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George of Mitcham
'It wasn't anyfink,' said young Alf. 'On'y there was
a lot of the uvver boys there at the time, an' it made a lot of larfin'. It was
outside there in the bar, an' me an' Maggots wiv some more pals was stannin'
about, an' presently, lookin' cross to the uvver side of the bar I got me lamps
on to a 'ole bloke that was talkin' pretty free. Big, good-tempered lookin' chap
'e was, wiv a red face. Up for a oliday 'e was, I 'eard him say. Goin' sportin',
too, 'e says, else his name wasn't George.
Wiv that it comes into me 'ead that I'd 'ave a game wiv 'im, so I jest gives Maggots the wheeze, an' 'e says 'e was wiv me, an' then I slides over to where George was stannin'.'
'Was George his Christian name, or his surname?' I inquired.
Young Alf considered a moment.
'I dunno,' he replied. 'Well, I slides up, an' puttin' me 'and out, I says: " 'Ello, George," I says, "who'd ever a thought of seeing you in these parts!"
'George 'e shakes 'ands and looks round at the comp'ny. "I'm pleased to see you," 'e says, "but damme if I can call you to mind."
' "Well, George," I says, "that's a fair knock-out. You comin' up to Lunnun from the ole place an' droppin' in 'ere premiskious, an' meetin' one o' the ole lot an' you don't reckernize 'im. That's a good 'un, I says. "That is a good 'un, an' no meestike."
'Wiv that he begins to get uneasy in 'is mind, an' 'e says, "I s'pose I oughter apologize," 'e says.
' "S'pose!" I chips in, "you jest take anuvver look at my dial."
' "Why, I rather fancy," 'e says, "now I get anuvver look at you, I've seen you down Mitcham way."
' "Good old Mitcham," I says. "Course you 'ave. What do you fink?"
' " Pon my word," 'e says, "it's most extraordinary, but I can't recall your name, on'y I know your face well as anyfink."
' "You wait a bit," I says, "an' you'll fink of my name. But what are you goin' to 'ave long'er me, George? Tain't often I come across a ole fren' from the ole place."
' "No, no, young fellow," says George, "it isn't every day that I gets up to Lunnun, an' when I come it's for a 'oliday. An' wouldn't you? What's yours?" he says, "an' what's gen'l'men all takin'?"
'An' wiv that he orders drinks round, an' I fort it was time to get to work on 'im.
' "Ow's Mitcham lookin'?" I says. "Same as ever?"
' "Not much changed," says George, "not since you left."
' Then Maggots 'e slided up.
' "Fren' o' yours?" says Maggots.
' "Fren' of mine! Course 'e is," I says. "Me an' George was old pals."
' "An' what might you be doin' now?" says George.
' "Dealin'," I replies. "An' if you should 'appen across a nice little watch or anyfink like that in the course of your travels, I might be able to do a deal wiv you," I says.
' "Why, you can 'ave this one for fifty bob," says George, pullin' out a nice-lookin' ticker.
' "That's a sight too big for 'im, George," says Maggots.
' "Not a bit of it," says George, "why, you don't get measured for watches up in Lunnun, do you?"
' "I don't fink it's too big eiver," I says. "Just you put it in here, George," I says. "Never 'ad a watch in his life, that cove didn't; an' 'e wants to make out your lever's one of them ole turnips as fick as a Dutch clock."
'An wiv that George slips the watch inside my vest pocket.
' "There, is there any show about that?" he asks.
' "See it a mile away," says Maggots.
'Kiddin', 'e was, of course you unnerstand.
' "Well, it hasn't anyfink to do wiv you," I says, wiv a rare put on that seemed to please ole George fine. "Tell you what I'll do," I goes on, "I'll 'ave glasses wiv you, that I'll stan' over there by the door an' you won't be able to tell which pocket the watch is in. On'y you let George put the watch into whichever pocket 'e likes wivout your lookin'. See?"
' "Done!" says Maggots.
'With that I turns round, so's the uvvers couldn't see where George put the watch, an', artful like, 'e slips it into the side pocket of me coat.
' "Now then," says George, "it's glasses round again if you can see the watch. "
'Well, I backed up gainst the door at the uvver end of the bar, an' somehow or uvver the door opened and I backed out. An' it wasn't more'n two minutes fore I'd planted the ticker. See?'
The man in the brown coat nodded at the ceiling.
'Disy!' he said. 'Disy, 'e is, if there ever was one.'
'And what became of George?' I asked.
'I didn't come back no more that evenin',' replied young Alf. 'But from what they tell me-'
'Jawge got took up,' said the man in the brown coat. 'Began creatin' a disturbance in the bar, an' 'ad to be chucked out. An' then 'e got took up.'
Young Alf's face expressed supreme indifference to the fate of George.
'Haven't been down Mitcham way litely, eh?' said the man in the brown coat.
Young Alf's mouth worked convulsively; but he made no reply. He does not like being chaffed.
'I suppose you'd always select a countryman for a trick like that?' I suggested
'Well, countrymen ain't generally reckoned to be any smarter than they oughter be, but I think they've smartened up a bit lately; on'y the countryman's got a keener lot o' lads to wait on 'im. See? If you try somefink wiv a watch on a countryman he'll generally take it on. Seems a sort of weakness o' theirs. You arst 'im if he wants a nice ticker cheap, a gold watch angin' up at five pound an' worf five times the money. An' then you show 'im the ticket, an say 'e can 'ave it for a quid. Chance of a lifetime you tell 'im. More'n 'arf the times 'e'll 'and over the quid.'
'And doesn't he get the watch, then?'
'Not 'im. There ain't no watch, cause the ticket's a fake. See?'
'And what about the pawnbroker? Doesn't he take any steps when he finds his tickets are being forged?'
'Oh, 'e don't trouble is 'ead, not likely. More'n 'arf likely the fake's been worked be one of the boys that brings 'im nice useful little fings for pledge. See?'
'Where chaps like George tumble,' resumed young Alf, 'is finkin' they'll be safe in a respectable-lookin' 'ouse. Fact is, thieves put in their best work in the respectable-lookin' ouses. There's been a lot of improvement lately, too. I don't b'lieve you'd ardly find a low-lookin' pub in the ole of Lambeth. What you fink of that? You wouldn't fink it was a fake, would you?'
Young Alf brought from his pocket a piece of pasteboard, which precisely illustrated his meaning. It was a pawn-ticket for a watch on which had been lent.
'Where are these things printed?' I asked.
'I dunno,' said young Alf. 'But Lunnun's a very wide place, an' there's some wide people in it, an' don't you forget it.'
As we quitted the room together the man in the brown coat was showing his blue-black under-chin, and remarking that he was a daisy, strike him!
We parted in the street outside. A moment later young Alf touched my arm.
'You won't forget what I was tellin' you about,' he said. ' 'Awse-plaiter. See?'
I promised to remember.