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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...


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