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Title: The Hole in the Wall
Author: Arthur Morrison
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0800561.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: June 2008
Date most recently updated: June 2008

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Production Notes:

  This text was prepared from a 1972 reprint of a book that was
  first published in 1902. It was published by Tom Stacey Reprints
  Ltd, 28-29 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7JP, England, and printed in
  Great Britain by C. Tinling and Co. Ltd, Prescot and London.


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Title: The Hole in the Wall
Author: Arthur Morrison




                         THE HOLE IN THE WALL

                                  BY

                           ARTHUR MORRISON



                               PREFACE

  The old East End of London was a secret and dangerous place. How
  much thieving and plotting, fighting and knifing and murdering,
  went on there nobody ever knew or ever will know. The police, who
  were treated as a common enemy, went about in threes. But towards
  its own people it could be protective and sentimental. Above all,
  it was alive, rich in its human texture. This was the private
  world which Arthur Morrison--journalist, story-teller and
  collector of Oriental paintings--made authentically his own.

  /The Hole in the Wall/, which V. S. Pritchett described as "one of
  the minor masterpieces of this century," is a thriller, or perhaps
  more accurately a Dickensian murder story, set in the most
  sinister part of London's dockland, about a hundred years ago.

  Young Stephen Kemp goes to live with his grandfather, who keeps an
  old inn--The Hole in the Wall--leaning crazily out over the river.
  And it is through Stephen's eyes that we see the tale of villainy
  and vengeance develop, and meet the strange but very human
  characters involved.

  What happens is exciting and dramatic, and described with the most
  vivid artistry but it is the atmosphere--powerful and
  unforgettable--which has made /The Hole in the Wall/ a classic.
  The East End, as Arthur Morrison knew it, has gone, destroyed by
  Hitler's bombers and post-war planners--but in these pages it
  lives again, dark, evil, squalid, and yet a place which men and
  women loved with a warmth quite missing from the London of tower
  blocks and hygienic shopping centres.


                                  TO

                     MRS. CHARLES EARDLEY-WILMOT





                              CHAPTER I

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

My grandfather was a publican--and a sinner, as you will see. His
public-house was the Hole in the Wall, on the river's edge at Wapping;
and his sins--all of them that I know of--are recorded in these pages.
He was a widower of some small substance, and the Hole in the Wall was
not the sum of his resources, for he owned a little wharf on the river
Lea. I called him Grandfather Nat, not to distinguish him among a
multitude of grandfathers--for indeed I never knew another of my
own--but because of affectionate habit; a habit perhaps born of the
fact that Nathaniel Kemp was also my father's name. My own is Stephen.

To remember Grandfather Nat is to bethink me of pear-drops. It is
possible that that particular sort of sweetstuff is now obsolete, and
I cannot remember how many years have passed since last I smelt it;
for the pear-drop was a thing that could be smelt farther than seen,
and oftener; so that its smell--a rather fulsome, vulgar smell I now
believe--is almost as distinct to my imagination while I write as it
was to my nose thirty years ago. For pear-drops were an unfailing part
of the large bagful of sticky old-fashioned lollipops that my
grandfather brought on his visits, stuffed into his overcoat pocket,
and hard to get out without burst and a spill. His custom was
invariable, so that I think I must have come to regard the sweets as
some natural production of his coat pocket; insomuch that at my
mother's funeral my muddled brain scarce realised the full desolation
of the circumstances till I discovered that, for the first time in my
experience, my grandfather's pocket was void of pear-drops. But with
this new bereavement the world seemed empty indeed, and I cried
afresh.

Associated in my memory with my grandfather's bag of sweets, almost
more than with himself, was the gap in the right hand where the middle
finger had been; for it was commonly the maimed hand that hauled out
the paper bag, and the gap was plain and singular against the white
paper. He had lost the finger at sea, they told me; and as my notion
of losing a thing was derived from my Noah's ark, or dropping a marble
through a grating, I was long puzzled to guess how anything like that
could have happened to a finger. Withal the circumstance fascinated
me, and added vastly to the importance and the wonder of my
grandfather in my childish eyes.

He was perhaps a little over the middle height, but so broad and deep
of chest and, especially, so long of arms, as to seem squat. He had
some grey hair, but it was all below the line of his hat-brim; above
that it was as the hair of a young man. So that I was led to reason
that colour must be washed out of hair by exposure to the weather, as
perhaps in his case it was. I think that his face was almost handsome,
in a rough, hard-bitten way, and he was as hairy a man as I ever saw.
His short beard was like curled wire; but I can remember that long
after I had grown to resent being kissed by women, being no longer a
baby, I gladly climbed his knee to kiss my grandfather, though his
shaven upper-lip was like a rasp.

In these early days I lived with my mother in a little house of a
short row that stood on a quay, in a place that was not exactly a
dock, nor a wharf, nor a public thoroughfare; but where people from
the dock trying to find a wharf, people from a wharf looking for the
dock, and people from the public thoroughfare in anxious search of
dock and wharves, used to meet and ask each other questions. It was a
detached piece of Blackwall which had got adrift among locks and
jetties, and was liable to be cut off from the rest of the world at
any moment by the arrival of a ship and the consequent swinging of a
bridge, worked by two men at a winch. So that it was a commonplace
story of my early childhood (though the sight never lost its interest)
to observe from a window a ship, passing as it were up the street,
warped into dock by the capstans on the quay. And the capstan-songs of
the dockmen--/Shenandore/, /Mexico is covered with Snow/, /Hurrah for
the Black Ball Line/, and the like--were as much my nursery rhymes as
/Little Boy Blue/ and /Sing a Song o' Sixpence/. These things are done
differently nowadays; the cottages on the quay are gone, and the
neighbourhood is a smokier place, where the work is done by engines,
with no songs.

My father was so much at sea that I remember little of him at all. He
was a ship's officer, and at the time I am to tell of he was mate of
the brig /Juno/, owned by Viney and Marr, one of the small shipowning
firms that were common enough thirty years ago, though rarer now; the
sort of firm that was made by a pushing skipper and an ambitious
shipping clerk, beginning with a cheap vessel bought with money raised
mainly by pawning the ship. Such concerns often did well, and
sometimes grew into great lines; perhaps most of them yielded the
partners no more than a comfortable subsistence; and a good few came
to grief, or were kept going by questionable practices which have
since become illegal--sometimes in truth by what the law called crime,
even then. Viney had been a ship's officer--had indeed served under
Grandfather Nat, who was an old skipper. Marr was the business man who
had been a clerk. And the firm owned two brigs, the /Juno/ and
another; though how much of their value was clear property and how
much stood for borrowed money was matter of doubt and disagreement in
the conversation of mates and skippers along Thames shore. What nobody
disagreed about, however, was that the business was run on skinflint
principles, and that the vessels were so badly found, so ill-kept, and
so grievously under-manned, that the firm ought to be making money.
These things by the way, though they are important to remember. As I
was saying, I remember little of my father, because of his long
voyages and short spells at home. But my mother is so clear and so
kind in my recollection that sometimes I dream of her still, though
she died before I was eight.

It was while my father was on a long voyage with the /Juno/ that there
came a time when she took me often upon her knee, asking if I should
like a little brother or sister to play with; a thing which I demanded
to have brought, instantly. There was a fat woman called Mrs. Dann,
who appeared in the household and became my enemy. She slept with my
mother, and my cot was thrust into another room, where I lay at night
and brooded--sometimes wept with jealousy thus to be supplanted;
though I drew what consolation I might from the prospect of the
promised playmate. Then I could not go near my mother at all, for she
was ill, and there was a doctor. And then . . . I was told that mother
and baby-brother were gone to heaven together; a thing I would not
hear of, but fought savagely with Mrs. Dann on the landing, shouting
to my mother that she was not to die, for I was coming. And when,
wearied with kicking and screaming--for I fought with neighbours as
well as with the nurse and the undertaker, conceiving them to be all
in league to deprive me of my mother--when at last the woman from next
door took me into the bedroom, and I saw the drawn face that could not
smile, and my tiny brother that could not play, lying across the dead
breast, I so behaved that the good soul with me blubbered aloud; and I
had an added grief in the reflection that I had kicked her shins not
half an hour before. I have never seen that good woman since; and I am
ashamed to write that I cannot even remember her name.

I have no more to say of my mother, and of her funeral only so much as
records the least part of my grief. Some of her relations came, whom I
cannot distinctly remember seeing at any other time: a group of
elderly and hard-featured women, who talked of me as "the child," very
much as they might have talked of some troublesome article of baggage;
and who turned up their noses at my grandfather: who, for his part,
was uneasily respectful, calling each of them "mum" very often. I was
not attracted by my mother's relations, and I kept as near my
grandfather as possible, feeling a vague fear that some of them might
have a design of taking me away. Though indeed none was in the least
ambitious of that responsibility.

They were not all women, for there was one quiet little man in their
midst, who, when not eating cake or drinking wine, was sucking the
bone handle of a woman's umbrella, which he carried with him
everywhere, indoors and out. He was in the custody of the largest and
grimmest of ladies, whom the others called Aunt Martha. He was so
completely in her custody that after some consideration I judged he
must be her son; though indeed he seemed very old for that. I now
believe him to have been her husband; but I cannot remember to have
heard his name, and I cannot invent him a better one than Uncle
Martha.

Uncle Martha would have behaved quite well, I am convinced, if he had
been left alone, and would have acquitted himself with perfect
propriety in all the transactions of the day; but it seemed to be Aunt
Martha's immovable belief that he was wholly incapable of any action,
even the simplest and most obvious, unless impelled by shoves and
jerks. Consequently he was shoved into the mourning carriage--we had
two--and jerked into the corner opposite to the one he selected;
shoved out--almost on all fours--at the cemetery; and, perceiving him
entering the little chapel of his own motion, Aunt Martha overtook him
and jerked him in there. This example presently impressed the other
ladies with the expediency of shoving Uncle Martha at any convenient
opportunity; so that he arrived home with us at last in a severely
jostled condition, faithful to the bone-handled umbrella through
everything.

Grandfather Nat had been liberal in provision for the funeral party,
and the cake and port wine, the gin and water, the tea and the
watercress, occupied the visitors for some time; a period illuminated
by many moral reflections from a rather fat relation, who was no
doubt, like most of the others, an aunt.

"Ah well," said the Fat Aunt, shaking her head, with a deep sigh that
suggested repletion; "ah well, it's what we must all come to!"

There had been a deal of other conversation, but I remember this
remark because the Fat Aunt had already made it twice.

"Ah, indeed," assented another aunt, a thin one; "so we must, sooner
or later."

"Yes, yes; as I often say, we're all mortal."

"Yes, indeed!"

"We've all got to be born, an' we've all got to die."

"That's true!"

"Rich an' poor--just the same."

"Ah!"

"In the midst of life we're in the middle of it."

"Ah yes!"

Grandfather Nat, deeply impressed, made haste to refill the Fat Aunt's
glass, and to push the cake-dish nearer. Aunt Martha jerked Uncle
Martha's elbow toward his glass, which he was neglecting, with a
sudden nod and a frown of pointed significance--even command.

"It's a great trial for all of the family, I'm sure," pursued the Fat
Aunt, after applications to glass and cake-dish; "but we must bear up.
Not that we ain't had trials enough, neither."

"No, indeed," replied Aunt Martha with a snap at my grandfather, as
though he were the trial chiefly on her mind; which Grandfather Nat
took very humbly, and tried her with watercress.

"Well, she's better off, poor thing," the Fat Aunt went on.

Some began to say "Ah!" again, but Aunt Martha snapped it into "Well,
let's hope so!"--in the tone of one convinced that my mother couldn't
be much worse off than she had been. From which, and from sundry other
remarks among the aunts, I gathered that my mother was held to have
hurt the dignity of her family by alliance with Grandfather Nat's. I
have never wholly understood why; but I put the family pride down to
the traditional wedding of an undoubted auctioneer with Aunt Martha's
cousin. So Aunt Martha said "Let's hope so!" and, with another sudden
frown and nod, shoved Uncle Martha toward the cake.

"What a blessing the child was took too!" was the Fat Aunt's next
observation.

"Ah, that it is!" murmured the chorus. But I was puzzled and shocked
to hear such a thing said of my little brother.

"And it's a good job there's only one left."

The chorus agreed again. I began to feel that I had seriously
disobliged my mother's relations by not dying too.

"And him a boy; boys can look after themselves." This was a thin
aunt's opinion.

"Ah, and that's a blessing," sighed the Fat Aunt; "a great blessing."

"Of course," said Aunt Martha. "And it's not to be expected that his
mother's relations can be burdened with him."

"Why, no indeed!" said the Fat Aunt, very decisively.

"I'm sure it wouldn't be poor Ellen's wish to cause more trouble to
her family than she has!" And Aunt Martha, with a frown at the
watercress, gave Uncle Martha another jolt. It seemed to me that he
had really eaten all he wanted, and would rather leave off; and I
wondered if she always fed him like that, or if it were only when they
were visiting.

"And besides, it 'ud be standing in the child's way," Aunt Martha
resumed, "with so many openings as there is in the docks here, quite
handy."

Perhaps it was because I was rather dull in the head that day, from
one cause and another: at any rate I could think of no other openings
in the docks but those between the ships and the jetties, and at the
lock-sides, which people sometimes fell into, in the dark; and I
gathered a hazy notion that I was expected to make things comfortable
by going out and drowning myself.

"Yes, of course it would," said the Fat Aunt.

"It stands to reason," said a thin one.

"Anybody can see /that/," said the others.

"And many a boy's gone out to work no older."

"Ah, and been members o' Parliament afterwards, too."

The prospect of an entry into Parliament presented so stupefying a
contrast with that of an immersion in the dock that for some time the
ensuing conversation made little impression on me. On the part of my
mother's relations it was mainly a repetition of what had gone before,
very much in the same words; and as to my grandfather, he had little
to say at all, but expressed himself, so far as he might, by furtive
pats on my back; pats increasing in intensity as the talk of the
ladies pointed especially and unpleasingly to myself. Till at last the
food and drink were all gone. Whereupon the Fat Aunt sighed her last
moral sentiment, Uncle Martha was duly shoved out on the quay, and I
was left alone with Grandfather Nat.

"Well Stevy, ol' mate," said my grandfather, drawing me on his knee;
"us two's left alone; left alone, ol' mate."

I had not cried much that day--scarce at all in fact, since first
meeting my grandfather in the passage and discovering his empty
pocket--for, as I have said, I was a little dull in the head, and
trying hard to think of many things. But now I cried indeed, with my
face against my grandfather's shoulder, and there was something of
solace in the outburst; and when at last I looked up I saw two bright
drops hanging in the wiry tangle of my grandfather's beard, and
another lodged in the furrow under one eye.

"'Nough done, Stevy," said my grandfather; "don't cry no more. You'll
come home along o' me now, won't ye? An' to-morrow we'll go in the
London Dock, where the sugar is."

I looked round the room and considered, as well as my sodden little
head would permit. I had never been in the London Dock, which was a
wonderful place, as I had gathered from my grandfather's descriptions:
a paradise where sugar lay about the very ground in lumps, and where
you might eat it if you would, so long as you brought none away. But
here was my home, with nobody else to take care of it, and I felt some
muddled sense of a new responsibility. "I'm 'fraid I can't leave the
place, Gran'fa' Nat," I said, with a dismal shake of the head. "Father
might come home, an' he wouldn't know, an'----"

"An' so--an' so you think you've got to stop an' keep house?" my
grandfather asked, bending his face down to mine.

The prospect had been oppressing my muzzy faculties all day. If I
escaped being taken away, plainly I must keep house and cook, and buy
things and scrub floors, at any rate till my father came home; though
it seemed a great deal to undertake alone. So I answered with a nod
and a forlorn sniff.

"Good pluck! good pluck!" exclaimed my grandfather, exultantly,
clapping his hand twice on my head and rubbing it vigorously. "Stevy,
ol' mate, me an' you'll get on capital. I knowed you'd make a plucked
'un. But you won't have to keep house alone jest yet. No. You an'
me'll keep house together, Stevy, at the Hole in the Wall. Your father
won't be home a while yet; an' I'll settle all about this here place.
But Lord! what a pluck for a shaver!" And he brightened wonderfully.

In truth there had been little enough of courage in my poor little
body, and Grandfather Nat's words brought me a deal of relief. Beyond
the vague terrors of loneliness and responsibility, I had been
troubled by the reflection that housekeeping cost money, and I had
none. For though my mother's half-pay note had been sent in the
regular way to Viney and Marr a week before, there had been neither
reply nor return of the paper. The circumstance was unprecedented and
unaccountable, though the explanation came before very long.

For the present, however, the difficulty was put aside. I put my hand
in my grandfather's, and, the door being locked behind us and the key
in his pocket, we went out together, on the quay, over the bridge and
into the life that was to be new for us both.



                              CHAPTER II

                             IN BLUE GATE

While his mother's relations walked out of Stephen's tale, and left
his grandfather in it, the tales of all the world went on, each man
hero in his own.

Viney and Marr were owners of the brig /Juno/, away in tropic seas,
with Stephen's father chief mate; and at this time the tale of Viney
and Marr had just divided into two, inasmuch as the partners were
separated and the firm was at a crisis--the crisis responsible for the
withholding of Mrs. Kemp's half-pay. No legal form had dissolved the
firm, indeed, and scarce half a mile of streets lay between the two
men; but in truth Marr had left his partner with uncommon secrecy and
expedition, carrying with him all the loose cash he could get
together; and a man need travel a very little way to hide in London.
So it was that Mr. Viney, left alone to bear the firm's burdens, was
loafing, sometimes about his house in Commercial Road, Stepney,
sometimes in the back streets and small public-houses hard by;
pondering, no doubt, the matter contained in a paper that had that
afternoon stricken the colour from the face of one Crooks,
ship-chandler, of Shadwell, and had hardly less disquieted others in
related trades. While Marr, for the few days since his flight no more
dressed like the business partner in a ship-owning concern, nor even
like a clerk, but in serge and anklejacks, like a foremast hand, was
playing up to his borrowed character by being drunk in Blue Gate.

The Blue Gate is gone now--it went with many places of a history only
less black when Ratcliff Highway was put to rout. As you left High
Street, Shadwell, for the Highway--they made one thoroughfare--the
Blue Gate was on your right, almost opposite an evil lane that led
downhill to the New Dock. Blue Gate Fields, it was more fully called,
though there was as little of a field as of a gate, blue or other,
about the place, which was a street, narrow, foul and forbidding,
leading up to Back Lane. It was a bad and a dangerous place, the worst
in all that neighbourhood: worse than Frederick Street--worse than
Tiger Bay. The sailor once brought to anchor in Blue Gate was lucky to
get out with clothes to cover him--lucky if he saved no more than his
life. Yet sailors were there in plenty, hilarious, shouting, drunk and
drugged. Horrible draggled women pawed them over for whatever their
pockets might yield, and murderous ruffians were ready at hand
whenever a knock on the head could solve a difficulty.

Front doors stood ever open in the Blue Gate, and some houses had no
front doors at all. At the top of one of the grimy flights of stairs
thus made accessible from the street, was a noisy and ill-smelling
room; noisy because of the company it held; ill-smelling partly
because of their tobacco, but chiefly because of the tobacco and the
liquor of many that had been there before, and because of the aged
foulness of the whole building. There were five in the room, four men
and a woman. One of the men was Marr, though for the present he was
not using that name. He was noticeable amid the group, being cleaner
than the rest, fair-haired, and dressed like a sailor ashore, though
he lacked the sunburn that was proper to the character. But sailor or
none, there he sat where many had sat before him, a piece of the
familiar prey of Blue Gate, babbling drunk and reasonless. The others
were watchfully sober enough, albeit with a great pretence of jollity;
they had drunk level with the babbler, but had been careful to water
his drink with gin. As for him, he swayed and lolled, sometimes on the
table before him, sometimes on the shoulder of the woman at his side.
She was no beauty, with her coarse features, dull eyes, and tousled
hair, her thick voice and her rusty finery; but indeed she was the
least repulsive of that foul company.

On the victim's opposite side sat a large-framed bony fellow, with a
thin, unhealthy face that seemed to belong to some other body, and
dress that proclaimed him long-shore ruffian. The woman called him
Dan, and nods and winks passed between the two, over the dropping head
between them. Next Dan was an ugly rascal with a broken nose; singular
in that place, as bearing in his dress none of the marks of waterside
habits, crimpery and the Highway, but seeming rather the commonplace
town rat of Shoreditch or Whitechapel. And, last, a blind fiddler sat
in a corner, fiddling a flourish from time to time, roaring with foul
jest, and rolling his single white eye upward.

"No, I won'av another," the fair-haired man said, staring about him
with uncertain eyes. "Got bishness 'tend to. I say, wha' pubsh this?
'Tain' Brown Bear, ish't? Ish't Brown Bear?"

"No, you silly," the woman answered playfully. "'Tain't the Brown
Bear; you've come 'ome along of us."

"O! Come home--come home . . . I shay--this won' do! Mus'n' go 'ome
yet--get collared y'know!" This with an owlish wink at the bottle
before him.

Dan and the woman exchanged a quick look; plainly something had gone
before that gave the words significance. "No," Marr went on, "mus'n'
go 'ome. I'm sailor man jus' 'shore from brig /Juno/ in from
Barbadoes. . . . No, not /Juno/, course not. Dunno /Juno/. 'Tain'
/Juno/. D'year? 'Tain' /Juno/, ye know, my ship. Never heard o'
/Juno/. Mine's 'nother ship. . . . I say, wha'sh name my ship?"

"You're a rum sailor-man," said Dan, "not to know the name of your own
ship ten minutes together. Why, you've told us about four different
names a'ready."

The sham seaman chuckled feebly.

"Why, I don't believe you're a sailor at all, mate," the woman
remarked, still playfully. "You've just bin a-kiddin' of us fine!"

The chuckle persisted, and turned to a stupid grin. "Ha, ha! Ha, ha!
Have it y'r own way." This with a clumsily stealthy grope at the
breast pocket--a movement that the others had seen before, and
remembered. "Have it y'r own way. But I say; I say, y'know"--suddenly
serious--"you're all right, ain't you? Eh? All right, you know, eh? I
s-say--I hope you're--orright?"

"Awright, mate? Course we are!" And Dan clapped him cordially on the
shoulder.

"/We're/ awright," growled the broken-nosed man, thickly.

"/We/ don't tell no secrets," said the woman.

"Thash all very well, but I was talkin' about the /Juno/, y'know.
Was'n I talkin' about /Juno/?" A look of sleepy alarm was on the fair
man's face as he turned his eyes from one to another.

"Ay, that's so," answered the fellow at his side. "Brig /Juno/ in from
Barbadoes."

"Ah! Thash where you're wrong; she /ain't/ in--see?" Marr wagged his
head, and leered the profoundest sagacity. "She /ain't/ in. What's
more, 'ow d'you know she ever will come in, eh? 'Ow d'ye know that?
Thash one for ye, ole f'ler! Whar'll ye bet me she ever gets as far
as--but I say, I say; I say, y'know, you're all right, ain't you? Qui'
sure you're orrigh'?"

There was a new and a longer chorus of reassurance, which Dan at last
ended with: "Go on; the /Juno/ ain't ever to come back; is that it?"

Marr turned and stared fishily at him for some seconds. "Wha'rr you
mean?" he demanded, at length, with a drivelling assumption of
dignity. "Wha'rr you mean? N-never come back? Nishe remark make
'spectable shipowner! Whassor' firm you take us for, eh?"

The blind fiddler stopped midway in a flourish and pursed his lips
silently. Dan looked quickly at the fiddler, and as quickly back at
the drunken man. Marr's attitude and the turn of his head being
favourable, the woman quietly detached his watch.

"Whassor' firm you take us for?" he repeated. "D'ye think 'cause
we're--'cause I come here--'cause I come 'ere an'----" he stopped
foolishly, and tailed off into nothing, smiling uneasily at one and
another.

The woman held up the watch behind him--a silver hunter, engraved with
Marr's chief initial--a noticeably large letter M. Dan saw it, shook
his head, and frowned, pointed and tapped his own breast pocket, all
in a moment. And presently the woman slipped the watch back into the
pocket it came from.

"'Ere, 'ave another drink," said Dan hospitably. "'Ave another all
round for the last, 'fore the fiddler goes. 'Ere y'are, George, reach
out."

"Eh?" ejaculated the fiddler. "Eh? I ain't goin'! Didn't the genelman
ask me to come along? Come, I'll give y' a toon. I'll give y' a chant
as 'll make yer 'air curl!"

"Take your drink, George," Dan insisted, "we don't want our 'air
curled."

The fiddler groped for and took the drink, swallowed it, and twangled
the fiddle-strings. "Will y'ave /Black Jack/?" he asked.

"No," Dan answered with a rising voice. "We won't 'ave Black Jack, an'
what's more we won't 'ave Blind George, see? You cut your lucky, soon
as ye like!"

"Awright, awright, cap'en," the fiddler remonstrated, rising
reluctantly. "You're 'ard on a pore blind bloke, damme. Ain't I to get
nothin' out o' this 'ere? I ask ye fair, didn't the genelman tell me
to come along?"

Marr, ducking and lolling over the table, here looked up and said,
"Whassup? Fiddler won't go? Gi'm two-pence and kick'm downstairs. 'Ere
y'are!" and he pulled out some small change between his fingers, and
spilt it on the table.

Dan and the broken-nosed man gathered it up and thrust it into the
blind man's hand. "This ain't the straight game," he protested, in a
hoarse whisper, as they pushed him through the door-way. "I want my
reg'lars out o' that lot. D'ye 'ear? I want my reg'lars!"

But they shut the door on him, whereupon he broke into a torrent of
curses on the landing; and presently, having descended several of the
stairs, reached back to let drive a thump at the door with his stick;
and so went off swearing into the street.

Marr sniggered feebly. "Chucked out fiddler," he said. "Whash we do
now? I won'ave any more drink. I 'ad 'nough. . . . Think I'll be
gett'n' along . . . Here, what you after, eh?"

He clapped his hand again to his breast pocket, and turned
suspiciously on the woman. "You keep y'r hands off," he said. "Wha'
wan' my pocket?"

"Awright, mate," the woman answered placidly. "I ain't a touchin' yer
pockets. Why, look there--yer watchguard's 'angin'; you'll drop that
presently an' say it's me, I s'pose!"

"You'd better get away from the genelman if you can't behave yourself
civil," interposed Dan, pushing the woman aside and getting between
them. "'Ere, mate, you got to 'ave another drink along o' me. I'll
turn her out arter the fiddler, if she ain't civil."

"I won'ave another drink," said Marr, thickly, struggling unsteadily
to his feet and dropping back instantly to his chair. "I
won'avanother."

"We'll see about that," replied Dan. "'Ere, you get out," he went on,
addressing the woman as he hauled her up by the shoulders. "You get
out; we're goin' to be comf'table together, us two an' 'im. Out ye
go!" He thrust her toward the door and opened it. "I'm sick o' foolin'
about," he added in an angry undertone; "quick's the word."

"O no, Dan--don't," the woman pleaded, whispering on the landing. "Not
that way! Not again! I'll get it from him easy in a minute! Don't do
it, Dan!"

"Shut yer mouth! I ain't askin' you. You shove off a bit."

"Don't, Dan!"

But the door was shut.

"I tell ye I won'avanother!" came Marr's voice from within.

The woman went down the stairs, her gross face drawn as though she
wept, though her eyes were dry. At the door she looked back with
something like a shudder, and then turned her steps down the street.



The two partners in Viney and Marr were separated indeed; but now it
was by something more than half a mile of streets.



                             CHAPTER III

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

I had never been home with Grandfather Nat before. I fancy that some
scruples of my mother's, in the matter of the neighbourhood and the
character of the company to be seen and heard at the Hole in the Wall,
had hitherto kept me from the house, and even from the sugary elysium
of the London Dock. Now I was going there at last, and something of
eager anticipation overcame the sorrow of the day.

We went in an omnibus, which we left in Commercial Road. Here my
grandfather took order to repair my disappointment in the matter of
pear-drops; and we left the shop with such a bagful that it would not
go into the accustomed pocket at all. A little way from this shop, and
on the opposite side of the way, stood a house which my mother had
more than once pointed out to me already; and as we came abreast of it
now, Grandfather Nat pointed it out also. "Know who lives there,
Stevy?" he asked.

"Yes," I said; "Mr. Viney, that father's ship belongs to."

There was a man sitting on the stone baluster by the landing of the
front steps, having apparently just desisted from knocking at the
door. He was pale and agitated, and he slapped his leg distractedly
with a folded paper.

"Why," said my grandfather, "that's Crooks, the ship-chandler. He
looks bad; wonder what's up?"

With that the door opened, and a servant-girl, in bonnet and shawl,
emerged with her box, lifting and dragging it as best she might. The
man rose and spoke to her, and I supposed that he was about to help.
But at her answer he sank back on the balustrade, and she hauled the
box to the pavement by herself. The man looked worse than ever, now,
and he moved his head from side to side; so that it struck me that it
might be that his mother also was dead; perhaps to-day; and at the
thought all the flavour went from the pear-drop in my mouth.

We turned up a narrow street which led us to a part where the river
plainly was nearer at every step; for well I knew the curious smell
that grew as we went, and that had in it something of tar, something
of rope and junk, something of ships' stores, and much of a blend of
unknown outlandish merchandise. We met sailors, some with parrots and
accordions, and many with undecided legs; and we saw more of the
hang-dog fellows who were not sailors, though they dressed in the same
way, and got an inactive living out of sailors, somehow. They leaned
on posts, they lurked in foul entries, they sat on sills, smoking; and
often one would accost and hang to a passing sailor, with a grinning,
trumped-up cordiality that offended and repelled me, child as I was.
And there were big, coarse women, with flaring clothes, and hair that
shone with grease; though for them I had but a certain wonder; as for
why they all seemed to live near the docks; why they all grew so
stout; and why they never wore bonnets.

As we went where the street grew fouler and more crooked, and where
dark entries and many turnings gave evidence of the complication of
courts and alleys about us, we heard a hoarse voice crooning a stave
of a sea-song, with the low scrape of a fiddle striking in here and
there, as it were at random. And presently there turned a corner ahead
and faced toward us a blind man, with his fiddle held low against his
chest, and his face lifted upward, a little aside. He checked at the
corner to hit the wall a couple of taps with the stick that hung from
his wrist, and called aloud, with fouler words than I can remember or
could print; "Now then, damn ye! Ain't there ne'er a Christian
sailor-man as wants a toon o' George? Who'll 'ave a toon o' George?
Ain't ye got no money, damn ye? Not a brown for pore blind George?
What a dirty mean lot it is! Who'll 'ave a 'ornpipe? Who'll 'ave a
song o' pore George? . . . O damn y' all!"

And so, with a mutter and another tap of the stick, he came creeping
along, six inches at a step, the stick dangling loose again, and the
bow scraping the strings to the song:--


            Fire on the fore-top, fire on the bow,
            Fire on the main-deck, fire down below!
                Fire! fire! fire down below!
                Fetch a bucket o' water; fire down below!


The man's right eye was closed, but the left was horribly wide and
white and rolling, and it quite unpleasantly reminded me of a large
china marble that lay at that moment at the bottom of my breeches
pocket, under some uniform buttons, a key you could whistle on, a
brass knob from a fender, and a tangle of string. So much indeed was I
possessed with this uncomfortable resemblance in later weeks, when I
had seen Blind George often, and knew more of him, that at last I had
no choice but to fling the marble into the river; though indeed it was
something of a rarity in marbles, and worth four "alleys" as big as
itself.

My grandfather stopped his talk as we drew within earshot of the
fiddler; but blind men's ears are keen beyond the common. The bow
dropped from the fiddle, and Blind George sang out cheerily: "Why,
'ere comes Cap'en Nat, 'ome from the funeral; and got 'is little
grandson what 'e's goin' to take care of an' bring up so moral in 'is
celebrated 'ouse o' call!" All to my extreme amazement: for what
should this strange blind man know of me, or of my mother's funeral?

Grandfather Nat seemed a little angry. "Well, well," he said, "your
ears are sharp, Blind George; they learn a lot as ain't your business.
If your eyes was as good as your ears you'd ha' had your head broke
'fore this--a dozen times!"

"If my eyes was as good as my ears, Cap'en Nat Kemp," the other
retorted, "there's many as wouldn't find it so easy to talk o'
breakin' my 'ed. Other people's business! Lord! I know enough to 'ang
some of 'em, that's what I know! I could tell you some o' /your/
business if I liked,--some as you don't know yourself. Look 'ere! You
bin to a funeral. Well, it ain't the last funeral as 'll be wanted in
your family; see? The kid's mother's gone; don't you be too sure 'is
father's safe! I bin along o' some one you know, an' /'e/ don't look
like lastin' for ever, 'e don't; 'e ain't in 'ealthy company."

Grandfather Nat twitched my sleeve, and we walked on.

"Awright!" the blind man called after us, in his tone of affable
ferocity. "Awright, go along! You'll see things, some day, near as
well as I can, what's blind!"

"That's a bad fellow, Stevy," Grandfather Nat said, as we heard the
fiddle and the song begin again. "Don't you listen to neither his talk
nor his songs. Somehow it don't seem nat'ral to see a blind man such a
bad 'un. But a bad 'un he is, up an' down."

I asked how he came to know about the funeral, and especially about my
coming to Wapping--a thing I had only learned of myself an hour
before. My grandfather said that he had probably learned of the
funeral from somebody who had been at the Hole in the Wall during the
day, and had asked the reason of the landlord's absence; and as to
myself, he had heard my step, and guessed its meaning instantly. "He's
a keen sharp rascal, Stevy, an' he makes out all of parties' business
he can. He knew your father was away, an' he jumped the whole thing at
once. That's his way. But I don't stand him; he don't come into my
house barrin' he comes a customer, which I can't help."

Of the meaning of the blind man's talk I understood little. But he
shocked me with a sense of insult, and more with one of surprise. For
I had entertained a belief, born of Sunday-school stories, that
blindness produced saintly piety--unless it were the piety that caused
the blindness--and that in any case a virtuous meekness was an
essential condition of the affliction. So I walked in doubt and
cogitation.

And so, after a dive down a narrower street than any we had yet
traversed (it could scarce be dirtier), and a twist through a steep
and serpentine alley, we came, as it grew dusk, to the Hole in the
Wall. Of odd-looking riverside inns I can remember plenty, but never,
before or since, have I beheld an odder than this of Grandfather
Nat's. It was wooden and clap-boarded, and, like others of its sort,
it was everywhere larger at top than at bottom. But the Hole in the
Wall was not only top-heavy, but also most alarmingly lopsided. By its
side, and half under it, lay a narrow passage, through which one saw a
strip of the river and its many craft, and the passage ended in
Hole-in-the-Wall Stairs. All of the house that was above the ground
floor on this side rested on a row of posts, which stood near the
middle of the passage; and the burden of these posts, twisted, wavy,
bulging, and shapeless, hung still more toward the opposite building;
while the farther side, bounded by a later brick house, was vertical,
as though a great wedge, point downward, had been cut away to permit
the rise of the newer wall. And the effect was as of a reeling and
toppling of the whole construction away from its neighbour, and an
imminent downfall into the passage. And when, later, I examined the
side looking across the river, supported on piles, and bulging and
toppling over them also, I decided that what kept the Hole in the Wall
from crashing into the passage was nothing but its countervailing
inclination to tumble into the river.

Painted large over the boards of the front, whose lapped edges gave
the letters ragged outlines, were the words THE HOLE IN THE WALL; and
below, a little smaller, NATHANIEL KEMP. I felt a certain pride, I
think, in the importance thus given the family name, and my esteem of
my grandfather increased porportionably with the size of the letters.

There was a great noise within, and Grandfather Nat, with a quick look
toward the entrance, grunted angrily. But we passed up the passage and
entered by a private door under the posts. This door opened directly
into the bar parlour, the floor whereof was two steps below the level
of the outer paving; and the size whereof was about thrice that of a
sentry-box.

The din of a quarrel and a scuffle came from the bar, and my
grandfather, thrusting me into a corner, and giving me his hat, ran
out with a roar like that of a wild beast. At the sound the quarrel
hushed in its height. "What's this?" my grandfather blared, with a
thump on the counter that made the pots jump. "What sort of a row's
this in my house? Damme, I'll break y' in halves, every mother's son
of ye!"

I peeped through the glass partition, and saw, first, the back of the
potman's head (for the bar-floor took another drop) and beyond that
and the row of beer-pulls, a group of rough, hulking men, one with
blood on his face, and all with an odd look of sulky guilt.

"Out you go!" pursued Grandfather Nat, "every swab o' ye! Can't leave
the place not even to go to--not for nothin', without a row like this,
givin' the house a bad name! Go on, Jim Crute! Unless I'm to chuck
ye!"

The men had begun filing out awkwardly, with nothing but here and
there: "Awright, guv'nor"--"Awright, cap'en." "Goin', ain't I?" and
the like. But one big ruffian lagged behind, scowling and murmuring
rebelliously.

In a flash Grandfather Nat was through the counter-wicket. With a dart
of his long left arm he had gripped the fellow's ear and spun him
round with a wrench that I thought had torn the ear from the head; and
in the same moment had caught him by the opposite wrist, so as to
stretch the man's extended arm, elbow backward, across his own great
chest; a posture in which the backward pull against the elbow joint
brought a yell of agony from the victim. Only a man with
extraordinarily long arms could have done the thing exactly like that.
The movement was so savagely sudden that my grandfather had kicked
open the door and flung Jim Crute headlong into the street ere I quite
understood it; when there came a check in my throat and tears in my
eyes to see the man so cruelly handled.

Grandfather Nat stood a moment at the door, but it seemed that his
customer was quelled effectually, for presently he turned inward
again, with such a grim scowl as I had never seen before. And at that
a queer head appeared just above the counter--I had supposed the bar
to be wholly cleared--and a very weak and rather womanish voice said,
in tones of over-inflected indignation: "Serve 'em right, Cap'en Kemp,
I'm sure. Lot o' impudent vagabones! Ought to be ashamed o'
theirselves, that they ought. Pity every 'house ain't kep' as strict
as this one is, that's what I say!"

And the queer head looked round the vacant bar with an air of virtuous
defiance, as though anxious to meet the eye of any so bold as to
contradict.

It was anything but a clean face on the head, and it was overshadowed
by a very greasy wideawake hat. Grubbiness and unhealthy redness
contended for mastery in the features, of which the nose was the most
surprising, wide and bulbous and knobbed all over; so that ever
afterward, in any attempt to look Mr. Cripps in the face, I found
myself wholly disregarding his eyes, and fixing a fascinated gaze on
his nose; and I could never recall his face to memory as I recalled
another, but always as a Nose, garnished with a fringe of inferior
features. The face had been shaved--apparently about a week before;
and by the sides hung long hair, dirtier to look at than the rest of
the apparition.

