Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/29

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his neck discover what the fellow in the adjoining pew was having for dinner—unless, of course, he stood on the settle and looked over the top—an unheard of liberty in so well-bred an inn as the "George." And here, scattering every last doubt, was a fireplace before whose cheery blaze hundreds and thousands of shivering shins had been toasted; and a mantel scratched and scarred by the bottoms of countless Tobys that had awaited the thawing out of the countless shins; and there were big, easy, fiddle-backed chairs, with and without arms; and an old, a very old and a very odd clock, one with a history which will be told later on,—as big as a coffin, this clock, and shaped the same,—to say nothing of papers, books, pipes, writing materials, old prints, rare china, rare plates:—Yes, a most wonderfully inviting and welcoming coffee-room,—so cosy and comfortable that once you were inside you would never want to get out, and once you were out you would be unhappy until you could again order "a fresh mug of 'alf-and-'alf, my dear, a brace of chops with a kidney, and, if you don't mind, a mealy with its jacket on."

This was my own order, and the landlady herself took it—and the seat beside me—and occupied it at short and long intervals, depending on her duties, after the meal had been served and before it had been eaten.

She was delightful in her talk.

She had told the story, no doubt, to hundreds of others, but it was none the less grateful to my ears. Every line that Charles Dickens had written which in any way made reference to the "George" was stored away in her memory.

"He often came here," she said with a proud toss of her