AN: This story plays at the end of October 1829. Jack is 3 ¾ years old and awakes after his first night in Fagin's den. After living for over 6 months on the streets, sleeping next to his sister's rotting body and being quite traumatisized, he is disgustingly dirty, even in Fagin's eyes, who does not mind dirt, but also he has his limits. Read now what happens at this fine morning.
The original characters are Dickens of course and the story is mostly orientated on his novel and real history with a little influence of the one or other movie like Oliver! and the BBC Miniseries of 1985.
In my story Fagan's Gang in autumn 1829 consists of the following: Fagin (56), Fred (11), Sam (10), Eddi (16), Frankie (9), Dan (14), Jimmy (13), Tom Chitling (11), Nancy (12). Newby Jack.
(Bill (28) is already known to Fagin, but never was one of Fagin's boys himself. Charley, being 3 ½ years old to that time and Beth, being around 10 years old to that time, will first appear later on.)
Kin of Jackdaw – Children love baths or do they?
A pale late autumn morning sun was shining through some small, damaged windows into the place known in certain circles, that respectable folk would not be associated with, as Fagin's den.
The den was a poor looking place, only reached by climbing up many steps and consisting of one big and one small room with wooden floor and stony walls, that were blackened with old dirt and smoke. The big room was furnished on one side with a long wooden table complete with chairs and a fireplace with a pan and a pot hanging on the wall, right next to it. On the other side of the room were nine or ten rough beds, consisting of straw-filled sacks, raggy looking blankets and pillows placed in no specific order on the floor. By one of the two small windows that brought some light into this place stood a water filled bowl on a little table with three rusty night pots under it and a wooden barrel next to it. Furthermore there were two old cupboards decorating the room. Between them a cord was spanned, on which many colourful handkerchiefs were dangling to and fro from the wind that crept inside the room through the broken windows.
Right next to the one of the cupboards, a door opened into the smaller room. This was the personal area of the old man whose name this place bears. It had a fireplace of its own, an old bed frame with a dirty mattress, three blankets and two pillows, a moth-eaten armchair, another cupboard and a big chest inside.
The den also was the home, not only of the before mentioned old gentleman, Fagin, but also of seven boys aged between 9 and 16 and one girl, who was 12 years of age. All these children were already up and about, eating a meager breakfast, playing cards and laughing at cruel jokes.
Fagin was busy roasting more bread to fill their stomachs, at least somewhat, and throwing glances at the newest addition to his little gang, who had just arrived yesterday evening and was still sleeping soundly on one of the rough beds. This boy was younger than the rest and very wary of Fagin, but the old man hoped that he soon would see this place as his home as well and would grow into a good worker.
„Nancy dear" Fagin called. „Come ´ere for a moment will ya?"
Nancy sighed and left her place at the table. „Wot is it Fagin?"
„Go and wake up the little ´un. It´s gettin´ late in the mornin´."
The girl complied and went over to the boy's bed, kneeling down beside it. She looked at the dirty lad for a moment. It had been only yesterday, that Fagin had sent her to convince him to come with her to the den. She didn´t know much about him, the only thing he had told her was that his name was Jack Dawkins, but the fact that he was so young and that he had lived with his sister's rotting corpse under a bridge, made her feel very sorry for him. Compared to that, she thought that her life wasn´t so bad, though it was bad enough.
„Jack, she whispered, it's time for ya to get up." Gently she shook him by the shoulders. Jack opened his eyes a little, grumbled something unintelligible and then stuck his thumb in his mouth and started sucking at it while closing his eyes again.
„Jack," Nancy said, shaking him slightly harder. „It's gettin´ late. Come on, get up."
But the boy wasn't of a mind to do so. „´M tired," he mumbled without taking his thumb out of his mouth and turned his back on Nancy.
„Breakfast is ready. Ya need ta ´urry, otherwise there ain´t nothing left by the time ya get to the table." The girl tried to bait him, but he ignored her and slept on. Now Nancy started to feel irritated.
„Get up!" she yanked the blanket of the boy's body, but Jack did not care in the least.
Nancy screwed up her nose and looked disgusted. The boy stank anyway, but without the blanket on top it was even worse.
„Fagin!" she called. „´E ain´t gettin´ up! And ´e stinks worse than yesterday, if that's possible, and the whole bed is wet too!"