My grandfather gave no more than a glance in the direction of this
little man, passed the counter and rejoined me, pulling off his coat
as he came. Something of my tingling eyes and screwed mouth was
visible, I suppose, for he stooped as he rolled up his shirt-sleeves
and said: "Why, Stevy boy, what's amiss?"

"You--you--hurt the man's ear," I said, with a choke and a sniff; for
till then Grandfather Nat had seemed to me the kindest man in the
world.

Grandfather Nat looked mightily astonished. He left his shirt-sleeve
where it was, and thrust his fingers up in his hair behind, through
the grey and out at the brown on top. "What?" he said. "Hurt 'im? Hurt
'im? Why, s'pose I did? He ain't a friend o' yours, is he, young 'un?"

I shook my head and blinked. There was a gleam of amusement in my
grandfather's grim face as he sat in a chair and took me between his
knees. "Hurt 'im?" he repeated. "Why, Lord love ye, /I'd/ get hurt if
I didn't hurt some of 'em, now an' then. They're a rough lot--a bitter
bad lot round here, an' it's hurt or be hurt with them, Stevy. I got
to frighten 'em, my boy--an' I do it, too."

I was passing my fingers to and fro in the matted hair on my
grandfather's arm, and thinking. He seemed a very terrible man now,
and perhaps something of a hero; for, young as I was, I was a boy. So
presently I said, "Did you ever kill a man, Gran'fa' Nat?"



                              CHAPTER IV

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

Many small matters of my first few hours at the Hole in the Wall were
impressed on me by later events. In particular I remember the innocent
curiosity with which I asked; "Did you ever kill a man, Gran'fa' Nat?"

There was a twitch and a frown on my grandfather's face, and he sat
back as one at a moment's disadvantage. I thought that perhaps he was
trying to remember. But he only said, gruffly, and with a quick sound
like a snort: "Very nigh killed myself once or twice, Stevy, in my
time," and rose hastily from his chair to reach a picture of a ship
that was standing on a shelf. "There," he said, "that's a new 'un,
just done; pretty picter, ain't it? An' that there," pointing to
another hanging on the wall, "that's the /Juno/, what your father's on
now."

I had noticed that the walls, both of the bar and of the bar-parlour,
were plentifully hung with paintings of ships; ships becalmed, ships
in full sail, ships under bare spars; all with painful blue skies over
them, and very even-waved seas beneath; and ships in storms, with torn
sails, pursued by rumbustious piles of sooty cloud, and pelted with
lengths of scarlet lightning. I fear I should not have recognised my
father's ship without help, but that was probably because I had only
seen it, months before, lying in dock, battered and dingy, with a
confusion of casks and bales about the deck, and naked yards dangling
above; whereas in the picture (which was a mile too small for the
brig) it was booming along under a flatulent mountain of clean white
sail, and bulwarks and deck-fittings were gay with lively and
diversified colour.

I said something about its being a fine ship, or a fine picture, and
that there were a lot of them.

"Ah," he said, "they do mount up, one arter another. It's one
gentleman as did 'em all--him out in the bar now, with the long hair.
Sometimes I think I'd rather a-had money; but it's a talent, that's
what it is!"

The artist beyond the outer bar had been talking to the potman. Now he
coughed and said: "Ha--um! Cap'en Kemp, sir! Cap'en Kemp! No doubt as
you've 'eard the noos to-day?"

"No," said Grandfather Nat, finishing the rolling of his shirt-sleeves
as he stepped down into the bar; "not as I know on. What is it?"

"Not about Viney and Marr?"

"No. What about 'em?"

Mr. Cripps rose on his toes with the importance of his information,
and his eyes widened to a moment's rivalry with his nose. "Gone
wrong," he said, in a shrill whisper that was as loud as his natural
voice. "Gone wrong. Unsolvent. Cracked up. Broke. Busted, in a common
way o' speakin'." And he gave a violent nod with each synonym.

"No," said Grandfather Nat; "surely not Viney and Marr?"

"Fact, Cap'en; I can assure you, on 'igh a'thority. It's what I might
call the universal topic in neighbourin' circles, an' a gen'ral
subjick o' local discussion. You'd 'a 'eard it 'fore this if you'd bin
at 'ome."

My grandfather whistled, and rested a hand on a beer-pull.

"Not a stiver for nobody, they say," Mr. Cripps pursued, "not till
they can sell the wessels. What there was loose Marr's bolted with;
or, as you might put it, absconded; absconded with the proceeds. An'
gone abroad, it's said."

"I see the servant gal bringin' out her box from Viney's just now,"
said Grandfather Nat. "An' Crooks the ship-chandler was on the steps,
very white in the gills, with a paper. Well, well! An' you say Marr's
bolted?"

"Absconded, Cap'en Kemp; absconded with the proceeds; 'opped the twig.
Viney says 'e's robbed 'im as well as the creditors, but I 'ear some
o' the creditors' observation is 'gammon.' An' they say the wessels is
pawned up to their r'yals. Up to their r'yals!"

"Well," commented my grandfather, "I wouldn't ha' thought it. The
/Juno/ was that badly found, an' they did everything that cheap, I
thought they made money hand over fist."

"Flyin' too 'igh, Cap'en Kemp, flyin' too 'igh. You knowed Viney long
'fore 'e elevated hisself into a owner, didn't you? What was he then?
Why, 'e was your mate one voy'ge, wasn't he?"

"Ay, an' more."

"So I've 'eard tell. Well, arter that surely 'e was flyin' too 'igh!
An' now Marr's absconded with the proceeds!"

The talk in the bar went on, being almost entirely the talk of Mr.
Cripps; who valued himself on the unwonted importance his news gave
him, and aimed at increasing it by saying the same thing a great many
times; by saying it, too, when he could, in terms and phrases that had
a strong flavour of the Sunday paper. But as for me, I soon ceased to
hear, for I discovered something of greater interest on the shelf that
skirted the bar-parlour. It was a little model of a ship in a glass
case, and it was a great marvel to me, with all its standing and
running rigging complete, and a most ingenious and tumultuous sea
about it, made of stiff calico cockled up into lumps and ridges, and
painted the proper colour. Much better than either of the two we had
at home, for these latter were only half-models, each nothing but
one-half of a little ship split from stem to stern, and stuck against
a board, on which were painted sky, clouds, seagulls, and (in one
case) a lighthouse; an exasperating make-believe that had been my
continual disappointment. But this was altogether so charming and
delightful and real, and the little hatches and cuddy-houses so
thrilled my fancy, that I resolved to beg of my grandfather to let me
call the model my own, and sometimes have the glass case off. So I was
absorbed while the conversation in the bar ranged from the ships and
their owners to my father, and from him to me; as was plain when my
grandfather called me.

"Here he is," said my grandfather, with a deal of pride in his voice,
putting his foot on a stool and lifting me on his knee. "Here he is,
an' a plucked 'un; ain't ye, Stevy?" He rubbed his hand over my head,
as he was fond of doing. "Plucked? Ah! Why, he was agoin' to keep
house all by hisself, with all the pluck in life, till his father come
home! Warn't ye, Stevy boy? But he's come along o' me instead, an' him
an' me's goin' to keep the Hole in the Wall together, ain't we?
Pardners: eh, Stevy?"

I think I never afterwards saw my grandfather talking so familiarly
with his customers. I perceived now that there was another in the bar
in addition to Mr. Cripps; a pale, quiet, and rather ragged man who
sat in an obscure corner with an untouched glass of liquor by him.

"Come," said my grandfather, "have one with me, Mr. Cripps, an' drink
the new pardner's health. What is it? An' you--you drink up too, an'
have another." This last order Grandfather Nat flung at the man in the
corner, just in the tones in which I had heard a skipper on a ship
tell a man to "get forrard lively" with a rope fender, opposite our
quay at Blackwall.

"I'm sure 'ere's wishin' the young master every 'ealth an' 'appiness,"
said Mr. Cripps, beaming on me with a grin that rather frightened than
pleased me, it twisted the nose so. "Every 'ealth and 'appiness, I'm
sure!"

The pale man in the corner only looked up quickly, as if fearful of
obtruding himself, gulped the drink that had been standing by him, and
receiving another, put it down untasted where the first had stood.

"That ain't drinkin' a health," said my grandfather, angrily.
"There--that's it!" and he pointed to the new drink with the hand that
held his own.

The pale man lifted it hurriedly, stood up, looked at me and said
something indistinct, gulped the liquor and returned the glass to the
counter; whereupon the potman, without orders, instantly refilled it,
and the man carried it back to his corner and put it down beside him,
as before.

I began to wonder if the pale man suffered from some complaint that
made it dangerous to leave him without a drink close at hand, ready to
be swallowed at a moment's notice. But Mr. Cripps blinked, first at
his own glass and then at the pale man's; and I fancy he thought
himself unfairly treated.

Howbeit his affability was unconquerable. He grinned and snapped his
fingers playfully at me, provoking my secret indignation; since that
was what people did to please babies.

"An' a pretty young gent 'e is too," said Mr. Cripps, "of considerable
personal attractions. Goin' to bring 'im up to the trade, I s'pose,
Cap'en Kemp?"

"Why, no," said Grandfather Nat, with some dignity. "No. Something
better than that, I'm hopin'. Pardners is all very well for a bit, but
Stevy's goin' to be a cut above his poor old gran'father, if I can do
it. Eh, boy?" He rubbed my head again, and I was too shy, sitting
there in the bar, to answer. "Eh, boy? Boardin' school an' a
gentleman's job for this one, if the old man has his way."

Mr. Cripps shook his head sagaciously, and could plainly see that I
was cut out for a statesman. He also lifted his empty glass, looked at
it abstractedly, and put it down again. Nothing coming of this, he
complimented by personal appearance once more, and thought that my
portrait should certainly be painted, as a memorial in my future days
of greatness.

This notion seemed to strike my grandfather rather favourably, and he
forthwith consulted a slate which dangled by a string; during his
contemplations of which, with its long rows of strokes, Mr. Cripps
betrayed a certain anxious discomfort. "Well," said Grandfather Nat at
length, "you are pretty deep in, you know, an' it might as well be
that as anything else. But what about that sign? Ain't I ever goin' to
get that?"

Mr. Cripps knitted his brows and his nose, turned up his eyes and
shook his head. "It ain't come to me yet, Cap'en Kemp," he said; "not
yet. I'm still waiting for what you might call an inspiration. But
when it comes, Cap'en Kemp--when it comes! Ah! you'll 'ave a sign
then! Sich a sign! You'll 'ave sich a sign as'll attract the 'ole
artistic feelin' of Wapping an' surroundin' districks of the
metropolis, I assure you. An' the signs on the other 'ouses--phoo!"
Mr. Cripps made a sweep of the hand, which I took to indicate
generally that all other publicans, overwhelmed with humiliation,
would have no choice but straightway to tear down their own signs and
bury them.

"Umph! but meanwhile I haven't got one at all," objected Grandfather
Nat; "an' they have."

"Ah, yes, sir--some sort o' signs. But done by mere jobbers, and poor
enough too. My hart, Cap'en Kemp--I respect my hart, an' I don't rush
at a job like that. It wants conception, sir, a job like
that--conception. The common sort o' sign's easy enough. You go at it,
an' you do it or hexicute it, an' when it's done or hexicuted--why
there it is. A ship, maybe, or a crown, or a Turk's 'ed or three cats
an' a fryin' pan. Simple enough--no plannin', no composition, no
invention. But a 'ole in a wall, Cap'en Kemp--it takes a hartist to
make a picter o' that; an' it takes study, an' meditation, an'
invention!"

"Simplest thing o' the lot," said Captain Nat. "A wall, an' a hole in
it. Simplest thing o' the lot!"

"As you observe, Cap'en Kemp, it may seem simple enough; that's
because you're thinkin' o' subjick, instead o' treatment. A common
jobber, if you'll excuse my sayin' it, 'ud look at it just in that
light--a wall with a 'ole in it, an' 'e'd give it you, an' p'rhaps
you'd be satisfied with it. But I soar 'igher, sir, 'igher. What I
shall give you'll be a 'ole in the wall to charm the heye and delight
the intelleck, sir. A dramatic 'ole in the wall, sir, a hepic 'ole in
the wall; a 'ole in the wall as will elevate the mind and stimilate
the noblest instinks of the be'older. Cap'en Kemp, I don't 'esitate to
say that my 'ole in the wall, when you get it, will be--ah! it'll be
the moral palladium of Wapping!"

"/When/ I get it," my grandfather replied with a chuckle, "anything
might happen without surprisin' me. I think p'rhaps I might be so
startled as to forget the bit you've had on account, an' pay full
cash."

Mr. Cripps's eyes brightened at the hint. "You're always very 'andsome
in matters o' business, Cap'en Kemp," he said, "an' I always say so.
Which reminds me, speakin' of 'andsome things. This morning goin' to
see my friend as keeps the mortuary, I see as 'andsome a bit o' panel
for to paint a sign as ever I come across. A lovely bit o' stuff to be
sure--enough to stimulate anybody's artistic invention to look at it,
that it was. Not dear neither--particular moderate in fact. I'm afraid
it may be gone now; but if I'd 'a 'ad the money----"

A noise of trampling and singing without neared the door, and with a
bang and a stagger a party of fresh customers burst in and swept Mr.
Cripps out of his exposition. Two were sun-browned sailors, shouting
and jovial, but the rest, men and women, sober and villainous in their
mock jollity, were land-sharks plain to see. The foremost sailor drove
against Mr. Cripps, and having almost knocked him down, took him by
the shoulders and involved him in his flounderings; apologising,
meanwhile, at the top of his voice, and demanding to know what Mr.
Cripps would drink. Whereupon Grandfather Nat sent me back to the
bar-parlour and the little ship, and addressed himself to business and
the order of the bar.

And so he was occupied for the most of the evening. Sometimes he sat
with me and taught me the spars and rigging of the model, sometimes I
peeped through the glass at the business of the house. The bar
remained pretty full throughout the evening, in its main part, and my
grandfather ruled its frequenters with a strong voice and an iron
hand.

But there was one little space partitioned off, as it might be for the
better company: which space was nearly always empty. Into this quieter
compartment I saw a man come, rather late in the evening, furtive and
a little flustered. He was an ugly ruffian with a broken nose; and he
was noticeable as being the one man I had seen in my grandfather's
house who had no marks of seafaring or riverside life about him, but
seemed merely an ordinary London blackguard from some unmaritime
neighbourhood. He beckoned silently to Grandfather Nat, who walked
across and conferred with him. Presently my grandfather left the
counter and came into the bar-parlour. He had something in his closed
hand, which he carried to the lamp to examine, so that I could see it
was a silver watch; while the furtive man waited expectantly in the
little compartment. The watch interested me, for the inward part swung
clean out from the case, and hung by a single hinge, in a way I had
never seen before. I noticed, also, that a large capital letter M was
engraved on the back.

Grandfather Nat shut the watch and strode into the bar.

"Here you are," he said aloud, handing it to the broken-nosed man.
"Here you are. It seems all right--good enough watch, I should say."

The man was plainly disconcerted--frightened, indeed--by this public
observation; and answered with an eager whisper.

"What?" my grandfather replied, louder than ever; "want me to buy it?
Not me. This ain't a pawnshop. I don't want a watch; an' if I did, how
do I know where you got it?"

Much discomposed by this rebuff, the fellow hurried off. Whereupon I
was surprised to see the pale man rise from the corner of the bar, put
his drink, still untasted, in a safe place on the counter, beyond the
edge of the partition, and hurry out also. Cogitating this matter in
my grandfather's arm-chair, presently I fell asleep.

What woke me at length was the loud voice of Grandfather Nat, and I
found that it was late, and he was clearing the bar before shutting
up. I rubbed my eyes and looked out, and was interested to see that
the pale man had come back, and was now swallowing his drink at last
before going out after the rest. Whereat I turned again, drowsily
enough, to the model ship.

But a little later, when Grandfather Nat and I were at supper in the
bar-parlour, and I was dropping to sleep again, I was amazed to see my
grandfather pull the broken-nosed man's watch out of his pocket and
put it in a tin cash-box. At that I rubbed my eyes, and opened them so
wide on the cash-box, that Grandfather Nat said, "Hullo, Stevy! Woke
up with a jump? Time you was in bed."



                              CHAPTER V

                            IN THE HIGHWAY

The Hole in the Wall being closed, its customers went their several
ways; the sailors, shouting and singing, drifting off with their
retinue along Wapping Wall toward Ratcliff; Mr. Cripps, fuller than
usual of free drinks--for the sailors had come a long voyage and were
proportionally liberal--scuffling off, steadily enough, on the way
that led to Limehouse; for Mr. Cripps had drunk too much and too long
ever to be noticeably drunk. And last of all, when the most undecided
of the stragglers from Captain Nat Kemp's bar had vanished one way or
another, the pale, quiet man moved out from the shadow and went in the
wake of the noisy sailors.

The night was dark, and the streets. The lamps were few and feeble,
and angles, alleys and entries were shapes of blackness that seemed
more solid than the walls about them. But instead of the silence that
consorts with gloom, the air was racked with human sounds; sounds of
quarrels, scuffles, and brawls, far and near, breaking out fitfully
amid the general buzz and whoop of discordant singing that came from
all Wapping and Ratcliff where revellers rolled into the open.

A stone's throw on the pale man's way was a swing bridge with a lock
by its side, spanning the channel that joined two dock-basins. The
pale man, passing along in the shadow of the footpath, stopped in an
angle. Three policemen were coming over the bridge in company--they
went in threes in these parts--and the pale man, who never made closer
acquaintance with the police than he could help, slunk down by the
bridge-foot, as though designing to make the crossing by way of the
narrow lock; no safe passage in the dark. But he thought better of it,
and went by the bridge, as soon as the policemen had passed.

A little farther and he was in Ratcliff Highway, where it joined with
Shadwell High Street, and just before him stood Paddy's Goose. The
house was known by that name far beyond the neighbourhood, among
people who were unaware that the actual painted sign was the White
Swan. Paddy's Goose was still open, for its doors never closed till
one; though there were a few houses later even than this, where,
though the bars were cleared and closed at one, in accordance with Act
of Parliament, the doors swung wide again ten minutes later. There was
still dancing within at Paddy's Goose, and the squeak of fiddles and
the thump of feet were plain to hear. The pale man passed on into the
dark beyond its lights, and soon the black mouth of Blue Gate stood on
his right.

Blue Gate gave its part to the night's noises, and more; for a sudden
burst of loud screams--a woman's--rent the air from its innermost
deeps; screams which affected the pale man not at all, nor any other
passenger; for it might be murder or it might be drink, or sudden rage
or fear, or a quarrel; and whatever it might be was common enough in
Blue Gate.

Paddy's Goose had no monopoly of music, and the common plenty of
street fiddlers was the greater as the early houses closed. Scarce
eighty yards from Blue Gate stood Blind George, fiddling his hardest
for a party dancing in the roadway. Many were looking on, drunk or
sober, with approving shouts; and every face was ghastly
phosphorescent in the glare of a ship's blue-light that a noisy negro
flourished among the dancers. Close by, a woman and a man were
quarrelling in the middle of a group; but the matter had no attention
till of a sudden it sprang into a fight, and the man and another were
punching and wrestling in a heap, bare to the waist. At this the crowd
turned from the dancers, and the negro ran yelping to shed his deathly
light on the new scene.

The crowd howled and scrambled, and a drunken sailor fell in the mud.
Quick at the chance, a ruffian took him under the armpits and dragged
him from among the trampling feet to a near entry, out of the glare.
There he propped his prey, with many friendly words, and dived among
his pockets. The sailor was dazed, and made no difficulty; till the
thief got to the end of the search in a trouser pocket, and thence
pulled a handful of silver. With that the victim awoke to some sense
of affairs, and made a move to rise; but the other sprang up and laid
him over with a kick on the head, just as the pale man came along. The
thief made off, leaving a few shillings and sixpences on the ground,
which the pale man instantly gathered up. He looked from the money to
the man, who lay insensible, with blood about his ear; and then from
the man to the money. Then he stuffed some few of the shillings into
the sailor's nearest pocket and went off with the rest.

The fight rose and fell, the crowd grew, and the blue light burned
down. In twenty seconds the pale man was back again. He bent over the
bleeding sailor, thrust the rest of the silver into the pocket, and
finally vanished into the night. For, indeed, though the pale man was
poor, and though he got a living now in a way scarce reputable: yet he
had once kept a chandler's shop. He had kept it till neither sand in
the sugar nor holes under the weights would any longer induce it to
keep him; and then he had fallen wholly from respectability. But he
had drawn a line--he had always drawn a line. He had never been a
thief; and, with a little struggle, he remembered it now.

Back in Blue Gate the screams had ceased. For on a black stair a large
bony man shook a woman by the throat, so that she could scream no
more. He cursed in whispers, and threatened her with an end of all
noise if she opened her mouth again. "Ye stop out of it all this
time," he said, "an' when ye come ye squall enough to bring the slops
from Arbour Square!"

"O! O!" the woman gasped. "I fell on it, Dan! I fell on it! I fell on
it in the dark!" . . .



There was nothing commoner in the black streets about the Highway than
the sight of two or three men linked by the arms, staggering, singing
and bawling. Many such parties went along the Highway that night, many
turned up its foul tributaries; some went toward and over the bridge
by the lock that was on the way to the Hole in the Wall. But they were
become fewer, and the night noises of the Highway were somewhat
abated, when a party of three emerged from the mouth of Blue Gate. Of
them that had gone before the songs were broken and the voices
unmelodious enough; yet no other song sung that night in the Highway
was so wild as the song of these men--or rather of two of them, who
sang the louder because of the silence of the man between them; and no
other voices were so ill-governed as theirs. The man on the right was
large, bony and powerful; he on the left was shorter and less to be
noticed, except that under some rare and feeble lamp it might have
been perceived that his face was an ugly one, with a broken nose. But
what reveller so drunk, what drunkard so insensible, what clod so
silent as the man they dragged between them? His feet trailed in the
mire, and his head, hidden by a ragged hat, hung forward on his chest.
So they went, reeling ever where the shadows were thickest, toward the
bridge; but in all their reelings there was a stealthy hasting
forward, and an anxious outlook that went ill with their song. The
song itself, void alike of tune and jollity, fell off altogether as
they neared the bridge, and here they went the quicker. They turned
down by the bridge foot, though not for the reason the pale man had,
two hours before, for now no policeman was in sight; and soon were
gone into the black shadow about the lock-head. . . .

It was the deep of the night, and as near quiet as the Highway ever
knew; with no more than a cry here or there, a distant fiddle, and the
faint hum of the wind in the rigging of ships. Off in Blue Gate the
woman sat on the black stair, with her face in her hands, waiting for
company before returning to the room where she had fallen over
something in the dark.



                              CHAPTER VI

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

High under the tiles of the Hole in the Wall, I had at first a night
of disturbed sleep. I was in my old familiar cot, which had been
brought during the evening, on a truck. But things were strange, and,
in particular, my grandfather, who slept on the opposite side of the
room, snored so amazingly, and with a sound so unlike anything I had
ever heard before, that I feared he must be choking to death, and
climbed out of bed, once, to see. There were noises from without too,
sometimes of discordant singing, sometimes of quarrels; and once, from
a distance, a succession of dreadful screams. Then the old house made
curious sounds of its own; twice I was convinced of stealthy steps on
the stair, and all night the very walls creaked aloud. For so long,
sleepy as I was, I dozed and started and rolled and lay awake,
wondering about the little ship in the bar-parlour, and Mr. Cripps,
and the pale man, and the watch with the M on it. Also I considered
again the matter of my prayers, which I had already discussed with
Grandfather Nat, to his obvious perplexity, by candle-light. For I was
urgent to know if I must now leave my mother out, and if I might not
put my little dead brother in; being very anxious to include them
both. My grandfather's first opinion was, that it was not the usual
thing; which opinion he expressed with hesitation, and a curious look
of the eyes that I wondered at. But I argued that God could bless them
just as well in heaven as here; and Grandfather Nat admitted that no
doubt there was something in that. Whereupon I desired to know if they
would hear if I said in my prayers that I was quite safe with him, at
the Hole in the Wall; or if I should rather ask God to tell them. And
at that my grandfather stood up and turned away, with a rub and a pat
on my head, toward his own bed; telling me to say whatever I pleased,
and not to forget Grandfather Nat.

So that now, having said what I pleased, and having well remembered
Grandfather Nat, and slept and woke and dozed and woke again, I took
solace from his authority and whispered many things to my little dead
brother, whom I could never play with: of the little ship in the glass
case, and the pictures, and of how I was going to the London Dock
to-morrow; and so at last fell asleep soundly till morning.

Grandfather Nat was astir early, and soon I was looking from the
window by his bed at the ships that lay so thick in the Pool, tier on
tier. Below me I could see the water that washed between the slimy
piles on which the house rested, and to the left were the narrow
stairs that terminated the passage at the side. Several boats were
moored about these stairs, and a waterman was already looking out for
a fare. Out in the Pool certain other boats caught the eye as they
dodged about among the colliers, because each carried a bright fire
amidships, in a brazier, beside a man, two small barrels of beer, and
a very large handbell. The men were purlmen, Grandfather Nat told me,
selling liquor--hot beer chiefly, in the cold mornings--to the men on
the colliers, or on any other craft thereabout. It struck me that the
one thing lacking for perfect bliss in most rowing boats was just such
a brazier of cosy fire as the purl-boat carried; so that after very
little consideration I resolved that when I grew up I would not be a
sailor, nor an engine-driver, nor any one of a dozen other things I
had thought of, but a purlman.

The staircase would have landed one direct into the bar-parlour but
for an enclosing door, which strangers commonly mistook for that of a
cupboard. A step as light as mine was possibly a rarity on this
staircase; for, coming down before my grandfather, I startled a lady
in the bar-parlour who had been doing something with a bottle which
involved the removal of the cork; which cork she snatched hastily from
a shelf and replaced, with no very favourable regard to myself; and
straightway dropped on her knees and went to work with a brush and a
dustpan. She was scarce an attractive woman, I thought, being rusty
and bony, slack-faced and very red-nosed. She swept the carpet and
dusted the shelves with an air of angry contempt for everything she
touched, and I got into the bar out of her way as soon as I could. The
potman was flinging sawdust about the floor, and there, in the same
corner, sat the same pale, ragged man that was there last night, with
the same full glass of liquor--or one like it--by his side: like a
trade fixture that had been there all night.

When Grandfather Nat appeared, I learned the slack-faced woman's name.
"This here's my little gran'son, Mrs. Grimes," he said, "as is goin'
to live here a bit, 'cordin' as I mentioned yesterday."

"Hindeed?" said Mrs. Grimes, with a glance that made me feel more
contemptible than the humblest article she had dusted that morning.
"Hindeed? Then it'll be more work more pay, Cap'en Kemp."

"Very well, mum," my grandfather replied. "If you reckon it out more
work----"

"Ho!" interjected Mrs. Grimes, who could fill a misplaced aspirate
with subtle offence; "reckon or not, I s'pose there's another bed to
be made? An' buttons to be sewed? An' plates for to be washed? An'
dirt an' litter for to be cleared up everywhere? To say nothink o'
crumbs--which the biscuit-crumbs in the bar-parlour this mornin' was
thick an' shameful!"

/I/ had had biscuits, and I felt a reprobate. "Very well, mum,"
Grandfather Nat said, peaceably; "we'll make out extry damages, mum. A
few days'll give us an idea. Shall we leave it a week an' see how
things go?"

"Ham I to consider that a week's notice, Captain Kemp?" Mrs. Grimes
demanded, with a distinct rise of voice. "Ham I or ham I not?"

"Notice!" My grandfather was puzzled, and began to look a trifle
angry. "Why, damme, who said notice? What----"

"Because notice is as easy give as took, Cap'en Kemp, as I'd 'ave you
remember. An' slave I may be though better brought up than
slave-drivers any day, but swore at vulgar I won't be, nor trampled
like dirt an' litter beneath the feet, an' will not endure it
neither!" And with a great toss of the head Mrs. Grimes flounced
through the staircase door, and sniffed and bridled her way to the
upper rooms.

Her exit relieved my mind; first, because I had a wretched
consciousness that I was causing all the trouble, and a dire fear that
Grandfather Nat might dislike me for it; and second, because when he
looked angry I had a fearful foreboding vision of Mrs. Grimes being
presently whirled round by the ear and flung into the street, as Jim
Crute had been. But it was not long ere I learned that Mrs. Grimes was
one of those persons who grumble and clamour and bully at everything
and everybody on principle, finding that, with a concession here and
another there, it pays very well on the whole; and so nag along very
comfortably through life. As for herself, as I had seen, Mrs. Grimes
did not lack the cunning to carry away any fit of virtuous indignation
that seemed like to push her employer out of his patience.

My grandfather looked at the bottle that Mrs. Grimes had recorked.

"That rum shrub," he said, "ain't properly mixed. It works in the
bottle when it's left standing, an' mounts to the cork. I notice it
almost every morning."



The day was bright, and I resigned myself with some impatience to wait
for an hour or two till we could set out for the docks. It was a
matter of business, my grandfather explained, that he must not leave
the bar till a fixed hour--ten o'clock; and soon I began to make a dim
guess at the nature of the business, though I guessed in all
innocence, and suspected not at all.

Contrary to my evening observation, at this early hour the larger bar
was mostly empty, while the obscure compartment at the side was in far
greater use than it had been last night. Four or five visitors must
have come there, one after another: perhaps half a dozen. And they all
had things to sell. Two had watches--one of them was a woman; one had
a locket and a boatswain's silver call; and I think another had some
silver spoons. Grandfather Nat brought each article into the
bar-parlour, to examine, and then returned it to its owner; which
behaviour seemed to surprise none of them as it had surprised the man
last night; so that doubtless he was a stranger. To those with watches
my grandfather said nothing but "Yes, that seems all right," or "Yes,
it's a good enough watch, no doubt." But to the man with the locket
and the silver call he said, "Well, if ever you want to sell 'em you
might get eight bob; no more"; and much the same to him with the
spoons, except that he thought the spoons might fetch fifteen
shillings.

Each of the visitors went out with no more ado; and as each went, the
pale man in the larger bar rose, put his drink safely on the counter,
just beyond the partition, and went out too; and presently he came
back, with no more than a glance at Grandfather Nat, took his drink,
and sat down again.

At ten o'clock my grandfather looked out of the bar and said to the
pale man: "All right--drink up."

Whereupon the pale man--who would have been paler if his face had been
washed--swallowed his drink at last, flat as it must have been, and
went out; and Grandfather Nat went out also, by the door into the
passage. He was gone scarce two minutes, and when he returned he
unlocked a drawer below the shelf on which the little ship stood, and
took from it the cash box I had seen last night. His back was turned
toward me, and himself was interposed between my eyes and the box,
which he rested on the shelf; but I heard a jingling that suggested
spoons.

So I said, "Did the man go to buy the spoons for you, Gran'fa' Nat?"

My grandfather looked round sharply, with something as near a frown as
he ever directed on me. Then he locked the box away hastily, with a
gruff laugh. "You won't starve, Stevy," he said, "as long as wits
finds victuals. But see here," he went on, becoming grave as he sat
and drew me to his knee; "see here, Stevy. What you see here's my
business, private business; understand? You ain't a tell-tale, are
you? Not a sneak?"

I repudiated the suggestion with pain and scorn; for I was at least
old enough a boy to see in sneakery the blackest of crimes.

"No, no, that you ain't, I know," Grandfather Nat went on, with a
pinch of my chin, though he still regarded me earnestly. "A plucked
'un's never a sneak. But there's one thing for you to remember, Stevy,
afore all your readin' an' writin' an' lessons an' what not. You must
never tell of anything you see here, not to a soul--that is, not about
me buyin' things. I'm very careful, but things don't always go right,
an' I might get in trouble. I'm a straight man, an' I pay for all I
have in any line o' trade; I never stole nor cheated not so much as a
farden all my life, nor ever bought anything as I /knew/ was stole.
See?"

I nodded gravely. I was trying hard to understand the reason for all
this seriousness and secrecy, but at any rate I was resolved to be no
tale-bearer; especially against Grandfather Nat.

"Why," he went on, justifying himself, I fancy, more for his own
satisfaction than for my information; "why, even when it's on'y just
suspicious I won't buy--except o' course through another party. That's
how I guard myself, Stevy, an' every man has a right to buy a thing
reasonable an' sell at a profit if he can; that's on'y plain trade.
An' yet nobody can't say truthful as he ever sold me anything over
that there counter, or anywhere else, barrin' what I have reg'lar of
the brewer an' what not. I may look at a thing or pass an opinion, but
what's that? Nothin' at all. But we've got to keep our mouths shut,
Stevy, for fear o' danger; see? You wouldn't like poor old Grandfather
Nat to be put in gaol, would ye?"

The prospect was terrible, and I put my hands about my grandfather's
neck and vowed I would never whisper a word.

"That's right, Stevy," the old man answered, "I know you won't if you
don't forget yourself--so don't do that. Don't take no notice, not
even to me."

There was a knock at the back door, which opened, and disclosed one of
the purlmen, who had left his boat in sight at the stairs, and wanted
a quart of gin in the large tin can he brought with him. He was a
short, red-faced, tough-looking fellow, and he needed the gin, as I
soon learned, to mix with his hot beer to make the purl. He had a
short conversation with my grandfather when the gin was brought, of
which I heard no more than the words "high water at twelve." But as he
went down the passage he turned, and sang out: "You got the news,
Cap'en, o' course?"

"What? Viney and Marr?"

The man nodded, with a click and a twitch of the mouth. Then he
snapped his fingers, and jerked them expressively upward. After which
he ejaculated the single word "Marr," and jerked his thumb over his
shoulder. By which I understood him to repeat, with no waste of
language, the story that it was all up with the firm, and the junior
partner had bolted.

"That," said Grandfather Nat, when the man was gone--"that's Bill
Stagg, an' he's the on'y purlman as don't come ashore to sleep. Sleeps
in his boat, winter an' summer, does Bill Stagg. How'd you like that,
Stevy?"

I thought I should catch cold, and perhaps tumble overboard, if I had
a bad dream; and I said so.

"Ah well, Bill Stagg don't mind. He was A.B. aboard o' me when Mr.
Viney was my mate many years ago, an' a good A.B. too. Bill Stagg, he
makes fast somewhere quiet at night, an' curls up snug as a weevil.
Mostly under the piles o' this here house, when the wind ain't east.
Saves him rent, ye see; so he does pretty well."

And with that my grandfather put on his coat and reached the pilot cap
that was his everyday wear.



                             CHAPTER VII

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

We walked first to the head of the stairs, where opened a wide picture
of the Thames and all its traffic, and where the walls were plastered
with a dozen little bills, each headed "Found Drowned," and each with
the tale of some nameless corpse under the heading.

"That's my boat, Stevy," said my grandfather, pointing to a little
dinghy with a pair of sculls in her; "our boat, if you like, seeing as
we're pardners. Now you shall do which you like; walk along to the
dock, where the sugar is, or come out in our boat."

It was a hard choice to make. The glory and delight of the part
ownership of a real boat dazzled me like another sun in the sky; but I
had promised myself the docks and the sugar for such a long time. So
we compromised; the docks to-day and the boat to-morrow.

Out in the street everybody seemed to know Grandfather Nat. Those who
spoke with him commonly called him Captain Kemp, except a few old
acquaintances to whom he was Captain Nat. Loafers and crimps gazed
after him and nodded together; and small ship-chandlers gave him good
morning from their shop-doors.

A hundred yards from the Hole in the Wall, at a turn, there was a
swing bridge and a lock, such as we had by the old house in Blackwall.
At the moment we came in hail men were at the winch, and the bridge
began to part in the middle; for a ship was about to change berth to
the inner dock. "Come, Stevy," said my grandfather, "we'll take the
lock 'fore they open that. Not afraid if I'm with you, are you?"

No, I was not afraid with Grandfather Nat, and would not even be
carried. Though the top of the lock was not two feet wide, and was
knotted, broken and treacherous in surface and wholly unguarded on one
side, where one looked plump down into the foul dock-water; and though
on the other side there was but a slack chain strung through loose
iron stanchions that staggered in their sockets. Grandfather Nat
gripped me by the collar and walked me before him; but relief tempered
my triumph when I was safe across; my feet never seemed to have
twisted and slipped and stumbled so much before in so short a
distance--perhaps because in that same distance I had never before
recollected so many tales of men drowned in the docks by falling off
just such locks, in fog, or by accidental slips.

A little farther along, and we came upon Ratcliff Highway. I saw the
street then for the first time, and in truth it was very wonderful. I
think there could never have been another street in the country at
once so foul and so picturesque as Ratcliff Highway at the time I
speak of. Much that I saw I could not understand, child as I was; and
by so much the more was I pleased with it all, when perhaps I should
have been shocked. From end to end of the Highway and beyond, and
through all its tributaries and purlieus everything and everybody was
for, by, and of, the sailor ashore; every house and shop was devoted
to his convenience and inconvenience; in the Highway it seemed to me
that every other house was a tavern, and in several places two stood
together. There were shops full of slops, sou'westers, pilot-coats,
sea-boots, tin pannikins, and canvas kit-bags like giants' bolsters;
and rows of big knives and daggers, often engraved with suggestive
maxims. A flash of memory recalls the favourite: "Never draw me
without cause, never sheathe me without honour." I have since seen the
words "cause" and "honour" put to uses less respectable.

The pawn-shops had nothing in them that had not come straight from a
ship--sextants and boatswain's pipes being the choice of the stock.
And pawn-shops, slop-shops, tobacco-shops--every shop almost--had
somewhere in its window a selection of those curiosities that sailors
make abroad and bring home: little ship-models mysteriously erected
inside bottles, shells, albatross heads, saw-fish snouts, and bottles
full of sand of different colours, ingeniously packed so as to present
a figure or a picture when viewed from without.

