Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/165

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


CHAPTER XII

THE THAMES, WHERE GAFFER, ROWED BY LIZZIE HEXAM, PLIED HIS TRADE


To understand why the damp, mouldy, waterside life of the Thames should have so strongly appealed to Mr. Dickens, it is only necessary to follow in his footsteps, especially when the tide is out—and a mighty tide it is.

You think when you are crossing London Bridge to the Surrey side, your eye fixed on what you suppose is its wharf front—and we are dealing with that part of the Thames lying between Southwark Bridge and London Bridge—that all you have to do to reach the river bank is to walk along some street running at right angles to the Bridge, turn to the right, and so on down to the water's edge, where, from some pile of freight on an overloaded dock, you can study the river spread out before you.

Nothing of this is possible. The row of sullen warehouses, frowning from dull eyes under iron lids on the water traffic that sweeps past their doors, have neither wharfs nor docks. When the tide is high the cargoes are snatched from huge lighters moored close to their walls, swung through gaping doors opening on the several floors, and then whirled back on hand trucks into dark recesses. When

101