to-day, an' now yer live in Foveaux Street in
the 'ouse yer picked on Monday."
"Do you expect me to believe that?" cried Mrs Partridge.
"No," said Chook; "but yer will w'en yer go 'ome an' find your 'ouse
"An' who moved me?"
"Me an' Liz," said Chook. "The picnic wasn't till next week, an' Liz an'
me thought we'd give yer a surprise."
For the first time in her life Mrs Partridge was speechless. She saw that
she had been tricked shamefully. They had ransacked her house, and laid
bare all the secrets of her little luxuries. She quailed as she remembered
what they had found in the cupboard and the bottom drawer of the wardrobe.
Never again could she face Chook and Pinkey, knowing what they did, and
take her pickings of the shop. Suddenly she recovered her tongue, and
turned on Chook, transformed with rage.
"William will break every bone in yer body when 'e 'ears what you've done,"
she cried, "mark my words. An' in case I never see yer again, let me tell
yer somethin' that's been on my mind ever since I first met you. If that
ginger-headed cat 'idin' behind the bedroom door 'adn't married yer,
nobody else would, for you're that ugly it 'ud pay yer to grow whiskers
an' 'ide yer face."
And with this parting shot she marched out of the shop and disappeared
in the darkness.
DAD WEEPS ON A TOMBSTONE
The scene at Cremorne Point had suddenly reminded Clara that she was
playing with fire. In the beginning she had consented to these meetings
to humour the parent of her best pupil, and gradually she had drifted into
an intimacy with Jonah without the courage to end it. To her fastidious
taste his physical deformity and the flavour of Cardigan Street that still
clung about his speech and manners put him out of court as a possible
lover; but it had gratified her pride to discover that he was in love with
her, and as he never expressed himself more plainly than by furtive glances
and sudden inflections in his voice, she felt sure of her power to keep him
at a distance.
These outings, indeed, had nearly fallen through, when Jonah, fumbling for
words and afraid to say what was on his mind, had touched on a detail of
his business. To his surprise Clara caught fire like straw, fascinated at
being shown the inner workings of the "Silver Shoe". And from that time a
curious attitude had grown between them. Jonah talked of his business,
and stared at Clara as she listened, forgetful of him, her mind absorbed
in details of profit and loss. She found the position easy to maintain,
for Jonah, catching at straws, demanded no positive encouragement.
A chance word or look from her was rich matter for a week's thought,
twisted and turned in his mind till it meant all he desired.
She saw clearly and coldly that Jonah had placed her on a pedestal, and
she determined never to step down of her own accord, recognizing with the
instinct for business that had surprised Jonah that she would lose more
than she would gain. And yet the sudden glimpse of passion in Jonah had
whetted her appetite for more. It had recalled the days of her engagement
with a singular bitterness and pleasure. She thought with a hateful
persistence of her first love, the man who had accustomed her to admiration
and then shuffled out of the engagement, forced by the attitude of his
relatives to her father. But for weeks after the scene at Cremorne Jonah
had retired within himself terrified lest he should alarm her and put an
end to their outings. So far she had timed their meetings for the daylight
out of prudence, but, pricked on by curiosity, she had begun to dally on
the return journey, desiring and fearing some token of his adoration.
Meanwhile Jonah swung like a pendulum between hope and despair. He dimly
suspected that a bolder man would have had his declaration out and done
with long ago, and he waited for a favourable opportunity; but it came and
went, and left him speechless. He had accepted Ada as the typical woman,
and now found himself as much at sea as if he had discovered a new species,
for he never suspected that any other woman had it in her power, given a
favourable opportunity, to lead him to this new world of sensation. Women
had always been shy of him, and with his abnormal shape and his absorption
in business it had been easy for him to miss what lay beneath the surface.
But for the accident of his meeting with Clara, his temperament would have
carried him through life, unconscious of love from his own experience and
regarding it as a fable of women and poets.
Jonah never spent money willingly, except where Ray was concerned, and
Clara in their first meetings had been surprised and chilled by his anxiety
to get the value of his money. He had informed her, bluntly, that money
was not made by spending it; but for some months he had been surprised by
a desire to spend his money to adorn and beautify this woman. Clara,
however, maintaining her independence with a wary eye, had refused to take
presents from him. He had become more civilized and more human under the
weight of his generous emotions, but they could find no outlet.