Men of a dozen nations were coming or going in every score of yards.
The best dressed, and the worst, were the negroes; for the black cook
who was flush went in for adornments that no other sailor-man would
have dreamed of: a white shirt, a flaming tie, a black coat with satin
facings--even a white waistcoat and a top hat. While the cleaned-out
and shipless nigger was a sad spectacle indeed. Then there were
Spaniards, swart, long-haired, bloodshot-looking fellows, whose entire
shore outfit consisted commonly of a red shirt, blue trousers,
ankle-jacks with the brown feet visible over them, a belt, a big
knife, and a pair of large gold earrings. Big, yellow-haired,
blue-eyed Swedes, who were full pink with sea and sun, and not brown
or mahogany-coloured, like the rest; slight, wicked-looking Malays;
lean, spitting Yankees, with stripes, and felt hats, and sing-song
oaths; sometimes a Chinaman, petticoated, dignified, jeered at; a
Lascar, a Greek, a Russian; and everywhere the English Jack, rolling
of gait--sometimes from habit alone, sometimes for mixed
reasons--hard, red-necked, waistcoatless, with his knife at his belt,
like the rest: but more commonly a clasp-knife than one in a sheath.
To me all these strangely bedight men were matter of delight and
wonder; and I guessed my hardest whence each had come last, what he
had brought in his ship, and what strange and desperate adventures he
had encountered on the way. And wherever I saw bare, hairy skin,
whether an arm, or the chest under an open shirt, there were blue
devices of ships, of flags, of women, of letters and names.
Grandfather Nat was tattooed like that, as I had discovered in the
morning, when he washed. He had been a fool to have it done, he said,
as he flung the soapy water out of window into the river, and he
warned me that I must be careful never to make such a mistake myself;
which made me sorry, because it seemed so gallant an embellishment.
But my grandfather explained that you could be identified by
tattoo-marks, at any length of time, which might cause trouble. I
remembered that my own father was tattooed with an anchor and my
mother's name; and I hoped he would never be identified, if it were as
bad as that.

In the street oyster-stalls stood, and baked-potato cans; one or two
sailors were buying, and one or two fiddlers, but mostly the customers
were the gaudy women, who seemed to make a late breakfast in this way.
Some had not stayed to perform a greater toilet than to fling clothes
on themselves unhooked and awry, and to make a straggling knot of
their hair; but the most were brilliant enough in violet or scarlet or
blue, with hair oiled and crimped and hung in thick nets, and with
bright handkerchiefs over their shoulders--belcher yellows and
kingsmen and blue billies. And presently we came on one who was
dancing with a sailor on the pavement, to the music of one of the many
fiddlers who picked up a living hereabouts; and she wore the regular
dancing rig of the Highway--short skirts and high red morocco boots
with brass heels. She covered the buckle and grape-vined with great
precision, too, a contrast with her partner, whose hornpipe was
unsteady and vague in the figures, for indeed he seemed to have "begun
early"--perhaps had not left off all night. Two more pairs of these
red morocco boots we saw at a place next a public house, where a shop
front had been cleared out to make a dancing room, with a sort of
buttery-hatch communicating with the tavern; and where a flushed
sailor now stood with a pot in each hand, roaring for a fiddler.

But if the life and the picturesqueness of the Highway in some sort
disguised its squalor, they made the more hideously apparent the
abomination of the by-streets: which opened, filthy and menacing, at
every fifty yards as we went. The light seemed greyer, the very air
thicker and fouler in these passages; though indeed they formed the
residential part whereof the Highway was the market-place. The
children who ran and tumbled in these places, the boy of nine equally
with the infant crawling from doorstep to gutter, were half naked,
shoeless, and disguised in crusted foulness; so that I remember them
with a certain sickening, even in these latter days; when I see no
such pitiably neglected little wretches, though I know the dark parts
of London well enough.

At the mouth of one of these narrow streets, almost at the beginning
of the Highway, Grandfather Nat stopped and pointed.

It was a forbidding lane, with forbidding men and women hanging about
the entrance; and far up toward the end there appeared to be a crowd
and a fight; in the midst whereof a half-naked man seemed to be
rushing from side to side of the street.

"That's the Blue Gate," said my grandfather, and resumed his walk.
"It's dangerous," he went on, "the worst place hereabout--perhaps
anywhere. Wuss'n Tiger Bay, a mile. You must never go near Blue Gate.
People get murdered there, Stevy--murdered--many's a man; sailor-men,
mostly; an' nobody never knows. Pitch them in the Dock, sometimes,
sometimes in the river, so's they're washed away. I've known 'em taken
to Hole-in-the-Wall Stairs at night."

I gripped my grandfather's hand tighter, and asked, in all innocence,
if we should see any, if we kept watch out of window that night. He
laughed, thought the chance scarce worth a sleepless night, and went
on to tell me of something else. But I overheard later in a bar
conversation a ghastly tale of years before; of a murdered man's body
that had been dragged dripping through the streets at night by two men
who supported its arms, staggering and shouting and singing, as though
the three were merely drunk; and how it was dropped in panic ere it
was brought to the waterside, because of a collision with three live
sailors who really were drunk.

One or two crimps' carts came through from the docks as we walked,
drawn by sorry animals, and piled high with shouting sailors and their
belongings--chief among these the giant bolster-bags. The victims went
to their fate gloriously enough, hailing and chaffing the populace on
the way, and singing, each man as he list. Also we saw a shop with a
window full of parrots and monkeys; and a very sick kangaroo in a
wooden cage being carried in from a van.

And so we came to the London Dock at last. And there, in the
sugar-sheds, stood more sugar than ever I had dreamed of in my wildest
visions--thousands of barrels, mountains of sacks. And so many of the
bags were rat-bitten, or had got a slit by accidentally running up
against a jack-knife; and so many of the barrels were defective, or
had stove themselves by perverse complications with a crowbar; that
the heavy, brown, moist stuff was lying in heaps and lumps everywhere;
and I supposed that it must be called "foot-sugar" because you
couldn't help treading on it.

It was while I was absorbed in this delectable spectacle, that I heard
a strained little voice behind me, and turned to behold Mr. Cripps
greeting my grandfather.

"Good mornin', Cap'en Kemp, sir," said Mr. Cripps. "I been a-lookin'
at the noo Blue Crosser--the /Emily Riggs/. She ought to be done, ye
know, an' a han'some picter she'd make; but the skipper seems busy.
Why, an' there's young master Stephen, I do declare; 'ow are ye, sir?"

As he bent and the nose neared, I was seized with a horrid fear that
he was going to kiss me. But he only shook hands after all--though it
was not at all a clean hand that he gave.

"Why, Cap'en Kemp," he went on, "this is what I say a phenomenal
coincidence; rather unique, in fact. Why, you'll 'ardly believe as I
was a thinkin' o' you not 'arf an hour ago, scarcely! Now you wouldn't
'a' thought that, would ye?"

There was a twinkle in Grandfather Nat's eye. "All depends," he said.

"Comin' along from the mortuary, I see somethink----"

"Ah, something in the mortuary, no doubt," my grandfather interrupted,
quizzically. "Well, what was in the mortuary? I bet there was a corpse
in the mortuary."

"Quite correct, Cap'en Kemp, so there was; three of 'em, an' a very
sad sight; decimated, Cap'en Kemp, by the watery element. But it
wasn't them I was----"

"What! It wasn't a corpse as reminded you of me? That's rum. Then I
expect somebody told you some more about Viney and Marr. Come, what's
the latest about Viney an' Marr? Tell us about that."

Grandfather Nat was humorously bent on driving Mr. Cripps from his
mark, and Mr. Cripps deferred. "Well, it's certainly a topic," he
said, "a universal topic. Crooks the ship-chandler's done for, they
say--unsolvent. The /Minerva's/ reported off Prawle Point in to-day's
list, an' they say as she'll be sold up as soon as she's moored. But
there--she's hypotenused, Cap'en Kemp; pawned, as you might say; up
the flue. It's a matter o' gen'ral information that she's pawned up to
'er r'yals--up to 'er main r'yals, sir. Which reminds me, speakin' o'
r'yals, there's a timber-shop just along by the mortuary----"

"Ah, no doubt," Grandfather Nat interrupted, "they must put 'em
somewhere. Any news o' the /Juno/?"

"No, sir, she ain't reported; not doo Barbadoes yet, or mail not in,
any'ow. They'll sell 'er too, but the creditors won't get none of it.
She's hypotenused as deep as the other--up to her r'yals; an' there's
nothin' else to sell. So it's the gen'ral opinion there won't be much
to divide, Marr 'avin' absconded with the proceeds. An' as regards
what I was agoin' to----"

"Yes, you was goin' to tell me some more about Marr, I expect," my
grandfather persisted. "Heard where he's gone?"

Mr. Cripps shook his head. "They don't seem likely to ketch 'im,
Cap'en Nat. Some says 'e's absconded out o' the country, others says
'e's 'idin' in it. Nobody knows 'im much, consequence o' Viney doin'
all the outdoor business--I only see 'im once myself. Viney, 'e thinks
'e's gone abroad, they say; an' 'e swears Marr's the party as 'as
caused the unsolvency, 'avin' bin a-doin' of 'im all along; 'im bein'
in charge o' the books. An' it's a fact, Cap'en Kemp, as you never
know what them chaps may get up to with the proceeds as 'as charge o'
books. The paper's full of 'em every week--always absconding with
somebody's proceeds! An' by the way, speakin' o' proceeds----"

This time Captain Nat made no interruption, but listened with an
amused resignation.

"Speakin' o' proceeds," said Mr. Cripps, "it was bein' temp'ry out o'
proceeds as made me think o' you as I come along from the mortuary.
For I see as 'andsome a bit o' panel for to paint a sign on as ever I
come across. It was----"

"Yes, I know. Enough to stimilate you to paint it fine, only to look
at it, wasn't it?"

"Well, yes, Cap'n Kemp, so it was."

"Not dear, neither?"

"No--not to say dear, seein' 'ow prices is up. If I'd 'ad----"

"Well, well, p'raps prices'll be down a bit soon," said Grandfather
Nat, grinning and pulling out a sixpence. "I ain't good for no more
than that now, anyhow!" And having passed over the coin he took my
hand and turned away, laughing and shaking his head.

Seeing that my grandfather wanted his sign, it seemed to me that he
was losing an opportunity, and I said so.

"What!" he said, "let him buy the board? Why, he's had half a dozen
boards for that sign a'ready!"

"Half a dozen?" I said. "Six boards? What did he do with them?"

"Ate 'em!" said Grandfather Nat, and laughed the louder when I stared.



                             CHAPTER VIII

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

I found it quite true that one might eat the loose sugar wherever he
judged it clean enough--as most of it was. And nothing but Grandfather
Nat's restraining hand postponed my first bilious attack.

Thus it was that I made acquaintance with the Highway, and with the
London Docks, in their more picturesque days, and saw and delighted in
a thousand things more than I can write. Port was drunk then, and
hundreds of great pipes lay in rows on a wide quay where men walked
with wooden clubs, whacking each pipe till the "shive" or wooden bung
sprang into the air, to be caught with a dexterity that pleased me
like a conjuring trick. And many a thirsty dock-labourer, watching his
opportunity, would cut a strip of bread from his humble dinner as he
strolled near a pipe, and, absorbed in the contemplation of the
indefinite empyrean, absently dip his sippet into the shive-hole as he
passed; recovering it in a state so wet and discoloured that its
instant consumption was imperative.

And so at last we came away from the docks by the thoroughfare then
called Tanglefoot Lane; not that that name, or anything like it, was
painted at the corner; but because it was the road commonly taken by
visitors departing from the wine-vaults after bringing tasting-orders.

As we passed Blue Gate on our way home, I saw, among those standing at
the corner, a coarse-faced, untidy woman, talking to a big,
bony-looking man with a face so thin and mean that it seemed misplaced
on such shoulders. The woman was so much like a score of others then
in sight, that I should scarce have noted her, were it not that she
and the man stopped their talk as we passed, with a quick look, first
at my grandfather, and then one at the other; and then the man turned
his back and walked away. Presently the woman came after us, walking
quickly, glancing doubtfully at Grandfather Nat as she passed; and at
last, after twice looking back, she turned and waited for us to come
up.

"Beg pardon, Cap'en Kemp," she said in a low, but a very thick voice,
"but might I speak to you a moment, sir?"

My grandfather looked at her sharply. "Well," he said, "what is it?"

"In regards to a man as sold you a watch las' night----"

"No," Grandfather Nat interrupted with angry decision, "he didn't."

"Beg pardon, sir, jesso sir--'course not; which I mean to say 'e sold
it to a man near to your 'ouse. Is it brought true as that party--not
meanin' you, sir, 'course not, but the party in the street near your
'ouse--is it brought true as that party'll buy somethink
more--somethink as I needn't tell now, sir, p'raps, but somethink
spoke of between that party an' the other party--I mean the party as
sold it, an' don't mean you, sir, 'course not?"

It was plain that the woman, who had begun in trepidation, was
confused and abashed the more by the hard frown with which Captain Nat
regarded her. The frown persisted for some moments; and then my
grandfather said: "Don't know what you mean. If somebody brought
anything of a friend o' yours, an' your friend wants to sell him
something else, I suppose he can take it to him, can't he? And if it's
any value, there's no reason he shouldn't buy it, so far as I know."
And Grandfather Nat strode on.

The woman murmured some sort of acknowledgment, and fell back, and in
a moment I had forgotten her; though I remembered her afterward, for
good reason enough.

In fact, it was no later than that evening. I was sitting in the
bar-parlour with Grandfather Nat, who had left the bar to the care of
the potman. My grandfather was smoking his pipe, while I spelled and
sought down the narrow columns of /Lloyd's List/ for news of my
father's ship. It was my grandfather's way to excuse himself from
reading, when he could, on the plea of unsuitable eyes; though I
suspect that, apart from his sight, he found reading a greater trouble
than he was pleased to own.

"There's nothing here about the /Juno/, Grandfather Nat," I said.
"Nothing anywhere."

"Ah," said my grandfather, "La Guaira was the last port, an' we must
keep eyes on the list for Barbadoes. Maybe the mail's late." Most of
the Lloyd's messages came by mail at that time. "Let's see," he went
on; "Belize, La Guaira, Barbadoes"; and straightway began to figure
out distances and chances of wind.

Grandfather Nat had been considering whether or not we should write to
my father to tell him that my mother was dead, and he judged that
there was little chance of any letter reaching the /Juno/ on her
homeward passage.

"Belize, La Guaira, Barbadoes," said Grandfather Nat, musingly. "It's
the rough season thereabout, an' it's odds she may be blown out of her
course. But the mail----"

He stopped and turned his head. There was a sudden stamp of feet
outside the door behind us, a low and quick voice, a heavy thud
against the door, and then a cry--a dreadful cry, that began like a
stifled scream and ended with a gurgle.

Grandfather Nat reached the door at a bound, and as he flung it wide a
man came with it and sank heavily at his feet, head and one shoulder
over the threshold, and an arm flung out stiffly, so that the old man
stumbled across it as he dashed at a dark shadow without.

I was hard at my grandfather's heels, and in a flash of time I saw
that another man was rising from over the one on the doorsill. But for
the stumble Grandfather Nat would have had him. In that moment's check
the fellow spun round and dashed off, striking one of the great posts
with his shoulder, and nearly going down with the shock.

All was dark without, and what I saw was merely confused by the light
from the bar-parlour. My grandfather raised a shout and rushed in the
wake of the fugitive, towards the stairs, and I, too startled and too
excited to be frightened yet, skipped over the stiff arm to follow
him. At the first step I trod on some object which I took to be my
grandfather's tobacco-pouch, snatched it up, and stuffed it in my
jacket pocket as I ran. Several men from the bar were running in the
passage, and down the stairs I could hear Captain Nat hallooing across
the river.

"Ahoy!" came a voice in reply. "What's up?" And I could see the fire
of a purl-boat coming in.

"Stop him, Bill!" my grandfather shouted. "Stop him! Stabbed a man!
He's got my boat, and there's no sculls in this damned thing! Gone
round them barges!"

And now I could distinguish my grandfather in a boat, paddling
desperately with a stretcher, his face and his shirt-sleeves touched
with the light from the purlman's fire.

The purl-boat swung round and shot off, and presently other boats came
pulling by, with shouts and questions. Then I saw Grandfather Nat, a
black form merely, climbing on a barge and running and skipping along
the tier, from one barge to another, calling and directing, till I
could see him no more. There were many men on the stairs by this time,
and others came running and jostling; so I made my way back to the
bar-parlour door.

It was no easy thing to get in here, for a crowd was gathering. But a
man from the bar who recognised me made a way, and as soon as I had
pushed through the crowd of men's legs I saw that the injured man was
lying on the floor, tended by the potman; while Mr. Cripps, his face
pallid under the dirt, and his nose a deadly lavender, stood by, with
his mouth open and his hands dangling aimlessly.



The stabbed man lay with his head on a rolled-up coat of my
grandfather's, and he was bad for a child to look at. His face had
gone tallowy; his eyes, which turned (and frightened me) as I came in,
were now directed steadily upward; he breathed low and quick, and
though Joe the potman pressed cloths to the wound in his chest, there
was blood about his lips and chin, and blood bubbled dreadfully in his
mouth. But what startled me most, and what fixed my regard on his face
despite my tremors, so that I could scarce take my eyes from it, was
the fact that, paleness and blood and drawn cheeks notwithstanding, I
saw in him the ugly, broken-nosed fellow who had been in the private
compartment last night, with a watch to sell; the watch, with an
initial on the back, that now lay in Grandfather Nat's cash-box.



                              CHAPTER IX

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

Somebody had gone for a doctor, it was said, but a doctor was not
always easy to find in Wapping. Mrs. Grimes, who was at some late work
upstairs, was not disturbed at first by the noise, since excitement
was not uncommon in the neighbourhood. But now she came to the
stairfoot door, and peeped and hurried back. For myself, I squeezed
into a far corner and stared, a little sick; for there was a deal of
blood, and Joe the potman was all dabbled, like a slaughterman.

My grandfather returned almost on the doctor's heels, and with my
grandfather were some river police, in glazed hats and pilot coats.
The doctor puffed and shook his head, called for cold water, and
cloths, and turpentine, and milk. Cold water and cloths were ready
enough, and turpentine was easy to get, but ere the milk came it was
useless. The doctor shook his head and puffed more than ever, wiped
his hands and pulled his cuffs down gingerly. I could not see the man
on the floor, now, for the doctor was in the way; but I heard him,
just before the doctor stood up. The noise sent my neck cold at the
back; though indeed it was scarce more than the noise made in emptying
a large bottle by upending it.

The doctor stood up and shook his head. "Gone," he said. "And I
couldn't have done more than keep him alive a few minutes, at best. It
was the lung, and bad--two places. Have they got the man?"

"No," said Grandfather Nat, "nor ain't very likely, I'd say. Never saw
him again, once he got behind a tier o' lighters. Waterside chap,
certain; knows the river well enough, an' these stairs. I couldn't ha'
got that boat o' mine off quicker, not myself."

"Ah," said one of the river policemen, "he's a waterside chap, that's
plain enough. Any other 'ud a-bolted up the street. Never said
nothing, did he--this one?" He was bending over the dead man; while
the others cleared the people back from the door, and squeezed Mr.
Cripps out among them.

"No, not a word," answered Joe the potman. "Couldn't. Tried to nod
once when I spoke to 'im, but it seemed to make 'im bleed faster."

"Know him, Cap'en Nat?" asked the sergeant.

"No," answered my grandfather. "I don't know him. Might ha' seen him
hanging about p'raps. But then I see a lot doin' that."

I wondered if Grandfather Nat had already forgotten about the silver
watch with the M on it, or if he had merely failed to recognise the
man. But I remembered what he had said in the morning, after he had
bought the spoons, and I reflected that I had best hold my tongue.

And now voices without made it known that the shore police were here,
with a stretcher; and presently, with a crowding and squeezing in the
little bar-parlour that drove me deeper into my corner and farther
under the shelf, the uncomely figure was got from the floor to the
stretcher, and so out of the house.

It was plain that my grandfather was held in good regard by the
police; and I think that his hint that a drop of brandy was at the
service of anybody who felt the job unpleasant might have been acted
on, if there had not been quite as many present at once. When at last
they were gone, and the room clear, he kicked into a heap the strip of
carpet that the dead man had lain on; and as he did it, he perceived
me in my corner.

"What--you here all the time, Stevy?" he said. "I thought you'd gone
upstairs. Here--it ain't right for boys in general, but you've got a
turn; drink up this."

I believe I must have been pale, and indeed I felt a little sick now
that the excitement was over. The thing had been very near, and the
blood tainted the very air. So that I gulped the weak brandy and water
without much difficulty, and felt better. Out in the bar Mr. Cripps's
thin voice was raised in thrilling description.

Feeling better, as I have said, and no longer faced with the
melancholy alternatives of crying or being ill, I bethought me of my
grandfather's tobacco-pouch. "You dropped your pouch, Gran'father
Nat," I said, "and I picked it up when I ran out."

And with that I pulled out of my jacket pocket--not the pouch at all;
but a stout buckled pocket-book of about the same size.

"That ain't a pouch, Stevy," said Grandfather Nat; "an' mine's here in
my pocket. Show me."

He opened the flap, and stood for a moment staring. Then he looked up
hastily, turned his back to the bar, and sat down. "Whew! Stevy!" he
said, with amazement in his eyes and the pocket-book open in his hand;
"you're in luck; luck, my boy. See!"

Once more he glanced quickly over his shoulder, toward the bar; and
then took in his fingers a folded bunch of paper, and opened it.
"Notes!" he said, in a low voice, drawing me to his side. "Bank of
England notes, every one of 'em! Fifties, an' twenties, an' tens, an'
fives! Where was it?"

I told him how I had run out at his heels, had trodden on the thing in
the dark, and had slipped it into my pocket, supposing it to be his
old leather tobacco-pouch, from which he had but just refilled his
pipe; and how I had forgotten about it, in my excitement, till the
people were gone, and the brandy had quelled my faintness.

"Well, well," commented Grandfather Nat, "it's a wonderful bit o'
luck, anyhow. This is what the chap was pulling away from him when I
opened the door, you can lay to that; an' he lost it when he hit the
post, I'll wager; unless the other pitched it away. But that's neither
here nor there. . . . What's that?" He turned his head quickly. "That
stairfoot door ain't latched again, Stevy. Made me jump: fancied it
was the other."

There was nothing else in the pocket-book, it would seem, except an
old photograph. It was a faded, yellowish thing, and it represented a
rather stout woman, seated, with a boy of about fourteen at her side;
both very respectably dressed in the fashion of twenty years earlier.
Grandfather Nat put it back, and slipped the pocket-book into the same
cash-box that had held the watch with the M engraved on its back.

The stairfoot door clicked again, and my grandfather sent me to shut
it. As I did so I almost fancied I could hear soft footsteps
ascending. But then I concluded I was mistaken; for in a few moments
Mrs. Grimes was plainly heard coming downstairs, with an uncommonly
full tread; and presently she presented herself.

"Good law, Cap'en Kemp," exclaimed Mrs. Grimes, with a hand clutching
at her chest, and her breath a tumultuous sigh; "Good law! I am that
bad! What with extry work, an' keepin' on late, an' murders under my
very nose, I cannot a-bear it--no!" And she sank into a chair by the
stairfoot door, letting go her brush and dust-pan with a clatter.

Grandfather Nat turned to get the brandy-bottle again. Mrs. Grimes's
head drooped faintly, and her eyelids nearly closed. Nevertheless I
observed that the eyes under the lids were very sharp indeed,
following my grandfather's back, and traversing the shelf where he had
left the photograph; yet when he brought the brandy, he had to rouse
her by a shake.



                              CHAPTER X

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

I went to bed early that night--as soon as Mrs. Grimes was gone, in
fact. My grandfather had resolved that such a late upsitting as last
night's must be no more than an indulgence once in a way. He came up
with me, bringing the cash-box to put away in the little wall-cupboard
against his bed-head where it always lay, at night, with a pistol by
its side. Grandfather Nat peeped to see the pocket-book safe once
more, and chuckled as he locked it away. This done, he sat by my side,
and talked till I began to fall asleep.

The talk was of the pocket-book, and what should be done with the
money. Eight hundred pounds was the sum, and two five-pound notes
over, and I wondered why a man with so much money should come, the
evening before, to sell his watch.

"Looks as though the money wasn't his, don't it?" commented
Grandfather Nat. "Though anyhow it's no good to him now. You found it,
an' it's yours, Stevy."

I remembered certain lessons of my mother's as to one's proper
behaviour toward lost property, and I mentioned them. But Grandfather
Nat clearly resolved me that this was no case in point. "It can't be
his, because he's dead," Captain Nat argued; "an' if it's the other
chap's--well, let him come an' ask for it. That's fair enough, you
know, Stevy. An' if he don't come--it ain't likely he will, is
it?--then it's yours; and I'll keep it to help start you in life when
you grow up. I won't pay it into the bank--not for a bit, anyhow.
There's numbers on bank notes: an' they lead to trouble, often. But
they're as good one time as another, an' easy sent abroad later on, or
what not. So there you are, my boy! Eight hundred odd to start you
like a gentleman, with as much more as Grandfather Nat can put to it.
Eh?"

He kissed me and rubbed his hands in my curls, and I took the occasion
to communicate my decision as to being a purlman. Grandfather Nat
laughed, and patted my head down on the pillow; and for a little I
remembered no more.

I awoke in an agony of nightmare. The dead man, with blood streaming
from mouth and eyes, was dragging my grandfather down into the river,
and my mother with my little dead brother in her arms called me to
throw out the pocket-book, and save him; and throw I could not, for
the thing seemed glued to my fingers. So I awoke with a choke and a
cry, and sat up in bed.

All was quiet about me, and below were the common evening noises of
the tavern; laughs, argumentation, and the gurgle of drawn beer;
though there was less noise now than when I had come up, and I judged
it not far from closing time. Out in the street a woman was singing a
ballad; and I got out of bed and went to the front room window to see
and to hear; for indeed I was out of sorts and nervous, and wished to
look at people.

At the corner of the passage there was a small group who pointed and
talked together--plainly discussing the murder; and as one or two
drifted away, so one or two more came up to join those remaining. No
doubt the singing woman had taken this pitch as one suitable to her
ware--for she sang and fluttered at length in her hand one of the
versified dying confessions that even so late as this were hawked
about Ratcliff and Wapping. What murderer's "confession" the woman was
singing I have clean forgotten; but they were all the same, all set to
a doleful tune which, with modifications, still does duty, I believe,
as an evening hymn; and the burden ran thus, for every murderer and
any murderer:--


                 Take warning by my dreadful fate,
                     The truth I can't deny;
                 This dreadful crime that I are done
                     I are condemned to die.


The singular grammar of the last two lines I never quite understood,
not having noticed its like elsewhere; but I put it down as a
distinguishing characteristic of the speech of murderers.

I waited till the woman had taken her ballads away, and I had grown
uncommonly cold in the legs, and then crept back to bed. But now I had
fully awakened myself, and sleep was impossible. Presently I got up
again, and looked out over the river. Very black and mysterious it
lay, the blacker, it seemed, for the thousand lights that spotted it,
craft and shore. No purlmen's fires were to be seen, for work on the
colliers was done long ago, but once a shout and now a hail came over
the water, faint or loud, far or near; and up the wooden wall I leaned
on came the steady sound of the lapping against the piles below. I
wondered where Grandfather Nat's boat--our boat--lay now; if the
murderer were still rowing in it, and would row and row right away to
sea, where my father was, in his ship; or if he would be caught, and
make a dying confession with all the "haves" and "ams" replaced by
"ares"; or if, indeed, he had already met providential retribution by
drowning. In which case I doubted for the safety of the boat, and
Grandfather would buy another. And my legs growing cold again, I
retreated once more.

I heard the customers being turned into the street, and the shutters
going up; and then I got under the bed-clothes, for I recalled the
nightmare, and it was not pleasant. It grew rather worse, indeed, for
my waking fancy enlarged and embellished it, and I longed to hear the
tread of Grandfather Nat ascending the stair. But he was late
to-night. I heard Joe the potman, who slept off the premises, shut the
door and go off up the street. For a few minutes Grandfather Nat was
moving about the bar and the bar-parlour; and then there was silence,
save for the noises--the clicks and the creaks--that the old house
made of itself.

I waited and waited, sometimes with my head out of the clothes,
sometimes with no more than a contrived hole next to my ear,
listening. Till at last I could wait no longer, for the house seemed
alive with stealthy movement, and I shook with the indefinite terror
that comes, some night or another, to the most unimaginative child. I
thought, at first, of calling to my grandfather, but that would seem
babyish; so I said my prayers over again, held my breath, and faced
the terrors of the staircase. The boards sang and creaked under my
bare feet, and the black about me was full of dim coloured faces. But
I pushed the door and drew breath in the honest lamplight of the
bar-parlour at last.

Nobody was there, and nobody was in the bar. Could he have gone out?
Was I alone in the house, there, where the blood was still on the
carpet? But there was a slight noise from behind the stairs, and I
turned to look farther.

Behind the bar-parlour and the staircase were two rooms, that
projected immediately over the river, with their frames resting on the
piles. One was sometimes used as a parlour for the reception of mates
and skippers, though such customers were rare; the other held cases,
bottles and barrels. To this latter I turned, and mounting the three
steps behind the staircase, pushed open the door; and was mightily
astonished at what I saw.

There was my grandfather, kneeling, and there was one half of Bill
Stagg the purlman, standing waist-deep in the floor. For a moment it
was beyond me to guess what he was standing on, seeing that there was
nothing below but water; but presently I reasoned that the tide was
high, and he must be standing in his boat. He was handing my
grandfather some small packages, and he saw me at once and pointed.
Grandfather Nat turned sharply, and stared, and for a moment I feared
he was angry. Then he grinned, shook his finger at me, and brought it
back to his lips with a tap.

"All right--my pardner," he whispered, and Bill Stagg grinned too. The
business was short enough, and in a few seconds Bill Stagg, with
another grin at me, and something like a wink, ducked below. My
grandfather, with noiseless care, put back in place a trap-door--not a
square, noticeable thing, but a clump of boards of divers lengths that
fell into place with as innocent an aspect as the rest of the floor.
This done, he rolled a barrel over the place, and dropped the contents
of the packages into a row of buckets that stood near.

"What's that, Grandfather Nat?" I ventured to ask, when all was safely
accomplished.

My grandfather grinned once more, and shook his head. "Go on," he
said, "I'll tell you in the bar-parlour. May as well now as let ye
find out." He blew out the light of his candle and followed me.

"Well," he said, wrapping my cold feet in my nightgown as I sat on his
knee. "What brought ye down, Stevy? Did we make a noise?"

I shook my head. "I--I felt lonely," I said.

"Lonely? Well, never mind. An' so ye came to look for me, eh? Well,
now, this is another one o' the things you mustn't talk about,
Stevy--a little secret between ourselves, bein' pardners."

"The stuff in the pail, Gran'fa' Nat?"

"The stuff in the pail, an' the hole in the floor. You're sure you
won't get talkin', an' get your poor old gran'-father in trouble?"

Yes, I was quite sure; though I could not see as yet what there was to
cause trouble.

"The stuff Bill Stagg brought, Stevy, is 'bacca. 'Bacca smashed down
so hard that a pound ain't bigger than that match-box. An' I pitch it
in the water to swell it out again; see?"

I still failed to understand the method of its arrival. "Did Bill
Stagg steal it, gran'father?" I asked.

Grandfather Nat laughed. "No, my boy," he said; "he bought it, an' I
buy it. It comes off the Dutch boats. But it comes a deal cheaper
takin' it in that way at nighttime. There's a big place I'll show you
one day, Stevy--big white house just this side o' London Bridge.
There's a lot o' gentlemen there as wants to see all the 'bacca that
comes in from aboard, an' they take a lot o' trouble over it, and
charge too, fearful. So they're very angry if parties--same as you an'
me--takes any in without lettin' 'em know, an' payin' 'em the money.
An' they can get you locked up."

This seemed a very unjust world that I had come into, in which
Grandfather Nat was in danger of such terrible penalties for such
innocent transactions--buying a watch, or getting his tobacco cheap.
So I said: "I think people are very wicked in this place."

"Ah!" said my grandfather, "I s'pose none of us ain't over good. But
there--I've told you about it now, an' that's better than lettin' you
wonder, an' p'raps go asking other people questions. So now you know,
Stevy. We've got our little secrets between us, an' you've got to keep
'em between us, else--well, you know. Nothing about anything I buy,
nor about what I take in /there/,"--with a jerk of the thumb--"nor
about 'bacca in buckets o' water."

"Nor about the pocket-book, Gran'fa' Nat?"

"Lord no. 'Specially not about that. You see, Stevy, pardners is
pardners, an' they must stick together, eh? We'll stick together,
won't we?"

I nodded hard and reached for my grandfather's neck.

"Ah, that we will. What others like to think they can; they can't
prove nothing, nor it wouldn't be their game. But we're pardners, an'
I've told you what--well, what you might ha' found out in a more
awkward way. An' it ain't so bad a thing to have a pardner to talk to,
neither. I never had one till now--not since your gran'mother died,
that you never saw, Stevy; an' that was twenty years ago. I been alone
most o' my life--not even a boy, same as it might be you. 'Cause why?
When your father was your age, an' older, I was always at sea, an'
never saw him, scarcely; same as him an' you now."

And indeed Grandfather Nat and I knew each other better than my father
knew either of us. And so we sat for a few minutes talking of
ourselves, and once more of the notes in the pocket-book upstairs;
till the tramp of the three policemen on the beat stayed in the street
without, and we heard one of the three coming down the passage.

He knocked sharply at the bar-parlour door, and Grandfather Nat put me
down and opened it.

"Good evenin', Cap'en Kemp," said the policeman. "We knew you was up,
seein' a bit o' light." Then he leaned farther in, and in a lower
voice, said; "He ain't been exactly identified yet, but it's thought
some of our chaps knows 'im. Know if anything's been picked up?"

My heart gave a jump, as probably did my grandfather's. "Picked up?"
he repeated. "Why what? What d'ye mean?"

"Well, there was nothing partic'lar on the body, an' our chaps didn't
see the knife. We thought if anybody about 'ad picked up anything,
knife or what not, you might 'ear. So there ain't nothing?"

"No," Grandfather Nat answered blankly. "I've seen no knife, nor heard
of none."

"All right, Cap'en Kemp--if you do hear of anything, give us the tip.
Good night!"

Grandfather Nat looked oddly at me, and I at him. I think we had a
feeling that our partnership was sealed. And so with no more words we
went to bed.



                              CHAPTER XI

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

I had never seen either of the partners in the firm of Viney and Marr:
as I may have said already. On the day after the man was stabbed at
our side door I saw them both.

That morning the tide was low, and Hole-in-the-Wall Stairs ended in a
causeway in the midst of a little flat of gravel and mud. So, since
the mud was nowhere dangerous, and there was no deep water to fall
into, I was allowed to go down the steps alone and play on the
foreshore while Grandfather Nat was busy with his morning's affairs;
the two or three watermen lying by the causeway undertaking to keep an
eye on me. And there I took my pleasure as I would, now raking in the
wet pebbles, and heaving over big stones that often pulled me on to
all-fours, now climbing the stairs to peep along the alley, and once
or twice running as far as the bar-parlour door to report myself to
Grandfather Nat, and inform him of my discoveries.

The little patch of foreshore soon rendered up all its secrets, and
its area grew less by reason of the rising tide; so that I turned to
other matters of interest. Out in mid-stream a cluster of lighters lay
moored, waiting for the turn of the tide. Presently a little tug came
puffing and fussing from somewhere alongshore, and after much shoving
and hauling and shouting, scuffled off, trailing three of the lighters
behind it; from which I conjectured that their loads were needed in a
hurry. But the disturbance among the rest of the lighters was not done
with when the tug had cleared the three from their midst; for a hawser
had got foul of a rudder, and two or three men were at work with poles
and hooks, recrimination and forcible words, to get things clear.
Though the thing seemed no easy job; and it took my attention for some
time.

But presently I tired of it, and climbed the steps to read the bills
describing the people who had been found drowned. There were eleven of
the bills altogether, fresh and clean; and fragments of innumerable
others, older and dirtier, were round about them. Ten men and one
woman had been picked up, it would seem, and all within a week or two,
as I learned when I had spelled out the dates. I pored at these bills
till I had read them through, being horribly fascinated by the
personal marks and peculiarities so baldly set forth; the scars, the
tattoo marks, the colour of the dead eyes; the clothes and boots and
the contents of the pockets--though indeed most of the pockets would
seem to have been empty. The woman--they guessed her age at
twenty-two--wore one earring; and I entangled myself in conjectures as
to what had become of the other.

I was disturbed by a shout from the causeway. I looked and saw Bill
Stagg in his boat. "Is your gran'-father there?" shouted Bill Stagg.
"Tell him they've found his boat."

This was joyful news, and I rushed to carry it. "They've found our
boat, Grandfather Nat," I cried. "Bill Stagg says so!"

Grandfather Nat was busy in the bar, and he received the information
with calmness. "Ah," he said, "I knew it 'ud turn up somewhere. Bill
Stagg there?" And he came out leisurely in his shirt sleeves, and
stood at the head of the stairs.

"P'lice galley found your boat, cap'en," Bill Stagg reported. "You'll
have to go up to the float for it."

"Right. Know where it was?"

"Up agin Elephant stairs"--Bill Stagg pointed across the
river--"turned adrift and jammed among the lighters."

Grandfather Nat nodded serenely. Bill Stagg nodded in reply, shoved
off from the causeway and went about his business.

The hawser was still foul among the lighters out in the stream, and a
man had pulled over in a boat to help. I had told grandfather of the
difficulty, and how long it had baffled the lightermen, and was asking
the third of a string of questions about it all, when there was a step
behind, and a voice: "Good mornin', Cap'en Nat."

My grandfather turned quickly. "Mr. Viney!" he said. "Well . . . Good
mornin'."

I turned also, and I was not prepossessed by Mr. Viney. His face--a
face no doubt originally pale and pasty, but too long sun-burned to
revert to anything but yellow in these later years of shore-life--his
yellow face was ever stretched in an uneasy grin, a grin that might
mean either propitiation or malice, and remained the same for both. He
had the watery eyes and the goatee beard that were not uncommon among
seamen, and in total I thought he much resembled one of those same
hang-dog fellows that stood at corners and leaned on posts in the
neighbourhood, making a mysterious living out of sailors; one of them,
that is to say, in a superior suit of clothes that seemed too good for
him. I suppose he may have been an inch taller than Grandfather Nat;
but in the contrast between them he seemed very small and mean.

He offered his hand with a stealthy gesture, rather as though he were
trying to pick my grandfather's waistcoat pocket; so that the old man
stared at the hand for a moment, as if to see what he would be at,
before he shook it.

"Down in the world again, Cap'en Nat," said Viney, with a shrug.

"Ay, I heard," answered Captain Nat. "I'm very sorry; but
there--perhaps you'll be up again soon. . . ."

