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Okay, once again I pay the price for not reading ahead... Chapter 14 ("Lambeth Lasses") isn't really about Lizzie so much as it's inspired by her, and so as not to wound his intended audience's turn-of-the-century sensibilities, Rook chooses to recap Alf's thoughts on Lambeth women. Which is a damn shame, because he assures us the unvarnished version was absolutely awesome. Too bad you middle-class Victorians can't deal.

The first thing we're told is that the typical young woman of Lambeth doesn't go in for thieving or whoring. Alf's lot doesn't like for prostitutes, since whores never send their clients home unfleeced. There's also another set of dots you could connect: remember the whole "If I want something, I just take it" from earlier on? Good luck taking "it" from a prostitute for free.

We're told the Lambeth women of 1898 earn their money through honest, hard labor, and if she casts her lot with guys who go sideways instead of straight (I love that turn of phrase), they don't worry their pretty little heads about it (that's a sentiment I could do without). Sure, he's amazing with his hands and doesn't have any visible means of support, but really, as long as he stays off the topic, that's his problem. If it comes to a head and she's forced to make a choice between a dude and being honest...well, too bad for the law in that case. However, she does have a kind of virtue...if you squint and hold your head a certain way.

The women of the Walk knew how to fight, too. None of this hair-tearing, bodice-ripping catfight cross one of these ladies, she'll go all Joe Frazier on ya. Maggots found that out the hard way one day, but not in the way he was hoping for.

'More'n 'alf the time it's jealousy what leads to scrappin',' said young Alf. 'Say there's two or free gals messin' about after the same boy; well, they 'ave a set to so's to settle which is goin' to 'ave 'im. See? On'y sometimes it comes out the uvver way, same as it did wiv Maggots.'

'What happened to Maggots?' I asked.

'Why, Maggots was walkin' wiv more'n one gal, - more'n two or free, if it comes to that, and 'e fort it was about time to make some change. Getting a bit too fick for Maggots, it was, specially as it'd come to is knowledge that some of the gals'd been fighting to see which of 'em should 'ave 'im. Well, one afternoon one of the gals says to Maggots that she'd be down the Arches after she'd 'ad 'er tea. Maggots 'e'd 'ad enough of the gal, so it came into his 'ead that 'e'd 'ave a bit of a game wiv 'er. So he says e'd be down the Arches after tea, too. Then he nips round an' makes a 'pointment wiv one gal after anuvver to be down the Arches after tea, an' they all promised they'd come.'

'And they all came?'

'Eight of em, one after the uvver. An' as each one come the uvvers arst 'er who she'd come to meet, an' she says Maggots. An' there was all of em stannin' down the Arches waitin' for the same boy. See? 'Course that was jest what Maggots wanted, cause 'e fort there'd be a rare old beano, cause all the gals'd been messin' about after 'im.'

'And was there a fight?'

'It didn't turn out quite like Maggots expected; but there was a fight, in a way of speaking, an' Maggots see it all, wiv no error. Silly like, 'e goes down to the Arches quiet as 'e could, finkin' 'e'd like to see the gals an' if they'd come to meet 'im an' wevver they was scrappin'. See? On'y the gals they'd been layin' their eads togevver, an' seein' as Maggots'd been playin' a game wiv 'em, they 'greed they'd give Maggots what for. An' soon as Maggots showed 'is chivvy one of the gals says, "Fink we're Mormons?" she says; an' wiv that she lands him one; an' quicker'n anyfink the ole lot chips in back an' front an' dusts 'im over proper. Oh! 'e see a fight, Maggots did, that evenin', but it wasn't the sort of fight that 'e'd set out to see. They could put in a bit o' work too, them gals could, cause Maggots always fancied big gals. Sort of obby of 'is. An' fore they'd done wiv 'im Maggots wished 'e was safe at Wormwood Scrubs. See? Nor I don't think any Lambeth boy'll play on the ikey like that wiv them gals again.' (pp. 168-70)
This somehow gets steered into the art of slipping a guy a mickey. Alf offers the suspicious Rook a cigar, and when he hesitates, it turns out to be "fiddled"...that is, you take a drag off of it, it'll take a drag off of you in return.
[...]'There's been a lot o' talk about druggin' liquor in pubs, puttin' snuff in, y' know. Well, even if you got a mug that you fink you can skin easy, it ain't so easy to fiddle is drink in a bar where there's lots of uvver people; you can take it from me. It ain't the drink that gets fiddled. The way a mug gets struck senseless is be ceegars. And cigarettes. See?'

Young Alf sat back and regarded me obliquely. 'It wasn't on'y a week ago,' he continued, 'I come across a toff in a bar that was 'avin' a bit extry, an' gettin' extry good-natured wiv it. So course I got into conversation wiv 'im, an' 'e stood drinks. Wasn't boozed, 'e wasn't, an' I reckon 'e was pretty fly, cause 'e kep' 'is coat buttoned tight. On'y he was talkin' free about the brass 'e'd got. Says 'e could buy up the ole bar an' all the bleed'n' crowd in it. Well, I finks I must run froo 'im if I see me way, on'y I couldn't see no pals stannin' around, an' I couldn't see me way until sudden like it come into me 'ead 'ow to work the job. An' me wiv me ceegar in me pocket all the time! See?

'Well, presently I brings out me ceegar an' offers it to him, be way of returnin' the compliment of the drink 'e'd stood. See? An' course 'e takes it an' lights up.

' "That's a nice smoke," 'e says.

' "Oughter be," I chips in. "It come a long way fore it got 'ere. You don't get a smoke like that every day of the week, an' countin' Sundays," I says. An' that was Gawd's trewth.'

The contortion of Young Alf's face denoted intense amusement.

'Well, fore long,' continued young Alf, 'the toff began to get queer in 'is 'ead. Cause, you unnerstand, it was a faked ceegar what I'd give 'im. So I looks round at the uvver people in the bar, an' I says that my fren's a bit overcome an' I fink I'll take 'im into the fresh air. See? An' wiv that out we goes togevver, me tellin' 'im 'ow the fresh air'll liven 'im up like. An' time I'd got a 'ansom an' put 'im inside, the job was worked. Went froo 'im, carm an' easy, I did, while we drove along. An' then, soon as we come to a pub that I knew was awright, I stopped the cab an' says I was goin' to get some brandy for my fren' that wasn't feelin' well. Course I nips froo an' out at the back.'

'And what happened to the man in the cab, and the cabman?' I asked.

'Never see eiver of em again,' said young Alf. 'Don't want to.' (pp. 171-3)
Rook asks where he might be able to get one of those goof-gas cigars, presumably as an easy way to settle editorial disputes, but Alf once again refuses to give everything away.

Chapter 15 ("A Bit of an Argument") details the toughest fight Alf ever had, against a "damn big lab'rin' chap". They were engaged in a pub argument about how fast Alf could run, so they decided to settle the matter in the obvious way. No, not by actually running. With violence!

When they stripped to fight the next Sunday at Barnes Common, Alf discovered that while he was going to be much quicker, his opponent had about two stone on him. Of course, it was a bit late to back out then...
'We 'adn't 'ardly got into the third round 'fore I see I'd got a reg'lar sneezer to 'andle. An' 'bout 'arf way froo I got a flattener on me razzo that pretty nigh laid me out, an' 'fore I knew anyfink more my right eye went in for early closin'. 'Ealfy, wasn't it? Much as I could do to keep stannin' up, that round.

'Well, I settled in me mind that round four was to be my look in if I wasn't to go under, so I went for the lab'rer wiv all me bloody might, an' got in free hot 'uns on 'is ribs that fair made 'is timbers crack, an' 'fore the round was finished I'd landed a couple of stingers on 'is dial that seprised 'im proper.

'The fifth round was 'ammer an' tongs again, an' the lab'rer got one of my teef to give notice, but I got one back on 'is jore, an' there was the lab'rer comin' at me wiv 'is tongue angin' right out of 'is mouf. Well, I see me chance then, an' I give 'im a upper cut that made 'im fair bite into 'is tongue an' go down full length on the grass. The next round was the last, an' a little 'oliday for me it was, wiv no error. 'e couldn't 'ardly put up 'is dukes be that time, an' I knocked 'im out first time I smacked 'im.

'I've 'ad a good many scraps in me time, nor it wouldn't seprise me if I was to have some more. But I don't never expect to 'ave a tougher fight than I 'ad that mornin' on Barnes Common. It was 'ard sloggin' all froo; an' if I didn't fair earn me five bob that mornin',--well, I never earned five bob in all me life. Don't you fink so?' (pp. 177-8)
Nice to see he finally brought the thunder. It'd be a shame if we had to rename this book "The Knocked-On-Your-Ass Nights".

(And yeah, I know's text has "Politics" as Chapter 15. I'm going by the page scans of the US edition here. Don't worry, it's still there, just in a different place. I'll get to it soon enough.)

Next: More burglarly! And this time I'm sure of it!

Yeah, I'm such a punk for letting my side of the bargain down...this entry promises to be a quick scoot, especially Chapter 12 ("The Boot-trick and Others"), which isn't much more than a tutorial of (wink wink) what to look out for. In sections like these, it's all too apparent the fine line that author Rook is walking, especially since his stated goal is to be totally honest about the world of young criminals. As Lenny Bruce once said about sex ed in schools, telling kids about syphilis isn't the same as ordering them to go out and get it. Likewise, telling kids how some people engage in the art of dognapping (especially detailing the unspoken threat of poisoning the pet of an owner who stiffs on a reward) isn't the same thing as walking them through their first caper. But you know how parents can be about giving children bad ideas. Especially if they're secretly afraid that they've raised the types of amoral monsters the previous eleven chapters have been telling us about.

Of course, it could be like those card counting books which the Vegas/Atlantic City dealers were afraid would give the game away, but in practice gave the lightweights just enough misplaced confidence to blow twice as much as they would without "the system"...which they didn't bother to learn correctly in the first place.

