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HOME > Classical Novels > A Child of the Jago37 > CHAPTER 9
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 Dicky came moodily1 back from his dinner at Mr Weech's, plunged2 in mystified computation: starting with a debt of twopence, he had paid Mr Weech an excellent clock—a luxurious3 article in Dicky's eyes—had eaten a bloater, and had emerged from the transaction owing threepence halfpenny. Of what such a clock cost he had no notion, though he felt it must be some inconceivable sum. As Mr Weech put it, the adjustment of accounts would seem to be quite correct; but the broad fact that all had ended in increasing his debt by three half-pence, remained and perplexed4 him. He remembered having seen such clocks in a shop in Norton Folgate. To ask the price, in person, were but to be chased out of the shop; but they were probably ticketed, and perhaps he might ask some bystander to read the ticket. This brought the reflection that, after all, reading was a useful accomplishment5 on occasion: though a matter of too much time and trouble to be worth while. Dicky had never been to school; for the Elementary Education Act ran in the Jago no more than any other Act of Parliament. There was a Board School, truly, away out of the Jago bounds, by the corner of Honey Lane, where children might go free, and where some few Jago children did go now and again, when boots were to be given away, or when tickets were to be had, for tea, or soup, or the like. But most parents were of Josh Perrott's opinion: that school-going was a practice best never begun; for then the child was never heard of, and there was no chance of inquiries6 or such trouble. Not that any such inquiries were common in the Jago, or led to anything.  
Meantime Dicky, minded to know if his adventure had made any stir in the house, carried his way deviously8 toward home. Working through the parts beyond Jago Row, he fetched round into Honey Lane, so coming at New Jago Street from the farther side. Choosing one of the houses whose backs gave on Jago Court, he slipped through the passage, and so, by the back yard, crawled through the broken fence into the court. Left and right were the fronts of houses, four a side. Before him, to the right of the narrow archway leading to Old Jago Street, was the window of his own home. He gained the back yard quietly, and at the kitchen door met Tommy Rann.
'Come on,' called Tommy. ''Ere's a barney! They're a-pitchin' into them noo 'uns—Roperses. Roperses sez Fisherses is sneaked9 their things. They are a-gittin' of it!'
From the stairs, indeed, came shouts and curses, bumps and sobs10 and cries. The first landing and half the stairs were full of people, men and women, Ranns and Learys together. When Ranns joined Learys it was an ill time for them they marched against; and never were they so ready and so anxious to combine as after a fight between themselves, were but some common object of attack available. Here it was. Here were these pestilent outsiders, the Ropers, assailing11 the reputation of the neighbourhood by complaining of being robbed. As though their mere12 presence in the Jago, with their furniture and their superiority, were not obnoxious13 enough: they must turn about and call their neighbours thieves! They had been tolerated too long already. They should now be given something for themselves, and have some of their exasperating14 respectability knocked off; and if, in the confusion, their portable articles of furniture and bed-clothing found their way into more deserving hands—why, serve them right.
The requisite15 volleys of preliminary abuse having been discharged, more active operations began under cover of fresh volleys. Dicky, with Tommy Rann behind him, struggled up the stairs among legs and skirts, and saw that the Ropers, the man flushed, but the woman paler than ever, were striving to shut their door. Within, the hunchback and the baby cried, and without, those on the landing, skidding16 the door with their feet, pushed inward, and now began to strike and maul. Somebody seized the man's wrist, and Norah Walsh got the woman by the hair and dragged her head down. In a peep through the scuffle Dicky saw her face, ashen17 and sweat-beaded, in the jamb of the door, and saw Norah Walsh's red fist beat into it twice. Then somebody came striding up the stairs, and Dicky was pushed farther back. Over the shoulders of those about him, Dicky saw a tall hat, and then the head beneath it. It was the stranger he had seen in Edge Lane—the parson: active and resolute18. Norah Walsh he took by the shoulder, and flung back among the others, and as he turned on him, the man who held Roper's wrist relea............
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