                  *       *       *       *       *

"I come to ask you about something," Viney proceeded, as they walked
away toward the bar-parlour door. "Something you'll tell me, bein' an
old shipmate, if you can find out, I'm sure. Can we go into your
place? No, there's a woman there."

"Only one as does washin' up an' such. I'll send her upstairs if you
like."

"No, out here's best; we'll walk up and down; people get hangin' round
doors an' keyholes in a place like that. Here we can see who's near
us."

"What, secrets?"

"Ay." Viney gave an ugly twist to his grin. "I know some o' yours--one
big 'un at any rate, Cap'en Nat, don't I? So I can afford to let you
into a little 'un o' mine, seein' I can't help it. Now I'd like to
know if you've seen anything of Marr."

"No,--haven't seen him for months. Bolted, they tell me, an'--well you
know better'n me, I expect."

"I don't know," Viney replied with emphasis. "I ought to know, but I
don't. See here now. Less than a week ago he cleared out, an' then I
filed my petition. He might ha' gone anywhere--bolted. Might be
abroad, as would seem most likely. In plain fact he was only coming
down in these parts to lie low. See? Round about here a man can lie
low an' snug, an' safer than abroad, if he likes. And he had money
with him--all we could get together. See?" And Viney frowned and
winked, and glanced stealthily over his shoulder.

"Ah," remarked Captain Nat, drily. "I see. An' the creditors----"

"Damn the creditors! See here, Cap'en Nat Kemp. Remember a man called
Dan Webb?"

Captain Nat paled a little, and tightened his lips.

"Remember a man called Dan Webb?" Viney repeated, stopping in his walk
and facing the other with the uneasy grin unchanged. "A man called Dan
Webb, aboard o' the /Florence/ along o' you an' me? 'Cause I do,
anyhow. That's on'y my little hint--we're good friends altogether, o'
course, Cap'en Nat; but you know what it means. Well, Marr had money
with him, as I said. He was to come to a quiet anchorage hereabout,
got up like a seaman, an' let me know at once."

Captain Nat, his mouth still set tight, nodded, with a grunt.

"Well, he didn't let me know. I heard nothing at all from him, an' it
struck me rather of a heap to think that p'raps he'd put the double on
me, an' cleared out in good earnest. But yesterday I got news. A blind
fiddler chap gave me some sort o' news."

Captain Nat remembered the meeting at the street corner in the evening
after the funeral. "Blind George?" he queried.

"Yes, that was all the name he gave me; a regular thick 'un, that
blind chap, an' a flow o' language as would curl the sheathing off a
ship's bottom. He came the evening before, it seems, but found the
place shut up--servant gal took her hook. Well now, he'd done all but
see Marr down here at the Blue Gate--he'd seen him as clear as a blind
man could, he said, with his ears: an' he came to me to give me the
tip an' earn anything I'd give him for it. It amounted to this. It was
plain enough Marr had come along here all right, an' pitched on some
sort o' quarters; but it was clear he wasn't fit to be trusted alone
in such a place at all. For the blind chap found him drunk, an' in tow
with as precious a pair o' bully-boys as Blue Gate could show--drunk
an' gabbling, drunk an' talkin' business--/my/ business--an' lettin'
out all there was to let--this an' that an' t'other an' Lord knows
what! It was only because of his drunken jabber that the blind man
found out who he was."

"And this was the day before yesterday?" asked Captain Nat.

"Yes."

Captain Nat shook his head. "If he was like that the day before
yesterday," he said, "in tow with such chaps as you say,--well,
whatever he had on him ain't on him now. An' it 'ud puzzle a cleverer
man than me to find it. You may lay to that."

Viney swore, and stamped a foot, and swore again. "But see," he said,
"ain't there a chance? It was in notes, all of it. Them chaps'll be
afraid to pass notes. Couldn't most of it be got back on an
arrangement to cash the rest? You can find 'em if you try, with all
your chances. Come--I'll play fair for what I get, to you an' all."

"See how you've left it," remarked Captain Nat; and Viney swore again.
"This was all done the day before yesterday. Well, you don't hear of
it yourself till yesterday, an' now you don't come to me till to-day."

Viney swore once more, and grinned twice as wide in his rage. "Yes,"
he said, "that was Blind George's doing. I sent him back to see what
/he/ could do, an' ain't seen him since. Like as not he's standing in
with the others."

"Ay, that's likely," the old man answered, "very likely. Blind George
is as tough a lot as any in Blue Gate, for all he's blind. You'd never
ha' heard of it at all if they'd ha' greased him a bit at first. I
expect they shut him out, to keep the plant to themselves; an' so he
came to you for anything he could pick up. An' now----"

Viney cursed them all, and Blind George and himself together; but most
he cursed Marr; and so talking, the two men walked to and fro in the
passage.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I could see that Viney was angry, and growing angrier still. But I
gave all my attention to the work at the fouled hawser. The man in the
boat, working patiently with a boat-hook, succeeded suddenly and
without warning, so that he almost pitched headlong into the river.
The rope came up from its entanglement with a spring and a splash,
flinging some amazing great object up with it, half out of water; and
the men gave a cry as this thing lapsed heavily to the surface.

The man in the boat snatched his hook again and reached for the thing
as it floated. Somebody threw him a length of line, and with this he
made it fast to his boat, and began pulling toward the stairs, towing
it. I was puzzled to guess what the object might be. It was no part of
the lighter's rudder, for it lay in, rather than on, the water, and it
rolled and wallowed, and seemed to tug heavily, so that the boatman
had to pull his best. I wondered if he had caught some curious
water-creature--a porpoise perhaps, or a seal, such as had been flung
ashore in a winter storm at Blackwall a year before.

Viney and Grandfather Nat had turned their steps toward the stairs,
and as they neared, my grandfather, lifting his eyes, saw the boatman
and his prize, and saw the watermen leaving their boats for the
foreshore. With a quick word to Viney he hastened down the stairs; and
Viney himself, less interested, followed half way down, and waited.

The boatman brought up alongside the foreshore, and he and another
hauled at the tow-rope. The thing in the water came in, rolling and
bobbing, growing more hideously distinct as it came; it checked at the
mud and stones, turned over, and with another pull lay ashore, staring
and grey and streaming: a dead man.

The lips were pulled tight over the teeth, and, the hair being fair,
it was the plainer to see that one side of the head and forehead was
black and open with a great wound. The limbs lay limp and tumbled,
all; but one leg fell aside with so loose a twist that plainly it was
broken; and I heard, afterwards, that it was the leg that had caused
the difficulty with the hawser.

Grandfather Nat, down at the waterside, had no sooner caught sight of
the dead face than with wide eyes he turned to Viney, and shouted the
one word "Look!" Then he went and took another view, longer and
closer; and straightway came back in six strides to the stairs,
whereon Viney was no longer standing, but sitting, his face tallowy
and his grin faded.

"See him?" cried Grandfather Nat in a hushed voice. "See him! It's
Marr himself, if I know him at all! Come--come and see!"

Viney pulled his arm from the old man's grasp, turned, and crawled up
a stair or two. "No," he said faintly, "I--I won't, now--I--they'd
know me p'raps, some of them." His breath was short, and he gulped.
"Good God," he said presently, "it's him--it's him sure enough. And
the clothes he had on. . . . But . . . Cap'en--Cap'en Nat; go an' try
his pockets.--Go on. There's a pocket-book--leather pocket-book . . .
Go on!"

"What's the good?" asked Captain Nat, with a lift of the eyebrows, and
the same low voice. "What's the good? I can't fetch it away, with all
them witnesses. Go yourself, an' say you're his pardner; you'd have a
chance then."

"No--no. I--it ain't good enough. You know 'em; I don't. I'll stand in
with you--give you a hundred if it's all there! Square 'em--you know
'em!"

"If they're to be squared you can do it as well as me. There'll be an
inquest on this, an' evidence. I ain't going to be asked what I did
with the man's pocket-book. No. I don't meddle in this, Mr. Viney. If
it ain't good enough for you to get it for yourself, it ain't good
enough for me to get it for you."

"Kemp, I'll go you halves--there! Get it, an' there's four hundred for
you. Eight hundred an' odd quid, in a pocket-book. Come, that's worth
it, ain't it? Eight hundred an' odd quid--in a leather pocket-book!
An' I'll go you halves."

Captain Nat started at the words, and stood for a moment, staring.
"Eight hundred!" he repeated under his breath. "Eight hundred an' odd
quid. In a leather pocket-book. Ah!" And the stare persisted, and grew
thoughtful.

"Yes," replied Viney, now a little more himself. "Now you know; and
it's worth it, ain't it? Don't waste time--they're turning him over
themselves. You can manage all these chaps. Go on!"

"I'll see if anything's there," answered Captain Nat. "More I can't;
an' if there's nothing that's an end of it."

He went down to where the men were bending over the body, to disengage
the tow-line. He looked again at the drawn face under the gaping
forehead, and said something to the men; then he bent and patted the
soddened clothes, now here, now there; and at last felt in the
breast-pocket.

Meantime Viney stood feverishly on the stairs, watching; fidgeting
nervously down a step, and then down another, and then down two more.
And so till Captain Nat returned.

The old man shook his head. "Cleaned out," he reported. "Cleaned out,
o' course. Hit on the head an' cleaned out, like many a score better
men before him, down these parts. Not a thing in the pockets anywhere.
Flimped clean."

Viney's eyes were wild. "Nothing at all left?" he said. "Nothing of
his own? Not a watch, nor anything?"

"No, not a watch, nor anything."

Viney stood staring at space for some moments, murmuring many oaths.
Then he asked suddenly, "Where's this blind chap? Where can I find
Blind George?"

Grandfather Nat shook his head. "He's all over the neighbourhood," he
answered. "Try the Highway; I can't give you nearer than that."

And with no more counsel to help him, Mr. Viney was fain to depart. He
went grinning and cursing up the passage and so toward the bridge,
without another word or look. And when I turned to my grandfather I
saw him staring fixedly at me, lost in thought, and rubbing his hand
up in his hair behind, through the grey and out at the brown on top.



                             CHAPTER XII

                           IN THE CLUB-ROOM

By the side of the bills stuck at the corner of Hole-in-the-Wall
Stairs--the bills that had so fascinated Stephen--a new one appeared,
with the heading "Body Found." It particularised the personal marks
and description of the unhappy Marr; his "fresh complexion," his brown
hair, his serge suit and his anklejacks. The bill might have stood on
every wall in London till it rotted, and never have given a soul who
knew him a hint to guess the body his: except Viney, who knew the fact
already. And the body might have been buried unidentified ere Viney
would have shown himself in the business, were it not for the
interference of Mr. Cripps. For industry of an unprofitable kind was a
piece of Mr. Cripps's nature; and, moreover, he was so regular a
visitor at the mortuary as to have grown an old friend of the keeper.
His persistent prying among the ghastly liers-in-state, at first on
plea of identifying a friend--a contingency likely enough, since his
long-shore acquaintance was wide--and later under the name of friendly
calls, was an indulgence that had helped him to consideration as a
news-monger, and twice had raised him to the elevation of witness at
an inquest; a distinction very gratifying to his simple vanity. He
entertained high hopes of being called witness in the case of the man
stabbed at the side door of the Hole in the Wall; and was scarce seen
at Captain Nat's all the next day, preferring to frequent the
mortuary. So it happened that he saw the other corpse that was carried
thence from Hole-in-the-Wall Stairs.

"There y'are," said the mortuary-keeper. "There's a fresh 'un, just in
from the river, unknown. /You/ dunno 'im either, I expect."

But Mr. Cripps was quite sure that he did. Curious and eager, he
walked up between the two dead men, his grimy little body being all
that divided them in this their grisly reunion. "I /do/ know 'im," he
insisted, thoughtfully. "Leastways I've seen 'im somewheres, I'm
sure." The little man gazed at the dreadful head, and then at the
rafters: then shut his eyes with a squeeze that drove his nose into
amazing lumps and wrinkles; then looked at the head again, and
squeezed his eyelids together once more; and at last started back, his
eyes rivalling his very nose itself for prominence. "Why!" he gasped,
"it is! It is, s'elp me! . . . It's Mr. Marr, as is pardners with Mr.
Viney! I on'y see 'im once in my life, but I'll swear it's 'im! . . .
Lord, what a phenomenal go!"

And with that Mr. Cripps rushed off incontinent to spread the news
wherever anybody would listen. He told the police, he told the
loafers, he told Captain Nat and everybody in his bar; he told the
watermen at the stairs, he shouted it to the purlmen in their boats,
and he wriggled into conversation with perfect strangers to tell them
too. So that it came to pass that Viney, being called upon by the
coroner's officer, was fain to swallow his reluctance and come forward
at the inquest.

That was held at the Hole in the Wall twenty-four hours after the body
had been hauled ashore. The two inquests were held together, in fact,
Marr's and that of the broken-nosed man, stabbed in the passage. Two
inquests, or even three, in a day, made no uncommon event in those
parts, where perhaps a dozen might be held in a week, mostly ending
with the same doubtful verdict--Found Drowned. But here one of the
inquiries related to an open and witnessed murder, and that fact gave
some touch of added interest to the proceedings.

Accordingly a drifting group hung about the doors of the Hole in the
Wall at the appointed time,--just such an idle, changing group as had
hung there all the evening after the man had been stabbed; and in the
midst stood Blind George with his fiddle, his vacant white eye rolling
upward, his mouth full of noisy ribaldry, and his fiddle playing
punctuation and chorus to all he said or sang. He turned his ear at
the sound of many footsteps leaving the door near him.

"There they go!" he sang out; "there they go, twelve on 'em!" And
indeed it was the jury going off to view the bodies. "There they go,
twelve good men an' true, an' bloomin' proud they are to fancy it! Got
a copper for Blind George, gentlemen? Not a brown for pore George?
. . . Not them; not a brass farden among the 'ole dam good an' lawful
lot. . . . Ahoy! ain't Gubbins there,--the good an' lawful
pork-butcher as 'ad to pay forty bob for shovin' a lump o' fat under
the scales? Tell the crowner to mind 'is pockets!"

The idlers laughed, and one flung a copper, which Blind George
snatched almost before it had fallen. "Ha! ha!" he cried, "there's a
toff somewhere near, I can tell by the sound of his money! Here goes
for a stave!" And straightway he broke into:--


                    O they call me Hanging Johnny,
                        With my hang, boys, hang!


The mortuary stood at no great distance and soon the jury were back in
the club-room over the bar, and at work on the first case. The police
had had some difficulty as to identification of the stabbed man. The
difficulty arose not only because there were no relations in the
neighbourhood to feel the loss, but as much because the persons able
to make the identification kept the most distant possible terms with
the police, and withheld information from them as a matter of
principle. Albeit a reluctant ruffian was laid hold of who was induced
sulkily to admit that he had known the deceased to speak to, and
lodged near him in Blue Gate; that the deceased was called Bob Kipps;
that he was quite lately come into the neighbourhood; and that he had
no particular occupation, as far as witness knew. It needed some
pressure to extract the information that Kipps, during the short time
he was in Blue Gate, chiefly consorted with one Dan Ogle, and that
witness had seen nothing of Ogle that day, nor the day before.

There was also a woman called to identify--a woman more reluctant than
the man; a woman of coarse features, dull eyes, tousled hair, and
thick voice, sluttish with rusty finery. Name, Margaret Flynn; though
at the back of the little crowd that had squeezed into the court she
was called Musky Mag. It was said there, too, that Mag, in no degree
one of the fainting sort, had nevertheless swooned when taken into the
mortuary--gone clean off with a flop; true, she explained it,
afterward, by saying that she had only expected to see one body, but
found herself brought face to face with two; and of course there was
the other there--Marr's. But it was held no such odds between one
corpse and two that an outer-and-outer like Mag should go on the faint
over it. This was reasonable enough, for the crowd. But not for a
woman who had sat to drink with three men, and in a short hour or so
had fallen over the battered corpse of one of them, in the dark of her
room; who had been forced, now, to view the rent body of a second, and
in doing it to meet once again the other, resurrected, bruised, sodden
and horrible; and who knew that all was the work of the last of the
three, and that man in peril of the rope: the man, too, of all the
world, in her eye . . .

Her evidence, given with plain anxiety and a nervous unsteadiness of
the mouth, added nothing to the tale. The man was Bob Kipps; he was a
stranger till lately--came, she had heard tell, from Shoreditch or
Hoxton; saw him last a day or two ago; knew nothing of his death
beyond what she had heard; did not know where Dan Ogle was (this very
vehemently, with much shaking of the head); had not seen him with
deceased--but here the police inspector handed the coroner a scribbled
note, and the coroner having read it and passed it back, said no more.
Musky Mag stood aside; while the inspector tore the note into small
pieces and put the pieces in his pocket.

Nathaniel Kemp, landlord of the house, told the story of the murder as
he saw it, and of his chase of the murderer. Did not know deceased,
and should be unable to identify the murderer if he met him again,
having seen no more than his figure in the dark.

All this time Mr. Cripps had been standing, in eager trepidation,
foremost among the little crowd, nodding and lifting his hand
anxiously, strenuous to catch the coroner's officer's attention at the
dismissal of each witness, and fearful lest his offer of evidence,
made a dozen times before the coroner came, should be forgotten. Now
at last the coroner's officer condescended to notice him, and being
beckoned, Mr. Cripps swaggered forward, his greasy wideawake crushed
under his arm, and his face radiant with delighted importance. He
bowed to the coroner, kissed the book with a flourish, and glanced
round the court to judge how much of the due impression was yet
visible.

The coroner signified that he was ready to hear whatever Mr. Cripps
knew of this matter.

Mr. Cripps "threw a chest," stuck an arm akimbo, and raised the other
with an oratorical sweep so large that his small voice, when it came,
seemed all the smaller. "Hi was in the bar, sir," he piped, "the bar,
sir, of this 'ouse, bein' long acquainted with an' much respectin'
Cap'en Kemp, an' in the 'abit of visitin' 'ere in the intervals of the
pursoot of my hart. Hem! Hi was in the bar, sir, when my attention was
attracted by a sudden noise be'hind, or as I may say, in the rear of,
the bar-parlour. Hi was able to distinguish, gentlemen of the jury,
what might be called, in a common way o' speakin', a bump or a bang,
sich as would be occasioned by an unknown murderer criminally shoving
his un'appy victim's 'ed agin the back-door of a public-'ouse. Hi was
able to distinguish it, sir, from a 'uman cry which follered: a 'uman
cry, or as it might be, a holler, sich as would be occasioned by the
un'appy victim 'avin 'is 'ed shoved agin the back-door aforesaid.
Genelmen, I 'esitated not a moment. I rushed forward."

Mr. Cripps paused so long to give the statement effect that the
coroner lost patience. "Yes," he said, "you rushed forward. Do you
mean you jumped over the bar?"

For a moment Mr. Cripps's countenance fell; truly it would have been
more imposing to have jumped over the bar. But he was on his oath, and
he must do his best with the facts. "No, sir," he explained, a little
tamely, "not over the bar, but reether the opposite way, so to speak,
towards the door. I rushed forward, genelmen, in a sort of rearwards
direction, through the door, an' round into the alley. Immediate as I
turned the corner, genelmen, I be'eld with my own eyes the unknown
murderer; I see 'im a-risin' from over 'is un'appy victim, an' I see
as the criminal tragedy had transpired. I--I rushed forward."

The sensation he looked for being slow in coming, another rush seemed
expedient; but it fell flat as the first, and Mr. Cripps struggled on,
desperately conscious that he had nothing else to say.

"I rushed forward, sir; seein' which the miscreant
absconded--absconded, no doubt with--with the proceeds; an' seein'
Cap'en Kemp abscondin' after him, I turned an' be'eld the un'appy
victim--the corpse now in custody, sir--a-layin' in the bar-parlour,
'elpless an'--an' decimated. . . . I--rushed forward."

It was sad to see how little the coroner was impressed; there was even
something in his face not unlike a smile; and Mr. Cripps was at the
end of his resources. But if he could have seen the face of Musky Mag,
in the little crowd behind him, he might have been consoled. She
alone, of all who heard, had followed his rhetoric with an agony of
attention, word by word: even as she had followed the earlier
evidence. Now her strained face was the easier merely by contrast with
itself when Mr. Cripps was in full cry; and a moment later it was
tenser than ever.

"Yes, yes, Mr. Cripps," the coroner said; "no doubt you were very
active, but we don't seem to have increased the evidence. You say you
saw the man who stabbed the deceased in the passage. Did you know him
at all? Ever see him before?"

Here, mayhap, was some chance of an effect after all. Mr. Cripps could
scarce have distinguished the murderer from one of the posts in the
alley; but he said, with all the significance he could give the words:
"Well, sir, I won't go so far as to swear to 'is name, sir; no, sir,
not to 'is /name/, certainly not." And therewith he made his sensation
at last, bringing upon himself the twenty-four eyes of the jury all
together.

The coroner looked up sharply. "Oh," he said, "you know him by sight
then? Does he belong to the neighbourhood?"

Now it was not Mr. Cripps who had said he knew the murderer by sight,
but the coroner. Far be it from him, thought the aspirant for fame, to
contradict the coroner, and so baulk himself of the credit thus thrust
upon him. So he answered with the same cautious significance and a
succession of portentous nods. "Your judgment, sir, is correct; quite
correct."

"Come then, this is important. You would be able to recognise him
again, of course?"

There was no retreat--Mr. Cripps was in for it. It was an unforeseen
consequence of the quibble, but since plunge he must he plunged neck
and crop. "I'd know 'im anywhere," he said triumphantly.

There was an odd sound in the crowd behind, and a fall. Captain Nat
strode across, and the crowd wondered; for Musky Mag had fainted
again.

The landlord lifted her, and carried her to the stairs. When the door
had closed behind them, and the coroner's officer had shouted the
little crowd into silence, the inquest took a short course to its end.

Mr. Cripps, in the height of his consequence, began to feel serious
misgivings as to the issue of his stumble beyond the verities; and the
coroner's next words were a relief.

"I think that will be enough, Mr. Cripps," the coroner said; "no doubt
the police will be glad of your assistance." And with that he gave the
jury the little summing up that the case needed. There was the medical
evidence, and the evidence of the stabbing, and that evidence pointed
to an unmistakable conclusion. Nobody was in custody, nor had the
murderer been positively identified, and such evidence as there was in
this respect was for the consideration of the police. He thought the
jury would have no difficulty in arriving at a verdict. The jury had
none; and the verdict was Murder by some Person or Persons unknown.

The other inquest gave even less trouble. Mr. Henry Viney, shipowner,
had seen the body, and identified it as that of his partner Lewis
Marr. Marr had suddenly disappeared a week ago, and an examination of
his accounts showed serious defalcations, in consequence of which
witness had filed his petition in bankruptcy. Whether or not Marr had
taken money with him witness could not say, as deceased had entire
charge of the accounts; but it seemed more likely that embezzlement
had been going on for some time past, and Marr had fled when detection
could no longer be averted. This might account for his dressing, and
presumably seeking work, as a sailor.

The divisional surgeon of police had examined the body, and found a
large wound on the head, fully sufficient to have caused death,
inflicted either by some heavy, blunt instrument, or by a fall from a
height on a hard substance. One thigh was fractured, and there were
other wounds and contusions, but these, as well as the broken thigh,
were clearly caused after death. The blow on the head might have been
caused by an accident on the riverside, or it might have been
inflicted wilfully by an assailant.

Then there was the evidence of the man who had found the body foul of
a rudder and a hawser, and of the police who had found nothing on the
body. And there was no more evidence at all. The coroner having
sympathised deeply with Mr. Viney, gave the jury the proper lead, and
the jury with perfect propriety returned the open verdict that the
doctor's evidence and the coroner's lead suggested. The case, except
for the circumstances of Marr's flight, was like a hundred others
inquired upon thereabout in the course of a few weeks, and in an hour
it was in a fair way to be forgotten, even by the little crowd that
clumped downstairs to try both cases all over again in the bar of the
Hole in the Wall.

To the coroner, the jury, and the little crowd, these were two
inquests with nothing to connect them but the accident of time and the
convenience of the Hole in the Wall club-room. But Blind George,
standing in the street with his fiddle, and getting the news from the
club-room in scraps between song and patter, knew more and guessed
better.



                             CHAPTER XIII

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

I found it a busy morning at the Hole in the Wall, that of the two
inquests. I perceived that, by some occult understanding, business in
one department was suspended; the pale man idled without, and nobody
came into the little compartment to exhibit valuables. Grandfather Nat
had a deal to do in making ready the club-room over the bar, and then
in attending the inquests. And it turned out that Mrs. Grimes had
settled on this day in particular to perform a vast number of extra
feats of housewifery in the upper floors. Notwithstanding the
disturbance of this additional work, Mrs. Grimes was most amazingly
amiable, even to me; but she was so persistent in requiring, first the
key of one place, then of another, next of a chest of drawers, and
again of a cupboard, that at last my grandfather distractedly gave her
the whole bunch, and told her not to bother him any more. The bunch
held all she could require--indeed I think it comprised every key my
grandfather had, except that of his cash-box--and she went away with
it amiable still, notwithstanding the hastiness of his expressions; so
that I was amazed to find Mrs. Grimes so meek, and wondered vaguely
and childishly if it were because she felt ill, and expected to die
shortly.

Mr. Cripps was in the bar as soon as the doors were open, in a
wonderful state of effervescence. He was to make a great figure at the
inquest, it appeared, and the pride and glory of it kept him nervously
on the strut, till the coroner came, and Mr. Cripps mounted to the
club-room with the jury. He was got up for his part as completely as
circumstances would allow; grease was in his hair, his hat stood at an
angle, and his face exhibited an unfamiliar polish, occasioned by a
towel.

For my own part, I sat in the bar-parlour and amused myself as I
might. Blind George was singing in the street, and now and again I
could hear the guffaw that signalised some sally that had touched his
audience. Above, things were quiet enough for some while, and then my
grandfather came heavily downstairs carrying a woman who had fainted.
I had not noticed the woman among the people who went up, but now
Grandfather Nat brought her through the bar, and into the parlour; and
as she lay on the floor just as the stabbed man had lain, I recognised
her face also; for she was the coarse-faced woman who had stopped my
grandfather near Blue Gate with vague and timid questions, when we
were on our way from the London Dock.

Grandfather Nat roared up the little staircase for Mrs. Grimes, and
presently she descended, amiable still; till she saw the coarse woman,
and was asked to help her. She looked on the woman with something of
surprise and something of confusion; but carried it off at once with a
toss of the head, a high phrase or so--"likes of 'er--respectable
woman"--and a quick retreat upstairs.

I believe my grandfather would have brought her down again by main
force, but the woman on the floor stirred, and began scrambling up,
even before she knew where she was. She held the shelf, and looked
dully about her, with a hoarse "Beg pardon, sir, beg pardon." Then she
went across toward the door, which stood ajar, stared stupidly, with a
look of some dawning alarm, and said again, "Beg pardon, sir--I bin
queer"; and with that was gone into the passage.

It was not long after her departure ere the business above was over,
and the people came tramping and talking down into the bar, filling it
close, and giving Joe the potman all the work he could do. The coroner
came down by our private stairs into the bar-parlour, ushered with
great respect by my grandfather; and at his heels, taking occasion by
a desperately extemporised conversation with Grandfather Nat, came Mr.
Cripps.

There had never been an inquest at the Hole in the Wall before, and my
grandfather had been at some exercise of mind as to the proper
entertainment of the coroner. He had decided, after consideration,
that the gentleman could scarce be offended at the offer of a little
lunch, and to that end he had made ready with a cold fowl and a bottle
of claret, which Mrs. Grimes would presently be putting on the table.
The coroner was not offended, but he would take no lunch; he was very
pleasantly obliged by the invitation, but his lunch had been already
ordered at some distance; and so he shook hands with Grandfather Nat
and went his way. A circumstance that had no small effect on my
history.

For it seemed to Mr. Cripps, who saw the coroner go, that by dexterous
management the vacant place at our dinner-table (for what the coroner
would call lunch we called dinner) might fall to himself. It had
happened once or twice before, on special occasions, that he had been
allowed to share a meal with Captain Nat, and now that he was brushed
and oiled for company, and had publicly distinguished himself at an
inquest, he was persuaded that the occasion was special beyond
precedent, and he set about to improve it with an assiduity and an
innocent cunning that were very transparent indeed. So he was
affectionately admiring with me, deferentially loquacious with my
grandfather, and very friendly with Joe the potman and Mrs. Grimes. It
was a busy morning, he observed, and he would be glad to do anything
to help.

At that time the houses on Wapping Wall were not encumbered with
dust-bins, since the river was found a more convenient receptacle for
rubbish. Slops were flung out of a back window, and kitchen refuse
went the same way, or was taken to the river stairs and turned out,
either into the water or on the foreshore, as the tide might chance.
Mrs. Grimes carried about with her in her dustings and sweepings an
old coal-scuttle, which held hearth-brushes, shovels, ashes, cinders,
potato-peelings, and the like; and at the end of her work, when the
brushes and shovels had been put away, she carried the coal-scuttle,
sometimes to the nearest window, but more often to the river stairs,
and flung what remained into the Thames.

Just as Mr. Cripps was at his busiest and politest, Mrs. Grimes
appeared with the old coal-scuttle, piled uncommonly high with ashes
and dust and half-burned pipe-lights. She set it down by the door,
gave my grandfather his keys, and turned to prepare the table.
Instantly Mr. Cripps, watchful in service, pounced on the scuttle.

"I'll pitch this 'ere away for you, mum," he said, "while you're
seein' to Cap'en Kemp's dinner"; and straightway started for the
stairs.

Mrs. Grimes's back was turned at the moment, and this gave Mr. Cripps
the start of a yard or two; but she flung round and after him like a
maniac; so that both Grandfather Nat and I stared in amazement.

"Give me that scuttle!" she cried, snatching at the hinder handle.
"Mind your own business, an' leave my things alone!"

Mr. Cripps was amazed also, and he stuttered, "I--I--I--on'y--on'y----"

"Drop it, you fool!" the woman hissed, so suddenly savage that Mr.
Cripps did drop it, with a start that sent him backward against a
post; and the consequence was appalling.

Mr. Cripps was carrying the coal-scuttle by its top handle, and Mrs.
Grimes, reaching after it, had seized that at the back; so that when
Mr. Cripps let go, everything in the scuttle shot out on the
paving-stones; first, of course, the ashes and the pipe-lights; then
on top of them, crowning the heap--Grandfather Nat's cash-box!

I suppose my grandfather must have recovered from his astonishment
first, for the next thing I remember is that he had Mrs. Grimes back
in the bar-parlour, held fast by the arm, while he carried his
cash-box in the disengaged hand. Mr. Cripps followed, bewildered but
curious; and my grandfather, pushing his prisoner into a far corner,
turned and locked the door.

Mrs. Grimes, who had been crimson, was now white; but more, it seemed
to me, with fury than with fear. My grandfather took the key from his
watch-guard and opened the box, holding it where the contents were
visible to none but himself. He gave no more than a quick glance
within, and re-locked it; from which I judged--and judged aright--that
the pocket-book was safe.

"There's witnesses enough here," said my grandfather,--for Joe the
potman was now staring in from the bar--"to give you a good dose o'
gaol, mum. 'Stead o' which I pay your full week's money and send you
packin'!" He pulled out some silver from his pocket. "Grateful or not
to me don't matter, but I hope you'll be honest where you go next, for
your own sake."

"Grateful! Honest!" Mrs. Grimes gasped, shaking with passion. "'Ear
'im talk! Honest! Take me to the station now, and bring that box an'
show 'em inside it! Go on!"

I felt more than a little alarmed at this challenge, having regard to
the history of the pocket-book; and I remembered the night when we
first examined it, the creaking door, and the soft sounds on the
stairs. But Grandfather Nat was wholly undisturbed; he counted over
the money calmly, and pushed it across the little table.

"There it is, mum," he said, "an' there's your bonnet an' shawl in the
corner. There's nothing else o' yours in the place, I believe, so
there's no need for you to go out o' my sight till you go out of it
altogether. That you'd better do quick. I'll lay the dinner myself."

Mrs. Grimes swept up the money and began fixing her bonnet on her head
and tying the strings under her chin, with savage jerks and a great
play of elbow; her lips screwing nervously, and her eyes blazing with
spite.

"Ho yus!" she broke out--though her rage was choking her--as she
snatched her shawl. "Ho yus! A nice pusson, Cap'en Nat Kemp, to talk
about honesty an' gratefulness--a nice pusson! A nice teacher for
young master 'opeful, I must say, an' 'opin' 'e'll do ye credit! It
ain't the last you'll see o' me, Captain Nat Kemp! . . . Get out o' my
way, you old lickspittle!"

Mr. Cripps got out of it with something like a bound, and Mrs. Grimes
was gone with a flounce and a slam of the door.

Scold as she was, and furious as she was, I was conscious that
something in my grandfather's scowl had kept her speech within bounds,
and shortened her clamour; for few cared to face Captain Nat's anger.
But with the slam of the door the scowl broke, and he laughed.

"Come," he said, "that's well over, an' I owe you a turn, Mr. Cripps,
though you weren't intending it. Stop an' have a bit of dinner. And if
you'd like something on account to buy the board for the sign--or say
two boards if you like--we'll see about it after dinner."

It will be perceived that Grandfather Nat had no reason to regret the
keeping of his cash-box key on his watchguard. For had it been with
the rest, in Mrs. Grimes's hands, she need never have troubled to
smuggle out the box among the ashes, since the pocket-book was no such
awkward article, and would have gone in her pocket. Mrs. Grimes had
taken her best chance and failed. The disorders caused by the inquests
had left her unobserved, the keys were in her hands, and the cash-box
was left in the cupboard upstairs; but the sedulous Mr. Cripps had
been her destruction.

As for that artist, he attained his dinner, and a few shillings under
the name of advance; and so was well pleased with his morning's work.



                             CHAPTER XIV

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

A policeman brought my grandfather a bill, which was stuck against the
bar window with gelatines; and just such another bill was posted on
the wall at the head of Hole-in-the-Wall Stairs, above the smaller
bills that advertised the found bodies. This new bill was six times
the size of those below; it was headed "Murder" in grim black
capitals, and it set forth an offer of fifty pounds reward for
information which should lead to the apprehension of the murderer of
Robert Kipps.

The offer gave Grandfather Nat occasion for much solemn banter of Mr.
Cripps: banter which seemed to cause Mr. Cripps a curious uneasiness,
and time and again stopped his eloquence in full flood. He had been at
the pains to cut from newspapers such reports of the inquest as were
printed; and though they sadly disappointed him by their brevity, and
all but two personally affronted him by disregarding his evidence and
himself altogether, still he made great play with the exceptional two,
in the bar. But he was quick to drop the subject when Captain Nat
urged him in pursuit of the reward.

"Come," my grandfather would say, "you're neglecting your fortune, you
know. There's fifty pound waitin' for you to pick up, if you'd only go
an' collar that murderer. An' you'd know him anywhere." Whereupon Mr.
Cripps would look a little frightened, and subside.

I did not learn till later how the little painter's vanity had pushed
him over bounds at the inquest, so far that he committed himself to an
absolute recognition of the murderer. The fact alarmed him not a
little, on his return to calmness, and my grandfather, who understood
his indiscretion as well as himself, and enjoyed its consequences, in
his own grim way, amused himself at one vacant moment and another by
setting Mr. Cripps's alarm astir again.

"You're throwing away your luck," he would say, perhaps, "seein' you
know him so well by sight. If you're too well-off to bother about
fifty pound, give some of us poor 'uns a run for it, an' put us on to
him. I wish I'd been able to see him so clear." For in truth
Grandfather Nat well knew that nobody had had so near a chance of
seeing the murderer's face as himself; and that Mr. Cripps, at the top
of the passage--perhaps even round the corner--had no chance at all.

It was because of Mr. Cripps's indiscretion, in fact--this I learned
later still--that the police were put off the track of the real
criminal. For after due reflection on the direful complications
whereinto his lapse promised to fling him, that distinguished witness,
as I have already hinted, fell into a sad funk. So, though he needs
must hold to the tale that he knew the man by sight, and could
recognise him again, he resolved that come what might, he would
identify nobody, and so keep clear of further entanglements. Now the
police suspicions fell shrewdly on Dan Ogle, a notorious ruffian of
the neighbourhood. He had been much in company of the murdered man of
late, and now was suddenly gone from his accustomed haunts. Moreover,
there was the plain agitation of the woman he consorted with, Musky
Mag, at the inquest: she had fainted, indeed, when Mr. Cripps had been
so positive about identifying the murderer. These things were nothing
of evidence, it was true; for that they must depend on the witness who
saw the fellow's face, knew him by sight, and could identify him. But
when they came to this witness with their inquiries and suggestions
the thing went overboard at a breath. Was the assassin a tall man? Not
at all--rather short, in fact. Was he a heavy-framed, bony fellow? On
the contrary, he was fat rather than bony. Did Mr. Cripps ever happen
to have seen a man called Dan Ogle, and was this man at all like him?
Mr. Cripps had been familiar with Dan Ogle's appearance from his youth
up (this was true, for the painter's acquaintance was wide and
diverse) but the man who killed Bob Kipps was as unlike him as it was
possible for any creature on two legs to be. Then, would Mr. Cripps,
if the thing came to trial, swear that the man he saw was not Dan
Ogle? Mr. Cripps was most fervently and desperately ready and anxious
to swear that it was not, and could not by any possibility be Dan
Ogle, or anybody like him.

This brought the police inquiries to a halt: even had their suspicions
been stronger and better supported, it would have been useless to
arrest Dan Ogle, supposing they could find him; for this, the sole
possible witness to identity, would swear him innocent. So they turned
their inquiries to fresh quarters, looking among the waterside
population across the river--since it was plain that the murderer had
rowed over--for recent immigrants from Wapping. For a little while Mr.
Cripps was vexed and disquieted with invitations to go with a
plainclothes policeman and "take a quiet look" at some doubtful
characters; but of course with no result, beyond the welcome one of an
occasional free drink ordered as an excuse for waiting at bars and
tavern-corners; and in time these attentions ceased, for the police
were reduced to waiting for evidence to turn up; and Mr. Cripps
breathed freely once more. While Dan Ogle remained undisturbed, and
justice was balked for a while; for it turned out in the end that when
the police suspected Dan Ogle they were right, and when they went to
other conjectures they were wrong.

All this was ahead of my knowledge at the moment, however, as, indeed,
it is somewhat ahead of my story; and for the while I did not more
than wonder to see Mr. Cripps abashed at an encouragement to earn
fifty pounds; for he seemed not a penny richer than before, and still
impetrated odd coppers on account of the sign-board of promise.