Anyway, the maxim of this section is something that even an honest person can appreciate: a little diversity in your skill set doesn't hurt your opportunities, and you'll lose your determination if you're too idle too long. With that in mind, a quick trip through the chapter tells us about:

  • blackmail, which Alf won't usually touch unless he's got nothing in his pocket but a handkerchief.
  • charity scams.
  • the best way to rob a church on a Sunday.
  • offering to clean out a store's empty boxes and crates...while making sure to slip a full one in your bundle.
  • fun with unattended carts and horses.
And then, a few that are worth covering a bit more completely, starting with the "boot trick". Well, it is in the chapter heading...

Maggots and Alf had a hankering for some new boots, and Maggots' landlord (who, like most derelict landlords, doesn't recognize one of his tenants on sight) ran a shoe shop. That the caper would put one over on him would be a bonus.
'[...]So we nips down to the shop, an' goes in, an' I arsts to be showed a pair of boots. First pair I tried on fitted me a treat; but I fair nicked that they were too tight for me corns.

' "Easy, guv'nor," I says, "easy. I want a pair of boots for walkin' in," I says. "I can't ford to sit wiv me trotters on a sofy smokin' ceegars all day. See?"

'The ole Jew snob says, "Why, they're a splendid fit," he says.

' "After you, guv'nor," I replies. "They'd cripple me fore I'd walked a dozen yards."

' "You talk sense," he says. "An' don't your fren want a pair too?" he says.

' "I don't say I won't look at a pair, now you mention it," says Maggots. "On'y, don't you clamp up my trotters like what you 'ave my fren's," he says.

' "I'll do you bofe a good turn," says the Jew snob. Wiv that 'e brings out anuvver pair of boots, an' Maggot tries 'em on. "There," says the ole Jew, "I never in all life see such fits."

' "Fits it is," says Maggots. "Why, I couldn't 'obble in 'em, let alone walkin'."

' An' wiv that 'e makes a show of 'obblin cross the floor of the shop, an' me after 'im, makin' out as if I couldn't 'ardly put one foot down fore the uvver. An' soon as we come to the door, Maggots flings it open an' scoots, an' me after 'im. Pace we went was a testermonial to the ole Jew's boots, wiv no error. I like to fink 'ow we got a bit of our own back off that bleed'n' ole Jew.'

Young Alf kicked the toes of his boots viciously against the parapet of the bridge. Then he turned again suddenly to me, and his eyes gleamed, while his mouth worked convulsively.

'I'll see meself righted, if I do five years for it,' he said. (pp. 149-51)
There's also the matter of till-lifting, and the very cozy tip that the combination of a woman shopkeeper and a cashbox under the counter is a recipe for disaster.
As an illustration of the folly to which a woman shopkeeper will stoop, young Alf recounted to me his last exploit in the till-lifting line. It was at Peckham. The day was cold, wet, and foggy. And young Alf was going round with a piano-organ, which was wheeled by one of the lads that worked with him. Young Alf finds that a piano-organ gives excellent cover, and enables a boy to see the world without incurring the world's suspicion.
He had ground out a couple of tunes in front of a small shop which dealt in sweets and newspapers, when the woman came out and gave him twopence. Moreover, seeing that his clothes were thin and poor, she said it was a shame that a boy should face such weather without a decent coat to his back. Young Alf was invited into the shelter of the shop, while the kind-hearted woman went upstairs to fetch a coat which had belonged to her son. She had no longer a son to wear it; so she told young Alf.
Young Alf stood alone in the little shop, amazed at the folly of the woman who had left him there. He leaned over the counter and slid the till out.
About fifteen shillings!
He had the choice of fifteen shillings and a few odd coppers, or a second-hand coat which might be worth a good deal less, and was certainly not worth more than that sum. Such was the problem that presented itself to our young friend, nor do I think it was complicated by any other data.
He chose the fifteen shillings - with the odd coppers, and scooted, leaving the other lad to find his way home with the organ.
Once, as young Alf told me this story, I fancied I detected a touch of shame, a mere hint of an apology, in his tone. But I was mistaken.
When he had ended, I hinted that it would have been at least courteous to await the return of the good-hearted woman.
Young Alf saw my meaning; for he is sharp-witted enough.
He explained that when a boy gets hanked by softheartedness he is better off the business.
After all, this is a very sound commercial maxim, and lies at the root of bigger businesses than till-snatching. (pp. 151-3)
While the previous chapter was a veritable rainy-day fun book for the crooked child, Chapter 13 ("Playing For the Pocket") opens with Alf running a pickpocket clinic on his companion.
'Supposing you wanted to pick my pocket, how would you set to work?' I asked young Alf.

The question produced a most disconcerting answer.

I had not walked two paces farther when young Alf had me helpless. He had seized the lapels of my unbuttoned overcoat, one in either hand, and with a swift jerk pushed the garment back as far as my elbows. My arms were pinioned.

'That's one way,' said young Alf, as his eyes gleamed in my lace.

'But I could kick,' I said.

'Not fore I'd got yer ticker.'

'But I should chase you.'

'You wouldn't see me. I should be be'ind, an' me pal'd go froo the pockets.'

'But you haven't got a pal.'

'I shouldn't work wivout a pal, p'r'aps two, where there wasn't a crowd,' said young Alf, releasing my arms.

I shuffled back into my coat.

'Quarter to ten,' said young Alf, looking at something in his hand, as we came under a lamp-post.

I stopped short.

'I got the ticker,' said young Alf, handing it back to me. His cheeks were puffing convulsively. He was mightily amused.

Replacing the watch in my pocket - though my claim to its possession seemed a poor one - I buttoned up my coat, and walked on, somewhat crestfallen. (pp. 154-5)
We find out that while a minimum of two are necessary to pick pockets properly, a single act can have a go if he's brazen enough. The accidental bump we're all familiar with, but Alf also mentions that putting a sack over the guy's head(!) works just as well for a distraction. And really, I can't imagine a guy for whom a sudden bag over the head wouldn't be at least a minor inconvenience. Anyway, solo work is what it is, but having two or three confederates assists you with an essential element of the pocket sneak's field strategy: keep the goods on you for as short a time as possible, in case you get collared.

He tells us that crowds can work to your advantage in a number of different ways. The most obvious way is staging a street brawl and working the spectators while they're properly agitated. While it may seem counterintuitive, an angry mob can help your getaway, too.
He was strolling in the city, and looking for any stray articles that could be picked up. Walking down Leadenhall Street, in the direction of Aldgate, he noticed a lady who was looking in at a shop-window. In her hand was a purse which took Young Alf's eye.

He snatched it, and ran off at full speed.

'Stop thief!' shrieked the lady.

Several other people took up the cry; and a toff, who nearly succeeded in heading him off, followed close at his heels.

It was an exciting race, for the toff could run a bit. However, young Alf headed eastwards, and felt he was gaining. By this time, the crowd behind him had gained in numbers and in shouting power, and as he turned a corner at Aldgate he noticed that something like a hundred pursuers intervened between him and the toff.

Now there is this curious feature about the crowd that takes part in a man-hunt: most of the pursuers do not know whom they are chasing or why they are chasing him. For the newcomers join in at the front of the mob instead of at the rear, where those who are likely to know most about the matter are falling behind. Moreover, even if the original pursuer can spring decently, he soon finds his path blocked by a mob of excited and useless runners.

Young Alf thinks quickly in an emergency, and this was an emergency to stimulate the most sluggish intelligence. The peculiar characteristic of the crowd that chases a pick-pocket flashed across his mind as he turned the corner at Aldgate, and he concluded that since he could no longer see the toff, the toff could no longer see him.

'Stop him!' cried the crowd behind him, and, as they swept along, others stood ready to join in the pursuit.

Young Alf shouted with the crowd.

'Stop 'im! Stop 'im!' he yelled, waving his arms in invitation to the waverers.

'Stop oo?' said one and another, attracted by Young Alf's excitement, and joining him as he ran.

' 'im,' said young Alf. 'Jest turned the corner. I'm blowed, I am. Can't go much furver.'

The crowd swept on, gradually engulfing young Alf.

By this time he had reached a country that he knew. A city of refuge was at hand. There is nothing like a public-house with an entrance in one street and an exit in another.

Young Alf slipped in, nodded to the landlord, and emerged into a quiet street, while the shouts of the crowd pursuing a phantasmal quarry died away in the distance.

Purse-snatching, you will perceive, has its risks. You require special gifts for the pursuit. (pp. 161-2)
We end on one of the few times Alf worked with a female--Lizzie, who came with credentials. Alf insinuated himself with a toff at a pub one night, then brought in Lizzie into the group as his "wife". Using jealousy as an excuse, Alf moved from one side of the gent to the other, striking nothing but lint in either pocket. His brass was obviously in the inside pocket...and Alf decided he wouldn't mind the coat, either.
' "How you fink," I says, "how you fink I'd look in a coat like that?"

' "How can I tell wivout I see you wiv one on?" says Lizzie.

' "That'd be a sight too big for me," I says, looking at the toff's coat. "The gen'l'man's broader cross the chest than what I am."

' "Not me," he says. He wanted to get back into my good graces. See? "I bet you drinks," he says, "you fill it as well as I do."

'An' wiv that 'e off with the coat an' I put it on; 'im elpin'.

' "What you fink of that?" I says, walkin' up an' down the bar.

' "It's a mile too big," says Lizzie. "Shouldn't ardly know you was there."

' "Well, I ain't there," I says, comin' to the door and doin' a scoot.'

Young Alf's cheeks denoted intense amusement at this sally.

' 'Cause I was somewhere else,' he explained, on recovering his power of speech. 'An' one or two days afterwards there was a rare old liquor up at that pub wiv some of the boys that'd watched the performance. Lizzie come in for 'er share, too. Matter o' ten pounds there was in the inside pocket.'

Young Alf sat with legs extended, his hands in his trouser pockets, and sighed at the recollection.

'And--and about Lizzie--' I said. (pp. 164-5)

Yes, what about Lizzie?

Next: About Lizzie. You think I've said it enough times?

Welcome back to "Hey! That's Imitatable!" In the spirit of giving young readers a bad education, Chapter 10 ("On Pitching A Tale") is built around the theme of having a plausible yarn in place and ready to unspool at a moment's notice before you even set foot out of the door on the day of a caper. As a demonstration, Alf tells a story which took place not long after he moved away from his mother and started taking his kip with a friend. On the night in question, he was crawling along the ledge of a wall towards a house marked for plunder when he felt a hand grab his foot. It was connected to a beat cop in his "silent shoes".

