Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/65

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sun fighting its way through the haze, suddenly remembered it was the leafy month of June. Just such June days were, perhaps, the only days in which he could have worked with the window up, days when some stray bird or lost butterfly might have wandered in, imparting a momentary cheer. But—and here came the chilling thought—what must have been that cramped box of a room in a November fog or a January thaw? He tells us all about it in "Our Mutual Friend." "A mouldy little plantation, a Cat preserve. Sparrows were there; cats were there, dry rot and wet rot were there."

My inspection over, the little lady in the shiny black silk began again:

"And this was not the least of his troubles in this house. His dear sister-in-law Mary died in that room over your head, just beside the roof of this extension. You can see it if you look up. Yes, the poor fellow had many, many troubles when he lived here, and yet during all this time, when his own heart was so sad, he was making everybody laugh the world over."

I thanked my very courteous and sympathetic guide, climbed back into my cab, and started to work not only on the front door, without the famous knocker—the one now in use is of bright brass—but its contiguous windows and upper iron balconies.

As I worked on, the several details of my subject took their place on my canvas—the modest sign telling passers-by that this was "The Dickens House" and the tablet affixed to the wall by the London County Council giving the years in which the great novelist occupied it. "The only one of