Ah! Had I given Joe no reason to doubt my constancy, and to think that in prosperity I should grow cold to him and cast him off? Had I given Joe’s innocent heart no cause to feel instinctively that as I got stronger, his hold upon me would be weaker, and that he had better loosen it in time and let me go, before I plucked myself away?
It was on the third or fourth occasion of my going out walking in the Temple Gardens leaning on Joe’s arm, that I saw this change in him very plainly. We had been sitting in the bright warm sunlight, looking at the river, and I chanced to say as we got up:
“See, Joe! I can walk quite strongly. Now, you shall see me walk back by myself.”
“Which do not over-do it, Pip,” said Joe; “but I shall be happy fur to see you able, sir.”
The last word grated on me; but how could I remonstrate! I walked no further than the gate of the gardens, and then pretended to be weaker than I was, and asked Joe for his arm. Joe gave it me, but was thoughtful.
I, for my part, was thoughtful too; for, how best to check this growing change in Joe, was a great perplexity to my remorseful thoughts. That I was ashamed to tell him exactly how I was placed, and what I had come down to, I do not seek to conceal; but, I hope my reluctance was not quite an unworthy one. He would want to help me out of his little savings, I knew, and I knew that he ought not to help me, and that I must not suffer him to do it.
It was a thoughtful evening with both of us. But, before we went to bed, I had resolved that I would wait over to-morrow, to-morrow being Sunday, and would begin my new course with the new week. On Monday morning I would speak to Joe about this change, I would lay aside this last vestige of reserve, I would tell him what I had in my thoughts (that Secondly, not yet arrived at), and why I had not decided to go out to Herbert, and then the change would be conquered for ever. As I cleared, Joe cleared, and it seemed as though he had sympathetically arrived at a resolution too.
We had a quiet day on the Sunday, and we rode out into the country, and then walked in the fields.
“I feel thankful that I have been ill, Joe,” I said.
“Dear old Pip, old chap, you’re a’most come round, sir.”
“It has been a memorable time for me, Joe.”
“Likeways for myself, sir,” Joe returned.
“We have had a time together, Joe, that I can never forget. There were days once, I know, that I did for a while forget; but I never shall forget these.”
“Pip,” said Joe, appearing a little hurried and troubled, “there has been larks, And, dear sir, what have been betwixt us — have been.”
At night, when I had gone to bed, Joe came into my room, as he had done all through my recovery. He asked me if I felt sure that I was as well as in the morning?
“Yes, dear Joe, quite.”