' "Now then, what's the little game, eh?" 'e says.

'I was fair knocked. Cause you understand, I 'adn't got me tale ready to pitch. See? So I made out as if I was cryin', so's to get time to fink. An' then the slop 'e shook me shoulder an' says:

'"Now then, what were you doin' on that 'ere wall?"

'Be that time I'd fort of me tale, so I gives over cryin', and I says:

' "Please, mister p'liceman," I says, "don't you go an' let on to my faver."

' "Your faver," 'e says. "Who's your faver, an' where is 'e?"

' "In there," I says, pointing to free houses furver up the row. ' "E's waitin' up for me, an' if he sees me comin' in at the front 'e'd lam me someflnk cruel. I know faver," I says.

' "Well, you come along 'er me an' we'll find 'im," says the cop. "I'm not satisfied wiv your explanation," he says.

'So we went round to the front, an' the cop kep 'is 'and on my shoulder, an' knocked at the door. A old man wiv whiskers come an' opened it.

' "Ello," he says, "what's wrong now."

' "Look ere, faver," I chips in; "this yer cop's pinched me cause I was comin' in the back way, fear you'd lam me. You won't lam me, will yer? I wasn't on'y 'avin' a lark."

'The old 'un 'e put his lamps over me. "This your boy?" says the cop.

' "Jest you lemme get at 'im," says the old 'un. "I'll wail his young skin proper. You lemme get at 'im, that's all."

'"Then that's awright," says the cop. "Want's lookin' after, 'e does. You lay it on fick."

'"Fick's the word," says the old 'un. An' then off goes the copper. Got out o' that awright, didn't I?'

Young Alf's face assumed a look of preternatural cunning.

'But,' I objected, 'that wasn't your father, was it? I thought you told me--'

'What do you fink?' said young Alf. 'Never ardlly spoke to 'im in me life. On'y he kep' the 'ouse where one or two of my pals kipped, 'mong 'em bein' Maggots. An' I knowed 'e was strite. See? 'E tumbled soon as I called 'im faver. What?' (pp. 114-6)
What indeed. See, back in the days before everybody ate a Twix to buy themselves some lying time, you had to use the tools society gave you. And if society gives you a crying jag and an elderly improv comedian, then dammit, you run with it.

Alf reels off a few other jobs that demonstrated the art of thinking on your feet. He has a tale about cleaning out a Clapham house while the wife browbeat the husband over keeping odd hours (moral: choose carefully your moment to strike) and an impromptu decision of sneaking back into a deserted pub after spotting the morning's take on the counter, then doubling back the next day to chat about potential thieves in the neighborhood to be sure he was beyond suspicion (moral: "The boy who notices succeeds."). But the meat of this chapter involved another of Alf's girls--he always has a few around for when he gets bored--and an attempted trip to see the Epsom Derby.

A lot of Alf's money went towards being the life ot the party, which usually centered at a pub off the Westminster Bridge Road, and even the owner was coaxed to down a few on Alf's behalf on more than a few occasions. It was on one such occasion that Alf got it in his head that he and Kate, a girl who was employed at a cardboard box factory (really, that's all we're given on her), were going to see the ponies.
'Well, the landlord had a smart stepper an' a cart, an' one evening I finks to meself it'd be a bit of awright if I took Kate down to the Derby wiv a bit o' class. See? There was the pony eatin' 'is ead off in the stable be'ind, an there was the cart ready an' waitin'. Now, what did I tell you? Didn't I say if you wants a fing you got to go and take it? That's what I done.'

'But how did you do it?' I asked.

Young Alf set down his glass and thrust forth his lips contemptuously.

'Went an' took it. Didn't I tell you? Early next morning, fore anyone was about, there was me in the stable at the back of the pub 'arnessing the nag. I got away awright wivout anyone seeing me; wouldn't 'ave worried me off me rocker if they 'ad. 'Cause I'd got me tale ready to pitch.'

'What was the tale?' I asked.

''Arf a mo,' said young Alf. 'I'm comin' to that. Well, Kate was waitin' for me where I'd told 'er, an' in ardly no time I was on the road wiv the smartest little filly in the Walk by me side. Goin' fine, we was.'

Young Alf cocked his head, clicked his tongue, and assumed the attitude of one who sits behind a spirited animal and enjoys it. The men at the other end of the room ceased their conversation, and turned to listen to young Alf's narrative.

'Passed everyfink that was goin' down to the Derby, we did. An' Kate larfin' fit to bust 'erself. Gawblimey! fair old beano it was, wiv no error.' (pp. 124-5)
Well, maybe one error, because he got word from another driver that he was wanted behind. He knew then and there that the bung called him in, and although he tried to play it cagey ("I whips the pony round, and trots carm an' peaceful back along the road."), the splits weren't having any of it. When they recognized the dog cart, they grabbed the pony by the head and Alf by the collar.

Alf actually getting run in...that's a proper novelty. But sitting in stir overnight gives a boy a chance to think, and by the time he stood before the law, he had a definite plan.
' "Yes, your worsh'p," I says, quite pelite, "I should like to arst the prosecutor whether he was sober the night fore I took the trap."

The bung didn't say nuffink, an' the beak 'e looked at 'im an says my question over again.

' "I arst," I goes on, "I arst the prosecutor if 'e wasn't so drunk the night 'fore I took the trap, that 'e didn't know what 'e said nor what 'e didn't say."

'You should a' seen the bung when I put that question to 'im.

'Then the beak says! "The prisoner arsts if you was intoxicated on the previous evenin'. Was that so?"

'An' then I chips in: "Why, he told me, your worship," I says, " 'e told me I was welcome to the trap to go for a drive down the road to the Derby, as 'tween frens," I says; "told me so that very night in 'is own bar."

'Wiv that the beak put 'is lamps over the bung, an' says, solemn as you please, "Was you intoxicated?"

'That fetched the bung, you unnerstand; cause there was people in court that'd sin 'im on 'is back time after time froo drink.

'"I must admit I was somewhat overcome," says the bung, lookin' sheepish.

' "Do you remember," the beak goes on, "do you remember everyfink as took place on the night in question, an' more partickerly the time when the prisoner says you promised 'im the loan of your 'awse an' trap?"

'Then the bung 'ad to own up.

' "I can't swear that I'm clear as to everyfink," 'e says. "Fact is," says the beak, "you don't seem to know what 'appened, an', bein' a doubt in the matter, it's my duty to discharge the prisoner."

'So I got off. An' ow did I get off? Jest cause I'd got me tale ready to pitch. I know'd all the time they couldn't prove anyfink against me. Not them.'

'But was the landlord drunk?' I asked.

' 'E was one of them blokes,' said young Alf, 'that can't never be certain wevver they was drunk last night or wevver they wasn't. See? There's lots like that. An' that's what made me fink of me tale.' (pp. 128-30)
The moral: I WIN.

A man in a brown coat, who had been sitting in the room with Alf and Rook and listening in with some interest, brings up a "Jawge o' Mitcham", and when Mr. Rook says he'd like to hear that story, Alf obliges (Chapter 11 ("George of Mitcham")).

It was a straight-up enough con: Alf, with Maggots as his wing man of eeeeeeeeevil, sidled up to a guy named George who was down in the city for a holiday,
'Well, I slides up, an' puttin' me 'and out, I says: " 'Ello, George," I says, "who'd ever a thought of seeing you in these parts!"

'George 'e shakes 'ands and looks round at the comp'ny. "I'm pleased to see you," 'e says, "but damme if I can call you to mind."

' "Well, George," I says, "that's a fair knock-out. You comin' up to Lunnun from the ole place an' droppin' in 'ere premiskious, an' meetin' one o' the ole lot an' you don't reckernize 'im. That's a good 'un, I says. "That is a good 'un, an' no meestike."

'Wiv that he begins to get uneasy in 'is mind, an' 'e says, "I s'pose I oughter apologize," 'e says.

' "S'pose!" I chips in, "you jest take anuvver look at my dial."

' "Why, I rather fancy," 'e says, "now I get anuvver look at you, I've seen you down Mitcham way."

' "Good old Mitcham," I says. "Course you 'ave. What do you fink?"

' " Pon my word," 'e says, "it's most extraordinary, but I can't recall your name, on'y I know your face well as anyfink."

' "You wait a bit," I says, "an' you'll fink of my name. But what are you goin' to 'ave long'er me, George? Tain't often I come across a ole fren' from the ole place."' (pp. 132-5)
George, now properly confused but not wanting to look like a tool, asked what Alf had been up to lately. Alf said he was "dealing" (which technically wasn't a lie, but wasn't true in the way George assumed), and George said he had a pocket watch which he'd let go for fifty bob. This was Maggots' cue.
' "That's a sight too big for 'im, George," says Maggots.

' "Not a bit of it," says George, "why, you don't get measured for watches up in Lunnun, do you?"

' "I don't fink it's too big eiver," I says. "Just you put it in here, George," I says. "Never 'ad a watch in his life, that cove didn't; an' 'e wants to make out your lever's one of them ole turnips as fick as a Dutch clock."

'An wiv that George slips the watch inside my vest pocket.

' "There, is there any show about that?" he asks.

' "See it a mile away," says Maggots.

'Kiddin', 'e was, of course you unnerstand.

' "Well, it hasn't anyfink to do wiv you," I says, wiv a rare put on that seemed to please ole George fine. "Tell you what I'll do," I goes on, "I'll 'ave glasses wiv you, that I'll stan' over there by the door an' you won't be able to tell which pocket the watch is in. On'y you let George put the watch into whichever pocket 'e likes wivout your lookin'. See?"

' "Done!" says Maggots.

'With that I turns round, so's the uvvers couldn't see where George put the watch, an', artful like, 'e slips it into the side pocket of me coat.

' "Now then," says George, "it's glasses round again if you can see the watch. " (pp. 134-6)
To (ha-ha) give his chum a proper view for the contest, Alf backed up to the door...and, of course, backed out through the door and down the street. As he usually does with these stories, Rook asked what happened to George, and as usual, Alf said he didn't come back to see. The man in the brown coat, who had heard this one before, was more than happy to fill in the blanks.
'Jawge got took up,' said the man in the brown coat. 'Began creatin' a disturbance in the bar, an' 'ad to be chucked out. An' then 'e got took up.'

