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Title: Hard Times
Author: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hard Times" ***

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Transcribed from the 1905 Chapman and Hall edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



                                HARD TIMES
                                   AND
                           REPRINTED PIECES {0}


                                * * * * *

                            By CHARLES DICKENS

                                * * * * *

             _With illustrations by Marcus Stone_, _Maurice_
                     _Greiffenhagen_, _and F. Walker_

                                * * * * *

                       LONDON: CHAPMAN & HALL, LD.
                    NEW YORK: CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

                                   1905



CONTENTS

      _BOOK THE FIRST_.  _SOWING_
                                    PAGE
               CHAPTER I
_The One Thing Needful_                3
               CHAPTER II
_Murdering the Innocents_              4
              CHAPTER III
_A Loophole_                           8
               CHAPTER IV
_Mr. Bounderby_                       12
               CHAPTER V
_The Keynote_                         18
               CHAPTER VI
_Sleary’s Horsemanship_               23
              CHAPTER VII
_Mrs. Sparsit_                        33
              CHAPTER VIII
_Never Wonder_                        38
               CHAPTER IX
_Sissy’s Progress_                    43
               CHAPTER X
_Stephen Blackpool_                   49
               CHAPTER XI
_No Way Out_                          53
              CHAPTER XII
_The Old Woman_                       59
              CHAPTER XIII
_Rachael_                             63
              CHAPTER XIV
_The Great Manufacturer_              69
               CHAPTER XV
_Father and Daughter_                 73
              CHAPTER XVI
_Husband and Wife_                    79
     _BOOK THE SECOND_.  _REAPING_
               CHAPTER I
_Effects in the Bank_                 84
               CHAPTER II
_Mr. James Harthouse_                 94
              CHAPTER III
_The Whelp_                          101
               CHAPTER IV
_Men and Brothers_                   111
               CHAPTER V
_Men and Masters_                    105
               CHAPTER VI
_Fading Away_                        116
              CHAPTER VII
_Gunpowder_                          126
              CHAPTER VIII
_Explosion_                          136
               CHAPTER IX
_Hearing the Last of it_             146
               CHAPTER X
_Mrs. Sparsit’s Staircase_           152
               CHAPTER XI
_Lower and Lower_                    156
              CHAPTER XII
_Down_                               163
     _BOOK THE THIRD_.  _GARNERING_
               CHAPTER I
_Another Thing Needful_              167
               CHAPTER II
_Very Ridiculous_                    172
              CHAPTER III
_Very Decided_                       179
               CHAPTER IV
_Lost_                               186
               CHAPTER V
_Found_                              193
               CHAPTER VI
_The Starlight_                      200
              CHAPTER VII
_Whelp-Hunting_                      208
              CHAPTER VIII
_Philosophical_                      216
               CHAPTER IX
_Final_                              222

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                             PAGE
_Stephen and Rachael in the Sick-room_                         64
_Mr. Harthouse Dining at the Bounderbys’_                     100
_Mr. Harthouse and Tom Gradgrind in the Garden_               132
_Stephen Blackpool recovered from the Old Hell Shaft_         206



BOOK THE FIRST
_SOWING_


CHAPTER I
THE ONE THING NEEDFUL


‘NOW, what I want is, Facts.  Teach these boys and girls nothing but
Facts.  Facts alone are wanted in life.  Plant nothing else, and root out
everything else.  You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon
Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.  This is the
principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle
on which I bring up these children.  Stick to Facts, sir!’

The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the
speaker’s square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring
every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster’s sleeve.  The emphasis
was helped by the speaker’s square wall of a forehead, which had his
eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two
dark caves, overshadowed by the wall.  The emphasis was helped by the
speaker’s mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set.  The emphasis was
helped by the speaker’s voice, which was inflexible, dry, and
dictatorial.  The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s hair, which
bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the
wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of
a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts
stored inside.  The speaker’s obstinate carriage, square coat, square
legs, square shoulders,—nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by
the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it
was,—all helped the emphasis.

‘In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!’

The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present,
all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of
little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial
gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.



CHAPTER II
MURDERING THE INNOCENTS


THOMAS GRADGRIND, sir.  A man of realities.  A man of facts and
calculations.  A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are
four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for
anything over.  Thomas Gradgrind, sir—peremptorily Thomas—Thomas
Gradgrind.  With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication
table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of
human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to.  It is a mere
question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic.  You might hope to get
some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or
Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all
supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas
Gradgrind—no, sir!

In such terms Mr. Gradgrind always mentally introduced himself, whether
to his private circle of acquaintance, or to the public in general.  In
such terms, no doubt, substituting the words ‘boys and girls,’ for ‘sir,’
Thomas Gradgrind now presented Thomas Gradgrind to the little pitchers
before him, who were to be filled so full of facts.

Indeed, as he eagerly sparkled at them from the cellarage before
mentioned, he seemed a kind of cannon loaded to the muzzle with facts,
and prepared to blow them clean out of the regions of childhood at one
discharge.  He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a grim
mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that were to be
stormed away.

‘Girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his
square forefinger, ‘I don’t know that girl.  Who is that girl?’

‘Sissy Jupe, sir,’ explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and
curtseying.

‘Sissy is not a name,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘Don’t call yourself Sissy.
Call yourself Cecilia.’

‘It’s father as calls me Sissy, sir,’ returned the young girl in a
trembling voice, and with another curtsey.

‘Then he has no business to do it,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘Tell him he
mustn’t.  Cecilia Jupe.  Let me see.  What is your father?’

‘He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.’

Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his
hand.

‘We don’t want to know anything about that, here.  You mustn’t tell us
about that, here.  Your father breaks horses, don’t he?’

‘If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses
in the ring, sir.’

‘You mustn’t tell us about the ring, here.  Very well, then.  Describe
your father as a horsebreaker.  He doctors sick horses, I dare say?’

‘Oh yes, sir.’

‘Very well, then.  He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and
horsebreaker.  Give me your definition of a horse.’

(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)

‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, for
the general behoof of all the little pitchers.  ‘Girl number twenty
possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals!
Some boy’s definition of a horse.  Bitzer, yours.’

The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer,
perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which,
darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely white-washed room,
irradiated Sissy.  For, the boys and girls sat on the face of the
inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the centre by a narrow
interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came
in for the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner
of a row on the other side, a few rows in advance, caught the end.  But,
whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to
receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone
upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same
rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed.
His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of
lashes which, by bringing them into immediate contrast with something
paler than themselves, expressed their form.  His short-cropped hair
might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead
and face.  His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge,
that he looked as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.

‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind.  ‘Your definition of a horse.’

‘Quadruped.  Graminivorous.  Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders,
four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive.  Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy
countries, sheds hoofs, too.  Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with
iron.  Age known by marks in mouth.’  Thus (and much more) Bitzer.

‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘You know what a horse
is.’

She curtseyed again, and would have blushed deeper, if she could have
blushed deeper than she had blushed all this time.  Bitzer, after rapidly
blinking at Thomas Gradgrind with both eyes at once, and so catching the
light upon his quivering ends of lashes that they looked like the antennæ
of busy insects, put his knuckles to his freckled forehead, and sat down
again.

The third gentleman now stepped forth.  A mighty man at cutting and
drying, he was; a government officer; in his way (and in most other
people’s too), a professed pugilist; always in training, always with a
system to force down the general throat like a bolus, always to be heard
of at the bar of his little Public-office, ready to fight all England.
To continue in fistic phraseology, he had a genius for coming up to the
scratch, wherever and whatever it was, and proving himself an ugly
customer.  He would go in and damage any subject whatever with his right,
follow up with his left, stop, exchange, counter, bore his opponent (he
always fought All England) to the ropes, and fall upon him neatly.  He
was certain to knock the wind out of common sense, and render that
unlucky adversary deaf to the call of time.  And he had it in charge from
high authority to bring about the great public-office Millennium, when
Commissioners should reign upon earth.

‘Very well,’ said this gentleman, briskly smiling, and folding his arms.
‘That’s a horse.  Now, let me ask you girls and boys, Would you paper a
room with representations of horses?’

After a pause, one half of the children cried in chorus, ‘Yes, sir!’
Upon which the other half, seeing in the gentleman’s face that Yes was
wrong, cried out in chorus, ‘No, sir!’—as the custom is, in these
examinations.

‘Of course, No.  Why wouldn’t you?’

A pause.  One corpulent slow boy, with a wheezy manner of breathing,
ventured the answer, Because he wouldn’t paper a room at all, but would
paint it.

‘You _must_ paper it,’ said the gentleman, rather warmly.

‘You must paper it,’ said Thomas Gradgrind, ‘whether you like it or not.
Don’t tell _us_ you wouldn’t paper it.  What do you mean, boy?’

‘I’ll explain to you, then,’ said the gentleman, after another and a
dismal pause, ‘why you wouldn’t paper a room with representations of
horses.  Do you ever see horses walking up and down the sides of rooms in
reality—in fact?  Do you?’

‘Yes, sir!’ from one half.  ‘No, sir!’ from the other.

‘Of course no,’ said the gentleman, with an indignant look at the wrong
half.  ‘Why, then, you are not to see anywhere, what you don’t see in
fact; you are not to have anywhere, what you don’t have in fact.  What is
called Taste, is only another name for Fact.’  Thomas Gradgrind nodded
his approbation.

‘This is a new principle, a discovery, a great discovery,’ said the
gentleman.  ‘Now, I’ll try you again.  Suppose you were going to carpet a
room.  Would you use a carpet having a representation of flowers upon
it?’

There being a general conviction by this time that ‘No, sir!’ was always
the right answer to this gentleman, the chorus of NO was very strong.
Only a few feeble stragglers said Yes: among them Sissy Jupe.

‘Girl number twenty,’ said the gentleman, smiling in the calm strength of
knowledge.

Sissy blushed, and stood up.

‘So you would carpet your room—or your husband’s room, if you were a
grown woman, and had a husband—with representations of flowers, would
you?’ said the gentleman.  ‘Why would you?’

‘If you please, sir, I am very fond of flowers,’ returned the girl.

‘And is that why you would put tables and chairs upon them, and have
people walking over them with heavy boots?’

‘It wouldn’t hurt them, sir.  They wouldn’t crush and wither, if you
please, sir.  They would be the pictures of what was very pretty and
pleasant, and I would fancy—’

‘Ay, ay, ay!  But you mustn’t fancy,’ cried the gentleman, quite elated
by coming so happily to his point.  ‘That’s it!  You are never to fancy.’

‘You are not, Cecilia Jupe,’ Thomas Gradgrind solemnly repeated, ‘to do
anything of that kind.’

‘Fact, fact, fact!’ said the gentleman.  And ‘Fact, fact, fact!’ repeated
Thomas Gradgrind.

‘You are to be in all things regulated and governed,’ said the gentleman,
‘by fact.  We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of
commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact,
and of nothing but fact.  You must discard the word Fancy altogether.
You have nothing to do with it.  You are not to have, in any object of
use or ornament, what would be a contradiction in fact.  You don’t walk
upon flowers in fact; you cannot be allowed to walk upon flowers in
carpets.  You don’t find that foreign birds and butterflies come and
perch upon your crockery; you cannot be permitted to paint foreign birds
and butterflies upon your crockery.  You never meet with quadrupeds going
up and down walls; you must not have quadrupeds represented upon walls.
You must use,’ said the gentleman, ‘for all these purposes, combinations
and modifications (in primary colours) of mathematical figures which are
susceptible of proof and demonstration.  This is the new discovery.  This
is fact.  This is taste.’

The girl curtseyed, and sat down.  She was very young, and she looked as
if she were frightened by the matter-of-fact prospect the world afforded.

‘Now, if Mr. M’Choakumchild,’ said the gentleman, ‘will proceed to give
his first lesson here, Mr. Gradgrind, I shall be happy, at your request,
to observe his mode of procedure.’

Mr. Gradgrind was much obliged.  ‘Mr. M’Choakumchild, we only wait for
you.’

So, Mr. M’Choakumchild began in his best manner.  He and some one hundred
and forty other schoolmasters, had been lately turned at the same time,
in the same factory, on the same principles, like so many pianoforte
legs.  He had been put through an immense variety of paces, and had
answered volumes of head-breaking questions.  Orthography, etymology,
syntax, and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography, and general
cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land-surveying
and levelling, vocal music, and drawing from models, were all at the ends
of his ten chilled fingers.  He had worked his stony way into Her
Majesty’s most Honourable Privy Council’s Schedule B, and had taken the
bloom off the higher branches of mathematics and physical science,
French, German, Latin, and Greek.  He knew all about all the Water Sheds
of all the world (whatever they are), and all the histories of all the
peoples, and all the names of all the rivers and mountains, and all the
productions, manners, and customs of all the countries, and all their
boundaries and bearings on the two and thirty points of the compass.  Ah,
rather overdone, M’Choakumchild.  If he had only learnt a little less,
how infinitely better he might have taught much more!

He went to work in this preparatory lesson, not unlike Morgiana in the
Forty Thieves: looking into all the vessels ranged before him, one after
another, to see what they contained.  Say, good M’Choakumchild.  When
from thy boiling store, thou shalt fill each jar brim full by-and-by,
dost thou think that thou wilt always kill outright the robber Fancy
lurking within—or sometimes only maim him and distort him!



CHAPTER III
A LOOPHOLE


MR. GRADGRIND walked homeward from the school, in a state of considerable
satisfaction.  It was his school, and he intended it to be a model.  He
intended every child in it to be a model—just as the young Gradgrinds
were all models.

There were five young Gradgrinds, and they were models every one.  They
had been lectured at, from their tenderest years; coursed, like little
hares.  Almost as soon as they could run alone, they had been made to run
to the lecture-room.  The first object with which they had an
association, or of which they had a remembrance, was a large black board
with a dry Ogre chalking ghastly white figures on it.

Not that they knew, by name or nature, anything about an Ogre Fact
forbid!  I only use the word to express a monster in a lecturing castle,
with Heaven knows how many heads manipulated into one, taking childhood
captive, and dragging it into gloomy statistical dens by the hair.

No little Gradgrind had ever seen a face in the moon; it was up in the
moon before it could speak distinctly.  No little Gradgrind had ever
learnt the silly jingle, Twinkle, twinkle, little star; how I wonder what
you are!  No little Gradgrind had ever known wonder on the subject, each
little Gradgrind having at five years old dissected the Great Bear like a
Professor Owen, and driven Charles’s Wain like a locomotive
engine-driver.  No little Gradgrind had ever associated a cow in a field
with that famous cow with the crumpled horn who tossed the dog who
worried the cat who killed the rat who ate the malt, or with that yet
more famous cow who swallowed Tom Thumb: it had never heard of those
celebrities, and had only been introduced to a cow as a graminivorous
ruminating quadruped with several stomachs.

To his matter-of-fact home, which was called Stone Lodge, Mr. Gradgrind
directed his steps.  He had virtually retired from the wholesale hardware
trade before he built Stone Lodge, and was now looking about for a
suitable opportunity of making an arithmetical figure in Parliament.
Stone Lodge was situated on a moor within a mile or two of a great
town—called Coketown in the present faithful guide-book.

A very regular feature on the face of the country, Stone Lodge was.  Not
the least disguise toned down or shaded off that uncompromising fact in
the landscape.  A great square house, with a heavy portico darkening the
principal windows, as its master’s heavy brows overshadowed his eyes.  A
calculated, cast up, balanced, and proved house.  Six windows on this
side of the door, six on that side; a total of twelve in this wing, a
total of twelve in the other wing; four-and-twenty carried over to the
back wings.  A lawn and garden and an infant avenue, all ruled straight
like a botanical account-book.  Gas and ventilation, drainage and
water-service, all of the primest quality.  Iron clamps and girders,
fire-proof from top to bottom; mechanical lifts for the housemaids, with
all their brushes and brooms; everything that heart could desire.

Everything?  Well, I suppose so.  The little Gradgrinds had cabinets in
various departments of science too.  They had a little conchological
cabinet, and a little metallurgical cabinet, and a little mineralogical
cabinet; and the specimens were all arranged and labelled, and the bits
of stone and ore looked as though they might have been broken from the
parent substances by those tremendously hard instruments their own names;
and, to paraphrase the idle legend of Peter Piper, who had never found
his way into their nursery, If the greedy little Gradgrinds grasped at
more than this, what was it for good gracious goodness’ sake, that the
greedy little Gradgrinds grasped it!

Their father walked on in a hopeful and satisfied frame of mind.  He was
an affectionate father, after his manner; but he would probably have
described himself (if he had been put, like Sissy Jupe, upon a
definition) as ‘an eminently practical’ father.  He had a particular
pride in the phrase eminently practical, which was considered to have a
special application to him.  Whatsoever the public meeting held in
Coketown, and whatsoever the subject of such meeting, some Coketowner was
sure to seize the occasion of alluding to his eminently practical friend
Gradgrind.  This always pleased the eminently practical friend.  He knew
it to be his due, but his due was acceptable.

He had reached the neutral ground upon the outskirts of the town, which
was neither town nor country, and yet was either spoiled, when his ears
were invaded by the sound of music.  The clashing and banging band
attached to the horse-riding establishment, which had there set up its
rest in a wooden pavilion, was in full bray.  A flag, floating from the
summit of the temple, proclaimed to mankind that it was ‘Sleary’s
Horse-riding’ which claimed their suffrages.  Sleary himself, a stout
modern statue with a money-box at its elbow, in an ecclesiastical niche
of early Gothic architecture, took the money.  Miss Josephine Sleary, as
some very long and very narrow strips of printed bill announced, was then
inaugurating the entertainments with her graceful equestrian Tyrolean
flower-act.  Among the other pleasing but always strictly moral wonders
which must be seen to be believed, Signor Jupe was that afternoon to
‘elucidate the diverting accomplishments of his highly trained performing
dog Merrylegs.’  He was also to exhibit ‘his astounding feat of throwing
seventy-five hundred-weight in rapid succession backhanded over his head,
thus forming a fountain of solid iron in mid-air, a feat never before
attempted in this or any other country, and which having elicited such
rapturous plaudits from enthusiastic throngs it cannot be withdrawn.’
The same Signor Jupe was to ‘enliven the varied performances at frequent
intervals with his chaste Shaksperean quips and retorts.’  Lastly, he was
to wind them up by appearing in his favourite character of Mr. William
Button, of Tooley Street, in ‘the highly novel and laughable
hippo-comedietta of The Tailor’s Journey to Brentford.’

Thomas Gradgrind took no heed of these trivialities of course, but passed
on as a practical man ought to pass on, either brushing the noisy insects
from his thoughts, or consigning them to the House of Correction.  But,
the turning of the road took him by the back of the booth, and at the
back of the booth a number of children were congregated in a number of
stealthy attitudes, striving to peep in at the hidden glories of the
place.

This brought him to a stop.  ‘Now, to think of these vagabonds,’ said he,
‘attracting the young rabble from a model school.’

A space of stunted grass and dry rubbish being between him and the young
rabble, he took his eyeglass out of his waistcoat to look for any child
he knew by name, and might order off.  Phenomenon almost incredible
though distinctly seen, what did he then behold but his own metallurgical
Louisa, peeping with all her might through a hole in a deal board, and
his own mathematical Thomas abasing himself on the ground to catch but a
hoof of the graceful equestrian Tyrolean flower-act!

Dumb with amazement, Mr. Gradgrind crossed to the spot where his family
was thus disgraced, laid his hand upon each erring child, and said:

‘Louisa!!  Thomas!!’

Both rose, red and disconcerted.  But, Louisa looked at her father with
more boldness than Thomas did.  Indeed, Thomas did not look at him, but
gave himself up to be taken home like a machine.

‘In the name of wonder, idleness, and folly!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, leading
each away by a hand; ‘what do you do here?’

‘Wanted to see what it was like,’ returned Louisa, shortly.

‘What it was like?’

‘Yes, father.’

There was an air of jaded sullenness in them both, and particularly in
the girl: yet, struggling through the dissatisfaction of her face, there
was a light with nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a
starved imagination keeping life in itself somehow, which brightened its
expression.  Not with the brightness natural to cheerful youth, but with
uncertain, eager, doubtful flashes, which had something painful in them,
analogous to the changes on a blind face groping its way.

She was a child now, of fifteen or sixteen; but at no distant day would
seem to become a woman all at once.  Her father thought so as he looked
at her.  She was pretty.  Would have been self-willed (he thought in his
eminently practical way) but for her bringing-up.

‘Thomas, though I have the fact before me, I find it difficult to believe
that you, with your education and resources, should have brought your
sister to a scene like this.’

‘I brought _him_, father,’ said Louisa, quickly.  ‘I asked him to come.’

‘I am sorry to hear it.  I am very sorry indeed to hear it.  It makes
Thomas no better, and it makes you worse, Louisa.’

She looked at her father again, but no tear fell down her cheek.

‘You!  Thomas and you, to whom the circle of the sciences is open; Thomas
and you, who may be said to be replete with facts; Thomas and you, who
have been trained to mathematical exactness; Thomas and you, here!’ cried
Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘In this degraded position!  I am amazed.’

‘I was tired, father.  I have been tired a long time,’ said Louisa.

‘Tired?  Of what?’ asked the astonished father.

‘I don’t know of what—of everything, I think.’

‘Say not another word,’ returned Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘You are childish.  I
will hear no more.’  He did not speak again until they had walked some
half-a-mile in silence, when he gravely broke out with: ‘What would your
best friends say, Louisa?  Do you attach no value to their good opinion?
What would Mr. Bounderby say?’  At the mention of this name, his daughter
stole a look at him, remarkable for its intense and searching character.
He saw nothing of it, for before he looked at her, she had again cast
down her eyes!

‘What,’ he repeated presently, ‘would Mr. Bounderby say?’  All the way to
Stone Lodge, as with grave indignation he led the two delinquents home,
he repeated at intervals ‘What would Mr. Bounderby say?’—as if Mr.
Bounderby had been Mrs. Grundy.



CHAPTER IV
MR. BOUNDERBY


NOT being Mrs. Grundy, who _was_ Mr. Bounderby?

Why, Mr. Bounderby was as near being Mr. Gradgrind’s bosom friend, as a
man perfectly devoid of sentiment can approach that spiritual
relationship towards another man perfectly devoid of sentiment.  So near
was Mr. Bounderby—or, if the reader should prefer it, so far off.

He was a rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer, and what not.  A big,
loud man, with a stare, and a metallic laugh.  A man made out of a coarse
material, which seemed to have been stretched to make so much of him.  A
man with a great puffed head and forehead, swelled veins in his temples,
and such a strained skin to his face that it seemed to hold his eyes
open, and lift his eyebrows up.  A man with a pervading appearance on him
of being inflated like a balloon, and ready to start.  A man who could
never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-made man.  A man who was always
proclaiming, through that brassy speaking-trumpet of a voice of his, his
old ignorance and his old poverty.  A man who was the Bully of humility.

A year or two younger than his eminently practical friend, Mr. Bounderby
looked older; his seven or eight and forty might have had the seven or
eight added to it again, without surprising anybody.  He had not much
hair.  One might have fancied he had talked it off; and that what was
left, all standing up in disorder, was in that condition from being
constantly blown about by his windy boastfulness.

In the formal drawing-room of Stone Lodge, standing on the hearthrug,
warming himself before the fire, Mr. Bounderby delivered some
observations to Mrs. Gradgrind on the circumstance of its being his
birthday.  He stood before the fire, partly because it was a cool spring
afternoon, though the sun shone; partly because the shade of Stone Lodge
was always haunted by the ghost of damp mortar; partly because he thus
took up a commanding position, from which to subdue Mrs. Gradgrind.

‘I hadn’t a shoe to my foot.  As to a stocking, I didn’t know such a
thing by name.  I passed the day in a ditch, and the night in a pigsty.
That’s the way I spent my tenth birthday.  Not that a ditch was new to
me, for I was born in a ditch.’

Mrs. Gradgrind, a little, thin, white, pink-eyed bundle of shawls, of
surpassing feebleness, mental and bodily; who was always taking physic
without any effect, and who, whenever she showed a symptom of coming to
life, was invariably stunned by some weighty piece of fact tumbling on
her; Mrs. Gradgrind hoped it was a dry ditch?

‘No!  As wet as a sop.  A foot of water in it,’ said Mr. Bounderby.

‘Enough to give a baby cold,’ Mrs. Gradgrind considered.

‘Cold?  I was born with inflammation of the lungs, and of everything
else, I believe, that was capable of inflammation,’ returned Mr.
Bounderby.  ‘For years, ma’am, I was one of the most miserable little
wretches ever seen.  I was so sickly, that I was always moaning and
groaning.  I was so ragged and dirty, that you wouldn’t have touched me
with a pair of tongs.’

Mrs. Gradgrind faintly looked at the tongs, as the most appropriate thing
her imbecility could think of doing.

‘How I fought through it, _I_ don’t know,’ said Bounderby.  ‘I was
determined, I suppose.  I have been a determined character in later life,
and I suppose I was then.  Here I am, Mrs. Gradgrind, anyhow, and nobody
to thank for my being here, but myself.’

Mrs. Gradgrind meekly and weakly hoped that his mother—

‘_My_ mother?  Bolted, ma’am!’ said Bounderby.

Mrs. Gradgrind, stunned as usual, collapsed and gave it up.

‘My mother left me to my grandmother,’ said Bounderby; ‘and, according to
the best of my remembrance, my grandmother was the wickedest and the
worst old woman that ever lived.  If I got a little pair of shoes by any
chance, she would take ’em off and sell ’em for drink.  Why, I have known
that grandmother of mine lie in her bed and drink her four-teen glasses
of liquor before breakfast!’

Mrs. Gradgrind, weakly smiling, and giving no other sign of vitality,
looked (as she always did) like an indifferently executed transparency of
a small female figure, without enough light behind it.

‘She kept a chandler’s shop,’ pursued Bounderby, ‘and kept me in an
egg-box.  That was the cot of _my_ infancy; an old egg-box.  As soon as I
was big enough to run away, of course I ran away.  Then I became a young
vagabond; and instead of one old woman knocking me about and starving me,
everybody of all ages knocked me about and starved me.  They were right;
they had no business to do anything else.  I was a nuisance, an
incumbrance, and a pest.  I know that very well.’

His pride in having at any time of his life achieved such a great social
distinction as to be a nuisance, an incumbrance, and a pest, was only to
be satisfied by three sonorous repetitions of the boast.

‘I was to pull through it, I suppose, Mrs. Gradgrind.  Whether I was to
do it or not, ma’am, I did it.  I pulled through it, though nobody threw
me out a rope.  Vagabond, errand-boy, vagabond, labourer, porter, clerk,
chief manager, small partner, Josiah Bounderby of Coketown.  Those are
the antecedents, and the culmination.  Josiah Bounderby of Coketown
learnt his letters from the outsides of the shops, Mrs. Gradgrind, and
was first able to tell the time upon a dial-plate, from studying the
steeple clock of St. Giles’s Church, London, under the direction of a
drunken cripple, who was a convicted thief, and an incorrigible vagrant.
Tell Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, of your district schools and your
model schools, and your training schools, and your whole kettle-of-fish
of schools; and Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, tells you plainly, all
right, all correct—he hadn’t such advantages—but let us have hard-headed,
solid-fisted people—the education that made him won’t do for everybody,
he knows well—such and such his education was, however, and you may force
him to swallow boiling fat, but you shall never force him to suppress the
facts of his life.’

Being heated when he arrived at this climax, Josiah Bounderby of Coketown
stopped.  He stopped just as his eminently practical friend, still
accompanied by the two young culprits, entered the room.  His eminently
practical friend, on seeing him, stopped also, and gave Louisa a
reproachful look that plainly said, ‘Behold your Bounderby!’

‘Well!’ blustered Mr. Bounderby, ‘what’s the matter?  What is young
Thomas in the dumps about?’

He spoke of young Thomas, but he looked at Louisa.

‘We were peeping at the circus,’ muttered Louisa, haughtily, without
lifting up her eyes, ‘and father caught us.’

‘And, Mrs. Gradgrind,’ said her husband in a lofty manner, ‘I should as
soon have expected to find my children reading poetry.’

‘Dear me,’ whimpered Mrs. Gradgrind.  ‘How can you, Louisa and Thomas!  I
wonder at you.  I declare you’re enough to make one regret ever having
had a family at all.  I have a great mind to say I wish I hadn’t.  _Then_
what would you have done, I should like to know?’

Mr. Gradgrind did not seem favourably impressed by these cogent remarks.
He frowned impatiently.

‘As if, with my head in its present throbbing state, you couldn’t go and
look at the shells and minerals and things provided for you, instead of
circuses!’ said Mrs. Gradgrind.  ‘You know, as well as I do, no young
people have circus masters, or keep circuses in cabinets, or attend
lectures about circuses.  What can you possibly want to know of circuses
then?  I am sure you have enough to do, if that’s what you want.  With my
head in its present state, I couldn’t remember the mere names of half the
facts you have got to attend to.’

‘That’s the reason!’ pouted Louisa.

‘Don’t tell me that’s the reason, because it can’t be nothing of the
sort,’ said Mrs. Gradgrind.  ‘Go and be somethingological directly.’
Mrs. Gradgrind was not a scientific character, and usually dismissed her
children to their studies with this general injunction to choose their
pursuit.

In truth, Mrs. Gradgrind’s stock of facts in general was woefully
defective; but Mr. Gradgrind in raising her to her high matrimonial
position, had been influenced by two reasons.  Firstly, she was most
satisfactory as a question of figures; and, secondly, she had ‘no
nonsense’ about her.  By nonsense he meant fancy; and truly it is
probable she was as free from any alloy of that nature, as any human
being not arrived at the perfection of an absolute idiot, ever was.

The simple circumstance of being left alone with her husband and Mr.
Bounderby, was sufficient to stun this admirable lady again without
collision between herself and any other fact.  So, she once more died
away, and nobody minded her.

‘Bounderby,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, drawing a chair to the fireside, ‘you
are always so interested in my young people—particularly in Louisa—that I
make no apology for saying to you, I am very much vexed by this
discovery.  I have systematically devoted myself (as you know) to the
education of the reason of my family.  The reason is (as you know) the
only faculty to which education should be addressed.  ‘And yet,
Bounderby, it would appear from this unexpected circumstance of to-day,
though in itself a trifling one, as if something had crept into Thomas’s
and Louisa’s minds which is—or rather, which is not—I don’t know that I
can express myself better than by saying—which has never been intended to
be developed, and in which their reason has no part.’

‘There certainly is no reason in looking with interest at a parcel of
vagabonds,’ returned Bounderby.  ‘When I was a vagabond myself, nobody
looked with any interest at _me_; I know that.’

‘Then comes the question; said the eminently practical father, with his
eyes on the fire, ‘in what has this vulgar curiosity its rise?’

‘I’ll tell you in what.  In idle imagination.’

‘I hope not,’ said the eminently practical; ‘I confess, however, that the
misgiving _has_ crossed me on my way home.’

‘In idle imagination, Gradgrind,’ repeated Bounderby.  ‘A very bad thing
for anybody, but a cursed bad thing for a girl like Louisa.  I should ask
Mrs. Gradgrind’s pardon for strong expressions, but that she knows very
well I am not a refined character.  Whoever expects refinement in _me_
will be disappointed.  I hadn’t a refined bringing up.’

‘Whether,’ said Gradgrind, pondering with his hands in his pockets, and
his cavernous eyes on the fire, ‘whether any instructor or servant can
have suggested anything?  Whether Louisa or Thomas can have been reading
anything?  Whether, in spite of all precautions, any idle story-book can
have got into the house?  Because, in minds that have been practically
formed by rule and line, from the cradle upwards, this is so curious, so
incomprehensible.’

‘Stop a bit!’ cried Bounderby, who all this time had been standing, as
before, on the hearth, bursting at the very furniture of the room with
explosive humility.  ‘You have one of those strollers’ children in the
school.’

‘Cecilia Jupe, by name,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, with something of a stricken
look at his friend.

‘Now, stop a bit!’ cried Bounderby again.  ‘How did she come there?’

‘Why, the fact is, I saw the girl myself, for the first time, only just
now.  She specially applied here at the house to be admitted, as not
regularly belonging to our town, and—yes, you are right, Bounderby, you
are right.’

‘Now, stop a bit!’ cried Bounderby, once more.  ‘Louisa saw her when she
came?’

‘Louisa certainly did see her, for she mentioned the application to me.
But Louisa saw her, I have no doubt, in Mrs. Gradgrind’s presence.’

‘Pray, Mrs. Gradgrind,’ said Bounderby, ‘what passed?’

‘Oh, my poor health!’ returned Mrs. Gradgrind.  ‘The girl wanted to come
to the school, and Mr. Gradgrind wanted girls to come to the school, and
Louisa and Thomas both said that the girl wanted to come, and that Mr.
Gradgrind wanted girls to come, and how was it possible to contradict
them when such was the fact!’

‘Now I tell you what, Gradgrind!’ said Mr. Bounderby.  ‘Turn this girl to
the right about, and there’s an end of it.’

‘I am much of your opinion.’

‘Do it at once,’ said Bounderby, ‘has always been my motto from a child.
When I thought I would run away from my egg-box and my grandmother, I did
it at once.  Do you the same.  Do this at once!’

‘Are you walking?’ asked his friend.  ‘I have the father’s address.
Perhaps you would not mind walking to town with me?’

‘Not the least in the world,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘as long as you do it
at once!’

So, Mr. Bounderby threw on his hat—he always threw it on, as expressing a
man who had been far too busily employed in making himself, to acquire
any fashion of wearing his hat—and with his hands in his pockets,
sauntered out into the hall.  ‘I never wear gloves,’ it was his custom to
say.  ‘I didn’t climb up the ladder in _them_.—Shouldn’t be so high up,
if I had.’

Being left to saunter in the hall a minute or two while Mr. Gradgrind
went up-stairs for the address, he opened the door of the children’s
study and looked into that serene floor-clothed apartment, which,
notwithstanding its book-cases and its cabinets and its variety of
learned and philosophical appliances, had much of the genial aspect of a
room devoted to hair-cutting.  Louisa languidly leaned upon the window
looking out, without looking at anything, while young Thomas stood
sniffing revengefully at the fire.  Adam Smith and Malthus, two younger
Gradgrinds, were out at lecture in custody; and little Jane, after
manufacturing a good deal of moist pipe-clay on her face with
slate-pencil and tears, had fallen asleep over vulgar fractions.

‘It’s all right now, Louisa: it’s all right, young Thomas,’ said Mr.
Bounderby; ‘you won’t do so any more.  I’ll answer for it’s being all
over with father.  Well, Louisa, that’s worth a kiss, isn’t it?’

‘You can take one, Mr. Bounderby,’ returned Louisa, when she had coldly
paused, and slowly walked across the room, and ungraciously raised her
cheek towards him, with her face turned away.

‘Always my pet; ain’t you, Louisa?’ said Mr. Bounderby.  ‘Good-bye,
Louisa!’

He went his way, but she stood on the same spot, rubbing the cheek he had
kissed, with her handkerchief, until it was burning red.  She was still
doing this, five minutes afterwards.

‘What are you about, Loo?’ her brother sulkily remonstrated.  ‘You’ll rub
a hole in your face.’

‘You may cut the piece out with your penknife if you like, Tom.  I
wouldn’t cry!’



CHAPTER V
THE KEYNOTE


COKETOWN, to which Messrs. Bounderby and Gradgrind now walked, was a
triumph of fact; it had no greater taint of fancy in it than Mrs.
Gradgrind herself.  Let us strike the key-note, Coketown, before pursuing
our tune.

It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the
smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood, it was a town of
unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage.  It was a town
of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of
smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled.  It
had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling
dye, and vast piles of building full of windows where there was a
rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the piston of the
steam-engine worked monotonously up and down, like the head of an
elephant in a state of melancholy madness.  It contained several large
streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like
one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went
in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same
pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as
yesterday and to-morrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and
the next.

These attributes of Coketown were in the main inseparable from the work
by which it was sustained; against them were to be set off, comforts of
life which found their way all over the world, and elegancies of life
which made, we will not ask how much of the fine lady, who could scarcely
bear to hear the place mentioned.  The rest of its features were
voluntary, and they were these.

You saw nothing in Coketown but what was severely workful.  If the
members of a religious persuasion built a chapel there—as the members of
eighteen religious persuasions had done—they made it a pious warehouse of
red brick, with sometimes (but this is only in highly ornamental
examples) a bell in a birdcage on the top of it.  The solitary exception
was the New Church; a stuccoed edifice with a square steeple over the
door, terminating in four short pinnacles like florid wooden legs.  All
the public inscriptions in the town were painted alike, in severe
characters of black and white.  The jail might have been the infirmary,
the infirmary might have been the jail, the town-hall might have been
either, or both, or anything else, for anything that appeared to the
contrary in the graces of their construction.  Fact, fact, fact,
everywhere in the material aspect of the town; fact, fact, fact,
everywhere in the immaterial.  The M’Choakumchild school was all fact,
and the school of design was all fact, and the relations between master
and man were all fact, and everything was fact between the lying-in
hospital and the cemetery, and what you couldn’t state in figures, or
show to be purchaseable in the cheapest market and saleable in the
dearest, was not, and never should be, world without end, Amen.

A town so sacred to fact, and so triumphant in its assertion, of course
got on well?  Why no, not quite well.  No?  Dear me!

No.  Coketown did not come out of its own furnaces, in all respects like
gold that had stood the fire.  First, the perplexing mystery of the place
was, Who belonged to the eighteen denominations?  Because, whoever did,
the labouring people did not.  It was very strange to walk through the
streets on a Sunday morning, and note how few of _them_ the barbarous
jangling of bells that was driving the sick and nervous mad, called away
from their own quarter, from their own close rooms, from the corners of
their own streets, where they lounged listlessly, gazing at all the
church and chapel going, as at a thing with which they had no manner of
concern.  Nor was it merely the stranger who noticed this, because there
was a native organization in Coketown itself, whose members were to be
heard of in the House of Commons every session, indignantly petitioning
for acts of parliament that should make these people religious by main
force.  Then came the Teetotal Society, who complained that these same
people _would_ get drunk, and showed in tabular statements that they did
get drunk, and proved at tea parties that no inducement, human or Divine
(except a medal), would induce them to forego their custom of getting
drunk.  Then came the chemist and druggist, with other tabular
statements, showing that when they didn’t get drunk, they took opium.
Then came the experienced chaplain of the jail, with more tabular
statements, outdoing all the previous tabular statements, and showing
that the same people _would_ resort to low haunts, hidden from the public
eye, where they heard low singing and saw low dancing, and mayhap joined
in it; and where A. B., aged twenty-four next birthday, and committed for
eighteen months’ solitary, had himself said (not that he had ever shown
himself particularly worthy of belief) his ruin began, as he was
perfectly sure and confident that otherwise he would have been a tip-top
moral specimen.  Then came Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Bounderby, the two
gentlemen at this present moment walking through Coketown, and both
eminently practical, who could, on occasion, furnish more tabular
statements derived from their own personal experience, and illustrated by
cases they had known and seen, from which it clearly appeared—in short,
it was the only clear thing in the case—that these same people were a bad
lot altogether, gentlemen; that do what you would for them they were
never thankful for it, gentlemen; that they were restless, gentlemen;
that they never knew what they wanted; that they lived upon the best, and
bought fresh butter; and insisted on Mocha coffee, and rejected all but
prime parts of meat, and yet were eternally dissatisfied and
unmanageable.  In short, it was the moral of the old nursery fable:

    There was an old woman, and what do you think?
    She lived upon nothing but victuals and drink;
    Victuals and drink were the whole of her diet,
    And yet this old woman would NEVER be quiet.

Is it possible, I wonder, that there was any analogy between the case of
the Coketown population and the case of the little Gradgrinds?  Surely,
none of us in our sober senses and acquainted with figures, are to be
told at this time of day, that one of the foremost elements in the
existence of the Coketown working-people had been for scores of years,
deliberately set at nought?  That there was any Fancy in them demanding
to be brought into healthy existence instead of struggling on in
convulsions?  That exactly in the ratio as they worked long and
monotonously, the craving grew within them for some physical relief—some
relaxation, encouraging good humour and good spirits, and giving them a
vent—some recognized holiday, though it were but for an honest dance to a
stirring band of music—some occasional light pie in which even
M’Choakumchild had no finger—which craving must and would be satisfied
aright, or must and would inevitably go wrong, until the laws of the
Creation were repealed?

‘This man lives at Pod’s End, and I don’t quite know Pod’s End,’ said Mr.
Gradgrind.  ‘Which is it, Bounderby?’

Mr. Bounderby knew it was somewhere down town, but knew no more
respecting it.  So they stopped for a moment, looking about.

Almost as they did so, there came running round the corner of the street
at a quick pace and with a frightened look, a girl whom Mr. Gradgrind
recognized.  ‘Halloa!’ said he.  ‘Stop!  Where are you going! Stop!’
Girl number twenty stopped then, palpitating, and made him a curtsey.

‘Why are you tearing about the streets,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘in this
improper manner?’

‘I was—I was run after, sir,’ the girl panted, ‘and I wanted to get
away.’

‘Run after?’ repeated Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘Who would run after _you_?’

The question was unexpectedly and suddenly answered for her, by the
colourless boy, Bitzer, who came round the corner with such blind speed
and so little anticipating a stoppage on the pavement, that he brought
himself up against Mr. Gradgrind’s waistcoat and rebounded into the road.

‘What do you mean, boy?’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘What are you doing?  How
dare you dash against—everybody—in this manner?’  Bitzer picked up his
cap, which the concussion had knocked off; and backing, and knuckling his
forehead, pleaded that it was an accident.

‘Was this boy running after you, Jupe?’ asked Mr. Gradgrind.

‘Yes, sir,’ said the girl reluctantly.

‘No, I wasn’t, sir!’ cried Bitzer.  ‘Not till she run away from me.  But
the horse-riders never mind what they say, sir; they’re famous for it.
You know the horse-riders are famous for never minding what they say,’
addressing Sissy.  ‘It’s as well known in the town as—please, sir, as the
multiplication table isn’t known to the horse-riders.’  Bitzer tried Mr.
Bounderby with this.

‘He frightened me so,’ said the girl, ‘with his cruel faces!’

‘Oh!’ cried Bitzer.  ‘Oh!  An’t you one of the rest!  An’t you a
horse-rider!  I never looked at her, sir.  I asked her if she would know
how to define a horse to-morrow, and offered to tell her again, and she
ran away, and I ran after her, sir, that she might know how to answer
when she was asked.  You wouldn’t have thought of saying such mischief if
you hadn’t been a horse-rider?’

‘Her calling seems to be pretty well known among ’em,’ observed Mr.
Bounderby.  ‘You’d have had the whole school peeping in a row, in a
week.’

‘Truly, I think so,’ returned his friend.  ‘Bitzer, turn you about and
take yourself home. Jupe, stay here a moment.  Let me hear of your
running in this manner any more, boy, and you will hear of me through the
master of the school.  You understand what I mean.  Go along.’

The boy stopped in his rapid blinking, knuckled his forehead again,
glanced at Sissy, turned about, and retreated.

‘Now, girl,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘take this gentleman and me to your
father’s; we are going there.  What have you got in that bottle you are
carrying?’

‘Gin,’ said Mr. Bounderby.

‘Dear, no, sir!  It’s the nine oils.’

‘The what?’ cried Mr. Bounderby.

‘The nine oils, sir, to rub father with.’

‘Then,’ said Mr. Bounderby, with a loud short laugh, ‘what the devil do
you rub your father with nine oils for?’

‘It’s what our people aways use, sir, when they get any hurts in the
ring,’ replied the girl, looking over her shoulder, to assure herself
that her pursuer was gone.  ‘They bruise themselves very bad sometimes.’

‘Serve ’em right,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘for being idle.’  She glanced up
at his face, with mingled astonishment and dread.

‘By George!’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘when I was four or five years younger
than you, I had worse bruises upon me than ten oils, twenty oils, forty
oils, would have rubbed off.  I didn’t get ’em by posture-making, but by
being banged about.  There was no rope-dancing for me; I danced on the
bare ground and was larruped with the rope.’

Mr. Gradgrind, though hard enough, was by no means so rough a man as Mr.
Bounderby.  His character was not unkind, all things considered; it might
have been a very kind one indeed, if he had only made some round mistake
in the arithmetic that balanced it, years ago.  He said, in what he meant
for a reassuring tone, as they turned down a narrow road, ‘And this is
Pod’s End; is it, Jupe?’

‘This is it, sir, and—if you wouldn’t mind, sir—this is the house.’

She stopped, at twilight, at the door of a mean little public-house, with
dim red lights in it.  As haggard and as shabby, as if, for want of
custom, it had itself taken to drinking, and had gone the way all
drunkards go, and was very near the end of it.

‘It’s only crossing the bar, sir, and up the stairs, if you wouldn’t
mind, and waiting there for a moment till I get a candle.  If you should
hear a dog, sir, it’s only Merrylegs, and he only barks.’

‘Merrylegs and nine oils, eh!’ said Mr. Bounderby, entering last with his
metallic laugh.  ‘Pretty well this, for a self-made man!’



CHAPTER VI
SLEARY’S HORSEMANSHIP


THE name of the public-house was the Pegasus’s Arms.  The Pegasus’s legs
might have been more to the purpose; but, underneath the winged horse
upon the sign-board, the Pegasus’s Arms was inscribed in Roman letters.
Beneath that inscription again, in a flowing scroll, the painter had
touched off the lines:

    Good malt makes good beer,
    Walk in, and they’ll draw it here;
    Good wine makes good brandy,
    Give us a call, and you’ll find it handy.

Framed and glazed upon the wall behind the dingy little bar, was another
Pegasus—a theatrical one—with real gauze let in for his wings, golden
stars stuck on all over him, and his ethereal harness made of red silk.

As it had grown too dusky without, to see the sign, and as it had not
grown light enough within to see the picture, Mr. Gradgrind and Mr.
Bounderby received no offence from these idealities.  They followed the
girl up some steep corner-stairs without meeting any one, and stopped in
the dark while she went on for a candle.  They expected every moment to
hear Merrylegs give tongue, but the highly trained performing dog had not
barked when the girl and the candle appeared together.

‘Father is not in our room, sir,’ she said, with a face of great
surprise.  ‘If you wouldn’t mind walking in, I’ll find him directly.’
They walked in; and Sissy, having set two chairs for them, sped away with
a quick light step.  It was a mean, shabbily furnished room, with a bed
in it.  The white night-cap, embellished with two peacock’s feathers and
a pigtail bolt upright, in which Signor Jupe had that very afternoon
enlivened the varied performances with his chaste Shaksperean quips and
retorts, hung upon a nail; but no other portion of his wardrobe, or other
token of himself or his pursuits, was to be seen anywhere.  As to
Merrylegs, that respectable ancestor of the highly trained animal who
went aboard the ark, might have been accidentally shut out of it, for any
sign of a dog that was manifest to eye or ear in the Pegasus’s Arms.

They heard the doors of rooms above, opening and shutting as Sissy went
from one to another in quest of her father; and presently they heard
voices expressing surprise.  She came bounding down again in a great
hurry, opened a battered and mangy old hair trunk, found it empty, and
looked round with her hands clasped and her face full of terror.

‘Father must have gone down to the Booth, sir.  I don’t know why he
should go there, but he must be there; I’ll bring him in a minute!’  She
was gone directly, without her bonnet; with her long, dark, childish hair
streaming behind her.

‘What does she mean!’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘Back in a minute?  It’s more
than a mile off.’

Before Mr. Bounderby could reply, a young man appeared at the door, and
introducing himself with the words, ‘By your leaves, gentlemen!’ walked
in with his hands in his pockets.  His face, close-shaven, thin, and
sallow, was shaded by a great quantity of dark hair, brushed into a roll
all round his head, and parted up the centre.  His legs were very robust,
but shorter than legs of good proportions should have been.  His chest
and back were as much too broad, as his legs were too short.  He was
dressed in a Newmarket coat and tight-fitting trousers; wore a shawl
round his neck; smelt of lamp-oil, straw, orange-peel, horses’ provender,
and sawdust; and looked a most remarkable sort of Centaur, compounded of
the stable and the play-house.  Where the one began, and the other ended,
nobody could have told with any precision.  This gentleman was mentioned
in the bills of the day as Mr. E. W. B. Childers, so justly celebrated
for his daring vaulting act as the Wild Huntsman of the North American
Prairies; in which popular performance, a diminutive boy with an old
face, who now accompanied him, assisted as his infant son: being carried
upside down over his father’s shoulder, by one foot, and held by the
crown of his head, heels upwards, in the palm of his father’s hand,
according to the violent paternal manner in which wild huntsmen may be
observed to fondle their offspring.  Made up with curls, wreaths, wings,
white bismuth, and carmine, this hopeful young person soared into so
pleasing a Cupid as to constitute the chief delight of the maternal part
of the spectators; but in private, where his characteristics were a
precocious cutaway coat and an extremely gruff voice, he became of the
Turf, turfy.

‘By your leaves, gentlemen,’ said Mr. E. W. B. Childers, glancing round
the room.  ‘It was you, I believe, that were wishing to see Jupe!’

‘It was,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘His daughter has gone to fetch him, but I
can’t wait; therefore, if you please, I will leave a message for him with
you.’

‘You see, my friend,’ Mr. Bounderby put in, ‘we are the kind of people
who know the value of time, and you are the kind of people who don’t know
the value of time.’

‘I have not,’ retorted Mr. Childers, after surveying him from head to
foot, ‘the honour of knowing _you_,—but if you mean that you can make
more money of your time than I can of mine, I should judge from your
appearance, that you are about right.’

‘And when you have made it, you can keep it too, I should think,’ said
Cupid.

‘Kidderminster, stow that!’ said Mr. Childers.  (Master Kidderminster was
Cupid’s mortal name.)

‘What does he come here cheeking us for, then?’ cried Master
Kidderminster, showing a very irascible temperament.  ‘If you want to
cheek us, pay your ochre at the doors and take it out.’

‘Kidderminster,’ said Mr. Childers, raising his voice, ‘stow that!—Sir,’
to Mr. Gradgrind, ‘I was addressing myself to you.  You may or you may
not be aware (for perhaps you have not been much in the audience), that
Jupe has missed his tip very often, lately.’

‘Has—what has he missed?’ asked Mr. Gradgrind, glancing at the potent
Bounderby for assistance.

‘Missed his tip.’

‘Offered at the Garters four times last night, and never done ’em once,’
said Master Kidderminster.  ‘Missed his tip at the banners, too, and was
loose in his ponging.’

‘Didn’t do what he ought to do.  Was short in his leaps and bad in his
tumbling,’ Mr. Childers interpreted.

‘Oh!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘that is tip, is it?’

‘In a general way that’s missing his tip,’ Mr. E. W. B. Childers
answered.

‘Nine oils, Merrylegs, missing tips, garters, banners, and Ponging, eh!’
ejaculated Bounderby, with his laugh of laughs.  ‘Queer sort of company,
too, for a man who has raised himself!’

‘Lower yourself, then,’ retorted Cupid.  ‘Oh Lord! if you’ve raised
yourself so high as all that comes to, let yourself down a bit.’

‘This is a very obtrusive lad!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, turning, and knitting
his brows on him.

‘We’d have had a young gentleman to meet you, if we had known you were
coming,’ retorted Master Kidderminster, nothing abashed.  ‘It’s a pity
you don’t have a bespeak, being so particular.  You’re on the Tight-Jeff,
ain’t you?’

‘What does this unmannerly boy mean,’ asked Mr. Gradgrind, eyeing him in
a sort of desperation, ‘by Tight-Jeff?’

‘There!  Get out, get out!’ said Mr. Childers, thrusting his young friend
from the room, rather in the prairie manner.  ‘Tight-Jeff or Slack-Jeff,
it don’t much signify: it’s only tight-rope and slack-rope.  You were
going to give me a message for Jupe?’

‘Yes, I was.’

‘Then,’ continued Mr. Childers, quickly, ‘my opinion is, he will never
receive it.  Do you know much of him?’

‘I never saw the man in my life.’

‘I doubt if you ever _will_ see him now.  It’s pretty plain to me, he’s
off.’

‘Do you mean that he has deserted his daughter?’

‘Ay!  I mean,’ said Mr. Childers, with a nod, ‘that he has cut.  He was
goosed last night, he was goosed the night before last, he was goosed
to-day.  He has lately got in the way of being always goosed, and he
can’t stand it.’

‘Why has he been—so very much—Goosed?’ asked Mr. Gradgrind, forcing the
word out of himself, with great solemnity and reluctance.

‘His joints are turning stiff, and he is getting used up,’ said Childers.
‘He has his points as a Cackler still, but he can’t get a living out of
_them_.’

‘A Cackler!’ Bounderby repeated.  ‘Here we go again!’

‘A speaker, if the gentleman likes it better,’ said Mr. E. W. B.
Childers, superciliously throwing the interpretation over his shoulder,
and accompanying it with a shake of his long hair—which all shook at
once.  ‘Now, it’s a remarkable fact, sir, that it cut that man deeper, to
know that his daughter knew of his being goosed, than to go through with
it.’

‘Good!’ interrupted Mr. Bounderby.  ‘This is good, Gradgrind!  A man so
fond of his daughter, that he runs away from her!  This is devilish good!
Ha! ha!  Now, I’ll tell you what, young man.  I haven’t always occupied
my present station of life.  I know what these things are.  You may be
astonished to hear it, but my mother—ran away from _me_.’

E. W. B. Childers replied pointedly, that he was not at all astonished to
hear it.

‘Very well,’ said Bounderby.  ‘I was born in a ditch, and my mother ran
away from me.  Do I excuse her for it?  No.  Have I ever excused her for
it?  Not I.  What do I call her for it?  I call her probably the very
worst woman that ever lived in the world, except my drunken grandmother.
There’s no family pride about me, there’s no imaginative sentimental
humbug about me.  I call a spade a spade; and I call the mother of Josiah
Bounderby of Coketown, without any fear or any favour, what I should call
her if she had been the mother of Dick Jones of Wapping.  So, with this
man.  He is a runaway rogue and a vagabond, that’s what he is, in
English.’

‘It’s all the same to me what he is or what he is not, whether in English
or whether in French,’ retorted Mr. E. W. B. Childers, facing about.  ‘I
am telling your friend what’s the fact; if you don’t like to hear it, you
can avail yourself of the open air.  You give it mouth enough, you do;
but give it mouth in your own building at least,’ remonstrated E. W. B.
with stern irony.  ‘Don’t give it mouth in this building, till you’re
called upon.  You have got some building of your own I dare say, now?’

‘Perhaps so,’ replied Mr. Bounderby, rattling his money and laughing.

‘Then give it mouth in your own building, will you, if you please?’ said
Childers.  ‘Because this isn’t a strong building, and too much of you
might bring it down!’

Eyeing Mr. Bounderby from head to foot again, he turned from him, as from
a man finally disposed of, to Mr. Gradgrind.

‘Jupe sent his daughter out on an errand not an hour ago, and then was
seen to slip out himself, with his hat over his eyes, and a bundle tied
up in a handkerchief under his arm.  She will never believe it of him,
but he has cut away and left her.’

‘Pray,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘why will she never believe it of him?’

‘Because those two were one.  Because they were never asunder.  Because,
up to this time, he seemed to dote upon her,’ said Childers, taking a
step or two to look into the empty trunk.  Both Mr. Childers and Master
Kidderminster walked in a curious manner; with their legs wider apart
than the general run of men, and with a very knowing assumption of being
stiff in the knees.  This walk was common to all the male members of
Sleary’s company, and was understood to express, that they were always on
horseback.

‘Poor Sissy!  He had better have apprenticed her,’ said Childers, giving
his hair another shake, as he looked up from the empty box.  ‘Now, he
leaves her without anything to take to.’

‘It is creditable to you, who have never been apprenticed, to express
that opinion,’ returned Mr. Gradgrind, approvingly.

‘_I_ never apprenticed?  I was apprenticed when I was seven year old.’

‘Oh!  Indeed?’ said Mr. Gradgrind, rather resentfully, as having been
defrauded of his good opinion.  ‘I was not aware of its being the custom
to apprentice young persons to—’

‘Idleness,’ Mr. Bounderby put in with a loud laugh.  ‘No, by the Lord
Harry!  Nor I!’

‘Her father always had it in his head,’ resumed Childers, feigning
unconsciousness of Mr. Bounderby’s existence, ‘that she was to be taught
the deuce-and-all of education.  How it got into his head, I can’t say; I
can only say that it never got out.  He has been picking up a bit of
reading for her, here—and a bit of writing for her, there—and a bit of
ciphering for her, somewhere else—these seven years.’

Mr. E. W. B. Childers took one of his hands out of his pockets, stroked
his face and chin, and looked, with a good deal of doubt and a little
hope, at Mr. Gradgrind.  From the first he had sought to conciliate that
gentleman, for the sake of the deserted girl.

‘When Sissy got into the school here,’ he pursued, ‘her father was as
pleased as Punch.  I couldn’t altogether make out why, myself, as we were
not stationary here, being but comers and goers anywhere.  I suppose,
however, he had this move in his mind—he was always half-cracked—and then
considered her provided for.  If you should happen to have looked in
to-night, for the purpose of telling him that you were going to do her
any little service,’ said Mr. Childers, stroking his face again, and
repeating his look, ‘it would be very fortunate and well-timed; very
fortunate and well-timed.’

‘On the contrary,’ returned Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘I came to tell him that her
connections made her not an object for the school, and that she must not
attend any more.  Still, if her father really has left her, without any
connivance on her part—Bounderby, let me have a word with you.’

Upon this, Mr. Childers politely betook himself, with his equestrian
walk, to the landing outside the door, and there stood stroking his face,
and softly whistling.  While thus engaged, he overheard such phrases in
Mr. Bounderby’s voice as ‘No.  _I_ say no.  I advise you not.  I say by
no means.’  While, from Mr. Gradgrind, he heard in his much lower tone
the words, ‘But even as an example to Louisa, of what this pursuit which
has been the subject of a vulgar curiosity, leads to and ends in.  Think
of it, Bounderby, in that point of view.’

Meanwhile, the various members of Sleary’s company gradually gathered
together from the upper regions, where they were quartered, and, from
standing about, talking in low voices to one another and to Mr. Childers,
gradually insinuated themselves and him into the room.  There were two or
three handsome young women among them, with their two or three husbands,
and their two or three mothers, and their eight or nine little children,
who did the fairy business when required.  The father of one of the
families was in the habit of balancing the father of another of the
families on the top of a great pole; the father of a third family often
made a pyramid of both those fathers, with Master Kidderminster for the
apex, and himself for the base; all the fathers could dance upon rolling
casks, stand upon bottles, catch knives and balls, twirl hand-basins,
ride upon anything, jump over everything, and stick at nothing.  All the
mothers could (and did) dance, upon the slack wire and the tight-rope,
and perform rapid acts on bare-backed steeds; none of them were at all
particular in respect of showing their legs; and one of them, alone in a
Greek chariot, drove six in hand into every town they came to.  They all
assumed to be mighty rakish and knowing, they were not very tidy in their
private dresses, they were not at all orderly in their domestic
arrangements, and the combined literature of the whole company would have
produced but a poor letter on any subject.  Yet there was a remarkable
gentleness and childishness about these people, a special inaptitude for
any kind of sharp practice, and an untiring readiness to help and pity
one another, deserving often of as much respect, and always of as much
generous construction, as the every-day virtues of any class of people in
the world.

Last of all appeared Mr. Sleary: a stout man as already mentioned, with
one fixed eye, and one loose eye, a voice (if it can be called so) like
the efforts of a broken old pair of bellows, a flabby surface, and a
muddled head which was never sober and never drunk.

‘Thquire!’ said Mr. Sleary, who was troubled with asthma, and whose
breath came far too thick and heavy for the letter s, ‘Your thervant!
Thith ith a bad piethe of bithnith, thith ith.  You’ve heard of my Clown
and hith dog being thuppothed to have morrithed?’

He addressed Mr. Gradgrind, who answered ‘Yes.’

‘Well, Thquire,’ he returned, taking off his hat, and rubbing the lining
with his pocket-handkerchief, which he kept inside for the purpose.  ‘Ith
it your intenthion to do anything for the poor girl, Thquire?’

‘I shall have something to propose to her when she comes back,’ said Mr.
Gradgrind.

‘Glad to hear it, Thquire.  Not that I want to get rid of the child, any
more than I want to thtand in her way.  I’m willing to take her prentith,
though at her age ith late.  My voithe ith a little huthky, Thquire, and
not eathy heard by them ath don’t know me; but if you’d been chilled and
heated, heated and chilled, chilled and heated in the ring when you wath
young, ath often ath I have been, _your_ voithe wouldn’t have lathted
out, Thquire, no more than mine.’

‘I dare say not,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.

‘What thall it be, Thquire, while you wait?  Thall it be Therry?  Give it
a name, Thquire!’ said Mr. Sleary, with hospitable ease.

‘Nothing for me, I thank you,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.

‘Don’t thay nothing, Thquire.  What doth your friend thay?  If you
haven’t took your feed yet, have a glath of bitterth.’

Here his daughter Josephine—a pretty fair-haired girl of eighteen, who
had been tied on a horse at two years old, and had made a will at twelve,
which she always carried about with her, expressive of her dying desire
to be drawn to the grave by the two piebald ponies—cried, ‘Father, hush!
she has come back!’  Then came Sissy Jupe, running into the room as she
had run out of it.  And when she saw them all assembled, and saw their
looks, and saw no father there, she broke into a most deplorable cry, and
took refuge on the bosom of the most accomplished tight-rope lady
(herself in the family-way), who knelt down on the floor to nurse her,
and to weep over her.

‘Ith an internal thame, upon my thoul it ith,’ said Sleary.

‘O my dear father, my good kind father, where are you gone?  You are gone
to try to do me some good, I know!  You are gone away for my sake, I am
sure!  And how miserable and helpless you will be without me, poor, poor
father, until you come back!’  It was so pathetic to hear her saying many
things of this kind, with her face turned upward, and her arms stretched
out as if she were trying to stop his departing shadow and embrace it,
that no one spoke a word until Mr. Bounderby (growing impatient) took the
case in hand.

‘Now, good people all,’ said he, ‘this is wanton waste of time.  Let the
girl understand the fact.  Let her take it from me, if you like, who have
been run away from, myself.  Here, what’s your name!  Your father has
absconded—deserted you—and you mustn’t expect to see him again as long as
you live.’

They cared so little for plain Fact, these people, and were in that
advanced state of degeneracy on the subject, that instead of being
impressed by the speaker’s strong common sense, they took it in
extraordinary dudgeon.  The men muttered ‘Shame!’ and the women ‘Brute!’
and Sleary, in some haste, communicated the following hint, apart to Mr.
Bounderby.

‘I tell you what, Thquire.  To thpeak plain to you, my opinion ith that
you had better cut it thort, and drop it.  They’re a very good natur’d
people, my people, but they’re accuthtomed to be quick in their
movementh; and if you don’t act upon my advithe, I’m damned if I don’t
believe they’ll pith you out o’ winder.’

Mr. Bounderby being restrained by this mild suggestion, Mr. Gradgrind
found an opening for his eminently practical exposition of the subject.

‘It is of no moment,’ said he, ‘whether this person is to be expected
back at any time, or the contrary.  He is gone away, and there is no
present expectation of his return.  That, I believe, is agreed on all
hands.’

‘Thath agreed, Thquire.  Thick to that!’  From Sleary.

‘Well then.  I, who came here to inform the father of the poor girl,
Jupe, that she could not be received at the school any more, in
consequence of there being practical objections, into which I need not
enter, to the reception there of the children of persons so employed, am
prepared in these altered circumstances to make a proposal.  I am willing
to take charge of you, Jupe, and to educate you, and provide for you.
The only condition (over and above your good behaviour) I make is, that
you decide now, at once, whether to accompany me or remain here.  Also,
that if you accompany me now, it is understood that you communicate no
more with any of your friends who are here present.  These observations
comprise the whole of the case.’

