OKIVIRilTY OF CALIFORNIA
CHEAP JACK ZITA
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
In the Roar of the Sea
The Queen of Love
Cheap Jack Zita
Mrs. Curgenven of Curgenven
Arm IN ELL
Margery of Quether
GuAVAS the Tinner
CHEAP JACK ZITA
METHUEN & CO.
36 ESSEX STREET, W.C.
I. BEFORE THE GALILEE
n. THE FLAILS
III. TWO CROWNS
IV. ON THE DROVE
V. THE FLAILS AG..\IN
VI. BETWEEN TWO LIGHTS
VII. PROFITS .
VIII. MARK RUNHAM
IX. PRICKWILLOW .
X. RED WI.NGS ,
XII. ON BONE RUNNERS
XIII. PIP BEAMISH
XIV. ON ONE FOOTING
XV. ON ANOTHER FOOTING
XVI. BURNT HATS
XVII. A CRAWL ABROAD
XVIII. A DROP OF GALL
XIX. NO DKAL
XXI. THE FEN RIOTS
XXII. TWENTY POUNDS
XXIII. TEN POUNDS .
XXIV. A NEW DANGER
XXV. ' I don't care that
XXVI. A NIGHT IN ELY
XXVII. SIR bates Dudley's ride
XXVIII. two pleaders
XXIX. A deal
XXX. IN court
XXXII. A PARTHIAN SHOT
XXXIII. PURGATORY .
XXXIV. WITH TOASTING-FORKS
XXXV. THE JACK O' LANTERNS
XXXVI. A RETURN BLOW
XXXVII. A CATHERINE WHEEL
XXXVIII. THE BRENT-GEESE
XXXIX. THE CUT EMBANKMENT
XL. THISTLES . .
CHEAP JACK ZITA.
BEFORE THE GALILEE.
WHAT was the world coming to? The
world â the centre of it â the Isle of
What aged man in his experience through
threescore years and ten had heard of such
conduct before ?
What local poet, whose effusions appeared
in the ' Cambridge and Ely Post,' in his wild-
est flights of imagination, conceived of such a
Decency must have gone to decay and been
buried. Modesty must have unfurled her wings
and sped to heaven before such an event could
Where were the constables ? Were bye-laws
to become dead letters ? Were order, propriety,
the eternal fitness of things, to be trampled under
foot by vagabonds ?
2 CHEAP JACK ZITA
In front of the cathedral, before the Galilee,
â the magnificent west porch of the minster of
St. Etheldreda, â a Cheap Jack's van was drawn
Within twenty yards of the Bishop's palace,
where every word uttered was audible in every
room, a Cheap Jack was offering his wares.
Effrontery was, in heraldic language, rampant
A crowd was collected about the van ; a
crowd composed of all sorts and conditions
of men, jostling each other, trampling on the
grass of the lawn, climbing up the carved
work of the cathedral, to hear, to see, to bid,
Divine service was hardly over. The organ
was still mumbling and tooting, when through
the west door came a drift of choristers, who
had flung off their surplices and had raced down
the nave, that they might bid against and outbid
each other for the pocket-knives offered by
Mr. Faggs, the beadle, was striding in the
same direction, relaxing the muscles of his face
from the look of severe ecclesiastical solemnity
into which they were drawn during divine
worship. It had occurred to him during the
singing of the anthem that there were sundry
articles of domestic utility Cheap Jack was
selling that it might be well for him to secure at
a low figure.
BEFORE THE GALILEE 3
Mr. Bowles, the chief bailiff, had come forth
from evensong with his soul lifted up with
thankfulness that he was not as other men were :
he attended the cathedral daily, he subscribed
to all the charities ; and now he stood looking on,
his breath taken away, his feet riveted to the
soil by surprise at the audacity of the Cheap
Jack, in daring to draw up before the minster,
and vend his wares during the hour of afternoon
The servant maids in the canons' houses in
the Close had their heads craned out from such
narrow Gothic windows as would allow their
brachycephalic skulls to pass, and were listening
and lawk-a-mussying and oh-mying over the
Nay, the Bishop himself was in an upper room,
the wM"ndow-sash of which was raised, ensconced
behind the curtain, with his ear open and cocked,
and he was laughing at what he heard till his
apron rippled, his bald head waxed pink, and
his calves quivered.