Young Alf's face expressed supreme indifference to the fate of George.

'Haven't been down Mitcham way litely, eh?' said the man in the brown coat.

Young Alf's mouth worked convulsively; but he made no reply. He does not like being chaffed.

'I suppose you'd always select a countryman for a trick like that?' I suggested

'Well, countrymen ain't generally reckoned to be any smarter than they oughter be, but I think they've smartened up a bit lately; on'y the countryman's got a keener lot o' lads to wait on 'im. See? If you try somefink wiv a watch on a countryman he'll generally take it on. Seems a sort of weakness o' theirs. You arst 'im if he wants a nice ticker cheap, a gold watch angin' up at five pound an' worf five times the money. An' then you show 'im the ticket, an say 'e can 'ave it for a quid. Chance of a lifetime you tell 'im. More'n 'arf the times 'e'll 'and over the quid.'

'And doesn't he get the watch, then?'

'Not 'im. There ain't no watch, cause the ticket's a fake. See?'

'And what about the pawnbroker? Doesn't he take any steps when he finds his tickets are being forged?'

'Oh, 'e don't trouble is 'ead, not likely. More'n 'arf likely the fake's been worked be one of the boys that brings 'im nice useful little fings for pledge. See?' (pp. 136-7)
If this was one of those public-service short subjects from the 1940s, you'd see Alf leaning in for emphasis when he starts going on about countrymen. With appropriate cutaways to the scam in action, of course...because you need to be hit over the head with this for your own good.

Next: Using your spare time for fun and profit...the Hooligan way!

Kind of a slight treatment for this entry, but the original material really speaks for itself.

We're told at the start of Chapter 8 ("The Burglar And The Baby") that Jimmy took Alf's solo exploit in stride, for as much as he wanted a part of the Clapham Common job, he recognized something in the boy and invited him into regular service. Jimmy had noticed a house in Brixton--a "toff", his wife and baby, and three servants including the nursemaid--that was ripe for a solo job. The instructions were simple: go through the upstairs window while the household is busy with dinner, and don't forget the jewel box.

'Well, it was about nine o'clock when I got on the job, an' me an' Jim sneaked froo the groun's, an' got underneaf a bedroom windy that Jimmy said was the right one to try.

'There was some wood-work for trainin' flahers agin the wall, an' Jim, 'e says, "Up you go, cocky," Oh! I didn't tell you that Jimmy 'e gave me 'is barker fore that.'

'But I thought burglars, as a rule, went unarmed, to avoid temptation,' I interposed.

'Twasn't loaded,' said young Alf, 'wouldn't a bin worf my while to out a bloke. It was different wiv Jimmy. Jimmy couldn't afford to be lagged again, an' he didn't mean to, neiver.'

Young Alf's mouth was working in excitement at the reminiscence.

"Up you goes," says Jimmy, an' I gets up on 'is shoulders an' catches old of the lath-work, an' pulls meself up two foot or so, an' then I could lay me and on the windy-sill. In arf a mo I was on the sill, settin' easy, an' feelin' at the sash. That was fastened up tight. But I'd got a bit o'putty on me; so I got it out an' put it on the glass an' whipped a di'mond round it. See?'

'That's the dodge, is it?' I said.

'You can do it that way,' said young Alf, 'or you can do it wiv a pin if you aven't got a bit o' putty. Jest press wiv your 'and on the other part, while you turn your di'mond an' pick the bit out wiv a pin. That's easy.' (pp. 95-6)
Alf was barely through the window when he heard a choking sound and found the baby, barely three months old, turning an ugly shade of purple because its night-dress was tied too tight around the neck. He took out his knife and cut the knot, but once the child got its wind back, it started doing what babies do when they realize they're being held by strangers.
' Oh yus, it was a bit of awright, it was; specially when the slavey ran into the room, an' see me wiv the kid in one and an' the sticker in the uvver. 'Course she fort I was goin' to put the little bleeder's lights out, an' she gave a scream that raised the 'ouse from top to bottom, an' fell down in a dead faint; an' there was me. Eh?'

I appreciated the awkwardness of the situation; and young Alf continued:

'I didn't 'ave fair time to look round 'fore in rushes the guv'nor' an' made at me as if he was goin' for my frottle. Fair ole treat, wasn't it? Me wiv the kid over me arm. See? Well, I whipped out me bull-dog wiv six teef, an' I calls out, "'Nuvver step and your number's up, plain as I could. Course the barker wasn't loaded, but it 'eld 'im up proper; an', jest as he was stannin' an' lookin' at me an' the kid, 'is wife come in runnin' an' screamin' like mad. So I turned the barker on 'er an' 'eld 'er up sharp, an' she fair goes off on the floor like the slavey. Reg'lar beano, it was, wiv no error. Me there wiv the kid on me arm - Gawblimey! it was a treat. Eh? But be that time there was on'y the guv'nor to talk to, an' 'e was lookin' as if 'e wanted to get at my frottle. "What you mean," he says, "comin' into my 'ouse? What's the meanin' of it?" So I puts my barker on 'im an' I says, "Carm yourself," I says, "an' I'll tell you what saved your 'ouse from being burgled." Then I told 'im jest 'ow it was. 'Ow I'd nipped in at the windy after his stuff, an' found the kid chokin', an' my 'eart'd gone out to the little fing, an' I'd looked more to savin' its life than gettin' the swag that was in me 'ands, as you might say.

'"I s'pose," I says, "the slavey fort I was goin' cut the young un's 'ead off when I was snickin' the tape; but you can see for yourself," I says, "what I done." (pp. 98-9)
After sharing a glass of wine, Alf and his would-be victims left on good terms, and although he left empty-handed, Jimmy recognized the boy did about as well as could be expected under the circumstances.

It's pretty obvious what the thrust of Chapter 9 ("The Coming of Love") will be, and Rook doesn't waste any time getting right to it.
Young Alf, as you have been given to understand, was precocious, having been brought up in a society which will tolerate everything but incompetence, and having struck out a line for himself as soon as he had escaped from the schoolroom; wherefore you will conclude, and conclude rightly, that love came early into the life of young Alf.

The conscientious reader will already have caught the first faint flushes of the great passion which heralded the dawn of young Alf's manhood. He has, I gather, been loved by many, and loved more than one. Many names of many girls float across his reminiscences; some of them are to me--and, I fear, to him--mere names, and nothing more. As is the case with the rest and the best of us, young Alf climbed to the height of his desire over his mistakes. And his mistakes were not few. As a ladder they should raise him high.

Of many of these flames I cannot find even the ashes. But there was the girl he invited to drive with him to the Derby; the girl who helped him to nick the toff's property in the bar; and there was Emmamarier. (pp. 101-2)
Oh yes, Emmamarier. She loved the guys, it's just that like a guy with an open bag of Lay's potato chips, she couldn't limit herself to just one. For awhile, she split her time between Alf, who had plenty of free time during the day, and a guy named Maggots, who was her night-time thing. It was an reasonable arrangement (for her, anyway) until Alf had a rare night off and caught Emmamarier and Maggots together on the Walk. The situation quickly came to a boil, and nobody wanted a timeshare situation. A more permanent solution was required.
Advice came from various friends. The advice was taken, and young Alf and Maggots decided to fight for Emmamarier. Moreover, Emmamarier, when the scheme was laid before her by Maggots, consented willingly, stipulating only that she should be permitted to watch the fight.

On this condition she promised to belong to the winner. The condition was accepted. The preliminaries were simple and easily arranged. One of the stables off Lambeth Walk, in which many a quiet scrap has taken place, was selected as the scene of the conflict. Three trusty friends were invited to see fair; and young Alf and Maggots stripped to the waist, while Emmamarier, the prize, sat proudly on a rung of the ladder which led to the loft, waited for the victor to claim her.

The fight was soon over, for half-way through the second round young Alf knocked Maggots out, and sent for beer. Maggots recovered his senses as soon as the beer came, and handed over Emmamarier formally to young Alf.

And here a strange thing happened: for young Alf, having won Emmamarier, no longer desired her. He told Maggots that a girl who wanted to be fought for was not worth having, and that he resigned Alf claim on Emmamarier in favour of Maggots; whereupon Maggots, not to be outdone in generosity, declared that he would have no truck with her.

So Emmamarier was taken by the shoulders, cleared ignominiously out of the stable, and got no beer.

Young Alf and Maggots put on their coats, had a friendly drink together, and ever since then have been the best of pals, having frequently been associated in little jobs to their mutual profit. (pp. 103-5)
But no, that wasn't real love. Which brings us back to Alice, who apparently was a girl worth fighting for, as an incident at the coffee-shop demonstrated. Alf and another boy, Scrapping Dick, found Alice crying on the sidewalk one day, with a story about how the Frenchman who managed the shop tried to "interfere" with her. If that's anything like what Roger Ebert said the nuns called "interfering with yourself", the man was due for a pounding, which was exactly what Alf and Dick intended to give him.
'We reckoned we'd 'ave a snack 'fore getting to work, specially as we didn't mean to pay for it - not in the usual way. So we called for a small do an' two doorsteps each, an' the Frenchy come an' brought it to us. I could see Alice's yellow air outside where she was stannin', but she wasn't cryin' no more then. She was peerin' round the door to see what we was goin' to do. I was finkin' of 'er more'n I was finkin of me snack. Well, when we'd done, Dick started arstin' the Frenchy about Alice bein' interfered wiv; an' 'e puts 'is shoulders up an' says:

"Vat is it you to business wiv me?" That's their bleed'n lingo, y' know. "You b'lieve vat girl?" says the Frenchy. "Yes we do, you bloody frog-swallerer!" I chips in.

