“Wot ’ave you been such a long time for?” ses Ginger, in a low, fierce voice, as Isaac stopped underneath the winder and nodded up to ’em.
“I met a old friend,” ses Isaac.
“Met a old friend?” ses Ginger, in a passion. “Wot d’ye mean, wasting time like that while we was sitting up ’ere waiting and starving?”
“I ’adn’t seen ’im for years,” ses Isaac, “and time slipped away afore I noticed it.”
“I dessay,” ses Ginger, in a bitter voice. “Well, is the money all right?”
“I don’t know,” ses Isaac; “I ain’t got the clothes.”
“Wot?” ses Ginger, nearly falling out of the winder. “Well, wot ’ave you done with mine, then? Where are they? Come upstairs.”
“I won’t come upstairs, Ginger,” ses Isaac, “because I’m not quite sure whether I’ve done right. But I’m not used to going into pawnshops, and I walked about trying to make up my mind to go in and couldn’t.”
“Well, wot did you do then?” ses Ginger, ’ardly able to contain hisself.
“While I was trying to make up my mind,” ses old Isaac, “I see a man with a barrer of lovely plants. ’E wasn’t asking money for ’em, only old clothes.”
“Old clothes?” ses Ginger, in a voice as if ’e was being suffocated.
“I thought they’d be a bit o’ green for you to look at,” ses the old man, ’olding the plants up; “there’s no knowing ’ow long you’ll be up there. The big one is yours, Ginger, and the other is for Peter.”
“’Ave you gone mad, Isaac?” ses Peter, in a trembling voice, arter Ginger ’ad tried to speak and couldn’t.
Isaac shook ’is ’ead and smiled up at ’em, and then, arter telling Peter to put Ginger’s blanket a little more round ’is shoulders, for fear ’e should catch cold, ’e said ’e’d ask the landlady to send ’em up some bread and butter and a cup o’ tea.
They ’eard ’im talking to the landlady at the door, and then ’e went off in a hurry without looking behind ’im, and the landlady walked up and down on the other side of the road with ’er apron stuffed in ’er mouth, pretending to be looking at ’er chimney-pots.
Isaac didn’t turn up at all that night, and by next morning those two unfortunate men see ’ow they’d been done. It was quite plain to them that Isaac ’ad been deceiving them, and Peter was pretty certain that ’e took the money out of the bed while ’e was fussing about making it. Old Isaac kept ’em there for three days, sending ’em in their clothes bit by bit and two shillings a day to live on; but they didn’t set eyes on ’im agin until they all signed on aboard the Planet, and they didn’t set eyes on their money until they was two miles below Gravesend.
[Illustration: “Old Isaac kept ’em there for three days.”]
Mrs. John Boxer stood at the door of the shop with her hands clasped on her apron. The short day had drawn to a close, and the lamps in the narrow little thorough-fares of Shinglesea were already lit. For a time she stood listening to the regular beat of the sea on the beach some half-mile distant, and then with a slight shiver stepped back into the shop and closed the door.