A Child of the Jago, by Arthur Morrison

36

It was but a little crowd that stood at the Old Bailey corner while the bell tolled, to watch for the black flag. This was not a popular murder. Josh Perrott was not a man who had been bred to better things; he did not snivel and rant in the dock; and he had not butchered his wife nor his child, nor anybody with a claim on his gratitude or affection; so that nobody sympathised with him, nor got up a petition for pardon, nor wrote tearful letters to the newspapers. And the crowd that watched for the black flag was a small one, and half of it came from the Jago.

While it was watching, and while the bell was tolling, a knot of people stood at the Perrotts’ front-doorway, in Old Jago Street. Father Sturt went across as soon as the sleepers of the night had been seen away from the shelter, and spoke to Kiddo Cook, who stood at the stair-foot to drive off intruders.

‘They say she’s been settin’ up all night, Father,’ Kiddo reported, in a hushed voice. ‘An’ Poll’s jest looked in at the winder from Walsh’s, and says she can see ’em all kneelin’ round a chair with that little clock o’ theirs on it. It’s — it’s more’n ’alf an hour yut.’

‘I shall come here myself presently, and relieve you. Can you wait? You mustn’t neglect trade, you know.’

‘I’ll wait all day, Father, if ye like. Nobody sha’n’t disturb ’em.’

When Father Sturt returned from his errand, ‘Have you heard anything?’ he asked.

‘No, Father,’ answered Kiddo Cook. ‘They ain’t moved.’

There were two faint notes from a distant steeple, and then the bell of St Leonards beat out the inexorable hour.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:11