‘At the thame time,’ said Sleary, ‘I mutht put in my word, Thquire, tho
that both thides of the banner may be equally theen.  If you like,
Thethilia, to be prentitht, you know the natur of the work and you know
your companionth.  Emma Gordon, in whothe lap you’re a lying at prethent,
would be a mother to you, and Joth’phine would be a thithter to you.  I
don’t pretend to be of the angel breed myself, and I don’t thay but what,
when you mith’d your tip, you’d find me cut up rough, and thwear an oath
or two at you.  But what I thay, Thquire, ith, that good tempered or bad
tempered, I never did a horthe a injury yet, no more than thwearing at
him went, and that I don’t expect I thall begin otherwithe at my time of
life, with a rider.  I never wath much of a Cackler, Thquire, and I have
thed my thay.’

The latter part of this speech was addressed to Mr. Gradgrind, who
received it with a grave inclination of his head, and then remarked:

‘The only observation I will make to you, Jupe, in the way of influencing
your decision, is, that it is highly desirable to have a sound practical
education, and that even your father himself (from what I understand)
appears, on your behalf, to have known and felt that much.’

The last words had a visible effect upon her.  She stopped in her wild
crying, a little detached herself from Emma Gordon, and turned her face
full upon her patron.  The whole company perceived the force of the
change, and drew a long breath together, that plainly said, ‘she will
go!’

‘Be sure you know your own mind, Jupe,’ Mr. Gradgrind cautioned her; ‘I
say no more.  Be sure you know your own mind!’

‘When father comes back,’ cried the girl, bursting into tears again after
a minute’s silence, ‘how will he ever find me if I go away!’

‘You may be quite at ease,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, calmly; he worked out the
whole matter like a sum: ‘you may be quite at ease, Jupe, on that score.
In such a case, your father, I apprehend, must find out Mr.—’

‘Thleary.  Thath my name, Thquire.  Not athamed of it.  Known all over
England, and alwayth paythe ith way.’

‘Must find out Mr. Sleary, who would then let him know where you went.  I
should have no power of keeping you against his wish, and he would have
no difficulty, at any time, in finding Mr. Thomas Gradgrind of Coketown.
I am well known.’

‘Well known,’ assented Mr. Sleary, rolling his loose eye.  ‘You’re one of
the thort, Thquire, that keepth a prethiouth thight of money out of the
houthe.  But never mind that at prethent.’

There was another silence; and then she exclaimed, sobbing with her hands
before her face, ‘Oh, give me my clothes, give me my clothes, and let me
go away before I break my heart!’

The women sadly bestirred themselves to get the clothes together—it was
soon done, for they were not many—and to pack them in a basket which had
often travelled with them.  Sissy sat all the time upon the ground, still
sobbing, and covering her eyes.  Mr. Gradgrind and his friend Bounderby
stood near the door, ready to take her away.  Mr. Sleary stood in the
middle of the room, with the male members of the company about him,
exactly as he would have stood in the centre of the ring during his
daughter Josephine’s performance.  He wanted nothing but his whip.

The basket packed in silence, they brought her bonnet to her, and
smoothed her disordered hair, and put it on.  Then they pressed about
her, and bent over her in very natural attitudes, kissing and embracing
her: and brought the children to take leave of her; and were a
tender-hearted, simple, foolish set of women altogether.

‘Now, Jupe,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘If you are quite determined, come!’

But she had to take her farewell of the male part of the company yet, and
every one of them had to unfold his arms (for they all assumed the
professional attitude when they found themselves near Sleary), and give
her a parting kiss—Master Kidderminster excepted, in whose young nature
there was an original flavour of the misanthrope, who was also known to
have harboured matrimonial views, and who moodily withdrew.  Mr. Sleary
was reserved until the last.  Opening his arms wide he took her by both
her hands, and would have sprung her up and down, after the riding-master
manner of congratulating young ladies on their dismounting from a rapid
act; but there was no rebound in Sissy, and she only stood before him
crying.

‘Good-bye, my dear!’ said Sleary.  ‘You’ll make your fortun, I hope, and
none of our poor folkth will ever trouble you, I’ll pound it.  I with
your father hadn’t taken hith dog with him; ith a ill-conwenienth to have
the dog out of the billth.  But on thecond thoughth, he wouldn’t have
performed without hith mathter, tho ith ath broad ath ith long!’

With that he regarded her attentively with his fixed eye, surveyed his
company with his loose one, kissed her, shook his head, and handed her to
Mr. Gradgrind as to a horse.

‘There the ith, Thquire,’ he said, sweeping her with a professional
glance as if she were being adjusted in her seat, ‘and the’ll do you
juthtithe.  Good-bye, Thethilia!’

‘Good-bye, Cecilia!’  ‘Good-bye, Sissy!’  ‘God bless you, dear!’  In a
variety of voices from all the room.

But the riding-master eye had observed the bottle of the nine oils in her
bosom, and he now interposed with ‘Leave the bottle, my dear; ith large
to carry; it will be of no uthe to you now.  Give it to me!’

‘No, no!’ she said, in another burst of tears.  ‘Oh, no!  Pray let me
keep it for father till he comes back!  He will want it when he comes
back.  He had never thought of going away, when he sent me for it.  I
must keep it for him, if you please!’

‘Tho be it, my dear.  (You thee how it ith, Thquire!)  Farewell,
Thethilia!  My latht wordth to you ith thith, Thtick to the termth of
your engagement, be obedient to the Thquire, and forget uth.  But if,
when you’re grown up and married and well off, you come upon any
horthe-riding ever, don’t be hard upon it, don’t be croth with it, give
it a Bethpeak if you can, and think you might do wurth.  People mutht be
amuthed, Thquire, thomehow,’ continued Sleary, rendered more pursy than
ever, by so much talking; ‘they can’t be alwayth a working, nor yet they
can’t be alwayth a learning.  Make the betht of uth; not the wurtht.
I’ve got my living out of the horthe-riding all my life, I know; but I
conthider that I lay down the philothophy of the thubject when I thay to
you, Thquire, make the betht of uth: not the wurtht!’

The Sleary philosophy was propounded as they went downstairs and the
fixed eye of Philosophy—and its rolling eye, too—soon lost the three
figures and the basket in the darkness of the street.



CHAPTER VII
MRS. SPARSIT


MR. BOUNDERBY being a bachelor, an elderly lady presided over his
establishment, in consideration of a certain annual stipend.  Mrs.
Sparsit was this lady’s name; and she was a prominent figure in
attendance on Mr. Bounderby’s car, as it rolled along in triumph with the
Bully of humility inside.

For, Mrs. Sparsit had not only seen different days, but was highly
connected.  She had a great aunt living in these very times called Lady
Scadgers.  Mr. Sparsit, deceased, of whom she was the relict, had been by
the mother’s side what Mrs. Sparsit still called ‘a Powler.’  Strangers
of limited information and dull apprehension were sometimes observed not
to know what a Powler was, and even to appear uncertain whether it might
be a business, or a political party, or a profession of faith.  The
better class of minds, however, did not need to be informed that the
Powlers were an ancient stock, who could trace themselves so exceedingly
far back that it was not surprising if they sometimes lost
themselves—which they had rather frequently done, as respected
horse-flesh, blind-hookey, Hebrew monetary transactions, and the
Insolvent Debtors’ Court.

The late Mr. Sparsit, being by the mother’s side a Powler, married this
lady, being by the father’s side a Scadgers.  Lady Scadgers (an immensely
fat old woman, with an inordinate appetite for butcher’s meat, and a
mysterious leg which had now refused to get out of bed for fourteen
years) contrived the marriage, at a period when Sparsit was just of age,
and chiefly noticeable for a slender body, weakly supported on two long
slim props, and surmounted by no head worth mentioning.  He inherited a
fair fortune from his uncle, but owed it all before he came into it, and
spent it twice over immediately afterwards.  Thus, when he died, at
twenty-four (the scene of his decease, Calais, and the cause, brandy), he
did not leave his widow, from whom he had been separated soon after the
honeymoon, in affluent circumstances.  That bereaved lady, fifteen years
older than he, fell presently at deadly feud with her only relative, Lady
Scadgers; and, partly to spite her ladyship, and partly to maintain
herself, went out at a salary.  And here she was now, in her elderly
days, with the Coriolanian style of nose and the dense black eyebrows
which had captivated Sparsit, making Mr. Bounderby’s tea as he took his
breakfast.

If Bounderby had been a Conqueror, and Mrs. Sparsit a captive Princess
whom he took about as a feature in his state-processions, he could not
have made a greater flourish with her than he habitually did.  Just as it
belonged to his boastfulness to depreciate his own extraction, so it
belonged to it to exalt Mrs. Sparsit’s.  In the measure that he would not
allow his own youth to have been attended by a single favourable
circumstance, he brightened Mrs. Sparsit’s juvenile career with every
possible advantage, and showered waggon-loads of early roses all over
that lady’s path.  ‘And yet, sir,’ he would say, ‘how does it turn out
after all?  Why here she is at a hundred a year (I give her a hundred,
which she is pleased to term handsome), keeping the house of Josiah
Bounderby of Coketown!’

Nay, he made this foil of his so very widely known, that third parties
took it up, and handled it on some occasions with considerable briskness.
It was one of the most exasperating attributes of Bounderby, that he not
only sang his own praises but stimulated other men to sing them.  There
was a moral infection of clap-trap in him.  Strangers, modest enough
elsewhere, started up at dinners in Coketown, and boasted, in quite a
rampant way, of Bounderby.  They made him out to be the Royal arms, the
Union-Jack, Magna Charta, John Bull, Habeas Corpus, the Bill of Rights,
An Englishman’s house is his castle, Church and State, and God save the
Queen, all put together.  And as often (and it was very often) as an
orator of this kind brought into his peroration,

    ‘Princes and lords may flourish or may fade,
    A breath can make them, as a breath has made,’

—it was, for certain, more or less understood among the company that he
had heard of Mrs. Sparsit.

‘Mr. Bounderby,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘you are unusually slow, sir, with
your breakfast this morning.’

‘Why, ma’am,’ he returned, ‘I am thinking about Tom Gradgrind’s whim;’
Tom Gradgrind, for a bluff independent manner of speaking—as if somebody
were always endeavouring to bribe him with immense sums to say Thomas,
and he wouldn’t; ‘Tom Gradgrind’s whim, ma’am, of bringing up the
tumbling-girl.’

‘The girl is now waiting to know,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘whether she is to
go straight to the school, or up to the Lodge.’

‘She must wait, ma’am,’ answered Bounderby, ‘till I know myself.  We
shall have Tom Gradgrind down here presently, I suppose.  If he should
wish her to remain here a day or two longer, of course she can, ma’am.’

‘Of course she can if you wish it, Mr. Bounderby.’

‘I told him I would give her a shake-down here, last night, in order that
he might sleep on it before he decided to let her have any association
with Louisa.’

‘Indeed, Mr. Bounderby?  Very thoughtful of you!’  Mrs. Sparsit’s
Coriolanian nose underwent a slight expansion of the nostrils, and her
black eyebrows contracted as she took a sip of tea.

‘It’s tolerably clear to _me_,’ said Bounderby, ‘that the little puss can
get small good out of such companionship.’

‘Are you speaking of young Miss Gradgrind, Mr. Bounderby?’

‘Yes, ma’am, I’m speaking of Louisa.’

‘Your observation being limited to “little puss,”’ said Mrs. Sparsit,
‘and there being two little girls in question, I did not know which might
be indicated by that expression.’

‘Louisa,’ repeated Mr. Bounderby.  ‘Louisa, Louisa.’

‘You are quite another father to Louisa, sir.’  Mrs. Sparsit took a
little more tea; and, as she bent her again contracted eyebrows over her
steaming cup, rather looked as if her classical countenance were invoking
the infernal gods.

‘If you had said I was another father to Tom—young Tom, I mean, not my
friend Tom Gradgrind—you might have been nearer the mark.  I am going to
take young Tom into my office.  Going to have him under my wing, ma’am.’

‘Indeed?  Rather young for that, is he not, sir?’  Mrs. Spirit’s ‘sir,’
in addressing Mr. Bounderby, was a word of ceremony, rather exacting
consideration for herself in the use, than honouring him.

‘I’m not going to take him at once; he is to finish his educational
cramming before then,’ said Bounderby.  ‘By the Lord Harry, he’ll have
enough of it, first and last!  He’d open his eyes, that boy would, if he
knew how empty of learning _my_ young maw was, at his time of life.’
Which, by the by, he probably did know, for he had heard of it often
enough.  ‘But it’s extraordinary the difficulty I have on scores of such
subjects, in speaking to any one on equal terms.  Here, for example, I
have been speaking to you this morning about tumblers.  Why, what do
_you_ know about tumblers?  At the time when, to have been a tumbler in
the mud of the streets, would have been a godsend to me, a prize in the
lottery to me, you were at the Italian Opera.  You were coming out of the
Italian Opera, ma’am, in white satin and jewels, a blaze of splendour,
when I hadn’t a penny to buy a link to light you.’

‘I certainly, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a dignity serenely
mournful, ‘was familiar with the Italian Opera at a very early age.’

‘Egad, ma’am, so was I,’ said Bounderby, ‘—with the wrong side of it.  A
hard bed the pavement of its Arcade used to make, I assure you.  People
like you, ma’am, accustomed from infancy to lie on Down feathers, have no
idea _how_ hard a paving-stone is, without trying it.  No, no, it’s of no
use my talking to _you_ about tumblers.  I should speak of foreign
dancers, and the West End of London, and May Fair, and lords and ladies
and honourables.’

‘I trust, sir,’ rejoined Mrs. Sparsit, with decent resignation, ‘it is
not necessary that you should do anything of that kind.  I hope I have
learnt how to accommodate myself to the changes of life.  If I have
acquired an interest in hearing of your instructive experiences, and can
scarcely hear enough of them, I claim no merit for that, since I believe
it is a general sentiment.’

‘Well, ma’am,’ said her patron, ‘perhaps some people may be pleased to
say that they do like to hear, in his own unpolished way, what Josiah
Bounderby, of Coketown, has gone through.  But you must confess that you
were born in the lap of luxury, yourself.  Come, ma’am, you know you were
born in the lap of luxury.’

‘I do not, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit with a shake of her head, ‘deny
it.’

Mr. Bounderby was obliged to get up from table, and stand with his back
to the fire, looking at her; she was such an enhancement of his position.

‘And you were in crack society.  Devilish high society,’ he said, warming
his legs.

‘It is true, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, with an affectation of humility
the very opposite of his, and therefore in no danger of jostling it.

‘You were in the tiptop fashion, and all the rest of it,’ said Mr.
Bounderby.

‘Yes, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a kind of social widowhood upon
her.  ‘It is unquestionably true.’

Mr. Bounderby, bending himself at the knees, literally embraced his legs
in his great satisfaction and laughed aloud.  Mr. and Miss Gradgrind
being then announced, he received the former with a shake of the hand,
and the latter with a kiss.

‘Can Jupe be sent here, Bounderby?’ asked Mr. Gradgrind.

Certainly.  So Jupe was sent there.  On coming in, she curtseyed to Mr.
Bounderby, and to his friend Tom Gradgrind, and also to Louisa; but in
her confusion unluckily omitted Mrs. Sparsit.  Observing this, the
blustrous Bounderby had the following remarks to make:

‘Now, I tell you what, my girl.  The name of that lady by the teapot, is
Mrs. Sparsit.  That lady acts as mistress of this house, and she is a
highly connected lady.  Consequently, if ever you come again into any
room in this house, you will make a short stay in it if you don’t behave
towards that lady in your most respectful manner.  Now, I don’t care a
button what you do to _me_, because I don’t affect to be anybody.  So far
from having high connections I have no connections at all, and I come of
the scum of the earth.  But towards that lady, I do care what you do; and
you shall do what is deferential and respectful, or you shall not come
here.’

‘I hope, Bounderby,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, in a conciliatory voice, ‘that
this was merely an oversight.’

‘My friend Tom Gradgrind suggests, Mrs. Sparsit,’ said Bounderby, ‘that
this was merely an oversight.  Very likely.  However, as you are aware,
ma’am, I don’t allow of even oversights towards you.’

‘You are very good indeed, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, shaking her head
with her State humility.  ‘It is not worth speaking of.’

Sissy, who all this time had been faintly excusing herself with tears in
her eyes, was now waved over by the master of the house to Mr. Gradgrind.
She stood looking intently at him, and Louisa stood coldly by, with her
eyes upon the ground, while he proceeded thus:

‘Jupe, I have made up my mind to take you into my house; and, when you
are not in attendance at the school, to employ you about Mrs. Gradgrind,
who is rather an invalid.  I have explained to Miss Louisa—this is Miss
Louisa—the miserable but natural end of your late career; and you are to
expressly understand that the whole of that subject is past, and is not
to be referred to any more.  From this time you begin your history.  You
are, at present, ignorant, I know.’

‘Yes, sir, very,’ she answered, curtseying.

‘I shall have the satisfaction of causing you to be strictly educated;
and you will be a living proof to all who come into communication with
you, of the advantages of the training you will receive.  You will be
reclaimed and formed.  You have been in the habit now of reading to your
father, and those people I found you among, I dare say?’ said Mr.
Gradgrind, beckoning her nearer to him before he said so, and dropping
his voice.

‘Only to father and Merrylegs, sir.  At least I mean to father, when
Merrylegs was always there.’

‘Never mind Merrylegs, Jupe,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, with a passing frown.
‘I don’t ask about him.  I understand you to have been in the habit of
reading to your father?’

‘O, yes, sir, thousands of times.  They were the happiest—O, of all the
happy times we had together, sir!’

It was only now when her sorrow broke out, that Louisa looked at her.

‘And what,’ asked Mr. Gradgrind, in a still lower voice, ‘did you read to
your father, Jupe?’

‘About the Fairies, sir, and the Dwarf, and the Hunchback, and the
Genies,’ she sobbed out; ‘and about—’

‘Hush!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘that is enough.  Never breathe a word of
such destructive nonsense any more.  Bounderby, this is a case for rigid
training, and I shall observe it with interest.’

‘Well,’ returned Mr. Bounderby, ‘I have given you my opinion already, and
I shouldn’t do as you do.  But, very well, very well.  Since you are bent
upon it, _very_ well!’

So, Mr. Gradgrind and his daughter took Cecilia Jupe off with them to
Stone Lodge, and on the way Louisa never spoke one word, good or bad.
And Mr. Bounderby went about his daily pursuits.  And Mrs. Sparsit got
behind her eyebrows and meditated in the gloom of that retreat, all the
evening.



CHAPTER VIII
NEVER WONDER


LET us strike the key-note again, before pursuing the tune.

When she was half a dozen years younger, Louisa had been overheard to
begin a conversation with her brother one day, by saying ‘Tom, I
wonder’—upon which Mr. Gradgrind, who was the person overhearing, stepped
forth into the light and said, ‘Louisa, never wonder!’

Herein lay the spring of the mechanical art and mystery of educating the
reason without stooping to the cultivation of the sentiments and
affections.  Never wonder.  By means of addition, subtraction,
multiplication, and division, settle everything somehow, and never
wonder.  Bring to me, says M’Choakumchild, yonder baby just able to walk,
and I will engage that it shall never wonder.

Now, besides very many babies just able to walk, there happened to be in
Coketown a considerable population of babies who had been walking against
time towards the infinite world, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years and
more.  These portentous infants being alarming creatures to stalk about
in any human society, the eighteen denominations incessantly scratched
one another’s faces and pulled one another’s hair by way of agreeing on
the steps to be taken for their improvement—which they never did; a
surprising circumstance, when the happy adaptation of the means to the
end is considered.  Still, although they differed in every other
particular, conceivable and inconceivable (especially inconceivable),
they were pretty well united on the point that these unlucky infants were
never to wonder.  Body number one, said they must take everything on
trust.  Body number two, said they must take everything on political
economy.  Body number three, wrote leaden little books for them, showing
how the good grown-up baby invariably got to the Savings-bank, and the
bad grown-up baby invariably got transported.  Body number four, under
dreary pretences of being droll (when it was very melancholy indeed),
made the shallowest pretences of concealing pitfalls of knowledge, into
which it was the duty of these babies to be smuggled and inveigled.  But,
all the bodies agreed that they were never to wonder.

There was a library in Coketown, to which general access was easy.  Mr.
Gradgrind greatly tormented his mind about what the people read in this
library: a point whereon little rivers of tabular statements periodically
flowed into the howling ocean of tabular statements, which no diver ever
got to any depth in and came up sane.  It was a disheartening
circumstance, but a melancholy fact, that even these readers persisted in
wondering.  They wondered about human nature, human passions, human hopes
and fears, the struggles, triumphs and defeats, the cares and joys and
sorrows, the lives and deaths of common men and women!  They sometimes,
after fifteen hours’ work, sat down to read mere fables about men and
women, more or less like themselves, and about children, more or less
like their own.  They took De Foe to their bosoms, instead of Euclid, and
seemed to be on the whole more comforted by Goldsmith than by Cocker.
Mr. Gradgrind was for ever working, in print and out of print, at this
eccentric sum, and he never could make out how it yielded this
unaccountable product.

‘I am sick of my life, Loo.  I, hate it altogether, and I hate everybody
except you,’ said the unnatural young Thomas Gradgrind in the
hair-cutting chamber at twilight.

‘You don’t hate Sissy, Tom?’

‘I hate to be obliged to call her Jupe.  And she hates me,’ said Tom,
moodily.

‘No, she does not, Tom, I am sure!’

‘She must,’ said Tom.  ‘She must just hate and detest the whole set-out
of us.  They’ll bother her head off, I think, before they have done with
her.  Already she’s getting as pale as wax, and as heavy as—I am.’

Young Thomas expressed these sentiments sitting astride of a chair before
the fire, with his arms on the back, and his sulky face on his arms.  His
sister sat in the darker corner by the fireside, now looking at him, now
looking at the bright sparks as they dropped upon the hearth.

‘As to me,’ said Tom, tumbling his hair all manner of ways with his sulky
hands, ‘I am a Donkey, that’s what _I_ am.  I am as obstinate as one, I
am more stupid than one, I get as much pleasure as one, and I should like
to kick like one.’

‘Not me, I hope, Tom?’

‘No, Loo; I wouldn’t hurt _you_.  I made an exception of you at first.  I
don’t know what this—jolly old—Jaundiced Jail,’ Tom had paused to find a
sufficiently complimentary and expressive name for the parental roof, and
seemed to relieve his mind for a moment by the strong alliteration of
this one, ‘would be without you.’

‘Indeed, Tom?  Do you really and truly say so?’

‘Why, of course I do.  What’s the use of talking about it!’ returned Tom,
chafing his face on his coat-sleeve, as if to mortify his flesh, and have
it in unison with his spirit.

‘Because, Tom,’ said his sister, after silently watching the sparks
awhile, ‘as I get older, and nearer growing up, I often sit wondering
here, and think how unfortunate it is for me that I can’t reconcile you
to home better than I am able to do.  I don’t know what other girls know.
I can’t play to you, or sing to you.  I can’t talk to you so as to
lighten your mind, for I never see any amusing sights or read any amusing
books that it would be a pleasure or a relief to you to talk about, when
you are tired.’

‘Well, no more do I.  I am as bad as you in that respect; and I am a Mule
too, which you’re not.  If father was determined to make me either a Prig
or a Mule, and I am not a Prig, why, it stands to reason, I must be a
Mule.  And so I am,’ said Tom, desperately.

‘It’s a great pity,’ said Louisa, after another pause, and speaking
thoughtfully out of her dark corner: ‘it’s a great pity, Tom.  It’s very
unfortunate for both of us.’

‘Oh!  You,’ said Tom; ‘you are a girl, Loo, and a girl comes out of it
better than a boy does.  I don’t miss anything in you.  You are the only
pleasure I have—you can brighten even this place—and you can always lead
me as you like.’

‘You are a dear brother, Tom; and while you think I can do such things, I
don’t so much mind knowing better.  Though I do know better, Tom, and am
very sorry for it.’  She came and kissed him, and went back into her
corner again.

‘I wish I could collect all the Facts we hear so much about,’ said Tom,
spitefully setting his teeth, ‘and all the Figures, and all the people
who found them out: and I wish I could put a thousand barrels of
gunpowder under them, and blow them all up together!  However, when I go
to live with old Bounderby, I’ll have my revenge.’

‘Your revenge, Tom?’

‘I mean, I’ll enjoy myself a little, and go about and see something, and
hear something.  I’ll recompense myself for the way in which I have been
brought up.’

‘But don’t disappoint yourself beforehand, Tom.  Mr. Bounderby thinks as
father thinks, and is a great deal rougher, and not half so kind.’

‘Oh!’ said Tom, laughing; ‘I don’t mind that.  I shall very well know how
to manage and smooth old Bounderby!’

Their shadows were defined upon the wall, but those of the high presses
in the room were all blended together on the wall and on the ceiling, as
if the brother and sister were overhung by a dark cavern.  Or, a fanciful
imagination—if such treason could have been there—might have made it out
to be the shadow of their subject, and of its lowering association with
their future.

‘What is your great mode of smoothing and managing, Tom?  Is it a
secret?’

‘Oh!’ said Tom, ‘if it is a secret, it’s not far off.  It’s you.  You are
his little pet, you are his favourite; he’ll do anything for you.  When
he says to me what I don’t like, I shall say to him, “My sister Loo will
be hurt and disappointed, Mr. Bounderby.  She always used to tell me she
was sure you would be easier with me than this.”  That’ll bring him
about, or nothing will.’

After waiting for some answering remark, and getting none, Tom wearily
relapsed into the present time, and twined himself yawning round and
about the rails of his chair, and rumpled his head more and more, until
he suddenly looked up, and asked:

‘Have you gone to sleep, Loo?’

‘No, Tom.  I am looking at the fire.’

‘You seem to find more to look at in it than ever I could find,’ said
Tom.  ‘Another of the advantages, I suppose, of being a girl.’

‘Tom,’ enquired his sister, slowly, and in a curious tone, as if she were
reading what she asked in the fire, and it was not quite plainly written
there, ‘do you look forward with any satisfaction to this change to Mr.
Bounderby’s?’

‘Why, there’s one thing to be said of it,’ returned Tom, pushing his
chair from him, and standing up; ‘it will be getting away from home.’

‘There is one thing to be said of it,’ Louisa repeated in her former
curious tone; ‘it will be getting away from home.  Yes.’

‘Not but what I shall be very unwilling, both to leave you, Loo, and to
leave you here.  But I must go, you know, whether I like it or not; and I
had better go where I can take with me some advantage of your influence,
than where I should lose it altogether.  Don’t you see?’

‘Yes, Tom.’

The answer was so long in coming, though there was no indecision in it,
that Tom went and leaned on the back of her chair, to contemplate the
fire which so engrossed her, from her point of view, and see what he
could make of it.

‘Except that it is a fire,’ said Tom, ‘it looks to me as stupid and blank
as everything else looks.  What do you see in it?  Not a circus?’

‘I don’t see anything in it, Tom, particularly.  But since I have been
looking at it, I have been wondering about you and me, grown up.’

‘Wondering again!’ said Tom.

‘I have such unmanageable thoughts,’ returned his sister, ‘that they
_will_ wonder.’

‘Then I beg of you, Louisa,’ said Mrs. Gradgrind, who had opened the door
without being heard, ‘to do nothing of that description, for goodness’
sake, you inconsiderate girl, or I shall never hear the last of it from
your father.  And, Thomas, it is really shameful, with my poor head
continually wearing me out, that a boy brought up as you have been, and
whose education has cost what yours has, should be found encouraging his
sister to wonder, when he knows his father has expressly said that she is
not to do it.’

Louisa denied Tom’s participation in the offence; but her mother stopped
her with the conclusive answer, ‘Louisa, don’t tell me, in my state of
health; for unless you had been encouraged, it is morally and physically
impossible that you could have done it.’

‘I was encouraged by nothing, mother, but by looking at the red sparks
dropping out of the fire, and whitening and dying.  It made me think,
after all, how short my life would be, and how little I could hope to do
in it.’

‘Nonsense!’ said Mrs. Gradgrind, rendered almost energetic.  ‘Nonsense!
Don’t stand there and tell me such stuff, Louisa, to my face, when you
know very well that if it was ever to reach your father’s ears I should
never hear the last of it.  After all the trouble that has been taken
with you!  After the lectures you have attended, and the experiments you
have seen!  After I have heard you myself, when the whole of my right
side has been benumbed, going on with your master about combustion, and
calcination, and calorification, and I may say every kind of ation that
could drive a poor invalid distracted, to hear you talking in this absurd
way about sparks and ashes!  I wish,’ whimpered Mrs. Gradgrind, taking a
chair, and discharging her strongest point before succumbing under these
mere shadows of facts, ‘yes, I really _do_ wish that I had never had a
family, and then you would have known what it was to do without me!’



CHAPTER IX
SISSY’S PROGRESS


SISSY JUPE had not an easy time of it, between Mr. M’Choakumchild and
Mrs. Gradgrind, and was not without strong impulses, in the first months
of her probation, to run away.  It hailed facts all day long so very
hard, and life in general was opened to her as such a closely ruled
ciphering-book, that assuredly she would have run away, but for only one
restraint.

It is lamentable to think of; but this restraint was the result of no
arithmetical process, was self-imposed in defiance of all calculation,
and went dead against any table of probabilities that any Actuary would
have drawn up from the premises.  The girl believed that her father had
not deserted her; she lived in the hope that he would come back, and in
the faith that he would be made the happier by her remaining where she
was.

The wretched ignorance with which Jupe clung to this consolation,
rejecting the superior comfort of knowing, on a sound arithmetical basis,
that her father was an unnatural vagabond, filled Mr. Gradgrind with
pity.  Yet, what was to be done?  M’Choakumchild reported that she had a
very dense head for figures; that, once possessed with a general idea of
the globe, she took the smallest conceivable interest in its exact
measurements; that she was extremely slow in the acquisition of dates,
unless some pitiful incident happened to be connected therewith; that she
would burst into tears on being required (by the mental process)
immediately to name the cost of two hundred and forty-seven muslin caps
at fourteen-pence halfpenny; that she was as low down, in the school, as
low could be; that after eight weeks of induction into the elements of
Political Economy, she had only yesterday been set right by a prattler
three feet high, for returning to the question, ‘What is the first
principle of this science?’ the absurd answer, ‘To do unto others as I
would that they should do unto me.’

Mr. Gradgrind observed, shaking his head, that all this was very bad;
that it showed the necessity of infinite grinding at the mill of
knowledge, as per system, schedule, blue book, report, and tabular
statements A to Z; and that Jupe ‘must be kept to it.’  So Jupe was kept
to it, and became low-spirited, but no wiser.

‘It would be a fine thing to be you, Miss Louisa!’ she said, one night,
when Louisa had endeavoured to make her perplexities for next day
something clearer to her.

‘Do you think so?’

‘I should know so much, Miss Louisa.  All that is difficult to me now,
would be so easy then.’

‘You might not be the better for it, Sissy.’

Sissy submitted, after a little hesitation, ‘I should not be the worse,
Miss Louisa.’  To which Miss Louisa answered, ‘I don’t know that.’

There had been so little communication between these two—both because
life at Stone Lodge went monotonously round like a piece of machinery
which discouraged human interference, and because of the prohibition
relative to Sissy’s past career—that they were still almost strangers.
Sissy, with her dark eyes wonderingly directed to Louisa’s face, was
uncertain whether to say more or to remain silent.

‘You are more useful to my mother, and more pleasant with her than I can
ever be,’ Louisa resumed.  ‘You are pleasanter to yourself, than _I_ am
to _my_self.’

‘But, if you please, Miss Louisa,’ Sissy pleaded, ‘I am—O so stupid!’

Louisa, with a brighter laugh than usual, told her she would be wiser
by-and-by.

‘You don’t know,’ said Sissy, half crying, ‘what a stupid girl I am.  All
through school hours I make mistakes.  Mr. and Mrs. M’Choakumchild call
me up, over and over again, regularly to make mistakes.  I can’t help
them.  They seem to come natural to me.’

‘Mr. and Mrs. M’Choakumchild never make any mistakes themselves, I
suppose, Sissy?’

‘O no!’ she eagerly returned.  ‘They know everything.’

‘Tell me some of your mistakes.’

‘I am almost ashamed,’ said Sissy, with reluctance.  ‘But to-day, for
instance, Mr. M’Choakumchild was explaining to us about Natural
Prosperity.’

‘National, I think it must have been,’ observed Louisa.

‘Yes, it was.—But isn’t it the same?’ she timidly asked.

‘You had better say, National, as he said so,’ returned Louisa, with her
dry reserve.

‘National Prosperity.  And he said, Now, this schoolroom is a Nation.
And in this nation, there are fifty millions of money.  Isn’t this a
prosperous nation?  Girl number twenty, isn’t this a prosperous nation,
and a’n’t you in a thriving state?’

‘What did you say?’ asked Louisa.

‘Miss Louisa, I said I didn’t know.  I thought I couldn’t know whether it
was a prosperous nation or not, and whether I was in a thriving state or
not, unless I knew who had got the money, and whether any of it was mine.
But that had nothing to do with it.  It was not in the figures at all,’
said Sissy, wiping her eyes.

‘That was a great mistake of yours,’ observed Louisa.

‘Yes, Miss Louisa, I know it was, now.  Then Mr. M’Choakumchild said he
would try me again.  And he said, This schoolroom is an immense town, and
in it there are a million of inhabitants, and only five-and-twenty are
starved to death in the streets, in the course of a year.  What is your
remark on that proportion?  And my remark was—for I couldn’t think of a
better one—that I thought it must be just as hard upon those who were
starved, whether the others were a million, or a million million.  And
that was wrong, too.’

‘Of course it was.’

‘Then Mr. M’Choakumchild said he would try me once more.  And he said,
Here are the stutterings—’

‘Statistics,’ said Louisa.

‘Yes, Miss Louisa—they always remind me of stutterings, and that’s
another of my mistakes—of accidents upon the sea.  And I find (Mr.
M’Choakumchild said) that in a given time a hundred thousand persons went
to sea on long voyages, and only five hundred of them were drowned or
burnt to death.  What is the percentage?  And I said, Miss;’ here Sissy
fairly sobbed as confessing with extreme contrition to her greatest
error; ‘I said it was nothing.’

‘Nothing, Sissy?’

‘Nothing, Miss—to the relations and friends of the people who were
killed.  I shall never learn,’ said Sissy.  ‘And the worst of all is,
that although my poor father wished me so much to learn, and although I
am so anxious to learn, because he wished me to, I am afraid I don’t like
it.’

Louisa stood looking at the pretty modest head, as it drooped abashed
before her, until it was raised again to glance at her face.  Then she
asked:

‘Did your father know so much himself, that he wished you to be well
taught too, Sissy?’

Sissy hesitated before replying, and so plainly showed her sense that
they were entering on forbidden ground, that Louisa added, ‘No one hears
us; and if any one did, I am sure no harm could be found in such an
innocent question.’

‘No, Miss Louisa,’ answered Sissy, upon this encouragement, shaking her
head; ‘father knows very little indeed.  It’s as much as he can do to
write; and it’s more than people in general can do to read his writing.
Though it’s plain to _me_.’

‘Your mother?’

‘Father says she was quite a scholar.  She died when I was born.  She
was;’ Sissy made the terrible communication nervously; ‘she was a
dancer.’

‘Did your father love her?’  Louisa asked these questions with a strong,
wild, wandering interest peculiar to her; an interest gone astray like a
banished creature, and hiding in solitary places.

‘O yes!  As dearly as he loves me.  Father loved me, first, for her sake.
He carried me about with him when I was quite a baby.  We have never been
asunder from that time.’

‘Yet he leaves you now, Sissy?’

‘Only for my good.  Nobody understands him as I do; nobody knows him as I
do.  When he left me for my good—he never would have left me for his
own—I know he was almost broken-hearted with the trial.  He will not be
happy for a single minute, till he comes back.’

‘Tell me more about him,’ said Louisa, ‘I will never ask you again.
Where did you live?’

‘We travelled about the country, and had no fixed place to live in.
Father’s a;’ Sissy whispered the awful word, ‘a clown.’

‘To make the people laugh?’ said Louisa, with a nod of intelligence.

‘Yes.  But they wouldn’t laugh sometimes, and then father cried.  Lately,
they very often wouldn’t laugh, and he used to come home despairing.
Father’s not like most.  Those who didn’t know him as well as I do, and
didn’t love him as dearly as I do, might believe he was not quite right.
Sometimes they played tricks upon him; but they never knew how he felt
them, and shrunk up, when he was alone with me.  He was far, far timider
than they thought!’

‘And you were his comfort through everything?’

She nodded, with the tears rolling down her face.  ‘I hope so, and father
said I was.  It was because he grew so scared and trembling, and because
he felt himself to be a poor, weak, ignorant, helpless man (those used to
be his words), that he wanted me so much to know a great deal, and be
different from him.  I used to read to him to cheer his courage, and he
was very fond of that.  They were wrong books—I am never to speak of them
here—but we didn’t know there was any harm in them.’

‘And he liked them?’ said Louisa, with a searching gaze on Sissy all this
time.

‘O very much!  They kept him, many times, from what did him real harm.
And often and often of a night, he used to forget all his troubles in
wondering whether the Sultan would let the lady go on with the story, or
would have her head cut off before it was finished.’

‘And your father was always kind?  To the last?’ asked Louisa
contravening the great principle, and wondering very much.

‘Always, always!’ returned Sissy, clasping her hands.  ‘Kinder and kinder
than I can tell.  He was angry only one night, and that was not to me,
but Merrylegs.  Merrylegs;’ she whispered the awful fact; ‘is his
performing dog.’

‘Why was he angry with the dog?’ Louisa demanded.

‘Father, soon after they came home from performing, told Merrylegs to
jump up on the backs of the two chairs and stand across them—which is one
of his tricks.  He looked at father, and didn’t do it at once.
Everything of father’s had gone wrong that night, and he hadn’t pleased
the public at all.  He cried out that the very dog knew he was failing,
and had no compassion on him.  Then he beat the dog, and I was
frightened, and said, “Father, father!  Pray don’t hurt the creature who
is so fond of you!  O Heaven forgive you, father, stop!”  And he stopped,
and the dog was bloody, and father lay down crying on the floor with the
dog in his arms, and the dog licked his face.’

Louisa saw that she was sobbing; and going to her, kissed her, took her
hand, and sat down beside her.

‘Finish by telling me how your father left you, Sissy.  Now that I have
asked you so much, tell me the end.  The blame, if there is any blame, is
mine, not yours.’

‘Dear Miss Louisa,’ said Sissy, covering her eyes, and sobbing yet; ‘I
came home from the school that afternoon, and found poor father just come
home too, from the booth.  And he sat rocking himself over the fire, as
if he was in pain.  And I said, “Have you hurt yourself, father?” (as he
did sometimes, like they all did), and he said, “A little, my darling.”
And when I came to stoop down and look up at his face, I saw that he was
crying.  The more I spoke to him, the more he hid his face; and at first
he shook all over, and said nothing but “My darling;” and “My love!”’

Here Tom came lounging in, and stared at the two with a coolness not
particularly savouring of interest in anything but himself, and not much
of that at present.

‘I am asking Sissy a few questions, Tom,’ observed his sister.  ‘You have
no occasion to go away; but don’t interrupt us for a moment, Tom dear.’

‘Oh! very well!’ returned Tom.  ‘Only father has brought old Bounderby
home, and I want you to come into the drawing-room.  Because if you come,
there’s a good chance of old Bounderby’s asking me to dinner; and if you
don’t, there’s none.’

‘I’ll come directly.’

‘I’ll wait for you,’ said Tom, ‘to make sure.’

Sissy resumed in a lower voice.  ‘At last poor father said that he had
given no satisfaction again, and never did give any satisfaction now, and
that he was a shame and disgrace, and I should have done better without
him all along.  I said all the affectionate things to him that came into
my heart, and presently he was quiet and I sat down by him, and told him
all about the school and everything that had been said and done there.
When I had no more left to tell, he put his arms round my neck, and
kissed me a great many times.  Then he asked me to fetch some of the
stuff he used, for the little hurt he had had, and to get it at the best
place, which was at the other end of town from there; and then, after
kissing me again, he let me go.  When I had gone down-stairs, I turned
back that I might be a little bit more company to him yet, and looked in
at the door, and said, “Father dear, shall I take Merrylegs?”  Father
shook his head and said, “No, Sissy, no; take nothing that’s known to be
mine, my darling;” and I left him sitting by the fire.  Then the thought
must have come upon him, poor, poor father! of going away to try
something for my sake; for when I came back, he was gone.’

‘I say!  Look sharp for old Bounderby, Loo!’ Tom remonstrated.

‘There’s no more to tell, Miss Louisa.  I keep the nine oils ready for
him, and I know he will come back.  Every letter that I see in Mr.
Gradgrind’s hand takes my breath away and blinds my eyes, for I think it
comes from father, or from Mr. Sleary about father.  Mr. Sleary promised
to write as soon as ever father should be heard of, and I trust to him to
keep his word.’

‘Do look sharp for old Bounderby, Loo!’ said Tom, with an impatient
whistle.  ‘He’ll be off if you don’t look sharp!’

After this, whenever Sissy dropped a curtsey to Mr. Gradgrind in the
presence of his family, and said in a faltering way, ‘I beg your pardon,
sir, for being troublesome—but—have you had any letter yet about me?’
Louisa would suspend the occupation of the moment, whatever it was, and
look for the reply as earnestly as Sissy did.  And when Mr. Gradgrind
regularly answered, ‘No, Jupe, nothing of the sort,’ the trembling of
Sissy’s lip would be repeated in Louisa’s face, and her eyes would follow
Sissy with compassion to the door.  Mr. Gradgrind usually improved these
occasions by remarking, when she was gone, that if Jupe had been properly
trained from an early age she would have remonstrated to herself on sound
principles the baselessness of these fantastic hopes.  Yet it did seem
(though not to him, for he saw nothing of it) as if fantastic hope could
take as strong a hold as Fact.

This observation must be limited exclusively to his daughter.  As to Tom,
he was becoming that not unprecedented triumph of calculation which is
usually at work on number one.  As to Mrs. Gradgrind, if she said
anything on the subject, she would come a little way out of her wrappers,
like a feminine dormouse, and say:

‘Good gracious bless me, how my poor head is vexed and worried by that
girl Jupe’s so perseveringly asking, over and over again, about her
tiresome letters!  Upon my word and honour I seem to be fated, and
destined, and ordained, to live in the midst of things that I am never to
hear the last of.  It really is a most extraordinary circumstance that it
appears as if I never was to hear the last of anything!’

At about this point, Mr. Gradgrind’s eye would fall upon her; and under
the influence of that wintry piece of fact, she would become torpid
again.



CHAPTER X
STEPHEN BLACKPOOL


I ENTERTAIN a weak idea that the English people are as hard-worked as any
people upon whom the sun shines.  I acknowledge to this ridiculous
idiosyncrasy, as a reason why I would give them a little more play.

In the hardest working part of Coketown; in the innermost fortifications
of that ugly citadel, where Nature was as strongly bricked out as killing
airs and gases were bricked in; at the heart of the labyrinth of narrow
courts upon courts, and close streets upon streets, which had come into
existence piecemeal, every piece in a violent hurry for some one man’s
purpose, and the whole an unnatural family, shouldering, and trampling,
and pressing one another to death; in the last close nook of this great
exhausted receiver, where the chimneys, for want of air to make a
draught, were built in an immense variety of stunted and crooked shapes,
as though every house put out a sign of the kind of people who might be
expected to be born in it; among the multitude of Coketown, generically
called ‘the Hands,’—a race who would have found more favour with some
people, if Providence had seen fit to make them only hands, or, like the
lower creatures of the seashore, only hands and stomachs—lived a certain
Stephen Blackpool, forty years of age.

Stephen looked older, but he had had a hard life.  It is said that every
life has its roses and thorns; there seemed, however, to have been a
misadventure or mistake in Stephen’s case, whereby somebody else had
become possessed of his roses, and he had become possessed of the same
somebody else’s thorns in addition to his own.  He had known, to use his
words, a peck of trouble.  He was usually called Old Stephen, in a kind
of rough homage to the fact.

A rather stooping man, with a knitted brow, a pondering expression of
face, and a hard-looking head sufficiently capacious, on which his
iron-grey hair lay long and thin, Old Stephen might have passed for a
particularly intelligent man in his condition.  Yet he was not.  He took
no place among those remarkable ‘Hands,’ who, piecing together their
broken intervals of leisure through many years, had mastered difficult
sciences, and acquired a knowledge of most unlikely things.  He held no
station among the Hands who could make speeches and carry on debates.
Thousands of his compeers could talk much better than he, at any time.
He was a good power-loom weaver, and a man of perfect integrity.  What
more he was, or what else he had in him, if anything, let him show for
himself.

The lights in the great factories, which looked, when they were
illuminated, like Fairy palaces—or the travellers by express-train said
so—were all extinguished; and the bells had rung for knocking off for the
night, and had ceased again; and the Hands, men and women, boy and girl,
were clattering home.  Old Stephen was standing in the street, with the
old sensation upon him which the stoppage of the machinery always
produced—the sensation of its having worked and stopped in his own head.

‘Yet I don’t see Rachael, still!’ said he.

It was a wet night, and many groups of young women passed him, with their
shawls drawn over their bare heads and held close under their chins to
keep the rain out.  He knew Rachael well, for a glance at any one of
these groups was sufficient to show him that she was not there.  At last,
there were no more to come; and then he turned away, saying in a tone of
disappointment, ‘Why, then, ha’ missed her!’

But, he had not gone the length of three streets, when he saw another of
the shawled figures in advance of him, at which he looked so keenly that
perhaps its mere shadow indistinctly reflected on the wet pavement—if he
could have seen it without the figure itself moving along from lamp to
lamp, brightening and fading as it went—would have been enough to tell
him who was there.  Making his pace at once much quicker and much softer,
he darted on until he was very near this figure, then fell into his
former walk, and called ‘Rachael!’

She turned, being then in the brightness of a lamp; and raising her hood
a little, showed a quiet oval face, dark and rather delicate, irradiated
by a pair of very gentle eyes, and further set off by the perfect order
of her shining black hair.  It was not a face in its first bloom; she was
a woman five and thirty years of age.

‘Ah, lad!  ’Tis thou?’  When she had said this, with a smile which would
have been quite expressed, though nothing of her had been seen but her
pleasant eyes, she replaced her hood again, and they went on together.

‘I thought thou wast ahind me, Rachael?’

‘No.’

‘Early t’night, lass?’

‘’Times I’m a little early, Stephen! ’times a little late.  I’m never to
be counted on, going home.’

‘Nor going t’other way, neither, ’t seems to me, Rachael?’

‘No, Stephen.’

He looked at her with some disappointment in his face, but with a
respectful and patient conviction that she must be right in whatever she
did.  The expression was not lost upon her; she laid her hand lightly on
his arm a moment as if to thank him for it.

‘We are such true friends, lad, and such old friends, and getting to be
such old folk, now.’

‘No, Rachael, thou’rt as young as ever thou wast.’

‘One of us would be puzzled how to get old, Stephen, without ’t other
getting so too, both being alive,’ she answered, laughing; ‘but, anyways,
we’re such old friends, and t’ hide a word of honest truth fro’ one
another would be a sin and a pity.  ’Tis better not to walk too much
together.  ’Times, yes!  ’Twould be hard, indeed, if ’twas not to be at
all,’ she said, with a cheerfulness she sought to communicate to him.

‘’Tis hard, anyways, Rachael.’

‘Try to think not; and ’twill seem better.’

‘I’ve tried a long time, and ’ta’nt got better.  But thou’rt right; ’t
might mak fok talk, even of thee.  Thou hast been that to me, Rachael,
through so many year: thou hast done me so much good, and heartened of me
in that cheering way, that thy word is a law to me.  Ah, lass, and a
bright good law!  Better than some real ones.’

‘Never fret about them, Stephen,’ she answered quickly, and not without
an anxious glance at his face.  ‘Let the laws be.’

‘Yes,’ he said, with a slow nod or two.  ‘Let ’em be.  Let everything be.
Let all sorts alone.  ’Tis a muddle, and that’s aw.’

‘Always a muddle?’ said Rachael, with another gentle touch upon his arm,
as if to recall him out of the thoughtfulness, in which he was biting the
long ends of his loose neckerchief as he walked along.  The touch had its
instantaneous effect.  He let them fall, turned a smiling face upon her,
and said, as he broke into a good-humoured laugh, ‘Ay, Rachael, lass,
awlus a muddle.  That’s where I stick.  I come to the muddle many times
and agen, and I never get beyond it.’

They had walked some distance, and were near their own homes.  The
woman’s was the first reached.  It was in one of the many small streets
for which the favourite undertaker (who turned a handsome sum out of the
one poor ghastly pomp of the neighbourhood) kept a black ladder, in order
that those who had done their daily groping up and down the narrow stairs
might slide out of this working world by the windows.  She stopped at the
corner, and putting her hand in his, wished him good night.

‘Good night, dear lass; good night!’

She went, with her neat figure and her sober womanly step, down the dark
street, and he stood looking after her until she turned into one of the
small houses.  There was not a flutter of her coarse shawl, perhaps, but
had its interest in this man’s eyes; not a tone of her voice but had its
echo in his innermost heart.

When she was lost to his view, he pursued his homeward way, glancing up
sometimes at the sky, where the clouds were sailing fast and wildly.
But, they were broken now, and the rain had ceased, and the moon
shone,—looking down the high chimneys of Coketown on the deep furnaces
below, and casting Titanic shadows of the steam-engines at rest, upon the
walls where they were lodged.  The man seemed to have brightened with the
night, as he went on.

His home, in such another street as the first, saving that it was
narrower, was over a little shop.  How it came to pass that any people
found it worth their while to sell or buy the wretched little toys, mixed
up in its window with cheap newspapers and pork (there was a leg to be
raffled for to-morrow-night), matters not here.  He took his end of
candle from a shelf, lighted it at another end of candle on the counter,
without disturbing the mistress of the shop who was asleep in her little
room, and went upstairs into his lodging.

It was a room, not unacquainted with the black ladder under various
tenants; but as neat, at present, as such a room could be.  A few books
and writings were on an old bureau in a corner, the furniture was decent
and sufficient, and, though the atmosphere was tainted, the room was
clean.

Going to the hearth to set the candle down upon a round three-legged
table standing there, he stumbled against something.  As he recoiled,
looking down at it, it raised itself up into the form of a woman in a
sitting attitude.

‘Heaven’s mercy, woman!’ he cried, falling farther off from the figure.
‘Hast thou come back again!’

Such a woman!  A disabled, drunken creature, barely able to preserve her
sitting posture by steadying herself with one begrimed hand on the floor,
while the other was so purposeless in trying to push away her tangled
hair from her face, that it only blinded her the more with the dirt upon
it.  A creature so foul to look at, in her tatters, stains and splashes,
but so much fouler than that in her moral infamy, that it was a shameful
thing even to see her.

After an impatient oath or two, and some stupid clawing of herself with
the hand not necessary to her support, she got her hair away from her
eyes sufficiently to obtain a sight of him.  Then she sat swaying her
body to and fro, and making gestures with her unnerved arm, which seemed
intended as the accompaniment to a fit of laughter, though her face was
stolid and drowsy.

‘Eigh, lad?  What, yo’r there?’  Some hoarse sounds meant for this, came
mockingly out of her at last; and her head dropped forward on her breast.

‘Back agen?’ she screeched, after some minutes, as if he had that moment
said it.  ‘Yes!  And back agen.  Back agen ever and ever so often.  Back?
Yes, back.  Why not?’

Roused by the unmeaning violence with which she cried it out, she
scrambled up, and stood supporting herself with her shoulders against the
wall; dangling in one hand by the string, a dunghill-fragment of a
bonnet, and trying to look scornfully at him.

‘I’ll sell thee off again, and I’ll sell thee off again, and I’ll sell
thee off a score of times!’ she cried, with something between a furious
menace and an effort at a defiant dance.  ‘Come awa’ from th’ bed!’  He
was sitting on the side of it, with his face hidden in his hands.  ‘Come
awa! from ’t.  ’Tis mine, and I’ve a right to t’!’

As she staggered to it, he avoided her with a shudder, and passed—his
face still hidden—to the opposite end of the room.  She threw herself
upon the bed heavily, and soon was snoring hard.  He sunk into a chair,
and moved but once all that night.  It was to throw a covering over her;
as if his hands were not enough to hide her, even in the darkness.



CHAPTER XI
NO WAY OUT


THE Fairy palaces burst into illumination, before pale morning showed the
monstrous serpents of smoke trailing themselves over Coketown.  A
clattering of clogs upon the pavement; a rapid ringing of bells; and all
the melancholy mad elephants, polished and oiled up for the day’s
monotony, were at their heavy exercise again.

Stephen bent over his loom, quiet, watchful, and steady.  A special
contrast, as every man was in the forest of looms where Stephen worked,
to the crashing, smashing, tearing piece of mechanism at which he
laboured.  Never fear, good people of an anxious turn of mind, that Art
will consign Nature to oblivion.  Set anywhere, side by side, the work of
GOD and the work of man; and the former, even though it be a troop of
Hands of very small account, will gain in dignity from the comparison.

So many hundred Hands in this Mill; so many hundred horse Steam Power.
It is known, to the force of a single pound weight, what the engine will
do; but, not all the calculators of the National Debt can tell me the
capacity for good or evil, for love or hatred, for patriotism or
discontent, for the decomposition of virtue into vice, or the reverse, at
any single moment in the soul of one of these its quiet servants, with
the composed faces and the regulated actions.  There is no mystery in it;
there is an unfathomable mystery in the meanest of them, for
ever.—Supposing we were to reverse our arithmetic for material objects,
and to govern these awful unknown quantities by other means!

The day grew strong, and showed itself outside, even against the flaming
lights within.  The lights were turned out, and the work went on.  The
rain fell, and the Smoke-serpents, submissive to the curse of all that
tribe, trailed themselves upon the earth.  In the waste-yard outside, the
steam from the escape pipe, the litter of barrels and old iron, the
shining heaps of coals, the ashes everywhere, were shrouded in a veil of
mist and rain.

The work went on, until the noon-bell rang.  More clattering upon the
pavements.  The looms, and wheels, and Hands all out of gear for an hour.

Stephen came out of the hot mill into the damp wind and cold wet streets,
haggard and worn.  He turned from his own class and his own quarter,
taking nothing but a little bread as he walked along, towards the hill on
which his principal employer lived, in a red house with black outside
shutters, green inside blinds, a black street door, up two white steps,
BOUNDERBY (in letters very like himself) upon a brazen plate, and a round
brazen door-handle underneath it, like a brazen full-stop.

Mr. Bounderby was at his lunch.  So Stephen had expected.  Would his
servant say that one of the Hands begged leave to speak to him?  Message
in return, requiring name of such Hand.  Stephen Blackpool.  There was
nothing troublesome against Stephen Blackpool; yes, he might come in.

Stephen Blackpool in the parlour.  Mr. Bounderby (whom he just knew by
sight), at lunch on chop and sherry.  Mrs. Sparsit netting at the
fireside, in a side-saddle attitude, with one foot in a cotton stirrup.
It was a part, at once of Mrs. Sparsit’s dignity and service, not to
lunch.  She supervised the meal officially, but implied that in her own
stately person she considered lunch a weakness.

‘Now, Stephen,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘what’s the matter with _you_?’

Stephen made a bow.  Not a servile one—these Hands will never do that!
Lord bless you, sir, you’ll never catch them at that, if they have been
with you twenty years!—and, as a complimentary toilet for Mrs. Sparsit,
tucked his neckerchief ends into his waistcoat.

‘Now, you know,’ said Mr. Bounderby, taking some sherry, ‘we have never
had any difficulty with you, and you have never been one of the
unreasonable ones.  You don’t expect to be set up in a coach and six, and
to be fed on turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon, as a good many
of ’em do!’  Mr. Bounderby always represented this to be the sole,
immediate, and direct object of any Hand who was not entirely satisfied;
‘and therefore I know already that you have not come here to make a
complaint.  Now, you know, I am certain of that, beforehand.’

‘No, sir, sure I ha’ not coom for nowt o’ th’ kind.’

Mr. Bounderby seemed agreeably surprised, notwithstanding his previous
strong conviction.  ‘Very well,’ he returned.  ‘You’re a steady Hand, and
I was not mistaken.  Now, let me hear what it’s all about.  As it’s not
that, let me hear what it is.  What have you got to say?  Out with it,
lad!’

Stephen happened to glance towards Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘I can go, Mr.
Bounderby, if you wish it,’ said that self-sacrificing lady, making a
feint of taking her foot out of the stirrup.

Mr. Bounderby stayed her, by holding a mouthful of chop in suspension
before swallowing it, and putting out his left hand.  Then, withdrawing
his hand and swallowing his mouthful of chop, he said to Stephen:

‘Now you know, this good lady is a born lady, a high lady.  You are not
to suppose because she keeps my house for me, that she hasn’t been very
high up the tree—ah, up at the top of the tree!  Now, if you have got
anything to say that can’t be said before a born lady, this lady will
leave the room.  If what you have got to say _can_ be said before a born
lady, this lady will stay where she is.’

‘Sir, I hope I never had nowt to say, not fitten for a born lady to year,
sin’ I were born mysen’,’ was the reply, accompanied with a slight flush.

‘Very well,’ said Mr. Bounderby, pushing away his plate, and leaning
back.  ‘Fire away!’

‘I ha’ coom,’ Stephen began, raising his eyes from the floor, after a
moment’s consideration, ‘to ask yo yor advice.  I need ’t overmuch.  I
were married on Eas’r Monday nineteen year sin, long and dree.  She were
a young lass—pretty enow—wi’ good accounts of herseln.  Well!  She went
bad—soon.  Not along of me.  Gonnows I were not a unkind husband to her.’

‘I have heard all this before,’ said Mr. Bounderby.  ‘She took to
drinking, left off working, sold the furniture, pawned the clothes, and
played old Gooseberry.’

‘I were patient wi’ her.’

(‘The more fool you, I think,’ said Mr. Bounderby, in confidence to his
wine-glass.)

‘I were very patient wi’ her.  I tried to wean her fra ’t ower and ower
agen.  I tried this, I tried that, I tried t’other.  I ha’ gone home,
many’s the time, and found all vanished as I had in the world, and her
without a sense left to bless herseln lying on bare ground.  I ha’ dun ’t
not once, not twice—twenty time!’

Every line in his face deepened as he said it, and put in its affecting
evidence of the suffering he had undergone.

‘From bad to worse, from worse to worsen.  She left me.  She disgraced
herseln everyways, bitter and bad.  She coom back, she coom back, she
coom back.  What could I do t’ hinder her?  I ha’ walked the streets
nights long, ere ever I’d go home.  I ha’ gone t’ th’ brigg, minded to
fling myseln ower, and ha’ no more on’t.  I ha’ bore that much, that I
were owd when I were young.’

Mrs. Sparsit, easily ambling along with her netting-needles, raised the
Coriolanian eyebrows and shook her head, as much as to say, ‘The great
know trouble as well as the small.  Please to turn your humble eye in My
direction.’

‘I ha’ paid her to keep awa’ fra’ me.  These five year I ha’ paid her.  I
ha’ gotten decent fewtrils about me agen.  I ha’ lived hard and sad, but
not ashamed and fearfo’ a’ the minnits o’ my life.  Last night, I went
home.  There she lay upon my har-stone!  There she is!’

In the strength of his misfortune, and the energy of his distress, he
fired for the moment like a proud man.  In another moment, he stood as he
had stood all the time—his usual stoop upon him; his pondering face
addressed to Mr. Bounderby, with a curious expression on it, half shrewd,
half perplexed, as if his mind were set upon unravelling something very
difficult; his hat held tight in his left hand, which rested on his hip;
his right arm, with a rugged propriety and force of action, very
earnestly emphasizing what he said: not least so when it always paused, a
little bent, but not withdrawn, as he paused.

‘I was acquainted with all this, you know,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘except
the last clause, long ago.  It’s a bad job; that’s what it is.  You had
better have been satisfied as you were, and not have got married.
However, it’s too late to say that.’

‘Was it an unequal marriage, sir, in point of years?’ asked Mrs. Sparsit.

‘You hear what this lady asks.  Was it an unequal marriage in point of
years, this unlucky job of yours?’ said Mr. Bounderby.

‘Not e’en so.  I were one-and-twenty myseln; she were twenty nighbut.’

‘Indeed, sir?’ said Mrs. Sparsit to her Chief, with great placidity.  ‘I
inferred, from its being so miserable a marriage, that it was probably an
unequal one in point of years.’

Mr. Bounderby looked very hard at the good lady in a side-long way that
had an odd sheepishness about it.  He fortified himself with a little
more sherry.

‘Well?  Why don’t you go on?’ he then asked, turning rather irritably on
Stephen Blackpool.

‘I ha’ coom to ask yo, sir, how I am to be ridded o’ this woman.’
Stephen infused a yet deeper gravity into the mixed expression of his
attentive face.  Mrs. Sparsit uttered a gentle ejaculation, as having
received a moral shock.

‘What do you mean?’ said Bounderby, getting up to lean his back against
the chimney-piece.  ‘What are you talking about?  You took her for better
for worse.’

‘I mun’ be ridden o’ her.  I cannot bear ’t nommore.  I ha’ lived under
’t so long, for that I ha’ had’n the pity and comforting words o’ th’
best lass living or dead.  Haply, but for her, I should ha’ gone
battering mad.’

‘He wishes to be free, to marry the female of whom he speaks, I fear,
sir,’ observed Mrs. Sparsit in an undertone, and much dejected by the
immorality of the people.

‘I do.  The lady says what’s right.  I do.  I were a coming to ’t.  I ha’
read i’ th’ papers that great folk (fair faw ’em a’!  I wishes ’em no
hurt!) are not bonded together for better for worst so fast, but that
they can be set free fro’ _their_ misfortnet marriages, an’ marry ower
agen.  When they dunnot agree, for that their tempers is ill-sorted, they
has rooms o’ one kind an’ another in their houses, above a bit, and they
can live asunders.  We fok ha’ only one room, and we can’t.  When that
won’t do, they ha’ gowd an’ other cash, an’ they can say “This for yo’
an’ that for me,” an’ they can go their separate ways.  We can’t.  Spite
o’ all that, they can be set free for smaller wrongs than mine.  So, I
mun be ridden o’ this woman, and I want t’ know how?’

‘No how,’ returned Mr. Bounderby.

‘If I do her any hurt, sir, there’s a law to punish me?’

‘Of course there is.’

‘If I flee from her, there’s a law to punish me?’

‘Of course there is.’

‘If I marry t’oother dear lass, there’s a law to punish me?’

‘Of course there is.’

‘If I was to live wi’ her an’ not marry her—saying such a thing could be,
which it never could or would, an’ her so good—there’s a law to punish
me, in every innocent child belonging to me?’

‘Of course there is.’

‘Now, a’ God’s name,’ said Stephen Blackpool, ‘show me the law to help
me!’

‘Hem!  There’s a sanctity in this relation of life,’ said Mr. Bounderby,
‘and—and—it must be kept up.’

‘No no, dunnot say that, sir.  ’Tan’t kep’ up that way.  Not that way.
’Tis kep’ down that way.  I’m a weaver, I were in a fact’ry when a chilt,
but I ha’ gotten een to see wi’ and eern to year wi’.  I read in th’
papers every ’Sizes, every Sessions—and you read too—I know it!—with
dismay—how th’ supposed unpossibility o’ ever getting unchained from one
another, at any price, on any terms, brings blood upon this land, and
brings many common married fok to battle, murder, and sudden death.  Let
us ha’ this, right understood.  Mine’s a grievous case, an’ I want—if yo
will be so good—t’ know the law that helps me.’

‘Now, I tell you what!’ said Mr. Bounderby, putting his hands in his
pockets.  ‘There _is_ such a law.’

Stephen, subsiding into his quiet manner, and never wandering in his
attention, gave a nod.

‘But it’s not for you at all.  It costs money.  It costs a mint of
money.’

