My state of mind regarding the pilfering from which I had been so unexpectedl_xonerated did not impel me to frank disclosure; but I hope it had some dreg_f good at the bottom of it.
I do not recall that I felt any tenderness of conscience in reference to Mrs.
Joe, when the fear of being found out was lifted off me. But I love_oe,—perhaps for no better reason in those early days than because the dea_ellow let me love him,—and, as to him, my inner self was not so easil_omposed. It was much upon my mind (particularly when I first saw him lookin_bout for his file) that I ought to tell Joe the whole truth. Yet I did not,
and for the reason that I mistrusted that if I did, he would think me wors_han I was. The fear of losing Joe’s confidence, and of thenceforth sitting i_he chimney corner at night staring drearily at my forever lost companion an_riend, tied up my tongue. I morbidly represented to myself that if Joe kne_t, I never afterwards could see him at the fireside feeling his fair whisker,
without thinking that he was meditating on it. That, if Joe knew it, I neve_fterwards could see him glance, however casually, at yesterday’s meat o_udding when it came on to-day’s table, without thinking that he was debatin_hether I had been in the pantry. That, if Joe knew it, and at any subsequen_eriod of our joint domestic life remarked that his beer was flat or thick,
the conviction that he suspected Tar in it, would bring a rush of blood to m_ace. In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I ha_een too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong. I had had n_ntercourse with the world at that time, and I imitated none of its man_nhabitants who act in this manner. Quite an untaught genius, I made th_iscovery of the line of action for myself.
As I was sleepy before we were far away from the prison-ship, Joe took me o_is back again and carried me home. He must have had a tiresome journey of it,
for Mr. Wopsle, being knocked up, was in such a very bad temper that if th_hurch had been thrown open, he would probably have excommunicated the whol_xpedition, beginning with Joe and myself. In his lay capacity, he persiste_n sitting down in the damp to such an insane extent, that when his coat wa_aken off to be dried at the kitchen fire, the circumstantial evidence on hi_rousers would have hanged him, if it had been a capital offence.
By that time, I was staggering on the kitchen floor like a little drunkard,
through having been newly set upon my feet, and through having been fas_sleep, and through waking in the heat and lights and noise of tongues. As _ame to myself (with the aid of a heavy thump between the shoulders, and th_estorative exclamation “Yah! Was there ever such a boy as this!” from m_ister,) I found Joe telling them about the convict’s confession, and all th_isitors suggesting different ways by which he had got into the pantry. Mr.
Pumblechook made out, after carefully surveying the premises, that he ha_irst got upon the roof of the forge, and had then got upon the roof of th_ouse, and had then let himself down the kitchen chimney by a rope made of hi_edding cut into strips; and as Mr. Pumblechook was very positive and drov_is own chaise-cart—over Everybody—it was agreed that it must be so. Mr.
Wopsle, indeed, wildly cried out, “No!” with the feeble malice of a tired man;
but, as he had no theory, and no coat on, he was unanimously set a_aught,—not to mention his smoking hard behind, as he stood with his back t_he kitchen fire to draw the damp out: which was not calculated to inspir_onfidence.
This was all I heard that night before my sister clutched me, as a slumberou_ffence to the company’s eyesight, and assisted me up to bed with such _trong hand that I seemed to have fifty boots on, and to be dangling them al_gainst the edges of the stairs. My state of mind, as I have described it,
began before I was up in the morning, and lasted long after the subject ha_ied out, and had ceased to be mentioned saving on exceptional occasions.