Page:Hopkinson Smith--In Dickens's London.djvu/96

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immaculate white card, typical of the purity of my motive—none of which, I regret to say, produced the slightest effect.

Perhaps it was the slant of my slouch-hat which caused her to hesitate, the card balanced on her palm; perhaps it might have been my smudgy fingers—I had been at work that morning. Or perhaps her hesitation was due to the peculiar cut of my knickerbockers and the accumulated dust on my shoes; but certain it was that only a very decided voice from inside the library door, wanting to know what it was "all about," finally set her feet in motion.

"Wants to see me? What for?"

I remained bareheaded, standing humbly within three feet of where he sat, that peculiar, book-agent feeling trickling down my spine as I listened to the maid's account of my personal appearance; after which I was ushered into the presence of a self-contained, unperturbed Englishman of advanced years, who first looked at me with an expression of "how dare you, sir," modified it to a "well, sirrah," and succeeded at last, when he did open his mouth, in informing me that it was a private house; that the library in which he then sat and in which Mr. Dickens had written was his especial "den," and that on no account—positively on no account, and so forth and so forth and so forth.

I urged my youth, my long distance from home, my poverty—how necessary it was for me to make this final sketch in order to feed myself and my family—that I would come at any hour of the day or night—using only one of them, certainly not over one and a half, etc., etc.; but the face did not relax.