Page:While the Billy Boils, 1913.djvu/243

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213
A VISIT OF CONDOLENCE

rise, lest he'd be sacked. He couldn't fight, an' the boys used to tease him; they'd wait outside the shop to have a lark with Arvie. I'd like to see 'em do it to me. He couldn't fight; but then, of course, he wasn't strong. They don't bother me while I'm strong enough to heave a rock; but then, of course, it wasn't Arvie's fault. I s'pose he had pluck enough, if he hadn't the strength.' And Bill regarded the corpse with a fatherly and lenient eye.

'My God!' she cried, 'if I'd known this, I'd sooner have starved than have my poor boy's life tormented out of him in such a place. He never complained. My poor, brave-hearted child! He never complained! Poor little Arvie! poor little Arvie!'

'He never told yer?'

'No―never a word.'

'My oath! You don't say so! P'raps he didn't want to let you know he couldn't hold his own; but that wasn't his fault, I s'pose. Y'see, he wasn't strong.'

An old print hanging over the bed attracted his attention, and he regarded it with critical interest for awhile:

'We've got a pickcher like that at home. We lived in Jones's Alley wunst―in that house over there. How d'yer like livin' in Jones's Alley?'

'I don't like it at all. I don't like having to bring my children up where there are so many bad houses; but I can't afford to go somewhere else and pay higher rent.'

'Well, there is a good many night-shops round here. But then/ he added, reflectively, 'you'll find them