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HOME > Classical Novels > A Child of the Jago37 > CHAPTER 21
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 He handed his father the seven shillings, and received a furious belting for losing his situation. He cried quietly, but it was not because of the strap1. All he feared now was to meet Father Sturt. He had rather fifty beltings than Father Sturt's reproaches; and, having disgraced himself with Mr Grinder in some mysterious way which it was beyond his capacity to understand, what but reproaches could he expect from the vicar? The whole world was against him. As for himself, he was hopeless: plainly he must have some incomprehensible defect of nature, since he offended, do as he might, and could neither understand nor redeem2 his fault. He wondered if it had been so with little Neddy Wright, who had found the world too ruthless for him at ten; and had tied a brick to his neck, as he had seen done with needless dogs, and let himself timidly down into the canal at Haggerstone Bridge.  
So he shuffled3 through Jago Row, when a hand came on his shoulder and a hoarse4 voice said:—'Wot's the matter, Dicky?'
He turned, and saw the mild, coarse face of Pigeony Poll, the jaw5 whereof was labouring on something tough and sticky. Poll pulled from her pocket a glutinous6 paper, clinging about a cohesive7 lump of broken toffee—the one luxury of her moneyed times. ''Ave a bit,' she said. 'Wot's the matter?'
But Dicky thrust the hand away and fled, for he feared another burst of tears. His eyes were bad enough as it was, and he longed to hide himself in some hole.
He turned into New Jago Street. Hither it was that Jerry Gullen had betaken himself with his family and the Canary, after the great eviction8. Dicky slackened his pace, loitered at Jerry's doorway9, and presently found himself in the common passage. It was long since he had had a private interview with Jerry Gullen's canary: for, indeed, he was thirteen—he was no longer a child, in fact!—and it was not well that he should indulge in such foolish weakness. Nevertheless he went as far as the back door. There stood the old donkey, mangy and infirm as ever, but apparently10 no nearer the end. The wood of the fence was bitten in places, but it was not as yet gnawed11 to the general whiteness and roundness of that in Canary's old abode12. Canary, indeed, was fortunate to-day, for at the sound of Dicky's step he lifted his nose from a small heap of straw, dust, and mouldy hay, swept into a corner. Dicky stepped into the yard, and put his hand on Canary's neck; presently he glanced guiltily at the windows above. Nobody was looking. And in five minutes Dicky, aged13 as he was, had told Canary his troubles, while new tears wetted the ragged14 crest15 and dropped into the dusty straw.
Now his grief lost some of its edge. Ashamed as he was, he had a shapeless, unapprehended notion that Canary was the sole creature alive that could understand and feel with him. And Canary poked16 his nose under the old jacket and sniffed17 in sympathy, as the broken lining18 tickled19 him. Dicky's intellectuals began to arrange themselves. Plainly, Mr Weech's philosophy was right after all. He was of the Jago, and he must prey20 on the outer world, as all the Jago did; not stray foolishly off the regular track in chase of visions, and fall headlong. Father Sturt was a creature of another mould. Who was he, Dicky Perrott, that he should break away from the Jago habit, and strain after another nature? What could come of it but defeat and bitterness? As old Beveridge had said, the Jago had got him. Why should he fight against the inevitable21, and bruise22 himself? The ways out of the Jago old Beveridge had told him, years ago. Gaol23, the gallows24 and the High Mob. There was his chance, his aspiration25, his goal: the High Mob. To dream of oil-shops or regular wages was foolishness. His bed was made in the Jago, and he must lie on it. His hope in life, if he might have a hope at all, was to be of the High Mob. Spare nobody, stop at nothing, do his devilmost: old Beveridge had said that years ago. The task was before him, and he must not balk26 at it. As for gaol and the gallows, well! There they were, and he could not help it; ill ways out of the Jago, both, but still—ways out.
He rubbed his face carefully with his sleeve, put away his foolish ambitions, and went forth27 with a brave heart: to accomplish his destiny for well or ill,—a Jago rat. To do his devilmost. But to avoid Father Sturt.
Out he went into Shoreditch High Street, and there he prowled the evening away; there and in Norton Folgate. But he touched for nothing—nothing at all. He feared lest his week's honesty had damaged his training. Even an apple on a stall he failed at, and had to run. And then he turned into Bethnal Green Road.
But here a thought checked him suddenly. What of Mr Grinder? He had threatened to have Dicky locked up if he came near the shop again. But a child of the Jago knew too much to be frightened by such a threat as that. He went on. He felt interested to see how his late employer was getting along without him, and who was minding the goods outside the shop. Probably there was nobody: and this gave Dicky an idea.
He had forgotten his smudgy apron28, folded and tucked away in the lining of his jacket. Now he pulled it out, and fastened it before him once more. He knew Mr Grinder's habits in the shop, and if he could seize a fitting opportunity he might be able, attired29 in his apron, to pick up or reach down any article that struck his fancy, fearless of interference from passers-by; for he would seem to be still shop-boy.
With that he hastened, for it was near closing time at Grinder's. He took the opposite side of the road, the better to observe unseen in the darkness. But Mr Grinder had already begun to carry things in from the pavement. As Dicky looked he came out with a long pole wherewith he unhooked from above a clattering30
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