Then Dick says: "Let's give 'im a one two," 'e says. But the Frenchy ran back to the parlour be'ind the shop, and in 'arf a mo 'e'd brought out a dam savage-lookin' bull-terrier, that made as if 'e was goin' to make a go for us. So, quicker'n you could say knife, I leans over an' gets old of a bottle, an' lands out. Slashed the dawg clean across the dial, I did, an' carved 'is front pretty well in two. The dawg ran froo to the back wiv a terrible owl, an' I turned round to see what Dick was up to. An' there was Dick puttin' the Frenchy over the tables an' chairs proper. He could do that, Dick could, wiv no error. Then I come in, and sent 'im down into the sawdust by way of givin' 'im a change of diet. Fair knockout that'd a' been for the froggy, on'y jest as I'd got 'is razzo into one of the sputtoons young Alice comes runnin' in, an' callin' that the missus'd gone for the cops.' (pp. 108-9)
Alf managed to slip out before the police arrived, but Dick wasn't quite that slick. When the case went to court, Alice "fried it up for the Frency pretty warm"...very carefully leaving Alf out of her testimony. The judge gave Dick the choice of thirty days or forty shillings, an amount the other boys were happy to scrape together.
'Well, anyway,' I said, 'the story ends well. And I suppose Alice was very proud of you?'

Young Alf wagged his head.

'I don't meanter say there was anyfink to talk about - me takin' on a Frenchy an' 'is dawg. But what I meanter say is this: us boys don't often get a chalk down in their favour, but that time a couple of us saw to it that the bleed'n' foreigner don't always get the best cut off the joint in this country. Eh? They mustn't try any of their old hank just as they please when any of us boys is around an' about. Tell you what it is, there's a dam sight too many of them foreigners in the country, Hightalians an' Frenchies an' the rest of 'em. Too many be arf. Mor' n that.'

We parted at the door of The Feathers, and young Alf slid suddenly from my view.

He has a wonderful way of disappearing; a keen eye for cover. One moment he stands in full sight before you, the next moment he is not. (p. 112)
Next: Pitching a tale. Not the same as pitching a tent.

There were a couple bits of side business from Chapter 7 that caught my fancy which didn't really feed the story but fed the atmosphere in spades. Here, apropros of nothing, is a digression from the middle of Alf's Clapham Common misadventure:

As young Alf told me of his spell of honest employment we were standing at the top of the Walk, where it bends round to meet the Lambeth Road. There is a shop at that point which always interests me. If I shut my eyes and think of something I do not want and could not in any probable circumstances want, and then open them on that shop window, I shall see the thing itself.

A silk hat of the later eighties? It is there. A Jumbo Entertainer's voice producer? It invites you. A bust of Wordsworth - engraved? You may have it at a sacrificial price. 'Law's Serious Call'? It stares you in the face, with 'The Young Criminal' as next-door neighbour. Racing calendars, too, seven years old, and looking their age, you may get; accordions, and briar-pipes, well-coloured, and marked at twopence. It would pay a discontented man to come to that corner--he could ride there from any reasonable part of London for threepence at the outside--and learn how many things he does not want. Where do these strange things come from? And have they any future? You would think that the silk hat of the later eighties would have had enough of life and be glad of oblivion.

I was interested in the shop; but courtesy demanded that I should attend to my entertainer. (pp. 88-9)

Before we get back to our main story, Chapter 5 ("Jimmy") gives us another useful educational interlude.

Once or twice as we talked a policeman paced slowly past us, and turned a flash of his lantern on to the seat. But young Alf is by no means nervous in face of a constable in uniform. If you have a difference of opinion with a policeman your course is extremely simple. Your object is to get past him. Do not dodge, do not hesitate.

'You put yer 'ed down and run at 'is belly,' is young Alf's simple prescription. 'Then you walk down the next to the left. That's the sawftest place about a cop, wiv no error. Run! Wot yer talkin' abart?'

Young Alf spat contemptuously. (pp. 72-3)
And you thought you couldn't learn things from books. Of course, if you try that with a modern American police officer, you'll get a real education. Good luck with that.

During his paper-hawking month--and yes, it was only a month--Alf kept himself entertained with a bit of purse-snatching until Jimmy, a burglar with "a large visiting list" and the inheritor of Pat Hooligan's mantle of leader of the Lambeth boys, recognized who was behind that stack of papers. While housebreaking was Jimmy's trade, it didn't come as easy as it used to since a combination of high living and the Age of Electricity was catching up with him. So while he still did planning, Billy was outsourcing the grunt work on the night to his collection of boys...which sounds a lot more lurid now that I see it written down. Anyway, it was a good enough arrangement to keep him a free man by the time Rook heard about him.

At first nothing came of it, although just being acknowledged by Jimmy made you Quite Worthy, but Jimmy was waiting for the right moment. A moment (and no, I can't resist) with violence!!!
'I'd had a bit of a argyment,' said young Alf, 'wiv anuvver boy that was sellin' papers like me outside Waterloo Station. An' comin' down the Walk later on I met him accidental, an' 'e says, "Garn, young Alf, you're 'fraid." An' I said he was a bleed'n' liar. An' in 'arf a mo we was up Paradise Street, an' scrappin' all we know'd. I should a' beat 'im easy, beat 'is 'ed off. Only fore I could get at 'im proper I felt myself pulled off by the collar of me coat, an' there was Jimmy luggin' me round the corner. Soon as we got out of sight of the uvvers Jimmy let go of me an' says, "Let me p'int out to you," e says, "that scrappin' in the 'ighways an' 'edges ain't no class at all." Jimmy was always one for talk, 'e was. "What do you want to go an' make yourself conspickyus for?" says Jimmy. Then Jimmy goes on to say 'ow he knowed of a bit o' stuff I could put me 'ooks on if I was game. Course I answers back that I was game enough. What do you fink?

'"Fact is," says Jimmy, "there's a 'ouse that I've 'ad waxed for about a week down Denmark Hill way. It's a easy job," says Jimmy, "but if you like to come alonger me and lend a 'and it'll be comp'ny like. See?" "I'm wiv you," I says. "Well," says Jimmy, "you come 'an 'ave a snack at a cawfy-'ouse, and then you wait a bit while I goes and fetches the tools. It'll be about time to start then."' (pp. 75-6)
So while the story leaves young Alf waiting in the coffee shop, Rook gets another fleeting attack of moralism (or a stab at shutting up his nagging conscience) at the beginning of Chapter 6 ("Class!").
Once or twice it crossed my mind that I, an honest citizen, paying rates and taxes, living in a house and serving on juries, having numerous friends, too, in the same case, should have forthwith handed young Alf over to a passing policeman and demanded that he should thereafter eat skilly and pick oakum.

But that would have been a despicable proceeding. As a good citizen, perhaps, I should have turned traitor. But as a student of human nature I refused to tear up the human document which was opening itself before me.

Besides, as you may have guessed already, young Alf is no fool; he gives away nothing that he cannot afford to lose. Up to a certain point he is as frank as you please, nor do I remember to have seen a touch of shame on his face during any of his revelations, except when he told me how he blackmailed a pair of lovers who were talking innocently on Clapham Common. Even from young Alf's point of view blackmailing is rather bad form, and only to be resorted to when you haven't one copper to rub against another. He has described localities, and hinted at dates; but if I were put into the witness-box and invited to testify against young Alf in the dock, I do not think I could do him much harm. Finally, young Alf trusted me.

And so the policeman walked to and fro, flashing his lantern periodically upon one of the most incorrigible scamps in London, and passed peacefully on to worry cabmen. (pp. 77-8)
Keep telling yourself that. You might even convince yourself someday. Anyway, the coffee shop...
Well, young Alf sat in the coffee-shop, enjoying his snack, with a warmth of pride glowing at his heart. For now at last he was in for something class. He was waited on by a girl, a rather nice girl, with pretty hair and pleasant eyes, and that sweet way about her that makes you yearn to shove her off the pavement when you meet her out walking in the street.

She had but lately left school. So she confided in young Alf as he made his meal. And that was a link between them. Young Alf, as you know, was very young at the time. But even on that evening I understand that he was a bit saucy, being precocious. For, of course, he had a big job on hand, and thought a deal of himself. And Alice--that was her name--Alice was compelled to box his ears.

In due time Jimmy returned with the tools, paid for young Alf's meal, and said it was time to start. (pp. 78-9)
Alice...that name sounds familiar. It's almost like we should expect to hear from her again.

Moving on to the meat of the evening, Jimmy had been doing some recon at a place on Denmark Hill, buttering up their servant enough to find out that the folks were going out of town for a few days. He also determined that the servant had an unfortunate streak of honesty--not all of them did, as we'll soon see, but this one definitely. She'd obviously have to be taken care of.
'Jimmy says to me in a whisper, "First fing," 'e says, "get that old duck-footed slavey wiv a sneezer." And then I see we was in for a bit of gagging.

Well, Jimmy knowed awright which room the gal was sleepin' in, an' 'e turned the 'andle wivout a sound, an' fore you could turn round we was inside an' creepin' up to the bed. The gal was in a sound sleep and never stirred. Jimmy was cross the room quicker'n anyfink; he wes corpylint, Jimmy was, but 'e could walk as light as me, an' I didn't weigh more'n seven stone then - not that. Like lightnin', Jimmy 'ad 'er teef apart an' whipped a piece of wood 'tween 'er jores, - piece of wood about an inch an' a quarter long, an' 'arf as thick froo. Then 'e brought the two straps back, an' fastened 'em be'ind the slavey's 'ead wiv a buckle. Sing out? She 'adn't no time to sing out. Jimmy'd got the gag in fore she knowed she was awake, Jimmy 'ad. Jimmy always said that beat all uvver ways of stopping rat-traps, an' pon me soul I b'lieve 'im. It was a smawt bit of work, that was. But Jimmy didn't fink any-fink of that. Nuffink at all.

'Course, be that time, bein' 'andled like that the slavey was wide awake. 'Arf out of bed, an' 'arf in, she was, an' givin' us a look - well, I never see such a look in all me life - much as to say, "Oh, don't, please; spare me life." An' then she put up 'er ands, like as if she was praying for us to stop it. Gawblimey!'

Young Alf had to pause for a bit. The reminiscence was so amusing. Then he leaned back in the seat, shoved his hands deep into his trouser pockets, which are cut diagonally, and very high.

'Jimmy wouldn't stop for anyfink, Jimmy wouldn't,' continued young Alf. 'Not when he 'ad a job on. I fink I was raver sorry for the poor gal meself. Well, Jimmy, 'e give the slavey a shove an' sent her 'arf way cross the room. "Git back, you bloomin' old cow," says Jimmy. Then he teared a long strip off of one of the sheets, and bound the slavey's ands togevver, an' tied em to the bedstead. ' (pp. 81-2)
With that chore out of the way, the place was easy pickings. They even sat down for a bit of dinner in the kitchen on the way out. With balls like that, as the man used to say, you need special pants. Or a wheelbarrow.

