The Hole in the Wall

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Copyright: This work is in the public domain in the USA only.

My grandfather was a publican—and a sinner, as you will see. His public-house was the Hole in the Wall, on the river's edge at Wapping; and his sins—all of them that I know of—are recorded in these pages. He was a widower of some small substance, and the Hole in the Wall was not the sum of his resources, for he owned a little wharf on the river Lea. I called him Grandfather Nat, not to distinguish him among a multitude of grandfathers—for indeed I never knew another of my own—but because of affectionate habit; a habit perhaps born of the fact that Nathaniel Kemp was also my father's name. My own is Stephen. To remember Grandfather Nat is to bethink me of pear-drops. It is possible that that particular sort of sweetstuff is now obsolete, and I cannot remember how many years have passed since last I smelt it; for the pear-drop was a thing that could be smelt farther than seen, and oftener; so that its smell—a rather fulsome, vulgar smell I now believe—is almost as distinct to my imagination while I write as it was to my nose thirty years ago. For pear-drops were an unfailing part of the large bagful of sticky old-fashioned lollipops that my grandfather brought on his visits, stuffed into his overcoat pocket, and hard to get out without a burst and a spill. His custom was invariable, so that I think I must have come to regard the sweets as some natural production of his coat pocket; insomuch that at my mother's funeral my muddled brain scarce realised the full desolation of the circumstances till I discovered that, for the first time in my experience, my grandfather's pocket was void of pear-drops. But with this new bereavement the world seemed empty indeed, and I cried afresh.