It was the affair of Hans Paasch that opened his eye to the power for good
that she exercised over him. When his shop had closed for want of
customers, Paasch found that his failing eyesight and methodical slowness
barred him from competing with younger and quicker men, and, his mind
weakened and bewildered by disaster, he had turned for help to his first
and only love, the violin. For some years he had taught a few pupils who
were too poor to pay the fees of the professional teachers, and, persuaded
that pupils would flock to him if he gave his whole time to it he took a
room and set up as a teacher. In six months he had to choose between
starvation by inches or playing dance music in Bob Fenner's hall for
fifteen shillings a week. For a while he endured this, playing popular
airs that he hated and despised for the larrikins whom he hated and feared,
a nightly butt and target for their coarse jests. Then he preferred
starvation, and found himself in the gutter with the clothes he stood up
in and his fiddle. He had joined the army of mendicant musicians, who
scrape a tune in front of hotels and shops, living on charity thinly veiled.
They had passed him one night on their return from Mosman, playing in front
of a public-house to an audience of three loafers. The streets had soon
dragged him to their level. Unkempt and half starved, he wore the look of
the vagrant who sleeps in his clothes for want of bedding. Grown childish
in his distress, he had forgotten his lifelong habits of neatness and
precision, going to pieces like a man who takes to drink.
Clara, who knew his history, was horrified at the sight. She thought he
lived comfortably on a crust of bread by giving lessons. Jonah turned
sulky when she reproached him.
"I don't see 'ow I'm ter blame for this any more'n if 'e'd come to the
gutter through drink. It was a fair go on the Road, an' if I beat 'im an'
the others, it was because I was a better man at the game. I spent nearly
all my money in that little shanty where I started, an' 'im an' the others
looked on an' 'oped I'd starve. Yer talk about me bein' cruel an' callous.
It's the game that's cruel, not me. I knocked 'im out all right, but wot
'ud be the use of knockin' 'im down with one 'and an' pickin' 'im up with
"You say yourself that he took you off the streets, and gave you a living."
"So 'e did, but 'e got 'is money's worth out of me. I did the work of a
man, an' saved 'im pounds for years. Yer wouldn't 'ave such a sentimental
way of lookin' at things if yer'd been a steet-arab, sellin' newspapers,
an' no one ter make it 'is business whether yer lived or starved."
"But surely you can't see him in that condition without feeling sorry
"Oh yes, I can; 'e's no friend of mine. 'E told everybody on the Road
that I went shares with the Devil," said Jonah, with an uneasy grin.
"'Ere, I'll show yer wot 'e thinks of me."
He felt in his pocket for a coin, and crossed the street. Paasch had
finished his piece, and putting his fiddle under his arm, turned to the
loafers with a beseeching air. They looked the other way and discussed
the weather. Then Jonah stepped up to him and thrust the coin into his
hand. Paasch, feeling something unaccustomed in his fingers, held it up
to the light. It was a sovereign, and he blinked in wonder at the coin
then at the giver, convinced that it was a trick. Then he recognized
Jonah, and a look of passionate fear and anger convulsed his features.
He threw down the coin as if it had burnt him, crying:
"No, I vill not take your cursed moneys. Give me back mine shop and mine
business that you stole from me. You are a rich man and ride in your
carriage, and I am the beggar, but I would not change with you. The great
gods shall mock at you. Money you shall have in plenty while I starve,
but never your heart's desire, for like a dog did you bite the hand that
Suddenly his utterance was choked by a violent fit of coughing, and he
stared at Jonah, crazed with hate and prophetic fury. A crowd began to
gather, and Jonah, afraid of being recognized, walked rapidly away.
"Now yer can see fer yerself," he cried, sullenly.
"Yes, I see," said Clara, strangely excited; "and I think you would be as
cruel with a woman as you are with a man."
"I've given yer no cause ter say that," protested Jonah.
"Perhaps not," said Clara; "but that man won't last through the winter
unless he's cared for. And if he dies, his blood will be on your head,
and your luck will turn. His crazy talk made me shiver. Promise me to do
something for him."
"Ye're talkin' like a novelette," said Jonah, roughly.
But Paasch's words had struck a superstitious chord in Jonah, and he went
out of his way to find a plan for relieving the old man without showing
his hand. He consulted his solicitors, and then an advertisement in the
morning papers offered a reward to anyone giving the whereabouts of
Hans Paasch, who left Hassloch in Bavaria in 1860, and who would hear of
something to his advantage by calling on Harris & Harris, solicitors.
