Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/63

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There was a sister, too, or perhaps a niece—some years younger, not a great many, but some—who chimed in now and then. Rather a bustling, nervous, intense little woman in a shiny black silk, whose whole purpose in life seemed to be to save her companion any undue exertion.

"There," she interrupted, "you've talked enough. No, I'll show the gentleman the knocker. You'll have to get up, sir, and come over to the other side of the room, for it's screwed fast to the wall. It used to be on the front door when Mr. Dickens lived here, and would be there now had they not tried to steal it—not once, but half a dozen times—so we took it off and bolted it here inside"—she was caressing it now tenderly with her hand. "Just think how many times his fingers took hold of it! How often he came in late at night—forgot his key—and awoke everybody in the house! until they let him in! Not much of a knocker, as you can see—couldn't have cost five shillings when it was new—there were a dozen, no doubt, to be found just like it up and down this street—many of them are there now. But, you see, it made a great deal of difference whose hand touched it. Try a rap of your own on it, everybody does who comes."

The touch of my loyal fingers overlaid the touch of those of the long ago, and both ladies being satisfied with my devotion, the younger of the two in her role of protector laid her own on the old lady's wrist and said rather peremptorily:

"No, I'll show the gentleman the back yard. You've walked enough to-day. I'll just close this blind to keep the sun out. It's coming in now, and there's your shawl and