Join date: Jun 10, 2022


‘Tell the bugger I’m not in.’

The woman’s voice came clearly to Rory and when the child came back and, looking up at him, said, ‘She’s not in,’ Rory looked down on the child and as if addressing an adult said, Tell her the bugger wants the rent, and somethin’ off the back, nr else it’s the bums Monday’

The child gazed at him for a moment longer before once more scrambling away through the room, and when his thin high voice came back to him, saying, ‘He says, the bugger wants the rent,’ Rory closed his eyes, bowed his head and pressed his hand over his mouth, knowing that it would be fatal to let a smile appear on his face with the two pairs of eyes surveying him. If he once cracked a smile in this street he’d never get a penny.

It was almost three minutes later when the woman stood before him. She had a black shawl crossed over her sagging breasts, the ends were tucked into a filthy ragged skirt, and in a whining tone and a smile widening her flat face she exclaimed, ‘Aw begod! it’s vou, Mr Connor. Is it the rent you’re after? Well now. Well now. You know it’s near Christmas it is, and you know what Christmas is for money. Chews it, it does, chews it. An’ look at the bairns. There’s not a stitch to their arses an’ himself been out of work these last three weeks.’

Without seeming to move a muscle of his face Rory said, ‘He’s in the rolling mills and never lost a day this six months, I’ve checked. You’re ten weeks in arrears not countin’ the day. Give me five shillings and I’ll say nothing more ’til next week when I want the same and every week after that until you get your book clear. If not, I go to Palmer’s and he’ll get the push.’

It was an idle threat, yet she half believed him because rent men had power, rent men were rich; rent men were a different species, not really human.

They stared at each other. Then the smile sliding from her face, she turned abruptly from him and went through the room, shouting, ‘You Willy! You Willy!’ And the eldest child followed her, to return a moment later with two half-crowns and the rent book.



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