"Well, sir," says Mr. George, "I can assure you that I would willingly be knocked on the head at any time if it would be at all agreeable to Miss Summerson, and consequently I esteem it a privilege to do that young lady any service, however small. We are naturally in the vagabond way here, sir, both myself and Phil. You see what the place is. You are welcome to a quiet corner of it for the boy if the same would meet your views. No charge made, except for rations. We are not in a flourishing state of circumstances here, sir. We are liable to be tumbled out neck and crop at a moment's notice. However, sir, such as the place is, and so long as it lasts, here it is at your service."
With a comprehensive wave of his pipe, Mr. George places the whole building at his visitor's disposal.
"I take it for granted, sir," he adds, "you being one of the medical staff, that there is no present infection about this unfortunate subject?"
Allan is quite sure of it.
"Because, sir," says Mr. George, shaking his head sorrowfully, "we have had enough of that."
His tone is no less sorrowfully echoed by his new acquaintance. "Still I am bound to tell you," observes Allan after repeating his former assurance, "that the boy is deplorably low and reduced and that he may be--I do not say that he is--too far gone to recover."
"Do you consider him in present danger, sir?" inquires the trooper.
"Yes, I fear so."
"Then, sir," returns the trooper in a decisive manner, "it appears to me--being naturally in the vagabond way myself--that the sooner he comes out of the street, the better. You, Phil! Bring him in!"
Mr. Squod tacks out, all on one side, to execute the word of command; and the trooper, having smoked his pipe, lays it by. Jo is brought in. He is not one of Mrs. Pardiggle's Tockahoopo Indians; he is not one of Mrs. Jellyby's lambs, being wholly unconnected with Borrioboola-Gha; he is not softened by distance and unfamiliarity; he is not a genuine foreign-grown savage; he is the ordinary home-made article. Dirty, ugly, disagreeable to all the senses, in body a common creature of the common streets, only in soul a heathen. Homely filth begrimes him, homely parasites devour him, homely sores are in him, homely rags are on him; native ignorance, the growth of English soil and climate, sinks his immortal nature lower than the beasts that perish. Stand forth, Jo, in uncompromising colours! From the sole of thy foot to the crown of thy head, there is nothing interesting about thee.
He shuffles slowly into Mr. George's gallery and stands huddled together in a bundle, looking all about the floor. He seems to know that they have an inclination to shrink from him, partly for what he is and partly for what he has caused. He, too, shrinks from them. He is not of the same order of things, not of the same place in creation. He is of no order and no place, neither of the beasts nor of humanity.
"Look here, Jo!" says Allan. "This is Mr. George."
Jo searches the floor for some time longer, then looks up for a moment, and then down again.
"He is a kind friend to you, for he is going to give you lodging room here."
Jo makes a scoop with one hand, which is supposed to be a bow. After a little more consideration and some backing and changing of the foot on which he rests, he mutters that he is "wery thankful."
"You are quite safe here. All you have to do at present is to be obedient and to get strong. And mind you tell us the truth here, whatever you do, Jo."
"Wishermaydie if I don't, sir," says Jo, reverting to his favourite declaration. "I never done nothink yit, but wot you knows on, to get myself into no trouble. I never was in no other trouble at all, sir, 'sept not knowin' nothink and starwation."
"I believe it, now attend to Mr. George. I see he is going to speak to you."
"My intention merely was, sir," observes Mr. George, amazingly broad and upright, "to point out to him where he can lie down and get a thorough good dose of sleep.