Very little of the sides of the van was visible,
so encrusted were they with brooms, brushes,
door-mats, tin goods, and coalscuttles. Between
these articles might be detected the glimmer of
the brimstone yellow of the carcase of the shop
on wheels. The front of the conveyance was
open ; it was festooned with crimson plush
curtains, drawn back ; and, deep in its depths
could be discerned racks and ranges of shelves,
4 CHEAP JACK ZITA
stored with goods of the most various and
The front of the van was so contrived as to
fall forward, and in so falling to disengage a pair
of supports that sustained it, and temporarily
converted it into a platform. On this platform
stood the Cheap Jack, a gaunt man with bushy
dark hair and sunken cheeks ; he was speaking
with a voice rendered hoarse by bellowing. He
was closely shaven. He wore drab breeches and
white stockings, a waistcoat figured with flowers,
and was in his shirt sleeves. On his head was
a plush cap, with flaps that could be turned up
or down as occasion served. When turned down,
that in front was converted into a peak that
.sheltered his eyes, those at the sides protected
his ears, and that behind prevented rain from
coursing down the nape of his neck. When,
however, these four lappets were turned up, they
transformed the cap into a crown â a crown such
as it behoved the King of Cheap Jacks to wear.
The man was pale and sallow, sweat-drops stood
on his brow, and it was with an effort that he
maintained the humour with which he engaged
the attention of his hearers, and that he made
his voice audible to those in the outermost ring
of the curious and interested clustered about the
van. Within, in the shadowed depths of the
conveyance, glimpses were obtained of a girl,
who moved about rapidly and came forward
occasionally to hand the Cheap Jack such articles
BEFORE THE GALILEE 5
as he demanded, or to receive from him such as
had failed to command a purchaser.
When she appeared, it was seen that she was
a slender, well-built girl of about seventeen
summers, with ripe olive skin, a thick head of
short-cut chestnut hair, and a pair of hazel
Apparently she was unmoved by her father's
jokes ; they provoked no smile on her lips, for
they were familiar to her ; and she was equally
unmoved by the admiration she aroused among
the youths, with which also she was apparently
*Here now!' shouted the Cheap Jack. 'What
the dickens have I got ? â a spy-glass to be sure,
and such a spy-glass as never was and never will
be offered again. When I was a-comin' along
the road from Cambridge, and was five miles
off, "Tear and ages !" sez I, seein' your famous
cathedral standin' up in the sunshine, "Tear
and ages ! " sez I ; " that's a wonder of the world."
And I up wi' my spy-glass. Now look here.
You observe as 'ow one of the western wings be
fallen down. 'Tis told that when the old men
built up that there top storey to the tower, that
it throwed the left wing down. Now I looked
through this perspective glass, and I seed both
wings standing just as they used to be, and just
as they ought to be, but ain't. I couldn't take
less than seventeen and six for this here wonderful
spy-glass â seventeen and six. What ! not buy
6 CHEAP JACK ZITA
a glass as will show you how thnigs ought to be,
but ain't?' He turned to the circle round him
from side to side. 'Come now, â say ten
shillings. 'Tis a shame to take the perspective
glass out of Ely.' A pause. * No one inclined
to bid ten shillings ? Take it back, Zita, These
here Ely folk be that poor they can't go above
tenpence. Ten shillings soars above their
purses. But stay. Zita, give me that there
glass again. There is something more that is
wonderful about it. You look through and you'll
see what's to your advantage, and that's what
every one don't see wi' the naked eye. Come â
say seven shillings ! '
'And let me tell the ladies â they've but to
look through, and they'll see the him they've set
their 'arts on, comin', comin', â bloomin' as a rose,
and 'olding the wedding ring in 'is 'and.'
In went the heads of the servant maids of the
* I say ! ' shouted one of the choristers, ' will it
show us a coming spanking?'
' Of course it will,' answered the Cheap Jack,
' because it's to your advantage.'
* Let us look then.'
Cheap Jack handed the telescope to the lad.
He put his eye to it, drew the glass out, lowered
it, and shouted, ' I see nothing.'
' Of course not. You're such a darlin' good
boy ; you ain't going to have no spanking.'
BEFORE THE GALILEE 7
* Let me look,' said a shop-girl standing by.
Cheap Jack waited. Every one watched.
* I don't see nothing,' said the girl.
' Of course not. You ain't got a sweetheart,
and never will have one.*
A roar of laughter, and the young woman
retired in confusion.
* And, I say,' observed the boy, as he returned
the glass, ' it's all a cram about the fallen tran-
sept. I looked, and saw it was down.'
' Of course you did,' retorted the Cheap Jack.