At the beginning of Chapter 7 ("Honest Employment"), Alf had been working with Jimmy for about a week when his mother went all maternal on him. Apparently, if you keep odd hours and still wear good clothes without any visible means of support or even asking for money, parents get ideas. She insisted he get a proper job, which was easy enough, even if it wasn't usually worth the bother. Soon he had "composed a character" of himself and easily found a household position at Clapham Common. Of course, as always, he couldn't help but make his own kind of fun.
A few days after the advent of young Alf a new servant arrived at the house on Clapham Common, a circumstance which gave a suggestion to young Alf. For the new servant came from the country, and was as green as the cabbages which grew in her mother's back garden.

Young All began tea-leafing.

Now by no stretch of language can tea-leafing be called class. But as a county cricketer, if he can get nothing better to do, will play tip-cat, so young Alf went in for tea leafing to fill up the time. His mistress made very nice milk scones. Tins of cocoa were easy of access. A packet of tea now and again would not be missed. These, with other odds and ends, did young Alf make up into parcels and convey to his mother. As I have said, he was always a good son. Let us remember that when we are inclined to condemn some of his practices.

It soon became evident that someone was laying fingers pretty freely on the domestic stores, and, of course, suspicion fell on the new servant. For young Alf had carefully refrained from tea-leafing until her coming. As he had foreseen, the servant was chucked her job; the mistress thinking that she gave the things to her sister, a big country girl who called about twice a week. (pp. 87-8)
Well, everybody's gotta have a hobby. Another bundle for mum...with a note to keep it out of sight in case the cops come around. Which cops come snooping around for "hot" cocoa? The kitchen cops! Who else?

"Hot" cocoa. Oy. Just shoot me now.

After that escapade, he laid off for awhile, partially because that would put the finger squarely on him, but mainly because he had bigger fish to fry. As he promised before Alf left, Jimmy stopped by to case the place with greedy eyes, not knowing that Alf had something cooked up on his own.
Young Alf's face was a miracle of slyness as he touched my arm and drew my eyes to his own.

'I dropped nickin',' he said, 'knowin' I'd be rumbled if I went on when the servant got the chuck, an' I waited till me and the uvver new slavey that come was pretty fick. She took a wunnerftul fancy to me, that slavey did, an' when I pitched 'er a tale that my muvver was very poor an' ow she lived I didn't know, she was fair gone on the story. Tender-'earted gal she was, an' she fort a lot of me.

'Well, one day the master and the missus went off to Brighton for a short 'oliday, leavin' me an' the slavey to take care of the 'ouse. Soon as they'd gone I rang in my tale to the slavey 'ow my muvver was starvin' in a garret wivout anyfink to eat, an' she wrote out a order to the grocer that supplied the ouse, - butter an' eggs an' uvver fings that she fort would be good for my muvver. She said on the order that the fings were to be sent by the boy that'd wait. An' so I did wait, wiv the pony trap, an' soon as I got the parcels off I drives to my muvver's.

'But that wasn't the job I'd got me eye on; don't you go finkin' that. Fore the toff and 'is missus'd been away free days I rang in anuvver tale 'ow there was a lot of fings in the 'ouse that we could sell an' share the money between us. At first she wasn't game, finkin' we was sure to be rumbled. But I showed 'er the job was as easy as anyfink, an' I could do anyfink wiv that slavey, I could. So we went froo the drawers and broke open the boxes, an' got pretty nigh a cart-load of stuff, which I took an' planted wiv the fence that lived underneaf my muvver's.'

'And what happened,' I asked, 'when your master came back from Brighton?'

'Didn't wait to see,' he replied. 'Next day I saw the slavey off wiv her box from Clapham Junction, and paid 'er fare to 'er 'ome in the country. An' I never set eyes on 'er again, - nor the boss neither. I should say 'e was a bit of a 'ook isself, from the swag 'e 'ad about the 'ouse.'

I am bound to say that this seems to be the only evidence against the character of young Alf's late employer. (pp. 90-2)
Which only goes to show you, a little bit of social engineering and being a sharp judge of character will go a long way when you grow up without scruples. So much for honest employment...

Next: A baby. And love. But not baby love. Oh, GOD no...

Now that the preliminaries are in order and the groundwork has been laid, Chapter 3 ("Trailing Clouds of Glory") launches into Alf's own story, beginning with his dad "going for a soldier" when he found out his old lady had a bun in the oven. Given the choice between getting his head blown off in some far flung colonial outpost with the British Army or raising a kid, he took his chances with the service. You know, the safe option.

His recollections of childhood are, as is natural, scrappy; here a blank, there a vivid patch of remembrance. But in the course of various talks he has supplied enough scattered memories to give a fair notion of his earliest outlook upon life. The flagstones of Irish Court, and the proximity of Patrick Hooligan, these are the impressions that remain with him. Cabbage stalks, potato peelings, even derelict shoes that will no longer go up the spout are to be found on the flagstones of Irish Court; and with these the untrammelled infant can do marvellous things. Young Alf cannot remember ever possessing a toy; but he never felt the want of one. He dealt from infancy in realities.

He retains, too, the impression of a single room, with a bed in the corner. In another corner was a heap of clothes--at night. In the day-time, his mother earned her living by selling second-hand clothes from a hand-barrow in the Walk. To young Alf, Lambeth Walk was the great world, full of possibilities of pleasure and profit. Marvellous finds could be made in the mysterious region under the rows of barrows in the Walk. Expeditions in search of hidden treasure were organized, and brought to successful issue, more particularly in the direction of the sweetstuff barrow, where brandy-balls might be expected to drop, as it were, from heaven. There was no lack of companionship, for children of all ages are plentiful in the Walk, and all are friends or enemies. Now and then, if he was in luck, he could see Patrick Hooligan come down the court and go into his kip, as a king enters his palace. (pp. 33-4)
It may be obvious by now, but it's always about "kips" with this one, just a place to lie down at night. So far, he's never called any place a "home". Read into that what you will. And remember, kids: garbage can be fun. Ask Fat Albert if you don't believe me.

Anyway, Alf's was a poor but happy existence, until the School Board officer got his hooks into the boy and plugged Alf into the compulsory part of his public education, which he was done with (for good) by age 12. And that's when he started groping for his life's calling, going straight for the options his neighborhood presented.
'No, I didn't go to no reg'lar work when I'd done my schooling,' said young Alf. 'You see, I was well in the thick of where the lads carry on the biz; nor I didn't see no great catch in any sort of job that I was likely to get 'old of. It come much more easy and natural to take on the light- fingered game, an' there was more to be made at it. See? An' when I'd got meself mixed up wiv the young part of the gang, it wasn't much good me goin' lookin' for work wiv a crac'ter that wasn't long enough to light a pipe wiv. Sims to me what you start on you've got to go froo wiv. First fing ever I nicked was pigeons - an' rabbits. Down Irish Court stewed pigeons an' rabbits is a bit of awright. There wasn't anyfink that my muvver liked better. Dogs, too-'

'But you didn't eat dogs?' I said.

'No, we didn't eat 'em. But if you can pick up a stray dog, there's generally a bit of a reward 'anging to it.'

I suggested that there were scarcely enough stray dogs about to bring in an appreciable income.

'Oh, they'll stray awright,' said young Alf, 'even if you 'ave to pull their bleed'n 'eads 'arf off.' (pp. 38-9)
Drawing the line at eating dogs, are we? Why do you think they call 'em chow chows? Don't look it'll only spoil the moment.

From Irish Court, Alf and his mom took a room over what appeared to be a watchmaker's shop that turned out to be a front for a fencing operation, sharing a room with a clown and an acrobat who performed at small halls. We never get to meet the clown--I picture him as a Stephen King-style Pennywise nightmare--but the acrobat was more than happy to help further Alf's education. With violence!
'Well, one evenin' 'e was sittin' on the bed, mendin' his shoes, an' I was over by the windy. Presently 'e says to me: "Look 'ere, young Alf, you see if you can walk across to me quiet as you can."

'So I started, walkin' as quiet as I knew how, but I couldn't 'elp makin' the floor creak, 'cause the board was all loose.

'The accerabat jumps up and catches me a clip over the jaw.

'"Now then," 'e says, "you start again. An' every time you make a board creak, I'll clip yer." See?

'I went on practisin' that game for some time, and the accerabat showed me 'ow to nip across a floor wivout making a sound. An' it wasn't long, neither, 'fore I could step so as you couldn't 'ear nuffink. That's the first fing you have to learn, an' it ain't so bloomin' easy, neither. Taught me a lot of fings, the accerabat did. There was a old tin trunk standin' over side of the bed; and when I'd learnt to get across the floor awright, 'e took me on to openin' the tin trunk wivout makin' any noise. That's abart the most difficult job you 'ave to work - if you're in a strange 'ouse, I mean, and don't want to wake anybody up. If you can open a tin trunk quite quiet you can do almost anyfink in that line.'

'Did the acrobat go in for burglary, then?' I asked, as young Alf relapsed into a meditative silence. (pp. 39-41)
Of course the acrobat went in for burglary. What kind of a gyp story would this be if he didn't?

Once he was far enough along in his training, young Alf was recruited into a three act with the acrobat and an accomplice. For this "performance", Alf, dressed to the nines so as not to arouse suspicion, would slip in through the fanlight window above the door of closed shops and wait for the signal to unlock the door bolts for a touch of burglarly. For awhile, that became his "trade" from 10 'til midnight.

