Page:While the Billy Boils, 1913.djvu/238

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210
A VISIT OF CONDOLENCE

'Christ!! (Pause). Garn! What-yer-giv'n-us? Tell Arvie Bill Anderson wants-ter see him.'

'My God! haven't I got enough trouble without a young wretch like you coming to torment me? For God's sake go away and leave me alone! I'm telling you the truth, my poor boy died of influenza last night.'

'My oath!!'

The ragged young rip gave a long, low whistle, glanced up and down Jones's Alley, spat out some tobacco-juice, and said:

'Swelp me Gord! I'm sorry, mum. I didn't know. How was I to know you wasn't havin' me?'

He withdrew one hand from his pocket and scratched the back of his head, tilting his hat as far forward as it had previously been to the rear, and just then the dilapidated side of his right boot attracted his attention. He turned the foot on one side, and squinted at the sole; then he raised the foot to his left knee, caught the ankle in a very dirty hand, and regarded the sole-leather critically, as though calculating how long it would last. After which he spat desperately at the pavement, and said:

'Kin I see him?'

He followed her up the crooked little staircase with a who's-afraid kind of swagger, but he took his hat off on entering the room.

He glanced round, and seemed to take stock of the signs of poverty―so familiar to his class―and then directed his gaze to where the body lay on the sofa with its pauper coffin already by its side. He looked at the coffin with the critical eye of a tradesman, then