Skimpole, "you'll pardon the simplicity of the question, coming as it does from a creature who is perfectly simple in worldly matters, but why ISN'T he a prisoner then?"
My guardian stopped and looked at him with a whimsical mixture of amusement and indignation in his face.
"Our young friend is not to be suspected of any delicacy, I should imagine," said Mr. Skimpole, unabashed and candid. "It seems to me that it would be wiser, as well as in a certain kind of way more respectable, if he showed some misdirected energy that got him into prison. There would be more of an adventurous spirit in it, and consequently more of a certain sort of poetry."
"I believe," returned my guardian, resuming his uneasy walk, "that there is not such another child on earth as yourself."
"Do you really?" said Mr. Skimpole. "I dare say! But I confess I don't see why our young friend, in his degree, should not seek to invest himself with such poetry as is open to him. He is no doubt born with an appetite--probably, when he is in a safer state of health, he has an excellent appetite. Very well. At our young friend's natural dinner hour, most likely about noon, our young friend says in effect to society, 'I am hungry; will you have the goodness to produce your spoon and feed me?' Society, which has taken upon itself the general arrangement of the whole system of spoons and professes to have a spoon for our young friend, does NOT produce that spoon; and our young friend, therefore, says 'You really must excuse me if I seize it.' Now, this appears to me a case of misdirected energy, which has a certain amount of reason in it and a certain amount of romance; and I don't know but what I should be more interested in our young friend, as an illustration of such a case, than merely as a poor vagabond--which any one can be."
"In the meantime," I ventured to observe, "he is getting worse."
"In the meantime," said Mr. Skimpole cheerfully, "as Miss Summerson, with her practical good sense, observes, he is getting worse. Therefore I recommend your turning him out before he gets still worse."
The amiable face with which he said it, I think I shall never forget.
"Of course, little woman," observed my guardian, turning to me, "I can ensure his admission into the proper place by merely going there to enforce it, though it's a bad state of things when, in his condition, that is necessary. But it's growing late, and is a very bad night, and the boy is worn out already. There is a bed in the wholesome loft-room by the stable; we had better keep him there till morning, when he can be wrapped up and removed. We'll do that."
"Oh!" said Mr. Skimpole, with his hands upon the keys of the piano as we moved away. "Are you going back to our young friend?"
"Yes," said my guardian.
"How I envy you your constitution, Jarndyce!" returned Mr. Skimpole with playful admiration. "You don't mind these things; neither does Miss Summerson. You are ready at all times to go anywhere, and do anything. Such is will! I have no will at all--and no won't--simply can't."
"You can't recommend anything for the boy, I suppose?" said my guardian, looking back over his shoulder half angrily; only half angrily, for he never seemed to consider Mr. Skimpole an accountable being.
"My dear Jarndyce, I observed a bottle of cooling medicine in his pocket, and it's impossible for him to do better than take it. You can tell them to sprinkle a little vinegar about the place where he sleeps and to keep it moderately cool and him moderately warm. But it is mere impertinence in me to offer any recommendation. Miss Summerson has such a knowledge of detail and such a capacity for the administration of detail that she knows all about it."
We went back into the hall and explained to Jo what we proposed to do, which Charley explained to him again and which he received with the languid unconcern I had already noticed, wearily looking on at what was done as if it were for somebody else. The servants compassionating his miserable state and being very anxious to help, we soon got the loft-room ready; and some of the men about the house carried him across the wet yard, well wrapped up.