As much as he enjoyed being shoved through shop windows, Alf wanted to get in on some gang action, and that meant pulling a caper with "class"--something hard for the other delinquents to top. The acrobat unwittingly provided him with that opportunity, too.
'Well, there was a Institute down off the Old Kent Road, where there was a entertainment one night - sort of 'sault-of-arms mostly, an' the accerabat was givin' a performance there. So 'e says, "Come along wiv me and look after the props." So course I went, an' got behind the stage. Well, there was a lot of gents takin' part, an' they'd took off their togs and 'ung 'em all round the dressing-room. Now's my time, I finks. An' soon as the accerabat'd got into 'is props, an was on the stage for his performance, I slips froo to the dressing-room and goes froo all the pockets what I could finger. What wiv one fing an' anuvver, I managed to nick a matter of ten pounds or so. Then I nipped off and planted the stuff where it couldn't come to no 'arm, and couldn't 'urt nobody, an' fore the second part of the performance was started, there was me, 'anging about premiskus at the back of the 'all. I got back jest in time to hear the chairman give out that there was thieves about, an' advisin' the audience to look after their pockets. When the gents had gone to take off their athaletic dress, they'd found that someone 'ad been looking after their prop'ty more careful than what they had. Course I wasn't suspected, me 'anging about all the time where everybody could see me. See? An' wivout a penny in me pocket. See?

So when the performance was over, an' we were goin' along to our lap, I told the accerabat 'ow I'd done a bit of biz on me own, cause I couldn't keep it to meself. An' 'e says: "Got the stuff on yer, ye young devil?" 'e says. "What d' you fink?" I says. "I planted it." Then the accerabat wanted to know where I'd planted it, an' I says it's likely I'd tell him, bein' me own stuff. See? An' wiv that he was comin' for me frottle; but I ducked under 'is arm an' scooted, nor I didn't go 'ome that night, nor yet for two nights arter. Two days I laid low, and then I went an' lifted the stuff where I'd planted it. Finks 'e was goin' to 'andle the stuff that b'longed to me. Likely!' Young Alf shot the remainder of the ginger-beer down his throat. (pp. 46-8)
Well, you can't keep a stunt like that a secret for long, even if you wanted to (and especially if you spent part of the proceeds on a showy new suit of clothes), and soon a reputation-building whispering campaign was underway, drawing the attention of "leader of men" Billy the Snide.
The interview was short, the details are few and simple, but pregnant with fate.

Billy the Snide did not kick young Alf off the pavement, as was his custom, and that in itself was significant.

''Old 'on,' said Billy, as young Alf was about to pass him respectfully.

Young Alf halted.

It was as though the Lord Chancellor should stop a rising junior in the Strand, and ask him if he had a moment to spare.

'Bit slippy wiv yer 'ooks, I'm given to unnerstand,' remarked Billy the Snide, looking critically over young Alf.

'They're me own 'ooks, so far's I'm told,' retorted young Alf, almost blushing at the compliment. 'Feel like it.'

Billy the Snide spat reflectively at a passing hansom, and, satisfied that he had hit the mark, turned again to young Alf.

'Like to work long 'er me?' said Billy the Snide, being a man of few words, and those words to the point.

Like to work along of him! Who wouldn't? Would a briefless barrister like to devil for an Attorney-General? Who wouldn't chuck fanlight-jumping, and pigeon-nicking, and aimless scrapping in the side streets off the Walk, in order to work with Billy the Snide?

Young Alf's cigar was extinguished in his joy, but Billy the Snide gave him another; and that evening he walked home to his kip through the stars. (pp. 52-3)
So Alf, twelve years old and puffing on a big ol' cigar, embarked on the most adventuresome week of his life.

We're told at the start of Chapter 4 ("Billy the Snide") that Billy the Snide was born Bill Day...not that anybody called him that, but he was long dead by the time Alf told his story (from high living, not "misadventure"), so it wasn't like he was giving up privileged information. "The owner of a pony and a barrow, as well as a missus," when asked Billy the Snide gave his trade as a "general dealer", and when he pulled Alf aside that day, he was generally dealing in funny money.
Henceforth, for a few days of crowded life, it was the office of young Alf to throw bad money after good. He still lived with his mother and the acrobat, but every morning he went round to Karl Alley to arrange the work for the day; and there was a lot of jealousy among the boys who had never got beyond tea-leafing, which is creditable, but not class. He looks back upon this period of his life with considerable pride, for promotion went by merit alone in the circle of which Billy the Snide was the centre, and no boy would have been taken on to work with him unless he had given evidence of capacity. Young Alf was not yet thirteen, and very young to occupy so responsible a position of trust.

So young Alf was a proud boy when he turned into Karl Alley on the first morning of his engagement, and sought out the dwelling of his chief. (pp. 57-8)
After a solo test run to build the boy's confidence, Alf, Billy the Snide, and Mrs. The Snide hit the streets as "a pleasant family party" to pass some snide coin at pubs and the occasional small shop. (Notice they didn't hit any major establishments. As someone who worked at a store where one morning somebody passed the most obvious of photocopied $5 bills because the clerk on the register was a overworked moron (and unlike me, even looked like one), I can attest that choosing your mark and your moment well is nine-tenths of that type of operation. But I digress...)

They were a slick team...not that they didn't hit a snag once in awhile.
It was past noon when they reached Wandsworth Common, and Billy the Snide pulled up the pony at a house he had decided to work. Young Alf and the missus entered together, while Billy the Snide remained without by the pony-barrow so as to be ready in case of a scoot.

'What are you takin', missus?' asked young Alf.

The missus said that her call was for the usual--half-a-quartern of gin and two out. Young Alf slashed down a bull's-eye for the drink, and the can, being suspicious, picked it up and put his lamps over it. Young Alf, being about to gargle, set down his glass.

'Missus, we're rumbled,' he said.

For the can (barkeep--E) had walked up to the bung (the landlord--E again) with the coin, and the bung was walking with the coin to the tester. The tester was consulted, and for answer split the bull's-eye into halves.

The bung slid up to young Alf and the missus. 'That's a bad un,' said the bung, holding out the two halves of the detected coin. 'D'you know that?'

'Bad!' exclaimed young Alf.

'Good Gawd! To think of that!' said the missus, looking struck all of a heap.

'Well, guv'nor,' said young Alf, 'I'm in for a bit of a loss out of my 'ard week's graft froo that coin gettin' in wiv the uvvers; an' if I've got any more I shall look what ho!'

Young Alf pulled from his waistcoat pocket the half thick 'un which was his share of the profits.

'D'you mind puttin' one of these in the fake?' said young Alf.

The coin was put through the tester and came out intact. Whereupon the hung reckoned it was a shame that young Alf should have been taken in with the five-shilling piece.

'It's very kind of you to symperfise wiv us, boss,' said young Alf, finishing his ginger-beer.

'Now you 'ave one with me,' said the bung, looking at the empty glasses.

The missus said she would have another of the same. But young Alf, noting the sudden absence of the can, concluded that he had gone for a cop. It was clear that the bung was having some of his old swank.

'Step short, missus,' said young Alf. And wishing the bung 'good-afternoon', they scooted.

'It didn't take us 'arf a mo to shift soon as joinin' Billy,' said young Alf in concluding his narrative of the day's adventures. 'An' sharper'n any cop ever put down 'is daisy roots, we was round the corner an' out of sight.'

Altogether it was a day of pleasure and of profit. (pp. 59-62)
So it went through the week, but the success of the fifth day sowed the seeds of the team's downfall on the sixth. Alf not only got caught by the old lady at the counter, but somebody passed one earlier that day. When she called out a man from the back room, he even claimed Alf was the kid from earlier, and while he left to call for a policeman, Alf made a break for it. With violence!
'In 'arf a mo I was over the counter an' slashin' at the ole woman. Caught 'er one under the chib, an' she give a scream, an' dropped on to the floor like a wet sack. There wasn't no one else in the 'ouse, so I got to work quick, and went froo the till. It wasn't much of a 'aul - nuffink to talk about. I don't fink there was more'n free twoers worf to be nicked. But it was worf more'n bein' pinched, eh? Well, I was out of the shop in a tick, an' there was Billy an' the missus on the pony-barrer, carm and peaceful, jest up by the corner where the road turns off. Course I give Billy the wheeze quick as I could, an' 'e whips up the pony jest as I 'opped up be'ind. An' jest as we drove off there was old ruby boko about a 'undred yards away, running as fast as the cop could keep time to wiv 'is plates o' meat. See?' (p. 65)
The problem Billy's operation hit was twofold: the first, of course, was that he got greedy, passing too much too soon. The second was that he placed some of his snide coin with a pal, and that guy was...well, kind of an idiot, since between the two of them they were hitting some of the same places twice. The only surprise was that they didn't get collared sooner.
He was coming round as usual to Billy's residence to organize the day's graft, flushed with the pride of success, and carrying in his pocket a quantity of base metal which would have represented about the value of a sovereign had it been honest money. As he was about to turn into Karl Alley he was suddenly aware of a split hanging about. To give Billy the wheeze was to give himself away. Young Alf had decided to go home again and wait upon events, when he found himself rushed before he could turn round. A copper took him off to the police station.

The situation looked desperate, for a pound's worth of snide coin is difficult to explain away; and young Alf felt pretty certain that the game was up.

But his luck did not desert him. When they reached the police station the inspector happened to have stepped out for a few moments, so young Alf was dabbed into a cell to await his return.

This was his opportunity, and he did not neglect it. No sooner was the door closed than he cleared the snide coin out of his pockets, and pitched it into the most obvious receptacle. (pp 66-7)
With the evidence (ach-HEM) down the tubes, Alf got off clean, but getting off scot free wasn't enough for Alf, even at twelve. He had to do a bit of knife-twisting, too.
'The inspector told me I could ook it,' said young Alf. 'But d'you fink I was going like that? Not me. Not wivout giving 'em somefink thick in the way of slanging. "What d'yer mean?" I says. "What d'yer mean by interferin' wiv a 'ard-working boy in the performance of 'is employment? I can tell you," I says, "I got my livin' to look after; and now I lost me morning's work jest because a silly swine of a cop don't know a honest boy from a thief. An' I can tell you straight," I says, "I don't get rabbit-pie fair chucked at me, neither."'

That was enough. They bundled him out of the police station by main force. For if you want to make a copper very angry indeed, you have only to mention to him the name of rabbit-pie. It has the same effect on a policeman as an allusion to puppy-pie has on a Thames bargeman. This is one of the many things that young Alf knows.

I inquired the reason of this strange aversion.

