He had been sitting on a bench there and had risen when he heard the locks and bolts turn.
When he saw us, he came forward a step with his usual heavy tread, and there stopped and made a slight bow. But as I still advanced, putting out my hand to him, he understood us in a moment.
"This is a load off my mind, I do assure you, miss and gentlemen," said he, saluting us with great heartiness and drawing a long breath. "And now I don't so much care how it ends."
He scarcely seemed to be the prisoner. What with his coolness and his soldierly bearing, he looked far more like the prison guard.
"This is even a rougher place than my gallery to receive a lady in," said Mr. George, "but I know Miss Summerson will make the best of it." As he handed me to the bench on which he had been sitting, I sat down, which seemed to give him great satisfaction.
"I thank you, miss," said he.
"Now, George," observed my guardian, "as we require no new assurances on your part, so I believe we need give you none on ours."
"Not at all, sir. I thank you with all my heart. If I was not innocent of this crime, I couldn't look at you and keep my secret to myself under the condescension of the present visit. I feel the present visit very much. I am not one of the eloquent sort, but I feel it, Miss Summerson and gentlemen, deeply."
He laid his hand for a moment on his broad chest and bent his head to us. Although he squared himself again directly, he expressed a great amount of natural emotion by these simple means.
"First," said my guardian, "can we do anything for your personal comfort, George?"
"For which, sir?" he inquired, clearing his throat.
"For your personal comfort. Is there anything you want that would lessen the hardship of this confinement?"
"Well, sir," replied George, after a little cogitation, "I am equally obliged to you, but tobacco being against the rules, I can't say that there is."
"You will think of many little things perhaps, by and by. Whenever you do, George, let us know."
"Thank you, sir. Howsoever," observed Mr. George with one of his sunburnt smiles, "a man who has been knocking about the world in a vagabond kind of a way as long as I have gets on well enough in a place like the present, so far as that goes."
"Next, as to your case," observed my guardian.
"Exactly so, sir," returned Mr. George, folding his arms upon his breast with perfect self-possession and a little curiosity.
"How does it stand now?"
"Why, sir, it is under remand at present. Bucket gives me to understand that he will probably apply for a series of remands from time to time until the case is more complete. How it is to be made more complete I don't myself see, but I dare say Bucket will manage it somehow."
"Why, heaven save us, man," exclaimed my guardian, surprised into his old oddity and vehemence, "you talk of yourself as if you were somebody else!"
"No offence, sir," said Mr. George. "I am very sensible of your kindness. But I don't see how an innocent man is to make up his mind to this kind of thing without knocking his head against the walls unless he takes it in that point of view.
"That is true enough to a certain extent," returned my guardian, softened. "But my good fellow, even an innocent man must take ordinary precautions to defend himself."
"Certainly, sir. And I have done so. I have stated to the magistrates, 'Gentlemen, I am as innocent of this charge as yourselves; what has been stated against me in the way of facts is perfectly true; I know no more about it.' I intend to continue stating that, sir. What more can I do? It's the truth."
"But the mere truth won't do," rejoined my guardian.
"Won't it indeed, sir? Rather a bad look-out for me!" Mr. George good-humouredly observed.
"You must have a lawyer," pursued my guardian. "We must engage a good one for you."
"I ask your pardon, sir," said Mr. George with a step backward. "I am equally obliged. But I must decidedly beg to be excused from anything of that sort."
"You won't have a lawyer?"
"No, sir." Mr.