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by [?]

They were certainly the very oddest pair that ever the moon shone on,–Stony Durdles and the boy “Deputy.”

Durdles was a stone-mason, from which occupation, undoubtedly, came his nickname “Stony,” and Deputy was a hideous small boy hired by Durdles to pelt him home if he found him out too late at night, which duty the boy faithfully performed. In all the length and breadth of Cloisterham there was no more noted man than the stone-mason, Durdles, not, I regret to say, on account of his virtues, but rather because of his talent for remaining out late at night, and not being able to guide his steps homeward. There is a coarser term which might have been applied to this talent of Durdles, but we have nothing to do with that, here and now; what we desire is an introduction to the small boy who is Durdles’s shadow.

One night, John Jasper, choir-master in Cloisterham Cathedral, on his way home through the Close, is brought to a standstill by the spectacle of Stony Durdles, dinner-bundle and all, leaning against the iron railing of the burial-ground, while a hideous small boy in rags flings stones at him, in the moonlight. Sometimes the stones hit him, and sometimes they miss him, but Durdles seems indifferent to either fortune. The hideous small boy, on the contrary, whenever he hits Durdles, blows a whistle of triumph through a jagged gap in the front of his mouth, where half his teeth are wanting; and whenever he misses him, yelps out, “Mulled agin!” and tries to atone for the failure by taking a more correct and vicious aim.

“What are you doing to the man?” demands Jasper.

“Makin’ a cock-shy of him,” replies the hideous small boy.

“Give me those stones in your hand.”

“Yes, I’ll give ’em you down your throat, if you come a ketchin’ hold of me,” says the small boy, shaking himself loose from Jasper’s touch, and backing. “I’ll smash your eye if you don’t look out!”

“What has the man done to you?”

“He won’t go home.”

“What is that to you?”

“He gives me a ‘apenny to pelt him home if I ketches him out too late,” says the boy. And then chants, like a little savage, half stumbling, and half dancing, among the rags and laces of his dilapidated boots,—-

Widdy widdy wen!

I–ke–ches–‘im out–ar–ter ten,

Widdy widdy wy!

Then–‘E–don’t–go–then–I shy,

Widdy widdy Wakecock warning!

–with a sweeping emphasis on the last word, and one more shot at Durdles. The bit of doggerel is evidently a sign which Durdles understands to mean either that he must prove himself able to stand clear of the shots, or betake himself immediately homeward, but he does not stir.

John Jasper crosses over to the railing where the Stony One is still profoundly meditating.

“Do you know this thing, this child?” he asks.

“Deputy,” says Durdles, with a nod.

“Is that its–his–name?”

“Deputy,” assents Durdles, whereupon the small boy feels called upon to speak for himself.

“I’m man-servant up at the Travellers Twopenny in Gas Works Garding,” he explains. “All us man-servants at Travellers Lodgings is named Deputy, but I never pleads to no name, mind yer. When they says to me in the Lockup, ‘What’s your name?’ I says to ’em ‘find out.’ Likewise when they says, ‘What’s your religion?’ I says, ‘find out’!” After delivering himself of this speech, he withdraws into the road and taking aim, he resumes:—-

Widdy widdy wen!


“Hold your hand!” cries Jasper, “and don’t throw while I stand so near him, or I’ll kill you! Come Durdles, let me walk home with you to-night. Shall I carry your bundle?”

“Not on any account,” replies Durdles, adjusting it, and continuing to talk in a rambling way, as he and Jasper walk on together.