So he tells Jo, for his encouragement, that this walking about will soon be over now; and they repair to the general's. Fortunately it is not far.
From the exterior of George's Shooting Gallery, and the long entry, and the bare perspective beyond it, Allan Woodcourt augurs well. He also descries promise in the figure of Mr. George himself, striding towards them in his morning exercise with his pipe in his mouth, no stock on, and his muscular arms, developed by broadsword and dumbbell, weightily asserting themselves through his light shirt-sleeves.
"Your servant, sir," says Mr. George with a military salute. Good- humouredly smiling all over his broad forehead up into his crisp hair, he then defers to Miss Flite, as, with great stateliness, and at some length, she performs the courtly ceremony of presentation. He winds it up with another "Your servant, sir!" and another salute.
"Excuse me, sir. A sailor, I believe?" says Mr. George.
"I am proud to find I have the air of one," returns Allan; "but I am only a sea-going doctor."
"Indeed, sir! I should have thought you was a regular blue-jacket myself."
Allan hopes Mr. George will forgive his intrusion the more readily on that account, and particularly that he will not lay aside his pipe, which, in his politeness, he has testified some intention of doing. "You are very good, sir," returns the trooper. "As I know by experience that it's not disagreeable to Miss Flite, and since it's equally agreeable to yourself--" and finishes the sentence by putting it between his lips again. Allan proceeds to tell him all he knows about Jo, unto which the trooper listens with a grave face.
"And that's the lad, sir, is it?" he inquires, looking along the entry to where Jo stands staring up at the great letters on the whitewashed front, which have no meaning in his eyes.
"That's he," says Allan. "And, Mr. George, I am in this difficulty about him. I am unwilling to place him in a hospital, even if I could procure him immediate admission, because I foresee that he would not stay there many hours if he could be so much as got there. The same objection applies to a workhouse, supposing I had the patience to be evaded and shirked, and handed about from post to pillar in trying to get him into one, which is a system that I don't take kindly to."
"No man does, sir," returns Mr. George.
"I am convinced that he would not remain in either place, because he is possessed by an extraordinary terror of this person who ordered him to keep out of the way; in his ignorance, he believes this person to be everywhere, and cognizant of everything."
"I ask your pardon, sir," says Mr. George. "But you have not mentioned that party's name. Is it a secret, sir?"
"The boy makes it one. But his name is Bucket."
"Bucket the detective, sir?"
"The same man."
"The man is known to me, sir," returns the trooper after blowing out a cloud of smoke and squaring his chest, "and the boy is so far correct that he undoubtedly is a--rum customer." Mr. George smokes with a profound meaning after this and surveys Miss Flite in silence.
"Now, I wish Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Summerson at least to know that this Jo, who tells so strange a story, has reappeared, and to have it in their power to speak with him if they should desire to do so. Therefore I want to get him, for the present moment, into any poor lodging kept by decent people where he would be admitted. Decent people and Jo, Mr. George," says Allan, following the direction of the trooper's eyes along the entry, "have not been much acquainted, as you see. Hence the difficulty. Do you happen to know any one in this neighbourhood who would receive him for a while on my paying for him beforehand?"
As he puts the question, he becomes aware of a dirty-faced little man standing at the trooper's elbow and looking up, with an oddly twisted figure and countenance, into the trooper's face. After a few more puffs at his pipe, the trooper looks down askant at the little man, and the little man winks up at the trooper.