* Didn't I say five miles off? Go five miles
along the Wisbeach Road, and you'll see it
sure enough, as I said. There â five shillings
' I'll give you half a crown.*
' Half a crown ! ' jeered the vendor. ' There,
though, you're a quirister, and for the sake o'
your beautiful voice, and because you're such
a good boy, as don't deserve nor expect a
whacking, you shall have it for half a crown.'
The Bishop's nose and one eye were thrust
from behind the curtain.
'â¢Why,' said the Right Reverend to himself,
' that's Tom Bulk, as mischievous a young
rogue as there is in the choir and grammar
school. He is as sure of a caning this week as
' Thanky, sir,' said Cheap Jack, pocketing the
half-crown. ' Zita, what next? Hand me that
blazin' crimson plush weskit.'
8 CHEAP JACK ZITA
From out the dark interior stepped the girl,
and the sunshine flashed over her, Hghting her
auburn hair, rich as burnished copper. She
wore a green, scarlet, and yellow flowered ker-
chief, tied across her bosom, and knotted behind
her back. Bound round her waist was a white
She deigned no glance at the throng, but
kept her eyes fixed on her father's face.
' Are you better, dad ? ' she asked in a low
' Not much, Zit. But I'll go through with it.'
* Here we are now ! * shouted the Jack, after
he had drawn the sleeve of his left arm across
his brow and lips, that were bathed in perspira-
tion. And yet the weather was cold ; the
season was the end of October, and the occasion
of the visit of the van to Ely was Tawdry (St.
A whisper and nudges passed among the
young men crowded about the van.
' Ain't she just a stunner? '
' I say, I wish the Cheap Jack would put up
the girl to sale. Wouldn't there be bidding?'
'She's the finest thing about the caravan.'
Such were comments that flew from one to
* Now, then ! ' bellowed the vendor of cheap
wares ; * here you are again ! A red velvet
weskit, with splendid gold â real gold â buttons.
You shall judge ; Fll put it on.*
BEFORE THE GALILEE 9
The man suited the action to the word. Then
he straightened his legs and arms, and turned
himself about from side to side to exhibit the
full beauty of the vestment from every quarter.
* Did you ever see the like of this ? ' he shouted,
'But them breeches o' mine have a sort o'
deadening effect on the beauty of the weskit.
Thirty shillings is the price. You should see it
along with a black frock-coat and black trousers.
Then it's glorious ! It's something you can
wear with just what you likes. No one looks
at rags when you've this on, so took up is they
with the weskit. What is that you said, sir?
Twenty-five shillings was your offer? It is
yours â and all because I sees it'll go with them
great black whiskers of yours like duck and
green peas. It'll have a sort of a mellering effect
on their bushiness, and 'armonise with them as
well as the orging goes wi' the chanting of the
Jack handed the waistcoat, which he had
hastily plucked off his back, to one of the lay-
clerks of the cathedral. The man turned as
red as the waistcoat, and thrust his hands
behind his back.
* I never bid for it,' he protested.
*Beg pardon, sir ; I thought you nodded your
'ead to me, but it was the wind a-blowin' of it
about. That gentleman with the black flowin'
whiskers don't take the weskit ; it is still for
sale. I'll let you have it for fifteen shillings,
lo CHEAP JACK ZITA
and it'll make you a conquering hero among
the females. You, sir? Here you are.'
He addressed the chief bailiff, Mr. Bowles, an
elderly, white-whiskered, semi-clerical official,
the pink and paragon of propriety.
'No!' exclaimed Cheap Jack, as Mr. Bowles,
with uplifted palms and averted head, staggered
back. ' No â his day is past. But I can see by
the twinkle of his eye he was the devil among
the gals twenty years ago. It's the young chaps
who must compete for the weskit. I'll tell you
something rare,' continued the man, after clear-
ing his throat and mopping his brow and lips.
' No one will think but what you're a lord or a
harchbishop when you 'ave this 'ere weskit on.
As I was a-coming into Ely in this here concern,
sez I to myself, " I'll put on an appearance out
o' respect to this ancient and venerable city."
So I drawed on this weskit ; and what should
'appen but we meets his most solemn and sacred
lordship, the Bishop of the diocese.'
* This is coming it rather strong,' said the
person alluded to behind the curtain, and his
face and head became hot and damp.
