“I—I can’t take it,” he ses at last, with a stammer.
“Can’t take it? Why not?” ses old Cook, staring. “This gentleman ’as given it to you.” “A free gift,” ses Mrs. Cook, smiling at Jack very sweet.
“I can’t take it,” ses Charlie, winking at Jack to take the money up and give it to ’im quiet, as arranged. “I ’ave my pride.”
“So ’ave I,” ses Jack. “Are you going to take it?”
Charlie gave another look. “No,” he ses, “I cant take a favour. I borrowed the money and I’ll pay it back.
“Very good,” ses Jack, taking it up. “It’s my money, ain’t it?”
“Yes,” ses Charlie, taking no notice of Mrs. Cook and ’er husband, wot was both talking to ’im at once, and trying to persuade ’im to alter his mind.
“Then I give it to Miss Emma Cook,” ses Jack Bates, putting it into her hands. “Good-night everybody and good luck.”
He slammed the front door behind ’im and they ’eard ’im go off down the road as if ’e was going for fire-engines. Charlie sat there for a moment struck all of a heap, and then ’e jumped up and dashed arter ’im. He just saw ’im disappearing round a corner, and he didn’t see ’im agin for a couple o’ year arterwards, by which time the Sydney gal had ’ad three or four young men arter ’im, and Emma, who ’ad changed her name to Smith, was doing one o’ the best businesses in the chandlery line in Poplar.
[Illustration: “The Constable’s Move.”]
Mr. Bob Grummit sat in the kitchen with his corduroy-clad legs stretched on the fender. His wife’s half-eaten dinner was getting cold on the table; Mr. Grummit, who was badly in need of cheering up, emptied her half-empty glass of beer and wiped his lips with the back of his hand.
“Come away, I tell you,” he called. “D’ye hear? Come away. You’ll be locked up if you don’t.”
He gave a little laugh at the sarcasm, and sticking his short pipe in his mouth lurched slowly to the front-room door and scowled at his wife as she lurked at the back of the window watching intently the furniture which was being carried in next door.
“Come away or else you’ll be locked up,” repeated Mr. Grummit. “You mustn’t look at policemen’s furniture; it’s agin the law.”
Mrs. Grummit made no reply, but, throwing appearances to the winds, stepped to the window until her nose touched, as a walnut sideboard with bevelled glass back was tenderly borne inside under the personal supervision of Police-Constable Evans.
“They’ll be ’aving a pianner next,” said the indignant Mr. Grummit, peering from the depths of the room.
“They’ve got one,” responded his wife; “there’s the end if it stickin’ up in the van.”
Mr. Grummit advanced and regarded the end fixedly. “Did you throw all them tin cans and things into their yard wot I told you to?” he demanded.