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"Not at all," said I. "I take it as a compliment."
If he had not looked at me before, he looked at me now in three or four quick successive glances. "I beg your pardon, sir," he said to my guardian with a manly kind of diffidence, "but you did me the honour to mention the young lady's name--"
"Miss Summerson," he repeated, and looked at me again.
"Do you know the name?" I asked.
"No, miss. To my knowledge I never heard it. I thought I had seen you somewhere."
"I think not," I returned, raising my head from my work to look at him; and there was something so genuine in his speech and manner that I was glad of the opportunity. "I remember faces very well."
"So do I, miss!" he returned, meeting my look with the fullness of his dark eyes and broad forehead. "Humph! What set me off, now, upon that!"
His once more reddening through his brown and being disconcerted by his efforts to remember the association brought my guardian to his relief.
"Have you many pupils, Mr. George?"
"They vary in their number, sir. Mostly they're but a small lot to live by."
"And what classes of chance people come to practise at your gallery?"
"All sorts, sir. Natives and foreigners. From gentlemen to 'prentices. I have had Frenchwomen come, before now, and show themselves dabs at pistol-shooting. Mad people out of number, of course, but they go everywhere where the doors stand open."
"People don't come with grudges and schemes of finishing their practice with live targets, I hope?" said my guardian, smiling.
"Not much of that, sir, though that has happened. Mostly they come for skill--or idleness. Six of one, and half-a-dozen of the other. I beg your pardon," said Mr. George, sitting stiffly upright and squaring an elbow on each knee, "but I believe you're a Chancery suitor, if I have heard correct?"
"I am sorry to say I am."
"I have had one of your compatriots in my time, sir."
"A Chancery suitor?" returned my guardian. "How was that?"
"Why, the man was so badgered and worried and tortured by being knocked about from post to pillar, and from pillar to post," said Mr. George, "that he got out of sorts. I don't believe he had any idea of taking aim at anybody, but he was in that condition of resentment and violence that he would come and pay for fifty shots and fire away till he was red hot. One day I said to him when there was nobody by and he had been talking to me angrily about his wrongs, 'If this practice is a safety-valve, comrade, well and good; but I don't altogether like your being so bent upon it in your present state of mind; I'd rather you took to something else.' I was on my guard for a blow, he was that passionate; but he received it in very good part and left off directly. We shook hands and struck up a sort of friendship."
"What was that man?" asked my guardian in a new tone of interest.
"Why, he began by being a small Shropshire farmer before they made a baited bull of him," said Mr. George.
"Was his name Gridley?"
"It was, sir."
Mr. George directed another succession of quick bright glances at me as my guardian and I exchanged a word or two of surprise at the coincidence, and I therefore explained to him how we knew the name. He made me another of his soldierly bows in acknowledgment of what he called my condescension.
"I don't know," he said as he looked at me, "what it is that sets me off again--but--bosh! What's my head running against!" He passed one of his heavy hands over his crisp dark hair as if to sweep the broken thoughts out of his mind and sat a little forward, with one arm akimbo and the other resting on his leg, looking in a brown study at the ground.
"I am sorry to learn that the same state of mind has got this Gridley into new troubles and that he is in hiding," said my guardian.
"So I am told, sir," returned Mr. George, still musing and looking on the ground. "So I am told."
"You don't know where?"
"No, sir," returned the trooper, lifting up his eyes and coming out of his reverie. "I can't say anything about him. He will be worn out soon, I expect. You may file a strong man's heart away for a good many years, but it will tell all of a sudden at last."
Richard's entrance stopped the conversation. Mr. George rose, made me another of his soldierly bows, wished my guardian a good day, and strode heavily out of the room.
This was the morning of the day appointed for Richard's departure. We had no more purchases to make now; I had completed all his packing early in the afternoon; and our time was disengaged until night, when he was to go to Liverpool for Holyhead. Jarndyce and Jarndyce being again expected to come on that day, Richard proposed to me that we should go down to the court and hear what passed. As it was his last day, and he was eager to go, and I had never been there, I gave my consent and we walked down to Westminster, where the court was then sitting. We beguiled the way with arrangements concerning the letters that Richard was to write to me and the letters that I was to write to him and with a great many hopeful projects. My guardian knew where we were going and therefore was not with us.
When we came to the court, there was the Lord Chancellor--the same whom I had seen in his private room in Lincoln's Inn--sitting in great state and gravity on the bench, with the mace and seals on a red table below him and an immense flat nosegay, like a little garden, which scented the whole court. Below the table, again, was a long row of solicitors, with bundles of papers on the matting at their feet; and then there were the gentlemen of the bar in wigs and gowns--some awake and some asleep, and one talking, and nobody paying much attention to what he said. The Lord Chancellor leaned back in his very easy chair with his elbow on the cushioned arm and his forehead resting on his hand; some of those who were present dozed; some read the newspapers; some walked about or whispered in groups: all seemed perfectly at their ease, by no means in a hurry, very unconcerned, and extremely comfortable.
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Bleak House -- by Charles Dickens