IN DICKENS'S LONDON
I interrupted hastily to explain that it was the outside of the house which interested me, and that as for cleanliness, I was a past master in the art! No house cat stepped as noiselessly, no chambermaid ever used a dust-pan after my departure.
My own eyes by this time had become accustomed to the dim light of the room. A June sun was burning holes in the coal smoke outside, and the possessor of the soft English voice and gentle manner had, under the benign influence of its rays, now emerged from the gloom.
As I listened to her talk, studying her personality, I could understand how rich in literary material was the London from which Mr. Dickens drew his characters. She might have stepped out of one of his books, for she unquestionably lived in them. To describe her is impossible. A year has gone by since I saw her, and my memory has grown a little hazy—quite natural in London; but the impression remains with me of a certain done-up-in-lavender sort of an old lady, as if she had lived a good many years in one room and been folded up every night and laid away in a bureau drawer.
There were ruffles, too, somewhere—I think about her throat, and some kind of fluting at the end of two long white cap strings that rested on her thin shoulders; and small shrivelled hands and a quaint bend of her back as she leaned forward to hear me the better. Perhaps a woman of seventy, perhaps eighty, but very gentle and with a motherly touch about her, due, no doubt, to the care she took of the variously stranded young men who occupied her "three pair back."