'Gives a cop the indigestion,' explained young Alf, 'even if you only talk to 'im about it. But I don't believe anyone that know'd a p'liceman personally would ever think of foolin' 'im wiv such a snack. Rabbit-pie might do for fillin' up odd corners, but if you 'arst 'im to make a banquet off it, why, 'e wouldn't be takin' any.'

I think there must be some better explanation than that. (pp. 68-9)
So our boy Alf managed to keep it together, but while he was at the station, Billy and the missus were being busted by London's finest. Billy the Snide got eight years, Mrs. The Snide stood for a twelve month stint, but Alf's fate was the most ignoble of them all. Since he never learned to actually make the funny money, he was forced to get a job (yipe!) as a newsboy at Waterloo Station. It was only a temporary setback, though...he was biding his time for the next big thing.

Next: Jimmy. Whoever that is. Coming up in arf a mo'. WITH VIOLENCE!

Chapter 2 ("Concerning Hooligans") begins with a quick once-over of the life and career of Patrick Hooligan, a former resident of Irish Court (Alf's neighborhood) whose proper job was as a bouncer at various area pubs, but whose life's calling was apparently "robbing and occasionally bashing" his fellow men, and was a whiz at "tea leafing", or letting his fingers do the walking where loose trinkets were left unsecured. "His existence in the flesh," Rook tells us, "is as well established as the existence of Buddha or Mohamet." Some people would nod with a knowing smirk at that sentence, but never you mind about that, Jack. Alas, all good things--and all bad things, for that matter--must come to an end, and one day Patrick gave a constable one knock too many, put his lights out for good, and left his mortal remains in a garbage cart. That was more than enough; the judge sentenced him to a life sentence, but that didn't turn out to be long anyway. One day not long after Hooligan went in, he fell ill, went to the prison hospital, and never came out alive.

We're told his legend was built from the rude stuff of a particularly average criminal record, but Hooligan had a few things going for him: "It was doubtless the combination of skill and strength, a certain exuberance of lawlessness, an utter absence of scruple in his dealings, which marked him out as a leader among men." (p. 23) From this cult of personality was built the capital-H Hooligan which suddenly entered both the British public's awareness and their language in the summer of '98. Unless, of course, the entire story was a Rook embellishment, which is a possibility very few modern commentators I've found so far seem ready to dismiss. For the purpose of getting through this story, we'll assume Hooligan was at least slightly more real than Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, but possibly as overhyped by the true believers as Saddam Hussein's WMDs.

From here, we cover at length the Hooligan type, beginning with an oh-the-humanity meditation on what could've been and what could be.

I should perhaps not speak of them as men, for the typical Hooligan is a boy who, growing up in the area bounded by the Albert Embankment, the Lambeth Road, the Kennington Road, and the streets about the Oval, takes to tea-leafing as a Grimsby lad takes to the sea. If his taste runs to street-fighting there is hope for him, and for the community. He will probably enlist, and, having helped to push the merits of gin and Christianity in the dark places of the earth, die in the skin of a hero. You may see in Lambeth Walk a good many soldiers who have come back from looking over the edge of the world to see the place they were born in, to smell the fried fish and the second-hand shoe-leather, and to pulsate once more to the throb of a piano-organ. On the other hand, if his fingers be lithe and sensitive, if he have a turn for mechanics, he will slip naturally into the picking of pockets and the rifling of other people's houses. (pp. 22-3)
Two points worthy of mention here:
  • Y'see? This boy can be saved! Wait, what's he pointing at? Wait, where's my wallet? I wouldn't dismiss the light-fingered out of hand, though. They could have a great future in espionage.
  • "Gin and Christianity." That's a man's combination right there. Forget democracy from the end of a gun, try Jesus from the business end of a green olive. More sherry, vicar?
The text tells us that there were little criminals all over London, but the focus of this piece landed on the neighborhoods off Lambeth because of the sheer concentration; Rook refers to the neighborhood around Irish Court as a criminal "colony", which made them easy to find, if not necessarily easy to catch. The Lambeth Hooligans were a group loaded with grievances against organized society: "Life has little to give them but what they take."

Now that we're acquainted with them as a group, it's time to move on to the field generals. As in most "proper" schools, the one with the strongest personality rules the roost.
The boy who has kicked in a door can crow over the boy who has merely smashed a window. If you have knocked-out your adversary at the little boxing place off the Walk, you will have proved that your friendship is desirable. If it becomes known - and it speedily becomes known to all but the police - that you have drugged a toff and run through his pockets, or, better still, have cracked a crib on your own and planted the stuff, then you are at once surrounded by sycophants. Your position is assured, and you have but to pick and choose those that shall work with you (p. 24)
Even from the other side of the Atlantic, we can safely assume that "toff" is short for "stuck up toffee-nose". And you thought all that Monty Python TV wouldn't come in handy.

Back to generalities of the Hooligan type:
The average Hooligan is not an ignorant, hulking ruffian, beetle-browed and bullet-headed. He is a product of the Board School, writes a fair hand, and is quick at arithmetic. His type of face approaches nearer the rat than the bull-dog; he is nervous, highly-strung, almost neurotic. He is by no means a drunkard; but a very small quantity of liquor causes him to run amuck, when he is not pleasant to meet. Under-sized as a rule, he is sinewy, swift, and untiring. For pocket-picking and burglary the featherweight is at an advantage. He has usually done a bit of fighting with the gloves, for in Lambeth boxing is one of the most popular forms of sport. But he is better with the raws, and is very bad to tackle in a street row, where there are no rules to observe. Then he will show you some tricks that will astonish you. No scruples of conscience will make him hesitate to butt you in the stomach with his head, and pitch you backwards by catching you round the calves with his arm. His skill, born of constant practice, in scrapping and hurricane fighting brings him an occasional job in the bashing line. (pp. 25-6)
The lesson for today: brawling is like touch-typing. If you do it every day, it'll become second nature. We're also assured that if you hired a Hooligan as a "basher" (complete with steel-toed boots for kicking; take that, you Doc-Martens-come-latelys), you'd seldom be let down. I found it a bit amusing that in spite of all this other toughness, they were lightweights when it came to liquor. That's what they get for going in with an empty stomach...

The type also possessed a "two-o'clock-in-the-morning courage which is the rarest variety," and since he's going to have so little of the positive to tell us about his subject, Rook tells us of a time--the time, in his experience--where Alf was above reproach.
One afternoon we were at the Elephant and Castle, when suddenly a pair of runaway horses, with a Pickford van behind them, came pounding into the traffic at the crossing. There was shouting, screaming, and a scurrying to clear the way, and then I saw young Alf standing alone, tense and waiting, in the middle of the road. It was a perilous thing to do, but he did it. He was used to horses, and though they dragged him for twenty yards and more, he hung on, and brought them up. A sympathetic and admiring crowd gathered, and young Alf was not a little embarrassed at the attention he commanded.

'The firm oughter reckernize it,' said a man in an apron, looking round for approval. 'There's a matter of two 'underd pound's worth of prop'ty that boy's reskid.'

We murmured assent.

'I don't want no fuss,' said young Alf, glancing quickly around him.

Just then a man ran up, panting and put his hand over the harness. Then he picked up the reins, and, hoisting himself by the step, peered into his van.

'You're in luck to-day, mister,' said a boy.

The man passed the back of his hand across a damp forehead, and sent a dazed look, through the crowd.

'One of them blarsted whistles started 'em,' he said.

'That's the boy what stopped 'em,' said a woman with a basket, pointing a finger at young Alf.

'That's awright,' muttered young Alf. 'You shut yer face.'

'Give the gentleman your name,' persisted the woman with the basket, 'and if everybody 'ad their rights-'

'Now then,' said a friendly policeman, with a hand on young Alf's shoulder, 'you give him your name and address. You want a job, you know. You bin out of work too long.'

Young Alf's brain must have worked very quickly for the next three seconds, and he took the right course. He told the truth. It required an effort. But, as the policeman seemed to know the truth, it would have been silly to tell a lie.

The next day young Alf had the offer of employment, if he would call at headquarters. For a day or two he hesitated. Then he decided that it was not good enough. And that night he went to another kip. By this time he might have been driving a Pickford van. But he never applied for the job. (pp. 27-9)
And really, to play devil's advocate, why should he? It's your choice: you could be on the clock making money for another guy, or you could be an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur in beating guys up for money. And just like John Gotti, when a Hooligan got pinched by the cops, they always had a "real" profession to tell the man at the booking desk.

We close the chapter with a proper description of Alf himself:
Young Alf is now eighteen years of age, and stands 5 feet 7 inches. He is light, active, and muscular. Stripped for fighting he is a picture. His ordinary attire consists of a dark-brown suit, mellowed by wear, and a cloth cap. Around his neck is a neatly-knotted neckerchief, dark-blue, with white spots, which does duty for collar as well as tie. His face is by no means brutal; it is intelligent, and gives evidence of a highly-strung nature. The eyes are his most remarkable feature. They seem to look all round his head, like the eyes of a bird; when he is angry they gleam with a fury that is almost demoniacal. He is not prone to smiles or laughter, but he is in no sense melancholic. The solemnity of his face is due rather, as I should conclude, to the concentration of his intellect on the practical problems that continually present themselves for solution. Under the influence of any strong emotions, he puffs out the lower part of his cheeks. This expresses even amusement, if he is very much amused. In his manner of speech he exhibits curious variations. Sometimes he will talk for ten minutes together, with no more trace of accent or slang than disfigure the speech of the ordinary Londoner of the wage-earning class. Then, on a sudden, he will become almost unintelligible to one unfamiliar with the Walk and its ways. He swears infrequently, and drinks scarcely at all. When he does, he lights a fire in the middle of the floor and tries to burn the house down. His health is perfect, and he has never had a day's illness since he had the measles. He has perfect confidence in his own ability to look after himself, and take what he wants, so long as he has elbow-room and ten seconds' start of the cop. His fleetness of foot has earned him the nickname of 'The Deer' in the Walk. On the whole, few boys are better equipped by nature for a life on the crooked, and young Alf has sedulously cultivated his natural gifts. (pp. 30-2)
And if you made it this far, you'll realize I just burned off a whole entry on a chapter dedicated to setting the stage. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. And no, I'm not writing your term paper.

Next: More of Alf's biography...and the matter of his mum's friend, the accerabat.

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