A month later Jonah held a receipt for twelve pounds ten, signed by Hans
Paasch, the first instalment of an annuity of fifty pounds a year
miraculously left him by a distant cousin in Germany.
He showed this to Clara while they were crossing in the boat to Mosman.
She listened to him in silence. Then a flush coloured her cheeks.
"You'll never regret that," she said; "it's the best day's work you
"I 'ope I'll never regret anythin' that gives you pleasure," said Jonah,
feeling very noble and generous, and surprised at the ease with which he
turned a compliment.
They had the Point to themselves, as usual, and Clara went to the edge of
the rocks to see what ships had come and gone during the week, trying to
identify one that she had read about in the papers. Jonah watched her in
silence, marking every detail of her tall figure with a curious sense of
possession that years of intimacy had never given him with Ada. And yet
she kept him at a distance with a skill that exasperated him and provoked
his admiration. One day when he had held her hand a moment too long, she
had withdrawn it with an explanation that sounded like an apology.
She explained that from a child she had been unable to endure the touch
of another person; that she always preferred to walk rather than ride in
a crowded bus or tram because bodily contact with others set her nerves on
edge. It was a nervous affection, she explained, inherited from her
mother. Jonah had his own opinion of this malady, but he admitted to
himself that she would never enter a crowd or a crush.
The result of her pleading for Paasch had put her in a high good humour.
It was the first certain proof of her power over Jonah, and she chattered
gaily. She had risen in her own esteem. But presently, to her surprise,
Jonah took some papers from his pocket and frowned over them.
"It's very impolite to read in other people's company," she remarked,
with a sudden coolness.
"I beg yer pardon," said Jonah, starting suddenly, as if a whip had touched
him. She never failed to reprove him for any lapse in manners, and Jonah
winced without resentment.
"I thought this might interest yer," he continued. "I'm puttin' Steel in
as manager at last, an' this is the agreement."
"Who advised you to do that?" said Clara, with an angry flush.
"Well, Johnson's been complainin' of overwork fer some time, but Miss
Giltinan decided me. She's very keen on me openin' up branches in the
"You place great weight on Miss Giltinan's opinion," said Clara, jealously.
"Ter tell the truth, I do," said Jonah. "Next ter yerself, she's got the
best 'ead fer business of any woman I know."
"I don't agree with it at all," said Clara. "You're the brains of the
"Silver Shoe", and another man's ideas will clash with yours."
"No fear!" said Jonah. "I've got 'im tied down in black and white by my
Clara ran her eye over the typewritten document, reading some of the items
"'Turn over the stock three times a year'! What does that mean?" And she
listened while Jonah explained, the position of pupil and tutor suddenly
"'Ten and a half per cent bonus, in addition to his salary, if he shows an
increase on last year's sales.'"
"'Net profits on the departments not to exceed twenty-five per cent.,'"
read Clara in amazement. "Why, I should have thought the more profit he
made, the better for you."
"No fear," said Jonah, with a grin; "I can't 'ave a man puttin' up the
price of the Silver Shoe with his eye on his bonus."
Then a long discussion followed that lasted till nightfall. As the night
promised to be fine, Jonah persuaded her to take tea at a dilapidated
refreshment-room, halfway to the jetty, and they continued the discussion
over cups of discoloured water and stale cakes. When they reached the
Point again the moon was rising clear in the sky, and they sat and watched
in silence the gradual illumination of the harbour. The wind had dropped,
and tiny ripples alone broke the surface of the water. On the opposite
shore the beaches lay obscured in the faint light of the moon, growing
momently stronger, the land and water melted and confounded together in
the grey light. The lesser stars fled at the slow approach of the moon,
and in an hour she floated alone in the sky, save for the larger planets,
Hooding the deep abysses of the night with a gleam of silver, tender and
caressing that softened the angles and blotted details in brooding shadows.
Overhead curved the arch of night, a deep, flawless blue with velvety
depths, pale and diluted with light as it touched the skyline. On the
right, in the farther distance, Circular Quay flashed with the gleam of
electric arcs, each contracted into a star of four points. And they
glittered on the waterline like clustered gems without visible setting.
A fainter glow marked the packed suburbs of the east; and then the lamps,
flung like jewels in the night, picked out the line of shore to Rose Bay
and the Heads.
Ferry-boats were crossing the harbour, jewelled and glittering with
electric bulbs, moving in the distance without visible effort with the
motion of swans, the throb of engines and the swirl of water lost in the
distance. It was a symphony in light, each detached gleam on the sombre
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.
