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HOME > Classical Novels > A Child of the Jago37 > CHAPTER 17
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 There was much talk of Father Sturt's announcement. Many held it a shame that so much money, destined1 for the benefit of the Jago, should be spent in bricks and mortar2, instead of being distributed among themselves. They fell to calculating the price of the land and houses, and to working it out laboriously3 in the denomination4 of pots and gallons. More: it was felt to be a grave social danger that Jago Court should be extinguished. What would become of the Jago without Jago Court? Where would Sunday morning be spent? Where would the fights come off, and where was so convenient a place for pitch and toss? But mainly they feared the police. Jago Court was an unfailing sanctuary5, a city of refuge ever ready, ever secure. There were times when two or three of the police, hot in the chase, would burst into the Jago at the heels of a flying marauder. Then the runaway6 would make straight for the archway, and, once he was in Jago Court, danger was over. For he had only to run into one of the ever-open doors at right or left, and out into back-yards and other houses; or, better, to scramble7 over the low fence opposite, through the back door before him, and so into New Jago Street. Beyond the archway the police could not venture, except in large companies. A young constable8 who tried it once, getting ahead of two companions in his ardour, was laid low as he emerged from the passage, by a fire-grate adroitly9 let drop from an upper window.  
The blotting10 out of such a godsend of a place as this would be a calamity11. The Jago would never be the same again. As it was, the Old Jago was a very convenient, comfortable sort of place, they argued. They could not imagine themselves living anywhere else. But assuredly it would be the Jago no longer without Jago Court. And this thing was to be done, too, with money got together for their benefit! The sole explanation the Jago could supply was the one that at last, with arithmetical variations, prevailed. The landlords were to be paid a sum (varying in Jago estimation from a hundred pounds to a hundred thousand) for the houses and the ground, and of this they were secretly to return to Father Sturt a certain share (generally agreed on as half), as his private fee for bringing about so desirable a transaction. Looked at from all points, this appeared to be the most plausible12 explanation: for no other could reasonably account for Father Sturt's activity. No wonder he could afford to reduce some of the rents! Was he not already receiving princely wages (variously supposed to be something from ten pounds to thirty pounds a week) from the Government, for preaching every Sunday?
Still the rents were to be reduced: that was the immediate13 consideration, and nothing but an immediate consideration carried weight in the Jago, where a shilling to-day was to be preferred to a constant income beginning in a month's time. The first effect of the announcement was a rush of applications for rooms in the doomed14 houses, each applicant15 demanding to be accommodated by the eviction16 of somebody already established, but now disinterestedly17 discovered to be a bad tenant18. They were all disappointed, but the residents had better luck than they had hoped. For the unexpected happened, and the money for a part of the new buildings was suddenly guaranteed. Wherefore Father Sturt, knowing that many would be hard put to it to find shelter when the houses came down, and guessing that rents would rise with the demand, determined19 to ask none for the little while the tenements20 endured. Scarce had he made his decision known ere he regretted it, popular as it was. For he reflected that the money saved would merely melt, and that at the inevitable21 turning out, not a soul would be the better off for the relief, but, indeed, might find it harder than ever to pay rent after the temporary easement. It would have been better rigidly22 to exact the rent, and return it in lump to each tenant as he left. The sum would have been an inducement to leave peaceably—a matter in which trouble was to be expected. But then, what did any windfall of shillings bring in the Jago? What but a drunk? This was one of Father Sturt's thousand perplexities, and he could but hope that, perhaps, he had done right after all.
The old buildings were sold, as they stood, to the house-wreckers, and on the house-wreckers devolved the work of getting the lodgers23 out. For weeks the day was deferred24, but it drew very near at last, and a tall hoarding25 was put up. Next morning it had vanished; but there was a loud crackling where the Jagos boiled their pots; Dicky Perrott and Tommy Rann had a bonfire in Edge Lane; and Jerry Gullen's canary sweated abroad before a heavy load of cheap firewood.
Then Josh Perrott and Billy Leary, his old enemy, were appointed joint26 guardians27 of the new hoarding, each to get half-a-crown on every morning when the fence was found intact. And in the end there came eviction day, and once more the police held the Jago in force, escorting gangs of men with tumbrils.
As for the Perrotts, they could easily find another room, at the high rent always charged for the privilege of residence in the Jago. To have remained in one room four or five years, and to have paid rent with indifferent good regularity28 was a feat29 sufficiently30 rare to be notorious, and to cause way to be made for them wherever a room was falling vacant, or could be emptied. They went no farther than across the way, to a room wherein a widow had died over her sack-making two days before, and had sat on the floor with her head between her knees for hours, while her children, not understanding, cried that they were hungry. These children were now gone to the workhouse: more fortunate than the many they left behind. And the room was a very fair one, ten feet square or so.
The rest of the tenants31 thought not at all of new quarters, and did nothing to find them, till they found themselves and their belongings32 roofless in Old Jago Street. Then with one accord they demanded lodgings34 of the vicar. Most of them had never inhabited any rooms so long as they had these which they must now leave—having been ejected again and again because of unpaid35 rent. Nevertheless, they clamoured for redress36 as they might have clamoured had they never changed dwellings37 in their lives.
Nobody resisted the police; for there were too many of them. Moreover, Father Sturt was there, and few had hardihood for any but their best behaviour in his presence. Still, there were disputes among the Jagos themselves, that sometimes came very near to fights. Ginger38 Stagg's missis professed39 to recognise a long-lost property in a tin kettle brought into the outer air among the belongings of Mrs Walsh. The miscellaneous rags and sticks that were Cocko Harnwell's house............
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