Snagsby that he is wanted.
"And being wanted in the--not to put too fine a point upon it--in the shop," says Mr. Snagsby, rising, "perhaps this good company will excuse me for half a minute."
Mr. Snagsby descends and finds the two 'prentices intently contemplating a police constable, who holds a ragged boy by the arm.
"Why, bless my heart," says Mr. Snagsby, "what's the matter!"
"This boy," says the constable, "although he's repeatedly told to, won't move on--"
"I'm always a-moving on, sar," cries the boy, wiping away his grimy tears with his arm. "I've always been a-moving and a-moving on, ever since I was born. Where can I possibly move to, sir, more nor I do move!"
"He won't move on," says the constable calmly, with a slight professional hitch of his neck involving its better settlement in his stiff stock, "although he has been repeatedly cautioned, and therefore I am obliged to take him into custody. He's as obstinate a young gonoph as I know. He WON'T move on."
"Oh, my eye! Where can I move to!" cries the boy, clutching quite desperately at his hair and beating his bare feet upon the floor of Mr. Snagsby's passage.
"Don't you come none of that or I shall make blessed short work of you!" says the constable, giving him a passionless shake. "My instructions are that you are to move on. I have told you so five hundred times."
"But where?" cries the boy.
"Well! Really, constable, you know," says Mr. Snagsby wistfully, and coughing behind his hand his cough of great perplexity and doubt, "really, that does seem a question. Where, you know?"
"My instructions don't go to that," replies the constable. "My instructions are that this boy is to move on."
Do you hear, Jo? It is nothing to you or to any one else that the great lights of the parliamentary sky have failed for some few years in this business to set you the example of moving on. The one grand recipe remains for you--the profound philosophical prescription--the be-all and the end-all of your strange existence upon earth. Move on! You are by no means to move off, Jo, for the great lights can't at all agree about that. Move on!
Mr. Snagsby says nothing to this effect, says nothing at all indeed, but coughs his forlornest cough, expressive of no thoroughfare in any direction. By this time Mr. and Mrs. Chadband and Mrs. Snagsby, hearing the altercation, have appeared upon the stairs. Guster having never left the end of the passage, the whole household are assembled.
"The simple question is, sir," says the constable, "whether you know this boy. He says you do."
Mrs. Snagsby, from her elevation, instantly cries out, "No he don't!"
"My lit-tle woman!" says Mr. Snagsby, looking up the staircase. "My love, permit me! Pray have a moment's patience, my dear. I do know something of this lad, and in what I know of him, I can't say that there's any harm; perhaps on the contrary, constable." To whom the law-stationer relates his Joful and woeful experience, suppressing the half-crown fact.
"Well!" says the constable, "so far, it seems, he had grounds for what he said. When I took him into custody up in Holborn, he said you knew him. Upon that, a young man who was in the crowd said he was acquainted with you, and you were a respectable housekeeper, and if I'd call and make the inquiry, he'd appear. The young man don't seem inclined to keep his word, but--Oh! Here IS the young man!"
Enter Mr. Guppy, who nods to Mr. Snagsby and touches his hat with the chivalry of clerkship to the ladies on the stairs.
"I was strolling away from the office just now when I found this row going on," says Mr. Guppy to the law-stationer, "and as your name was mentioned, I thought it was right the thing should be looked into."
"It was very good-natured of you, sir," says Mr. Snagsby, "and I am obliged to you." And Mr. Snagsby again relates his experience, again suppressing the half-crown fact.
"Now, I know where you live," says the constable, then, to Jo. "You live down in Tom-all-Alone's.