Between the moon and the eye the water lay like a sheet of frosted glass;
elsewhere the water rippled without life or colour, treacherous and
menacing in the night.
Jonah turned and looked at the woman beside him. They were alone on the
rocky headland, the city and the world of men seemed remote and unreal,
cut off by the silvery light and the brooding shadows. It dawned slowly
on him that his relations with this woman were independent of time and
space. Of all things visible, it was she alone that mattered. Often
enough he had missed his cue, but now, as if answering a question, he
began speaking softly, as if he were talking to himself:
"Clara!--Clara Grimes!--Clara! I've wanted ter say that out aloud fer
months, but I've never found the place ter say it in. It sounds quite
natural 'ere. Yer know that I love yer--I've seen it in yer face, but yer
don't know that you're the first woman I ever wanted. No, yer needn't run
away. I'm afraid ter touch yer, an' yer know it. Yer thought because I
was married that I knew all about women. Why, I didn't know what women
were made for till I met you. I thought w'en I 'ad the shop an' my boy
that I had everythin' I wanted, but the old woman was right. There's a
lot more in this world than I ever dreamt of. Seein' you opened my eyes.
An' now I want yer altogether. I want ter see yer face every 'our of the
day, an' tell yer whatever comes into my mind. I spend 'ours talkin' to
yer w'en I'm by myself."
"It's only my right," he went on, with increased energy. "I'm a man in
spite of my shape, an' I only ask fer what I'm entitled to. I can see
that other men 'ave been gittin' these things without me knowin' it. I
used ter grin at Chook, but I was the fool. I had everythin' that I could
see that was worth 'avin', an' somehow I wasn't satisfied. I never could
see much in this life. I often wondered what it was all about. But now I
understand. What's this for," and he indicated the dreamy peaceful scene
with a sweep of his hand, "if it only leaves yer starin' and wonderin'?
I know now. It's ter make me think about yer an' want yer. Well, yer've
made a man of me, an' it's up ter yous ter make the best of me." He broke
off with a short laugh. "P'raps this sound funny ter you. I've 'eard old
women at the Salvos' meetings talk like this, tellin' of the wonderful
things they found out w'en they got converted."
Clara had listened in silence, with an intent, curious expression on her
face. Jonah's words were like balm to her pride, lacerated three years
ago by her broken engagement. And she listened, immensely pleased and a
little afraid, like a mischievous child that has set fire to the curtains.
Jonah's face was turned to her, and as she looked at him her curiosity was
changed to awe at the sight of passion on fire. She thought of the crazy
fiddler's words, and felt in herself an infinite sadness, for she knew
that Jonah would never gain his heart's desire.
"I've 'ad my say," he continued, "an' now I'll talk sense. You're a grown
woman, an' yer know what all this means. I can give yer anythin' yer like:
a house an' servants; everythin' yer want. What do yer say?"
Clara had gone white to the lips. It had come at last, and the
"Silver Shoe" was within her reach, but the gift was incomplete. She must
decline it, and take her chances for the future.
"Not quite everything, Joe," she replied gently, afraid of wounding him.
"Ever since I was a girl I've had something to be ashamed of through no
fault of my own--my drunken father, the street we live in, our genteel
poverty; and now, when I seem to have missed all my chances, you come
along, and offer me everything I want with the main thing left out. Oh,
I know those cottages where the husband is a stranger, and the neighbours
watch them behind the curtains, and pump the servant over the back fence!
I'm too proud for that sort of thing. Oh, what a rotten world this is!"
she cried passionately, and burst into a storm of weeping. It was the
most natural action of her life.
Jonah sat and stared at the lights of the Quay, dismayed by her tears but
relieved in his mind. He had spoken at last; already he was framing fresh
arguments to persuade her. Presently she dried her eyes and looked at him
with the ghost of a smile. Then began a discussion which threatened to
last all night, neither of them giving way from the position they had
taken up, neither yielding an inch to the other's entreaties. Suddenly
Jonah looked at his watch with an exclamation. It was nearly ten. In the
heat of argument they had forgotten the lapse of time. They scrambled
over boulders and through the lantana bushes down to the path, and just
caught the boat.
When they reached the Quay they were surprised again by the splendour of
the night. The moon, just past the full, flooded the streets with white
light that left deep shadows between the buildings like a charcoal drawing.
