Wednesday, 3 February 2016

...of self-preservation

All this time Jackson had been sitting like a statue, uttering no sound. He began to regret leaving the boiler now. Supposing somebody came along? Supposing the boss lad came down to see how things were going? Supposing one of the engineers passed through and discovered what was going on? He felt that the only safe thing to do was to make his way back to his own boiler and resume his work. No sound being heard, the people in the neighbourhood of the boilers, knowing that a gang of scalers were at work, would wonder at the sudden and prolonged silence. Jackson rose to his feet, and made his way silently to his boiler. He climbed up, squeezed through, and crawled along on his belly until he could reach the hammer that Fearon had left lying there. He picked it up and held it ready in his hand in case of emergency. He was secure now. If he heard anyone coming he would immediately set up a row and so disarm any suspicion as to what was happening. Shielding himself he was also shielding the others, though he did not think of this latter fact. He thought only of himself. They could do as they liked with the new boy. He was going to look after himself. It was nothing of his doing. He would have no hand in it. He hated Davies like poison and the older boy knew it. They had once or twice fought on the dock road over such incidents as this, but always Davies emerged the victor. Still, Jackson was not afraid. He had courage, and though only fifteen years of age, could take his stand like any man. It made him a valued member of the gang. They could rely on him to take part in all kinds of disputes.

[Boy, Hanley, J.]

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