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A Marked Man
by [?]

“Tattooing is a gift,” said the night-watchman, firmly. “It ‘as to be a gift, as you can well see. A man ‘as to know wot ‘e is going to tattoo an’ ‘ow to do it; there’s no rubbing out or altering. It’s a gift, an’ it can’t be learnt. I knew a man once as used to tattoo a cabin-boy all over every v’y’gc trying to learn. ‘E was a slow, painstaking sort o’ man, and the langwidge those boys used to use while ‘e was at work would ‘ardly be believed, but ‘e ‘ad to give up trying arter about fifteen years and take to crochet-work instead.

“Some men won’t be tattooed at all, being proud o’ their skins or sich-like, and for a good many years Ginger Dick, a man I’ve spoke to you of before, was one o’ that sort. Like many red-‘aired men ‘e ‘ad a very white skin, which ‘e was very proud of, but at last, owing to a unfortnit idea o’ making ‘is fortin, ‘e let hisself be done.

“It come about in this way: Him and old Sam Small and Peter Russet ‘ad been paid off from their ship and was ‘aving a very ‘appy, pleasant time ashore. They was careful men in a way, and they ‘ad taken a room down East India Road way, and paid up the rent for a month. It came cheaper than a lodging-‘ouse, besides being a bit more private and respectable, a thing old Sam was always very pertickler about.

“They ‘ad been ashore about three weeks when one day old Sam and Peter went off alone becos Ginger said ‘e wasn’t going with ’em. He said a lot more things, too; ‘ow ‘e was going to see wot it felt like to be in bed without ‘aving a fat old man groaning ‘is ‘eart out and another one knocking on the mantelpiece all night with twopence and wanting to know why he wasn’t being served.

“Ginger Dick fell into a quiet sleep arter they’d gone; then ‘e woke up and ‘ad a sip from the water-jug–he’d ‘a had more, only somebody ‘ad dropped the soap in it–and then dozed off agin. It was late in the afternoon when ‘e woke, and then ‘e see Sam and Peter Russet standing by the side o’ the bed looking at ‘im.

“‘Where’ve you been?’ ses Ginger, stretching hisself and yawning.

“‘Bisness,’ ses Sam, sitting down an’ looking very important. ‘While you’ve been laying on your back all day me an’ Peter Russet ‘as been doing a little ‘ead-work.’

“‘Oh!’ ses Ginger. ‘Wot with?’

“Sam coughed and Peter began to whistle, an’ Ginger he laid still and smiled up at the ceiling, and began to feel good-tempered agin.

“‘Well, wot’s the business?’ he ses, at last.

“Sam looked at Peter, but Peter shook ‘is ‘ead at him.

“It’s just a little bit ‘o bisness we ‘appened to drop on,’ ses Sam, at last, ‘me an’ Peter, and I think that, with luck and management, we’re in a fair way to make our fortunes. Peter, ‘ere, ain’t given to looking on the cheerful side o’ things, but ‘e thinks so, too.’

“‘I do,’ ses Peter, ‘but it won’t be managed right if you go blabbing it to everybody.’

“‘We must ‘ave another man in it, Peter,’ ses Sam; ‘and, wot’s more, ‘e must ‘ave ginger-coloured ‘air. That being so, it’s only right and proper that our dear old pal Ginger should ‘ave the fust offer.’

“It wasn’t often that Sam was so affeckshunate, and Ginger couldn’t make it out at all. Ever since ‘e’d known ‘im the old man ‘ad been full o’ plans o’ making money without earning it. Stupid plans they was, too, but the stupider they was the more old Sam liked ’em.

“‘Well, wot is it?’ asks Ginger, agin.

“Old Sam walked over to the door and shut it; then ‘e sat down on the bed and spoke low so that Ginger could hardly ‘ear ‘im.