The daily visits I could make him were shortened now, and he was more strictly kept. Seeing, or fancying, that I was suspected of an intention of carrying poison to him, I asked to be searched before I sat down at his bedside, and told the officer who was always there, that I was willing to do anything that would assure him of the singleness of my designs. Nobody was hard with him, or with me. There was duty to be done, and it was done, but not harshly. The officer always gave me the assurance that he was worse, and some other sick prisoners in the room, and some other prisoners who attended on them as sick nurses (malefactors, but not incapable of kindness, God be thanked!), always joined in the same report.
As the days went on, I noticed more and more that he would lie placidly looking at the white ceiling, with an absence of light in his face, until some word of mine brightened it for an instant, and then it would subside again. Sometimes he was almost, or quite, unable to speak; then, he would answer me with slight pressures on my hand, and I grew to understand his meaning very well.
The number of the days had risen to ten, when I saw a greater change in him than I had seen yet. His eyes were turned towards the door, and lighted up as I entered.
“Dear boy,” he said, as I sat down by his bed: “I thought you was late. But I knowed you couldn’t be that.”
“It is just the time,” said I. “I waited for it at the gate.”
“You always waits at the gate; don’t you, dear boy?”
“Yes. Not to lose a moment of the time.”
“Thank’ee dear boy, thank’ee. God bless you! You’ve never deserted me, dear boy.”
I pressed his hand in silence, for I could not forget that I had once meant to desert him.
“And what’s the best of all,” he said, “you’ve been more comfortable alonger me, since I was under a dark cloud, than when the sun shone. That’s best of all.”
He lay on his back, breathing with great difficulty. Do what he would, and love me though he did, the light left his face ever and again, and a film came over the placid look at the white ceiling.
“Are you in much pain to-day?”
“I don’t complain of none, dear boy.”
“You never do complain.”
He had spoken his last words. He smiled, and I understood his touch to mean that he wished to lift my hand, and lay it on his breast. I laid it there, and he smiled again, and put both his hands upon it.
The allotted time ran out, while we were thus; but, looking round, I found the governor of the prison standing near me, and he whispered, “You needn’t go yet.” I thanked him gratefully, and asked, “Might I speak to him, if he can hear me?”
The governor stepped aside, and beckoned the officer away. The change, though it was made without noise, drew back the film from the placid look at the white ceiling, and he looked most affectionately at me.