What happened to Lennie that made George stop being mean to him?

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In a conversation with Slim, George's tone of voice became confessional.  He stated that he used to poke fun at Lennie and make him do things for his own amusement. In once instance, George told Lennie to jump into the Sacramento River.  Lennie being slow mentally actually jumped in....

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In a conversation with Slim, George's tone of voice became confessional.  He stated that he used to poke fun at Lennie and make him do things for his own amusement. In once instance, George told Lennie to jump into the Sacramento River.  Lennie being slow mentally actually jumped in.  The problem was that Lennie could not swim.  Lennie almost drown that day.  George had to save him, and when he did, Lennie showed and expressed great gratitude.  Lennie was so pure of heart that he did not blame George for suggesting to him to jump into the river. 

When George saw this, he stopped playing jokes on Lennie. In fact, they became very good friends, and they have travelled together since then.  Here is the quote in George's own words:

“Tell you what made me stop that. One day a bunch of guys was standin’ around up on the Sacramento River. I was feelin’ pretty smart. I turns to Lennie and says, ‘Jump in.’ An’ he jumps. Couldn’t swim a stroke. He damn near drowned before we could get him. An’ he was so damn nice to me for pullin’ him out. Clean forgot I told him to jump in. Well, I ain’t done nothing like that no more.”

 

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