‘How much might that be?’ Stephen calmly asked.

‘Why, you’d have to go to Doctors’ Commons with a suit, and you’d have to
go to a court of Common Law with a suit, and you’d have to go to the
House of Lords with a suit, and you’d have to get an Act of Parliament to
enable you to marry again, and it would cost you (if it was a case of
very plain sailing), I suppose from a thousand to fifteen hundred pound,’
said Mr. Bounderby.  ‘Perhaps twice the money.’

‘There’s no other law?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘Why then, sir,’ said Stephen, turning white, and motioning with that
right hand of his, as if he gave everything to the four winds, ‘’_tis_ a
muddle.  ’Tis just a muddle a’toogether, an’ the sooner I am dead, the
better.’

(Mrs. Sparsit again dejected by the impiety of the people.)

‘Pooh, pooh!  Don’t you talk nonsense, my good fellow,’ said Mr.
Bounderby, ‘about things you don’t understand; and don’t you call the
Institutions of your country a muddle, or you’ll get yourself into a real
muddle one of these fine mornings.  The institutions of your country are
not your piece-work, and the only thing you have got to do, is, to mind
your piece-work.  You didn’t take your wife for fast and for loose; but
for better for worse.  If she has turned out worse—why, all we have got
to say is, she might have turned out better.’

‘’Tis a muddle,’ said Stephen, shaking his head as he moved to the door.
‘’Tis a’ a muddle!’

‘Now, I’ll tell you what!’ Mr. Bounderby resumed, as a valedictory
address.  ‘With what I shall call your unhallowed opinions, you have been
quite shocking this lady: who, as I have already told you, is a born
lady, and who, as I have not already told you, has had her own marriage
misfortunes to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds—tens of Thousands
of Pounds!’ (he repeated it with great relish).  ‘Now, you have always
been a steady Hand hitherto; but my opinion is, and so I tell you
plainly, that you are turning into the wrong road.  You have been
listening to some mischievous stranger or other—they’re always about—and
the best thing you can do is, to come out of that.  Now you know;’ here
his countenance expressed marvellous acuteness; ‘I can see as far into a
grindstone as another man; farther than a good many, perhaps, because I
had my nose well kept to it when I was young.  I see traces of the turtle
soup, and venison, and gold spoon in this.  Yes, I do!’ cried Mr.
Bounderby, shaking his head with obstinate cunning.  ‘By the Lord Harry,
I do!’

With a very different shake of the head and deep sigh, Stephen said,
‘Thank you, sir, I wish you good day.’  So he left Mr. Bounderby swelling
at his own portrait on the wall, as if he were going to explode himself
into it; and Mrs. Sparsit still ambling on with her foot in her stirrup,
looking quite cast down by the popular vices.



CHAPTER XII
THE OLD WOMAN


OLD STEPHEN descended the two white steps, shutting the black door with
the brazen door-plate, by the aid of the brazen full-stop, to which he
gave a parting polish with the sleeve of his coat, observing that his hot
hand clouded it.  He crossed the street with his eyes bent upon the
ground, and thus was walking sorrowfully away, when he felt a touch upon
his arm.

It was not the touch he needed most at such a moment—the touch that could
calm the wild waters of his soul, as the uplifted hand of the sublimest
love and patience could abate the raging of the sea—yet it was a woman’s
hand too.  It was an old woman, tall and shapely still, though withered
by time, on whom his eyes fell when he stopped and turned.  She was very
cleanly and plainly dressed, had country mud upon her shoes, and was
newly come from a journey.  The flutter of her manner, in the unwonted
noise of the streets; the spare shawl, carried unfolded on her arm; the
heavy umbrella, and little basket; the loose long-fingered gloves, to
which her hands were unused; all bespoke an old woman from the country,
in her plain holiday clothes, come into Coketown on an expedition of rare
occurrence.  Remarking this at a glance, with the quick observation of
his class, Stephen Blackpool bent his attentive face—his face, which,
like the faces of many of his order, by dint of long working with eyes
and hands in the midst of a prodigious noise, had acquired the
concentrated look with which we are familiar in the countenances of the
deaf—the better to hear what she asked him.

‘Pray, sir,’ said the old woman, ‘didn’t I see you come out of that
gentleman’s house?’ pointing back to Mr. Bounderby’s.  ‘I believe it was
you, unless I have had the bad luck to mistake the person in following?’

‘Yes, missus,’ returned Stephen, ‘it were me.’

‘Have you—you’ll excuse an old woman’s curiosity—have you seen the
gentleman?’

‘Yes, missus.’

‘And how did he look, sir?  Was he portly, bold, outspoken, and hearty?’
As she straightened her own figure, and held up her head in adapting her
action to her words, the idea crossed Stephen that he had seen this old
woman before, and had not quite liked her.

‘O yes,’ he returned, observing her more attentively, ‘he were all that.’

‘And healthy,’ said the old woman, ‘as the fresh wind?’

‘Yes,’ returned Stephen.  ‘He were ett’n and drinking—as large and as
loud as a Hummobee.’

‘Thank you!’ said the old woman, with infinite content.  ‘Thank you!’

He certainly never had seen this old woman before.  Yet there was a vague
remembrance in his mind, as if he had more than once dreamed of some old
woman like her.

She walked along at his side, and, gently accommodating himself to her
humour, he said Coketown was a busy place, was it not?  To which she
answered ‘Eigh sure!  Dreadful busy!’  Then he said, she came from the
country, he saw?  To which she answered in the affirmative.

‘By Parliamentary, this morning.  I came forty mile by Parliamentary this
morning, and I’m going back the same forty mile this afternoon.  I walked
nine mile to the station this morning, and if I find nobody on the road
to give me a lift, I shall walk the nine mile back to-night.  That’s
pretty well, sir, at my age!’ said the chatty old woman, her eye
brightening with exultation.

‘’Deed ’tis.  Don’t do’t too often, missus.’

‘No, no.  Once a year,’ she answered, shaking her head.  ‘I spend my
savings so, once every year.  I come regular, to tramp about the streets,
and see the gentlemen.’

‘Only to see ’em?’ returned Stephen.

‘That’s enough for me,’ she replied, with great earnestness and interest
of manner.  ‘I ask no more!  I have been standing about, on this side of
the way, to see that gentleman,’ turning her head back towards Mr.
Bounderby’s again, ‘come out.  But, he’s late this year, and I have not
seen him.  You came out instead.  Now, if I am obliged to go back without
a glimpse of him—I only want a glimpse—well!  I have seen you, and you
have seen him, and I must make that do.’  Saying this, she looked at
Stephen as if to fix his features in her mind, and her eye was not so
bright as it had been.

With a large allowance for difference of tastes, and with all submission
to the patricians of Coketown, this seemed so extraordinary a source of
interest to take so much trouble about, that it perplexed him.  But they
were passing the church now, and as his eye caught the clock, he
quickened his pace.

He was going to his work? the old woman said, quickening hers, too, quite
easily.  Yes, time was nearly out.  On his telling her where he worked,
the old woman became a more singular old woman than before.

‘An’t you happy?’ she asked him.

‘Why—there’s awmost nobbody but has their troubles, missus.’  He answered
evasively, because the old woman appeared to take it for granted that he
would be very happy indeed, and he had not the heart to disappoint her.
He knew that there was trouble enough in the world; and if the old woman
had lived so long, and could count upon his having so little, why so much
the better for her, and none the worse for him.

‘Ay, ay!  You have your troubles at home, you mean?’ she said.

‘Times.  Just now and then,’ he answered, slightly.

‘But, working under such a gentleman, they don’t follow you to the
Factory?’

No, no; they didn’t follow him there, said Stephen.  All correct there.
Everything accordant there.  (He did not go so far as to say, for her
pleasure, that there was a sort of Divine Right there; but, I have heard
claims almost as magnificent of late years.)

They were now in the black by-road near the place, and the Hands were
crowding in.  The bell was ringing, and the Serpent was a Serpent of many
coils, and the Elephant was getting ready.  The strange old woman was
delighted with the very bell.  It was the beautifullest bell she had ever
heard, she said, and sounded grand!

She asked him, when he stopped good-naturedly to shake hands with her
before going in, how long he had worked there?

‘A dozen year,’ he told her.

‘I must kiss the hand,’ said she, ‘that has worked in this fine factory
for a dozen year!’  And she lifted it, though he would have prevented
her, and put it to her lips.  What harmony, besides her age and her
simplicity, surrounded her, he did not know, but even in this fantastic
action there was a something neither out of time nor place: a something
which it seemed as if nobody else could have made as serious, or done
with such a natural and touching air.

He had been at his loom full half an hour, thinking about this old woman,
when, having occasion to move round the loom for its adjustment, he
glanced through a window which was in his corner, and saw her still
looking up at the pile of building, lost in admiration.  Heedless of the
smoke and mud and wet, and of her two long journeys, she was gazing at
it, as if the heavy thrum that issued from its many stories were proud
music to her.

She was gone by and by, and the day went after her, and the lights sprung
up again, and the Express whirled in full sight of the Fairy Palace over
the arches near: little felt amid the jarring of the machinery, and
scarcely heard above its crash and rattle.  Long before then his thoughts
had gone back to the dreary room above the little shop, and to the
shameful figure heavy on the bed, but heavier on his heart.

Machinery slackened; throbbing feebly like a fainting pulse; stopped.
The bell again; the glare of light and heat dispelled; the factories,
looming heavy in the black wet night—their tall chimneys rising up into
the air like competing Towers of Babel.

He had spoken to Rachael only last night, it was true, and had walked
with her a little way; but he had his new misfortune on him, in which no
one else could give him a moment’s relief, and, for the sake of it, and
because he knew himself to want that softening of his anger which no
voice but hers could effect, he felt he might so far disregard what she
had said as to wait for her again.  He waited, but she had eluded him.
She was gone.  On no other night in the year could he so ill have spared
her patient face.

O!  Better to have no home in which to lay his head, than to have a home
and dread to go to it, through such a cause.  He ate and drank, for he
was exhausted—but he little knew or cared what; and he wandered about in
the chill rain, thinking and thinking, and brooding and brooding.

No word of a new marriage had ever passed between them; but Rachael had
taken great pity on him years ago, and to her alone he had opened his
closed heart all this time, on the subject of his miseries; and he knew
very well that if he were free to ask her, she would take him.  He
thought of the home he might at that moment have been seeking with
pleasure and pride; of the different man he might have been that night;
of the lightness then in his now heavy-laden breast; of the then restored
honour, self-respect, and tranquillity all torn to pieces.  He thought of
the waste of the best part of his life, of the change it made in his
character for the worse every day, of the dreadful nature of his
existence, bound hand and foot, to a dead woman, and tormented by a demon
in her shape.  He thought of Rachael, how young when they were first
brought together in these circumstances, how mature now, how soon to grow
old.  He thought of the number of girls and women she had seen marry, how
many homes with children in them she had seen grow up around her, how she
had contentedly pursued her own lone quiet path—for him—and how he had
sometimes seen a shade of melancholy on her blessed face, that smote him
with remorse and despair.  He set the picture of her up, beside the
infamous image of last night; and thought, Could it be, that the whole
earthly course of one so gentle, good, and self-denying, was subjugate to
such a wretch as that!

Filled with these thoughts—so filled that he had an unwholesome sense of
growing larger, of being placed in some new and diseased relation towards
the objects among which he passed, of seeing the iris round every misty
light turn red—he went home for shelter.



CHAPTER XIII
RACHAEL


A CANDLE faintly burned in the window, to which the black ladder had
often been raised for the sliding away of all that was most precious in
this world to a striving wife and a brood of hungry babies; and Stephen
added to his other thoughts the stern reflection, that of all the
casualties of this existence upon earth, not one was dealt out with so
unequal a hand as Death.  The inequality of Birth was nothing to it.
For, say that the child of a King and the child of a Weaver were born
to-night in the same moment, what was that disparity, to the death of any
human creature who was serviceable to, or beloved by, another, while this
abandoned woman lived on!

From the outside of his home he gloomily passed to the inside, with
suspended breath and with a slow footstep.  He went up to his door,
opened it, and so into the room.

Quiet and peace were there.  Rachael was there, sitting by the bed.

She turned her head, and the light of her face shone in upon the midnight
of his mind.  She sat by the bed, watching and tending his wife.  That is
to say, he saw that some one lay there, and he knew too well it must be
she; but Rachael’s hands had put a curtain up, so that she was screened
from his eyes.  Her disgraceful garments were removed, and some of
Rachael’s were in the room.  Everything was in its place and order as he
had always kept it, the little fire was newly trimmed, and the hearth was
freshly swept.  It appeared to him that he saw all this in Rachael’s
face, and looked at nothing besides.  While looking at it, it was shut
out from his view by the softened tears that filled his eyes; but not
before he had seen how earnestly she looked at him, and how her own eyes
were filled too.

She turned again towards the bed, and satisfying herself that all was
quiet there, spoke in a low, calm, cheerful voice.

‘I am glad you have come at last, Stephen.  You are very late.’

‘I ha’ been walking up an’ down.’

‘I thought so.  But ’tis too bad a night for that.  The rain falls very
heavy, and the wind has risen.’

The wind?  True.  It was blowing hard.  Hark to the thundering in the
chimney, and the surging noise!  To have been out in such a wind, and not
to have known it was blowing!

‘I have been here once before, to-day, Stephen.  Landlady came round for
me at dinner-time.  There was some one here that needed looking to, she
said.  And ‘deed she was right.  All wandering and lost, Stephen.
Wounded too, and bruised.’

He slowly moved to a chair and sat down, drooping his head before her.

‘I came to do what little I could, Stephen; first, for that she worked
with me when we were girls both, and for that you courted her and married
her when I was her friend—’

He laid his furrowed forehead on his hand, with a low groan.

‘And next, for that I know your heart, and am right sure and certain that
’tis far too merciful to let her die, or even so much as suffer, for want
of aid.  Thou knowest who said, “Let him who is without sin among you
cast the first stone at her!”  There have been plenty to do that.  Thou
art not the man to cast the last stone, Stephen, when she is brought so
low.’

‘O Rachael, Rachael!’

‘Thou hast been a cruel sufferer, Heaven reward thee!’ she said, in
compassionate accents.  ‘I am thy poor friend, with all my heart and
mind.’

             [Picture: Stephen and Rachael in the sick room]

The wounds of which she had spoken, seemed to be about the neck of the
self-made outcast.  She dressed them now, still without showing her.  She
steeped a piece of linen in a basin, into which she poured some liquid
from a bottle, and laid it with a gentle hand upon the sore.  The
three-legged table had been drawn close to the bedside, and on it there
were two bottles.  This was one.

It was not so far off, but that Stephen, following her hands with his
eyes, could read what was printed on it in large letters.  He turned of a
deadly hue, and a sudden horror seemed to fall upon him.

‘I will stay here, Stephen,’ said Rachael, quietly resuming her seat,
‘till the bells go Three.  ’Tis to be done again at three, and then she
may be left till morning.’

‘But thy rest agen to-morrow’s work, my dear.’

‘I slept sound last night.  I can wake many nights, when I am put to it.
’Tis thou who art in need of rest—so white and tired.  Try to sleep in
the chair there, while I watch.  Thou hadst no sleep last night, I can
well believe.  To-morrow’s work is far harder for thee than for me.’

He heard the thundering and surging out of doors, and it seemed to him as
if his late angry mood were going about trying to get at him.  She had
cast it out; she would keep it out; he trusted to her to defend him from
himself.

‘She don’t know me, Stephen; she just drowsily mutters and stares.  I
have spoken to her times and again, but she don’t notice!  ’Tis as well
so.  When she comes to her right mind once more, I shall have done what I
can, and she never the wiser.’

‘How long, Rachael, is ’t looked for, that she’ll be so?’

‘Doctor said she would haply come to her mind to-morrow.’

His eyes fell again on the bottle, and a tremble passed over him, causing
him to shiver in every limb.  She thought he was chilled with the wet.
‘No,’ he said, ‘it was not that.  He had had a fright.’

‘A fright?’

‘Ay, ay! coming in.  When I were walking.  When I were thinking.  When
I—’  It seized him again; and he stood up, holding by the mantel-shelf,
as he pressed his dank cold hair down with a hand that shook as if it
were palsied.

‘Stephen!’

She was coming to him, but he stretched out his arm to stop her.

‘No!  Don’t, please; don’t.  Let me see thee setten by the bed.  Let me
see thee, a’ so good, and so forgiving.  Let me see thee as I see thee
when I coom in.  I can never see thee better than so.  Never, never,
never!’

He had a violent fit of trembling, and then sunk into his chair.  After a
time he controlled himself, and, resting with an elbow on one knee, and
his head upon that hand, could look towards Rachael.  Seen across the dim
candle with his moistened eyes, she looked as if she had a glory shining
round her head.  He could have believed she had.  He did believe it, as
the noise without shook the window, rattled at the door below, and went
about the house clamouring and lamenting.

‘When she gets better, Stephen, ’tis to be hoped she’ll leave thee to
thyself again, and do thee no more hurt.  Anyways we will hope so now.
And now I shall keep silence, for I want thee to sleep.’

He closed his eyes, more to please her than to rest his weary head; but,
by slow degrees as he listened to the great noise of the wind, he ceased
to hear it, or it changed into the working of his loom, or even into the
voices of the day (his own included) saying what had been really said.
Even this imperfect consciousness faded away at last, and he dreamed a
long, troubled dream.

He thought that he, and some one on whom his heart had long been set—but
she was not Rachael, and that surprised him, even in the midst of his
imaginary happiness—stood in the church being married.  While the
ceremony was performing, and while he recognized among the witnesses some
whom he knew to be living, and many whom he knew to be dead, darkness
came on, succeeded by the shining of a tremendous light.  It broke from
one line in the table of commandments at the altar, and illuminated the
building with the words.  They were sounded through the church, too, as
if there were voices in the fiery letters.  Upon this, the whole
appearance before him and around him changed, and nothing was left as it
had been, but himself and the clergyman.  They stood in the daylight
before a crowd so vast, that if all the people in the world could have
been brought together into one space, they could not have looked, he
thought, more numerous; and they all abhorred him, and there was not one
pitying or friendly eye among the millions that were fastened on his
face.  He stood on a raised stage, under his own loom; and, looking up at
the shape the loom took, and hearing the burial service distinctly read,
he knew that he was there to suffer death.  In an instant what he stood
on fell below him, and he was gone.

—Out of what mystery he came back to his usual life, and to places that
he knew, he was unable to consider; but he was back in those places by
some means, and with this condemnation upon him, that he was never, in
this world or the next, through all the unimaginable ages of eternity, to
look on Rachael’s face or hear her voice.  Wandering to and fro,
unceasingly, without hope, and in search of he knew not what (he only
knew that he was doomed to seek it), he was the subject of a nameless,
horrible dread, a mortal fear of one particular shape which everything
took.  Whatsoever he looked at, grew into that form sooner or later.  The
object of his miserable existence was to prevent its recognition by any
one among the various people he encountered.  Hopeless labour!  If he led
them out of rooms where it was, if he shut up drawers and closets where
it stood, if he drew the curious from places where he knew it to be
secreted, and got them out into the streets, the very chimneys of the
mills assumed that shape, and round them was the printed word.

The wind was blowing again, the rain was beating on the house-tops, and
the larger spaces through which he had strayed contracted to the four
walls of his room.  Saving that the fire had died out, it was as his eyes
had closed upon it.  Rachael seemed to have fallen into a doze, in the
chair by the bed.  She sat wrapped in her shawl, perfectly still.  The
table stood in the same place, close by the bedside, and on it, in its
real proportions and appearance, was the shape so often repeated.

He thought he saw the curtain move.  He looked again, and he was sure it
moved.  He saw a hand come forth and grope about a little.  Then the
curtain moved more perceptibly, and the woman in the bed put it back, and
sat up.

With her woful eyes, so haggard and wild, so heavy and large, she looked
all round the room, and passed the corner where he slept in his chair.
Her eyes returned to that corner, and she put her hand over them as a
shade, while she looked into it.  Again they went all round the room,
scarcely heeding Rachael if at all, and returned to that corner.  He
thought, as she once more shaded them—not so much looking at him, as
looking for him with a brutish instinct that he was there—that no single
trace was left in those debauched features, or in the mind that went
along with them, of the woman he had married eighteen years before.  But
that he had seen her come to this by inches, he never could have believed
her to be the same.

All this time, as if a spell were on him, he was motionless and
powerless, except to watch her.

Stupidly dozing, or communing with her incapable self about nothing, she
sat for a little while with her hands at her ears, and her head resting
on them.  Presently, she resumed her staring round the room.  And now,
for the first time, her eyes stopped at the table with the bottles on it.

Straightway she turned her eyes back to his corner, with the defiance of
last night, and moving very cautiously and softly, stretched out her
greedy hand.  She drew a mug into the bed, and sat for a while
considering which of the two bottles she should choose.  Finally, she
laid her insensate grasp upon the bottle that had swift and certain death
in it, and, before his eyes, pulled out the cork with her teeth.

Dream or reality, he had no voice, nor had he power to stir.  If this be
real, and her allotted time be not yet come, wake, Rachael, wake!

She thought of that, too.  She looked at Rachael, and very slowly, very
cautiously, poured out the contents.  The draught was at her lips.  A
moment and she would be past all help, let the whole world wake and come
about her with its utmost power.  But in that moment Rachael started up
with a suppressed cry.  The creature struggled, struck her, seized her by
the hair; but Rachael had the cup.

Stephen broke out of his chair.  ‘Rachael, am I wakin’ or dreamin’ this
dreadfo’ night?’

‘’Tis all well, Stephen.  I have been asleep, myself.  ’Tis near three.
Hush!  I hear the bells.’

The wind brought the sounds of the church clock to the window.  They
listened, and it struck three.  Stephen looked at her, saw how pale she
was, noted the disorder of her hair, and the red marks of fingers on her
forehead, and felt assured that his senses of sight and hearing had been
awake.  She held the cup in her hand even now.

‘I thought it must be near three,’ she said, calmly pouring from the cup
into the basin, and steeping the linen as before.  ‘I am thankful I
stayed!  ’Tis done now, when I have put this on.  There!  And now she’s
quiet again.  The few drops in the basin I’ll pour away, for ’tis bad
stuff to leave about, though ever so little of it.’  As she spoke, she
drained the basin into the ashes of the fire, and broke the bottle on the
hearth.

She had nothing to do, then, but to cover herself with her shawl before
going out into the wind and rain.

‘Thou’lt let me walk wi’ thee at this hour, Rachael?’

‘No, Stephen.  ’Tis but a minute, and I’m home.’

‘Thou’rt not fearfo’;’ he said it in a low voice, as they went out at the
door; ‘to leave me alone wi’ her!’

As she looked at him, saying, ‘Stephen?’ he went down on his knee before
her, on the poor mean stairs, and put an end of her shawl to his lips.

‘Thou art an Angel.  Bless thee, bless thee!’

‘I am, as I have told thee, Stephen, thy poor friend.  Angels are not
like me.  Between them, and a working woman fu’ of faults, there is a
deep gulf set.  My little sister is among them, but she is changed.’

She raised her eyes for a moment as she said the words; and then they
fell again, in all their gentleness and mildness, on his face.

‘Thou changest me from bad to good.  Thou mak’st me humbly wishfo’ to be
more like thee, and fearfo’ to lose thee when this life is ower, and a’
the muddle cleared awa’.  Thou’rt an Angel; it may be, thou hast saved my
soul alive!’

She looked at him, on his knee at her feet, with her shawl still in his
hand, and the reproof on her lips died away when she saw the working of
his face.

‘I coom home desp’rate.  I coom home wi’out a hope, and mad wi’ thinking
that when I said a word o’ complaint I was reckoned a unreasonable Hand.
I told thee I had had a fright.  It were the Poison-bottle on table.  I
never hurt a livin’ creetur; but happenin’ so suddenly upon ’t, I thowt,
“How can _I_ say what I might ha’ done to myseln, or her, or both!”’

She put her two hands on his mouth, with a face of terror, to stop him
from saying more.  He caught them in his unoccupied hand, and holding
them, and still clasping the border of her shawl, said hurriedly:

‘But I see thee, Rachael, setten by the bed.  I ha’ seen thee, aw this
night.  In my troublous sleep I ha’ known thee still to be there.
Evermore I will see thee there.  I nevermore will see her or think o’
her, but thou shalt be beside her.  I nevermore will see or think o’
anything that angers me, but thou, so much better than me, shalt be by
th’ side on’t.  And so I will try t’ look t’ th’ time, and so I will try
t’ trust t’ th’ time, when thou and me at last shall walk together far
awa’, beyond the deep gulf, in th’ country where thy little sister is.’

He kissed the border of her shawl again, and let her go.  She bade him
good night in a broken voice, and went out into the street.

The wind blew from the quarter where the day would soon appear, and still
blew strongly.  It had cleared the sky before it, and the rain had spent
itself or travelled elsewhere, and the stars were bright.  He stood
bare-headed in the road, watching her quick disappearance.  As the
shining stars were to the heavy candle in the window, so was Rachael, in
the rugged fancy of this man, to the common experiences of his life.



CHAPTER XIV
THE GREAT MANUFACTURER


TIME went on in Coketown like its own machinery: so much material wrought
up, so much fuel consumed, so many powers worn out, so much money made.
But, less inexorable than iron, steel, and brass, it brought its varying
seasons even into that wilderness of smoke and brick, and made the only
stand that ever _was_ made in the place against its direful uniformity.

‘Louisa is becoming,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘almost a young woman.’

Time, with his innumerable horse-power, worked away, not minding what
anybody said, and presently turned out young Thomas a foot taller than
when his father had last taken particular notice of him.

‘Thomas is becoming,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘almost a young man.’

Time passed Thomas on in the mill, while his father was thinking about
it, and there he stood in a long-tailed coat and a stiff shirt-collar.

‘Really,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘the period has arrived when Thomas ought
to go to Bounderby.’

Time, sticking to him, passed him on into Bounderby’s Bank, made him an
inmate of Bounderby’s house, necessitated the purchase of his first
razor, and exercised him diligently in his calculations relative to
number one.

The same great manufacturer, always with an immense variety of work on
hand, in every stage of development, passed Sissy onward in his mill, and
worked her up into a very pretty article indeed.

‘I fear, Jupe,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘that your continuance at the school
any longer would be useless.’

‘I am afraid it would, sir,’ Sissy answered with a curtsey.

‘I cannot disguise from you, Jupe,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, knitting his
brow, ‘that the result of your probation there has disappointed me; has
greatly disappointed me.  You have not acquired, under Mr. and Mrs.
M’Choakumchild, anything like that amount of exact knowledge which I
looked for.  You are extremely deficient in your facts.  Your
acquaintance with figures is very limited.  You are altogether backward,
and below the mark.’

‘I am sorry, sir,’ she returned; ‘but I know it is quite true.  Yet I
have tried hard, sir.’

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘yes, I believe you have tried hard; I have
observed you, and I can find no fault in that respect.’

‘Thank you, sir.  I have thought sometimes;’ Sissy very timid here; ‘that
perhaps I tried to learn too much, and that if I had asked to be allowed
to try a little less, I might have—’

‘No, Jupe, no,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, shaking his head in his profoundest
and most eminently practical way.  ‘No.  The course you pursued, you
pursued according to the system—the system—and there is no more to be
said about it.  I can only suppose that the circumstances of your early
life were too unfavourable to the development of your reasoning powers,
and that we began too late.  Still, as I have said already, I am
disappointed.’

‘I wish I could have made a better acknowledgment, sir, of your kindness
to a poor forlorn girl who had no claim upon you, and of your protection
of her.’

‘Don’t shed tears,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘Don’t shed tears.  I don’t
complain of you.  You are an affectionate, earnest, good young
woman—and—and we must make that do.’

‘Thank you, sir, very much,’ said Sissy, with a grateful curtsey.

‘You are useful to Mrs. Gradgrind, and (in a generally pervading way) you
are serviceable in the family also; so I understand from Miss Louisa,
and, indeed, so I have observed myself.  I therefore hope,’ said Mr.
Gradgrind, ‘that you can make yourself happy in those relations.’

‘I should have nothing to wish, sir, if—’

‘I understand you,’ said Mr. Gradgrind; ‘you still refer to your father.
I have heard from Miss Louisa that you still preserve that bottle.  Well!
If your training in the science of arriving at exact results had been
more successful, you would have been wiser on these points.  I will say
no more.’

He really liked Sissy too well to have a contempt for her; otherwise he
held her calculating powers in such very slight estimation that he must
have fallen upon that conclusion.  Somehow or other, he had become
possessed by an idea that there was something in this girl which could
hardly be set forth in a tabular form.  Her capacity of definition might
be easily stated at a very low figure, her mathematical knowledge at
nothing; yet he was not sure that if he had been required, for example,
to tick her off into columns in a parliamentary return, he would have
quite known how to divide her.

In some stages of his manufacture of the human fabric, the processes of
Time are very rapid.  Young Thomas and Sissy being both at such a stage
of their working up, these changes were effected in a year or two; while
Mr. Gradgrind himself seemed stationary in his course, and underwent no
alteration.

Except one, which was apart from his necessary progress through the mill.
Time hustled him into a little noisy and rather dirty machinery, in a
by-comer, and made him Member of Parliament for Coketown: one of the
respected members for ounce weights and measures, one of the
representatives of the multiplication table, one of the deaf honourable
gentlemen, dumb honourable gentlemen, blind honourable gentlemen, lame
honourable gentlemen, dead honourable gentlemen, to every other
consideration.  Else wherefore live we in a Christian land, eighteen
hundred and odd years after our Master?

All this while, Louisa had been passing on, so quiet and reserved, and so
much given to watching the bright ashes at twilight as they fell into the
grate, and became extinct, that from the period when her father had said
she was almost a young woman—which seemed but yesterday—she had scarcely
attracted his notice again, when he found her quite a young woman.

‘Quite a young woman,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, musing.  ‘Dear me!’

Soon after this discovery, he became more thoughtful than usual for
several days, and seemed much engrossed by one subject.  On a certain
night, when he was going out, and Louisa came to bid him good-bye before
his departure—as he was not to be home until late and she would not see
him again until the morning—he held her in his arms, looking at her in
his kindest manner, and said:

‘My dear Louisa, you are a woman!’

She answered with the old, quick, searching look of the night when she
was found at the Circus; then cast down her eyes.  ‘Yes, father.’

‘My dear,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘I must speak with you alone and
seriously.  Come to me in my room after breakfast to-morrow, will you?’

‘Yes, father.’

‘Your hands are rather cold, Louisa.  Are you not well?’

‘Quite well, father.’

‘And cheerful?’

She looked at him again, and smiled in her peculiar manner.  ‘I am as
cheerful, father, as I usually am, or usually have been.’

‘That’s well,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  So, he kissed her and went away; and
Louisa returned to the serene apartment of the hair-cutting character,
and leaning her elbow on her hand, looked again at the short-lived sparks
that so soon subsided into ashes.

‘Are you there, Loo?’ said her brother, looking in at the door.  He was
quite a young gentleman of pleasure now, and not quite a prepossessing
one.

‘Dear Tom,’ she answered, rising and embracing him, ‘how long it is since
you have been to see me!’

‘Why, I have been otherwise engaged, Loo, in the evenings; and in the
daytime old Bounderby has been keeping me at it rather.  But I touch him
up with you when he comes it too strong, and so we preserve an
understanding.  I say!  Has father said anything particular to you to-day
or yesterday, Loo?’

‘No, Tom.  But he told me to-night that he wished to do so in the
morning.’

‘Ah!  That’s what I mean,’ said Tom.  ‘Do you know where he is
to-night?’—with a very deep expression.

‘No.’

‘Then I’ll tell you.  He’s with old Bounderby.  They are having a regular
confab together up at the Bank.  Why at the Bank, do you think?  Well,
I’ll tell you again.  To keep Mrs. Sparsit’s ears as far off as possible,
I expect.’

With her hand upon her brother’s shoulder, Louisa still stood looking at
the fire.  Her brother glanced at her face with greater interest than
usual, and, encircling her waist with his arm, drew her coaxingly to him.

‘You are very fond of me, an’t you, Loo?’

‘Indeed I am, Tom, though you do let such long intervals go by without
coming to see me.’

‘Well, sister of mine,’ said Tom, ‘when you say that, you are near my
thoughts.  We might be so much oftener together—mightn’t we?  Always
together, almost—mightn’t we?  It would do me a great deal of good if you
were to make up your mind to I know what, Loo.  It would be a splendid
thing for me.  It would be uncommonly jolly!’

Her thoughtfulness baffled his cunning scrutiny.  He could make nothing
of her face.  He pressed her in his arm, and kissed her cheek.  She
returned the kiss, but still looked at the fire.

‘I say, Loo!  I thought I’d come, and just hint to you what was going on:
though I supposed you’d most likely guess, even if you didn’t know.  I
can’t stay, because I’m engaged to some fellows to-night.  You won’t
forget how fond you are of me?’

‘No, dear Tom, I won’t forget.’

‘That’s a capital girl,’ said Tom.  ‘Good-bye, Loo.’

She gave him an affectionate good-night, and went out with him to the
door, whence the fires of Coketown could be seen, making the distance
lurid.  She stood there, looking steadfastly towards them, and listening
to his departing steps.  They retreated quickly, as glad to get away from
Stone Lodge; and she stood there yet, when he was gone and all was quiet.
It seemed as if, first in her own fire within the house, and then in the
fiery haze without, she tried to discover what kind of woof Old Time,
that greatest and longest-established Spinner of all, would weave from
the threads he had already spun into a woman.  But his factory is a
secret place, his work is noiseless, and his Hands are mutes.



CHAPTER XV
FATHER AND DAUGHTER


ALTHOUGH Mr. Gradgrind did not take after Blue Beard, his room was quite
a blue chamber in its abundance of blue books.  Whatever they could prove
(which is usually anything you like), they proved there, in an army
constantly strengthening by the arrival of new recruits.  In that charmed
apartment, the most complicated social questions were cast up, got into
exact totals, and finally settled—if those concerned could only have been
brought to know it.  As if an astronomical observatory should be made
without any windows, and the astronomer within should arrange the starry
universe solely by pen, ink, and paper, so Mr. Gradgrind, in _his_
Observatory (and there are many like it), had no need to cast an eye upon
the teeming myriads of human beings around him, but could settle all
their destinies on a slate, and wipe out all their tears with one dirty
little bit of sponge.

To this Observatory, then: a stern room, with a deadly statistical clock
in it, which measured every second with a beat like a rap upon a
coffin-lid; Louisa repaired on the appointed morning.  A window looked
towards Coketown; and when she sat down near her father’s table, she saw
the high chimneys and the long tracts of smoke looming in the heavy
distance gloomily.

‘My dear Louisa,’ said her father, ‘I prepared you last night to give me
your serious attention in the conversation we are now going to have
together.  You have been so well trained, and you do, I am happy to say,
so much justice to the education you have received, that I have perfect
confidence in your good sense.  You are not impulsive, you are not
romantic, you are accustomed to view everything from the strong
dispassionate ground of reason and calculation.  From that ground alone,
I know you will view and consider what I am going to communicate.’

He waited, as if he would have been glad that she said something.  But
she said never a word.

‘Louisa, my dear, you are the subject of a proposal of marriage that has
been made to me.’

Again he waited, and again she answered not one word.  This so far
surprised him, as to induce him gently to repeat, ‘a proposal of
marriage, my dear.’  To which she returned, without any visible emotion
whatever:

‘I hear you, father.  I am attending, I assure you.’

‘Well!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, breaking into a smile, after being for the
moment at a loss, ‘you are even more dispassionate than I expected,
Louisa.  Or, perhaps, you are not unprepared for the announcement I have
it in charge to make?’

‘I cannot say that, father, until I hear it.  Prepared or unprepared, I
wish to hear it all from you.  I wish to hear you state it to me,
father.’

Strange to relate, Mr. Gradgrind was not so collected at this moment as
his daughter was.  He took a paper-knife in his hand, turned it over,
laid it down, took it up again, and even then had to look along the blade
of it, considering how to go on.

‘What you say, my dear Louisa, is perfectly reasonable.  I have
undertaken then to let you know that—in short, that Mr. Bounderby has
informed me that he has long watched your progress with particular
interest and pleasure, and has long hoped that the time might ultimately
arrive when he should offer you his hand in marriage.  That time, to
which he has so long, and certainly with great constancy, looked forward,
is now come.  Mr. Bounderby has made his proposal of marriage to me, and
has entreated me to make it known to you, and to express his hope that
you will take it into your favourable consideration.’

Silence between them.  The deadly statistical clock very hollow.  The
distant smoke very black and heavy.

‘Father,’ said Louisa, ‘do you think I love Mr. Bounderby?’

Mr. Gradgrind was extremely discomfited by this unexpected question.
‘Well, my child,’ he returned, ‘I—really—cannot take upon myself to say.’

‘Father,’ pursued Louisa in exactly the same voice as before, ‘do you ask
me to love Mr. Bounderby?’

‘My dear Louisa, no.  No.  I ask nothing.’

‘Father,’ she still pursued, ‘does Mr. Bounderby ask me to love him?’

‘Really, my dear,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘it is difficult to answer your
question—’

‘Difficult to answer it, Yes or No, father?

‘Certainly, my dear.  Because;’ here was something to demonstrate, and it
set him up again; ‘because the reply depends so materially, Louisa, on
the sense in which we use the expression.  Now, Mr. Bounderby does not do
you the injustice, and does not do himself the injustice, of pretending
to anything fanciful, fantastic, or (I am using synonymous terms)
sentimental.  Mr. Bounderby would have seen you grow up under his eyes,
to very little purpose, if he could so far forget what is due to your
good sense, not to say to his, as to address you from any such ground.
Therefore, perhaps the expression itself—I merely suggest this to you, my
dear—may be a little misplaced.’

‘What would you advise me to use in its stead, father?’

‘Why, my dear Louisa,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, completely recovered by this
time, ‘I would advise you (since you ask me) to consider this question,
as you have been accustomed to consider every other question, simply as
one of tangible Fact.  The ignorant and the giddy may embarrass such
subjects with irrelevant fancies, and other absurdities that have no
existence, properly viewed—really no existence—but it is no compliment to
you to say, that you know better.  Now, what are the Facts of this case?
You are, we will say in round numbers, twenty years of age; Mr. Bounderby
is, we will say in round numbers, fifty.  There is some disparity in your
respective years, but in your means and positions there is none; on the
contrary, there is a great suitability.  Then the question arises, Is
this one disparity sufficient to operate as a bar to such a marriage?  In
considering this question, it is not unimportant to take into account the
statistics of marriage, so far as they have yet been obtained, in England
and Wales.  I find, on reference to the figures, that a large proportion
of these marriages are contracted between parties of very unequal ages,
and that the elder of these contracting parties is, in rather more than
three-fourths of these instances, the bridegroom.  It is remarkable as
showing the wide prevalence of this law, that among the natives of the
British possessions in India, also in a considerable part of China, and
among the Calmucks of Tartary, the best means of computation yet
furnished us by travellers, yield similar results.  The disparity I have
mentioned, therefore, almost ceases to be disparity, and (virtually) all
but disappears.’

‘What do you recommend, father,’ asked Louisa, her reserved composure not
in the least affected by these gratifying results, ‘that I should
substitute for the term I used just now?  For the misplaced expression?’

‘Louisa,’ returned her father, ‘it appears to me that nothing can be
plainer.  Confining yourself rigidly to Fact, the question of Fact you
state to yourself is: Does Mr. Bounderby ask me to marry him?  Yes, he
does.  The sole remaining question then is: Shall I marry him?  I think
nothing can be plainer than that?’

‘Shall I marry him?’ repeated Louisa, with great deliberation.

‘Precisely.  And it is satisfactory to me, as your father, my dear
Louisa, to know that you do not come to the consideration of that
question with the previous habits of mind, and habits of life, that
belong to many young women.’

‘No, father,’ she returned, ‘I do not.’

‘I now leave you to judge for yourself,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘I have
stated the case, as such cases are usually stated among practical minds;
I have stated it, as the case of your mother and myself was stated in its
time.  The rest, my dear Louisa, is for you to decide.’

From the beginning, she had sat looking at him fixedly.  As he now leaned
back in his chair, and bent his deep-set eyes upon her in his turn,
perhaps he might have seen one wavering moment in her, when she was
impelled to throw herself upon his breast, and give him the pent-up
confidences of her heart.  But, to see it, he must have overleaped at a
bound the artificial barriers he had for many years been erecting,
between himself and all those subtle essences of humanity which will
elude the utmost cunning of algebra until the last trumpet ever to be
sounded shall blow even algebra to wreck.  The barriers were too many and
too high for such a leap.  With his unbending, utilitarian,
matter-of-fact face, he hardened her again; and the moment shot away into
the plumbless depths of the past, to mingle with all the lost
opportunities that are drowned there.

Removing her eyes from him, she sat so long looking silently towards the
town, that he said, at length: ‘Are you consulting the chimneys of the
Coketown works, Louisa?’

‘There seems to be nothing there but languid and monotonous smoke.  Yet
when the night comes, Fire bursts out, father!’ she answered, turning
quickly.

‘Of course I know that, Louisa.  I do not see the application of the
remark.’  To do him justice he did not, at all.

She passed it away with a slight motion of her hand, and concentrating
her attention upon him again, said, ‘Father, I have often thought that
life is very short.’—This was so distinctly one of his subjects that he
interposed.

‘It is short, no doubt, my dear.  Still, the average duration of human
life is proved to have increased of late years.  The calculations of
various life assurance and annuity offices, among other figures which
cannot go wrong, have established the fact.’

‘I speak of my own life, father.’

‘O indeed?  Still,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘I need not point out to you,
Louisa, that it is governed by the laws which govern lives in the
aggregate.’

‘While it lasts, I would wish to do the little I can, and the little I am
fit for.  What does it matter?’

Mr. Gradgrind seemed rather at a loss to understand the last four words;
replying, ‘How, matter?  What matter, my dear?’

‘Mr. Bounderby,’ she went on in a steady, straight way, without regarding
this, ‘asks me to marry him.  The question I have to ask myself is, shall
I marry him?  That is so, father, is it not?  You have told me so,
father.  Have you not?’

‘Certainly, my dear.’

‘Let it be so.  Since Mr. Bounderby likes to take me thus, I am satisfied
to accept his proposal.  Tell him, father, as soon as you please, that
this was my answer.  Repeat it, word for word, if you can, because I
should wish him to know what I said.’

‘It is quite right, my dear,’ retorted her father approvingly, ‘to be
exact.  I will observe your very proper request.  Have you any wish in
reference to the period of your marriage, my child?’

‘None, father.  What does it matter!’

Mr. Gradgrind had drawn his chair a little nearer to her, and taken her
hand.  But, her repetition of these words seemed to strike with some
little discord on his ear.  He paused to look at her, and, still holding
her hand, said:

‘Louisa, I have not considered it essential to ask you one question,
because the possibility implied in it appeared to me to be too remote.
But perhaps I ought to do so.  You have never entertained in secret any
other proposal?’

‘Father,’ she returned, almost scornfully, ‘what other proposal can have
been made to _me_?  Whom have I seen?  Where have I been?  What are my
heart’s experiences?’

‘My dear Louisa,’ returned Mr. Gradgrind, reassured and satisfied.  ‘You
correct me justly.  I merely wished to discharge my duty.’

‘What do _I_ know, father,’ said Louisa in her quiet manner, ‘of tastes
and fancies; of aspirations and affections; of all that part of my nature
in which such light things might have been nourished?  What escape have I
had from problems that could be demonstrated, and realities that could be
grasped?’  As she said it, she unconsciously closed her hand, as if upon
a solid object, and slowly opened it as though she were releasing dust or
ash.

‘My dear,’ assented her eminently practical parent, ‘quite true, quite
true.’

‘Why, father,’ she pursued, ‘what a strange question to ask _me_!  The
baby-preference that even I have heard of as common among children, has
never had its innocent resting-place in my breast.  You have been so
careful of me, that I never had a child’s heart.  You have trained me so
well, that I never dreamed a child’s dream.  You have dealt so wisely
with me, father, from my cradle to this hour, that I never had a child’s
belief or a child’s fear.’

Mr. Gradgrind was quite moved by his success, and by this testimony to
it.  ‘My dear Louisa,’ said he, ‘you abundantly repay my care.  Kiss me,
my dear girl.’

So, his daughter kissed him.  Detaining her in his embrace, he said, ‘I
may assure you now, my favourite child, that I am made happy by the sound
decision at which you have arrived.  Mr. Bounderby is a very remarkable
man; and what little disparity can be said to exist between you—if any—is
more than counterbalanced by the tone your mind has acquired.  It has
always been my object so to educate you, as that you might, while still
in your early youth, be (if I may so express myself) almost any age.
Kiss me once more, Louisa.  Now, let us go and find your mother.’

Accordingly, they went down to the drawing-room, where the esteemed lady
with no nonsense about her, was recumbent as usual, while Sissy worked
beside her.  She gave some feeble signs of returning animation when they
entered, and presently the faint transparency was presented in a sitting
attitude.

‘Mrs. Gradgrind,’ said her husband, who had waited for the achievement of
this feat with some impatience, ‘allow me to present to you Mrs.
Bounderby.’

‘Oh!’ said Mrs. Gradgrind, ‘so you have settled it!  Well, I’m sure I
hope your health may be good, Louisa; for if your head begins to split as
soon as you are married, which was the case with mine, I cannot consider
that you are to be envied, though I have no doubt you think you are, as
all girls do.  However, I give you joy, my dear—and I hope you may now
turn all your ological studies to good account, I am sure I do!  I must
give you a kiss of congratulation, Louisa; but don’t touch my right
shoulder, for there’s something running down it all day long.  And now
you see,’ whimpered Mrs. Gradgrind, adjusting her shawls after the
affectionate ceremony, ‘I shall be worrying myself, morning, noon, and
night, to know what I am to call him!’

‘Mrs. Gradgrind,’ said her husband, solemnly, ‘what do you mean?’

‘Whatever I am to call him, Mr. Gradgrind, when he is married to Louisa!
I must call him something.  It’s impossible,’ said Mrs. Gradgrind, with a
mingled sense of politeness and injury, ‘to be constantly addressing him
and never giving him a name.  I cannot call him Josiah, for the name is
insupportable to me.  You yourself wouldn’t hear of Joe, you very well
know.  Am I to call my own son-in-law, Mister!  Not, I believe, unless
the time has arrived when, as an invalid, I am to be trampled upon by my
relations.  Then, what am I to call him!’

Nobody present having any suggestion to offer in the remarkable
emergency, Mrs. Gradgrind departed this life for the time being, after
delivering the following codicil to her remarks already executed:

‘As to the wedding, all I ask, Louisa, is,—and I ask it with a fluttering
in my chest, which actually extends to the soles of my feet,—that it may
take place soon.  Otherwise, I know it is one of those subjects I shall
never hear the last of.’

When Mr. Gradgrind had presented Mrs. Bounderby, Sissy had suddenly
turned her head, and looked, in wonder, in pity, in sorrow, in doubt, in
a multitude of emotions, towards Louisa.  Louisa had known it, and seen
it, without looking at her.  From that moment she was impassive, proud
and cold—held Sissy at a distance—changed to her altogether.



CHAPTER XVI
HUSBAND AND WIFE


MR. BOUNDERBY’S first disquietude on hearing of his happiness, was
occasioned by the necessity of imparting it to Mrs. Sparsit.  He could
not make up his mind how to do that, or what the consequences of the step
might be.  Whether she would instantly depart, bag and baggage, to Lady
Scadgers, or would positively refuse to budge from the premises; whether
she would be plaintive or abusive, tearful or tearing; whether she would
break her heart, or break the looking-glass; Mr. Bounderby could not all
foresee.  However, as it must be done, he had no choice but to do it; so,
after attempting several letters, and failing in them all, he resolved to
do it by word of mouth.

On his way home, on the evening he set aside for this momentous purpose,
he took the precaution of stepping into a chemist’s shop and buying a
bottle of the very strongest smelling-salts.  ‘By George!’ said Mr.
Bounderby, ‘if she takes it in the fainting way, I’ll have the skin off
her nose, at all events!’  But, in spite of being thus forearmed, he
entered his own house with anything but a courageous air; and appeared
before the object of his misgivings, like a dog who was conscious of
coming direct from the pantry.

‘Good evening, Mr. Bounderby!’

‘Good evening, ma’am, good evening.’  He drew up his chair, and Mrs.
Sparsit drew back hers, as who should say, ‘Your fireside, sir.  I freely
admit it.  It is for you to occupy it all, if you think proper.’

‘Don’t go to the North Pole, ma’am!’ said Mr. Bounderby.

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, and returned, though short of her
former position.

Mr. Bounderby sat looking at her, as, with the points of a stiff, sharp
pair of scissors, she picked out holes for some inscrutable ornamental
purpose, in a piece of cambric.  An operation which, taken in connexion
with the bushy eyebrows and the Roman nose, suggested with some
liveliness the idea of a hawk engaged upon the eyes of a tough little
bird.  She was so steadfastly occupied, that many minutes elapsed before
she looked up from her work; when she did so Mr. Bounderby bespoke her
attention with a hitch of his head.

‘Mrs. Sparsit, ma’am,’ said Mr. Bounderby, putting his hands in his
pockets, and assuring himself with his right hand that the cork of the
little bottle was ready for use, ‘I have no occasion to say to you, that
you are not only a lady born and bred, but a devilish sensible woman.’

‘Sir,’ returned the lady, ‘this is indeed not the first time that you
have honoured me with similar expressions of your good opinion.’

‘Mrs. Sparsit, ma’am,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘I am going to astonish you.’

‘Yes, sir?’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, interrogatively, and in the most
tranquil manner possible.  She generally wore mittens, and she now laid
down her work, and smoothed those mittens.

‘I am going, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, ‘to marry Tom Gradgrind’s daughter.’

‘Yes, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘I hope you may be happy, Mr.
Bounderby.  Oh, indeed I hope you may be happy, sir!’  And she said it
with such great condescension as well as with such great compassion for
him, that Bounderby,—far more disconcerted than if she had thrown her
workbox at the mirror, or swooned on the hearthrug,—corked up the
smelling-salts tight in his pocket, and thought, ‘Now confound this
woman, who could have even guessed that she would take it in this way!’

‘I wish with all my heart, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, in a highly superior
manner; somehow she seemed, in a moment, to have established a right to
pity him ever afterwards; ‘that you may be in all respects very happy.’

‘Well, ma’am,’ returned Bounderby, with some resentment in his tone:
which was clearly lowered, though in spite of himself, ‘I am obliged to
you.  I hope I shall be.’

‘_Do_ you, sir!’ said Mrs. Sparsit, with great affability.  ‘But
naturally you do; of course you do.’

A very awkward pause on Mr. Bounderby’s part, succeeded.  Mrs. Sparsit
sedately resumed her work and occasionally gave a small cough, which
sounded like the cough of conscious strength and forbearance.

‘Well, ma’am,’ resumed Bounderby, ‘under these circumstances, I imagine
it would not be agreeable to a character like yours to remain here,
though you would be very welcome here.’

‘Oh, dear no, sir, I could on no account think of that!’ Mrs. Sparsit
shook her head, still in her highly superior manner, and a little changed
the small cough—coughing now, as if the spirit of prophecy rose within
her, but had better be coughed down.

‘However, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, ‘there are apartments at the Bank,
where a born and bred lady, as keeper of the place, would be rather a
catch than otherwise; and if the same terms—’

‘I beg your pardon, sir.  You were so good as to promise that you would
always substitute the phrase, annual compliment.’

‘Well, ma’am, annual compliment.  If the same annual compliment would be
acceptable there, why, I see nothing to part us, unless you do.’

‘Sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘The proposal is like yourself, and if the
position I shall assume at the Bank is one that I could occupy without
descending lower in the social scale—’

‘Why, of course it is,’ said Bounderby.  ‘If it was not, ma’am, you don’t
suppose that I should offer it to a lady who has moved in the society you
have moved in.  Not that _I_ care for such society, you know!  But _you_
do.’

‘Mr. Bounderby, you are very considerate.’

‘You’ll have your own private apartments, and you’ll have your coals and
your candles, and all the rest of it, and you’ll have your maid to attend
upon you, and you’ll have your light porter to protect you, and you’ll be
what I take the liberty of considering precious comfortable,’ said
Bounderby.

‘Sir,’ rejoined Mrs. Sparsit, ‘say no more.  In yielding up my trust
here, I shall not be freed from the necessity of eating the bread of
dependence:’ she might have said the sweetbread, for that delicate
article in a savoury brown sauce was her favourite supper: ‘and I would
rather receive it from your hand, than from any other.  Therefore, sir, I
accept your offer gratefully, and with many sincere acknowledgments for
past favours.  And I hope, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, concluding in an
impressively compassionate manner, ‘I fondly hope that Miss Gradgrind may
be all you desire, and deserve!’

Nothing moved Mrs. Sparsit from that position any more.  It was in vain
for Bounderby to bluster or to assert himself in any of his explosive
ways; Mrs. Sparsit was resolved to have compassion on him, as a Victim.
She was polite, obliging, cheerful, hopeful; but, the more polite, the
more obliging, the more cheerful, the more hopeful, the more exemplary
altogether, she; the forlorner Sacrifice and Victim, he.  She had that
tenderness for his melancholy fate, that his great red countenance used
to break out into cold perspirations when she looked at him.

Meanwhile the marriage was appointed to be solemnized in eight weeks’
time, and Mr. Bounderby went every evening to Stone Lodge as an accepted
wooer.  Love was made on these occasions in the form of bracelets; and,
on all occasions during the period of betrothal, took a manufacturing
aspect.  Dresses were made, jewellery was made, cakes and gloves were
made, settlements were made, and an extensive assortment of Facts did
appropriate honour to the contract.  The business was all Fact, from
first to last.  The Hours did not go through any of those rosy
performances, which foolish poets have ascribed to them at such times;
neither did the clocks go any faster, or any slower, than at other
seasons.  The deadly statistical recorder in the Gradgrind observatory
knocked every second on the head as it was born, and buried it with his
accustomed regularity.

So the day came, as all other days come to people who will only stick to
reason; and when it came, there were married in the church of the florid
wooden legs—that popular order of architecture—Josiah Bounderby Esquire
of Coketown, to Louisa eldest daughter of Thomas Gradgrind Esquire of
Stone Lodge, M.P. for that borough.  And when they were united in holy
matrimony, they went home to breakfast at Stone Lodge aforesaid.

There was an improving party assembled on the auspicious occasion, who
knew what everything they had to eat and drink was made of, and how it
was imported or exported, and in what quantities, and in what bottoms,
whether native or foreign, and all about it.  The bridesmaids, down to
little Jane Gradgrind, were, in an intellectual point of view, fit
helpmates for the calculating boy; and there was no nonsense about any of
the company.

After breakfast, the bridegroom addressed them in the following terms:

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown.  Since you have
done my wife and myself the honour of drinking our healths and happiness,
I suppose I must acknowledge the same; though, as you all know me, and
know what I am, and what my extraction was, you won’t expect a speech
from a man who, when he sees a Post, says “that’s a Post,” and when he
sees a Pump, says “that’s a Pump,” and is not to be got to call a Post a
Pump, or a Pump a Post, or either of them a Toothpick.  If you want a
speech this morning, my friend and father-in-law, Tom Gradgrind, is a
Member of Parliament, and you know where to get it.  I am not your man.
However, if I feel a little independent when I look around this table
to-day, and reflect how little I thought of marrying Tom Gradgrind’s
daughter when I was a ragged street-boy, who never washed his face unless
it was at a pump, and that not oftener than once a fortnight, I hope I
may be excused.  So, I hope you like my feeling independent; if you
don’t, I can’t help it.  I _do_ feel independent.  Now I have mentioned,
and you have mentioned, that I am this day married to Tom Gradgrind’s
daughter.  I am very glad to be so.  It has long been my wish to be so.
I have watched her bringing-up, and I believe she is worthy of me.  At
the same time—not to deceive you—I believe I am worthy of her.  So, I
thank you, on both our parts, for the good-will you have shown towards
us; and the best wish I can give the unmarried part of the present
company, is this: I hope every bachelor may find as good a wife as I have
found.  And I hope every spinster may find as good a husband as my wife
has found.’

Shortly after which oration, as they were going on a nuptial trip to
Lyons, in order that Mr. Bounderby might take the opportunity of seeing
how the Hands got on in those parts, and whether they, too, required to
be fed with gold spoons; the happy pair departed for the railroad.  The
bride, in passing down-stairs, dressed for her journey, found Tom waiting
for her—flushed, either with his feelings, or the vinous part of the
breakfast.

‘What a game girl you are, to be such a first-rate sister, Loo!’
whispered Tom.

She clung to him as she should have clung to some far better nature that
day, and was a little shaken in her reserved composure for the first
time.

‘Old Bounderby’s quite ready,’ said Tom.  ‘Time’s up.  Good-bye!  I shall
be on the look-out for you, when you come back.  I say, my dear Loo!
AN’T it uncommonly jolly now!’

                                * * * * *

                          END OF THE FIRST BOOK



BOOK THE SECOND
_REAPING_


CHAPTER I
EFFECTS IN THE BANK


A SUNNY midsummer day.  There was such a thing sometimes, even in
Coketown.

Seen from a distance in such weather, Coketown lay shrouded in a haze of
its own, which appeared impervious to the sun’s rays.  You only knew the
town was there, because you knew there could have been no such sulky
blotch upon the prospect without a town.  A blur of soot and smoke, now
confusedly tending this way, now that way, now aspiring to the vault of
Heaven, now murkily creeping along the earth, as the wind rose and fell,
or changed its quarter: a dense formless jumble, with sheets of cross
light in it, that showed nothing but masses of darkness:—Coketown in the
distance was suggestive of itself, though not a brick of it could be
seen.

The wonder was, it was there at all.  It had been ruined so often, that
it was amazing how it had borne so many shocks.  Surely there never was
such fragile china-ware as that of which the millers of Coketown were
made.  Handle them never so lightly, and they fell to pieces with such
ease that you might suspect them of having been flawed before.  They were
ruined, when they were required to send labouring children to school;
they were ruined when inspectors were appointed to look into their works;
they were ruined, when such inspectors considered it doubtful whether
they were quite justified in chopping people up with their machinery;
they were utterly undone, when it was hinted that perhaps they need not
always make quite so much smoke.  Besides Mr. Bounderby’s gold spoon
which was generally received in Coketown, another prevalent fiction was
very popular there.  It took the form of a threat.  Whenever a Coketowner
felt he was ill-used—that is to say, whenever he was not left entirely
alone, and it was proposed to hold him accountable for the consequences
of any of his acts—he was sure to come out with the awful menace, that he
would ‘sooner pitch his property into the Atlantic.’  This had terrified
the Home Secretary within an inch of his life, on several occasions.

However, the Coketowners were so patriotic after all, that they never had
pitched their property into the Atlantic yet, but, on the contrary, had
been kind enough to take mighty good care of it.  So there it was, in the
haze yonder; and it increased and multiplied.

The streets were hot and dusty on the summer day, and the sun was so
bright that it even shone through the heavy vapour drooping over
Coketown, and could not be looked at steadily.  Stokers emerged from low
underground doorways into factory yards, and sat on steps, and posts, and
palings, wiping their swarthy visages, and contemplating coals.  The
whole town seemed to be frying in oil.  There was a stifling smell of hot
oil everywhere.  The steam-engines shone with it, the dresses of the
Hands were soiled with it, the mills throughout their many stories oozed
and trickled it.  The atmosphere of those Fairy palaces was like the
breath of the simoom: and their inhabitants, wasting with heat, toiled
languidly in the desert.  But no temperature made the melancholy mad
elephants more mad or more sane.  Their wearisome heads went up and down
at the same rate, in hot weather and cold, wet weather and dry, fair
weather and foul.  The measured motion of their shadows on the walls, was
the substitute Coketown had to show for the shadows of rustling woods;
while, for the summer hum of insects, it could offer, all the year round,
from the dawn of Monday to the night of Saturday, the whirr of shafts and
wheels.

Drowsily they whirred all through this sunny day, making the passenger
more sleepy and more hot as he passed the humming walls of the mills.
Sun-blinds, and sprinklings of water, a little cooled the main streets
and the shops; but the mills, and the courts and alleys, baked at a
fierce heat.  Down upon the river that was black and thick with dye, some
Coketown boys who were at large—a rare sight there—rowed a crazy boat,
which made a spumous track upon the water as it jogged along, while every
dip of an oar stirred up vile smells.  But the sun itself, however
beneficent, generally, was less kind to Coketown than hard frost, and
rarely looked intently into any of its closer regions without engendering
more death than life.  So does the eye of Heaven itself become an evil
eye, when incapable or sordid hands are interposed between it and the
things it looks upon to bless.

Mrs. Sparsit sat in her afternoon apartment at the Bank, on the shadier
side of the frying street.  Office-hours were over: and at that period of
the day, in warm weather, she usually embellished with her genteel
presence, a managerial board-room over the public office.  Her own
private sitting-room was a story higher, at the window of which post of
observation she was ready, every morning, to greet Mr. Bounderby, as he
came across the road, with the sympathizing recognition appropriate to a
Victim.  He had been married now a year; and Mrs. Sparsit had never
released him from her determined pity a moment.

The Bank offered no violence to the wholesome monotony of the town.  It
was another red brick house, with black outside shutters, green inside
blinds, a black street-door up two white steps, a brazen door-plate, and
a brazen door-handle full stop.  It was a size larger than Mr.
Bounderby’s house, as other houses were from a size to half-a-dozen sizes
smaller; in all other particulars, it was strictly according to pattern.

Mrs. Sparsit was conscious that by coming in the evening-tide among the
desks and writing implements, she shed a feminine, not to say also
aristocratic, grace upon the office.  Seated, with her needlework or
netting apparatus, at the window, she had a self-laudatory sense of
correcting, by her ladylike deportment, the rude business aspect of the
place.  With this impression of her interesting character upon her, Mrs.
Sparsit considered herself, in some sort, the Bank Fairy.  The
townspeople who, in their passing and repassing, saw her there, regarded
her as the Bank Dragon keeping watch over the treasures of the mine.

What those treasures were, Mrs. Sparsit knew as little as they did.  Gold
and silver coin, precious paper, secrets that if divulged would bring
vague destruction upon vague persons (generally, however, people whom she
disliked), were the chief items in her ideal catalogue thereof.  For the
rest, she knew that after office-hours, she reigned supreme over all the
office furniture, and over a locked-up iron room with three locks,
against the door of which strong chamber the light porter laid his head
every night, on a truckle bed, that disappeared at cockcrow.  Further,
she was lady paramount over certain vaults in the basement, sharply
spiked off from communication with the predatory world; and over the
relics of the current day’s work, consisting of blots of ink, worn-out
pens, fragments of wafers, and scraps of paper torn so small, that
nothing interesting could ever be deciphered on them when Mrs. Sparsit
tried.  Lastly, she was guardian over a little armoury of cutlasses and
carbines, arrayed in vengeful order above one of the official
chimney-pieces; and over that respectable tradition never to be separated
from a place of business claiming to be wealthy—a row of
fire-buckets—vessels calculated to be of no physical utility on any
occasion, but observed to exercise a fine moral influence, almost equal
to bullion, on most beholders.

A deaf serving-woman and the light porter completed Mrs. Sparsit’s
empire.  The deaf serving-woman was rumoured to be wealthy; and a saying
had for years gone about among the lower orders of Coketown, that she
would be murdered some night when the Bank was shut, for the sake of her
money.  It was generally considered, indeed, that she had been due some
time, and ought to have fallen long ago; but she had kept her life, and
her situation, with an ill-conditioned tenacity that occasioned much
offence and disappointment.

Mrs. Sparsit’s tea was just set for her on a pert little table, with its
tripod of legs in an attitude, which she insinuated after office-hours,
into the company of the stern, leathern-topped, long board-table that
bestrode the middle of the room.  The light porter placed the tea-tray on
it, knuckling his forehead as a form of homage.

‘Thank you, Bitzer,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.