Once or twice we saw Mr. Viney, and on each occasion he borrowed money
off Grandfather Nat. The police were about the house a good deal at
this time, because of the murder, or I think he might have come
oftener. The first time he came I heard him telling my grandfather
that he had got hold of Blind George, that Blind George had told him a
good deal about the missing money, and that with his help he hoped for
a chance of saving some of it. He added, mysteriously, that it had
been "nearer hereabouts than you might think, at one time"; a piece of
news that my grandfather received with a proper appearance of
surprise. But was it safe to confide in Blind George? Viney swore for
an answer, and said that the rascal had stipulated for such a handsome
share that it would pay him to play square.

On the last of these visits I again overheard some scraps of their
talk, and this time it was angrier. I judged that Viney wanted more
money than my grandfather was disposed to give him. They were together
in the back room where the boxes and bottles were--the room into which
I had seen Bill Stagg's head and shoulders thrust by way of the
trap-door. My grandfather's voice was low, and from time to time he
seemed to be begging Viney to lower his; so that I wondered to find
Grandfather Nat so mild, since in the bar he never twice told a man to
lower his voice, but if once were not enough, flung him into the
street. And withal Viney paid no heed, but talked as he would, so that
I could catch his phrases again and again.

"Let them hush as is afraid--I ain't," he said. And again: "O, am I?
Not me. . . . It's little enough for me, if it does; not the rope,
anyway." And later, "Yes, the rope, Cap'en Kemp, as you know well
enough; the rope at Newgate Gaol. . . . Dan Webb, aboard o' the
/Florence/. . . . The /Florence/ that was piled up on the Little
Dingoes in broad day. . . . As you was ordered o' course, but that
don't matter. . . . That's what I want now, an' no less. Think it
lucky I offer to pay back when I get-- . . . Well, be sensible-- . . .
I'm friendly enough. . . . Very well."

Presently my grandfather, blacker than common about brow and eyes, but
a shade paler in the cheek, came into the bar-parlour and opened the
trade cash-box--not the one that Mrs. Grimes had hidden among the
cinders, but a smaller one used for gold and silver. He counted out a
number of sovereigns--twenty, I believe--put the box away, and
returned to the back room. And in a few minutes, with little more
talk, Mr. Viney was gone.

Grandfather Nat came into the bar-parlour again, and his face cleared
when he saw me, as it always would, no matter how he had been ruffled.
He stood looking in my face for a while, but with the expression of
one whose mind is engaged elsewhere. Then he rubbed his hand on my
head, and said abstractedly, and rather to himself, I fancied, than to
me: "Never mind, Stevy; we got it back beforehand, forty times over."
A remark that I thought over afterward, in bed, with the reflection
that forty times twenty was eight hundred.

But Mr. Viney's talk in the back room brought most oddly into my mind,
in a way hard to account for, the first question I put to my
grandfather after my arrival at the Hole in the Wall: "Did you ever
kill a man, Grandfather Nat?"



                              CHAPTER XV

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

The repeated multiplication of twenty by forty sent me to sleep that
night, and I woke with that arithmetical exercise still running in my
head. A candle was alight in the room--ours was one of several houses
in Wapping Wall without gas--and I peeped sleepily over the
bed-clothes. Grandfather Nat was sitting with the cash-box on his
knees, and the pocket-book open in his hand. He may just have been
counting the notes over again, or not; but now he was staring moodily
at the photograph that lay with them. Once or twice he turned his eyes
aside, and then back again to the picture, as though searching his
memory for some old face; then I thought he would toss it away as
something valueless; but when his glance fell on the fireless grate he
returned the card to its place and locked the box.

When the cash-box was put away in the little cupboard at his bed-head,
he came across and looked down at me. At first I shut my eyes, but
peeped. I found him looking on me with a troubled and thoughtful face;
so that presently I sat up with a jump and asked him what he was
thinking about.

"Fox's sleep, Stevy?" he said, with his hand under my chin. "Well,
boy, I was thinking about you. I was thinking it's a good job your
father's coming home soon, Stevy; though I don't like parting with
you."

Parting with me? I did not understand. Wouldn't father be going away
again soon?

"Well, I dunno, Stevy, I dunno. I've been thinking a lot just lately,
that's a fact. This place is good enough for me, but it ain't a good
place to bring up a boy like you in; not to make him the man I want
you to be, Stevy. Somehow it didn't strike me that way at first,
though it ought to ha' done. It ought to ha' done, seein' it struck
strangers--an' not particular moral strangers at that."

He was thinking of Blind George and Mrs. Grimes. Though at the moment
I wondered if his talk with Mr. Viney had set him doubting.

"No, Stevy," he resumed, "it ain't giving you a proper chance, keeping
you here. You can't get lavender water out o' the bilge, an' this
part's the bilge of all London. I want you to be a better man than me,
Stevy."

I could not imagine anybody being a better man than Grandfather Nat,
and the prospect of leaving him oppressed me dismally. And where was I
to go? I remembered the terrible group of aunts at my mother's
funeral, and a shadowy fear that I might be transferred to one of
those virtuous females--perhaps to Aunt Martha--put a weight on my
heart. "Don't send me away, Gran'fa Nat!" I pleaded, with something
pulling at the corners of my mouth; "I haven't been a bad boy yet,
have I?"

He caught me up and sat me on his fore-arm, so that my face almost
touched his, and I could see my little white reflection in his eyes.
"You're the best boy in England, Stevy," he said, and kissed me
affectionately. "The best boy in the world. An' I wouldn't let go o'
you for a minute but for your own good. But see now, Stevy, see; as to
goin' away, now. You'll have to go to school, my boy, won't you? An'
the best school we can manage--a gentleman's school; boardin' school,
you know. Well, that'll mean goin' away, won't it? An' then it
wouldn't do for you to go to a school like that, not from here, you
know--which you'll understand when you get there, among the others. My
boy--my boy an' your father's--has got to be as good a gentleman as
any of 'em, an' not looked down on because o' comin' from a Wapping
public like this, an' sent by a rough old chap like me. See?"

I thought very hard over this view of things, which was difficult to
understand. Who should look down on me because of Grandfather Nat, of
whom I was so fond and so proud? Grandfather Nat, who had sailed ships
all over the world, had seen storms and icebergs and wrecks, and who
was treated with so much deference by everybody who came to the Hole
in the Wall? Then I thought again of the aunts at the funeral, and
remembered how they had tilted their chins at him; and I wondered,
with forebodings, if people at a boarding school were like those
aunts.

"So I've been thinking, Stevy, I've been thinking," my grandfather
went on, after a pause. "Now, there's the wharf on the Cop. The work's
gettin' more, and Grimes is gettin' older. But you don't know about
the wharf. Grimes is the man that manages there for me; he's Mrs.
Grimes's brother-in-law, an' when his brother died he recommended the
widder to me, an' that's how she came: an' now she's gone; but that's
neither here nor there. Years ago Grimes himself an' a boy was enough
for all the work there was; now there's three men reg'lar, an' work
for more. Most o' the lime comes off the barges there for the new
gas-works, an' more every week. Now there's business there, an' a
respectable business--too much for Grimes. An' if your father'll take
on a shore job--an' it's a hard life, the sea--here it is. He can have
a share--have the lot  if he likes--for your sake, Stevy; an' it'll
build up into a good thing. Grimes'll be all right--we can always find
a job for him. An' you can go an' live with your father somewhere
respectable an' convenient; not such a place as Wapping, an' not such
people. An' you can go to school from there, like any other young
gentleman. We'll see about it when your father comes home."

"But shan't I ever see you, Gran'fa' Nat?"

"See me, my boy? Ay, that you will--if you don't grow too proud--that
you will, an' great times we'll have, you an' your father an' me, all
ashore together, in the holidays, won't we? An' I'll take care of your
own little fortune--the notes--till you're old enough to have it. I've
been thinking about that, too." Here he stood me on my bed and
playfully pushed me back and forward by the shoulders. "I've been
thinking about that, an' if it was lyin' loose in the street I'd be
puzzled clean to say who'd really lost it, what with one thing an'
another. But it /ain't/ in the street, an' it's yours, with no puzzle
about it. But there--lie down, Stevy, an' go to sleep. Your old
grandfather's holdin' forth worse'n a parson, eh? Comes o' bein' a
lonely man an' havin' nobody to talk to, except myself, till you come.
Lie down an' don't bother yourself. We must wait till your father
comes home. We'll keep watch for the /Juno/ in the List,--she ought to
ha' been reported at Barbadoes before this. An' we must run down to
Blackwall, too, an' see if there's any letters from him. So go to
sleep now, Stevy--we'll settle it all--we'll settle it all when your
father comes home!"

So I lay and dozed, with words to send me to sleep instead of figures:
till they made a tune and seemed to dance to it. "When father comes
home: when father comes home: we'll settle it all, when father comes
home!" And presently, in some unaccountable way, Mr. Cripps came into
the dance with his "Up to their r'yals, up to their r'yals: the
wessels is deep in, up to their r'yals!" and so I fell asleep wholly.



In the morning I was astir early, and watching the boats and the
shipping from the bedroom window ere my grandfather had ceased his
alarming snore. It was half an hour later, and Grandfather Nat was
busy with his razor on the upper lip that my cheeks so well
remembered, when we heard Joe the potman at the street door. Whereat I
took the keys and ran down to let him in; a feat which I accomplished
by aid of a pair of steps, much tugging at heavy bolts, and a supreme
wrench at the big key.

Joe brought /Lloyd's List/ in with him every morning from the early
newsagent's in Cable Street. I took the familiar journal at once, and
dived into the midst of its quaint narrow columns, crowded with
italics, in hope of news from Barbadoes. For I wished to find for
myself, and run upstairs, with a child's importance, to tell
Grandfather Nat. But there was no news from Barbadoes--that is, there
was no news of my father's ship. The name Barbadoes stood boldly
enough, with reports below it, of arrivals and sailings, and one of an
empty boat washed ashore; but that was all. So I sat where I was,
content to wait, and to tell Grandfather Nat presently, offhand from
over my paper, like a politician in the bar, that there was no news.
Thus, cutting the leaves with a table-knife, my mind on my father's
voyage, it occurred to me that I could not spell La Guaira, the name
of the port his ship was last reported from; and I turned the paper to
look for it. The name was there, with only one message attached, and
while I was slowing conning the letters over the third time, I was
suddenly aware of a familiar word beneath--the name of the /Juno/
herself. And this was the notice that I read:


                                                La Guaira, Sep. 1.

  The /Juno/ (brig) of London, Beecher, from this for Barbadoes,
  foundered N of Margarita. Total loss. All crew saved except first
  mate. Master and crew landed Margarita.



                             CHAPTER XVI

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

I cannot remember how I reached Grandfather Nat. I must have climbed
the stairs, and I fancy I ran into him on the landing; but I only
remember his grim face, oddly grey under the eyes, as he sat on his
bed and took the paper in his hand. I do not know even what I said,
and I doubt if I knew then; the only words present to my mind were
"all crew saved except first mate"; and very likely that was what I
said.

My grandfather drew me between his knees, and I stood with his arm
about me and his bowed head against my cheek. I noticed bemusedly that
with his hair fresh-brushed the line between the grey and the brown at
the back was more distinct than common; and when there was a sudden
clatter in the bar below I wondered if Joe had smashed something, or
if it were only a tumble of the pewters. So we were for a little; and
then Grandfather Nat stood up with a sound between a sigh and a gulp,
looking strangely askant at me, as though it surprised him to find I
was not crying. For my part I was dimly perplexed to see that neither
was he; though the grey was still under his eyes, and his face seemed
pinched and older. "Come, Stevy," he said, and his voice was like a
groan; "we'll have the house shut again."

I cannot remember that he spoke to me any more for an hour, except to
ask if I would eat any breakfast, which I did with no great loss of
appetite; though indeed I was trying very hard to think, hindered by
an odd vacancy of mind that made a little machine of me.

Breakfast done, my grandfather sent Joe for a cab to take us to
Blackwell. I was a little surprised at the unaccustomed conveyance,
and rather pleased. When we were ready to go, we found Mr. Cripps and
two other regular frequenters of the bar waiting outside. I think Mr.
Cripps meant to have come forward with some prepared condolence; but
he stopped short when he saw my grandfather's face, and stood back
with the others. The four-wheeler was a wretched vehicle, reeking of
strong tobacco and stale drink; for half the employment of such cabs
as the neighbourhood possessed was to carry drunken sailors, flush of
money, who took bottles and pipes with them everywhere.

Whether it was the jolting of the cab--Wapping streets were paved with
cobbles--that shook my faculties into place; whether it was the
association of the cab and the journey to Blackwall that reminded me
of my mother's funeral; or whether it was the mere lapse of a little
time, I cannot tell. But as we went, the meaning of the morning's news
grew on me, and I realised that my father was actually dead, drowned
in the sea, and that I was wholly an orphan; and it struck me with a
sense of self-reproach that the fact afflicted me no more than it did.
When my mother and my little brother had died I had cried myself
sodden and faint; but now, heavy of heart as I was, I felt curiously
ashamed that Grandfather Nat should see me tearless. True, I had seen
very little of my father, but when he was at home he was always as
kind to me as Grandfather Nat himself, and led me about with him
everywhere; and last voyage he had brought me a little boomerang, and
only laughed when I hove it through a window that cost him three
shillings. Thus I pondered blinkingly in the cab; and I set down my
calmness to the reflection that my mother would have him always with
her now, and be all the happier in heaven for it; for she always cried
when he went to sea.

So at last we came in sight of the old quay, and had to wait till the
bridge should swing behind a sea-beaten ship, with her bulwarks
patched with white plank, and the salt crust thick on her spars. I
could see across the lock the three little front windows of our house,
shut close and dumb; and I could hear the quick chanty from the quay,
where the capstan turned:--


              O, I served my time on the Black Ball Line,
                  Hurrah for the Black Ball Line!
              From the South Sea north to the sixty-nine,
                  Hurrah for the Black Ball Line!


And somehow with that I cried at last.

The ship passed in, the bridge shut, and the foul old cab rattled till
it stopped before the well-remembered door. The house had been closed
since my mother was buried, Grandfather Nat paying the rent and
keeping the key on my father's behalf; and now the door opened with a
protesting creak and a shudder, and the air within was close and
musty.

There were two letters on the mat, where they had fallen from the
letter-flap, and both were from my father, as was plain from the
writing. We carried them into the little parlour, where last we had
sat with the funeral party, and my grandfather lifted the blind and
flung open the window. Then he sat and put one letter on each knee.

"Stevy," he said, and again his voice was like a groan; "look at them
postmarks. Ain't one Belize?"

Yes, one was Belize, the other La Guaira; and both for my mother.

"Ah, one's been lyin' here; the other must ha' come yesterday, by the
same mail as brought the news." He took the two letters again, turned
them over and over, and shook his head. Then he replaced them on his
knees and rested his fists on his thighs, just above where they lay.

"I don't know as we ought to open 'em, Stevy," he said wearily. "I
dunno, Stevy, I dunno."

He turned each over once more, and shut his fists again. "I dunno, I
dunno . . . Man an' wife, between 'emselves . . . Wouldn't do it,
living . . . Stevy boy, we'll take 'em home an' burn 'em."

But to me the suggestion seemed incomprehensible--even shocking. I
could see no reason for burning my father's last message home.
"Perhaps there's a little letter for me, Gran'father Nat," I said. "He
used to put one in sometimes. Can't we look? And mother used to read
me her letters too."

My grandfather sat back and rubbed his hand up through his hair
behind, as he would often do when in perplexity. At last he said,
"Well, well, it's hard to tell. We should never know what we'd burnt,
if we did . . . We'll look, Stevy . . . An' I'll read no further than
I need. Come, the Belize letter's first . . . Sein I ain't doin'
wrong, that's all."

He tore open the cover and pulled out the sheets of flimsy foreign
note-paper, holding them to the light almost at arm's length, as
long-sighted men do. And as he read, slowly as always, with a leathery
forefinger following the line, the grey under the old man's eyes grew
wet at last, and wetter. What the letter said is no matter here. There
was talk of me in it, and talk of my little brother--or sister, as it
might have been for all my father could know. And again there was the
same talk in the second letter--the one from La Guaira. But in this
latter another letter was enclosed, larger than that for my mother,
which was in fact uncommonly short. And here, where the dead spoke to
the dead no more, but to the living, was matter that disturbed my
grandfather more than all the rest.

The enclosure was not for me, as I had hoped, but for Grandfather Nat
himself; and it was not a simple loose sheet folded in with the rest,
but a letter in its own smaller envelope, close shut down, with the
words "Capn. Kemp" on the face. My grandfather read the first few
lines with increasing agitation, and then called me to the window.

"See here, Stevy," he said, "it's wrote small, to get it in, an' I'm
slow with it. Read it out quick as you can."

And so I read the letter, which I keep still, worn at the folds and
corners by the old man's pocket, where he carried it afterward.


  Dear Father,--Just a few lines private hoping they find you well.
  This is my hardest trip yet, and the queerest, and I write in case
  anything happens and I don't see you again. This is for yourself,
  you understand, and I have made it all cheerful to the Mrs.,
  specially as she is still off her health, no doubt. Father, the
  /Juno/ was not meant to come home this trip, and if ever she
  rounds Blackwall Point again it will be in spite of the skipper.
  He had his first try long enough back, on the voyage out, and it
  was then she was meant to go; for she was worse found than ever I
  saw a ship--even a ship of Viney's; and not provisioned for more
  than half the run out, proper rations. And I say it plain, and
  will say it as plain to anybody, that the vessel would have been
  piled up or dropped under and the insurance paid months before you
  get this if I had not pretty nigh mutinied more than once. He said
  he would have me in irons, but he shan't have the chance if I can
  help it. You know Beecher. Four times I reckon he has tried to
  pile her up, every time in the best weather and near a safe
  port--/foreign/. The men would have backed me right through--some
  of them did--but they deserted one after another all round the
  coast, Monte Video, Rio and Bahia, and small blame to them, and we
  filled up with half-breeds and such. The last of the ten and the
  boy went at Bahia, so that now I have no witness but the second
  mate, and he is either in it or a fool--I think a fool: but
  perhaps both. Not a man to back me. Else I might have tried to
  report or something, at Belize, though that is a thing best
  avoided of course. No doubt he has got his orders, so I am not to
  blame him, perhaps. But I have got no orders--not to lose the
  ship, I mean--and so I am doing my duty. Twice I have come up and
  took the helm from him, but that was with the English crew aboard.
  He has been quiet lately, and perhaps he has given the job up; at
  any rate I expect he won't try to pile her up again--more likely a
  quiet turn below with a big auger. He is still mighty particular
  about the long-boat being all right, and the falls clear, etc. If
  he does it I have a notion it may be some time when I have turned
  in; I can't keep awake all watches. And he knows I am about the
  only man aboard who won't sign whatever he likes before a consul.
  You know what I mean; and you know Beecher too. Don't tell the
  Mrs. of course. Say this letter is about a new berth or what not.
  No doubt it is all right, but it came in my head to drop you a
  line, on the off chance, and a precious long line I have made of
  it. So no more at present from--Your Affectionate Son,

                                                        Nathaniel.

  P.S. I am in half a mind to go ashore at Barbadoes, and report.
  But perhaps best not. That sort of thing don't do.


While I read, my grandfather had been sitting with his head between
his hands, and his eyes directed to the floor, so that I could not see
his face. So he remained for a little while after I had finished,
while I stood in troubled wonder. Then he looked up, his face stern
and hard beyond the common: and his was a stern face at best.

"Stevy," he said, "do you know what that means, that you've been
a-readin'?"

I looked from his face to the letter, and back again. "It means--means
. . . I think the skipper sank the ship on purpose."

"It means Murder, my boy, that's what it means. Murder, by the law of
England! 'Feloniously castin' away an' destroyin';' that's what they
call the one thing, though I'm no lawyer-man. An' it means prison;
though why, when a man follows orders faithful, I can't say; but well
I know it. An' if any man loses his life thereby it's Murder, whether
accidental or not; Murder an' the Rope, by the law of England, an'
bitter well I know that too! O bitter well I know it!"

He passed his palm over his forehead and eyes, and for a moment was
silent. Then he struck the palm on his knee and broke forth afresh.

"Murder, by the law of England, even if no more than accident in God's
truth. How much the more then this here, when the one man as won't
stand and see it done goes down in his berth? O, I've known that
afore, too, with a gimlet through the door-frame; an' I know Beecher.
But orders is orders, an' it's them as gives them as is to reckon
with. I've took orders myself. . . . Lord! Lord! an' I've none but a
child to talk to! A little child! . . . But you're no fool, Stevy. See
here now, an' remember. You know what's come to your father? He's
killed, wilful; murdered, like what they hang people for, at Newgate,
Stevy, by the law. An' do you know who's done it?"

I was distressed and bewildered, as well as alarmed by the old man's
vehemence. "The captain," I said, whimpering again.

"Viney!" my grandfather shouted. "Henry Viney, as I might ha' served
the same way, an' I wish I had! Viney and Marr's done it; an' Marr's
paid for it already. Lord, Lord!" he went on, with his face down in
his hands and his elbows on his knees. "Lord! I see a lot of it now!
It was what they made out o' the insurance that was to save the firm;
an' when my boy put in an' stopped it all the voyage out, an' more,
they could hold on no longer, but plotted to get out with what they
could lay hold of. Lord! it's plain as print, plain as print! Stevy!"
He lowered his hands and looked up. "Stevy! that money's more yours
now than ever. If I ever had a doubt--if it don't belong to the orphan
they've made--but there, it's sent you, boy, sent you, an' any one 'ud
believe in Providence after that."

In a moment more he was back at his earlier excitement. "But it's
Viney's done it," he said, with his fist extended before him.
"Remember, Stevy, when you grow up, it's Viney's done it, an' it's
Murder, by the law of England. Viney has killed your father, an' if it
was brought against him it 'ud be Murder!"

"Then," I said, "we'll go to the police station and they will catch
him."

My grandfather's hand dropped. "Ah, Stevy, Stevy," he groaned, "you
don't know, you don't know. It ain't enough for that, an' if it
was--if it was, I can't; I can't--not with you to look after. I might
do it, an' risk all, if it wasn't for that . . . My God, it's a
judgment on me--a cruel judgment! My own son--an' just the same
way--just the same way! . . . I can't, Stevy, not with you to take
care of. Stevy, I must keep myself safe for your sake, an' I can't
raise a hand to punish Viney. I can't, Stevy, I can't; for I'm a
guilty man myself, by the law of England--an' Viney knows it! Viney
knows it! Though it wasn't wilful, as God's my judge!"

Grandfather Nat ended with a groan, and sat still, with his head bowed
in his hands. Again I remembered, and now with something of awe, my
innocent question: "Did you ever kill a man, Grandfather Nat?"

Still he sat motionless and silent, till I could endure it no longer:
for in some way I felt frightened. So I went timidly and put my arm
about his neck. I fancied, though I was not sure, that I could feel a
tremble from his shoulders; but he was silent still. Nevertheless I
was oddly comforted by the contact, and presently, like a dog anxious
for notice, ventured to stroke the grey hair.

Soon then he dropped his hands and spoke. "I shouldn't ha' said it,
Stevy; but I'm all shook an' worried, an' I talked wild. It was no
need to say it, but there ain't a soul alive to speak to else, an'
somehow I talk as it might be half to myself. But you know what about
things I say--private things--don't you? Remember?" He sat erect
again, and raised a forefinger warningly, even sternly. "Remember,
Stevy! . . . But come--there's things to do. Give me the letter. We'll
get together any little things to be kep', papers an' what not, an'
take 'em home. An' I'll have to think about the rest, what's best to
be done; sell 'em, or what. But I dunno, I dunno!"



                             CHAPTER XVII

                             IN BLUE GATE

In her den at the black stair-top in Blue Gate, Musky Mag lurked,
furtive and trembling, after the inquests at the Hole in the Wall.
Where Dan Ogle might be hiding she could not guess, and she was torn
between a hundred fears and perplexities. Dan had been seen, and could
be identified; of that she was convinced, and more than convinced,
since she had heard Mr. Cripps's testimony. Moreover she well
remembered at what point in her own evidence the police-inspector had
handed the note to the coroner, and she was not too stupid to guess
the meaning of that. How could she warn Dan, how help or screen him,
how put to act that simple fidelity that was the sole virtue remaining
in her, all the greater for the loss of the rest? She had no money; on
the other hand she was confident that Dan must have with him the whole
pocket-book full of notes which had cost two lives already, and now
seemed like to cost the life she would so gladly buy with her own; for
they had not been found on Kipps's body, nor in any way spoken of at
the inquest. But then he might fear to change them. He could scarcely
carry a single one to the receivers who knew him, for his haunts would
be watched; more, a reward was offered, and no receiver would be above
making an extra fifty pounds on the transaction. For to her tortured
mind it seemed every moment more certain that the cry was up, and not
the police alone, but everybody else was on the watch to give the
gallows its due. She was uneasy at having no message. Doubtless he
needed her help, as he had needed it so often before; doubtless he
would come for it if he could, but that would be to put his head in
the noose. How could she reach him, and give it? Even if she had known
where he lay, to go to him would be to lead the police after her, for
she had no doubt that her own movements would be watched. She knew
that the boat wherein he had escaped had been found on the opposite
side of the river, and she, like others, judged from that that he
might be lurking in some of the waterside rookeries of the south bank;
the more as it was the commonest device of those "wanted" in Ratcliff
or Wapping to "go for a change" to Rotherhithe or Bankside, and for
those in a like predicament on the southern shores to come north in
the same way. But again, to go in search of him were but to share with
the police whatever luck might attend the quest. So that Musky Mag
feared alike to stay at home and to go abroad; longed to find Dan, and
feared it as much; wished to aid him, yet equally dreaded that he
should come to her or that she should go to him. And there was nothing
to do, therefore, but to wait and listen anxiously; to listen for
voices, or footsteps, even for creaks on the stairs; for a whistle
without that might be a signal; for an uproar or a sudden hush that
might announce the coming of the police into Blue Gate; even for a
whisper or a scratching at door or window wherewith the fugitive might
approach, fearful lest the police were there before him. But at
evening, when the place grew dark, and the thickest of the gloom drew
together, to make a monstrous shadow on the floor, where once she had
fallen over something in the dark--then she went and sat on the
stair-head, watching and dozing and waking in terror.

So went a day and a night, and another day. The corners of the room
grew dusk again, and with the afternoon's late light the table flung
its shadow on that same place on the floor; so that she went and moved
it toward the wall.

As she set it down she started and crouched, for now at last there was
a step on the stair--an unfamiliar step. A woman's, it would seem, and
stealthy. Musky Mag held by the table, and waited.

The steps ceased at the landing, and there was a pause. Then, with no
warning knock, the door was pushed open, and a head was thrust in,
covered by an old plaid shawl; a glance about the room, and the rest
of the figure followed, closing the door behind it; and, the shawl
being flung back from over the bonnet, there stood Mrs. Grimes, rusty
and bony, slack-faced and sour.

Mrs. Grimes screwed her red nose at the woman before her, jerked up
her crushed bonnet, and plucked her rusty skirt across her knees with
the proper virtuous twitch. Then said Mrs. Grimes: "Where's my brother
Dan?"

For a moment Musky Mag disbelieved eyes and ears together. The visit
itself, even more than the question, amazed and bewildered her. She
had been prepared for any visitor but this. For Mrs. Grimes's
relationship to Dan Ogle was a thing that exemplary lady made as close
a secret as she could, as in truth was very natural. She valued
herself on her respectability; she was the widow of a decent
lighterman, of a decent lightering and wharf-working family, and she
called herself "housekeeper" (though she might be scarce more than
charwoman) at the Hole in the Wall. She had never acknowledged her
lawless brother when she could in any way avoid it, and she had,
indeed, bargained that he should not come near her place of
employment, lest he compromise her; and so far from seeking him out in
his lodgings, she even had a way of failing to see him in the street.
What should she want in Blue Gate at such a time as this, asking thus
urgently for her brother Dan? What but the reward? For an instant
Mag's fears revived with a jump, though even as it came she put away
the fancy that such might be a design of any sister, however
respectable.

"Where's my brother Dan?" repeated Mrs. Grimes, abruptly.

"I--I don't know, mum," faltered Mag, husky and dull. "I ain't seen
'im for--for--some time."

"O, nonsense. I want 'im particular. I got somethink to tell 'im
important. If you won't say where 'e is, go an' find 'im."

"I wish I could, mum, truly. But I can't."

"Do you mean 'e's left you?" Mrs. Grimes bridled high, and helped it
with a haughty sniff.

"No, mum, not quite, in your way of speakin', I think, mum. But 'e's
gone--'e's just gone away for a bit."

"Ho. In trouble again, you mean, eh?"

"O, no, mum, not there," Mag answered readily; for, with her,
"trouble" was merely a genteel name for gaol. "Not there--not for a
long while."

"Where then?"

"That's what I dunno, mum; not at all."

Mrs. Grimes tightened her lips and glared; plainly she believed none
of these denials. "P'raps 'e's wanted," she snapped, "an' keepin' out
o' the way just now. Is that it?"

This was what no torture would have made Mag acknowledge; but, with
all her vehemence of denial, her discomposure was plain to see. "No,
mum, not that," she declared, pleadingly. "Reely 'e ain't, mum--reely
'e ain't; not that!"

"Pooh!" exclaimed Mrs. Grimes, seating herself with a flop. "That's a
lie, plain enough. 'E's layin' up somewhere, an' you know it. What
harm d'ye suppose I'm goin' to do 'im? 'E ain't robbed me--leastways
not lately. I got a job for 'im, I tell you--money in 'is pocket. If
you won't tell me, go an' tell 'im; go on. An' I'll wait."

"It's Gawd's truth, mum, I don't know where 'e is," Mag protested
earnestly. "'Ark! there's someone on the stairs! They'll 'ear. Go
away, mum, do. I'll try an' find 'im an' tell 'im--s'elp me I will! Go
away--they're comin'!"

In truth the footsteps had reached the stair-top, and now, with a
thump, the door was thrust open, and Blind George appeared, his fiddle
under his arm, his stick sweeping before him, and his white eye
rolling at the ceiling.

"Hullo!" he sung out. "Lady visitors! Or is it on'y one? 'Tain't
polite to tell the lady to go away, Mag! Good afternoon, mum, good
afternoon!" He nodded and grinned at upper vacancy, as one might at a
descending angel; Mrs. Grimes, meanwhile, close at his elbow,
preparing to get away as soon as he was clear past her. For Blind
George's keenness of hearing was well known, and she had no mind he
should guess her identity.

"Good afternoon, mum!" the blind man repeated. "Havin' tea?" He
advanced another step, and extended his stick. "What!" he added,
suddenly turning. "What! Table gone? What's this? Doin' a guy?
Clearin' out?"

"No, George," Mag answered. "I only moved the table over to the wall.
'Ere it is--come an' feel it." She made a quick gesture over his
shoulder, and Mrs. Grimes hurried out on tip-toe.

But at the first movement Blind George turned sharply. "There she
goes," he said, making for the door. "She don't like me. Timid little
darlin'! Hullo, my dear!" he roared down the stairs. "Hullo! you never
give me a kiss! I know you! Won't you say good-bye?"

He waited a moment, listening intently; but Mrs. Grimes scuttled into
the passage below without a word, and instantly Blind George
supplemented his endearments with a burst of foul abuse, and listened
again. This expedient succeeded no better than the first, and Mrs.
Grimes was gone without a sound that might betray her identity.

Blind George shut the door. "Who was that?" he asked.

"Oh, nobody partic'lar," Mag answered with an assumption of
indifference. "On'y a woman I know--name o' Jane. What d'you want?"

"Ah, now you're come to it." Blind George put his fiddle and bow on
the table and groped for a chair. "Fust," he went on, "is there
anybody else as can 'ear? Eh? Cracks or crannies or peepholes, eh?
'Cause I come as a pal, to talk private business, I do."

"It's all right, George; nobody can hear. What is it?"

"Why," said the blind man, catching her tight by the arm, and leaning
forward to whisper; "it's Dan, that's what it is. It's Dan!"

She was conscious of a catching of the breath and a thump of the
heart; and Blind George knew it too, for he felt it through the arm.

"It's Dan," he repeated. "So now you know if it's what you'd like
listened to."

"Go on," she said.

"Ah. Well, fust thing, all bein' snug, 'ere's five bob; catch 'old."
He slid his right hand down to her wrist, and with his left pressed
the money into hers. "All right, don't be frightened of it, it won't
'urt ye! Lord, I bet Dan 'ud do the same for me if I wanted it, though
'e is a bit rough sometimes. I ain't rich, but I got a few bob by me;
an' if a pal ain't to 'ave 'em, who is? Eh? Who is?"

He grinned under the white eye so ghastly a counterfeit of friendly
good-will that the woman shrank, and pulled at the wrist he held.

"Lord love ye," he went on, holding tight to the wrist, "I ain't the
bloke to round on a pal as is under a cloud. See what I might 'a'
done, if I'd 'a' wanted. I might 'a' gone an' let out all sorts o'
things, as you know very well yerself, at the inquest--both the
inquests. But did I? Not me. Not a bit of it. /That/ ain't my way. No;
I lay low, an' said nothing. What arter that? Why, there's fifty quid
reward offered, fifty quid--a fortune to a pore bloke like me. An' all
I got to do is to go and say 'Dan Ogle' to earn it--them two words an'
no more. Ain't that the truth? D'y' hear, ain't that the truth?"

He tugged at her wrist to extort an answer, and the woman's face was
drawn with fear. But she made a shift to say, with elaborate
carelessness, "Reward? What reward, George? I dunno nothin' about it."

"G-r-r-r!" he growled, pushing the wrist back, but gripping it still.
"That ain't 'andsome, not to a pal it ain't; not to a faithful pal as
comes to do y' a good turn. You know all about it well enough; an' you
needn't think as I don't know too. Blind, ain't I? Blind from a kid,
but not a fool! You ought to know that by this time--not a fool. Look
'ere!"--with another jerk at the woman's arm--"look 'ere. The last
time I was in this 'ere room there was me an' you an' Dan an' two men
as is dead now, an' post-mortalled, an' inquested an' buried, wasn't
there? Well, Dan chucked me out. I ain't bearin' no malice for that,
mind ye--ain't I just give ye five bob, an' ain't I come to do ye a
turn? I was chucked out, but ye don't s'pose I dunno what 'appened
arter I was gone, do ye? Eh?"

The room was grown darker, and though the table was moved, the shadow
on the floor took its old place, and took its old shape, and grew; but
it was no more abhorrent than the shadowy face with its sightless
white eye close before hers, and the hand that held her wrist, and by
it seemed to feel the pulse of her very mind. She struggled to her
feet.

"Let go my wrist," she said. "I'll light a candle. You can go on."

"Don't light no candle on my account," he said, chuckling, as he let
her hand drop. "It's a thing I never treat myself to. There's parties
as is afraid o' the dark, they tell me--I'm used to it."

She lit the candle, and set it where it lighted best the place of the
shadow. Then she returned and stood by the chair she had been sitting
on. "Go on," she said again. "What's this good turn you want to do
me?"

"Ah," he replied, "that's the pint!" He caught her wrist again with a
sudden snatch, and drew her forward. "Sit down, my gal, sit down, an'
I'll tell ye comfortable. What was I a-sayin'? Oh, what 'appened arter
I was gone; yes. Well, that there visitor was flimped clean, clean as
a whistle; but fust--eh?--fust!" Blind George snapped his jaws, and
made a quick blow in the air with his stick. "Eh? Eh? Ah, well, never
mind! But now I'll tell you what the job fetched. Eight 'undred an'
odd quid in a leather pocket-book, an' a silver watch! Eh? I thought
that 'ud make ye jump. Blind, ain't I? Blind from a kid,--but not a
fool!"

"Well now," he proceeded, "so far all right. If I can tell ye that, I
can pretty well tell ye all the rest, can't I? All about Bob Kipps
goin' off to sell the notes, an' Dan watchin' 'im, bein' suspicious,
an' catchin' 'im makin' a bolt for the river, an'--eh?" He raised the
stick in his left hand again, but now point forward, with a little
stab toward her breast. "Eh? Eh? Like that, eh? All right--don't be
frightened. I'm a pal, I am. It served that cove right, I say, playin'
a trick on a pal. I don't play a trick on a pal. I come 'ere to do 'im
a good turn, I do. Don't I?--Well, Dan got away, an' good luck to 'im.
'E got away, clear over the river, with the eight 'undred quid in the
leather pocket-book. An' now 'e's a-layin' low an' snug, an' more good
luck to 'im, says I, bein' a pal. Ain't that right?"

Mag shuffled uneasily. "Go on," she said, "if you think you know such
a lot. You ain't come to that good turn yet that you talk about so
much."

"Right! Now I'll come to it. Now you know I know as much as
anybody--more'n anybody 'cept Dan, p'rhaps a bit more'n what you know
yourself; an' I kep' it quiet when I might 'a' made my fortune out of
it; kep' it quiet, bein' a faithful pal. An' bein' a faithful pal an'
all I come ere with five bob for ye, bein' all I can afford, 'cos I
know you're a bit short, though Dan's got plenty--got a fortune. Why
should you be short, an' Dan got a fortune? On'y 'cos you want a pal
as you can trust, like me! That's all. 'E can't come to you 'cos o'
showin' 'isself. /You/ can't go to 'im 'cos of being watched an'
follered. So I come to do ye both a good turn goin' between, one to
another. Where is 'e?"

Mag was in some way reassured. She feared and distrusted Blind George,
and she was confounded to learn how much he knew: but at least he was
still ignorant of the essential thing. So she said, "Knowin' so much
more'n me, I wonder you dunno that too. Any'ow /I/ don't."

"What? /You/ dunno. Dunno where 'e is?"

"No, I don't; no more'n you."

"O, that's all right--all right for anybody else; but not for a pal
like me--not for a pal as is doin' y' a good turn. Besides, it ain't
you on'y; it's 'im. 'Ow'll 'e get on with the stuff? 'E won't be able
to change it, an' 'e'll be as short as you, an' p'rhaps get smugged
with it on 'im. That 'ud never do; an' I can get it changed. What part
of Rotherhithe is it, eh? I can easy find 'im. Is it Dockhead?"

"There or anywhere, for all I know. I tell ye, George, I dunno no
more'n you. Let go my arm, go on."

