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- JONAH - 1/42 -


10 JONAH DECLARES WAR 11 THE COURTING OF PINKEY

PART 2

THE SIGN OF THE "SILVER SHOE"

12 THE SIGN OF THE "SILVER SHOE" 13 A FAMILY IN EXILE 14 ADA MAKES A FRIEND 15 Mrs PARTRIDGE LENDS A HAND 16 A DEATH IN THE FAMILY 17 THE TWO-UP SCHOOL 18 THE "ANGEL" LOSES A CUSTOMER 19 THE PIPES OF PAN 20 Mrs PARTRIDGE MINDS THE SHOP 21 DAD WEEPS ON A TOMBSTONE 22 A FATAL ACCIDENT

PART 1

LARRIKINS ALL

CHAPTER 1

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE CORNER

One side of the street glittered like a brilliant eruption with the light from a row of shops; the other, lined with houses, was almost deserted, for the people, drawn like moths by the glare, crowded and jostled under the lights.

It was Saturday night, and Waterloo, by immemorial habit, had flung itself on the shops, bent on plunder. For an hour past a stream of people had flowed from the back streets into Botany Road, where the shops stood in shining rows, awaiting the conflict.

The butcher's caught the eye with a flare of colour as the light played on the pink and white flesh of sheep, gutted and skewered like victims for sacrifice; the saffron and red quarters of beef, hanging like the limbs of a dismembered Colossus; and the carcasses of pigs, the unclean beast of the Jews, pallid as a corpse. The butchers passed in and out, sweating and greasy, hoarsely crying the prices as they cut and hacked the meat. The people crowded about, sniffing the odour of dead flesh, hungry and brutal--carnivora seeking their prey.

At the grocer's the light was reflected from the gay labels on tins and packages and bottles, and the air was heavy with the confused odour of tea, coffee and spices.

Cabbages, piled in heaps against the door-posts of the greengrocer's, threw a rank smell of vegetables on the air; the fruit within, built in pyramids for display, filled the nostrils with the fragrant, wholesome scents of the orchard.

The buyers surged against the barricade of counters, shouting their orders, contesting the ground inch by inch as they fought for the value of a penny. And they emerged staggering under the weight of their plunder, laden like ants with food for hungry mouths--the insatiable maw of the people.

The push was gathered under the veranda at the corner of Cardigan Street, smoking cigarettes and discussing the weightier matters of life--horses and women. They were all young--from eighteen to twenty-five--for the larrikin never grows old. They leaned against the veranda posts, or squatted below the windows of the shop, which had been to let for months.

Here they met nightly, as men meet at their club--a terror to the neighbourhood. Their chief diversion was to guy the pedestrians, leaping from insult to swift retaliation if one resented their foul comments.

"Garn!" one was saying, "I tell yer some 'orses know more'n a man. I remember old Joe Riley goin' inter the stable one day to a brown mare as 'ad a derry on 'im 'cause 'e flogged 'er crool. Well, wot does she do? She squeezes 'im up agin the side o' the stable, an' nearly stiffens 'im afore 'e cud git out. My oath, she did!"

"That's nuthin' ter wot a mare as was runnin' leader in Daly's 'bus used ter do," began another, stirred by that rivalry which makes talkers magnify and invent to cap a story; but he stopped suddenly as two girls approached.

One was short and fat, a nugget, with square, sullen features; the other, thin as a rake, with a mass of red hair that fell to her waist in a thick coil.

"'Ello, Ada, w'ere you goin'?" he inquired, with a facetious grin. "Cum 'ere, I want ter talk ter yer."

The fat girl stopped and laughed.

"Can't--I'm in a 'urry," she replied.

"Well, kin I cum wid yer?" he asked, with another grin.

"Not wi' that face, Chook," she answered, laughing.

"None o' yer lip, now, or I'll tell Jonah wot yer were doin' last night," said Chook.

"W'ere is Joe?" asked the girl, suddenly serious. "Tell 'im I want ter see 'im."

"Gone ter buy a smoke; 'e'll be back in a minit."

"Right-oh, tell 'im wot I said," replied Ada, moving away.

"'Ere, 'old 'ard, ain't yer goin' ter interdooce yer cobber?" cried Chook, staring at the red-headed girl.

"An' 'er ginger 'air was scorchin' all 'er back," he sang in parody, suddenly cutting a caper and snapping his fingers.

The girl's white skin flushed pink with anger, her eyes sparkled with hate.

"Ugly swine! I'll smack yer jaw, if yer talk ter me," she cried.

"Blimey, 'ot stuff, ain't it?" inquired Chook.

"Cum on, Pinkey. Never mind 'im," cried Ada, moving off.

"Yah, go 'ome an' wash yer neck!" shouted Chook, with sudden venom.

The red-headed girl stood silent, searching her mind for a stinging retort.

"Yer'd catch yer death o' cold if yer washed yer own," she cried; and the two passed out of sight, tittering. Chook turned to his mates.

"She kin give it lip, can't she?" said he, in admiration.

A moment later the leader of the Push crossed the street, and took his place in silence under the veranda. A first glance surprised the eye, for he was a hunchback, with the uncanny look of the deformed--the head, large and powerful, wedged between the shoulders as if a giant's hand had pressed it down, the hump projecting behind, monstrous and inhuman. His face held you with a pair of restless grey eyes, the colour and temper of steel, deep with malicious intelligence. His nose was large and thin, curved like the beak of an eagle. Chook, whose acquaintance he had made years ago when selling newspapers, was his mate. Both carried nicknames, corrupted from Jones and Fowles, with the rude wit of the streets.

"Ada's lookin' fer yous, Jonah," said Chook.

"Yer don't say so?" replied the hunchback, raising his leg to strike a match. "Was Pinkey with 'er?" he added.

"D'ye mean a little moll wi' ginger hair?" asked Chook.

Jonah nodded.

"My oath, she was! Gi' me a knockout in one act," said Chook; and the others laughed.

"Ginger fer pluck!" cried someone.

And they began to argue whether you could tell a woman's character from the colour of her hair; whether red-haired women were more deceitful than others.

Suddenly, up the road, appeared a detachment of the Salvation Army, stepping in time to the muffled beat of a drum. The procession halted at the street corner, stepped out of the way of traffic, and formed a circle. The Push moved to the kerbstone, and, with a derisive grin, awaited the performance.

The wavering flame of the kerosene torches, topped with thick smoke, shone yellow against the whiter light of the gas-jets in the shops. The men, in red jerseys and flat caps, held the poles of the torches in rest. When a gust of air blew the thick black smoke into their eyes, they patiently turned their heads. The sisters, conscious of the public gaze, stood with downcast eyes, their faces framed in grotesque poke-bonnets.

The Captain, a man of fifty, with the knotty, misshapen hands of a workman, stepped into the centre of the ring, took off his cap, and began to speak.

"Oh friends, we 'ave met 'ere again tonight to inquire after the safety of yer everlastin' souls. Yer pass by, thinkin' only of yer idle pleasures, w'en at any moment yer might be called to judgment by 'Im Who made us all equal in 'Is eyes. Yer pass by without 'earin' the sweet voice of Jesus callin' on yer to be saved this very minit. For 'E is callin' yer to come an' be saved an' find salvation, as 'E called me many years ago. I was then like yerselves, full of wickedness,


JONAH - 1/42

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