"I wonder you remember those times, Esther," she returned with her old asperity. "They are changed now. Well! I am glad to see you, and glad you are not too proud to know me." But indeed she seemed disappointed that I was not.
"Proud, Mrs. Rachael!" I remonstrated.
"I am married, Esther," she returned, coldly correcting me, "and am Mrs. Chadband. Well! I wish you good day, and I hope you'll do well."
Mr. Guppy, who had been attentive to this short dialogue, heaved a sigh in my ear and elbowed his own and Mrs. Rachael's way through the confused little crowd of people coming in and going out, which we were in the midst of and which the change in the business had brought together. Richard and I were making our way through it, and I was yet in the first chill of the late unexpected recognition when I saw, coming towards us, but not seeing us, no less a person than Mr. George. He made nothing of the people about him as he tramped on, staring over their heads into the body of the court.
"George!" said Richard as I called his attention to him.
"You are well met, sir," he returned. "And you, miss. Could you point a person out for me, I want? I don't understand these places."
Turning as he spoke and making an easy way for us, he stopped when we were out of the press in a corner behind a great red curtain.
"There's a little cracked old woman," he began, "that — "
I put up my finger, for Miss Flite was close by me, having kept beside me all the time and having called the attention of several of her legal acquaintance to me (as I had overheard to my confusion) by whispering in their ears, "Hush! Fitz Jarndyce on my left!"
"Hem!" said Mr. George. "You remember, miss, that we passed some conversation on a certain man this morning? Gridley," in a low whisper behind his hand.
"Yes," said I.
"He is hiding at my place. I couldn't mention it. Hadn't his authority. He is on his last march, miss, and has a whim to see her. He says they can feel for one another, and she has been almost as good as a friend to him here. I came down to look for her, for when I sat by Gridley this afternoon, I seemed to hear the roll of the muffled drums."
"Shall I tell her?" said I.
"Would you be so good?" he returned with a glance of something like apprehension at Miss Flite. "It's a providence I met you, miss; I doubt if I should have known how to get on with that lady." And he put one hand in his breast and stood upright in a martial attitude as I informed little Miss Flite, in her ear, of the purport of his kind errand.
"My angry friend from Shropshire! Almost as celebrated as myself!" she exclaimed. "Now really! My dear, I will wait upon him with the greatest pleasure."
"He is living concealed at Mr. George's," said I. "Hush! This is Mr. George."
"In — deed!" returned Miss Flite. "Very proud to have the honour! A military man, my dear. You know, a perfect general!" she whispered to me.
Poor Miss Flite deemed it necessary to be so courtly and polite, as a mark of her respect for the army, and to curtsy so very often that it was no easy matter to get her out of the court. When this was at last done, and addressing Mr. George as "General," she gave him her arm, to the great entertainment of some idlers who were looking on, he was so discomposed and begged me so respectfully "not to desert him" that I could not make up my mind to do it, especially as Miss Flite was always tractable with me and as she too said, "Fitz Jarndyce, my dear, you will accompany us, of course." As Richard seemed quite willing, and even anxious, that we should see them safely to their destination, we agreed to do so. And as Mr. George informed us that Gridley's mind had run on Mr. Jarndyce all the afternoon after hearing of their interview in the morning, I wrote a hasty note in pencil to my guardian to say where we were gone and why. Mr. George sealed it at a coffee-house, that it might lead to no discovery, and we sent it off by a ticket- porter.
We then took a hackney-coach and drove away to the neighbourhood of Leicester Square. We walked through some narrow courts, for which Mr. George apologized, and soon came to the shooting gallery, the door of which was closed. As he pulled a bell-handle which hung by a chain to the door-post, a very respectable old gentleman with grey hair, wearing spectacles, and dressed in a black spencer and gaiters and a broad-brimmed hat, and carrying a large gold-beaded cane, addressed him.
"I ask your pardon, my good friend," said he, "but is this George's Shooting Gallery?"
"It is, sir," returned Mr. George, glancing up at the great letters in which that inscription was painted on the whitewashed wall.
"Oh! To be sure!" said the old gentleman, following his eyes. "Thank you. Have you rung the bell?"
"My name is George, sir, and I have rung the bell."
"Oh, indeed?" said the old gentleman. "Your name is George? Then I am here as soon as you, you see. You came for me, no doubt?"
"No, sir. You have the advantage of me."
"Oh, indeed?" said the old gentleman. "Then it was your young man who came for me. I am a physician and was requested — five minutes ago — to come and visit a sick man at George's Shooting Gallery."
"The muffled drums," said Mr. George, turning to Richard and me and gravely shaking his head. "It's quite correct, sir. Will you please to walk in."
The door being at that moment opened by a very singular-looking little man in a green-baize cap and apron, whose face and hands and dress were blackened all over, we passed along a dreary passage into a large building with bare brick walls where there were targets, and guns, and swords, and other things of that kind. When we had all arrived here, the physician stopped, and taking off his hat, appeared to vanish by magic and to leave another and quite a different man in his place.
"Now lookee here, George," said the man, turning quickly round upon him and tapping him on the breast with a large forefinger. "You know me, and I know you. You're a man of the world, and I'm a man of the world. My name's Bucket, as you are aware, and I have got a peace-warrant against Gridley. You have kept him out of the way a long time, and you have been artful in it, and it does you credit."
Mr. George, looking hard at him, bit his lip and shook his head.
"Now, George," said the other, keeping close to him, "you're a sensible man and a well-conducted man; that's what YOU are, beyond a doubt. And mind you, I don't talk to you as a common character, because you have served your country and you know that when duty calls we must obey. Consequently you're very far from wanting to give trouble. If I required assistance, you'd assist me; that's what YOU'D do. Phil Squod, don't you go a-sidling round the gallery like that" — the dirty little man was shuffling about with his shoulder against the wall, and his eyes on the intruder, in a manner that looked threatening — "because I know you and won't have it."
"Phil!" said Mr. George.
The little man, with a low growl, stood still.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said Mr. Bucket, "you'll excuse anything that may appear to be disagreeable in this, for my name's Inspector Bucket of the Detective, and I have a duty to perform. George, I know where my man is because I was on the roof last night and saw him through the skylight, and you along with him. He is in there, you know," pointing; "that's where HE is — on a sofy. Now I must see my man, and I must tell my man to consider himself in custody; but you know me, and you know I don't want to take any uncomfortable measures. You give me your word, as from one man to another (and an old soldier, mind you, likewise), that it's honourable between us two, and I'll accommodate you to the utmost of my power."