But he gave it another pull--an angry one. "What? What?" he cried. "If
Dan knowed as you was keepin' 'is ol' pal George from doin' 'im a good
turn, what 'ud 'e do, eh? 'E'd give it you, my beauty, wouldn't 'e?
Eh? Eh?" He twisted the arm, ground his teeth, and raised his stick
menacingly.

But this was a little too much. He was a man, and stronger, but at any
rate he was blind. She rose and struggled to twist her arm from his
grasp. "If you don't put down that stick, George," she said, "if you
don't put it down an' let go my arm, I'll give it you same as Bob
Kipps got it--s'elp me I will! I'll give you the chive--I will! Don't
you make me desprit!"

He let go the wrist and laughed. "Whoa, beauty!" he cried; "don't make
a rumpus with a faithful pal! If you won't tell me I s'pose you won't,
bein' a woman; whether it's bad for Dan or not, eh?"

"I tell you I can't, George; I swear solemn I dunno no more'n
you--p'rhaps not so much. 'E ain't bin near nor sent nor nothing,
since--since then. That's gospel truth. If I do 'ear from 'im
I'll--well then I'll see."

"Well ye tell 'im, then? 'Ere, tell 'im this. Tell 'im he mustn't go
tryin' to sell them notes, or 'e'll be smugged. Tell 'im I can put 'im
in the way o' gettin' money for 'em--'ard quids, an' plenty on 'em.
Tell 'im that, will ye? Tell 'im I'm a faithful pal, an' nobody can do
it but me. I know things you don't know about, nor 'im neither. Tell
'im to-night. Will ye tell 'im to-night?"

"'Ow can I tell 'im to-night? I'll tell 'im right enough when I see
'im. I s'pose you want to make your bit out of it, pal or not."

"There y'are!" he answered quickly. "There y'are! If you won't believe
in a pal, look at that! If I make a fair deal, man to man, with them
notes, an' get money for 'em instead o' smuggin'--quids instead o'
quod--I'll 'ave my proper reg'lars, won't I? An' proper reg'lars on
all that, paid square, 'ud be more'n I could make playin' the snitch,
if Dan'll be open to reason. See? You won't forget, eh?" He took her
arm again eagerly, above the elbow. "Know what to say, don't ye? Best
for all of us. 'E mustn't show them notes to a soul, till 'e sees me.
/I'm/ a pal. /I/ got the little tip 'ow to do it proper--see? Now you
know. Gimme my fiddle. 'Ere we are. Where's the door? All right--don't
forget!"

Blind George clumped down the black stair, and so reached the street
of Blue Gate. At the door he paused, listening till he was satisfied
of Musky Mag's movements above; then he walked a few yards along the
dark street, and stopped.

From a black archway across the street a man came skulking out, and
over the roadway to Blind George's side. It was Viney. "Well?" he
asked eagerly. "What's your luck?"

Blind George swore vehemently, but quietly. "Precious little," he
answered. "She dunno where 'e is. I thought at first it was kid, but
it ain't. She ain't 'eard, an' she dunno. I couldn't catch hold o' the
other woman, an' she got away an' never spoke. You see 'er again when
she came out, didn't ye? Know 'er?"

"Not me--she kept her shawl tighter about her head than ever. An' if
she hadn't it ain't likely I'd know her. What now? Stand watch again?
I'm sick of it."

"So am I, but it's for good pay, if it comes off. Five minutes might
do it. You get back, an' wait in case I tip the whistle."

Viney crept growling back to his arch, and Blind George went and
listened at Mag's front door for a few moments more. Then he turned
into the one next it, and there waited, invisible, listening still.

Five minutes went, and did not do it, and ten minutes went, and five
times ten. Blue Gate lay darkling in evening, and foul shadows moved
about it. From one den and another came a drawl and a yaup of drunken
singing; a fog from the river dulled the lights at the Highway end,
and slowly crept up the narrow way. It was near an hour since Viney
and Blind George had parted, when there grew visible, coming through
the mist from the Highway, the uncertain figure of a stranger:
drifting dubiously from door to door, staring in at one after another,
and wandering out toward the gutter to peer ahead in the gloom.

Blind George could hear, as well as another could see, that here was a
stranger in doubt, seeking somebody or some house. Soon the man,
middle-sized, elderly, a trifle bent, and all dusty with lime, came in
turn to the door where he stood; and at once Blind George stepped full
against him with an exclamation and many excuses.

"Beg pardon, guv'nor! Pore blind chap! 'Ope I didn't 'urt ye! Was ye
wantin' anybody in this 'ouse?"

The limy man looked ahead, and reckoned the few remaining doors to the
end of Blue Gate. "Well," he said, "I fancy it's 'ere or next door.
D'ye know a woman o' the name o' Mag--Mag Flynn?"

"I'm your bloke, guv'nor. Know 'er? Rather. Up 'ere--I'll show ye.
Lord love ye, she's an old friend o' mine. Come on. . . . I should say
you'd be in the lime trade, guv'nor, wouldn't you? I smelt it pretty
strong, an' I'll never forget the smell o' lime. Why, says you? Why,
'cos o' losin' my blessed sight with lime, when I was a innocent kid.
Fell on a slakin'-bed, guv'nor, an' blinded me blessed self; so I
won't forget the smell o' lime easy. Ain't you in the trade, now?
Ain't I right?" He stopped midway on the stairs to repeat the
question. "Ain't I right? Is it yer own business or a firm?"

"Ah well, I do 'ave to do with lime a good bit," said the stranger,
evasively. "But go on, or else let me come past."

Blind George turned, and reaching the landing, thumped his stick on
the door and pushed it open. "'Ere y'are," he sang out. "'Ere's a
genelman come to see ye, as I found an' showed the way to. Lord love
ye, 'e'd never 'a' found ye if it wasn't for me. But I'm a old pal,
ain't I? A faithful old pal!"

He swung his stick till he found a chair, and straightway sat in it,
like an invited guest. "Lord love ye, yes," he continued, rolling his
eye and putting his fiddle across his knees; "one o' the oldest pals
she's got, or 'im either."

The newcomer looked in a puzzled way from Blind George to the woman,
and back again. "It's private business I come about," he said,
shortly.

"All right, guv'nor," shouted Blind George, heartily, "Out with it!
We're all pals 'ere! Old pals!"

"You ain't my old pal, anyhow," the limy man observed. "An' if the
room's yours, we'll go an' talk somewheres else."

"Get out, George, go along," said Mag, with some asperity, but more
anxiety. "You clear out, go on."

"O, all right, if you're goin' to be unsociable," said the fiddler,
rising. "Damme, /I/ don't want to stay--not me. I was on'y doin' the
friendly, that's all; bein' a old pal. But I'm off all right--I'm off.
So long!"

He hugged his fiddle once more, and clumped down into the street. He
tapped with his stick till he struck the curb, and then crossed the
muddy roadway; while Viney emerged again from the dark arch to meet
him.

"All right," said Blind George, whispering huskily. "It's business
now, I think--business. You come on now. You'll 'ave to foller 'em if
they come out together. If they don't--well, you must look arter the
one as does."



                            CHAPTER XVIII

                              ON THE COP

When the limy man left Blue Gate he went, first, to the Hole in the
Wall, there to make to Captain Kemp some small report on the wharf by
the Lea. This did not keep him long, and soon he was on his journey
home to the wharf itself, by way of the crooked lanes and the
Commercial Road.

He had left Blue Gate an hour and more when Musky Mag emerged from her
black stairway, peering fearfully about the street ere she ventured
her foot over the step. So she stood for a few seconds, and then, as
one chancing a great risk, stepped boldly on the pavement, and,
turning her back to the Highway, walked toward Back Lane. This was the
nearer end of Blue Gate, and, the corner turned, she stopped short,
and peeped back. Satisfied that she had no follower, she crossed Back
Lane, and taking every corner, as she came to it, with a like
precaution, threaded the maze of small, ill-lighted streets that lay
in the angle between the great Rope Walk and Commercial Road. This
wide road she crossed, and then entered the dark streets beyond, in
rear of the George Tavern; and so, keeping to obscure parallel ways,
sometimes emerging into the glare of the main road, more commonly
slinking in its darker purlieus, but never out of touch with it, she
travelled east; following in the main the later course of the limy
man, who had left Blue Gate by its opposite end.

The fog, that had dulled the lights in Ratcliff Highway, met her again
near Limehouse Basin; but, ere she reached the church, she was clear
of it once more. Beyond, the shops grew few, and the lights fewer. For
a little while decent houses lined the way: the houses of those last
merchants who had no shame to live near the docks and the works that
brought their money. At last, amid a cluster of taverns and shops that
were all for the sea and them that lived on it, the East India Dock
gates stood dim and tall, flanked by vast raking walls, so that one
might suppose a Chinese city to seethe within. And away to the left,
the dark road that the wall overshadowed was lined on the other side
by hedge and ditch, with meadows and fields beyond, that were now no
more than a vast murky gulf; so that no stranger peering over the
hedge could have guessed aright if he looked on land or on water, or
on mere black vacancy.

Here the woman made a last twist: turning down a side street, and
coming to a moment's stand in an archway. This done, she passed
through the arch into a path before a row of ill-kept cottages; and so
gained the marshy field behind the Accident Hospital, the beginning of
the waste called The Cop.

Here the great blackness was before her and about her, and she
stumbled and laboured on the invisible ground, groping for pits and
ditches, and standing breathless again and again to listen. The way
was so hard as to seem longer than it was, and in the darkness she
must needs surmount obstacles that in daylight she would have turned.
Often a ditch barred her way; and when, after long search, a means of
crossing was found, it was commonly a plank to be traversed on hands
and knees. There were stagnant pools, too, into which she walked more
than once; and twice she suffered a greater shock of terror: first at
a scurry of rats, and later at quick footsteps following in the sodden
turf--the footsteps, after all, of nothing more terrible than a horse
of inquiring disposition, out at grass.

So she went for what seemed miles: though there was little more than
half a mile in a line from where she had left the lights to where at
last she came upon a rough road, seamed with deep ruts, and made
visible by many whitish blotches where lime had fallen, and had there
been ground into the surface. To the left this road stretched away
toward the lights of Bromley and Bow Common, and to the right it rose
by an easy slope over the river wall skirting the Lea, and there ended
at Kemp's Wharf.

Not a creature was on the road, and no sound came from the black space
behind her. With a breath of relief she set foot on the firmer ground,
and hurried up the slope. From the top of the bank she could see
Kemp's Wharf just below, with two dusty lighters moored in the dull
river; and beyond the river the measureless, dim Abbey Marsh. Nearer,
among the sheds, a dog barked angrily at the sound of strange feet.

A bright light came from the window of the little house that made
office and dwelling for the wharf-keeper, and something less of the
same light from the open door; for there the limy man stood waiting,
leaning on the door-post, and smoking his pipe.

He grunted a greeting as Mag came down the bank. "Bit late," he said.
"But it ain't easy over the Cop for a stranger."

"Where?" the woman whispered eagerly. "Where is he?"

The limy man took three silent pulls at his pipe. Then he took it from
his mouth with some deliberation, and said; "Remember what I said? I
don't want 'im 'ere. I dunno what 'e's done, an' don't want; but if 'e
likes to come 'idin' about, I ain't goin' to play the informer. I
dunno why I should promise as much as that, just 'cos my brother
married 'is sister. /She/ ain't done me no credit, from what I 'ear
now. Though she 'ad a good master, as I can swear; 'cos 'e's mine
too."

"Where is he?" was all Mag's answer, again in an anxious whisper.

"Unnerstand?" the limy man went on. "I'm about done with the pair on
'em now, but I ain't goin' to inform. 'E come 'ere a day or two back
an' claimed shelter; an' seein' as I was goin' up to Wappin' to-night,
'e wanted me to tell you where 'e was. Well, I've done that, an' I
ain't goin' to do no more; see? 'E ain't none o' mine, an' I won't
'ave part nor parcel with 'im, nor any of ye. I keep myself decent, I
do. I shan't say 'e's 'ere an' I shan't say 'e ain't; an' the sooner
'e goes the better 'e'll please me. See?"

"Yes, Mr. Grimes, sir; but tell me where he is!"

The limy man took his pipe from his mouth, and pointed with a
comprehensive sweep of the stem at the sheds round about. "You can go
an' look in any o' them places as ain't locked," he said off-handedly.
"The dog's chained up. Try the end one fust."

Grimes the wharfinger resumed his pipe, and Mag scuffled off to where
the light from the window fell on the white angle of a small wooden
shelter. The place was dark within, dusted about with lime, and its
door stood inward. She stopped and peered.

"All right," growled Dan Ogle from the midst of the dark. "Can't ye
see me now y' 'ave come?" And he thrust his thin face and big
shoulders out through the opening.

"O Dan!" the woman cried, putting out her hands as though she would
take him by the neck, but feared repulse. "O Dan! Thank Gawd you're
safe, Dan! I bin dyin' o' fear for you, Dan!"

"G-r-r-r!" he snorted. "Stow that! What I want's money. Got any?"



                             CHAPTER XIX

                              ON THE COP

It was at a bend of the river-wall by the Lea, in sight of Kemp's
Wharf, that Dan Ogle and his sister met at last. Dan had about as much
regard for her as she had for him, and the total made something a long
way short of affection. But common interests brought them together.
Mrs. Grimes had told Mag that she knew of something that would put
money in Dan's pocket; and, as money was just what Dan wanted in his
pocket, he was ready to hear what his sister had to tell: more
especially as it seemed plain that she was unaware--exactly--of the
difficulty that had sent him into hiding.

So, instructed by Mag, she came to the Cop on a windy morning, where,
from the top of the river-wall, one might look east over the Abbey
Marsh, and see an unresting and unceasing press of grey and mottled
cloud hurrying up from the flat horizon to pass overhead, and vanish
in the smoke of London to the West. Mrs. Grimes avoided the wharf; for
she saw no reason why her brother-in-law, her late employer's faithful
servant, should witness her errand. She climbed the river-wall at a
place where it neared the road at its Bromley end, and thence she
walked along the bank-top.

Arrived where it made a sharp bend, she descended a little way on the
side next to the river, and there waited. Dan, on the look-out from
his shed, spied her be-ribboned bonnet from afar, and went quietly and
hastily under shelter of the river-wall toward where she stood. Coming
below her on the tow-path, he climbed the bank, and brother and sister
stood face to face; unashamed ruffianism looking shabby respectability
in the eyes.

"Umph," growled Dan. "So 'ere y'are, my lady."

"Yes," the woman answered, "'ere I am; an' there you are--a nice
respectable sort of party for a brother!"

"Ah, ain't I? If I was as respectable as my sister I might get a job
up at the Hole in the Wall, mightn't I? 'Specially as I 'ear as
there's a vacancy through somebody gettin' the sack over a cash-box!"

Mrs. Grimes glared and snapped. "I s'pose you got that from 'im," she
said, jerking her head in the direction of the wharf. "Well, I ain't
come 'ere to call names--I come about that same cash-box; at any rate
I come about what's in it. . . . Dan, there's a pile o' bank notes in
that box, that don't belong to Cap'en Nat Kemp no more'n they belong
to you or me! Nor as much, p'raps, if you'll put up a good way o'
getting at 'em!"

"You put up a way as wasn't  good un, seemin'ly," said Dan. "'Ow d'ye
mean they don't belong to Kemp?"

"There was a murder at the Hole in the Wall; a week ago."

"Eh?" Dan's jaw shut with a snap, and his eye was full of sharp
inquiry.

"A man was stabbed against the bar-parlour door, an' the one as did it
got away over the river. One o' the two dropped a leather pocket-book
full o' notes, an' the kid--Kemp's grandson--picked it up in the rush
when nobody see it. I see it, though, afterward, when the row was
over. I peeped from the stairs, an' I see Kemp open it an' take out
notes--bunches of 'em--dozens!"

"Ah, you did, did ye?" Dan observed, staring hard at his sister.
"Bunches o' bank notes--dozens. See a photo, too? Likeness of a woman
an' a boy? 'Cos it was there."

Mrs. Grimes stared now. "Why, yes," she said. "But--but 'ow do you
come to know? Eh? . . . Dan! . . . Was you--was you----"

"Never mind whether I was nor where I was. If it 'adn't been for you
I'd a had them notes now, safe an' snug, 'stead o' Cap'en Nat. You
lost me them!"

"I did?"

"Yes, you. Wouldn't 'ave me come to the Hole in the Wall in case
Cap'en Nat might guess I was yer brother--bein' so much like ye! Like
you! G-r-r-r! 'Ope I ain't got a face like that!"

"Ho yes! You're a beauty, Dan Ogle, ain't ye? But what's all that to
do with the notes?" Mrs. Grimes's face was blank with wonder and
doubt, but in her eyes there was a growing and hardening suspicion.
"What's all that to do with the notes?"

"It's all to do with 'em. 'Cos o' that I let another chap bring a
watch to sell, 'stead o' takin' it myself. An' 'e come back with a
fine tale about Cap'en Nat offerin' to pay 'igh for them notes; an' so
I was fool enough to let 'im take them too, 'stead o' goin' myself.
But I watched 'im, though--watched 'im close. 'E tried to make a
bolt--an'--an' so Cap'en Nat got the notes after all, it seems, then?"

"Dan," said Mrs. Grimes, retreating a step; "Dan, it was you! It was
you, an' you're hiding for it!"

The man stood awkward and sulky, like a loutish schoolboy, detected
and defiant.

"Well," he said at length, "s'pose it was? /You/ ain't got no proof of
it; an' if you 'ad---- What 'a' ye come 'ere for, eh?"

She regarded him now with a gaze of odd curiosity, which lasted
through the rest of their talk; much as though she were convinced of
some extraordinary change in his appearance, which nevertheless eluded
her observation.

"I told you what I come for," she answered, after a pause. "About
gettin' them notes away from Kemp--the old wretch!"

"Umph! Old wretch. 'Cos 'e wanted to keep 'is cash-box, eh? Well,
what's the game?"

Mrs. Grimes in no way abated her intent gaze, but she came a little
closer, with a sidling step, as if turning her back to a possible
listener. "There was two inquests at the Hole in the Wall," she said;
"two on the same day. There was Kipps, as lost the notes when Cap'en
Kemp got 'em. An' there was Marr the shipowner--an' it was 'im as lost
'em first!"

She took a pace back as she said this, looking for its effect. But Dan
made no answer. Albeit his frown grew deeper and his eye sharper, and
he stood alert, ready to treat his sister as friend or enemy according
as she might approve herself.

"Marr lost 'em first," she repeated, "an' I can very well guess how,
though when I came here I didn't know you was in it. How did I know,
thinks you, that Marr lost 'em first? I got eyes, an' I got ears, an'
I got common sense; an' I see the photo you speak of--Marr an' his
mother, most likely; anyhow the boy was Marr, plain, whoever the woman
was. It on'y wanted a bit o' thinkin' to judge what them notes had
gone through. But I didn't dream you was so deep in it! Lor, no wonder
Mag was frightened when I see 'er!"

Still Dan said nothing, but his eyes seemed brighter and
smaller--perhaps dangerous.

So the woman proceeded quickly: "It's all right! You needn't be
frightened of my knowin' things! All the more reason for your gettin'
the notes now, if you lost 'em before. But it's halves for me, mind
ye. Ain't it halves for me?"

Dan was silent for a moment. Then he growled, "We ain't got 'em yet."

"No, but it's halves when we do get 'em; or else I won't say another
word. Ain't it halves?"

Dan Ogle could afford any number of promises, if they would win him
information. "All right," he said. "Halves it is, then, when we get
'em. An' how are we goin' to do it?"

Mrs. Grimes sidled closer again. "Marr the shipowner lost 'em first,"
she said, "an' he was pulled out o' the river, dead an' murdered, just
at the back o' the Hole in the Wall. See?"

"Well?"

"Don't see it? Kemp's got the pocket-book."

"Yes."

"Don't see it yet? Well; there's more. There's a room at the back o'
the Hole in the Wall, where it stands on piles, with a trap-door over
the water. The police don't know there's a trap-door there. I do."

Dan Ogle was puzzled and suspicious. "What's the good o' that?" he
asked.

"I didn't think you such a fool, Dan Ogle. There's a man murdered with
notes on him, an' a photo, an' a watch--you said there was a watch.
He's found in the river just behind the Hole in the Wall. There's a
trap-door--secret--at the Hole in the Wall, over the water; just the
place he might 'a' been dropped down after he was killed. An' Kemp the
landlord's got the notes an' the pocket-book an' the photo all
complete; an' most likely the watch too, since you tell me he bought
it; an' Viney could swear to 'em. Ain't all that enough to hang Cap'en
Nat Kemp, if the police was to drop in sudden on the whole thing?"

Dan's mouth opened, and his face cleared a little. "I s'pose," he
said, "you mean you might put it on to the police as it was Cap'en Nat
did it; an' when they searched they'd find all the stuff, an' the
pocket-book, an' the watch, an' the likeness, an' the trap-door; an'
that 'ud be evidence enough to put 'im on the string?"

"Of course I mean it," replied Mrs. Grimes, with hungry spite in her
eyes. "Of course I mean it! An' dearly I'd love to see it done, too!
Cap'en Nat Kemp, with 'is money an' 'is gran'son 'e's goin' to make a
gentleman of, an' all! ''Ope you'll be honest where you go next,' says
Cap'en Kemp, 'whether you're grateful to me or not!' Honest an'
grateful! I'll give 'im honest an' grateful!"

Dan Ogle grinned silently. "No," he said, "you won't forgive 'im, I
bet, if it was only 'cos you began by makin' such a pitch to marry
'im!" A chuckle broke from behind the grin. "You'd rather hang him
than get his cash-box now, I'll swear!"

Mrs. Grimes was red with anger. "I would that!" she cried. "You're
nearer truth than you think, Dan Ogle! An' if you say too much you'll
lose the money you're after, for I'll go an' do it! So now!"

Dan clicked his tongue derisively. "Thought you'd come to tell me how
to get the stuff," he said. "'Stead o' that you tell me how to hang
Cap'en Nat, very clever, an' lose it. I don't see that helps us."

"Go an' threaten him."

"Threaten Cap'en Nat?" exclaimed Dan, glaring contempt, and spitting
it. "Oh yes, I see myself! Cap'en Nat ain't that sort o' mug. I'm as
'ard as most, but I ain't 'ard enough for a job like that: or soft
enough, for that's what I'd be to try it on. Lor' lumme! Go an' ask
any man up the Highway to face Cap'en Nat, an' threaten him! Ask the
biggest an' toughest of 'em. Ask Jim Crute, with his ear like a
blue-bag, that he chucked out o' the bar like a kitten, last week!
'Cap'en Nat,' says I, 'if you don't gimme eight hundred quid, I'll hit
you a crack!' Mighty fine plan that! That 'ud get it, wouldn't it? Ah,
it 'ud get something!"

"I didn't say that sort of threat, you fool! You've got no sense for
anything but bashing. There's the evidence that 'ud hang him; go an'
tell him that, and say he /shall/ swing for it, if he doesn't hand
over!"

Dan stared long and thoughtfully. Then his lip curled again. "Pooh!"
he said. "I'm a fool, am I? O! Anyhow, whether I am or not, I'm a
fool's brother. Threaten Cap'en Nat with the evidence, says you! What
evidence? The evidence that he's got in his own hands! S'pose I go,
like a mug, an' do it. Fust thing he does, after he's kicked me out,
is to chuck the pocket-book an' the likeness on the fire, an' the
watch in the river. Then he changes the notes, or sells 'em abroad,
an' how do we stand then? Why, you're a bigger fool than I thought you
was! . . . What's that?"

It was nothing but a gun on the marsh, where a cockney sportsman was
out after anything he could hit. But Dan Ogle's nerves were alert, and
throughout the conversation he had not relaxed his watch toward
London; so that the shot behind disturbed him enough to break the
talk.

"We've been here long enough," he said. "You hook it. I'll see about
Cap'en Nat. Your way's no good. I'll try another, an' if that don't
come off--well, then you can hang him if you like, an' welcome. But
now hook it, an' shut your mouth till I've had my go. 'Nough said.
Don't go back the way you come."



                              CHAPTER XX

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

My father's death wrought in Grandfather Nat a change that awed me. He
looked older and paler--even smaller. He talked less to me, but began,
I fancied, to talk to himself. Withal, his manner was kinder then
before, if that were possible; though it was with a sad kindness that
distressed and troubled me. More than once I woke at night with
candle-light on my face, and found him gazing down at me with a grave
doubt in his eyes; whereupon he would say nothing, but pat my cheek,
and turn away.

Early one evening as I sat in the bar-parlour, and my grandfather
stood moodily at the door between that and the bar, a man came into
the private compartment whom I had seen there frequently before. He
was, in fact, the man who had brought the silver spoons on the morning
when I first saw Ratcliff Highway, and he was perhaps the most regular
visitor to the secluded corner of the bar. This time he slipped
quietly and silently in at the door, and, remaining just within it,
out of sight from the main bar, beckoned; his manner suggesting
business above the common.

But my grandfather only frowned grimly, and stirred not so much as a
finger. The man beckoned again, impatiently; but there was no favour
in Grandfather Nat's eye, and he answered with a growl. At that the
man grew more vehement, patted his breast-pocket, jerked his thumb,
and made dumb words with a great play of mouth.

"You get out!" said Grandfather Nat.

A shade of surprise crossed the man's face, and left plain alarm
behind it. His eyes turned quickly toward the partition which hid the
main bar from him, and he backed instantly to the door and vanished.

A little later the swing doors of the main bar were agitated, and an
eye was visible between them, peeping. They parted, and disclosed the
face of that same stealthy visitor but lately sent away from the other
door. Reassured, as it seemed, by what he saw of the company present,
he came boldly in, and called for a drink with an elaborate air of
unconcern. But, as he took the glass from the potman, I could perceive
a sidelong glance at my grandfather, and presently another. Captain
Nat, however, disregarded him wholly; while the pale man, aware of he
knew not what between them, looked alertly from one to the other,
ready to abandon his long-established drink, or to remain by it,
according to circumstances.

The man of the silver spoons looked indifferently from one occupant of
the bar to the next, as he took his cold rum. There was the pale man,
and Mr. Cripps, and a sailor, who had been pretty regular at the bar
of late, and who, though noisy and apt to break into disjointed song,
was not so much positively drunk as never wholly sober. And there were
two others, regular frequenters both. Having well satisfied himself of
these, the man of the silver spoons finished his rum and walked out.
Scarce had the door ceased to swing behind him, when he was once more
in the private compartment, now with a knowing and secure smile, a
cough and a nod. For plainly he supposed there must have been a
suspicious customer in the house, who was now gone.

Grandfather Nat let fall the arm that rested against the door frame.
"Out you go!" he roared. "If you want another drink the other bar's
good enough for you. If you don't I don't want you here. So out you
go!"

The man was dumbfounded. He opened his mouth as though to say
something, but closed it again, and slunk backward.

"Out you go!" shouted the unsober sailor in the large bar. "Out you
go! You 'bey orders, see? Lord, you'd better 'bey orders when it's
Cap'en Kemp! Ah, I know, I do!" And he shook his head, stupidly
sententious.

But the fellow was gone for good, and the pale man was all eyes,
scratching his cheek feebly, and gazing on Grandfather Nat.

"Out he goes!" the noisy sailor went on. "That's cap'en's orders.
Cap'en's orders or mate's orders, all's one. Like father, like son.
Ah, I know!"

"Ah," piped Mr. Cripps, "a marvellous fine orficer Cap'en Kemp must
ha' been aboard ship, I'm sure. Might you ever ha' sailed under 'im?"

"Me?" cried the sailor with a dull stare. "Me? Under /him/? . . . Well
no, not under /him/. But cap'en's orders or mate's orders, all's one."

"P'raps," pursued Mr. Cripps in a lower voice, with a glance over the
bar, "p'raps you've been with young Mr. Kemp--the late?"

"Him?" This with another and a duller stare. "Him? Um! Ah, well--never
mind. Never you mind, see? You mind your own business, my fine
feller!"

Mr. Cripps retired within himself with no delay, and fixed an
abstracted gaze in his half-empty glass. I think he was having a
disappointing evening; people were disagreeable, and nobody had stood
him a drink. More, Captain Nat had been quite impracticable of late,
and for days all approaches to the subject of the sign, or the board
to paint it on, had broken down hopelessly at the start. As to the man
just sent away, Mr. Cripps seemed, and no doubt was, wholly
indifferent. Captain Nat was merely exercising his authority in his
own bar, as he did every day, and that was all.

But the pale man was clearly uneasy, and that with reason. For, as
afterwards grew plain, the event was something greater than it seemed.
Indeed, it was nothing less than the end of the indirect traffic in
watches and silver spoons. From that moment every visitor to the
private compartment was sent away with the same peremptory incivility;
every one, save perhaps some rare stranger of the better sort, who
came for nothing but a drink. So that, in course of a day or two, the
private compartment went almost out of use; and the pale man's face
grew paler and longer as the hours went. He came punctually every
morning as usual, and sat his time out with the stagnant drink before
him, till he received my grandfather's customary order to "drink up";
and then vanished till the time appointed for his next attendance. But
he made no more excursions into the side court after sellers of
miscellaneous valuables. From what I know of my grandfather's
character, I believe that the pale man must have been paid regular
wages; for Grandfather Nat was not a man to cast off a faithful
servant, though plainly the man feared it. At any rate there he
remained with his perpetual drink: and so remained until many things
came to an end together.

There was a certain relief, and, I think, an odd touch of triumph in
Grandfather Nat's face and manner that night as he kissed me, and bade
me good-night. As for myself, I did not realise the change, but I had
a vague idea that my grandfather had sent away his customer on my
account; and for long I lay awake, and wondered why.



                             CHAPTER XXI

                          IN THE BAR-PARLOUR

Stephen was sound asleep, and the Hole in the Wall had closed its eyes
for the night. The pale man had shuffled off, with his doubts and
apprehensions, toward the Highway, and Mr. Cripps was already home in
Limehouse. Only the half-drunken sailor was within hail, groping
toward some later tavern, and Captain Nat, as he extinguished the
lamps in the bar, could hear his song in the distance--


                The grub was bad an' the pay was low,
                    Leave her, Johnny, leave her!
                So hump your duds an' ashore you go
                    For it's time for us to leave her!


Captain Nat blew out the last light in the bar and went into the
bar-parlour. He took out the cash-box, and stood staring thoughtfully
at the lid for some seconds. He was turning at last to extinguish the
lamp at his elbow, when there was a soft step without, and a cautious
tap at the door.

Captain Nat's eyes widened, and the cash-box went back under the
shelf. The tap was repeated ere the old man could reach the door and
shoot back the bolts. This done, he took the lamp in his left hand,
and opened the door.

In the black of the passage a man stood, tall and rough. Just such a
figure Captain Nat had seen there before, less distinctly, and in a
briefer glimpse; for indeed it was Dan Ogle.

"Well?" said Captain Nat.

"Good evenin', cap'en," Dan answered, with an uncouth mixture of
respect and familiarity. "I jist want five minutes with you."

"O, you do, do you?" replied the landlord, reaching behind himself to
set the lamp on the table. "What is it? I've a notion I've seen you
before."

"Very like, cap'en. It's all right; on'y business."

"Then what's the business?"

Dan Ogle glanced to left and right in the gloom of the alley, and
edged a step nearer. "Best spoke of indoors," he said, hoarsely. "Best
for you an' me too. Nothin' to be afraid of--on'y business."

"Afraid of? Phoo! Come in, then."

Dan complied, with an awkward assumption of jaunty confidence, and
Captain Nat closed the door behind him.

"Nobody to listen, I suppose?" asked Ogle.

"No, nobody. Out with it!"

"Well, cap'en, just now you thought you'd seen me before. Quite right;
so you have. You see me in the same place--just outside that there
door. An' I borrowed your boat."

"Umph!" Captain Nat's eyes were keen and hard. "Is your name Dan
Ogle?"

"That's it, cap'en." The voice was confident, but the eye was shifty.
"Now you know. A chap tried to do me, an' I put his light out. You
went for me, an' chased me, but you struck your hooks in the quids
right enough." Dan Ogle tried a grin and a wink, but Captain Nat's
frown never changed.

"Well, well," Dan went on, after a pause, "it's all right, anyhow. I
outed the chap, an' you took care o' the ha'pence; so we helped each
other, an' done it atween us. I just come along to-night to cut it
up."

"Cut up what?"

"Why, the stuff. Eight hundred an' ten quid in notes, in a leather
pocket-book. Though I ain't particular about the pocket-book." Dan
tried another grin. "Four hundred an' five quid'll be good enough for
me: though it ought to be more, seein' I got it first, an' the risk
an' all."

Captain Nat, with a foot on a chair and a hand on the raised knee,
relaxed not a shade of his fierce gaze. "Who told you," he asked
presently, "that I had eight hundred an' ten pound in a leather
pocket-book?"

"O, a little bird--just a pretty little bird, cap'en."

"Tell me the name o' that pretty little bird."

"Lord lumme, cap'en, don't be bad pals! It ain't a little bird what'll
do any harm! It's all safe an' snug enough between us, an' I'm doin'
it on the square, ain't I? I knowed about you, an' you didn't know
about me; but I comes fair an' open, an' says it was me as done it,
an' I on'y want a fair share up between pals in a job together. That's
all right, ain't it?"

"Was it a pretty little bird in a bonnet an' a plaid shawl? A scraggy
sort of a little bird with a red beak? The sort of little bird as
likes to feather its nest with a cash-box--one as don't belong to it?
Is that your pattern o' pretty little bird?"

"Well, well, s'pose it is, cap'en? Lord, don't be bad pals! I ain't,
am I? Make things straight, an' I'll take care /she/ don't go a
pretty-birdin' about with the tale. I'll guarantee that, honourable.
You ain't no need be afraid o' that."

"D'ye think I look afraid?"

"Love ye, cap'en, why, I didn't mean that! There ain't many what 'ud
try to frighten you. That ain't my tack. You're too hard a nut for
/that/, anybody knows." Dan Ogle fidgeted uneasily with a hand about
his neck-cloth; while the other arm hung straight by his side. "But
look here, now, cap'en," he went on; "you're a straight man, an' you
don't round on a chap as trusts you. That's right, ain't it?"

"Well?" Truly Captain Nat's piercing stare, his unwavering frown, were
disconcerting. Dan Ogle had come confidently prepared to claim a share
of the plunder, just as he would have done from any rascal in Blue
Gate. But, in presence of the man he knew for his master, he had had
to begin with no more assurance than he could force on himself; and
now, though he had met not a word of refusal, he was reduced well-nigh
to pleading. But he saw the best opening, as by a flash of
inspiration; and beyond that he had another resource, if he could but
find courage to use it.

"Well?" said Captain Nat.

"You're the sort of man as plays the square game with a man as trusts
you, cap'en. Very well. /I've/ trusted you. I come an' put myself in
your way, an' told you free what I done, an' I ask, as man to man, for
my fair whack o' the stuff. Bein' the straight man you are, you'll do
the fair thing."

Captain Nat brought his foot down from the chair, and the knee from
under his hand; and he clenched the hand on the table. But neither
movement disturbed his steady gaze. So he stood for three seconds.
Then, with an instant dart, he had Dan Ogle by the hanging arm, just
above the wrist.

Dan sprang and struggled, but his wrist might have been chained to a
post. Twice he made offer to strike at Captain Nat's face with the
free hand, but twice the blow fainted ere it had well begun. Tall and
powerful as he was, he knew himself no match for the old skipper.
Pallid and staring, he whispered hoarsely: "No, cap'en--no! Drop it!
Don't put me away! Don't crab the deal! D' y' 'ear----"

Captain Nat, grim and silent, slowly drew the imprisoned fore-arm
forward, and plucked a bare knife from within the sleeve. There was
blood on it, for his grip had squeezed arm and blade together.

"Umph!" growled Captain Nat; "I saw that in time, my lad"; and he
stuck the knife in the shelf behind him.

"S'elp me, cap'en, I wasn't meanin' anythink--s'elp me I wasn't," the
ruffian pleaded, cowering but vehement, with his neckerchief to his
cut arm. "That's on'y where I carry it, s'elp me--on'y where I keep
it!"

"Ah, I've seen it done before; but it's an awkward place if you get a
squeeze," the skipper remarked drily. "Now you listen to me. You say
you've come an' put yourself in my power, an' trusted me. So you
have--with a knife up your sleeve. But never mind that--I doubt if
you'd ha' had pluck to use it. You killed a man at my door, because of
eight hundred pounds you'd got between you; but to get that money you
had to kill another man first."

"No, cap'en, no----"

"Don't try to deny it, man! Why it's what's saving you! I know where
that money came from--an' it's murder that got it. Marr was the man's
name, an' he was a murderer himself; him an' another between 'em ha'
murdered my boy; murdered him on the high seas as much as if it was
pistol or poison. He was doin' his duty, an' it's murder, I tell
you--murder, by the law of England! That man ought to ha' been hung,
but he wasn't, an' he never would ha' been. He'd ha' gone free, except
for you, an' made money of it. But you killed that man, Dan Ogle, an'
you shall go free for it yourself; for that an' because I won't sell
what you trusted me with about this other."

Captain Nat turned and took the knife from the shelf. "Now see," he
went on. "You've done justice on a murderer, little as you meant it;
but don't you come tryin' to take away the orphan's compensation--not
as much as a penny of it! Don't you touch the compensation, or I'll
give you up! I will that! Just you remember when you're safe. The man
lied as spoke to seein' you that night by the door; an' now he's gone
back on it, an' so you've nothing to fear from him, an' nothing to
fear from the police. Nothing to fear from anybody but me; so you take
care, Dan Ogle! . . . Come, enough said!"

Captain Nat flung wide the door and pitched the knife into the outer
darkness. "There's your knife; go after it!"



                             CHAPTER XXII

                              ON THE COP

When Viney followed the limy man from Musky Mag's door he kept him
well in view as far as the Hole in the Wall, and there waited. But
when Grimes emerged, and Viney took up the chase, he had scarce made
three-quarters of the way through the crooked lanes toward the
Commercial Road, when, in the confusion and the darkness of the
turnings, or in some stray rack of fog, the man of lime went wholly
amissing. Viney hurried forward, doubled, and scoured the turnings
about him. Drawing them blank, he hastened for the main road, and
there consumed well nigh an hour in profitless questing to and fro;
and was fain at last to seek out Blind George, and confess himself
beaten.

