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12. ON FURNISHED APARTMENTS.
"Oh, you have some rooms to let."
"Well, what is it?"
"'Ere's a gentleman about the rooms."
"Ask 'im in. I'll be up in a minute."
"Will yer step inside, sir? Mother'll be up in a minute."
So you step inside and after a minute "mother" comes slowly up the kitchen stairs, untying her apron as she comes and calling down instructions to some one below about the potatoes.
"Good-morning, sir," says "mother," with a washed-out smile. "Will you step this way, please?"
"Oh, it's hardly worth while my coming up," you say. "What sort of rooms are they, and how much?"
"Well," says the landlady, "if you'll step upstairs I'll show them to you."
So with a protesting murmur, meant to imply that any waste of time complained of hereafter must not be laid to your charge, you follow "mother" upstairs.
At the first landing you run up against a pail and a broom, whereupon "mother" expatiates upon the unreliability of servant-girls, and bawls over the balusters for Sarah to come and take them away at once. When you get outside the rooms she pauses, with her hand upon the door, to explain to you that they are rather untidy just at present, as the last lodger left only yesterday; and she also adds that this is their cleaning-day--it always is. With this understanding you enter, and both stand solemnly feasting your eyes upon the scene before you. The rooms cannot be said to appear inviting. Even "mother's" face betrays no admiration. Untenanted "furnished apartments" viewed in the morning sunlight do not inspire cheery sensations. There is a lifeless air about them. It is a very different thing when you have settled down and are living in them. With your old familiar household gods to greet your gaze whenever you glance up, and all your little knick-knacks spread around you--with the photos of all the girls that you have loved and lost ranged upon the mantel-piece, and half a dozen disreputable-looking pipes scattered about in painfully prominent positions--with one carpet slipper peeping from beneath the coal-box and the other perched on the top of the piano--with the well-known pictures to hide the dingy walls, and these dear old friends, your books, higgledy-piggledy all over the place--with the bits of old blue china that your mother prized, and the screen she worked in those far by-gone days, when the sweet old face was laughing and young, and the white soft hair tumbled in gold-brown curls from under the coal-scuttle bonnet--
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