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HOME > Classical Novels > A Child of the Jago37 > CHAPTER 15
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 As for Dicky, he went to school. That is to say, he turned up now and again, at irregular intervals1, at the Board School just over the Jago border in Honey Lane. When anything was given away, he attended as a matter of course; but he went now and again without such inducement—perhaps because he fancied an afternoon's change, perhaps because the weather was cold and the school was warm. He was classed as a half-timer, an arrangement which variegated2 the register, but otherwise did not matter. Other boys, half-timers or not, attended as little as he. It was long since the managers had realised the futility3 of attempting compulsion in the Jago.  
Dicky was no fool, and he had picked up some sort of reading and writing as he went along. Moreover, he had grown an expert thief, and had taken six strokes of a birch-rod by order of a magistrate4. As yet he rarely attempted a pocket, being, for most opportunities, too small; but he was comforted by the reflection that probably he would never get really tall, and thus grow out of pocket-picking when he was fully5 experienced, as was the fate of some. For no tall man can be a successful pickpocket6, because he must bend to his work, and so advertise it to every beholder7.
Meantime Dicky practised that petty larceny8 which is possible in every street in London; and at odd times he would play the scout9 among the practitioners10 of the 'fat's a-running' industry. If one crossed Meakin Street by way of Luck Row and kept his way among the courts ahead, he presently reached the main Bethnal Green Road, at the end whereof stood the great goods depot11 of a railway company. Here carts and vans went to and fro all day, laden12 with goods from the depot, and certain gangs among the Jagos preyed13 on these continually. A quick-witted scout stood on the look-out for such vehicles as went with unguarded tailboards. At the approach of one such he sent the shout 'Fat's a-runnin'!' up Luck Row, and, quick at the signal, a gang scuttled14 down, by the court or passage which his waved hand might hint at, seized whatever could be snatched from the cart, and melted away into the courts, sometimes leaving a few hands behind to hinder and misdirect pursuit. Taking one capture with another, the thing paid very well; and besides, there were many vans laden with parcels of tobacco, not from the railway depot but from the tobacco factories hard by, a click from which was apt to prove especially lucrative15. Dicky was a notable success as scout. The department was a fairly safe one, but it was not always easy to extract from the gang the few coppers16 that were regarded as sufficient share for service done. Moreover, Mr Weech was not pleased; for by now Dicky was near to being his most remunerative18 client, and the cart robberies counted nothing, for the fat's a-running boys fenced their swag with a publican at Hoxton. And though Dicky had grown out of his childish belief that Mr Weech could hear a mile away and see through a wall, he had a cautious dread19 of the weapon he supposed to lie ever to his patron's hand—betrayal to the police. In other respects things were easier. His father took no heed20 of what he did, and even his mother had so far accepted destiny as to ask if he had a copper17 or two, when there was a scarcity21. Indeed Hannah Perrott filled her place in the Jago better than of old. She would gossip, she drew no very rigid22 line as to her acquaintance, and Dicky had seen her drunk. Still, for Old Jago Street she was a quiet woman, and she never brawled23 nor fought. Of fighting, indeed, Josh could do enough for the whole family, once again four in number. For the place of Looey, forgotten, was supplied by Em, aged24 two.
When Dicky came home and recognised the clock on the mantel-piece, being the more certain because his mother told him it had come from Weech's, the thing irritated him strangely. Through all those four years since he had carried that clock to Mr Weech, he had never got rid of the wretched hunchback. He, too, went to the Board School in Honey Lane (it lay between Dove Lane and the Jago), but he went regularly, worked hard, and was a favourite with teachers. So far, Dicky was unconcerned. But scarce an ill chance came to him but, sooner or later, he found the hunchback at the back of it. If ever a teacher mysteriously found out that it was Dicky who had drawn25 his portrait, all nose and teeth, on the blackboard, the tale had come from Bobby Roper. Whenever Dicky, chancing upon school by ill luck on an afternoon when sums were to be done, essayed to copy answers from his neighbour's slate26, up shot the hunchback's hand in an instant, the tale was told, and handers were Dicky's portion. Once, dinnerless and hungry, he had stolen a sandwich from a teacher's desk; and, though he had thought himself alone and unseen, the hunchback knew it, and pointed28 him out, white malice29 in his thin face and eager hate in his thrust finger. For a fortnight Dicky dared not pass a little fruit shop in Meakin Street, because of an attempt on an orange, betrayed by his misshapen schoolfellow, which brought him a hard chase from the fruiterer and a bad bruise30 on the spine31 from a board flung after him. The hunchback's whole energies—even his whole time—seemed to be devoted32 to watching him. Dicky, on his part, received no injuries meekly33. In the beginning he had tried threats and public jeers34 at his enemy's infirmity. Then, on some especially exasperating35 occasion, he pounded Bobby Roper savagely36 about the head and capsized him into a mud-heap. But bodily reprisal37, though he erected38 it into a practice, proved no deterrent39. For the little hunchback, though he might cry at the pummelling, retorted with worse revenge of his own sort. And once or twice bystanders, seeing a deformed40 child thus treated, interfered41 with clouts42 on Dicky's ears. The victim, moreover, designed another retaliation43. He would go to some bigger boy with a tale that Dicky had spoken vauntingly of fighting him and beating him hollow, with one hand. This brought the big boy after Dicky at once, with a hiding: except on some rare occasion when the hunchback rated his instrument of vengeance44 too high, and Dicky was able to beat him in truth. But this was a very uncommon45 mistake. And after this Dicky did not wait for specific provocation46: he 'clumped47' Bobby Roper, or rolled him in the gutter48, as a matter of principle, whenever he could get hold of him.
That afternoon Dicky had suffered again. Two days earlier, tea and cake had been provided by a
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