‘Thank _you_, ma’am,’ returned the light porter.  He was a very light
porter indeed; as light as in the days when he blinkingly defined a
horse, for girl number twenty.

‘All is shut up, Bitzer?’ said Mrs. Sparsit.

‘All is shut up, ma’am.’

‘And what,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, pouring out her tea, ‘is the news of the
day?  Anything?’

‘Well, ma’am, I can’t say that I have heard anything particular.  Our
people are a bad lot, ma’am; but that is no news, unfortunately.’

‘What are the restless wretches doing now?’ asked Mrs. Sparsit.

‘Merely going on in the old way, ma’am.  Uniting, and leaguing, and
engaging to stand by one another.’

‘It is much to be regretted,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, making her nose more
Roman and her eyebrows more Coriolanian in the strength of her severity,
‘that the united masters allow of any such class-combinations.’

‘Yes, ma’am,’ said Bitzer.

‘Being united themselves, they ought one and all to set their faces
against employing any man who is united with any other man,’ said Mrs.
Sparsit.

‘They have done that, ma’am,’ returned Bitzer; ‘but it rather fell
through, ma’am.’

‘I do not pretend to understand these things,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, with
dignity, ‘my lot having been signally cast in a widely different sphere;
and Mr. Sparsit, as a Powler, being also quite out of the pale of any
such dissensions.  I only know that these people must be conquered, and
that it’s high time it was done, once for all.’

‘Yes, ma’am,’ returned Bitzer, with a demonstration of great respect for
Mrs. Sparsit’s oracular authority.  ‘You couldn’t put it clearer, I am
sure, ma’am.’

As this was his usual hour for having a little confidential chat with
Mrs. Sparsit, and as he had already caught her eye and seen that she was
going to ask him something, he made a pretence of arranging the rulers,
inkstands, and so forth, while that lady went on with her tea, glancing
through the open window, down into the street.

‘Has it been a busy day, Bitzer?’ asked Mrs. Sparsit.

‘Not a very busy day, my lady.  About an average day.’  He now and then
slided into my lady, instead of ma’am, as an involuntary acknowledgment
of Mrs. Sparsit’s personal dignity and claims to reverence.

‘The clerks,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, carefully brushing an imperceptible
crumb of bread and butter from her left-hand mitten, ‘are trustworthy,
punctual, and industrious, of course?’

‘Yes, ma’am, pretty fair, ma’am.  With the usual exception.’

He held the respectable office of general spy and informer in the
establishment, for which volunteer service he received a present at
Christmas, over and above his weekly wage.  He had grown into an
extremely clear-headed, cautious, prudent young man, who was safe to rise
in the world.  His mind was so exactly regulated, that he had no
affections or passions.  All his proceedings were the result of the
nicest and coldest calculation; and it was not without cause that Mrs.
Sparsit habitually observed of him, that he was a young man of the
steadiest principle she had ever known.  Having satisfied himself, on his
father’s death, that his mother had a right of settlement in Coketown,
this excellent young economist had asserted that right for her with such
a steadfast adherence to the principle of the case, that she had been
shut up in the workhouse ever since.  It must be admitted that he allowed
her half a pound of tea a year, which was weak in him: first, because all
gifts have an inevitable tendency to pauperise the recipient, and
secondly, because his only reasonable transaction in that commodity would
have been to buy it for as little as he could possibly give, and sell it
for as much as he could possibly get; it having been clearly ascertained
by philosophers that in this is comprised the whole duty of man—not a
part of man’s duty, but the whole.

‘Pretty fair, ma’am.  With the usual exception, ma’am,’ repeated Bitzer.

‘Ah—h!’ said Mrs. Sparsit, shaking her head over her tea-cup, and taking
a long gulp.

‘Mr. Thomas, ma’am, I doubt Mr. Thomas very much, ma’am, I don’t like his
ways at all.’

‘Bitzer,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, in a very impressive manner, ‘do you
recollect my having said anything to you respecting names?’

‘I beg your pardon, ma’am.  It’s quite true that you did object to names
being used, and they’re always best avoided.’

‘Please to remember that I have a charge here,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, with
her air of state.  ‘I hold a trust here, Bitzer, under Mr. Bounderby.
However improbable both Mr. Bounderby and myself might have deemed it
years ago, that he would ever become my patron, making me an annual
compliment, I cannot but regard him in that light.  From Mr. Bounderby I
have received every acknowledgment of my social station, and every
recognition of my family descent, that I could possibly expect.  More,
far more.  Therefore, to my patron I will be scrupulously true.  And I do
not consider, I will not consider, I cannot consider,’ said Mrs. Sparsit,
with a most extensive stock on hand of honour and morality, ‘that I
_should_ be scrupulously true, if I allowed names to be mentioned under
this roof, that are unfortunately—most unfortunately—no doubt of
that—connected with his.’

Bitzer knuckled his forehead again, and again begged pardon.

‘No, Bitzer,’ continued Mrs. Sparsit, ‘say an individual, and I will hear
you; say Mr. Thomas, and you must excuse me.’

‘With the usual exception, ma’am,’ said Bitzer, trying back, ‘of an
individual.’

‘Ah—h!’  Mrs. Sparsit repeated the ejaculation, the shake of the head
over her tea-cup, and the long gulp, as taking up the conversation again
at the point where it had been interrupted.

‘An individual, ma’am,’ said Bitzer, ‘has never been what he ought to
have been, since he first came into the place.  He is a dissipated,
extravagant idler.  He is not worth his salt, ma’am.  He wouldn’t get it
either, if he hadn’t a friend and relation at court, ma’am!’

‘Ah—h!’ said Mrs. Sparsit, with another melancholy shake of her head.

‘I only hope, ma’am,’ pursued Bitzer, ‘that his friend and relation may
not supply him with the means of carrying on.  Otherwise, ma’am, we know
out of whose pocket _that_ money comes.’

‘Ah—h!’ sighed Mrs. Sparsit again, with another melancholy shake of her
head.

‘He is to be pitied, ma’am.  The last party I have alluded to, is to be
pitied, ma’am,’ said Bitzer.

‘Yes, Bitzer,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘I have always pitied the delusion,
always.’

‘As to an individual, ma’am,’ said Bitzer, dropping his voice and drawing
nearer, ‘he is as improvident as any of the people in this town.  And you
know what _their_ improvidence is, ma’am.  No one could wish to know it
better than a lady of your eminence does.’

‘They would do well,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, ‘to take example by you,
Bitzer.’

‘Thank you, ma’am.  But, since you do refer to me, now look at me, ma’am.
I have put by a little, ma’am, already.  That gratuity which I receive at
Christmas, ma’am: I never touch it.  I don’t even go the length of my
wages, though they’re not high, ma’am.  Why can’t they do as I have done,
ma’am?  What one person can do, another can do.’

This, again, was among the fictions of Coketown.  Any capitalist there,
who had made sixty thousand pounds out of sixpence, always professed to
wonder why the sixty thousand nearest Hands didn’t each make sixty
thousand pounds out of sixpence, and more or less reproached them every
one for not accomplishing the little feat.  What I did you can do.  Why
don’t you go and do it?

‘As to their wanting recreations, ma’am,’ said Bitzer, ‘it’s stuff and
nonsense.  _I_ don’t want recreations.  I never did, and I never shall; I
don’t like ’em.  As to their combining together; there are many of them,
I have no doubt, that by watching and informing upon one another could
earn a trifle now and then, whether in money or good will, and improve
their livelihood.  Then, why don’t they improve it, ma’am!  It’s the
first consideration of a rational creature, and it’s what they pretend to
want.’

‘Pretend indeed!’ said Mrs. Sparsit.

‘I am sure we are constantly hearing, ma’am, till it becomes quite
nauseous, concerning their wives and families,’ said Bitzer.  ‘Why look
at me, ma’am!  I don’t want a wife and family.  Why should they?’

‘Because they are improvident,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.

‘Yes, ma’am,’ returned Bitzer, ‘that’s where it is.  If they were more
provident and less perverse, ma’am, what would they do?  They would say,
“While my hat covers my family,” or “while my bonnet covers my
family,”—as the case might be, ma’am—“I have only one to feed, and that’s
the person I most like to feed.”’

‘To be sure,’ assented Mrs. Sparsit, eating muffin.

‘Thank you, ma’am,’ said Bitzer, knuckling his forehead again, in return
for the favour of Mrs. Sparsit’s improving conversation.  ‘Would you wish
a little more hot water, ma’am, or is there anything else that I could
fetch you?’

‘Nothing just now, Bitzer.’

‘Thank you, ma’am.  I shouldn’t wish to disturb you at your meals, ma’am,
particularly tea, knowing your partiality for it,’ said Bitzer, craning a
little to look over into the street from where he stood; ‘but there’s a
gentleman been looking up here for a minute or so, ma’am, and he has come
across as if he was going to knock.  That _is_ his knock, ma’am, no
doubt.’

He stepped to the window; and looking out, and drawing in his head again,
confirmed himself with, ‘Yes, ma’am.  Would you wish the gentleman to be
shown in, ma’am?’

‘I don’t know who it can be,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, wiping her mouth and
arranging her mittens.

‘A stranger, ma’am, evidently.’

‘What a stranger can want at the Bank at this time of the evening, unless
he comes upon some business for which he is too late, I don’t know,’ said
Mrs. Sparsit, ‘but I hold a charge in this establishment from Mr.
Bounderby, and I will never shrink from it.  If to see him is any part of
the duty I have accepted, I will see him.  Use your own discretion,
Bitzer.’

Here the visitor, all unconscious of Mrs. Sparsit’s magnanimous words,
repeated his knock so loudly that the light porter hastened down to open
the door; while Mrs. Sparsit took the precaution of concealing her little
table, with all its appliances upon it, in a cupboard, and then decamped
up-stairs, that she might appear, if needful, with the greater dignity.

‘If you please, ma’am, the gentleman would wish to see you,’ said Bitzer,
with his light eye at Mrs. Sparsit’s keyhole.  So, Mrs. Sparsit, who had
improved the interval by touching up her cap, took her classical features
down-stairs again, and entered the board-room in the manner of a Roman
matron going outside the city walls to treat with an invading general.

The visitor having strolled to the window, and being then engaged in
looking carelessly out, was as unmoved by this impressive entry as man
could possibly be.  He stood whistling to himself with all imaginable
coolness, with his hat still on, and a certain air of exhaustion upon
him, in part arising from excessive summer, and in part from excessive
gentility.  For it was to be seen with half an eye that he was a thorough
gentleman, made to the model of the time; weary of everything, and
putting no more faith in anything than Lucifer.

‘I believe, sir,’ quoth Mrs. Sparsit, ‘you wished to see me.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ he said, turning and removing his hat; ‘pray excuse
me.’

‘Humph!’ thought Mrs. Sparsit, as she made a stately bend.  ‘Five and
thirty, good-looking, good figure, good teeth, good voice, good breeding,
well-dressed, dark hair, bold eyes.’  All which Mrs. Sparsit observed in
her womanly way—like the Sultan who put his head in the pail of
water—merely in dipping down and coming up again.

‘Please to be seated, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.

‘Thank you.  Allow me.’  He placed a chair for her, but remained himself
carelessly lounging against the table.  ‘I left my servant at the railway
looking after the luggage—very heavy train and vast quantity of it in the
van—and strolled on, looking about me.  Exceedingly odd place.  Will you
allow me to ask you if it’s _always_ as black as this?’

‘In general much blacker,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, in her uncompromising
way.

‘Is it possible!  Excuse me: you are not a native, I think?’

‘No, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘It was once my good or ill fortune,
as it may be—before I became a widow—to move in a very different sphere.
My husband was a Powler.’

‘Beg your pardon, really!’ said the stranger.  ‘Was—?’

Mrs. Sparsit repeated, ‘A Powler.’

‘Powler Family,’ said the stranger, after reflecting a few moments.  Mrs.
Sparsit signified assent.  The stranger seemed a little more fatigued
than before.

‘You must be very much bored here?’ was the inference he drew from the
communication.

‘I am the servant of circumstances, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘and I have
long adapted myself to the governing power of my life.’

‘Very philosophical,’ returned the stranger, ‘and very exemplary and
laudable, and—’  It seemed to be scarcely worth his while to finish the
sentence, so he played with his watch-chain wearily.

‘May I be permitted to ask, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘to what I am
indebted for the favour of—’

‘Assuredly,’ said the stranger.  ‘Much obliged to you for reminding me.
I am the bearer of a letter of introduction to Mr. Bounderby, the banker.
Walking through this extraordinarily black town, while they were getting
dinner ready at the hotel, I asked a fellow whom I met; one of the
working people; who appeared to have been taking a shower-bath of
something fluffy, which I assume to be the raw material—’

Mrs. Sparsit inclined her head.

‘—Raw material—where Mr. Bounderby, the banker, might reside.  Upon
which, misled no doubt by the word Banker, he directed me to the Bank.
Fact being, I presume, that Mr. Bounderby the Banker does _not_ reside in
the edifice in which I have the honour of offering this explanation?’

‘No, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, ‘he does not.’

‘Thank you.  I had no intention of delivering my letter at the present
moment, nor have I. But strolling on to the Bank to kill time, and having
the good fortune to observe at the window,’ towards which he languidly
waved his hand, then slightly bowed, ‘a lady of a very superior and
agreeable appearance, I considered that I could not do better than take
the liberty of asking that lady where Mr. Bounderby the Banker _does_
live.  Which I accordingly venture, with all suitable apologies, to do.’

The inattention and indolence of his manner were sufficiently relieved,
to Mrs. Sparsit’s thinking, by a certain gallantry at ease, which offered
her homage too.  Here he was, for instance, at this moment, all but
sitting on the table, and yet lazily bending over her, as if he
acknowledged an attraction in her that made her charming—in her way.

‘Banks, I know, are always suspicious, and officially must be,’ said the
stranger, whose lightness and smoothness of speech were pleasant
likewise; suggesting matter far more sensible and humorous than it ever
contained—which was perhaps a shrewd device of the founder of this
numerous sect, whosoever may have been that great man: ‘therefore I may
observe that my letter—here it is—is from the member for this
place—Gradgrind—whom I have had the pleasure of knowing in London.’

Mrs. Sparsit recognized the hand, intimated that such confirmation was
quite unnecessary, and gave Mr. Bounderby’s address, with all needful
clues and directions in aid.

‘Thousand thanks,’ said the stranger.  ‘Of course you know the Banker
well?’

‘Yes, sir,’ rejoined Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘In my dependent relation towards
him, I have known him ten years.’

‘Quite an eternity!  I think he married Gradgrind’s daughter?’

‘Yes,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, suddenly compressing her mouth, ‘he had
that—honour.’

‘The lady is quite a philosopher, I am told?’

‘Indeed, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘_Is_ she?’

‘Excuse my impertinent curiosity,’ pursued the stranger, fluttering over
Mrs. Sparsit’s eyebrows, with a propitiatory air, ‘but you know the
family, and know the world.  I am about to know the family, and may have
much to do with them.  Is the lady so very alarming?  Her father gives
her such a portentously hard-headed reputation, that I have a burning
desire to know.  Is she absolutely unapproachable?  Repellently and
stunningly clever?  I see, by your meaning smile, you think not.  You
have poured balm into my anxious soul.  As to age, now.  Forty?  Five and
thirty?’

Mrs. Sparsit laughed outright.  ‘A chit,’ said she.  ‘Not twenty when she
was married.’

‘I give you my honour, Mrs. Powler,’ returned the stranger, detaching
himself from the table, ‘that I never was so astonished in my life!’

It really did seem to impress him, to the utmost extent of his capacity
of being impressed.  He looked at his informant for full a quarter of a
minute, and appeared to have the surprise in his mind all the time.  ‘I
assure you, Mrs. Powler,’ he then said, much exhausted, ‘that the
father’s manner prepared me for a grim and stony maturity.  I am obliged
to you, of all things, for correcting so absurd a mistake.  Pray excuse
my intrusion.  Many thanks.  Good day!’

He bowed himself out; and Mrs. Sparsit, hiding in the window curtain, saw
him languishing down the street on the shady side of the way, observed of
all the town.

‘What do you think of the gentleman, Bitzer?’ she asked the light porter,
when he came to take away.

‘Spends a deal of money on his dress, ma’am.’

‘It must be admitted,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘that it’s very tasteful.’

‘Yes, ma’am,’ returned Bitzer, ‘if that’s worth the money.’

‘Besides which, ma’am,’ resumed Bitzer, while he was polishing the table,
‘he looks to me as if he gamed.’

‘It’s immoral to game,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.

‘It’s ridiculous, ma’am,’ said Bitzer, ‘because the chances are against
the players.’

Whether it was that the heat prevented Mrs. Sparsit from working, or
whether it was that her hand was out, she did no work that night.  She
sat at the window, when the sun began to sink behind the smoke; she sat
there, when the smoke was burning red, when the colour faded from it,
when darkness seemed to rise slowly out of the ground, and creep upward,
upward, up to the house-tops, up the church steeple, up to the summits of
the factory chimneys, up to the sky.  Without a candle in the room, Mrs.
Sparsit sat at the window, with her hands before her, not thinking much
of the sounds of evening; the whooping of boys, the barking of dogs, the
rumbling of wheels, the steps and voices of passengers, the shrill street
cries, the clogs upon the pavement when it was their hour for going by,
the shutting-up of shop-shutters.  Not until the light porter announced
that her nocturnal sweetbread was ready, did Mrs. Sparsit arouse herself
from her reverie, and convey her dense black eyebrows—by that time
creased with meditation, as if they needed ironing out-up-stairs.

‘O, you Fool!’ said Mrs. Sparsit, when she was alone at her supper.  Whom
she meant, she did not say; but she could scarcely have meant the
sweetbread.



CHAPTER II
MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE


THE Gradgrind party wanted assistance in cutting the throats of the
Graces.  They went about recruiting; and where could they enlist recruits
more hopefully, than among the fine gentlemen who, having found out
everything to be worth nothing, were equally ready for anything?

Moreover, the healthy spirits who had mounted to this sublime height were
attractive to many of the Gradgrind school.  They liked fine gentlemen;
they pretended that they did not, but they did.  They became exhausted in
imitation of them; and they yaw-yawed in their speech like them; and they
served out, with an enervated air, the little mouldy rations of political
economy, on which they regaled their disciples.  There never before was
seen on earth such a wonderful hybrid race as was thus produced.

Among the fine gentlemen not regularly belonging to the Gradgrind school,
there was one of a good family and a better appearance, with a happy turn
of humour which had told immensely with the House of Commons on the
occasion of his entertaining it with his (and the Board of Directors)
view of a railway accident, in which the most careful officers ever
known, employed by the most liberal managers ever heard of, assisted by
the finest mechanical contrivances ever devised, the whole in action on
the best line ever constructed, had killed five people and wounded
thirty-two, by a casualty without which the excellence of the whole
system would have been positively incomplete.  Among the slain was a cow,
and among the scattered articles unowned, a widow’s cap.  And the
honourable member had so tickled the House (which has a delicate sense of
humour) by putting the cap on the cow, that it became impatient of any
serious reference to the Coroner’s Inquest, and brought the railway off
with Cheers and Laughter.

Now, this gentleman had a younger brother of still better appearance than
himself, who had tried life as a Cornet of Dragoons, and found it a bore;
and had afterwards tried it in the train of an English minister abroad,
and found it a bore; and had then strolled to Jerusalem, and got bored
there; and had then gone yachting about the world, and got bored
everywhere.  To whom this honourable and jocular, member fraternally said
one day, ‘Jem, there’s a good opening among the hard Fact fellows, and
they want men.  I wonder you don’t go in for statistics.’  Jem, rather
taken by the novelty of the idea, and very hard up for a change, was as
ready to ‘go in’ for statistics as for anything else.  So, he went in.
He coached himself up with a blue-book or two; and his brother put it
about among the hard Fact fellows, and said, ‘If you want to bring in,
for any place, a handsome dog who can make you a devilish good speech,
look after my brother Jem, for he’s your man.’  After a few dashes in the
public meeting way, Mr. Gradgrind and a council of political sages
approved of Jem, and it was resolved to send him down to Coketown, to
become known there and in the neighbourhood.  Hence the letter Jem had
last night shown to Mrs. Sparsit, which Mr. Bounderby now held in his
hand; superscribed, ‘Josiah Bounderby, Esquire, Banker, Coketown.
Specially to introduce James Harthouse, Esquire.  Thomas Gradgrind.’

Within an hour of the receipt of this dispatch and Mr. James Harthouse’s
card, Mr. Bounderby put on his hat and went down to the Hotel.  There he
found Mr. James Harthouse looking out of window, in a state of mind so
disconsolate, that he was already half-disposed to ‘go in’ for something
else.

‘My name, sir,’ said his visitor, ‘is Josiah Bounderby, of Coketown.’

Mr. James Harthouse was very happy indeed (though he scarcely looked so)
to have a pleasure he had long expected.

‘Coketown, sir,’ said Bounderby, obstinately taking a chair, ‘is not the
kind of place you have been accustomed to.  Therefore, if you will allow
me—or whether you will or not, for I am a plain man—I’ll tell you
something about it before we go any further.’

Mr. Harthouse would be charmed.

‘Don’t be too sure of that,’ said Bounderby.  ‘I don’t promise it.  First
of all, you see our smoke.  That’s meat and drink to us.  It’s the
healthiest thing in the world in all respects, and particularly for the
lungs.  If you are one of those who want us to consume it, I differ from
you.  We are not going to wear the bottoms of our boilers out any faster
than we wear ’em out now, for all the humbugging sentiment in Great
Britain and Ireland.’

By way of ‘going in’ to the fullest extent, Mr. Harthouse rejoined, ‘Mr.
Bounderby, I assure you I am entirely and completely of your way of
thinking.  On conviction.’

‘I am glad to hear it,’ said Bounderby.  ‘Now, you have heard a lot of
talk about the work in our mills, no doubt.  You have?  Very good.  I’ll
state the fact of it to you.  It’s the pleasantest work there is, and
it’s the lightest work there is, and it’s the best-paid work there is.
More than that, we couldn’t improve the mills themselves, unless we laid
down Turkey carpets on the floors.  Which we’re not a-going to do.’

‘Mr. Bounderby, perfectly right.’

‘Lastly,’ said Bounderby, ‘as to our Hands.  There’s not a Hand in this
town, sir, man, woman, or child, but has one ultimate object in life.
That object is, to be fed on turtle soup and venison with a gold spoon.
Now, they’re not a-going—none of ’em—ever to be fed on turtle soup and
venison with a gold spoon.  And now you know the place.’

Mr. Harthouse professed himself in the highest degree instructed and
refreshed, by this condensed epitome of the whole Coketown question.

‘Why, you see,’ replied Mr. Bounderby, ‘it suits my disposition to have a
full understanding with a man, particularly with a public man, when I
make his acquaintance.  I have only one thing more to say to you, Mr.
Harthouse, before assuring you of the pleasure with which I shall
respond, to the utmost of my poor ability, to my friend Tom Gradgrind’s
letter of introduction.  You are a man of family.  Don’t you deceive
yourself by supposing for a moment that I am a man of family.  I am a bit
of dirty riff-raff, and a genuine scrap of tag, rag, and bobtail.’

If anything could have exalted Jem’s interest in Mr. Bounderby, it would
have been this very circumstance.  Or, so he told him.

‘So now,’ said Bounderby, ‘we may shake hands on equal terms.  I say,
equal terms, because although I know what I am, and the exact depth of
the gutter I have lifted myself out of, better than any man does, I am as
proud as you are.  I am just as proud as you are.  Having now asserted my
independence in a proper manner, I may come to how do you find yourself,
and I hope you’re pretty well.’

The better, Mr. Harthouse gave him to understand as they shook hands, for
the salubrious air of Coketown.  Mr. Bounderby received the answer with
favour.

‘Perhaps you know,’ said he, ‘or perhaps you don’t know, I married Tom
Gradgrind’s daughter.  If you have nothing better to do than to walk up
town with me, I shall be glad to introduce you to Tom Gradgrind’s
daughter.’

‘Mr. Bounderby,’ said Jem, ‘you anticipate my dearest wishes.’

They went out without further discourse; and Mr. Bounderby piloted the
new acquaintance who so strongly contrasted with him, to the private red
brick dwelling, with the black outside shutters, the green inside blinds,
and the black street door up the two white steps.  In the drawing-room of
which mansion, there presently entered to them the most remarkable girl
Mr. James Harthouse had ever seen.  She was so constrained, and yet so
careless; so reserved, and yet so watchful; so cold and proud, and yet so
sensitively ashamed of her husband’s braggart humility—from which she
shrunk as if every example of it were a cut or a blow; that it was quite
a new sensation to observe her.  In face she was no less remarkable than
in manner.  Her features were handsome; but their natural play was so
locked up, that it seemed impossible to guess at their genuine
expression.  Utterly indifferent, perfectly self-reliant, never at a
loss, and yet never at her ease, with her figure in company with them
there, and her mind apparently quite alone—it was of no use ‘going in’
yet awhile to comprehend this girl, for she baffled all penetration.

From the mistress of the house, the visitor glanced to the house itself.
There was no mute sign of a woman in the room.  No graceful little
adornment, no fanciful little device, however trivial, anywhere expressed
her influence.  Cheerless and comfortless, boastfully and doggedly rich,
there the room stared at its present occupants, unsoftened and unrelieved
by the least trace of any womanly occupation.  As Mr. Bounderby stood in
the midst of his household gods, so those unrelenting divinities occupied
their places around Mr. Bounderby, and they were worthy of one another,
and well matched.

‘This, sir,’ said Bounderby, ‘is my wife, Mrs. Bounderby: Tom Gradgrind’s
eldest daughter.  Loo, Mr. James Harthouse.  Mr. Harthouse has joined
your father’s muster-roll.  If he is not Tom Gradgrind’s colleague before
long, I believe we shall at least hear of him in connexion with one of
our neighbouring towns.  You observe, Mr. Harthouse, that my wife is my
junior.  I don’t know what she saw in me to marry me, but she saw
something in me, I suppose, or she wouldn’t have married me.  She has
lots of expensive knowledge, sir, political and otherwise.  If you want
to cram for anything, I should be troubled to recommend you to a better
adviser than Loo Bounderby.’

To a more agreeable adviser, or one from whom he would be more likely to
learn, Mr. Harthouse could never be recommended.

‘Come!’ said his host.  ‘If you’re in the complimentary line, you’ll get
on here, for you’ll meet with no competition.  I have never been in the
way of learning compliments myself, and I don’t profess to understand the
art of paying ’em.  In fact, despise ’em.  But, your bringing-up was
different from mine; mine was a real thing, by George!  You’re a
gentleman, and I don’t pretend to be one.  I am Josiah Bounderby of
Coketown, and that’s enough for me.  However, though I am not influenced
by manners and station, Loo Bounderby may be.  She hadn’t my
advantages—disadvantages you would call ’em, but I call ’em advantages—so
you’ll not waste your power, I dare say.’

‘Mr. Bounderby,’ said Jem, turning with a smile to Louisa, ‘is a noble
animal in a comparatively natural state, quite free from the harness in
which a conventional hack like myself works.’

‘You respect Mr. Bounderby very much,’ she quietly returned.  ‘It is
natural that you should.’

He was disgracefully thrown out, for a gentleman who had seen so much of
the world, and thought, ‘Now, how am I to take this?’

‘You are going to devote yourself, as I gather from what Mr. Bounderby
has said, to the service of your country.  You have made up your mind,’
said Louisa, still standing before him where she had first stopped—in all
the singular contrariety of her self-possession, and her being obviously
very ill at ease—‘to show the nation the way out of all its
difficulties.’

‘Mrs. Bounderby,’ he returned, laughing, ‘upon my honour, no.  I will
make no such pretence to you.  I have seen a little, here and there, up
and down; I have found it all to be very worthless, as everybody has, and
as some confess they have, and some do not; and I am going in for your
respected father’s opinions—really because I have no choice of opinions,
and may as well back them as anything else.’

‘Have you none of your own?’ asked Louisa.

‘I have not so much as the slightest predilection left.  I assure you I
attach not the least importance to any opinions.  The result of the
varieties of boredom I have undergone, is a conviction (unless conviction
is too industrious a word for the lazy sentiment I entertain on the
subject), that any set of ideas will do just as much good as any other
set, and just as much harm as any other set.  There’s an English family
with a charming Italian motto.  What will be, will be.  It’s the only
truth going!’

This vicious assumption of honesty in dishonesty—a vice so dangerous, so
deadly, and so common—seemed, he observed, a little to impress her in his
favour.  He followed up the advantage, by saying in his pleasantest
manner: a manner to which she might attach as much or as little meaning
as she pleased: ‘The side that can prove anything in a line of units,
tens, hundreds, and thousands, Mrs. Bounderby, seems to me to afford the
most fun, and to give a man the best chance.  I am quite as much attached
to it as if I believed it.  I am quite ready to go in for it, to the same
extent as if I believed it.  And what more could I possibly do, if I did
believe it!’

‘You are a singular politician,’ said Louisa.

‘Pardon me; I have not even that merit.  We are the largest party in the
state, I assure you, Mrs. Bounderby, if we all fell out of our adopted
ranks and were reviewed together.’

Mr. Bounderby, who had been in danger of bursting in silence, interposed
here with a project for postponing the family dinner till half-past six,
and taking Mr. James Harthouse in the meantime on a round of visits to
the voting and interesting notabilities of Coketown and its vicinity.
The round of visits was made; and Mr. James Harthouse, with a discreet
use of his blue coaching, came off triumphantly, though with a
considerable accession of boredom.

In the evening, he found the dinner-table laid for four, but they sat
down only three.  It was an appropriate occasion for Mr. Bounderby to
discuss the flavour of the hap’orth of stewed eels he had purchased in
the streets at eight years old; and also of the inferior water, specially
used for laying the dust, with which he had washed down that repast.  He
likewise entertained his guest over the soup and fish, with the
calculation that he (Bounderby) had eaten in his youth at least three
horses under the guise of polonies and saveloys.  These recitals, Jem, in
a languid manner, received with ‘charming!’ every now and then; and they
probably would have decided him to ‘go in’ for Jerusalem again to-morrow
morning, had he been less curious respecting Louisa.

‘Is there nothing,’ he thought, glancing at her as she sat at the head of
the table, where her youthful figure, small and slight, but very
graceful, looked as pretty as it looked misplaced; ‘is there nothing that
will move that face?’

Yes!  By Jupiter, there was something, and here it was, in an unexpected
shape.  Tom appeared.  She changed as the door opened, and broke into a
beaming smile.

A beautiful smile.  Mr. James Harthouse might not have thought so much of
it, but that he had wondered so long at her impassive face.  She put out
her hand—a pretty little soft hand; and her fingers closed upon her
brother’s, as if she would have carried them to her lips.

‘Ay, ay?’ thought the visitor.  ‘This whelp is the only creature she
cares for.  So, so!’

The whelp was presented, and took his chair.  The appellation was not
flattering, but not unmerited.

‘When I was your age, young Tom,’ said Bounderby, ‘I was punctual, or I
got no dinner!’

‘When you were my age,’ resumed Tom, ‘you hadn’t a wrong balance to get
right, and hadn’t to dress afterwards.’

‘Never mind that now,’ said Bounderby.

‘Well, then,’ grumbled Tom.  ‘Don’t begin with me.’

‘Mrs. Bounderby,’ said Harthouse, perfectly hearing this under-strain as
it went on; ‘your brother’s face is quite familiar to me.  Can I have
seen him abroad?  Or at some public school, perhaps?’

‘No,’ she resumed, quite interested, ‘he has never been abroad yet, and
was educated here, at home.  Tom, love, I am telling Mr. Harthouse that
he never saw you abroad.’

‘No such luck, sir,’ said Tom.

There was little enough in him to brighten her face, for he was a sullen
young fellow, and ungracious in his manner even to her.  So much the
greater must have been the solitude of her heart, and her need of some
one on whom to bestow it.  ‘So much the more is this whelp the only
creature she has ever cared for,’ thought Mr. James Harthouse, turning it
over and over.  ‘So much the more.  So much the more.’

Both in his sister’s presence, and after she had left the room, the whelp
took no pains to hide his contempt for Mr. Bounderby, whenever he could
indulge it without the observation of that independent man, by making wry
faces, or shutting one eye.  Without responding to these telegraphic
communications, Mr. Harthouse encouraged him much in the course of the
evening, and showed an unusual liking for him.  At last, when he rose to
return to his hotel, and was a little doubtful whether he knew the way by
night, the whelp immediately proffered his services as guide, and turned
out with him to escort him thither.

            [Picture: Mr. Harthouse dines at the Bounderby’s]



CHAPTER III
THE WHELP


IT was very remarkable that a young gentleman who had been brought up
under one continuous system of unnatural restraint, should be a
hypocrite; but it was certainly the case with Tom.  It was very strange
that a young gentleman who had never been left to his own guidance for
five consecutive minutes, should be incapable at last of governing
himself; but so it was with Tom.  It was altogether unaccountable that a
young gentleman whose imagination had been strangled in his cradle,
should be still inconvenienced by its ghost in the form of grovelling
sensualities; but such a monster, beyond all doubt, was Tom.

‘Do you smoke?’ asked Mr. James Harthouse, when they came to the hotel.

‘I believe you!’ said Tom.

He could do no less than ask Tom up; and Tom could do no less than go up.
What with a cooling drink adapted to the weather, but not so weak as
cool; and what with a rarer tobacco than was to be bought in those parts;
Tom was soon in a highly free and easy state at his end of the sofa, and
more than ever disposed to admire his new friend at the other end.

Tom blew his smoke aside, after he had been smoking a little while, and
took an observation of his friend.  ‘He don’t seem to care about his
dress,’ thought Tom, ‘and yet how capitally he does it.  What an easy
swell he is!’

Mr. James Harthouse, happening to catch Tom’s eye, remarked that he drank
nothing, and filled his glass with his own negligent hand.

‘Thank’ee,’ said Tom.  ‘Thank’ee.  Well, Mr. Harthouse, I hope you have
had about a dose of old Bounderby to-night.’  Tom said this with one eye
shut up again, and looking over his glass knowingly, at his entertainer.

‘A very good fellow indeed!’ returned Mr. James Harthouse.

‘You think so, don’t you?’ said Tom.  And shut up his eye again.

Mr. James Harthouse smiled; and rising from his end of the sofa, and
lounging with his back against the chimney-piece, so that he stood before
the empty fire-grate as he smoked, in front of Tom and looking down at
him, observed:

‘What a comical brother-in-law you are!’

‘What a comical brother-in-law old Bounderby is, I think you mean,’ said
Tom.

‘You are a piece of caustic, Tom,’ retorted Mr. James Harthouse.

There was something so very agreeable in being so intimate with such a
waistcoat; in being called Tom, in such an intimate way, by such a voice;
in being on such off-hand terms so soon, with such a pair of whiskers;
that Tom was uncommonly pleased with himself.

‘Oh!  I don’t care for old Bounderby,’ said he, ‘if you mean that.  I
have always called old Bounderby by the same name when I have talked
about him, and I have always thought of him in the same way.  I am not
going to begin to be polite now, about old Bounderby.  It would be rather
late in the day.’

‘Don’t mind me,’ returned James; ‘but take care when his wife is by, you
know.’

‘His wife?’ said Tom.  ‘My sister Loo?  O yes!’  And he laughed, and took
a little more of the cooling drink.

James Harthouse continued to lounge in the same place and attitude,
smoking his cigar in his own easy way, and looking pleasantly at the
whelp, as if he knew himself to be a kind of agreeable demon who had only
to hover over him, and he must give up his whole soul if required.  It
certainly did seem that the whelp yielded to this influence.  He looked
at his companion sneakingly, he looked at him admiringly, he looked at
him boldly, and put up one leg on the sofa.

‘My sister Loo?’ said Tom.  ‘_She_ never cared for old Bounderby.’

‘That’s the past tense, Tom,’ returned Mr. James Harthouse, striking the
ash from his cigar with his little finger.  ‘We are in the present tense,
now.’

‘Verb neuter, not to care.  Indicative mood, present tense.  First person
singular, I do not care; second person singular, thou dost not care;
third person singular, she does not care,’ returned Tom.

‘Good!  Very quaint!’ said his friend.  ‘Though you don’t mean it.’

‘But I _do_ mean it,’ cried Tom.  ‘Upon my honour!  Why, you won’t tell
me, Mr. Harthouse, that you really suppose my sister Loo does care for
old Bounderby.’

‘My dear fellow,’ returned the other, ‘what am I bound to suppose, when I
find two married people living in harmony and happiness?’

Tom had by this time got both his legs on the sofa.  If his second leg
had not been already there when he was called a dear fellow, he would
have put it up at that great stage of the conversation.  Feeling it
necessary to do something then, he stretched himself out at greater
length, and, reclining with the back of his head on the end of the sofa,
and smoking with an infinite assumption of negligence, turned his common
face, and not too sober eyes, towards the face looking down upon him so
carelessly yet so potently.

‘You know our governor, Mr. Harthouse,’ said Tom, ‘and therefore, you
needn’t be surprised that Loo married old Bounderby.  She never had a
lover, and the governor proposed old Bounderby, and she took him.’

‘Very dutiful in your interesting sister,’ said Mr. James Harthouse.

‘Yes, but she wouldn’t have been as dutiful, and it would not have come
off as easily,’ returned the whelp, ‘if it hadn’t been for me.’

The tempter merely lifted his eyebrows; but the whelp was obliged to go
on.

‘_I_ persuaded her,’ he said, with an edifying air of superiority.  ‘I
was stuck into old Bounderby’s bank (where I never wanted to be), and I
knew I should get into scrapes there, if she put old Bounderby’s pipe
out; so I told her my wishes, and she came into them.  She would do
anything for me.  It was very game of her, wasn’t it?’

‘It was charming, Tom!’

‘Not that it was altogether so important to her as it was to me,’
continued Tom coolly, ‘because my liberty and comfort, and perhaps my
getting on, depended on it; and she had no other lover, and staying at
home was like staying in jail—especially when I was gone.  It wasn’t as
if she gave up another lover for old Bounderby; but still it was a good
thing in her.’

‘Perfectly delightful.  And she gets on so placidly.’

‘Oh,’ returned Tom, with contemptuous patronage, ‘she’s a regular girl.
A girl can get on anywhere.  She has settled down to the life, and _she_
don’t mind.  It does just as well as another.  Besides, though Loo is a
girl, she’s not a common sort of girl.  She can shut herself up within
herself, and think—as I have often known her sit and watch the fire—for
an hour at a stretch.’

‘Ay, ay?  Has resources of her own,’ said Harthouse, smoking quietly.

‘Not so much of that as you may suppose,’ returned Tom; ‘for our governor
had her crammed with all sorts of dry bones and sawdust.  It’s his
system.’

‘Formed his daughter on his own model?’ suggested Harthouse.

‘His daughter?  Ah! and everybody else.  Why, he formed Me that way!’
said Tom.

‘Impossible!’

‘He did, though,’ said Tom, shaking his head.  ‘I mean to say, Mr.
Harthouse, that when I first left home and went to old Bounderby’s, I was
as flat as a warming-pan, and knew no more about life, than any oyster
does.’

‘Come, Tom!  I can hardly believe that.  A joke’s a joke.’

‘Upon my soul!’ said the whelp.  ‘I am serious; I am indeed!’  He smoked
with great gravity and dignity for a little while, and then added, in a
highly complacent tone, ‘Oh!  I have picked up a little since.  I don’t
deny that.  But I have done it myself; no thanks to the governor.’

‘And your intelligent sister?’

‘My intelligent sister is about where she was.  She used to complain to
me that she had nothing to fall back upon, that girls usually fall back
upon; and I don’t see how she is to have got over that since.  But _she_
don’t mind,’ he sagaciously added, puffing at his cigar again.  ‘Girls
can always get on, somehow.’

‘Calling at the Bank yesterday evening, for Mr. Bounderby’s address, I
found an ancient lady there, who seems to entertain great admiration for
your sister,’ observed Mr. James Harthouse, throwing away the last small
remnant of the cigar he had now smoked out.

‘Mother Sparsit!’ said Tom.  ‘What! you have seen her already, have you?’

His friend nodded.  Tom took his cigar out of his mouth, to shut up his
eye (which had grown rather unmanageable) with the greater expression,
and to tap his nose several times with his finger.

‘Mother Sparsit’s feeling for Loo is more than admiration, I should
think,’ said Tom.  ‘Say affection and devotion.  Mother Sparsit never set
her cap at Bounderby when he was a bachelor.  Oh no!’

These were the last words spoken by the whelp, before a giddy drowsiness
came upon him, followed by complete oblivion.  He was roused from the
latter state by an uneasy dream of being stirred up with a boot, and also
of a voice saying: ‘Come, it’s late.  Be off!’

‘Well!’ he said, scrambling from the sofa.  ‘I must take my leave of you
though.  I say.  Yours is very good tobacco.  But it’s too mild.’

‘Yes, it’s too mild,’ returned his entertainer.

‘It’s—it’s ridiculously mild,’ said Tom.  ‘Where’s the door!  Good
night!’

‘He had another odd dream of being taken by a waiter through a mist,
which, after giving him some trouble and difficulty, resolved itself into
the main street, in which he stood alone.  He then walked home pretty
easily, though not yet free from an impression of the presence and
influence of his new friend—as if he were lounging somewhere in the air,
in the same negligent attitude, regarding him with the same look.

The whelp went home, and went to bed.  If he had had any sense of what he
had done that night, and had been less of a whelp and more of a brother,
he might have turned short on the road, might have gone down to the
ill-smelling river that was dyed black, might have gone to bed in it for
good and all, and have curtained his head for ever with its filthy
waters.



CHAPTER IV
MEN AND BROTHERS


‘OH, my friends, the down-trodden operatives of Coketown!  Oh, my friends
and fellow-countrymen, the slaves of an iron-handed and a grinding
despotism!  Oh, my friends and fellow-sufferers, and fellow-workmen, and
fellow-men!  I tell you that the hour is come, when we must rally round
one another as One united power, and crumble into dust the oppressors
that too long have battened upon the plunder of our families, upon the
sweat of our brows, upon the labour of our hands, upon the strength of
our sinews, upon the God-created glorious rights of Humanity, and upon
the holy and eternal privileges of Brotherhood!’

‘Good!’  ‘Hear, hear, hear!’  ‘Hurrah!’ and other cries, arose in many
voices from various parts of the densely crowded and suffocatingly close
Hall, in which the orator, perched on a stage, delivered himself of this
and what other froth and fume he had in him.  He had declaimed himself
into a violent heat, and was as hoarse as he was hot.  By dint of roaring
at the top of his voice under a flaring gaslight, clenching his fists,
knitting his brows, setting his teeth, and pounding with his arms, he had
taken so much out of himself by this time, that he was brought to a stop,
and called for a glass of water.

As he stood there, trying to quench his fiery face with his drink of
water, the comparison between the orator and the crowd of attentive faces
turned towards him, was extremely to his disadvantage.  Judging him by
Nature’s evidence, he was above the mass in very little but the stage on
which he stood.  In many great respects he was essentially below them.
He was not so honest, he was not so manly, he was not so good-humoured;
he substituted cunning for their simplicity, and passion for their safe
solid sense.  An ill-made, high-shouldered man, with lowering brows, and
his features crushed into an habitually sour expression, he contrasted
most unfavourably, even in his mongrel dress, with the great body of his
hearers in their plain working clothes.  Strange as it always is to
consider any assembly in the act of submissively resigning itself to the
dreariness of some complacent person, lord or commoner, whom
three-fourths of it could, by no human means, raise out of the slough of
inanity to their own intellectual level, it was particularly strange, and
it was even particularly affecting, to see this crowd of earnest faces,
whose honesty in the main no competent observer free from bias could
doubt, so agitated by such a leader.

Good!  Hear, hear!  Hurrah!  The eagerness both of attention and
intention, exhibited in all the countenances, made them a most impressive
sight.  There was no carelessness, no languor, no idle curiosity; none of
the many shades of indifference to be seen in all other assemblies,
visible for one moment there.  That every man felt his condition to be,
somehow or other, worse than it might be; that every man considered it
incumbent on him to join the rest, towards the making of it better; that
every man felt his only hope to be in his allying himself to the comrades
by whom he was surrounded; and that in this belief, right or wrong
(unhappily wrong then), the whole of that crowd were gravely, deeply,
faithfully in earnest; must have been as plain to any one who chose to
see what was there, as the bare beams of the roof and the whitened brick
walls.  Nor could any such spectator fail to know in his own breast, that
these men, through their very delusions, showed great qualities,
susceptible of being turned to the happiest and best account; and that to
pretend (on the strength of sweeping axioms, howsoever cut and dried)
that they went astray wholly without cause, and of their own irrational
wills, was to pretend that there could be smoke without fire, death
without birth, harvest without seed, anything or everything produced from
nothing.

The orator having refreshed himself, wiped his corrugated forehead from
left to right several times with his handkerchief folded into a pad, and
concentrated all his revived forces, in a sneer of great disdain and
bitterness.

‘But oh, my friends and brothers!  Oh, men and Englishmen, the
down-trodden operatives of Coketown!  What shall we say of that man—that
working-man, that I should find it necessary so to libel the glorious
name—who, being practically and well acquainted with the grievances and
wrongs of you, the injured pith and marrow of this land, and having heard
you, with a noble and majestic unanimity that will make Tyrants tremble,
resolve for to subscribe to the funds of the United Aggregate Tribunal,
and to abide by the injunctions issued by that body for your benefit,
whatever they may be—what, I ask you, will you say of that working-man,
since such I must acknowledge him to be, who, at such a time, deserts his
post, and sells his flag; who, at such a time, turns a traitor and a
craven and a recreant, who, at such a time, is not ashamed to make to you
the dastardly and humiliating avowal that he will hold himself aloof, and
will _not_ be one of those associated in the gallant stand for Freedom
and for Right?’

The assembly was divided at this point.  There were some groans and
hisses, but the general sense of honour was much too strong for the
condemnation of a man unheard.  ‘Be sure you’re right, Slackbridge!’
‘Put him up!’  ‘Let’s hear him!’  Such things were said on many sides.
Finally, one strong voice called out, ‘Is the man heer?  If the man’s
heer, Slackbridge, let’s hear the man himseln, ’stead o’ yo.’  Which was
received with a round of applause.

Slackbridge, the orator, looked about him with a withering smile; and,
holding out his right hand at arm’s length (as the manner of all
Slackbridges is), to still the thundering sea, waited until there was a
profound silence.

‘Oh, my friends and fellow-men!’ said Slackbridge then, shaking his head
with violent scorn, ‘I do not wonder that you, the prostrate sons of
labour, are incredulous of the existence of such a man.  But he who sold
his birthright for a mess of pottage existed, and Judas Iscariot existed,
and Castlereagh existed, and this man exists!’

Here, a brief press and confusion near the stage, ended in the man
himself standing at the orator’s side before the concourse.  He was pale
and a little moved in the face—his lips especially showed it; but he
stood quiet, with his left hand at his chin, waiting to be heard.  There
was a chairman to regulate the proceedings, and this functionary now took
the case into his own hands.

‘My friends,’ said he, ‘by virtue o’ my office as your president, I askes
o’ our friend Slackbridge, who may be a little over hetter in this
business, to take his seat, whiles this man Stephen Blackpool is heern.
You all know this man Stephen Blackpool.  You know him awlung o’ his
misfort’ns, and his good name.’

With that, the chairman shook him frankly by the hand, and sat down
again.  Slackbridge likewise sat down, wiping his hot forehead—always
from left to right, and never the reverse way.

‘My friends,’ Stephen began, in the midst of a dead calm; ‘I ha’ hed
what’s been spok’n o’ me, and ’tis lickly that I shan’t mend it.  But I’d
liefer you’d hearn the truth concernin myseln, fro my lips than fro onny
other man’s, though I never cud’n speak afore so monny, wi’out bein
moydert and muddled.’

Slackbridge shook his head as if he would shake it off, in his
bitterness.

‘I’m th’ one single Hand in Bounderby’s mill, o’ a’ the men theer, as
don’t coom in wi’ th’ proposed reg’lations.  I canna coom in wi’ ’em.  My
friends, I doubt their doin’ yo onny good.  Licker they’ll do yo hurt.’

Slackbridge laughed, folded his arms, and frowned sarcastically.

‘But ’t an’t sommuch for that as I stands out.  If that were aw, I’d coom
in wi’ th’ rest.  But I ha’ my reasons—mine, yo see—for being hindered;
not on’y now, but awlus—awlus—life long!’

Slackbridge jumped up and stood beside him, gnashing and tearing.  ‘Oh,
my friends, what but this did I tell you?  Oh, my fellow-countrymen, what
warning but this did I give you?  And how shows this recreant conduct in
a man on whom unequal laws are known to have fallen heavy?  Oh, you
Englishmen, I ask you how does this subornation show in one of
yourselves, who is thus consenting to his own undoing and to yours, and
to your children’s and your children’s children’s?’

There was some applause, and some crying of Shame upon the man; but the
greater part of the audience were quiet.  They looked at Stephen’s worn
face, rendered more pathetic by the homely emotions it evinced; and, in
the kindness of their nature, they were more sorry than indignant.

‘’Tis this Delegate’s trade for t’ speak,’ said Stephen, ‘an’ he’s paid
for ’t, an’ he knows his work.  Let him keep to ’t.  Let him give no heed
to what I ha had’n to bear.  That’s not for him.  That’s not for nobbody
but me.’

There was a propriety, not to say a dignity in these words, that made the
hearers yet more quiet and attentive.  The same strong voice called out,
‘Slackbridge, let the man be heern, and howd thee tongue!’  Then the
place was wonderfully still.

‘My brothers,’ said Stephen, whose low voice was distinctly heard, ‘and
my fellow-workmen—for that yo are to me, though not, as I knows on, to
this delegate here—I ha but a word to sen, and I could sen nommore if I
was to speak till Strike o’ day.  I know weel, aw what’s afore me.  I
know weel that yo aw resolve to ha nommore ado wi’ a man who is not wi’
yo in this matther.  I know weel that if I was a lyin parisht i’ th’
road, yo’d feel it right to pass me by, as a forrenner and stranger.
What I ha getn, I mun mak th’ best on.’

‘Stephen Blackpool,’ said the chairman, rising, ‘think on ’t agen.  Think
on ’t once agen, lad, afore thou’rt shunned by aw owd friends.’

There was an universal murmur to the same effect, though no man
articulated a word.  Every eye was fixed on Stephen’s face.  To repent of
his determination, would be to take a load from all their minds.  He
looked around him, and knew that it was so.  Not a grain of anger with
them was in his heart; he knew them, far below their surface weaknesses
and misconceptions, as no one but their fellow-labourer could.

‘I ha thowt on ’t, above a bit, sir.  I simply canna coom in.  I mun go
th’ way as lays afore me.  I mun tak my leave o’ aw heer.’

He made a sort of reverence to them by holding up his arms, and stood for
the moment in that attitude; not speaking until they slowly dropped at
his sides.

‘Monny’s the pleasant word as soom heer has spok’n wi’ me; monny’s the
face I see heer, as I first seen when I were yoong and lighter heart’n
than now.  I ha’ never had no fratch afore, sin ever I were born, wi’ any
o’ my like; Gonnows I ha’ none now that’s o’ my makin’.  Yo’ll ca’ me
traitor and that—yo I mean t’ say,’ addressing Slackbridge, ‘but ’tis
easier to ca’ than mak’ out.  So let be.’

He had moved away a pace or two to come down from the platform, when he
remembered something he had not said, and returned again.

‘Haply,’ he said, turning his furrowed face slowly about, that he might
as it were individually address the whole audience, those both near and
distant; ‘haply, when this question has been tak’n up and discoosed,
there’ll be a threat to turn out if I’m let to work among yo.  I hope I
shall die ere ever such a time cooms, and I shall work solitary among yo
unless it cooms—truly, I mun do ’t, my friends; not to brave yo, but to
live.  I ha nobbut work to live by; and wheerever can I go, I who ha
worked sin I were no heighth at aw, in Coketown heer?  I mak’ no
complaints o’ bein turned to the wa’, o’ bein outcasten and overlooken
fro this time forrard, but hope I shall be let to work.  If there is any
right for me at aw, my friends, I think ’tis that.’

Not a word was spoken.  Not a sound was audible in the building, but the
slight rustle of men moving a little apart, all along the centre of the
room, to open a means of passing out, to the man with whom they had all
bound themselves to renounce companionship.  Looking at no one, and going
his way with a lowly steadiness upon him that asserted nothing and sought
nothing, Old Stephen, with all his troubles on his head, left the scene.

Then Slackbridge, who had kept his oratorical arm extended during the
going out, as if he were repressing with infinite solicitude and by a
wonderful moral power the vehement passions of the multitude, applied
himself to raising their spirits.  Had not the Roman Brutus, oh, my
British countrymen, condemned his son to death; and had not the Spartan
mothers, oh my soon to be victorious friends, driven their flying
children on the points of their enemies’ swords?  Then was it not the
sacred duty of the men of Coketown, with forefathers before them, an
admiring world in company with them, and a posterity to come after them,
to hurl out traitors from the tents they had pitched in a sacred and a
God-like cause?  The winds of heaven answered Yes; and bore Yes, east,
west, north, and south.  And consequently three cheers for the United
Aggregate Tribunal!

Slackbridge acted as fugleman, and gave the time.  The multitude of
doubtful faces (a little conscience-stricken) brightened at the sound,
and took it up.  Private feeling must yield to the common cause.  Hurrah!
The roof yet vibrated with the cheering, when the assembly dispersed.

Thus easily did Stephen Blackpool fall into the loneliest of lives, the
life of solitude among a familiar crowd.  The stranger in the land who
looks into ten thousand faces for some answering look and never finds it,
is in cheering society as compared with him who passes ten averted faces
daily, that were once the countenances of friends.  Such experience was
to be Stephen’s now, in every waking moment of his life; at his work, on
his way to it and from it, at his door, at his window, everywhere.  By
general consent, they even avoided that side of the street on which he
habitually walked; and left it, of all the working men, to him only.

He had been for many years, a quiet silent man, associating but little
with other men, and used to companionship with his own thoughts.  He had
never known before the strength of the want in his heart for the frequent
recognition of a nod, a look, a word; or the immense amount of relief
that had been poured into it by drops through such small means.  It was
even harder than he could have believed possible, to separate in his own
conscience his abandonment by all his fellows from a baseless sense of
shame and disgrace.

The first four days of his endurance were days so long and heavy, that he
began to be appalled by the prospect before him.  Not only did he see no
Rachael all the time, but he avoided every chance of seeing her; for,
although he knew that the prohibition did not yet formally extend to the
women working in the factories, he found that some of them with whom he
was acquainted were changed to him, and he feared to try others, and
dreaded that Rachael might be even singled out from the rest if she were
seen in his company.  So, he had been quite alone during the four days,
and had spoken to no one, when, as he was leaving his work at night, a
young man of a very light complexion accosted him in the street.

‘Your name’s Blackpool, ain’t it?’ said the young man.

Stephen coloured to find himself with his hat in his hand, in his
gratitude for being spoken to, or in the suddenness of it, or both.  He
made a feint of adjusting the lining, and said, ‘Yes.’

‘You are the Hand they have sent to Coventry, I mean?’ said Bitzer, the
very light young man in question.

Stephen answered ‘Yes,’ again.

‘I supposed so, from their all appearing to keep away from you.  Mr.
Bounderby wants to speak to you.  You know his house, don’t you?’

Stephen said ‘Yes,’ again.

‘Then go straight up there, will you?’ said Bitzer.  ‘You’re expected,
and have only to tell the servant it’s you.  I belong to the Bank; so, if
you go straight up without me (I was sent to fetch you), you’ll save me a
walk.’

Stephen, whose way had been in the contrary direction, turned about, and
betook himself as in duty bound, to the red brick castle of the giant
Bounderby.



CHAPTER V
MEN AND MASTERS


‘WELL, Stephen,’ said Bounderby, in his windy manner, ‘what’s this I
hear?  What have these pests of the earth been doing to _you_?  Come in,
and speak up.’

It was into the drawing-room that he was thus bidden.  A tea-table was
set out; and Mr. Bounderby’s young wife, and her brother, and a great
gentleman from London, were present.  To whom Stephen made his obeisance,
closing the door and standing near it, with his hat in his hand.

‘This is the man I was telling you about, Harthouse,’ said Mr. Bounderby.
The gentleman he addressed, who was talking to Mrs. Bounderby on the
sofa, got up, saying in an indolent way, ‘Oh really?’ and dawdled to the
hearthrug where Mr. Bounderby stood.

‘Now,’ said Bounderby, ‘speak up!’

After the four days he had passed, this address fell rudely and
discordantly on Stephen’s ear.  Besides being a rough handling of his
wounded mind, it seemed to assume that he really was the self-interested
deserter he had been called.

‘What were it, sir,’ said Stephen, ‘as yo were pleased to want wi’ me?’

‘Why, I have told you,’ returned Bounderby.  ‘Speak up like a man, since
you are a man, and tell us about yourself and this Combination.’

‘Wi’ yor pardon, sir,’ said Stephen Blackpool, ‘I ha’ nowt to sen about
it.’

Mr. Bounderby, who was always more or less like a Wind, finding something
in his way here, began to blow at it directly.

‘Now, look here, Harthouse,’ said he, ‘here’s a specimen of ’em.  When
this man was here once before, I warned this man against the mischievous
strangers who are always about—and who ought to be hanged wherever they
are found—and I told this man that he was going in the wrong direction.
Now, would you believe it, that although they have put this mark upon
him, he is such a slave to them still, that he’s afraid to open his lips
about them?’

‘I sed as I had nowt to sen, sir; not as I was fearfo’ o’ openin’ my
lips.’

‘You said!  Ah!  _I_ know what you said; more than that, I know what you
mean, you see.  Not always the same thing, by the Lord Harry!  Quite
different things.  You had better tell us at once, that that fellow
Slackbridge is not in the town, stirring up the people to mutiny; and
that he is not a regular qualified leader of the people: that is, a most
confounded scoundrel.  You had better tell us so at once; you can’t
deceive me.  You want to tell us so.  Why don’t you?’

‘I’m as sooary as yo, sir, when the people’s leaders is bad,’ said
Stephen, shaking his head.  ‘They taks such as offers.  Haply ’tis na’
the sma’est o’ their misfortuns when they can get no better.’

The wind began to get boisterous.

‘Now, you’ll think this pretty well, Harthouse,’ said Mr. Bounderby.
‘You’ll think this tolerably strong.  You’ll say, upon my soul this is a
tidy specimen of what my friends have to deal with; but this is nothing,
sir!  You shall hear me ask this man a question.  Pray, Mr.
Blackpool’—wind springing up very fast—‘may I take the liberty of asking
you how it happens that you refused to be in this Combination?’

‘How ’t happens?’

‘Ah!’ said Mr. Bounderby, with his thumbs in the arms of his coat, and
jerking his head and shutting his eyes in confidence with the opposite
wall: ‘how it happens.’

‘I’d leefer not coom to ’t, sir; but sin you put th’ question—an’ not
want’n t’ be ill-manner’n—I’ll answer.  I ha passed a promess.’

‘Not to me, you know,’ said Bounderby.  (Gusty weather with deceitful
calms.  One now prevailing.)

‘O no, sir.  Not to yo.’

‘As for me, any consideration for me has had just nothing at all to do
with it,’ said Bounderby, still in confidence with the wall.  ‘If only
Josiah Bounderby of Coketown had been in question, you would have joined
and made no bones about it?’

‘Why yes, sir.  ’Tis true.’

‘Though he knows,’ said Mr. Bounderby, now blowing a gale, ‘that there
are a set of rascals and rebels whom transportation is too good for!
Now, Mr. Harthouse, you have been knocking about in the world some time.
Did you ever meet with anything like that man out of this blessed
country?’  And Mr. Bounderby pointed him out for inspection, with an
angry finger.

‘Nay, ma’am,’ said Stephen Blackpool, staunchly protesting against the
words that had been used, and instinctively addressing himself to Louisa,
after glancing at her face.  ‘Not rebels, nor yet rascals.  Nowt o’ th’
kind, ma’am, nowt o’ th’ kind.  They’ve not doon me a kindness, ma’am, as
I know and feel.  But there’s not a dozen men amoong ’em, ma’am—a dozen?
Not six—but what believes as he has doon his duty by the rest and by
himseln.  God forbid as I, that ha’ known, and had’n experience o’ these
men aw my life—I, that ha’ ett’n an’ droonken wi’ ’em, an’ seet’n wi’
’em, and toil’n wi’ ’em, and lov’n ’em, should fail fur to stan by ’em
wi’ the truth, let ’em ha’ doon to me what they may!’

He spoke with the rugged earnestness of his place and character—deepened
perhaps by a proud consciousness that he was faithful to his class under
all their mistrust; but he fully remembered where he was, and did not
even raise his voice.

‘No, ma’am, no.  They’re true to one another, faithfo’ to one another,
’fectionate to one another, e’en to death.  Be poor amoong ’em, be sick
amoong ’em, grieve amoong ’em for onny o’ th’ monny causes that carries
grief to the poor man’s door, an’ they’ll be tender wi’ yo, gentle wi’
yo, comfortable wi’ yo, Chrisen wi’ yo.  Be sure o’ that, ma’am.  They’d
be riven to bits, ere ever they’d be different.’

‘In short,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘it’s because they are so full of virtues
that they have turned you adrift.  Go through with it while you are about
it.  Out with it.’

‘How ’tis, ma’am,’ resumed Stephen, appearing still to find his natural
refuge in Louisa’s face, ‘that what is best in us fok, seems to turn us
most to trouble an’ misfort’n an’ mistake, I dunno.  But ’tis so.  I know
’tis, as I know the heavens is over me ahint the smoke.  We’re patient
too, an’ wants in general to do right.  An’ I canna think the fawt is aw
wi’ us.’

‘Now, my friend,’ said Mr. Bounderby, whom he could not have exasperated
more, quite unconscious of it though he was, than by seeming to appeal to
any one else, ‘if you will favour me with your attention for half a
minute, I should like to have a word or two with you.  You said just now,
that you had nothing to tell us about this business.  You are quite sure
of that before we go any further.’

‘Sir, I am sure on ’t.’

‘Here’s a gentleman from London present,’ Mr. Bounderby made a backhanded
point at Mr. James Harthouse with his thumb, ‘a Parliament gentleman.  I
should like him to hear a short bit of dialogue between you and me,
instead of taking the substance of it—for I know precious well,
beforehand, what it will be; nobody knows better than I do, take
notice!—instead of receiving it on trust from my mouth.’

Stephen bent his head to the gentleman from London, and showed a rather
more troubled mind than usual.  He turned his eyes involuntarily to his
former refuge, but at a look from that quarter (expressive though
instantaneous) he settled them on Mr. Bounderby’s face.

‘Now, what do you complain of?’ asked Mr. Bounderby.

‘I ha’ not coom here, sir,’ Stephen reminded him, ‘to complain.  I coom
for that I were sent for.’

‘What,’ repeated Mr. Bounderby, folding his arms, ‘do you people, in a
general way, complain of?’

Stephen looked at him with some little irresolution for a moment, and
then seemed to make up his mind.

‘Sir, I were never good at showin o ’t, though I ha had’n my share in
feeling o ’t.  ’Deed we are in a muddle, sir.  Look round town—so rich as
’tis—and see the numbers o’ people as has been broughten into bein heer,
fur to weave, an’ to card, an’ to piece out a livin’, aw the same one
way, somehows, ’twixt their cradles and their graves.  Look how we live,
an’ wheer we live, an’ in what numbers, an’ by what chances, and wi’ what
sameness; and look how the mills is awlus a goin, and how they never
works us no nigher to ony dis’ant object—ceptin awlus, Death.  Look how
you considers of us, and writes of us, and talks of us, and goes up wi’
yor deputations to Secretaries o’ State ’bout us, and how yo are awlus
right, and how we are awlus wrong, and never had’n no reason in us sin
ever we were born.  Look how this ha growen an’ growen, sir, bigger an’
bigger, broader an’ broader, harder an’ harder, fro year to year, fro
generation unto generation.  Who can look on ’t, sir, and fairly tell a
man ’tis not a muddle?’

