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"Richard told me--" He falters. "I mean, I have heard of this-- don't mind me for a moment, I will speak presently."
He turns away and stands for a while looking out at the covered passage. When he comes back, he has recovered his composure, except that he contends against an avoidance of the boy, which is so very remarkable that it absorbs the woman's attention.
"You hear what she says. But get up, get up!"
Jo, shaking and chattering, slowly rises and stands, after the manner of his tribe in a difficulty, sideways against the hoarding, resting one of his high shoulders against it and covertly rubbing his right hand over his left and his left foot over his right.
"You hear what she says, and I know it's true. Have you been here ever since?"
"Wishermaydie if I seen Tom-all-Alone's till this blessed morning," replies Jo hoarsely.
"Why have you come here now?"
Jo looks all round the confined court, looks at his questioner no higher than the knees, and finally answers, "I don't know how to do nothink, and I can't get nothink to do. I'm wery poor and ill, and I thought I'd come back here when there warn't nobody about, and lay down and hide somewheres as I knows on till arter dark, and then go and beg a trifle of Mr. Snagsby. He wos allus willin fur to give me somethink he wos, though Mrs. Snagsby she was allus a- chivying on me--like everybody everywheres."
"Where have you come from?"
Jo looks all round the court again, looks at his questioner's knees again, and concludes by laying his profile against the hoarding in a sort of resignation.
"Did you hear me ask you where you have come from?"
"Tramp then," says Jo.
"Now tell me," proceeds Allan, making a strong effort to overcome his repugnance, going very near to him, and leaning over him with an expression of confidence, "tell me how it came about that you left that house when the good young lady had been so unfortunate as to pity you and take you home."
Jo suddenly comes out of his resignation and excitedly declares, addressing the woman, that he never known about the young lady, that he never heern about it, that he never went fur to hurt her, that he would sooner have hurt his own self, that he'd sooner have had his unfortnet ed chopped off than ever gone a-nigh her, and that she wos wery good to him, she wos. Conducting himself throughout as if in his poor fashion he really meant it, and winding up with some very miserable sobs.
Allan Woodcourt sees that this is not a sham. He constrains himself to touch him. "Come, Jo. Tell me."
"No. I dustn't," says Jo, relapsing into the profile state. "I dustn't, or I would."
"But I must know," returns the other, "all the same. Come, Jo."
After two or three such adjurations, Jo lifts up his head again, looks round the court again, and says in a low voice, "Well, I'll tell you something. I was took away. There!"
"Took away? In the night?"
"Ah!" Very apprehensive of being overheard, Jo looks about him and even glances up some ten feet at the top of the hoarding and through the cracks in it lest the object of his distrust should be looking over or hidden on the other side.
"Who took you away?"
"I dustn't name him," says Jo. "I dustn't do it, sir.
"But I want, in the young lady's name, to know. You may trust me. No one else shall hear."
"Ah, but I don't know," replies Jo, shaking his head fearfully, "as he don't hear."
"Why, he is not in this place."
"Oh, ain't he though?" says Jo. "He's in all manner of places, all at wanst."
Allan looks at him in perplexity, but discovers some real meaning and good faith at the bottom of this bewildering reply. He patiently awaits an explicit answer; and Jo, more baffled by his patience than by anything else, at last desperately whispers a name in his ear.
"Aye!" says Allan. "Why, what had you been doing?"
"Nothink, sir. Never done nothink to get myself into no trouble, 'sept in not moving on and the inkwhich. But I'm a-moving on now. I'm a-moving on to the berryin ground--that's the move as I'm up to."
"No, no, we will try to prevent that. But what did he do with you?"
"Put me in a horsepittle," replied Jo, whispering, "till I was discharged, then giv me a little money--four half-bulls, wot you may call half-crowns--and ses 'Hook it! Nobody wants you here,' he ses. 'You hook it. You go and tramp,' he ses. 'You move on,' he ses. 'Don't let me ever see you nowheres within forty mile of London, or you'll repent it.' So I shall, if ever he doos see me, and he'll see me if I'm above ground," concludes Jo, nervously repeating all his former precautions and investigations.
Allan considers a little, then remarks, turning to the woman but keeping an encouraging eye on Jo, "He is not so ungrateful as you supposed. He had a reason for going away, though it was an insufficient one."
"Thankee, sir, thankee!" exclaims Jo. "There now! See how hard you wos upon me. But ony you tell the young lady wot the genlmn ses, and it's all right. For YOU wos wery good to me too, and I knows it."
"Now, Jo," says Allan, keeping his eye upon him, "come with me and I will find you a better place than this to lie down and hide in. If I take one side of the way and you the other to avoid observation, you will not run away, I know very well, if you make me a promise."
"I won't, not unless I wos to see HIM a-coming, sir."
"Very well. I take your word. Half the town is getting up by this time, and the whole town will be broad awake in another hour. Come along. Good day again, my good woman."
"Good day again, sir, and I thank you kindly many times again."
She has been sitting on her bag, deeply attentive, and now rises and takes it up. Jo, repeating, "Ony you tell the young lady as I never went fur to hurt her and wot the genlmn ses!" nods and shambles and shivers, and smears and blinks, and half laughs and half cries, a farewell to her, and takes his creeping way along after Allan Woodcourt, close to the houses on the opposite side of the street. In this order, the two come up out of Tom-all-Alone's into the broad rays of the sunlight and the purer air.
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Bleak House -- by Charles Dickens