They took a tram to the Haymarket, as they were afraid of being recognized
in the Waterloo cars, and reached Regent Street after eleven. The hotels
had disgorged their customers, who were talking loudly in groups on the
footpath or lurching homeward with uneven steps. Jonah was explaining
that he must see Clara all the way home on account of the lateness of the
hour, when he was astonished to hear someone sobbing in the monumental
mason's yard as if his heart would break. He turned and looked. The
headstones and white marble crosses stood in rows with a faint resemblance
to a graveyard; the moonlight fell clear and cold on these monuments
awaiting a purchaser. Some, already sold, were lettered in black with the
name of the departed. Jonah and Clara stared, puzzled by the noise, when
they saw an old man in the rear of the yard in a top hat and a frock coat,
clinging to a marble cross. He lurched round, and instantly Clara, with a
gasp of amazement and shame, recognized her father.
She moved into the shadows of a house, humiliated to her soul by this
exhibition; but Jonah laughed, in spite of himself, at the figure cut by
Dad among the ready-made monuments. As he laughed, Dad caught sight of
him, and clinging to a marble angel with one arm for support, beckoned
wildly with the other.
"Come here--come here," he cried between his sobs. "I'm all alone with
the dead, and nobody to shed a tear 'cep' meself. Shame on you, shame on
you," he cried, raising his voice in bitter grief, "to pass the poor
fellows in their graves without sheddin' tear!"
He stopped and stared with drunken gravity at the name on the nearest
tombstone, trying to read the words which danced before his eyes in the
clear light. Jonah saw them plainly.
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
A fresh burst of grief announced that Dad had deciphered the lettering.
"Sam!" he cried bitterly. "Me old fren' Sam! To think of bringing him
here without letting me know! The besh fren' I ever had."
Here sobs choked his utterance. He stooped and examined the shining marble
slab again, lurching from one side to the other with incessant motion.
"An' not a flowersh onsh grave!" he cried. "Sam was awf'ly fond flowersh."
"Get away 'ome, or the Johns'll pinch yer," said Jonah.
Dad stopped and stared at him with a glimmering of reason in his fuddled
"I know yoush," he cried, with a cunning leer. "An' I know your fren'
there. She isn't yer missis. She never is, y' know. Naughty boy!" he
cried, wagging his finger at Jonah; "but I wont split on pal."
That reminded him of the deceased Sam, and he turned again to the monument.
"Goo'bye, Sam," he cried suddenly, under the impression that he had been
to a funeral. "I've paid me respecks to an ol' fren', an' now we'll both
sleep in peace."
"Come away and leave him," whispered Clara, trembling with disgust and
"No fear!" said Jonah. "The Johns down 'ere don't know 'im, an' they'll
lumber 'im. You walk on ahead, an' I'll steer 'im 'ome."
He looked round; there was not a cab to be seen.
He led Dad out of the stonemason's yard with difficulty, as he wanted to
wait for the mourning coaches. Then, opposite the mortuary, he remembered
his little present for the Duchess, and insisted on going back.
"Wheresh my lil' present for Duchess?" he wailed. "Can't go 'ome without
Jonah was in despair. At last he rolled his handkerchief into a ball and
thrust it into Dad's hand.
Then Dad, relieved and happy, cast Jonah off, and stood for a moment like
the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Jonah watched anxiously, expecting him to fall,
but all at once, with a forward lurch Dad broke into a run, safe on his
feet as a spinning top. Jonah had forgotten Dad's run, famous throughout
all Waterloo, Redfern, and Alexandria.
A FATAL ACCIDENT
As Clara crossed the tunnel at Cleveland Street, she found that she had a
few minutes to spare, and stopped to admire the Silver Shoe from the
opposite footpath. Triumphant and colossal, treading the air securely
above the shop, the glittering shoe dominated the street with the insolence
of success. More than once it had figured in her dreams, endowed with the
fantastic powers of Aaron's rod, swallowing its rivals at a gulp or slowly
crushing the life out of the bruised limbs.
Her eye travelled to the shop below, with its huge plate-glass windows
framed in brass, packed with boots set at every angle to catch the eye.
The array of shining brass rods and glass stands, the gaudy ticket on each
pair of boots with the shillings marked in enormous red figures and the
pence faintly outlined beside them, pleased her eye like a picture.
