"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 the 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."
"If you have the heart to think so," returned Biddy, "say so. Say so over and over again, if you have the heart to think so."
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