‘Of course,’ said Mr. Bounderby.  ‘Now perhaps you’ll let the gentleman
know, how you would set this muddle (as you’re so fond of calling it) to
rights.’

‘I donno, sir.  I canna be expecten to ’t.  ’Tis not me as should be
looken to for that, sir.  ’Tis them as is put ower me, and ower aw the
rest of us.  What do they tak upon themseln, sir, if not to do’t?’

‘I’ll tell you something towards it, at any rate,’ returned Mr.
Bounderby.  ‘We will make an example of half a dozen Slackbridges.  We’ll
indict the blackguards for felony, and get ’em shipped off to penal
settlements.’

Stephen gravely shook his head.

‘Don’t tell me we won’t, man,’ said Mr. Bounderby, by this time blowing a
hurricane, ‘because we will, I tell you!’

‘Sir,’ returned Stephen, with the quiet confidence of absolute certainty,
‘if yo was t’ tak a hundred Slackbridges—aw as there is, and aw the
number ten times towd—an’ was t’ sew ’em up in separate sacks, an’ sink
’em in the deepest ocean as were made ere ever dry land coom to be, yo’d
leave the muddle just wheer ’tis.  Mischeevous strangers!’ said Stephen,
with an anxious smile; ‘when ha we not heern, I am sure, sin ever we can
call to mind, o’ th’ mischeevous strangers!  ’Tis not by _them_ the
trouble’s made, sir.  ’Tis not wi’ _them_ ’t commences.  I ha no favour
for ’em—I ha no reason to favour ’em—but ’tis hopeless and useless to
dream o’ takin them fro their trade, ’stead o’ takin their trade fro
them!  Aw that’s now about me in this room were heer afore I coom, an’
will be heer when I am gone.  Put that clock aboard a ship an’ pack it
off to Norfolk Island, an’ the time will go on just the same.  So ’tis
wi’ Slackbridge every bit.’

Reverting for a moment to his former refuge, he observed a cautionary
movement of her eyes towards the door.  Stepping back, he put his hand
upon the lock.  But he had not spoken out of his own will and desire; and
he felt it in his heart a noble return for his late injurious treatment
to be faithful to the last to those who had repudiated him.  He stayed to
finish what was in his mind.

‘Sir, I canna, wi’ my little learning an’ my common way, tell the
genelman what will better aw this—though some working men o’ this town
could, above my powers—but I can tell him what I know will never do ’t.
The strong hand will never do ’t.  Vict’ry and triumph will never do ’t.
Agreeing fur to mak one side unnat’rally awlus and for ever right, and
toother side unnat’rally awlus and for ever wrong, will never, never do
’t.  Nor yet lettin alone will never do ’t.  Let thousands upon thousands
alone, aw leading the like lives and aw faw’en into the like muddle, and
they will be as one, and yo will be as anoother, wi’ a black unpassable
world betwixt yo, just as long or short a time as sich-like misery can
last.  Not drawin nigh to fok, wi’ kindness and patience an’ cheery ways,
that so draws nigh to one another in their monny troubles, and so
cherishes one another in their distresses wi’ what they need
themseln—like, I humbly believe, as no people the genelman ha seen in aw
his travels can beat—will never do ’t till th’ Sun turns t’ ice.  Most o’
aw, rating ’em as so much Power, and reg’latin ’em as if they was figures
in a soom, or machines: wi’out loves and likens, wi’out memories and
inclinations, wi’out souls to weary and souls to hope—when aw goes quiet,
draggin on wi’ ’em as if they’d nowt o’ th’ kind, and when aw goes
onquiet, reproachin ’em for their want o’ sitch humanly feelins in their
dealins wi’ yo—this will never do ’t, sir, till God’s work is onmade.’

Stephen stood with the open door in his hand, waiting to know if anything
more were expected of him.

‘Just stop a moment,’ said Mr. Bounderby, excessively red in the face.
‘I told you, the last time you were here with a grievance, that you had
better turn about and come out of that.  And I also told you, if you
remember, that I was up to the gold spoon look-out.’

‘I were not up to ’t myseln, sir; I do assure yo.’

‘Now it’s clear to me,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘that you are one of those
chaps who have always got a grievance.  And you go about, sowing it and
raising crops.  That’s the business of _your_ life, my friend.’

Stephen shook his head, mutely protesting that indeed he had other
business to do for his life.

‘You are such a waspish, raspish, ill-conditioned chap, you see,’ said
Mr. Bounderby, ‘that even your own Union, the men who know you best, will
have nothing to do with you.  I never thought those fellows could be
right in anything; but I tell you what!  I so far go along with them for
a novelty, that _I_’ll have nothing to do with you either.’

Stephen raised his eyes quickly to his face.

‘You can finish off what you’re at,’ said Mr. Bounderby, with a meaning
nod, ‘and then go elsewhere.’

‘Sir, yo know weel,’ said Stephen expressively, ‘that if I canna get work
wi’ yo, I canna get it elsewheer.’

The reply was, ‘What I know, I know; and what you know, you know.  I have
no more to say about it.’

Stephen glanced at Louisa again, but her eyes were raised to his no more;
therefore, with a sigh, and saying, barely above his breath, ‘Heaven help
us aw in this world!’ he departed.



CHAPTER VI
FADING AWAY


IT was falling dark when Stephen came out of Mr. Bounderby’s house.  The
shadows of night had gathered so fast, that he did not look about him
when he closed the door, but plodded straight along the street.  Nothing
was further from his thoughts than the curious old woman he had
encountered on his previous visit to the same house, when he heard a step
behind him that he knew, and turning, saw her in Rachael’s company.

He saw Rachael first, as he had heard her only.

‘Ah, Rachael, my dear!  Missus, thou wi’ her!’

‘Well, and now you are surprised to be sure, and with reason I must say,’
the old woman returned.  ‘Here I am again, you see.’

‘But how wi’ Rachael?’ said Stephen, falling into their step, walking
between them, and looking from the one to the other.

‘Why, I come to be with this good lass pretty much as I came to be with
you,’ said the old woman, cheerfully, taking the reply upon herself.  ‘My
visiting time is later this year than usual, for I have been rather
troubled with shortness of breath, and so put it off till the weather was
fine and warm.  For the same reason I don’t make all my journey in one
day, but divide it into two days, and get a bed to-night at the
Travellers’ Coffee House down by the railroad (a nice clean house), and
go back Parliamentary, at six in the morning.  Well, but what has this to
do with this good lass, says you?  I’m going to tell you.  I have heard
of Mr. Bounderby being married.  I read it in the paper, where it looked
grand—oh, it looked fine!’ the old woman dwelt on it with strange
enthusiasm: ‘and I want to see his wife.  I have never seen her yet.
Now, if you’ll believe me, she hasn’t come out of that house since noon
to-day.  So not to give her up too easily, I was waiting about, a little
last bit more, when I passed close to this good lass two or three times;
and her face being so friendly I spoke to her, and she spoke to me.
There!’ said the old woman to Stephen, ‘you can make all the rest out for
yourself now, a deal shorter than I can, I dare say!’

Once again, Stephen had to conquer an instinctive propensity to dislike
this old woman, though her manner was as honest and simple as a manner
possibly could be.  With a gentleness that was as natural to him as he
knew it to be to Rachael, he pursued the subject that interested her in
her old age.

‘Well, missus,’ said he, ‘I ha seen the lady, and she were young and
hansom.  Wi’ fine dark thinkin eyes, and a still way, Rachael, as I ha
never seen the like on.’

‘Young and handsome.  Yes!’ cried the old woman, quite delighted.  ‘As
bonny as a rose!  And what a happy wife!’

‘Aye, missus, I suppose she be,’ said Stephen.  But with a doubtful
glance at Rachael.

‘Suppose she be?  She must be.  She’s your master’s wife,’ returned the
old woman.

Stephen nodded assent.  ‘Though as to master,’ said he, glancing again at
Rachael, ‘not master onny more.  That’s aw enden ’twixt him and me.’

‘Have you left his work, Stephen?’ asked Rachael, anxiously and quickly.

‘Why, Rachael,’ he replied, ‘whether I ha lef’n his work, or whether his
work ha lef’n me, cooms t’ th’ same.  His work and me are parted.  ’Tis
as weel so—better, I were thinkin when yo coom up wi’ me.  It would ha
brought’n trouble upon trouble if I had stayed theer.  Haply ’tis a
kindness to monny that I go; haply ’tis a kindness to myseln; anyways it
mun be done.  I mun turn my face fro Coketown fur th’ time, and seek a
fort’n, dear, by beginnin fresh.’

‘Where will you go, Stephen?’

‘I donno t’night,’ said he, lifting off his hat, and smoothing his thin
hair with the flat of his hand.  ‘But I’m not goin t’night, Rachael, nor
yet t’morrow.  ’Tan’t easy overmuch t’ know wheer t’ turn, but a good
heart will coom to me.’

Herein, too, the sense of even thinking unselfishly aided him.  Before he
had so much as closed Mr. Bounderby’s door, he had reflected that at
least his being obliged to go away was good for her, as it would save her
from the chance of being brought into question for not withdrawing from
him.  Though it would cost him a hard pang to leave her, and though he
could think of no similar place in which his condemnation would not
pursue him, perhaps it was almost a relief to be forced away from the
endurance of the last four days, even to unknown difficulties and
distresses.

So he said, with truth, ‘I’m more leetsome, Rachael, under ’t, than I
could’n ha believed.’  It was not her part to make his burden heavier.
She answered with her comforting smile, and the three walked on together.

Age, especially when it strives to be self-reliant and cheerful, finds
much consideration among the poor.  The old woman was so decent and
contented, and made so light of her infirmities, though they had
increased upon her since her former interview with Stephen, that they
both took an interest in her.  She was too sprightly to allow of their
walking at a slow pace on her account, but she was very grateful to be
talked to, and very willing to talk to any extent: so, when they came to
their part of the town, she was more brisk and vivacious than ever.

‘Come to my poor place, missus,’ said Stephen, ‘and tak a coop o’ tea.
Rachael will coom then; and arterwards I’ll see thee safe t’ thy
Travellers’ lodgin.  ’T may be long, Rachael, ere ever I ha th’ chance o’
thy coompany agen.’

They complied, and the three went on to the house where he lodged.  When
they turned into a narrow street, Stephen glanced at his window with a
dread that always haunted his desolate home; but it was open, as he had
left it, and no one was there.  The evil spirit of his life had flitted
away again, months ago, and he had heard no more of her since.  The only
evidence of her last return now, were the scantier moveables in his room,
and the grayer hair upon his head.

He lighted a candle, set out his little tea-board, got hot water from
below, and brought in small portions of tea and sugar, a loaf, and some
butter from the nearest shop.  The bread was new and crusty, the butter
fresh, and the sugar lump, of course—in fulfilment of the standard
testimony of the Coketown magnates, that these people lived like princes,
sir.  Rachael made the tea (so large a party necessitated the borrowing
of a cup), and the visitor enjoyed it mightily.  It was the first glimpse
of sociality the host had had for many days.  He too, with the world a
wide heath before him, enjoyed the meal—again in corroboration of the
magnates, as exemplifying the utter want of calculation on the part of
these people, sir.

‘I ha never thowt yet, missus,’ said Stephen, ‘o’ askin thy name.’

The old lady announced herself as ‘Mrs. Pegler.’

‘A widder, I think?’ said Stephen.

‘Oh, many long years!’  Mrs. Pegler’s husband (one of the best on record)
was already dead, by Mrs. Pegler’s calculation, when Stephen was born.

‘’Twere a bad job, too, to lose so good a one,’ said Stephen.  ‘Onny
children?’

Mrs. Pegler’s cup, rattling against her saucer as she held it, denoted
some nervousness on her part.  ‘No,’ she said.  ‘Not now, not now.’

‘Dead, Stephen,’ Rachael softly hinted.

‘I’m sooary I ha spok’n on ’t,’ said Stephen, ‘I ought t’ hadn in my mind
as I might touch a sore place.  I—I blame myseln.’

While he excused himself, the old lady’s cup rattled more and more.  ‘I
had a son,’ she said, curiously distressed, and not by any of the usual
appearances of sorrow; ‘and he did well, wonderfully well.  But he is not
to be spoken of if you please.  He is—’  Putting down her cup, she moved
her hands as if she would have added, by her action, ‘dead!’  Then she
said aloud, ‘I have lost him.’

Stephen had not yet got the better of his having given the old lady pain,
when his landlady came stumbling up the narrow stairs, and calling him to
the door, whispered in his ear.  Mrs. Pegler was by no means deaf, for
she caught a word as it was uttered.

‘Bounderby!’ she cried, in a suppressed voice, starting up from the
table.  ‘Oh hide me!  Don’t let me be seen for the world.  Don’t let him
come up till I’ve got away.  Pray, pray!’  She trembled, and was
excessively agitated; getting behind Rachael, when Rachael tried to
reassure her; and not seeming to know what she was about.

‘But hearken, missus, hearken,’ said Stephen, astonished.  ‘’Tisn’t Mr.
Bounderby; ’tis his wife.  Yo’r not fearfo’ o’ her.  Yo was hey-go-mad
about her, but an hour sin.’

‘But are you sure it’s the lady, and not the gentleman?’ she asked, still
trembling.

‘Certain sure!’

‘Well then, pray don’t speak to me, nor yet take any notice of me,’ said
the old woman.  ‘Let me be quite to myself in this corner.’

Stephen nodded; looking to Rachael for an explanation, which she was
quite unable to give him; took the candle, went downstairs, and in a few
moments returned, lighting Louisa into the room.  She was followed by the
whelp.

Rachael had risen, and stood apart with her shawl and bonnet in her hand,
when Stephen, himself profoundly astonished by this visit, put the candle
on the table.  Then he too stood, with his doubled hand upon the table
near it, waiting to be addressed.

For the first time in her life Louisa had come into one of the dwellings
of the Coketown Hands; for the first time in her life she was face to
face with anything like individuality in connection with them.  She knew
of their existence by hundreds and by thousands.  She knew what results
in work a given number of them would produce in a given space of time.
She knew them in crowds passing to and from their nests, like ants or
beetles.  But she knew from her reading infinitely more of the ways of
toiling insects than of these toiling men and women.

Something to be worked so much and paid so much, and there ended;
something to be infallibly settled by laws of supply and demand;
something that blundered against those laws, and floundered into
difficulty; something that was a little pinched when wheat was dear, and
over-ate itself when wheat was cheap; something that increased at such a
rate of percentage, and yielded such another percentage of crime, and
such another percentage of pauperism; something wholesale, of which vast
fortunes were made; something that occasionally rose like a sea, and did
some harm and waste (chiefly to itself), and fell again; this she knew
the Coketown Hands to be.  But, she had scarcely thought more of
separating them into units, than of separating the sea itself into its
component drops.

She stood for some moments looking round the room.  From the few chairs,
the few books, the common prints, and the bed, she glanced to the two
women, and to Stephen.

‘I have come to speak to you, in consequence of what passed just now.  I
should like to be serviceable to you, if you will let me.  Is this your
wife?’

Rachael raised her eyes, and they sufficiently answered no, and dropped
again.

‘I remember,’ said Louisa, reddening at her mistake; ‘I recollect, now,
to have heard your domestic misfortunes spoken of, though I was not
attending to the particulars at the time.  It was not my meaning to ask a
question that would give pain to any one here.  If I should ask any other
question that may happen to have that result, give me credit, if you
please, for being in ignorance how to speak to you as I ought.’

As Stephen had but a little while ago instinctively addressed himself to
her, so she now instinctively addressed herself to Rachael.  Her manner
was short and abrupt, yet faltering and timid.

‘He has told you what has passed between himself and my husband?  You
would be his first resource, I think.’

‘I have heard the end of it, young lady,’ said Rachael.

‘Did I understand, that, being rejected by one employer, he would
probably be rejected by all?  I thought he said as much?’

‘The chances are very small, young lady—next to nothing—for a man who
gets a bad name among them.’

‘What shall I understand that you mean by a bad name?’

‘The name of being troublesome.’

‘Then, by the prejudices of his own class, and by the prejudices of the
other, he is sacrificed alike?  Are the two so deeply separated in this
town, that there is no place whatever for an honest workman between
them?’

Rachael shook her head in silence.

‘He fell into suspicion,’ said Louisa, ‘with his fellow-weavers,
because—he had made a promise not to be one of them.  I think it must
have been to you that he made that promise.  Might I ask you why he made
it?’

Rachael burst into tears.  ‘I didn’t seek it of him, poor lad.  I prayed
him to avoid trouble for his own good, little thinking he’d come to it
through me.  But I know he’d die a hundred deaths, ere ever he’d break
his word.  I know that of him well.’

Stephen had remained quietly attentive, in his usual thoughtful attitude,
with his hand at his chin.  He now spoke in a voice rather less steady
than usual.

‘No one, excepting myseln, can ever know what honour, an’ what love, an’
respect, I bear to Rachael, or wi’ what cause.  When I passed that
promess, I towd her true, she were th’ Angel o’ my life.  ’Twere a solemn
promess.  ’Tis gone fro’ me, for ever.’

Louisa turned her head to him, and bent it with a deference that was new
in her.  She looked from him to Rachael, and her features softened.
‘What will you do?’ she asked him.  And her voice had softened too.

‘Weel, ma’am,’ said Stephen, making the best of it, with a smile; ‘when I
ha finished off, I mun quit this part, and try another.  Fortnet or
misfortnet, a man can but try; there’s nowt to be done wi’out tryin’—cept
laying down and dying.’

‘How will you travel?’

‘Afoot, my kind ledy, afoot.’

Louisa coloured, and a purse appeared in her hand.  The rustling of a
bank-note was audible, as she unfolded one and laid it on the table.

‘Rachael, will you tell him—for you know how, without offence—that this
is freely his, to help him on his way?  Will you entreat him to take it?’

‘I canna do that, young lady,’ she answered, turning her head aside.
‘Bless you for thinking o’ the poor lad wi’ such tenderness.  But ’tis
for him to know his heart, and what is right according to it.’

Louisa looked, in part incredulous, in part frightened, in part overcome
with quick sympathy, when this man of so much self-command, who had been
so plain and steady through the late interview, lost his composure in a
moment, and now stood with his hand before his face.  She stretched out
hers, as if she would have touched him; then checked herself, and
remained still.

‘Not e’en Rachael,’ said Stephen, when he stood again with his face
uncovered, ‘could mak sitch a kind offerin, by onny words, kinder.  T’
show that I’m not a man wi’out reason and gratitude, I’ll tak two pound.
I’ll borrow ’t for t’ pay ’t back.  ’Twill be the sweetest work as ever I
ha done, that puts it in my power t’ acknowledge once more my lastin
thankfulness for this present action.’

She was fain to take up the note again, and to substitute the much
smaller sum he had named.  He was neither courtly, nor handsome, nor
picturesque, in any respect; and yet his manner of accepting it, and of
expressing his thanks without more words, had a grace in it that Lord
Chesterfield could not have taught his son in a century.

Tom had sat upon the bed, swinging one leg and sucking his walking-stick
with sufficient unconcern, until the visit had attained this stage.
Seeing his sister ready to depart, he got up, rather hurriedly, and put
in a word.

‘Just wait a moment, Loo!  Before we go, I should like to speak to him a
moment.  Something comes into my head.  If you’ll step out on the stairs,
Blackpool, I’ll mention it.  Never mind a light, man!’  Tom was
remarkably impatient of his moving towards the cupboard, to get one.  ‘It
don’t want a light.’

Stephen followed him out, and Tom closed the room door, and held the lock
in his hand.

‘I say!’ he whispered.  ‘I think I can do you a good turn.  Don’t ask me
what it is, because it may not come to anything.  But there’s no harm in
my trying.’

His breath fell like a flame of fire on Stephen’s ear, it was so hot.

‘That was our light porter at the Bank,’ said Tom, ‘who brought you the
message to-night.  I call him our light porter, because I belong to the
Bank too.’

Stephen thought, ‘What a hurry he is in!’  He spoke so confusedly.

‘Well!’ said Tom.  ‘Now look here!  When are you off?’

‘T’ day’s Monday,’ replied Stephen, considering.  ‘Why, sir, Friday or
Saturday, nigh ’bout.’

‘Friday or Saturday,’ said Tom.  ‘Now look here!  I am not sure that I
can do you the good turn I want to do you—that’s my sister, you know, in
your room—but I may be able to, and if I should not be able to, there’s
no harm done.  So I tell you what.  You’ll know our light porter again?’

‘Yes, sure,’ said Stephen.

‘Very well,’ returned Tom.  ‘When you leave work of a night, between this
and your going away, just hang about the Bank an hour or so, will you?
Don’t take on, as if you meant anything, if he should see you hanging
about there; because I shan’t put him up to speak to you, unless I find I
can do you the service I want to do you.  In that case he’ll have a note
or a message for you, but not else.  Now look here!  You are sure you
understand.’

He had wormed a finger, in the darkness, through a button-hole of
Stephen’s coat, and was screwing that corner of the garment tight up
round and round, in an extraordinary manner.

‘I understand, sir,’ said Stephen.

‘Now look here!’ repeated Tom.  ‘Be sure you don’t make any mistake then,
and don’t forget.  I shall tell my sister as we go home, what I have in
view, and she’ll approve, I know.  Now look here!  You’re all right, are
you?  You understand all about it?  Very well then.  Come along, Loo!’

He pushed the door open as he called to her, but did not return into the
room, or wait to be lighted down the narrow stairs.  He was at the bottom
when she began to descend, and was in the street before she could take
his arm.

Mrs. Pegler remained in her corner until the brother and sister were
gone, and until Stephen came back with the candle in his hand.  She was
in a state of inexpressible admiration of Mrs. Bounderby, and, like an
unaccountable old woman, wept, ‘because she was such a pretty dear.’  Yet
Mrs. Pegler was so flurried lest the object of her admiration should
return by chance, or anybody else should come, that her cheerfulness was
ended for that night.  It was late too, to people who rose early and
worked hard; therefore the party broke up; and Stephen and Rachael
escorted their mysterious acquaintance to the door of the Travellers’
Coffee House, where they parted from her.

They walked back together to the corner of the street where Rachael
lived, and as they drew nearer and nearer to it, silence crept upon them.
When they came to the dark corner where their unfrequent meetings always
ended, they stopped, still silent, as if both were afraid to speak.

‘I shall strive t’ see thee agen, Rachael, afore I go, but if not—’

‘Thou wilt not, Stephen, I know.  ’Tis better that we make up our minds
to be open wi’ one another.’

‘Thou’rt awlus right.  ’Tis bolder and better.  I ha been thinkin then,
Rachael, that as ’tis but a day or two that remains, ’twere better for
thee, my dear, not t’ be seen wi’ me.  ’T might bring thee into trouble,
fur no good.’

‘’Tis not for that, Stephen, that I mind.  But thou know’st our old
agreement.  ’Tis for that.’

‘Well, well,’ said he.  ‘’Tis better, onnyways.’

‘Thou’lt write to me, and tell me all that happens, Stephen?’

‘Yes.  What can I say now, but Heaven be wi’ thee, Heaven bless thee,
Heaven thank thee and reward thee!’

‘May it bless thee, Stephen, too, in all thy wanderings, and send thee
peace and rest at last!’

‘I towd thee, my dear,’ said Stephen Blackpool—‘that night—that I would
never see or think o’ onnything that angered me, but thou, so much better
than me, should’st be beside it.  Thou’rt beside it now.  Thou mak’st me
see it wi’ a better eye.  Bless thee.  Good night.  Good-bye!’

It was but a hurried parting in a common street, yet it was a sacred
remembrance to these two common people.  Utilitarian economists,
skeletons of schoolmasters, Commissioners of Fact, genteel and used-up
infidels, gabblers of many little dog’s-eared creeds, the poor you will
have always with you.  Cultivate in them, while there is yet time, the
utmost graces of the fancies and affections, to adorn their lives so much
in need of ornament; or, in the day of your triumph, when romance is
utterly driven out of their souls, and they and a bare existence stand
face to face, Reality will take a wolfish turn, and make an end of you.

Stephen worked the next day, and the next, uncheered by a word from any
one, and shunned in all his comings and goings as before.  At the end of
the second day, he saw land; at the end of the third, his loom stood
empty.

He had overstayed his hour in the street outside the Bank, on each of the
two first evenings; and nothing had happened there, good or bad.  That he
might not be remiss in his part of the engagement, he resolved to wait
full two hours, on this third and last night.

There was the lady who had once kept Mr. Bounderby’s house, sitting at
the first-floor window as he had seen her before; and there was the light
porter, sometimes talking with her there, and sometimes looking over the
blind below which had BANK upon it, and sometimes coming to the door and
standing on the steps for a breath of air.  When he first came out,
Stephen thought he might be looking for him, and passed near; but the
light porter only cast his winking eyes upon him slightly, and said
nothing.

Two hours were a long stretch of lounging about, after a long day’s
labour.  Stephen sat upon the step of a door, leaned against a wall under
an archway, strolled up and down, listened for the church clock, stopped
and watched children playing in the street.  Some purpose or other is so
natural to every one, that a mere loiterer always looks and feels
remarkable.  When the first hour was out, Stephen even began to have an
uncomfortable sensation upon him of being for the time a disreputable
character.

Then came the lamplighter, and two lengthening lines of light all down
the long perspective of the street, until they were blended and lost in
the distance.  Mrs. Sparsit closed the first-floor window, drew down the
blind, and went up-stairs.  Presently, a light went up-stairs after her,
passing first the fanlight of the door, and afterwards the two staircase
windows, on its way up.  By and by, one corner of the second-floor blind
was disturbed, as if Mrs. Sparsit’s eye were there; also the other
corner, as if the light porter’s eye were on that side.  Still, no
communication was made to Stephen.  Much relieved when the two hours were
at last accomplished, he went away at a quick pace, as a recompense for
so much loitering.

He had only to take leave of his landlady, and lie down on his temporary
bed upon the floor; for his bundle was made up for to-morrow, and all was
arranged for his departure.  He meant to be clear of the town very early;
before the Hands were in the streets.

It was barely daybreak, when, with a parting look round his room,
mournfully wondering whether he should ever see it again, he went out.
The town was as entirely deserted as if the inhabitants had abandoned it,
rather than hold communication with him.  Everything looked wan at that
hour.  Even the coming sun made but a pale waste in the sky, like a sad
sea.

By the place where Rachael lived, though it was not in his way; by the
red brick streets; by the great silent factories, not trembling yet; by
the railway, where the danger-lights were waning in the strengthening
day; by the railway’s crazy neighbourhood, half pulled down and half
built up; by scattered red brick villas, where the besmoked evergreens
were sprinkled with a dirty powder, like untidy snuff-takers; by
coal-dust paths and many varieties of ugliness; Stephen got to the top of
the hill, and looked back.

Day was shining radiantly upon the town then, and the bells were going
for the morning work.  Domestic fires were not yet lighted, and the high
chimneys had the sky to themselves.  Puffing out their poisonous volumes,
they would not be long in hiding it; but, for half an hour, some of the
many windows were golden, which showed the Coketown people a sun
eternally in eclipse, through a medium of smoked glass.

So strange to turn from the chimneys to the birds.  So strange, to have
the road-dust on his feet instead of the coal-grit.  So strange to have
lived to his time of life, and yet to be beginning like a boy this summer
morning!  With these musings in his mind, and his bundle under his arm,
Stephen took his attentive face along the high road.  And the trees
arched over him, whispering that he left a true and loving heart behind.



CHAPTER VII
GUNPOWDER


MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE, ‘going in’ for his adopted party, soon began to
score.  With the aid of a little more coaching for the political sages, a
little more genteel listlessness for the general society, and a tolerable
management of the assumed honesty in dishonesty, most effective and most
patronized of the polite deadly sins, he speedily came to be considered
of much promise.  The not being troubled with earnestness was a grand
point in his favour, enabling him to take to the hard Fact fellows with
as good a grace as if he had been born one of the tribe, and to throw all
other tribes overboard, as conscious hypocrites.

‘Whom none of us believe, my dear Mrs. Bounderby, and who do not believe
themselves.  The only difference between us and the professors of virtue
or benevolence, or philanthropy—never mind the name—is, that we know it
is all meaningless, and say so; while they know it equally and will never
say so.’

Why should she be shocked or warned by this reiteration?  It was not so
unlike her father’s principles, and her early training, that it need
startle her.  Where was the great difference between the two schools,
when each chained her down to material realities, and inspired her with
no faith in anything else?  What was there in her soul for James
Harthouse to destroy, which Thomas Gradgrind had nurtured there in its
state of innocence!

It was even the worse for her at this pass, that in her mind—implanted
there before her eminently practical father began to form it—a struggling
disposition to believe in a wider and nobler humanity than she had ever
heard of, constantly strove with doubts and resentments.  With doubts,
because the aspiration had been so laid waste in her youth.  With
resentments, because of the wrong that had been done her, if it were
indeed a whisper of the truth.  Upon a nature long accustomed to
self-suppression, thus torn and divided, the Harthouse philosophy came as
a relief and justification.  Everything being hollow and worthless, she
had missed nothing and sacrificed nothing.  What did it matter, she had
said to her father, when he proposed her husband.  What did it matter,
she said still.  With a scornful self-reliance, she asked herself, What
did anything matter—and went on.

Towards what?  Step by step, onward and downward, towards some end, yet
so gradually, that she believed herself to remain motionless.  As to Mr.
Harthouse, whither _he_ tended, he neither considered nor cared.  He had
no particular design or plan before him: no energetic wickedness ruffled
his lassitude.  He was as much amused and interested, at present, as it
became so fine a gentleman to be; perhaps even more than it would have
been consistent with his reputation to confess.  Soon after his arrival
he languidly wrote to his brother, the honourable and jocular member,
that the Bounderbys were ‘great fun;’ and further, that the female
Bounderby, instead of being the Gorgon he had expected, was young, and
remarkably pretty.  After that, he wrote no more about them, and devoted
his leisure chiefly to their house.  He was very often in their house, in
his flittings and visitings about the Coketown district; and was much
encouraged by Mr. Bounderby.  It was quite in Mr. Bounderby’s gusty way
to boast to all his world that _he_ didn’t care about your highly
connected people, but that if his wife Tom Gradgrind’s daughter did, she
was welcome to their company.

Mr. James Harthouse began to think it would be a new sensation, if the
face which changed so beautifully for the whelp, would change for him.

He was quick enough to observe; he had a good memory, and did not forget
a word of the brother’s revelations.  He interwove them with everything
he saw of the sister, and he began to understand her.  To be sure, the
better and profounder part of her character was not within his scope of
perception; for in natures, as in seas, depth answers unto depth; but he
soon began to read the rest with a student’s eye.

Mr. Bounderby had taken possession of a house and grounds, about fifteen
miles from the town, and accessible within a mile or two, by a railway
striding on many arches over a wild country, undermined by deserted
coal-shafts, and spotted at night by fires and black shapes of stationary
engines at pits’ mouths.  This country, gradually softening towards the
neighbourhood of Mr. Bounderby’s retreat, there mellowed into a rustic
landscape, golden with heath, and snowy with hawthorn in the spring of
the year, and tremulous with leaves and their shadows all the summer
time.  The bank had foreclosed a mortgage effected on the property thus
pleasantly situated, by one of the Coketown magnates, who, in his
determination to make a shorter cut than usual to an enormous fortune,
overspeculated himself by about two hundred thousand pounds.  These
accidents did sometimes happen in the best regulated families of
Coketown, but the bankrupts had no connexion whatever with the
improvident classes.

It afforded Mr. Bounderby supreme satisfaction to instal himself in this
snug little estate, and with demonstrative humility to grow cabbages in
the flower-garden.  He delighted to live, barrack-fashion, among the
elegant furniture, and he bullied the very pictures with his origin.
‘Why, sir,’ he would say to a visitor, ‘I am told that Nickits,’ the late
owner, ‘gave seven hundred pound for that Seabeach.  Now, to be plain
with you, if I ever, in the whole course of my life, take seven looks at
it, at a hundred pound a look, it will be as much as I shall do.  No, by
George!  I don’t forget that I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown.  For
years upon years, the only pictures in my possession, or that I could
have got into my possession, by any means, unless I stole ’em, were the
engravings of a man shaving himself in a boot, on the blacking bottles
that I was overjoyed to use in cleaning boots with, and that I sold when
they were empty for a farthing a-piece, and glad to get it!’

Then he would address Mr. Harthouse in the same style.

‘Harthouse, you have a couple of horses down here.  Bring half a dozen
more if you like, and we’ll find room for ’em.  There’s stabling in this
place for a dozen horses; and unless Nickits is belied, he kept the full
number.  A round dozen of ’em, sir.  When that man was a boy, he went to
Westminster School.  Went to Westminster School as a King’s Scholar, when
I was principally living on garbage, and sleeping in market baskets.
Why, if I wanted to keep a dozen horses—which I don’t, for one’s enough
for me—I couldn’t bear to see ’em in their stalls here, and think what my
own lodging used to be.  I couldn’t look at ’em, sir, and not order ’em
out.  Yet so things come round.  You see this place; you know what sort
of a place it is; you are aware that there’s not a completer place of its
size in this kingdom or elsewhere—I don’t care where—and here, got into
the middle of it, like a maggot into a nut, is Josiah Bounderby.  While
Nickits (as a man came into my office, and told me yesterday), Nickits,
who used to act in Latin, in the Westminster School plays, with the
chief-justices and nobility of this country applauding him till they were
black in the face, is drivelling at this minute—drivelling, sir!—in a
fifth floor, up a narrow dark back street in Antwerp.’

It was among the leafy shadows of this retirement, in the long sultry
summer days, that Mr. Harthouse began to prove the face which had set him
wondering when he first saw it, and to try if it would change for him.

‘Mrs. Bounderby, I esteem it a most fortunate accident that I find you
alone here.  I have for some time had a particular wish to speak to you.’

It was not by any wonderful accident that he found her, the time of day
being that at which she was always alone, and the place being her
favourite resort.  It was an opening in a dark wood, where some felled
trees lay, and where she would sit watching the fallen leaves of last
year, as she had watched the falling ashes at home.

He sat down beside her, with a glance at her face.

‘Your brother.  My young friend Tom—’

Her colour brightened, and she turned to him with a look of interest.  ‘I
never in my life,’ he thought, ‘saw anything so remarkable and so
captivating as the lighting of those features!’  His face betrayed his
thoughts—perhaps without betraying him, for it might have been according
to its instructions so to do.

‘Pardon me.  The expression of your sisterly interest is so beautiful—Tom
should be so proud of it—I know this is inexcusable, but I am so
compelled to admire.’

‘Being so impulsive,’ she said composedly.

‘Mrs. Bounderby, no: you know I make no pretence with you.  You know I am
a sordid piece of human nature, ready to sell myself at any time for any
reasonable sum, and altogether incapable of any Arcadian proceeding
whatever.’

‘I am waiting,’ she returned, ‘for your further reference to my brother.’

‘You are rigid with me, and I deserve it.  I am as worthless a dog as you
will find, except that I am not false—not false.  But you surprised and
started me from my subject, which was your brother.  I have an interest
in him.’

‘Have you an interest in anything, Mr. Harthouse?’ she asked, half
incredulously and half gratefully.

‘If you had asked me when I first came here, I should have said no.  I
must say now—even at the hazard of appearing to make a pretence, and of
justly awakening your incredulity—yes.’

She made a slight movement, as if she were trying to speak, but could not
find voice; at length she said, ‘Mr. Harthouse, I give you credit for
being interested in my brother.’

‘Thank you.  I claim to deserve it.  You know how little I do claim, but
I will go that length.  You have done so much for him, you are so fond of
him; your whole life, Mrs. Bounderby, expresses such charming
self-forgetfulness on his account—pardon me again—I am running wide of
the subject.  I am interested in him for his own sake.’

She had made the slightest action possible, as if she would have risen in
a hurry and gone away.  He had turned the course of what he said at that
instant, and she remained.

‘Mrs. Bounderby,’ he resumed, in a lighter manner, and yet with a show of
effort in assuming it, which was even more expressive than the manner he
dismissed; ‘it is no irrevocable offence in a young fellow of your
brother’s years, if he is heedless, inconsiderate, and expensive—a little
dissipated, in the common phrase.  Is he?’

‘Yes.’

‘Allow me to be frank.  Do you think he games at all?’

‘I think he makes bets.’  Mr. Harthouse waiting, as if that were not her
whole answer, she added, ‘I know he does.’

‘Of course he loses?’

‘Yes.’

‘Everybody does lose who bets.  May I hint at the probability of your
sometimes supplying him with money for these purposes?’

She sat, looking down; but, at this question, raised her eyes searchingly
and a little resentfully.

‘Acquit me of impertinent curiosity, my dear Mrs. Bounderby.  I think Tom
may be gradually falling into trouble, and I wish to stretch out a
helping hand to him from the depths of my wicked experience.—Shall I say
again, for his sake?  Is that necessary?’

She seemed to try to answer, but nothing came of it.

‘Candidly to confess everything that has occurred to me,’ said James
Harthouse, again gliding with the same appearance of effort into his more
airy manner; ‘I will confide to you my doubt whether he has had many
advantages.  Whether—forgive my plainness—whether any great amount of
confidence is likely to have been established between himself and his
most worthy father.’

‘I do not,’ said Louisa, flushing with her own great remembrance in that
wise, ‘think it likely.’

‘Or, between himself, and—I may trust to your perfect understanding of my
meaning, I am sure—and his highly esteemed brother-in-law.’

She flushed deeper and deeper, and was burning red when she replied in a
fainter voice, ‘I do not think that likely, either.’

‘Mrs. Bounderby,’ said Harthouse, after a short silence, ‘may there be a
better confidence between yourself and me?  Tom has borrowed a
considerable sum of you?’

‘You will understand, Mr. Harthouse,’ she returned, after some
indecision: she had been more or less uncertain, and troubled throughout
the conversation, and yet had in the main preserved her self-contained
manner; ‘you will understand that if I tell you what you press to know,
it is not by way of complaint or regret.  I would never complain of
anything, and what I have done I do not in the least regret.’

‘So spirited, too!’ thought James Harthouse.

‘When I married, I found that my brother was even at that time heavily in
debt.  Heavily for him, I mean.  Heavily enough to oblige me to sell some
trinkets.  They were no sacrifice.  I sold them very willingly.  I
attached no value to them.  They, were quite worthless to me.’

Either she saw in his face that he knew, or she only feared in her
conscience that he knew, that she spoke of some of her husband’s gifts.
She stopped, and reddened again.  If he had not known it before, he would
have known it then, though he had been a much duller man than he was.

‘Since then, I have given my brother, at various times, what money I
could spare: in short, what money I have had.  Confiding in you at all,
on the faith of the interest you profess for him, I will not do so by
halves.  Since you have been in the habit of visiting here, he has wanted
in one sum as much as a hundred pounds.  I have not been able to give it
to him.  I have felt uneasy for the consequences of his being so
involved, but I have kept these secrets until now, when I trust them to
your honour.  I have held no confidence with any one, because—you
anticipated my reason just now.’  She abruptly broke off.

He was a ready man, and he saw, and seized, an opportunity here of
presenting her own image to her, slightly disguised as her brother.

‘Mrs. Bounderby, though a graceless person, of the world worldly, I feel
the utmost interest, I assure you, in what you tell me.  I cannot
possibly be hard upon your brother.  I understand and share the wise
consideration with which you regard his errors.  With all possible
respect both for Mr. Gradgrind and for Mr. Bounderby, I think I perceive
that he has not been fortunate in his training.  Bred at a disadvantage
towards the society in which he has his part to play, he rushes into
these extremes for himself, from opposite extremes that have long been
forced—with the very best intentions we have no doubt—upon him.  Mr.
Bounderby’s fine bluff English independence, though a most charming
characteristic, does not—as we have agreed—invite confidence.  If I might
venture to remark that it is the least in the world deficient in that
delicacy to which a youth mistaken, a character misconceived, and
abilities misdirected, would turn for relief and guidance, I should
express what it presents to my own view.’

As she sat looking straight before her, across the changing lights upon
the grass into the darkness of the wood beyond, he saw in her face her
application of his very distinctly uttered words.

‘All allowance,’ he continued, ‘must be made.  I have one great fault to
find with Tom, however, which I cannot forgive, and for which I take him
heavily to account.’

Louisa turned her eyes to his face, and asked him what fault was that?

‘Perhaps,’ he returned, ‘I have said enough.  Perhaps it would have been
better, on the whole, if no allusion to it had escaped me.’

‘You alarm me, Mr. Harthouse.  Pray let me know it.’

‘To relieve you from needless apprehension—and as this confidence
regarding your brother, which I prize I am sure above all possible
things, has been established between us—I obey.  I cannot forgive him for
not being more sensible in every word, look, and act of his life, of the
affection of his best friend; of the devotion of his best friend; of her
unselfishness; of her sacrifice.  The return he makes her, within my
observation, is a very poor one.  What she has done for him demands his
constant love and gratitude, not his ill-humour and caprice.  Careless
fellow as I am, I am not so indifferent, Mrs. Bounderby, as to be
regardless of this vice in your brother, or inclined to consider it a
venial offence.’

The wood floated before her, for her eyes were suffused with tears.  They
rose from a deep well, long concealed, and her heart was filled with
acute pain that found no relief in them.

‘In a word, it is to correct your brother in this, Mrs. Bounderby, that I
must aspire.  My better knowledge of his circumstances, and my direction
and advice in extricating them—rather valuable, I hope, as coming from a
scapegrace on a much larger scale—will give me some influence over him,
and all I gain I shall certainly use towards this end.  I have said
enough, and more than enough.  I seem to be protesting that I am a sort
of good fellow, when, upon my honour, I have not the least intention to
make any protestation to that effect, and openly announce that I am
nothing of the sort.  Yonder, among the trees,’ he added, having lifted
up his eyes and looked about; for he had watched her closely until now;
‘is your brother himself; no doubt, just come down.  As he seems to be
loitering in this direction, it may be as well, perhaps, to walk towards
him, and throw ourselves in his way.  He has been very silent and doleful
of late.  Perhaps, his brotherly conscience is touched—if there are such
things as consciences.  Though, upon my honour, I hear of them much too
often to believe in them.’

He assisted her to rise, and she took his arm, and they advanced to meet
the whelp.  He was idly beating the branches as he lounged along: or he
stooped viciously to rip the moss from the trees with his stick.  He was
startled when they came upon him while he was engaged in this latter
pastime, and his colour changed.

‘Halloa!’ he stammered; ‘I didn’t know you were here.’

‘Whose name, Tom,’ said Mr. Harthouse, putting his hand upon his shoulder
and turning him, so that they all three walked towards the house
together, ‘have you been carving on the trees?’

‘Whose name?’ returned Tom.  ‘Oh!  You mean what girl’s name?’

‘You have a suspicious appearance of inscribing some fair creature’s on
the bark, Tom.’

         [Picture: Mr. Harthouse and Tom Gradgrind in the garden]

‘Not much of that, Mr. Harthouse, unless some fair creature with a
slashing fortune at her own disposal would take a fancy to me.  Or she
might be as ugly as she was rich, without any fear of losing me.  I’d
carve her name as often as she liked.’

‘I am afraid you are mercenary, Tom.’

‘Mercenary,’ repeated Tom.  ‘Who is not mercenary?  Ask my sister.’

‘Have you so proved it to be a failing of mine, Tom?’ said Louisa,
showing no other sense of his discontent and ill-nature.

‘You know whether the cap fits you, Loo,’ returned her brother sulkily.
‘If it does, you can wear it.’

‘Tom is misanthropical to-day, as all bored people are now and then,’
said Mr. Harthouse.  ‘Don’t believe him, Mrs. Bounderby.  He knows much
better.  I shall disclose some of his opinions of you, privately
expressed to me, unless he relents a little.’

‘At all events, Mr. Harthouse,’ said Tom, softening in his admiration of
his patron, but shaking his head sullenly too, ‘you can’t tell her that I
ever praised her for being mercenary.  I may have praised her for being
the contrary, and I should do it again, if I had as good reason.
However, never mind this now; it’s not very interesting to you, and I am
sick of the subject.’

They walked on to the house, where Louisa quitted her visitor’s arm and
went in.  He stood looking after her, as she ascended the steps, and
passed into the shadow of the door; then put his hand upon her brother’s
shoulder again, and invited him with a confidential nod to a walk in the
garden.

‘Tom, my fine fellow, I want to have a word with you.’

They had stopped among a disorder of roses—it was part of Mr. Bounderby’s
humility to keep Nickits’s roses on a reduced scale—and Tom sat down on a
terrace-parapet, plucking buds and picking them to pieces; while his
powerful Familiar stood over him, with a foot upon the parapet, and his
figure easily resting on the arm supported by that knee.  They were just
visible from her window.  Perhaps she saw them.

‘Tom, what’s the matter?’

‘Oh!  Mr. Harthouse,’ said Tom with a groan, ‘I am hard up, and bothered
out of my life.’

‘My good fellow, so am I.’

‘You!’ returned Tom.  ‘You are the picture of independence.  Mr.
Harthouse, I am in a horrible mess.  You have no idea what a state I have
got myself into—what a state my sister might have got me out of, if she
would only have done it.’

He took to biting the rosebuds now, and tearing them away from his teeth
with a hand that trembled like an infirm old man’s.  After one
exceedingly observant look at him, his companion relapsed into his
lightest air.

‘Tom, you are inconsiderate: you expect too much of your sister.  You
have had money of her, you dog, you know you have.’

‘Well, Mr. Harthouse, I know I have.  How else was I to get it?  Here’s
old Bounderby always boasting that at my age he lived upon twopence a
month, or something of that sort.  Here’s my father drawing what he calls
a line, and tying me down to it from a baby, neck and heels.  Here’s my
mother who never has anything of her own, except her complaints.  What
_is_ a fellow to do for money, and where _am_ I to look for it, if not to
my sister?’

He was almost crying, and scattered the buds about by dozens.  Mr.
Harthouse took him persuasively by the coat.

‘But, my dear Tom, if your sister has not got it—’

‘Not got it, Mr. Harthouse?  I don’t say she has got it.  I may have
wanted more than she was likely to have got.  But then she ought to get
it.  She could get it.  It’s of no use pretending to make a secret of
matters now, after what I have told you already; you know she didn’t
marry old Bounderby for her own sake, or for his sake, but for my sake.
Then why doesn’t she get what I want, out of him, for my sake?  She is
not obliged to say what she is going to do with it; she is sharp enough;
she could manage to coax it out of him, if she chose.  Then why doesn’t
she choose, when I tell her of what consequence it is?  But no.  There
she sits in his company like a stone, instead of making herself agreeable
and getting it easily.  I don’t know what you may call this, but I call
it unnatural conduct.’

There was a piece of ornamental water immediately below the parapet, on
the other side, into which Mr. James Harthouse had a very strong
inclination to pitch Mr. Thomas Gradgrind junior, as the injured men of
Coketown threatened to pitch their property into the Atlantic.  But he
preserved his easy attitude; and nothing more solid went over the stone
balustrades than the accumulated rosebuds now floating about, a little
surface-island.

‘My dear Tom,’ said Harthouse, ‘let me try to be your banker.’

‘For God’s sake,’ replied Tom, suddenly, ‘don’t talk about bankers!’  And
very white he looked, in contrast with the roses.  Very white.

Mr. Harthouse, as a thoroughly well-bred man, accustomed to the best
society, was not to be surprised—he could as soon have been affected—but
he raised his eyelids a little more, as if they were lifted by a feeble
touch of wonder.  Albeit it was as much against the precepts of his
school to wonder, as it was against the doctrines of the Gradgrind
College.

‘What is the present need, Tom?  Three figures?  Out with them.  Say what
they are.’

‘Mr. Harthouse,’ returned Tom, now actually crying; and his tears were
better than his injuries, however pitiful a figure he made: ‘it’s too
late; the money is of no use to me at present.  I should have had it
before to be of use to me.  But I am very much obliged to you; you’re a
true friend.’

A true friend!  ‘Whelp, whelp!’ thought Mr. Harthouse, lazily; ‘what an
Ass you are!’

‘And I take your offer as a great kindness,’ said Tom, grasping his hand.
‘As a great kindness, Mr. Harthouse.’

‘Well,’ returned the other, ‘it may be of more use by and by.  And, my
good fellow, if you will open your bedevilments to me when they come
thick upon you, I may show you better ways out of them than you can find
for yourself.’

‘Thank you,’ said Tom, shaking his head dismally, and chewing rosebuds.
‘I wish I had known you sooner, Mr. Harthouse.’

‘Now, you see, Tom,’ said Mr. Harthouse in conclusion, himself tossing
over a rose or two, as a contribution to the island, which was always
drifting to the wall as if it wanted to become a part of the mainland:
‘every man is selfish in everything he does, and I am exactly like the
rest of my fellow-creatures.  I am desperately intent;’ the languor of
his desperation being quite tropical; ‘on your softening towards your
sister—which you ought to do; and on your being a more loving and
agreeable sort of brother—which you ought to be.’

‘I will be, Mr. Harthouse.’

‘No time like the present, Tom.  Begin at once.’

‘Certainly I will.  And my sister Loo shall say so.’

‘Having made which bargain, Tom,’ said Harthouse, clapping him on the
shoulder again, with an air which left him at liberty to infer—as he did,
poor fool—that this condition was imposed upon him in mere careless good
nature to lessen his sense of obligation, ‘we will tear ourselves asunder
until dinner-time.’

When Tom appeared before dinner, though his mind seemed heavy enough, his
body was on the alert; and he appeared before Mr. Bounderby came in.  ‘I
didn’t mean to be cross, Loo,’ he said, giving her his hand, and kissing
her.  ‘I know you are fond of me, and you know I am fond of you.’

After this, there was a smile upon Louisa’s face that day, for some one
else.  Alas, for some one else!

‘So much the less is the whelp the only creature that she cares for,’
thought James Harthouse, reversing the reflection of his first day’s
knowledge of her pretty face.  ‘So much the less, so much the less.’



CHAPTER VIII
EXPLOSION


THE next morning was too bright a morning for sleep, and James Harthouse
rose early, and sat in the pleasant bay window of his dressing-room,
smoking the rare tobacco that had had so wholesome an influence on his
young friend.  Reposing in the sunlight, with the fragrance of his
eastern pipe about him, and the dreamy smoke vanishing into the air, so
rich and soft with summer odours, he reckoned up his advantages as an
idle winner might count his gains.  He was not at all bored for the time,
and could give his mind to it.

He had established a confidence with her, from which her husband was
excluded.  He had established a confidence with her, that absolutely
turned upon her indifference towards her husband, and the absence, now
and at all times, of any congeniality between them.  He had artfully, but
plainly, assured her that he knew her heart in its last most delicate
recesses; he had come so near to her through its tenderest sentiment; he
had associated himself with that feeling; and the barrier behind which
she lived, had melted away.  All very odd, and very satisfactory!

And yet he had not, even now, any earnest wickedness of purpose in him.
Publicly and privately, it were much better for the age in which he
lived, that he and the legion of whom he was one were designedly bad,
than indifferent and purposeless.  It is the drifting icebergs setting
with any current anywhere, that wreck the ships.

When the Devil goeth about like a roaring lion, he goeth about in a shape
by which few but savages and hunters are attracted.  But, when he is
trimmed, smoothed, and varnished, according to the mode; when he is
aweary of vice, and aweary of virtue, used up as to brimstone, and used
up as to bliss; then, whether he take to the serving out of red tape, or
to the kindling of red fire, he is the very Devil.

So James Harthouse reclined in the window, indolently smoking, and
reckoning up the steps he had taken on the road by which he happened to
be travelling.  The end to which it led was before him, pretty plainly;
but he troubled himself with no calculations about it.  What will be,
will be.

As he had rather a long ride to take that day—for there was a public
occasion ‘to do’ at some distance, which afforded a tolerable opportunity
of going in for the Gradgrind men—he dressed early and went down to
breakfast.  He was anxious to see if she had relapsed since the previous
evening.  No.  He resumed where he had left off.  There was a look of
interest for him again.

He got through the day as much (or as little) to his own satisfaction, as
was to be expected under the fatiguing circumstances; and came riding
back at six o’clock.  There was a sweep of some half-mile between the
lodge and the house, and he was riding along at a foot pace over the
smooth gravel, once Nickits’s, when Mr. Bounderby burst out of the
shrubbery, with such violence as to make his horse shy across the road.

‘Harthouse!’ cried Mr. Bounderby.  ‘Have you heard?’

‘Heard what?’ said Harthouse, soothing his horse, and inwardly favouring
Mr. Bounderby with no good wishes.

‘Then you _haven’t_ heard!’

‘I have heard you, and so has this brute.  I have heard nothing else.’

Mr. Bounderby, red and hot, planted himself in the centre of the path
before the horse’s head, to explode his bombshell with more effect.

‘The Bank’s robbed!’

‘You don’t mean it!’

‘Robbed last night, sir.  Robbed in an extraordinary manner.  Robbed with
a false key.’

‘Of much?’

Mr. Bounderby, in his desire to make the most of it, really seemed
mortified by being obliged to reply, ‘Why, no; not of very much.  But it
might have been.’

‘Of how much?’

‘Oh! as a sum—if you stick to a sum—of not more than a hundred and fifty
pound,’ said Bounderby, with impatience.  ‘But it’s not the sum; it’s the
fact.  It’s the fact of the Bank being robbed, that’s the important
circumstance.  I am surprised you don’t see it.’

‘My dear Bounderby,’ said James, dismounting, and giving his bridle to
his servant, ‘I _do_ see it; and am as overcome as you can possibly
desire me to be, by the spectacle afforded to my mental view.
Nevertheless, I may be allowed, I hope, to congratulate you—which I do
with all my soul, I assure you—on your not having sustained a greater
loss.’

‘Thank’ee,’ replied Bounderby, in a short, ungracious manner.  ‘But I
tell you what.  It might have been twenty thousand pound.’

‘I suppose it might.’

‘Suppose it might!  By the Lord, you _may_ suppose so.  By George!’ said
Mr. Bounderby, with sundry menacing nods and shakes of his head.  ‘It
might have been twice twenty.  There’s no knowing what it would have
been, or wouldn’t have been, as it was, but for the fellows’ being
disturbed.’

Louisa had come up now, and Mrs. Sparsit, and Bitzer.

‘Here’s Tom Gradgrind’s daughter knows pretty well what it might have
been, if you don’t,’ blustered Bounderby.  ‘Dropped, sir, as if she was
shot when I told her!  Never knew her do such a thing before.  Does her
credit, under the circumstances, in my opinion!’

She still looked faint and pale.  James Harthouse begged her to take his
arm; and as they moved on very slowly, asked her how the robbery had been
committed.

‘Why, I am going to tell you,’ said Bounderby, irritably giving his arm
to Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘If you hadn’t been so mighty particular about the sum,
I should have begun to tell you before.  You know this lady (for she _is_
a lady), Mrs. Sparsit?’

‘I have already had the honour—’

‘Very well.  And this young man, Bitzer, you saw him too on the same
occasion?’  Mr. Harthouse inclined his head in assent, and Bitzer
knuckled his forehead.

‘Very well.  They live at the Bank.  You know they live at the Bank,
perhaps?  Very well.  Yesterday afternoon, at the close of business
hours, everything was put away as usual.  In the iron room that this
young fellow sleeps outside of, there was never mind how much.  In the
little safe in young Tom’s closet, the safe used for petty purposes,
there was a hundred and fifty odd pound.’

‘A hundred and fifty-four, seven, one,’ said Bitzer.

‘Come!’ retorted Bounderby, stopping to wheel round upon him, ‘let’s have
none of _your_ interruptions.  It’s enough to be robbed while you’re
snoring because you’re too comfortable, without being put right with
_your_ four seven ones.  I didn’t snore, myself, when I was your age, let
me tell you.  I hadn’t victuals enough to snore.  And I didn’t four seven
one.  Not if I knew it.’

Bitzer knuckled his forehead again, in a sneaking manner, and seemed at
once particularly impressed and depressed by the instance last given of
Mr. Bounderby’s moral abstinence.

‘A hundred and fifty odd pound,’ resumed Mr. Bounderby.  ‘That sum of
money, young Tom locked in his safe, not a very strong safe, but that’s
no matter now.  Everything was left, all right.  Some time in the night,
while this young fellow snored—Mrs. Sparsit, ma’am, you say you have
heard him snore?’

‘Sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, ‘I cannot say that I have heard him
precisely snore, and therefore must not make that statement.  But on
winter evenings, when he has fallen asleep at his table, I have heard
him, what I should prefer to describe as partially choke.  I have heard
him on such occasions produce sounds of a nature similar to what may be
sometimes heard in Dutch clocks.  Not,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, with a lofty
sense of giving strict evidence, ‘that I would convey any imputation on
his moral character.  Far from it.  I have always considered Bitzer a
young man of the most upright principle; and to that I beg to bear my
testimony.’

‘Well!’ said the exasperated Bounderby, ‘while he was snoring, _or_
choking, _or_ Dutch-clocking, _or_ something _or_ other—being asleep—some
fellows, somehow, whether previously concealed in the house or not
remains to be seen, got to young Tom’s safe, forced it, and abstracted
the contents.  Being then disturbed, they made off; letting themselves
out at the main door, and double-locking it again (it was double-locked,
and the key under Mrs. Sparsit’s pillow) with a false key, which was
picked up in the street near the Bank, about twelve o’clock to-day.  No
alarm takes place, till this chap, Bitzer, turns out this morning, and
begins to open and prepare the offices for business.  Then, looking at
Tom’s safe, he sees the door ajar, and finds the lock forced, and the
money gone.’

‘Where is Tom, by the by?’ asked Harthouse, glancing round.

‘He has been helping the police,’ said Bounderby, ‘and stays behind at
the Bank.  I wish these fellows had tried to rob me when I was at his
time of life.  They would have been out of pocket if they had invested
eighteenpence in the job; I can tell ’em that.’

‘Is anybody suspected?’

‘Suspected?  I should think there was somebody suspected.  Egod!’ said
Bounderby, relinquishing Mrs. Sparsit’s arm to wipe his heated head.
‘Josiah Bounderby of Coketown is not to be plundered and nobody
suspected.  No, thank you!’

Might Mr. Harthouse inquire Who was suspected?

‘Well,’ said Bounderby, stopping and facing about to confront them all,
‘I’ll tell you.  It’s not to be mentioned everywhere; it’s not to be
mentioned anywhere: in order that the scoundrels concerned (there’s a
gang of ’em) may be thrown off their guard.  So take this in confidence.
Now wait a bit.’  Mr. Bounderby wiped his head again.  ‘What should you
say to;’ here he violently exploded: ‘to a Hand being in it?’

‘I hope,’ said Harthouse, lazily, ‘not our friend Blackpot?’

‘Say Pool instead of Pot, sir,’ returned Bounderby, ‘and that’s the man.’

Louisa faintly uttered some word of incredulity and surprise.

‘O yes!  I know!’ said Bounderby, immediately catching at the sound.  ‘I
know!  I am used to that.  I know all about it.  They are the finest
people in the world, these fellows are.  They have got the gift of the
gab, they have.  They only want to have their rights explained to them,
they do.  But I tell you what.  Show me a dissatisfied Hand, and I’ll
show you a man that’s fit for anything bad, I don’t care what it is.’

Another of the popular fictions of Coketown, which some pains had been
taken to disseminate—and which some people really believed.

‘But I am acquainted with these chaps,’ said Bounderby.  ‘I can read ’em
off, like books.  Mrs. Sparsit, ma’am, I appeal to you.  What warning did
I give that fellow, the first time he set foot in the house, when the
express object of his visit was to know how he could knock Religion over,
and floor the Established Church?  Mrs. Sparsit, in point of high
connexions, you are on a level with the aristocracy,—did I say, or did I
not say, to that fellow, “you can’t hide the truth from me: you are not
the kind of fellow I like; you’ll come to no good”?’

‘Assuredly, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, ‘you did, in a highly impressive
manner, give him such an admonition.’

‘When he shocked you, ma’am,’ said Bounderby; ‘when he shocked your
feelings?’

‘Yes, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a meek shake of her head, ‘he
certainly did so.  Though I do not mean to say but that my feelings may
be weaker on such points—more foolish if the term is preferred—than they
might have been, if I had always occupied my present position.’

Mr. Bounderby stared with a bursting pride at Mr. Harthouse, as much as
to say, ‘I am the proprietor of this female, and she’s worth your
attention, I think.’  Then, resumed his discourse.

‘You can recall for yourself, Harthouse, what I said to him when you saw
him.  I didn’t mince the matter with him.  I am never mealy with ’em.  I
KNOW ’em.  Very well, sir.  Three days after that, he bolted.  Went off,
nobody knows where: as my mother did in my infancy—only with this
difference, that he is a worse subject than my mother, if possible.  What
did he do before he went?  What do you say;’ Mr. Bounderby, with his hat
in his hand, gave a beat upon the crown at every little division of his
sentences, as if it were a tambourine; ‘to his being seen—night after
night—watching the Bank?—to his lurking about there—after dark?—To its
striking Mrs. Sparsit—that he could be lurking for no good—To her calling
Bitzer’s attention to him, and their both taking notice of him—And to its
appearing on inquiry to-day—that he was also noticed by the neighbours?’
Having come to the climax, Mr. Bounderby, like an oriental dancer, put
his tambourine on his head.

‘Suspicious,’ said James Harthouse, ‘certainly.’

‘I think so, sir,’ said Bounderby, with a defiant nod.  ‘I think so.  But
there are more of ’em in it.  There’s an old woman.  One never hears of
these things till the mischief’s done; all sorts of defects are found out
in the stable door after the horse is stolen; there’s an old woman turns
up now.  An old woman who seems to have been flying into town on a
broomstick, every now and then.  _She_ watches the place a whole day
before this fellow begins, and on the night when you saw him, she steals
away with him and holds a council with him—I suppose, to make her report
on going off duty, and be damned to her.’

There was such a person in the room that night, and she shrunk from
observation, thought Louisa.

‘This is not all of ’em, even as we already know ’em,’ said Bounderby,
with many nods of hidden meaning.  ‘But I have said enough for the
present.  You’ll have the goodness to keep it quiet, and mention it to no
one.  It may take time, but we shall have ’em.  It’s policy to give ’em
line enough, and there’s no objection to that.’

‘Of course, they will be punished with the utmost rigour of the law, as
notice-boards observe,’ replied James Harthouse, ‘and serve them right.
Fellows who go in for Banks must take the consequences.  If there were no
consequences, we should all go in for Banks.’  He had gently taken
Louisa’s parasol from her hand, and had put it up for her; and she walked
under its shade, though the sun did not shine there.

‘For the present, Loo Bounderby,’ said her husband, ‘here’s Mrs. Sparsit
to look after.  Mrs. Sparsit’s nerves have been acted upon by this
business, and she’ll stay here a day or two.  So make her comfortable.’

‘Thank you very much, sir,’ that discreet lady observed, ‘but pray do not
let My comfort be a consideration.  Anything will do for Me.’

It soon appeared that if Mrs. Sparsit had a failing in her association
with that domestic establishment, it was that she was so excessively
regardless of herself and regardful of others, as to be a nuisance.  On
being shown her chamber, she was so dreadfully sensible of its comforts
as to suggest the inference that she would have preferred to pass the
night on the mangle in the laundry.  True, the Powlers and the Scadgerses
were accustomed to splendour, ‘but it is my duty to remember,’ Mrs.
Sparsit was fond of observing with a lofty grace: particularly when any
of the domestics were present, ‘that what I was, I am no longer.
Indeed,’ said she, ‘if I could altogether cancel the remembrance that Mr.
Sparsit was a Powler, or that I myself am related to the Scadgers family;
or if I could even revoke the fact, and make myself a person of common
descent and ordinary connexions; I would gladly do so.  I should think
it, under existing circumstances, right to do so.’  The same Hermitical
state of mind led to her renunciation of made dishes and wines at dinner,
until fairly commanded by Mr. Bounderby to take them; when she said,
‘Indeed you are very good, sir;’ and departed from a resolution of which
she had made rather formal and public announcement, to ‘wait for the
simple mutton.’  She was likewise deeply apologetic for wanting the salt;
and, feeling amiably bound to bear out Mr. Bounderby to the fullest
extent in the testimony he had borne to her nerves, occasionally sat back
in her chair and silently wept; at which periods a tear of large
dimensions, like a crystal ear-ring, might be observed (or rather, must
be, for it insisted on public notice) sliding down her Roman nose.

