The Hole in the Wall, by Arthur Morrison

Chapter 19

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 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’ gettin’ at ’em!”

“You put up a way as wasn’t a 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 spoke of — Marr an’ ‘is 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 what 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.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morrison/arthur/hole-in-the-wall/chapter19.html

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 17:11