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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.


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