Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/194

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"You're standing on it, sir."

Another gasp and a quick movement as if he had stepped on a hot brick.

The discovery produced an oasis, the women shrinking back, the men crowding together, the oblong slab covering the ashes of the man that the world loved free for a moment from the polluting touch of irreverent feet.

This went on for an hour—up to one o'clock, in fact—when the pangs of hunger began to assert themselves. Another hour, my coal working like mad, and the space was cleared, with only the verger left and a young German officer who strutted about on his thin legs like a crane, avoiding the holiest spots. Soon they both disappeared, and I was left alone.

And with their absence the spell of the marvellous interior fell upon me. The kind of awe which appealed to Washington Irving when the magnitude of the building broke fully upon his mind.

"The eye gazes with wonder," he writes, "at clustered columns of gigantic dimensions, with arches springing from them to such an amazing height. It seems as if the awful nature of the place presses down upon the soul, and hushes the beholder into noiseless reverence."

And yet none of this seems to have impressed Mr. Dickens—not in this same way—nor would he have chosen Westminster Abbey as his last resting-place could he have been consulted.

"He would … have preferred," says Forster in describing the causes which led up to his burial in the Sanctu-