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32. On The Isle Of Dogs
As the police beat left Limehouse Pier, a clammy south-easterly breeze blowing
up-stream lifted the fog in clearly defined layers, an effect very singular to behold.
At one moment a great arc-lamp burning above the Lavender Pond of the Surrey
Commercial Dock shot out a yellowish light across the Thames. Then, as suddenly
as it had come, the light vanished again as a stratum of mist floated before it.
The creaking of the oars sounded muffled and ghostly, and none of the men in the
boat seemed to be inclined to converse. Heading across stream they made for the
unseen promontory of the Isle of Dogs. Navigation was suspended, and they
reached midstream without seeing a ship's light. Then came the damp wind again
to lift the fog, and ahead of them they discerned one of the General Steam
Navigation Company's boats awaiting an opportunity to make her dock at the head
of Deptford Creek. The clamor of an ironworks on the Millwall shore burst loudly
upon their ears, and away astern the lights of the Surrey Dock shone out once
more. Hugging the bank they pursued a southerly course, and from Limehouse
Reach crept down to Greenwich Reach.
Fog closed in upon them, a curtain obscuring both light and sound. When the
breeze came again it had gathered force, and it drove the mist before it in
wreathing banks, and brought to their ears a dull lowing and to their nostrils a
farmyard odor from the cattle pens. Ghostly flames, leaping and falling, leaping
and falling, showed where a gasworks lay on the Greenwich bank ahead.
Eastward swept the river now, and fresher blew the breeze. As they rounded the
blunt point of the "Isle" the fog banks went swirling past them astern, and the lights
on either shore showed clearly ahead. A ship's siren began to roar somewhere
behind them. The steamer which they had passed was about to pursue her course.
Closer in-shore drew the boat, passing a series of wharves, and beyond these a
tract of waste, desolate bank very gloomy in the half light and apparently boasting
no habitation of man. The activities of the Greenwich bank seemed remote, and
the desolation of the Isle of Dogs very near, touching them intimately with its
peculiar gloom.
A light sprang into view some little distance inland, notable because it shone lonely
in an expanse of utter blackness. Kerry broke the long silence.
"Dougal's," he said. "Put us ashore here."
The police boat was pulled in under a rickety wooden structure, beneath which the
Thames water whispered eerily; and Kerry and Seton disembarked, mounting a
short flight of slimy wooden steps and crossing a roughly planked place on to a
shingly slope. Climbing this, they were on damp waste ground, pathless and
"Dougal's is being watched," said Kerry. "I think I told you?"
"Yes," replied Seton. "But I have formed the opinion that the dope gang is too
clever for the ordinary type of man. Sin Sin Wa is an instance of what I mean.
Neither you nor I doubt that he is a receiver of drugs--perhaps the receiver; but
where is our case? The only real link connecting him with the West-End habitue is