But Blind George made a better guess. After Viney's departure in the
wake of Grimes, he had stood patiently on guard in the black archway,
and had got his reward. For he heard Musky Mag's feet descend her
stairs; noted her timid pause at the door; and ear-watched her
progress to the street corner. There she paused again, as he judged,
to see that nobody followed; and then hurried out of earshot. He was
no such fool as to attempt to dog a woman with eyes, but contented
himself with the plain inference that she was on her way to see Dan
Ogle, and that the man whom Viney was following had brought news of
Dan's whereabouts; and with that he turned to the Highway and his
fiddling. So that when he learned that the limy man had called at the
Hole in the Wall, and had gone out of Viney's sight on his way east,
Blind George was quick to think of Kemp's Wharf, and to resolve that
his next walk abroad should lead him to the Lea bank.

The upshot of this was that, after some trouble, Dan Ogle and Blind
George met on the Cop, and that Dan consented to a business interview
with Viney. He was confident enough in any dealings with either of
them so long as he cockered in them the belief that he still had the
notes. So he said very little, except that Viney might come and make
any proposal he pleased; hoping for some chance-come expedient whereby
he might screw out a little on account.

And so it followed that on the morning after his unsuccessful
negotiation with Captain Nat, Dan Ogle found himself face to face with
Henry Viney at that self-same spot on the bankside where he had talked
with Blind George.

Dan was surly; firstly because it was policy to say little, and to
seem intractable, and again because, after the night's adventure, it
came natural. "So you're Viney, are you?" he said. "Well, I ain't
afraid 'o you. I know about you. Blind George told me /your/ game."

"Who said anything about afraid?" Viney protested, the eternal grin
twitching nervously in his yellow cheeks. "We needn't talk about being
afraid. It seems to me we can work together."

"O, does it? How?"

"Well, you know, you can't change 'em."

"What?"

"O, damn it, you know what I mean. The money--the notes."

"O, that's what you mean, is it? Well, s'pose I can't?"

"Well--of course--if you can't--eh? If you can't, they might be so
much rags, eh?"

"P'raps they might--/if/ I can't."

"But you know you can't," retorted the other, with a spasm of
apprehension. "Else you'd have done it and--and got farther off."

"Well, p'raps I might. But that ain't all you come to say. Go on."

Viney thoughtfully scratched his lank cheek, peering sharply into
Dan's face. "Things bein' what they are," he said, reflectively,
"they're no more good to you than rags; not so much."

"All right. S'pose they ain't; you don't think I'm a-goin' to make you
a present of 'em, do you?"

"Why no, I didn't think that. I'll pay--reasonable. But you must
remember that they're no good to you at all--not worth rag price; so
whatever you got 'ud be clear profit."

"Then how much clear profit will you give me?"

Viney's forefinger paused on his cheek, and his gaze, which had sunk
to Dan Ogle's waistcoat, shot sharply again at his eyes. "Ten pounds,"
said Viney.

Dan chuckled, partly at the absurdity of the offer, partly because
this bargaining for the unproducible began to amuse him. "Ten pound
clear profit for me," he said, "an' eight hundred pound clear profit
for you. That's your idea of a fair bit o' trade!"

"But it was mine first, and--and it's no good to you--you say so
yourself."

"No; nor no good to you neither--'cause why? You ain't got it!" Dan's
chuckle became a grin. "If you'd ha' said a hundred, now----"

"What?"

"Why, then I'd ha' said four hundred. That's what I'd ha' said!"

"Four hundred? Why, you're mad! Besides I haven't got it--I've got
nothing till I can change the notes; only the ten."

Dan saw the chance he had hoped for. "I'll make it dirt cheap," he
said, "first an' last, no less an' no more. Will you give me fifty
down for 'em when you've got 'em changed?"

"Yes, I will." Viney's voice was almost too eager.

"Straight? No tricks, eh?"

Viney was indignant at the suggestion. He scorned a trick.

"No hoppin' the twig with the whole lot, an' leavin' me in the cart?"

Viney was deeply hurt. He had never dreamed of such a thing.

"Very well, I'll trust you. Give us the tenner on account." Dan Ogle
stuck out his hand carelessly; but it remained empty.

"I said I'd give fifty when they're changed," grinned Viney,
knowingly.

"What? Well, I know that; an' not play no tricks. An' now when I ask
you to pay first the ten you've got, you don't want to do it! That
don't look like a chap that means to part straight and square, does
it?"

Viney put his hand in his pocket. "All right," he said, "that's fair
enough. Ten now an' forty later when the paper's changed. Where's the
paper?"

"O, I ain't got that about me just now," Dan replied airily. "Be here
to-morrow, same time. But you can give me the ten now."

Viney's teeth showed unamiably through his grin. "Ah," he said; "I'll
be here to-morrow with that, same time!"

"What?" It was Dan's honour that smarted now. "What? Won't trust me
with ten, when I offer, free an' open, to trust you with forty? O,
it's off then. I'm done. It's enough to make a man sick." And he
turned loftily away.

Viney's grin waxed and waned, and he followed Dan with his eyes,
thinking hard. Dan stole a look behind, and stopped.

"Look here," Viney said at last. "Look here. Let's cut it short. We
can't sharp each other, and we're wasting time. You haven't got those
notes."

Dan half-turned, and answered in a tone between question and retort.
"O, haven't I?" he said.

"No; you haven't. See here; I'll give you five pounds if you'll show
'em to me. Only show 'em."

Dan was posed. "I said I hadn't got 'em about me," he said, rather
feebly.

"No; nor can't get 'em. Can you? Cut it short."

Dan looked up and down, and rubbed his cap about his head. "I know
where they are," he sulkily concluded.

"You know where they are, but you can't get 'em," Viney retorted with
decision. "Can I get 'em?"

Dan glanced at him superciliously. "You?" he answered. "Lord, no."

"Can we get 'em together?"

Dan took to rubbing his cap about his head again, and staring very
thoughtfully at the ground. Then he came a step nearer, and looked up.
"Two might," he said, "if you'd see it through. With nerve."

Viney took him by the upper arm, and drew close. "We're the two," he
said. "You know where the stuff is, and you say we can get it. We'll
haggle no more. We're partners and we'll divide all we get. How's
that?"

"How about Blind George?"

"Never mind Blind George--unless you want to make him a present. /I/
don't. Blind George can fish for himself. He's shoved out. We'll do
it, and we'll keep what we get. Now where are the notes? Who's got
them?"

Dan Ogle stood silent a moment, considering. He looked over the bank
toward the London streets, down on the grass at his feet, and then up
at an adventurous lark, that sang nearer and still nearer the town
smoke. Last he looked at Viney, and make up his mind. "Who's got 'em?"
he repeated; "Cap'en Nat Kemp's got 'em."

"What? Cap'en----"

"Cap'en Nat Kemp's got 'em."

Viney took a step backward, turned his foot on the slope, and sat back
on the bank, staring at Dan Ogle. "Cap'en Nat Kemp?" he said. "Cap'en
Nat Kemp?"

"Ay; Cap'en Nat Kemp. The notes, an' the leather pocket-book; an' the
photo; an' the whole kit. Marr's photo, ain't it, with his mother?"

"Yes," Viney answered. "When he was a boy. He wasn't a particular
dutiful son, but he always carried it: for luck, or something.
But--Cap'en Kemp! Where did /he/ get them?"

Dan Ogle sat on the bank beside Viney, facing the river, and there
told him the tale he had heard from Mrs. Grimes. Also he told him,
with many suppressions, just as much of his own last night's adventure
at the Hole in the Wall as made it plain that Captain Nat meant to
stick to what he had got.

Viney heard it all in silence, and sat for a while with his head
between his hands, thinking, and occasionally swearing. At last he
looked up, and dropped one hand to his knee. "I'd have it out of him
by myself," he said, "if it wasn't that I want to lie low a bit."

Dan grunted and nodded. "I know," he replied. "The /Juno/. I know
about that."

Viney started. "What do you know about that?" he asked.

"Pretty well all you could tell me. I hear things, though I am lyin'
up; but I heard before, too. Marr chattered like a poll-parrot."

Viney swore, and dropped his other hand. "Ay; so Blind George said.
Well, there's nothing for me out of the insurance, and I'm going to
let the creditors scramble for it themselves. There'd be awkward
questions for me, with the books in the receiver's hands, and what
not. So I'm not showing for a bit. Though," he added, thoughtfully, "I
don't know that I mightn't try it, even now."

Dan's eyes grew sharp. "We're doin' this together, Mr. Viney," he
said. "You'd better not go tryin' things without me; I mightn't like
it. I ain't a nice man to try games on with; one's tried a game over
this a'ready, mind."

"I'm trying no games," Viney protested. "Tell us your way, if you
don't want to hear about mine."

Dan Ogle was sitting with his chin on his doubled fists, gazing
thoughtfully at the muddy river. "My way's rough," he replied, "but
it's thorough. An' it wipes off scores. I owe Cap'en Nat one."

Viney looked curiously at his companion. "Well?" he said.

"An' there'd be more in it than eight hundred an' ten. P'raps a lump
more."

"How?" Viney's eyes widened.

"Umph." Dan was silent a moment. Then he turned and looked Viney in
the eyes. "Are you game?" he asked. "You ain't a faintin' sort, are
you? You oughtn't to be, seein' you was a ship's officer."

Viney's mouth closed tight. "No," he said; "I don't think I am. What
is it?"

Dan Ogle looked intently in his face for a few seconds, and then said;
"Only him an' the kid sleeps in the house."

Viney started. "You don't mean breaking in?" he exclaimed. "I won't do
that; it's too--too----"

"Ah, too risky, of course," Dan replied, with a curl of the lip. "But
I don't mean breakin' in. Nothing like it. But tell me first; s'pose
breakin' in /wasn't/ risky, s'pose you knew you'd get away safe, with
the stuff. Would you do it then?" And he peered keenly at Viney's
face.

Viney frowned. "That don't matter," he said, "if it ain't the plan.
S'pose I would?"

"Ha-ha! that'll do! I know your sort. Not that I blame you about the
busting--it 'ud take two pretty tough 'uns to face Cap'en Nat, I can
tell you. But now see here. Will you come with me, an' knock at his
side door to-night, after the place is shut?"

"Knock? And what then?"

"I'll tell you. You know the alley down to the stairs?"

"Yes."

"Black as pitch at night, with a row o' posts holding up the house.
Now when everybody's gone an' he's putting out the lights, you go an'
tap at the door."

"Well?"

"You tap at the door, an' he'll come. You're alone--see? I stand back
in the dark, behind a post. He never sees me. 'Good evenin',' says
you. 'I just want a word with you, if you'll step out.' And so he
does."

"And what then?"

"Nothing else--not for you; that's all your job. Easy enough, ain't
it?"

Viney turned where he sat, and stared fixedly at his confederate's
face. "And then--then--what----"

"Then I come on. He don't know I'm there--behind him."

Viney's mouth opened a little, but with no grin; and for a minute the
two sat, each looking in the other's face. Then said Viney, with a
certain shrinking: "No, no; not that. It's hanging, you know; it's
hanging--for both."

Dan laughed--an ugly laugh, and short. "It ain't hanging for /that/,"
he said; "it's hanging for gettin' caught. An' where's the chance o'
that? We take our own time, and the best place you ever see for a job
like that, river handy at the end an' all; an' everything settled
beforehand. Safe a job as ever I see. Look at me. I ain't hung yet, am
I? But I've took my chances, an' took 'em when it wasn't safe, like as
this is."

Viney stared at vacancy, like a man in a brown study; and his dry
tongue passed slowly along his drier lips.

"As for bein' safe," Dan went on, "what little risk there is, is for
/me/. You're all right. We don't know each other. Not likely. How
should you know I was hidin' there in the dark when you went to speak
to Cap'en Nat Kemp? Come to that, it might ha' been /you/ outed
instead o' your friend what you was talkin' so sociable with. An'
there's more there than what's in the pocket-book. Remember that.
There's a lump more than that."

Viney rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. "How do you know?"
he asked, huskily.

"How do I know? How did I know about the pocket-book an' the notes? I
ain't been the best o' pals with my sister, but she couldn't ha' been
there all this time without my hearing a thing or two about Cap'en
Nat; to say nothing of what everybody knows as knows anything about
him. Money? O' course there's money in the place; no telling how much;
an' watches, an' things, as he buys. P'raps twice that eight hundred,
an' more."

Viney's eyes were growing sharper--growing eager. "It sounds all
right," he remarked, a little less huskily. "Especially if there's
more in it than the eight hundred. But--but--are you--you know--sure
about it?"

"You leave that to me. I'll see after my department, an' yours is easy
enough. Come, it's a go, ain't it?"

"But perhaps he'll make a row--call out, or something."

"He ain't the sort of chap to squeal; an' if he was he wouldn't--not
the way I'm goin' to do it. You'll see."

"An' there's the boy--what about him?"

"O, the kid? Upstairs. He's no account, after we've outed Cap'en Nat.
No more'n a tame rabbit. An' we'll have all night to turn the place
over, if we want it--though we shan't. We'll be split before the
potman comes: fifty miles apart, with full pockets, an' nobody a
ha'porth the wiser."

Viney bit at his fingers, and his eyes lifted and sank, quick and
keen, from the ground to Ogle's face, and back again. But it was
enough, and he asked for no more persuasion. Willing murderers both,
they set to planning details: what Viney should say, if it were
necessary to carry the talk with Captain Nat beyond the first sentence
or so; where they must meet; and the like. And here, on Viney's
motion, a change was made as regarded time. Not this immediate night,
but the night following, was resolved on for the stroke that should
beggar the Hole in the Wall of money and of life. For to Viney it
seemed desirable, first, to get his belongings away from his present
lodgings, for plain reasons; so as to throw off Blind George, and so
as to avoid flight from a place where he was known, on the very night
of the crime. This it were well to do at once; yet, all unprepared as
he was, he could not guess what delays might intervene; and so for all
reasons Captain Nat and the child were reprieved for twenty-four
hours.

Thus in full terms the treaty was made. Dan Ogle, shrink as he might
from Captain Nat face to face (as any ruffian in Blue Gate would), was
as ready to stab him in the back for vengeance as for gain. For he was
conscious that never in all his years of bullying and scoundrelism had
he cut quite so poor a figure in face of any man as last night in face
of Captain Nat. As to the gain, it promised to be large, and easy in
the getting; and for his sister, now that she could help no more,--she
could as readily be flung out of the business as Blind George. The
opportunity was undeniable. A better place for the purpose than the
alley leading to the head of Hole-in-the-Wall Stairs could never have
been planned. Once the house was shut, and the potman gone, no more
was needed than to see the next police patrol go by, and the thing was
done. Here was the proper accomplice too: a man known to Captain Nat,
and one with whom he would readily speak; and, in Ogle's eyes, the
business was no more than a common stroke of his trade, with an
uncommon prospect of profit. As for Viney, money was what he wanted,
and here it could be made, as it seemed, with no great risk. It was
surer, far, than going direct to Captain Nat and demanding the money
under the old threat. That was a little outworn, and, indeed, was not
so substantial a bogey as it might seem in the eyes of Captain Nat,
for years remorseful, and now apprehensive for his grandchild's sake;
for the matter was old, and evidence scarce, except Viney's own, which
it would worse than inconvenience him to give. So that a large demand
might break down; while here, as he was persuaded, was the certainty
of a greater gain, which was the main thing. And if any shadow of
scruple against direct and simple murder remained, it vanished in the
reflection that not he, but Ogle, would be the perpetrator, as well as
the contriver. For himself, he would but be opening an innocent
conversation with Kemp. So Viney told himself; and so desire and
conscience are made to run coupled, all the world over, and all time
through.

All being appointed, the two men separated. They stood up, they looked
about them, over the Lea and over the ragged field; and they shook
hands.



                            CHAPTER XXIII

                              ON THE COP

It was morning still, as Viney went away over the Cop; and, when he
had vanished beyond the distant group of little houses, Dan Ogle
turned and crept lazily into his shelter: there to make what dinner he
might from the remnant of the food that Mag had brought him the
evening before; and to doze away the time on his bed of dusty sacks,
till she should bring more in the evening to come. He would have given
much for a drink, for since his retreat to Kemp's Wharf the lime had
penetrated clothes and skin and had invaded his very vitals. More
particularly it had invaded his throat; and the pint or so of beer
that Mag brought in a bottle was not enough to do more than aggravate
the trouble. But no drink was there, and no money to buy one; else he
might well have ventured out to a public-house, now that the police
sought him no more. As for Grimes of the wharf (who had been growing
daily more impatient of Dan's stay), he offered no better relief than
a surly reference to the pump. So there was nothing for it but to sit
and swear; with the consolation that this night should be his last at
Kemp's Wharf.

Sunlight came with the afternoon, and speckled the sluggish Lea; then
the shadow of the river wall fell on the water and it was dull again;
and the sun itself grew duller, and lower, and larger, in the haze of
the town. If Dan Ogle had climbed the bank, and had looked across the
Cop now, he would have seen Blind George, stick in hand, feeling his
way painfully among hummocks and ditches in the distance. Dan,
however, was expecting nobody, and he no longer kept watch on all
comers, so that Blind George neared unnoted. He gained the lime-strewn
road at last, and walked with more confidence. Up and over the bank,
and down on the side next the river, he went so boldly that one at a
distance would never have guessed him blind; for on any plain road he
had once traversed he was never at fault; and he turned with such
readiness at the proper spot, and so easily picked his way to the
shed, that Dan had scarce more warning than could bring him as far as
the door, where they met.

"Dan!" the blind man said; "Dan, old pal! It's you I can hear, I'll
bet, ain't it? Where are ye?" And he groped for a friendly grip.

Dan Ogle was taken by surprise, and a little puzzled. Still, he could
do no harm by hearing what Blind George had to say; so he answered:
"All right. What is it?"

Guided by the sound, Blind George straightway seized Dan's arm; for
this was his way of feeling a speaker's thoughts while he heard the
words. "He's gone," he said, "gone clean. Do you know where?"

Dan glared into the sightless eye and shook his captured arm roughly.
"Who?" he asked.

"Viney. Did you let him have the stuff?"

"What stuff? When?"

"What stuff? That's a rum thing to ask. Unless--O!" George dropped his
voice and put his face closer. "Anybody to hear?" he whispered.

"No."

"Then why ask what stuff? You didn't let him have it this morning, did
you?"

"Dunno what you mean. Never see him this morning."

Blind George retracted his head with a jerk, and a strange look grew
on his face: a look of anger and suspicion; strange because the great
colourless eye had no part in it. "Dan," he said, slowly, "them ain't
the words of a pal--not of a faithful pal, they ain't. It's a damn
lie!"

"Lie yourself!" retorted Dan, thrusting him away. "Let go my arm, go
on!"

"I knew he was coming," Blind George went on, "an' I followed up, an'
waited behind them houses other side the Cop. I want my whack, I do. I
heared him coming away, an' I called to him, but he scuttled off. I
know his step as well as what another man 'ud know his face. I'm a
poor blind bloke, but I ain't a fool. What's your game, telling me a
lie like that?"

He was standing off from the door now, angry and nervously alert. Dan
growled, and then said: "You clear out of it. You come to me first
from Viney, didn't you? Very well, you're his pal in this. Go and talk
to him about it."

"I've been--that's where I've come from. I've been to his lodgings in
Chapman Street, an' he's gone. Said he'd got a berth aboard ship--a
lie. Took his bag an' cleared, soon as ever he could get back from
here. He's on for doing me out o' my whack, arter I put it all
straight for him--that's about it. You won't put me in the cart, Dan,
arter all I done! Where's he gone?"

"I dunno nothing about him, I tell you," Dan answered angrily. "You
slink your hook, or I'll make ye!"

"Dan," said the blind man, in a voice between appeal and threat; "Dan,
I didn't put you away, when I found you was here!"

"Put me away? You? You can go an' try it now, if you like. I ain't
wanted; they won't have me. An' if they would--how long 'ud you last,
next time you went into Blue Gate? Or even if you didn't go, eh? How
long would a man last, that had both his eyes to see with, eh?" And
indeed Blind George knew, as well as Dan himself, that London was
unhealthy for any traitor to the state and liberty of Blue Gate. "How
long would he last? You try it."

"Who wants to try it? I on'y want to know----"

"Shut your mouth, Blind George, an' get out o' this place!" Ogle
cried, fast losing patience, and making a quick step forward. "Go, or
you'll be lame as well as blind, if I get hold o' ye!"

Blind George backed involuntarily, but his blank face darkened and
twisted devilishly, and he gripped his stick like a cudgel. "Ah, I'm
blind, ain't I? Mighty bold with a blind man, ain't ye? If my eyes was
like yours, or you was blind as me, you'd----"

"Go!" roared Dan furiously, with two quick steps. "Go!"

The blind man backed as quickly, fiercely brandishing his stick. "I'll
go--just as far as suits me, Dan Ogle!" he cried. "I ain't goin' to be
done out o' what's mine! One of ye's got away, but I'll stick to the
other! Keep off! I'll stick to ye till--keep off!"

As Dan advanced, the stick, flourished at random, fell on his wrist
with a crack, and in a burst of rage he rushed at the blind man, and
smote him down with blow on blow. Blind George, beaten to a heap, but
cowed not at all, howled like a wild beast, and struck madly with his
stick. The stick reached its mark more than once, and goaded Ogle to a
greater fury. He punched and kicked at the plunging wretch at his
feet: who, desperate and unflinching, with his mouth sputtering blood
and curses, never ceased to strike back as best he might.

At the noise Grimes came hurrying from his office. For a moment he
stood astonished, and then he ran and caught Dan by the arm. "I won't
have it!" he cried. "If you want to fight you go somewhere else.
You--why--why, damme, the man's blind!"

Favoured by the interruption, Blind George crawled a little off,
smearing his hand through the blood on his face, breathless and
battered, but facing his enemy still, with unabashed malevolence. For
a moment Ogle turned angrily on Grimes, but checked himself, and let
fall his hands. "Blind?" he snarled. "He'll be dead too, if he don't
keep that stick to hisself; that's what he'll be!"

The blind man got to his feet, and backed away, smearing the grisly
face as he went. "Ah! hold him back!" he cried, with a double mouthful
of oaths. "Hold him back for his own sake! I ain't done with you, Dan
Ogle, not yet! Fight? Ah, I'll fight you--an' fight you level! I mean
it! I do! I'll fight you level afore I've done with you! Dead I'll be,
will I? Not afore you, an' not afore I've paid you!" So he passed over
the bank, threatening fiercely.

"Look here," said Grimes to Ogle, "this ends this business. I've had
enough o' you. You find some other lodgings."

"All right," Ogle growled. "I'm going: after to-night."

"I dunno why I was fool enough to let you come," Grimes pursued. "An'
when I did, I never said your pals was to come too. I remember that
blind chap now; I see him in Blue Gate, an' I don't think much of him.
An' there was another chap this morning. Up to no good, none of ye;
an' like as not to lose me my job. So I'll find another use for that
shed, see?"

"All right," the other sulkily repeated. "I tell ye I'm going: after
to-night."



                             CHAPTER XXIV

                              ON THE COP

Once he had cut clear from his lodgings without delay and trouble,
Viney fell into an insupportable nervous impatience, which grew with
every minute. His reasons for the day's postponement now seemed wholly
insufficient: it must have been, he debated with himself, that the
first shock of the suggestion had driven him to the nearest excuse to
put the job off, as it were a dose of bitter physic. But now that the
thing was resolved upon, and nothing remained to do in preparation,
the suspense of inactivity became intolerable, and grew to torment. It
was no matter of scruple or compunction; of that he never dreamed. But
the enterprise was dangerous and novel, and, as the vacant hours
passed, he imagined new perils and dreamed a dozen hangings. Till at
last, as night came on, he began to fear that his courage could not
hold out the time; and, since there was now no reason for delay, he
ended with a resolve to get the thing over and the money in his
pockets that same night, if it were possible. And with that view he
set out for the Cop. . . .



Meantime no nervousness troubled his confederate; for him it was but a
good stroke of trade, with a turn of revenge in it; and the penniless
interval mattered nothing--could be slept off, in fact, more or less,
since there was nothing else to do.

The sun sank below London, and night came slow and black over the
marshes and the Cop. Grimes, rising from the doorstep of his office,
knocked the last ashes from his pipe and passed indoors. Dan Ogle,
sitting under the lee of his shed, found no comfort in his own empty
pipe, and no tobacco in his empty pocket. He rose, stretched his arms,
and looked across the Lea and the Cop. He could see little or nothing,
for the dark was closing on him fast. "Blind man's holiday," muttered
Dan Ogle; and he turned in for a nap on his bed of sacks.

A sulky red grew up into the darkening western sky, as though the
extinguished sun were singeing all the world's edge. So one saw
London's nimbus from this point every night, and saw below it the
scattered spangle of lights that were the suburban sentries of the
myriads beyond. The Cop and the marshes lay pitch-black, and nothing
but the faint lap of water hinted that a river divided them.

Here, where an hour's habit blotted the great hum of London from the
consciousness, sounds were few. The perseverance of the lapping water
forced a groan now and again from the moorings of an invisible barge
lying by the wharf; and as often a ghostly rustle rose on the wind
from an old willow on the farther bank. And presently, more distinct
than either, came a steady snore from the shed where Dan Ogle
lay. . . .

A rustle, that was not of any tree, began when the snore was at its
steadiest; a gentle rustle indeed, where something, some moving shadow
in the black about it, crept over the river wall. Clearer against a
faint patch, which had been white with lime in daylight, the figure
grew to that of a man; a man moving in that murky darkness with an
amazing facility, address, and quietness. Down toward the river-side
he went, and there stooping, dipped into the water some small coarse
bag of cloth, that hung in his hand. Then he rose, and, after a
listening pause, turned toward the shed whence came the snore.

With three steps and a pause, and three steps more, he neared the
door: the stick he carried silently skimming the ground before him,
his face turned upward, his single eye rolling blankly at the sky that
was the same for him at night or noon; and the dripping cloth he
carried diffused a pungent smell, as of wetted quicklime. So, creeping
and listening, he reached the door. Within, the snore was regular and
deep.

Nothing held the door but a latch, such as is lifted by a finger
thrust through a hole. He listened for a moment with his ear at this
hole, and then, with infinite precaution, inserted his finger, and
lifted the latch. . . .



Up by the George Tavern, beyond Stepney, Henry Viney was hastening
along the Commercial Road to call Dan Ogle to immediate business.
Ahead of him by a good distance, Musky Mag hurried in the same
direction, bearing food in a saucer and handkerchief, and beer in a
bottle. But hurry as they might, here was a visitor well ahead of
both. . . .



The door opened with something of a jar, and with that there was a
little choke in the snore, and a moment's silence. Then the snore
began again, deep as before. Down on his knees went Dan Ogle's
visitor, and so crawled into the deep of the shed.

He had been gone no more than a few seconds, when the snore stopped.
It stopped with a thump and a gasp, and a sudden buffeting of legs and
arms; and in the midst arose a cry: a cry of so hideous an agony that
Grimes the wharf-keeper, snug in his first sleep fifty yards away,
sprang erect and staring in bed, and so sat motionless for half a
minute ere he remembered his legs, and thrust them out to carry him to
the window. And the dog on the wharf leapt the length of its chain,
answering the cry with a torrent of wild barks.

Floundering and tumbling against the frail boards of the shed, the two
men came out at the door in a struggling knot: Ogle wrestling and
striking at random, while the other, cunning with a life's blindness,
kept his own head safe, and hung as a dog hangs to a bull. His hands
gripped his victim by ear and hair, while the thumbs still drove at
the eyes the mess of smoking lime that clung and dripped about Ogle's
head. It trickled burning through his hair, and it blistered lips and
tongue, as he yelled and yelled again in the extremity of his anguish.
Over they rolled before the doorway; and Ogle, snatching now at last
instead of striking, tore away the hands from his face.

"Fight you level, Dan Ogle, fight you level now!" Blind George gasped
between quick breaths. "Hit me now you're blind as me! Hit me! Knock
me down! Eh?"

Quickly he climbed to his feet, and aimed a parting blow with the
stick that hung from his wrist. "Dead?" he whispered hoarsely. "Not
afore I've paid you! No!"

He might have stayed to strike again, but his own hands were blistered
in the struggle, and he hastened off toward the bank, there to wash
them clear of the slaking lime. Away on the wharf the dog was yelping
and choking on its chain like a mad thing.

Screaming still, with a growing hoarseness, and writhing where he lay,
the blinded wretch scratched helplessly at the reeking lime that
scorched his skin and seared his eyes almost to the brain. Grimes came
running in shirt and trousers, and, as soon as he could find how
matters stood, turned and ran again for oil. "Good God!" he said.
"Lime in his eyes! Slaking lime! Why--why--it must be the blind chap!
It must! Fight him level, he said--an' he's blinded him!" . . .



There was a group of people staring at the patients' door of the
Accident Hospital when Viney reached the spot. He was busy enough with
his own thoughts, but he stopped, and stared also, involuntarily. The
door was an uninteresting object, however, after all, and he turned:
to find himself face to face with one he well remembered. It was the
limy man he had followed from Blue Gate to the Hole in the Wall, and
then lost sight of.

Grimes recognised Viney at once as Ogle's visitor of the morning.
"That's a pal o' yourn just gone in there," he said.

Viney was taken aback. "A pal?" he asked. "What pal?"

"Ogle--Dan Ogle. He's got lime in his eyes, an' blinded."

"Lime? Blinded? How?"

"I ain't goin' to say nothing about how--I dunno, an' 'tain't my
business. He's got it, anyhow. There's a woman in there along of
him--his wife, I b'lieve, or something. You can talk to her about it,
if you like, when she comes out. I've got nothing to do with it."

Grimes had all the reluctance of his class to be "mixed up" in any
matter likely to involve trouble at a police-court; and what was more,
he saw himself possibly compromised in the matter of Ogle's stay at
the Wharf. But Viney was so visibly concerned by the news that soon
the wharf-keeper relented a little--thinking him maybe no such bad
fellow after all, since he was so anxious about his friend. "I've
heard said," he added presently in a lower tone, "I've heard said it
was a blind chap done it out o' spite; but of course I dunno; not to
say myself; on'y what I heard, you see. I don't think they'll let you
in; but you might see the woman. They won't let her stop long,
'specially takin' on as she was."

Indeed it was not long ere Musky Mag emerged, reluctant and pallid,
trembling at the mouth, staring but seeing nothing. Grimes took her by
the arm and led her aside, with Viney. "Here's a friend o' Dan's,"
Grimes said, not unkindly, giving the woman a shake of the arm. "He
wants to know how he's gettin' on."

"What's 'nucleate?" she asked hoarsely, with a dull look in Viney's
face. "What's 'nucleate? I heard a doctor say to let 'im rest to-night
an' 'nucleate in the morning'. What's 'nucleate?"

"Some sort o' operation," Grimes hazarded. "Did they say anything
else?"

"Blinded," the woman answered weakly. "Blinded. But the pain's eased
with the oil."

"What did he say?" interposed Viney, fullest of his own concerns. "Did
he say someone did it?"

"He told me about it--whispered. But I shan't say nothing; nor him,
not till he comes out."

"I say--he mustn't get talkin' about it," Viney said, anxiously.
"It--it'll upset things. Tell him when you see him. Here, listen." He
took her aside out of Grimes's hearing. "It wouldn't do," he said, "it
wouldn't do to have anybody charged or anything just now. We've got
something big to pull off. I say--I ought to see him, you know. Can't
I see him? But there--someone might know me. No. But you must tell
him. He mustn't go informing, or anything like that, not yet. Tell
him, won't you?"

"Chargin'? Informin'?" Mag answered, with contempt in her shaking
voice. "'Course 'e wouldn't go informin', not Dan. Dan ain't that
sort--'e looks arter hisself, 'e' does; 'e don't go chargin' people.
Not if 'e was dyin'."

Indeed Viney did not sufficiently understand the morals of Blue Gate:
where to call in the aid of the common enemy, the police, was a foul
trick to which none would stoop. In Blue Gate a man inflicted his own
punishments, and to ask aid of the police was worse than mean and
scandalous: it was weak; and that in a place where the weak "did not
last," as the phrase went. It was the one restraint, the sole virtue
of the place, enduring to death; and like some other virtues, in some
other places, it had its admixture of necessity; for everybody was
"wanted" in turn, and to call for the help of a policeman who might,
as likely as not, begin by seizing oneself by the collar, would even
have been poor policy: bad equally for the individual and for the
community. So that to resort to the law's help in any form was classed
with "narking" as the unpardonable sin.

"You're sure o' that, are you?" asked Viney, apprehensively.

"Sure? 'Course I'm sure. Dunno what sort o' chap you take 'im for.
/'E's/ no nark. An' besides--'e can't. There's other things, an'----"

She turned away with a sigh that was near a sob, and her momentary
indignation lapsed once more into anxious grief.

Viney went off with his head confused and his plans in the
melting-pot. Ogle's scheme was gone by the board, and alone he could
scarce trust himself in any enterprise so desperate. What should he do
now? Make what terms he might with Captain Nat? Need was pressing; but
he must think.



                             CHAPTER XXV

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

I have said something of the change in my grandfather's habits after
the news of the loss of the /Juno/ and my father's death; something
but not all. Not only was he abstracted in manner and aged in look,
but he grew listless in matters of daily life, and even doubtful and
infirm of purpose: an amazing thing in him, whose decision of
character had made his a corner of the world in which his will was
instant law. And with it, and through it all, I could feel that I was
the cause. "It ain't the place for you, Stevy, never the place for
you," he would say, wistful and moody; wholly disregarding my
protests, which I doubt he even heard. "I've put one thing right," he
said once, thinking aloud, as I sat on his knee; "but it ain't enough;
it ain't enough." And I was sure that he was thinking of the watches
and spoons.

As to that matter, people with valuables had wholly ceased from coming
to the private compartment. But the pale man still sat in his corner,
and Joe the potman still supplied the drink he neglected. His
uneasiness grew less apparent in a day or so; but he remained puzzled
and curious, though no doubt well enough content with this, the most
patent example of Grandfather Nat's irresolution.

As for Mr. Cripps, that deliberate artist's whole practice of life was
disorganised by Captain Nat's indifference, and he was driven to
depend for the barest necessaries on the casual generosity of the bar.
In particular he became the client of the unsober sailor I have spoken
of already: the disciplinarian, who had roared confirmation of my
grandfather's orders when the man of the silver spoons got his
dismissal. This sailor was old in the ways of Wapping, as in the
practice of soaking, it would seem, and he gave himself over to no
crimp. Being ashore, with money to spend, he preferred to come alone
to the bar of The Hole in the Wall, and spend it on himself, getting
full measure for every penny. Beyond his talent of ceaselessly
absorbing liquor without becoming wholly drunk, and a shrewd eye for
his correct change, he exhibited the single personal characteristic of
a very demonstrative respect for Captain Nat Kemp. He would confirm my
grandfather's slightest order with shouts and threats, which as often
as not were only to be quelled by a shout or a threat from my
grandfather himself, a thing of instant effect, however. "Ay, ay,
sir!" the man would answer, and humbly return to his pot. "Cap'en's
orders" he would sometimes add, with a wink and a hoarse whisper to a
chance neighbour. "Always 'bey cap'en's orders. Knowed 'em both,
father /an'/ son."

So that Mr. Cripps's ready acquiescence in whatever was said loudly,
and in particular his own habit of blandiloquence, led to a sort of
agreement between the two, and an occasional drink at the sailor's
expense.

But, meantime, his chief patron was grown so abstracted from
considerations of the necessities of genius, so impervious to hints,
so deaf to all suggestion of grant-in-aid, that Mr. Cripps was driven
to a desperate and dramatic stroke. One morning he appeared in the bar
carrying the board for the sign; no tale of a board, no description or
account of a board, no estimate or admeasurement of a board; but the
actual, solid, material board itself.

By what expedient he had acquired it did not fully appear, and,
indeed, with him, cash and credit were about equally scarce. But upon
one thing he most vehemently insisted: that he dared not return home
without the money to pay for it. The ravening creditor would be lying
in wait at the corner of his street.

Mr. Cripps's device for breaking through Captain Nat's abstraction
succeeded beyond all calculation. For my grandfather laid hands on Mr.
Cripps and the board together, and hauled both straightway into the
skippers' parlour at the back.

"There's the board," he said with decision, "an' there's you. Where's
the paints an' brushes?"

Mr. Cripps's stock of paints was low, it seemed, or exhausted. His
brushes were at home and--his creditor was at the corner of the
street.

"If I could take the proceeds"--Mr Cripps began; but Grandfather Nat
interrupted. "Here's you, an' here's the board, an' we'll soon get the
tools: I'll send for 'em or buy new. Here, Joe! Joe'll get 'em. You
say what you want, an' he'll fetch 'em. Here you are, an' here you
stick, an' do my sign-board!"

Mr. Cripps dared not struggle for his liberty, and indeed a promise of
his meals at the proper hours reconciled him to my grandfather's
defiance of Magna Charta. So the skipper's parlour became his studio;
and there he was left in company with his materials, a pot of beer,
and a screw of tobacco. I much desired to see the painting, but it was
ruled that Mr. Cripps must not be disturbed. I think I must have
restrained my curiosity for an hour at least, ere I ventured on
tip-toe to peep through a little window used for the passing in and
out of drinks and empty glasses. Here my view was somewhat obstructed
by Mr. Cripps's pot, which, being empty, he had placed upside down in
the opening, as a polite intimation to whomsoever it might concern;
but I could see that Mr. Cripps's labours having proceeded so far as
the selection of a convenient chair, he was now taking relaxation in
profound slumber. So I went away and said nothing.

When at last he was disturbed by the arrival of his dinner, Mr. Cripps
regained consciousness with a sudden bounce that almost deposited him
on the floor.

"Conception," he gasped, rubbing his eyes, "conception, an'
meditation, an' invention, is what you want in a job like this!"

"Ah," replied my grandfather grimly, "that's all, is it? Then common
things like dinner don't matter. Perhaps Joe'd better take it away?"

But it seemed that Mr. Cripps wanted his dinner too. He had it; but
Grandfather Nat made it clear that he should consider meditation
wholly inconsistent with tea. So that, in course of the afternoon, Mr.
Cripps was fain to paint the board white, and so earn a liberal
interval of rest, while it dried. And at night he went away home
without the price of the board, but, instead, a note to the effect
that the amount was payable on application to Captain Kemp at the Hole
in the Wall, Wapping. This note was the production, after three
successive failures, of my own pen, and to me a matter of great pride
and delight; so that I was sadly disappointed to observe that Mr.
Cripps received it with emotions of a wholly different character.

Next morning Mr. Cripps returned to durance with another pot and
another screw of tobacco. Grandfather Nat had business in the Minories
in the matter of a distiller's account; and for this reason divers
injunctions, stipulations, and warnings were entered into and laid
upon Mr. Cripps before his departure. As for instance:--

It was agreed that Mr. Cripps should remain in the skipper's parlour.