' Well, and when his lordship, the Right
Reverend, saw me, he lifted up his holy eyes
and looked at my weskit. And then sez he to
himself, " Lawk-a-biddy, it's the Prince ! " and
down he went in the dirt afore me, grovellin'
with his nose in the mire. He did, upon my
BEFORE THE GALILEE ii
* Upon my word, this is monstrous ! this is
insufferable ! A joke is a joke ! ' gasped the
Bishop, very much agitated. ' There's modera-
tion in all things â a limitation to be observed
even in exaggeration, I haven't been on the
Wisbeach Road this fortnight. I never saw the
man. I never went down in the dirt. This is
positively appalling ! '
He took a turn round the room, went to the
bell, then considered that it would be inadvis-
able to summon the footman and show that he
had been listening to the nonsense of a Cheap
Jack. Accordingly he went back to the window,
hid himself once more behind the curtain, but
so trembled with excitement and distress, that
the whole curtain trembled with him.
' Nine and six. Here you are. Nine and six
for this splendid garment, and cheap it is â dirt
cheap. You're a lucky man, sir ; and won't you
only cut out your rivals with the darling ? '
Cheap Jack handed the plush waistcoat to a
young farmer from the Fens ; then suddenly he
turned himself about, looked into his van, and
said in a husky voice â
' Zit, I can't go yarning no longer. I've got
to the end of my powers ; you carry on.'
' Right, father ; I'm the boy for you with the
The man stepped within. As he did so, the
girl lowered one of the curtains so as to conceal
him. He sank wearily on a bench at the side.
12 CHEAP JACK ZITA
She stooped with a quivering lip and filling eye
and kissed him, then sprang forward and stood
outside on the platform, contemplating the
crowd with a look of assurance, mingled with
* IV T OW, here's a chance you may never have
..Nl again â a chance, let me tell you, you
never will have again.' She extended in both
hands packages of tea done up in silvered paper.
* The general public gets cheated in tea â it does
â tremenjous ! It is given sloe leaves, all kinds
of rubbish, and pays for it a fancy price. Father,
he has gone and bought a plantation out in
China, and has set over it a real mandarin with
nine tails, and father guarantees that this tea
is the very best of our plantation teas, and he
sells it at a price which puts it within the reach
of all. Look here ! ' she turned a parcel about ;
'here you are, with the mandarin's own seal
upon it, to let every one know it is genuine,
and that it is the only genuine tea sent over.'
' Where's the plantation, eh, girl ? ' jeered a
boy from the grammar school.
* Where is it ? ' answered the girl, turning
sharply on her interlocutor. ' It's at Fumchoo.
14 CHEAP JACK ZITA
Do you know where Fumchoo is? You don't?
and yet you sets up to be a scholar. It is fifteen
miles from Pekin by the high road, and seven
and a half over the fields. Go to school and
look at your map, and tell your master he ought
to be ashamed of himself not to ha' made you
know your geography better. Now, then, here's
your chance. Finest orange-flower Pekoe at
four shillings. Beat that if you can.' No offers.
' I am not coming down in my price. Don't
think that ; not a farthing. Four shillings a
pound ; but I'll try to meet you in another way.
I keep the tea in quarter-pound parcels as well.
Perhaps that'll meet your views â and a beauti-
ful pictur' of Fumchoo on the cover, with the
Chinamen a-picking of the tea leaves. What !
There ensued a pause. Every one expected
that the girl would lower the price. They were
mistaken. She went back into the van and
produced a roll of calico. Then ensued an
outcry of many voices : * Tea ! give us some of
your tea, please.' In ten minutes she had dis-
posed of all she had.
* There, you see,' said Zita, * our supply runs
short. In Wisbeach the Mayor and Corpora-
tion bought it, and at Cambridge all the colleges
had their supplies from us. That's why we're
run out now. Stand back, gents.'
This call was one of caution to the eager
purchasers and tempted lookers-on.
THE FLAILS 15
Tawdry Fair was for horses and bullocks,
and a drove of the latter was being sent along
from the market-place towards Stuntney. For
a while the business of the sale was interrupted.
One audacious bullock even bounded into the
Galilee, another careered round the van ; one
ran as if for sanctuary to the Bishop's palace.
Zita seized the occasion to slip inside the van.
Her father was on the low seat, leaning his head
wearily on his hand, and his elbow on his knee.
' How are you now, dad ? '
* I be bad, Zit â bad â tremenjous.'
' Had you not best see a doctor? '
He shook his head.
' It'll pass,' said he ; * I reckon doctors won't
do much for me. They're over much like us
Cheap Jacks â all talk and trash.'
'This has been coming on some time,'
observed the girl gravely. ' I've seen for a
fortnight you have been poorly.'
Then, looking forth between the curtains
which she had lowered, she saw that the
bullocks were gone, and that the cluster of
people interested in purchases had re-formed
round her little stage.
* I say,' shouted a chorister, ' have you got
any pocket-knives ? '
' Pocket-knives by the score, and razors too.
