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‘Ah, lad, talkin’ of being kind, that’s what’s put you here the day, being kind. Aw, lad.’

They both looked at the bent head now; then when it jerked up sharply they were startled by the vehemence of his next words. ‘I didn’t take five pounds, I didn’t! Believe me. Will you believe me?’ He was staring now at Janie. ‘I did take the ten bob. As I said, I’d done it afore but managed to put it back on the Monday morning, you know after going to the pawn onlinecasinoitaliani.com.’ He glanced towards Lizzie now as if she would understand the latter bit. Then looking at Janie again, he said, ‘Tell him, will you? Say to him, John George said he didn’t take the five pounds. Will you, Janie?’

It was some seconds before she answered, ‘Aye. Yes, I will. Don’t upset yourself, John George. Yes, I will, an’ he’ll believe you. Rory’ll believe you.’

His eyes were staring into hers and his lips moved soundlessly for a moment before he brought out, ‘Did you go and see Maggie, Janie?’

Janie, flustered now, said, ‘Why, no; I couldn’t, John George, ’cos you didn’t tell me where she lived.’ Just as he put his doubled fist to his brow and bowed his head a bell rang, and as if he had been progged by something sharp he rose quickly to his feet, then gabbled, ‘Horsley Terrace . . . twenty-four. Go, will you Janie?’

‘Yes, John George. Yes, John George.’ They were both on their feet now.

‘Ta, thanks. Thank you both. I’ll never forget you. Will you come again? . . . Come again, will you?’

They watched him form into a line with the others before they turned away.

Outside the gates they didn’t look at each other or speak, and when Lizzie, after crossing the road, leaned against the wall of a cottage and buried her face in her hands Janie, crying again, put her arms about her and having turned her from the wall, led her along the street and into the town. And still neither of them spoke.

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