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HOME > Classical Novels > A Child of the Jago37 > CHAPTER 4
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 When Dicky Perrott came running into Jago Row with the Bishop's watch in his pocket, another boy punched a fist at him, and at the time Dicky was at a loss to guess the cause—unless it were a simple caprice—but stayed neither to inquire nor to retaliate1. The fact was that the Ranns and the Learys were coming out, fighting was in the air, and the small boy, meeting another a trifle smaller, punched on general principles. The Ranns and the Learys, ever at war or in guarded armistice2, were the great rival families—the Montagues and the Capulets—of the old Jago. The Learys indeed, scarce pretended to rivalry—rather to factious3 opposition4. For the Ranns gloried in the style and title of the 'Royal Family,' and dominated the Jago; but there were mighty5 fighters, men and women, among the Learys, and when a combat arose it was a hard one and an animated6. The two families ramified throughout the Jago; and under the Rann standard, whether by kin7 or by custom, were the Gullens, the Fishers, the Spicers, and the Walshes; while in the Leary train came Dawsons, Greens, and Harnwells. So that near all the Jago was wont8 to be on one side or the other, and any of the Jago which was not, was apt to be the worse for it; for the Ranns drubbed all them that were not of their faction9 in the most thorough and most workmanlike manner, and the Learys held by the same practice; so that neutrality meant double drubbing. But when the Ranns and Learys combined, and the Old Jago issued forth10 in its entire might against Dove Lane, then the battle was one to go miles to see.  
This, however, was but a Rann and Leary fight; and it was but in its early stages when Dicky Perrott, emerging from Jerry Gullen's back-yard, made for Shoreditch High Street by way of the 'Posties'—the passage with posts at the end of Old Jago Street. His purpose was to snatch a handful of hay from some passing waggon11, or of mixed fodder12 from some unguarded nosebag, wherewith to reward the sympathy of Jerry Gullen's canary. But by the 'Posties,' at the Edge Lane corner, Tommy Rann, capless, and with a purple bump on his forehead, came flying into his arms, breathless, exultant13, a babbling14 braggart15. He had fought Johnny Leary and Joe Dawson, he said, one after the other, and pretty nigh broke Johnny Leary's blasted neck; and Joe's Dawson's big brother was after him now with a bleed'n' shovel16. So the two children ran on together, and sought the seclusion17 of their own back yard; where the story of Johnny Rann's prowess, with scowls18 and the pounding of imaginary foes19, and the story of the Bishop's watch, with suppressions and improvements, mingled20 and contended in the thickening dusk. And Jerry Gullen's canary went forgotten and unrequited.
That night fighting was sporadic21 and desultory22 in the Jago. Bob the Bender was reported to have a smashed nose, and Sam Cash had his head bandaged at the hospital. At the Bag of Nails in Edge Lane, Snob23 Spicer was knocked out of knowledge with a quart pot, and Cocko Harnwell's missis had a piece bitten off of one ear. As the night wore on, taunts24 and defiances were bandied from window to door, and from door to window, between those who intended to begin fighting to-morrow; and shouts from divers25 corners gave notice of isolated26 scuffles. Once a succession of piercing screams seemed to betoken27 that Sally Green had begun. There was a note in the screams of Sally Green's opposites which the Jago had learned to recognise. Sally Green, though of the weaker faction, was the female champion of the Old Jago: an eminence28 won and kept by fighting tactics peculiar29 to herself. For it was her way, reserving teeth and nails, to wrestle30 closely with her antagonist31, throw her by a dexterous32 twist on her face, and fall on her, instantly seizing the victim's nape in her teeth, gnawing33 and worrying. The sufferer's screams were audible afar, and beyond their invariable eccentricity34 of quality—a quality a vaguely35 suggestive of dire36 surprise—they had mechanical persistence37, a pump-like regularity38, that distinguished39 them, in the accustomed ear, from other screams.
Josh Perrott had not been home all the evening: probably the Bishop's watch was in course of transmutation into beer. Dicky, stiff and domestically inclined, nursed Looey and listened to the noises without till he fell asleep, in hopeful anticipation40 of the morrow. For Tommy Rann had promised him half of a broken iron railing wherewith to fight the Learys.

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