Also (after some trouble) that no exception should be made to the
foregoing stipulation, even in the event of Mr. Cripps feeling it
necessary to go out somewhere to study a brick wall (or the hole in
it) from nature.

Nor even if he felt overcome by the smell of paint.

Agreed, however: that an exception should be granted in the event of
the house being on fire.

Further: this with more trouble: that one pot of beer before dinner is
enough for any man seriously bent on the pursuit of art.

Moreover: that the board must not be painted white again.

Lastly: that the period of invention and meditation be considered at
an end; and that sleep on Mr. Cripps's part be regarded as an
acknowledgment that meals are over for the day.

These articles being at length agreed and confirmed, and Mr. Cripps
having been duly witnessed to make certain marks with charcoal on the
white board, as a guarantee of good faith, Grandfather Nat and I set
out for the Minories.

His moodiness notwithstanding, it was part of his new habit to keep me
near him as much as possible, day and night, with a sort of wistful
jealousy. So we walked hand in hand over the swing bridge, past
Paddy's Goose, into the Highway, and on through that same pageant of
romance and squalor. The tradesmen at their doors saluted Grandfather
Nat with a subdued regard, as I had observed most people to do since
the news of /Juno's/ wreck. Indeed that disaster was very freely
spoken of, all along the water-side, as a deliberate scuttling, and it
was felt that Captain Nat could lay his bereavement to something worse
than the fair chance of the seas. Such things were a part of the daily
talk by the Docks, and here all the familiar features were present;
while it was especially noted that nothing had been seen of Viney
since the news came. He meant to lie safe, said the gossips; since, as
a bankrupt, he stood to gain nothing by the insurance.

One tradesman alone, a publican just beyond Blue Gate, greeted my
grandfather noisily, but he was thoughtless with the pride of
commercial achievement. For he was enlarging his bar, a large one
already, by the demolition of the adjoining shop, and he was anxious
to exhibit and explain his designs.

"Why, good mornin', Cap'en," cried the publican, from amid scaffold
poles and brick-dust. "You're a stranger lately. See what I'm doin'?
Here: come in here an' look. How's this, eh? Another pair o' doors
just over there, an' the bar brought round like so, an' that for
Bottle an' Jug, and throw the rest into Public Bar. Eh?"

The party wall had already been removed, and the structure above
rested on baulks and beams. The bar was screened off now from the
place of its enlargement by nothing but canvas and tarpaulin, and my
grandfather and his acquaintance stood with their backs to this, to
survey the work of the builders.

Waiting by my grandfather's side while he talked, I was soon aware
that business was brisk in the bar beyond the canvas; and I listened
idly to the hum of custom and debate. Suddenly I grew aware of a voice
I knew--an acrid voice just within the canvas.

"Then if you're useless, I ain't," said the voice, "an' I shan't let
it drop." And indeed it was Mrs. Grimes who spoke.

I looked up quickly at Grandfather Nat, but he was interested in his
discussion, and plainly had not heard. Mrs. Grimes's declaration drew
a growling answer in a man's voice, wholly indistinct; and I found a
patch in the canvas, with a loose corner, which afforded a peep-hole.

Mrs. Grimes was nearest, with her back to the canvas, so that her
skirts threatened to close my view. Opposite her were two persons, in
the nearest of whom I was surprised to recognise the coarse-faced
woman I had seen twice before: once when she came asking confused
questions to Grandfather Nat about the man who sold a watch, and once
when she fainted at the inquest, and Mrs. Grimes was too respectable
to stay near her. The woman looked sorrowful and drawn about the eyes
and cheeks, and she held to the arm of a tall, raw-boned man. His face
was seamed with ragged and blistered skin, and he wore a shade over
the hollows where now, peeping upward, I could see no eyes, but shut
and sunken lids; so that at first it was hard to recognise the fellow
who had been talking to this same coarse-faced woman by Blue Gate,
when she left him to ask those questions of my grandfather; and indeed
I should never have remembered him but that the woman brought him to
my mind.

It was this man whose growling answer I had heard. Now Mrs. Grimes
spoke again. "All my fault from the beginning?" she said. "O yes, I
like that: because I wanted to keep myself respectable! My fault or
not, I shan't wait any long for you. If I ain't to have it, you
shan't. An' if I can't get the money I can get something else."

The man growled again and swore, and beat his stick impotently on the
floor. "You're a fool," he said. "Can't you wait till I'm a bit
straight? You an' your revenge! Pah! When there's money to be had!"

"Not much to be had your way, it seems, the mess you've made of it;
an' precious likely to do any better now, ain't you? An' as to
money--well there's rewards given----"

Grandfather Nat's hand fell on my cap, and startled me. He had
congratulated his friend, approved his plans, made a few suggestions,
and now was ready to resume the walk. He talked still as he took my
hand, and stood thus for a few minutes by the door, exchanging views
with the publican on the weather, the last ships in, and the state of
trade. I heard one more growl, louder and angrier than the others,
from beyond the screen, and a sharper answer, and then there was a
movement and the slam of a door; and I got over the step, and
stretched my grandfather's arm and my own to see Mrs. Grimes go
walking up the street.

When we were free of the publican, I told Grandfather Nat that I had
seen Mrs. Grimes in the bar. He made so indifferent a reply that I
said nothing of the conversation I had overheard; for indeed I knew
nothing of its significance. And so we went about our business.



                             CHAPTER XXVI

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

On our way home we were brought to a stand at the swing bridge, which
lay open to let through a ship. We were too late for the perilous
lock; for already the capstans were going, and the ship's fenders were
squeaking and groaning against the masonry. So we stood and waited
till fore, main, and mizzen had crawled by; and then I was surprised
to observe, foremost and most impatient among the passengers on the
opposite side, Mr. Cripps.

The winches turned, and the bridge swung; and my surprise grew, when I
perceived that Mr. Cripps made no effort to avoid Grandfather Nat, but
hurried forward to meet him.

"Well," said my grandfather gruffly, "house on fire?"

"No, sir--no. But I thought----"

"Sign done?"

"No, Cap'en, not done exactly. But I just got curious noos, an' so I
come to meet you."

"What's the news?"

"Not p'raps exactly as you might say noos, sir, but
information--information that's been transpired to me this mornin'.
More or less unique information, so to say,--uncommon unique; much
uniquer than usual."

With these repetitions, Mr. Cripps looked hard in my grandfather's
eyes, as one does who wishes to break news, or lead up to a painful
subject. "What's it all about?" asked Grandfather Nat.

"The /Juno/."

"Well?"

"She /was/ scuttled wilful, Cap'en Kemp, scuttled wilful by Beecher.
It's more'n rumour or scandal: it's plain evidence."

My grandfather looked fixedly at Mr. Cripps. "What's the plain
evidence?" he asked.

"That chap that's been so much in the bar lately," Mr. Cripps
answered, his eyes wide with the importance of his discovery. "The
chap that soaks so heavy, an' shouts at any one you order out. He was
aboard the /Juno/ on the voyage out, an' he deserted at Monte Video to
a homeward bound ship."

"Then he doesn't know about the wreck." I thought my grandfather made
this objection almost eagerly.

"No, Cap'en; but he deserted 'cos he said he preferred bein' on a ship
as was meant to come back, an' one as had some grub aboard--him an'
others. Beecher tried to pile 'em up time an' again; an' says the
chap--Conolly's his name--says he, anything as went wrong aboard the
/Juno/ was Beecher's doin'; which was prophesied in the fo'c'sle a
score o' times 'fore she got to Monte Video. An'--an' Conolly said
more." Mr. Cripps stole another sidelong glance at Grandfather Nat.
"Confidential to me this mornin', Conolly said more."

"What?"

"He said it was the first officer, your son, Cap'en, as prevented the
ship bein' piled up on the voyage out, an' all but knocked Beecher
down once. An' he said they was near fightin' half the time he was
with 'em, an' he said--surprisin' solemn too--solemn as a man could as
was half drunk--that after what he'd seen an' heard, anything as
happened to the first mate was no accident, or anything like it.
That's what he said, cap'en, confidential to me this mornin'."

We were walking along together now; and Mr. Cripps seemed puzzled that
his information produced no more startling effect on my grandfather.
The old man's face was pale and hard, but there was no sign of
surprise; which was natural, seeing that this was no news, as Mr.
Cripps supposed, but merely confirmation.

"He said there was never any skipper so partic'ler about the boats an'
davits bein' kep' in order as Beecher was that trip," Mr. Cripps
proceeded. "An' he kep' his own life-belt wonderful handy. As for the
crew, they kep' their kit-bags packed all the time; they could see
enough for that. An' he said there was some as could say more'n he
could."

We came in view of the Hole in the Wall, and Mr. Cripps stopped short.
"He don't know I'm tellin' you this," he said. "He came in the
skipper's room with a drink, an' got talkin' confidential. He's very
close about it. You know what sailors are."

Grandfather Nat frowned, and nodded. Indeed nobody knew better the
common sailor-man's horror of complications and "land-shark" troubles
ashore: of anything that might lead to his being asked for responsible
evidence, even for his own protection. It gave impunity to
three-quarters of the iniquity practised on the high seas.

"An' then o' course he's a deserter," Mr. Cripps proceeded. "So I
don't think you'd better say I told you cap'en--not to him. You can
give information--or I can--an' then they'll make him talk, at the Old
Bailey; an' they'll bring others."

Grandfather Nat winced, and turned away. Then he stopped again and
said angrily: "Damn you, don't meddle! Keep your mouth shut, an' don't
meddle."

Mr. Cripps's jaw dropped, and his very nose paled. "But--but----" he
stammered, "but, Cap'en, it's murder! Murder agin Beecher an' Viney
too! You'll do something, when it's your own son! Your own son. An'
it's murder, Cap'en!"

My grandfather went two steps on his way, with a stifled groan.
"Murder!" he muttered, "murder it is, by the law of England!"

Mr. Cripps came at his heels, very blank in the face. Suddenly my
grandfather turned on him again, pale and fierce. "Shut your mouth,
d'ye hear? Stow your slack jaw, an' mind your own business, or
I'll----"

Grandfather Nat lifted his hand; and I believe nothing but a paralysis
of terror kept Mr. Cripps from a bolt. Several people stopped to
stare, and the old man saw it. So he checked his wrath and walked on.

"I'll see that man," he said presently, flinging the words at Mr.
Cripps over his shoulder. And so we reached the Hole in the Wall.

Mr. Cripps sat speechless in the bar and trembled, while Grandfather
Nat remained for an hour in the skipper's parlour with Conolly the
half-drunken. What they said one to another I never learned, nor even
if my grandfather persuaded the man to tell him anything; though there
can be no doubt he did.

For myself, I moved uneasily about the bar-parlour, and presently I
slipped out into the alley to gaze at the river from the stair-head. I
was troubled vaguely, as a child often is who strives to analyse the
behaviour of his elders. I stared some while at the barges and the
tugs, and at Bill Stagg's boat with its cage of fire, as it went in
and about among the shipping; I looked at the bills on the wall, where
new tales of men and women Found Drowned displaced those of a week
ago; and I fell again into the wonderment and conjecture they always
prompted; and last I turned up the alley, though whether to look out
on the street or to stop at the bar-parlour door, I had not
determined.

As I went, I grew aware of a tall, florid man with thick boots and
very large whiskers, who stood at the entry, and regarded me with a
wide and ingratiating smile. I had some cloudy remembrance of having
seen him before, walking in the street of Wapping Wall; and, as he
seemed to be coming to meet me, I went on past the bar-parlour door to
meet him.

"Ah!" he said with a slight glance toward the door, "you're a smart
fellow, I can see." And he patted my head and stopped. "Now I've got
something to show you. See there!"

He pulled a watch from his pocket and opened it. I was much interested
to see that the inward part swung clear out from the case, on a hinge,
exactly as I had seen happen with another watch on my first evening at
the Hole in the Wall. "That's a rum trick, ain't it?" observed the
stranger, smiling wider than ever.

I assented, and thanked him for the demonstration.

"Ah," he replied, "you're as clever a lad as ever I see; but I lay you
never see a watch like that before?"

"Yes, I did," I answered heartily. "I saw one once."

"No, no," said the florid man, still toying with the watch, "I don't
believe that--it's your gammon. Why, where did you see one?"

He shot another stealthy glance toward the bar-parlour door as he said
it, and the glance was so unlike the smile that my sleeping caution
was alarmed. I remembered how my grandfather had come by the watch
with the M on the back; and I remember his repeated warnings that I
must not talk.

"----Why, where did you see one?" asked the stranger.

"In a man's hand," I said, with stolid truth.

He looked at me so sharply through his grin that I had an
uncomfortable feeling that I had somehow let out the secret after all.
But I resolved to hold on tight.

"Ha! ha!" he laughed, "in a man's hand, of course! I knew you was a
smart one. Mine hasn't got any letter on the back, you see."

"No," I answered with elaborate indifference; "no letter." And as I
spoke I found more matter of surprise. For if I had eyes in my
head--and indeed I had sharp ones--there was Mrs. Grimes in a dark
entry across the street, watching this grinning questioner and me.

"Some have letters on the back," said the questioner. "Mine ain't that
sort. What sort----"

Here Joe the potman dropped, or knocked over, something in the
bar-parlour; and the stranger started.

"I think I'm wanted indoors," I said, moving off, glad of the
interruption. "Good-bye!"

The florid stranger rose and walked off at once, with a parting smile.
He turned at the corner, and went straight away, without so much as a
look toward the entry where Mrs. Grimes was. I fancied he walked
rather like a policeman.



                            CHAPTER XXVII

                          IN THE BAR-PARLOUR

Dan Ogle, blinded and broken, but silent and saving his revenge: Musky
Mag, stricken and pitiable, but faithful even if to death: Henry
Viney, desperate but fearful, and urgently needy: these three skulked
at bay in dark holes by Blue Gate.

Sullen and silent to doggedness, Ogle would give no word to the
hospital doctors of how his injury had befallen; and in three days he
would brook confinement no longer, but rose and broke away, defiant of
persuasion, to grope into the outer world by aid of Mag's arm. Blind
George was about still, but had scarcely been near the Highway except
at night, when, as he had been wont to boast, he was as good as most
men with sound eyes. It was thought that he spent his days over the
water, as would be the way of one feeling the need of temporary
caution. It did not matter: that could rest a bit. Blind George should
be paid, and paid bitter measure; but first the job in hand, first the
scheme he had interrupted; first the money.

Here were doubt and difficulty. Dan Ogle's plan of murder and
comprehensive pillage was gone by the board; he was next to helpless.
It was plain that, whatever plan was followed, Viney must bear the
active part; Dan Ogle raved and cursed to find his partner so
unpractised a ruffian, so cautious and doubtful a confederate.

Mrs. Grimes made the matter harder, and it was plain that the thing
must be either brought to a head or wholly abandoned, if only on her
account. For she had her own idea, with her certain revenge on Captain
Nat, and a contingent reward; furthermore, she saw her brother
useless. And things were brought to a head when she would wait no
more, but carried her intrigue to the police.

Nothing but a sudden move would do now, desperate as it might be; and
the fact screwed Viney to the sticking-place, and gave new vigour to
Ogle's shaken frame. After all, the delay had not been great--no more
than a few days. Captain Nat suspected nothing, and the chances lay
that the notes were still in hand, as they had been when Ogle's sister
last saw them; for he could afford to hold them, and dispose of them
at a later and safer time. The one danger was from this manœuvre of
Mrs. Grimes: if the police thought well enough of her tale to act
without preliminary inquiry, they might be at the Hole in the Wall
with a search-warrant at any moment. The thing must be done at
once--that very night.

Musky Mag had never left Dan's side a moment since she had brought him
from the hospital; now she was thrust aside, and bidden to keep to
herself. Viney took to pen, ink and paper; and the two men waited
impatiently for midnight.

It was then that Viney, with Ogle at his elbow, awaited the closing of
the Hole in the Wall, hidden in the dark entry, whence Mrs. Grimes had
watched the plain-clothes policeman fishing for information a few
hours earlier. The customers grew noisier as the hour neared; and
Captain Nat's voice was heard enjoining order once or twice, ere at
last it was raised to clear the bar. Then the company came out,
straggling and staggering, wrangling and singing, and melted away into
the dark, this way and that. Mr. Cripps went east, the pale pensioner
west, each like a man who has all night to get home in; and the
potman, having fastened the shutters, took his coat and hat, and went
his way also.

There was but one other tavern in sight, and that closed at the same
time as the Hole in the Wall; and since none nearer than Paddy's Goose
remained open till one, Wapping Wall was soon dark and empty. There
were diamond-shaped holes near the top of the shutters at the Hole in
the Wall, and light was visible through these: a sign that Captain Nat
was still engaged in the bar. Presently the light dulled, and then
disappeared: he had extinguished the lamps. Now was the time--while he
was in the bar-parlour. Viney came out from the entry, pulling Ogle by
the arm, and crossed the street. He brought him to the court entrance,
and placed his hand on the end post.

"This is the first post in the court," Viney whispered. "Wait here
while I go. We both know what's to do."

Viney tip-toed to the bar-parlour door, and tapped. There was a heavy
footstep within, and the door was flung open. There stood Captain Nat
with the table-lamp in his hand. "Who's that?" said Captain Nat. "Come
into the light."

Viney took a deep breath. "Me," he answered. "I'll come in; I've got
something to say."

He went in side-foremost, with his back against the door-post, and
Captain Nat turned slowly, each man watching the other. Then the
landlord put the lamp on the table, and shut the door. "Well," he
said, "I'll hear you say it."

There was something odd about Captain Nat's eyes: something new, and
something that Viney did not like. Hard and quiet; not anger, it would
seem, but something indefinable--and worse. Viney braced himself with
another inspiration of breath.

"First," he said, "I'm alone here, but I've left word. There's a
friend o' mine not far off, waiting. He's waiting where he can hear
the clock strike on Shadwell Church, just as you can hear it here; an'
if I'm not back with him, safe an' sound, when it strikes one, he's
going to the police with some papers I've given him, in an envelope."

"Ah! An' what papers?"

"Papers I've written myself. Papers with a sort of private log in
them--not much like the one they showed 'em at Lloyd's--of the loss of
the /Florence/ years enough ago, when a man named Dan Webb was killed.
Papers with the names of most of the men aboard, an' hints as to where
to find of 'em: Bill Stagg, for instance, A.B. They may not want to
talk, but they can be made."

Captain Nat's fixed look was oddly impassive. "Have you got it on the
papers," he said, in a curiously even voice, as though he recited a
lesson learned by rote; "have you got it on the papers that Dan Webb
had got at the rum, an' was lost through bein' drunk?"

"No, I haven't; an' much good it 'ud do ye if I had. Drunk or sober he
died in that wreck, an' not a man aboard but knew all about that. I've
told you, before, what it is by law: Murder. Murder an' the Rope."

"Ay," said Captain Nat in the same even voice, though the tones grew
in significance as he went on. "Ay, you have; an' you made me pay for
the information. Murder it is, an' the Rope, by the law of England."

"Well, I want none of your money now; I want my own. I'll go back an'
burn those papers--or give 'em to you, if you like--an' you'll never
see me again, if you'll do one thing--not with your money."

"What?"

"Give me my partner's leather pocket-book and my eight hundred and ten
pounds that was in it. That's first an' last of my business here
to-night, an' all I've got to say."

For a moment Captain Nat's impassibility was disturbed, and he looked
sharply at Viney. "Ha!" he said, "what's this? Partner's pocket-book?
Notes? What?"

"I've said it plain, an' you understand me. Time's passing, Cap'en
Kemp, an' you'd better not waste it arguing; one o'clock'll strike
before long. The money I came an' spoke about when they found Marr in
the river; you had it all the time, an' you knew it. That's what I
want: nothing o' yours, but my own money. Give me my own money, an'
save your neck."

Captain Nat compressed his lips, and folded his arms. "There was a
woman knew about this," he said slowly, after a pause, "a woman an' a
man. They each took a try at that money, in different ways. They must
be friends o' yours."

"Time's going, Cap'en Kemp, time's going! Listen to reason, an' give
me what's my own. I want nothing o' yours; nothing but my own. To save
you; and--and that boy. You've got a boy to remember: think o' the
boy!"

Captain Nat stood for a little, silent and thoughtful, his eyes
directed absently on Viney, as though he saw him not; and as he stood
so the darkness cleared from his face. Not that moment's darkness
only, but all the hardness of years seemed to abate in the old
skipper's features, so that presently Captain Nat stood transfigured.

"Ay," he said at last, "the boy--I'll think o' the boy, God bless him!
You shall have your money, Viney: though whether it ought to be yours
I don't know. Viney, when you came in I was ready to break you in
pieces with my bare hands--which I could do easy, as you know well
enough." He stretched forth the great knotted hands, and Viney shrank
before them. "I was ready to kill you with my hands, an' would ha'
done it, for a reason I'll tell you of, afterwards. But I've done evil
enough, an' I'll do no more. You shall have your money. Wait here, an'
I'll fetch it."

"Now, no--no tricks, you know!" said Viney, a little nervously, as the
old man turned toward the staircase door.

"Tricks?" came the answer. "No. An end of all tricks." And Captain Nat
tramped heavily up the stair.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

My grandfather was uncommonly silent all that day, after his interview
with Conolly. He bade me good night when I went to bed, and kissed me;
but he said no more, though he sat by my bed till I fell asleep, while
Joe attended the bar.

I had a way, now and again, of waking when the bar was closed--perhaps
because of the noise; and commonly at these times I lay awake till
Grandfather Nat came to bed, to bid him good night once more. It was
so this night, the night of nights. I woke at the shouting and the
stumbling into the street, and lay while the bar was cleared, and the
doors banged and fastened.

My grandfather seemed to stay uncommonly long; and presently, as the
night grew stiller, I was aware of voices joined in conversation
below. I wondered greatly who could be talking with Grandfather Nat at
this hour, and I got out of bed to listen at the stair-head. It could
not be Bill Stagg, for the voices were in the bar-parlour, and not in
the store-place behind; and it was not Joe the potman, for I had heard
him go, and I knew his step well. I wondered if Grandfather Nat would
mind if I went down to see.

I was doubtful, and I temporised; I began to put on some clothes,
listening from time to time at the stair-head, in hope that I might
recognise the other voice. But indeed both voices were indistinct, and
I could not distinguish one from the other. And then of a sudden the
stair-foot door opened, and my grandfather came upstairs, heavy and
slow.

I doubted what he might say when he saw my clothes on, but he seemed
not to notice it. He brought a candle in from the landing, and he
looked strangely grave--grave with a curious composure. He went to the
little wall-cupboard at his bed-head, and took out the cash-box, which
had not been downstairs since the pale man had ceased work. "Stevy, my
boy," he said, "have you said your prayers?"

"Yes, grandfather."

"An' didn't forget Gran'father Nat?"

"No, grandfather, I never forget you."

"Good boy, Stevy." He took the leather pocket-book from the box, and
knelt by my side, with his arm about me. "Stevy," he said, "here's
this money. It ain't ours, Stevy, neither yours nor mine, an' we've no
right to it. I kept it for you, but I did wrong; an' worse, I was
leadin' you wrong. Will you give it up, Stevy?"

"Why, yes, grandfather." Truly that was an easy enough thing to say;
and in fact I was in some way pleased to know that my mother had been
right, after all.

"Right, Stevy; be an honest boy always, and an honest man--better than
me. Since I was a boy like you, I've gone a long way wrong, an' I've
been a bad man, Stevy, a bad man some ways, at least. An' now, Stevy,
I'm goin' away--for a bit. Presently, when I'm gone, you can go to the
stairs an' call Bill Stagg--he'll come at once. Call Bill Stagg--he'll
stay with you to-night. You don't mind Bill Stagg, do you?"

Bill Stagg was an excellent friend of mine, and I liked his company;
but I could not understand Grandfather Nat's going away. Where was he
going, and why, so late at night?

"Never mind that just now, Stevy. I'm going away--for a bit; an'
whatever happens you'll always say prayers night an' mornin' for
Gran'father Nat, won't you? An' be a good boy."

There was something piteous now in my grandfather's hard, grave face.
"Don't go, grandfather," I pleaded, with my arm at his neck, "don't
go, Grandfather Nat! You're not--not going to die, are you?"

"That's as God wills, my boy. We must all die some day."

I think he was near breaking down here; but at the moment a voice
called up the stairs.

"Are you coming?" said the voice. "Time's nearly up!" And it
frightened me more than I can say to know this second voice at last
for Viney's.

But my grandfather was firm again at once. "Yes," he cried, "I'm
coming! . . . No more to do, Stevy--snivelling's no good." And then
Grandfather Nat put his hands clumsily together, and shut his eyes
like a little child. "God bless an' save this boy, whatever happens.
Amen," said Grandfather Nat.

Then he rose, and took from the cash-box the watch that the
broken-nosed man had sold. "There's that, too," he said musingly. "I
dunno why I kep' it so long." And with that he shut the cash-box, and
strode across to the landing. He looked back at me for a moment, but
said nothing; and then descended the stairs.

Bewildered and miserably frightened, I followed him. I could neither
reason nor cry out, and I had an agonised hope that I was not really
awake, and that this was just such a nightmare as had afflicted me on
the night of the murder at our door. I crouched on the lower stairs,
and listened. . . .

"Yes, I've got it," said my grandfather, answering an eager question.
"There it is. Look at that--count the notes."

I heard a hasty scrabbling of paper.

"Right?" asked my grandfather.

"Quite right," Viney answered; and there was exultation in his voice.

"Pack 'em up--put 'em safe in your pocket. Quite safe? There's the
watch, too; I paid for that."

"Oh, the watch? Well, all right, I don't mind having that too, since
you're pressing. . . . You might ha' saved a deal of trouble, yours
an' mine too, if you'd done all this before."

"Yes, you're right; but I clear up all now. You've got the notes all
quite safe, have you?"

"All safe." There was the sound of a slap on a breast-pocket.

"And the watch?"

"Ay; and the watch."

"Good!" . . .

I heard a bounce and a gasp of terror; and then my grandfather's voice
again. "Come! Come, Viney! We'll be quits to the end. We're bad men
both, an' we'll go to the police together. Bring your papers, Viney!
Tell 'em about the /Florence/ an' Dan Webb, an' I'll tell 'em about
the /Juno/ an' my boy! I've got my witnesses--an' I'll find more--a
dozen to your one! Come, Viney! I'll have justice done now, on both of
us!"

I could stay no longer. Viney was struggling desperately, reasoning,
entreating. I pushed open the staircase door, but neither seemed to
note me. My grandfather had Viney by arm and collar, and was shaking
him, face downward.

"I'll go halves, Kemp--I'll go halves," Viney gasped hoarsely. "Divide
how you like--but don't, don't be a fool! Take five hundred! Think o'
the boy!"

"I've thought of the boy, an' I've thought of his father! God'll mind
the boy you've made an orphan! Come!"

My grandfather flung wide the door, and tumbled Viney up the steps
into the court. The little table with the lamp on it rocked from a
kick, and I saved it by sheer instinct, for I was sick with terror.

I followed into the court, and saw my grandfather now nearly at the
street corner, hustling and dragging his prisoner. "Dan! Dan!" Viney
was crying, struggling wildly. "Dan! I've got it! Draw him off me,
Dan! Go for the kid an' draw him off! Go for the kid on the stairs!"

And I could see a man come groping between the wall and the posts, a
hand feeling from one post to the next, and the stick in the other
hand scraping the wall. I ran out to the farther side of the alley.

Viney's shout distracted my grandfather's attention, and I saw him
looking anxiously back. With that Viney took his chance, and flung
himself desperately round the end post. His collar went with a rip,
and he ran. For a moment my grandfather stood irresolute, and I ran
toward him. "I am safe here," I cried. "Come away, grandfather!"

But when he saw me clear of the groping man, he turned and dashed
after Viney; while from the bar-parlour I heard a curse and a crash of
broken glass. I vaguely wondered if Viney's confederate were smashing
windows in the partition; and then I ran my hardest after Grandfather
Nat.

Viney had made up the street toward the bridge and Ratcliff Highway,
and Captain Nat pursued with shouts of "Stop him!" Breathless and
unsteady, I made slow progress with my smaller legs over the rough
cobblestones, which twisted my feet all ways as I ran. But I was
conscious of a gathering of other cries ahead, and I struggled on,
with throbbing head and bursting heart. Plainly there were more shouts
as I neared the corner, and a running of more men than two. And when
the corner was turned, and the bridge and the lock before me, I saw
that the chase was over.

Three bull's-eye lanterns were flashing to and fro, pointing their
long rays down on the black dock-water, and the policemen who directed
them were calling to dockmen on the dark quay, who cried back, and
ran, and called again.

"Man in!" cried one and another, hurrying in from the Highway. "Fell
off the lock." "No, he cut his lucky an' headered in!" "He didn't, I
tell ye!" "Yes, he did! Why, I see 'im!"

I could not see my grandfather; and for a moment my thumping heart
stood still and sick with the fear that it was he who was drowning in
the dock. Then a policeman swung his lantern across to the opposite
side, and in the passing flash Grandfather Nat's figure stood hard and
clear for an instant and no more. He was standing midway on the lock,
staring and panting, and leaning on a stanchion.

With a dozen risks of being knocked into the dock by excited
onlookers, I scrambled down to the lock and seized the first
stanchion. It creaked and tottered in my hand, but I went forward,
gripping at the swaying chain and keeping foothold on the slippery,
uneven timbers I knew not how. Sometimes the sagging chain would give
till I felt myself pitching headlong, only to be saved by the check of
the stanchion against the side of the socket; and once the chain hung
so low, where it had slipped through the next stanchion-eye, that I
had no choice but to let go, and plunged into the dark for the next
upright--it might have been to plunge into space. "Grandfather Nat!
Grandfather Nat!"

I reached him somehow at last, and caught tight at his wrist. He was
leaning on the stanchion still, and staring at the dark water. "Here I
am, grandfather," I said, "but I am frightened. Stay with me, please!"

For a little while he still peered into the gloom. Then he turned and
said quietly: "I've lost him, Stevy. He went over--here."

By the sweep of his hand I saw what had happened, though I could
scarce realise the whole matter then and there. As I presently learnt,
however, Viney was running full for the bridge, with Captain Nat
shouting behind him, when he saw the lanterns of the three policemen
barring the bridge as they came on their beat from the Highway. To
avoid them he swung aside and made for the lock, with his pursuer hard
at his heels. Now a lock of that sort joins in an angle or mitre at
the middle, where the two sides meet like a valve, pointing to resist
the tide; so that the hazardous path along the top turns off sharply
mid-way. Flying headlong, with thought of nothing but the avenger
behind him, Viney overran the angle, meeting the low chain full under
his knees; and so was gone, with a yell and a splash.

Grandfather Nat took me by the collar, and turned me round. "We'll get
back, Stevy," he said. "Go on, I'll hold you tight."

And so in the pitchy dark I went back along the way I had come,
walking before my grandfather as I had done when first I saw that
lock. The dockmen had flung random life-buoys, and now were groping
with drags and hooks. Some judged that the man must have gone under
like a stone; others thought it quite likely that a good swimmer might
have got away quietly. And everybody wished to know who the man was,
and why he was running.

To all such questions my grandfather made the same answer. "It was a
man I wanted, wanted bad, for the police. You find him, dead or alive,
an' I'll identify him, an' say the rest in the proper place; that's
all." Only once he amplified his answer, and then he said: "You can
judge he was as much afraid o' the police as he was o' me, or more.
Look where he went, when he saw 'em on the bridge!" And again he
repeated: "I'll say the rest when he's found, not before; an' nobody
can make me."

He was calm and cool enough now, as I could feel as well as hear, for
my hand was buried in his, while he pushed his way stolidly through
the little crowd. As for myself, I could neither think, nor speak, nor
laugh, nor cry, though dizzily conscious of an impulse to do all four
at once. I had Grandfather Nat again, and now he would not go away:
that I did realise: and I clung with all my might to as much of his
hand as I could grip.



                             CHAPTER XXIX

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

But I was to have neither time to gather my wits nor quiet to assort
my emotions: for the full issue of that night was not yet. Even as we
were pushing through the little crowd, and even as my grandfather
parried question with answer, a new cry arose, and at the sound the
crowd began to melt: for it was the cry of "Fire."

A single shout at first, and then another, and then a clamour of three
together, and a beat of running feet. Men about us started off, and as
we rounded the corner, one came running back on his tracks. "Cap'en
Kemp, it's your house!" he cried. "Your house, Cap'en Kemp! The Hole
in the Wall! The Hole in the Wall!"

Then was dire confusion. I was caught in a whirl of running men, and I
galloped and stumbled along as I might, dragging dependent from my
grandfather's hand. Somewhere ahead a wavering light danced before my
eyes, and there was a sudden outburst of loud cracks, as of a hundred
carters' whips; and then--screams; screams without a doubt. Confusedly
my mind went back to Viney's confederate, groping in at the
bar-parlour door. What had he done? Smashed glass? Glass? It must have
been the lamp: the lamp on the little table by the door, the lamp I
had myself saved but ten minutes earlier!

Now we were opposite the Hole in the Wall, and the loud cracks were
joined with a roar of flame. Out it came gushing at the crevices of
doors and shutters, and the corners of doors and shutters shrivelled
and curled to let out more, as though that bulging old wooden house
were a bursting reservoir of long-pent fire that could be held in no
more. And still there were the screams, hoarser and hoarser, from what
part within was not to be guessed.

My grandfather stood me in a doorway, up two steps, and ran toward the
court, but that was impassable. With such fearful swiftness had the
fire sprung up and over the dry old timber on this side, where it had
made its beginning, that already a painted board on the brick wall
opposite was black and smoking and glowering red at the edges; and
where I stood, across the road, the air was hot and painful to the
eyes. Grandfather Nat ran along the front of the house to the main
door, but it was blazing and bursting, and he turned and ran into the
road, with his arm across his eyes. Then, with a suddenly increased
roar, flames burst tenfold in volume and number from all the ground
floor, and, where a shutter fell, all within glowed a sheer red
furnace. The spirit was caught at last.

And now I saw a sight that would come again in sleep months
afterwards, and set me screaming in my bed. The cries, which had
lately died down, sprang out anew amid the roar, nearer and clearer,
with a keener agony; and up in the club-room, the room of the
inquests--there at a window appeared the Groping Man, a dreadful
figure. In no darkness now, but ringed about with bright flame I saw
him: the man whose empty, sightless eye-pits I had seen scarce twelve
hours before through a hole in a canvas screen. The shade was gone
from over the place of the eyes, and down the seared face and among
the rags of blistered skin rolled streams of horrible great tears,
forced from the raw lids by scorching smoke. His clothes smoked about
him as he stood--groping, groping still, he knew not whither; and his
mouth opened and closed with sounds scarce human.

Grandfather Nat roared distractedly for a ladder, called to the man to
jump, ran forward twice to the face of the house as though to catch
him, and twice came staggering back with his hands over his face, and
flying embers singeing his hair and his coat.

The blind man's blackened hands came down on the blazing sill, and
leapt from the touch. Then came a great crash, with a single second's
dulling of the whole blaze. For an instant the screaming, sightless,
weeping face remained, and then was gone for ever. The floor had
fallen.

The flames went up with a redoubled roar, and now I could hold my
place no longer for the heat. People were flinging water over the
shutters and doors of the houses facing the fire, and from the houses
adjoining furniture was being dragged in hot haste. My grandfather
came and carried me a few doors farther along the street, and left me
with a chandler's wife, who was out in a shawl and a man's overcoat
over a huddle of flannel petticoats.

Now the fire engines came, dashing through the narrow lanes with a
clamour of hoarse cries, and scattering the crowd this way and that.
The Hole in the Wall was past aid, and all the work was given to save
its neighbours. For some while I could distinguish my grandfather
among the firemen, heaving and hauling, and doing the work of three.
The police were grown in numbers now, and they had cleared the street
to beyond where I stood, so that I could see well enough; and in every
break in the flames, in every changing shadow, I saw again the face of
the Groping Man, even as I can see it now as I write.

Floor went upon floor, till at last the poor old shell fell in a heap
amid a roar of shouts and a last leap of fire, leaving the brick wall
of the next house cracking and black and smoking, and tagged with
specks of dying flame. And then at last my grandfather, black and
scorched, came and sat by me on a step, and put the breast of his coat
about me.

And that was the end of the Hole in the Wall: the end of its
landlord's doubts and embarrassments and dangers, and the beginning of
another chapter in his history--his history and mine.



                             CHAPTER XXX

                            STEPHEN'S TALE

Little remains to say; for with the smoking sticks of the Hole in the
Wall the tale of my early days burns itself out.

Viney's body was either never found or never identified. Whether it
was discovered by some person who flung it adrift after possessing
himself of the notes and watch: whether it was held unto dissolution
by mud, or chains, or waterside gear: or whether indeed, as was scarce
possible, it escaped with the life in it, to walk the world in some
place that knew it not, I, at any rate, cannot tell. The fate of his
confederate, at least, was no matter of doubt. He must have been
driven to the bar by the fire he had raised, and there, bewildered and
helpless, and cut off from the way he had come, even if he could find
it, he must have scrambled desperately till he found the one open
exit--the club-room stairs.

But of these enough. Faint by contrast with the vivid scenes of the
night, divers disconnected impressions of the next morning remain with
me: all the fainter for the sleep that clutched at my eyelids, spite
of my anxious resolution to see all to the very end. Of a coarse,
draggled woman of streaming face and exceeding bitter cry, who sat
inconsolable while men raked the ruins for a thing unrecognisable when
it was found. Of the pale man, who came staring and choking, and paler
than ever, gasping piteously of his long and honest service, and
sitting down on the curb at last, to meditate on my grandfather's
promise that he should not want, if he would work. And of Mr. Cripps,
at first blank and speechless, and then mighty loquacious in the
matter of insurance. For works of art would be included, of course, up
to twenty pounds apiece; at which amount of proceeds--with a discount
to Captain Kemp--he would cheerfully undertake to replace the lot, and
throw the signboard in.

Mrs. Grimes was heard of, though not seen; but this was later. She was
long understood to have some bitter grievance against the police, whom
she charged with plots and conspiracies to defeat the ends of justice;
and I think she ended with a savage assault on a plain-clothes'
constable's very large whiskers, and twenty-one days' imprisonment.

The Hole in the Wall was rebuilt in brick, with another name, as I
think you may see it still; or could, till lately. There was also
another landlord. For Captain Nat Kemp turned to enlarging and
improving his wharf, and he bought lighters, and Wapping saw him no
more. As for me, I went to school at last.



THE END




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