Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Visit Of Condolence
by [?]

“Does Arvie live here, old woman?”


“Strike me dead! carn’t yer answer a civil queschin?”

“How dare you talk to me like that, you young larrikin! Be off! or
I’ll send for a policeman.”

“Blarst the cops! D’yer think I cares for ’em? Fur two pins I’d
fetch a push an’ smash yer ole shanty about yer ears–y’ole cow!
I only arsked if Arvie lived here! Holy Mosis! carn’t a feller
ask a civil queschin?”

“What do you want with Arvie? Do you know him?”

“My oath! Don’t he work at Grinder Brothers? I only come out of my
way to do him a good turn; an’ now I’m sorry I come–damned if I
ain’t–to be barracked like this, an’ shoved down my own throat.
(Pause) I want to tell Arvie that if he don’t come ter work
termorrer, another bloke’ll collar his job. I wouldn’t like to see a
cove collar a cove’s job an’ not tell a bloke about it. What’s up
with Arvie, anyhow? Is he sick?”

“Arvie is dead!”

“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 my poor boy died of influenza last

“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’

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 he looked at
Arvie, and then at the coffin again, as if calculating whether the
body would fit.

The mother uncovered the white, pinched face of the dead boy, and Bill
came and stood by the sofa. He carelessly drew his right hand from
his pocket, and laid the palm on Arvie’s ice-cold forehead.

“Poor little cove!” Bill muttered, half to himself; and then, as
though ashamed of his weakness, he said:

“There wasn’t no post mortem, was there?”

“No,” she answered; “a doctor saw him the day before–there was no
post mortem.”

“I thought there wasn’t none,” said Bill, “because a man that’s been
post mortemed always looks as if he’d been hurt. My father looked
right enough at first–just as if he was restin’–but after they’d had
him opened he looked as if he’d been hurt. No one else could see it,
but I could. How old was Arvie?”


“I’m twelve–goin’ on for thirteen. Arvie’s father’s dead, ain’t he?”


“So’s mine. Died at his work, didn’t he?”


“So’d mine. Arvie told me his father died of something with his


“So’d mine; ain’t it rum? You scrub offices an’ wash, don’t yer?”