Fagin sighed and came over looking at the lad. „Well I suppose this one really needs a bath."
„Dan, Eddi, he called over to two older boys, that were playing cards at the table. „Go and get some water from the barrel."
„Bath time!" Nine year old Frankie eagerly started pulling off his shirt. He loved bathing, but he only got this pleasure once a year at the most.
„Not you." Fagin shook his head. „Just the new boy."
Frankie looked disappointed at the old man. „But can´t we all ´ave a go?"
Nancy laughed. „Believe me Frankie, you ain´t wanting no bath in that water when Jack has washed ´imself in there first."
„I could go first." Frankie suggested, but Fagin put a stop to it. „ Ya'll do nothin´ off the sort. ´Urry up and finish your breakfast! It´s time to get to work!"
„T'ain´t fair!" the blonde boy grumbled and stalked off pouting.
Fagin watched him go and rolled his eyes. „Children!" he muttered before bending down to shake the still sleeping boy and calling his name.
Jack opened his eyes and seeing Fagins face above him, shot up in an instant to get a distance between himself and the man. The little boy looked around scared and spying Nancy he flew at her, pressing himself tightly to her side.
„Well, well," Fagin smiled. „Nice to see ya decided to get up, my dear! Now, I suppose you are ´ungry, ain´t ya Jack? Come and ´ave some breakfast."
Jack did not move.
„Come on" Fagin waved his hand for the boy to follow him. „Nancy will go with you, won´t you Nance?" he added, his tone of voice leaving the girl no choice than to do what was wanted of her.
Jack ate the bread Nancy gave him hungrily and observed Dan and Eddi who were carrying buckets of water to the barrel and emptying them inside it.
„Wot are they doin´?" he asked Nancy.
„They preparin´ a bath for ya." She looked down at the boy. „Ya really need one, ya know. ´Ave you ever ´ad one before?"
„I ain´t needin´ no bath!" the boy protested. He had never had a love for water and had already given his mother and sister nothing but trouble when they wanted to give him a most necessary wash now and then.
„Oh yes, ya do! You're stinky."
„Ya…" Nancy stopped herself and sighed. Why was she arguing with that little crump of a boy anyway? He would take a bath and that was that.
„Listen," she kept her voice calm as she looked into the angry little face. She always felt grown up when Fagin had her deal with the younger children. „Ya need a bath, because you are all dirty. Look at ya. There is not one clean spot at ya. Won´t it be nice, to be somewhat cleaner? Get rid of some of the fleas and lice, eh?"
„NO!" he glared at her and then looked her up and down. „And ya´re dirty too!"
Oh what fun! Nancy thought, feeling her patience slip away. „I am not as dirty as you are!" She declared, then added under her breath. „And I use a chamber pot when I have to go and not me trousers and me bed."
Jack, who had good ears, heard her mumbling and shoot back at once. „Ya ain´t got no trousers!"
Nancy rolled her eyes. „You will take a bath! Now be silent!"
„I ain´t takin´ no bath!" Jack sounded very resolute.
Just than Fagin, who had disappeared into his room some time before, came out again and went to Nancy and Jack, holding a quite small piece of soap triumphantly in his hand. „Look what I´ve found. I think we may need a bit of it, don't we, my dears?" He laughed. „Now Jack, are ya done with breakfast? Good boy! An´ just in time. Your bath awaits ya!"
Jack pouted, turning his back on Fagin while Nancy explained that the boy refused to take a bath.
„But dear," Fagin looked at the little lad, „a bath is somethin´ very nice. Each of the boys ´ere would change places with ya, to ´ave one."
„Let 'em. I ain´t takin´ no bath!" Jack repeated angrily.
Fagin stared at the boy for a moment then turned to the girl. „Nance. If ´e ain´t taking a bath by ´is own will, you will bathe ´im."
„Me?" Nancy´s eyes widened „Why me?"
„Because it's women's work. Now get the lad cleaned up. Me nose will thank ya."
„But I ain´t no woman yet!" protested Nancy.
„Stop back talkin' me girl. Do as you're told!"
„But I don´t know what to do! ´E is being stubborn!" Nancy fumed as she looked helplessly at the boy next to her and then up at Fagin, just in time to see that Fagin had turned away and was busying himself with putting a fresh log on the fire to keep it burning.
„That is great. Just great!" the girl hissed, looking down again at the boy who glared up at her, ready to run, if necessary.