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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!


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