Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/167

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suade a verger to let you out by a side door before service is over; but I have never yet been able to induce any native-born Englishman, no matter what the compensation or what his occupation, to work five minutes after twelve o'clock of a Saturday afternoon. Up to that hour, then, my knock-off-at-noon stevedore would take upon himself the care of my person, seeing that no bale of cotton, or sling, full of tea, or other dangerous package, swung sky-ward from the bowels of a lighter, came in contact with any portion of my anatomy.

Furthermore he would impart to me certain valuable data, he having lived around here all his life and knowing every turn of the river. That was—and he pointed across the river—Cannon Station with the railroad bridge running into it; farther up was Southwark Bridge, an old iron bridge that was so old and crumbly that they didn't "let anybody walk across it"—I could just see it through the arches of the big Bridge; and that boat letting off steam was the Margate boat, and if he didn't miss his guess it would be "as full as a tick" on its next trip, being Saturday; and that half-round thing sticking up into the sky over the edge of the railroad bridge was the dome of St. Paul's; and London Bridge, of course, was right over there to the left.

This last piece of valuable information was the most important of all, for there, lying before me, was the very stretch of the river where Gaffer plied his ghastly trade.

A rumbling behind me of closing shutters warned me of the fatal hour of noon.

"Time's up, sir," was all he said as he reached for the iron ring on the wide-open door. "I'll be late for the boat.