To-day the silver lettering was covered with narrow posters announcing
that Jonah's red-letter sale was to begin to-morrow. And as she stared at
this huge machine for coining money, she remembered, with a sudden disdain,
her home with its atmosphere of decay and genteel poverty. She was
conscious of some change in herself. The slight sense of physical
repugnance to the hunchback had vanished since his declaration. He and
his shop stood for power and success. What else mattered?
Her spirits drooped suddenly as she remembered the obstacle that lay
between her and the pride of openly sharing the triumphs of the Silver
Shoe as she already shared its secrets. She thought with dismay of the
furtive meetings drawn out for years without hope of relief unless the
impossible happened. A watched pot never boils, and Ada was a young woman.
She crossed the street and entered the shop, her eye scouting for Jonah as
she walked to the foot of the stairs, for since the appointment of a
manager, Jonah had found time to slip up to the room after the lesson to
ask her to play for him, on the plea that the piano was spoiling for want
of use. And he waited impatiently for these stolen moments, with a secret
desire to see her beneath his roof in a domestic setting that gave him a
keener sense of intimacy than the swish of waters and wide spaces of sea
and sky. But to-day she looked in vain, and Miss Giltinan, seeing the
swift look of inquiry, stepped up to her.
"Mr Jones was called away suddenly over some arrangements for our sale
that opens to-morrow. He left word with me that he'd be back as soon as
possible," she said.
Clara thanked her, and flushed slightly. It seemed as if Jonah were
excusing himself in public for missing an appointment. As she went up the
stairs one shopman winked at the other and came across with a pair of
hobnailed boots in his hand.
"This'll never do," he whispered, "the boss missin' his lesson. He'll get
behind in his practice."
"Wotcher givin' us?" replied the other. "The boss don't take lessons;
it's the kid."
"Of course he don't," said the other with a leer. "He learns a lot here
by lookin' on, an' she tells him the rest at Mosman in the pale moonlight.
If I won a sweep, I'd take a few lessons meself an' cut him out."
He became aware that Miss Giltinan was standing behind him, and raised
"I was tellin' Harris that the price of these bluchers ought to be marked
down; they're beginning to sweat," he explained, turning to Miss Giltinan
and showing her some small spots like treacle on the uppers.
"Mr Jones doesn't pay you good money to talk behind his back; and if you
take the trouble to look at the tag, you'll see those boots have already
been marked down," she replied indignantly.
The shopman slinked away without a word. Miss Giltinan was annoyed.
It was not the first time that she had heard these scandalous rumours,
for the shop was alive with whispers, some professing to know every detail
of the meetings between Jonah and the music-teacher, naming to a minute
the boat they caught on their return from Mosman. Jonah had contrived to
avoid the faces that were familiar to him, but he had forgotten that he
must be seen and recognized by people unknown to him. Miss Giltinan's
clear and candid mind rejected these rumours for lying inventions,
incapable of belief that her idol, Jonah, would carry on with any woman.
They talked about him going upstairs to hear the piano. What was more
natural when he couldn't play it himself? And she dismissed the matter
from her mind and went about her business.
Clara gave Ray his lesson, listening between whiles for a rapid step from
below, but none came. She decided to go, and picked up her gloves. But
as she passed the bedroom door on the landing, a voice that she recognized
for Ada's called out "Is that you, Miss Grimes?"
"Yes," said Clara, and paused.
The voice sounded faint and thin, like that of a sick woman.
"'Ow is it y'ain't playin' anythin' to-day?" she continued.
"Mr Jones is out," replied Clara, annoyed by this conversation through the
crack of a door, and anxious to get away.
"Oh, is 'e?" said Ada, with an increase of energy in her voice. "I wish
yer'd come in fer a minit, if ye're not in a 'urry."
Clara pushed the door open, and went in. It was her first sight of the
bedroom, and she recoiled in dismay. The place was like a pigsty. Ada
was lying on the bed, still tossed and disordered from last night, in a
dirty dressing-gown. A basin of soapy water stood on the washstand, and
the carpeted floor was littered with clothes, a pile of penny novelettes,
and a collection of odds and ends on their way to the rag-bag. In spite
of the huge bedroom suite with its streaked and speckled mirrors, the room
seemed half furnished.
For a moment Clara was puzzled, and then her quick, feminine eye noted a
complete absence of the common knick-knacks and trifles that indicate the
refinement or vulgarity of the owner. She remembered that Jonah had told
her that Ada pawned everything she could lay hands on since he stopped her
allowance. But she was more surprised at the change in Ada herself.
Months ago Ada had begun to avoid her, ashamed of her slovenly looks, and