and the staring black and white letters upon wharves and warehouses “looked,” said Eugene to Mortimer, “like inscriptions over the graves of dead businesses.”

As they glided slowly on, keeping under the shore and sneaking in and out among the shipping by back- alleys of water, in a pilfering way that seemed to be their boatman’s normal manner of progression, all the objects among which they crept were so huge in contrast with their wretched boat, as to threaten to crush it. Not a ship’s hull, with its rusty iron links of cable run out of hawse-holes long discolored with the iron’s rusty tears, but seemed to be there with a fell intention. Not a figure-head but had the menacing look of bursting forward to run them down. Not a sluice gate, or a painted scale upon a post or wall, showing the depth of water, but seemed to hint, like the dreadfully facetious Wolf in bed in Grandmamma’s cottage, “That’s to drown you in, my dears!” Not a lumbering black barge, with its cracked and blistered side impending over them, but seemed to suck at the river with a thirst for sucking them under. And everything so vaunted the spoiling influences of water — discolored copper, rotten wood, honey-combed stone, green dank deposit — that the after-consequences of being crushed, sucked under, and drawn down, looked as ugly to the imagination as the main event.

Some half-hour of this work, and Riderhood unshipped his sculls, stood holding on to a barge, and hand over hand long-wise along the barge’s side gradually worked his boat under her head into a secret little nook of scummy water. And driven into that nook, and wedged as he had described, was Gaffer’s boat; that boat with the stain still in it, bearing some resemblance to a muffled human form.

“Now tell me I’m a liar!” said the honest man.

(“With a morbid expectation,” murmured Eugene to Lightwood, “that somebody is always going to tell him the truth.”)

“This is Hexam’s boat,” said Mr Inspector. “I know her well.”

“Look at the broken scull. Look at the t’other scull gone. now tell me I am a liar!” said the honest man.

Mr Inspector stepped into the boat. Eugene and Mortimer looked on.

“And see now!” added Riderhood, creeping aft, and showing a stretched rope made fast there and towing overboard. “Didn’t I tell you he was in luck again?”

“Haul in,” said Mr Inspector.

“Easy to say haul in,” answered Riderhood. “Not so easy done. His luck’s got fouled under the keels of the barges. I tried to haul in last time, but I couldn’t. See how taut the line is!”

“I must have it up,” said Mr Inspector. “I am going to take the boat ashore, and his luck along with it. Try easy now.”

He tried easy now; but the luck resisted; wouldn’t come.

“I mean to have it, and the boat too,” said Mr Inspector, playing the line.

But still the luck resisted; wouldn’t come.

“Take care,” said Riderhood. “You’ll disfigure. Or pull asunder perhaps.”

“I am not going to do either, not even to your Grandmother,” said Mr Inspector; “but I mean to have it. Come!” he added, at once persuasively and with authority to the hidden object in the water, as he played the line again; “it’s no good this sort of game, you know. You must come up. I mean to have you.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.