The Hole in the Wall, by Arthur Morrison

Chapter 30

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.

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