Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/30

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head, "long after the 'Pickwick Papers' were written, so men who knew him have told me. You see, he lived not very far from here when he was a boy—over in Lant Street, near Guy's, and this old courtyard was one of his favourite resorts. That was his table over by the window. The Dickens' Fellowship Club located it for me. They come every year and have dinner—generally on his birthday—and then it's nothing but 'Mr. Dickens' all over the place."

It was easy to follow her—I had only to suggest a name or an incident and she was off. And she was good to look at as she talked—a hearty, well-built, alert woman, ruddy and strong, with an air about her of being in charge, of letting nothing in the management of the house slip by unnoticed, and of always being concerned about your comfort. "I should so love to have seen him," she continued. "I've seen a lot of men in my time (she is still single) but there is no one I'd rather have met than Mr. Dickens, and I've been here nearly thirty-five years." I made an incredulous movement with my eyelids, and in explanation suggested: "You must have been a child when you came." "No," she laughed, "I was in my best dancing days."

That is as near as I came to her age, but I can say confidentially, whatever it was, "she didn't look it."

"When you finish your coffee come up-stairs with me," she broke in again, removing a Cheshire cheese as big as a bandbox in answer to a call for a portion of its contents from the next pew, "and I'll show you the room where Miss Wardle passed the night when she ran off with Alfred Jingle, and the room where Mr. Perker settled the affair for one