But Mrs. Sparsit’s greatest point, first and last, was her determination
to pity Mr. Bounderby.  There were occasions when in looking at him she
was involuntarily moved to shake her head, as who would say, ‘Alas, poor
Yorick!’  After allowing herself to be betrayed into these evidences of
emotion, she would force a lambent brightness, and would be fitfully
cheerful, and would say, ‘You have still good spirits, sir, I am thankful
to find;’ and would appear to hail it as a blessed dispensation that Mr.
Bounderby bore up as he did.  One idiosyncrasy for which she often
apologized, she found it excessively difficult to conquer.  She had a
curious propensity to call Mrs. Bounderby ‘Miss Gradgrind,’ and yielded
to it some three or four score times in the course of the evening.  Her
repetition of this mistake covered Mrs. Sparsit with modest confusion;
but indeed, she said, it seemed so natural to say Miss Gradgrind:
whereas, to persuade herself that the young lady whom she had had the
happiness of knowing from a child could be really and truly Mrs.
Bounderby, she found almost impossible.  It was a further singularity of
this remarkable case, that the more she thought about it, the more
impossible it appeared; ‘the differences,’ she observed, ‘being such.’

In the drawing-room after dinner, Mr. Bounderby tried the case of the
robbery, examined the witnesses, made notes of the evidence, found the
suspected persons guilty, and sentenced them to the extreme punishment of
the law.  That done, Bitzer was dismissed to town with instructions to
recommend Tom to come home by the mail-train.

When candles were brought, Mrs. Sparsit murmured, ‘Don’t be low, sir.
Pray let me see you cheerful, sir, as I used to do.’  Mr. Bounderby, upon
whom these consolations had begun to produce the effect of making him, in
a bull-headed blundering way, sentimental, sighed like some large
sea-animal.  ‘I cannot bear to see you so, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘Try
a hand at backgammon, sir, as you used to do when I had the honour of
living under your roof.’  ‘I haven’t played backgammon, ma’am,’ said Mr.
Bounderby, ‘since that time.’  ‘No, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, soothingly,
‘I am aware that you have not.  I remember that Miss Gradgrind takes no
interest in the game.  But I shall be happy, sir, if you will
condescend.’

They played near a window, opening on the garden.  It was a fine night:
not moonlight, but sultry and fragrant.  Louisa and Mr. Harthouse
strolled out into the garden, where their voices could be heard in the
stillness, though not what they said.  Mrs. Sparsit, from her place at
the backgammon board, was constantly straining her eyes to pierce the
shadows without.  ‘What’s the matter, ma’am?’ said Mr. Bounderby; ‘you
don’t see a Fire, do you?’  ‘Oh dear no, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, ‘I
was thinking of the dew.’  ‘What have you got to do with the dew, ma’am?’
said Mr. Bounderby.  ‘It’s not myself, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, ‘I am
fearful of Miss Gradgrind’s taking cold.’  ‘She never takes cold,’ said
Mr. Bounderby.  ‘Really, sir?’ said Mrs. Sparsit.  And was affected with
a cough in her throat.

When the time drew near for retiring, Mr. Bounderby took a glass of
water.  ‘Oh, sir?’ said Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘Not your sherry warm, with
lemon-peel and nutmeg?’  ‘Why, I have got out of the habit of taking it
now, ma’am,’ said Mr. Bounderby.  ‘The more’s the pity, sir,’ returned
Mrs. Sparsit; ‘you are losing all your good old habits.  Cheer up, sir!
If Miss Gradgrind will permit me, I will offer to make it for you, as I
have often done.’

Miss Gradgrind readily permitting Mrs. Sparsit to do anything she
pleased, that considerate lady made the beverage, and handed it to Mr.
Bounderby.  ‘It will do you good, sir.  It will warm your heart.  It is
the sort of thing you want, and ought to take, sir.’  And when Mr.
Bounderby said, ‘Your health, ma’am!’ she answered with great feeling,
‘Thank you, sir.  The same to you, and happiness also.’  Finally, she
wished him good night, with great pathos; and Mr. Bounderby went to bed,
with a maudlin persuasion that he had been crossed in something tender,
though he could not, for his life, have mentioned what it was.

Long after Louisa had undressed and lain down, she watched and waited for
her brother’s coming home.  That could hardly be, she knew, until an hour
past midnight; but in the country silence, which did anything but calm
the trouble of her thoughts, time lagged wearily.  At last, when the
darkness and stillness had seemed for hours to thicken one another, she
heard the bell at the gate.  She felt as though she would have been glad
that it rang on until daylight; but it ceased, and the circles of its
last sound spread out fainter and wider in the air, and all was dead
again.

She waited yet some quarter of an hour, as she judged.  Then she arose,
put on a loose robe, and went out of her room in the dark, and up the
staircase to her brother’s room.  His door being shut, she softly opened
it and spoke to him, approaching his bed with a noiseless step.

She kneeled down beside it, passed her arm over his neck, and drew his
face to hers.  She knew that he only feigned to be asleep, but she said
nothing to him.

He started by and by as if he were just then awakened, and asked who that
was, and what was the matter?

‘Tom, have you anything to tell me?  If ever you loved me in your life,
and have anything concealed from every one besides, tell it to me.’

‘I don’t know what you mean, Loo.  You have been dreaming.’

‘My dear brother:’ she laid her head down on his pillow, and her hair
flowed over him as if she would hide him from every one but herself: ‘is
there nothing that you have to tell me?  Is there nothing you can tell me
if you will?  You can tell me nothing that will change me.  O Tom, tell
me the truth!’

‘I don’t know what you mean, Loo!’

‘As you lie here alone, my dear, in the melancholy night, so you must lie
somewhere one night, when even I, if I am living then, shall have left
you.  As I am here beside you, barefoot, unclothed, undistinguishable in
darkness, so must I lie through all the night of my decay, until I am
dust.  In the name of that time, Tom, tell me the truth now!’

‘What is it you want to know?’

‘You may be certain;’ in the energy of her love she took him to her bosom
as if he were a child; ‘that I will not reproach you.  You may be certain
that I will be compassionate and true to you.  You may be certain that I
will save you at whatever cost.  O Tom, have you nothing to tell me?
Whisper very softly.  Say only “yes,” and I shall understand you!’

She turned her ear to his lips, but he remained doggedly silent.

‘Not a word, Tom?’

‘How can I say Yes, or how can I say No, when I don’t know what you mean?
Loo, you are a brave, kind girl, worthy I begin to think of a better
brother than I am.  But I have nothing more to say.  Go to bed, go to
bed.’

‘You are tired,’ she whispered presently, more in her usual way.

‘Yes, I am quite tired out.’

‘You have been so hurried and disturbed to-day.  Have any fresh
discoveries been made?’

‘Only those you have heard of, from—him.’

‘Tom, have you said to any one that we made a visit to those people, and
that we saw those three together?’

‘No.  Didn’t you yourself particularly ask me to keep it quiet when you
asked me to go there with you?’

‘Yes.  But I did not know then what was going to happen.’

‘Nor I neither.  How could I?’

He was very quick upon her with this retort.

‘Ought I to say, after what has happened,’ said his sister, standing by
the bed—she had gradually withdrawn herself and risen, ‘that I made that
visit?  Should I say so?  Must I say so?’

‘Good Heavens, Loo,’ returned her brother, ‘you are not in the habit of
asking my advice.  Say what you like.  If you keep it to yourself, I
shall keep it to _my_self.  If you disclose it, there’s an end of it.’

It was too dark for either to see the other’s face; but each seemed very
attentive, and to consider before speaking.

‘Tom, do you believe the man I gave the money to, is really implicated in
this crime?’

‘I don’t know.  I don’t see why he shouldn’t be.’

‘He seemed to me an honest man.’

‘Another person may seem to you dishonest, and yet not be so.’  There was
a pause, for he had hesitated and stopped.

‘In short,’ resumed Tom, as if he had made up his mind, ‘if you come to
that, perhaps I was so far from being altogether in his favour, that I
took him outside the door to tell him quietly, that I thought he might
consider himself very well off to get such a windfall as he had got from
my sister, and that I hoped he would make good use of it.  You remember
whether I took him out or not.  I say nothing against the man; he may be
a very good fellow, for anything I know; I hope he is.’

‘Was he offended by what you said?’

‘No, he took it pretty well; he was civil enough.  Where are you, Loo?’
He sat up in bed and kissed her.  ‘Good night, my dear, good night.’

‘You have nothing more to tell me?’

‘No.  What should I have?  You wouldn’t have me tell you a lie!’

‘I wouldn’t have you do that to-night, Tom, of all the nights in your
life; many and much happier as I hope they will be.’

‘Thank you, my dear Loo.  I am so tired, that I am sure I wonder I don’t
say anything to get to sleep.  Go to bed, go to bed.’

Kissing her again, he turned round, drew the coverlet over his head, and
lay as still as if that time had come by which she had adjured him.  She
stood for some time at the bedside before she slowly moved away.  She
stopped at the door, looked back when she had opened it, and asked him if
he had called her?  But he lay still, and she softly closed the door and
returned to her room.

Then the wretched boy looked cautiously up and found her gone, crept out
of bed, fastened his door, and threw himself upon his pillow again:
tearing his hair, morosely crying, grudgingly loving her, hatefully but
impenitently spurning himself, and no less hatefully and unprofitably
spurning all the good in the world.



CHAPTER IX
HEARING THE LAST OF IT


MRS. SPARSIT, lying by to recover the tone of her nerves in Mr.
Bounderby’s retreat, kept such a sharp look-out, night and day, under her
Coriolanian eyebrows, that her eyes, like a couple of lighthouses on an
iron-bound coast, might have warned all prudent mariners from that bold
rock her Roman nose and the dark and craggy region in its neighbourhood,
but for the placidity of her manner.  Although it was hard to believe
that her retiring for the night could be anything but a form, so severely
wide awake were those classical eyes of hers, and so impossible did it
seem that her rigid nose could yield to any relaxing influence, yet her
manner of sitting, smoothing her uncomfortable, not to say, gritty
mittens (they were constructed of a cool fabric like a meat-safe), or of
ambling to unknown places of destination with her foot in her cotton
stirrup, was so perfectly serene, that most observers would have been
constrained to suppose her a dove, embodied by some freak of nature, in
the earthly tabernacle of a bird of the hook-beaked order.

She was a most wonderful woman for prowling about the house.  How she got
from story to story was a mystery beyond solution.  A lady so decorous in
herself, and so highly connected, was not to be suspected of dropping
over the banisters or sliding down them, yet her extraordinary facility
of locomotion suggested the wild idea.  Another noticeable circumstance
in Mrs. Sparsit was, that she was never hurried.  She would shoot with
consummate velocity from the roof to the hall, yet would be in full
possession of her breath and dignity on the moment of her arrival there.
Neither was she ever seen by human vision to go at a great pace.

She took very kindly to Mr. Harthouse, and had some pleasant conversation
with him soon after her arrival.  She made him her stately curtsey in the
garden, one morning before breakfast.

‘It appears but yesterday, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘that I had the
honour of receiving you at the Bank, when you were so good as to wish to
be made acquainted with Mr. Bounderby’s address.’

‘An occasion, I am sure, not to be forgotten by myself in the course of
Ages,’ said Mr. Harthouse, inclining his head to Mrs. Sparsit with the
most indolent of all possible airs.

‘We live in a singular world, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.

‘I have had the honour, by a coincidence of which I am proud, to have
made a remark, similar in effect, though not so epigrammatically
expressed.’

‘A singular world, I would say, sir,’ pursued Mrs. Sparsit; after
acknowledging the compliment with a drooping of her dark eyebrows, not
altogether so mild in its expression as her voice was in its dulcet
tones; ‘as regards the intimacies we form at one time, with individuals
we were quite ignorant of, at another.  I recall, sir, that on that
occasion you went so far as to say you were actually apprehensive of Miss
Gradgrind.’

‘Your memory does me more honour than my insignificance deserves.  I
availed myself of your obliging hints to correct my timidity, and it is
unnecessary to add that they were perfectly accurate.  Mrs. Sparsit’s
talent for—in fact for anything requiring accuracy—with a combination of
strength of mind—and Family—is too habitually developed to admit of any
question.’  He was almost falling asleep over this compliment; it took
him so long to get through, and his mind wandered so much in the course
of its execution.

‘You found Miss Gradgrind—I really cannot call her Mrs. Bounderby; it’s
very absurd of me—as youthful as I described her?’ asked Mrs. Sparsit,
sweetly.

‘You drew her portrait perfectly,’ said Mr. Harthouse.  ‘Presented her
dead image.’

‘Very engaging, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, causing her mittens slowly to
revolve over one another.

‘Highly so.’

‘It used to be considered,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘that Miss Gradgrind was
wanting in animation, but I confess she appears to me considerably and
strikingly improved in that respect.  Ay, and indeed here _is_ Mr.
Bounderby!’ cried Mrs. Sparsit, nodding her head a great many times, as
if she had been talking and thinking of no one else.  ‘How do you find
yourself this morning, sir?  Pray let us see you cheerful, sir.’

Now, these persistent assuagements of his misery, and lightenings of his
load, had by this time begun to have the effect of making Mr. Bounderby
softer than usual towards Mrs. Sparsit, and harder than usual to most
other people from his wife downward.  So, when Mrs. Sparsit said with
forced lightness of heart, ‘You want your breakfast, sir, but I dare say
Miss Gradgrind will soon be here to preside at the table,’ Mr. Bounderby
replied, ‘If I waited to be taken care of by my wife, ma’am, I believe
you know pretty well I should wait till Doomsday, so I’ll trouble _you_
to take charge of the teapot.’  Mrs. Sparsit complied, and assumed her
old position at table.

This again made the excellent woman vastly sentimental.  She was so
humble withal, that when Louisa appeared, she rose, protesting she never
could think of sitting in that place under existing circumstances, often
as she had had the honour of making Mr. Bounderby’s breakfast, before
Mrs. Gradgrind—she begged pardon, she meant to say Miss Bounderby—she
hoped to be excused, but she really could not get it right yet, though
she trusted to become familiar with it by and by—had assumed her present
position.  It was only (she observed) because Miss Gradgrind happened to
be a little late, and Mr. Bounderby’s time was so very precious, and she
knew it of old to be so essential that he should breakfast to the moment,
that she had taken the liberty of complying with his request; long as his
will had been a law to her.

‘There!  Stop where you are, ma’am,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘stop where you
are!  Mrs. Bounderby will be very glad to be relieved of the trouble, I
believe.’

‘Don’t say that, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, almost with severity,
‘because that is very unkind to Mrs. Bounderby.  And to be unkind is not
to be you, sir.’

‘You may set your mind at rest, ma’am.—You can take it very quietly,
can’t you, Loo?’ said Mr. Bounderby, in a blustering way to his wife.

‘Of course.  It is of no moment.  Why should it be of any importance to
me?’

‘Why should it be of any importance to any one, Mrs. Sparsit, ma’am?’
said Mr. Bounderby, swelling with a sense of slight.  ‘You attach too
much importance to these things, ma’am.  By George, you’ll be corrupted
in some of your notions here.  You are old-fashioned, ma’am.  You are
behind Tom Gradgrind’s children’s time.’

‘What is the matter with you?’ asked Louisa, coldly surprised.  ‘What has
given you offence?’

‘Offence!’ repeated Bounderby.  ‘Do you suppose if there was any offence
given me, I shouldn’t name it, and request to have it corrected?  I am a
straightforward man, I believe.  I don’t go beating about for
side-winds.’

‘I suppose no one ever had occasion to think you too diffident, or too
delicate,’ Louisa answered him composedly: ‘I have never made that
objection to you, either as a child or as a woman.  I don’t understand
what you would have.’

‘Have?’ returned Mr. Bounderby.  ‘Nothing.  Otherwise, don’t you, Loo
Bounderby, know thoroughly well that I, Josiah Bounderby of Coketown,
would have it?’

She looked at him, as he struck the table and made the teacups ring, with
a proud colour in her face that was a new change, Mr. Harthouse thought.
‘You are incomprehensible this morning,’ said Louisa.  ‘Pray take no
further trouble to explain yourself.  I am not curious to know your
meaning.  What does it matter?’

Nothing more was said on this theme, and Mr. Harthouse was soon idly gay
on indifferent subjects.  But from this day, the Sparsit action upon Mr.
Bounderby threw Louisa and James Harthouse more together, and
strengthened the dangerous alienation from her husband and confidence
against him with another, into which she had fallen by degrees so fine
that she could not retrace them if she tried.  But whether she ever tried
or no, lay hidden in her own closed heart.

Mrs. Sparsit was so much affected on this particular occasion, that,
assisting Mr. Bounderby to his hat after breakfast, and being then alone
with him in the hall, she imprinted a chaste kiss upon his hand, murmured
‘My benefactor!’ and retired, overwhelmed with grief.  Yet it is an
indubitable fact, within the cognizance of this history, that five
minutes after he had left the house in the self-same hat, the same
descendant of the Scadgerses and connexion by matrimony of the Powlers,
shook her right-hand mitten at his portrait, made a contemptuous grimace
at that work of art, and said ‘Serve you right, you Noodle, and I am glad
of it.’

Mr. Bounderby had not been long gone, when Bitzer appeared.  Bitzer had
come down by train, shrieking and rattling over the long line of arches
that bestrode the wild country of past and present coal-pits, with an
express from Stone Lodge.  It was a hasty note to inform Louisa that Mrs.
Gradgrind lay very ill.  She had never been well within her daughter’s
knowledge; but, she had declined within the last few days, had continued
sinking all through the night, and was now as nearly dead, as her limited
capacity of being in any state that implied the ghost of an intention to
get out of it, allowed.

Accompanied by the lightest of porters, fit colourless servitor at
Death’s door when Mrs. Gradgrind knocked, Louisa rumbled to Coketown,
over the coal-pits past and present, and was whirled into its smoky jaws.
She dismissed the messenger to his own devices, and rode away to her old
home.

She had seldom been there since her marriage.  Her father was usually
sifting and sifting at his parliamentary cinder-heap in London (without
being observed to turn up many precious articles among the rubbish), and
was still hard at it in the national dust-yard.  Her mother had taken it
rather as a disturbance than otherwise, to be visited, as she reclined
upon her sofa; young people, Louisa felt herself all unfit for; Sissy she
had never softened to again, since the night when the stroller’s child
had raised her eyes to look at Mr. Bounderby’s intended wife.  She had no
inducements to go back, and had rarely gone.

Neither, as she approached her old home now, did any of the best
influences of old home descend upon her.  The dreams of childhood—its
airy fables; its graceful, beautiful, humane, impossible adornments of
the world beyond: so good to be believed in once, so good to be
remembered when outgrown, for then the least among them rises to the
stature of a great Charity in the heart, suffering little children to
come into the midst of it, and to keep with their pure hands a garden in
the stony ways of this world, wherein it were better for all the children
of Adam that they should oftener sun themselves, simple and trustful, and
not worldly-wise—what had she to do with these?  Remembrances of how she
had journeyed to the little that she knew, by the enchanted roads of what
she and millions of innocent creatures had hoped and imagined; of how,
first coming upon Reason through the tender light of Fancy, she had seen
it a beneficent god, deferring to gods as great as itself; not a grim
Idol, cruel and cold, with its victims bound hand to foot, and its big
dumb shape set up with a sightless stare, never to be moved by anything
but so many calculated tons of leverage—what had she to do with these?
Her remembrances of home and childhood were remembrances of the drying up
of every spring and fountain in her young heart as it gushed out.  The
golden waters were not there.  They were flowing for the fertilization of
the land where grapes are gathered from thorns, and figs from thistles.

She went, with a heavy, hardened kind of sorrow upon her, into the house
and into her mother’s room.  Since the time of her leaving home, Sissy
had lived with the rest of the family on equal terms.  Sissy was at her
mother’s side; and Jane, her sister, now ten or twelve years old, was in
the room.

There was great trouble before it could be made known to Mrs. Gradgrind
that her eldest child was there.  She reclined, propped up, from mere
habit, on a couch: as nearly in her old usual attitude, as anything so
helpless could be kept in.  She had positively refused to take to her
bed; on the ground that if she did, she would never hear the last of it.

Her feeble voice sounded so far away in her bundle of shawls, and the
sound of another voice addressing her seemed to take such a long time in
getting down to her ears, that she might have been lying at the bottom of
a well.  The poor lady was nearer Truth than she ever had been: which had
much to do with it.

On being told that Mrs. Bounderby was there, she replied, at
cross-purposes, that she had never called him by that name since he
married Louisa; that pending her choice of an objectionable name, she had
called him J; and that she could not at present depart from that
regulation, not being yet provided with a permanent substitute.  Louisa
had sat by her for some minutes, and had spoken to her often, before she
arrived at a clear understanding who it was.  She then seemed to come to
it all at once.

‘Well, my dear,’ said Mrs. Gradgrind, ‘and I hope you are going on
satisfactorily to yourself.  It was all your father’s doing.  He set his
heart upon it.  And he ought to know.’

‘I want to hear of you, mother; not of myself.’

‘You want to hear of me, my dear?  That’s something new, I am sure, when
anybody wants to hear of me.  Not at all well, Louisa.  Very faint and
giddy.’

‘Are you in pain, dear mother?’

‘I think there’s a pain somewhere in the room,’ said Mrs. Gradgrind, ‘but
I couldn’t positively say that I have got it.’

After this strange speech, she lay silent for some time.  Louisa, holding
her hand, could feel no pulse; but kissing it, could see a slight thin
thread of life in fluttering motion.

‘You very seldom see your sister,’ said Mrs. Gradgrind.  ‘She grows like
you.  I wish you would look at her.  Sissy, bring her here.’

She was brought, and stood with her hand in her sister’s.  Louisa had
observed her with her arm round Sissy’s neck, and she felt the difference
of this approach.

‘Do you see the likeness, Louisa?’

‘Yes, mother.  I should think her like me.  But—’

‘Eh!  Yes, I always say so,’ Mrs. Gradgrind cried, with unexpected
quickness.  ‘And that reminds me.  I—I want to speak to you, my dear.
Sissy, my good girl, leave us alone a minute.’ Louisa had relinquished
the hand: had thought that her sister’s was a better and brighter face
than hers had ever been: had seen in it, not without a rising feeling of
resentment, even in that place and at that time, something of the
gentleness of the other face in the room; the sweet face with the
trusting eyes, made paler than watching and sympathy made it, by the rich
dark hair.

Left alone with her mother, Louisa saw her lying with an awful lull upon
her face, like one who was floating away upon some great water, all
resistance over, content to be carried down the stream.  She put the
shadow of a hand to her lips again, and recalled her.

‘You were going to speak to me, mother.’

‘Eh?  Yes, to be sure, my dear.  You know your father is almost always
away now, and therefore I must write to him about it.’

‘About what, mother?  Don’t be troubled.  About what?’

‘You must remember, my dear, that whenever I have said anything, on any
subject, I have never heard the last of it: and consequently, that I have
long left off saying anything.’

‘I can hear you, mother.’  But, it was only by dint of bending down to
her ear, and at the same time attentively watching the lips as they
moved, that she could link such faint and broken sounds into any chain of
connexion.

‘You learnt a great deal, Louisa, and so did your brother.  Ologies of
all kinds from morning to night.  If there is any Ology left, of any
description, that has not been worn to rags in this house, all I can say
is, I hope I shall never hear its name.’

‘I can hear you, mother, when you have strength to go on.’  This, to keep
her from floating away.

‘But there is something—not an Ology at all—that your father has missed,
or forgotten, Louisa.  I don’t know what it is.  I have often sat with
Sissy near me, and thought about it.  I shall never get its name now.
But your father may.  It makes me restless.  I want to write to him, to
find out for God’s sake, what it is.  Give me a pen, give me a pen.’

Even the power of restlessness was gone, except from the poor head, which
could just turn from side to side.

She fancied, however, that her request had been complied with, and that
the pen she could not have held was in her hand.  It matters little what
figures of wonderful no-meaning she began to trace upon her wrappers.
The hand soon stopped in the midst of them; the light that had always
been feeble and dim behind the weak transparency, went out; and even Mrs.
Gradgrind, emerged from the shadow in which man walketh and disquieteth
himself in vain, took upon her the dread solemnity of the sages and
patriarchs.



CHAPTER X
MRS. SPARSIT’S STAIRCASE


MRS. SPARSIT’S nerves being slow to recover their tone, the worthy woman
made a stay of some weeks in duration at Mr. Bounderby’s retreat, where,
notwithstanding her anchorite turn of mind based upon her becoming
consciousness of her altered station, she resigned herself with noble
fortitude to lodging, as one may say, in clover, and feeding on the fat
of the land.  During the whole term of this recess from the guardianship
of the Bank, Mrs. Sparsit was a pattern of consistency; continuing to
take such pity on Mr. Bounderby to his face, as is rarely taken on man,
and to call his portrait a Noodle to _its_ face, with the greatest
acrimony and contempt.

Mr. Bounderby, having got it into his explosive composition that Mrs.
Sparsit was a highly superior woman to perceive that he had that general
cross upon him in his deserts (for he had not yet settled what it was),
and further that Louisa would have objected to her as a frequent visitor
if it had comported with his greatness that she should object to anything
he chose to do, resolved not to lose sight of Mrs. Sparsit easily.  So
when her nerves were strung up to the pitch of again consuming
sweetbreads in solitude, he said to her at the dinner-table, on the day
before her departure, ‘I tell you what, ma’am; you shall come down here
of a Saturday, while the fine weather lasts, and stay till Monday.’  To
which Mrs. Sparsit returned, in effect, though not of the Mahomedan
persuasion: ‘To hear is to obey.’

Now, Mrs. Sparsit was not a poetical woman; but she took an idea in the
nature of an allegorical fancy, into her head.  Much watching of Louisa,
and much consequent observation of her impenetrable demeanour, which
keenly whetted and sharpened Mrs. Sparsit’s edge, must have given her as
it were a lift, in the way of inspiration.  She erected in her mind a
mighty Staircase, with a dark pit of shame and ruin at the bottom; and
down those stairs, from day to day and hour to hour, she saw Louisa
coming.

It became the business of Mrs. Sparsit’s life, to look up at her
staircase, and to watch Louisa coming down.  Sometimes slowly, sometimes
quickly, sometimes several steps at one bout, sometimes stopping, never
turning back.  If she had once turned back, it might have been the death
of Mrs. Sparsit in spleen and grief.

She had been descending steadily, to the day, and on the day, when Mr.
Bounderby issued the weekly invitation recorded above.  Mrs. Sparsit was
in good spirits, and inclined to be conversational.

‘And pray, sir,’ said she, ‘if I may venture to ask a question
appertaining to any subject on which you show reserve—which is indeed
hardy in me, for I well know you have a reason for everything you do—have
you received intelligence respecting the robbery?’

‘Why, ma’am, no; not yet.  Under the circumstances, I didn’t expect it
yet.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, ma’am.’

‘Very true, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, shaking her head.

‘Nor yet in a week, ma’am.’

‘No, indeed, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, with a gentle melancholy upon
her.

‘In a similar manner, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, ‘I can wait, you know.  If
Romulus and Remus could wait, Josiah Bounderby can wait.  They were
better off in their youth than I was, however.  They had a she-wolf for a
nurse; I had only a she-wolf for a grandmother.  She didn’t give any
milk, ma’am; she gave bruises.  She was a regular Alderney at that.’

‘Ah!’ Mrs. Sparsit sighed and shuddered.

‘No, ma’am,’ continued Bounderby, ‘I have not heard anything more about
it.  It’s in hand, though; and young Tom, who rather sticks to business
at present—something new for him; he hadn’t the schooling _I_ had—is
helping.  My injunction is, Keep it quiet, and let it seem to blow over.
Do what you like under the rose, but don’t give a sign of what you’re
about; or half a hundred of ’em will combine together and get this fellow
who has bolted, out of reach for good.  Keep it quiet, and the thieves
will grow in confidence by little and little, and we shall have ’em.’

‘Very sagacious indeed, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘Very interesting.  The
old woman you mentioned, sir—’

‘The old woman I mentioned, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, cutting the matter
short, as it was nothing to boast about, ‘is not laid hold of; but, she
may take her oath she will be, if that is any satisfaction to her
villainous old mind.  In the mean time, ma’am, I am of opinion, if you
ask me my opinion, that the less she is talked about, the better.’

The same evening, Mrs. Sparsit, in her chamber window, resting from her
packing operations, looked towards her great staircase and saw Louisa
still descending.

She sat by Mr. Harthouse, in an alcove in the garden, talking very low;
he stood leaning over her, as they whispered together, and his face
almost touched her hair.  ‘If not quite!’ said Mrs. Sparsit, straining
her hawk’s eyes to the utmost.  Mrs. Sparsit was too distant to hear a
word of their discourse, or even to know that they were speaking softly,
otherwise than from the expression of their figures; but what they said
was this:

‘You recollect the man, Mr. Harthouse?’

‘Oh, perfectly!’

‘His face, and his manner, and what he said?’

‘Perfectly.  And an infinitely dreary person he appeared to me to be.
Lengthy and prosy in the extreme.  It was knowing to hold forth, in the
humble-virtue school of eloquence; but, I assure you I thought at the
time, “My good fellow, you are over-doing this!”’

‘It has been very difficult to me to think ill of that man.’

‘My dear Louisa—as Tom says.’  Which he never did say.  ‘You know no good
of the fellow?’

‘No, certainly.’

‘Nor of any other such person?’

‘How can I,’ she returned, with more of her first manner on her than he
had lately seen, ‘when I know nothing of them, men or women?’

‘My dear Louisa, then consent to receive the submissive representation of
your devoted friend, who knows something of several varieties of his
excellent fellow-creatures—for excellent they are, I am quite ready to
believe, in spite of such little foibles as always helping themselves to
what they can get hold of.  This fellow talks.  Well; every fellow talks.
He professes morality.  Well; all sorts of humbugs profess morality.
From the House of Commons to the House of Correction, there is a general
profession of morality, except among our people; it really is that
exception which makes our people quite reviving.  You saw and heard the
case.  Here was one of the fluffy classes pulled up extremely short by my
esteemed friend Mr. Bounderby—who, as we know, is not possessed of that
delicacy which would soften so tight a hand.  The member of the fluffy
classes was injured, exasperated, left the house grumbling, met somebody
who proposed to him to go in for some share in this Bank business, went
in, put something in his pocket which had nothing in it before, and
relieved his mind extremely.  Really he would have been an uncommon,
instead of a common, fellow, if he had not availed himself of such an
opportunity.  Or he may have originated it altogether, if he had the
cleverness.’

‘I almost feel as though it must be bad in me,’ returned Louisa, after
sitting thoughtful awhile, ‘to be so ready to agree with you, and to be
so lightened in my heart by what you say.’

‘I only say what is reasonable; nothing worse.  I have talked it over
with my friend Tom more than once—of course I remain on terms of perfect
confidence with Tom—and he is quite of my opinion, and I am quite of his.
Will you walk?’

They strolled away, among the lanes beginning to be indistinct in the
twilight—she leaning on his arm—and she little thought how she was going
down, down, down, Mrs. Sparsit’s staircase.

Night and day, Mrs. Sparsit kept it standing.  When Louisa had arrived at
the bottom and disappeared in the gulf, it might fall in upon her if it
would; but, until then, there it was to be, a Building, before Mrs.
Sparsit’s eyes.  And there Louisa always was, upon it.

And always gliding down, down, down!

Mrs. Sparsit saw James Harthouse come and go; she heard of him here and
there; she saw the changes of the face he had studied; she, too, remarked
to a nicety how and when it clouded, how and when it cleared; she kept
her black eyes wide open, with no touch of pity, with no touch of
compunction, all absorbed in interest.  In the interest of seeing her,
ever drawing, with no hand to stay her, nearer and nearer to the bottom
of this new Giant’s Staircase.

With all her deference for Mr. Bounderby as contradistinguished from his
portrait, Mrs. Sparsit had not the smallest intention of interrupting the
descent.  Eager to see it accomplished, and yet patient, she waited for
the last fall, as for the ripeness and fulness of the harvest of her
hopes.  Hushed in expectancy, she kept her wary gaze upon the stairs; and
seldom so much as darkly shook her right mitten (with her fist in it), at
the figure coming down.



CHAPTER XI
LOWER AND LOWER


THE figure descended the great stairs, steadily, steadily; always
verging, like a weight in deep water, to the black gulf at the bottom.

Mr. Gradgrind, apprised of his wife’s decease, made an expedition from
London, and buried her in a business-like manner.  He then returned with
promptitude to the national cinder-heap, and resumed his sifting for the
odds and ends he wanted, and his throwing of the dust about into the eyes
of other people who wanted other odds and ends—in fact resumed his
parliamentary duties.

In the meantime, Mrs. Sparsit kept unwinking watch and ward.  Separated
from her staircase, all the week, by the length of iron road dividing
Coketown from the country house, she yet maintained her cat-like
observation of Louisa, through her husband, through her brother, through
James Harthouse, through the outsides of letters and packets, through
everything animate and inanimate that at any time went near the stairs.
‘Your foot on the last step, my lady,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, apostrophizing
the descending figure, with the aid of her threatening mitten, ‘and all
your art shall never blind me.’

Art or nature though, the original stock of Louisa’s character or the
graft of circumstances upon it,—her curious reserve did baffle, while it
stimulated, one as sagacious as Mrs. Sparsit.  There were times when Mr.
James Harthouse was not sure of her.  There were times when he could not
read the face he had studied so long; and when this lonely girl was a
greater mystery to him, than any woman of the world with a ring of
satellites to help her.

So the time went on; until it happened that Mr. Bounderby was called away
from home by business which required his presence elsewhere, for three or
four days.  It was on a Friday that he intimated this to Mrs. Sparsit at
the Bank, adding: ‘But you’ll go down to-morrow, ma’am, all the same.
You’ll go down just as if I was there.  It will make no difference to
you.’

‘Pray, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, reproachfully, ‘let me beg you not to
say that.  Your absence will make a vast difference to me, sir, as I
think you very well know.’

‘Well, ma’am, then you must get on in my absence as well as you can,’
said Mr. Bounderby, not displeased.

‘Mr. Bounderby,’ retorted Mrs. Sparsit, ‘your will is to me a law, sir;
otherwise, it might be my inclination to dispute your kind commands, not
feeling sure that it will be quite so agreeable to Miss Gradgrind to
receive me, as it ever is to your own munificent hospitality.  But you
shall say no more, sir.  I will go, upon your invitation.’

‘Why, when I invite you to my house, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, opening his
eyes, ‘I should hope you want no other invitation.’

‘No, indeed, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, ‘I should hope not.  Say no
more, sir.  I would, sir, I could see you gay again.’

‘What do you mean, ma’am?’ blustered Bounderby.

‘Sir,’ rejoined Mrs. Sparsit, ‘there was wont to be an elasticity in you
which I sadly miss.  Be buoyant, sir!’

Mr. Bounderby, under the influence of this difficult adjuration, backed
up by her compassionate eye, could only scratch his head in a feeble and
ridiculous manner, and afterwards assert himself at a distance, by being
heard to bully the small fry of business all the morning.

‘Bitzer,’ said Mrs. Sparsit that afternoon, when her patron was gone on
his journey, and the Bank was closing, ‘present my compliments to young
Mr. Thomas, and ask him if he would step up and partake of a lamb chop
and walnut ketchup, with a glass of India ale?’  Young Mr. Thomas being
usually ready for anything in that way, returned a gracious answer, and
followed on its heels.  ‘Mr. Thomas,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘these plain
viands being on table, I thought you might be tempted.’

‘Thank’ee, Mrs. Sparsit,’ said the whelp.  And gloomily fell to.

‘How is Mr. Harthouse, Mr. Tom?’ asked Mrs. Sparsit.

‘Oh, he’s all right,’ said Tom.

‘Where may he be at present?’ Mrs. Sparsit asked in a light
conversational manner, after mentally devoting the whelp to the Furies
for being so uncommunicative.

‘He is shooting in Yorkshire,’ said Tom.  ‘Sent Loo a basket half as big
as a church, yesterday.’

‘The kind of gentleman, now,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, sweetly, ‘whom one might
wager to be a good shot!’

‘Crack,’ said Tom.

He had long been a down-looking young fellow, but this characteristic had
so increased of late, that he never raised his eyes to any face for three
seconds together.  Mrs. Sparsit consequently had ample means of watching
his looks, if she were so inclined.

‘Mr. Harthouse is a great favourite of mine,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘as
indeed he is of most people.  May we expect to see him again shortly, Mr.
Tom?’

‘Why, _I_ expect to see him to-morrow,’ returned the whelp.

‘Good news!’ cried Mrs. Sparsit, blandly.

‘I have got an appointment with him to meet him in the evening at the
station here,’ said Tom, ‘and I am going to dine with him afterwards, I
believe.  He is not coming down to the country house for a week or so,
being due somewhere else.  At least, he says so; but I shouldn’t wonder
if he was to stop here over Sunday, and stray that way.’

‘Which reminds me!’ said Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘Would you remember a message to
your sister, Mr. Tom, if I was to charge you with one?’

‘Well?  I’ll try,’ returned the reluctant whelp, ‘if it isn’t a long un.’

‘It is merely my respectful compliments,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘and I fear
I may not trouble her with my society this week; being still a little
nervous, and better perhaps by my poor self.’

‘Oh!  If that’s all,’ observed Tom, ‘it wouldn’t much matter, even if I
was to forget it, for Loo’s not likely to think of you unless she sees
you.’

Having paid for his entertainment with this agreeable compliment, he
relapsed into a hangdog silence until there was no more India ale left,
when he said, ‘Well, Mrs. Sparsit, I must be off!’ and went off.

Next day, Saturday, Mrs. Sparsit sat at her window all day long looking
at the customers coming in and out, watching the postmen, keeping an eye
on the general traffic of the street, revolving many things in her mind,
but, above all, keeping her attention on her staircase.  The evening
come, she put on her bonnet and shawl, and went quietly out: having her
reasons for hovering in a furtive way about the station by which a
passenger would arrive from Yorkshire, and for preferring to peep into it
round pillars and corners, and out of ladies’ waiting-room windows, to
appearing in its precincts openly.

Tom was in attendance, and loitered about until the expected train came
in.  It brought no Mr. Harthouse.  Tom waited until the crowd had
dispersed, and the bustle was over; and then referred to a posted list of
trains, and took counsel with porters.  That done, he strolled away idly,
stopping in the street and looking up it and down it, and lifting his hat
off and putting it on again, and yawning and stretching himself, and
exhibiting all the symptoms of mortal weariness to be expected in one who
had still to wait until the next train should come in, an hour and forty
minutes hence.

‘This is a device to keep him out of the way,’ said Mrs. Sparsit,
starting from the dull office window whence she had watched him last.
‘Harthouse is with his sister now!’

It was the conception of an inspired moment, and she shot off with her
utmost swiftness to work it out.  The station for the country house was
at the opposite end of the town, the time was short, the road not easy;
but she was so quick in pouncing on a disengaged coach, so quick in
darting out of it, producing her money, seizing her ticket, and diving
into the train, that she was borne along the arches spanning the land of
coal-pits past and present, as if she had been caught up in a cloud and
whirled away.

All the journey, immovable in the air though never left behind; plain to
the dark eyes of her mind, as the electric wires which ruled a colossal
strip of music-paper out of the evening sky, were plain to the dark eyes
of her body; Mrs. Sparsit saw her staircase, with the figure coming down.
Very near the bottom now.  Upon the brink of the abyss.

An overcast September evening, just at nightfall, saw beneath its
drooping eyelids Mrs. Sparsit glide out of her carriage, pass down the
wooden steps of the little station into a stony road, cross it into a
green lane, and become hidden in a summer-growth of leaves and branches.
One or two late birds sleepily chirping in their nests, and a bat heavily
crossing and recrossing her, and the reek of her own tread in the thick
dust that felt like velvet, were all Mrs. Sparsit heard or saw until she
very softly closed a gate.

She went up to the house, keeping within the shrubbery, and went round
it, peeping between the leaves at the lower windows.  Most of them were
open, as they usually were in such warm weather, but there were no lights
yet, and all was silent.  She tried the garden with no better effect.
She thought of the wood, and stole towards it, heedless of long grass and
briers: of worms, snails, and slugs, and all the creeping things that be.
With her dark eyes and her hook nose warily in advance of her, Mrs.
Sparsit softly crushed her way through the thick undergrowth, so intent
upon her object that she probably would have done no less, if the wood
had been a wood of adders.

Hark!

The smaller birds might have tumbled out of their nests, fascinated by
the glittering of Mrs. Sparsit’s eyes in the gloom, as she stopped and
listened.

Low voices close at hand.  His voice and hers.  The appointment _was_ a
device to keep the brother away!  There they were yonder, by the felled
tree.

Bending low among the dewy grass, Mrs. Sparsit advanced closer to them.
She drew herself up, and stood behind a tree, like Robinson Crusoe in his
ambuscade against the savages; so near to them that at a spring, and that
no great one, she could have touched them both.  He was there secretly,
and had not shown himself at the house.  He had come on horseback, and
must have passed through the neighbouring fields; for his horse was tied
to the meadow side of the fence, within a few paces.

‘My dearest love,’ said he, ‘what could I do?  Knowing you were alone,
was it possible that I could stay away?’

‘You may hang your head, to make yourself the more attractive; _I_ don’t
know what they see in you when you hold it up,’ thought Mrs. Sparsit;
‘but you little think, my dearest love, whose eyes are on you!’

That she hung her head, was certain.  She urged him to go away, she
commanded him to go away; but she neither turned her face to him, nor
raised it.  Yet it was remarkable that she sat as still as ever the
amiable woman in ambuscade had seen her sit, at any period in her life.
Her hands rested in one another, like the hands of a statue; and even her
manner of speaking was not hurried.

‘My dear child,’ said Harthouse; Mrs. Sparsit saw with delight that his
arm embraced her; ‘will you not bear with my society for a little while?’

‘Not here.’

‘Where, Louisa?

‘Not here.’

‘But we have so little time to make so much of, and I have come so far,
and am altogether so devoted, and distracted.  There never was a slave at
once so devoted and ill-used by his mistress.  To look for your sunny
welcome that has warmed me into life, and to be received in your frozen
manner, is heart-rending.’

‘Am I to say again, that I must be left to myself here?’

‘But we must meet, my dear Louisa.  Where shall we meet?’

They both started.  The listener started, guiltily, too; for she thought
there was another listener among the trees.  It was only rain, beginning
to fall fast, in heavy drops.

‘Shall I ride up to the house a few minutes hence, innocently supposing
that its master is at home and will be charmed to receive me?’

‘No!’

‘Your cruel commands are implicitly to be obeyed; though I am the most
unfortunate fellow in the world, I believe, to have been insensible to
all other women, and to have fallen prostrate at last under the foot of
the most beautiful, and the most engaging, and the most imperious.  My
dearest Louisa, I cannot go myself, or let you go, in this hard abuse of
your power.’

Mrs. Sparsit saw him detain her with his encircling arm, and heard him
then and there, within her (Mrs. Sparsit’s) greedy hearing, tell her how
he loved her, and how she was the stake for which he ardently desired to
play away all that he had in life.  The objects he had lately pursued,
turned worthless beside her; such success as was almost in his grasp, he
flung away from him like the dirt it was, compared with her.  Its
pursuit, nevertheless, if it kept him near her, or its renunciation if it
took him from her, or flight if she shared it, or secrecy if she
commanded it, or any fate, or every fate, all was alike to him, so that
she was true to him,—the man who had seen how cast away she was, whom she
had inspired at their first meeting with an admiration, an interest, of
which he had thought himself incapable, whom she had received into her
confidence, who was devoted to her and adored her.  All this, and more,
in his hurry, and in hers, in the whirl of her own gratified malice, in
the dread of being discovered, in the rapidly increasing noise of heavy
rain among the leaves, and a thunderstorm rolling up—Mrs. Sparsit
received into her mind, set off with such an unavoidable halo of
confusion and indistinctness, that when at length he climbed the fence
and led his horse away, she was not sure where they were to meet, or
when, except that they had said it was to be that night.

But one of them yet remained in the darkness before her; and while she
tracked that one she must be right.  ‘Oh, my dearest love,’ thought Mrs.
Sparsit, ‘you little think how well attended you are!’

Mrs. Sparsit saw her out of the wood, and saw her enter the house.  What
to do next?  It rained now, in a sheet of water.  Mrs. Sparsit’s white
stockings were of many colours, green predominating; prickly things were
in her shoes; caterpillars slung themselves, in hammocks of their own
making, from various parts of her dress; rills ran from her bonnet, and
her Roman nose.  In such condition, Mrs. Sparsit stood hidden in the
density of the shrubbery, considering what next?

Lo, Louisa coming out of the house!  Hastily cloaked and muffled, and
stealing away.  She elopes!  She falls from the lowermost stair, and is
swallowed up in the gulf.

Indifferent to the rain, and moving with a quick determined step, she
struck into a side-path parallel with the ride.  Mrs. Sparsit followed in
the shadow of the trees, at but a short distance; for it was not easy to
keep a figure in view going quickly through the umbrageous darkness.

When she stopped to close the side-gate without noise, Mrs. Sparsit
stopped.  When she went on, Mrs. Sparsit went on.  She went by the way
Mrs. Sparsit had come, emerged from the green lane, crossed the stony
road, and ascended the wooden steps to the railroad.  A train for
Coketown would come through presently, Mrs. Sparsit knew; so she
understood Coketown to be her first place of destination.

In Mrs. Sparsit’s limp and streaming state, no extensive precautions were
necessary to change her usual appearance; but, she stopped under the lee
of the station wall, tumbled her shawl into a new shape, and put it on
over her bonnet.  So disguised she had no fear of being recognized when
she followed up the railroad steps, and paid her money in the small
office.  Louisa sat waiting in a corner.  Mrs. Sparsit sat waiting in
another corner.  Both listened to the thunder, which was loud, and to the
rain, as it washed off the roof, and pattered on the parapets of the
arches.  Two or three lamps were rained out and blown out; so, both saw
the lightning to advantage as it quivered and zigzagged on the iron
tracks.

The seizure of the station with a fit of trembling, gradually deepening
to a complaint of the heart, announced the train.  Fire and steam, and
smoke, and red light; a hiss, a crash, a bell, and a shriek; Louisa put
into one carriage, Mrs. Sparsit put into another: the little station a
desert speck in the thunderstorm.

Though her teeth chattered in her head from wet and cold, Mrs. Sparsit
exulted hugely.  The figure had plunged down the precipice, and she felt
herself, as it were, attending on the body.  Could she, who had been so
active in the getting up of the funeral triumph, do less than exult?
‘She will be at Coketown long before him,’ thought Mrs. Sparsit, ‘though
his horse is never so good.  Where will she wait for him?  And where will
they go together?  Patience.  We shall see.’

The tremendous rain occasioned infinite confusion, when the train stopped
at its destination.  Gutters and pipes had burst, drains had overflowed,
and streets were under water.  In the first instant of alighting, Mrs.
Sparsit turned her distracted eyes towards the waiting coaches, which
were in great request.  ‘She will get into one,’ she considered, ‘and
will be away before I can follow in another.  At all risks of being run
over, I must see the number, and hear the order given to the coachman.’

But, Mrs. Sparsit was wrong in her calculation.  Louisa got into no
coach, and was already gone.  The black eyes kept upon the
railroad-carriage in which she had travelled, settled upon it a moment
too late.  The door not being opened after several minutes, Mrs. Sparsit
passed it and repassed it, saw nothing, looked in, and found it empty.
Wet through and through: with her feet squelching and squashing in her
shoes whenever she moved; with a rash of rain upon her classical visage;
with a bonnet like an over-ripe fig; with all her clothes spoiled; with
damp impressions of every button, string, and hook-and-eye she wore,
printed off upon her highly connected back; with a stagnant verdure on
her general exterior, such as accumulates on an old park fence in a
mouldy lane; Mrs. Sparsit had no resource but to burst into tears of
bitterness and say, ‘I have lost her!’



CHAPTER XII
DOWN


THE national dustmen, after entertaining one another with a great many
noisy little fights among themselves, had dispersed for the present, and
Mr. Gradgrind was at home for the vacation.

He sat writing in the room with the deadly statistical clock, proving
something no doubt—probably, in the main, that the Good Samaritan was a
Bad Economist.  The noise of the rain did not disturb him much; but it
attracted his attention sufficiently to make him raise his head
sometimes, as if he were rather remonstrating with the elements.  When it
thundered very loudly, he glanced towards Coketown, having it in his mind
that some of the tall chimneys might be struck by lightning.

The thunder was rolling into distance, and the rain was pouring down like
a deluge, when the door of his room opened.  He looked round the lamp
upon his table, and saw, with amazement, his eldest daughter.

‘Louisa!’

‘Father, I want to speak to you.’

‘What is the matter?  How strange you look!  And good Heaven,’ said Mr.
Gradgrind, wondering more and more, ‘have you come here exposed to this
storm?’

She put her hands to her dress, as if she hardly knew.  ‘Yes.’  Then she
uncovered her head, and letting her cloak and hood fall where they might,
stood looking at him: so colourless, so dishevelled, so defiant and
despairing, that he was afraid of her.

‘What is it?  I conjure you, Louisa, tell me what is the matter.’

She dropped into a chair before him, and put her cold hand on his arm.

‘Father, you have trained me from my cradle?’

‘Yes, Louisa.’

‘I curse the hour in which I was born to such a destiny.’

He looked at her in doubt and dread, vacantly repeating: ‘Curse the hour?
Curse the hour?’

‘How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable
things that raise it from the state of conscious death?  Where are the
graces of my soul?  Where are the sentiments of my heart?  What have you
done, O father, what have you done, with the garden that should have
bloomed once, in this great wilderness here!’

She struck herself with both her hands upon her bosom.

‘If it had ever been here, its ashes alone would save me from the void in
which my whole life sinks.  I did not mean to say this; but, father, you
remember the last time we conversed in this room?’

He had been so wholly unprepared for what he heard now, that it was with
difficulty he answered, ‘Yes, Louisa.’

‘What has risen to my lips now, would have risen to my lips then, if you
had given me a moment’s help.  I don’t reproach you, father.  What you
have never nurtured in me, you have never nurtured in yourself; but O! if
you had only done so long ago, or if you had only neglected me, what a
much better and much happier creature I should have been this day!’

On hearing this, after all his care, he bowed his head upon his hand and
groaned aloud.

‘Father, if you had known, when we were last together here, what even I
feared while I strove against it—as it has been my task from infancy to
strive against every natural prompting that has arisen in my heart; if
you had known that there lingered in my breast, sensibilities,
affections, weaknesses capable of being cherished into strength, defying
all the calculations ever made by man, and no more known to his
arithmetic than his Creator is,—would you have given me to the husband
whom I am now sure that I hate?’

He said, ‘No.  No, my poor child.’

‘Would you have doomed me, at any time, to the frost and blight that have
hardened and spoiled me?  Would you have robbed me—for no one’s
enrichment—only for the greater desolation of this world—of the
immaterial part of my life, the spring and summer of my belief, my refuge
from what is sordid and bad in the real things around me, my school in
which I should have learned to be more humble and more trusting with
them, and to hope in my little sphere to make them better?’

‘O no, no.  No, Louisa.’

‘Yet, father, if I had been stone blind; if I had groped my way by my
sense of touch, and had been free, while I knew the shapes and surfaces
of things, to exercise my fancy somewhat, in regard to them; I should
have been a million times wiser, happier, more loving, more contented,
more innocent and human in all good respects, than I am with the eyes I
have.  Now, hear what I have come to say.’

He moved, to support her with his arm.  She rising as he did so, they
stood close together: she, with a hand upon his shoulder, looking fixedly
in his face.

‘With a hunger and thirst upon me, father, which have never been for a
moment appeased; with an ardent impulse towards some region where rules,
and figures, and definitions were not quite absolute; I have grown up,
battling every inch of my way.’

‘I never knew you were unhappy, my child.’

‘Father, I always knew it.  In this strife I have almost repulsed and
crushed my better angel into a demon.  What I have learned has left me
doubting, misbelieving, despising, regretting, what I have not learned;
and my dismal resource has been to think that life would soon go by, and
that nothing in it could be worth the pain and trouble of a contest.’

‘And you so young, Louisa!’ he said with pity.

‘And I so young.  In this condition, father—for I show you now, without
fear or favour, the ordinary deadened state of my mind as I know it—you
proposed my husband to me.  I took him.  I never made a pretence to him
or you that I loved him.  I knew, and, father, you knew, and he knew,
that I never did.  I was not wholly indifferent, for I had a hope of
being pleasant and useful to Tom.  I made that wild escape into something
visionary, and have slowly found out how wild it was.  But Tom had been
the subject of all the little tenderness of my life; perhaps he became so
because I knew so well how to pity him.  It matters little now, except as
it may dispose you to think more leniently of his errors.’

As her father held her in his arms, she put her other hand upon his other
shoulder, and still looking fixedly in his face, went on.

‘When I was irrevocably married, there rose up into rebellion against the
tie, the old strife, made fiercer by all those causes of disparity which
arise out of our two individual natures, and which no general laws shall
ever rule or state for me, father, until they shall be able to direct the
anatomist where to strike his knife into the secrets of my soul.’

‘Louisa!’ he said, and said imploringly; for he well remembered what had
passed between them in their former interview.

‘I do not reproach you, father, I make no complaint.  I am here with
another object.’

‘What can I do, child?  Ask me what you will.’

‘I am coming to it.  Father, chance then threw into my way a new
acquaintance; a man such as I had had no experience of; used to the
world; light, polished, easy; making no pretences; avowing the low
estimate of everything, that I was half afraid to form in secret;
conveying to me almost immediately, though I don’t know how or by what
degrees, that he understood me, and read my thoughts.  I could not find
that he was worse than I.  There seemed to be a near affinity between us.
I only wondered it should be worth his while, who cared for nothing else,
to care so much for me.’

‘For you, Louisa!’

Her father might instinctively have loosened his hold, but that he felt
her strength departing from her, and saw a wild dilating fire in the eyes
steadfastly regarding him.

‘I say nothing of his plea for claiming my confidence.  It matters very
little how he gained it.  Father, he did gain it.  What you know of the
story of my marriage, he soon knew, just as well.’

Her father’s face was ashy white, and he held her in both his arms.

‘I have done no worse, I have not disgraced you.  But if you ask me
whether I have loved him, or do love him, I tell you plainly, father,
that it may be so.  I don’t know.’

She took her hands suddenly from his shoulders, and pressed them both
upon her side; while in her face, not like itself—and in her figure,
drawn up, resolute to finish by a last effort what she had to say—the
feelings long suppressed broke loose.

‘This night, my husband being away, he has been with me, declaring
himself my lover.  This minute he expects me, for I could release myself
of his presence by no other means.  I do not know that I am sorry, I do
not know that I am ashamed, I do not know that I am degraded in my own
esteem.  All that I know is, your philosophy and your teaching will not
save me.  Now, father, you have brought me to this.  Save me by some
other means!’

He tightened his hold in time to prevent her sinking on the floor, but
she cried out in a terrible voice, ‘I shall die if you hold me!  Let me
fall upon the ground!’  And he laid her down there, and saw the pride of
his heart and the triumph of his system, lying, an insensible heap, at
his feet.

                                * * * * *

                          END OF THE SECOND BOOK



BOOK THE THIRD
_GARNERING_


CHAPTER I
ANOTHER THING NEEDFUL


LOUISA awoke from a torpor, and her eyes languidly opened on her old bed
at home, and her old room.  It seemed, at first, as if all that had
happened since the days when these objects were familiar to her were the
shadows of a dream, but gradually, as the objects became more real to her
sight, the events became more real to her mind.

She could scarcely move her head for pain and heaviness, her eyes were
strained and sore, and she was very weak.  A curious passive inattention
had such possession of her, that the presence of her little sister in the
room did not attract her notice for some time.  Even when their eyes had
met, and her sister had approached the bed, Louisa lay for minutes
looking at her in silence, and suffering her timidly to hold her passive
hand, before she asked:

‘When was I brought to this room?’

‘Last night, Louisa.’

‘Who brought me here?’

‘Sissy, I believe.’

‘Why do you believe so?’

‘Because I found her here this morning.  She didn’t come to my bedside to
wake me, as she always does; and I went to look for her.  She was not in
her own room either; and I went looking for her all over the house, until
I found her here taking care of you and cooling your head.  Will you see
father? Sissy said I was to tell him when you woke.’

‘What a beaming face you have, Jane!’ said Louisa, as her young
sister—timidly still—bent down to kiss her.

‘Have I?  I am very glad you think so.  I am sure it must be Sissy’s
doing.’

The arm Louisa had begun to twine around her neck, unbent itself.  ‘You
can tell father if you will.’  Then, staying her for a moment, she said,
‘It was you who made my room so cheerful, and gave it this look of
welcome?’

‘Oh no, Louisa, it was done before I came.  It was—’

Louisa turned upon her pillow, and heard no more.  When her sister had
withdrawn, she turned her head back again, and lay with her face towards
the door, until it opened and her father entered.

He had a jaded anxious look upon him, and his hand, usually steady,
trembled in hers.  He sat down at the side of the bed, tenderly asking
how she was, and dwelling on the necessity of her keeping very quiet
after her agitation and exposure to the weather last night.  He spoke in
a subdued and troubled voice, very different from his usual dictatorial
manner; and was often at a loss for words.

‘My dear Louisa.  My poor daughter.’  He was so much at a loss at that
place, that he stopped altogether.  He tried again.

‘My unfortunate child.’  The place was so difficult to get over, that he
tried again.

‘It would be hopeless for me, Louisa, to endeavour to tell you how
overwhelmed I have been, and still am, by what broke upon me last night.
The ground on which I stand has ceased to be solid under my feet.  The
only support on which I leaned, and the strength of which it seemed, and
still does seem, impossible to question, has given way in an instant.  I
am stunned by these discoveries.  I have no selfish meaning in what I
say; but I find the shock of what broke upon me last night, to be very
heavy indeed.’

She could give him no comfort herein.  She had suffered the wreck of her
whole life upon the rock.

‘I will not say, Louisa, that if you had by any happy chance undeceived
me some time ago, it would have been better for us both; better for your
peace, and better for mine.  For I am sensible that it may not have been
a part of my system to invite any confidence of that kind.  I had proved
my—my system to myself, and I have rigidly administered it; and I must
bear the responsibility of its failures.  I only entreat you to believe,
my favourite child, that I have meant to do right.’

He said it earnestly, and to do him justice he had.  In gauging
fathomless deeps with his little mean excise-rod, and in staggering over
the universe with his rusty stiff-legged compasses, he had meant to do
great things.  Within the limits of his short tether he had tumbled
about, annihilating the flowers of existence with greater singleness of
purpose than many of the blatant personages whose company he kept.

‘I am well assured of what you say, father.  I know I have been your
favourite child.  I know you have intended to make me happy.  I have
never blamed you, and I never shall.’

He took her outstretched hand, and retained it in his.

‘My dear, I have remained all night at my table, pondering again and
again on what has so painfully passed between us.  When I consider your
character; when I consider that what has been known to me for hours, has
been concealed by you for years; when I consider under what immediate
pressure it has been forced from you at last; I come to the conclusion
that I cannot but mistrust myself.’

He might have added more than all, when he saw the face now looking at
him.  He did add it in effect, perhaps, as he softly moved her scattered
hair from her forehead with his hand.  Such little actions, slight in
another man, were very noticeable in him; and his daughter received them
as if they had been words of contrition.

‘But,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, slowly, and with hesitation, as well as with a
wretched sense of happiness, ‘if I see reason to mistrust myself for the
past, Louisa, I should also mistrust myself for the present and the
future.  To speak unreservedly to you, I do.  I am far from feeling
convinced now, however differently I might have felt only this time
yesterday, that I am fit for the trust you repose in me; that I know how
to respond to the appeal you have come home to make to me; that I have
the right instinct—supposing it for the moment to be some quality of that
nature—how to help you, and to set you right, my child.’

She had turned upon her pillow, and lay with her face upon her arm, so
that he could not see it.  All her wildness and passion had subsided;
but, though softened, she was not in tears.  Her father was changed in
nothing so much as in the respect that he would have been glad to see her
in tears.

‘Some persons hold,’ he pursued, still hesitating, ‘that there is a
wisdom of the Head, and that there is a wisdom of the Heart.  I have not
supposed so; but, as I have said, I mistrust myself now.  I have supposed
the head to be all-sufficient.  It may not be all-sufficient; how can I
venture this morning to say it is!  If that other kind of wisdom should
be what I have neglected, and should be the instinct that is wanted,
Louisa—’

He suggested it very doubtfully, as if he were half unwilling to admit it
even now.  She made him no answer, lying before him on her bed, still
half-dressed, much as he had seen her lying on the floor of his room last
night.

‘Louisa,’ and his hand rested on her hair again, ‘I have been absent from
here, my dear, a good deal of late; and though your sister’s training has
been pursued according to—the system,’ he appeared to come to that word
with great reluctance always, ‘it has necessarily been modified by daily
associations begun, in her case, at an early age.  I ask you—ignorantly
and humbly, my daughter—for the better, do you think?’

‘Father,’ she replied, without stirring, ‘if any harmony has been
awakened in her young breast that was mute in mine until it turned to
discord, let her thank Heaven for it, and go upon her happier way, taking
it as her greatest blessing that she has avoided my way.’

‘O my child, my child!’ he said, in a forlorn manner, ‘I am an unhappy
man to see you thus!  What avails it to me that you do not reproach me,
if I so bitterly reproach myself!’  He bent his head, and spoke low to
her.  ‘Louisa, I have a misgiving that some change may have been slowly
working about me in this house, by mere love and gratitude: that what the
Head had left undone and could not do, the Heart may have been doing
silently.  Can it be so?’

She made him no reply.

‘I am not too proud to believe it, Louisa.  How could I be arrogant, and
you before me!  Can it be so?  Is it so, my dear?’  He looked upon her
once more, lying cast away there; and without another word went out of
the room.  He had not been long gone, when she heard a light tread near
the door, and knew that some one stood beside her.

She did not raise her head.  A dull anger that she should be seen in her
distress, and that the involuntary look she had so resented should come
to this fulfilment, smouldered within her like an unwholesome fire.  All
closely imprisoned forces rend and destroy.  The air that would be
healthful to the earth, the water that would enrich it, the heat that
would ripen it, tear it when caged up.  So in her bosom even now; the
strongest qualities she possessed, long turned upon themselves, became a
heap of obduracy, that rose against a friend.

It was well that soft touch came upon her neck, and that she understood
herself to be supposed to have fallen asleep.  The sympathetic hand did
not claim her resentment.  Let it lie there, let it lie.

It lay there, warming into life a crowd of gentler thoughts; and she
rested.  As she softened with the quiet, and the consciousness of being
so watched, some tears made their way into her eyes.  The face touched
hers, and she knew that there were tears upon it too, and she the cause
of them.

As Louisa feigned to rouse herself, and sat up, Sissy retired, so that
she stood placidly near the bedside.

‘I hope I have not disturbed you.  I have come to ask if you would let me
stay with you?’

‘Why should you stay with me?  My sister will miss you.  You are
everything to her.’

‘Am I?’ returned Sissy, shaking her head.  ‘I would be something to you,
if I might.’

‘What?’ said Louisa, almost sternly.

‘Whatever you want most, if I could be that.  At all events, I would like
to try to be as near it as I can.  And however far off that may be, I
will never tire of trying.  Will you let me?’

‘My father sent you to ask me.’

