`It's a pity now, Joe,' said I, `that you did not get on a little more, when we had our lessons here; isn't it?'
`Well, I don't know,' returned Joe. `I'm so awful dull. I'm only master of my own trade. It were always a pity as I was so awful dull; but it's no more of a pity now, than it was - this day twelvemonth - don't you see?'
What I had meant was, that when I came into my property and was able to do something for Joe, it would have been much more agreeable if he had been better qualified for a rise in station. He was so perfectly innocent of my meaning, however, that I thought I would mention it to Biddy in preference.
So, when we had walked home and had had tea, I took Biddy into our little garden by the side of the lane, and, after throwing out in a general way for elevation of her spirits, that I should never forget her, said I had a favour to ask of her.
`And it is, Biddy,' said I, `that you will not omit any opportunity of helping Joe on, a little.'
`How helping him on?' asked Biddy, with a steady sort of glance.
`Well! Joe is a dear good fellow - in fact, I think he is the dearest fellow that ever lived - but he is rather backward in some things. For instance, Biddy, in his learning and his manners.'
Although I was looking at Biddy as I spoke, and although she opened her eyes very wide when I had spoken, she did not look at me.
`Oh, his manners! won't his manners do, then?' asked Biddy, plucking a black-currant leaf.
`My dear Biddy, they do very well here--'
`Oh! they do very well here?' interrupted Biddy, looking closely at the leaf in her hand.
`Hear me out - but if I were to remove Joe into a higher sphere, as I shall hope to remove him when I fully come into my property, they would hardly do him justice.'
`And don't you think he knows that?' asked Biddy.
It was such a very provoking question (for it had never in the most distant manner occurred to me), that I said, snappishly, `Biddy, what do you mean?'
Biddy having rubbed the leaf to pieces between her hands - and the smell of a black-currant bush has ever since recalled to me that evening in the little garden by the side of the lane - said, `Have you never considered that he may be proud?'
`Proud?' I repeated, with disdainful emphasis.
`Oh! there are many kinds of pride,' said Biddy, looking full at me and shaking her head; `pride is not all of one kind--'
`Well? What are you stopping for?' said I.
`Not all of one kind,' resumed Biddy. `He may be too proud to let any one take him out of a place that he is competent to fill, and fills well and with respect. To tell you the truth, I think he is: though it sounds bold in me to say so, for you must know him far better than I do.'
`Now, Biddy,' said I, `I am very sorry to see this in you. I did not expect to see this in you. You are envious, Biddy, and grudging. You are dissatisfied on account of my rise in fortune, and you can't help showing it.'
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