Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/38

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act on entering was to consult its round moon-face, dragging out his own ticker for confirmation.

Soon each seat was occupied. The various groups were, apparently, intimate friends, judging from the chaff which sifted my way over the pew back.

One of the old habitués, catching sight of my easel, stool, and charcoal box, had stopped long enough in the snuggery to interview the barmaid as to my identity, nationality, and general purposes in life, as I afterward discovered when a brother habitué who had overheard the inquiry, and who was stuffed with statistics backed up to my table and began to unload.

"Jolly old place, isn't it? Lot of lies told about it, too. Most people think this is the inn Dickens had in his mind when he wrote 'Pickwick'; well, it wasn't, you know. It was the White Hart Inn, not a great ways from here, near Guy's Hospital. That was where Sam Weller blacked the boots. It was one of the old coach inns, with galleries and rooms just like this; but, you see," and a chuckle escaped him, "it was pulled down some thirty years ago. Both of them date back to the sixteenth century. Take my advice and don't let anybody fool you about this being Sam Weller's Inn, for it isn't."

"There you go, Blodgers, letting out your ignorance," chimed in another habitué, an old fellow with a ruddy face and grey side-whiskers. "I wouldn't pay any attention to him if I were you, Sir. He's been at that sort of talk now for ten years—ever since he's been having his meals here. You're eating in the very box where Mr. Dickens sat when he told my father how he came to pick this inn out instead of the