‘No indeed,’ replied Sissy.  ‘He told me that I might come in now, but he
sent me away from the room this morning—or at least—’

She hesitated and stopped.

‘At least, what?’ said Louisa, with her searching eyes upon her.

‘I thought it best myself that I should be sent away, for I felt very
uncertain whether you would like to find me here.’

‘Have I always hated you so much?’

‘I hope not, for I have always loved you, and have always wished that you
should know it.  But you changed to me a little, shortly before you left
home.  Not that I wondered at it.  You knew so much, and I knew so
little, and it was so natural in many ways, going as you were among other
friends, that I had nothing to complain of, and was not at all hurt.’

Her colour rose as she said it modestly and hurriedly.  Louisa understood
the loving pretence, and her heart smote her.

‘May I try?’ said Sissy, emboldened to raise her hand to the neck that
was insensibly drooping towards her.

Louisa, taking down the hand that would have embraced her in another
moment, held it in one of hers, and answered:

‘First, Sissy, do you know what I am?  I am so proud and so hardened, so
confused and troubled, so resentful and unjust to every one and to
myself, that everything is stormy, dark, and wicked to me.  Does not that
repel you?’

‘No!’

‘I am so unhappy, and all that should have made me otherwise is so laid
waste, that if I had been bereft of sense to this hour, and instead of
being as learned as you think me, had to begin to acquire the simplest
truths, I could not want a guide to peace, contentment, honour, all the
good of which I am quite devoid, more abjectly than I do.  Does not that
repel you?’

‘No!’

In the innocence of her brave affection, and the brimming up of her old
devoted spirit, the once deserted girl shone like a beautiful light upon
the darkness of the other.

Louisa raised the hand that it might clasp her neck and join its fellow
there.  She fell upon her knees, and clinging to this stroller’s child
looked up at her almost with veneration.

‘Forgive me, pity me, help me!  Have compassion on my great need, and let
me lay this head of mine upon a loving heart!’

‘O lay it here!’ cried Sissy.  ‘Lay it here, my dear.’



CHAPTER II
VERY RIDICULOUS


MR. JAMES HARTHOUSE passed a whole night and a day in a state of so much
hurry, that the World, with its best glass in his eye, would scarcely
have recognized him during that insane interval, as the brother Jem of
the honourable and jocular member.  He was positively agitated.  He
several times spoke with an emphasis, similar to the vulgar manner.  He
went in and went out in an unaccountable way, like a man without an
object.  He rode like a highwayman.  In a word, he was so horribly bored
by existing circumstances, that he forgot to go in for boredom in the
manner prescribed by the authorities.

After putting his horse at Coketown through the storm, as if it were a
leap, he waited up all night: from time to time ringing his bell with the
greatest fury, charging the porter who kept watch with delinquency in
withholding letters or messages that could not fail to have been
entrusted to him, and demanding restitution on the spot.  The dawn
coming, the morning coming, and the day coming, and neither message nor
letter coming with either, he went down to the country house.  There, the
report was, Mr. Bounderby away, and Mrs. Bounderby in town.  Left for
town suddenly last evening.  Not even known to be gone until receipt of
message, importing that her return was not to be expected for the
present.

In these circumstances he had nothing for it but to follow her to town.
He went to the house in town.  Mrs. Bounderby not there.  He looked in at
the Bank.  Mr. Bounderby away and Mrs. Sparsit away.  Mrs. Sparsit away?
Who could have been reduced to sudden extremity for the company of that
griffin!

‘Well!  I don’t know,’ said Tom, who had his own reasons for being uneasy
about it.  ‘She was off somewhere at daybreak this morning.  She’s always
full of mystery; I hate her.  So I do that white chap; he’s always got
his blinking eyes upon a fellow.’

‘Where were you last night, Tom?’

‘Where was I last night!’ said Tom.  ‘Come!  I like that.  I was waiting
for you, Mr. Harthouse, till it came down as _I_ never saw it come down
before.  Where was I too!  Where were you, you mean.’

‘I was prevented from coming—detained.’

‘Detained!’ murmured Tom.  ‘Two of us were detained.  I was detained
looking for you, till I lost every train but the mail.  It would have
been a pleasant job to go down by that on such a night, and have to walk
home through a pond.  I was obliged to sleep in town after all.’

‘Where?’

‘Where?  Why, in my own bed at Bounderby’s.’

‘Did you see your sister?’

‘How the deuce,’ returned Tom, staring, ‘could I see my sister when she
was fifteen miles off?’

Cursing these quick retorts of the young gentleman to whom he was so true
a friend, Mr. Harthouse disembarrassed himself of that interview with the
smallest conceivable amount of ceremony, and debated for the hundredth
time what all this could mean?  He made only one thing clear.  It was,
that whether she was in town or out of town, whether he had been
premature with her who was so hard to comprehend, or she had lost
courage, or they were discovered, or some mischance or mistake, at
present incomprehensible, had occurred, he must remain to confront his
fortune, whatever it was.  The hotel where he was known to live when
condemned to that region of blackness, was the stake to which he was
tied.  As to all the rest—What will be, will be.

‘So, whether I am waiting for a hostile message, or an assignation, or a
penitent remonstrance, or an impromptu wrestle with my friend Bounderby
in the Lancashire manner—which would seem as likely as anything else in
the present state of affairs—I’ll dine,’ said Mr. James Harthouse.
‘Bounderby has the advantage in point of weight; and if anything of a
British nature is to come off between us, it may be as well to be in
training.’

Therefore he rang the bell, and tossing himself negligently on a sofa,
ordered ‘Some dinner at six—with a beefsteak in it,’ and got through the
intervening time as well as he could.  That was not particularly well;
for he remained in the greatest perplexity, and, as the hours went on,
and no kind of explanation offered itself, his perplexity augmented at
compound interest.

However, he took affairs as coolly as it was in human nature to do, and
entertained himself with the facetious idea of the training more than
once.  ‘It wouldn’t be bad,’ he yawned at one time, ‘to give the waiter
five shillings, and throw him.’  At another time it occurred to him, ‘Or
a fellow of about thirteen or fourteen stone might be hired by the hour.’
But these jests did not tell materially on the afternoon, or his
suspense; and, sooth to say, they both lagged fearfully.

It was impossible, even before dinner, to avoid often walking about in
the pattern of the carpet, looking out of the window, listening at the
door for footsteps, and occasionally becoming rather hot when any steps
approached that room.  But, after dinner, when the day turned to
twilight, and the twilight turned to night, and still no communication
was made to him, it began to be as he expressed it, ‘like the Holy Office
and slow torture.’  However, still true to his conviction that
indifference was the genuine high-breeding (the only conviction he had),
he seized this crisis as the opportunity for ordering candles and a
newspaper.

He had been trying in vain, for half an hour, to read this newspaper,
when the waiter appeared and said, at once mysteriously and
apologetically:

‘Beg your pardon, sir.  You’re wanted, sir, if you please.’

A general recollection that this was the kind of thing the Police said to
the swell mob, caused Mr. Harthouse to ask the waiter in return, with
bristling indignation, what the Devil he meant by ‘wanted’?

‘Beg your pardon, sir.  Young lady outside, sir, wishes to see you.’

‘Outside?  Where?’

‘Outside this door, sir.’

Giving the waiter to the personage before mentioned, as a block-head duly
qualified for that consignment, Mr. Harthouse hurried into the gallery.
A young woman whom he had never seen stood there.  Plainly dressed, very
quiet, very pretty.  As he conducted her into the room and placed a chair
for her, he observed, by the light of the candles, that she was even
prettier than he had at first believed.  Her face was innocent and
youthful, and its expression remarkably pleasant.  She was not afraid of
him, or in any way disconcerted; she seemed to have her mind entirely
preoccupied with the occasion of her visit, and to have substituted that
consideration for herself.

‘I speak to Mr. Harthouse?’ she said, when they were alone.

‘To Mr. Harthouse.’  He added in his mind, ‘And you speak to him with the
most confiding eyes I ever saw, and the most earnest voice (though so
quiet) I ever heard.’

‘If I do not understand—and I do not, sir’—said Sissy, ‘what your honour
as a gentleman binds you to, in other matters:’ the blood really rose in
his face as she began in these words: ‘I am sure I may rely upon it to
keep my visit secret, and to keep secret what I am going to say.  I will
rely upon it, if you will tell me I may so far trust—’

‘You may, I assure you.’

‘I am young, as you see; I am alone, as you see.  In coming to you, sir,
I have no advice or encouragement beyond my own hope.’  He thought, ‘But
that is very strong,’ as he followed the momentary upward glance of her
eyes.  He thought besides, ‘This is a very odd beginning.  I don’t see
where we are going.’

‘I think,’ said Sissy, ‘you have already guessed whom I left just now!’

‘I have been in the greatest concern and uneasiness during the last
four-and-twenty hours (which have appeared as many years),’ he returned,
‘on a lady’s account.  The hopes I have been encouraged to form that you
come from that lady, do not deceive me, I trust.’

‘I left her within an hour.’

‘At—!’

‘At her father’s.’

Mr. Harthouse’s face lengthened in spite of his coolness, and his
perplexity increased.  ‘Then I certainly,’ he thought, ‘do _not_ see
where we are going.’

‘She hurried there last night.  She arrived there in great agitation, and
was insensible all through the night.  I live at her father’s, and was
with her.  You may be sure, sir, you will never see her again as long as
you live.’

Mr. Harthouse drew a long breath; and, if ever man found himself in the
position of not knowing what to say, made the discovery beyond all
question that he was so circumstanced.  The child-like ingenuousness with
which his visitor spoke, her modest fearlessness, her truthfulness which
put all artifice aside, her entire forgetfulness of herself in her
earnest quiet holding to the object with which she had come; all this,
together with her reliance on his easily given promise—which in itself
shamed him—presented something in which he was so inexperienced, and
against which he knew any of his usual weapons would fall so powerless;
that not a word could he rally to his relief.

At last he said:

‘So startling an announcement, so confidently made, and by such lips, is
really disconcerting in the last degree.  May I be permitted to inquire,
if you are charged to convey that information to me in those hopeless
words, by the lady of whom we speak?’

‘I have no charge from her.’

‘The drowning man catches at the straw.  With no disrespect for your
judgment, and with no doubt of your sincerity, excuse my saying that I
cling to the belief that there is yet hope that I am not condemned to
perpetual exile from that lady’s presence.’

‘There is not the least hope.  The first object of my coming here, sir,
is to assure you that you must believe that there is no more hope of your
ever speaking with her again, than there would be if she had died when
she came home last night.’

‘Must believe?  But if I can’t—or if I should, by infirmity of nature, be
obstinate—and won’t—’

‘It is still true.  There is no hope.’

James Harthouse looked at her with an incredulous smile upon his lips;
but her mind looked over and beyond him, and the smile was quite thrown
away.

He bit his lip, and took a little time for consideration.

‘Well!  If it should unhappily appear,’ he said, ‘after due pains and
duty on my part, that I am brought to a position so desolate as this
banishment, I shall not become the lady’s persecutor.  But you said you
had no commission from her?’

‘I have only the commission of my love for her, and her love for me.  I
have no other trust, than that I have been with her since she came home,
and that she has given me her confidence.  I have no further trust, than
that I know something of her character and her marriage.  O Mr.
Harthouse, I think you had that trust too!’

He was touched in the cavity where his heart should have been—in that
nest of addled eggs, where the birds of heaven would have lived if they
had not been whistled away—by the fervour of this reproach.

‘I am not a moral sort of fellow,’ he said, ‘and I never make any
pretensions to the character of a moral sort of fellow.  I am as immoral
as need be.  At the same time, in bringing any distress upon the lady who
is the subject of the present conversation, or in unfortunately
compromising her in any way, or in committing myself by any expression of
sentiments towards her, not perfectly reconcilable with—in fact with—the
domestic hearth; or in taking any advantage of her father’s being a
machine, or of her brother’s being a whelp, or of her husband’s being a
bear; I beg to be allowed to assure you that I have had no particularly
evil intentions, but have glided on from one step to another with a
smoothness so perfectly diabolical, that I had not the slightest idea the
catalogue was half so long until I began to turn it over.  Whereas I
find,’ said Mr. James Harthouse, in conclusion, ‘that it is really in
several volumes.’

Though he said all this in his frivolous way, the way seemed, for that
once, a conscious polishing of but an ugly surface.  He was silent for a
moment; and then proceeded with a more self-possessed air, though with
traces of vexation and disappointment that would not be polished out.

‘After what has been just now represented to me, in a manner I find it
impossible to doubt—I know of hardly any other source from which I could
have accepted it so readily—I feel bound to say to you, in whom the
confidence you have mentioned has been reposed, that I cannot refuse to
contemplate the possibility (however unexpected) of my seeing the lady no
more.  I am solely to blame for the thing having come to this—and—and, I
cannot say,’ he added, rather hard up for a general peroration, ‘that I
have any sanguine expectation of ever becoming a moral sort of fellow, or
that I have any belief in any moral sort of fellow whatever.’

Sissy’s face sufficiently showed that her appeal to him was not finished.

‘You spoke,’ he resumed, as she raised her eyes to him again, ‘of your
first object.  I may assume that there is a second to be mentioned?’

‘Yes.’

‘Will you oblige me by confiding it?’

‘Mr. Harthouse,’ returned Sissy, with a blending of gentleness and
steadiness that quite defeated him, and with a simple confidence in his
being bound to do what she required, that held him at a singular
disadvantage, ‘the only reparation that remains with you, is to leave
here immediately and finally.  I am quite sure that you can mitigate in
no other way the wrong and harm you have done.  I am quite sure that it
is the only compensation you have left it in your power to make.  I do
not say that it is much, or that it is enough; but it is something, and
it is necessary.  Therefore, though without any other authority than I
have given you, and even without the knowledge of any other person than
yourself and myself, I ask you to depart from this place to-night, under
an obligation never to return to it.’

If she had asserted any influence over him beyond her plain faith in the
truth and right of what she said; if she had concealed the least doubt or
irresolution, or had harboured for the best purpose any reserve or
pretence; if she had shown, or felt, the lightest trace of any
sensitiveness to his ridicule or his astonishment, or any remonstrance he
might offer; he would have carried it against her at this point.  But he
could as easily have changed a clear sky by looking at it in surprise, as
affect her.

‘But do you know,’ he asked, quite at a loss, ‘the extent of what you
ask?  You probably are not aware that I am here on a public kind of
business, preposterous enough in itself, but which I have gone in for,
and sworn by, and am supposed to be devoted to in quite a desperate
manner?  You probably are not aware of that, but I assure you it’s the
fact.’

It had no effect on Sissy, fact or no fact.

‘Besides which,’ said Mr. Harthouse, taking a turn or two across the
room, dubiously, ‘it’s so alarmingly absurd.  It would make a man so
ridiculous, after going in for these fellows, to back out in such an
incomprehensible way.’

‘I am quite sure,’ repeated Sissy, ‘that it is the only reparation in
your power, sir.  I am quite sure, or I would not have come here.’

He glanced at her face, and walked about again.  ‘Upon my soul, I don’t
know what to say.  So immensely absurd!’

It fell to his lot, now, to stipulate for secrecy.

‘If I were to do such a very ridiculous thing,’ he said, stopping again
presently, and leaning against the chimney-piece, ‘it could only be in
the most inviolable confidence.’

‘I will trust to you, sir,’ returned Sissy, ‘and you will trust to me.’

His leaning against the chimney-piece reminded him of the night with the
whelp.  It was the self-same chimney-piece, and somehow he felt as if
_he_ were the whelp to-night.  He could make no way at all.

‘I suppose a man never was placed in a more ridiculous position,’ he
said, after looking down, and looking up, and laughing, and frowning, and
walking off, and walking back again.  ‘But I see no way out of it.  What
will be, will be.  _This_ will be, I suppose.  I must take off myself, I
imagine—in short, I engage to do it.’

Sissy rose.  She was not surprised by the result, but she was happy in
it, and her face beamed brightly.

‘You will permit me to say,’ continued Mr. James Harthouse, ‘that I doubt
if any other ambassador, or ambassadress, could have addressed me with
the same success.  I must not only regard myself as being in a very
ridiculous position, but as being vanquished at all points.  Will you
allow me the privilege of remembering my enemy’s name?’

‘_My_ name?’ said the ambassadress.

‘The only name I could possibly care to know, to-night.’

‘Sissy Jupe.’

‘Pardon my curiosity at parting.  Related to the family?’

‘I am only a poor girl,’ returned Sissy.  ‘I was separated from my
father—he was only a stroller—and taken pity on by Mr. Gradgrind.  I have
lived in the house ever since.’

She was gone.

‘It wanted this to complete the defeat,’ said Mr. James Harthouse,
sinking, with a resigned air, on the sofa, after standing transfixed a
little while.  ‘The defeat may now be considered perfectly accomplished.
Only a poor girl—only a stroller—only James Harthouse made nothing
of—only James Harthouse a Great Pyramid of failure.’

The Great Pyramid put it into his head to go up the Nile.  He took a pen
upon the instant, and wrote the following note (in appropriate
hieroglyphics) to his brother:

    Dear Jack,—All up at Coketown.  Bored out of the place, and going in
    for camels.

                                                           Affectionately,
                                                                      JEM.

He rang the bell.

‘Send my fellow here.’

‘Gone to bed, sir.’

‘Tell him to get up, and pack up.’

He wrote two more notes.  One, to Mr. Bounderby, announcing his
retirement from that part of the country, and showing where he would be
found for the next fortnight.  The other, similar in effect, to Mr.
Gradgrind.  Almost as soon as the ink was dry upon their superscriptions,
he had left the tall chimneys of Coketown behind, and was in a railway
carriage, tearing and glaring over the dark landscape.

The moral sort of fellows might suppose that Mr. James Harthouse derived
some comfortable reflections afterwards, from this prompt retreat, as one
of his few actions that made any amends for anything, and as a token to
himself that he had escaped the climax of a very bad business.  But it
was not so, at all.  A secret sense of having failed and been
ridiculous—a dread of what other fellows who went in for similar sorts of
things, would say at his expense if they knew it—so oppressed him, that
what was about the very best passage in his life was the one of all
others he would not have owned to on any account, and the only one that
made him ashamed of himself.



CHAPTER III
VERY DECIDED


THE indefatigable Mrs. Sparsit, with a violent cold upon her, her voice
reduced to a whisper, and her stately frame so racked by continual
sneezes that it seemed in danger of dismemberment, gave chase to her
patron until she found him in the metropolis; and there, majestically
sweeping in upon him at his hotel in St. James’s Street, exploded the
combustibles with which she was charged, and blew up.  Having executed
her mission with infinite relish, this high-minded woman then fainted
away on Mr. Bounderby’s coat-collar.

Mr. Bounderby’s first procedure was to shake Mrs. Sparsit off, and leave
her to progress as she might through various stages of suffering on the
floor.  He next had recourse to the administration of potent
restoratives, such as screwing the patient’s thumbs, smiting her hands,
abundantly watering her face, and inserting salt in her mouth.  When
these attentions had recovered her (which they speedily did), he hustled
her into a fast train without offering any other refreshment, and carried
her back to Coketown more dead than alive.

Regarded as a classical ruin, Mrs. Sparsit was an interesting spectacle
on her arrival at her journey’s end; but considered in any other light,
the amount of damage she had by that time sustained was excessive, and
impaired her claims to admiration.  Utterly heedless of the wear and tear
of her clothes and constitution, and adamant to her pathetic sneezes, Mr.
Bounderby immediately crammed her into a coach, and bore her off to Stone
Lodge.

‘Now, Tom Gradgrind,’ said Bounderby, bursting into his father-in-law’s
room late at night; ‘here’s a lady here—Mrs. Sparsit—you know Mrs.
Sparsit—who has something to say to you that will strike you dumb.’

‘You have missed my letter!’ exclaimed Mr. Gradgrind, surprised by the
apparition.

‘Missed your letter, sir!’ bawled Bounderby.  ‘The present time is no
time for letters.  No man shall talk to Josiah Bounderby of Coketown
about letters, with his mind in the state it’s in now.’

‘Bounderby,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, in a tone of temperate remonstrance, ‘I
speak of a very special letter I have written to you, in reference to
Louisa.’

‘Tom Gradgrind,’ replied Bounderby, knocking the flat of his hand several
times with great vehemence on the table, ‘I speak of a very special
messenger that has come to me, in reference to Louisa.  Mrs. Sparsit,
ma’am, stand forward!’

That unfortunate lady hereupon essaying to offer testimony, without any
voice and with painful gestures expressive of an inflamed throat, became
so aggravating and underwent so many facial contortions, that Mr.
Bounderby, unable to bear it, seized her by the arm and shook her.

‘If you can’t get it out, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, ‘leave _me_ to get it
out.  This is not a time for a lady, however highly connected, to be
totally inaudible, and seemingly swallowing marbles.  Tom Gradgrind, Mrs.
Sparsit latterly found herself, by accident, in a situation to overhear a
conversation out of doors between your daughter and your precious
gentleman-friend, Mr. James Harthouse.’

‘Indeed!’ said Mr. Gradgrind.

‘Ah!  Indeed!’ cried Bounderby.  ‘And in that conversation—’

‘It is not necessary to repeat its tenor, Bounderby.  I know what
passed.’

‘You do?  Perhaps,’ said Bounderby, staring with all his might at his so
quiet and assuasive father-in-law, ‘you know where your daughter is at
the present time!’

‘Undoubtedly.  She is here.’

‘Here?’

‘My dear Bounderby, let me beg you to restrain these loud out-breaks, on
all accounts.  Louisa is here.  The moment she could detach herself from
that interview with the person of whom you speak, and whom I deeply
regret to have been the means of introducing to you, Louisa hurried here,
for protection.  I myself had not been at home many hours, when I
received her—here, in this room.  She hurried by the train to town, she
ran from town to this house, through a raging storm, and presented
herself before me in a state of distraction.  Of course, she has remained
here ever since.  Let me entreat you, for your own sake and for hers, to
be more quiet.’

Mr. Bounderby silently gazed about him for some moments, in every
direction except Mrs. Sparsit’s direction; and then, abruptly turning
upon the niece of Lady Scadgers, said to that wretched woman:

‘Now, ma’am!  We shall be happy to hear any little apology you may think
proper to offer, for going about the country at express pace, with no
other luggage than a Cock-and-a-Bull, ma’am!’

‘Sir,’ whispered Mrs. Sparsit, ‘my nerves are at present too much shaken,
and my health is at present too much impaired, in your service, to admit
of my doing more than taking refuge in tears.’  (Which she did.)

‘Well, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, ‘without making any observation to you
that may not be made with propriety to a woman of good family, what I
have got to add to that, is that there is something else in which it
appears to me you may take refuge, namely, a coach.  And the coach in
which we came here being at the door, you’ll allow me to hand you down to
it, and pack you home to the Bank: where the best course for you to
pursue, will be to put your feet into the hottest water you can bear, and
take a glass of scalding rum and butter after you get into bed.’  With
these words, Mr. Bounderby extended his right hand to the weeping lady,
and escorted her to the conveyance in question, shedding many plaintive
sneezes by the way.  He soon returned alone.

‘Now, as you showed me in your face, Tom Gradgrind, that you wanted to
speak to me,’ he resumed, ‘here I am.  But, I am not in a very agreeable
state, I tell you plainly: not relishing this business, even as it is,
and not considering that I am at any time as dutifully and submissively
treated by your daughter, as Josiah Bounderby of Coketown ought to be
treated by his wife.  You have your opinion, I dare say; and I have mine,
I know.  If you mean to say anything to me to-night, that goes against
this candid remark, you had better let it alone.’

Mr. Gradgrind, it will be observed, being much softened, Mr. Bounderby
took particular pains to harden himself at all points.  It was his
amiable nature.

‘My dear Bounderby,’ Mr. Gradgrind began in reply.

‘Now, you’ll excuse me,’ said Bounderby, ‘but I don’t want to be too
dear.  That, to start with.  When I begin to be dear to a man, I
generally find that his intention is to come over me.  I am not speaking
to you politely; but, as you are aware, I am _not_ polite.  If you like
politeness, you know where to get it.  You have your gentleman-friends,
you know, and they’ll serve you with as much of the article as you want.
I don’t keep it myself.’

‘Bounderby,’ urged Mr. Gradgrind, ‘we are all liable to mistakes—’

‘I thought you couldn’t make ’em,’ interrupted Bounderby.

‘Perhaps I thought so.  But, I say we are all liable to mistakes and I
should feel sensible of your delicacy, and grateful for it, if you would
spare me these references to Harthouse.  I shall not associate him in our
conversation with your intimacy and encouragement; pray do not persist in
connecting him with mine.’

‘I never mentioned his name!’ said Bounderby.

‘Well, well!’ returned Mr. Gradgrind, with a patient, even a submissive,
air.  And he sat for a little while pondering.  ‘Bounderby, I see reason
to doubt whether we have ever quite understood Louisa.’

‘Who do you mean by We?’

‘Let me say I, then,’ he returned, in answer to the coarsely blurted
question; ‘I doubt whether I have understood Louisa.  I doubt whether I
have been quite right in the manner of her education.’

‘There you hit it,’ returned Bounderby.  ‘There I agree with you.  You
have found it out at last, have you?  Education!  I’ll tell you what
education is—To be tumbled out of doors, neck and crop, and put upon the
shortest allowance of everything except blows.  That’s what _I_ call
education.’

‘I think your good sense will perceive,’ Mr. Gradgrind remonstrated in
all humility, ‘that whatever the merits of such a system may be, it would
be difficult of general application to girls.’

‘I don’t see it at all, sir,’ returned the obstinate Bounderby.

‘Well,’ sighed Mr. Gradgrind, ‘we will not enter into the question.  I
assure you I have no desire to be controversial.  I seek to repair what
is amiss, if I possibly can; and I hope you will assist me in a good
spirit, Bounderby, for I have been very much distressed.’

‘I don’t understand you, yet,’ said Bounderby, with determined obstinacy,
‘and therefore I won’t make any promises.’

‘In the course of a few hours, my dear Bounderby,’ Mr. Gradgrind
proceeded, in the same depressed and propitiatory manner, ‘I appear to
myself to have become better informed as to Louisa’s character, than in
previous years.  The enlightenment has been painfully forced upon me, and
the discovery is not mine.  I think there are—Bounderby, you will be
surprised to hear me say this—I think there are qualities in Louisa,
which—which have been harshly neglected, and—and a little perverted.
And—and I would suggest to you, that—that if you would kindly meet me in
a timely endeavour to leave her to her better nature for a while—and to
encourage it to develop itself by tenderness and consideration—it—it
would be the better for the happiness of all of us.  Louisa,’ said Mr.
Gradgrind, shading his face with his hand, ‘has always been my favourite
child.’

The blustrous Bounderby crimsoned and swelled to such an extent on
hearing these words, that he seemed to be, and probably was, on the brink
of a fit.  With his very ears a bright purple shot with crimson, he pent
up his indignation, however, and said:

‘You’d like to keep her here for a time?’

‘I—I had intended to recommend, my dear Bounderby, that you should allow
Louisa to remain here on a visit, and be attended by Sissy (I mean of
course Cecilia Jupe), who understands her, and in whom she trusts.’

‘I gather from all this, Tom Gradgrind,’ said Bounderby, standing up with
his hands in his pockets, ‘that you are of opinion that there’s what
people call some incompatibility between Loo Bounderby and myself.’

‘I fear there is at present a general incompatibility between Louisa,
and—and—and almost all the relations in which I have placed her,’ was her
father’s sorrowful reply.

‘Now, look you here, Tom Gradgrind,’ said Bounderby the flushed,
confronting him with his legs wide apart, his hands deeper in his
pockets, and his hair like a hayfield wherein his windy anger was
boisterous.  ‘You have said your say; I am going to say mine.  I am a
Coketown man.  I am Josiah Bounderby of Coketown.  I know the bricks of
this town, and I know the works of this town, and I know the chimneys of
this town, and I know the smoke of this town, and I know the Hands of
this town.  I know ’em all pretty well.  They’re real.  When a man tells
me anything about imaginative qualities, I always tell that man, whoever
he is, that I know what he means.  He means turtle soup and venison, with
a gold spoon, and that he wants to be set up with a coach and six.
That’s what your daughter wants.  Since you are of opinion that she ought
to have what she wants, I recommend you to provide it for her.  Because,
Tom Gradgrind, she will never have it from me.’

‘Bounderby,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘I hoped, after my entreaty, you would
have taken a different tone.’

‘Just wait a bit,’ retorted Bounderby; ‘you have said your say, I
believe.  I heard you out; hear me out, if you please.  Don’t make
yourself a spectacle of unfairness as well as inconsistency, because,
although I am sorry to see Tom Gradgrind reduced to his present position,
I should be doubly sorry to see him brought so low as that.  Now, there’s
an incompatibility of some sort or another, I am given to understand by
you, between your daughter and me.  I’ll give _you_ to understand, in
reply to that, that there unquestionably is an incompatibility of the
first magnitude—to be summed up in this—that your daughter don’t properly
know her husband’s merits, and is not impressed with such a sense as
would become her, by George! of the honour of his alliance.  That’s plain
speaking, I hope.’

‘Bounderby,’ urged Mr. Gradgrind, ‘this is unreasonable.’

‘Is it?’ said Bounderby.  ‘I am glad to hear you say so.  Because when
Tom Gradgrind, with his new lights, tells me that what I say is
unreasonable, I am convinced at once it must be devilish sensible.  With
your permission I am going on.  You know my origin; and you know that for
a good many years of my life I didn’t want a shoeing-horn, in consequence
of not having a shoe.  Yet you may believe or not, as you think proper,
that there are ladies—born ladies—belonging to families—Families!—who
next to worship the ground I walk on.’

He discharged this like a Rocket, at his father-in-law’s head.

‘Whereas your daughter,’ proceeded Bounderby, ‘is far from being a born
lady.  That you know, yourself.  Not that I care a pinch of candle-snuff
about such things, for you are very well aware I don’t; but that such is
the fact, and you, Tom Gradgrind, can’t change it.  Why do I say this?’

‘Not, I fear,’ observed Mr. Gradgrind, in a low voice, ‘to spare me.’

‘Hear me out,’ said Bounderby, ‘and refrain from cutting in till your
turn comes round.  I say this, because highly connected females have been
astonished to see the way in which your daughter has conducted herself,
and to witness her insensibility.  They have wondered how I have suffered
it.  And I wonder myself now, and I won’t suffer it.’

‘Bounderby,’ returned Mr. Gradgrind, rising, ‘the less we say to-night
the better, I think.’

‘On the contrary, Tom Gradgrind, the more we say to-night, the better, I
think.  That is,’ the consideration checked him, ‘till I have said all I
mean to say, and then I don’t care how soon we stop.  I come to a
question that may shorten the business.  What do you mean by the proposal
you made just now?’

‘What do I mean, Bounderby?’

‘By your visiting proposition,’ said Bounderby, with an inflexible jerk
of the hayfield.

‘I mean that I hope you may be induced to arrange in a friendly manner,
for allowing Louisa a period of repose and reflection here, which may
tend to a gradual alteration for the better in many respects.’

‘To a softening down of your ideas of the incompatibility?’ said
Bounderby.

‘If you put it in those terms.’

‘What made you think of this?’ said Bounderby.

‘I have already said, I fear Louisa has not been understood.  Is it
asking too much, Bounderby, that you, so far her elder, should aid in
trying to set her right?  You have accepted a great charge of her; for
better for worse, for—’

Mr. Bounderby may have been annoyed by the repetition of his own words to
Stephen Blackpool, but he cut the quotation short with an angry start.

‘Come!’ said he, ‘I don’t want to be told about that.  I know what I took
her for, as well as you do.  Never you mind what I took her for; that’s
my look out.’

‘I was merely going on to remark, Bounderby, that we may all be more or
less in the wrong, not even excepting you; and that some yielding on your
part, remembering the trust you have accepted, may not only be an act of
true kindness, but perhaps a debt incurred towards Louisa.’

‘I think differently,’ blustered Bounderby.  ‘I am going to finish this
business according to my own opinions.  Now, I don’t want to make a
quarrel of it with you, Tom Gradgrind.  To tell you the truth, I don’t
think it would be worthy of my reputation to quarrel on such a subject.
As to your gentleman-friend, he may take himself off, wherever he likes
best.  If he falls in my way, I shall tell him my mind; if he don’t fall
in my way, I shan’t, for it won’t be worth my while to do it.  As to your
daughter, whom I made Loo Bounderby, and might have done better by
leaving Loo Gradgrind, if she don’t come home to-morrow, by twelve
o’clock at noon, I shall understand that she prefers to stay away, and I
shall send her wearing apparel and so forth over here, and you’ll take
charge of her for the future.  What I shall say to people in general, of
the incompatibility that led to my so laying down the law, will be this.
I am Josiah Bounderby, and I had my bringing-up; she’s the daughter of
Tom Gradgrind, and she had her bringing-up; and the two horses wouldn’t
pull together.  I am pretty well known to be rather an uncommon man, I
believe; and most people will understand fast enough that it must be a
woman rather out of the common, also, who, in the long run, would come up
to my mark.’

‘Let me seriously entreat you to reconsider this, Bounderby,’ urged Mr.
Gradgrind, ‘before you commit yourself to such a decision.’

‘I always come to a decision,’ said Bounderby, tossing his hat on: ‘and
whatever I do, I do at once.  I should be surprised at Tom Gradgrind’s
addressing such a remark to Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, knowing what he
knows of him, if I could be surprised by anything Tom Gradgrind did,
after his making himself a party to sentimental humbug.  I have given you
my decision, and I have got no more to say.  Good night!’

So Mr. Bounderby went home to his town house to bed.  At five minutes
past twelve o’clock next day, he directed Mrs. Bounderby’s property to be
carefully packed up and sent to Tom Gradgrind’s; advertised his country
retreat for sale by private contract; and resumed a bachelor life.



CHAPTER IV
LOST


THE robbery at the Bank had not languished before, and did not cease to
occupy a front place in the attention of the principal of that
establishment now.  In boastful proof of his promptitude and activity, as
a remarkable man, and a self-made man, and a commercial wonder more
admirable than Venus, who had risen out of the mud instead of the sea, he
liked to show how little his domestic affairs abated his business ardour.
Consequently, in the first few weeks of his resumed bachelorhood, he even
advanced upon his usual display of bustle, and every day made such a rout
in renewing his investigations into the robbery, that the officers who
had it in hand almost wished it had never been committed.

They were at fault too, and off the scent.  Although they had been so
quiet since the first outbreak of the matter, that most people really did
suppose it to have been abandoned as hopeless, nothing new occurred.  No
implicated man or woman took untimely courage, or made a self-betraying
step.  More remarkable yet, Stephen Blackpool could not be heard of, and
the mysterious old woman remained a mystery.

Things having come to this pass, and showing no latent signs of stirring
beyond it, the upshot of Mr. Bounderby’s investigations was, that he
resolved to hazard a bold burst.  He drew up a placard, offering Twenty
Pounds reward for the apprehension of Stephen Blackpool, suspected of
complicity in the robbery of Coketown Bank on such a night; he described
the said Stephen Blackpool by dress, complexion, estimated height, and
manner, as minutely as he could; he recited how he had left the town, and
in what direction he had been last seen going; he had the whole printed
in great black letters on a staring broadsheet; and he caused the walls
to be posted with it in the dead of night, so that it should strike upon
the sight of the whole population at one blow.

The factory-bells had need to ring their loudest that morning to disperse
the groups of workers who stood in the tardy daybreak, collected round
the placards, devouring them with eager eyes.  Not the least eager of the
eyes assembled, were the eyes of those who could not read.  These people,
as they listened to the friendly voice that read aloud—there was always
some such ready to help them—stared at the characters which meant so much
with a vague awe and respect that would have been half ludicrous, if any
aspect of public ignorance could ever be otherwise than threatening and
full of evil.  Many ears and eyes were busy with a vision of the matter
of these placards, among turning spindles, rattling looms, and whirling
wheels, for hours afterwards; and when the Hands cleared out again into
the streets, there were still as many readers as before.

Slackbridge, the delegate, had to address his audience too that night;
and Slackbridge had obtained a clean bill from the printer, and had
brought it in his pocket.  Oh, my friends and fellow-countrymen, the
down-trodden operatives of Coketown, oh, my fellow-brothers and
fellow-workmen and fellow-citizens and fellow-men, what a to-do was
there, when Slackbridge unfolded what he called ‘that damning document,’
and held it up to the gaze, and for the execration of the working-man
community!  ‘Oh, my fellow-men, behold of what a traitor in the camp of
those great spirits who are enrolled upon the holy scroll of Justice and
of Union, is appropriately capable!  Oh, my prostrate friends, with the
galling yoke of tyrants on your necks and the iron foot of despotism
treading down your fallen forms into the dust of the earth, upon which
right glad would your oppressors be to see you creeping on your bellies
all the days of your lives, like the serpent in the garden—oh, my
brothers, and shall I as a man not add, my sisters too, what do you say,
_now_, of Stephen Blackpool, with a slight stoop in his shoulders and
about five foot seven in height, as set forth in this degrading and
disgusting document, this blighting bill, this pernicious placard, this
abominable advertisement; and with what majesty of denouncement will you
crush the viper, who would bring this stain and shame upon the God-like
race that happily has cast him out for ever!  Yes, my compatriots,
happily cast him out and sent him forth!  For you remember how he stood
here before you on this platform; you remember how, face to face and foot
to foot, I pursued him through all his intricate windings; you remember
how he sneaked and slunk, and sidled, and splitted of straws, until, with
not an inch of ground to which to cling, I hurled him out from amongst
us: an object for the undying finger of scorn to point at, and for the
avenging fire of every free and thinking mind to scorch and scar!  And
now, my friends—my labouring friends, for I rejoice and triumph in that
stigma—my friends whose hard but honest beds are made in toil, and whose
scanty but independent pots are boiled in hardship; and now, I say, my
friends, what appellation has that dastard craven taken to himself, when,
with the mask torn from his features, he stands before us in all his
native deformity, a What?  A thief!  A plunderer!  A proscribed fugitive,
with a price upon his head; a fester and a wound upon the noble character
of the Coketown operative!  Therefore, my band of brothers in a sacred
bond, to which your children and your children’s children yet unborn have
set their infant hands and seals, I propose to you on the part of the
United Aggregate Tribunal, ever watchful for your welfare, ever zealous
for your benefit, that this meeting does Resolve: That Stephen Blackpool,
weaver, referred to in this placard, having been already solemnly
disowned by the community of Coketown Hands, the same are free from the
shame of his misdeeds, and cannot as a class be reproached with his
dishonest actions!’

Thus Slackbridge; gnashing and perspiring after a prodigious sort.  A few
stern voices called out ‘No!’ and a score or two hailed, with assenting
cries of ‘Hear, hear!’ the caution from one man, ‘Slackbridge, y’or over
hetter in’t; y’or a goen too fast!’  But these were pigmies against an
army; the general assemblage subscribed to the gospel according to
Slackbridge, and gave three cheers for him, as he sat demonstratively
panting at them.

These men and women were yet in the streets, passing quietly to their
homes, when Sissy, who had been called away from Louisa some minutes
before, returned.

‘Who is it?’ asked Louisa.

‘It is Mr. Bounderby,’ said Sissy, timid of the name, ‘and your brother
Mr. Tom, and a young woman who says her name is Rachael, and that you
know her.’

‘What do they want, Sissy dear?’

‘They want to see you.  Rachael has been crying, and seems angry.’

‘Father,’ said Louisa, for he was present, ‘I cannot refuse to see them,
for a reason that will explain itself.  Shall they come in here?’

As he answered in the affirmative, Sissy went away to bring them.  She
reappeared with them directly.  Tom was last; and remained standing in
the obscurest part of the room, near the door.

‘Mrs. Bounderby,’ said her husband, entering with a cool nod, ‘I don’t
disturb you, I hope.  This is an unseasonable hour, but here is a young
woman who has been making statements which render my visit necessary.
Tom Gradgrind, as your son, young Tom, refuses for some obstinate reason
or other to say anything at all about those statements, good or bad, I am
obliged to confront her with your daughter.’

‘You have seen me once before, young lady,’ said Rachael, standing in
front of Louisa.

Tom coughed.

‘You have seen me, young lady,’ repeated Rachael, as she did not answer,
‘once before.’

Tom coughed again.

‘I have.’

Rachael cast her eyes proudly towards Mr. Bounderby, and said, ‘Will you
make it known, young lady, where, and who was there?’

‘I went to the house where Stephen Blackpool lodged, on the night of his
discharge from his work, and I saw you there.  He was there too; and an
old woman who did not speak, and whom I could scarcely see, stood in a
dark corner.  My brother was with me.’

‘Why couldn’t you say so, young Tom?’ demanded Bounderby.

‘I promised my sister I wouldn’t.’  Which Louisa hastily confirmed.  ‘And
besides,’ said the whelp bitterly, ‘she tells her own story so precious
well—and so full—that what business had I to take it out of her mouth!’

‘Say, young lady, if you please,’ pursued Rachael, ‘why, in an evil hour,
you ever came to Stephen’s that night.’

‘I felt compassion for him,’ said Louisa, her colour deepening, ‘and I
wished to know what he was going to do, and wished to offer him
assistance.’

‘Thank you, ma’am,’ said Bounderby.  ‘Much flattered and obliged.’

‘Did you offer him,’ asked Rachael, ‘a bank-note?’

‘Yes; but he refused it, and would only take two pounds in gold.’

Rachael cast her eyes towards Mr. Bounderby again.

‘Oh, certainly!’ said Bounderby.  ‘If you put the question whether your
ridiculous and improbable account was true or not, I am bound to say it’s
confirmed.’

‘Young lady,’ said Rachael, ‘Stephen Blackpool is now named as a thief in
public print all over this town, and where else!  There have been a
meeting to-night where he have been spoken of in the same shameful way.
Stephen!  The honestest lad, the truest lad, the best!’  Her indignation
failed her, and she broke off sobbing.

‘I am very, very sorry,’ said Louisa.

‘Oh, young lady, young lady,’ returned Rachael, ‘I hope you may be, but I
don’t know!  I can’t say what you may ha’ done!  The like of you don’t
know us, don’t care for us, don’t belong to us.  I am not sure why you
may ha’ come that night.  I can’t tell but what you may ha’ come wi’ some
aim of your own, not mindin to what trouble you brought such as the poor
lad.  I said then, Bless you for coming; and I said it of my heart, you
seemed to take so pitifully to him; but I don’t know now, I don’t know!’

Louisa could not reproach her for her unjust suspicions; she was so
faithful to her idea of the man, and so afflicted.

‘And when I think,’ said Rachael through her sobs, ‘that the poor lad was
so grateful, thinkin you so good to him—when I mind that he put his hand
over his hard-worken face to hide the tears that you brought up there—Oh,
I hope you may be sorry, and ha’ no bad cause to be it; but I don’t know,
I don’t know!’

‘You’re a pretty article,’ growled the whelp, moving uneasily in his dark
corner, ‘to come here with these precious imputations!  You ought to be
bundled out for not knowing how to behave yourself, and you would be by
rights.’

She said nothing in reply; and her low weeping was the only sound that
was heard, until Mr. Bounderby spoke.

‘Come!’ said he, ‘you know what you have engaged to do.  You had better
give your mind to that; not this.’

‘’Deed, I am loath,’ returned Rachael, drying her eyes, ‘that any here
should see me like this; but I won’t be seen so again.  Young lady, when
I had read what’s put in print of Stephen—and what has just as much truth
in it as if it had been put in print of you—I went straight to the Bank
to say I knew where Stephen was, and to give a sure and certain promise
that he should be here in two days.  I couldn’t meet wi’ Mr. Bounderby
then, and your brother sent me away, and I tried to find you, but you was
not to be found, and I went back to work.  Soon as I come out of the Mill
to-night, I hastened to hear what was said of Stephen—for I know wi’
pride he will come back to shame it!—and then I went again to seek Mr.
Bounderby, and I found him, and I told him every word I knew; and he
believed no word I said, and brought me here.’

‘So far, that’s true enough,’ assented Mr. Bounderby, with his hands in
his pockets and his hat on.  ‘But I have known you people before to-day,
you’ll observe, and I know you never die for want of talking.  Now, I
recommend you not so much to mind talking just now, as doing.  You have
undertaken to do something; all I remark upon that at present is, do it!’

‘I have written to Stephen by the post that went out this afternoon, as I
have written to him once before sin’ he went away,’ said Rachael; ‘and he
will be here, at furthest, in two days.’

‘Then, I’ll tell you something.  You are not aware perhaps,’ retorted Mr.
Bounderby, ‘that you yourself have been looked after now and then, not
being considered quite free from suspicion in this business, on account
of most people being judged according to the company they keep.  The
post-office hasn’t been forgotten either.  What I’ll tell you is, that no
letter to Stephen Blackpool has ever got into it.  Therefore, what has
become of yours, I leave you to guess.  Perhaps you’re mistaken, and
never wrote any.’

‘He hadn’t been gone from here, young lady,’ said Rachael, turning
appealingly to Louisa, ‘as much as a week, when he sent me the only
letter I have had from him, saying that he was forced to seek work in
another name.’

‘Oh, by George!’ cried Bounderby, shaking his head, with a whistle, ‘he
changes his name, does he!  That’s rather unlucky, too, for such an
immaculate chap.  It’s considered a little suspicious in Courts of
Justice, I believe, when an Innocent happens to have many names.’

‘What,’ said Rachael, with the tears in her eyes again, ‘what, young
lady, in the name of Mercy, was left the poor lad to do!  The masters
against him on one hand, the men against him on the other, he only wantin
to work hard in peace, and do what he felt right.  Can a man have no soul
of his own, no mind of his own?  Must he go wrong all through wi’ this
side, or must he go wrong all through wi’ that, or else be hunted like a
hare?’

‘Indeed, indeed, I pity him from my heart,’ returned Louisa; ‘and I hope
that he will clear himself.’

‘You need have no fear of that, young lady.  He is sure!’

‘All the surer, I suppose,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘for your refusing to
tell where he is?  Eh?’

‘He shall not, through any act of mine, come back wi’ the unmerited
reproach of being brought back.  He shall come back of his own accord to
clear himself, and put all those that have injured his good character,
and he not here for its defence, to shame.  I have told him what has been
done against him,’ said Rachael, throwing off all distrust as a rock
throws of the sea, ‘and he will be here, at furthest, in two days.’

‘Notwithstanding which,’ added Mr. Bounderby, ‘if he can be laid hold of
any sooner, he shall have an earlier opportunity of clearing himself.  As
to you, I have nothing against you; what you came and told me turns out
to be true, and I have given you the means of proving it to be true, and
there’s an end of it.  I wish you good night all!  I must be off to look
a little further into this.’

Tom came out of his corner when Mr. Bounderby moved, moved with him, kept
close to him, and went away with him.  The only parting salutation of
which he delivered himself was a sulky ‘Good night, father!’  With a
brief speech, and a scowl at his sister, he left the house.

Since his sheet-anchor had come home, Mr. Gradgrind had been sparing of
speech.  He still sat silent, when Louisa mildly said:

‘Rachael, you will not distrust me one day, when you know me better.’

‘It goes against me,’ Rachael answered, in a gentler manner, ‘to mistrust
any one; but when I am so mistrusted—when we all are—I cannot keep such
things quite out of my mind.  I ask your pardon for having done you an
injury.  I don’t think what I said now.  Yet I might come to think it
again, wi’ the poor lad so wronged.’

‘Did you tell him in your letter,’ inquired Sissy, ‘that suspicion seemed
to have fallen upon him, because he had been seen about the Bank at
night?  He would then know what he would have to explain on coming back,
and would be ready.’

‘Yes, dear,’ she returned; ‘but I can’t guess what can have ever taken
him there.  He never used to go there.  It was never in his way.  His way
was the same as mine, and not near it.’

Sissy had already been at her side asking her where she lived, and
whether she might come to-morrow night, to inquire if there were news of
him.

‘I doubt,’ said Rachael, ‘if he can be here till next day.’

‘Then I will come next night too,’ said Sissy.

When Rachael, assenting to this, was gone, Mr. Gradgrind lifted up his
head, and said to his daughter:

‘Louisa, my dear, I have never, that I know of, seen this man.  Do you
believe him to be implicated?’

‘I think I have believed it, father, though with great difficulty.  I do
not believe it now.’

‘That is to say, you once persuaded yourself to believe it, from knowing
him to be suspected.  His appearance and manner; are they so honest?’

‘Very honest.’

‘And her confidence not to be shaken!  I ask myself,’ said Mr. Gradgrind,
musing, ‘does the real culprit know of these accusations?  Where is he?
Who is he?’

His hair had latterly began to change its colour.  As he leaned upon his
hand again, looking gray and old, Louisa, with a face of fear and pity,
hurriedly went over to him, and sat close at his side.  Her eyes by
accident met Sissy’s at the moment.  Sissy flushed and started, and
Louisa put her finger on her lip.

Next night, when Sissy returned home and told Louisa that Stephen was not
come, she told it in a whisper.  Next night again, when she came home
with the same account, and added that he had not been heard of, she spoke
in the same low frightened tone.  From the moment of that interchange of
looks, they never uttered his name, or any reference to him, aloud; nor
ever pursued the subject of the robbery, when Mr. Gradgrind spoke of it.

The two appointed days ran out, three days and nights ran out, and
Stephen Blackpool was not come, and remained unheard of.  On the fourth
day, Rachael, with unabated confidence, but considering her despatch to
have miscarried, went up to the Bank, and showed her letter from him with
his address, at a working colony, one of many, not upon the main road,
sixty miles away.  Messengers were sent to that place, and the whole town
looked for Stephen to be brought in next day.

During this whole time the whelp moved about with Mr. Bounderby like his
shadow, assisting in all the proceedings.  He was greatly excited,
horribly fevered, bit his nails down to the quick, spoke in a hard
rattling voice, and with lips that were black and burnt up.  At the hour
when the suspected man was looked for, the whelp was at the station;
offering to wager that he had made off before the arrival of those who
were sent in quest of him, and that he would not appear.

The whelp was right.  The messengers returned alone.  Rachael’s letter
had gone, Rachael’s letter had been delivered.  Stephen Blackpool had
decamped in that same hour; and no soul knew more of him.  The only doubt
in Coketown was, whether Rachael had written in good faith, believing
that he really would come back, or warning him to fly.  On this point
opinion was divided.

Six days, seven days, far on into another week.  The wretched whelp
plucked up a ghastly courage, and began to grow defiant.  ‘_Was_ the
suspected fellow the thief?  A pretty question!  If not, where was the
man, and why did he not come back?’

Where was the man, and why did he not come back?  In the dead of night
the echoes of his own words, which had rolled Heaven knows how far away
in the daytime, came back instead, and abided by him until morning.



CHAPTER V
FOUND


DAY and night again, day and night again.  No Stephen Blackpool.  Where
was the man, and why did he not come back?

Every night, Sissy went to Rachael’s lodging, and sat with her in her
small neat room.  All day, Rachael toiled as such people must toil,
whatever their anxieties.  The smoke-serpents were indifferent who was
lost or found, who turned out bad or good; the melancholy mad elephants,
like the Hard Fact men, abated nothing of their set routine, whatever
happened.  Day and night again, day and night again.  The monotony was
unbroken.  Even Stephen Blackpool’s disappearance was falling into the
general way, and becoming as monotonous a wonder as any piece of
machinery in Coketown.

‘I misdoubt,’ said Rachael, ‘if there is as many as twenty left in all
this place, who have any trust in the poor dear lad now.’

She said it to Sissy, as they sat in her lodging, lighted only by the
lamp at the street corner.  Sissy had come there when it was already
dark, to await her return from work; and they had since sat at the window
where Rachael had found her, wanting no brighter light to shine on their
sorrowful talk.

‘If it hadn’t been mercifully brought about, that I was to have you to
speak to,’ pursued Rachael, ‘times are, when I think my mind would not
have kept right.  But I get hope and strength through you; and you
believe that though appearances may rise against him, he will be proved
clear?’

‘I do believe so,’ returned Sissy, ‘with my whole heart.  I feel so
certain, Rachael, that the confidence you hold in yours against all
discouragement, is not like to be wrong, that I have no more doubt of him
than if I had known him through as many years of trial as you have.’

‘And I, my dear,’ said Rachel, with a tremble in her voice, ‘have known
him through them all, to be, according to his quiet ways, so faithful to
everything honest and good, that if he was never to be heard of more, and
I was to live to be a hundred years old, I could say with my last breath,
God knows my heart.  I have never once left trusting Stephen Blackpool!’

‘We all believe, up at the Lodge, Rachael, that he will be freed from
suspicion, sooner or later.’

‘The better I know it to be so believed there, my dear,’ said Rachael,
‘and the kinder I feel it that you come away from there, purposely to
comfort me, and keep me company, and be seen wi’ me when I am not yet
free from all suspicion myself, the more grieved I am that I should ever
have spoken those mistrusting words to the young lady.  And yet I—’

‘You don’t mistrust her now, Rachael?’

‘Now that you have brought us more together, no.  But I can’t at all
times keep out of my mind—’

Her voice so sunk into a low and slow communing with herself, that Sissy,
sitting by her side, was obliged to listen with attention.

‘I can’t at all times keep out of my mind, mistrustings of some one.  I
can’t think who ’tis, I can’t think how or why it may be done, but I
mistrust that some one has put Stephen out of the way.  I mistrust that
by his coming back of his own accord, and showing himself innocent before
them all, some one would be confounded, who—to prevent that—has stopped
him, and put him out of the way.’

‘That is a dreadful thought,’ said Sissy, turning pale.

‘It _is_ a dreadful thought to think he may be murdered.’

Sissy shuddered, and turned paler yet.

‘When it makes its way into my mind, dear,’ said Rachael, ‘and it will
come sometimes, though I do all I can to keep it out, wi’ counting on to
high numbers as I work, and saying over and over again pieces that I knew
when I were a child—I fall into such a wild, hot hurry, that, however
tired I am, I want to walk fast, miles and miles.  I must get the better
of this before bed-time.  I’ll walk home wi’ you.’

‘He might fall ill upon the journey back,’ said Sissy, faintly offering a
worn-out scrap of hope; ‘and in such a case, there are many places on the
road where he might stop.’

‘But he is in none of them.  He has been sought for in all, and he’s not
there.’

‘True,’ was Sissy’s reluctant admission.

‘He’d walk the journey in two days.  If he was footsore and couldn’t
walk, I sent him, in the letter he got, the money to ride, lest he should
have none of his own to spare.’

‘Let us hope that to-morrow will bring something better, Rachael.  Come
into the air!’

Her gentle hand adjusted Rachael’s shawl upon her shining black hair in
the usual manner of her wearing it, and they went out.  The night being
fine, little knots of Hands were here and there lingering at street
corners; but it was supper-time with the greater part of them, and there
were but few people in the streets.

‘You’re not so hurried now, Rachael, and your hand is cooler.’

‘I get better, dear, if I can only walk, and breathe a little fresh.
‘Times when I can’t, I turn weak and confused.’

‘But you must not begin to fail, Rachael, for you may be wanted at any
time to stand by Stephen.  To-morrow is Saturday.  If no news comes
to-morrow, let us walk in the country on Sunday morning, and strengthen
you for another week.  Will you go?’

‘Yes, dear.’

They were by this time in the street where Mr. Bounderby’s house stood.
The way to Sissy’s destination led them past the door, and they were
going straight towards it.  Some train had newly arrived in Coketown,
which had put a number of vehicles in motion, and scattered a
considerable bustle about the town.  Several coaches were rattling before
them and behind them as they approached Mr. Bounderby’s, and one of the
latter drew up with such briskness as they were in the act of passing the
house, that they looked round involuntarily.  The bright gaslight over
Mr. Bounderby’s steps showed them Mrs. Sparsit in the coach, in an
ecstasy of excitement, struggling to open the door; Mrs. Sparsit seeing
them at the same moment, called to them to stop.

‘It’s a coincidence,’ exclaimed Mrs. Sparsit, as she was released by the
coachman.  ‘It’s a Providence!  Come out, ma’am!’ then said Mrs. Sparsit,
to some one inside, ‘come out, or we’ll have you dragged out!’

Hereupon, no other than the mysterious old woman descended.  Whom Mrs.
Sparsit incontinently collared.

‘Leave her alone, everybody!’ cried Mrs. Sparsit, with great energy.
‘Let nobody touch her.  She belongs to me.  Come in, ma’am!’ then said
Mrs. Sparsit, reversing her former word of command.  ‘Come in, ma’am, or
we’ll have you dragged in!’

The spectacle of a matron of classical deportment, seizing an ancient
woman by the throat, and hauling her into a dwelling-house, would have
been under any circumstances, sufficient temptation to all true English
stragglers so blest as to witness it, to force a way into that
dwelling-house and see the matter out.  But when the phenomenon was
enhanced by the notoriety and mystery by this time associated all over
the town with the Bank robbery, it would have lured the stragglers in,
with an irresistible attraction, though the roof had been expected to
fall upon their heads.  Accordingly, the chance witnesses on the ground,
consisting of the busiest of the neighbours to the number of some
five-and-twenty, closed in after Sissy and Rachael, as they closed in
after Mrs. Sparsit and her prize; and the whole body made a disorderly
irruption into Mr. Bounderby’s dining-room, where the people behind lost
not a moment’s time in mounting on the chairs, to get the better of the
people in front.

‘Fetch Mr. Bounderby down!’ cried Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘Rachael, young woman;
you know who this is?’

‘It’s Mrs. Pegler,’ said Rachael.

‘I should think it is!’ cried Mrs. Sparsit, exulting.  ‘Fetch Mr.
Bounderby.  Stand away, everybody!’  Here old Mrs. Pegler, muffling
herself up, and shrinking from observation, whispered a word of entreaty.
‘Don’t tell me,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, aloud.  ‘I have told you twenty
times, coming along, that I will _not_ leave you till I have handed you
over to him myself.’

Mr. Bounderby now appeared, accompanied by Mr. Gradgrind and the whelp,
with whom he had been holding conference up-stairs.  Mr. Bounderby looked
more astonished than hospitable, at sight of this uninvited party in his
dining-room.

‘Why, what’s the matter now!’ said he.  ‘Mrs. Sparsit, ma’am?’

‘Sir,’ explained that worthy woman, ‘I trust it is my good fortune to
produce a person you have much desired to find.  Stimulated by my wish to
relieve your mind, sir, and connecting together such imperfect clues to
the part of the country in which that person might be supposed to reside,
as have been afforded by the young woman, Rachael, fortunately now
present to identify, I have had the happiness to succeed, and to bring
that person with me—I need not say most unwillingly on her part.  It has
not been, sir, without some trouble that I have effected this; but
trouble in your service is to me a pleasure, and hunger, thirst, and cold
a real gratification.’

Here Mrs. Sparsit ceased; for Mr. Bounderby’s visage exhibited an
extraordinary combination of all possible colours and expressions of
discomfiture, as old Mrs. Pegler was disclosed to his view.

‘Why, what do you mean by this?’ was his highly unexpected demand, in
great warmth.  ‘I ask you, what do you mean by this, Mrs. Sparsit,
ma’am?’

‘Sir!’ exclaimed Mrs. Sparsit, faintly.

‘Why don’t you mind your own business, ma’am?’ roared Bounderby.  ‘How
dare you go and poke your officious nose into my family affairs?’

This allusion to her favourite feature overpowered Mrs. Sparsit.  She sat
down stiffly in a chair, as if she were frozen; and with a fixed stare at
Mr. Bounderby, slowly grated her mittens against one another, as if they
were frozen too.

‘My dear Josiah!’ cried Mrs. Pegler, trembling.  ‘My darling boy!  I am
not to blame.  It’s not my fault, Josiah.  I told this lady over and over
again, that I knew she was doing what would not be agreeable to you, but
she would do it.’

‘What did you let her bring you for?  Couldn’t you knock her cap off, or
her tooth out, or scratch her, or do something or other to her?’ asked
Bounderby.

‘My own boy!  She threatened me that if I resisted her, I should be
brought by constables, and it was better to come quietly than make that
stir in such a’—Mrs. Pegler glanced timidly but proudly round the
walls—‘such a fine house as this.  Indeed, indeed, it is not my fault!
My dear, noble, stately boy!  I have always lived quiet, and secret,
Josiah, my dear.  I have never broken the condition once.  I have never
said I was your mother.  I have admired you at a distance; and if I have
come to town sometimes, with long times between, to take a proud peep at
you, I have done it unbeknown, my love, and gone away again.’

Mr. Bounderby, with his hands in his pockets, walked in impatient
mortification up and down at the side of the long dining-table, while the
spectators greedily took in every syllable of Mrs. Pegler’s appeal, and
at each succeeding syllable became more and more round-eyed.  Mr.
Bounderby still walking up and down when Mrs. Pegler had done, Mr.
Gradgrind addressed that maligned old lady:

‘I am surprised, madam,’ he observed with severity, ‘that in your old age
you have the face to claim Mr. Bounderby for your son, after your
unnatural and inhuman treatment of him.’

‘_Me_ unnatural!’ cried poor old Mrs. Pegler.  ‘_Me_ inhuman!  To my dear
boy?’

‘Dear!’ repeated Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘Yes; dear in his self-made prosperity,
madam, I dare say.  Not very dear, however, when you deserted him in his
infancy, and left him to the brutality of a drunken grandmother.’

‘_I_ deserted my Josiah!’ cried Mrs. Pegler, clasping her hands.  ‘Now,
Lord forgive you, sir, for your wicked imaginations, and for your scandal
against the memory of my poor mother, who died in my arms before Josiah
was born.  May you repent of it, sir, and live to know better!’

She was so very earnest and injured, that Mr. Gradgrind, shocked by the
possibility which dawned upon him, said in a gentler tone:

‘Do you deny, then, madam, that you left your son to—to be brought up in
the gutter?’

‘Josiah in the gutter!’ exclaimed Mrs. Pegler.  ‘No such a thing, sir.
Never!  For shame on you!  My dear boy knows, and will give _you_ to
know, that though he come of humble parents, he come of parents that
loved him as dear as the best could, and never thought it hardship on
themselves to pinch a bit that he might write and cipher beautiful, and
I’ve his books at home to show it!  Aye, have I!’ said Mrs. Pegler, with
indignant pride.  ‘And my dear boy knows, and will give _you_ to know,
sir, that after his beloved father died, when he was eight years old, his
mother, too, could pinch a bit, as it was her duty and her pleasure and
her pride to do it, to help him out in life, and put him ’prentice.  And
a steady lad he was, and a kind master he had to lend him a hand, and
well he worked his own way forward to be rich and thriving.  And _I_’ll
give you to know, sir—for this my dear boy won’t—that though his mother
kept but a little village shop, he never forgot her, but pensioned me on
thirty pound a year—more than I want, for I put by out of it—only making
the condition that I was to keep down in my own part, and make no boasts
about him, and not trouble him.  And I never have, except with looking at
him once a year, when he has never knowed it.  And it’s right,’ said poor
old Mrs. Pegler, in affectionate championship, ‘that I _should_ keep down
in my own part, and I have no doubts that if I was here I should do a
many unbefitting things, and I am well contented, and I can keep my pride
in my Josiah to myself, and I can love for love’s own sake!  And I am
ashamed of you, sir,’ said Mrs. Pegler, lastly, ‘for your slanders and
suspicions.  And I never stood here before, nor never wanted to stand
here when my dear son said no.  And I shouldn’t be here now, if it hadn’t
been for being brought here.  And for shame upon you, Oh, for shame, to
accuse me of being a bad mother to my son, with my son standing here to
tell you so different!’

The bystanders, on and off the dining-room chairs, raised a murmur of
sympathy with Mrs. Pegler, and Mr. Gradgrind felt himself innocently
placed in a very distressing predicament, when Mr. Bounderby, who had
never ceased walking up and down, and had every moment swelled larger and
larger, and grown redder and redder, stopped short.