You'll be wanting a pair of them in a fortnight.'
Whilst Zita was engaged in furnishing the
lads with knives, the Bishop retired from the
i6 CHEAP JACK ZITA
upstairs window to his library, where he seated
himself in an easy-chair, took up a pamphlet,
and went up like a balloon inflated with elastic
gas into theologic clouds, where controversy
flashed and thundered about his head, and in
this, his favourite sphere, the Right Reverend
Father forgot all about the Cheap Jack, and no
longer felt concern at his having been misre-
presented as grovelling before a prince of the
blood royal in a red waistcoat.
At the same time, also, a plot concerning Zita
was being entered into by a number of young
fenmen who had come to Tawdry Fair to amuse
themselves, and had been arrested by the attrac-
tions of the Cheap Jack's van.
Whatever those attractions might have been
whilst the man was salesman, they were
enhanced tenfold when his place was occupied
by his daughter. Some whispering had gone
on for five minutes, and then with one consent
they began to elbow their way forward till they
had formed an innermost ring around the
platform. But this centripetal movement had
not been executed without difficulty and protest.
Women, boys, burly men were forced to give
way before the wedge-like thrusts inwards of
the young men's shoulders, and they remon-
strated, the women shrilly, the boys by shouts,
the men with oaths and blows. But every sort
of resistance was overcome, all remonstrances
of whatever sort were disregarded, and Zita
THE FLAILS 17
suddenly found herself surrounded by a circle
of sturdy, tall fellows, looking up with faces
expressive of mischief.
That something more than eagerness to
purchase was at the bottom of this movement
struck Zita, and for a moment she lost con-
fidence, and faltered in her address on the
excellence of some moth-eaten cloth she was
endeavouring to sell.
Then one round-faced, apple-complexioned
young man worked himself up by the wheel
of the van, and, planting his elbows on the
platform, shouted, * Come, my lass, at what
price do you sell kisses ? '
* We ha'n't got them in the general stock,'
answered Zita; 'but I'll ask father if he'll give
A burst of laughter.
' No, no,' shouted the red-faced youth, getting
one knee on the stage. ' I'll pay you sixpence
for a kiss â slick off your cherry lips.'
' I don't sell.'
' Then I'll have one as a gift.'
* I never give away nothing.'
' Then I'll steal one.'
The young fellow jumped to his feet on the
platform. At the signal the rest of the youths
began to scramble up, and in a minute the place
was invaded, occupied, and the girl surrounded.
Cheers and roars of laughter rose from the
i8 CHEAP JACK ZITA
' Now, then, you Cheap Jack girl,' exclaimed
the apple-faced youth. ' Kisses all round, three
a-piece, or we'll play Old Harry with the shop,
and help ourselves to its contents.'
The father of Zita, on hearing the uproar,
the threats, the tramp of boots on the stage,
staggered to his feet, and, drawing back the
curtains, stood holding them apart, and looking
forth with bewildered eyes. Zita turned and
'Sit down, father,' said she. 'It's only the
general public on a frolic'
She put her hand within and drew forth a
stout ashen flail, whirled it about her head, and
at once, like grasshoppers, the youths leaped
from the stage, each fearing lest the flapper
should fall on and cut open his own pate.
The last to spring was the apple-faced youth ;
he was endeavouring to find some free space
into which to descend, when the flapper of the
flail came athwart his shoulder-blades with so
sharp a stroke, that, uttering a howl, he plunged
among the throng, and would have knocked
down two or three, had they not been wedged
together too closely to be upset.
Then ensued cries from those hurt by his
weight as he floundered upon them ; cries of
* Now, then, what do you mean by this ? Can't
you keep to yourself? This comes of your
Zita stood erect, leaning on the staff of the
THE FLAILS 19
flail, looking calmly round on the confusion,
waiting till the uproar ceased, that she might
resume business. As she thus stood, her eye
rested on a tall, well-shaped man, with a tiger's
skin cast over his broad shoulders, and with a
black felt slouched hat on his head. His nose
was like the beak of a hawk. His eyes were
dark, piercing, and singularly close together,
under brows that met in one straight band
across his forehead.
The moment this man's eye caught that of
Zita, he raised his great hat, flourished it in
the air, exposing a shaggy head with long dark
locks, and he shouted, * Well done, girl ! I like
that. Give me a pair of them there ashen flails,
and here's a crown for your pluck.'
' I haven't a pair,' said the girl.
' Then I'll have that one, with which a little
gal of sixteen has licked our Fen louts. I like
' I'll give you a crown for that flail,' called