‘I don’t exactly know,’ said Mr. Bounderby, ‘how I come to be favoured
with the attendance of the present company, but I don’t inquire.  When
they’re quite satisfied, perhaps they’ll be so good as to disperse;
whether they’re satisfied or not, perhaps they’ll be so good as to
disperse.  I’m not bound to deliver a lecture on my family affairs, I
have not undertaken to do it, and I’m not a going to do it.  Therefore
those who expect any explanation whatever upon that branch of the
subject, will be disappointed—particularly Tom Gradgrind, and he can’t
know it too soon.  In reference to the Bank robbery, there has been a
mistake made, concerning my mother.  If there hadn’t been
over-officiousness it wouldn’t have been made, and I hate
over-officiousness at all times, whether or no. Good evening!’

Although Mr. Bounderby carried it off in these terms, holding the door
open for the company to depart, there was a blustering sheepishness upon
him, at once extremely crestfallen and superlatively absurd.  Detected as
the Bully of humility, who had built his windy reputation upon lies, and
in his boastfulness had put the honest truth as far away from him as if
he had advanced the mean claim (there is no meaner) to tack himself on to
a pedigree, he cut a most ridiculous figure.  With the people filing off
at the door he held, who he knew would carry what had passed to the whole
town, to be given to the four winds, he could not have looked a Bully
more shorn and forlorn, if he had had his ears cropped.  Even that
unlucky female, Mrs. Sparsit, fallen from her pinnacle of exultation into
the Slough of Despond, was not in so bad a plight as that remarkable man
and self-made Humbug, Josiah Bounderby of Coketown.

Rachael and Sissy, leaving Mrs. Pegler to occupy a bed at her son’s for
that night, walked together to the gate of Stone Lodge and there parted.
Mr. Gradgrind joined them before they had gone very far, and spoke with
much interest of Stephen Blackpool; for whom he thought this signal
failure of the suspicions against Mrs. Pegler was likely to work well.

As to the whelp; throughout this scene as on all other late occasions, he
had stuck close to Bounderby.  He seemed to feel that as long as
Bounderby could make no discovery without his knowledge, he was so far
safe.  He never visited his sister, and had only seen her once since she
went home: that is to say on the night when he still stuck close to
Bounderby, as already related.

There was one dim unformed fear lingering about his sister’s mind, to
which she never gave utterance, which surrounded the graceless and
ungrateful boy with a dreadful mystery.  The same dark possibility had
presented itself in the same shapeless guise, this very day, to Sissy,
when Rachael spoke of some one who would be confounded by Stephen’s
return, having put him out of the way.  Louisa had never spoken of
harbouring any suspicion of her brother in connexion with the robbery,
she and Sissy had held no confidence on the subject, save in that one
interchange of looks when the unconscious father rested his gray head on
his hand; but it was understood between them, and they both knew it.
This other fear was so awful, that it hovered about each of them like a
ghostly shadow; neither daring to think of its being near herself, far
less of its being near the other.

And still the forced spirit which the whelp had plucked up, throve with
him.  If Stephen Blackpool was not the thief, let him show himself.  Why
didn’t he?

Another night.  Another day and night.  No Stephen Blackpool.  Where was
the man, and why did he not come back?



CHAPTER VI
THE STARLIGHT


THE Sunday was a bright Sunday in autumn, clear and cool, when early in
the morning Sissy and Rachael met, to walk in the country.

As Coketown cast ashes not only on its own head but on the
neighbourhood’s too—after the manner of those pious persons who do
penance for their own sins by putting other people into sackcloth—it was
customary for those who now and then thirsted for a draught of pure air,
which is not absolutely the most wicked among the vanities of life, to
get a few miles away by the railroad, and then begin their walk, or their
lounge in the fields.  Sissy and Rachael helped themselves out of the
smoke by the usual means, and were put down at a station about midway
between the town and Mr. Bounderby’s retreat.

Though the green landscape was blotted here and there with heaps of coal,
it was green elsewhere, and there were trees to see, and there were larks
singing (though it was Sunday), and there were pleasant scents in the
air, and all was over-arched by a bright blue sky.  In the distance one
way, Coketown showed as a black mist; in another distance hills began to
rise; in a third, there was a faint change in the light of the horizon
where it shone upon the far-off sea.  Under their feet, the grass was
fresh; beautiful shadows of branches flickered upon it, and speckled it;
hedgerows were luxuriant; everything was at peace.  Engines at pits’
mouths, and lean old horses that had worn the circle of their daily
labour into the ground, were alike quiet; wheels had ceased for a short
space to turn; and the great wheel of earth seemed to revolve without the
shocks and noises of another time.

They walked on across the fields and down the shady lanes, sometimes
getting over a fragment of a fence so rotten that it dropped at a touch
of the foot, sometimes passing near a wreck of bricks and beams overgrown
with grass, marking the site of deserted works.  They followed paths and
tracks, however slight.  Mounds where the grass was rank and high, and
where brambles, dock-weed, and such-like vegetation, were confusedly
heaped together, they always avoided; for dismal stories were told in
that country of the old pits hidden beneath such indications.

The sun was high when they sat down to rest.  They had seen no one, near
or distant, for a long time; and the solitude remained unbroken.  ‘It is
so still here, Rachael, and the way is so untrodden, that I think we must
be the first who have been here all the summer.’

As Sissy said it, her eyes were attracted by another of those rotten
fragments of fence upon the ground.  She got up to look at it.  ‘And yet
I don’t know.  This has not been broken very long.  The wood is quite
fresh where it gave way.  Here are footsteps too.—O Rachael!’

She ran back, and caught her round the neck.  Rachael had already started
up.

‘What is the matter?’

‘I don’t know.  There is a hat lying in the grass.’  They went forward
together.  Rachael took it up, shaking from head to foot.  She broke into
a passion of tears and lamentations: Stephen Blackpool was written in his
own hand on the inside.

‘O the poor lad, the poor lad!  He has been made away with.  He is lying
murdered here!’

‘Is there—has the hat any blood upon it?’ Sissy faltered.

They were afraid to look; but they did examine it, and found no mark of
violence, inside or out.  It had been lying there some days, for rain and
dew had stained it, and the mark of its shape was on the grass where it
had fallen.  They looked fearfully about them, without moving, but could
see nothing more.  ‘Rachael,’ Sissy whispered, ‘I will go on a little by
myself.’

She had unclasped her hand, and was in the act of stepping forward, when
Rachael caught her in both arms with a scream that resounded over the
wide landscape.  Before them, at their very feet, was the brink of a
black ragged chasm hidden by the thick grass.  They sprang back, and fell
upon their knees, each hiding her face upon the other’s neck.

‘O, my good Lord!  He’s down there!  Down there!’  At first this, and her
terrific screams, were all that could be got from Rachael, by any tears,
by any prayers, by any representations, by any means.  It was impossible
to hush her; and it was deadly necessary to hold her, or she would have
flung herself down the shaft.

‘Rachael, dear Rachael, good Rachael, for the love of Heaven, not these
dreadful cries!  Think of Stephen, think of Stephen, think of Stephen!’

By an earnest repetition of this entreaty, poured out in all the agony of
such a moment, Sissy at last brought her to be silent, and to look at her
with a tearless face of stone.

‘Rachael, Stephen may be living.  You wouldn’t leave him lying maimed at
the bottom of this dreadful place, a moment, if you could bring help to
him?’

‘No, no, no!’

‘Don’t stir from here, for his sake!  Let me go and listen.’

She shuddered to approach the pit; but she crept towards it on her hands
and knees, and called to him as loud as she could call.  She listened,
but no sound replied.  She called again and listened; still no answering
sound.  She did this, twenty, thirty times.  She took a little clod of
earth from the broken ground where he had stumbled, and threw it in.  She
could not hear it fall.

The wide prospect, so beautiful in its stillness but a few minutes ago,
almost carried despair to her brave heart, as she rose and looked all
round her, seeing no help.  ‘Rachael, we must lose not a moment.  We must
go in different directions, seeking aid.  You shall go by the way we have
come, and I will go forward by the path.  Tell any one you see, and every
one what has happened.  Think of Stephen, think of Stephen!’

She knew by Rachael’s face that she might trust her now.  And after
standing for a moment to see her running, wringing her hands as she ran,
she turned and went upon her own search; she stopped at the hedge to tie
her shawl there as a guide to the place, then threw her bonnet aside, and
ran as she had never run before.

Run, Sissy, run, in Heaven’s name!  Don’t stop for breath.  Run, run!
Quickening herself by carrying such entreaties in her thoughts, she ran
from field to field, and lane to lane, and place to place, as she had
never run before; until she came to a shed by an engine-house, where two
men lay in the shade, asleep on straw.

First to wake them, and next to tell them, all so wild and breathless as
she was, what had brought her there, were difficulties; but they no
sooner understood her than their spirits were on fire like hers.  One of
the men was in a drunken slumber, but on his comrade’s shouting to him
that a man had fallen down the Old Hell Shaft, he started out to a pool
of dirty water, put his head in it, and came back sober.

With these two men she ran to another half-a-mile further, and with that
one to another, while they ran elsewhere.  Then a horse was found; and
she got another man to ride for life or death to the railroad, and send a
message to Louisa, which she wrote and gave him.  By this time a whole
village was up: and windlasses, ropes, poles, candles, lanterns, all
things necessary, were fast collecting and being brought into one place,
to be carried to the Old Hell Shaft.

It seemed now hours and hours since she had left the lost man lying in
the grave where he had been buried alive.  She could not bear to remain
away from it any longer—it was like deserting him—and she hurried swiftly
back, accompanied by half-a-dozen labourers, including the drunken man
whom the news had sobered, and who was the best man of all.  When they
came to the Old Hell Shaft, they found it as lonely as she had left it.
The men called and listened as she had done, and examined the edge of the
chasm, and settled how it had happened, and then sat down to wait until
the implements they wanted should come up.

Every sound of insects in the air, every stirring of the leaves, every
whisper among these men, made Sissy tremble, for she thought it was a cry
at the bottom of the pit.  But the wind blew idly over it, and no sound
arose to the surface, and they sat upon the grass, waiting and waiting.
After they had waited some time, straggling people who had heard of the
accident began to come up; then the real help of implements began to
arrive.  In the midst of this, Rachael returned; and with her party there
was a surgeon, who brought some wine and medicines.  But, the expectation
among the people that the man would be found alive was very slight
indeed.

There being now people enough present to impede the work, the sobered man
put himself at the head of the rest, or was put there by the general
consent, and made a large ring round the Old Hell Shaft, and appointed
men to keep it.  Besides such volunteers as were accepted to work, only
Sissy and Rachael were at first permitted within this ring; but, later in
the day, when the message brought an express from Coketown, Mr. Gradgrind
and Louisa, and Mr. Bounderby, and the whelp, were also there.

The sun was four hours lower than when Sissy and Rachael had first sat
down upon the grass, before a means of enabling two men to descend
securely was rigged with poles and ropes.  Difficulties had arisen in the
construction of this machine, simple as it was; requisites had been found
wanting, and messages had had to go and return.  It was five o’clock in
the afternoon of the bright autumnal Sunday, before a candle was sent
down to try the air, while three or four rough faces stood crowded close
together, attentively watching it: the man at the windlass lowering as
they were told.  The candle was brought up again, feebly burning, and
then some water was cast in.  Then the bucket was hooked on; and the
sobered man and another got in with lights, giving the word ‘Lower away!’

As the rope went out, tight and strained, and the windlass creaked, there
was not a breath among the one or two hundred men and women looking on,
that came as it was wont to come.  The signal was given and the windlass
stopped, with abundant rope to spare.  Apparently so long an interval
ensued with the men at the windlass standing idle, that some women
shrieked that another accident had happened!  But the surgeon who held
the watch, declared five minutes not to have elapsed yet, and sternly
admonished them to keep silence.  He had not well done speaking, when the
windlass was reversed and worked again.  Practised eyes knew that it did
not go as heavily as it would if both workmen had been coming up, and
that only one was returning.

The rope came in tight and strained; and ring after ring was coiled upon
the barrel of the windlass, and all eyes were fastened on the pit.  The
sobered man was brought up and leaped out briskly on the grass.  There
was an universal cry of ‘Alive or dead?’ and then a deep, profound hush.

When he said ‘Alive!’ a great shout arose and many eyes had tears in
them.

‘But he’s hurt very bad,’ he added, as soon as he could make himself
heard again.  ‘Where’s doctor?  He’s hurt so very bad, sir, that we donno
how to get him up.’

They all consulted together, and looked anxiously at the surgeon, as he
asked some questions, and shook his head on receiving the replies.  The
sun was setting now; and the red light in the evening sky touched every
face there, and caused it to be distinctly seen in all its rapt suspense.

The consultation ended in the men returning to the windlass, and the
pitman going down again, carrying the wine and some other small matters
with him.  Then the other man came up.  In the meantime, under the
surgeon’s directions, some men brought a hurdle, on which others made a
thick bed of spare clothes covered with loose straw, while he himself
contrived some bandages and slings from shawls and handkerchiefs.  As
these were made, they were hung upon an arm of the pitman who had last
come up, with instructions how to use them: and as he stood, shown by the
light he carried, leaning his powerful loose hand upon one of the poles,
and sometimes glancing down the pit, and sometimes glancing round upon
the people, he was not the least conspicuous figure in the scene.  It was
dark now, and torches were kindled.

It appeared from the little this man said to those about him, which was
quickly repeated all over the circle, that the lost man had fallen upon a
mass of crumbled rubbish with which the pit was half choked up, and that
his fall had been further broken by some jagged earth at the side.  He
lay upon his back with one arm doubled under him, and according to his
own belief had hardly stirred since he fell, except that he had moved his
free hand to a side pocket, in which he remembered to have some bread and
meat (of which he had swallowed crumbs), and had likewise scooped up a
little water in it now and then.  He had come straight away from his
work, on being written to, and had walked the whole journey; and was on
his way to Mr. Bounderby’s country house after dark, when he fell.  He
was crossing that dangerous country at such a dangerous time, because he
was innocent of what was laid to his charge, and couldn’t rest from
coming the nearest way to deliver himself up.  The Old Hell Shaft, the
pitman said, with a curse upon it, was worthy of its bad name to the
last; for though Stephen could speak now, he believed it would soon be
found to have mangled the life out of him.

When all was ready, this man, still taking his last hurried charges from
his comrades and the surgeon after the windlass had begun to lower him,
disappeared into the pit.  The rope went out as before, the signal was
made as before, and the windlass stopped.  No man removed his hand from
it now.  Every one waited with his grasp set, and his body bent down to
the work, ready to reverse and wind in.  At length the signal was given,
and all the ring leaned forward.

For, now, the rope came in, tightened and strained to its utmost as it
appeared, and the men turned heavily, and the windlass complained.  It
was scarcely endurable to look at the rope, and think of its giving way.
But, ring after ring was coiled upon the barrel of the windlass safely,
and the connecting chains appeared, and finally the bucket with the two
men holding on at the sides—a sight to make the head swim, and oppress
the heart—and tenderly supporting between them, slung and tied within,
the figure of a poor, crushed, human creature.

A low murmur of pity went round the throng, and the women wept aloud, as
this form, almost without form, was moved very slowly from its iron
deliverance, and laid upon the bed of straw.  At first, none but the
surgeon went close to it.  He did what he could in its adjustment on the
couch, but the best that he could do was to cover it.  That gently done,
he called to him Rachael and Sissy.  And at that time the pale, worn,
patient face was seen looking up at the sky, with the broken right hand
lying bare on the outside of the covering garments, as if waiting to be
taken by another hand.

They gave him drink, moistened his face with water, and administered some
drops of cordial and wine.  Though he lay quite motionless looking up at
the sky, he smiled and said, ‘Rachael.’  She stooped down on the grass at
his side, and bent over him until her eyes were between his and the sky,
for he could not so much as turn them to look at her.

‘Rachael, my dear.’

She took his hand.  He smiled again and said, ‘Don’t let ’t go.’

‘Thou’rt in great pain, my own dear Stephen?’

‘I ha’ been, but not now.  I ha’ been—dreadful, and dree, and long, my
dear—but ’tis ower now.  Ah, Rachael, aw a muddle!  Fro’ first to last, a
muddle!’

The spectre of his old look seemed to pass as he said the word.

‘I ha’ fell into th’ pit, my dear, as have cost wi’in the knowledge o’
old fok now livin, hundreds and hundreds o’ men’s lives—fathers, sons,
brothers, dear to thousands an’ thousands, an’ keeping ’em fro’ want and
hunger.  I ha’ fell into a pit that ha’ been wi’ th’ Firedamp crueller
than battle.  I ha’ read on ’t in the public petition, as onny one may
read, fro’ the men that works in pits, in which they ha’ pray’n and
pray’n the lawmakers for Christ’s sake not to let their work be murder to
’em, but to spare ’em for th’ wives and children that they loves as well
as gentlefok loves theirs.  When it were in work, it killed wi’out need;
when ’tis let alone, it kills wi’out need.  See how we die an’ no need,
one way an’ another—in a muddle—every day!’

He faintly said it, without any anger against any one.  Merely as the
truth.

‘Thy little sister, Rachael, thou hast not forgot her.  Thou’rt not like
to forget her now, and me so nigh her.  Thou know’st—poor, patient,
suff’rin, dear—how thou didst work for her, seet’n all day long in her
little chair at thy winder, and how she died, young and misshapen, awlung
o’ sickly air as had’n no need to be, an’ awlung o’ working people’s
miserable homes.  A muddle!  Aw a muddle!’

Louisa approached him; but he could not see her, lying with his face
turned up to the night sky.

‘If aw th’ things that tooches us, my dear, was not so muddled, I
should’n ha’ had’n need to coom heer.  If we was not in a muddle among
ourseln, I should’n ha’ been, by my own fellow weavers and workin’
brothers, so mistook.  If Mr. Bounderby had ever know’d me right—if he’d
ever know’d me at aw—he would’n ha’ took’n offence wi’ me.  He would’n
ha’ suspect’n me.  But look up yonder, Rachael!  Look aboove!’

Following his eyes, she saw that he was gazing at a star.

      [Picture: Stephen Blackpool recovered from the Old Hell Shaft]

‘It ha’ shined upon me,’ he said reverently, ‘in my pain and trouble down
below.  It ha’ shined into my mind.  I ha’ look’n at ’t and thowt o’
thee, Rachael, till the muddle in my mind have cleared awa, above a bit,
I hope.  If soom ha’ been wantin’ in unnerstan’in me better, I, too, ha’
been wantin’ in unnerstan’in them better.  When I got thy letter, I
easily believen that what the yoong ledy sen and done to me, and what her
brother sen and done to me, was one, and that there were a wicked plot
betwixt ’em.  When I fell, I were in anger wi’ her, an’ hurryin on t’ be
as onjust t’ her as oothers was t’ me.  But in our judgments, like as in
our doins, we mun bear and forbear.  In my pain an’ trouble, lookin up
yonder,—wi’ it shinin on me—I ha’ seen more clear, and ha’ made it my
dyin prayer that aw th’ world may on’y coom toogether more, an’ get a
better unnerstan’in o’ one another, than when I were in ’t my own weak
seln.’

Louisa hearing what he said, bent over him on the opposite side to
Rachael, so that he could see her.

‘You ha’ heard?’ he said, after a few moments’ silence.  ‘I ha’ not
forgot you, ledy.’

‘Yes, Stephen, I have heard you.  And your prayer is mine.’

‘You ha’ a father.  Will yo tak’ a message to him?’

‘He is here,’ said Louisa, with dread.  ‘Shall I bring him to you?’

‘If yo please.’

Louisa returned with her father.  Standing hand-in-hand, they both looked
down upon the solemn countenance.

‘Sir, yo will clear me an’ mak my name good wi’ aw men.  This I leave to
yo.’

Mr. Gradgrind was troubled and asked how?

‘Sir,’ was the reply: ‘yor son will tell yo how.  Ask him.  I mak no
charges: I leave none ahint me: not a single word.  I ha’ seen an’ spok’n
wi’ yor son, one night.  I ask no more o’ yo than that yo clear me—an’ I
trust to yo to do ’t.’

The bearers being now ready to carry him away, and the surgeon being
anxious for his removal, those who had torches or lanterns, prepared to
go in front of the litter.  Before it was raised, and while they were
arranging how to go, he said to Rachael, looking upward at the star:

‘Often as I coom to myseln, and found it shinin’ on me down there in my
trouble, I thowt it were the star as guided to Our Saviour’s home.  I
awmust think it be the very star!’

They lifted him up, and he was overjoyed to find that they were about to
take him in the direction whither the star seemed to him to lead.

‘Rachael, beloved lass!  Don’t let go my hand.  We may walk toogether
t’night, my dear!’

‘I will hold thy hand, and keep beside thee, Stephen, all the way.’

‘Bless thee!  Will soombody be pleased to coover my face!’

They carried him very gently along the fields, and down the lanes, and
over the wide landscape; Rachael always holding the hand in hers.  Very
few whispers broke the mournful silence.  It was soon a funeral
procession.  The star had shown him where to find the God of the poor;
and through humility, and sorrow, and forgiveness, he had gone to his
Redeemer’s rest.



CHAPTER VII
WHELP-HUNTING


BEFORE the ring formed round the Old Hell Shaft was broken, one figure
had disappeared from within it.  Mr. Bounderby and his shadow had not
stood near Louisa, who held her father’s arm, but in a retired place by
themselves.  When Mr. Gradgrind was summoned to the couch, Sissy,
attentive to all that happened, slipped behind that wicked shadow—a sight
in the horror of his face, if there had been eyes there for any sight but
one—and whispered in his ear.  Without turning his head, he conferred
with her a few moments, and vanished.  Thus the whelp had gone out of the
circle before the people moved.

When the father reached home, he sent a message to Mr. Bounderby’s,
desiring his son to come to him directly.  The reply was, that Mr.
Bounderby having missed him in the crowd, and seeing nothing of him
since, had supposed him to be at Stone Lodge.

‘I believe, father,’ said Louisa, ‘he will not come back to town
to-night.’  Mr. Gradgrind turned away, and said no more.

In the morning, he went down to the Bank himself as soon as it was
opened, and seeing his son’s place empty (he had not the courage to look
in at first) went back along the street to meet Mr. Bounderby on his way
there.  To whom he said that, for reasons he would soon explain, but
entreated not then to be asked for, he had found it necessary to employ
his son at a distance for a little while.  Also, that he was charged with
the duty of vindicating Stephen Blackpool’s memory, and declaring the
thief.  Mr. Bounderby quite confounded, stood stock-still in the street
after his father-in-law had left him, swelling like an immense
soap-bubble, without its beauty.

Mr. Gradgrind went home, locked himself in his room, and kept it all that
day.  When Sissy and Louisa tapped at his door, he said, without opening
it, ‘Not now, my dears; in the evening.’  On their return in the evening,
he said, ‘I am not able yet—to-morrow.’  He ate nothing all day, and had
no candle after dark; and they heard him walking to and fro late at
night.

But, in the morning he appeared at breakfast at the usual hour, and took
his usual place at the table.  Aged and bent he looked, and quite bowed
down; and yet he looked a wiser man, and a better man, than in the days
when in this life he wanted nothing—but Facts.  Before he left the room,
he appointed a time for them to come to him; and so, with his gray head
drooping, went away.

‘Dear father,’ said Louisa, when they kept their appointment, ‘you have
three young children left.  They will be different, I will be different
yet, with Heaven’s help.’

She gave her hand to Sissy, as if she meant with her help too.

‘Your wretched brother,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘Do you think he had
planned this robbery, when he went with you to the lodging?’

‘I fear so, father.  I know he had wanted money very much, and had spent
a great deal.’

‘The poor man being about to leave the town, it came into his evil brain
to cast suspicion on him?’

‘I think it must have flashed upon him while he sat there, father.  For I
asked him to go there with me.  The visit did not originate with him.’

‘He had some conversation with the poor man.  Did he take him aside?’

‘He took him out of the room.  I asked him afterwards, why he had done
so, and he made a plausible excuse; but since last night, father, and
when I remember the circumstances by its light, I am afraid I can imagine
too truly what passed between them.’

‘Let me know,’ said her father, ‘if your thoughts present your guilty
brother in the same dark view as mine.’

‘I fear, father,’ hesitated Louisa, ‘that he must have made some
representation to Stephen Blackpool—perhaps in my name, perhaps in his
own—which induced him to do in good faith and honesty, what he had never
done before, and to wait about the Bank those two or three nights before
he left the town.’

‘Too plain!’ returned the father.  ‘Too plain!’

He shaded his face, and remained silent for some moments.  Recovering
himself, he said:

‘And now, how is he to be found?  How is he to be saved from justice?  In
the few hours that I can possibly allow to elapse before I publish the
truth, how is he to be found by us, and only by us?  Ten thousand pounds
could not effect it.’

‘Sissy has effected it, father.’

He raised his eyes to where she stood, like a good fairy in his house,
and said in a tone of softened gratitude and grateful kindness, ‘It is
always you, my child!’

‘We had our fears,’ Sissy explained, glancing at Louisa, ‘before
yesterday; and when I saw you brought to the side of the litter last
night, and heard what passed (being close to Rachael all the time), I
went to him when no one saw, and said to him, “Don’t look at me.  See
where your father is.  Escape at once, for his sake and your own!”  He
was in a tremble before I whispered to him, and he started and trembled
more then, and said, “Where can I go?  I have very little money, and I
don’t know who will hide me!”  I thought of father’s old circus.  I have
not forgotten where Mr. Sleary goes at this time of year, and I read of
him in a paper only the other day.  I told him to hurry there, and tell
his name, and ask Mr. Sleary to hide him till I came.  “I’ll get to him
before the morning,” he said.  And I saw him shrink away among the
people.’

‘Thank Heaven!’ exclaimed his father.  ‘He may be got abroad yet.’

It was the more hopeful as the town to which Sissy had directed him was
within three hours’ journey of Liverpool, whence he could be swiftly
dispatched to any part of the world.  But, caution being necessary in
communicating with him—for there was a greater danger every moment of his
being suspected now, and nobody could be sure at heart but that Mr.
Bounderby himself, in a bullying vein of public zeal, might play a Roman
part—it was consented that Sissy and Louisa should repair to the place in
question, by a circuitous course, alone; and that the unhappy father,
setting forth in an opposite direction, should get round to the same
bourne by another and wider route.  It was further agreed that he should
not present himself to Mr. Sleary, lest his intentions should be
mistrusted, or the intelligence of his arrival should cause his son to
take flight anew; but, that the communication should be left to Sissy and
Louisa to open; and that they should inform the cause of so much misery
and disgrace, of his father’s being at hand and of the purpose for which
they had come.  When these arrangements had been well considered and were
fully understood by all three, it was time to begin to carry them into
execution.  Early in the afternoon, Mr. Gradgrind walked direct from his
own house into the country, to be taken up on the line by which he was to
travel; and at night the remaining two set forth upon their different
course, encouraged by not seeing any face they knew.

The two travelled all night, except when they were left, for odd numbers
of minutes, at branch-places, up illimitable flights of steps, or down
wells—which was the only variety of those branches—and, early in the
morning, were turned out on a swamp, a mile or two from the town they
sought.  From this dismal spot they were rescued by a savage old
postilion, who happened to be up early, kicking a horse in a fly: and so
were smuggled into the town by all the back lanes where the pigs lived:
which, although not a magnificent or even savoury approach, was, as is
usual in such cases, the legitimate highway.

The first thing they saw on entering the town was the skeleton of
Sleary’s Circus.  The company had departed for another town more than
twenty miles off, and had opened there last night.  The connection
between the two places was by a hilly turnpike-road, and the travelling
on that road was very slow.  Though they took but a hasty breakfast, and
no rest (which it would have been in vain to seek under such anxious
circumstances), it was noon before they began to find the bills of
Sleary’s Horse-riding on barns and walls, and one o’clock when they
stopped in the market-place.

A Grand Morning Performance by the Riders, commencing at that very hour,
was in course of announcement by the bellman as they set their feet upon
the stones of the street.  Sissy recommended that, to avoid making
inquiries and attracting attention in the town, they should present
themselves to pay at the door.  If Mr. Sleary were taking the money, he
would be sure to know her, and would proceed with discretion.  If he were
not, he would be sure to see them inside; and, knowing what he had done
with the fugitive, would proceed with discretion still.

Therefore, they repaired, with fluttering hearts, to the well-remembered
booth.  The flag with the inscription SLEARY’S HORSE-RIDING was there;
and the Gothic niche was there; but Mr. Sleary was not there.  Master
Kidderminster, grown too maturely turfy to be received by the wildest
credulity as Cupid any more, had yielded to the invincible force of
circumstances (and his beard), and, in the capacity of a man who made
himself generally useful, presided on this occasion over the
exchequer—having also a drum in reserve, on which to expend his leisure
moments and superfluous forces.  In the extreme sharpness of his look out
for base coin, Mr. Kidderminster, as at present situated, never saw
anything but money; so Sissy passed him unrecognised, and they went in.

The Emperor of Japan, on a steady old white horse stencilled with black
spots, was twirling five wash-hand basins at once, as it is the favourite
recreation of that monarch to do.  Sissy, though well acquainted with his
Royal line, had no personal knowledge of the present Emperor, and his
reign was peaceful.  Miss Josephine Sleary, in her celebrated graceful
Equestrian Tyrolean Flower Act, was then announced by a new clown (who
humorously said Cauliflower Act), and Mr. Sleary appeared, leading her
in.

Mr. Sleary had only made one cut at the Clown with his long whip-lash,
and the Clown had only said, ‘If you do it again, I’ll throw the horse at
you!’ when Sissy was recognised both by father and daughter.  But they
got through the Act with great self-possession; and Mr. Sleary, saving
for the first instant, conveyed no more expression into his locomotive
eye than into his fixed one.  The performance seemed a little long to
Sissy and Louisa, particularly when it stopped to afford the Clown an
opportunity of telling Mr. Sleary (who said ‘Indeed, sir!’ to all his
observations in the calmest way, and with his eye on the house) about two
legs sitting on three legs looking at one leg, when in came four legs,
and laid hold of one leg, and up got two legs, caught hold of three legs,
and threw ’em at four legs, who ran away with one leg.  For, although an
ingenious Allegory relating to a butcher, a three-legged stool, a dog,
and a leg of mutton, this narrative consumed time; and they were in great
suspense.  At last, however, little fair-haired Josephine made her
curtsey amid great applause; and the Clown, left alone in the ring, had
just warmed himself, and said, ‘Now _I_’ll have a turn!’ when Sissy was
touched on the shoulder, and beckoned out.

She took Louisa with her; and they were received by Mr. Sleary in a very
little private apartment, with canvas sides, a grass floor, and a wooden
ceiling all aslant, on which the box company stamped their approbation,
as if they were coming through.  ‘Thethilia,’ said Mr. Sleary, who had
brandy and water at hand, ‘it doth me good to thee you.  You wath alwayth
a favourite with uth, and you’ve done uth credith thinth the old timeth
I’m thure.  You mutht thee our people, my dear, afore we thpeak of
bithnith, or they’ll break their hearth—ethpethially the women.  Here’th
Jothphine hath been and got married to E. W. B. Childerth, and thee hath
got a boy, and though he’th only three yearth old, he thtickth on to any
pony you can bring againtht him.  He’th named The Little Wonder of
Thcolathtic Equitation; and if you don’t hear of that boy at Athley’th,
you’ll hear of him at Parith.  And you recollect Kidderminthter, that
wath thought to be rather thweet upon yourthelf?  Well.  He’th married
too.  Married a widder.  Old enough to be hith mother.  Thee wath
Tightrope, thee wath, and now thee’th nothing—on accounth of fat.
They’ve got two children, tho we’re thtrong in the Fairy bithnith and the
Nurthery dodge.  If you wath to thee our Children in the Wood, with their
father and mother both a dyin’ on a horthe—their uncle a retheiving of
’em ath hith wardth, upon a horthe—themthelvth both a goin’ a
black-berryin’ on a horthe—and the Robinth a coming in to cover ’em with
leavth, upon a horthe—you’d thay it wath the completetht thing ath ever
you thet your eyeth on!  And you remember Emma Gordon, my dear, ath wath
a’motht a mother to you?  Of courthe you do; I needn’t athk.  Well!
Emma, thee lotht her huthband.  He wath throw’d a heavy back-fall off a
Elephant in a thort of a Pagoda thing ath the Thultan of the Indieth, and
he never got the better of it; and thee married a thecond time—married a
Cheethemonger ath fell in love with her from the front—and he’th a
Overtheer and makin’ a fortun.’

These various changes, Mr. Sleary, very short of breath now, related with
great heartiness, and with a wonderful kind of innocence, considering
what a bleary and brandy-and-watery old veteran he was.  Afterwards he
brought in Josephine, and E. W. B. Childers (rather deeply lined in the
jaws by daylight), and the Little Wonder of Scholastic Equitation, and in
a word, all the company.  Amazing creatures they were in Louisa’s eyes,
so white and pink of complexion, so scant of dress, and so demonstrative
of leg; but it was very agreeable to see them crowding about Sissy, and
very natural in Sissy to be unable to refrain from tears.

‘There!  Now Thethilia hath kithd all the children, and hugged all the
women, and thaken handth all round with all the men, clear, every one of
you, and ring in the band for the thecond part!’

As soon as they were gone, he continued in a low tone.  ‘Now, Thethilia,
I don’t athk to know any thecreth, but I thuppothe I may conthider thith
to be Mith Thquire.’

‘This is his sister.  Yes.’

‘And t’other on’th daughter.  That’h what I mean.  Hope I thee you well,
mith.  And I hope the Thquire’th well?’

‘My father will be here soon,’ said Louisa, anxious to bring him to the
point.  ‘Is my brother safe?’

‘Thafe and thound!’ he replied.  ‘I want you jutht to take a peep at the
Ring, mith, through here.  Thethilia, you know the dodgeth; find a
thpy-hole for yourthelf.’

They each looked through a chink in the boards.

‘That’h Jack the Giant Killer—piethe of comic infant bithnith,’ said
Sleary.  ‘There’th a property-houthe, you thee, for Jack to hide in;
there’th my Clown with a thauthepan-lid and a thpit, for Jack’th
thervant; there’th little Jack himthelf in a thplendid thoot of armour;
there’th two comic black thervanth twithe ath big ath the houthe, to
thtand by it and to bring it in and clear it; and the Giant (a very
ecthpenthive bathket one), he an’t on yet.  Now, do you thee ’em all?’

‘Yes,’ they both said.

‘Look at ’em again,’ said Sleary, ‘look at ’em well.  You thee em all?
Very good.  Now, mith;’ he put a form for them to sit on; ‘I have my
opinionth, and the Thquire your father hath hith.  I don’t want to know
what your brother’th been up to; ith better for me not to know.  All I
thay ith, the Thquire hath thtood by Thethilia, and I’ll thtand by the
Thquire.  Your brother ith one them black thervanth.’

Louisa uttered an exclamation, partly of distress, partly of
satisfaction.

‘Ith a fact,’ said Sleary, ‘and even knowin’ it, you couldn’t put your
finger on him.  Let the Thquire come.  I thall keep your brother here
after the performanth.  I thant undreth him, nor yet wath hith paint off.
Let the Thquire come here after the performanth, or come here yourthelf
after the performanth, and you thall find your brother, and have the
whole plathe to talk to him in.  Never mind the lookth of him, ath long
ath he’th well hid.’

Louisa, with many thanks and with a lightened load, detained Mr. Sleary
no longer then.  She left her love for her brother, with her eyes full of
tears; and she and Sissy went away until later in the afternoon.

Mr. Gradgrind arrived within an hour afterwards.  He too had encountered
no one whom he knew; and was now sanguine with Sleary’s assistance, of
getting his disgraced son to Liverpool in the night.  As neither of the
three could be his companion without almost identifying him under any
disguise, he prepared a letter to a correspondent whom he could trust,
beseeching him to ship the bearer off at any cost, to North or South
America, or any distant part of the world to which he could be the most
speedily and privately dispatched.

This done, they walked about, waiting for the Circus to be quite vacated;
not only by the audience, but by the company and by the horses.  After
watching it a long time, they saw Mr. Sleary bring out a chair and sit
down by the side-door, smoking; as if that were his signal that they
might approach.

‘Your thervant, Thquire,’ was his cautious salutation as they passed in.
‘If you want me you’ll find me here.  You muthn’t mind your thon having a
comic livery on.’

They all three went in; and Mr. Gradgrind sat down forlorn, on the
Clown’s performing chair in the middle of the ring.  On one of the back
benches, remote in the subdued light and the strangeness of the place,
sat the villainous whelp, sulky to the last, whom he had the misery to
call his son.

In a preposterous coat, like a beadle’s, with cuffs and flaps exaggerated
to an unspeakable extent; in an immense waistcoat, knee-breeches, buckled
shoes, and a mad cocked hat; with nothing fitting him, and everything of
coarse material, moth-eaten and full of holes; with seams in his black
face, where fear and heat had started through the greasy composition
daubed all over it; anything so grimly, detestably, ridiculously shameful
as the whelp in his comic livery, Mr. Gradgrind never could by any other
means have believed in, weighable and measurable fact though it was.  And
one of his model children had come to this!

At first the whelp would not draw any nearer, but persisted in remaining
up there by himself.  Yielding at length, if any concession so sullenly
made can be called yielding, to the entreaties of Sissy—for Louisa he
disowned altogether—he came down, bench by bench, until he stood in the
sawdust, on the verge of the circle, as far as possible, within its
limits from where his father sat.

‘How was this done?’ asked the father.

‘How was what done?’ moodily answered the son.

‘This robbery,’ said the father, raising his voice upon the word.

‘I forced the safe myself over night, and shut it up ajar before I went
away.  I had had the key that was found, made long before.  I dropped it
that morning, that it might be supposed to have been used.  I didn’t take
the money all at once.  I pretended to put my balance away every night,
but I didn’t.  Now you know all about it.’

‘If a thunderbolt had fallen on me,’ said the father, ‘it would have
shocked me less than this!’

‘I don’t see why,’ grumbled the son.  ‘So many people are employed in
situations of trust; so many people, out of so many, will be dishonest.
I have heard you talk, a hundred times, of its being a law.  How can _I_
help laws?  You have comforted others with such things, father.  Comfort
yourself!’

The father buried his face in his hands, and the son stood in his
disgraceful grotesqueness, biting straw: his hands, with the black partly
worn away inside, looking like the hands of a monkey.  The evening was
fast closing in; and from time to time, he turned the whites of his eyes
restlessly and impatiently towards his father.  They were the only parts
of his face that showed any life or expression, the pigment upon it was
so thick.

‘You must be got to Liverpool, and sent abroad.’

‘I suppose I must.  I can’t be more miserable anywhere,’ whimpered the
whelp, ‘than I have been here, ever since I can remember.  That’s one
thing.’

Mr. Gradgrind went to the door, and returned with Sleary, to whom he
submitted the question, How to get this deplorable object away?

‘Why, I’ve been thinking of it, Thquire.  There’th not muth time to
lothe, tho you muth thay yeth or no.  Ith over twenty mileth to the rail.
There’th a coath in half an hour, that goeth _to_ the rail, ‘purpothe to
cath the mail train.  That train will take him right to Liverpool.’

‘But look at him,’ groaned Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘Will any coach—’

‘I don’t mean that he thould go in the comic livery,’ said Sleary.  ‘Thay
the word, and I’ll make a Jothkin of him, out of the wardrobe, in five
minutes.’

‘I don’t understand,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.

‘A Jothkin—a Carter.  Make up your mind quick, Thquire.  There’ll be beer
to feth.  I’ve never met with nothing but beer ath’ll ever clean a comic
blackamoor.’

Mr. Gradgrind rapidly assented; Mr. Sleary rapidly turned out from a box,
a smock frock, a felt hat, and other essentials; the whelp rapidly
changed clothes behind a screen of baize; Mr. Sleary rapidly brought
beer, and washed him white again.

‘Now,’ said Sleary, ‘come along to the coath, and jump up behind; I’ll go
with you there, and they’ll thuppothe you one of my people.  Thay
farewell to your family, and tharp’th the word.’  With which he
delicately retired.

‘Here is your letter,’ said Mr. Gradgrind.  ‘All necessary means will be
provided for you.  Atone, by repentance and better conduct, for the
shocking action you have committed, and the dreadful consequences to
which it has led.  Give me your hand, my poor boy, and may God forgive
you as I do!’

The culprit was moved to a few abject tears by these words and their
pathetic tone.  But, when Louisa opened her arms, he repulsed her afresh.

‘Not you.  I don’t want to have anything to say to you!’

‘O Tom, Tom, do we end so, after all my love!’

‘After all your love!’ he returned, obdurately.  ‘Pretty love!  Leaving
old Bounderby to himself, and packing my best friend Mr. Harthouse off,
and going home just when I was in the greatest danger.  Pretty love that!
Coming out with every word about our having gone to that place, when you
saw the net was gathering round me.  Pretty love that!  You have
regularly given me up.  You never cared for me.’

‘Tharp’th the word!’ said Sleary, at the door.

They all confusedly went out: Louisa crying to him that she forgave him,
and loved him still, and that he would one day be sorry to have left her
so, and glad to think of these her last words, far away: when some one
ran against them.  Mr. Gradgrind and Sissy, who were both before him
while his sister yet clung to his shoulder, stopped and recoiled.

For, there was Bitzer, out of breath, his thin lips parted, his thin
nostrils distended, his white eyelashes quivering, his colourless face
more colourless than ever, as if he ran himself into a white heat, when
other people ran themselves into a glow.  There he stood, panting and
heaving, as if he had never stopped since the night, now long ago, when
he had run them down before.

‘I’m sorry to interfere with your plans,’ said Bitzer, shaking his head,
‘but I can’t allow myself to be done by horse-riders.  I must have young
Mr. Tom; he mustn’t be got away by horse-riders; here he is in a smock
frock, and I must have him!’

By the collar, too, it seemed.  For, so he took possession of him.



CHAPTER VIII
PHILOSOPHICAL


THEY went back into the booth, Sleary shutting the door to keep intruders
out.  Bitzer, still holding the paralysed culprit by the collar, stood in
the Ring, blinking at his old patron through the darkness of the
twilight.

‘Bitzer,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, broken down, and miserably submissive to
him, ‘have you a heart?’

‘The circulation, sir,’ returned Bitzer, smiling at the oddity of the
question, ‘couldn’t be carried on without one.  No man, sir, acquainted
with the facts established by Harvey relating to the circulation of the
blood, can doubt that I have a heart.’

‘Is it accessible,’ cried Mr. Gradgrind, ‘to any compassionate
influence?’

‘It is accessible to Reason, sir,’ returned the excellent young man.
‘And to nothing else.’

They stood looking at each other; Mr. Gradgrind’s face as white as the
pursuer’s.

‘What motive—even what motive in reason—can you have for preventing the
escape of this wretched youth,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘and crushing his
miserable father?  See his sister here.  Pity us!’

‘Sir,’ returned Bitzer, in a very business-like and logical manner,
‘since you ask me what motive I have in reason, for taking young Mr. Tom
back to Coketown, it is only reasonable to let you know.  I have
suspected young Mr. Tom of this bank-robbery from the first.  I had had
my eye upon him before that time, for I knew his ways.  I have kept my
observations to myself, but I have made them; and I have got ample proofs
against him now, besides his running away, and besides his own
confession, which I was just in time to overhear.  I had the pleasure of
watching your house yesterday morning, and following you here.  I am
going to take young Mr. Tom back to Coketown, in order to deliver him
over to Mr. Bounderby.  Sir, I have no doubt whatever that Mr. Bounderby
will then promote me to young Mr. Tom’s situation.  And I wish to have
his situation, sir, for it will be a rise to me, and will do me good.’

‘If this is solely a question of self-interest with you—’ Mr. Gradgrind
began.

‘I beg your pardon for interrupting you, sir,’ returned Bitzer; ‘but I am
sure you know that the whole social system is a question of
self-interest.  What you must always appeal to, is a person’s
self-interest.  It’s your only hold.  We are so constituted.  I was
brought up in that catechism when I was very young, sir, as you are
aware.’

‘What sum of money,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘will you set against your
expected promotion?’

‘Thank you, sir,’ returned Bitzer, ‘for hinting at the proposal; but I
will not set any sum against it.  Knowing that your clear head would
propose that alternative, I have gone over the calculations in my mind;
and I find that to compound a felony, even on very high terms indeed,
would not be as safe and good for me as my improved prospects in the
Bank.’

‘Bitzer,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, stretching out his hands as though he would
have said, See how miserable I am!  ‘Bitzer, I have but one chance left
to soften you.  You were many years at my school.  If, in remembrance of
the pains bestowed upon you there, you can persuade yourself in any
degree to disregard your present interest and release my son, I entreat
and pray you to give him the benefit of that remembrance.’

‘I really wonder, sir,’ rejoined the old pupil in an argumentative
manner, ‘to find you taking a position so untenable.  My schooling was
paid for; it was a bargain; and when I came away, the bargain ended.’

It was a fundamental principle of the Gradgrind philosophy that
everything was to be paid for.  Nobody was ever on any account to give
anybody anything, or render anybody help without purchase.  Gratitude was
to be abolished, and the virtues springing from it were not to be.  Every
inch of the existence of mankind, from birth to death, was to be a
bargain across a counter.  And if we didn’t get to Heaven that way, it
was not a politico-economical place, and we had no business there.

‘I don’t deny,’ added Bitzer, ‘that my schooling was cheap.  But that
comes right, sir.  I was made in the cheapest market, and have to dispose
of myself in the dearest.’

He was a little troubled here, by Louisa and Sissy crying.

‘Pray don’t do that,’ said he, ‘it’s of no use doing that: it only
worries.  You seem to think that I have some animosity against young Mr.
Tom; whereas I have none at all.  I am only going, on the reasonable
grounds I have mentioned, to take him back to Coketown.  If he was to
resist, I should set up the cry of Stop thief!  But, he won’t resist, you
may depend upon it.’

Mr. Sleary, who with his mouth open and his rolling eye as immovably
jammed in his head as his fixed one, had listened to these doctrines with
profound attention, here stepped forward.

‘Thquire, you know perfectly well, and your daughter knowth perfectly
well (better than you, becauthe I thed it to her), that I didn’t know
what your thon had done, and that I didn’t want to know—I thed it wath
better not, though I only thought, then, it wath thome thkylarking.
However, thith young man having made it known to be a robbery of a bank,
why, that’h a theriouth thing; muth too theriouth a thing for me to
compound, ath thith young man hath very properly called it.
Conthequently, Thquire, you muthn’t quarrel with me if I take thith young
man’th thide, and thay he’th right and there’th no help for it.  But I
tell you what I’ll do, Thquire; I’ll drive your thon and thith young man
over to the rail, and prevent expothure here.  I can’t conthent to do
more, but I’ll do that.’

Fresh lamentations from Louisa, and deeper affliction on Mr. Gradgrind’s
part, followed this desertion of them by their last friend.  But, Sissy
glanced at him with great attention; nor did she in her own breast
misunderstand him.  As they were all going out again, he favoured her
with one slight roll of his movable eye, desiring her to linger behind.
As he locked the door, he said excitedly:

‘The Thquire thtood by you, Thethilia, and I’ll thtand by the Thquire.
More than that: thith ith a prethiouth rathcal, and belongth to that
bluthtering Cove that my people nearly pitht out o’ winder.  It’ll be a
dark night; I’ve got a horthe that’ll do anything but thpeak; I’ve got a
pony that’ll go fifteen mile an hour with Childerth driving of him; I’ve
got a dog that’ll keep a man to one plathe four-and-twenty hourth.  Get a
word with the young Thquire.  Tell him, when he theeth our horthe begin
to danthe, not to be afraid of being thpilt, but to look out for a
pony-gig coming up.  Tell him, when he theeth that gig clothe by, to jump
down, and it’ll take him off at a rattling pathe.  If my dog leth thith
young man thtir a peg on foot, I give him leave to go.  And if my horthe
ever thtirth from that thpot where he beginth a danthing, till the
morning—I don’t know him?—Tharp’th the word!’

The word was so sharp, that in ten minutes Mr. Childers, sauntering about
the market-place in a pair of slippers, had his cue, and Mr. Sleary’s
equipage was ready.  It was a fine sight, to behold the learned dog
barking round it, and Mr. Sleary instructing him, with his one
practicable eye, that Bitzer was the object of his particular attentions.
Soon after dark they all three got in and started; the learned dog (a
formidable creature) already pinning Bitzer with his eye, and sticking
close to the wheel on his side, that he might be ready for him in the
event of his showing the slightest disposition to alight.

The other three sat up at the inn all night in great suspense.  At eight
o’clock in the morning Mr. Sleary and the dog reappeared: both in high
spirits.

‘All right, Thquire!’ said Mr. Sleary, ‘your thon may be aboard-a-thip by
thith time.  Childerth took him off, an hour and a half after we left
there latht night.  The horthe danthed the polka till he wath dead beat
(he would have walthed if he hadn’t been in harneth), and then I gave him
the word and he went to thleep comfortable.  When that prethiouth young
Rathcal thed he’d go for’ard afoot, the dog hung on to hith
neck-hankercher with all four legth in the air and pulled him down and
rolled him over.  Tho he come back into the drag, and there he that,
’till I turned the horthe’th head, at half-patht thixth thith morning.’

Mr. Gradgrind overwhelmed him with thanks, of course; and hinted as
delicately as he could, at a handsome remuneration in money.

‘I don’t want money mythelf, Thquire; but Childerth ith a family man, and
if you wath to like to offer him a five-pound note, it mightn’t be
unactheptable.  Likewithe if you wath to thtand a collar for the dog, or
a thet of bellth for the horthe, I thould be very glad to take ’em.
Brandy and water I alwayth take.’  He had already called for a glass, and
now called for another.  ‘If you wouldn’t think it going too far,
Thquire, to make a little thpread for the company at about three and
thixth ahead, not reckoning Luth, it would make ’em happy.’

All these little tokens of his gratitude, Mr. Gradgrind very willingly
undertook to render.  Though he thought them far too slight, he said, for
such a service.

‘Very well, Thquire; then, if you’ll only give a Horthe-riding, a
bethpeak, whenever you can, you’ll more than balanthe the account.  Now,
Thquire, if your daughter will ethcuthe me, I thould like one parting
word with you.’

Louisa and Sissy withdrew into an adjoining room; Mr. Sleary, stirring
and drinking his brandy and water as he stood, went on:

‘Thquire,—you don’t need to be told that dogth ith wonderful animalth.’

‘Their instinct,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘is surprising.’

‘Whatever you call it—and I’m bletht if _I_ know what to call it’—said
Sleary, ‘it ith athtonithing.  The way in whith a dog’ll find you—the
dithtanthe he’ll come!’

‘His scent,’ said Mr. Gradgrind, ‘being so fine.’

‘I’m bletht if I know what to call it,’ repeated Sleary, shaking his
head, ‘but I have had dogth find me, Thquire, in a way that made me think
whether that dog hadn’t gone to another dog, and thed, “You don’t happen
to know a perthon of the name of Thleary, do you?  Perthon of the name of
Thleary, in the Horthe-Riding way—thtout man—game eye?”  And whether that
dog mightn’t have thed, “Well, I can’t thay I know him mythelf, but I
know a dog that I think would be likely to be acquainted with him.”  And
whether that dog mightn’t have thought it over, and thed, “Thleary,
Thleary!  O yeth, to be thure!  A friend of mine menthioned him to me at
one time.  I can get you hith addreth directly.”  In conthequenth of my
being afore the public, and going about tho muth, you thee, there mutht
be a number of dogth acquainted with me, Thquire, that _I_ don’t know!’

Mr. Gradgrind seemed to be quite confounded by this speculation.

‘Any way,’ said Sleary, after putting his lips to his brandy and water,
‘ith fourteen month ago, Thquire, thinthe we wath at Chethter.  We wath
getting up our Children in the Wood one morning, when there cometh into
our Ring, by the thtage door, a dog.  He had travelled a long way, he
wath in a very bad condithon, he wath lame, and pretty well blind.  He
went round to our children, one after another, as if he wath a theeking
for a child he know’d; and then he come to me, and throwd hithelf up
behind, and thtood on hith two forelegth, weak ath he wath, and then he
wagged hith tail and died.  Thquire, that dog wath Merrylegth.’

‘Sissy’s father’s dog!’

‘Thethilia’th father’th old dog.  Now, Thquire, I can take my oath, from
my knowledge of that dog, that that man wath dead—and buried—afore that
dog come back to me.  Joth’phine and Childerth and me talked it over a
long time, whether I thould write or not.  But we agreed, “No.  There’th
nothing comfortable to tell; why unthettle her mind, and make her
unhappy?”  Tho, whether her father bathely detherted her; or whether he
broke hith own heart alone, rather than pull her down along with him;
never will be known, now, Thquire, till—no, not till we know how the
dogth findth uth out!’

‘She keeps the bottle that he sent her for, to this hour; and she will
believe in his affection to the last moment of her life,’ said Mr.
Gradgrind.

‘It theemth to prethent two thingth to a perthon, don’t it, Thquire?’
said Mr. Sleary, musing as he looked down into the depths of his brandy
and water: ‘one, that there ith a love in the world, not all
Thelf-interetht after all, but thomething very different; t’other, that
it bath a way of ith own of calculating or not calculating, whith
thomehow or another ith at leatht ath hard to give a name to, ath the
wayth of the dogth ith!’

Mr. Gradgrind looked out of window, and made no reply.  Mr. Sleary
emptied his glass and recalled the ladies.

‘Thethilia my dear, kith me and good-bye!  Mith Thquire, to thee you
treating of her like a thithter, and a thithter that you trutht and
honour with all your heart and more, ith a very pretty thight to me.  I
hope your brother may live to be better detherving of you, and a greater
comfort to you.  Thquire, thake handth, firtht and latht!  Don’t be croth
with uth poor vagabondth.  People mutht be amuthed.  They can’t be
alwayth a learning, nor yet they can’t be alwayth a working, they an’t
made for it.  You _mutht_ have uth, Thquire.  Do the withe thing and the
kind thing too, and make the betht of uth; not the wurtht!’

‘And I never thought before,’ said Mr. Sleary, putting his head in at the
door again to say it, ‘that I wath tho muth of a Cackler!’



CHAPTER IX
FINAL


IT is a dangerous thing to see anything in the sphere of a vain
blusterer, before the vain blusterer sees it himself.  Mr. Bounderby felt
that Mrs. Sparsit had audaciously anticipated him, and presumed to be
wiser than he.  Inappeasably indignant with her for her triumphant
discovery of Mrs. Pegler, he turned this presumption, on the part of a
woman in her dependent position, over and over in his mind, until it
accumulated with turning like a great snowball.  At last he made the
discovery that to discharge this highly connected female—to have it in
his power to say, ‘She was a woman of family, and wanted to stick to me,
but I wouldn’t have it, and got rid of her’—would be to get the utmost
possible amount of crowning glory out of the connection, and at the same
time to punish Mrs. Sparsit according to her deserts.

Filled fuller than ever, with this great idea, Mr. Bounderby came in to
lunch, and sat himself down in the dining-room of former days, where his
portrait was.  Mrs. Sparsit sat by the fire, with her foot in her cotton
stirrup, little thinking whither she was posting.

Since the Pegler affair, this gentlewoman had covered her pity for Mr.
Bounderby with a veil of quiet melancholy and contrition.  In virtue
thereof, it had become her habit to assume a woful look, which woful look
she now bestowed upon her patron.

‘What’s the matter now, ma’am?’ said Mr. Bounderby, in a very short,
rough way.

‘Pray, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit, ‘do not bite my nose off.’

‘Bite your nose off, ma’am?’ repeated Mr. Bounderby.  ‘_Your_ nose!’
meaning, as Mrs. Sparsit conceived, that it was too developed a nose for
the purpose.  After which offensive implication, he cut himself a crust
of bread, and threw the knife down with a noise.

Mrs. Sparsit took her foot out of her stirrup, and said, ‘Mr. Bounderby,
sir!’

‘Well, ma’am?’ retorted Mr. Bounderby.  ‘What are you staring at?’

‘May I ask, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, ‘have you been ruffled this
morning?’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘May I inquire, sir,’ pursued the injured woman, ‘whether _I_ am the
unfortunate cause of your having lost your temper?’

‘Now, I’ll tell you what, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, ‘I am not come here to
be bullied.  A female may be highly connected, but she can’t be permitted
to bother and badger a man in my position, and I am not going to put up
with it.’  (Mr. Bounderby felt it necessary to get on: foreseeing that if
he allowed of details, he would be beaten.)

Mrs. Sparsit first elevated, then knitted, her Coriolanian eyebrows;
gathered up her work into its proper basket; and rose.

‘Sir,’ said she, majestically.  ‘It is apparent to me that I am in your
way at present.  I will retire to my own apartment.’

‘Allow me to open the door, ma’am.’

‘Thank you, sir; I can do it for myself.’

‘You had better allow me, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, passing her, and
getting his hand upon the lock; ‘because I can take the opportunity of
saying a word to you, before you go.  Mrs. Sparsit, ma’am, I rather think
you are cramped here, do you know?  It appears to me, that, under my
humble roof, there’s hardly opening enough for a lady of your genius in
other people’s affairs.’

Mrs. Sparsit gave him a look of the darkest scorn, and said with great
politeness, ‘Really, sir?’

‘I have been thinking it over, you see, since the late affairs have
happened, ma’am,’ said Bounderby; ‘and it appears to my poor judgment—’

‘Oh!  Pray, sir,’ Mrs. Sparsit interposed, with sprightly cheerfulness,
‘don’t disparage your judgment.  Everybody knows how unerring Mr.
Bounderby’s judgment is.  Everybody has had proofs of it.  It must be the
theme of general conversation.  Disparage anything in yourself but your
judgment, sir,’ said Mrs. Sparsit, laughing.

Mr. Bounderby, very red and uncomfortable, resumed:

‘It appears to me, ma’am, I say, that a different sort of establishment
altogether would bring out a lady of _your_ powers.  Such an
establishment as your relation, Lady Scadgers’s, now.  Don’t you think
you might find some affairs there, ma’am, to interfere with?’

‘It never occurred to me before, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit; ‘but now
you mention it, should think it highly probable.’

‘Then suppose you try, ma’am,’ said Bounderby, laying an envelope with a
cheque in it in her little basket.  ‘You can take your own time for
going, ma’am; but perhaps in the meanwhile, it will be more agreeable to
a lady of your powers of mind, to eat her meals by herself, and not to be
intruded upon.  I really ought to apologise to you—being only Josiah
Bounderby of Coketown—for having stood in your light so long.’

‘Pray don’t name it, sir,’ returned Mrs. Sparsit.  ‘If that portrait
could speak, sir—but it has the advantage over the original of not
possessing the power of committing itself and disgusting others,—it would
testify, that a long period has elapsed since I first habitually
addressed it as the picture of a Noodle.  Nothing that a Noodle does, can
awaken surprise or indignation; the proceedings of a Noodle can only
inspire contempt.’

Thus saying, Mrs. Sparsit, with her Roman features like a medal struck to
commemorate her scorn of Mr. Bounderby, surveyed him fixedly from head to
foot, swept disdainfully past him, and ascended the staircase.  Mr.
Bounderby closed the door, and stood before the fire; projecting himself
after his old explosive manner into his portrait—and into futurity.

                                * * * * *

Into how much of futurity?  He saw Mrs. Sparsit fighting out a daily
fight at the points of all the weapons in the female armoury, with the
grudging, smarting, peevish, tormenting Lady Scadgers, still laid up in
bed with her mysterious leg, and gobbling her insufficient income down by
about the middle of every quarter, in a mean little airless lodging, a
mere closet for one, a mere crib for two; but did he see more?  Did he
catch any glimpse of himself making a show of Bitzer to strangers, as the
rising young man, so devoted to his master’s great merits, who had won
young Tom’s place, and had almost captured young Tom himself, in the
times when by various rascals he was spirited away?  Did he see any faint
reflection of his own image making a vain-glorious will, whereby
five-and-twenty Humbugs, past five-and-fifty years of age, each taking
upon himself the name, Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, should for ever dine
in Bounderby Hall, for ever lodge in Bounderby buildings, for ever attend
a Bounderby chapel, for ever go to sleep under a Bounderby chaplain, for
ever be supported out of a Bounderby estate, and for ever nauseate all
healthy stomachs, with a vast amount of Bounderby balderdash and bluster?
Had he any prescience of the day, five years to come, when Josiah
Bounderby of Coketown was to die of a fit in the Coketown street, and
this same precious will was to begin its long career of quibble, plunder,
false pretences, vile example, little service and much law?  Probably
not.  Yet the portrait was to see it all out.

Here was Mr. Gradgrind on the same day, and in the same hour, sitting
thoughtful in his own room.  How much of futurity did _he_ see?  Did he
see himself, a white-haired decrepit man, bending his hitherto inflexible
theories to appointed circumstances; making his facts and figures
subservient to Faith, Hope, and Charity; and no longer trying to grind
that Heavenly trio in his dusty little mills?  Did he catch sight of
himself, therefore much despised by his late political associates?  Did
he see them, in the era of its being quite settled that the national
dustmen have only to do with one another, and owe no duty to an
abstraction called a People, ‘taunting the honourable gentleman’ with
this and with that and with what not, five nights a-week, until the small
hours of the morning?  Probably he had that much foreknowledge, knowing
his men.

                                * * * * *

Here was Louisa on the night of the same day, watching the fire as in
days of yore, though with a gentler and a humbler face.  How much of the
future might arise before _her_ vision?  Broadsides in the streets,
signed with her father’s name, exonerating the late Stephen Blackpool,
weaver, from misplaced suspicion, and publishing the guilt of his own
son, with such extenuation as his years and temptation (he could not
bring himself to add, his education) might beseech; were of the Present.
So, Stephen Blackpool’s tombstone, with her father’s record of his death,
was almost of the Present, for she knew it was to be.  These things she
could plainly see.  But, how much of the Future?

A working woman, christened Rachael, after a long illness once again
appearing at the ringing of the Factory bell, and passing to and fro at
the set hours, among the Coketown Hands; a woman of pensive beauty,
always dressed in black, but sweet-tempered and serene, and even
cheerful; who, of all the people in the place, alone appeared to have
compassion on a degraded, drunken wretch of her own sex, who was
sometimes seen in the town secretly begging of her, and crying to her; a
woman working, ever working, but content to do it, and preferring to do
it as her natural lot, until she should be too old to labour any more?
Did Louisa see this?  Such a thing was to be.

A lonely brother, many thousands of miles away, writing, on paper blotted
with tears, that her words had too soon come true, and that all the
treasures in the world would be cheaply bartered for a sight of her dear
face?  At length this brother coming nearer home, with hope of seeing
her, and being delayed by illness; and then a letter, in a strange hand,
saying ‘he died in hospital, of fever, such a day, and died in penitence
and love of you: his last word being your name’?  Did Louisa see these
things?  Such things were to be.

Herself again a wife—a mother—lovingly watchful of her children, ever
careful that they should have a childhood of the mind no less than a
childhood of the body, as knowing it to be even a more beautiful thing,
and a possession, any hoarded scrap of which, is a blessing and happiness
to the wisest?  Did Louisa see this?  Such a thing was never to be.

But, happy Sissy’s happy children loving her; all children loving her;
she, grown learned in childish lore; thinking no innocent and pretty
fancy ever to be despised; trying hard to know her humbler
fellow-creatures, and to beautify their lives of machinery and reality
with those imaginative graces and delights, without which the heart of
infancy will wither up, the sturdiest physical manhood will be morally
stark death, and the plainest national prosperity figures can show, will
be the Writing on the Wall,—she holding this course as part of no
fantastic vow, or bond, or brotherhood, or sisterhood, or pledge, or
covenant, or fancy dress, or fancy fair; but simply as a duty to be
done,—did Louisa see these things of herself?  These things were to be.

Dear reader!  It rests with you and me, whether, in our two fields of
action, similar things shall be or not.  Let them be!  We shall sit with
lighter bosoms on the hearth, to see the ashes of our fires turn gray and
cold.



FOOTNOTES


{0}  _Reprinted Pieces_ was released as a separate eText by Project
Gutenberg, and is not included in this eText.





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